Tuesday, November 26, 2013


“Either we live the liturgical year with its varying seasons of joy and sorrow, work and rest, or we follow the pattern of the world,” writes Helen McLoughlin in Advent and Christmas in a Catholic Home, commenting on the challenge Catholics have of being “in the world but not of the world” throughout the year. She wrote these profound words in the 1950s, but they are even more important today because of the general decline in Catholic family life during the last 40 years. As Catholic parents, we must readjust our priorities and teach our children by living our faith, both inside and outside the home.
“Children love to anticipate,” writes McLoughlin. “When there are empty mangers to fill with straw for small sacrifices, when the Mary candle is a daily reminder on the dinner table, when Advent hymns are sung in the candlelight of a graceful Advent wreath, children are not anxious to celebrate Christmas before time. That would offend their sense of honor. Older children who make Nativity sets, cut Old Testament symbols to decorate a Jesse tree, or prepare costumes for a Christmas play will find Advent all too short a time to prepare for the coming of Christ the King.”
A family’s strong and living faith will become their heritage and a mode to reinforce the religious practices centered in the liturgy by bringing simple practices into their homes, like the following:
Advent wreath: The Advent wreath, which has German origins, is probably the most recognized Advent custom. It is a wreath made of evergreens that is bound to a circle of wire. It symbolizes the many years from Adam to Christ in which the world awaited its Redeemer; it also represents the years that we have awaited His second and final coming. The wreath holds four equally spaced candles, the three purple ones lit on the “penitential” Sundays and a pink one for Gaudete (rejoice), the joyful third Sunday in Advent.
The empty manger: Each child may have his own individual manger, or there may be one manger for the whole family. The idea is that when acts of service, sacrifice, or kindness are done in honor of Baby Jesus as a birthday present, the child receives a piece of straw to put into the manger. Then, on Christmas morning, “Baby Jesus” is placed in the manger. Encourage your children to make Jesus’ bed as “comfortable” as possible through their good deeds. In the process, explain Christ’s incomparable self-gift at Christmas and Easter that enables us to be part of God’s family.
The Jesse tree: The Jesse tree tells about Christ’s ancestry through symbols and relates Scripture to salvation history, progressing from creation to the birth of Christ. The tree can be made on a poster board with the symbols glued on, or on an actual tree.
The Mary candle: On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, place a candle with a blue ribbon before a statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin, whose “yes” to God enabled our Lord’s coming at Christmas. The candle is lit during meal times to serve as a delightful reminder of Mary’s eager expectation of the “Light of the World.” It can also serve as a reminder to each family member to keep their own light of grace burning as a preparation for Christ’s coming.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Becoming the Handmaiden of the Lord

I just read an article about Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a well known Jewess who converted to Catholicism late in life, and took her vows as a Carmelite nun; however, prior to that, she studied philosophy and received a doctorate in this field in 1916. She was captured by the Nazis and executed in 1942. She left us a legacy of writings that, I think, will help the modern woman wading through the quagmire of confusing disparate ideologies to finally find her place in this life as God intended. Here is an excerpt that I think is especially well written in her book entitled, Essays on Woman.
Must all women become religious in order to fulfill their vocation as women? Certainly not. But it certainly does mean that the fallen perverted feminine nature can be restored to its purity and led to the heights of the vocational ethos which this pure nature indicates only if it is completely surrendered to God. Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be a handmaid of the Lord everywhere.
So had the Mother of God in all circumstances of her life, as the Temple virgin enclosed in that hallowed precinct, by her quiet work in Bethlehem and Nazareth, as guide to the apostles and the Christian community after the death of her son.
Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a spouse of Christ, an apostle of the divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived and what worldly activity absorbed her life. –Page 52

Friday, November 15, 2013

St. John of the Cross

The Dark Night
One dark night fired with loves urgent longings
I went out, unseen, my house being now all stilled
Upon my flowering breast which I kept wholly for Him alone
there He lays sleeping
I abandoned and forgot myself
laying my face on my beloved
all things ceased
I went out from myself
leaving my cares forgotten

Monday, November 11, 2013

Peace I give you....

From "The Imitation of Christ"
Peace is something everyone longs for, but it is not everyone who troubles to find out what brings true peace. "My peace is to be found among those who are humble and gentle of heart; you will find your own peace in the practice of great patience."
As a learner of this practice, I ask what must I do?
"You must at all times pay attention to what you do and what you say, and make it your constant aim to please me (God) alone, desiring and seeking nothing apart from myself. Do not make rash judgments on what other people say or do, and do not involve yourself in matters which are of no concern to you. Keep these rules, and you will have little to trouble your mind.
You must not expect to never feel disquieted or to suffer grief of heart or bodily pain; such freedom from trouble belongs not to this present life but to the life of eternal rest.
Even when you experience great devotion and inward sweetness, you must not think yourself a privileged person for it isn't by these things that the true lover of holiness is known; such things are no sign of one's spiritual progress and perfection."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let us take our hearts, ragged and bleeding, ......

'Often... the road of life runs through rough places,
and trials fall crushingly upon us,
our path becomes steep,
and the music that was in our hearts is quite hushed.
It is then that the tendency is strong to sink slowly back into
the abandoned valley of half-hearted service,
or at least to stand and make no effort to cling to Him
and love Him more and more.
Let us then pause upon the roadside of our daily lives
to gain new strength and vigour from Him Who has weighed each load.
Let us take our hearts, ragged and torn and bleeding,
and place them close to His, that they may be transformed,
that their every beat may be an act of adoration and of love.'

(from Fervorinos From Galilee's Hills, compiled by a Religious, Pelligrini, Australia, 1936, p. 252)

Painting: Johan Edvard Bergh, Skogslandskap, 1853