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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Christmas in a disaster zone them spiritually. “A Filipino priest studying in Rome decided to go home to Tacloban, his town, because he felt he was needed more urgently there at present, to minister to his town mates.” And like South African Catholics have been called to financially assist, Filipinos have too. “Congregations are raising funds to help provide Mass kits and other things HEN disaster strikes, needed for the celebration of the faith becomes more Holy Eucharist in affected areas. Priests from various dioceses are central to the healing and recovery of victims,” said Ilsa helping the people in their spiritual Reyes, Catholic author and radio and temporal needs,” said Ms Reyes. For many, the future is uncerhost based in Quezon City, Philiptain. Some victims have decided to pines. The Philippines is no stranger to rebuild their lives in the cities ravnatural disasters. Earthquakes, ty- aged by Yolanda, while others have phoons and landslides have played decided to try their recovery in bighavoc in the developing country’s ger cities. Those in Metro Manila history. Yolanda has been the dead- are being helped by religious comliest to date, killing at least 5 680 munities through counselling and spiritual means. people. Christmas will certainly be differThe Catholic media personality has heard many stories of those af- ent. “Christmas will be a sad one for fected by Typhoon Haiyan, known the Yolanda victims,” said Ms Reyes. “Many of them are just beginlocally as Yolanda. But when faced with so much ning to realise what they have lost, destruction—of lives and prop- after the initial shock of the horrierty—how have the Filipinos con- ble experience. Some are still looktinued? Ms Reyes believes it has to ing for missing relatives. “For many, the effects are just do with strong faith—the Philippines has the third-largest Catholic starting to sink in,” she said, population in the world after Brazil adding that it is important to help and Mexico with more than 80% in the “rehabilitation—not just in or 75,5 million people identifying the relief—of those affected. In this themselves as Catholic, and in way, Christmas will be meaningful times of disasters these Catholics amidst the trauma these people are going through.” cling ever more to Much of daily life their faith. was put on hold in the “One woman spoke aftermath of the tyof the water that was Despite the phoon. School children rising up to her head. returned to their studgrieving, She was trying to leave ies at the beginning of her house through the people have December. door but it was Some children, who jammed. She prayed gone back to are unattached because with all her might, and then suddenly the door Mass – even in they lost their parents was opened! A plastic churches badly in the calamity, have been taken to foster table found its way into damaged by homes operated by varher house, and this beagencies. came her lifesaver to the typhoon. ious“The first priority which she clung and for this second group on which she floated,” of children is to proMs Reyes said. It’s these kinds of stories that have of- vide them with homes. Some may fered hope and strengthened the have to continue their schooling in other cities or provinces.” faith of the millions affected. Accordingly, the likes of Ms “Another lady kept leading her family in prayer as they were climb- Reyes and her healing group are oring to higher ground. It was in the ganising events like “Pasko ng grotto of Mama Mary on elevated Paghihilom, Panalangin at Paglalaro ground where they were able to seek para sa Yolanda kids” (A Christmas refuge. She also kept praying that Filled with Healing, Prayer and Play she would be able to locate the bag for the Yolanda Kids”) as a simple which contained her credit cards way of reaching out to these young ones during a “sensitive and impresand ID.” The woman had thrown the bag sionable time in their lives and letonto her roof, hoping the water ting them know that Christ, the would not reach it. The water con- Reason for the Season, is with them tinued to rise but a neighbour had in their suffering”. The group will be encouraging seen the bag and returned it to the children to pray and to draw their woman. Thanks to the bag, she was wishes. “We will be giving them afable to secure transport out of the firmation, we will sing, dance and city—a series of miracles in itself. Aleat with them. A friend has volunthough her property was badly damteered to bring over a clown to aged, she and her family continue cheer them up, and to give them to thank the Lord they are safe, Ms face painting. Several people, Reyes recalled. young and old, have already exAnd even those who were not as pressed their desire to be part of lucky have found strength in their this,” said Ms Reyes. faith. “A former seminarian lost In whatever way they can, Filboth his parents through drown- ipinos are reaching out to their ing. It has been a painful experi- compatriots. And the Church is ence for him but on his Facebook very much central to the healing page, he shares how he believes he process. will see them again someday in “The Church, through the social heaven.” His story, Ms Reyes said, action group of the Catholic bishhas become a source of inspiration ops’ conference of the Philippines, to others to continue praying dioceses, parishes, congregations through the hard times. and communities, has been very And despite the grieving, people active in responding to the victims. have gone back to Mass—even in Church officials have been enchurches badly damaged by couraging Catholics to do their Yolanda. “They are asking God to share in reaching out to the vicheal them of their sorrows and af- tims, simplifying preparations for fliction,” the author said. Christmas, praying for the victims The Church has also become a and spearheading fundraising projplace of refuge for many. “Priests ects. from other places have actually Disasters are not uncommon in gone to the affected cities and the Philippines and the nation has helped people bless their dead, lis- rallied together to help bring some tened to the people and served joy over this important feast.
What happens to our family and faith traditions when natural disasters turn your world upside down? How do you persevere without a house, without gifts and without some family members? CLAIRE MATHIESON finds out.
An altar server lifts up a broken crucifix as he and others clear debris from the altar area of the partially destroyed cathedral in Palo, Phillippines, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The cathedral is one of many Catholic churches, schools and convents damaged or destroyed in the powerful storm. (Photo: Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters/CNS)
FATHER RALPH de HAHN
PRAYERFULLY WISHES ALL CLERGY, RELIGIOUS AND TO ALL MISSIONARIES A HOLY & BEAUTIFUL FEAST
May this awesome Incarnation fill your heart with fascination; kneel before the Lord who came to heal the broken, blind and lame. May the wonder of His birth start love-fires thro' the earth that your Christmas day may be an everlasting memory.
A BLESSED CHRISTMAS. GOD LOVE YOU ALL
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Christmas in the land of Jesus In the Holy Land, Christmas traditions include Mass, parades and family time, as JUDITH SUDILOVSKY explains.
HE simmering smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in Catholic parishes across the West Bank and Israel heralds the start of the Christmas season in early December as families prepare burbara, the special wheat pudding eaten to mark the feast day of St Barbara, known as Eid El-Burbara in Arabic. According to local Christian tradition, St Barbara, who was beheaded by her pagan father because of her Christian faith, was held and tortured in a tower that stood in the nearby village of Aboud. If you attend the annual special Mass on December 4 at St Joseph parish in Jifna, you will find the parish hall laden with the homemade puddings presented in festive plates and decorated with chocolate Santa Claus bars, coloured sweets and sugared almonds sprinkled with cocoa. Families send bowls of the fragrant pudding studded with dried fruit and nuts to Muslim and Christian
friends and neighbours. “Normally we begin our Christmas celebrations after St Barbara,” said parish priest Fr Firas Aridah. Families begin decorating their homes and Christmas trees after the feast, he said. On December 15 parishioners begin a novena, marking the nine days before Christmas, in a community-wide celebration when the village Christmas tree is lit and all the parishioners light their home decorations. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts lead a festive procession around the village, and the three priests from the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches come together to celebrate and greet one another at St Joseph Catholic church. In Israel, too, many Catholic communities will have their own scout procession in the days leading up to Christmas. Some parades are replete with bagpipes, a tradition that extends to the days of British control.
newer tradition in Bethlehem, West Bank, finds people singing Christmas carols in Manger Square starting on December 16 as choirs sponsored by the municipality perform through Christmas Eve, said Minerva Andonia, 36, of Bethlehem who is Catholic. Her husband is Greek Orthodox. As almost everywhere, gift-giv-
A Palestinian vendor selling corn pushes a cart through Bethlehem’s Manger Square. The square, with the church of the Nativity seen in back, is a hub of activity for Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land. (Photo: Ammar Awad, Reuters/CNS)
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ing is an important part of the festivities, though without the shopping frenzy often associated with the Christmas season in the West. “Presents are necessary,” Mrs Andonia said. “It’s the spirit of Christmas, but you can give something not expensive.” Children also wait—impatiently—for the arrival of Santa Claus, she said, and are good-naturedly admonished to behave lest they end up with nothing. In Catholic communities in Israel, a family member traditionally dresses up as Santa Claus and hands out presents to the children on Christmas Eve. More recently, stores offer their own “special delivery service” with employees dressing up as Santa Claus to deliver gifts. Across the West Bank in towns with large Christian populations, young people often dress up as Santa Claus during the season and ring hand-held bells as they traipse around the town. In Israeli cities such as Haifa and Nazareth, children dressed as Santa Claus are also a common site. While pilgrims congregate on Manger Square, most local Bethlehem Catholic families have their holiday meal at home. They attend an early Mass on Christmas Eve at their local parish where there is a solemn procession with a statue of the infant Jesus. At St Catherine church, adjacent to the church of the Nativity where tradition places the birth of Jesus, Mass-goers participate in a tradition reaching back at least to the 18th century. A nearly lifesized statue of the new-born Christ, normally kept at the side altar of Our Lady Mary, is placed in front of the main altar a few days prior to Christmas, said parish priest Fr Marwan Di’des. “At the end of Mass, in a nice procession the Latin patriarch takes the statue and places it in the grotto,” at the church of the Nativity, said Fr Di’des, who as Bethlehem parish priest conducts a midnight Mass in the grotto for 60 parishioners who obtained tickets on a first-come basis. “This is important not only for the people there but also for everyone watching via the mass media. For me it is a privilege to be able to say Mass in the grotto.” To prepare for the moment, he said, he leaves all his other duties half an hour before the Mass and goes to the sacristy to prepare spiritually. “I feel as if... Jesus Christ is really born at that moment in the
The SeRvAnTS OF ChRIST The PRIeST
Catholic Palestinian Loreen Musallom helps her sons Aram and Ameer with Santa Claus outfits in their flat in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Palestinian children like to wear Santa Claus costumes and ring hand-held bells as they traipse around the town during the Christmas season. (Photo: Debbie Hill/CNS) grotto. It is very calm. I can feel the holiness of our Lord. The opportunity to say Mass in the grotto is a piece of heaven left for us on earth by our Jesus Christ,” he said. The infant Jesus statue remains in the grotto from midnight until 2 am, when it is returned to Our Lady Mary altar. “We pray in the grotto and read the Nativity story from the Gospel. The real feast is in the grotto, but we can’t say Mass there for everybody,” he said.
he traditional, more-crowded midnight Mass televised around the world is celebrated at St Catherine church. In the Melkite Catholic village of Mi’ilyah in Galilee, decorating the village entrance is an opportunity for young people to socialise and have fun. However, last year the festivities were subdued in memory of a village resident who was murdered in the Israeli seaport town of Eilat. As is the custom in Arab society, families who have lost loved ones during the last year did not have festive celebrations for the holiday, even though they still participated in the religious ceremonies. The two days following Christmas are spent visiting family and friends across Israel and the West Bank. In Mi’ilyah last year, the male members of families went to-
gether in the early morning to pay condolence calls on families who had lost loved ones during the year. In the West Bank, brothers traditionally visit their sisters, bringing them small gifts and sweets. “This visit makes me feel very happy, because not only my brother comes to visit me but my whole family comes. It makes me feel special,” said Mrs Andonia, the Catholic from Bethlehem. “Even if we are a minority here we have to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. The Christmas spirit in Bethlehem is one of joy and happiness, and hope with Jesus.” In the Galilee city of Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city and where Jesus spent most of his life, an afternoon procession on Christmas Eve launches the evening celebration as the streets are alight with decorations and stores are ablaze with lighted Christmas trees and colourful gifts. Christians from the neighbouring villages gather in the city for a procession as well as a fireworks display. Dance parties for youth and parties for children follow the procession. Mass at the basilica of the Annunciation is held in the early evening. “But here, on Christmas everybody is mainly at home with their families,” said Latifa Assaf, 34, of Mi’ilyah.—CNS
SeCulAR InSTITuTe OF COnSeCRATeD AnD APOSTOlIC lIFe FOunDeR the very Rev Father Andre Joseph Blaise OMI (1902-1992),
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
A family Christmas on the road The Zapp family has chosen a different life: one on the road. Each month sees a different town, a different province, a new country and along the way new friends. CLAIRE MATHIESON learns what Christmas is like when you’re travelling the world with your family.
HRISTMAS is a special moment for us, it has always been. It is a moment to feel happy. It’s a special birthday to celebrate, and an opportunity to celebrate and share it with people you love,” said Argentine-born Candelaria Zapp. Candelaria and husband Herman decided to follow a dream back in 2000 after six years of marriage. They packed their bags and hit the open road in their 1928 GrahamPaige car—a vintage vehicle with wooden wheels and a top speed of 60km/h. In their 13 years on the road, the couple has visited 48 countries and added a few passengers: Pampa, 10, was born in the US, Tehue, 8, was born in Argentina, Paloma, 5, was born in Canada, and the newest passenger, Wallaby, was born in Australia and is four years old. While Argentina will always remain home, the car is their residence on the road. The family camps but more often than not, they are welcomed into the homes of strangers. “We have friends all over the world. People are so generous,” Candelaria
told The Southern Cross while the family was in Cape Town. Their journey has since taken them into Namibia and Zimbabwe, where they are likely to spend Christmas. Christmas is a big celebration and an important tradition for the family. Candelaria said the family enjoys seeing how people around the world celebrate the feast. From the lights in the houses to preparation in the kitchen and time spent in church. “When we travel it’s beautiful to see….the people getting ready to celebrate.” Candelaria said in some countries, Christmas is a very present theme. In others the Christian tradition is not celebrated at all. The family will try and be surrounded by those who do celebrate it. During a recent Christmas in India, the family joined a group of overlanders, and the international adventurers all enjoyed the feast around a fire on a beach in Goa. “Of course in our long journey when Christmas time comes it is a moment to miss home, not the house but that special moment shared with our siblings, nieces, nephews, parents and friends. Even so we enjoy celebrating it wherever we are, with beautiful families and new friends.” But the celebrations have always been special—regardless of where they have been in the world. They have mostly been invited into the homes of strangers to celebrate. Their first Christmas on the road was spent with a family on Margarita Island in Venezuela. Others have been spent with families in Mexico, San Francisco and Vancouver Island in Canada where their daughter Paloma was born—“a wonderful gift
The Zapp family with their vintage car have exchanged the traditional Christmas tree for a baobab tree as they travel through Africa. for Christmas!” And even when their special family traditions are not shared with other families, the days are still special. In Sydney, the family watched the fireworks on First Harbour Bridge and Christmas in the Philippines meant family time on the beach. “To be with families helps us to not miss [our own] so much and we are really thankful to them for having us. I imagine that it was not only for us a different Christmas but also for them, having a family of six travelling from Argentina!” Candelaria said a highlight for the children is the arrival of Father Christmas. “The children could really see that Santa Claus takes care of all the children of the world, doesn’t matter where you live”—an enduring thought for the family constantly on the move. Last year the family spent Christmas in Argentina
in their own home. It had been seven years since they had spent it with family. The family had missed being able to decorate their house, put up a Christmas tree and Nativity scene. When on the road, they decorate the car as much as they can with Christmas baubles or tinsel. “We even once had a little Christmas tree on top!” Some might think it would have been hard to get back on the road but the family had set a goal of travelling through Africa, ending in Europe. The family enjoys the time spent on the road as much as they do meeting new people and learning new cultures and traditions. Africa represents a new exciting adventure that has already included a year spent enjoying South Africa with “incredibly kind people all over the country” and time spent with the Himba tribe in Namibia where
young Paloma painted the young Himba girls’ finger nails—an exciting day for all involved. “We’ve learnt so much from the people we’ve met. Our children are getting an education they couldn’t get in school.” While on the road the children are home-schooled with lessons taking place on the beach, in forests or in the houses of hosts and they write their exams at Argentinean embassies, Candelaria told The Southern Cross. As a result, the children are inquisitive, confident and kind. They’ve grown sharing a small space together, moving slowly through countries—giving them time to appreciate where they have gone and where they are going. The children, bilingual in Spanish and English, have learnt to respect and appreciate different cultures. While the children are studying, Herman and Candelaria spend time recording and documenting their travels. Much of their income comes from the sale of their book, Spark your Dream (available at Kalahari.net or Amazon.com). The rest comes from the generosity of others. “This year we don’t know yet where we are going to be; maybe Zimbabwe, maybe Malawi or maybe Mozambique. It is going to be our first Christmas in Africa,” Candelaria said excitedly. For the Zapp family, location is less important. “The important thing is to celebrate wherever you are; Christmas is always good. Everywhere we have been it has represented hope, love and faith and if you have these three feelings you can fulfill any dream, even travelling around the world!”
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
How a Catholic saint turned into Santa Claus Santa Claus dominates the secular image of Christmas, but he was based on a 4thcentury saint. GÜNTHER SIMMERMACHER looks at the history of St Nicholas of Myra, and how the saint from modern-day Turkey morphed into the corpulent bringer of gifts from the North Pole.
HE figure of Santa Claus is much a creation of American marketing expertise, entering popular culture in the 19th century and propelled to superstardom with Coca Cola perpetuating the image of the portly, luxuriously-bearded, white-haired, scarlet-dressed, reindeer-driving, elf-dominating, chimney-sliding, ho-ho-hoing deliverer of Christmas gifts. Santa Claus, as most people will know, is based on the fourth-century saint Nicholas of Bari. St Nicholas, too, is often depicted with a full beard, though of a more austere physique than the creation we encounter in shopping malls and on greeting cards. An image created in 2005 by the British facial anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson, based on data collected after the saint’s skull and bones were temporarily removed from their crypt in 1953, reveals a man with strong facial features, especially the chin, and a dominant forehead. He was of medium height, at 1,67m. From the state of his teeth, we even know that St Nicholas’ diet was mainly vegetarian. St Nicholas was born in around 270AD—some sources say on March 15—to wealthy parents in Patara, on the Mediterranean coast in what is now southern Turkey. His parents, often named as Epiphanius and Johanna, died when he was young in an epidemic, leaving the boy with a rich inheritance, which he would disperse in acts of charity. The young Nicholas was taken care of by his namesake uncle, the bishop of nearby Myra, who trained his wealthy young charge for the clerical life, and eventually ordained him to the priesthood. That was before the Roman Emperor Constantine legalised Christianity in 313 and thus protected the faithful from harassment, such as the Diocletian persecution of 303, the final and most severe pogrom against Christians in the Roman Empire, which was at its most terri-
ble in the East, where Nicholas lived. At some point Nicholas succeeded his uncle as bishop. We know that he was present at the First Council of Nicaea in 325— making him a signatory to the Nicene Creed which we still recite today. But Nicholas is not remembered as a mover and shaker in the Church during its nascent rise to power, but for his acts of charity. One story stands out. Nicholas had learnt about the dilemma of a local man who had no funds to provide a dowry for his daughters. Unable to marry them off, the only future the father saw for his girls was a life of prostitution (those, clearly, were different days). In the still of the night Nicholas came to the house and anonymously dropped a bag containing gold coins through the window. The next night he did the same with a second bag. The astonished father of the girls naturally was keen to know the identity of the anonymous benefactor, who either was too modest to make known his act of charity or wished to spare the family embarrassment. The father evidently cared little about either possibility, for on the third night he waited undercover for the sponsor’s inevitable return. The identity of the benefactor now known, word of this merciful generosity spread and became entrenched in the story of Bishop Nicholas of Myra.
ther stories accompanied the legend of Nicholas. Some, such as his aid to sailors, ring true; less so others, such as the raising from the dead of three children who were pickled in vats by a wicked butcher. No doubt Nicholas was a holy man, as the cult that emerged soon after his death would confirm. But he was probably also a man of temperament. One story has him slapping the heretic Arius at the Council of Nicaea, not a conventional method of settling theological disputes even then. Facial anthropologist Wilkinson also reported that Nicholas’ skull showed evidence that his nose had been broken at least once. Maybe the saint had his share of scrapes; more likely he suffered a brutal assault during the Diocletian persecution. The state of his bones suggested that he also had lived for some time in damp and unhealthy conditions, such as a jail. Soon after Nicholas died in Myra on December 6, 343, the local Christians built a new church in which to inter his remains. Myra, now known as Demre,
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soon became a popular place of pilgrimage, sustained by reports of many miracles attributed to the saint’s intercession. The veneration became internationally famous owing to what is called “manna”, fragrant water that forms around the bones of the saint, reportedly even today. By the 11th century, trade in relics had become big business. Towns that housed the relics of famous saints not only enjoyed the spiritual benefits of veneration, but also the economic advantage of attracting pilgrim tourism. Most Italian towns of note could boast the bones of some saint or other. The Adriatic town of Bari, however, had no relics, and therefore no pilgrims. That disappointing state of affairs was changed by the conquest of the territory around Myra by the Seljuk Turks in 1071. Although control of the region changed periodically over the following years, the Church in the West was concerned about free access to holy shrines in the East. Bari and Venice announced their intention to bring the remains of St Nicholas to Italy, ostensibly for safekeeping but with a keen eye on the commercial opportunities. The issue of who would rescue St Nicholas’ bones was not yet settled when in 1087 a crew of 62 sailors set off from Bari for Myra. When they entered the cathedral there, the expedition’s leader, Matteo, smashed the tomb of St Nicholas, robbed the grave of half of its bones and took them to Bari, where they have been ever since. The names of the sailors were en-
St Nicholas is depicted in an 11thcentury wallpainting now displayed in the Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens, Greece.
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Santa Claus asks two girls what they want for Christmas. The figure of Santa Claus is based on the 4th-century St Nicholas of Myra. (Photo: Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier) graved into the cathedral walls as a testament to their daring act of relic-hunting. That was of little consolation for them, however, since the local church had reneged on a deal whereby the grave robbers were to be given a cut of the profits generated by the relics they had stolen. The Venetians later collected what their counterparts from Bari had left behind. Modern forensics confirm that the bones in Bari and Venice come from the same person. Relics said to be those of St Nicholas in the Antalya Museum in Turkey, however, cannot possibly belong to the saint. With the miracle of the manna continuing in Bari, the cult of St Nicholas spread throughout the West, to the point that St Nicholas became one of the most popular saints in the Church, with his feast day, December 6, widely celebrated.
n the 12th century, French nuns instituted a tradition of putting apples and nuts into the stockings of sleeping children on the eve of St Nicholas’ feast. It caught on throughout Europe; even today children in many parts of Europe receive little gifts in stockings or boots they put out on before going to sleep on December 5. When they rise in the morning, they find their stockings or boots filled with favours, ostensibly by St Nicholas. In the Netherlands, the feast of St Nicholas, rather than Christmas, remains the primary date for giving gifts. After the Reformation, the veneration of the saints was suppressed in many parts of Europe, with varying degrees of success. That of the immensely popular St Nicholas was an obvious target. In puritan England, the tradition of presenting gifts was informally transferred to the feast of the Nativity, with a new character taking St Nicholas’ place: Father Christmas. Not coincidentally, in artistic representations Father Christmas looked much like St Nicholas.
In America, meanwhile, German and later Dutch settlers popularised the traditions associated with the saint they respectively knew as Sankt Nikolaus and Sinterklaas, with the Dutch in New York by the 18th century associating the saint with Christmas, rather than December 6. In America, as in Europe, Christmas was not yet a holiday, nor the family feast we know now, but above all a time for drunken raucousness, a state that persisted until the mid-19th century. By the early 1800s, the traditions of St Nicholas in the United States had mingled with those of the English Father Christmas (with a dash of the Germanic pagan god Odin). The composite figure became entrenched with Christmas, with the Dutch name Sinterklaas gradually being corrupted to become Santa Claus. The pivotal point in the elimination of the saint from the festivities was the early 1820s. In 1821, America’s first lithographed book, The Children’s Friend, told of “Sante Claus” travelling from the north in a sleigh powered by flying reindeer. Two years later, the famous poem “The Night Before Christmas” appeared. It was originally titled “A Visit from St Nicholas”, but its description of the eponymous character had little to do with the saint, but instead established the template for the now familiar corpulent, jolly fellow who makes his visits on December 25, not on the sixth day of the month. With that, the fourth century saint with a charism of charity and love of God was displaced by a figure of fiction that would become synonymous with commercial excess. But God has the last laugh: Santa Claus played a crucial part in turning Christmas from an occasion for drunken revelry into the family feast we know and value today, an occasion for good will and widespread church-going. One suspects that St Nicholas would approve at least of that.
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
A Southern Cross Christmas 75 years ago Since its inception in 1920, Christmas has been a special time for The Southern Cross. PORTIA MTHEMBU and CLAIRE MATHIESON take a look at Christmas at The Southern Cross 75 years ago.
ETWEEN the bouncing back and forth of ideas, coffee refills, the endless grinding of the printer and mountainous proofreading of copies, the Christmas edition of The Southern Cross can turn its usually calm office into a madhouse. But the end result is that the reader is treated to a paper packed full of spirit-filled, Christmas-themed articles. Seventy-five years ago, during the Advent editions of 1938, the newspaper predominantly carried stories of the lives of religious. Br John Bernard Callanan’s resignation as St Vincent de Paul’s superior president made front page headlines. The brother who was known for giving selflessly to charity work had been a member of the society for 56 years and was ready to retire. Also included on the cover of the 948th issue was a notification of the death of Bridget Coleman, a Cape Town Dominican, and an international news piece concerning the costs involved in restoring the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. However, catching the reader’s attention was, in bold letters, a reminder for readers not to forget to
order the “Special Enlarged Christmas Issue” that would be available in the following week. This is a tradition The Southern Cross carries to this day. Similarly, the tradition of giving readers an extra large newspaper for the feast was very much in play in 1938 but interestingly, instead of a religious image on the front page, the issue featured a wrap-around carrying a full-page advert for three new models of the Packard motor vehicle. “Ask the man who owns one”—the motor vehicle dealership, Mannion Motors, told readers. It would go on to describe the thrill one feels in viewing the Packard; a “motor car that has always exemplified the finest in mechanical construction”.
n fact, a highlight of reading the 1938 issue is taking in the advertising. While those may have been more conservative times, The Southern Cross contained a surprisingly large number of liquor adverts. From Tafel Beer to Haig’s Scotch whisky, the festive nature of the first half of the paper was in its adverts and not its stories. Christmas decorations, Springbok cigarettes and Stuttaford’s advertisements carried the Christmas theme throughout the paper. In contrast, readers might be pleased to know The Southern Cross today carries a more sober tone focusing on the highs and lows of the feast; keeping Christ front and centre. Some of the familiar brands that graced the paper’s pages included “The Standard Bank of South Africa” with over 370 branches and
Alcohol advertising in The Southern Cross for Christmas 1938. The wrap-around for December 14, 1938 featured an advert for a Packard car. An editorial page featured an article written by Fr FJ Scott Stokes. agencies in Africa. Its image is the Another notable difference be- lies with the parents and Christian old head office in Adderly Street, tween today’s issue and the Christ- family life—a sentiment shared by Cape Town which the bank recently mas issue 75 years ago is colour Catholics today as the world’s bishvacated. printing. The only colour present in ops prepare to reflect on family at Another brand that has changed 1938 was the ochre paper of the their synod in 2014. with the newspaper is Sunlight soap wrap-around. The Christmas supplement con—“make sure it’s in your washtub Today’s technology allows our tained mostly feature articles on every washday!”—and the Singer editor to decorate the front page Christmas in foreign countries. Sewing machine that promised with beautiful art work. “Living the faith in Poland” by Greevery woman the “complete means The “proper” front page of the gory MacDonald is a lovely insight of self-expression and art creation”, special edition covered the Holy Fa- into Polish traditions during the fulfilling her “inborn, natural desire ther’s health. The pope of this era festive season, and another by Douto sew and make pretty things for was Pope Pius XI; he would die two glas Organ on Christmas in Spain. her own adornment and discern- months after the article ran. There are photos from a Christment”. Other notable articles included mas in Korea and an article on The range of adverts is vast. coverage of the 14th Catholic Catholic schools in Japan. This inCatholic and secular businesses African Union Congress at Mari- ternational fascination continues, were actively present in the news- annhill. A letter to the editor asked: as in the present edition we cover paper—regardless of their industry. “What is wrong with our Catholic stories from the Philippines, PalesThe newspaper of 1938 had far menfolk? Why is it we cannot make tine and Zimbabwe. fewer photographs and graphics but a success of our social clubs in the It is clear that while technology those printed are a wonderful win- same manner as our Protestant and advertising change over time, dow to the era of missionaries in brothers do theirs?” in more than 75 years of Southern rural Africa and a time when men An aricle on the problem of Cross Christmases, much more stays and women wore hats daily. Catholic youth stated the solution the same.
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December 18 to December 24, 2013
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Religious leaders: We must bring e-tolls down BY CLAIRE MATHIESON
ELIGIOUS leaders have said that they must be at the forefront in encouraging a peaceful and non-violent rejection of e-tolling in Gauteng. “We reiterate our call for our people to show their rejection of this system by refusing to buy e-tags,” a group of faith leaders, including the Catholic Church, said in a statement. They encouraged South Africans to take a stand against e-tolls by not supporting the system, reminding the faithful that it is not a legal requirement to buy an e-tag. The ecumenical group of leaders, which has repeated publicly declared their intention to refuse e-tags, called on all other church leaders and congregations “who support democracy to do the same”. Transport minister Dipua Peters, who is a Catholic, has reiterated that e-tolling is the only way to find funding for the province’s roads. “I want to ask my Church whether it is correct to say that government must take from the poorest of the poor...to pay for the roads. Is it correct to say to those [who] are relying on government for health services that we must take from you to be able to construct the roads?” The minister said the Church is a partner with government and should help advance the country’s economy by encouraging South Africans to pay their e-tolls. “We need the Church,” the minister said, adding that the Church had been central in bringing down
many injustices in the past. “I appeal to my bishop to see that it is important that we consider the need for us to continue upgrading and improving the roads of South Africa, but we need to remember that we have many priorities and we cannot crowd these out,” the minister said. The ecumenical leaders also frame their position on e-tolling around questions of poverty, saying that e-tolls have a direct impact on the poor, even on those who do not use them since businesses will pass the cost of tolls on to the consumer. Moreover, the religious leaders felt aggrieved at civil society being ignored, even the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an alliance partner of the African National Congress. “We were shocked and disappointed to hear that government is ignoring the protests of the people and has pushed ahead with this costly and inefficient way of raising funds for the new roads,” the group of ecumenical leaders said in their statement.
ince e-tolling went ahead in early December, untolled roads have reportedly been congested. The religious leaders were distressed at the timing of the roll-out of e-tolling, “on the eve of the Christmas season—a time of great significance to the vast majority of this country’s people”. The faith leaders acknowledged the need to improve the country’s roads, but reject the method in which funds are being collected, be-
lieving that e-tolling will affect the poor most severely. As an alternative to e-tolls, the church leaders support the implementation of an additional national fuel levy—approximately 8 cents per litre—which they say would have paid for the roads by now. The leaders felt that since Gauteng supports the economy of the rest of the country, a few cents each from road users around the world would be a small ask to support the roads in Gauteng. The Catholic Church, represented by Justice&Peace liaison Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, has recognised the possibility of increased tension. “The resistance of large numbers of people will, in the light of such intransigence from our leaders, inevitably result in the use of strongarm tactics to try and enforce this system,” J&P said in a statement. “While it is our duty to encourage obedience to the law, this is dependent on the law being just and reasonable—and this e-tolling law fails that test. There is therefore no obligation to follow it.” The religious leaders acknowledged that the months to come will be difficult, but believe it is important that “we continue to demand that government is accountable to the people, that consultation is not negotiable when it comes to such important decisions, and that the voice of the people has to be heard and taken account of”. “If enough of the people refuse to collaborate, such systems inevitably falter and will ultimately fail.”
A worker on a lift decorates the Christmas tree in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican. This year’s tree, which is 25m high, comes from Waldmünchen in Bavaria’s Bohemian Forest. Vatican workmen struggled for nearly an hour to cut and fit the 1m-wide trunk into the metal stand’s 60cm-diameter hole. Another 60 smaller trees, destined for the Paul VI audience hall and other areas around the Vatican, were also brought from Waldmünchen. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
Bishops: Zimbabwe more divided now than before election BY BRONWEN DACHS
IMBABWE is more polarised now than it was before this year’s general elections, according to the country’s bishops. “The political fault lines and their impact on all aspects of the lives of Zimbabweans are set not only to deepen, but also to stand in the way of progress and ultimately in the way of peace,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a pastoral letter. “We note with apprehension that...there are no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe that cry for restoration to give people hope for a better life,” the bishops said. “Daily water and power cuts, shortage of medicines, equipment and professional personnel in our
hospitals, chaos and carnage on our roads, raw sewage flowing in the streets of our towns and cities—the list of what reduces us as a people, our dignity and our hope for a better life is long,” said the letter, signed by the country’s nine bishops, including the conference president, Bishop Angel Floro of Gokwe. Zimbabwe urgently needs to create “viable platforms to address effectively” the restoration of the public services sector, including “health, education, water, sanitation, transport and energy,” the bishops said. Also critical are “full re-engagement with the international community,” restoration of the economy, particularly the manufacturing sector, and “restoration of Zimbabwe’s historical status as the breadbasket of the southern Africa
region with guaranteed food security for her people”, they said. “Our industrial sites carry the appearance of ghost towns because the once-vibrant manufacturing sector is now largely moribund,” the bishops said. “The dignity of our people has been severely eroded” because, to survive, Zimbabweans turn to selling “cheap goods and products at street corners in our cities”, they said. The July elections in which 89year-old President Robert Mugabe was re-elected “have left Zimbabweans more polarised than they were before and during” the unity government formed after disputed 2008 elections, the bishops said. Although the unity government drew criticism, “it would be hard to deny that some visible progress was
made to improve the lot of our people, particularly the lot of the poor in our society who were making frequent and regular visits to neighbouring countries to buy basics for survival, as shops in our country were empty”, they said. “What made this improvement possible was the fact that Zimbabweans, including the political parties, worked together for the common good,” they said. The bishops said the fact that the unity government was always seen as a “temporary marriage of convenience foisted on the political parties” by Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries was a problem. They noted that the current “winnertake-all political arrangement will not benefit Zimbabwe and her people at this stage of our political development.”
All parties need to work together to achieve the restoration that Zimbabwe needs, the bishops said. “Zimbabwe is blessed with abundant natural resources and resilient, God-fearing and highly skilled people,” they said, noting that this abundance “gives us encouragement and hope that Zimbabweans can transform this unsatisfactory situation and in its place create a better life for all Zimbabweans”. Political will at all levels is necessary to achieve this, the letter said. Noting that Zimbabwe has “experts in all the areas of greatest need in our economy”, the bishops urged that nonpartisan task teams be set up to address national economic transformation, the setting up of social services, and Zimbabwe’s integration into the international community.—CNS
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Madiba and the Catholic Church Lost amid the flood of tributes that followed the death of Nelson Mandela was his relationship with the Catholic Church. CLAIRE MATHIESON reports.
ELSON MANDELA was inspired by the Catholic Church’s involvement in social justice concerns during his many years of incarceration. This came to light in a letter the late former president wrote from Pollsmoor Prison to Archbishop Stephen Naidoo of Cape Town. In the neatly handwritten letter, Mr Mandela said he was uplifted by the pastoral care provided by clergy on Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 18 years. The content of Mr Mandela’s letter, dated November 1984, was published for the first time in the July 9, 2008 issue of The Southern Cross. “Archbishop Naidoo, who under apartheid laws was classified as ‘Indian’, and Mandela had become friends before his appointment to Cape Town. Then-Auxiliary Bishop Naidoo regularly made pastoral visits to arid and tightly guarded Robben Island, where the former president had been incarcerated from 1964 to 1982,” Günther Simmermacher, editor of The Southern Cross, wrote in the article on the correspondence. Mr Mandela wrote that his friend’s 1984 appointment as archbishop of Cape Town “has pleased me beyond words”. “The elevation of black personalities to positions of authority in the
Church is a development which has far wider significance than many people may realise,” he said. “For one thing, it will remove a sensitive problem which has repeatedly rocked South African churches, kept each congregation divided against itself, and generated strong and even violent passions not compatible with the teachings of the Scriptures.” In a later address during a Sunday morning Mass at St Mary of the Angels in Athlone, Cape Town, on September 12, 1993, Mr Mandela singled out priests who had visited political prisoners on Robben Island, at Pollsmoor, and in Pretoria. He emphasised the morale-boosting properties of contact with clergy. In his 1984 letter Mandela also inquired about Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban, South Africa’s prominent Catholic anti-apartheid figure. “Archbishop Hurley is often in my thoughts, especially now. I would like him to know that,” Mr Mandela wrote. Sadly, Archbishop Hurley merited no mention in Mr Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, A Long Walk To Freedom. “I think Mr Mandela had a warm view of the Catholic Church, of Pope John Paul II, of bishops like Hurley and Naidoo, and of priests such as Frs Reginald Webber OMI and Brendan Long, who visited him during his various incarcerations— but I think people around him did much to downplay that relationship,” Mr Simmermacher said. “To illustrate, when Archbishop Hurley died, The Southern Cross asked Mr Mandela’s media people for a comment. They refused. Again in 2005, when Pope John Paul II died we asked for a comment. We
A stained-glass depiction of Nelson Mandela at Regina Mundi church, Soweto. were given some line about how Mr Mandela doesn’t comment on religion,” Mr Simmermacher said. “I’m sure that on neither occasion Mr Mandela was asked whether he saw fit to say anything about this man he had so publicly admired.”
fter his release, Mr Mandela, a Methodist who reportedly practised his faith discreetly, spoke frequently about the pivotal role of religion in society. At the 1993 Mass in Cape Town he outlined the Catholic Church’s mandate. “The Catholic Church in particular has played a very important role in the fight for justice,” Mr Mandela said. Pope John Paul II “is well known for being upfront in this regard. I made the point to meet him when I was in Rome in 1990 and what he said gave us...a great deal of strength and hope”. Catholic journalist Sydney Duval
covered Mr Mandela voting for the first time at Ohlange Institute in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal, on April 27, 1994. “What impressed me through the years, from Nelson Mandela’s speech at his trial in 1964 to his approach to the Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) negotiations in 1991, was his singlemindedness in espousing full democracy and freedom for all South Africans—not just shades of it,” Mr Duval said. “He never deviated from this principle which was integral to his response to apartheid as a system that was as evil as it was powerful and ruthless. His was a voice and spirit that transcended party politics.” Recalling the 1993 Mass, Mr Duval said: “At the end of Mass Mandela emphasised the pervasive importance of faith, saying religion is in our blood and it was through
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Church mission schools that he and his generation were educated.” Mr Mandela went on to say that you have to be in a South African prison to appreciate the crucial role of the churches in trying to alleviate the suffering caused by the apartheid government, adding that the work of the Catholic Church in particular had been crucial in the fight for justice. Mr Duval recalled two other occasions when Mr Mandela interacted with the Catholic Church. Early in his presidency Mandela had received the apostolic nuncio at the time, the late Archbishop Ambrose di Paoli, at Tuynhuis, as the Vatican and South Africa had established full diplomatic relations. Mr Mandela told the nuncio that South Africa attached great importance to its relations with the Vatican. He had also noted that the churches and missionaries had inspired his generation with a spirit of service. On March 24, 1998, a delegation from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) met Mr Mandela at Tuynhuis to share mutual concerns on post-apartheid South Africa. On the death of Mr Mandela, Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria expressed gratitude to “uTata Mandela on this sad occasion of his going home”. “Though we knew he was old and ailing, it is difficult to let go of such a jewel; such a symbol of unity, open dialogue and reconciliation,” the archbishop said in his statement. “When Tata was released in 1990, Continued on page 25
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Special Mass for workers and visitors at vineyard chapel STAFF REPORTER
HE 15th annual blessing of the vines is set to be a special day not only for the community of Stellenbosch where Nagenoeg Farm is situated, but also for Capetonian Catholics who might want to participate. “Even if you are a stranger, you are most welcome; all we ask is, please introduce yourself! We’d love to meet you!” said owner Schalk Visser, adding that “everyone and anyone is welcome. We encourage our friends to bring their families
and friends to this event.” Mass will be said at the farm’s St Anthony’s chapel and will be followed by a ride through the vineyards in a procession of tractors and trailers, trucks and bakkies for the actual blessing. “The Mass is the most important part of this event, where we pray for a good harvest and for a blessing of all involved in the harvest and those who are working on the farm,” Mr Visser said. This year’s Mass will be said in memory of Karools Pietersen, a dedicated worker for 46 years.
“He died on November 7 of a stroke after a short illness,” Mr Visser said. “He started to work on the farm at the age of 12 years old! We have been maatjies since childhood days.” Mr Visser said everyone will proceed to the farm’s oak forest for a picnic under the trees. “I was told in 1994 I would never have the privilege of sitting in the shade of an oak that I had planted. “One day, about eight years ago, the gentleman who said that phoned me and told me that the trees were planted and cared for
with love and dedication. “He believed that I could now sit in their shade,” said Mr Visser, adding that children will be also be able to enjoy the swimming pool. A collection will be held at the picnic where funds raised will go to the St Anthony’s Chapel Fund which helps with the upkeep of the chapel as well as sponsoring school clothes and fees for farm children. “This is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a day picnicking on a farm with friends and family in a safe environment,” said Mr Visser. Guests are asked to bring their
own picnic baskets, blankets, chairs and wine. “As this is a wine farm, please bring wine and not beer. The wine industry is suffering so we would like you to rather enjoy the fruit of the grapes,” said Mr Visser. The event will also be an opportunity to celebrate the launch of the farm’s Enaleni’s Dream wine in UK supermarket Tesco. Enaleni’s Dream is the product of a BEE project. The event takes place at Nagenoeg Farm on Saturday, January 25 and begins with Mass at 11:00.
Cyclists to ride for Hurley Centre
Durban’s Emmanuel cathedral’s cycling team, which will take part in the Argus Cycle Tour on March 9, 2014 as a sponsored ride for the Denis Hurley Centre, gather. (From left) Rebecca Arnold, Fr Stephen Tully (administrator), Patrick Wilson (team leader) and Nokubonga Khuzwayo. (Photo: Jean-Marie Ntamubano)
TEAM of cyclists from Emmanuel cathedral is in training four times a week to take part in the Cape Argus Cycle Race on March 9, 2014 as a sponsored race for the Denis Hurley Centre, under the patronage of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. The team will include cathedral administrator Fr Stephen Tully, and will be led by Patrick Wilson. The 109km race, which starts at the Cape Town City Hall and ends at Green Point after following a demanding route through some of the Cape peninsula’s most spectacular scenery and biggest hills, is the world’s largest timed cycle race. “We invite cyclists from other parishes and indeed from all over South Africa who have registered for the race, to join us in this fundraising effort for the Denis Hurley Centre” said Fr Tully. On the weekend preceding the race, those who will be riding for the Denis Hurley Centre will receive a special blessing at the end of each of the Cathedral’s four Masses (Saturday 17:30, Sunday 7:45, 9:45 and 11:45). n Contact Vanessia Wilson, the project organiser, on 072 2587 161 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those wanting to sponsor the team should also contact Vanessia. Further information about the Denis Hurley Centre is on the website www.denishurleycentre.org
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May the Joy and Peace of Christmas help our schools to become true places of peace and learning.
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Sex abuse commission to advise pope BY FRANCIS X. ROCCA
OPE Francis has accepted a proposal to set up a special commission on the sexual abuse of children, which will advise him on ways to prevent abuse and provide pastoral care for victims and their families. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the pope’s advisory Council of Cardinals, said the new commission would continue the work of Pope Benedict XVI against clerical sex abuse, and that among its tasks would be to “study the present programmes in place for the protection of children, and to come up with suggestions for new initiatives” by the Vatican, in collaboration with national bishops’ conferences and religious orders around the world. According to the Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, Pope Francis heard the proposal during the second of three days of
meetings with his 8-member Council of Cardinals, and announced his decision to the council the following morning. Cardinal O’Malley said the new sex abuse commission would be of international composition, consisting perhaps of 12 members, including lay people, members of religious orders and priests. The members will be persons with “competence in the safety of children, relations with victims, mental health, law enforcement” and other relevant subjects, he said. The new body will not take over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s authority for disciplining abusive priests, and local bishops will remain responsible for the safety of children in their dioceses, the cardinal said; but the “Holy See will try to be helpful and help to identify best practices”. The cardinal said he did not know whether the commission would play any role in disciplining
bishops who fail to prevent or punish sex abuse by those under their authority. In 2011, the Vatican instructed the world’s bishops’ conferences to establish formal guidelines on dealing with clerical sex abuse, but reported in February 2013 that about a quarter had failed to comply. Asked whether the new commission was intended to fill a particular gap in the Church’s response to the problem, Cardinal O’Malley said the Vatican’s focus so far had been on legal procedures, and that the new body would represent a more pastoral approach. The cardinal said the commission would study a number of areas, including programmes to educate pastoral workers in signs of abuse, psychological testing and other ways of screening candidates for the priesthood, and the Church’s “cooperation with the civil authorities, the reporting of crimes”.—CNS
10 000 sign birthday card for the pope
ORE than 10 000 young people in the US signed a giant birthday card for Pope Francis, offering their prayers and well-wishes for the Holy Father’s 77th birthday on December 17. “We wanted to give the pope a gift he would truly appreciate; something he would be proud of,” said Mark Nelson, founder of Catholic to the Max, an Ohio-based arts and
gifts outlet company. The 1,2m-tall card consists of a tri-fold plaque featuring an image and prayer of one of the Holy Father’s favourite Marian devotions, “Mary, Un-doer of Knots”. Mr Nelson said that the idea to give the Holy Father gifts of prayer and service came from Pope Francis’ first urbi et orbi address, the night of his election, when he asked that the
faithful pray for him before he imparted his blessing. “From day one, he has asked all of us to pray for him and to serve the poor. This is our response.” The card travelled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last month to collect signatures, and a website was created to allow even more youth to digitally sign the card.—CNA
Pope: Sense of the faithful must be heard, but it’s not an opinion poll BY FRANCIS X ROCCA
OPE Francis said the Church must pay attention to the “sense of the faithful” (sensus fidelium) when exercising its teaching authority, but never confuse that sense with popular opinion on matters of faith. The pope made his comments in an address to members of the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory body. “By the gift of the Holy Spirit,
the members of the Church possess the ‘sense of the faith’,” he said. “It is a question of a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ which permits us to ‘think with the Church’ and discern what is consistent with the apostolic faith and the spirit of the Gospel.” The pope said the magisterium, the Church’s teaching authority, has the “duty to pay attention to what the Spirit tells the Church through authentic manifestations of the ‘sense of the faithful’.” But he told the theologians this
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sense “must not be confused with the sociological reality of majority opinion. That is something else. It is therefore important, and it is your task, to elaborate the criteria that permit discernment of authentic expressions of the ‘sense of the faithful’.” Citing his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said theologians “must always listen to the faith as lived by the humble and little ones, to whom it has pleased the father to reveal what he has hidden from the learned and the wise”. Joking that he was not trying to give “publicity to the Jesuits”, the pope recalled that even his order’s founder, St Ignatius Loyola, used to teach the catechism to children.—CNS
A woman runs from gunfire in Bangui, Central African Republic. The nation’s Catholic leaders have welcomed the deployment of French forces amid an upsurge of fighting in the capital. (Photo: Emmanuel Braun, Reuters/CNS)
Christianity growing in the South, despite persecutions
ESEARCHERS say Christian populations are growing in regions that experience antiChristian persecution, though this threatens their ability to contribute to societies. “Persecution is growing because Christianity is growing in the places where people are persecuted,” said Todd Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Massachusetts-based Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr Thompson’s research estimates that one in five Christians— 500 million people—currently live in countries where Christians are likely to be persecuted. “Persecution in the 21st century is both state-based and societybased,” Dr Johnson said. “Persecutors today represent a wide variety of ideologies: communist, national security state, religious nationalists, and Muslim majorities.” However, Muslim majority countries’ persecution of Christians makes up only 25% of all such oppression, he said. Dr Johnson was one of several scholars who took part in the “Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” conference at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, which aimed to highlight Christianity’s political, religious and economic contributions. Mariz Tadros of the University of Sussex in England noted that Christians in the Middle East do not consider themselves “minorities” because “they see themselves as part of the fabric of society. They see their faith extending over 2 000
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years to when the initial churches were built”. She said that the recent political revolution in Egypt initially had an “extremely inclusive” goal to create space for all citizens irrespective of their religion, gender and class. However, the rise of some Islamic political parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, had correlated with an increase in “a very exclusionary discourse” that put pressure on Christians, non-mainstream versions of Islam and other non-Islamic religions, Dr Tadros noted. Christian churches in Egypt suffered intense attacks in mid-August, when over 64 churches were attacked or burned in one 24-hour period. Dr Tadros said the attacks on Christian churches are unprecedented in modern Egypt since its establishment three centuries ago. Although religious intolerance is increasing, Dr Tadros also noted a “strong resistance movement” against anti-Christian violence. She stressed that there were no instances of a Christian responding to violence with violence. “This was extremely important in not bringing the country into a state of civil war,” she explained. Fengang Yang of Purdue University said that the Christian population in China has passed a “critical threshold” of 5-10% of the population. He projected that China could become the largest Christian country in the world at some point between 2025 and 2032, with a Protestant population that might reach 255 million people.—CNA
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
LEADER PAGE The Editor reserves the right to shorten or edit published letters. Letters below 300 words receive preference. Pseudonyms are acceptable only under special circumstances and at the Editor’s discretion. Name and address of the writer must be supplied. No anonymous letter will be considered.
Editor: Günther Simmermacher
Guest editorial by Fr S’milo Mngadi
A radical Christmas awaits those of faith
FAMOUS retail store recently ran a Christmas advert with the tagline “Christmas is about food”. Is this true? In many ways it is. Christmas is about food. Food is abundant at Christmas. We eat turkeys, fruit mince pies, rich cakes and so on. The original scene of Christmas is Bethlehem—which means “House of Bread”—and its main actor is the Bread of Life on whose Body we feed. What does one do, though, when “gantry has stolen Christmas”, as one cartoon reacted to the launch of the e-tolls in Gauteng? There will be fewer delicacies as money goes to the toll. More importantly, the core or the root of Christmas has somehow been stolen. The Latin word for root is “radix” and the root of Christmas is radical change. Christmas is radical. The first Christmas brought about radical change. It frustrated natural laws and conventional codes. God became human. The Eternal One became time-bound. The Omnipresent became space-constrained. Above all, the people for whom God broke the normal order did not welcome him, let alone accept his new order of peace: “He came to his own and his own did not welcome him” (Jn 1:11). Jesus came to save us. Biblically, being saved (from the Greek soteria) means being spared, being delivered and being edified—being made a better person. Jesus came to spare us from whatever endangers us. He came to release us from what holds us in bondage. By his coming, we are better people. We were creatures who fell and became sinners only to be elevated to be children of God and co-heirs with Jesus. “To those who welcomed him, he gave power to become sons and daughters of God” (Jn 1:12). This is radical change. This radical message is sometimes sugar-coated with carols-bycandlelight, decorations, lunches and dinners, gift-sharing and, worst of all, over-commercialisation. This is fine for children, but as men and women of faith, we cannot be content with such. We need to go beyond the
“sugary” part and get to the bitter yet healing part which brings about radical change in our lives. Our lives, then, will radiate “Glory to God” and advance “Peace to people of goodwill”. At Christmas, Joseph and Mary could not find a place to sleep at Bethlehem. Was there really no space at all for them? Was it not that some people could not accept a little inconvenience so that a heavily pregnant woman could have a little comfort? The true Christmas spirit cannot allow a privilege of convenience to override the basic right to life and its necessities. The angels first brought the message of Christmas to the shepherds who were not worthy of the census that was taking place. Jesus is primarily born for the world’s “nobodies”. This is very radical. It means that to have a true Christmas spirit, it is “nobodies”, and not the crème de la crème, who should be our priority. Pope Francis is leading the way in this regard. These shepherds left everything to see the baby Jesus. We do not hear that the sheep they left were stolen or devoured by wolves. Why? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [that you worry and are anxious about] shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33). In this true Christmas spirit, we need to set priorities for our 2014 resolutions. Christmas is family time. However, the first Christmas family was very strange. Joseph continued to be with Mary though it was against the customs of the day. Why? Only because God had said so. The stability of families and marriages rests only on what God has said, his Word. The Word of God gives life and love. Family is a community of life and love. It is also a place of joy and radical sacrifice. Joseph, a Jewish man, becomes a midwife. How radical! Sweet as it is, Christmas calls for radical change. As we are filled with “sweets” at Christmas, let us be filled with real food, Jesus Christ. In that way, no gantry can steal our Christmas. n Fr Mngadi is the communications officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
There is no alternative WRITE in response to Fr Fano Ng- Sunday after Sunday in our Creed: Ivember cobo’s letter, “An alternative” (No- that we are One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 20). While I welcome Fr Ngcobo’s opinion, it goes without saying, that as a Catholic priest in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, I do not agree with his views on “independent Catholic Church communities”. While these independent communities may exist throughout the world, sadly they represent the exact opposite of what we profess
AM a 25-year-old Catholic from the parish of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Stanger, KwaZuluNatal, and have also been an “adoptive parishioner” of Holy Trinity in Johannesburg and St Michael’s in Cape Town. The purpose of my letter is to ask help of the readers of The Southern Cross. I studied a for a bachelor of education degree at Wits University in Johannesburg. For financial reasons I had to leave and returned to Stanger, unable to complete my degree. I recently began completing my outstanding course with Unisa and am awaiting the results. My passion lies deeply with working closely with children, be it in the classroom-based context or on a social level. I have a lot of financial commitments and find it difficult to go on. Would there be a Catholic institution or organisation who is looking to employ somebody of my educational background? Does a reader know of any potential vacancy to which I might apply? I am willing to relocate, provided the job status are confirmed. I can be contacted by e-mail through the editor, who will pass on your messages to me. Name withheld
OST Catholics maintain that “the best way to evangelise is by the example of one’s life”. The example of one’s life may impress others, but if they are sincerely seeking the fullness of truth which only Catholic Christianity can offer, we have the duty to clearly show them what the source and power of that witness is. Pope Paul VI, in his masterly Evangelii Nuntiandi, stressed that “the best witness would be a waste of time without a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Since many Catholics are not evangelised (according to the highest Catholic authorities),
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Fr Ngcobo also makes reference to Bl John XXIII’s aggiornamento. Pope Benedict XVI once said that the aggiornamento proclaimed by John XXIII at the opening of Vatican II “does not mean breaking with tradition…Rather it is an expression of that tradition’s ongoing vitality.” I don’t believe that these independent communities are an expression of this ongoing vitality and that is, experiencing a dynamic personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they might be at a loss as to how to proceed. Actions often do speak louder than words. But such an excuse often masks other reasons including timidity, embarassment, a patent lack of knowledge of the Bible, and of the basic gospel message, the kerygma. No great Christian evangelist has been known for relying only on actions to the exclusion of words. On the first Pentecost, Peter raised his voice and proclaimed to the Jews in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:14). In this he followed our Lord who sent his apostles out in pairs to preach repentance and to heal (Mk 6:-13). Shortly before his ascension into heaven, Jesus instructed the apostles, and indeed all people, to make disciples of the nations, teaching all that he had commanded them. Evangelisation that isn’t outwardly visible isn’t evangelisation at all. The most successful in terms of new converts are the pseudo-Christian sects. Astonishingly, about half of all new converts to these sects and to fundamentalism are former Catholics. In the past, mission meant showing to others, with pride, the glories of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ—ecclesiocentism. Today we see more clearly the need to let go of such triumphalism, to lift Jesus Christ and proclaim him to the world as the only Way, Truth, and Life. This is true evangelisation. The very reason for the Church’s existence is to evangelise! John Lee, Johannesburg Opinions expressed in The Southern Cross, especially in Letters to the Editor, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor or staff of the newspaper, or of the Catholic hierarchy. The letters page in particular is a forum in which readers may exchange opinions on matters of debate. Letters must not be understood to necessarily reflect the teachings, disciplines or policies of the Church accurately.
“a sign of theological maturity”. If I may, let me suggest another two alternatives to Fr Ngcobo’s views. Either he removes the word “Catholic” from the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ or—and this I think is the best alternative— he stops his own personal crusade and becomes a living testimony to the Catholic faith, handed down faithfully by the apostles and their successors, in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This is my opinion, and I hope Fr Ngcobo welcomes it as I have welcomed his. Fr Raphael Thomas, Cape Town
N Durbanville church in Cape Town, at the end of each Mass, Mgr Andrew Borello normally calls people up for prayer who wish to be prayed for by himself and by the community present. This is done after he gives a special blessing to those who come up for birthdays or anniversaries. These are excellent practices and appreciated. In fact on more than one ocassion we have had little miracles happening through prayer, reported from time to time by Mgr Borello, when people have continued to come up for prayer and find their prayers answered in wonderful, miraculous ways. It is heartwarming to hear of long Catholic marriages, and to be reminded of a friend’s birthday so we can wish them well after Mass. Although this is very encouraging, I want to add a comment. I see people on Sundays going up for prayer—many times the same people—each with their own story, stories we don’t know about. Do we do enough for them as a Church? Sometimes all they want is someone to listen to their problems. I know that at some other Christian churches, Christian counsellors are on call anytime. I think many parents have difficulties with kids losing their way, and other problems. Our Church, and indeed all the Catholic churches, need a campaign to provide ongoing Christian counselling when required. The parish priest is often too busy to see everyone, so isn’t this a kind of solution? I hope they consider this option when more money is collected for projects. While building is important, I think the immediate needs of the community are vital and should also be addressed. Perhaps people within the community need Christian counsellors to assist them to cope, and prevent major breakdowns. Also, training could be provided which would enhance skills in the community too. MA Murray, Cape Town
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We thank our friends for encouragement and support during the year. We wish all Southern Cross readers Christmas blessings and a New Year filled with peace and joy.
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
PERSPECTIVES Judith Turner
Faith and Life
2013: The upside of bad times
HE end of the year is a naturally reflective time. Our society rightly makes a big deal out of this time of the year by celebrating in many ways the closing of the year. Schools close for a very long break. Clubs and groups have their breaking-up parties. For many companies it is the end of their financial year. One cannot start anything this time of the year. People always say that nothing happens in December and January, wait until next year. It’s end-of-year party time! Things almost come to a standstill. It is time to rest, take stock, to reflect. If you look back at your own year, how would you rate it? The year 2013 has truly lived up to its name for me—it was an unlucky year for me, a bad year in more ways than one. Personally and professionally I had major challenges to deal with over many months of 2013. Challenges which took me to unfamiliar territory and experiences I would never want to repeat. It took me to events and interactions with people that really ripped at my dignity and crushed my self-confidence. It was a lonely experience. I felt like I was walking through a valley of darkness. I did fear evil, I feared it a lot. This was a bad year for me. If ever I believed in the presence and help of God through our darkest moments, I believe it now more deeply because of my challenging experiences throughout this year. The immense support I received from my daughters, my friends, family, colleagues, my parish community, and just from people from all over, carried me through and enabled me to deal with what I experienced. Their support enabled me to remember who I am and what I am about. I have deep gratitude for everyone who stood by me, encouraged me to do the right thing, and supported me. And so I ask myself again: Was 2013 really a bad year for me? If you come to the end of the year and you still have your life, your family, your friends, your dignity, your self-confidence, your integrity, memories to cherish, then you haven’t had a bad year. If you still believe in God, then you’ve had a good year, irrespective of personal and professional challenges, lost relationships, ill health, financial hardships, or any other tragedy that might have befallen you. And this is worth celebrating. This is worth having an end-of-year party for. I think 2013 was like this for many of us. There were challenges and difficulties, struggles and insecurities. But, for many of us too, I am sure, it brought beautiful experiences, excitement, blessings and appreciation of life. We know what we experienced and we know what we escaped. And when we put the experiences of our year in perspective, we will almost certainly always journey ahead with gratitude. If you are experiencing difficulties at this current moment, then draw strength from the words of the psalmist: “Weeping can endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”, and soon we will be singing “Joy to the World!”.
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New Year’s Day: It’s about time A S you read this you will be about to celebrate New Year: January 1, 2014. Depending on your temperament, this might be marked by great jollying, intense introspection or a “whatever” shrug of the shoulders. But the first time that you have to write the new date, you will be reminded that Old Father Time has run his course and that a new calendar has begun. We are so accustomed to dates and calendars and new years that we forget how artificial the system is. By that I mean that it is an artifice—something humanmade—rather than something naturally occurring. Of course, the rotation of the earth around the sun does have a natural duration (a little longer than our 365-day year) and with it—at least in some parts of the world—the moving through a cycle of meteorological and astronomical seasons. But it is clearly artificial that there is one day that marks the start of that cycle and that that day is the one we designate January 1. It being a cycle, there is no particular reason to start a year at one time or another. So other cultures mark it at different times: for many peoples, spring is the reason to celebrate a new year though for the Chinese this is usually in February and for Tamils in mid-April. On the other hand, some Nigerians have a new year in mid-June, the Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah (“the Head of the Year”) in September, and the Gujaratis in October (just after Divali). The French Revolutionary Calendar— that super-rationalist attempt to tie years and months to a regular natural progression—fixed the new year to the Autumnal Equinox around September 22. Muslims have a new year festival at the beginning of the month of Muharram but—like all Muslim festivals—the date of this shifts with respect to the 365-day solar year since it is based on a 12-month/ 354day lunar calendar. Thus, the Muslim new year happened on November 4 in 2013 but will fall earlier in 2014, on October 25. Given the presence of so many cultures within South African culture—with perhaps the exception of French revolutionaries—it looks like we could arrange to have new year all year round and with it the subsequent hangovers! But, I hear you protest, those are all other cultures and this is a Christian culture with a clear fix on what counts as the new year. Well, not quite. After all the Catholic
Faith and Society
Church’s year does not start on January 1, nor even on the first day of a month usually, but started a few weeks ago on the first Sunday of Advent (and has done so for 300 years). The Orthodox Church celebrates New Year on what was January 1 in the Julian Calendar but is now January 14. Not illogically, Christian countries have at various times marked the new year at Christmas (in Germany until the 13th century and Spain until the 16th century) and at Good Friday (in France through the Middle Ages, though this was especially tricky since the date of Easter moves every year!).
any other parts of Europe (again with some logic) regarded the year as beginning on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, since that was the beginning of the life of Jesus on earth. (In fact, this curiosity explains why the British tax year still begins on April 6 since this is what March 25 on the Julian calendar would now be under the Gregorian calendar). The adoption of January 1 by Christian countries—and its later de facto adoption by the rest of the world—was very drawn out. The date was in fact instituted by Julius
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Caesar in 45 BC; prior to that, rather confusingly, years re-started whenever a new consul was appointed. Its Roman origins meant that January 1 was held in great suspicion by Christians and when it was finally adopted, it had to be “Christianised” as the celebration of the eighth day (count them) from the birth of Jesus. The eighth day was significant since it was, in Jewish culture, the day that Jesus was circumcised (though January 1 has subsequently been made more palatable to us: the feast of the Circumcision became the feast of the Name of Jesus and is now the feast of Mary Mother of God). Thus, the first Christian countries to adopt January 1 as New Year, such as Ukraine, did so only in 1362; Catholic Europe waited until the Gregorian calendar reform in the late 1500s; and the British Empire (and so in effect South Africa) not until 1752. The difference in calendars meant that if you travelled between France and Britain, you could leave Calais on March 20, 1600 and arrive in Dover later that same day on March 9, 1599—and this madness went on for 200 years. This is all to say that the significance of January 1, 2014 is really quite random— and that does not even begin to deal with the fact that it is probably 2018 years after the birth of Jesus and not 2014. But even though the electronic revolution means that writing dates on cheques or turning pages on calendars is a lot less common, we do feel the sense that a year has passed and want to mark it in some way. The passing of time does matter, however we count it or name it. I was recently involved in BizSchool, a programme trying to equip 18-year-old South Africans with the skills they need to enter the world of study or work. Time management proved to be one of the hardest skills to impart. It is too easy for us, especially when younger, to see time as an infinite and therefore expendable resource—mañana or hakuna matata or jus’ chill. Perhaps calendars can remind us that each year that God has given us is precious—we do not know how many more we will have. And that each day within that year is an invitation to enter into God’s work; and that each minute within that day a chance to do “something beautiful for God”. I wish you all that God wants for you for every randomly numbered moment of 2014.
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CANONISATION PILGRIMAGE Join The Southern Cross and Radio Veritas on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi to witness the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII in the Vatican
Led by Fr Emil Blaser OP • April 25 to May 4
Canonisation Ceremony | Papal Audience | St Peter’s | Sistine Chapel | Catacombs | Ancient Rome | Baroque Rome | Major Basilicas | Castel Gandolfo | Assisi | Porciuncola | Hermitage of the Carceri | Greccio (where St Francis invented the Nativity Scene) | Fonte Colombo | and much more.
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Our Lady of Good Counsel altar servers are pictured during their investiture ceremony at Doornspruit parish in the diocese of Polokwane.
Brescia House School Grades 2 and 3 held a Christmas gala. In this photo “Father Christmas” made an appearance in his raft together with his trusty Grade 6 reindeers to deliver sweets to pupils.(From left) Caitlyn Kenyon, Kara Malan, Kathryn Lawlor, Tyla Rose and Demi Hele. Sacred Heart College learners celebrated the start of the festive season at the Johannesburg Zoo, participating in a Tree of Light festival hosted by HospiceWits and the Star Seaside Fund. The festivities included choirs, carols and the lighting of the Christmas tree in memory of loved ones battling cancer. The event raised money for individuals diagnosed with terminal illness and cared for by HospiceWits and for the children who benefit from the Seaside Fund.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Durban took part in a retreat at Glenmore Pastoral Centre conducted by Fr Herman Giraldo.
The central deanery of the archdiocese of Cape Town held their annual rosary procession for the 10th consecutive year. Altar servers led the procession while the rosary was recited and Marian hymns sung. Parishes processed through their communities in Matroosfontein, Lavistown, Belhar and Ravensmead, joined by parishes from Elsies River, Langa, Bonteheuwel, Pinelands, Goodwood, Parow, Delft, Grassy Park and Manenberg. The proceedings concluded with Benediction led by Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Henry at the Holy Cross Children’s Home grotto of Our Lady, where the rosary was again recited in five languages and a homily given by Fr Federico Kennedy.
Sr Mpume Ndlovu FMM (centre) celebrated her silver jubilee of profession at Maria Consolata parish in Mpuluzi, Mpumalanga. She is pictured with provincial superior Sr Judith Lynch and Bishop Graham Rose of Dundee.
Twenty-six children of Holy Rosary parish in Phiri, Soweto, archdiocese of Johannesburg, received their first Holy Communion. They are pictured with parish priest Fr Melese Tumato MCCJ (centre back).
The Sisters of Notre Dame in South Africa and Zimbabwe wish all their friends, former pupils, colleagues and family members a Blessed Christmas Season and a hope-filled New Year
May the peace and love of the newborn Christ fill the hearts of all our people this Christmas. With best wishes from Mgr Andrew Borello, Joan Armstrong and the staff of the Centre for Pastoral Development in Cape Town
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
The Southern Cross is proud to announce in association with Mariannhill Mission Press a year-long monthly feature of
WEDDING PHOTOS open to all couples married in a Catholic church between November 30, 2013 and November 30, 2014.
Children from St Catherine of Siena in Kleinvlei, archdiocese of Cape Town, received their first Holy Communion. Pictured with them is (far right) parish priest Fr Shenoy Thomas, MOC.
at the end of the year-long feature, our jury panel and readers will choose a CouPle of THe year with two runners-up who will receive prizes of photographic canvas prints sponsored by mariannhill mission Press.
Holy Rosary Primary School in Edenvale, Johannesburg, bade farewell to its Grade 7 pupils with a special thanksgiving Mass and tea.
St Dominic’s Priory School in Miramar, Port Elizabeth, announced its head students for 2014, all of whom are members of St Bernadette’s parish in Walmer. (From left) deputy head boy Keegan Hoog, head boy Simon Mowatt, head girl Michaela Wells and deputy head girl Ingrid Carstens.
Deacon Les Ruhrmund and Greg Solik of St Michael’s parish in Rondebosch, Cape Town, are pictured in front of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela after completing their pilgrimage from Porto in Portugal.
The following T&Cs apply: 1. Photos may picture only the bride and the groom, and must be in horizontal format. Digital pictures must have a width of at least 640 pixels. 2. The caption must state the bride’s maiden name, the groom’s name, the names of the parents, the date of the wedding, the name and location of the church, and the name of the officiating priest. The name of the photographer (and website, if professional) may be given as well. 3. Please include contact details of the bridal couple. 4. Photos of weddings which did not take place in a church are acceptable provided a Catholic priest officiated at the ceremony. 5. Entry to the competition is open to couples residing in South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. 6 Photos must be received within eight weeks of the wedding. 7. By sending the photo to The Southern Cross you agree that the couple depicted consents to publication in print and on The Southern Cross’ website and/or Facebook page, and to use for promotional purposes related to The Southern Cross and (in reference to the competition) by Mariannhill Mission Press. 8. While The Southern Cross aims to publish most submitted photos that meet our guidelines, the number of photos that can be published will be subject to space constraints. 9. All published photos and a selection of unpublished photos will be featured on The Southern Cross’ website (www.scross.co.za). Send your wedding photos to email@example.com or Wedding Pics, The Southern Cross, Po Box 232, Cape Town, 8000
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A blessed and peaceful Christmas season to all our faithful clients, family and friends
The Catholic Women’s League of the archdiocese of Johannesburg held its annual general meeting in Bryanston. Pictured are national president Jenny Hammond (third left) with fellow members.
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This was 2013
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
The highlights and lowlights of the year It was the Year of Faith, during which Pope Benedict suddenly resigned and Pope Francis launched a new style of papacy, the reform of the Roman curia began, the world’s Catholic youth gathered in Rio de Janeiro, and the bishops of South Africa opposed the Information Bill, corruption and Gauteng’s e-tolls. GÜNTHER SIMMERMACHER looks back at 2013. DECEMBER 2012
Bishop Daniel Verstraete OMI, 88, who headed Klerksdorp diocese from 1965-94, returns to his native Belgium after 62 years in South Africa. Pope Benedict XVI gets his own Twitter account, @Pontifex. The Vatican calls for full Palestinian statehood after the United Nations vote to grant Palestine the status of non-member observer state. Catholic jazz legend Dave Brubeck dies on December 5, a day before his 92nd birthday. New rules on funding for Catholic charities, issued in a November 11 motu proprio by Pope Benedict, come into force on December 10. It permits government funding, as long as this does not entail conditions which conflict with Church teachings. Pope Benedict promotes his personal secretary, Mgr Georg Gänswein, to prefect of the papal household, and in January ordains him an archbishop. China’s government-controlled Catholic Church, the Patriotic Association, revokes the appointment of Shanghai’s auxiliary bishop, Thaddeus Ma, who during his ordination in July renounced his membership of the Patriotic Association. Danny Hyams, co-founder of Johannesburg’s Little Eden Society, dies at 91. Durban’s Emmanuel cathedral parish takes over the Surat Building, owned by the Hindu Surat Association, for two years while the Denis Hurley Centre is being built.
The minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, announces that Mmadikgetho Komane of the Catholic Glen Cowie High School in Limpopo was 2012’s top matriculant in state-funded schools. Catholic schools nationwide achieved a pass rate of 86,3%, some 12% higher than the national average. Catholic schools offering the IEB obtained a pass rate of 99,4%. Cape Town priest Fr Ralph de Hahn publishes a book of poetry, titled On Poetic Wings, to raise funds for the archdiocese’s church building fund. The Church in the United States marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe vs Wade, that legalised abortion.
Durban for his “bold and refreshing comments” made in the media in opposition to the government’s Information Bill. German businessman Ernst von Freyberg, 54, is appointed head of the Institute for the Works of Religion, or Vatican Bank. Australian Natural Family Planning pioneer Dr Evelyn Billings dies on February 16 at the age of 95.
The front-page of our special edition dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his retirement. The Vatican announces that 2,3 million people attended papal events in Rome in 2012. Sean Patrick Lovett, South African head of Vatican Radio’s English service, is presented with the prestigious Daniel J Kane Religious Communication Award from the University of Dayton in Ohio. Ireland’s plan to legalise abortion is met with the country’s largest-ever pro-life demonstration, attracting 25 000 people in cold Dublin weather. Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town begins his tenure as president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The vice-presidents are Archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo of Bloemfontein and Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha.
Pope Benedict unexpectedly announces his abdication from the papacy on February 11, taking effect on February 28, citing failing strength to exercise the Petrine ministry. Because of South Africa’s experience of apartheid, the country can offer solidarity to Palestinians, says Fr Peter-John Pearson of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office after he visits the region as part of an advocacy group. The Right 2 Know campaign praises Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of
On March 14 the cardinals elect Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the papacy. He is the first pope from the southern hemisphere. Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, liaison bishop for Justice & Peace, calls for “serious dialogue on the underlying causes” for the rape crisis in South Africa, while Holy Trinity parish in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, adopts the Kwanele Kwanele anti-rape campaign launched by the city’s McAuley House Catholic school. According to the US network ABC, Cardinal Napier was the most active of at least nine cardinals on Twitter in the pre-conclave period. Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg tells Vatican Radio that while the Church is facing a “virulent attack by secularism”, it must also address its own scandals. Christians in the Central African Republic are systematically targeted by armed rebels seeking to overthrow the government of President François Bozizé, according to priests in the region. The situation will deteriorate after Mr Bozizé flees the country. Responding to Cardinal Napier’s controversial interview with the BBC, Cardinal Napier and SACBC president Archbishop Stephen Brislin release statements in which they uphold the Church’s position that “sexual abuse of children is a horrendous crime against children, their families, the Church and society”. Argentinian Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel denies that Pope Francis as Fr Jorge Bergoglio was complicit in crimes committed by the military junta in the 1970s, saying the future pope worked behind the scenes to help those persecuted by the regime.
At Christmas, God sent his first MISSIONARY!
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Pope Francis embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on March 23. Pope Francis travelled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for a private meeting with his predecessor. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano)
The bishops of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa (Imbisa) meet with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to urge him to allow a free and fair election this year. They later meet with Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza to ask for his assistance in ensuring a peaceful election in Zimbabwe. Veteran educationist and antiapartheid activist Sr Aine Hardiman OP dies at the age of 87. At a general audience in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis stops to hug a child with cerebral palsy. The image goes viral on the Internet. Soon it becomes normal for the pope to embrace children. Pope Francis forms an inner cabinet of eight cardinals to advise him on reforms of the Roman curia. It is coordinated by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. The SACBC expresses regret that the State Information Bill has been passed by parliament, saying South Africa needs greater openness, not secrecy, to fight corruption. Curial Archbishop Vincenzio Paglia says the cause for murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, of which he is the promoter, is now “unblocked”. The bishops of Southern Africa approve new Afrikaans translations for Eucharistic prayers I-IV. An Israeli court approves the construction of Israel’s separation wall on land owned by Salesians near Beit Jalla in the occupied West Bank. Bishop Zithulele Patrick Mvemve of Klerksdorp resigns after heading the diocese for 19 years.
Sacred Heart Father Zolile Peter Mpambani of Queenstown is appointed bishop of Kokstad. He is ordained in August. Five are killed and 60 injured as St Joseph’s church in Arusha, Tanzania, is bombed by terrorists during its inauguration ceremony. The archdioceses of Pretoria and Cape Town launch the Mission in the Square, a series of public events in the respective city centres initiated by the Neocatechumenal Way. The president of the German bishops’ conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, joins other German prelates in proposing some form of women’s diaconate. More than 40 people take part in The Southern Cross’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rome and Assisi, with Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria as spiritual director. Pope Francis presides over his first canonisation, that of Mexican St Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala (1878-1963). Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan says that the civil war in Syria is the result of Western nations carrying out a geopolitical strategy to split Middle Eastern countries. A fire destroys the historic hall of Holy Family College in Parktown, Johannesburg. The Vatican recognises a miracle
attributed to Bl John Paul II, the cure of a brain aneurysm of Costa Rican Floribeth More Diaz, paving the way for his canonisation. The metropolitan bishops of Southern Africa publish their book God, Love, Life and Sex. Mgr Paul Nadal, 81, of Durban raises R187 000 by walking the 300km-long Camino de Santiago de Compostela in support of the Denis Hurley Centre. American Fr Michael Perry, 58, is elected new minister-general of the Franciscans. Zimbabwe-born Cape Town priest Fr Anthony Mutetwa, 34, is killed when a truck hits him as he is pushing his stalled car on the N2 on the morning of May 28. US author and sociologist Fr Anthony Greeley dies on May 29 at the age of 85.
Churches worldwide hold an hour-long simultaneous Eucharistic adoration called for by the Vatican. The 109-year-old parish centre of Durban’s Emmanuel cathedral is demolished to make way for the new Denis Hurley Centre. This year’s Comrades ultramarathon is won by Claude Moshiywa, a member of St Margaret’s parish in Diepkloof, Soweto. It is announced that Pope Francis will break with tradition and not go to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo this year. Dominican Father Mike Deeb, coordinator of the SACBC’s Justice & Peace Department, is appointed the Dominican Order’s permanent delegate at the United Nations, taking office on January 1, 2014. Polokwane’s vicar-general Fr Jeremiah Masela is appointed the diocese’s new bishop. He is ordained in September. Buckingham Palace announces that South African-born Redemptorist Father Cyril Axelrod, who is deaf and blind, will be awarded the OBE medal in November. Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby meet at the Vatican. It is the first meeting of the two leaders, both of whom are new in their jobs. A flash flood closes the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France for the second time in eight months. Pope Francis creates a five-person commission to review the activities and mission of the Vatican Bank. Syrian priest Fr François Mourad is killed on June 23 defending nuns from an attack by Islamist rebels at a monastery in Ghassenieh. An Internet video purporting to be of the priest’s beheading is a fake. Educator and catechist Sr Natalie Kuhn dies at 82 on June 27.
Pope Francis issues his first encyclical, titled Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), crediting Pope Benedict XVI with having written the greater part of it. Pope Francis’ first official trip outside Rome is to the Italian island of Lampedusa where he tosses a wreath into the waters in memory of the estimated 20 000
YEAR-END REVIEW Africans who have died in the past 25 years trying to reach Europe. Deacon Greg Garnie of Johannesburg is elected vice-president of the International Diaconate Centre. Noting that more than 50 young men have died in this year’s initiation season due to botched circumcisions, Fr Mluleki Mnyaka of Port Elizabeth calls on the Church to become more involved in providing pastoral care to initiates and their families. The Winter Theology series of lectures hosted by the Jesuit Institute is delivered by Fr John Moffatt SJ. Mgr Leo Cushley, who served in the Pretoria nunciature from 2006-11, is appointed new archbishop of Edinburgh. Several churches throughout Egypt are attacked following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. According to reports, many churches were protected by Muslim neighbours. At least 38 pilgrims from Naples are killed in a bus crash near the southern Italian town of Avellino after visiting Padre Pio’s birthplace in Pietrelcina. On his first foreign trip as pontiff, Pope Francis also visits Brazil’s Marian shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. World Youth Day is held in Rio de Janeiro, with Pope Francis presiding. Because of rain, the closing Mass for 3,2 million people has to be moved from a site outside the city to Copacabana beach. It is announced that WYD 2016 will be held in Krakow, Poland. On his flight from Rio, Pope Francis gives an unscripted Q&A session with journalists on board. Irish President Michael Higgins signs a law that legalises abortion.
Education for Life celebrates its tenth anniversary in South Africa with a youth rally in Durban. Catholic poll monitors declare Zimbabwe’s elections, won by Zanu-PF, flawed but peaceful. The bishops publish A Story Worth Telling, a book that details the activities of the Church in Southern Africa, dedicated to Cardinal Napier. Two Slovenian archbishops quit over a financial scandal. Margherita Blaser, mother of Radio Veritas’ Fr Emil Blaser OP, dies on August 11 at the age of 108. The Cabra Dominicans celebrate 150 years in South Africa. Sr Madge Karecki is appointed new president of St Augustine College, South Africa’s Catholic university, to succeed Fr Michael van Heerden. After 28 years in South Africa, the Spanish Dominican community in Bethlehem, Free State, relocates to Zambia. The Vatican orders a change in the wording of the baptismal rite to emphasise that the sacrament formally brings a person into the Church.
Pope Francis names Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, as the Vatican’s next secretary of state to succeed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is retiring in October.
Bishop Joe Sandri of Witbank greets Pope Francis during the weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square on October 9. Bishop Sandri was in Rome as the spiritual director of the year’s second Southern Cross pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Rome, Assisi and Cairo. The first, in May, was led by Archbishop William Slattery of Pretoria. Romanian Mgr Vladimir Ghika is beatified 59 years after dying from cold and hunger in a communist prison. It is expected that the cause for the beatification of Benedict Daswa, the martyr of Tzaneen diocese, will be heard in the Vatican in October 2014 after it was fast-tracked. Writing in the Italian daily La Repubblica, Pope Francis addresses atheists with a desire for “sincere and rigorous dialogue”. It is announced that St Augustine College will sell its Victory Park, Johannesburg, campus and no longer offer undergraduate courses. A priest from Verona presents Pope Francis with a 1984 Renault, which the pope promptly takes for a spin. Congolese Sr Angelique Namaika is awarded the Nansen Refugee Award bestowed annually by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany, stirs a huge controversy over excessive spending on his residence and diocesan buildings and extravagant travelling. After meeting Pope Francis in October he takes a leave of absence from the diocese; in November he pleads guilty to committing perjury and pays a fine. More than a hundred people are killed in a suicide bomb attack on All Saints church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Pope Emeritus Benedict writes a public letter to Italian atheist leader Piergiorgio Odifreddi in which he reiterates that he sought action against clerical sex abuse. Franciscan Father Matthew McDonald, a former lecturer at St John Vianney Seminary and chaplain to students at the University of Pretoria, dies in Ireland on September 24. CPLO director Fr Peter-John Pearson describes the latest crime statistics released by the government as some of the worst numbers in almost a decade. A second Southern Cross pilgrimage departs for the Holy Land,
Rome and Assisi, led by Bishop Joe Sandri of Witbank. Pope Francis announces that Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonised on April 27, 2014. He waives the requirement for a recognised miracle for Bl John XXIII.
Pope Francis has his first meeting with his group of eight cardinal advisers on Church governance, and formally constitutes them as a permanent Council of Cardinals. In a pastoral letter issued to coincide with the ecumenical anticorruption campaign EXPOSED, the bishops of Southern Africa say that corruption is stealing from the poor and call on people to refrain from corrupt acts. Croatian Father Miroslav Bulesic, who was murdered in 1947 by communist partisans, is beatified. Later in the month, 500 Spanish Civil War martyrs are beatified. The Southern Cross publishes an anthology of columns in the newspaper by Chris Moerdyk, titled Moerdyk Files. Pope Francis calls an extraordinary synod of bishops to discuss “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation” in October 2014. In preparation, bishops are asked to consult the laity on their experiences. Catholic academic and political activist Colin Gardner dies at the age of 79 in Pietermaritzburg on October 10. St Anthony’s Home for marginalised children in Blaauwbosch, Dundee diocese, celebrates its 50th anniversary. The adoption of a detailed new
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
law on fiscal transparency, vigilance and information almost completes a three-year revamping of Vatican finance law. Receiving the original statue of Fatima in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis formally entrusts the world to Mary’s protection. Fr Tshepo Motaung of Bethlehem diocese is killed at the age of 34 in a car crash on October 18. The Vatican rules out a Catholic funeral for Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke. He is buried by the traditionalist Society of St Pius X instead. A Malaysian court rules that the country’s Catholic newspaper, The Herald, may not use the word “Allah” to name God. In a statement signed by Bishop Abel Gabuza, the SACBC opposes the manner in which e-tolls in Gauteng have been implemented, calling the process flawed and suggesting that Catholics might consider a boycott.
Pretoria priest Fr Craigh Laubscher is brutally assaulted in a robbery at his presbytery. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies honours Fr Stephen Giles of Kroonstad as “a long-standing friend of the Jewish community of Kroonstad and a devoted champion of the Jewish heritage and legacy of that town”. Dominican Father Stan Muyebe is appointed new coordinator of the SACBC’s Justice & Peace Department, to succeed Fr Mike Deeb OP. A rocket hits the nunciature in Damascus, Syria. No injuries are reported. The Vatican says that there is no evidence that it has been spied on by the US National Security Agency. Leading Irish Scripture and Holy Land scholar Fr Jerome Murphy-O’Connor dies on November 11 in Jerusalem at the age of 78. At the Imbisa plenary session in Gaborone, the bishops of nine Southern African countries pledge to boost the family ministry. The Imbisa bishops warn that new political conflict could erupt in Mozambique. Responding to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the SACBC donates R500 000 for Caritas relief efforts. In a message to the closing of the Year of Faith in Nazareth, Israel, Pope Francis encourages pilgrimages to the Holy Land, saying “before we can understand our own personal faith and need for Christ, we must go to the place and time where Jesus himself walked”. Redemptorist Father Alec Reid, who played a central role in ending the decades-long sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, dies on November 22 at the age of 82.
Fr Gerard Bam, 69, of Polokwane, on December 14, 2012 Fr Ludwig Stahuber, 76, formerly of Witbank, on December 28 Fr Heinz Josef Kuckertz CSSp, 73, lecturer, on January 15, 2013 Fr Arnold Fischer SAC, 86, of Queenstown, on January 15, 2013 Cardinal Giovanni Cheli, 94, Italian Vatican diplomat, on February 8 Cardinal Julien Ries, 92, Belgian academic, on February 23 Cardinal Jean Honoré, 92, French catechist, on February 23 Fr Alfred Herschenroder, 80, of Durban, on March 1 Bishop Gerald Ndlovu, 74, retired of Umzimkulu, on March 13 Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti, 90, Italian Vatican diplomat, on April 10 Fr Fritz Clemens SAC, 90, of Oudtshoorn, on April 12 Fr Peter Dielwart OP, 82, of Kroonstad, on April 25 Fr Anthony Mutetwa, 34, of Cape Town, in a traffic accident on May 28 Fr Michael Hulgraine, 86, of Cape Town, on June 2 Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, 91, Polish theologian, on June 5 Fr Pat Lonergan SDB, of Cape Town, on June 7 Fr John Turner CMM, 68, of Mariannhill, on June 17 Fr Remegius Scheuber OMI, 86, of Johannesburg, on June 17 Fr Cosmas Kihirimana OSB, 38, of Inkamana, on June 18 Fr Rodney Boyd OMI, 72, of Durban, on June 21 Fr Herman D’Hoore OMI, 82, of Klerksdorp, on July 1 Cardinal Simon Pimenta, 93, former archbishop of Mumbai, on July 19 Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, 99, former archbishop of Ravenna-Cervia, Italy, on July 19 Fr Mick Crowley MSC, 79, formerly of Cape Town, on August 17 Cardinal Medardo Mazombwe, 81, former archbishop of Lusaka, on August 29 Fr Matthew McDonald OFM, 89, formerly of Pretoria, on September 24 Fr Tshepo Joseph Motaung, 34, of Bethlehem, in a car crash on October 18 Fr Edward Tratsaert SAC, 69, of Queenstown, on November 11 Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, 96, former director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, on November 11
For the first time in recorded history, the bones of St Peter the Apostle are publicly displayed in Rome to mark the end of the Year of Faith. Pope Francis releases his 50 000word apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Bishop José Luis Ponce de León of Ingwavuma is appointed bishop of Manzini, Swaziland.
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Snapshots of 2013
MARCh: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, arrives for the afternoon session of the general congregation meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on March 7. Six days later the 76-year-old Jesuit became the first Latin American pope, taking the name Francis. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
SePTeMBeR: A mother and her children hide from gunmen at Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 21, during an attack by Islamic militants in a standoff that kills 72 people, including 61 civilians, and injures 175. (Photo: Siegfried Modola, Reuters/CNS)
June: Stones inscribed with get-well messages are left outside the home of former President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg after he was admitted to hospital with a lung infection. Mr Mandela dies on December 5 at the age of 95. (Photo: Dylan Martinez, Reuters/CNS)
FeBRuARY: Pope Benedict XVI leaves after making the final public appearance of his papacy at the balcony of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on February 28. He had announced on February 13 that he would become the first pope since 1294 to voluntary renounce his papacy. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano)
JulY: An opponent of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds up a cross and copy of the Qur’an during a rally at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on July 5. Egypt’s Catholic leaders welcomed the ouster of the Islamist president and pledged to help “rebuild democracy” under army rule. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah, Reuters/CNS)
OCTOBeR: An image of Mary and the Christ Child is projected on the façade of a hotel during the opening day of the Festival of Light in Berlin on October 9. Several landmarks in the German capital were illuminated till October 20. (Photo: Tobias Schwarz, Reuters/CNS)
June: Catholics wearing the Vietnamese traditional long dress attend a service of eucharistic adoration outside St Joseph cathedral in Hanoi on June 2. A simultaneous hour of adoration called for by the Vatican was marked around the globe that Sunday. (Photo: Reuters/CNS)
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nOveMBeR: A resident covers her nose as she walks past devastated houses after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban, Philippines, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. (Photo: Romeo Ranoco, Reuters/CNS)
JulY: Franciscan friars walk at sunrise along Copacabana beach before the World Youth Day closing Mass in Rio de Janeiro on July 28. (Photo: Pilar Olivares, Reuters/CNS)
nOveMBeR: A reliquary holding the relics of St Peter the Apostle is pictured on the altar before Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St Peter’s Square to close the Year of Faith on November 24. The bone fragments, which were discovered during excavations of the necropolis under St Peter’s basilica in the 1940s, are kept in the pope’s private chapel but had never been displayed in public. (Photo: Stefano Rellandini, Reuters/CNS)
OCTOBeR: Pope Francis enters the Porziuncola inside Assisi’s basilica of St Mary of the Angels in Italy on October 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. (Photo: Maria Grazia Picciarella via CNS)
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
The teenage poet inspired by God Many dream of publishing their poetry; for 13-year-old Lisa-Marie Labercensie that dream became a reality, as PORTIA MTHEMBU reports.
13-YEAR-OLD Catholic has done what only a few do in their lifetime: Lisa-Marie Labercensie, a Grade 8 learner from Marymount High School in Uitenhage, has published her first book. Titled Young Justice, the poetry book focuses on the girl’s life experiences and how she thinks justice ought to be served in people’s lives. Her poetry also challenges those who do little to achieve justice in their own lives. At the tender age of 10, the pianist, cellist and ballet dancer discovered her talent for poetry writing. “I always loved reading and creative writing,” she told The Southern Cross. “Poetry always fascinated me— when I had something to say but didn’t know how to say it, poetry was sometimes the only answer.” In Grade 6, Lisa-Marie started taking a greater interest in the literary work. “I knew that because I was young, people wouldn’t appreciate my poetry immediately. But I also knew that it was worth a try. My parents and teachers kept me on my feet—they wanted me to dig deep into myself and discover more of my talent.” Xolani Sithole, a writer from Dancing Pencils in Durban and Dr Simphiwe Sesanti, a lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch, Western Cape, also played a significant role in Lisa-Marie’s endeavours, encour-
aging her to publish her book. Although her creative abilities have made her gift for writing easier, Lisa-Marie believes that the people in her life and her love for God have immensely aided her writing skills. “My parents are amazing and have opened doors for me. They have nurtured me into who I am today and have encouraged me to believe in myself, believe in God and the journey ahead of me,” she said. “Through my friendships I have learnt that people possess different personalities. My friends have taught me that not everyone will love and accept you but it is up to you to instil in those people an acceptance of who you are and, also, who you are capable of becoming,” she added. But the greatest credit belongs to God. “God has also been my biggest inspiration; it is he who keeps us whole when we are falling apart, he listens to our prayers and answers.” Lisa-Marie said that she never quite comprehended how she was different from children her age. “Not only did I write this book to make others understand me, but I also wrote it to understand myself better,” she explained. Perhaps her talent for writing is genetic: her grandfather was the late Deacon Billy Walbrugh of Stellenbosch, who in 2003 published a well-received book titled My Journey with the Holy Spirit. Growing up, Lisa-Marie “was always a quiet, obedient and easy child”. said her mother, Gail Labercensie. “Now as a teenager, she has developed a lot of confidence and a good sense of humour, but is still an easy child to please.” Mrs Labercensie described her
daughter as a self-disciplined and diligent pupil who was named the top student in the high school’s junior stream. The teenager’s father, Wayne Labercensie, could not hide his pride in his daughter. “Watching her grow into a very perceptive person with a loving and caring nature, and with strong values fills me with joy and disbelief; disbelief that I could be so lucky as a father.” Young Justice is a full-colour book with illustrations which the author personally selected to complement each poem. “The title is inspired by the fact that I am young and most of my poetry focuses on justice,” Lisa-Marie said. Lisa-Marie encouraged her peers to always dream big and never give up on their goals. “Life is what you make of it,” she said. “Although it did not come with an instruction manual, to ‘be’ is one instruction that can never be disobeyed—’be’ a fighter; ‘be’ a dreamer,” she said. “People might judge you because they believe that some dreams are unattainable but I believe that dreams are not impossible. All you have to do is wake up and make them come true.” The young poet hopes that the future will hold more book releases on her journey of self-expression. “God has given me this talent and I feel that his inspiration will constantly guide my writing endeavours.” n Young Justice can be bought through xlibrispublishing.co.uk, amazon. com or barnesandnoble.com, or contact Lisa-Marie at lisamarie firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa-Marie Labercensie and her book of poetry, titled Young Justice. The 13-year-old from Uitenhage says God is her “biggest inspiration”.
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
The Vatican’s great treasury of film The Church has a long tradition of using new media to evangelise, from the printing press to Twitter—and one of the first films ever made was of Pope Leo XIII. CAROL GLATZ looks at the Vatican’s film treasury.
HEN Pope Benedict XVI joined Twitter in 2012 and Pope Francis appeared on Instagram the following year, media watchers may have thought they were witnessing a Vatican revolution. In both cases, however, the pontiffs were merely following in a long tradition. The Catholic Church has a history of taking on major technological innovations that promote mass communication, such as the printing press in the 15th century and radio and television in the 20th. In fact, one of the very first motion picture films ever made was an 1896 reel of Pope Leo XIII. The brief black-and-white silent movie shows the elderly bespectacled pope sitting with guards and attendants at his side, adjusting his skullcap and blessing the camera. In another scene, the pope gets off a horse-drawn carriage and walks slowly with his cane to a bench, where he takes off his sun hat, adjusts his glasses and again blesses the camera with long, liquid movements of his frail hand. It was a blessing, not just to the world, but perhaps also to the birth of this new means of mass communication, said Claudia Di Giovanni, manager of the Vatican Film Library, whose rich collection includes the film of Pope Leo. Ms Di Giovanni said one of the most media-friendly popes in history was Pope Pius XII, who endorsed and made extensive use of radio, television and cinema. Pope Pius was the first pontiff to
star and act in a film, she said, when he let film crews into the Vatican for eight months to capture a sort of “day in the life” of a pope. The 1942 film, Pastor Angelicus, was a great success all over Europe, she said, showing the pope to a public who otherwise would never have been able to see him. Pope Pius did the film, Ms Di Giovanni said, as a way “to be near the world”, especially those affected by the still-raging World War II. “It was a way of showing that the pope wasn’t a person who was closed up inside the Vatican but was a point of reference for everyone who looked to him for hope.” The next pope, Bl John XXIII, established the Vatican Film Library in 1959—the same year he announced the Second Vatican Council—to collect and conserve films about the life of the Church and the history of the papacy. But the more than 8 000 films in its collections also include commercial releases, such as the 2001-2003 Lord of the Rings trilogy. A copy of Schindler’s List (1993) was a gift from its director, Steven Spielberg.
ome of the library’s rarest gems came from a collection amassed by a Jesuit identified only as Fr Joye in the early 1900s. The priest taught high school history in Switzerland and used contemporary films to bring his lessons to life. He tried to censor racy or indelicate scenes by shouting to divert the kids’ attention or by standing in front of the projector, but still got into trouble with the school principal and was kicked out of the school, Ms Di Giovanni said. The Joye collection includes the first film ever made about St Francis, filmed in Assisi in 1911, and the sole remaining copy of a 1911 dramatisation of Dante’s Inferno. The latter features pioneering special effects, such as emulsion smeared to produce what looks like fire raining on writhing sinners. Ms Di Giovanni said early
movies were often based on religious themes because they were stories people knew and could follow more easily, given the lack of dialogue in silent films. The film library also operates a small cinema housed in a former chapel, with marble inlay floors and a high double-vaulted ceiling, and an entrance flanked by two carved stone holy-water fonts in lieu of ticket booth and concessions stand. The theatre doesn’t see much action these days, but it used to host exclusive screenings and world premiers with actors, filmmakers and popes when then-Archbishop John Foley was head of the Vatican’s communications council, from 1984 to 2007. Bl John Paul II, who had been an actor and playwright before becoming pontiff, relished contact with other actors. Cardinal Foley, who died in 2011, arranged to show the pope at least one or two films a year, including the celluloid version of two plays he wrote, The Jeweller’s Shop starring Burt Lancaster, and Brother of Our God by Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi. The late pope also saw Gandhi at the Vatican cinema before he went to India, and Life is Beautiful, starring Roberto Benigni. Pope Francis is an avowed film lover, whose favourites include the 1987 Danish film Babette’s Feast and the works of Italian director Federico Fellini, particularly La Strada, which the pope has said he feels a connection to because of its implicit references to St Francis of Assisi. Unfortunately, the future pope said, he never had time to go to the movies when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. And clearly his busy schedule as pope means his chances of taking in a matinee are slim. With the screening room just 50 metres from his residence and a treasury of films at his disposal, Ms Di Giovanni says she is hopeful that Pope Francis will be among the theatre’s coming attractions.—CNS
Pope Pius XII holds flowers as he greets people on his 80th birthday on March 2, 1956, in this frame from a film in the Vatican Film Library.
Pope Leo XIII is seen giving a blessing in a frame from an 1896 film in the Vatican Film Library. The short film of Pope Leo is the oldest in the Vatican’s collection of more than 8 000 films.
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Claudia Di Giovanni, manager of the film library of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, is pictured in a small cinema at the Vatican. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Ten great movies about faith Not every film that deals with religious belief does so well. JOHN MULDERIG picks his Top 10 movies on the subject of faith.
Directed by Ladislao Vajda, the Spanish production’s story of childhood innocence and the power of faith is told simply but with sincerity and good humour. Dubbed in English, the movie’s miracle may tax the credibility of some, but all can enjoy its picture of a child in unusual circumstances.
INCE the advent of cinema in the late 1800s, faith has been treated on film in a wide variety of ways, from the respectful to the satiric. As any number of pictures from Hollywood’s golden age might be used to demonstrate, however, a reverential approach to the subject of religious belief does not by itself a thoughtful—or artistically successful—movie make. Here in alphabetical order are ten films that engage with this often elusive topic in an accomplished and illuminating manner. Sometimes directly, in other cases only by subtle implication, these screen parables provide viewers with insights into the nature of faith—as well as its effects. Unless otherwise noted, the films are suitable for family viewing.
Andrei Rublev (1969)
USSIAN production about a 15th-century monk (Anatoli Solonitzine) who perseveres in painting icons and other religious art despite the civil disruptions and cruel turmoil of his times. Director Andrei Tarkovsky visualises brilliantly the story of a devout man seeking through his art to find the transcendent in the savagery of the Tartar invasions and the unfeeling brutality of Russian nobles.
Babette’s Feast (1988)
CREEN version of a story by Isak Dinesen, set in a rugged Danish fishing village in 1871, shows the impact of a French housekeeper (Stephane Audran) on two pious sisters who carry on their late father’s work as pastor of a dwindling religious flock. The conclusion follows the preparation and consumption of an exquisite French meal, with focus on its sensual and religious implications and its healing effect on the austere sect and the Frenchwoman who prepares it. Danish director Gabriel Axel’s low-key and understated work is rich with detail and fine, controlled performances.
Brother Orchid (1940)
ERIOCOMIC tale of a gang boss (Edward G Robinson) returning from a vacation in Europe to find his mob has a new leader
A scene from the Danish film Babette’s Feast, one of ten recommended movies about faith. It is also one of Pope Francis’ favourite films. (Humphrey Bogart), but he escapes being rubbed-out by hiding in a monastery where he works as a gardener while plotting his comeback—until he has a change of heart. Director Lloyd Bacon mixes some droll comedy and a bit of spiritual uplifting into a standard crime melodrama, with surprisingly agreeable results.
The Fugitive (1947)
NDERRATED screen version of Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory, about an alltoo-human priest (Henry Fonda) who is hunted down by a puritanical officer (Pedro Armendariz) after the Mexican Revolution proscribes the free practice of religion. Director John Ford’s flawed masterpiece uses deeply felt religious symbolism in telling the story of a weak man who, despite his fear of death, continues ministering to the spiritual needs of a poor community.
Henry Poole Is Here (2008)
OVING little fable of a depressed loner (Luke Wilson) whose life is changed when a warm-hearted Latina busybody (Adriana Barraza) discerns a miraculous image of Christ’s face on his stucco wall, after which he slowly opens up to her and the other neighbours: an empathetic widow, her sad child, a nearsighted grocery clerk and the local priest (George Lopez).
Despite some formulaic turns and occasional platitudinous dialogue, director Mark Pellington sustains a suspenseful, sometimes poetic, generally unsentimental mood, not without humour, solidly anchored by Wilson whose transformation from spiritual emptiness to redemption is fully believable, with themes of faith and community strong plusses for the Catholic viewer.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
HEN an itinerant jack-of-alltrades (Sidney Poitier) stops to help a group of German nuns newly arrived in New Mexico, his cheerful generosity is disdained by the stern, demanding Mother Superior until he builds them a chapel with the aid of the local MexicanAmerican community. Directed by Ralph Nelson, the movie’s simple little story of the triumph of faith coupled with good will has enormous charm in the winning performances of the two principals, some good-natured comedy and an infectious theme song that will leave viewers humming “Amen”.
Miracle of Marcelino (1955)
FOUNDLING left at a Franciscan monastery in 19th-century Spain is spoiled by the attention of all the monks who raise him until, as a mischievous five-year-old (Pablito Calvo), the lad’s disobedience leads to a miraculous encounter with the crucified Christ.
HALLENGING Danish production about different kinds of faith and various sorts of miracles, one of which restores a dead woman to life. Directed by Carl Dreyer—who in 1928 made the classic film The Passion of Joan of Arc—the austere narrative centres on a farming family troubled by the madness of a son (Preben Lerdorff Rye) who believes he is Jesus Christ until, regaining his balance, his faith in God achieves the miracle which brings the story to a positive though less than convincing conclusion some may find disappointingly ambiguous.
Three Godfathers (1948)
FTER robbing a bank, an outlaw trio (John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr) pause to help a dying woman deliver her infant son on Christmas Eve, then take the babe with them as they are pursued across a desert wasteland. Dedicated by director John Ford to Western actor Harry Carey Sr, the story may be unabashedly sentimental and the action romanticised, but its lyrical images and religious resonances celebrate the myth of the Old West and its rugged heroes with good hearts.
Wise Blood (1980)
CREEN version of Flannery O’Connor’s novel about a Godhaunted young man (Brad Dourif) who on his way to Taulkinham, Tennessee, to preach a new religion, meets such bizarre characters as a failed preacher pretending he is blind (Harry Dean Stanton), his mildly depraved daughter (Amy Wright) and a jovial evangelist (Ned Beatty). Director John Huston made a powerful and provocative movie whose spiritual implications are as compelling as its artistic excellence. The incidental violence and moral complexity are more appropriate for adult viewers. n Do you have favourite films not listed here that deal with faith in an accomplished and illuminating manner? Send us your nominations with a brief explanation of why you recommend the film. e-mail email@example.com or fax 021 465-3850
From top: Andrei Rublev, Brother Orchid, The Fugitive, Henry Poole Is Here, Lilies of the Field, The Miracle of Marcelino, Ordet, Three Godfathers, Wise Blood.
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Jerusalem Imax movie shows faith in the city An aerial view of Jerusalem’s walled Old City and the Mount of Olives to its right seen in the 3-D Imax movie Jerusalem. The film looks at the Holy City through the eyes of three teenage girls, one Jewish, one Christian and one Muslim, with a little help along the way from archaeologist Jodi Magness. (Photos courtesy Jerusalem US LP)
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The Old City of Jerusalem—holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews—is the subject of a new film in Imax format. MARK PATTISON spoke to the co-producerdirector about his experience of filming the Holy City.
T was only a matter a time that a city that has been writ large over the course of human history would find itself writ large on the silver screen. And believe it when you see the words “writ large”. We’re talking Imax—and 3-D, too. The movie is called, simply, Jerusalem, and it chronicles the pull it exerts on the three great monotheistic religions. Jerusalem looks at the Holy City through the eyes of three teenage girls, one Jewish, one Christian and one Muslim—with a little help along the way from archaeologist Jodi Magness. Dr Magness notes in the movie that Jerusalem was conquered 40 times in its 5 000 years, and that you can find artifacts of each occupation, depending on how many layers you choose to dig. The movie was an arduous task for Daniel Ferguson, who made 14 separate trips to Jerusalem over three years—and even moved his family there for six months so he could focus more on filming. Mr Ferguson has worked in the Imax format since the 1990s, but this was the first time he directed an Imax movie; he also wrote and co-produced the film. At a pre-screening in Washington, Mr Ferguson said he showed his script to the mayor of Jerusalem, complete with notes on the images he wanted to capture. The mayor, according to Mr Ferguson, tossed the script on a table and laughed: “You’ll be lucky to get half of this in.” Mr Ferguson paused for a second, then told his audience at the screening: “I got it all in.” Well, as much as a 45-minute film can contain. It’s a nod to the constraints of “the institutional Imax format,” he told Catholic News Service after the screening. He had originally wanted to do a 90-minute theatrical feature on Jerusalem, but securing screens would have been tough. “Even a movie like Gravity, it sells out every evening for two or three weeks” on Imax screens, but it has to be shoved aside for the next Hollywood film. Mr Ferguson said the best he could have hoped for with a full-length feature was some daytime weekday screenings. But he did land some great scenes. “We were able to do aerial shooting 150m above ground over some of the most sensitive real estate in the world,” he told the preview audience. He added he was also able to film inside the Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third-most-sacred site in the world—possibly the first filmmaker ever to
do so. Mr Ferguson said he wanted his audience to come away with at least one moment where they say, “I didn’t know that”. Asked what his own “I didn’t know that” moment was in the film, he told CNS it was the ceremony of the Holy Fire, an Orthodox Christian rite practised on the night before Easter. “I knew about it, but only by name,” he said. Jerusalem captures the image of an Orthodox priest bearing a huge lit candle very close in size to the paschal candle used in Catholic churches at the Easter Vigil service, and the priest being carried on the shoulders of two stout men as he goes throughout the crowded church as worshippers seek to have their own candles lit from the flame of the priest’s candle. And the congregants themselves aren’t holding slim tapers Catholics are used to holding at the Easter Vigil, but tall, thick candles. Mr Ferguson grew up in Montreal, Canada, the son of a Lutheran mother and a Presbyterian father. As he grew older, he told CNS, he looked into other forms of worship and belief. Not having found satisfaction in any of them, he said he thought he would “settle it once and for all” by going to graduate school to study systematic theology at McGill University in Montreal. He got the degree, but Jerusalem shows Ferguson’s spiritual quest is not yet finished. He said he filmed parts of East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem for his movie, but later decided to stick with the 4km² Old City with its Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters. Part of the reason was the 45-minute time constraint, but part of it was the region’s near-intractable politics. “If I show [Israeli] checkpoints, then I have to explain ’67 [the year of the Six-Day War], and if I talk about ’67 then I have to talk about ’48,” when the state of Israel was created and followed by near-instant war in the region. “If you notice, I don’t even use the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’ in the film,” Mr Ferguson said, choosing instead to focus squarely on the religious hold Jerusalem has on residents and visitors alike. As for the three girls who appear throughout the movie, the final shot has all three in the same frame. It’s not a trick shot, Mr Ferguson said, “but I had to trick them into appearing at the same time”. The girls had never met before. One of them said in the movie that perhaps it will be possible for her to meet people of the other two religions— “maybe not now, but someday”. Mr Ferguson arranged the meeting. “It was charming and intriguing, but ultimately banal,” he told CNS. Even at their young age, the girls had accumulated so many misperceptions and stereotypes that the conversation didn’t go anywhere. “The girls didn’t like it, either,” he added.–CNS.
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Women walk outside the Armenian Catholic church at the fourth station of the cross of the Via Dolorosa in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City in this scene from the Imax film Jerusalem.
Apostle of Africa still holds lesson for us today Just over ten years ago, St Daniel Comboni was canonised. Fr JEREMIAS MARTINS, a member of the order founded by the saint, reflects on the life of one of the great apostles of Africa.
N January 1849, Daniel Comboni, a 17-year-old student at the Mazza Institute in Verona, Italy, promised his superior that he would dedicate his life to Africa and Africans. Inspired by the stories of returning missionaries at the institute, after his ordination on December 31, 1854, he went to work in Sudan. He would eventually die there on October 10, 1881, at the young age of 50. Towards the end of his life, Daniel Comboni was accused of having an affair with a Syrian sister, Virginia Mansur. He was called to defend himself in Rome, before Propaganda Fidei, what we today call the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. He went and was acquitted of these accusations. During his defence he declared that since his youth he had ever had only one love, to which he had remained faithful: Africa. “The first love of my youth was for unhappy Africa and, leaving behind all that was dearest to me in the world [here he referred mainly to his parents, who had already lost all of their other seven children], I came to these lands to offer my work for the relief of their age-old sufferings.” In 1877, he confirmed this commitment: “In January 1849, as a 17-year-old student, I promised, at the feet of my most reverend superior, Fr Nicola Mazza, to dedicate my life to the apostolate of Central Africa; and with the grace of God I have always remained faithful to my promise.” From Sudan, he wrote to his parents: “We will have to labour hard, to sweat, to die: but the thought that one sweats and dies for love of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the most abandoned souls in the world, is far too sweet for us to desist from this great enterprise”. After a fellow missionary died of disease, Comboni exclaimed: “O Nigrizia o morte!”—“Africa or death!” Comboni’s love for Africa was nurtured throughout his life, by reading about Africa and studying the culture and languages of the African people. However, this was not enough to keep him focused on the cry of Africa. The source of his love was located in the contemplation of the Crucified Lord. Gazing at the Cross he discovered the love of God for Africans. While others were looking at Africa from the “pitiable lens of human interest”, he looked at Africa in the light of faith and “saw an infinite multitude of brothers and sisters who belonged to the same family as himself, with a common Father in heaven”. He was carried by the impetus of that love, “set alight by the divine flame on Calvary hill, when it came forth from the side of the Crucified One to embrace the whole human family”. Comboni drew up a plan for Africa and Africans, the central thought being to “save Africa with Africans”. At a time when colonialists expanded in
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the continent, he aimed to make Africans the protagonists of their lives and destiny. To help accomplish that, he founded two missionary institutes for Africa and within Africa: the Comboni Missionaries (1867) and the Comboni Missionary Sisters (1872). He travelled to Europe to present the cause of Africans. He went to the First Vatican Council (1869-70) to present the cry of the continent. He met with monarchs, politicians and decision-makers to state the case for Africa. He fought against slavery and human trafficking of black people. He also launched a missionary magazine, the first in Italy, to promote the evangelisation of the continent. The Comboni order continues the social communications apostolate, also in South Africa, where they publish the magazine Wordwide. In 1877 he was made vicar-apostolic of Central Africa. He died young, fulfilling his own words: “I make common cause with each one of you, and the happiest day of my life will be the one on which I will be able to give my life for you.” Daniel Comboni is a role model for us today. He was determined to achieve his goal and for this he lived, worked and died. When his superiors and friends advised him to go back to Italy to have a less demanding life, without the risk of malaria and other tropical diseases, he replied: “Keep in mind the fact that Comboni cannot live except for Africa and Africans. If I had a thousand lives, I would offer them for the salvation of Africa.” His dream is fulfilled in the 4 000 missionaries that form his family, many being African. However, the bright future which Comboni dreamt of for Africa is yet to be accomplished. In his last letter, on October 4, 1881, exhausted and on the brink of death, he wrote: “I am happy to die! Let everything that God wishes come about. God never abandons the one who trusts in him. I am happy in the Cross, which, when borne willingly out of love for God, gives birth to victory and eternal life.” Comboni was canonised by Pope John Paul II on October 5, 2003.
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Like in a sitcom: A scriptwriter’s conversion Comedy scriptwriter Tom Leopold went through life happily without God—until a crisis and a strange motorbiker brought him to the Catholic faith, as he tells MARK PATTISON.
OM Leopold is a very funny guy. He’s also a Catholic. And he has been funny longer than he has been a Catholic. But being a Catholic doesn’t stop him from being funny. “I can’t go more than two lines without getting a laugh,” said Mr Leopold. He has spent the better part of his adult life writing sitcoms, including episodes of Cheers, Seinfeld and Will and Grace. A few months back the scriptwriter returned to the United States from England, where he did what he called some “punching up” of a batch of scripts for new episodes of The Muppet Show. He has written for such diverse comic talents as Bob Hope and Chevy Chase, and written with some of the most inventive minds in comedy, including Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer. But Mr Leopold joined the Catholic Church only last year. It took a family crisis to set him on a path towards Catholicism. “My daughter had this very serious, life-threatening eating disorder,” Mr Leopold said. She was in treatment in Arizona, where the hospital would not release her until Christmas Day. On Christ-
mas Eve, he recalled that he and his wife went to bed. “We’re trying not to let the other one know how sad we were,” he remembered. But for Mr Leopold, “that’s the first time I prayed”. However, because he had, by his own count, “one day of religious training” in his life, he said he prayed “like they prayed on [the old TV western Wagon Train: ‘Lord, I’m not a prayin’ man, but if you’ll just see us through Comanche territory...’.” Early Christmas morning outside his hotel, Mr Leopold said he encountered “this 75year-old ex-Marine [who] pulls up on this homemade motorcycle with deer antlers for handlebars”. “He tells me his name is Shepherd. He introduces his wife to me and tells me that she brought him to Jesus at 33—and Jesus died at 33. And the sun’s rising behind his head like a halo. And I haven’t said a word. “I thought it was the Ambien [a sedative] kicking in.” The biker’s last words before he roared off into the desert were: “God is watching you.” “This is the first of many shocking kinds of coincidences that made it impossible for me not to come to the Church,” Mr Leopold said.
incidences are detailed in Mr Leopold’s one-man show, A Comedy Writer Finds God, which he wrote with some help from another sitcom veteran, Bill Persky. Mr Leopold has performed it five times, mostly in and around the New York area, but was headed to Santa Clarita in California for a one-night show at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church there. When he did the show at St Patrick’s cathedral in New York, his home parish, he had butterflies like any performer. He said he especially worried about the reaction of Catholics who were thinking, “I didn’t vote for this guy to come into the religion”. Much to his relief, he found that “everybody responds in pretty much the same way. Everybody laughs in the same places. Everybody kinds of gets it.” Mr Leopold was born a Jew. “I was very proud to be Jewish,” he said. His closest friend, Late Show With David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer, “threw me a ‘Tom Leopold’s Last Day as a Jew’ party at Sammy’s Romanian Restaurant” in New York the night before Mr Leopold was received into the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). “Harry Shearer [the voice of Ned Flanders on
The biker’s last words before he roared off were: ‘God is watching you.’
ut why Catholicism? “I prayed, and Jesus was the first to show up. What else am I going to do?” he replied. Many of the other shocking co-
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The Simpsons] came dressed as a Hasidic rabbi and tried to perform an intervention.” Among the shtick at the party, Mr Leopold said, was this line: “‘Mom, your hair looks great. Guess what, I’m going to become a Catholic.’ She didn’t hear anything after ‘Your hair looks great’.” Mr Leopold is not in the grind of churning out script after script of a sitcom, but he still dabbles in comedy. For TV, he’ll be writing the jokes for the Mark Twain Prize later this year, with Carol Burnett as the honouree. At home, “strangely enough, I don’t watch a lot of sitcoms. Sitcoms were on at the time my kids were going to bed,” Mr Leopold said. “I’m a news junkie. And I like reality shows. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. They did a number on my business for a few years. “But one reality show I’d like to see is ‘Celebrity Ice Road Truckers’—people like Ellen DeGeneres driving a big rig across the frozen tundra.”—CNS
Sitcom writer Tom Leopold in a 2009 photo. A family crisis set him on the path to become a Catholic last year. He has spent the better part of his adult life writing sitcoms, including episodes of Cheers, Seinfeld and Will and Grace. (Photo: Arne Svenson, courtesy Tom Leopold)
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Mandela and the Church Continued from page 8 in his hand was the rudder to direct our destiny as a country anywhere. He had suffered 27 years of hard labour in separation from his family. He had all the right to be angry and to seek retribution,” the statement noted. “He chose peace, reconciliation and prosperity. He realised that his sacrifice would be in vain unless he promoted freedom, equality, participation, altruism and ubuntu.” Mr Simmermacher agreed: “It is right to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela since he was the figurehead of the struggle against apartheid and the transition to democracy. Without his personal story, wisdom and charisma that transition might have been a lot messier than it was.” But, without wanting to detract from Mr Mandela’s enormous contribution, the Southern Cross editor said it was also important to remember that Madiba “did not single-handedly invent the Spirit of ‘94”. “Peaceful coexistence was always the goal of the liberation movement, as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. It was the goal during the struggle to end apartheid in the 1980s, even in the face of unspeakable brutality by the authorities. Mr Mandela was a co-author of that spirit and came to embody it, but the credit is due not only to him, but to many others as well. And I think he would have been the first to acknowledge that.” Jesuit theologian Fr Anthony Egan noted that Mr Mandela’s positions on the dignity of persons and human rights reflected Catholic Social Thought. Fr Egan said Mr Mandela exercised the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. “Mandela, though he came from Xhosa nobility and was by profession a lawyer, could have stayed aloof from the poor. Yet he remained personally in touch with ordinary poor people and tried—within all the constraints of a global economy often indifferent to the poor—to help the marginalised. Though by no means poor himself, he lived simply—certainly by the standards of many of his former comrades—and concentrated his retirement on a series of projects to help poor people and children in need,” Fr Egan said. Fr Sebastian Rossouw of Regina Mundi church in Soweto, often noted as the cathedral of the struggle, said Mr Mandela’s life speaks to what this Church stands for. “He stood for the deepest desire of the human heart: peace.” Fr Rossouw noted that “many have linked the man to the struggle and the struggle to Regina Mundi—it’s the same struggle. People are happy to be a part of that association.” Fr Victor Phalana vicar-general of Pretoria thanked Mr Mandela for “saving our nation and giving us hope
Fr (now Bishop) Reginald Cawcutt and the late Fr Basil van Rensburg share a joke with Nelson Mandela at Holy Cross parish in District Six, Cape Town, in 1990. Bishop Cawcutt, then the parish priest, recalled that one afternoon he received a phone call from an ANC official to say that Mr Mandela was about to visit the parish to view the mural on the wall of the parish school.
A copy of the letter which Nelson Mandela wrote in 1984 to the late Archbishop Stephen Naidoo of Cape Town.
DA SIlvA—Mary wishes all her family, friends, my in-law families, Prayer Group, Rosary Group, Legion of Mary—Bellville, parishioners of Holy Family, Our Lady of Fatima Parishes—Bellville and the staff of The Southern Cross God’s riches Blessings for Christmas and best wishes for 2014. lenDeRS—Brian, Jean and Laura wish all relatives, friends, priests, and religious and Mary Immaculate Queen Enthronees all the joy and love of this Blessed Christmastide. May the Christ Child and the Holy Family surround you and your loved ones with serene peace and happiness. Rene AnD elAYne du Toit wish all their friends and family a Blessed Christmas and may 2014 be a year of peace and love for you all.
in dark times. Thanks for saving our nation from civil war and destruction. Thank you for standing up for values and principles and a vision.” “South Africans, it is up to you; he has done his part,” said Fr Phalana. “Let us all join hands and remain an industrious nation, let us bring our solutions and our creativity as we face the challenges. We say goodbye.”
ACCOM—Linnet Mavis. In loving memory of our sister who passed away on December 24, 2007. Rest in peace, Brian Jean and Laura. ACCOM—Ruby Mavis. In loving memory of our beloved mother on this twelth anniversary of her passing on Christmas Day, 2001. May you join the heavenly choirs of angels and share in the rich inheritance promised by our glorious Lord. May Our Blessed Lady shield you under her mantle and may the Holy Family surround you with eternal joy and peace. Brian, Jean and Laura. COleMAn—In loving memory of Bishop Michael who left us two years ago. We will always remember your deep faith, your challenging
words, you loving kindness, and your special sense of humour. Please intercede for the needs of your diocese, especially for the appointment of a worthy successor. The PE Chancery Staff. ROMAn—David. Fond memories of my loving husband, Dad and granddad, who passed away on 15/12/1995. When the family chain is broken, nothing seems to be the same - but as God calls us one by one, he links the chain again. Your loving wife Val, children, grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. MHDSRIP. Snell—Constable
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Quintin Charles died tragically on police duty on Christmas morning 25/12/2012. Memories are like threads of gold. They never tarnish nor grow old. Fondly remembered by his godmother, Agnes Julie. Snell—Constable Quintin Charles died tragically in a car crash 25 December, 2012. In loving memory of our dearest son, brother and uncle, with the passing year the most algia of our memory are bitter sweet and very precious more than gold nor diamonds could afford. You will always live in our hearts. Rest in peace our darling beloved son, brother and uncle. Your ever loving Mom, Dad, brothers, sister and family. TROW—Colin. 5/11/1927—23/12/2011.
Southern CrossWord solutions
SOLUTIONS TO 581. ACROSS: 1 Occult, 4 Crop up, 9 Holy Innocents, 10 Reargue, 11 Tribe, 12 Court, 14 Flask, 18 React, 19 Beatify, 21 Procrastinate, 22 Reside, 23 Recess. DOWN: 1 Others, 2 Collaborators, 3 Lying, 5 Recital, 6 Pontius Pilate, 7 Posies, 8 Inter, 13 Retired, 15 Proper, 16 Obese, 17 Typers, 22 Reside, 23 Recess.
OuR GIFT TO YOu! will send you a beautiful
In loving memory of my beloved husband. Greatly missed by Thelma and family. Rest in peace.
ThAnKSGIvInG to Our Lady of Schoenstatt for prayers answered, Stephanie.
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liturgical Calendar Year A Weekdays Cycle Year 2 Sunday, December 22, Fourth Sunday of Advent Isaiah 7:10-14, Psalm 24:1-6, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24 Monday, December 23 Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24, Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14, Luke 1:57-66 Tuesday, December 24 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16, Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29, Luke 1:67-79 Wednesday, December 25, Nativity of the Lord Midnight - Isaiah 9:1-6, Psalm 96:1-3, 11-13, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14. Day - Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98:1-6, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14 Thursday, December 26, St Stephen Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Psalm 31:3-4, 6, 8, 17, Matthew 10:17-22 Friday, December 27, St John 1 John 1:1-4, Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12, John 20:1-8 Saturday, December 28, The Holy Innocents 1 John 1:5, 2:2, Psalm 124:2-5, 7-8, Matthew 2:13-18 Sunday, December 29, The Holy Family Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14, Psalm 128:1-5, Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
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FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
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Website: www.scross.co.za Feast of the Holy Family: December 29 Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14, Psalm 128:15, Colossians 3:12-21, Matthew 2:13-15, 1923
EXT Sunday, as always on the first Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. Now families can (as we all know) be very difficult, but it is the very facing of the difficulty that makes them precious to us. The first reading for the day is from ben Sirach, written two centuries or so before the birth of Jesus, to teach the young how to find meaning in life. And this passage comes quite early in the book, establishing the importance of father and mother, and the importance of giving appropriate glory to one’s mother and honouring one’s father. Doing so, the author says, means that you will in turn be “gladdened by children, and heard on the day when [you] pray”. Even when it is tricky we are to persist in this: “Help your father in his old age, and don’t cause him pain in his life. If his mind fails, pardon him, and don’t dishonour him, for all your vigour.” We live in an age when parents live far longer than they used to in Sirach’s day; ours
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Message for family togetherness Nicholas King SJ
is, we are told, the first generation to be retired from work when our parents are still alive, and these words speak loudly to our time. The psalm makes the link between a proper family life and the security of society. We are to start by being of those who “fear the Lord and walk in God’s ways…happiness and good things [shall be] yours”. Then we are offered a charming image of family life (though not all women will find themselves enchanted by it): “Your wife like a fruitful vine at the side of your house, your sons around your table”. And the climax comes with the prayer for Israel: “May the Lord bless you from Zion, and look upon the prosperity of Jerusalem, all
the days of your life.” Families really do matter for the stability of our country; they are God’s gift to us. The second reading offers some sensible advice on how to handle life in the family: “As people chosen by God to be holy and beloved, you are to put on a pitying heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, putting up with each other, and offering forgiveness whenever you have reason to blame someone, just as the Lord offered it to you.” But the vital ingredient here is “love, which binds everything perfectly together”. As always with Paul, it comes back to Christ: “Let his peace be the referee in your hearts…and be grateful.” Then in turn each member of the family is given advice on how to hold it all together: “Wives are to get the right relationship to their husbands…husbands, love your wives, and don’t get bitter against them”; and the same, too, for children and parents. So there is no one section of the family that is privileged against the rest. In the gospel, we see a family in action as
The great Christmas challenge is to recognise the new light T
HE Christmas story is surely one of the greatest stories ever told. It chronicles a birth from which the world records time as before or after. Moreover, it is written in a way that has inflamed the romantic imagination for 2 000 years. This hasn’t always been for the good. Beyond spawning every kind of legend imaginable, the story of Christmas has, in the Christian imagination, too often taken on a centrality not accorded to it in the Gospels themselves. This is not surprising, given its richness. Inside its great narrative there are multiple mini-narratives, each of which comes laden with its own archetypal symbols. One of these mini-narratives, rich in archetypal imagery, is the story of King Herod and the wise men. We see this in the Gospel of Matthew when he tells us how various people reacted to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Matthew sets up a powerful archetypal contrast—blessing and curse—between the reaction of the wise men, who bring their gifts and place them at the feet of the new king, and King Herod, who tries to kill him. We are all familiar with this story since it has been much celebrated in song, icon, and legend. Jesus is born inside of a religious tradition, Judaism, and his birth is announced to that faith-community in a manner that befits religion, namely, by
Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI
the angels, by supernatural revelation. But those outside of that faith-tradition need another way to get to know of his birth, and so his birth is announced to them though nature—astrology, through the stars. The wise men see a special star appear in the sky and begin to follow it, not knowing exactly to where or what it will lead. While following the star, they meet King Herod who, upon learning that a new king has supposedly been born, has his own evil interest in the matter. He asks the wise men to find the child and bring him back information so that he, too, can go and worship the newborn. We know the rest of story. The wise men follow the star, find the new king, and, upon seeing him, place their gifts at his feet. What happens to them afterwards? We have all kinds of apocryphal stories about their journey back home, but these, while interesting, are not helpful. We do not know what happened to them afterwards and that is exactly the point. Their slipping away into anonymity is a crucial part of their gift.
The idea is that they now disappear because they can now disappear. They have placed their gifts at the feet of the young King and can now leave everything safely in his hands. His star has eclipsed theirs. Far from fighting for their former place, they now happily cede it to him. Like old Simeon, they can happily exit the stage singing: “Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servants! We can die! We’re in safe hands!” And Herod, how much to the contrary! The news that a new king has been born threatens him at his core since he is himself a king. The glory and light that will now shine upon the new king will no longer shine on him. So what is his reaction? Far from laying his resources at the feet of the new king, he sets out to kill him. Moreover, to ensure that his murderers find him, he kills all the male babies in the entire area. An entire book on anthropology might be written about this last line. Fish are not the only species that eat their young! But the real point is the contrast between the wise men and Herod: the former see new life as a promise and they bless it; the latter sees new life as a threat and he curses it. This is a rich story with a powerful challenge. What is my own reaction to new life, especially to life that threatens me, that will take away some of my own popularity, sunshine, and adulation? Can I, like the wise men, lay my gifts at the feet of the young and move towards anonymity and eventual death, content that the world is in good hands, even though those hands are not my hands? Or, like Herod, will I feel that life as a threat and try somehow to kill it, lest its star somehow diminish my own? To bless another person is to give away some of one’s own life so that the other might be more resourced for his or her journey. Good parents do that for their children, good teachers do that for their students, good mentors do that for their protégés, good pastors do that for their parishioners, good politicians do that for their countries, and good elders do that for the young. They give away some of their own lives to resource the other. The wise men did that for Jesus. How do we react when a young star’s rising begins to eclipse our own light?
families are meant to be. It is set after the departure of the Magi, when Herod is going to try and kill the newborn “King of the Jews”, and Joseph is given divine orders to do the unlikely thing of fleeing to Egypt (Egypt, of course, is a place from which you flee); he does this by night, just like the previous exodus, but in reverse. Then, at the right moment, once Herod is dead, Joseph gets another set of divine orders and he is to return to Israel, with the child and its mother; but because Herod’s son Archelaos is now in charge in Judea, the child ends up in Galilee, in Nazareth, thanks to another dream sent from God. Not for the first time in these opening chapters of Matthew, there is a scriptural quotation to interpret what has happened, and how it was all God’s plan. But for our purposes, the point is that when a family is operating properly, it is obedient to God, and therefore unselfishly at the service of all its members, especially the most vulnerable. We need to listen carefully to the message of this great feast.
1. CCL out. It’s esoteric (6) 4. What you’ve sown may appear unexpectedly (4,2) 9. Baby martyrs (4,9) 10. Present your case again (7) 11. Old Testament clan (5) 12. Woo where the tennis player plays (5) 14. It could contain the wine (5) 18. Perform again in response (5) 19. The Church will do it before canonisation (7) 21. Delay car spotter in a way (13) 22. Have a permanent home (6) 23. Interval for the niche (6)
1. The rest of them (6) 2. They will work with you (13) 3. Prone to fib (5) 5. I clear it for the musical performance (7) 6. Did he leave the court with clean hands? (7,6) 7. Little bunches for the wedding day (6) 8. Place in the grave (5) 13. Slept on it and left the job (7) 15. It’s not the common part of the Mass (6) 16. Corpulent old bishop first turns see around (5) 17. They do the printing (6) 20. ... with me (hymn) (5)
Solutions on page 25
S we were putting out biscuits for Santa on Christmas Eve, I accidentally dropped one. “No problem,” I said, picking it up and dusting it off before placing it back on the plate. “You can’t do that,” argued my four-year-old. “Don’t worry. Santa will never know.” He shot me a look. “So he knows if I’ve been bad or good, but he doesn’t know the biscuit fell on the floor?”
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Let the Prince of Peace triumph in the endless battle for peace
In 1914 the guns of World War I fell silent for Christmas. The truce of that year should inspire us to work for peace, argues TONY MAGLIANO.
S the first Christmas of World War I approached, Pope Benedict XV on December 7, 1914, asked the leaders of all warring governments to agree to an official ceasefire. He begged “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang”. Sadly, his plea was ignored by government leaders. But many of the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce. On Christmas Eve of 1914, German troops in Ypres, Belgium, put candles around their trenches and sang Christmas carols. When opposing British troops heard the Germans singing, they responded with Christmas carolling of their own. Artillery throughout the region fell silent.
Then a remarkable scene occurred. German and British soldiers climbed out of their trenches and ventured unarmed into the highly dangerous no man’s land” to exchange gifts of food and drink, as well as souvenir hats and buttons. The truce also allowed opposing sides to retrieve their dead and participate in joint services. A first-hand account of this inspiring Christmas truce was given by Bruce Bairnsfather, who fought with a British machine gun unit. He wrote: “I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything [...] I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons [...] I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange.” Reportedly as many as 100 000 British and German troops along much of the Western Front—a line of trenches stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with
France—stopped fighting and engaged in similar acts of human kindness. What an incredibly inspiring Christmas story! But as is often the case, the “leaders” got in the way. High ranking officers ordered all such truces to stop—and to start killing again. The political, cultural, military, media and economic forces for war have long been extremely powerful. And in recent decades their power has become almost invincible. Our culture praises warriors. Our entertainment industry inspires a sick delight in war. With patriotic platitudes, politicians send our young men and women off to battle—to kill and be killed. Weaponproducing corporations get rich from war and war preparation. Clergy remain mostly silent. And countless people just simply accept all of this evil as normal. Well, thank God not everyone follows the constant drumbeat to war. In fact, some who were once a part of the war-machine are now committed to dismantling it. The
German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment and British soldiers of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment meet in no man’s land, December 25, 1914.
US organisation Veterans for Peace (www.veteransforpeace.org) is an excellent example. These former warriors, now converts to non-violence, have a prophetic message to all who support war: “Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are predominantly the innocent.” The mass murder of war is right out of hell. But Christmas is a time to think of heaven touching earth; a season
to joyfully recall the Prince of Peace coming among us. It’s a time to climb out of our trenches to grasp the hands of our enemies, and seriously reflect upon the message of angels who call each of us to build peace on earth and good will towards all. n Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. For Günther Simmermacher’s article on the 1914 Christmas truce, please go to www.scross.co.za/ 2011/12/ww1_christmas_truce/
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St Mary’s cathedral in Sydney, Australia, is illuminated by a 75 metreprojected “Lights of Christmas” display last year. (Photo: Tim Wimborne, Reuters/CNS)
A Christmas tree is illuminated in the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo: David W Cerny, Reuters/CNS)
Actors re-enact the Nativity during Christmas Eve celebrations in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Photo: Dado Ruvic, Reuters/CNS) Two Iraqi boys hold candles as they pray for peace in Iraq and Syria during Mass at a Chaldean Catholic church in Amman, capital of Jordan. (Photo: Ali Jarekji, Reuters/CNS)
The cupola of St Peter’s basilica is seen through decorations on a Christmas tree in St Peter’s Square (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
A Nigerian woman and child pray in the grotto of the church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Tradition holds the grotto marks the spot where Jesus was born. (Photo: Ammar Awad, Reuters/CNS)
Women pray during Christmas Mass at a church in Vau Dejes, Albania. Almost 10% of the mostly Muslim population of Albania are Catholics. (Photo: Arben Celi, Reuters/CNS) Members of the clergy await the arrival of the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem outside the church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem last Christmas Eve. (Photo: Ammar Awad, Reuters/CNS)
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
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A child holds a baby Jesus figurine in a tiny crib. At Chrstmas our main focus must be on the baby born into poverty, the manner in which God chose to come to be in his human incarnation. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)
Christmas must have Jesus at the centre
What is your focus this Christmas? If it isn’t Christ, then you might need to look again, argues ANTHONY GATHAMBIRI IMC.
HRISTMAS has become commercialised, with massive shopping at malls where buyers stand in long queues so that they can fork out money for things that cost an arm and a leg. Amid the smog of sales, the smog of adverts, the smog of restless activity, the smog of loud entertainment, it’s easy to become trapped in the smog of the commercialised Christmas. On Christmas Eve 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said: “Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration that prevents people from seeing the simplicity and humility of Jesus. Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance, to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.” Where is our focus this Christmas? It would be nothing short of dangerous to our spiritual life if the celebration was limited to merry socialising or holiday travelling without a focus on the essence of Christmas. There will be Christmas if we don’t have turkey for lunch on December 25; there will be Christmas if we don’t have a braai on Boxing Day; there will be Christmas if our friends don’t bring us gifts; there will be
Christmas even if we don’t have a Christmas tree. But there will be no Christmas for me and you if there is no focus on Jesus. This is because Christmas is all about the mystery of the incarnation, of God becoming man and dwelling among us.
hristmas is not a joyful season for many people, despite the message of joy in the Nativity. This year, as in any other year, it will be a sad time for many who will have empty stomachs on December 25 while many suburban bins will be overflowing with leftovers. Many will be wearing rags while others buy clothes which they might wear only once and put aside after Christmas. Many people will be alone at Christmas while others count down the time before their visitors finally go home. Sharing the joy of Christmas with the poor and the lonely is paramount. It will be a holy Christmas for us when we share the Good News with those who can’t experience it because they are suffering. It is among them where we must seek God. As Pope Francis keeps reminding us, God is always to be found among the poor, the needy, and the suffering. At Christmas, many will pay homage to beautifully adorned cribs and even drop some gifts to the infant Jesus. And this is good. However, this gesture should not be an end in itself. It should be a means by which to associate Jesus, born in poverty
himself, with the multitudes living in poverty. The crib should open our eyes to see the poor around us: orphaned children and children for whom mothers struggle to put bread on the plate. A while ago, a parishioner was driving with me through the busy streets of Pretoria. As soon as we stopped at traffic lights, a chap came up to our car to ask for money. The parishioner said: “I feel guilty for not giving the beggar something, but today you never know who is genuine.” But will God not bless us for what we do to those in need, regardless of the dishonesty of some, so long as our intention was to help a needy person? We must guard ourselves from the famine of the heart which is worse than the famine of the stomach. Jesus is our gift. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. God has given himself to us and became one of us. We can emulate this not by buying but by being gifts for each other. When we focus on the essence of Christmas, we can see the simplicity of God who came to us in the form of a baby. God was born in a stable, and announced himself to shepherds, the lowest of status in that culture. What about us? Are we simple or complicated people? Putting the focus on Jesus as the centre of our Christmas celebrations can help us learn the beauty of embracing simple lifestyles, so that we may be able to be closer to God and to people whom he calls us to serve.
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The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
Here’s to a jolly old Christmas For the elderly in care homes, Christmas is special too, with much excitement, as PORTIA MTHEMBU reports.
HROUGHOUT the year, Catholic care centres cater to the needs of elderly people, enabling them to lead a full, holistic life, and with the festive season upon us, this time of the year is no exception.
ing family and friends, and enjoying the warmth and spirit of the holiday season,” 85-year-old Deana Giorza, a resident of Nazareth House in Johannesburg told The Southern Cross. “This is the only time of the year where we get thorough attention from our families,” she added. Sr Rosemarie Curran, a nursing sister at the Holy Cross Home in Pretoria, said that those aware of the Christmas preparations looked
Just as many are anticipating sharing the Christmas spirit with loved ones, so too are many of the elderly in care centres. With the same vigour, they look to their caregivers for a heartwarming Christmas spent with family and friends in a place they have come to know as a home away from home. “As we age, our pace might slow a bit but that doesn’t mean we are not interested in celebrating Christmas by having fun activities, visit-
forward to the celebrations. “Even if they do not take part in it, they see us preparing the dining room the day before, and become excited and ask questions,” she said. The Holy Cross home hosts an annual Christmas party for its 74 elderly residents and their relatives. “Our purpose in holding the Christmas event is to uphold the Catholic ethos of our home and assist the residents in meeting their social and spiritual needs,” Sr Curran said. Opening up its doors to the frail, the care centre also tends to the needs of those suffering from terminal illnesses who, as a consequence, may be oblivious to the activities taking place. “We respect the dignity of each one and believe that the spiritual and social aspects of their lives are important. We do not know all which goes on in the depths of a person’s soul,” Sr Curran said.
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he participation of the residents’ relatives is especially relevant during this time. They are encouraged not only to visit their loved ones but to take care of them and participate in the activities taking place. “The Christmas message is also aimed at helping the relatives to cope, as some struggle if a family member has, for example, Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember who they are,” said Sr Curran. Sadly, many still spend the festive season without any visits from relatives. Bernadette Day, a 67-yearold resident at Nazareth House, Durban, said that although surrounded by people, Christmas spent without her family was not the same. Nonetheless, the staff and religious sisters of the various care centres ensure that none of the residents are neglected. “More time is spent with those who have no relatives present,” Sr Curran said. “If residents become very restless, depressed or feel lonely, we phone the relatives, explain what is happening and ask them to visit.” Residents are also given the opportunity to contact their relatives, and those who are able, are encouraged to go home, said Sr Patricia Woodroffe, operations nurse manager of Nazareth House, Durban. Nancy Magai, a social worker at Johannesburg’s Nazareth House, suggests people “adopt a grandparent” for those without relatives. With multiple festive schedules and scores of visitors spending time in the homes, the residents and staff have their plates full. To kickstart the Advent season, Nazareth House Johannesburg offers the sacrament of confession and an anointing Mass. The 80 residents are also entertained by various performers, who sing carols and give concerts. “The frail love the oldtime singing,” Sr Phyllis Maartens, matron of the home, told The Southern Cross.
Deana Giorza, a resident at Nazareth House in Johannesburg, says pace may slow with age, but the joy of Christmas remains. Another activity thoroughly enjoyed by everyone in the home is the chanting of Christmas carols by the resident nuns walking through the corridors wearing Christmas hats and handing out gifts to each resident, she said. Though joyous, the festive season may also place some financial burden on the elderly, especially those reliant on a state pension. Speaking about this year’s 10th annual Thanksgiving event, Jane Mills of marketing and communications at Cape Town’s Neighbourhood Old Aged Homes said: “NOAH hands out grocery vouchers to 245 residents and club members in Khayelitsha and Woodstock.” The event is also an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the elderly and the contribution they have made in their respective communities, she said.
long with tangible gifts, Christmas also allows residents the opportunity to receive invaluable gifts of love, affection and socialisation, said Sr Curran. “Such gifts help the residents to feel special, boosting their self-esteem and self-worth, and leading to a deeper meaning and purpose in life,” she said. In many homes, the festive season is also a time to show gratitude to the caregivers. They too share in the festivities of Christmas and are honoured for their service. “Carers put out their best and prettiest clothing for Christmas Day,” Sr Maartens told The Southern Cross. The Holy Cross home also hosts a Christmas party for its staff. “They look forward to the Christmas party as they prepare diligently for it and may bring their family members,” Sr Curran said. “It makes them feel special and appreciated.” The festive season not only allows various generations to interrelate, but affords the elderly the opportunity to feel united with the outside world. “It is wonderful to see the elderly and the youth coming together,” said Sr Curran. “It is a good example and teaching for the young in appreciating and showing respect, compassion and outreach to the elderly,” she added.
We wish the Catholic Renewal and all our patrons a blessed Christmas and abundant blessing in 2014. From management and staff P.O. BOX 925 MAITLAND 7404 161A CORONATION RD. MAITLAND Tel: 27 21 021-510 2988 Fax: 27 21 021-510 7699 E-mail: email@example.com (SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR: Reverend Father Emmanuel Siljeur)
Christmas is also a special time for those in care homes, with decorated tables, entertainment, and visits from family.
Saviour’s gentle birth A SHORT STORY BY CATHERINE COLLIER
HE had already folded the exquisitely soft, woven birthing blanket into a large triangle, ready to receive the newborn. Now she tenderly folded the fragile little arms across the infant’s chest, laid him gently onto the blanket with his head cradled on the more thickly folded end, swaddled the sides comfortingly close and tightly around him and then laid him gently onto Mary’s breast. Joanna gazed fondly at the two of them, their faces so close together as Mary murmured soft, endearing words into her baby’s petal-soft little face, the long lashes on his tightly closed eyes lying on his cheeks, his face peacefully contented. She wondered afresh that in her long years of experience as a midwife, she had never assisted at so smooth and easy a birth. She watched as Joseph’s sister-inlaw Susanna and her daughter Judith cleaned and tidied up the room after the birth, making it all ready for the men, who had been waiting outside and chanting the appropriate psalms. Joanna remembered how gravely concerned she had been at the necessity for Mary, her young cousin, to travel so late in her pregnancy. But Caesar had spoken and must be obeyed— however distasteful it might be to the Jewish community. As Joanna recalled, there had been a great many of David’s lineage leaving Nazareth and making the journey back to Bethlehem. Therefore Joanna, anxiously accompanying Mary and Joseph, joined the convivial company of their extended families, all “going up to Bethlehem” in safety during the four days of travelling by daylight and camping by the roadside at night, while Joseph’s little donkey seemed to know that he carried a fragile burden, stepping daintily and carefully, never stumbling or jolting his rider.
he young ones among the groups travelling back to their home town were happily arguing and exchanging news, enjoying the enforced time of adventure. Some had never visited Bethlehem before and wondered what their relations would be like. Joanna had admired the determination with which Joseph had led his two donkeys—Mary’s mount and their pack donkey, the latter carrying all their own clothes and food for the journey in one pannier, while the other contained the beautifully made tiny garments, nappies, blankets, towels and all the customary oils and lotions needed for the coming baby. Mary had carefully packed all these herself, her body moving slowly, heavily and cumbersomely. Sometimes she had felt as though she carried the whole world within her. Joseph had headed for the home of his brother Eli. Eli was
The Nativity is depicted in the Shepherds’ Field church in Beit Sahour, built by the master architect Antonio Barluzzi, just outside Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Photo: Günther Simmermacher) one of those who had stayed on in Bethlehem, working at his prosperous trade in leather goods and was now the father of three strapping sons. Joseph well remembered exactly on which door among the many square, flat-roofed houses in the area to knock, anticipating the wonderfully expansive traditional welcome that would be accorded him and his wife Mary. The excitement of the coming baby would make that welcome all the greater. And so it had been. Now the other women in the room were happily chatting and exclaiming in delight. Joseph and the men waiting outside had been quietly intoning the psalms—birthing was women’s work, not for them the modern concept of a father assisting at the birth of his young! It was a mild and gentle night, unaccustomedly bright with starlight, due to that exceptionally large star above them. The air was humming with joyous vibration, and Joanna’s heart was bursting within her. Soon Mary would gently lay her infant in the manger, which had been carefully filled with sweet smelling, crushed hay and overlaid with another of the beautiful blankets which Mary had so lovingly made during her pregnancy. Then they would be ready to receive the customary, formal visitation by the men of the family, coming to view and to welcome the most recent member. There would be neighbours crowding in as well, filling the room. But they had not expected the sudden arrival of a group of rough, yet greatly and reverently awed shepherds from the fields outside the little hamlet, nor yet their breathless telling of the Angels’ song. Oh yes, the angels did most certainly sing, as Joanna knew; she herself could testify to that, so caught up had she been and raised beyond herself within the swelling music and the gloriously coloured, rainbow wings sweeping around her. The shep-
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
We would like to wish all our Parishioners at the Most Holy Redeemer and Sacred Heart Parish, Rustenburg a Blessed Christmas and a Prosperous New Year
herds’ story merely confirmed it all! She looked around with gladness at the cosily full, family living room. There hadn’t been room for them in Eli’s official guestroom. But even better, the traditional and loving hospitality of the family had unhesitatingly and immediately invited them into their own living room. The women exclaimed loudly with delight and solicitous care for the pregnant Mary.
hat Joanna’s eyes now surveyed was a large single room, the walls of which had originally been built outwards from a cave within the hillside, which now had its own separate passage entrance, and which sheltered the householder’s ox and ass. The animals, although led out each morning to their fields for the day while their stable was cleaned, had now been joined by Joseph’s two grateful donkeys. The sound of their sweetly breathing contentment wafted warmly over the child. The large family section of the room was raised above the level of the animals’ stall and contained a permanent stone manger at the edge of the platform. Being within their living quarters, it had often been used as a safe and ideal cradle. Yes, as Joanna looked around, she felt so happy and glad. Joseph’s extended family was delightedly exclaiming their appreciation of the honour done to them by the birth of another son of David’s lineage within their home. All the women were now busily chattering about the shepherds’ wonderful tale as they prepared the meal, while the men gravely considered the implications of all this commotion. Mary rested on the couch prepared for her beside the manger and gazed in adoring, radiant joy at her little son. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
TONY WYLLIE Funeral Home & Staff wish everyone a Blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year
Maitland & Muizenberg, Cape Town
The Southern Cross, December 18 to December 24, 2013
ALL the Sisters, staﬀ, residents, patients and children wish our Archbishop, Clergy and Religious of Johannesburg every blessing for a peace-ﬁlled and joyous Feast of the Nativity, and grace and strength for 2014. We also convey our sincere gratitude to all our donors, benefactors and friends who have assisted us in so many ways throughout the past year. Without your help, we could not continue our ministry of serving the more vulnerable adults and children in our community.
May the Infant Christ fill you with His Grace and Joy!
Tel: 011 648 1002, Cell: 084 838 3495, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.nazarethhousejohannesburg.org
CAThOlIC heAlTh CARe ASSOCIATIOn
We wish all CATHCA member organisations and friends God’s blessings, peace and joy for the celebration of Christ’s birth this Christmas. May the year ahead be health-filled and be a time of healing and wholeness.
The Board of Thank you for partnering with us as Management we strive to bring quality healthcare to all especially the poor and marginalised and Staff of people in our communities CATHCA