1st Sunday of Advent
St. Francis XavierFrancis Xavier was born in Spain in 1506. While studying the liberal arts at Paris, he became a follower of Ignatius Loyola. In 1537 he was ordained at Rome and there devotedhimself to works of charity. Francis went to the Orient in 1541 where for ten years he tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel in India and Japan, and through his preaching brought many to believe. He died in 1552 near the China coast on the island of Sancian.
St. John DamasceneJohn Damascene was born of a Christian family in Damascus in the latter part of the seventh century. Learned in philosophy, he became a monk in the monastery of Saint Sabbas near Jerusalem and was then ordained a priest. He wrote many doctrinal works, particularly against iconoclasts. He died in the middle of the eighth century.
St. NicholasNicholas was the bishop of Myra in Lycia (now part of Turkey). He died in the middle of the fourth century and, particularly since the tenth century, has been honored by the whole Church.
St. AmbroseAmbrose was born of a Roman family at Trier about the year 340. He studied at Rome and served in the imperial government at Sirmium. In 374, while living in Milan, he was elected bishop of the city by popular acclaim and ordained on December 7. He devotedly carried out his duties and especially distinguished himself by his service to the poor and as an effective pastor and teacher .of the faithful: He strenuously guarded the laws of the Church and defended orthodox teaching by writings and actions against the Arians. He died on Holy Saturday, April 4, 397.
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin MaryThe dogma of the Immaculate Conception, defined as part of the deposit of faith in 1854, asserts that in view of her future role in the coming of the Messiah and thus the salvation of the human race, Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin that afflicts the human race. She was therefore “full of grace” from the first moment of her life. This commemoration occurs nine months before the celebration of her birthday on September 8.
2nd Sunday of Advent
St. Damasus IDamasus was born in Spain around the year 305. He was admitted to the Roman clergy and in 366, during a period of upheaval in the Church, was ordained bishop of Rome. He summoned synods to work against schismatics and heretics and widely promoted the cult of martyrs whose burial places he adorned with sacred verse. He died in 384.
Our Lady of GuadalupeThe shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Mexico City, is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimages in North America. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left with him a picture of herself impressed upon his cloak. Devotion to Mary under this title has continually increased, and today she is the Patroness of the Americas. Because of the close link between the Church in Mexico and the Church in the United States this feast was also celebrated in the United States and then ‘placed on the calendar for the dioceses of the United States.
St. LucyLucy died at Syracuse, probably during the persecution of Diocletian. From antiquity her cult spread throughout the Church, and her name was therefore introduced into the Roman Canon.
St. John of the CrossJohn of the Cross was born at Fontiveros in Spain around 1542. After a number of years as a Carmelite, he was persuaded by Saint Teresa of Avila in 1568 to lead a reform movement among the brothers which brought a new energy to the Carmelite Order. Renowned for his wisdom and sanctity, he died at Ubeda in 1591. His spiritual writings remain a fitting testimony to his life.
3rd Sunday of Advent
Commemoration of St. Peter CanisiusPeter Canisius was born in Nijmegen, Holland, in 1521. He studied at Cologne, entered the Society of Jesus, and was ordained a priest in 1546. Sent to Germany, he worked strenuously for many years on his writings and teachings to safeguard and confirm the Catholic faith. Of his numerous books, the Catechism is most renowned. Saint Peter died at Fribourg, Switzerland in 1597.
4th Sunday of Advent
Nativity of the LordToday the Church celebrates the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Born humbly in Bethlehem, where there was no room for the family in an inn, the infant was visited by shepherds who, while keeping watch over their flock, had been told of his birth by angels. The Gospel of John, proclaimed at the third Mass of this feast, highlights the theological significance of the day: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
St. StephenThe martyrdom of Saint Stephen is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, where he is described as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.” His preaching and miracle-working stirred up his hearers to attack him for blasphemy. “But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.... As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.... Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’”
St. JohnBrother of Saint James, Saint John became one of the apostles of Jesus and was with the Lord at the most significant events of his ministry. He is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in the fourth gospel and was the only apostle to remain with Mary at the foot of the cross on Calvary. After the crucifixion John took Mary into his home and cared for her. Tradtion credits Saint John as the author of the gospel that bears his name and also of three epistles and the Book of Revelation. Because of the soaring imagery used in John’s Gospel, his symbol in iconography is the eagle.
Holy InnocentsMatthew’s gospel recounts the slaughter of the Holy Innocents: King Herod of Judea was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They found Jesus but, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home, and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph escaped to Egypt. Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children.”
Commemoration of St. Thomas BecketThomas Becket was born in London in 1118. A cleric of the diocese of Canterbury, he first became chancellor to the king and then in 1162 was chosen bishop. His tireless defense qf the rights of the Church against Henry II prompted the king to exile Becket to France for six years. After returning to his homeland, he endured many trials and in 1170 was murdered by agents of the king.
Holy FamilyThis feast, celebrated on the Sunday following Christmas (or on December 30 in years when Christmas falls on Sunday), commemorates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The readings for Mass emphasize the importance of family life in the Christian faith, and the gospel readings for the day speak of events that involved the Holy Family: the flight into Egypt, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the finding of the young Jesus speaking with the doctors in the temple.
Commemoration of St. SylvesterSylvester was ordained bishop of Rome in 314. He ruled the Church during the reign of Constantine the Great when the Arian heresy and the Donatist schism had provoked great discord. He died in 335 and is buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way.