Monthly Archives: December 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

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We began the last week of Advent with this verse from “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:  O come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

The universe and all of creation was created by God with a certain order that maintains harmony and peace.  As God gave mankind dominion over his creation, he expected us to maintain the order he established.

In the first reading we see one aspect of maintaining that order – we are to honor our Father and our Mother.  This is such an important part of God’s plan that the promise is given – “Who ever honors his father . . . when he prays is heard.” Being obedient to our parents helps us to learn obedience to God.

In the second reading, we’re given an additional insight into what we must do to keep order.  Paul says, “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts.”  In Christ we will find the strength we need to maintain order in our relationships as husbands and wives, parents and children.  There is a right way to fulfill our role, whatever it is.  And, of course, the reality is, even if we try to faithfully do our part, it doesn’t mean that others will be faithful.  I’m sure that there are many parents here who take their relationships with God seriously, and even though they have made every effort to guide their children in the right way, some have rebelled.  Peer pressure is very difficult to overcome.  And there are some children who have felt called to a religious vocation and have not received support from their parents.

Ordering our life to God is a daily struggle that calls us to perseverance in prayer and the sacramental life.  Our Lord offers us all the grace we need to take one day at a time, and to trust that in the end everything will be okay if we persevere. It doesn’t mean things will not be difficult; it does mean we will always have hope.

We see in the Gospel that the Holy Family was not spared the difficulties of life. Even though they were the holiest, most important family in the history of the world, they were still vulnerable to the evil intentions of others. They were not given a favored status, but faithfully followed the religious practices of their time as we know by their visits to the Temple. That is how they maintained their connection with the Heavenly Father and fulfilled His plan. The same is true for us. We also need our Heavenly Father’s protection, which we receive when we are faithful to what He has revealed to us. We will still experience difficulties, but we will always have hope. If we stay close to Him, He will help us to have holy families.

It is not news that in this country, the most powerful country in the world, the institution of family is at a point of crisis. Almost every family has experienced some degree of trauma – whether physical, economical, psychological, or spiritual. Almost every family has a relative that is divorced. A recent statistic states that only one third of children in this country will live with both biological parents until they reach the age eighteen. The greatest need of our time is the renewal of the family; and the only way it can be renewed is with the help of God’s grace; by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church, even if others are not.

Our families are God’s plan for the future of the world. The family is intended to be the domestic Church where husband, wife and children are joined together in prayer and grow together in faith. The family is where vocation should first be discovered.

Even if our family life has not been what it could have, it is not too late to begin anew. Whether you are married, divorced or single, it is not too late to ask, “Wisdom, teach us in your ways to go.” The way people have persevered through the ages is by attending mass every weekend (during the week, if possible) praying daily (privately and with people we love), reading Scriptures, frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving each other for hurts experienced, by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, by reading the lives of the saints and by continuing to be formed in the faith, and by being generous with our time, talent and treasure.

The domestic church, like every church, is made up of the people. However, there are things we can do to help us be more aware of the presence of God, and to help us enter into prayer. Every home should have a crucifix and religious art to show that the Faith is important to those who live there. There can be a special room or part of a room where you have an altar or shelf on which you place candles, a bible, holy pictures and favorite prayers that help you enter into prayer. There can be a designated time when the family prays together, especially the Rosary or part of the Rosary. It is very meaningful for parents to bless their children before bed and before leaving the house by tracing the cross on their foreheads as you say, “…may God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

God has a great plan for each of us that we can live if we allow Him to guide us by the Scriptures, the Church, the lives of the saints and His wisdom. It begins first of all as a desire in our hearts and continues when we share this desire with others, especially those we love.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us. Help us to be holy!

Steal Christmas?

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As I was driving to my parent’s house today, I tuned into Catholic radio. A priest was talking about Christmas. He said, “No one can take Christmas from you, no one can steal Christmas from you, because Christmas happened 2,000 years ago.” He was relating this to the Grinch, but he continued with the beautiful scripture story of Christ’s birth: Joseph and Mary at a manger, dark and poor, and Christ our Savior, the light bringing forth the gift of salvation to all.

Father was urging his listeners not to be filled with the anxiety and constant worry that many experience during this time of the year. Instead, he said to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and to make room in your heart for the Christ Child. The Angel said to Mary, “…you shall name him Jesus,” meaning, God saves.

This is a message of hope!

When my husband Tom and I lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land, we venerate the birthplace of Jesus: a grotto where animals were kept at that time, in Bethlehem, Palestine. We kneel and kiss the “star” marking the birthplace of Jesus. Today, a large basilica has been built around the grotto, but the small stone cave remains the simple, small, poor place was where the Savior, the Son of God was born!

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When Tom and I stood there for the first time, we thought of God’s immense love for us – to be born in darkness, in poverty, in simplicity, to show us that He is present to everyone wherever and whoever they are. Christ Jesus is the light, who came into darkness to give us new life and hope!

I would like to share with you this Christmas Prayer written by John Paul II:

I ask the Lord, tiny and defense-less as he appears before us in the crib, to inspire in every heart tenderness and compassion:
Wipe away, Baby Jesus, the tears of children! 
Embrace the sick and the elderly! 
Move men to lay down their arms and to draw close in a universal embrace of peace! 
Invite the peoples, O merciful Jesus, to tear down the walls created 
by poverty and unemployment, by ignorance and indifference,
by discrimination and intolerance.
It is you, O Divine Child of Bethlehem, who save us, freeing us from sin.
It is you who are the true and only Savior, whom humanity often searches for with uncertainty. 
Be our peace and our joy!
Amen!

Come Lord Jesus!

May you experience a blessed and joy-filled Christmas Season, and Blessed New Year!

How to Escape Anxiety and Stress

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Everybody knows this time of year can be stressful; no need for me to prove that point!

Last night, I began crying while unloading the dishwasher. Looking to the living room, I saw my husband sitting on the couch, which made me cry even more… ‘Why is he sitting on the couch when there’s so much to do??’ I went to blow my nose, and when I returned he motioned for me. “Come sit down with me for a second,” he said.

“No! There’s too much to do!” I argued. But I sat down anyway.

Stroking my hair, he asked what I was so stressed about. As I (blubberingly) listed everything, he asked me questions like, “Can we schedule a time for that?” and assured, “We’re in this together.” Slowly, the Enormous Problem Monster evaporated into thin air. My husband had helped me see the truth: I didn’t have to tackle everything at that very moment.

Sometimes, you’re so run-down because you feel like your entire world is set on your shoulders. That’s how I felt last night. So, imagine how I felt waking up this morning, sitting on that same couch, and reading the Gospel for today (the day I’m writing this)…

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Yoke

Jesus knew that sometimes we’d feel just like cattle, our shoulders carrying a heavy yoke tied to our entire world, plowing back and forth…back and forth…all day long…every day. That gospel, and my husband’s wisdom, reminded me of the key to escaping anxiety:

Just be with God. “Come to me,” Jesus beckons.

“No! There’s too much to do!” we argue. When we’re constantly go-go-go-ing, and doing, we get so tired. We start thinking, ‘What can I do, so I’ll feel less tired, so I can do more?‘ But we get burned out. We weren’t made to ‘do’ everything, all the time. We’re taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “human life has a rhythm of work and rest” (2184).

And what is rest?

“Come to me,” Jesus tells you, “and I will give you rest.”

After someone passes away, we pray the traditional — “Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.” — which reveals Heaven as the place of eternal and peaceful rest! Why?

Heaven is a state of being in complete union with God, forever. That’s ‘Eternal Rest.’ Shouldn’t that remind us that, while we’re alive, the only time and space we’ll find rest is being with God? “Come to me,” Jesus says. He wants to offer you an exchange: He’ll carry the world. You just come, and learn from Him.

I’ll leave you with a song that I heard a few days ago. It reminds me of a dialogue between our weary souls and God.
Enjoy resting.

How We Build the Body of Christ

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“The Eucharist makes the Church.”
– St. Augustine

I am very blessed that I have the joy of participating at daily Mass.

For so many years before I returned to the Church, I saw no need.  I was busy with my full time job, my social calendar and to be honest, life was about no one but me. Once I returned to my Catholic faith, I had little children underfoot and life was just too overwhelming.

My sons are teenagers now and morning Mass is just 10 minutes away from where I drop my younger son off at school, so every morning I am able to begin my day with Jesus in the Eucharist and my life enjoys a peace it has never known before.

A wonderful discovery I recently made in the treasure of Catholic teaching is what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings. Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you. . . . I am the vine, you are the branches.” And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”

788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit. As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.

789 The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ.

This means that when we participate at Mass, we are participating on behalf of all God’s people and we are building the body of Christ and bringing about the Kingdom of God.  When we say, “We lift our hearts to the Lord,” we are joining with Christ in offering to the Father ourselves, those we love and those we pray for. We are also joining all God’s people who are not there because they may be home sick, working, overwhelmed by runny noses and dirty diapers or because life right now is just about them.

What a blessing it is to be able to be at Mass every morning. What a blessing to participate for those who are unable to and share with them in the grace of building the body of Christ.

And, what a blessing to know that in the years I couldn’t and especially in those when I wouldn’t, someone was doing the same for me.

The Proper Ordering of Things

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A supporter of President Lincoln once remarked, “I certainly hope the Lord is on the side of the North.” Lincoln thought for a moment and responded, “About that I am not at all concerned, but only that we should be on the side of the Lord.”

The question is not whether God is on our side, heading our every call; but whether we are on His side, responsive to His call. He is the Creator, we are the created; He is the Alpha & Omega, we have an expiration date; He runs the universe, we can barely run our own lives.

It must be God first…God second… and God third.

In His infinite wisdom, God created the soul with needs that only He can meet. Placed deep within the heart of every man and woman is a yearning for love that trumps everything.  And this hunger can only be fed by God.  Our hearts are fashioned by God for God. The Creator of our thirst is also the fountain for our thirst.

As I reflect on the beginning of Advent and what this means to me, I am aware that I have a choice on how to order my days leading up to the most holy birth of Our Lord.  As I make my “to do” lists, I will also remember to schedule in quiet and prayerful time.  As I move about the busyness of Christmas with its many glittery and tempting distractions, I will also remember to be still.

Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:11)