Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is the feast day of the Blessed John of Vercelli (c. 1205-1283).

John was born near Vercelli in northwest Italy in the early 13th century. Little is known of his early life. He entered the Dominican Order in the 1240s and served in various leadership capacities over the years. Elected sixth master general of the Dominicans in 1264, he served for almost two decades.

Known for his tireless energy and his commitment to simplicity, John made personal visits—typically on foot—to almost all the Dominican houses, urging his fellow friars to strictly observe the rules and constitutions of the Order.

He was tapped by two popes for special tasks. Pope Gregory X enlisted the help of John and his fellow Dominicans in helping to pacify the States of Italy that were quarreling with one another. John was also called upon to draw up a framework for the Second Council of Lyons in 1274. It was at that council that he met Jerome of Ascoli (the man who would later become Pope Nicholas IV), then serving as minister general of the Franciscans. Some time later the two men were sent by Rome to mediate a dispute involving King Philip III of France. Once again, John was able to draw on his negotiating and peacemaking skills.

Following the Second Council of Lyons, Pope Gregory selected John to spread devotion to the name of Jesus. John took the task to heart, requiring that every Dominican church contain an altar of the Holy Name; groups were also formed to combat blasphemy and profanity.

Toward the end of his life John was offered the role of patriarch of Jerusalem, but declined. He remained Dominican master general until his death.

The need for peacemakers is certainly as keen today as in the 10th century! As followers of Jesus, John’s role falls to us. Each of us can do something to ease the tensions in our families, in the workplace, among people of different races and creeds.

Week 1: Monday
Many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)

Christ is the ultimate center of meaning in the universe. It is through Christ that all people will be led to the Father. How can we hope to achieve a world in which all will seek the path of God? Only when men and women are working to achieve the unity that Christ’s redemption promises us.

Advent Action
Perform an act of kindness for someone you do not know.

Lord, help me be at home with You, that I may listen to Your word and walk in Your way.

Manger/ Nativity Scene

The tradition of having a nativity scene or "crèche" was made popular by St. Francis of Assisi. It is a reproduction of the cave in Bethlehem with Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus in a manger, shepherds, angels, and animals. Each night during Advent, children are encouraged to place in the manger one piece of straw for each good deed done that day by a family member. This Advent tradition combines the spirit of conversion and the coming of Jesus. There is a blessing ceremony provided by the Church in the Book of Blessings for the crèche.

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