Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blessings on your home

There's an old custom to bless your home on Epiphany which is celebrated this year on Sunday, January 3, 2016.

Most use chalk for marking the front door as part of this house blessing.

Here's a prayer for blessing your house this weekend. Simplify the ritual as your needs and circumstances suggest!

The Blessing of a House on the Feast of the Epiphany

All gather at the front door and one person is chosen as the Leader of prayer.

In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.

Peace be with this house and with all who live here.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever.

During these days of the Christmas season,
we keep this feast of Epiphany,
celebrating the manifestation of Christ
to the Magi and all the nations.

Today Christ is revealed to us
and his presence makes our home a holy place.

The lintel above the door is marked. If a number of people are present, individuals might be invited to mark the several elements of the inscription as found here:

20 + C + M + B + 16

The traditional marking of the doorway commemorates the three magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) and gives the calendar year already recently begun.

Then one person is chosen to read the gospel:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint John

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 came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father's only Son,
full of grace and truth.
All who are present proceed from one room to the next,
asking God’s blessing on all that takes place in that room:

Lord, bless this room
(where we eat, rest, gather, cook, sleep, wash, play, work)
and let us dwell here together in peace.

If you have holy water at home, you might sprinkle each room.

Coming finally to the dining room or kitchen table,
after the blessing prayer (above)
all join in praying the Lord’s Prayer…
after which the Leader prays:

Lord God of Heaven and earth,
you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation
by the guidance of a star.
Bless this house and all who live here.
Fill them with the light of Christ:
may their concern and care
for our family for our neighbors
always reflect your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All join in singing a Christmas hymn
(Silent Night or O Come All Ye Faithful or We Three Kings)
and perhaps enjoy some refreshments or dinner!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The true message of Christmas

Yearly the Marianist high schools travel to celebrate Christmas in a variety of ways. This yearly we traveled on Sunday, December 27 to assist in the Christmas pageant with the Little Sisters of the Poor and their elderly.

 A great inter-generational event allowed us all to ponder a simple but valuable lesson on "the true message of Christmas."

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Christian tradition holds that these Magi (kings from Persia) were named Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior.
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And the angel said to them, "Fear nor: for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy." 
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"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The one thing God asks of us..

One of my favorite Advent books is A Child In Winter: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander. It draws on all of Houselander's writings and is beautifully edited by Thomas Hoffman.

Especially in this season when so many feel blue amid the glitter of the the red and green, these words are beautiful. Perhaps this passage from A Child In Winter will help move you to prayer in these busy days...

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 is 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."

God asks only one thing,
that you will let God tell you this, directly, simply;
that you will treat God as someone real,
not as someone who does not really exist.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Christmas tree in window


A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.

In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.

Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.

Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

- Gary Johnson

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The scriptures for Christmas

Image result for bible book wallpaper
There are different readings (and prayers) for the "Four Masses of Christmas" celebrated at: the Vigil, in the Night, at Dawn, and in the Day. 

One way to prepare for celebrating Christmas is to take a look at how the four gospels present the birth, the origin of Christ. This post provides those texts for you, below.

Did you know:
- that Luke's account never mentions the wise men?
- that Matthew's account doesn't mention the shepherds or a manger?
- that neither Mark nor John includes the story of Jesus' birth?

A little comparative study here may provide some surprises - and give you some good trivia questions for Christmas gatherings!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hopeful Expectations

Zechariah was fulfilling this dream of a lifetime, burning the incense and sending the prayers of the people up to God. When suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the temple. He was startled and gripped with fear in the face of this angel. And so the angel has to say to him what angels always seem to be saying, “Do not be afraid.”

Isn’t it interesting that here is a man of God, a priest no less. One that is described as faithful and blameless. His wife is the same way. He is an old man who never wavered or wondered away from the religious life of his calling. He finally gets the chance of a lifetime to enter the temple’s holiest area, and he encounters a messenger from God… and he’s surprised, startled, and scared! It’s almost like that’s the last thing he expected to happen to him while in this holy place. Even the faithful may grow dull in their expectations, however.

That’s just what happened to old Zechariah that day in the temple. God broke through, broke in, startled the unexpectant Zechariah and said, “Your prayer has been answered.” Could there have been anymore stunning news than that? The personal prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth were about to be answered. They were going to have a son. Their shame cast off once and for all. Their hopes of carrying on the family name.

The corporate prayers of all Israel were being answered. Israel was going to receive a prophet who would turn the hearts of the people back to God.

It would be John who would prepare for the way for the Lord and make straight paths for him. Every valley would be filled and every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads made straight and the rough places plain. And all mankind would see God’s salvation. The old man’s prayers were going to be answered.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in this revelation of grace. It’s a reminder and lesson for Christmas past, present, and future to hold on to old prayers. Maintain hope in the midst of darkness. Keep hopeful expectations burning even when the dullness of years seems to cloud their light.

But in the presence of this good news, Zechariah just can’t bring himself to accept it at face value. Upon hearing the hope he responds, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” He wants a sign. He wants to be sure. Zechariah asks, “How can I be sure of this?” He’s not seeking an explanation. He’s seeking evidence. I want to be sure. I want to be certain. Give me more evidence. Which, of course, the angel did by shutting his mouth for the next 9 months until John was born.

And so it came to pass. Three months before the birth of Christ to a virgin, came the birth of John his cousin to a mother “well along in years.” Elizabeth simple said, “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” God did it. Not when Zechariah and Elizabeth thought he would do it. In fact, it’s quite likely they never thought such a wonderful thing would happen. They had resigned themselves to go faithfully to the grave barren, ashamed, yet upright in the sight of God. But God did it in his time.

And so the call for you and me is to keep the flame of hopeful expectations burning. Enter into the presence of God when it’s God’s time for us to come. In the midst of our long years of uprightness and keeping the Lord’s commands blamelessly, we keep expecting God to do God-like things.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Word

Reflecting on the mystery of the incarnation, St. Irenaeus of Lyons (d. ca. 202) wrote that “God is man’s glory. Man is the vessel which receives God’s action and all his wisdom and power.”

In these final days of Advent, the Church shifts her focus from the advent of Christ at the end of time to preparing for Christmas. In a particular way, this Sunday we are invited to reflect on Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

In the story of Mary’s visit to her elderly kinswoman, Elizabeth, we are presented with two women who are living in expectation. Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist, and Mary, carrying God within her, embody the hopes and expectations of Israel. Theirs was a waiting full of promise: “People who have to wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow” (Henri Nouwen, from the essay “A Spirituality of Waiting”). This kind of waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. Rather, it is a movement from something to something more.

In his own time, God had called the holy men and women and prophets — Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Ruth, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so many others — to prepare the way for his Son. And in Mary and her Child, the promises, hopes and expectations of God’s chosen people were finally being fulfilled: “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times … he shall stand firm and shepherd his flock” (Micah 5:1, 3).

For centuries, a sign of God’s covenant promise to Israel through the centuries was the ark of the covenant. The ark was an icon of God’s presence, a reminder that God was in their midst, accompanying the people as they wandered through the desert and fought to claim a home and identity (cf. Numbers 10:35–36). Mary became the new, living ark of the covenant, who carried God within her. In Mary, God was now present in a person, in a heart. And just as David danced before the ark of the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14), John the Baptist, still in Elizabeth’s womb, leapt for joy because the Lord had come.

In these last days of Advent, Mary teaches us how to receive the Word of God, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. As Saint John Paul II observed, “She exhorts us, first of all, to humility, so that God can find space in our heart, not darkened by pride or arrogance. She points out to us the value of silence, which knows how to listen to the song of the angels and the crying of the Child, not stifling them by noise and confusion. Together with her, we stop before the Nativity scene with intimate wonder, savoring the simple and pure joy that this Child gives to humanity” (Angelus, December 21, 2003).

Offer a prayer of thanks for those who bring joy to your heart and who have handed the gift of faith to you.

How are you being called to carry Christ to the world this Christmas?

How does Mary’s humble service challenge you to live your faith in a more dynamic way during these final Advent days and throughout this Year of Mercy?

Words of Wisdom: “The scene of the Visitation also expresses the beauty of the greeting. Wherever there is reciprocal acceptance, listening, making room for another, God is there, as well as the joy that comes from him. At Christmastime let us emulate Mary, visiting all those who are living in hardship, especially the sick, prisoners, the elderly and children. And let us also imitate Elizabeth who welcomes the guest as God himself: without wishing it, we shall never know the Lord, without expecting him we shall not meet him, without looking for him we shall not find him. Let us too go to meet the Lord who comes with the same joy as Mary, who went with haste to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39).”—Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Overwhelmed by Christmas...

For those overwhelmed by Christmas...


Sit down.

Rest a bit.

Imagine that you’re in God’s presence.

Because you are.

Now just be with God.

And let God be

with you...

-James Martin, SJ

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Sunday Word

Time to open up the Advent scriptures for Sunday one more time before we celebrate Christmas! This coming weekend brings us to the Fourth Sunday of Advent. 

The first Scripture is from the prophet Micah who makes here his only appearance in the Sunday readings.  Micah addresses insignificant Bethlehem to say that from such a small town shall come forth one whose greatness will reach the ends of the earth. The passage ends with the awesome words: "He shall be peace."

The second reading, from Hebrews, reminds us three times that Christ came to do God's will. This texts sounds neither "Adventish" nor "Christmassy." Rather, it's a blunt reminder of why the Word became flesh in Christ: to save us from our sins.

Advent's fourth Sunday gives us a Gospel with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a central character. Here, we read the story of the Visitation - the visit Mary made to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John, who would become the Baptist, while Mary was carrying Jesus. From this passage in Luke comes a portion of the prayer, Hail Mary.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent - Our encounter with God

The Advent message comes out of our encounter with God, with the gospel. 

It is thus the message that shakes – so that in the end the entire world shall be shaken. 

The fact that the son of man shall come again is more than a historic prophecy; it is also a decree that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. 
If we are inwardly inert, incapable of being genuinely moved, if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God himself will intervene in world events. 

He will teach us what it means to be placed in turmoil and to be inwardly stirred. 

Then the great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked – or whether we will continue to see thousands of things that we know should not be and must not be and yet remain hardened to them. 

In how many ways have we become indifferent and used to things that ought not to be?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Here is the message of Advent: faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake.
Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things. 
Only then will we have the strength to overcome the terrors into which God has let the world sink. God uses these terrors to awaken us from sleep, as Paul says, and to show us that it is time to repent, time to change things. 

It is time to say, “all right, it was night; but let that be over now and let us get ready for the day.” 

We must do this with a decision that comes out of the very horrors we experience. 

Because of this our decision will be unshakable even in uncertainty.

Fr. Delp

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday Tunes

It’s the song heard ‘round the world’.

“Oceans” not only held onto a spot on the Billboard Christian Songs chart for two years, it became the first Christian chart-topper to break into the Billboard Top 100.

Taya Smith’s ethereal voice is mesmerizing, but it’s her passion that really carries the song. The group behind the hit began in 1988 as the worship band for a small church in Sydney.

Now with eleven live and four studio albums, they have become a global phenomenon and a household name. They say their purpose is “to passionately seek and worship God,” and it seems they’ve inspired millions of others along the way.

At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” —Matthew 14:27-29

It’s the song of Peter venturing into troubled waters.

The song of missionaries who left everything and everyone they knew, knowing they wouldn’t come back. It’s the Christians in the Middle East. The girl discerning religious life. The guy who goes to school and doesn’t compromise his faith. The agnostic who dares to take a leap of faith. Spirit, lead me where your trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.

Like Peter, our feet may fail but Christ will not. I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise I will rest in your embrace.

The song “Ocean” is from the album Zion. Elizabeth Reichert

Monday, December 14, 2015

Angels of Advent: Encountering the Annunciation

Gabriel's visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary was all about love

The unique truth of Christianity is that God reveals himself as Love. This love, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, is the energy force that binds together the three persons of the Holy Trinity. It is also, as Dante has written, “the force that moves the sun and all the other stars.”

The story of the Annunciation is probably the most familiar and famous account of an angelic encounter. The Virgin Mary is visited by Gabriel, the messenger from God, who invites her response to the news that she will bear God’s son. Her humble and simple “Let it be to me according to your word” echoes down through the ages as a response not of mindless submission, but of a simple love to the invitation by the greatest Love.

The encounter has moved countless artists and writers to meditate further on the angel of the annunciation and the meaning of the angel’s message. In “The Annunciation,” the Scottish poet Edwin Muir recounts a contemplative moment brought on by one of the commonplace sights for any visitor to Rome — a plaque on a wall depicting a saint or a scene from Scripture:

I remember stopping for a long time one day to look at a little plaque on the wall of a house in the Via degli Artisti [Rome], representing the Annunciation. An angel and a young girl, their bodies inclined toward each other, their knees bent as if they were overcome by love, “tutto tremante,” gazed upon each other like Dante’s pair; and that representation of a human love so intense that it could not reach farther seemed the perfect earthly symbol of the love that passes understanding.

This is the deepest meaning of Gabriel’s visit to the Blessed Virgin Mary: it is the visit of God, whose love is so great that it will bear fruit in the incarnation of that love in the world. The truth is given witness by the Evangelist John who says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.”

This message from God to our world is not simply the message of an angel, but a message incarnate in a human person. Jesus Christ is God’s message of love in the world. Other religions may claim that their holy book is the message of the angel Gabriel. Catholics know that the true message of Gabriel is not a book of rules and regulations, but a person. If the message is a person, not just a rulebook, then that person invites us into a relationship. In Mary’s Son God’s love incarnate reaches out to us and demands a response.

The reason why the scene of the annunciation is depicted so often in art and poetry is because art and poetry are the best ways to express the emotions that surround this extraordinary event. We may contemplate the event and analyze the event theologically, but in the end the annunciation must be entered into by pondering with awestruck minds and hearts the true depth and astounding meaning of what took place.

God entered this world not as a mighty warrior, vengeful judge or almighty creator but as an innocent child born of a young woman. Advent is therefore the time to meditate on this mystery and enter into this love not only with our minds but with our hearts.

Muir’s encounter in Rome with that ordinary artwork inspired a poem that takes us to the mysterious heart of history’s greatest angel encounter.

The angel and the girl are met.

Earth was the only meeting place.

For the embodied never yet

Travelled beyond the shore of space.

The eternal spirits in freedom go.

See, they have come together, see,

While the destroying minutes flow,

Each reflects the other’s face

Till heaven in hers and earth in his

Shine steady there. He’s come to her

From far beyond the farthest star,

Feathered through time. Immediacy

Of strangest strangeness is the bliss

That from their limbs all movement takes.

Yet the increasing rapture brings

So great a wonder that it makes

Each feather tremble on his wings.

Outside the window footsteps fall

Into the ordinary day

And with the sun along the wall

Pursue their unreturning way.

Sound’s perpetual roundabout

Rolls its numbered octaves out

And hoarsely grinds its battered tune.

But through the endless afternoon

These neither speak nor movement make,

But stare into their deepening trance

As if their gaze would never break.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Juniper, Boughs, the Donkey and the Holy Family

Juniper berries Dcrjsr cc
There is an abundance of folksy Christmas traditions around the world. Some of them stir our hearts into a deeper appreciation of a holy and joy-filled season. Since I’m an outdoorsy kind of gal, I am partial to the Christmas traditions and legends involving animals and nature.

A couple of Scandinavian countries have delightful customs. In Norway on Christmas Eve, a bowl of porridge is left in the barn for the Nisse, a gnome that protects the farm and its livestock.

In Finland, sheaves of wheat are tied to branches for birds to eat during Christmas. Another tradition, not just in the Scandinavian countries, is the sprinkling of bird seed on the front step. If all the seed is eaten by nightfall, goes the tale, the family will be blessed throughout the coming year.

The wreaths, swags and garlands we use to decorate our homes and churches are made from several kinds of evergreen boughs, each having its own symbolic meaning: fir,a lifting up; cedar, incorruptibility; spruce, hope in adversity. One evergreen that has special meaning at Christmas for farmers is the juniper. Throughout Europe swags can be found hung on stable and barn doors, and boughs are sometimes tied to wagon tack of burros.

The genus Juniperus in Christian history and art, symbolizesprotection; their branches are prickly and harsh, and the aromatic sap at the tips of the needles can for some folks cause a rash. The juniper was an essential element in early monasteries. Their branches were used in the asperges of the congregation because of the abundance of holy water held by its needles, and its symbolism evoked a sense of further protection within the blessing. Their branches were also burned as incense and used medicinally for its anti-bacterial properties.

There is a legend about the giant juniper tree, Juniperus thurifera, a massive native tree in the Holy Lands, with its role in the safety of the Holy Family. We recall that day on December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The tale begins with soldiers pursuing Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. Frightened by Herod’s men in close pursuit, the donkey upon which the Holy Family rode turned and at nearly full gallop headed toward the giant juniper. Miraculously, the tree opened up its branches like arms and enfolded them. There, in the shadows of the tree, they were safely hidden from the pursuing soldiers. In gratitude, Mary gave the tree her blessing, and some say Joseph, to sooth the trembling beast after the soldiers had passed, brushed the sweat from the frightened donkey with a juniper branch.

The origin of the story is unknown, but the rural custom still exists today in America: on Christmas morning farmers hang juniper boughs — tied with dark red cords, symbolic of the blood of Christ and the Holy Innocents — on the doors of stables and barns.

Margaret Rose Realy

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our Lady of Guadalupe

How wonderful that Our Lady of Guadalupe appears as a pregnant woman clothed in the sun! In the book of Revelation, Mary is described in just this manner (Rev 12:1). But we should not approach this symbolism in a superficial or merely sentimental way. The woman clothed in the sun and with the moon at her feet is portrayed in Revelation precisely as a warrior. Confronting her is a terrible dragon intent upon devouring her child as soon as it is born. Through God’s grace, the child is in fact delivered from danger, but the dragon is furious, sending a torrent of water from its mouth to sweep the mother and child away. In the wake of the child’s birth, moreover, a war breaks out in heaven between the dragon and Michael and his angels.
Our Lady of Guadalupe public domain
The Lady of Tepeyac is a warrior as well. To Juan Diego she said, “I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God.” In so saying, she was actively de-throning and de-legitimizing any false claimant to that title. Standing in front of the sun and upon the moon, with the stars of heaven arrayed on her cloak, the Lady was showing her superiority to the cosmic elements worshipped by the Aztecs. The gods in question were blood-thirsty divinities, sanctioning imperialistic war and demanding human sacrifice. Mary announced herself as the mother of a God who demanded no violence, and who instead took upon himself, as an act of love, all of the violence of the world. She was thereby effectively calling out the false gods in the name of the true God.

To be clear, in condemning the gods worshipped by the Aztecs I am by no means exonerating the Spaniards, who committed numerous atrocities and visited tremendous suffering upon the native peoples of the New World. Read the impassioned writings of the Dominican Friar Bartolomé de Las Casas for the terrible details. Far too rare were Spaniards who were actually faithful to the God whom Christianity authentically proclaimed.

What followed the apparition at Tepeyac is, of course, one of the most astounding chapters in the history of Christian evangelism. Though Franciscan missionaries had been laboring in Mexico for twenty years, they had made little progress. But within ten years of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, practically the entire Mexican people, nine million strong, converted to Christianity. La Morena had proved a more effective evangelist than Peter, Paul, St. Patrick, and St. Francis Xavier combined! And with that great national conversion, human sacrifice came to an end. She had done battle with fallen spirits and had won a culture-changing victory for the God of love.

The challenge for us who honor her today is to join the same fight. We do not sufficiently engage this great feast if we simply wonder at a marvelous event from long ago. We must announce to our culture today the truth of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of non-violence and forgiving love. And we ought, like La Morena, to be bearers of Jesus to a world that needs him more than ever.

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

Friday, December 11, 2015


If you have an Advent Wreath at home, pray for joy in this third week of the season as you light the first and second and third (rose) candles each day.

If you don't have an Advent Wreath - light any candle and pray for faith.

If you have no candle, simply stay right here with candles above and pray for faith...

 And yes: pray this same litany on each night of the third week of Advent...

 Our Advent path has taken us now half-way to the celebration of Christ's birthday. Joyful at this mark on our journey, we take off the purple of repentance and don the lighter color of rose for vestments and the Advent wreath. As we light this third candle, let us pray for joy. It's very possible that our joy may be muted by personal burdens or the troubles among the nations of the world . Still, it is at just such times that only the healing and peace of Christ can give us a glimpse of the joy he brings, in season and out of season, to hearts burdened with grief and loss...

Pray for the joy Christ's coming brought us...

Pray for the joy Christ's coming gives us...

Pray for the joy Christ's coming promises...

Pray for joy that survives tragedy...

Pray for joy that heals the wounded soul...

Pray for joy that gives us strength...

Pray for joy that brings us hope...

Pray for the joy the lonely long for...

Pray for the joy the grieving hope for...

Pray for joy to mend a broken heart...

Pray for joy that only peace can bring...

Pray for joy that lifts the heart...

Pray for joy that laughs in sorrow...

Pray for the joy that's only found in faith...

Pray for the joy others offer us...

Pray for the joy we can can share with others...

Pray for the joy that each of us needs...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thomas Merton

Today is the 47th anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton. This seasonal poem by Merton seems a fine way to keep his memory...


Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect!
Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent, holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our solemn valleys,
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,
Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!

The Sunday Word

The Third Sunday of Advent is ahead this weekend, so it's time to Rejoice: Advent is half over and Christmas is on the horizon! (If you have an Advent Wreath, this coming Sunday is the time to light the rose candle.)

As is the case every year, John the Baptist cries out in Advent's third Sunday Gospel. Isaiah calls us to rejoice, even to rejoice heartily! And St. Paul calls us to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing and, inall circumstances, to be grateful. Now that's a tall order...

Advent is a time to prepare and the best way to prepare for Sunday worship is to spend some time with the Scriptures we'll hear proclaimed that day, that we might better understand, appreciate and take in the nourishment God's Word has to offer us.

So, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Year of Mercy

Opening a symbolic "holy door" at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican yesterday(December 8), Pope Francis inaugurated a "Year of Mercy" with these words:

"How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy."

"We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God's judgment will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love."

The Year of Mercy, the pope stressed, is a gift of grace that allows Christians to experience the joy of encountering the transforming power of grace and rediscovering God's infinite mercy toward sinners.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Retreat for College-Age Men

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The Immaculate Conception

Today we celebrate the patronal feast of the United States, The Immaculate Conception.

Here is part of the Pope's reflection on this feastday:

"The Virgin Mary is not far from this love (of God): all of her life, all of her being is a ‘yes’ to God,”

“Let us look at her, and let us look to her,” encouraged Pope Francis, “in order to be more humble, and even more courageous in following the Word of God, to receive the tender embrace of her son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope, and peace.”

Mary’s ‘yes’ to God “was certainly not easy for her!” he exclaimed. “When the angel called her ‘full of grace’ she remained ‘troubled,’ because in her humility she felt unworthy before God.”

Despite her concerns, “Mary listens, obeying interiorly and responds, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word’.”

This witness serves as an example for every Christian. “With great joy the Church contemplates Mary as ‘full of grace’,” Pope Francis explained. He encouraged the crowds to repeat with him, “full of grace!”

Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, but “we too… are chosen by God to live a life of holiness, free from sin. It is a project of love that God renews every time we come close to him, especially in the sacraments,” the Pope said.

“Mary sustains us in our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us to live this time of Advent in waiting for the Lord.”

Pope Francis recalled Mary’s humble origins.

“The Gospel of Luke presents us with a young girl from Nazareth, a little place in Galilee, on the periphery of the Roman Empire and also on the periphery of Israel. Yet upon her was the gaze of the Lord, who chose her to be the mother of His Son.”

“The mystery of this young girl from Nazareth, which is in the heart of God, is not irrelevant to us,” reflected the pontiff. “In fact, God places his gaze of love on every man and every woman.”

O Mary help us to believe with greater trust.
O immaculate Virgin give us the same courage to be alert to the call of Christ.
Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation.
O Loving Mother may we have the courage to be "watchmen of the dawn", and give this virtue to all Christians so that we may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history.
Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Marianist Monday

December, 2015

Dear Friends in college . . . and beyond,

“Where shall the word be found, where shall the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.” These words of T. S. Eliot came to mind as I began to think about the season of Advent, which begins this year on Sunday, November 29th .

Pope Benedict XVI, writing for World Communications Day in 2012, said it is often in silence that the most “authentic” communication occurs:

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.

By remaining silent, we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. If God speaks to us, even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God.

The Church in its Christmas liturgy uses this beautiful line from the Book of Wisdom to describe the magnificent moment of the Incarnation:

When a profound stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful Word, O Lord, bounded from heaven’s royal throne.

And so the question I would have in mind for you is simply this: is there silence in your life? Are there places you can go where no noise distracts you? Are there times of peace and quiet in your life?

Silence can be frightening. Could it be that it reveals an emptiness in our lives that is scary? This is the emptiness that can be filled only by love, a hole in our heart that is restless until it is filled by God. And yet we very often are busy about filling it up with all sorts of distractions and substitutes. I know that when I go to Founder’s Hollow and sit on the swing up on Mount Tabor, sometimes it takes me 15 or 20 minutes to quiet my soul. So much is running through my mind. Yet, the Lord tells us “Be still and know that I am God.”

One of my favorite spiritual writers, Caryll Houselander, in a book entitled The Reed of God, writes of the modern-day problem of emptiness:

Emptiness is a very common complaint in our days, not the purposeful emptiness of the virginal heart and mind but a void, meaningless, unhappy condition.

Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt, and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless such people’s lives are. Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness of their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives.

So here’s an Advent challenge for you:  create times and places of silence in your life.

We look forward to seeing you at Midnight Mass. Also, we hope to welcome you to our College-Age retreat at Meribah on January 3, 4, 5, 2016.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,