DECEMBER 26, 2010, Vol 60, No 26

My dear people of God,

Christmas is in the air. We see beautiful lightings and decorations in Orchard Road and elsewhere, people are busy buying new clothes and gifts, preparing parties and dinners.

All these create a joyful atmosphere but is the true meaning of Christmas being taken into account? Where is the place of Christ? Christ must be the centre of our celebrations for there is no Christmas without Christ!

We have cribs in churches and in many homes. This is a wonderful portrayal of the first Christmas but what is most important is not to have the image of the baby Jesus in the cribs but to have Christ in our hearts.

To welcome Christ into our hearts we must dispose ourselves. First and foremost we must keep sin at bay.
This story of Leonardo Da Vinci, the great artist, drives home this point. While he was painting the Last Supper, he had a quarrel with a friend and exchanged nasty words. He then painted his friend’s face as Judas.
Christmas is a good time for new beginnings. It is also a good time to re-think how we can make lifestyle changes to protect Creation.

One of the most challenging changes we can make is to simplify our life. To resist the seductive trappings of materialism is not easy. Yet, one has only to begin – even if it means taking one small step at a time.

When you live simply, you get used to coming up with ideas like baking your own cookies and packaging them in elegant glass jars with a bright ribbon to present as gifts, or stringing together pretty shell necklaces for your young nieces. You swallow your pride and give more of yourself than your things.

However, we also know that if you live in Singapore and are earning a decent income, the impulse to spend at this time of the year is strong.

So spare a thought for Mother Earth when you go on that shopping spree. Ask yourself: Do I need all this extra packaging? And do make it a habit to take a couple of reusable bags (pop them in your car or handbag) before rushing out to spend your money.
Pope Benedict asked for greater Church efforts to teach Catholics about the Bible, to help them learn to read it and pray with it

VATICAN CITY – God constantly tries to enter into dialogue with the people he created – speaking through creation and even through silence, but mainly in the Church through the Bible and through His son Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said.

In his apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), the pope encouraged Catholics to embrace and value each of the ways God tries to speak to humanity.

The document, billed as the most significant Church document on Scripture since the Second Vatican Council by some analysts, is a papal reflection on the conclusions of the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

The Vocation Placement Ministry website has a test that people can take to see if they have a religious vocation.

WASHINGTON – Nine years ago, Natalie Smith thought something had to be done to reverse the vocations crisis.

Ms Smith, an American convert to Catholicism who had worked in marketing, felt there had to be a way for the Church to work more collectively to find potential vocations. She was convinced there should be a database of candidates and also a wide range of resources available for people considering a vocation.

So she turned to the Internet.

In 2001, she and a group of others formed Vocations Placement Ministry in Coral Springs, Florida. The group received permission to use a vocational assessment survey developed years ago by priests and used in print form in Catholic high schools. Now the test is available online at www.testyourcalling.org.

Adele Brise pictured in a habit in an undated photo. In 1859, she saw apparitions of Mary near her home in Wisconsin state. CNS photo

CHAMPION, WISCONSIN – A bishop in the US state of Wisconsin has approved the Marian apparitions seen by a woman in 1859, making the events that occurred northeast of Green Bay the first in the US to receive the approval of a diocesan bishop.

Bishop David L Ricken of Green Bay made the announcement in Champion during Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help on Dec 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He also issued a second decree, formally approving the shrine as a diocesan shrine.

Bishop Ricken said the proclamation was a desire of many people. “So many of you have asked for this in one way or another,” he said. “I regard this also as a simple declaration in that it already states what has been going on here so quietly for so many years.”

“In many ways it is also a thank-you gift to Adele Brise, that Belgian immigrant who came here to this country. ... We owe a great deal to her witness because she was simple, she was uneducated in our terms today. She was a humble soul, but she was obedient.”