Monthly Message of the Virgin Mary For the World on August 25, 2012 From Medjugorje

"Dear children! Also today, with hope in the heart, I am praying for you and am thanking the Most High for every one of you who lives my messages with the heart. Give thanks to God's love that I can love and lead each of you through my Immaculate Heart also toward conversion. Open your hearts and decide for holiness, and hope will give birth to joy in your hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call."

Daily Gospel: Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost, Parable of the Sower. August 19, 2012

Saint of the day: Saint Luke of Baalbeck, Martyr.

First Letter to the Corinthians 3:1-11.
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 8:1-15.
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable:  ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that "looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand."  ‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus Message on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo at noon on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In remarks ahead of the Angelus, the Holy Father explained that Mary’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven at the end of the course of her earthly life – though only dogmatically defined in 1950 by Pope Pius XII – is something that Christians throughout the world have always believed, confessed and celebrated. The Pope called on all the faithful to ask Mary be the star that guides us on our way to meet her Divine Son. After the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in many languages, including English:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the groups from Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we may rejoice with her in the glory of the resurrection and the fulfilment of her Son’s promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!

Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict celebrated the Mass of the Assumption at Castel Gandolfo’s parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova. “Let us,” the Holy Father prayed in his homily, “entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession, that she might ask the Lord to strengthen our belief in eternal life, help us to live well and with hope the time that God gives to us - a Christian hope,” he said, “which is not just nostalgia for Heaven, but living and active desire for God here in the world, a desire that makes us indefatigable pilgrims, feeding in us the courage and strength of faith, a fortitude that is at once the power of love. 

Holy Gospel on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. August 15.

Letter to the Romans 12:9-15.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 1:46-55.
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

The Call of the Maronite Bishops on the Monthly Meeting of August 01, 2012

On the first of August 2012, their Excellencies the Maronite Bishops held their monthly meeting in Diman, headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rai, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, with the participation of His Beatitude, Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir. The meeting was also attended on special invitation by the General Superiors of the Maronite Orders. They examined the ecclesiastical and the national affairs, they greeted the Lebanese Army, commanders, officers, non commissioned officers and soldiers on the Lebanese Army's day, appraising all their sacrifices to defend homeland and citizens, calling on everyone to rally around this army, so it remains an invincible bastion facing threats to Lebanon. They concluded the meeting by issuing the following appeal that treats the basic vital sector in the country life, which is the economy: reality, causes and solutions.

 Why the appeal?
1- In addition to the thorny issues that weighed upon the situation in Lebanon, the Syrian crisis and its implication, the socio-economic theme has recently emerged in a remarkable and sometimes tragic evolution. This theme is taking dangerous aspects, making it a prey to the political controversies connected to more than one background. And the most dangerous matter in this topic is its tendency to sectarism, out of norms and laws, and resorting to logic similar to the civil disobedience. In front of this scene, we witness a state of deficit at the level of political decision and the economic vision, which outcome might enter Lebanon into a foggy stage exposing its destiny to a bankruptcy risk in case it is dealt in a non-responsibility spirit or partial approaches. There is no way out from searching radical exits to the economic crisis, based on ethical and legal principles, and on the long-term projects that provide the state and the society a gradual economic stability.

2- Facing this perilous reality, the Church, involved in individuals and society, “because man is the first path pursued by the Church to carry its message…a path drawn by Christ Himself, throughout the Incarnation and the Redemption”, (John Paul II, Year 100, P.53), cannot remote from an issue where the victim is primarily the Lebanese citizens, especially the poor and the weak. Therefore, our Council directed this appeal, which is considered a wake-up and an urgent call to deal with issues before it is too late. We first aim at the Lebanese Public Opinion, to be aware of its role in the exercise of its democratic rights in election and accountability, and second, to all officials in order to bear their moral and national responsibilities in this field, as to serve the people and to preserve the nation. Otherwise, the state of Lebanon would become a bankrupt state on the moral, financial and legal levels, validating St Augustine saying: “Remove the Law-then what would distinguish the State from a huge gang of bandits?”

The reality of the Lebanese Economy
 3- The socio-economic reality in Lebanon is witnessing since 1975 to date, very difficult conditions signaling a more of peril in light of the inability to confrontation and the absence of integrated visions for solution. In the light of globalization and the linked economies of the countries, lays a fundamental problem shown in the lack of stability in the international oil prices, resulting complications in the various economic sectors in Lebanon.

   a- It puts additional burdens on the energy production cost in the present and the future. The Electricity affair is starting to pose a risk to the national economy as it has become a nearly 20% of the annual state budget, and contributes to the value of the deficit with more than 65%, a figure expected to increase annually.

b- Its repercussions are clearly shown on the productive sectors of industry and agriculture, dangerously withdrawing its competitive capacity, in addition to what is happening of natural or artificial disasters, as well as the difficulties in conducting its production, caused by troubles and wars converging in the region.

c- The service sectors, which themselves need to use the energy, cannot survive and they are also affected by the unsteady political and security circumstances.
4- The second basic problem is the public debt accumulation, forcing the state to borrowing year after year to cover the value of the benefits resulting from the service of this debt. Practically, the bottom line is the absence of investment funding sources in development, establishment and safeguard. Therefore, Lebanon is facing the reality of “a hemorrhagic economy”, which turned into a continuous existential crisis, exposed year after year by the increase of deficits, in the absence of a real solution for both Lebanon Electricity and the Public Debt.

5- Unless we strongly confront this bad situation, the next few years are expected to be really scary. For in the year 2016, some experts expect a 33% increase of the total public debt, to reach about 80 billion US dollars; the annual deficit in the government budget would rise about 47% and the percentage of debt to gross domestic product from 140% to more than 170%. This ratio may lead Lebanon to be banned, as it did to richer European countries such as Greece, Italy and others.

 6- This is negatively reflected on the citizen who is sinking under the rising burden of heating, transportation and electricity generators costs…in addition to the prices raise of all consumed goods and services, while the purchasing power is diminished day after day, thereby creating a social crisis, so far unknown by the Lebanese community. It led and will lead to the dissolution of the middle class and the increase proportion of citizens living below the poverty line, the declining of job opportunities and the increase of a bleeding migration in all directions.

7- Behind all these facts, the specter of Great Depression is looming as well as the risk of the State bankruptcy, which indicators are obvious in the State faltering dues payments to private and public enterprises, its inability to develop infrastructure, the fear of not being able to secure the salaries and wages for the public sector workers, the payment of pensions and the end of service indemnities…

The causes of this reality 
8- There is no doubt that Lebanon wars, occupation, destruction and displacement…since 1975, have hit the national economy at heart, and smashed the prosperity of this country. Nevertheless, there are other reasons that prevented and still prevent this economy to regain its vitality and its natural path. Some of the most important reasons:

a- An incomplete adoption of economic policies: the economic policies pursued since the end of the war in the early nineties, have focused on the revenue economy, and neglected the productive sectors that build the real national economy basis, have found it simpler to borrow in order to finance the State deficit worsening derived from the amplification of the mostly non productive State expenses. It also limited the economic power in the capital without seriously working on rebuilding the destroyed displaced areas, equally developing all Lebanese regions and all the economy sectors. This led to the serious decline in the competitiveness power of productive sectors in industry, agriculture and others. The other sectors were not reinforced in face of the political and security instability. The accumulation of public debt that drove the national economy in a devastating spiral is the most dangerous result of these policies.

b- A severe corruption in the body of the State and public administrations: which led to the public money seizure and the wasteful spending on projects that cost the state times the real cost, as well as the growing tide of transactions in all areas with the absence of any control or accountability.

c- Considering the State a “dairy cow” and a breeding ground for partisans gathered in departments without needing them, their efficiencies and their productivity. This led to administrative inflation in non efficient number of persons, while administration is complaining about large voids in sensitive positions that require scientific and high ethical skills. Finally, several attempts to lay hands on some public utilities are emerging with rival competition, which definitely damage the state imports.

d- The loss of decision-making in the State: the deep political divisions and the lack of a unified and clear vision, the tyranny of private or partisan interest over the public interest, the lack of respect for the correct rules of democracy, the adoption of spiteful policies and disruption of mutual revenge…all this led to a paralysis of the right decision-making mechanism at the right time. In the rare times when a decision was taken, it came after a unanimously labor through bargaining, and often too late, to become in the end, inappropriate and useless. Thus, the results are incomplete on the economic front, in the lack of the studied and root coherent solutions.

Suggesting some solutions
 9- The Fathers realize that the complex situation of the Lebanese economy will not find magic solutions, as they know that finding technical solutions is a task for experts, in abundance but put aside in our society. Though, the gravity of the situation leads us to propose some strategic solutions capable of placing the records straight.

a- Focus on the governing role of the State: the State, in the free economic system, should not monopolize the power and the decision, and should not directly manage all economy as in the totalitarian states and regimes. Nevertheless, this does not mean that it has no role at all, as claimed by ultra-liberal extremists. “The Church respects the independent legitimate democratic system (and the free economic one), but economic activity, especially at the market level. It cannot fall in an institutional or legal or political vacuum; rather provide guarantees for individual freedoms and private ownership, as well as currency stability and public services restoration. It is the core duties of the State to ensure these guarantees…The State must also monitor and sponsor the application of human rights in the economic field” (John Paul II, Year 100.P 48). Hence, the State has an organizational role in the economics field, played through the enactment of fair laws that determine the rights and duties of each class, to ensure the application of these laws without bias, limiting the monopoly and the greed of some people. It should carry out the rights of the poor and the vulnerable in the society and ensure social justice for all citizens. It also must draw the general economic policies and the plans that control the investment of natural resources; it should sponsor the weak sector and spread balanced development in all areas. The restoration of the Lebanese State governing role, its efficiency and firm practice in a spirit of responsibility and high ethical, lead the way to adopt other solutions that deeply treat economic and social problems. Therefore, it should not monopolize public utilities while it does not have the capacity to promote and develop them, due to its high borrowing.

b- The partnership launch between the public sector and the private one, resident and expatriate: the treatment of the economic situation on the verge of the great depression, requires the combined efforts of each well-off to contribute in stopping this collapse, and the launch of a new dynamic motivating all citizens to carry their share of responsibility for their community. Thus, we recommend the launch of the decision to revive the work in the Social-Economic Council that opens doors for constructive, scientific and conventional dialogue, in order to build this partnership. We also recommend the adoption and application of mutual law between the public and private sector, to encourage the smart investment in infrastructure that is witnessing frightening erosion by an appropriate funding without new debts on the treasury. We recommend expediting the appointment of governing bodies for various sectors, such as electricity, gas, water and other…

c- The quintuple strategy or more to reduce the public debt ratio: the treatment of socio-economic dispatched files is through a radical reform within the quintuple strategy or more. It should develop budgets that anticipate the data for the next years, adopt creative complementary solutions through the development of a “special fund” to cure the public debt, create a “fund for energy”, stimulate the productive sectors, strengthen the citizens’ purchasing power, attract investment for employment in infrastructure, support education, restructure the electricity sectors, contract with specialized companies to extract oil with an absolute transparency and without any politicization or corruption, before hands are placed over a large part of the oil fields and the natural gas in our territorial waters, causing us new wars we can do without. The Lebanese Banks are an important fortress for the Lebanese economy, and the pride to all the Lebanese. Hence, the need for awareness of its responsibilities in the protection of small depositors and savers, and the rationalization of the State condemnation process, avoiding their exposure to risks we witness along with sovereign debt crisis, today and yesterday, in Asia, Latin America and others.

d- To expedite the implementation of administrative and extended development decentralization: this releases the economic growth and the balanced development wheel, and brings closer the social and development services to the citizen. This measure will stimulate citizens to pay the required taxes and fees, opens them the possibility of monitoring and accounting, and feeds their spirit in solidarity and social joint liability.

e- The extension of state decisions on all the regions and all the citizens: regarding the levying and taxes collects, the application of customs laws, to subject everyone to their requirements, the fight against smuggling, deviations and various types of evading the regulations, there would be no summer and winter on one roof, thus, the State will deal with justice and equality with all its children.

Conclusion and Warning
10- Facing the great dangers of collapse and a failure to reach the national-social pact, the Fathers are appealing and warning to face the risk of failure synchrony with the major political changes in the region, they might constitute, God forbid, the spark that, if erupted, lead to the dissolution of Lebanon. If the social-economic collapse occurs, it would be an additional pressure on the national fabric that unites common national interests, as fundamental and constitutional understandings are neither a conflict nor a split. When the State is unable to comply with its obligations, the nation and its supreme interest are pledged, it is easy then to impose fundamental changes that may affect its national fabric such as the imposition of a “de facto” nationalization, or deviation from the essence of the Taif Agreement stipulating equity, or the acceptance of basic changes in the strategic choices in terms of foreign policy…

The Fathers hope that the Lebanese could find in these dangers, a real opportunity to launch an economic and a social renaissance, perceive fundamental solutions to our country dilemmas and our people’s suffering. They call upon to renew the pact among the nation partners on its essence, regime and mission, and to endeavor on neutralizing Lebanon from regional and international conflicts, to maintain its rich mission as a nation of pluralism and unity in diversity, to consolidate the stability as an input to the launch of real growth for the sake of the human. There is no legitimacy for any political or economic action, if not to serve the human, to promote his life level and to protect the poor and the weak.

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus Message on August 12, 2012

“To doubt the divinity of Jesus…is to oppose God's work”, said Pope Benedict XVI Sunday, as he continued his Angelus reflections on the Gospel of John Chapter 6, on Jesus as the Bread of Life.

The inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo was packed from early morning. As the bells of the nearby church struck noon, the Holy Father appeared at the tiny balcony to the joy of the pilgrims gathered below.

In comments in Italian he said, like those who doubt Christ’s divinity in today’s Gospel – His being the Living Bread from Heaven that gives eternal life - we too must ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, “hunger for the word of God, hunger to know the real meaning of life. Only those who are attracted by God the Father, who listen and allow themselves to be instructed by Him can believe in Jesus, encounter Him and nourish themselves of Him and this find true life, the path of life, justice, truth and love”.

Below a translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus reflections:

Dear brothers and sisters!

The reading of the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, which accompanies us in the Sunday Liturgies, led us to reflect last Sunday on the miraculous multiplication of bread with which or Lord fed a crowd of five thousand and on Jesus’ invitation to those whom he had satisfied to busy themselves in procuring a food that endures for eternal life. Jesus wants to help them understand the deeper meaning of the miracle that he has worked: in miraculous satisfying their physical hunger, he prepares them to welcome the announcement that He is the bread which came down from heaven (cf. John 6:41), that satisfies in a permanent way. Even the Jewish people during the long journey in the desert, had experienced a bread that came down from heaven, manna, which had kept them alive until their arrival in the promised land. Now, Jesus speaks of himself as the true bread which came down from heaven, able to keep alive, not for a moment or part of the journey, but forever. He is the food that gives eternal life, because he is the only begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, who came to give man life to the full, to introduce man into the life of God.

In Jewish thought it was clear that the true bread from heaven, that nourished Israel was the Law, the word of God. The people of Israel clearly recognized that the Torah was the fundamental and lasting gift of Moses and that the fundamental element that distinguished them from other people lay in their knowing God's will and therefore the right path of life. Now Jesus, in revealing himself as the bread of heaven, testifies that He is the Word of God in person, the Word incarnate, through which man can make God's will his food (cf. Jn 4:34), which guides and supports our existence.

Thus doubting the divinity of Jesus, as do the Jews of today's Gospel passage, means opposing God's work. They in fact say: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother! (John 6.42). They do not go beyond his earthly origins, and therefore refuse to welcome Him as the Word of God made flesh. St. Augustine in his homly on the Gospel of John thus comments, "they were far off from the bread of heaven, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid... This bread, indeed, requires the hunger of the inner man "(Homilies on the Gospel of John 26.1). And we too must ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, hunger for the word of God, hunger to know the real meaning of life. Only those who are attracted by God the Father, who listen and allow themselves to be instructed by Him can believe in Jesus, encounter Him and nourish themselves of Him and this find true life, the path of life, justice, truth and love. St. Augustine adds: "... the Lord said He was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food "(ibid.).

Invoking the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask her to guide us to the encounter with Jesus so that our friendship with Him be always more intense; we ask her to introduce us into the full communion of love with her Son, the living bread which came down from heaven, so as to be renewed by Him in our innermost selves.


Dear brothers and sisters,
My thoughts go at this time to the people of Asia, especially to the Philippines, the People’s Republic of China, hardest hit by violent rains, as well as those of the North-west Iran, hit by a violent earthquake. These events have caused numerous deaths and injuries, thousands of displaced people and extensive damage. I invite you to join me in prayer for those who have lost their lives and for all the people tried by such a devastating disaster. May our solidarity and our support not be lacking to these our brothers and sisters.

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus prayer. The readings from today’s Mass invite us to put our faith in Jesus, the “bread of life” who offers himself to us in the Eucharist and promises us the joy of the resurrection. During these summer holidays, may you and your families respond to the Lord’s invitation by actively participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice and by generous acts of charity. Upon all of you I invoke his blessings of joy and peace!

Holy Gospel on the Twelfth Sunday of Pentecost: The Canaanite Woman.

Letter to the Ephesians 3:1-13.
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Matthew 15:21-28.
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Holy Gospel on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Second Letter to the Corinthians 3:7-17.
Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory! Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 9:1-7. 
And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’ Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus Message on August 05, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus this Sunday, with pilgrims and tourists gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo. The Holy Father focused his remarks ahead of the Angelus on this Sunday’s Gospel reading, which is taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John (Jn 6:24-35), in which Our Lord begins to reveal Himself as the Bread of Life. “Though material needs are important,” said Pope Benedict, “Jesus wants to help people move beyond the immediate satisfaction of them,” explaining that the Lord desires to open for us a horizon of existence that is not simply that of the daily concerns of eating, of clothing, and of one’s working career. He said, “Jesus speaks of a food that does not perish, a food that we must seek and welcome." It was a theme to which the Holy Father returned in his English remarks to the faithful following the traditional prayer of Marian devotion:

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present today and I pray that your stay in Rome will help you to grow closer to the Lord Jesus. In today’s Gospel he says to the people: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Let us put our faith in him, and let us put our trust in his promises, so that we may have life in abundance. May God bless you all!

The Holy Father is in Castel Gandolfo for the month of August, where he is resting and taking time to make progress on literary projects. Late last week the Press Office announced that the Pope has completed the third and final volume of his theological work, Jesus of Nazareth. The manuscript is now being translated into the major modern languages.

Holy Gospel on the Eleventh Sunday of Pentecost: Zacchaeus the Chief Tax Collector.

Letter to the Ephesians 2:17-22.
So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 19:1-10.
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

Five Interesting Points About Syria

Syria has been in the news for almost a year now and the news has not been good. The Red Cross has declared that the conflict between the government of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition now amounts to a civil war. Although caught up in a violent struggle for its future, Syria is nonetheless one of the oldest and most interesting cultures in the Middle East, if not the world.

Here are five interesting facts about this country that has very deep religious roots: 

1- Aleppo, Arabic Halab, is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and the largest city in Syria. Excavations show that there was a village on the site already 6,000 years before Christ. For over 5,000 years, the city has been at the crossroads for trade between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. For many centuries it was the beginning of the Silk Road to China.

2- The Hebrew Bible never mentions the word Syria, which is a Greek word, but always refers to the area as Aram. Aramaic, which is perhaps the language spoken by Jesus and which has developed into several dialects, received its name from this part of the world. There are Christian villages in Syria where the people still speak a modern form of Aramaic. 

3- In the Acts of the Apostles 9:10-11 Ananias is instructed in a vision to go to meet Paul at the house of a disciple named Judas who lived on Straight Street. Although most of the streets in the old city of Damascus are not marked, the author was able to find Straight Street, which is a rather long and, yes, unusually straight street that still exists in the old city of Damascus.

4- The Umayyad Mosque. The Romans constructed a huge temple to Jupiter over a much older Semitic temple. In 391, the Roman Temple of Jupiter was converted into a Christian cathedral, which was ultimately dedicated to St. John the Baptist. According to pious legend, which is continued by Muslims, the head of John was preserved in the cathedral and is still in the present mosque. In 635, the Muslim armies conquered Damascus and from 635 until 706 both Christians and Muslims shared the building for worship. Beginning in 706 the cathedral was demolished and the present mosque was built. One of the minarets is called sayyiduna ‘Issa, “Our Lord Jesus.” Some Muslims believe that at the end of the world Jesus will return to the mosque in Damascus.


5- Christians comprise about 10 percent of the population of Syria. Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world—some dating back to the time of the Apostles—can be found in Syria. The city of Damascus is the home to three Christian Patriarchs! The Patriarch of the Syriac (before 2000: Syrian) Orthodox Church, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church all live in Damascus.

Message of the Virgin Mary to Nonbelievers on August 02, 2012 From Medjugorje

"Dear children, I am with you and I am not giving up. I desire to have you come to know my Son. I desire for my children to be with me in eternal life. I desire for you to feel the joy of peace and to have eternal salvation. I am praying that you may overcome human weaknesses. I am imploring my Son to give you pure hearts. My dear children, only pure hearts know how to carry a cross and know how to sacrifice for all those sinners who have offended the Heavenly Father and who, even today, offend Him, although they have not come to know Him. I am praying that you may come to know the light of true faith which comes only from prayer of pure hearts. It is then that all those who are near you will feel the love of my Son. Pray for those whom my Son has chosen to lead you on the way to salvation. May your mouth refrain from every judgment. Thank you."

Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience on August 01, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI resumed his weekly appointment with pilgrims this Wednesday, who packed into Castel Gandolfo’s tiny “Freedom Square” to hear the Pope’s latest installment in his School of Christian Prayer series. And with one eye on the liturgical calendar, Pope Benedict dedicated his reflections to one of the most popular 18th century Saints, Alphonsus of Liguria, founder of the Redemptorist order who – said the Pope – teaches us to pray to God for the grace to live wisely and well.

Below is a translation of the Holy Father’s General Audience catechesis:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today marks the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de 'Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), patron of scholars of moral theology and confessors. St. Alphonsus is one of the most popular saints of the eighteenth century, for his simple, straightforward style, and for his teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation: in a time of great rigor, the result of the influence of Jansenism, he recommended confessors to administer this Sacrament expressing the joyful embrace of God the Father, who in His infinite mercy never ceases to welcome every repentant son. Today's celebration gives us the opportunity to dwell on the teachings of St. Alphonsus concerning prayer, even now precious and full of spiritual inspiration. The treaty, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, which he considered the most useful of his writings, dates back to 1759 . In fact, it describes prayer as "a means necessary to salvation and the graces we need to achieve it" (Introduction). This sentence synthesizes Alphonsian understanding of prayer.

First of all, saying it is a means, reminds of the ends: God created us out of love, to gift us life in abundance; but because of sin this goal, eternal life, has, so to speak, distanced itself as we all know and only the grace of God can render it accessible. To explain this basic truth and make immediately clear the real risk of man’s "becoming lost", St. Alphonsus coined a famous and very simple maxim: " He who prays is certainly saved; he who does not pray is certainly damned." Commenting on this precious phrase, he added: "to save one's soul without prayer is most difficult, and even [as we have seen] impossible…but by praying our salvation is made secure, and very easy” (II, Conclusion). And again: " if we do not pray, we have no excuse, because the grace of prayer is given to every one... if we are not saved, the whole fault will be ours; and we shall have our own failure to answer for, because we did not pray " (ibid.). Saying then that prayer is a necessary, St. Alphonsus wanted us to understand that in every situation of life we need to pray, especially in times of trial and difficulty. We must always knock at the door of the Lord with confidence, knowing that He cares for all His children. For this, we are asked not to be afraid to turn to Him with confidence and to submit to our petitions, in the certainty of receiving what we need.

Dear friends, this is the central question: what is really necessary in our lives? We answer together with St. Alphonsus: "The health and all the grace we need" (ibid.), meaning not only the health of the body, but primarily that of the soul which Jesus gifts to us. More than anything else we need his liberating presence that makes us truly fully human, and thus our existence full of joy. And only through prayer can we accept Him, His grace, which, by illuminating us in every situation, helps us discern the truth, and, by fortifying us, renders our will capable of implementing what we know to be good. We often know what is good, but are incapable of doing it. Through prayer, we can.The disciple of the Lord knows he is always exposed to temptation and in prayer never fails to ask God for help conquer it.

St. Alphonsus gives the example of St. Philip Neri, who "from the first moment when he woke in the morning, said to God:" My God, beware of Philip; otherwise he will betray you'"(III, 3). We too aware of our weakness, must seek the help of God with humility, relying only on the wealth of His mercy. St. Alphonsus says in another passage: " We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor. If we are poor, God is rich "(II, 4). And, in the wake of St. Augustine, he invites all Christians not to be afraid to obtain from God, through prayers, the power we are lacking, that we need to do good, in the certainty that the Lord does not deny His help to those who pray with humility (cf. III, 3). Dear friends, St. Alphonsus reminds us that the relationship with God is essential in life and that only with a daily personal prayer and participation in the sacraments, can the Divine presence that directs, illuminates and makes safe and peaceful our path, even in the midst of difficulties and dangers, grow in us.