News from San Antonio Church – December 24, 2023

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Weekly Bulletin December 24, 2023

by Terrie Evans

On this Sunday, San Antonio Church welcomes the last day of Advent with the anticipation of Christmas as we light the last purple candle, Love on our wreath.  On the 4th Sunday of Advent, we wait with joyous expectation for the imminent coming of the Redemer.  The candles on our Advent Wreath tell a Christmas story with the first week symbolizing the Prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, the second week we light the Bethlehem Candle to honor Jesus’s Birthplace, the third week we light the Shepherds’ Candle for those who came to see Jesus and the fourth candle for the Angels who proclaimed Jesus’ Birth to the Shepherds.  The Christ Candle in the middle of the wreath will be lit on Christmas Day to symbolize His Purity and the light Jesus brought to the world through His arrival on earth as a baby.  A Prayer on this Sunday: “We pray to the Holy Apostles of Christ to be with us and to pray for us that we may go forth to meet Him, and say Great is His Dominion, and His kingdom will have no end.  He is God, the Mighty, the Ruler, the Prince of Peace.  Amen.”

On the evening of Sunday, December 24th the entire Liturgy of Christmas Eve will be consecrated to the anticipation of the arrival of the Savior.  On Christmas Eve in Rome, the Vigil Mass of Christmas, the Midnight Mass, and the Christmas Mass during the day will be held at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, considered the Bethlehem to all Romans.  Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) we be held with family gatherings as many an Italians follow the penitential rule of Mangiare Di Magro by abstaining from meat and eating fish on Holiday Eves to purify the body. Their menu will include salted cod, shrimp, squid, octopus, smelts or whatever is available from region to region.  After their meal families will attend midnight Mass, and on their return home, the youngest child in the family will place the baby Jesus (the Bambino) in the Manger as they anticipate Christmas Day.  While children are asleep, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) will bring gifts for all good little girls and boys. 

On December 25th, all cooks will be preparing many dishes for a meal that will include turkey, ham, side dishes of pasta, vegetables, and lentils.  When all family members are seated around the dinner table, papas may find notes under their dinner plates from the children of the family asking for forgiveness from all the wrongs they have done during the past year and promising to do better in the new year.  After the Christmas Feast, desserts will be served, especially honey balls that originated in the towns and villages around Naples and zapples, the fried pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar or filled with anchovies.  After dinner the Christmas traditions continue by roasting Morini chestnuts and seasoning them with white wine and spices or dipping them in honey and sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon for all to enjoy.

On December 26th we honor St. Stephen (Santo Stefano) known as a social worker in the Church who devoted his life to feeding the poor.  Stephen, the 1st Christian Martyr, a Jew who spoke Greek who was chosen by the Apostles.  The Apostles would choose seven men who would be named deacons while living a holy life to help in care of the poor with Stephen being named the 1st of the deacons.  Stephen was ordained by the Apostles to go on to a life of courage working for the good of those who needed help.  Stephen was seen as “Full of grace and Power’ as the Acts of Apostles described him.  He would be one of the seven men who would look after the needs of widows and dependents of Greek converts who were neglected in the daily distribution of charity.  He was martyred about 33AD being stoned to death by his enemies who resisted the Holy Spirit.  As they were stoning Stephen, he prayed “Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit” and before he died “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  The Church of Jerusalem retrieved his body and deeply mourned him with his Canonization taking place in the 1st Century.   He was venerated as the Patron saint of horses, the most useful servants of man.  Horses are still blessed in front of churches on St. Stephens Day and to celebrate his feast day, bread in the shape of a horseshoe are served.  He is also the patron of stone masons.  A prayer to saint Stephen: “O God, grant that we may imitate the saint we honor and learn to love our enemies.  For today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.”  Amen. 

On Wednesday, December 27th we honor the Feast of Saint John, the youngest at the age of 20 of the 12 Apostles and the only Apostle not martyred.  He is referred to in the Gospel as “the beloved Disciple” was a Galilean and fisherman along with his brother James were called by Jesus to be disciples while mending their nets by the Sea of Galilee.  Out of the 12 Apostles, Jesus chose three-Peter, brothers James and John to be his most faithful companions who were witnesses of the Transfiguration.    John was the only Apostle who did not forsake the Savior and stayed with Jesus during His Passion and Death and was there to console Mary at the foot of the Cross.  St. John founded many churches in Asia Minor wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles and the Book of Revelation.  In the Book of Revelation, we find the invitation of Jesus to the world.   When John was too old to preach while visiting the churches of Asia, he would tell people, “Love one another.  If you keep this command of the Lord, it is enough.”  He was about 94 years old when he died around 100AD.  St. John’s symbol is the eagle for it soars above earthly things and speaks of the divine nature of Christ. He is the patron of friendship, publishers and Asia Minor and canonized by popular acclaim. 

On December 28th, Thursday we remember the massacre of young children in Bethlehem by King Herod the Great on the Feast of The Holy Innocents.  Those slain children were regarded in the early Church as the first Martyrs.  King Herod ordered the massacre of all boys who were two years old and under in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus.  Even though the Holy Innocents did not know Jesus although they died in his place, they are recognized as the first Martyrs and Pro-Life Saints.  Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia said: “Herod did the unthinkable and murdered Holy Innocent Babies.  In our age, infants are killed daily through the horror of abortion.  In honor of the Holy Innocents, whose feast we celebrate on December 28th, we pray for an end to abortion and for the protection and safety of all children.”  On December 29th we celebrate the feast day of Thomas Becket of Canterbury, King Herny II’s Chancellor from 1155-1162 and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162-1178.  Thomas was born on December 21, 1120, on the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle and ordained a Priest on June 2, 1162, and the next day June 3rd he was consecrated as an Archbishop.  Thomas was challenged by King Henry II who was hoping Thomas would continue to put the royal government ahead of the policies and rights of the Church.  There were soon threats against Thomas Becket with edicts against him, his friends, and supporters.  Becket would flee to France with King Louis VII offered him protection.  When Becket returned to Canterbury, Henry II said of Thomas “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest.”  As four Knights were sent out by the King to confront him.  As they drew their swords, Thomas said “For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.”  When the Monks were preparing his body, they found a hairshirt, a rough undergarment, under his Archbishops garments, worn as a sign of penance based on disciplinary practices as an aid to realize Christian perfection.  St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury was declared a Saint by Pope Alexander III in 1173 and is venerated as a saint and martyr by the Catholic and Anglican Communion Church.

There is recent news of Sr. Blandina Segale, Servant of God from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  The Board of Directors of the St. Josephs Children’s Home that Sr. Blandina founded, journeyed to Rome to petition Pope Francis for the Cause of Canonization of Sr. Blandina.  This is what Sr. Blandina did herself at the age of 81 to petition for the Canonization of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of her Order, the Sisters of Charity.  As more news is released, we will inform our San Antonio Parishioners.

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