Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Heather King on Giving vs. Taking

The following comes from Heather King at Aleteia:


“When one reaches the highest degree of human maturity, one has only one question left: How can I be helpful?”
--Teresa of Ávila

To be civil and patient with the people with whom we come in contact every day is both the simplest and the hardest thing in the world. But really, who else would we be called to love but the people with whom we’re in immediate contact? How well can we love anyone if we can’t love the people with whom we live, work, and eat?

Recently I was talking to my friend Rita. Rita is married with two children and a husband suffering from terminal cancer. She told me of a get-together she went to, a party to which her kids had been invited. She said, “No one talked to me! I just sat at a table by myself and no-one even said hello!”

In my usual other-directed way, my first thought was: “That is my LIFE. As a single, childless woman, any social situation, I’m on my own. I’malways the odd person out. I always have to make the first move.”

I didn’t say all of that. I did say a little of it before I realized I’d succumbed, one more boring time, to self-pity. The woman’s husband was dying! Could I for once in my life can it? 

Still, it did get me to thinking that, as Flannery O’Connor said, “We are all rather blessed in our deprivations if we let ourselves be.” 

Because being the odd (wo)man out has trained me to seek out the one person in the room who looks more frightened and alone than me and to go say hello to her. I’m not saying it’s my first thought but it will usually pop up somewhere along the line, just as despair looms. Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Give to others what I would most like myself. To be welcomed.  A piece of cake. To be forgiven. For someone to remember my name.

In Matthew 25 occurs the parable of the sheep and the goats, in which Christ says we will be judged on one thing: the kind of love with which we have treated "the least of these." Did we share our food with the hungry, our clothing with the naked? Did we visit the prisoner and the sick person? Did we give the thirsty man a drink of water?

I used to read that and think, “Shoot, if I had real faith I’d sign up to be a candy striper or start a prison ministry in Algiers.” Nowadays I think of the parable more in terms of saying hi to a stranger at a friend’s baby shower, or over the post-Mass donuts and coffee. In the giving, which is never quite free of wanting something for myself and that’s the Cross, get over it, I do receive a gift. Never the gift I wanted. But when you talk to people, you learn things about them. Maybe they’re wearing a crazy hat or have weird teeth or use a turn of phrase—“scared blue”; “weak as a chicken”—that restores your zest for life. 

In fact, nowadays I’m thinking that the whole point of the parable of the sheep and the goats may be that if you never leave your little comfort zone, you will have missed out on life. You will have consigned yourself to a living hell: boring, homogenized, safe. Whether you stay at home or go halfway around the world, the parable of the sheep and the goats is about an orientation of heart, a way of life.


Read the rest here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth by The Priests

The God in the Cave by G.K. Chesterton

I came across this GKC quote at the Ignatius Insight:

This sketch of the human story began in a cave; the cave which popular science associates with the cave-man and in which practical discovery has really found archaic drawings of animals. The second half of human history, which was like a new creation of the world, also begins in a cave. There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable by the mountaineers of the uplands about
Bethlehem; who still drive their cattle into such holes and caverns at night. It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors of the crowded caravanserai had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passersby, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born But in that second creation there was indeed something symbolical in the roots of the primeval rock or the horns of the prehistoric herd. God also was a CaveMan, and, had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously colored upon the wall of the world ; but the pictures that he made had come to life. 

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this; that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true. When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke. But about this contrast and combination of ideas one thing may be said here, because it is relevant to the whole thesis of this book. The sort of modern critic of whom I speak is generally much impressed with the importance of education in life and the importance of psychology in education. That sort of man is never tired of telling us that first impressions fix character by the law of causation; and he will become quite nervous if a child's visual sense is poisoned by the wrong colors on a golliwog or his nervous system prematurely shaken by a cacophonous rattle. Yet he will think us very narrow-minded, if we say that this is exactly why there really is a difference between being brought up as a Christian and being brought up as a Jew or a Moslem or an atheist. T he difference is that every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stones, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether be likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savor of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians; because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not. It may not be a difference of moral worth, for the Moslem or the Jew might be worthier according to his lights; but it is a plain fact about the crossing of two particular lights, the conjunction of two stars in our particular horoscope. Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique. 

Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet. Here begins, it is needless to say, another mighty influence for the humanization of Christendom. If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows I as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Celtic Woman: O Holy Night!

The WWI Christmas Truce of 1914


Hat tip to Mental Floss:


Not much about life in the trenches of World War I is very festive. What is festive-ish is that in 1914, an unofficial Christmas Truce was spontaneously declared in many trenches, as British and German troops decided to put their differences aside for a bit.

Bizarre things happened, including unarmed soldiers venturing into No Man’s Land (the space between the trenches), exchanges of gifts (apparently mostly food and cigarettes), games of soccer, and even caroling. Here’s an eight-minute film documenting the Christmas Truce through animation and a letter from a British soldier.

Feast of St. John the Evangelist


The following comes from Catholic.org:

St. John, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of St. James the Great, was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry. He became the "beloved disciple" and the only one of the Twelve who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion. He stood faithfully at the cross when the Savior made him the guardian of His Mother. His later life was passed chiefly in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. He founded many churches in Asia Minor. He wrote the fourth Gospel, and three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation is also attributed to him. Brought to Rome, tradition relates that he was by order of Emperor Dometian cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but came forth unhurt and was banished to the island of Pathmos for a year. He lived to an extreme old age, surviving all his fellow apostles, and died at Ephesus about the year 100.

St. John is called the Apostle of Charity, a virtue he had learned from his Divine Master, and which he constantly inculcated by word and example. The "beloved disciple" died at Ephesus, where a stately church was erected over his tomb. It was afterwards converted into a Mohammedan mosque. 

John is credited with the authorship of three epistles and one Gospel, although many scholars believe that the final editing of the Gospel was done by others shortly after his death. He is also supposed by many to be the author of the book of Revelation, also called the Apocalypse, although this identification is less certain.

Friday, December 26, 2014

O Holy Night by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - O Holy Night from Baluman on Vimeo.

Fr. Barron on Christmas

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Silent Night by Kurt Nilsen

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hallelujah

Monday, December 22, 2014

Veni Veni Emmanuel by Beth Nielsen Chapman

Heroes and a Miracle Baby

Chris Stefanick on Priesthood

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Huron Carol

Brother Roger: The Beauty of a Call

The Beauty of a Call from Taize on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In the Bleak Midwinter by Gloucester Cathedral Choir


I found this great Advent classic at the Anchoress site!

Real Life Catholic

O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Mary Anne Muglia

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your Soul Finds Rest in God

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

We all suffer in this world more or less, either from anxiety of mind, or sorrow of heart, or pain of body. And nevertheless we all long for rest; we seek it eagerly; and we wear ourselves out all our lives in this search without ever attaining the ob­ject of our desires.
Where is rest to be found? Where shall we seek it? This is a most interesting question if ever there was one.
Some men, in fact the greater number, seek their rest in the enjoyment of the riches, pleasures, and honors of this life. What care do they not take to secure these things for themselves, to preserve them, to increase them, and to accumulate them?
Do they really find rest in these things? No. How would rest be found in these perishing things, which cannot even sat­isfy the passion that desired them; in things that have no proportion with the wants of the human heart, that leave it always empty, always devoured by a still more ardent thirst; in things that are always being disputed and envied and torn furiously by one person from another? What rest and stability can be found in things that are change itself? If the foundation on which we build our rest is always moving, is it not a necessary consequence that we must experience the same agitation?
Let everyone consult himself; experience is the most posi­tive of proofs. What man ever tasted rest in the midst of the greatest treasures, the liveliest pleasures, the most flattering honors? Rest is not in these things: everyone knows this; and yet it is in these things that man persists in seeking it. Men ex­haust themselves in desires, in projects, in enterprises, and they never succeed in finding a single moment of rest. If they would only consult their reason, it would tell them that in this way they can never find rest. What blindness! What folly!
Others establish their rest in themselves, and in doing this, they think they are much wiser than those who seek it in exte­rior things. But are they really wise? Is man made to be suffi­cient for himself? Can he find in himself the principle of his rest? His ideas change every day; his heart is in a perpetual state of unrest; he is constantly imagining new systems of hap­piness, and he finds this happiness nowhere. If he is alone, he is devoured with weariness. If he is in company, however se­lect and agreeable it may be, it soon becomes tiresome to him; his reflections exhaust and torment him. Study and reading may amuse him and distract him for a time, but they cannot fill up the void in his heart. This is the kind of rest that human wisdom promises to its followers and for which it invites them to give up everything else, to isolate themselves, and to concentrate their attention on themselves. It is a deceitful rest, which is not exempt from the most violent agitations and which is at least as hard for man to bear as the tumult of his passions!

Fr. Benedict Groeschel on Isolation And Today's Culture

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons

Pope John XXIII on Advent

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

That's My King!


That's My King! from Albert Martin on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Advent Concert from the Benedictine Monastery at Melk

Fr. Robert Barron: God's Existence and The Argument from Desire

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hallelujah

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Patroness of the Americas


Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

In 1531 a "Lady from Heaven" appeared to a humble Native American at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City.
She identified herself as the ever virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth.


She made a request for a church to be built on the site, and submitted her wish to the local Bishop. When the Bishop hesitated, and requested her for a sign, the Mother of God obeyed without delay or question to the Church's local Bishop, and sent her native messenger to the top of the hill in mid-December to gather an assorment of roses for the Bishop.

After complying to the Bishop's request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native's tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 477 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origins.
 To learn more about this miraculous image please click here.

Fr. Robert Barron at Our Lady of Guadalupe

Thursday, December 11, 2014

LA GUADALUPANA EMMANUEL Y ALEXANDER HACHA

Fr. Robert Barron on the Advent Revolution

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mary, Did You Know? by Pentatonix

Archbishop Aquila: How Catholic feasts are different

The following comes from the Denver Catholic Register:
The Church has just celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day is on Dec. 12, and we are quickly approaching Christmas. The liturgical year is filled with celebrations, but do we really understand how Catholic feasts are more than religious parties?
It is easy to treat Christmas or other liturgical feasts as only a celebration of Mass, food, family and gifts, so this week I am going to discuss the Catholic understanding of celebrating feast days. I hope that all who read this column will become more engaged in Advent and usher in Christmas with a deeper joy. 
The word “holiday” comes from the Old English expression hālig doeg, which means “holy day.” But over the years it has come to mean anything from taking a vacation to having a day off work. 
The Christian and Jewish understanding of holiday has a deeper meaning and history. It comes from the very first one, which God established when he rested on the seventh day of creation and “hallowed” it, meaning, he set it aside for spiritual purposes. Following God the Father’s example, this is what we do when we celebrate the feast days of saints and events in the life of Christ. 
In the life of the Church, there are three important dimensions to our celebrations that I want to share with you to deepen your joy and your experience, especially at Christmas and Easter.
The first aspect has to do with the message of a feast. You might think of feasts as events that punctuate the calendar year and are filled with food and friends, but faith sees them differently. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote about this in his book, “Seeking the Face of God.” Feasts, he said, are an “expression of God’s inexhaustible love, of which we are made aware by an act of memory.” In other words, when we celebrate a feast, we recall the event that tells us of God’s love and immerse ourselves in it as a community or family. We remember God’s miraculous work, connect ourselves to it, and experience the effects of that grace together. 
A second quality of feasts is that they recalibrate our perception of what matters by drawing us out of our everyday existence. When we celebrate holy days, we recall the past events, words and miracles of God, but we also turn our hearts and minds to our future. Doing this reminds us that God loves us, and points us to our ultimate goal in life—living in intimate communion with him forever in heaven. 
In his book “Dogma and Preaching,” Cardinal Ratzinger expressed this dimension of feasts beautifully. He wrote, “It means that for the moment he is freed from the stern logic of the struggle for existence and looks beyond his own narrow world to the totality of things. It means that he allows himself to be comforted, allows his conscience to be moved by the love he finds in the God who has become a child, and that in doing so he becomes freer, richer, purer. If we were to try celebrating in this fashion, would not a sigh of relief pass across the world?”
Finally, feast days should be moments of genuine joy. When we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the birth of Jesus, Christ’s death and Resurrection or the life of a saint, we are filled with joy because we know through faith that we have been freed from sin and death. All of these moments that we observe throughout the year point to the same fundamental truth: God has freed us from sin and death through his son, Jesus. He has liberated St. Joseph, Mary, St. Francis, St. Frances Cabrini, St. John Paul II, countless unnamed saints, and you and me!
As you prepare for Christmas this Advent, keep in mind the three dimensions of feasts. They are an experience of God’s unfailing love for us, a moment of reorientation to what matters in life, and a time of profound joy.
It is easy to fall into treating holy days as celebrations of material things—a feast for the sake of enjoying ourselves—but this will not satisfy us. When we forget God and the reasons why we celebrate, we begin to lose our joy, our understanding of our purpose in life and our ability to share God’s love with others. When we keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on God’s particular love for us, our hearts are filled with joy. 
May we all enter into this Advent time of preparation with a renewed sense of why we celebrate and experience the lasting joy of Christmas!

Advent and Intentional Healing

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
In his homily for the Second Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminds us, “Isaiah addresses the people who have passed through a dark time, that have undergone a very hard trial; but now the time of consolation has come. Sadness and fear can make way for joy, because the Lord Himself will guide his people on the path of freedom and salvation.” During Advent season, the Church, especially in her liturgy, encourages us to take a spiritual and moral inventory to be prepared and purified for the Nativity of Christ. That we may experience a “pass over” from darkness to light, from sadness and fear to the joy of the Incarnation and the freedom of salvation, the examination of conscience and confession of sin, makes us cooperators in the intentional healing that occurs with the Nativity of Jesus.
As we read in the Catechism, “a person’s conscience is our most secret core and our sanctuary. There we are alone with God whose voice echoes in our depths (1776).” When you are alone with God what “echoes” of His voice do you hear in your heart? Do you invite Jesus into the rooms of your heart that are messy or downright ugly? When you examine your conscience, are there areas in your life where you feel stuck in habitual sin? Human nature is fallen but we are not helpless.
Fallen man is self-centered; we orbit around ourselves instead of around God; and in this state we are in “enemy” territory. Satan is the Tempter (1 Thes. 3-5); and as he originated the fall of man, so he still directly influences us to reject grace and commit sin. This is his ordinary mode of action (1 John 3:8-10). The devil, by deception and psychic violence seeks to imprison us in his own separation from God. If an evil spirit tempts us to sin, if we yield to sin, how can we not be united with that evil spirit at some level? In Matthew’s Gospel (5:37) we learn, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Saying “no” to temptation is often very difficult because in truth, we do not want what God wants for us.
Most Reverend Robert Carlson’s Pastoral Letter on Penance entitled, “Jesus Christ, The Divine Physician,” quotes a reflection by Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Lord, Make Me Want!”
Sin is precisely this: that I do not want what God wants. And I can’t see how this opposition on my part could be broken. I can’t see how this prison wall, which holds me captive, could be pierced through. I know precisely what I ought to do. You’ve often told me yourself, the priest has told me, I have told myself. This, then, is not what is lacking. The will is lacking: the being able to want. There is a will in me that wants and there is another will in me (the same one!) that does not want. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What a wretched man I am! Thus it is that I am rent apart in my innermost will. And this is why I cry out from the depths of my prison of unwilling, “Make me want!”
The effects of personal sin contribute to the increasing collective oppression that humanity experiences in this hour. What can be done then? We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us a deep and continual desire to want what God wants for us. We can implore the Holy Spirit to strengthen our will to practice habitual virtue instead of habitual vice. We can put on the full armor of God to resist the fiery darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6).
Advent is a time to de-clutter our heart to make room for the new arrival of Jesus Christ. We can be intentional about cooperating with grace to heal our sin sickness. I use the following list during retreats, and share it with the hope that it is helpful for some.

Examining 6 Areas for Intentional Healing

  1. Your heart: are there areas within that are darkened by recurring anger, bitterness, envy, unruly competitiveness or resentment? Do you manage anger by “exploding” or “imploding”?  Possible roots of anger include: perfectionism, pride, control, envy, insecurity, unrealistic expectations leading to disappointment and negativity. Invite Christ to come into the messy areas of your heart to transform them.
  2. Relationships:  Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from? Are you striving to love the most difficult people in your life, or do you simply avoid them? Are you in relationships that are disordered, illicit, co-dependent and not of God? Do you live in fear of what others think all the time? Are you true to God, yourself, family, and friends? Invite Christ to be the center of all your relationships, and to heal them according to His will.
  3. Idols: What catches your eye in life? What or who dominates your thoughts? It is obsessive preoccupation, escapism, or addiction to shopping, television, Internet, gambling, food, alcohol, sex, travel, recreation, sports, exercise, or work? Are you impulsive, compulsive, obsessive and out of control in any of these areas? What would it mean if these areas were to become balanced according to God’s will? Possible root causes include: boredom, frustration, loneliness, self-sabotage, escapism. Invite Christ into the areas of disorder and ask Him to heal the root cause of the symptoms for complete renewal.
  4. Lust:  Do you watch programs on TV, explore the Internet or read books that are inappropriate?  Does this lead to unwanted, sinful thoughts and behaviors?  Possible root causes include: 1) your longing for God has shifted to lust, 2) lack of contentment is feeding a need for immediate gratification or perpetual excitement, 3) lack of self-control and immaturity can lead to rebellion and flippant disregard for God’s law of love that requires purity of life. Ask the Immaculate Conception to defend you in the battle and help you to attain purity of life. Be pro-active in finding resources to help you.
  5. Laziness (sloth):  Are you lazy in areas of personal health, family relationships, or work? Are you slothful in seeking God or being attentive to your spiritual life? Root causes may include: lack of self-discipline, immaturity, low self-esteem, selfishness, or lack of integrity. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with the dynamism of Divine Love. Seek to renew your relationship with Christ, especially in the Eucharist.
  6. Intellectual Pride: Are you stubborn, controlling, insensitive, cynical, contentious, opinionated and slow to say you that you are wrong?  Do you judge others harshly simply by appearance? Intellectual pride has a need to always be right whereas humility admits mistakes and readily confesses faults.  Possible root causes includes: unruly egoism, selfishness, poor self-image, fear and insecurity. Invite Christ into your intellect and will to heal the root cause of any intellectual pride and ask for the grace and virtue of humility.

Advent Pause

I found this at the Anchoress site and had to share it. Very prayerful!

On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.
– Isaiah 25:6-8

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent in the Mountains

Gov. Bobby Jindal's Invitation to Prayer

Governor Jindal's Invite from The Response USA on Vimeo.

Saint of the Day: Juan Diego


The following comes from the California Catholic Daily:


On Dec. 9, Roman Catholics celebrate St. Juan Diego, the indigenous Mexican Catholic convert whose encounter with the Virgin Mary began the Church's devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

In 1474, 50 years before receiving the name Juan Diego at his baptism, a boy named Cuauhtlatoatzin -- “singing eagle” -- was born in the Anahuac Valley of present-day Mexico. Though raised according to the Aztec pagan religion and culture, he showed an unusual and mystical sense of life even before hearing the Gospel from Franciscan missionaries. 

In 1524, Cuauhtlatoatzin and his wife converted and entered the Catholic Church. The farmer now known as Juan Diego was committed to his faith, often walking long distances to receive religious instruction. In 1531, he would be the recipient of a world-changing miracle. 

On Dec. 9, Juan Diego was hurrying to Mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But the woman he was heading to church to celebrate came to him instead. In the native Aztec dialect, the radiant woman announced herself as the “ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God.” 

“I am your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land,” she continued, “and also of all the other various lineages of men.” 

She asked Juan Diego to make a request of the local bishop. “I want very much that they build my sacred little house here” -- a house dedicated to her son Jesus Christ, on the site of a former pagan temple, that would “show him” to all Mexicans and “exalt him” throughout the world. 

She was asking a great deal of a native farmer. Not surprisingly, his bold request met with skepticism from Bishop Juan de Zumárraga. But Juan Diego said he would produce proof of the apparition after he finished tending to his uncle, whose death seemed imminent. 

Making his way to church on Dec. 12 to summon a priest for his uncle, Juan Diego again encountered the Blessed Virgin. She promised to cure his uncle and give him a sign to display for the bishop. On the hill where they had first met he would find roses and other flowers, though it was winter. 

Doing as she asked, he found the flowers and brought them back to her. The Virgin Mary then placed the flowers inside his tilma, the traditional garment he had been wearing. She told him not to unwrap the tilma containing the flowers until he had reached the bishop. 

When he did, Bishop Zumárraga had his own encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe – through the image of her that he found miraculously imprinted on the flower-filled tilma. The Mexico City basilica that now houses the tilma has become, by some estimates, the world's most-visited Catholic shrine. 

The miracle that brought the Gospel to millions of Mexicans also served to deepen Juan Diego's own spiritual life. For many years after the experience, he lived a solitary life of prayer and work in a hermitage near the church where the image was first displayed. Pilgrims had already begun flocking to the site by the time he died on Dec. 9, 1548, the anniversary of the first apparition. 

Blessed John Paul II beatified St. Juan Diego in 1990, and canonized him in 2002.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Magnificent by U2


Magnificent
Oh, oh, magnificent

I was born, I was born
To be with you in this space and time
After that and ever after
I haven't had a clue only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born, I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb
My first cry, it was a joyful noise, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent

Regina Angelorum by G.K. Chesterton


OUR LADY went into a strange country,
Our Lady, for she was ours,
And had run on the little hills behind the houses
And pulled small flowers;
But she rose up and went into a strange country
With strange thrones and powers.


And there were giants in the land she walked in,
Tall as their toppling towns,
With heads so high in heaven, the constellations
Served them for crowns;
And their feet might have forded like a brook the abysses
Where Babel drowns.


They were girt about with the wings of morning and evening,
Furled and unfurled,
Round the speckled sky where our small spinning planet
Like a top is twirled;
And the swords they waved were the unending comets
That shall end the world.


And moving in innocence and in accident,
She turned the face
That none has ever looked on without loving
On the Lords of Space;
And one hailed her with her name in our own country
That is full of grace.


Our Lady went into a strange country
And they crowned her queen,
For she needed never to be stayed or questioned
But only seen;
And they were broken down under unbearable beauty
As we have been.


But ever she walked till away in the last high places,
One great light shone
From the pillared throne of the king of all the country
Who sat thereon;
And she cried aloud as she cried under the gibbet
For she saw her son.


Our Lady wears a crown in a strange country,
The crown he gave,
But she has not forgotten to call to her old companions
To call and crave;
And to hear her calling a man might arise and thunder
On the doors of the grave.


~G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Adoration by Matt Maher

Advent's Intention


"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…
     It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Love Is Here by Tenth Avenue North

The Saint Who Punched a Heretic

Nicholas
The following comes from Brandon Vogt:
Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas, a saint remembered by most for his association with Santa Claus, some for his commendable charity, but a small number for his famous punch against a third-century heretic.
As the story goes, during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius, a heretical bishop, believed that Christ was not divine, but rather just a creature. The Council challenged him to defend his claims in front of his brother bishops, including jolly old St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas tried to listen patiently but he considered Arius’ proposal so radical, so heretical, that he could no longer contain himself. In the middle of the speech, he rose with a scowl, charged toward Arius, and punched him right in the face.
The noted Punch is memorialized in many icons and works of art, including this piece:

Punch

Unfortunately, the Punch got St. Nichols into serious trouble. The Emperor Constantine was present at the Council, and he was so alarmed by St. Nicholas’ act of violence that he and the other bishops stripped Nicholas of his office and confiscated his two episcopal markers: his personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium, the vestment worn by all bishops in the East.
But the story didn’t stop there. According to tradition:
 
“After Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.

When the Emperor Constantine heard of this miracle, he immediately ordered that Nicholas be reinstated as a bishop in good standing for the Council of Nicea. Today we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday so we know how the controversy played out. The bishops at Nicea sided with Saint Nicholas and Saint Athanasius and they condemned Arius as a heretic.

To this very day, we still recite in the Creed that Christ is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.””

St. Nicholas’ redemption as a bishop is memorialized in the icon below. Notice Christ (left) holding out the book of the Gospels, Mary (right) holding out the episcopal pallium, and Nicholas (center) holding the Gospels and wearing the pallium:

Saint of the day: Nicholas of Myra


Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas! Here is the info from the Patron Saints Index:

Priest. Abbot. Bishop of Myra, Lycia (modern Turkey). Generous to the poor, and special protector of the innocent and wronged. Many stories grew up around him prior to his becoming associated with Santa Claus. Some examples

Upon hearing that a local man had fallen on such hard times that he was planning to sell his daughters into prostitution, Nicholas went by night to the house and threw three bags of gold in through the window, saving the girls from an evil life. These three bags, gold generously given in time of trouble, became the three golden balls that indicate a pawn broker’s shop.


He raised to life three young boys who had been murdered and pickled in a barrel of brine to hide the crime. These stories led to his patronage of children in general, and of barrel-makers besides.


Induced some thieves to return their plunder. This explains his protection against theft and robbery, and his patronage of them - he’s not helping them steal, but to repent and change. In the past, thieves have been known as Saint Nicholas’ clerks or Knights of Saint Nicholas.


During a voyage to the Holy Lands, a fierce storm blew up, threatening the ship. He prayed about it, and the storm calmed - hence the patronage of sailors and those like dockworkers who work on the sea

Rough Ways Made Smooth

Friday, December 5, 2014

Waterfall by Chris Tomlin

Dostoevsky on Love

Brethren, love is a teacher but we have to know how to acquire it.  It is acquired with difficulty.  A high price is paid for it, with continuous labor for a long time because we must not love only for an instant, accidentally, but to the end.

F. Dostoevsky (h/t Living Scripture)

Remembering Blessed Philip Rinaldi

Today the Salesians of Don Bosco remember Blessed Philip Rinaldi. Blessed Philip was born on May 28, 1856 at Lu Monferrato (Alessandria). Philip met Don Bosco when he was very young, and was won over by Don Bosco at the age of twenty-two.

As a priest, he was entrusted with the formation of the aspirants and novices. In 1899 Fr. Rua sent him as Director of the community of Sarriá, Spain and later as provincial leader. In this role he contributed greatly to the development of the Salesians in Spain.

Nominated Vicar General of the Congregation, his gifts as father and the wealth of his initiatives became even more evident. He set up formation centres to offer spiritual and social assistance to young working women, planned printing works and guided and supported the Salesian Sisters through a particularly sensitive period in their history. He gave great encouragement to the Cooperators, and set up the World Federations of Past-Pupils (male and female).

Working with the Zelatrici di Maria Ausiliatrice, he saw the possibilities for a new form of consecrated life in the world and made it a reality. This group would later become the "Volunteers of Don Bosco". He was elected Rector Major in 1922. "All that is lacking to Fr. Rinaldi is Don Bosco's voice: he has everything else" said Fr. Francesia.

He used all his energies in adapting Don Bosco's spirit to the times. He did much to develop Salesian studies and was a master of spiritual life. He worked to renew the spiritual life of the Salesians, had absolute confidence in God and unlimited trust in Mary Our Help. He asked Pius XI to grant the "indulgence for sanctified work". He took great interest in the missions, sending many young Salesians to learn languages and customs so that evangelisation might be more effective.

He died on December 5, 1931. His remains are venerated in the crypt of the Basilica of Mary Our Help. His memorial is celebrated on December 5. He was beatified on 29 April 1990 by Pope John Paul II.