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Advent 1978

Pope Saint John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass on 1st Sunday of Advent
St Francis Xavier parish, Rome, Sunday 3 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. I am here today to visit your parish dedicated to St Francis Xavier; I do so with great emotion and deep joy. This is my first visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome, entrusted to me by Christ through my election as Bishop of Rome, which took place on 16 October as a result of the votes of the Cardinals, gathered in conclave. Taking possession of the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of this City, I said that, in a certain way, I was then entering all the parishes of the diocese of Rome. Of course this entrance into the parishes of Rome, during the ceremonies at the Lateran on 12th November, was rather in spirit. The actual visits to the Roman parishes, on the contrary, must take place gradually. I hope that everyone will understand this and be indulgent with me, in consideration of the immense mass of commitments connected with my ministry.

It is a great joy for me to be able to visit as the first Roman parish precisely yours, to which I am linked by a special memory. In fact, in the years of the immediate post-war period, as a student in Rome, I used to go nearly every Sunday to Garbatella, to help in the pastoral service. Some moments of that period are still alive in my memory, although it seems to me that in the course of over 30 years many things have changed enormously here.

2. All Rome has changed. Then there were few suburbs. Today we find ourselves in the centre of a large inhabited district. Now buildings occupy all the green spaces surrounding the city. These buildings speak of the people who inhabit them. You, beloved parishioners, are these inhabitants. You make up the citizens of Rome and, at the same time, a definite community of the People of God. The parish is just such a community. It is so and becomes ever more so by means of the Gospel, the Word of God, which is proclaimed here regularly and also because of the fact that sacramental life is lived here. Coming to you today, in the name of Christ, I am thinking particularly of what Christ himself transmits to you by means of his priests, your pastors. But not only by means of them. I am thinking of how much Christ operates by means of all of you.

3. To whom does my thought go particularly and who do I address? I address all the families who live in this parish community and who make up a part of the Church of Rome. To visit the parishes, as part of the Diocese-Church, it is necessary to reach all the "domestic churches", that is, all the families. This, in fact, was the name given to families by the Fathers of the Church. "Make your home a church", St John Chrysostom urged his faithful in one of his sermons. And the following day he repeated: "When I said to you yesterday: make your home a church, you burst into acclamations of jubilee and showed eloquently what joy had flooded your hearts on hearing those words" (In Genesim Serm. VI, 2; VII, 1: PG 54, 607; cf also Lumen Gentium, 11; Apostolicam actuositatem, 11). Therefore, finding myself among you here today, before this altar, as Bishop of Rome, I go in spirit to all the families. Many are certainly present here: to them I address my cordial greeting; but, with my thought and my heart, I seek them all.

I say to all married couples and to parents, young and adult: take each other's hand as you did on your wedding day, on receiving the Sacrament of Marriage joyfully. Imagine your bishop asking you again today for your consent and yourselves uttering, as then, the words of the marriage promise, the oath of your marriage.

Do you know why I recall it? Because the "domestic church", the quality and holiness of the family, the education of your children, depend on the observance of these commitments. Christ entrusted all that to you, beloved spouses, on the day in which he united your lives for ever, by means of the priest's ministry, at the moment in which you uttered the words that you must never forget: "until death do us part". If you remember them, if you observe them, beloved Brothers and Sisters, you are also apostles of Christ and you contribute to the work of Salvation (cf Lumen Gentium, 35, 41; Gaudium et Spes, 52).

4. Now my thought also goes to you, children, to you, young people. The Pope has a special predilection for you because not only do you represent but you are the future of the Church and therefore the future of your parish. Be profoundly friends of Jesus and take to your family, to the school, to the district, the example of your Christian life, limpid and joyful. Always be young Christians, real witnesses to Christ's teaching. Be in fact bearers of Christ to this confused society, which needs him more than ever today. Proclaim to everyone with your lives that only Christ is the true salvation of mankind.

5. And I address further, on this visit, the sick, the suffering, persons who are lonely, forsaken, who need understanding, a smile, help, the solidarity of brothers. At this moment my thought also goes to all those — patients, doctors, personnel, chaplains, Sisters — in the large hospital within your parish, the Orthopedic Accident Centre. To all, my affectionate encouragement and the assurance of my prayers.

6. Now that we have embraced all your Community with our thought and our heart, I wish to turn to those who have given themselves to Christ, in a particular way.

I wish to express a fatherly appreciation to the Sisters who live, pray and work in this populous parish: the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent of Paul, dedicated to care for children and the poor; the Handmaids of the Sanctuary, dedicated to the apostolate in the school; the Sister Disciples of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, who unite commitment for the education of children with ceaseless worship of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist; the Capuchin Poor Clares who, for 400 years, in silence and in poverty, have been praying and offering themselves for the Church and for the world.

Thank you, thank you, beloved Sisters! May your Bridegroom Jesus reward you for the good you are doing! Continue to serve the Lord "in joy", with generous and intense constancy.

7. I address my last words to you, beloved Brother Priests, to you, beloved Parish Priest, and to all your collaborators. I have already had the opportunity to meet you separately and to reflect together on various questions concerning your parish. I thank you heartily for your collaboration with me, with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, with the Auxiliary Bishop of your sector. By means of your ministry Christ himself comes and lives in this community, teaches, sanctifies, absolves and, above all, makes a gift of everyone and everything to the Father, as the third Eucharistic Prayer says. Do not tire of the holy ministry, do not tire of work for your Master. May the voice of Advent, which rings out so clearly in the Gospel words: "Keep watch!", reach everyone through you.

8. Your Parish is celebrating today the feast of its Patron Saint: St Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Far East, missionary and patron saint of the missions. How greatly he merited for this reason alone: to bring the coming of Christ to the hearts of those who did not know him, those whom his Gospel had not yet reached! Your parish intends to follow its Patron Saint, and today celebrates its mission day.

May the word of God be able to reach the utmost limits of the earth! May it be able to find its way to every human heart!

This is the prayer I raise, together with you, through the intercession of St Francis Xavier, I, your Bishop: Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha! Amen."

Papa St JPII's words at the Angelus on 1st Sunday of Advent
St Peter's Square, Sunday 3 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The new liturgical year begins. Every year in fact, starting from the first Sunday of Advent, the Church through the cycle of Sundays and feast days tries to make us aware of God's work of salvation in the history of man, humanity and the world. Precisely by this "adventus", which means "coming", God comes to man, and this is a fundamental dimension of our faith. We live our faith, when we are open to God's coming, when we persevere in Advent. The "Angelus" which we recite reminds us how open the Virgin Mary was to the coming of God: she introduces us to Advent.

2. Today, for the first time, I am going on a pastoral visit to a parish of Rome: the parish of St Francis Xavier, in Garbatella. I am going to this parish as Bishop, to bear witness to the mystery of Advent, which forms the life of the parish because it moulds the life of every parishioner.

I am thinking, above all, of the Advent which is realized in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. A man comes into the world: he is born as the child of his parents; he comes into the world with the inheritance of original sin. The parents, aware of this inheritance and inspired by faith in Christ's words, take their child to Baptism. They wish to open their child's soul to the coming of the Saviour, to his "Advent". In this way Advent indicates the beginning of the new life: the seal of original sin is removed, in a certain sense, from this child, and the beginning of the new life, of divine life, is grafted onto him. For Christ does not come "empty handed": he brings us divine life; he wishes us to have life, and have it abundantly (cf Jn 10, 10).

We know that every parish is a place in which baptisms take place. In the community of the People of God, which bears the name of St Francis Xavier, so many Romans who are born in our city and, precisely in this parish, are baptized every year. And so it becomes the place of "Coming": it perseveres continually in "Advent", and in each one of its new parishioners it waits for the coming of the Lord.

Let us turn it over in our minds.

3. And let us also think, on this first Sunday of "advent", of another fact. I mentioned St Francis Xavier, because the Church remembers him just today, 3 December. It is well-known that he was a great missionary in the East, in the Far East.

Well, in the last few days, my heart and my thoughts have often gone to the Far East, to Vietnam, because the news has reached us of the death of Cardinal Joseph-Mary Trin-nhu-Khue, Archbishop of Hanoi in Vietnam. Just two weeks ago, I met him here and spoke to him. In spite of his 79 years of life (and a difficult life), he seemed young and lively. However, to be advanced in age has its own laws, and now the news of his death has arrived. Today, therefore, I recall this faithful and tenacious pastor: I recall this servant of God who, in the midst of his fellow­ countrymen, bore witness so eloquently to Christ in his country, Vietnam, so far away and at the same time so near the heart of the Church.

This, too, is an Advent theme. Perhaps, at the last moment of his life, that pastor and bishop, Cardinal Trin-nhu­ Khue, succeeded once more in uttering the words "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22, 20), thereupon hearing his answer: "Surely I am coming soon".

There is once more a great deal of talk about Vietnam these days. You have all followed the news reported by the newspapers.

Let us pray, therefore, for those Vietnamese who, having left their land, are suffering because they do not find anyone to welcome them with a sense of humanity or to relieve their hardships and meet their needs.

Trusting that the appeal made by the Holy See through the United Nations will attain the desired purpose, I call on you all to pray that the Lord may support and bless the efforts of all those who are exerting themselves to assist these brothers in difficulty.

Let us recite the "Angelus" for this intention and for the Church in Vietnam."

Pope Saint John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass on 2nd Sunday of Advent
Parish of St Anne in the Vatican, Sunday 10 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Vobis ... sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus" ("For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian"): these words of St Augustine were re-echoed loudly in the texts of the Second Vatican Council, in its magisterium. They come to my mind this very day, as I visit St Anne's parish, the parish of Vatican City. This is, in fact, my parish. I have fixed abode in its territory like my venerated predecessors, and also like you, revered brother cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, and you, dear brothers and sisters, my fellow parishioners. Here, in this church, I can repeat particularly the words that St Augustine addressed to his faithful on the anniversary of his episcopal ordination: "Sed et vos sustinete me, ut secundum praeceptum apostolicum, invicem onera nostra portemus et sic adimpleamus legem Christi (Gal 6, 2) ... Ubi me terret quod vobis sum, ibi me consolatur quod vobiscum sum. Vobis enim sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus. Illud est nomen officii, hoc gratiae; illud periculi est, hoc salutis" (" But you too support me in order that, according to the command of the Apostle, we may bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6, 2) ... While I am frightened by what I am for you, I am consoled by what I am with you. For you, in fact, I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian. The former is the name of an office, the latter of grace; the former is a name of danger, the latter of salvation": Serm. 340, 1; PL 38, 1483).

In fact, the truth that each of us — you, revered and dear brothers, and I — is a "Christian", is the first source of our joy, of our noble and serene pride, of our union and communion.

A "Christian": what significance this word has and what riches it contains! The disciples were called Christians for the first time at Antioch, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, when they describe the events of the apostolic period in that city (Acts 11, 26). Christians are those who have received the name of Christ; those who bear his mystery within themselves; those who belong to him, with all their humanity; those who, with full awareness and freedom, "agree" to his impressing upon their human being the dignity of children of God. Christians!

The parish is a community of Christians. A fundamental community.

2. Our Vatican parish is dedicated to St Anne. As is known, it was our predecessor Pius XI, with the Apostolic Constitution "Ex Lateranensi pacto", dated 30 May 1929, who gave a particular religious character to Vatican City: the Bishop Sacristan, an office which had been entrusted to the Order of St Augustine since 1352 by Clement VI, was nominated Vicar General of Vatican City; St Anne's church, which had long been looked after by the hard­working Augustinian Fathers, was erected a parish. Subsequently, with the Motu Proprio "Pontificalis Domus" of 28 March 1968, his Holiness Paul VI of venerated memory eliminated the title of "Sacristan", leaving however the office intact. It was maintained under the name of "Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City".

I wish therefore to address a fatherly and affectionate greeting to my Vicar General and to his immediate collaborators; to the parish priest; to the zealous Fathers who show such dedication for pastoral care of the parish and for the decorum of the various Chapels of the Vatican; to the other religious men and women, who carry out their industrious and meritorious service for the Holy See; to all parishioners of this unique community.

3. I have desired so much to visit "my parish", already at the beginning of my pontificate, as one of the first among the parishes of the diocese of Rome: I am happy that this should happen just in the period of Advent.

The figure of St Anne reminds us in fact of the paternal home of Mary, the Mother of Christ. Mary was born there, bearing in her that extraordinary mystery of the immaculate conception. There she was surrounded by the love and solicitude of her parents: Joachim and Anne. There she "learned" from her mother, from St Anne, how to be a mother. And although, from the human point of view, she had renounced motherhood, the Heavenly Father, accepting her total donation, gratified her with the most perfect and holy motherhood. Christ, from the Cross, transferred in a certain sense his mother's maternity to his favourite disciple, and likewise he extended it to the whole Church, to all men. When therefore as "children of (divine) promise" (cf Gal 4, 28, 31), we find ourselves in the range of this motherhood, and when we feel its holy depth and fullness, let us think then that it was St Anne herself who was the first to teach Mary, her daughter, how to be a Mother.

"Anne" in Hebrew means "God (subject understood) has given grace". Reflecting on this meaning of St Anne's name, St John of Damascus exclaimed: "Since it was to happen that the Virgin Mother of God should be born from Anne, nature did not dare to precede the seed of grace; but it remained without its fruit in order that grace might produce its own. In fact, there was to be born that first-born who would give birth to the first-born of every creature" (Serm. VI, De nativ. BVM, 2; PG 96, 663).

As we come here today, all of us, parishioners of St Anne's in the Vatican, let us turn our hearts to her and, through her let us repeat to Mary, Daughter and Mother:

"Monstra Te esse Matrem,
Sumat per Te preces,
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse Tuus."

On the second Sunday of Advent these words seem to take on special significance."

Papa St JPII's words at the Angelus on 2nd Sunday of Advent
St Peter's Square, Sunday 10 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During Advent the Church is united in a special way with the Blessed Virgin. She is a great example for us indeed in that expectation of the coming of Christ, which pervades the whole of this period. From the very moment of the Incarnation of the Word, this expectation assumes a concrete form in her: it becomes maternity. Under her virginal heart, the new life already pulsates: the life of the Son of God, who became a man in her womb. Mary is entirely Advent!

And here we see her go, after the annunciation, from Galilee to the south, to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth in Ain­Karin. There, on the very threshold of the house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the words will be spoken which we repeat whenever we greet Mary: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb".

2. At this moment our thoughts and our hearts turn to those regions. We follow Mary from Nazareth towards the south, while there spreads out before us the panorama of her land, of that ground which was to become the homeland of the Messiah. Whole generations of Christians go on pilgrimage to this Holy Land, to find themselves in the footsteps of the Saviour.

There comes back to my mind the immense joy of the bishops, gathered in the second session of the Second Vatican Council, on hearing the words of Pope Paul VI who, in the address delivered at the close of that session, had announced to them that he would go — for the first time — as a pilgrim to the Holy Land.

Oh! How I wish I could repeat his words, at this moment! How I wish I could go to the land of my Lord and Redeemer! How I wish I could find myself in those very streets in which the People of God used to walk at that time, climb to the top of Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given to us! How I wish I could pass along all the roads between Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee! How I wish I could stop on the mount of the Transfiguration, from where the massif of Lebanon appears: "Tabor and Hermon joyously praise thy name" (Psalm 89, 12).

This was and is my greatest desire, ever since the beginning of my pontificate. I am grateful for the requests and suggestions that have reached me in this connection. But, though regretfully, I must at least for the present forgo this pilgrimage, this particular act of faith, the significance of which can be more deeply understood by the Bishop of Rome, who is the Successor of Peter. In fact, Peter comes just from there: it was from the Land of Christ and Mary that he came to Rome.

3. Meanwhile I beg you, beloved Brothers and Sisters, let us commend to the Lord in our prayer this part of the earth, so closely connected with the history of our salvation.

Let us pray for the Holy Land.
Let us pray for Lebanon, which has been sorely tried by war and destruction for many years.
Let us commend to the Lord the special mission entrusted to Cardinal Paolo Bertoli, who has gone in these days to Lebanon.
Let us pray for peace in the Middle East.
Let us commend to the Lord also Iran, which has become a theatre of struggle and unrest in the last few weeks.

We know that the Mother of Christ is surrounded by great veneration also on the part of our Moslem brothers.

Let us pray to her, in order that she may show herself to be Mother and Queen of Peace for the land of her ancestors, as for all the neighbouring lands!"

After reciting the prayer the Holy Father addressed a special greeting to representatives of ALMA, the religious Association of natives of the Marches, resident in Rome.

"I wish now to address a greeting to members of ALMA, the religious association of natives of the Marches resident in Rome, gathered here to pray with the Pope on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, the heavenly patron of their region. While recalling the illustrious Basilica, in which a special Chapel is dedicated to Poland, and the nearby war cemetery, in which there rest the remains of so many fellow countrymen of mine, I willingly bless the faithful present and their land of origin."

Pope Saint John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass on 3rd Sunday of Advent
Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, Sunday 17 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian & Spanish

"1. After the taking possession of St John Lateran's Basilica, which is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, after the moving visit to St Mary Major's Basilica on the Esquiline, where I was able, at the beginning of my pontificate, to express all my confidence and my complete abandonment into the hands of Mary, the Mother of the Church, today I am granted the possibility of coming here.

The Basilica of St Paul's outside the Walls — one of the four most important temples of the Eternal City — calls forth special thoughts and sentiments in the heart of him who, as Bishop of Rome, has become the Successor of St Peter. Peter's vocation— unique by the will of Christ himself — is united through a singular tie with the person of Paul of Tarsus. Both Peter and Paul found themselves here in Rome at the end of their earthly pilgrimage; both came here for the same purpose: to bear witness to Christ. For the same cause they both suffered death here and, as tradition narrates, that happened on the same day. They both constitute the foundation of this Church which invokes them, remembering them together as her Patron Saints. And although Rome is Peter's See, we all realize what a deep stamp was left by Paul — his conversion, his person, his mission — on the beginnings of this See, on its foundations.

The fact that St Peter found himself in Rome, that he came here from Jerusalem through Antioch, that he carried out his pastoral mandate here, that he ended his life here, was an expression of that universality of the Gospel, of Christianity, of the Church, of which St Paul was a resolute and intrepid herald from the beginning. At the moment when he, a persecutor, was converted, we hear the words ring out: "He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9, 15).

Rome was not the only goal of the apostolic life and pilgrimage of Paul of Tarsus. It should rather be said that his aim was the universum of the Roman empire of that time (as his journeys and his letters testify). Rome was the last stage of these journeys. Paul arrived here already as a captive, imprisoned for the cause to which he had dedicated himself entirely: the cause of universalism, that cause which struck at the very foundations of a certain rabbinical view of the Chosen People and its Messiah. Prosecuted because of this very activity, Paul had appealed as a Roman citizen to Caesar. "You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go" (Acts 25, 12). And thus Paul found himself in Rome as a prisoner waiting for Caesar's sentence. He found himself here, while the principle of the universality of the Church, of the People of God of the new Covenant, had already been sufficiently affirmed, and in fact consolidated in an irreversible way in the life of the Church herself. And then Paul, who at the beginning of his mission, after his conversion, had considered it his particular duty "videre Petrum" (to see Peter) was able to arrive here in Rome to meet Peter again: here, in this city, in which the universality of the Church has found her bulwark in Peter's Chair for centuries and millennia.

What I have said about Paul of Tarsus, the Apostle of the Gentiles and a great Saint, is very little. A great deal more could and should be said, but I am obliged to limit myself to these references.

2. And now allow me to speak of that Pontiff who chose the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles: Paul VI. The circumstances of time and place induce me particularly to speak of him. But, above all, this is a need of the heart: I wish, in fact, to speak of him whom I rightly consider not only as my predecessor but actually as a father. Again I feel that I could and should speak at length but here too, owing to the tyranny of time, my talk will have to be a short one. I wish to thank all those who honour the memory of this great Pontiff. I wish to thank his fellow citizens of Brescia for the recent solemn act dedicated to his memory, and I wish to thank Cardinal Pignedoli for having taken part in it. We will return, and more than once, to what he did and to what he was.

Why did he choose the name Paul (after many centuries this name has returned to the yearbook of the Bishops of Rome)? Certainly because he felt a special affinity with the Apostle of the Gentiles. Does not Paul VI's pontificate testify, moreover, how deeply aware he was, like St Paul, of Christ's new call to the universalism of the Church and of Christianity according to the measure of our times? Did he not scrutinize, with extraordinary insight, the signs of the times of this difficult age, as Paul of Tarsus did? Did he not feel called, like this Apostle, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Did he not remain, like St Paul, inwardly calm even when "the ship was caught and could not face the wind"? (cf Acts 27, 15).

Paul VI, the Servant of the servants of God, the successor of Peter, who had chosen the name of the Apostle of the Gentiles, had inherited his charism along with his name.

3. Coming to St Paul's Basilica today, I wish to be united in a new bond of love and ecclesial unity with the community of Benedictine Fathers, who have guarded this place in prayer and work for centuries.

I wish furthermore, as the new Bishop of Rome, to visit the parish of which St Paul's Basilica is the seat.

This ancient and venerable Basilica, indeed, which throughout the centuries has always been a goal of pilgrimages and which was outside the walls of Rome, has, in these last few decades — as a result of the urbanistic development of the city — been erected a parish, becoming in this way the centre of the religious life of the inhabitants of this sector.

Thus we have here three aspects which, although quite distinct, are as many facets of the same reality, the Abbey, the Basilica, the Parish, three bodies which nourish one another, bestowing on the faithful abundant spiritual fruit.

I then extend my greeting to the various associations which collaborate with the parish on the pastoral plane; I greet the catechists, I greet with fatherly affection the religious men and women who are carrying out their activity within the parish, with special attention for those who work at the Pontifical Youth Centre of St Paul's which organizes inter-parish activity on behalf of the young.

To all the faithful, my cordial greeting, my blessing and my encouragement to love their parish. And finally, I address a special thought to the suffering, either because they are afflicted with sickness, or because they are in straits for lack of work, assuring them that I will remember them specially in my prayers.

4. "Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico vobis, gaudete ... ": rejoice always in the Lord: I repeat to you, rejoice. These words of today's liturgy, that is, of the third Sunday of Advent are taken from St Paul. The same words were repeated by Paul VI in the exhortation on Christian joy published by him (cf Gaudete in Domino).

Today I join them whole-heartedly and cry to you, beloved Brothers and Sisters: "iterum dico vobis, gaudete" — I repeat, rejoice!

"Dominus... prope est" — The Lord is near!"

Papa St JPII's words at the Angelus on 3rd Sunday of Advent
St Peter's Square, Sunday 17 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Today I am addressing especially the boys and girls who have come to St Peter's Square to bring the statue of the Infant Jesus to be blessed by the Pope before being laid in the Crib prepared at home.

1. Welcome, beloved daughters and sons! I greet you with real joy, especially because of the gesture, so significant spiritually, which you have undertaken to carry out so enthusiastically.

The first plastic representation of the Crib sprung, as you know, from the brilliant intuition of St Francis of Assisi. Deeply struck and moved by the humility of the Incarnation, on Christmas night in 1223 he got a faithful and pious friend called John to bring to Greccio all that was necessary: straw, hay, the manger and an ox and a donkey in flesh and blood. "I would like" — the Saint said — "to represent the Infant Jesus born in Bethlehem and to see, so to speak, with the eyes of the body the hardships he suffered for lack of the things a new-born child needs, how he was put in a manger and how he lay in the hay between the ox and the donkey" (Tommaso da Celano, Vita Prima, n 84). Various friars came to the place; men and women arrived rejoicing from the lonely cottages in the region, carrying candles and torches to illuminate that night on which, as the biographer notes further, "there shone forth splendid in the sky the Star that illuminated all days and times". A priest celebrated the Eucharist and Francis of Assisi, who was a deacon, sang the Holy Gospel with his strong, sweet voice, clear and resounding,

2. From Greccio, which had become like a new Bethlehem, the representation of the Crib, which had sprung from the heart of a Saint, capable of realizing the most sublime poetry in life, spread throughout Italy, Europe and the whole world. It kept intact, in the various expressions of culture and folklore, the fundamental message, truly evangelical, which Francis wanted souls to grasp from contemplation of the Crib, a school of simplicity, poverty, and humility.

Modern society is not always, unfortunately, supporter and messenger of these attitudes, which are sometimes considered even as weaknesses or as frustrations of the human personality. Yet the Son of God, to meet man, to walk by his side, to save him, chose the absolute emptying of his personality, the total lack of means and human instruments, the struggle against pride and arrogance.

3. As I bless your little statues, beloved children, I think with serene hope of you, of the immense good that you can do, precisely because you are little, within your family, the school, the associations, and society itself. Not for nothing did Jesus himself choose you as models for those who wish to have a part in his Kingdom (cf Mt 18, 4; Mk 10, 15).

Take home, with great care, the little statue of the Infant Jesus, also as a sign of the Pope's love for you and your families. Put it in your Crib with intense faith, with that faith where with the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, laid the new-born Jesus in the manger (cf Lk 2, 7). Invite your father, your mother, your brothers and sisters, the whole of your family, to gather round the Crib in these days of the Christmas Novena, to recite together the prayers learned on your mother's lap, to sing the sweet carols, so charged with human and Christian sentiment.

May the Infant Jesus, present in the Crib of your home, be the concrete sign of a limpid and sincere faith, which will enlighten, guide and direct your life and that of your dear ones.

And now, while the period of Advent still continues and its last week is beginning, I present to you a request of mine. During this week I call upon you to pray specially for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. As we ask God for the earth to produce its crop, so and even more we must also ask for souls to yield the fruits particularly necessary for the spiritual life of the whole Church. There is a great need of priests, men and women missionaries, sisters, catechists, nurses to look after the sick.

Returning home, remember what I say to you; and kneel down in prayer more than once together with the Pope and with everyone to ask: Jesus, send workers into your harvest (cf Mt 9, 38). You will help me a great deal with this prayer. Jesus who loves you particularly, dear boys and girls, will listen more easily to the prayers of the Pope and of the whole People of God if you, yes precisely you, pray together with all of us.
"

Papa St JPII's words at the Angelus on 4th Sunday of Advent
St Peter's Square, Sunday 24 December 1978 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

""Hodie scietis quia veniet Dominus; et cras videbitis gloriam Eius," (Ex 16, 6-7). Today you shall know that the Lord will come; and tomorrow you shall see his glory.

The liturgy of today addresses us with these words: it is the eve of the Nativity of Christ. It is the last day of waiting, a day of deep joy, since the Lord is about to come and we will see him, as every year, in that unusual place of his birth: in a stable, in a manger. This is, in fact, the place that men "assigned" to him: the inhabitants of Bethlehem and, in a certain sense, all men. And God chose this same place for his Son. This reality must be carefully meditated upon, and we will do so during midnight Mass.

Now, according to the custom on Christmas Eve, I wish to express my most cordial wishes to you. At this moment, I formulate them above all as Bishop of Rome and I wish to address them to all Romans. Yes, I want these wishes of mine to reach each one of you, because today is a day on which every man approaches the other man.

I want these wishes of mine to arrive at every home, every family. In the Christmas festivities one feels more the need of being close to the members of one's family, in the warmth of the domestic hearth. Let me too therefore join in this union of hearts of yours.

I wish for the parents that what they desire for their children may come true. I wish for the young that the humanity, that is, "the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour" (cf Tit 3, 4) may be revealed to them in a particular way.

With the same wish I go spiritually to every parish of Rome and to all the houses of men and women religious.

I address especially nomads, the sick, the suffering, the old, the abandoned, the underprivileged, all those who are alone and far from their families, in order that they may accept the love that Christ offers them for the salvation of every man.

My wishes extend, furthermore, to all environments of work, study, artistic activity, scientific research and every human activity.

I knock at the doors of the various institutions of community life, in its multiple aspects, and I say "Peace to men of good will" because it was this message that was proclaimed in the cave of Bethlehem.

I invite everyone to the meeting at midnight, the Christmas vigil, for the loving banquet which the Saviour of the world has prepared for us.

I address particular words of gratitude and brotherly communion to the priests, the bishops and the Cardinal Vicar of Rome.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
May that which today's liturgy announces to us take place in our lives: let it happen, therefore, that we may know (scietis), accept, and live in the depths of our conscience the truth that "the Lord has come".

Let us accept it "today" (hodie) remembering that this today is the essence of all our life on earth. And that "tomorrow" (cras) we will be able to see his glory and participate in it!

The joy of Christmas now close makes particularly keen my deep affliction at the serious plane crash which took place last night near Palermo, causing a large number of victims, largely emigrants, who were returning to their homes to spend the approaching festivities with their families.

I have already expressed my sentiments in this connection in a telegram to the Cardinal Archbishop of that city. I wish, however, to renew now the assurance of my prayer for the souls of those who lost their lives in this accident. At the same time I express to their relatives my deep sympathy with them in their loss and address to the wounded my good wishes and my encouragement.
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