Embrace the ‘good news of great joy’

Archbishop Aquila

“Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). The angels announced to the stunned shepherds, as they proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promise to the people of Israel.

It’s worth noting that the angels appeared to the shepherds at night, when they would have been on guard against the dangers of predators looking for their sheep. Likewise, when the magi arrived to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews, they first encountered Herod, who later massacred the children of Bethlehem out of fear that a challenger to his throne had been born. Eventually, the threat of Herod’s wrath drove Mary and Joseph into hiding in Egypt, only to return to Nazareth when Herod had died.

With the passing of the centuries, it can be easy to recast Christmas as a time of utter peace and tranquility and forget the turmoil into which Jesus was born. In a way, this is comforting as we reflect on the state of the world and the Church today. Certainly, there is great uncertainty and moral poverty in many places. And yet, Christ’s birth is even more joyous because of the dark surroundings.

This past year has been both blessed and challenging for the Church.

We had the privilege of celebrating the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day in Denver on August 11th and the beginning of the More Than You Realize discipleship initiative. The archdiocese also closed the local phase of the Cause for the Canonization of Julia Greeley, completed the construction of the Prophet Elijah House for retired priests and opened the Annunciation Heights youth and family camp.

On the other hand, the Church and the archdiocese have been dealing with the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the fact that some bishops covered up the sexual abuse of minors. At the same time, the broader culture has also become increasingly hostile to faith, while becoming more accepting of beliefs and activities that are contrary to our faith. This can be seen in the aggressive advancement of gender ideology, the abandonment of the common good in favor of a more tribal and divided society, and the willingness of many to cast aside the unborn, the immigrant, or the elderly.

It is this world — one that is both broken and dark yet filled with the potential for great good — that needs to hear the proclamation of the angels at Christmas: “Do not be afraid … I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.”

We all need saving, which is clear from the fallen state of us all. It is truly good news that Jesus was born and continues to come to us in each Eucharist and the other sacraments. His sacrificial outpouring of love for us should cause us to boldly trust in his love and provision for us as we seek to build up the kingdom in our life.

Let us make our own the words of Pope St. Leo the Great as he preached about Christmas. “Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

May you and your family’s celebration of Christ’s birth be one that fills you with hope, joy and peace, so that the world can experience through your works of mercy and love the good news of salvation in him. In the midst of the darkness around us, may we the bring the light and joy of the Gospel to each person we encounter!

Celebrate Life March

As we look forward to the new year, I invite you to join me in celebrating the gift of life and salvation through your prayer and lived example.

One specific way you can do this is to participate in the Celebrate Life March on January 12th at 1:00 p.m. at the State Capitol. This will be preceded by a Mass at the Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

For more info visit:

respectlifedenver.org.

COMING UP: Five Hispanic-American saints perhaps you didn’t know

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The American continent has had its share of saints in the last five centuries. People will find St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima or St. Martin de Porres among the saints who enjoy greater popular devotion. Yet September, named Hispanic Heritage Month, invites a deeper reflection on the lives of lesser-known saints who have deeply impacted different Latin-American countries through their Catholic faith and work, and whose example has the power to impact people anywhere around the world. Here are just a few perhaps you didn’t know.

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo
1538-1606
Peru

Born in Valladolid, Spain, Toribio was a pious young man and an outstanding law student. As a professor, his great reputation reached the ears of King Philip II, who eventually nominated him for the vacant Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, even though Toribio was not even a priest. The Pope accepted the king’s request despite the future saint’s protests. So, before the formal announcement, he was ordained a priest, and a few months later, a bishop. He walked across his archdiocese evangelizing the natives and is said to have baptized nearly half a million people, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. He learned the local dialects, produced a trilingual catechism, fought for the rights of the natives, and made evangelization a major theme of his episcopacy. Moreover, he worked devotedly for an archdiocesan reform after realizing that diocesan priests were involved in impurities and scandals. He predicted the date and hour of his death and is buried in the cathedral of Lima, Peru.

St. Mariana of Jesus Paredes
1618-1645
Ecuador

St. Mariana was born in Quito, modern-day Ecuador, and not only became the country’s first saint, but was also declared a national heroine by the Republic of Ecuador. As a little girl, Mariana showed a profound love for God and practiced long hours of prayer and mortification. She tried joining a religious order on two occasions, but various circumstances would not permit it. This led Mariana to realize that God was calling her to holiness in the world. She built a room next to her sister’s house and devoted herself to prayer and penance, living miraculously only off the Eucharist. She was known to possess the gifts of counsel and prophecy. In 1645, earthquakes and epidemics broke out in Quito, and she offered her life and sufferings for their end. They stopped after she made her offering. On the day of her death, a lily is said to have bloomed from the blood that was drawn out and poured in a flowerpot, earning her the title of “The Lily of Quito.”

St. Theresa of Los Andes
1900-1920
Chile

St. Theresa of Jesus of Los Andes was Chile’s first saint and the first Discalced Carmelite to be canonized outside of Europe. Born as Juana, the future saint was known to struggle with her temperament as a child. She was proud, selfish and stubborn. She became deeply attracted to God at the age six, and her extraordinary intelligence allowed her to understand the seriousness of receiving First Communion. Juana changed her life and became a completely different person by the age of 10, practicing mortification and deep prayer. At age 14, she decided to become a Discalced Carmelite and received the name of Theresa of Jesus. Deeply in love with Christ, the young and humble religious told her confessor that Jesus told her she would die soon, something she accepted with joy and faith. Shortly thereafter, Theresa contracted typhus and died at the age of 19. Although she was 6 months short of finishing her novitiate, she was able to profess vows “in danger of death.” Around 100,000 pilgrims visit her shrine in Los Andes annually.

St. Laura Montoya
1874-1949
Colombia

After Laura’s father died in war when she was only a child, she was forced to live with different family members in a state of poverty. This reality kept her from receiving formal education during her childhood. What no one expected is that one day she would become Colombia’s first saint. Her aunt enrolled her in a school at the age of 16, so she would become a teacher and make a living for herself. She learned quickly and became a great writer, educator and leader. She was a pious woman and wished to devote herself to the evangelization of the natives. As she prepared to write Pope Pius X for help, she received the pope’s new Encyclical Lacrymabili Statu, on the deplorable condition of Indians in America. Laura saw it as a confirmation from God and founded the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart and St. Catherine of Siena, working for the evangelization of natives and fighting or their behalf to be seen as children of God.

St. Manuel Morales
1898-1926
Mexico

Manuel was a layman and one of many martyrs from Mexico’s Cristero War in the 1920s. He joined the seminary as a teen but had to abandon this dream in order to support his family financially. He became a baker, married and had three children. This change, however, did not prevent him from bearing witness to the faith publicly. He became the president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was being threatened by the administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Morales and two other leaders from the organization were taken prisoners as they discussed how to free a friend priest from imprisonment through legal means. They were beaten, tortured and then killed for not renouncing to their faith. Before the firing squad, the priest begged the soldiers to forgive Morales because he had a family. Morales responded, “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” His last words were, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!”