30 Dec 2011

Happy New Year !

Hello Friends! How are you? Do you have an exciting event to attend (hopefully involving sequins!) for New Year’s Eve? We are making simple plans with the kids. I’m betting they will include watching movies and lighting fireworks at midnight. : ) 

At the end of this year…, before consigning the days and hours to God and to his just and merciful judgment, I feel the need in my heart to raise our “thank you” to him for his love for us.

Happy New Year to each of you!

Here is a short list of what I love about motherhood:

  • Having fun with my kids
  • Learning about them as they become their own persons
  • Having Hard, Deep and Real conversation with my kiddies
  • Sharing common interests and knowing that I had a hand in helping shape those interests
  • Being able to help my children become who they are meant to be

Reflections on January 1: Psalm 67 and Theotokos

I've been asked to substitute cantor Sunday morning at our former parish.  Yesterday, I chatted with the substitute organist over the phone and she's searching for the music to accompany Psalm 67. I'm making some inquiries. (Hey: if you know, let me know) In the meantime, I googled Psalm 67. It is a song of national thanksgiving. And then I thought about how we'll be singing this song on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God,  or Theotokos.

Please read more here....

29 Dec 2011

December 30 • Feast of the Holy Family...Learning to Love, Pray and Live in the School of Nazareth

The Feast of the Holy Family is dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, commemorating their life together in Nazareth and calling us to focus on Catholic family life.

The feast is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas, unless Christmas falls on a Sunday, in which case it is celebrated on December 30. According to the Fisheaters website  this feast is placed where it is on the calendar because “in Old Testament Law, a child wasn't a son of Abraham or a true part of the family until his circumcision at 8 days of age, an event of Christ's life that we celebrated on 1 January (from 25 December to 1 January are 8 days).” The feast was placed on the general calendar of the Roman Rite on October 26, 1921, by the Congregation of Rites under Pope Benedict XV.

Catholic Online

The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

Jesus spent 30 of his 33 earthly years in Nazareth. Some spiritual writers have called these the 'hidden years', because there is so little written about them in the Gospel narratives. However, they reveal the holiness of ordinary life and show us how it becomes extraordinary for those baptized into Christ. From antiquity the Christian family has rightly been called a domestic church. In our own Christian family we can learn the way of selfless love in the School of Nazareth.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
During the Octave (eight days) of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The significance of the Feast unfolds when we come to understand the deeper truths it reveals. It teaches us about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph- and about each one of us and our own families. Through our Baptism, we are invited to live our lives in Christ by living them in the Church - which is the Risen Body of Christ. The Church is the place where we learn, as the Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian Christians, to "put on love, that is, the bond of perfection". (Coll. 3:14)
The Gospel of the Liturgy is taken from the presentation of Jesus in the temple account in St. Luke and the beautiful canticle of Zechariah. (Luke 2:22-40) However, upon leaving the temple to return to Nazareth, we read these words: When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him."  
In a beautiful address on December 28, 2011, at his Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth. Here is a short excerpt: "The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
"The Holy Family is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".
The Christian family is the first cell of the whole Church. It is the place where we begin the journey toward holiness and become more fully human. The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us. He was born into a human family. That was neither accidental nor incidental. There, in what the late Pope Paul VI called the "School of Nazareth", we can learn the way of love. The late Pope's reflection called "The Example of Nazareth" is in the Office of Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours (the breviary) for the Feast of the Holy family.
Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving the world, re-creating it from within. To use a word from the early Church Father and Bishop St. Ireneaus, he was "recapitulating" the entire human experience. There, in the holy habitation of Nazareth, He forever transformed family life. Now, He teaches us how to live in His presence, if we will enroll in the "School of Nazareth".
From antiquity the Christian family has rightly been called a "domestic church." In our life within the Christian family Jesus Christ is truly present. However, we need the eyes to see Him at work, the ears to hear His instruction and the hearts to make a place for Him to dwell. In our family we can learn the way of selfless love by enrolling in the School of Nazareth.
Jesus spent 30 of his 33 earthly years in Nazareth. Some spiritual writers have called these the "hidden years", because there is so little written about them in the Gospel narratives. However, they reveal the holiness of ordinary life and show us how it becomes extraordinary for those baptized into Christ.
Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving, redeeming, and re-creating the world. From his conception, throughout His saving life, death and Resurrection, the One whom scripture calls the "New Adam" was making all things new. The Fathers of the last great Council of the Church put it this way:
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. .He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man.
"To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin" (Gaudium et Spes # 22) ...
In the holy habitation of Nazareth Jesus transformed family life. Already blessed as God's plan for the whole human race and the first society, the Christian family has been elevated in Christ to a Sacrament, a vehicle of grace and sign of God's presence. The Church proclaims Christian marriage, and the family founded upon it, is a vocation, a response to the call of the Lord. In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we learn the way of love in the School of Nazareth.
The phrase "domestic church" was one of particular fondness to the great Bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom. It was a framework for the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on Christian marriage and family. Blessed Pope John Paul II developed this teaching in his "Christian family in the Modern World" and his "Letter to the Family". In these writings he invites every Christian family to, using his pregnant phrase, "become what you are", a domestic church.
The Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary is not only our model, it is the beginning of the new family of the Church. Our Gospel story today tells us of a family trip which is packed with lessons for those enrolled in the School of Nazareth. In and through the ordinary stuff of daily life we find Jesus and in the encounter discover ourselves. Pope Paul VI wrote: "Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ's life was like and even to understand his Gospel. .Here we can learn to realize who Christ really is. . Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning."
We live in Church. We were baptized into the Lord and now live in His Risen Body as members. The Church is a communion, a relationship in Christ. The Christian family is the smallest cell of that Body of Christ. The extended church community is a family of families. This understanding is more than piety--it is sound ecclesiology, solid anthropology...it is reality. Family life is where the "rubber hits the road" for most Christians. It is here where the universal call to holiness, in all its real, earthy, humanness and ordinariness, is first issued. It is here where we learn the way of discipleship.
Family is where progress in the spiritual life can find its raw material. Whether we choose to respond to grace - and develop the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to accept the hidden invitations to learn to love beneath the surface of that daily "stuff" - is all wrapped up in the mystery of human freedom. Our choices not only affect the world around us, they make us become the people we will become.
St. Paul exhorted the early Christians to "Have this mind among yourselves which was in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself " (Phil. 2:5) The Greek word translated "emptied" in St. Paul's letter to the Philippians is "kenosis."
This word refers to the voluntary pouring out-like water-of oneself in an act of sacrificial love. This "emptying" is the proper response of the love of a Christian for the One who first loved us. It is also the very heart of the vocation of Christian marriage and family.
When the right choices are made in this life of "domestic kenosis", this life of domestic emptying lived in Christian family, we change. We are converted. We cooperate with the Lord's invitation to follow Him by exercising our human freedom; we choose to give ourselves away in love to the "other."
In this life of responding to the Lord's invitations we are gradually transformed into an image, a living icon, of Jesus Christ, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded the faithful. This way of holiness is not easy, as anyone who has lived the vocation can attest, but make no mistake; it is a very real path to holiness. It is also a wonderful one.
The challenge lies in the choices we make, daily, hourly, and even moment-by-moment. Two trees still grow in the garden of domestic life. They invite the exercise of our freedom, which is the core of the Image of God within us. There is the tree in Eden where the first Eve said, "No I will not serve." Then, there is the Tree on Calvary where Mary, the "second Eve" stood with the beloved disciple John and, along with him, again proclaimed her "yes".
Through those choices, presented to us from the moment we open our eyes every morning to the time we close them at night, we are invited to learn in the "School of Nazareth" and, in imitation of the Holy Family, become a domestic church. We are invited into a domestic kenosis, learning to love, pray and grow in holiness in the School of Nazareth
St. Paul wrote to the early Christians: "Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection." (Col. 3)
The first school of prayer and practice, the place where we learn this new way of life, is the first cell of the Church, the domestic church of the Christian family.
This young man only lived to be 18, but spent his life well.

The video above is part of the video dairy of a young American man, Ben Breedlove, aged 18.  This entry was made just days before he succumbs to the heart condition:  hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which one part of the heart is thicker than the other parts, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

In this diary entry you learn that Ben "cheated" death three other times in his short life, and each time he had an encounter with something greater than himself, each time he felt great peace and "did not want to come back."  Ben could not cheat death on Christmas Day, 2011. 

This young man did not let his heart condition stop him from living his life, loving what he did and being a positive light for the world.  Ben never seemed a young man who was embittered by his condition and that can only be credited to his parents. He seemed to be raised with a deep respect and love toward his family and friends, with a deep commitment to God and his faith. He was the "go-to-guy" among his friends for advice and his YouTube channel was creative and fun. He will be missed by all who were touched by this young man and his positive spirit.

As an 100 year old aunt told her niece: "Life is for the living. Live life for all who are living, not for the dead; remember the dead for they are part of your life, but don't stop living your life when the life of a loved one is over."

 RIP Ben

'God takes delight in his people.' Sunday Reflections for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Adoration of the Shepherds Murillo, painted 1646-50

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 2:16-21 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

The shepherds hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.


An Soiscéal Lúcás 13:33-37 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin d’imigh na haoirí anonn go Beithil go deifreach, agus fuair siad Muire agus Iósaef, agus an naíonán ina luí sa mhainséar. Agus ar a fheiceáil dóibh, d’inis siad an ní a dúradh leo mar gheall ar an leanbh seo. Agus cách a chuala, b’ionadh leo na nithe a dúirt na haoirí leo. Agus thaiscigh Muire ina cuimhne na nithe seo uile, ag machnamh orthu ina croí. Agus chuaigh na haoirí ar ais ag glóiriú agus ag moladh Dé faoinar chuala siad agus a bhfaca siad, de réir mar a bhí ráite leo.

Nuair a bhí ocht lá caite agus é le timpeallghearradh, tugadh Íosa mar ainm air, mar a thug an t-aingeal air sular gabhadh sa bhroinn é.


My mother once told me a story about her mother-in-law, my grandmother Jane Coyle, that made me smile. I was Jane’s first grandchild and my father John was her only child. When my mother would take me over to my grandparents’ house, as she often did, the neighbours would drop by to admire the infant, as people do. Some would say I looked like my father while others would say I was more like my mother. 

My mother discovered that after we had gone, especially if some had remarked that I looked like her, my grandmother Jane would go to the next-door neighbour and ask, ‘Doesn’t my grandson look like my son?’ (Jane Coyle died when I was three and was buried the day my brother was baptised).

One of my favourite lines in the Bible – I quoted it in Sunday Reflections for Christmas Day – is ‘God takes delight in his people’ (Psalm 149). This is from the Grail translation of the psalms, the version used in the English-language editions of the Breviary, the Prayer of the Church.  Psalm 149 appears in Morning Prayer of the Church on the first Sunday of the four-week cycle and on all solemnities and feasts. I had been praying this psalm regularly for many years before the line jumped out at me some time in the early 1990s. I can’t remember how or why.  

 I have some idea of the delight that God takes in us and in me from the kind of delight that I and most people I know take in a newborn child, even one whose circumstances of birth aren’t ideal. Murillo captures the delight of the shepherds, the light reflected from the infant Jesus showing it in their faces. We see St Joseph in the background. The light of Jesus is reflected most strongly in the face of Mary, who looks so young and almost vulnerable, a quieter delight on her face, taking in the wonder of what has happened. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2: 19). She is wearing red, the colour associated with the Holy Spirit, rather than the conventional blue. And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:34-35). 

The eyes of all in Murillo’s painting, and our eyes, are drawn to the Baby Jesus, the painter capturing the truth of St John’s words: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:4-5). 

Murillo’s painting is similar in ways to Gerrit van Honthorst’s Adoration of the Child that I used on Christmas Day and that you can see below. I do not know if Murillo was familiar with the earlier painting in which Mary is also wearing red and holding the cloth in almost the same way. Again, all eyes are on The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

Both paintings capture the beautiful blessing that God asked Moses to give to his people and that we listen to in the First Reading today: The LORD bless you and keep you:  The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them" Numbers 6:24-27). God truly takes delight in us, his sons and daughters. The birth of Jesus invites us to take delight in God who became Man.  

 [Scripture quotations from Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition].

Adoration of the Child Gerrit van Honthorst, painted c.1620

  Look toward the Lord and be radiant; let your faces not be ashamed (Cf Ps34[33]). Communion Antiphon, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Today is the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas. I came across this video on a couple of blogs today. The normally fearful Linus is not afraid to explain the meaning of Christmas by quoting the words of St Luke directly on the stage. At the words of the angel, 'fear not' he drops his security blanket, rather like the Apostles after Pentecost.

Happy New Year!
Manigong Bagong Taon!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh!

27 Dec 2011

Holy Innocents - 4th Day of Christmas

The Liturgical Year by Adolf Adam:

Even the oldest liturgical calendars already have a series of saints' feasts directly following on Christmas. The Middle Ages saw these saints as a crotege of honor accompanying the Christ-child, and gave them the name Comites Christi ("Companions of Christ"). In the Roman liturgy these companions are Stephen the first martyr on December 26, John the Apostle and Evangelist on December 27, and the children whom Herod slew in Bethlehem on December 28 (cf. Mt 2.13-18). These three were regarded as representing the three possible forms of martyrdom: voluntary and executed (Stephen), voluntary but not executed (John), and executed but not voluntary (Holy Innocents).

HT Jenn of Feast and Feria

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Today is the commemoration of the Holy Innocents

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under,in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping:
Rachel Weeping for Her Children
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.
Jeremiah 31:15


Another sad day during the Christmas Season.

I think in every Catholic Household, throughout the rich liturgical year, you should choose to celebrate the feasts and commemorations that have meaning for your household. The Feast of the Holy Innocents is one of those for my household since I lost my own baby in 2002. It speaks to me as a mother in grief over the loss of my child in "lamentation and bitter weeping, refusing to be comforted for my child because he was no more."

But more than that over the years, it reminds me to pray for the mothers and children who are victims of abortion, children lost to miscarriage and stillbirth, and other disasters. It is a day to remember the children, lives cut short, and to remember them and ask for their prayers too. Today in a special way, I remember Dana at Roscommon Acres whose little boy died in a home accident just before Christmas.

For me it will be a special day. It is true that the home in a mother's heart will always be there after the loss of a child. But I think it is also true that a new baby is the salve that makes the pain from that injury bearable. I didn't realize how much I still hurt until I compared my Christmases from 2002, 2003, and 2004 to the Christmases since Rosie was born. Certainly time and distance has helped, but the deep ache and emptiness I felt previously is not as severe. It's like remembering what it was like to be very hungry compared to being very hungry. It's that different. But going to mass today always helps me to heal some more. Tomorrow I will be attending a funeral mass for a little baby from our parish, and I hope I can bring some comfort there.

If you have lost a child, a son or daughter, sibling, little friend, today would be a good day to remember him or her. Join your prayers with the ones at mass today and ask your little friend in heaven to be your intercessor with the Father.

Today is also a special day to remember all of the little children who have died through abortion.
A Prayer for the Victims of Abortion.

Grave site of Baby John - found dead and alone at a construction site. Given a grave and Christian burial in 2005.

Blessing of Children on Feast of Holy Innocents:

Leader (Mother and/or Father): Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, because of a dream, you escaped being killed with the other babies of Bethlehem. As an adult, you embraced and blessed the little children who came to you. You wanted them to come to you and used them as examples in your teaching. Look now on the beauty and innocence of these children. Bless them, their parents and all who care for them.

The leader signs the forehead of each child with the sign of the cross.

In Your grace and goodness let these children advance in age and wisdom, aware of your love for them and desiring to love others in your name. Help them to be faithful to the gospel and to live lives of compassion. Then they will surely come to their heavenly home where they will live in perfect happiness forever. We ask this in confidence in your holy name.

All answer: "Amen."

Leader to the children: "May God bless you and keep you. May your heart and mind be open. May you live a life of love and caring for all of God’s people and all of creation. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

All answer: "Amen."

The Leader then sprinkles the children with holy water.

Today is also a good day to make a donation to theChurch of the Holy Innocents in New York.
The Shrine is a great source of comfort to mothers who have lost babies to miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and abortion.

christmas 2010 009
Mr. Pete, putting the finishing holiday touches on the grave of our son, Raphael last year - when we had snow!

christmas 2010 011

Other links for the Feast of the Holy Innocents in my Diigo links.

christmas 2010 010

In Bethlehem a Child was born

In Bethlehem a Child was born and changed the world. The birth of a child often does; any new parent will tell you so. This particular birth though, has impacted history – severing it into two portions: that which came before, and everything that followed His arrival. He is the central point from which we measure our years and centuries.

He not only divided time, He broke through the fabric of matter by uniting Divinity and humanity. He ruptured the boundaries of life and death. He confounded logic by teaching truth in paradoxes: the last shall be first; to gain life you must lose it; blessed are the poor.

“Let the little children come to me ... for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Is it possible that we can be such a child as He was? In Christ, we are born to new life and through Him we may approach the Father as His children. Even in that simple, childish state, God can work through us. If we trust Him, and abandon ourselves to Him like a child, He will use our hands to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, bind up the lame; our words to console the broken hearted. The innocence and vulnerability of a child can bring the strength and power of God into the world.

At this time of year it may be easier to feel capable of reaching out, being generous; easier, too, to have loving and cheerful attitudes. If only we could preserve the benevolence and forbearance that abounds during these days of glad tidings for when we’re feeling stretched beyond our limit during the ordinary, tedious days of February or July. We could dip into our store of comfort and joy to find the wherewithal to be patient with the children, forgiving of our spouse, tolerant toward our colleagues, helpful to our neighbours. We could have peace on earth and goodwill to all men. I didn’t find any of that advertised in the holiday fliers. Where I do see it is in depictions of the Nativity. In Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and angels giving praise to God for the fulfillment of a prophecy:

For a child will be born to us... and his name will be Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

'Some Children See Him'

I found this beautiful song, which I don't remember hearing before, on the website of the Columbans in Ireland. It was written by Alfred Burt. The male singer is Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991). I'm not sure who the female singer is nor do I know who put the video together. The recording goes back to the 1950s.

26 Dec 2011

The Gifts of Christmas: Will They Last?

We do our best, as parents, to offer our sons a life of faith and fun. We talk to them about our beliefs and they see us living our faith, however imperfectly, every day in the ways in which we work and love and encounter friends and strangers. Will this faith "stick?" Will they learn to weave this ancient faith of ours into their hearts so it becomes their own? Will they come understand that Christ's birth is not a sentimental event but rather a daily reality?

Read more here....

24 Dec 2011

A grinch in Advent

Every year in Advent I turn into a grinch.  So I am told, anyway.  Don't get me wrong.  I do not begrudge anyone their celebrations.  I get frustrated when people start going on about "the true meaning of the season."  Christmas is almost here, but it is not here yet.  It is still Advent and Advent is a season of penitant preparation.

This year my inner grinch came roaring out when I was watching TV.  (Always a mistkae this time of year.) One station was rpoudly advertising that they were celebrating "25 days of Christmas!"  I wanted to scream.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays.  II love the magic and the mystery.  Without this mysterious and exciting season before Christmas, Christmas deflates like a giant waving lawn Santa on December 26th.

Christmas is a joyful celebration of the coming of the King of Kings.  The story is familiar, but if we step back enough to appreciate it, it is astounding.  So we do, every year.  Poets, artists, musicians, and preachers have tried to capture details.  This is God's plan.  He sent his son to His people. Our broken relationship with our Father can be restored through His son. 

And He is coming back.

That is what Advent is all about.  I remember being taught that Advent is a season of waiting and preparing for Christ to come.  It is.  Waiting and preparing.  Follow the light in the darkness.  Listen for the voice in the wilderness.  Prepare.  Not because He came once and we like parties, but because he is coming back. 

Santa does not intimidate people who celebrate Advent.  He is not the driving force of the consumerism of the season.  The driving force is us.  We who are too busy to spend a month in penitential preparation; who desperately try to channel Martha Stewart, not John the baptist. 

So. I am a grinch.  Every year, I try not to grumble too much. I want to raise my daughter's to love and appreciate Advent and Christmas.  The lights, the colors, the joy and even the gift giving...delightful!  But delightfully empty unless they point us toward Christ.

This year my inner grinch came out swinging.  No!  I will not put up my lights or decorations.  I will not sing carols.  I won't even listen to the radio, because all my favorite stations are playing Christmas music. 

Perspective comes all on its own sometimes.  All accoutrement of the holiday can be just as distracting to someone who resists them.  The devil gets his foot in  where he can.  i was so caught up in not celebrating before it was time, but my focus was still on these trivial things.

Two days ago, I brought my daughter to the doctor with the flu.  She sent me to the hospital.  We will be in the ICU for Christmas. Since she was sick all week, nothing is decorated.  Nothing is even cleaned.  Did my inner grinch make me miss Christmas? 

Not at all.  Being here focuses what is important.  My daughter is very sick.  For Christmas this year, I get the peace of mind of knowing that she has the best possible care, and she will get better.  I get the joyful realization that I am surrounded by prayerful friends and family.  Sometimes I think it takes getting the rug pulled out from under me to get me on my knees, but here I am.  This grinch is peacefully sitting by her daughter's bedside, giving thanks for a Holy day that has been trimmed of nonsense. 

Christmas Blessings, 2011

23 Dec 2011

'In Times Like These', a song dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Sendong/Washi

Glenn, a young man who is studying law at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, the southern Philippines city hardest hit by Typhoon Sendong/Washi a week ago, wrote and recorded this song. His sister Maria Fe produced the video. Their parents, Joe and Annie, are teachers who grew up in Columban parishes in Mindanao.

Please continue to pray for the souls of those who have died, for those who are trying to pick up the pieces and for the many people who are working together for a better future for all.

The Stable of Bethlehem

O come Lord Jesus, tiny, frail, weak, helpless infant, come and remind me of why I adore you, lead me to the stable, welcome me to the manger! There allow me the humility to hear the very Word of God, spoken out of love, clothed in the flesh of the new born baby Jesus!
The stable scene is at the heart of the Christmas season. I have put my stable up in the sitting room of the presbytery. The baby is not in the manger yet but the scene is one of tranquillity, one of peace, of blessed serenity. That is how it should be. Despite the turmoil, the panic, the upset, the clamour and clatter of living; despite the rush and the hustle and bustle of the nature of modern living there the stable scene stands, offering peace, displaying utter peace. Why? Because he has come, the Word has been made flesh, the love of God once invisible is now visible, nothing in time will ever be the same again!
I spend hours each Christmas adoring at the stable, lovingly gazing upon the beauty I see before me. Is there anything more wondrous, more magical, more magnificent than the scene at the stable? The gift of God to his people is designed in the poverty and simplicity of the scene. The sheer humility of the surroundings allow us to enter into the mystery of the love that God has for us and that fills us with certainty, renews hope too!
Christmas is for the children I hear sometimes said glibly, as if as an adult the mystery becomes lost to our senses. But Christmas reminds me I am a child of God, an heir to the life of grace, and I am loved from the moment of my conception, from the womb, through childhood, into adulthood, beyond old age and after the grave claims my body, I am loved!
So as I contemplate the glory of God and marvel at the mystery of the nativity, I thank the Lord of all for the gift of his Son and pray to be a humble servant and a grateful child.

Taken from my blog at Humblepiety.


In a far distant time,
In a story so well known throughout the lands,
We hear once again about an angel
Who visits a young girl to announce God's plans. 

We hear about the angel's proclamation, "Behold..."  and her response, "Behold..."    

In both the Online Dictionary and in Merriam Webster dictionary the definition of BEHOLD is a transitive verb meaning:
1: to perceive through sight or apprehension : see
2: to gaze upon : observe

Literally, they are saying, "Watch, this will happen," it's an action on both sides; the Holy Spirit will come down and bring forth the pregnancy in Mary and, in turn, Mary will allow this in cooperation with God as His handmaid.  Human and divine working together for one purpose, love.

Behold, our God will bring us a savior, His name is Jesus!  Jesus loved us so much and He showed us in not so small ways throughout His earthly life.  Here, His mother begins His journey towards the goal of salvation!

The magnitude of these actions are dynamic yet are revealed in so humble a way that they can be misconstrued as simple, if not precious.  When looking at the big picture, this Advent cannot be precious, but amazing if not overwhelmingly incomprehensible!  This first step in the journey that leads us in so many ways in awe of what we have in salvation history, a faithful and loving Triune God who keeps His promises and loves us in a dimension not fully comprehended by man.

Throughout salvation history, we have witnessed the bravery, strength, and courage of so many of our brothers and sisters saying "Yes" to God's plan, empowering those around them and ourselves into the future to keep the faith and stay in the vineyards building the Kingdom of God in our midst.   Not only for ourselves, but those in the future generations who will need this more. The unknown is scary as the young Mary displayed in her conversation with Gabriel, but she pressed on for future generations, as we must too.  We must keep on fighting the good fight, pressing on with bravery, strength, and courage for the future generations that will need us more in the unknown times ahead.

"For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation."


Typhoon Sendong/Washi: Pastoral Letter of Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

Photos from Iligan.org

San Lorenzo Ruiz Church, Iligan City, a temporary evacuation center.

The Columbans are very familiar with both Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City, the two places most badly hit by Typhoon Sendong/Washi last weekend. 'Washi' was the international code-name for the storm, 'Sendong' the Philippine name. Columban Fr Rolly Aniscal lost a cousin and her two children in Cagayan de Oro. The children's bodies haven't been recovered yet.

I'm posting photos taken in Iligan City, which is about 90kms from Cagayan de Oro City.

New Zealander Fr Paul Finlayson and his team in the Columban-run Holy Rosary Parish, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro, are taking care of 25 families whose homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Venus Guibone, who worked in Ireland as a Columban lay missionary whose house was very badly damaged is among those being accommodated at St John Vianney Theological Seminary.

Full post here.

22 Dec 2011

'There is nothing further for him to say.' Sunday Reflections for Christmas Day

Adoration of the Child, Gerrit van Honthorst, painted c.1620

'God takes delight in his people'. [Psalm 149, Grail translation, used in the Breviary.]

Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines, USA):

Each Mass has its own specific prayers and readings. By attending any of them we fulfill our obligation on this great holy day.

The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to John (John 1:1-18). This gospel is read at the Mass During the Day. The translation is that of the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.

He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'")

And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

An Soiscéal, Eoin 1:1-18 (Gaeilge, Irish)
Bhí an Briathar ann i dtús báire
agus bhí an Briathar in éineacht le Dia,
agus ba Dhia an Briathar.
Bhí sé ann i dtús baire in éineacht le Dia.
Rinneadh an uile ní tríd
agus gan é ní dhearnadh aon ní dá ndearnadh.
Is ann a bhí an bheatha
agus ba é solas na ndaoine an bheatha.
Agus tá an solas ag taitneamh sa dorchadas,
ach níor ghabh an dorchadas é.

Bhí fear a tháinig ina theachtaire ó Dhia,
agus Eoin a ba ainm dó.
Tháinig sé ag déanamh fianaise
chun fianaise a thabhairt i dtaobh an tsolais
chun go gcreidfeadh cách tríd.
Níorbh é féin an solas
ach tháinig ag tabhairt fianaise i dtaobh an tsolais.
An solas fírinneach
a shoilsíonn gach aon duine,
bhí sé ag teacht ar an saol.
Bhí sé ar an saol
agus is tríd a rinneadh an saol,
agus níor aithin an saol é.

Chun a chuid féin a tháinig
agus níor ghlac a mhuintir é.
Ach an uile dhuine a ghlac é,
thug sé de cheart dóibh
go ndéanfaí clann Dé díobh,
dóibh seo a chreideann ina ainm,
an mhuintir nach as folanna a rugadh iad
ná as toil feola,
ná as toil fir ach ó Dhia.

Agus rinneadh feoil den Bhriathar
agus chónaigh sé inár measc,
agus chonacamar-na a ghlóir,
a ghlóir mar Aonghin ón Athair,
lán de ghrásta agus d’fhírinne.Tagann Eoin ag tabhairt fianaise ina thaobh
agus glaonn in ard a ghutha:
“É seo an té a ndúirt mé faoi:
‘An té atá ag teacht í mo dhiaidh,
tá an tosach aige orm mar bhí sé ann romham.’”

Óir ghlacamar uile as a lánmhaireacht,
sea, grásta ar ghrásta.
Tugadh an dlí go deimhin trí Mhaois,
ach tháinig an grásta agus an fhírinne trí Íosa Críost.
Ní fhaca aon duine riamh Dia.
An tAonghin atá i gcochall chroí Dé,
eisean a d’aithris.


'There is nothing further for him to say'

On the Monday of the Second Week in Advent, the Second Reading in the Office of Readings is from The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St John of the Cross. Here is a brief extract from that reading that for me says everything:

When God gave us, as he did, his Son, who is his one Word, he spoke everything to us, once and for all in that one Word. There is nothing further for him to say.


'Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart' [Luke 2:19, Gospel of Mass During the Day].


Christmas in Our Hearts is one of the most popular Christmas songs in the Philippines and first appeared in 1990. The words were written by Rina Cañiza and Jose Mari Chan and the music by the latter. Here he sings it with his daughter Liza.
¡Feliz Navidad!
Happy Christmas!
Nollaig shona daoibh!
Malipayon nga Pascua!

21 Dec 2011

Help Me Out Here: Is The Family Christmas Letter A Uniquely American Tradition?

Every year since my husband and I started having babies, I have written and mailed a family Christmas letter. The first year, I hand wrote it since we didn't have a home computer and I traced our infant son's hand in the letter. For me, our first letter was a sign I really was a grown up. After all, I now had a husband, a baby, a washing machine and an annual Christmas letter.

Today, I emailed this year's letter to a dear friend, a graduate student who has moved home to Milan.

"Thanks for the letter!" she emailed back. "Is it an American tradition? I've never read one before."

Read more here...

Christmas Cookies Recipe (Revised Translation)...Or Formally Equivalent Christmas Cookies Recipe

Commonweal Online

Serves many

Enjoy and Have A Merry Christmas!!!

LIGO/Virgo: Another First

Another gravitational wave observation gave scientists the best evidence yet about one aspect of merging stars. On August 17, 2017, folks ...