Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Divine Maternity: "Blessed Is She Who Believed"

This feast of the Mother of God has been moved from October 11 from 431 (The Council of Ephesus) to January 1. It is an important feast of faith that Benedict XVI established for the Year of Faith (2012-2013) within which Benedict resigned the papacy and Francis was elected Pope.

Our Mission: To engender Christ in us by the total giving of ourselves - in obedience - to the Divine Will in the ordinariness of today and tomorrow. 

Caryll Houselander on Divine Maternity 

Our Lady is the protagonist of faith in ordinary life even with pre-eminence over Abraham1
 since she was called to an even greater humility in the actual execution of her Son. Her vocation was the most exceptional: the call to be the mother of God, but in a most unexceptional way. Caryll 
Houselander wrote: “She was not asked to lead a special kind of life, to retire to the temple 
and live as a nun, to cultivate suitable virtues or claim special privileges. She was simply to 
remain in the world, to go forward with her marriage to Joseph, to live the life of an artisan’s 
wife, just what she had planned to do when she had no idea that anything out of the ordinary 
would ever happen to her. It almost seemed as if God’s becoming man and being born of a 
woman were ordinary.” 2

 Houselander then moves to the positive: “The one thing that He did ask of her was 
the gift of her humanity. She was to give Him her body and soul unconditionally, and… she 
was to give Him her daily life… She was not to neglect her simple human tenderness, her love 
for an earthly man, because God was her unborn child On the contrary, the hands and feet, 
the heart, the waking, sleeping, and eating that were forming Christ were to form Him in 
service to Joseph… Our Lady said yes. She said yes for us all.”3

- Then: This is how the “quid divinum” referred to by St. Josemaria Escriva freely 
occurs in the most ordinary situations. That is, we discover the “re-incarnation” of 
the Son of God in ourselves performing the most ordinary work and living the most 

 ” John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #18: “At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking 
mystery of this self-emptying. This is perhaps the deepest ‘kenosis’ of faith’ in human history:” John Paul II, 
Redemptoris Mater #18. 
 Caryll Houselander “The Reed of God,” Christian Classics, Notre Dame, IN (2006) 33-35. 
 Ibid. ordinary family life in the world. That is, we ourselves become “Ipse Christus” by 
becoming the mother. And we do that by “hearing the Word of God and doing it.”4

This is the meaning of faith. It means becoming Christ and staying where we are in the 
world without changing states. If we do that, by the hand of the Virgin, we will be 
Christ Himself present at the summit of all human activities. There will be “a new 
culture, new legislation, new fashions that respect human dignity.” It will not be a 
sterile lamenting about today’s culture, a criticism of the problems we see around us 
and a nostalgia for a better past. The future belongs to our freedom of being the mother 
of God in 2012 and engendering Jesus Christ in us. 

 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and k

New Years Eve 2014

In Rome today, as Vatican Radio reported, Pope Francis also celebrated First Vespers for the Octave of Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God (which comes tomorrowJanuary 1).

In his homily during the liturgy, Pope Francis spoke about the meaning of time.

Time is not something alien from God, Who has chosen to reveal Himself and to save us in history, in time, he said.

“The meaning of time, of temporality,” he said, “is the manifestation of the mystery God and of His concrete love for us.”

Pope Francis recalled that we are now in “the definitive time of salvation and of grace,” and that this leads us to think about the end of our own journey.

We are all born, and we will all someday die.

With this truth, the Church teaches us to end the year, and in fact each day, with an examination of conscience.

This devout practice leads us to thank God for the blessings and graces we have received, and to ask forgiveness for our weaknesses and sins.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by reminding everyone that this is the “final hour” and that we are living in “the fullness of time.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Intimacy with Jesus at Christmas - John Henry Newman

“What an awesome feast Christmas is! The birth of Christ – the Word of God come among us –the Light of the World! It is hard to comprehend it. He came, not because we were good, but to make us good. If any belief should be called ‘awesome,’ it is this. That ‘God,’ the fulfillment of our hearts’ desires, should enter our world, be born of a woman, and walk shoulder to shoulder with us on our journeys, helping us with his grace…. It is beyond comprehension. Perhaps we can at most catch a glimmer of its meaning as we kneel with the por shepherds and adore.
            The reflection by Blessed John Henry Newman below captures something of Jesus’ intimacy with us. It includes the words:
 "God beholds you individually whoever you are. He calls you by your name. He sees you and understands you as He made you. He know what is in you, all your peculiar feelings and thoughts, your dispositions and likings, your strength and your weakness. He views you in your day of rejoicing and in your day of sorrow. He sympathizes in your hopes and your temptations. He interests Himself in all your anxieties and remembrances, and all the risings and fallings of your spirit. He has numbered the hairs of your head and the cubits of your stature. He compasses you round and bears you in His arms; He takes you up and sets you down. He notes your very countenance, whether smiling or in tears, whether healthful or sickly. He looks tenderly upon your hands and your feet; He hears your voice, the beating of your heart, and your very breathing. You do not love yourself better than He loves you. You cannot shrink from pain more than he dislikes you bearing it; and if He puts it on you, it is as if you would put it on yourself if your were wise, for a greater good afterwards. You are chosen to be His. You were one of those for whom Christ offered up His life and sealed it with his precious blood."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pope Francis Directs the Theme of Sanctity at the Curia: "A Small Model of the Church

The exchange of Christmas greetings between the Pope and the Curia is usually the occasion of profound thought. The two most memorable for me were December 22, 1987  when John Paul II spoke of the precedence of the Church of Mary (laity) over the Church of Peter (hierarchy), and December 22, 2005 when Benedict XVI spoke of the hermeneutic of continuity that obtains between the Tradition of the Church and Vatican II. Now, Francis demands personal sanctity from the Curia.

Vatican City, 22 December 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Clementine Hall the Holy Father held his annual meeting with the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings with the members of its component dicasteries, councils, offices, tribunals and commissions. “It is good to think of the Roman Curia as a small model of the Church, that is, a body that seeks, seriously and on a daily basis, to be more alive, healthier, more harmonious and more united in itself and with Christ”.
“The Curia is always required to better itself and to grow in communion, sanctity and wisdom to fully accomplish its mission. However, like any body, it is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity. … I would like to mention some of these illnesses that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia. They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord”, continued the Pontiff, who after inviting all those present to an examination of conscience to prepare themselves for Christmas, listed the most common Curial ailments:
The first is “the sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.
The second is “'Martha-ism', or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting 'the better part' of sitting at Jesus' feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that 'there is a time for everything'”.
Then there is “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.
“The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”.
The “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team”.
“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.
“The ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the colour of one's robes, insignia and honours become the most important aim in life. … It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism'”.
Then there is “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life”.
The sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.
“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness”.
“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him”.
“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity”.
“The disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress”.
“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers”.
Then, there is the “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others”.
After listing these ailments, Pope Francis continued, “We are therefore required, at this Christmas time and in all the time of our service and our existence – to live 'speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love'”.
“I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them”, he concluded. “It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church”.

St. Joseph, Righteous Man

This is taken from Commentary of St Mathew by Scott Hahn. I  (Rev. Julio Penacoba) find it very interesting and for me even quite consoling to know about who support the third theory.

1:19 just: Or, "righteous". Joseph is a man of sterling moral character, committed to living by the Mosaic Law (Deut 6:25; Lk 1:6). put her to shame: The Greek verb does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It simply means "to expose" or "to exhibit". send her away: Catholic tradition proposes three main interpretations to explain why Joseph resolved to end his betrothal with Mary. (1) The Suspicion Theory. Some hold that Joseph suspected Mary of adultery when he discovered her pregnancy. Joseph thus intended to pursue a divorce in accord with Deut 24:1-4 until the angel revealed to him the miraculous cause of the conception (1:20). Joseph is said to be righteous because he shuns immorality and directs his life by the Law of God. Proponents of this view include St. Justin Martyr,St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine. (2) The Perplexity Theory. Others hold that Joseph found the situation of Mary's pregnancy inexplicable. Divorce seemed to be his only option, and yet he wished to do this quietly, for he could not bring himself to believe that Mary had been unfaithful. Joseph is said to be righteous because he lives by the Law of God and judges Mary's situation with the utmost charity. The main proponent of this view is St. Jerome, whose exegesis was adopted into the notes of the medieval Bible. (3) The Reverence Theory. Still others hold that Joseph knew the miraculous cause of Mary's pregnancy from the beginning, i.e., he was made aware that the child was conceived "of the Holy Spirit" (1:18). Faced with this, Joseph considered himself unworthy to be involved in the Lord's work, and his decision to separate quietly from Mary was a discretionary measure to keep secret the mystery within her. On this reading, the angel confirms what Joseph had already known and urges him to set aside pious fears that would lead him away from his vocation to be the legal father of the Messiah (1:20). Joseph is said to be righteous because of his deep humility and reverence for the miraculous works of God. Proponents of this view include St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Tthe stigmata of littleness."

In "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers, p. 134

The Education of Whittaker Chambers by Les Miserables - “Witness”[1]

“I lifted from the top of one barrel a big book whose pages were dog-eared, evidently from much turning by my grandfather. It was an old-fashioned book. The text was set in parallel columns, two columns to a page. There were more than a thousand pages. The type was small. I took the book to the little diamond-shaped attic window to read the small type in the light. I opened to the first page and read the brief foreword…
“The book, of course, was Victor Hugo’s Les MiserablesThe Wretched of the Earth. In its pages can be found the play of forces that carried me into the Communist Party, and in the same pages can be found the play of forces that carried me out of the Communist Party. The roots of both influences are in the same book, which I read devotedly for almost a decade before I ever opened a Bible, and which was, in many respects, the Bible of my boyhood. I think I can hear a derisive question:  ‘How can anyone take seriously a man who says flatly that his life has been influenced by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables?” I understand. I can only answer that, behind its colossal failings, its melodrama, its windy philosophizing, its clots of useless knowledge, its overblown rhetoric and repellent posturing, which offend me, like everybody else, on almost every page, Les Miserables is a great act of the human spirit. And it is a fact that books which fall short of greatness sometimes have a power to move us greatly, especially in childhood when we are least critical and most forgiving, for their very failures confess their humanity. AS a boy, I did not know that Les Miserables is a Summa of the revolt of the mind and soul of modern man against the materialism that was closing over them with the close of the Middle Ages and the rise of industrial civilization – or, as Karl Marx would later teach me to call it: capitalism.
“I took the book downstairs and read for the first time that first line of its story: In 1815, Charles Francois Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne.’ I do not know how many times I have since read that simplest of leads, which has for me, like many greater first lines, the quality of throwing open a door upon man’s fate.
“I read and reread Les Miserables many times in its entirety. I taught me two seemingly irreconcilable things  - Christianity and revolution. It taught me first of all that the basic virtue of life is humility, that before humility, ambition, arrogance, pride and power are seen for what they are, the stigmata of littleness, the betrayal by the mind of the soul, a betrayal which continually fails against a humility that is authentic and consistent. It taught me justice and compassion, not a justice of the law, or, as we say, human justice, but a justice that transcends human justice whenever humanity transcends itself to reach that summit where justice and compassion are one. It taught me that, in a world of force, the least act of humility and compassion requires the utmost exertion of all the powers of mind and soul, that nothing is so difficult, that there can be no true humility and no true compassion where there is no courage. That was the gist of its Christian teaching. It taught me revolution, not as others were to teach me – as a political or historical fact – but as a reflex of human suffering and desperation, a perpetual insurgence of that instinct for justice and truth that lay within the human soul, from which a new vision of truth and justice was continually issuing to meet the new needs of the soul in new ages of the world.
“I scarcely knew that Les Miserables was teaching me Christianity, and never thought of it that way, for it showed it to me, not as a doctrine of the mind, but in action in the world, in prisons, in slums, among the poor, the sick, the dying, thieves, murderers, harlots and outcast, lonely children, in the sewers of Paris and on the barricades of revolution. Its operation did not correspond to anything I knew as Christian in the world about me. But it corresponded exactly to a need I felt within myself.         
Les Miserables gave me my first full-length picture of the modern world – a vast complex, scarcely human structure, built over a social abyss of which the sewers was the symbol, and resting with crushing weight upon the wretched of the earth (…).
“It was, above all, the character of the Bishop of Digne and the stories about him that I cherished in Les Miserables. As a boy I read them somewhat as other people read the legends of the saints. Perhaps it is necessary to have read them as a child to be able to feel the full force of those stories, which are in many ways childish and appeal instantly to the child mind, just as today they appeal to what is most childlike in me as a man.
“That first day, when I sat in our living room and read how the Bishop came to Digne, I knew that I had found a book that had been written for me. I read how the Bishop moved into his palace with its vast salons and noticed next door a tiny hospital with its sick crowded into a few small rooms. The Bishop called in the director of the hospital and questioned him: How many rooms are there in the hospital; how many sick; how many beds in each room? ‘Look,’ he said at last, ‘there is evidently some mistake here. You have my house and I have your. Give me back my house and move into yours.’ The next day the bishop was in the hospital and the patients were in the palace. ‘He is showing off,’ said the solid citizens.
“The Bishop’s views on human fallibility fixed mine and made it impossible for me ever to be a puritan. ‘To be a saint,’ he sometimes preached to the ‘ferociously virtuous,’ ‘is the exception; to be upright is the rule. Err, falter, sin, but be upright. To commit the least possible sin is the law for man… Sin is a gravitation.’
“He first raised in my mind the question of relative human guilt. Everybody was praising the cleverness of a public prosecutor. A man and woman had been arrewt3ed for some mischief. There was no evidence against the man. By a trick, the prosecutor convinced the woman falsely that the man had been unfaithful to her. She testified against him. ‘Where are the man and woman to be tried?’ asked the Bishop. ‘At the assizes;’ ‘And where,’ asked the Bishop, ‘is the prosecutor to be tried?’
“The Bishop lodged in my mind a permanent suspicion of worldly success and pride of place that never changed in all the changes of my life. He was not one of the ‘rich mitres.’ In Paris he did not ‘catch on.’ He was not considered ‘to have any future.’ For, said Hugo, ‘We live in sad society. Succeed – that is the advice that falls, drop by drop, from the overhanging corruption.’
“The story about the Bishop that I liked best also invovlved the question of worldly appearances. Once day the Bishop had to visit a parish in the steep mountains, where no horse could go. Few bishops would have gone there, either. The Bishop of Digne went, riding on a sure-footed donkey. The solid citizens of the town turned out to greet him. When they saw the Bishop climbing down from his donkey, some of them could not hide their smiles. ‘My bourgeois friends,’ said the Bishop pleasantly, ‘I know why you are smiling. You think that is pretty presumptuous of a poor priest to use the same conveyance that was used by Jesus Christ.’ Thus I first learned the meaning of the word bourgeois, so that, unlike most Americans, I was quite familiar with it when I came across it later in the writings of Marx and Lenin.
“Finally, the Bishop’s view of the world left a permanent, indelible impress on me: ‘He inclined toward the distressed and the repentant. The universe appeared to him like a vast disease; he perceived fever everywhere; he auscultated suffering everywhere. And without try8ing to solve the enigma, he sought to staunch the wound. The formidable spectacle of created things developed a tenderness in him…
“… Even as a Communist, I never quite escaped the Bishop. I put him out of my mind, but I could not put him out of my life.”

[1] Witness Whittaker Chambers, Regnery Gateway (1952) 133-137. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Church is Joyful "When She Goes Out of Herself"

Reflects on the Church's Mission in Searching for the 'Lost Sheep'
By Junno Arocho Esteves
ROME, December 09, 2014 ( - A Church closed in on Herself is a "hopeless Church that is more of a spinster than a mother". These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. 

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on today's Gospel from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who went in search of the lost sheep. "And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray," Jesus says. "In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

The Holy Father explained that the Church is joyful and happy "when she goes out of herself." He also explained that the shepherd in the Gospel could have taken a business approach and see losing one sheep as a small loss.

"No, he has the heart of a shepherd, he goes out and searches for [the lost sheep] until he finds it, and then he rejoices, he is joyful," the Pope said.

“The joy of going out to seek the brothers and sisters who are far off: This is the joy of the Church. Here the Church becomes a mother, becomes fruitful”
However, the Pope warned that when the Church closes in on herself, it becomes stagnant and disheartened. Without joy or peace, he said, it becomes "a Church that seems more like a spinster than a mother."

"The joy of the Church is to give birth; the joy of the Church is to go out of herself to give life; the joy of the Church is to go out to seek the sheep that are lost; the joy of the Church is precisely the tenderness of the shepherd, the tenderness of the mother," he said.
Concluding his homily, the Pope called on the faithful to pray for grace of being joyful Christians, who may have organizational perfection in the Church, yet are barren and do not give fruit.

"May the Lord console us with the consolation of a Mother Church that goes out of herself and consoles us with the consolation of the tenderness of Jesus and His mercy in the forgiveness of our sins," concluded.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Immaculate Conception 2014

1)      Colossians 1, 16: “All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together… For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him he should reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven. By making peace through the blood of his cross.”
2)      Robert Barron comments: “In this Jesus, all things have come to be; he is the prototype of all finite existence, even of those great powers that transcend the world and govern human affairs. … Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony thorough him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-including, all-reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.”
In this regard, consider Ephesians 1, 4 that speaks of Christ as pre-existing the world: “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons…”
3)      And then, there is sin, and we make ourselves into God and separate ourselves from Him to death.
4)      But Love as Mercy is more powerful than death. And Christ appears in time and space for the recreation of all things in Him. And as Christ Who is the second Person of the Trinity and, with the Father and the Spirit, is Being Itself giving reality as being to the world, receives a body from  the Virgin to become a being in the world. But as it is the humanity of the eternal Person of the Son, the humanity and the Virgin who gave it to him, also exist outside of time – although the birth takes place in time and space.
5)      Joseph Ratzinger notes: “The question arises in our minds: What kind of history must it have been that truly created at last the “space,” the conditions, for the incarnation of God! What kind of human beings must they have been who traveled the final stretch of the journey! What integrity and maturity of spirit must have been attained at the point at which this supreme transformation of man and the world could take place! But if we approach the text with these kinds of expectations, we shall find ourselves disappointed. The history of which Jesus becomes a part is a very ordinary history, marked by all the scandals and infamies to be found among human beings, all the advances and good beginnings, but also all the sinfulness and vileness – an utterly human history!
“The only four women named in the genealogy are all four of them witnesses to human sinfulness: Among them is Rahab the harlot, who delivered Jericho into the hands of the migrating Israelites. Among them, too, is the wife of Uriah, the woman whom David god for himself through adultery and murder. Nor are the males in the genealogy any different. …

The point: “Is that the context into which the Son of God could be born? And the Scriptures answer: Yes. But all this is a sign for us. It tells us that the incarnation of God does not result from an ascent on the part of the human race but  from  the descent of God. The ascent of man, the attempt to bring forth God by his own efforts and to attain the status of superman – this attempt failed wretchedly back in Paradise. The person who tries to become God by his own  efforts, who highhandedly reaches for the stars, always ends up by destroying himself.”[1]

6)      The last step to the God-man is the Virgin conceived without sin, and therefore says Yes! to the call to make of self to the Revealing God: And the Word became flesh and re-creates the world in Himself. (to be continued)

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press 20-21.

Read This. Last Sentence: "There's still a great deal left to be done."


Dr. Ian Crozier, back center, with children he helped save in Sierra Leone.

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PHOENIX — The medical record, from an Ebola case, made for grim reading, but Dr. Ian Crozier could not put it down. Within days of the first symptom, a headache, the patient was fighting for his life. He became delirious, his heartbeat grew ragged, his blood teemed with the virus, and his lungs, liver and kidneys began to fail.
“It’s a horrible-looking chart,” Dr. Crozier said.
It was his own. Dr. Crozier, 44, contracted the disease inSierra Leone while treating Ebola patients in thegovernment hospital in Kenema. He was evacuated to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Sept. 9, the third American with Ebola to be airlifted there from West Africa. He had a long, agonizing illness, with 40 days in the hospital and dark stretches when his doctors and his family feared he might sustain brain damage or die. His identity was kept secret at his request, to protect his family’s privacy.

Now, for the first time, he is speaking out. His reason, he said, is to thank Emory for the extraordinary care he received, and to draw attention to the continuing epidemic. He and his family granted their first interviews to The New York Times, and gave permission to interview his physicians.


Dr. Crozier, back center, with a group of Ebola survivors and a nurse at the government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

His account offers glimpses of the hardships and dangers that have confronted doctors and nurses who volunteered to fight an epidemic that has claimed the lives of more than 330 health care workers — most of them African — and of the desperate need that has drawn them to the front lines. Dr. Crozier told of three brothers, just 4, 5 and 11, who fought for their lives on his ward in Kenema. Not long after, he lay near death in an isolation room at Emory, with his mother reading him poetry through an intercom.
Dr. Crozier, soft-spoken and genial, is now on the mend in Phoenix, where his parents and sister live. But the disease has taken its toll. Six-foot-5 and 220 pounds before he got Ebola, he has lost 30 pounds, much of it muscle. He tires easily, but has begun a grueling physical therapy program to rebuild wasted muscles.
“Ian was by far the sickest patient with Ebola virus that we’ve cared for at Emory,” said Dr. Jay B. Varkey, an infectious-disease specialist.
Doctors say his recovery has taught them that aggressive treatments, even life-support measures like ventilators and dialysis, can save some Ebola patients. Dr. Bruce S. Ribner, who leads the Emory team, said that until recently the general practice was not to bother intubating Ebola patients or put them on dialysis, because if they got that sick they were going to die.
“One of the things Ian taught us was, guess what, you can get sick enough to need those interventions and you can still walk out of the hospital,” Dr. Ribner said. “I think it has sent a message to our colleagues around the world.”
Young Brothers in Peril
Dr. Crozier was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), but his family moved to the United States when he was 10, and he became an American citizen. He went to medical school at Vanderbilt University on a scholarship, specializing in infectious diseases.
He was always drawn back to Africa. He was living in Uganda, treating patients with H.I.V. and training doctors at the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala, when Ebola broke out in West Africa. He wanted to help.
“Anyone who was on the ground in Africa and not in West Africa, you would think, maybe we’re missing the bus, missing something remarkable,” he said. “And my skills meet the need.”
Dr. Crozier signed on with the World Health Organization — expenses only, no pay — and by August he was in Kenema. He planned to stay three or four weeks.
It was even more wrenching than he had imagined — the sights, the sounds, the smells, the steady stream of deaths. There were often 60 to 80 patients, sometimes more, suspected and confirmed cases, from all over the country. They arrived day and night.
Blood, stool and vomit were ever-present though cleaners mopped with chlorine several times a day. Choruses of delirious patients with bloodshot, eerily vacant eyes would shout “Doctor! Doctor!” over and over. Some were too sick to clean or feed themselves, and there were never enough staff members to tend to them. A patient might lie in one bed and a corpse in the next, waiting to be disinfected, bagged and taken away.
“Those isolation wards are horrible places,” Dr. Crozier said.


Dr. Crozier last week in Phoenix, where he is recuperating after an Ebola infection that nearly killed him.CreditNick Cote for The New York Times

But there were moments of grace. Mothers whose babies had died would feed children who were orphaned or alone.
“Childless parents took care of parentless children,” he said.
The protective gear required to enter the ward — hood, masks, rubber boots, goggles, double gloves, Tyvek suit — was stifling. No one could wear it for more than an hour without becoming dangerously overheated. Dr. Crozier would go into the ward two or three times a day for as long he could stand it. When he came out to cool off, he would pour the sweat out of his boots.
One night, the three young brothers were brought in. All were infected. Their mother had died, and their father was absent.
“I didn’t think they’d survive,” Dr. Crozier said.
The oldest, Victor, 11, was also the sickest. Dr. Crozier, the oldest of four children in his family, saw a bit of himself in Victor. The boy had taken on the role of father, and even when he was lying on a mattress on the floor, soiled by vomit and diarrhea, the younger ones, Shaku and Ibrahim, would not leave him.
“They were this little band of brothers,” Dr. Crozier said. Sometimes he wished he could rip off his protective gear and hold them.
The last thing he would do at night was make sure they and the other children were fed.
Returning to the ward each morning, he kept expecting to find that one or more of the brothers had died. But they kept surprising him.
“They just sort of pushed each other through it,” he said.
They recovered enough to race around the ward with other children — including two boys named Success and Courage — playing, laughing and making a nuisance of themselves, Dr. Crozier said.
“In such a dark place, they were little cracks of joy,” he said. The brothers survived, but others like them did not.
Many local nurses had contracted Ebola and died in Kenema. Aid workers from other countries also became infected, and Dr. Crozier arranged medical evacuation flights for several of them. He never dreamed he would become a passenger on that plane.

On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 6, during rounds on the ward, he developed a fever and a headache. He isolated himself in his hotel, hoping he had malaria. A colleague brought equipment so that Dr. Crozier could draw his own blood for an Ebola test.
She called him the next morning, crying: His Ebola test was positive.
He had no idea how he had become infected.
The plane picked him up on Monday. The World Health Organization paid for the flight, and his medical care. Neither W.H.O. nor Emory would provide an estimate of the cost, but a spokesman for Emory acknowledged that treating Ebola patients was very expensive.
Dr. Crozier took pictures of himself during the flight as his face swelled and he broke out in a rash. It may have been a way to disconnect from fear, he said.
“I had seen seven, eight, nine, 10 people a day die from what I had,” he said, adding, “If I had stayed in Kenema, I would have been dead in a week.”
Deteriorating Condition
He has no memory of the three weeks after he arrived at Emory. The isolation unit there was built 12 years ago at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is less than a mile away.

His family and girlfriend filled with dread as they watched him decline. They could not enter his room, but could see him through a window and talk to him over an intercom. His temperature was 104 degrees. His hands shook violently. He spent more and more time sleeping, and sank into delirium, his mind still in Kenema.
The family had been warned that Ebola often causes such intense diarrhea that patients can lose eight or 10 quarts of fluid a day, and Dr. Crozier was heading toward that stage. He would be pumped full of fluids and salts to prevent dehydration, which kills many Ebola patients. The family thought that once he got through that phase, he would start to improve.
Instead he got worse. By Friday he was struggling to breathe, his chest heaving. The sight tore at his relatives. On Sunday morning, he was placed on a ventilator.
“It seemed to signify final stages,” said his sister, Anne.

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A nurse who had also been infected in Kenema, Will Pooley — whose evacuation Dr. Crozier had supervised — flew to Emory from England and donated several units of plasma. Survivors have antibodies that may help fight off the virus, and a number of patients have been given such transfusions. Dr. Crozier’s virus levels began dropping, but his kidneys failed, and he was connected to a dialysis machine. He had swelled up with 20 pounds of excess fluid, and all that his relatives could see through the window were tubes, machines and a bloated face they barely recognized. He had begun having abnormal heart rhythms. Doctors warned that he might not survive.
He was on the ventilator for 12 days, and on dialysis for 24. Members of his family read him emails from friends, played his favorite music and told him over and over that he would be all right. They gave his nurses dozens of family photos to tape to his walls.
His mother, Pat, spent most nights at the hospital. She spoke to her son, hummed hymns and every day read him a poem that her brother in Zimbabwe, the poet and novelist John Eppel, had written for him. The poem recalled Dr. Crozier as a bald, bigheaded boy who waged war with syringa berries, “the stick-breaker, the toddler I carried on my shoulders up and down the dirt tracks.”
Mrs. Crozier had been a nurse-midwife, and her training made her painfully aware of signs that her son was deteriorating.
"The really tough part was the thought that he was going to die and that I was not going to be able to touch him before he left the earth,” she said. “So he was either going to go in a body bag to the C.D.C. for research, or he was going to be incinerated rapidly.”
Work Lies Ahead
He began to recover physically. But there were ominous signs that he might have suffered brain damage: His eyes wandered in different directions, and he took a long time to wake up when his sedation was withdrawn.
“I thought we’d be discharging him to a nursing home as a cognitively impaired person,” said Dr. Colleen Kraft, one of his doctors. She said his difficult course had left her in a "dark psychological place” that for a while had made her feel hesitant about treating more Ebola patients, for fear that they might be as sick as Dr. Crozier.
When he finally did open his eyes at the end of September, a few days after his 44th birthday, he looked around the room in a way that reminded his sister, Anne, of a newborn baby. She spoke softly through the intercom, as if he were a child. Her voice, reassuring him that he was all right, is the first thing he remembers.
At first, he had trouble making conversation. But he grilled doctors about his lab results, so the family knew his mind was intact.
There are scarlike lesions on his retinas, and it is not clear whether they are getting better or worse. Though people around him do not notice it, he says his mind is not working as fast as it should, and he sometimes has trouble thinking of the word he wants to say.

“It’s a fear,” he said. “Am I going to be myself again, completely?”
Dr. Crozier hopes to return to West Africa by February or March to help treat more Ebola patients. Survivors are thought to be immune to the strain that infected them, so he figures he has built-in protection.
“There’s still a great deal left to be done,” he said.