Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The meaning of the Nativity Scene


Pope Francis has written an apostolic letter “on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene,” in which he encourages Christians worldwide to continue “the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas” by setting up the Christmas crèche not only in their homes but also “in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Christmas joy

"Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.” 
                                                                            —Pope Francis.

Bethlehem and Golgotha keeps our lives centered

"We can drift through life dodging and repressing these critical existential questions of life. We can live blindly and superficially. 

Our Catholic belief in the unity of the Nativity and the Crucifixion, the Creche and the Cross, Bethlehem and Golgotha keeps our lives centered and focused on the things that really count in our short time on earth – the Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell) and a belief in the Eternal Joy of Heaven, our true home. 

                                                             -Bishop John O. Barres

Monday, December 27, 2021

He comes to ennoble the excluded

Jesus is born close to the forgotten ones on the peripheries. He comes to ennoble the excluded and He is first revealed to them: not to educated and important people, but to the shepherds, to poor working people.
-Pope Francis

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Intentional paradox


“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”

                                                                                                                    - G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, December 25, 2021

For unto us a child is born

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder: 
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
                                                          - Isaiah 9:6

Friday, December 24, 2021

Two births of Christ

"There are two births of Christ, one unto the world in Bethlehem; the other in the soul, when it is spiritually reborn. Men think of the former much more than the later, and celebrate it every year; but the spiritual Bethlehem is equally momentous…. It was the second birth that Saint Paul insisted on when he wrote from prison to his beloved people, the Ephesians, asking that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith and that they be rooted and grounded in love. This is the second Bethlehem, or the personal relationship of the individual heart to the Lord Christ."
                                                                                                                    -Bishop Fulton Sheen

Thursday, December 23, 2021

A time of Promise

“Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny.…Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today.”

― Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Breath of Christ

"By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart.... In the seasons of our Advent - waking, working, eating, sleeping, being - each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world."

Caryll Houselander


Friday, December 17, 2021

December 2021

My Dear Graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,

What I am about to tell you is crazy. I mean it. On a scale of one to ten, this is about a seven or eight in craziness. The only reason it ranks at seven or eight and not ten is because it is not philosophically or theologically crazy. But, on a practical level, it is really crazy. Read on to see why.

When I was growing up, there were no Christmas decorations in our house until after all of us children had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. You read that correctly. No Christmas decorations. We had strung the trees with lights, hung up a wreath, and even illuminated the wreath with a flood light --but that was all on the outside. But, inside, nothing. Oh, for Christmas Eve dinner, my Mom set the table with a Christmas tablecloth, red candles, and a yuletide centerpiece. Other than that, however, there was nothing.

The next morning, when my three siblings and I awoke, Christmas had arrived: the Christmas tree, decorated with heirloom glass ornaments and draped with hundreds of strands of tinsel; the evergreen roping on the banister; the stockings over the fireplace; the eclectic train set circling the base of the tree; scores of presents wrapped with holly wrapping paper and bright red bows; and, of course, the Fontanini Nativity creche passed down from my paternal grandparents. It was enchanting, and Santa Claus had done it all. Somehow, through the miracle of Christmas, Santa had been able to work his overnight Christmas magic in our home and in millions of households around the globe.

Or so we thought. Later, as we grew older, we realized that my parents transformed our house
overnight. They also hosted the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner of the seven fishes, attended
Christmas Midnight Mass, and returned home for juice and breakfast pastries before turning into bed
for little more than four hours of sleep. (By the way, the secret for getting this seemingly unimaginable
amount of work done was to impress all the Christmas Eve guests into service once we had all gone to

My parents were devoted, that’s for sure, and maybe even a little bit crazy. But they were determined to make Christmas morning special for us, and that they did. Crazy. Crazy in love. (My younger proofreaders and editors alerted me that “Crazy in Love” is the title of a popular 2003 release by the pop star BeyoncĂ©. Who knew? Well, obviously, I didn’t, but I am guessing that some of you do.)

Crazy in love. That’s a phrase that aptly describes our Heavenly Parent -- our Heavenly Father -- as well. So crazy in love that He sent His only begotten Son to become one of us, to walk among us, to
die for the remission of our sins, and to heal the breach between God and man. On a scale of one to
ten, that’s a crazy eleven.

My parents’ crazy Christmas Eve tradition not only taught us something about Christmas; it also
taught us something about Advent. You see, Advent is about waiting, about waiting for something
stupendous that is on its way but not yet here. This waiting, this expectancy, is precisely what the
liturgical season of Advent draws us into. We await the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel. We
await the coming of the Savior. We watch for the long-awaited Messiah.

Advent, of course, is more than a liturgical season reminding us about the long period of waiting so
poetically described by Isaiah and the prophets and fulfilled in history by the birth of the Messiah in
Bethlehem. Advent is also about the very real waiting that we experience in our own lives. Advent
draws us into the mystery of not-yet-fulfilled longings. It corresponds with our lived experience that
God is indeed among us, but oftentimes, to be candid, we experience His absence more than His

Advent is about expectancy. In some regards, it resembles the expectancy of little children as they
wait for Christmas morning and all the splendid, exciting, telltale signs of Santa’s visitation the night
before. But Advent expectancy is more complicated than that, just as adulthood is way more
complicated that childhood.

Expectancy. That word summarizes a good part of our adult lives. Even when we have achieved
much -- a fulfilling career, a happy marriage, a meaningful family life -- we are always looking for
more. And for some, setbacks in our careers; strains in our relationships; and problems in our families
-- problems big and small -- haunt us for many years, rendering the dream of personal happiness more
elusive than we would like. 

Perhaps we want a connection with the Lord, but we find ourselves distant
from the Church, or unable to sustain a meaningful prayer life, or perhaps disappointed with both
ourselves and God. In so many areas of our lives, we have tasted some success but experience as well
disappointment, struggle, stress, and emptiness. The promises of God. They have been fulfilled
already -- partially. But completely? Not yet. It was this duality -- this dynamic tension between
fulfillment and disappointment -- that led St. Augustine of Hippo to observe, “You have made us for
Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

Advent is a time to embrace that restlessness, that expectancy. It is in this expectancy that we find
God. It is in this waiting that we slowly come to realize our true happiness and look to heaven as our
true home. We know that today’s joys are a foretaste of the joys of heaven. And we know that today’s
disappointments are an intimation that there is something more. “You have made us for Yourself, O
Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

At the end of the day, I’m not advising that you wait until Christmas Eve to put up the Christmas
tree and hang the Christmas stockings. (As an interesting sidebar, I learned just the other day from one
of my students that it’s part of the Filipino culture to put up the Christmas tree shortly after Halloween.)
Here’s what I am suggesting: Embrace expectancy. Embrace Advent, because it provides us with a
poignant parallel to our own experience of already/not yet. We already know the enormous love that
our God has for us. But we live in a fallen world; not infrequently, our human experience falls short of
the divine reality. Advent gives us the hope, however, that the best is yet to come. Advent is the faith
that eye has not seen, and ear has not heard what our crazy-in-love God has in store for us. Advent is
the necessary precursor to Christmas. If we embrace our expectancy in faith and trust, we will surely
find the Christ Child, God’s only son, who seeks us with all of His heart.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen