Monday, December 30, 2013

Idol Worship

As a Catholic Priest, who has a history of dialogue with non-Catholic Christians, one of the most common accusations based upon faulty assumptions is that we worship idols. Namely, that we worship Mary the Mother of Jesus and the saints, those men and women that the Church declares to be in Heaven. Catholics have heard this so much that at times they become immune to its affects. Yet, when we stop to analyze what is being said we should at least be mildly offended that some how we are being accused of not knowing our God. We worship one God in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not even a marginal Catholic would lay claim to anything less.

The logic that motivates such a gross assumption comes from a pure idea. Jesus Christ our Lord is the one mediator between God and man. If Jesus is the one mediator then why would I need to ask the communion of saints to pray for me? This is a very good question and one that can be answered clearly.

As people that believe in Jesus Christ we are all connected. To use St. Paul’s example we are one body with Christ as the head. As members of the one body we have been given different charisms, gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit. These gifts are not to be held to ourselves. In fact, they only are effective to the extent that they are shared and given away. Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)

I have been blessed to know so many incredible men and women in the Church. Each one of them possess talents and gifts that overwhelm me with the realization that God is working in them in mighty ways. I am so convinced of their unity with Jesus Christ that I continually ask for their prayers. As Christians, don’t we all know some pretty incredible people with amazing gifts that can pray for us? Having said that, if we are one body, each with different graces and charisms, why would our communion with one another in Jesus Christ cease because of death?

St. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ, especially death. (Romans 8:35-39) If I ask my brothers and sisters on this side to pray for me then why wouldn’t I continue to ask my brothers and sisters on the other side to pray for me? Especially considering that it is safe to say that the gifts, charisms and graces that we were blessed with in our brokenness on Earth are only stronger, purer and more effective for the building up of the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

If my prayers are efficacious now how much more efficacious will they be in the age when I am completely united to God? Some people have the misconception that once you reach Heaven you are cut off from what is happening on Earth. If a Mother, who prayed and sacrificed on Earth for her children to return to Church and find salvation, suddenly died, would she simply forget about that passionate desire? Or would that desire become all the more intense in light of the true brilliance of Heavenly realities? Some would argue that the Saints have no way of hearing our petitions but if they are united to God completely why is this such a hard thing to believe? In the book of Revelation 5:8 it says: “Each one (of the saints) had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” The saints are depicted as possessing our prayers and offering them to God. I think it is safe to say that the desires and prayers of the saints are powerful and needed and that through Christ they remain connected to us not just as a memory but in reality. God allows each of us to participate in his mission. We simply do not get to Heaven and float around on lazy river to the strums of angelic harps sipping choice spirits. If we are called to build the Kingdom of God while on Earth the same holds true in Heaven. Lastly, in regards to Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Angel Gabriel, the mouthpiece of God, greeted her with the term “full of Grace.” (Luke 1:28)

Mary was a human being like you and me but she certainly was and is the most special member of our race. Only she was designed and created to become the New Ark of the Covenant. By her profound yes, her fiat as we say, she conceived the son of God in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary carried the second member of the trinity in her womb for 9 months, fed him from her body and raised him. She was and is indeed full of Grace. Therefore, Mary has the most special ability to intercede for the body of Christ. All the graces, charisms and gifts that she was showered with in this life are only that much more magnificent in Heaven. Can you see now why we call her the Queen of all the Saints? She is not a deity that we worship. She wouldn’t want worship anyway. Her only desire is the same one in the heart of the communion of all the saints, that we all come to the knowledge and love Jesus Christ and are with Him for all of eternity. It is all about Jesus Christ. Our Mother Mary and the saints know that better than anyone on Earth.

Fr. Claude Burns aka Pontifex

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Feast of the Holy Family

Holiness does not consist in being perfect.
Rather, holiness is a path, to be chosen, a path which leads to God,
a path we need to strive to walk faithfully,
even though we may fail along the way.

When it comes to personal holiness or a family’s holiness,
we might be tempted to think that “one size should fit all.”
I hope our own experience of ourselves, of others, of other families
might show us what I’m sure God knows,
that every family has its own size and fit when it comes to holiness.

THE Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
certainly didn’t fit the customary pattern:
a virgin mother, a foster father, a 12-year-old son who runs away,
convinced that he must preach God’s word in the temple in Jerusalem.
And THEY are the holiest of all holy families!
Each of these three strove, faithfully,
to be what God's love asked of them.

Not because we are all that holy
but because we seek to walk the holy path to God,
the Lord invites us, our church family, to his table this morning
and we come here, as a parish, with all the gifts and graces,
the beauty and brokenness,
the generosity and greed, the sacrifice and selfishness,
the hopes and the hurts that mark every family.

May the sacrament we receive here
renew our desire in the New Year ahead
to walk that path that leads each of us,
our families
and all of us
to the holiness of God.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Messiah in the Mess

Whenever the subject of ‘worst fears’ comes up, a lot people have to think really hard to come up with something. I always wondered if it was because they aren’t afraid of anything or if they’re afraid to say what they’re afraid of.


I never have to think very long about my worst fear. Cockroaches. I mean honestly, they’re the worst. It doesn’t make me a sissy, either. I’ve seen guys who are basically body builders jump a little when they see a roach. By association, I’m kind of afraid of the dark too – since that’s where cockroaches live.

Our fears can drive us to do some pretty silly things. For example, I live by a personal code that every small, dark moving object is treated as a roach until proven otherwise. So I’m the guy who’s always glancing around the room every time I think I see something suspicious in my peripherals.

But let’s be honest. Sometimes our fears drive us to do things that actually affect our lives in serious ways. One fear many of us have is embarrassment. Being embarrassed usually leads deeper to being ashamed. When we’re ashamed of something, we tend to hide it.

Remember those people I talked about earlier who think of something simple and don’t say their real worst fears? Confession: I’m one of them.


See, I’m not that embarrassed about being afraid of roaches. They’re nasty and no one likes them. All throughout high school and college, my biggest fear was actually that I wouldn’t end up being a good dad/husband. Many of my friends came from divorced homes. I never understood what was so hard about it until my parents got divorced in junior year. I thought, “Welp, that’s it for me. Your family is your foundation. If it’s broken, I’m broken.”

I started to believe that no one could actually love me forever. Not if they knew the real me, when I’m having a bad day and I’m at my worst. Love that lasts forever, marriage, it all seemed far away from me, like it couldn’t be real anymore. I also started to wonder if I could actually love someone forever, too. This left me really scared.

I never told anyone about that fear. In fact, I hid it deep in my heart.

Then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say… wait, scratch that, sorry. Wrong story.

Then one snowy Christmas eve, I was on vacation with some friends. When we got back to our cabin that night, since we’d been at the vigil Mass, we put the baby Jesus figure into the nativity scene. That image was powerful for me and I started to think a little bit more about what Christmas and Advent were all about.

See, the nativity scene is sort of messy. Looking at it, I was always a little confused. Why does this barn only have three walls? What’s with the animals? Who are those three king-looking dudes and what are they holding? The whole thing made no frankin’ sense to me. Why would Jesus want to be there? It’s not fit for a King.

What I came to realize is that it’s exactly where Jesus wants to be! Right in our mess.

Most scholars agree that Jesus was actually born in a cave, not a stable. I got to thinking… is there anywhere on Earth darker than a cave? Not that I’ve seen. I’ve been caving a few times before, and it’s about as dark as dark gets.

What a beautiful message Jesus is giving us. He’s like, “HEY! I want to be born into the darkest place you’ve got. What’s the place in your heart where you haven’t let light shine in a really long time? That’s where I want to be.”

See, unlike me and most 5 year olds, Jesus isn’

t afraid of the dark. He’s not afraid of what’s hidden in the dark, whether it’s cockroaches or the brokenness in our hearts. This Christmas, the Light of the World is coming crashing in to our darkness. We don’t need to be ashamed of what He’ll find there. He’s coming with His power and His healing. He’s coming with love!

Love! The very thing I was afraid I was incapable of!

When I let Jesus into that part of my heart, He really turned things around. I had so many wounds that were able to fester since I kept them in the dark for so long. He helped a lot of questions get answered, and helped me come to terms with the ones that just might never be answered. He helped me love selflessly and showed me how to receive love again without fear.

Jesus didn’t come to blame me for my mess. I’d done plenty of that. He came to pick up the pieces and make something beautiful.

So my encouragement to you this Advent is to continue to make room for Jesus. Find the places in your heart and life that maybe you’ve kept out of the light for a while. The places you’re ashamed of. Let Jesus in because it’s exactly where He wants to be born into this Christmas. He isn’t afraid of the dark.

Be God’s.
Dom Quaglia

Thursday, December 26, 2013

St. Stephen

Writing on St. Stephen: Fr. Steve Grunow, at Word on Fire, notes:

Today the Church remembers the witness of Saint Stephen, the first of the Church’s martyrs. The cruelty of his death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, as is the manner in which he died, transforming the violence that took his life into an occasion to give witness to an authority greater than those fallen powers who would rule us by fear and threats.

That the Church remembers Saint Stephen today is no accident. Strip away the sentimentality that obscures the story of Christ’s Nativity and one realizes that Christ came into this world, and from the first instant he showed his infant face, he was opposed. Recall yesterday’s excerpt from the magnificent prologue to the Gospel of John which testifies that Christ came to his own (us) and his own (again, that means us) “knew him not.” But worse than this- we refused him.

And many still do.



The 25th day of December, the twenty-second of the Moon:

Countless centuries past from the creation of the world,
when, in the beginning,
God created the heavens and the earth
and formed man in his own image;

Likewise many ages since after the Flood,
when the Most High extended the rainbow across the heavens
as the sign of his Covenant and of peace;

In the 21st century since the migration of Abraham, our father in faith,
from Ur of the Chaldeans;
the 13th century after the exodus of Israel from Egypt, led by Moses,
roughly a millennium from the anointing of David as King;

In the 65th week, as prophesied by Daniel,
the 194th Olympiad,
the 752nd year from the foundation of the City of Rome,
the 42nd year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace:

Eternal God,
Eternal Son of the Father,
seeking to consecrate the world by coming into it;
conceived by the Holy Spirit,
nine months having passed since his conception,
in Bethlehem of Judea
was born of the Virgin Mary
and became man.

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

* * *There's the traditional Christmas Proclamation... and here, something a little more recent:

I can read [the sign] there, written large: "The poor aren't able to wait!" Beautiful! And this makes me think that Jesus was born in a stable, he wasn't born in a house. Then he had to flee, to go to Egypt to save his life. Only finally did he return home to Nazareth. And I think today, even while reading that sign, of the many families without a home, whether they never had one or they've lost it for any number of reasons. Family and home go together. It's really difficult for a family to move forward without having a home of their own. In these days of Christmas, I invite everyone – individuals, social entities, authorities – to do everything possible so that every family might have a home!...

To one and all, I wish you a Christmas of hope, of justice, and of brotherhood – buon pranzo e arrivederci!
–Pope Francis
22 December 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

For Unto Us a Child is born!

"Bambino, Bring Peace" – In Francis' Christmas Prayer, A Call To Be "Moved"

The text of Pope Francis’s Christmas message, delivered today,Christmas Day, in Italian from the balcony at St. Peter’s:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Luke 2:14)

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Christmas!

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.

I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

Glory to God!

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.

May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.

Peace to mankind.

True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick. Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!

Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.

Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.

Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.

Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!

Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.

Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Prayer

Dear God,

There is an empty chair near the tree,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our faces.

We may try to shield one another
from the grief we bear
but we cannot hide it from you.

We pray for (names)
whose presence we miss so much
in these days of peace and joy.

Open our hearts and minds
to the healing, the warmth,
the light of your presence.

We pray, Lord, and we trust
that those we miss
have found the place you prepared for them,
their home within your heart.

Open our hearts, Lord,
to joyful memories of love shared
with those who have gone before us.

Help us tell the stories
that make the past present
and bring us close again
to those we miss.

Teach us to lean on you, Lord,
and on each other,
for the strength we need
to walk through these difficult days.

Be with us as we cry and sing our our way
through Christmas cards and carols;
help us find and open the present you bring:
the gift of your peace
in the birth of the child we call Christ.

And give us quiet moments
with you, with our thoughts,
with our memories and prayers.

Be with us, Lord,
and hold us in your arms
even as you hold those
who have gone before us.

Help us to trust that one day
we shall be with those we love
when your mercy gathers us together
in the joy of the life you promise us.

This is the Christmas you have made, Lord,
the only one we'll have this year:
help us to rejoice in it
and in the blessings of your peace.


H/T A Concord Pastor

Tuesday Tunes

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Guard the mystery with silence

Only silence guards the mystery of the journey that a person walks with God, said Pope Francis in his homily at Mass on Friday morning at the Casa Santa Marta.

May the Lord, the Pope added, give us “the grace to love the silence”, which needs to be guarded from all publicity. In the history of salvation, neither in the clamour nor in the blatant, but the shadows and the silence are the places in which God chose to reveal himself to humankind. The imperceptible reality from which his mystery, from time to time, took visible form, took flesh.

The Pope’s reflections were inspired by the Annunciation, which was today’s Gospel reading, in particular the passage in which the angel tells Mary that the power of the Most High would “overshadow” her. The shadow, which has almost the same quality as the cloud, with which God protected the Jews in the desert, the Pope said. “The Lord always took care of the mystery and hid the mystery.

He did not publicize the mystery. A mystery that publicizes itself is not Christian; it is not the mystery of God: it is a fake mystery! And this is what happened to Our Lady, when she received her Son: the mystery of her virginal motherhood is hidden. It is hidden her whole life! And she knew it. This shadow of God in our lives helps us to discover our own mystery: the mystery of our encounter with the Lord, our mystery of our life’s journey with the Lord.” “Each of us,” affirmed the Pope, “knows how mysteriously the Lord works in our hearts, in our souls.” And what is “the cloud, the power, the way the Holy Spirit covers our mystery?”

“This cloud in us, in our lives is called silence: the silence is exactly the cloud that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, of our holiness and of our sins. This mystery that we cannot explain. But when there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guarding the mystery with silence! That is the cloud, that is the power of God for us, that is the strength of the Holy Spirit.”

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Humility and Fruitfulness

Pope Francis Reflects on God's Miracle of Life in the Midst of Sterility

VATICAN CITY, December 19, 2013 - In order to be fruitful, one must have the humility to recognize one's aridness in order for God to act.

This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

Today’s readings, which both recount God giving the gift of life to barren women, are a testament to God giving us life in our own sterility. “From the impossibility to give life, life comes,” he said.

“The Lord intervenes in the life of this woman to tell us: ‘I am able to give life’, the Pope said. “Even in the prophets there is the image of the desert, the deserted earth incapable of making a tree grow, a fruit, to make anything grow. ‘But the desert will be like a forest - the Prophets say - it will be great, it will flourish.’ But can the desert flourish? Yes. Can the sterile woman give life? Yes. That promise of the Lord: I can! I can, from the dryness, from your dryness, make life grow, salvation! From aridity I can make fruit grow!”

The intervention of God, he continued, is what makes us fruitful and takes us on the road of sanctity, not our own strength or will. The Holy Father highlighted two things necessary for the Lord to act.

“First: [we must] recognize our dryness, our incapacity to give life. Recognize this. Second, to ask: ‘Lord, I want to be fruitful. I want my life to give life, that my faith be fruitful and go forward and I can give it to others.’ ‘Lord I am sterile. I can’t. You can. I am a desert. I can’t. You Can.’”

Pope Francis went on to say that this time before the Christmas celebration is an appropriate time to ask God for this grace. However, there is one essential element to this prayer to the Lord: humility.

“Humility is necessary for fertility,” the Pope said.The humility to tell the Lord: ‘Lord, I am sterile, I am a desert’ and repeat in these days that beautiful antiphon that the Church makes us pray: ‘Oh Son of David, oh Adonai, oh Wisdom - today - oh root of Jesse, oh Emmanuel, come give us life, come save us, because only You can. I alone can’t!’

This humility, the Pope concluded, will prepare us to receive the grace “to flourish, to give fruit and to give life.” (J.A.E.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas works when...

Christmas works when we shatter the false gods of materialism, and the idols of ambition, and the demons of self-importance, and set up the Christ child as the promise and priority of our lives. When Christ is the center of our daily living, then the other demons will fade away.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Papal Birthday

A delightful detail from the breakfast meeting Pope Francis had today with three homeless men (and a dog), from CNS:

As part of a low-key celebration of his 77th birthday, Pope Francis had breakfast with three people who live on the streets near the Vatican. A small dog belonging to one of the homeless men was also on the guest list.

The pope started the day with his usual morning Mass held in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence where he lives.

However, he requested that the Mass be attended by the residence staff “in order to create a particularly family atmosphere for the celebration,” the Vatican press office said in a written statement Tuesday. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, represented the world’s cardinals at the Mass, and Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, attended.

After the Mass, all those present sang “Happy Birthday” to the pope, the Vatican statement said. The pope then met with everyone, including three homeless men who were brought there by Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner.

The archbishop invited the first group of men he had found early that morning sleeping under the large portico in front of the Vatican press hall on the main boulevard in front of St. Peter’s Square, according to the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

“Would you like to come Pope Francis’ birthday party?” he asked them, the paper reported.

The men, in their 40s, were from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. They loaded all their belongings in the archbishop’s car; the dog rode in the middle.

When they got to the residence, they waited for the Mass to end, then greeted the pope. Together with Krajewski, they gave the pope a bouquet of sunflowers because they always turn toward the sun like the church turns toward its sun, Christ, the archbishop said.

The pope invited the men to have breakfast with him in the residence dining room, where they talked and shared a few laughs.

One of the men told the pope, “It’s worthwhile being a vagrant because you get to meet the pope,” the paper said.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I hate being a shepherd.

Over at First Things, today, we meet a shepherd who hates the sheep; he hates their stink and their stupidity — he dreams of being a pirate, and even pays grudging respect to the wolves he must keep at bay:

It is different for his son, my cousin. Joining us in the fields, he had adopted the self-important swagger of a boy set to working among the men, but a month of raw weather, of keeping predators at bay while saving the sheep from themselves—for there is no stupider creature on G-d’s earth than a sheep—has brought a dullness to his step. A wolf can be cunning, but does not have to be; even a lupine dullard is smarter than the filthy, stinking sheep we guard and save and lead and nurse back to health, when we can.

This sheep, my uncle pronounces, as he treats the wound with garlic and honey and binds it tightly, will likely live; its wound is slight. As I watch him work, my imagination and my stomach conspire against me. Our meal tonight was only lentils and bread and at the notion of a lamb roasted with garlic my gut has gone rude and noisy.

This, more than anything, overwhelms whatever meager pleasures a shepherd might take in his labors: the hunger. For all that the night-sky fascinates and the breezes alive in the grassy pastures may bring delight, there remains a constant sense of hunger—of an appetite never fully assuaged. This gnawing emptiness is no accident of poor planning; it is by design. To be slightly hungry is to be awake, alert. A shepherd who eats his full finds his senses dulled—he becomes more likely to want a nap and that always becomes a hard sleep. If a predator comes, or a sheep gets himself lost, or trapped—or has stumbled into harm’s way, as they always do—the shepherd will be too weighed down to react; his reflexes too slow. One cannot run well with a full belly.

Still, when we bake our breads upon the fire daily, my wish is to add a few fistfuls of flour into the mix; to bake enough bread to fill in the chinks until I am finally sated. When I have tried, always my older brother has stayed my hand. “We have the rations,” I argue, but he shakes his head. “Be prudent and stay prepared,” he says. “Each day we must have bread.”

I hate being a shepherd.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Without prophecy, only clericalism

(Vatican Radio) A church without prophets falls into the trap of clericalism. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Masson Monday morning in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis said a prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future. True prophets, the Pope said, hold within themselves three different moments: past, present, and future. They keep the promise of God alive, they see the suffering of their people, and they bring us the strength to look ahead. God looks after his people, the Pope continued, by giving them prophets in the hardest times, in the midst of their worst suffering. But when there is no spirit of prophecy amongst the people of God, we fall into the trap of clericalism. In the Gospel, for example, the priests ask Jesus: "With what authority do you do these things? We are the masters of the Temple!" They didn’t understand the prophecy, Pope Francis said, they had forgotten the promise. They didn’t know how to read the spirit of the times, they didn’t listen to the words of God, they had only their authority. When there is no prophecy amongst the people of God, the emptiness that is created gets filled by clericalism. All memory of the past and hope for the future are reduced only to the present: no past promise, no future hope. But when clericalism reigns supreme, Pope Francis said, the words of God are sorely missed, and true believers weep because they cannot find the Lord. As we prepare for the birth of the Lord, Pope Francis concluded, let us pray: "Lord, let us not lack prophets amongst your people!" All those who are baptised are prophets: let us not forget God’s promise, let us not tire of moving forward.

Tuesday Tunes

Following up on their rendition of "Little Drummer Boy," the acappella group Pentatonix is back with a cover of "Angels We Have Heard On High."

Singing in front of a backdrop of human-sized nutcrackers, frosted Christmas trees and flashing lights, the quintet's version of the holiday classic is about as excellent as it gets.

Watch below.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Advent Prophet

The prophet Isaiah suggests that the Savior is much more “earthy” than one would ever imagine. In chapter 40, the prophet lays out the Messiah’s real essence — a combination of sights, sounds and scents that will change the world. Here are a few of the aromatic ingredients:

Freshly turned earth. Anyone who’s been involved in a construction project knows that when bulldozers and backhoes show up on site things will begin to change in a hurry. Excavation breaks up the hard ground, turning the old landscape into something new and different. New construction means new possibilities and new beginnings.

Isaiah announces that the Messiah will usher in such a project — that the old, hardened crust of sin and guilt will be broken up in preparation for his arrival. “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel


O Come, O Come Emmnauel is one of the great Advent songs. The tune is slow and majestic and "haunting" and thrilling. The theology of the words is impeccable. The song is ancient. . . . and the author is unknown. We have no idea who wrote this. Just some monk sometime before 800 A.D. A time in history we often call "the Dark Ages." Civilization, it seemed, had broken down and mankind was sliding backwards into more chaos, ignorance, pestilence, and unending warfare. But someone, somewhere in a monastery in Europe, penned a song that would reach across the ages to encourage and thrill millions even in the 21st century. Who knew? During those "Dark Ages" the Bible was inaccessible for most people. But the monk who composed this song must have had a full and rich knowledge of Scripture.

The song displays a wealth of phrases from Old Testament prophecies that speak of the coming of the Messiah. He is "the rod of Jesse," the "Dayspring from on high," the "Key of David," and "Wisdom from on high." For the people of the Medieval world who did not have a Bible to read, this was a teaching tool, expressing the hope and truth of Christmas--- the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in the birth of Christ. But how did this tune become so popular worldwide?

In the early 19th century an Anglican priest named John Mason Neale was reading through an ancient book of hymns called the "Psalteroium Cantionum Catholicarum." Rev. Neale easily translated the Latin into English and gave the world a song. Soon his translation made it to England, and from there "across the pond" to America and around the world. A gift was penned by unnamed monks over 1200 years ago. Given a tune by nuns in an obscure convent. Rediscovered by a forgotten evangelist off the coast of Africa.

The song of Emmanuel--- "God with us." Hidden for centuries but now enjoyed by millions worldwide. No one does it alone. God is the One who orchestrates history. And the theme of His song is "Emmanuel." O Come Thou Dayspring come and cheer/ our spirits by Thine Advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night/ and death's dark shadows put to flight; Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


The third Sunday in Advent, also referred to as Gaudete Sunday, takes on a tone slightly different from the others: It is a symbol of joy, hence, the more festive rose color.

In Latin, the word “guadete” means rejoice.

The theme of Guadete Sunday is captured from the very beginning of the service with its opening scripture from Philippians 4:4-5: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

A Child in Winter

A great book by one of my favorite authors, A Child In Winter: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany by Caryll Houselander.

Christ never goes away, never forgets,
all day long,
however you are,
whoever you are,
whatever you are doing...

His whole heart is concentrated on you...

He watches you with the eye of a mother
watching an only child...

He sees not the surface things,
not the imperfections inevitable to human frailty,
but the truly lovable in you,
your dependence on him,
your need of him...

Does a mother love her child less
because it fallen and bruised herself?
No, indeed; only (if that is possible) more!

What then must we do?


Be silent...

Let Christ speak to you...

Forget yourself,
do not be self-centered,
let him tell you how he loves you,
show you what he's like,
prove to you that he is real.

Silence in your soul
means a gentle attention to Christ,
it means turning away from self to him,
it means looking at him,
listening to him...

God speaks silently...

God speaks in your heart;
if your heart is noisy, chattering,
you will not hear...

Every ordinary thing in your life is a word of God's love:
your home, your work, the clothes you wear,
the air you breathe, the food you eat,
the friends you delight in, the flowers under your feet
are all the courtesy of God's heart flung down on you!

All these things say one thing only:
"See how I love you."
And God asks only one thing,
that you will let him tell you this, directly, simply,
"See how I love you..."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Person of the Year

Here is an excerpt of what TIME has to say about the just-named Person of the Year.

What do you have do say about him? 

"Wednesdays, he has a general audience around lunchtime in St. Peter’s Square, which brings in the multitudes. On a bright December day, the festive crowd numbers about 30,000. It’s the season of light, and Francis is talking about the Resurrection. He appears to have a cold; he needs the handkerchief tucked in his robes. But his voice is strong, though higher than you’d expect, and more musical, like that of a storyteller with a full range of context and characters to bring to his mission of making you listen. He has a script in hand because once he finishes the lesson, it will be repeated by priests reading in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, English and Arabic.

But every so often, he can’t help himself. The script falls to his lap and he leans forward, looks out over the crowd and just starts talking, his hands in the air, his voice stronger now, doing his own call and response. Jesus is risen, and so shall we be one day, he tells them. And as though they might not quite grasp the implication, he pushes them: “But this is not a lie! This is true!” he says. “Do you believe that Jesus is alive? Voi credete?” “Yes!” the crowd calls back, and he asks again, “Don’t you believe?” “Yes,” they cry. And now he has them. They have become part of the message. He talks about Christ’s love like a man who has found something wondrous and wants nothing more than to share it. “He is waiting for us,” Francis says. And when he comes to the end of his homily, the script drops once more. “This thought gives us hope! We are on the way to the Resurrection. And this is our joy: one day find Jesus, meet Jesus and all together, all together—not here in the square, the other way—but joyful with Jesus. This is our destiny.” Once the service ends, he greets the Cardinals in attendance on the dais, then walks over to meet first with the sick, then with special guests. Many have brought him gifts, mementos: a small statue of a merry Jesus on a yellow silk altar, a painting of Christ, a coffee-table book of photos from Austria. One man poses with him for a selfie; others do not want to let go of his hand. The ushers and security guards try to keep him moving, but he has more words to speak, pilgrims to meet and missions to launch before the day is over. It’s hard to imagine a setting farther from Pasaje C. But if Francis can order his steps, it’s not so far at all. "

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531 a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to Saint Juan Diego, a poor Indian from Tepeyac, a hill northwest of Mexico City. She identified herself as the Mother of the True God and instructed him to have the bishop build a church on the site and left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth. The tilma should have deteriorated within 20 years but shows no sign of decay after over 470 years. It to this day defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

Apparently the tilma in the eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe, even reflects what was in front of her in 1531! Her message of love and compassion, and her universal promise of help and protection to all mankind, as well as the story of the apparitions, are described in the "Nican Mopohua," a 16th century document written in the native Nahuatl language.

There is reason to believe that at Tepeyac Mary came in her glorified body, and her actual physical hands rearranged the roses in Juan Diego’s tilma, which makes this apparition very special.

An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Each year an estimated 10 million people visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world after Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Altogether 24 popes have officially honored Our Lady of Guadalupe. His Holiness John Paul II visited her Sanctuary four times: on his first apostolic trip outside Rome as Pope in 1979, and again in 1990, 1999 and 2002.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated on December 12th. In 1999, Pope John Paul II, in his homily given during the Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, his third visit to the sanctuary, declared the date of December the 12th as a Liturgical Holy Day for the whole continent. During the same visit Pope John Paul II entrusted the cause of life to her loving protection, and placed under her motherly care the innocent lives of children, especially those who are in danger of not being born.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

“What does faith have to do with doing the dishes?”

Here's a portion of an uplifting interview by Kathryn Lopez with Fr. Scott Hurd, who talks about his terrific new book “When Faith Feels Fragile.”

KJL: Why do you encourage receiving the Eucharist when faith feels fragile? Shouldn’t you wait until you make sure you believe?

Fr. Hurd: The Eucharist is not a reward for good behavior or perfect faith. Instead, it’s nourishment the Lord gives us to keep making headway on our faith journey — a journey in which we’ll encounter ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and sorrows, and both periods of doubts and times when we’re left scratching our heads, or even hanging on by a thread. Pope Francis, in his new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, puts it beautifully. The Eucharist, he explains, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

KJL: What is it that God asks of us when we encounter a man with a paper cup outside church or on the way to work? There are prudential questions, after all, aren’t there, about what will really be done with the money we might hand over?

Fr. Hurd: They’re brothers and sisters in the human family, right? Jesus died for them and loves them just as much as He loves anyone else. What He asks us to do when we encounter them is to treat them with dignity and respect, suspend judgment, and exercise the Golden Rule — you know, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus even made a special point of insisting that any kindness we extend to them is a kindness we extend to him. That means to ignore a person with a paper cup on the sidewalk is, in a sense, to ignore the Lord himself! Might they spend any money we give on booze? Perhaps, but what they do with our gift is their responsibility, not ours.

KJL: What does faith have to do with doing the dishes?

Fr. Hurd: Our life is filled with chores and daily routines. They’re as certain as death and taxes! But we often approach them as necessarily evils to be endured so we can move on to more exciting or enjoyable activities. And let’s face it: Most of us would rather curl up with a good book than fold the laundry! But if we remember that our chores are acts of service, we can allow them to help us become servants in imitation of Jesus, who “came not to be served, but to serve.” And that includes doing the dishes. After all, as St. Teresa of Avila said, “God walks amongst the pots and pans!”

Monday, December 9, 2013

Marianist Monday

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the subject of a lot of misconceptions (so to speak). Perhaps the most common one, held even by many Catholics, is that it celebrates the conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That the feast occurs only 17 days before Christmas should make the error obvious!

We celebrate another feast—the Annunciation of the Lord—on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas. It was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary humbly accepted the honor bestowed on her by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, that the conception of Christ took place.

Quick Facts:

Date: December 8.

Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation. 

Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38 

Other Names for the Feast: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne

History of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of Saint Anne; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Sunday Word

This is Advent. It is the season when we wait—but also when we have work to do.

“Stay awake,” Jesus told us in the Gospel last week.

“Repent,” John the Baptist says today. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Make the crooked path straight.

If you ask a child what we are waiting for, they’ll tell you in one word: “Christmas.” It’s really that simple.

For a child, of course, it can’t come fast enough. For the rest of us, we would probably like more time—a few more weeks to plan, shop, wrap and ship. But the reality of Advent—the astonishing truth at its center—plunges us into something deeper. The question demands an answer.

What, exactly, are we waiting for? What are we preparing for?

It isn’t really Christmas. It isn’t the presents and the tree, the cards and the tinsel.


It is Christ. We are waiting for Christ.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote beautifully about the three comings of Jesus: in Bethlehem, at the incarnation; at the end of time, for the final judgment; and here and now, through the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the grace of God, and the prayerful awakening of our hearts.

So, prepare and repent.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Here it is!

One of the first flash mobs of the seasons.

Just watch the Air Force Band redefine the flash mob genre at the National Air and Space Museum.

You'll love it.  You’ll be moved. You might even cry.

 Check it out.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Hope

Advent celebrates the incarnational, Word-becomes-flesh God. Advent announces that God was not willing to have just a distant, arms-length relationship with us -- God's beloved creatures formed in God's image.

Advent is all about God's willingness -- even insistence -- to be vulnerable, accessible, reachable, and attainable. Advent breaks down the barriers between the created and the Creator.

God does begin the process with a message. There's that silent, distant star in the sky; it's not clearly understood by everyone and is open to misinterpretation. Yet there it is, an open invitation to anyone who will receive it.

God does not stop there; God also sends messengers to deliver this urgent, Good News. God has the corner on the market when it comes to the best messengers. Gabriel and company announce the upcoming birth and sing their alleluias for the shepherds and anyone else who will listen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Welcome

Kellenberg Memorial and Chaminade High School students pause after
delivering, boxing and sorting the annual toiletry donations
at the Little Sisters of the Poor, Queen of Peace Residence.
Our two Marianist high schools and St. Martin DePorres Marianist School are in a full Advent season already. Both high schools have gathered for their annual Advent Prayer services where the Advent theme is set for the schools.

Our minds are full, our calendars are packed, our expectations are low, so we're not actively looking and seeking for the living Christ in our midst. We're too busy and our minds are too occupied; without even noticing we push Jesus away. And Jesus cries, "Wake up!"

Kellenberg Memorial pause after their Advent Prayer
Service held at the beginning of the season.

Advent comes with the invitation to open our hearts and minds to the arrival of the Christ. If Jesus knocks on the door of our lives, we want to be awake enough to invite him inside. We often get lulled into the complacency of "we have always done it that way." Are we going through life the same way? Are we actively looking for the Christ in the person that we greet in homeroom, or at the store or on the street or even in our own home? Will we be alert enough to recognize the surprising Christ who arrived not in a palace but in a tucked-away manger? How will the Christ come to us, and will we recognize him when he does? What can we do during Advent to be more intentional about welcoming the Christ into our lives?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Encounter Jesus

In his impromptu homily before confirming nine boys from the parish, the Pope repeated a point previously made to young people on his September trip to Sardinia, urging the confirmandi to not make the rite their "sacrament of farewell" from the life of the church.

"Even after confirmation," Francis said, "all of life is an encounter with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good, when we visit the sick, when we help a poor person, when we think of others, when we aren't selfish, when we're friendly... in these things we always meet Jesus. And this is the journey of life: walking onward to meet Jesus."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Hope

The Pope’s Sunday Angelus message for the start of Advent focused on the importance of hope during the liturgical season dedicated to preparing for Christmas.

“For the great human family it is necessary to renew always the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes a good journey,” Pope Francis said on Dec. 1 to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square.

“The time of Advent that we begin again today returns us to the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God. A hope that does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful!” the Pope emphasized.

The time of Advent that the Church celebrates in preparation for Christmas, explained the Pontiff, is “a new journey of the People of God with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, who guides us in history towards the completion of the Kingdom of God.”

“Let us rediscover the beauty of being together along the way: the Church, with her vocation and mission, and the whole of humanity, the people, the civilizations, the cultures, all together on the paths of time.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

Marianist Monday

Advent is a season to prepare for, 
if you will
– to rehearse for - meeting Jesus.
In a crèche in our living room or at church? Sure, there too.
But more importantly to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus
in the ordinary day in and day out so that when he comes,
on that day, at that hour unknown to us,we will be prepared to meet him
and ready for his review of our lives.

You know: Jesus will be no more present on Christmas Day
than he is today, December 1.
But good preparation for the known date of Christmas
gives us an opportunity to pray and prepare for
the unknown day and the unknown hour each of us will face.

An important part of our “rehearsing” for Christ’s return
is our outreach to those in need.
We have the Giving Trees at this time of year,
not just to make sure everyone gets a gift,
but to remind us that we should be harvesting
a forest of giving trees all year ‘round
-- because caring for the poor is what followers of Jesus do
while they wait for his return.

What would Christmas look like
if we took away the decorations and the presents?
It would look like people waiting, not for some thing,
but waiting for someOne whose love is greater than any gift
we might imagine or hope for.

That's what Christians wait for in Advent.
That’s what we wait for every day of our lives.
We wait for Jesus
even as we wait for him this morning at this altar.

As Christ came to Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago,
he comes to this table every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

May the Eucharist and this season of Advent
ready our hearts for the day when we will meet Jesus
and strengthen us to ready the world for his return.

A Concord Pastor

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Sunday Word

Today we’re at the first Sunday in Advent. This is a season of preparation. Our first reading is Romans 13:11-14 in which are embedded not only images of moving from darkness to light, from slumber to awareness, but both negative and positive instructions.

On the one hand, we’re advised to be aware of the destructive behaviors that do nothing but “gratify the flesh,” rather than nurturing the spirit. The apostle Paul uses words like “darkness,” “reveling,” “drunkenness,” “debauchery,” “licentiousness,” “quarreling” and “jealousy.”

One would hope that as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child, we would need neither a “sin patch” nor a skin patch to alert us to these kinds of behaviors, and that we would understand how inappropriate these actions are for anyone who wishes to visit the manger at Bethlehem.

On the other hand, we’re encouraged to “put on the Lord Jesus” — a clothing metaphor which is a favorite of the Apostle Paul, who was quite aware that there are too many wardrobe malfunctions among the people of God. “Put off, therefore,” he would say, “the garments of unrighteousness.” And here, as elsewhere, he says, “Put on the Lord Jesus.”

Christ Jesus — our Advent patch. The Advent Person. The Advent Reminder. This season is about Him. It is not about us. It is a time to “wake from sleep”  and “lay aside the works of darkness” because “the day is near.”

Instead of a “sin patch,” Paul advocates a different therapeutic model — to put on “the armor of light” and “the Lord Jesus Christ.”  In other words, Paul urges his readers to get “patched up” and prepared for a life lived in and for the in-breaking kingdom, rather than to continue in the sins of the past. Rather than behaving in a way that sends out the signals of sin, Paul argues that we “put on the Lord Jesus” and thereby send out signals of righteousness.

While we expend a lot of effort to keep our “real” selves a secret from those around us, we need to remember that God has already been engaged in continuous monitoring of our souls — no “sin patch” necessary. The One who created us always knows the truth of what’s flowing back and forth inside us, whether it’s healthy or diseased, sober or soused.

Other people will figure us out, too, by watching us over a period of time. Keeping secrets, particularly ones involving our own behavior, is a full-time job. As Thomas Carlyle, the 19th-century British sage, once noted, “He who has a secret should not only hide it, but hide that he has it to hide.” With all that “hiding” going on, it’s no wonder that, somehow, even our best-kept secrets eventually see the light of day.