Advent



Today the Church enters into the most holy of days prior to the Solemnity of Christmas.  These holy days are marked by the O Antiphons“O Antiphons” prayed at Mass and in the prayer of the Church – the liturgy of the hours.  I like the way catholicculture.com put it: “December 17 marks the beginning of the “O” Antiphons, the seven jewels of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer.”  
O Sapientia (December 17) “O Wisdom”, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

~ Fr. William Sanders

I want to reiterate that the significance of the O Antiphons is twofold:

1) If refers to one of the 7 messianic titles given to Christ.

2) They are linked with 7 prophecies regarding the Messiah from the Prophet Isaiah.

Reflection:
In the Christian tradition Wisdom has always existed in the second Person of the Godhead and it is Wisdom through which God created the world, when she spoke. That second person of the Trinity is Jesus, God incarnate. So He is not only the Word but He spoke the Word. And those Words are true, the life and the Way for us to live. Today let us pray that we shall use the gift of wisdom, given to us at Confirmation, to discern the things of God so that we grow to love the virtues of God’s kingdom.
 
O Sapientia teach us the truth and to be truly wise; Come, O Holy Spirit and prepare our hearts to welcome you at Christmas. Amen.
                                                                                                                                                                ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

A Creche: “School of Life”

crecheTraditionally in Rome on the 3rd Sunday of Advent people bring out their little baby Jesus’ from their creche’s to be blessed.  A few years ago Pope Benedict said the following:

“[A] crèche can be “a school of life, where we can learn the secret of true joy.” That secret, he said, is that Holy Family is “full of intimate joy because they love one another, they help one another and, above all, they are certain that God is at work in their story.” For the shepherds, he added, true joy comes from “feeling that our individual and community lives are touched by and filled with a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God..”

On this Gaudete Sunday where we rejoice because the coming of our Lord is near.

Action: 

Do you reach out to those around you?  Do you only love those who love you or do you love even those that are difficult for you to love? Today, resolve to live this 3rd week of Advent with the joy of Jesus and bring kindness, mercy and joy into the lives of the people around you.

Prayer:

Your birthday is almost here Jesus –  a little over a week away.  I beg of you the grace to forget about myself and to give the gift of you to others through my thoughts, words and actions.

Collect: O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


St. John of the Cross’ Advent Poem

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road

Image
pregnant with the holy, and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim – the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing..
Action:
St. John of the Cross is a Doctor of the Church because of his wisdom on prayer.  A great gift to give God today is to take 15 minutes of silent prayer today just adoring our Lord and preparing more and more for the coming of Christ.
Prayer:
Collect: O God, who gave the Priest Saint John an outstanding dedication to perfect self-denial and love of the Cross, grant that, by imitating him closely at all times, we may come to contemplate eternally your glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Warning Advent Virus

WARNING……WARNING: ADVENT VIRUSwarning

Be on the alert for symptoms of inner Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.

Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:

  • A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
  • An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
  • A loss of interest in judging other people.
  • A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
  • A loss of interest in conflict.
  • A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
  • Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
  • Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
  • Frequent attacks of smiling.
  • An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
  • An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.

~ Author Unknown

Action:

I will aim to spread the effects of this virus onto others.

Prayer:

Come Lord Jesus!


Conversion of Sinners = Joy

prayer at foot of Jesus

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?

And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt. 18)

Action: 

Offer up all your little struggles and make little sacrifices for the conversion of sinners this Advent.  It is a penitential season.  Consider people in your own family, people at work, those who will attend Mass on Christmas but don’t go throughout the year and yes, for yourself to have a humble and contrite heart.

Prayer:

Jesus, I thank you for humbling yourself and taking on human flesh in order to bring salvation.  I pray for the conversion of sinners and for them to experience your joy in a powerful way. Amen!


Immaculate Mary

immaculate conceptionThe Catechism speaks beautifully about Mary who is the Immaculate Conception:

490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”.133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.137

493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”.138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty  God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

Action:

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary asking Mary to draw you into the Heart of our Savior.

Prayer:

Hail Mary full of grace….


A Voice is Crying Out

st. John the baptistJohn the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

Action:

Today I will make plans to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas.

Prayer:

Jesus, I know you thirst for my soul.  Assist me who is weak and busy with many things to prepare a way in the wilderness of my heart for you!  Help me grow closer to you during this second week of Advent!  Amen.


Pace Yourselves

advent2“Pace yourselves in these holy days. Enjoy the richness of the Advent days. They should be days of calm reflection on the Mystery of the Incarnation, God taking on human nature.  Decorate slowly and deliberately, not putting everything up at once.  

                                                                                                                     ~ Fr. Roger Ansparger

Action:

This Advent I will seek to be more calm and reflective.  I will begin today or renew today my commitment to do this.

Prayer: 

God our Father, in the fullness of time you sent your son to bring salvation to us.  May our thoughts and actions be filled with you this holy season.  We ask this through Christ our Lord! Amen.


St. Nicholas, more than a chubby happy fellow

 

St. Nicholas“As bishop of Myra, Nicholas seemed more aware than ever of people’s needs. He would appear all over the city offering help to anyone in difficulty, then quietly disappear without waiting for thanks. He shunned publicity. Still, his reputation as a holy man grew and grew, even spreading to distant cities that had never seen him.

 

SpacerHe was especially interested that families had enough to eat and a good place to live, that children got ahead in life, and that old people lived out their lives with dignity and respect. And he always loved the sailors living so dangerously on the sea. Without their ships, people everywhere would be without food and other goods they carried for trade.

 

SpacerYet it is as a lover of children that Nicholas is best remembered today. While he lived, he gave the little ones he met small gifts– some candy, a toy. His kindness, which always managed to surprise them, touched their hearts, and they learned from this holy man what a beautiful thing giving is.

 

SpacerIn the figure of Santa Claus, whose name and activity Nicholas inspired, we have this saint with us today.”

~ Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P.

 

Action: 

Today, I will remember that this Season is about Christ and proclaiming and celebrating Him through my desire to love Christ and serve Him in my neighbor.  Seek to do a kind deed or two to surprise another.

Prayer:

St. Nicholas, you sought to give without any recognition and you did it because of your desire to reflect Jesus Christ.  We pray for all children that they may be the people you have called them to be through their Baptism. Bless them and draw them closer to Jesus! Amen.


St. Nicholas


I found this video that I thought was worth sharing about how many see this time of year.  Take a moment to check it out and then I encourage you to just take the next few days to seek Christ and be still with Him.  He was born in silence and for the first few days hardly anyone knew he had been born but Mary and Jesus and the world had just received the greatest gift ever.  Let us ponder this and draw close to Christ.

Christmas With Jesus


magiIt feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to post on my blog.  Today, I wanted to share a power point I shared with parents just last night on helping them prepare for Christmas.  This power point does not do my presentation complete justice but it gives a glimpse of things that I talked about.  I must give much credit to Lacy of catholicicing.com for many of these ideas that fit right into what I wanted to share with parents.

Life tends to be pretty busy this time of year.  Preparing and celebrating with family and friends and wanting everything to be just right.  Sometimes we let all the pre-Christmas celebrations and all the “have to do’s” prevent us from actually doing what Advent seeks to help us do (make more room for Christ in our lives).

Here is the Powerpoint Preparing for Christmas Like Never Before from my presentation.  I hope you enjoy it (it’s very simple).

Let us together walk more slowly, be more patient and take a little more time to spiritually prepare for Christmas.  Come Lord Jesus!


Pope John Paul II in his address on Dec. 18, 2002 said, “The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”

May these final days of Advent be a time of hope and blessings for you!  In all the hectic and joyfilled moments over the next few days may it be a time of grace and peace for you as you remember and welcome the greatest of gifts — Jesus Christ!


As we come to the end of the third week of Advent I think this quote from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is worthwhile:

     “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.”

from Seek That Which Is Above,1986



As we enter into this Third Week of Advent we are called to live the joy of the Lord.  As I reflect on this theme of joy, I thought of how Catechists need to catechize with joy and help students discover the joy of living a life in Christ.  How do we do this not only in Advent but throughout the year?

 3 Ways to echo joy in the classroom and beyond:

1) As a catechist, a sure sign of a life lived in Christ is your  expression of joy through your teaching and sharing of your faith.  Teach with a spirit of joy so that your students will know that you love Christ and are happy precisely because you are following Him.

2) Joy pushes out sadness.  Life if filled with challenges and struggles.  When we focus on them we become sad and discouraged which prevents us from conveying to others that we find our hope and joy in Christ.  Fr. Fernandez wrote in his book In Conversation with God, Volume 1: “Unless we forget ourselves, and are not too much taken up with our own affairs, we will not be able to know and serve Christ, in whom is our true happiness.  Anyone excessively self-centered will find it very difficult to discover the joy of opening himself out towards God and towards other people (pg. 116).”  Joy and a spirit of service draws others to Christ and His abundant life.

3)  J.O.Y. – Jesus.  Others.  Yourself.  When we live our lives focused on Jesus first,  Others second, and Ourselves third we truly find a peace beyond understanding whether we are experiencing challenges or blessings.

May this third week of Advent be a time where we remember that a life reflecting the joy of the Lord is one that draws us to the wonders of the Word who became flesh and the Word who will come again to draw all men to Himself – May we give Him permission!

 

How are you fostering Joy this Advent?

 

 


Advent is upon us.  One of the images I love to reflect upon is how this is a season where it gets dark earlier and the sun rises later.  This season of expectation helps us remember how the world was in darkness and the light of the world, Jesus Christ, came to fill the world with the light and truth of God’s revelation of Himself.    Here are some ways to give students a glimpse of this:

1. Turn out the lights for a few moments and light the candle(s) of the Advent Wreath and share how the days have gotten shorter and how there is less less light outside and more darkness.  Help them see that the closer we get to Christmas the more light there is in the Advent Wreath.  The light from the advent wreath remind us of the light of Christ.  Light in the darkness of the night gives us direction.  Share with your students how their kindness, their generosity and their time spent in prayer this Advent are helping us be light and bring hope to a world that is often lost in darkness and a world longing for what we as followers of Christ can share with them.

2. Another way to help make this concrete for students is to share with them how most people put lights up at the beginning of Advent – outside & inside their houses.  Christmas lights are a constant reminder this time of year of the light of Christ.  Challenge your students to offer a small prayer when they see these various kinds of light…Jesus, thank you for being the light of the world; Jesus, bless Grandma with your light and hope in her time of sickness; Jesus, help those who don’t know you find you; or Jesus, be my light in all the decisions I make today.

3. Here are a few great Scripture verses on light: John 1:4-9; John 8:12; Jn. 1:6; Mt. 5:14-16 & 1 John 1:5-7 that you could use during opening and closing prayer.


How will you make room?

It’s about that time of year when I begin to reflect and consider what I might do to make this year a meaningful Advent.  I do this both personally(my life and my families) and professionally (what can I do in my religious education program that would be valuable).

This time of year is the calm before the storm…once the week before Thanksgiving hits, the holiday season seems in full force and people are going even faster than usual in their daily lives.  It’s important to take some time now to consider how this Advent will lead you closer to Christ this Christmas.  I realize some of you might be thinking: it’s just a little too early for me to be thinking that far ahead.  Well, maybe it is, but it’s not too early in my life.

3 things to consider/reflect upon:

1. Ask a few questions… How is God calling me to grow closer to Him this Advent?  During Advent what might I consider that is a challenge but realistic for where I’m at in my life?  Will the sacrifice I make, activity I choose or the attitude I seek to foster make room for Jesus and welcome Him more fully into my life and those around me on Christmas and beyond?

2. Advent is actually a penitential season, therefore doing a little penance is worth considering.  Penance helps one to refocus, to keep in mind that Mary and Joseph had a long journey and a challenging time leading up to the glorious “Advent” of Jesus’ birth.  What could you do during the 4 weeks of Advent that unites your sacrifice with that of the holy family?

3. Consider something like the popular “advent conspiracy” project. Check out this video and website.  It offers great ideas about how to give “presence” instead of presents.  This is not merely about saving money or being cheap about what you give but the difference it could make if you give yourself or a donation over merely a gift that will be forgotten in 6 months.  It’s something to consider and discern.    Or check out this great article entitled “A Different Kind of Advent”.

What do you do before things get too busy when considering the upcoming Advent Season?


As we approach the great Solemnity of Christmas I have been pondering about the connection between Christmas and the Mass.  Here is what I’ve thought about:

1) Every Mass is a little Christmas.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us or “pitched his tent among us”.  Isn’t that what happens at every Mass?  Heaven come to earth.  What a celebration and an encounter Mass is each time we attend (that is if we are open to the miracle of it).

2) Christ was born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread” and He was born in a manger fit not for a king but for animals.  His bed was a feeding trough.  Isn’t that interesting and actually providential.  Jesus Christ laid in a feeding trough upon his birth and is our bread of life that we feed upon every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.

O Come let us prepare our hearts to adore Him and receive Him with a soul that allows Him to take up His throne in our hearts!


In these final days of Advent let us reflect upon the great mysteries of Christ and the incarnation.  Fr. Francis Fernandez said in volume 1 of In Conversation with God:

“During these days it will be easy for us, by reading and meditating on the gospel, to contemplate the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in the manger at Bethlehem.  We will learn important lessons about detachment, humility and concern for other people.  The Shepherds will teach us the joy of finding God, and the wise men how we must adore him; we will feel that we have been given new strength to persevere in the following of our way.”

Come let us go forth and learn from the shepherds the joy of finding God and let us learn true wisdom from the wise men and be ready to adore Christ.


At my parish, our pastor, gave a homily on the 4th Sunday of Advent mostly about St. Joseph, but with some interesting insights.  What caught my attention was a recent study he had come across about how our society is more and more tolerant towards others.  The positive aspect is that we, as a culture, are not as judgmental with others as maybe we once were.  However, the study also revealed that we are less empathetic and compassionate of a culture than we once were.  This is troubling news.  We are struggling more as a culture to “suffer with” others (the meaning of the word compassion).  In addition we are not as empathetic (Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another… Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.”  How can we in the ministry of catechesis make sure we grow ourselves and also help others grow in compassion?

3 ways to teach compassion/empathy in the classroom:

1) Show how Jesus and the saints were models of compassion and empathy. He had great compassion for those He encountered.  He sought to be with others in their struggle all the while pointing them to the truth.  Here are a few Scripture verses:

  • Jesus was moved with compassion Mt. 9:36; Mk. 1:41; Lk. 7:13.
  • The hungry Mk. 8:1-10
  • A certain Samaritan had compassion on him (Lk. 10:33)

2) Take those “teachable moments” in the classroom to show your students compassion.  Maybe a student is having a hard day or another who has a sick grandmother in their family.  The opposite of compassion is indifference.  We need be Christ to our students in order to show them how to live compassion in their own lives.

3) The Power of Prayer: Ask Christ and the saints to inspire you to be compassionate toward others. Pray for the grace to be Christ-like in your actions.

The solution to this crises of a lack of compassion begins with you and me.   My pastor spoke of how Joseph was probably not a tolerant man (that is why he was going to divorce Mary after discovering she was pregnant with a child that he knew was not his).  But then we see Joseph’s compassion because he was going to do it quietly so as not to expose Mary to what he originally thought was her shame/sin (before he had the dream).   We also can imagine St. Joseph’s compassion during the trip he took with Mary to Bethlehem and all the times he was patient and understanding at the challenges of the trip.

May you be filled with the love and compassion of Christ Jesus during this 4th week of Advent!


Fr. Brian Cavanaugh of appleseeds.org wrote the following in his December newsletters a number of years ago.  I thought it was worth repeating since St. Joseph is often the forgotten member of the Holy Family this time of year.  St. Joseph…Pray for us and guide us to the mind and heart of your son Jesus!

St. Joseph, a Model of  Recollection

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- With Christmas approaching, Benedict XVI exhorted the faithful to cultivate a spirit of interior recollection in an often noisy world that makes it hard to listen to God.

The Pope today presented St. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, as a model of recollection. Joseph’s silence in the Gospel, the Holy Father said, “does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart. Let’s allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of St. Joseph!”

Silence “is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God,” Benedict XVI said. “In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.”

He suggested that the faithful establish in these days “a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph so that he helps us live to the fullest this mystery of faith.”

The Bishop of Rome recalled that his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, “who was very devoted to St. Joseph,” dedicated the apostolic exhortation “Redemptoris Custos” (Custodian of the Redeemer) to the adoptive father of Jesus.

In that 1989 document, John Paul II gave “a particular importance to the silence of St. Joseph,” observed Benedict XVI.

Such a silence was “permeated with the contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to the divine will,” Benedict XVI said. “A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, guard the Word of God, known through sacred Scripture, comparing it continually to the events of the life of Jesus; a silence interwoven with constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of adoration of his holy will and of boundless confidence in his providence.”

The Holy Father added: “It is not exaggerated to say that Jesus will learn—on a human level—precisely from ‘father’ Joseph this intense interior life, which is the condition of authentic righteousness, the ‘interior righteousness,’ which one day he will teach to his disciples.”


Are we hesitating to respond to Christ this Advent because we are waiting for just the right moment, those perfect circumstances that will allow us to be just as quick as[the Apostles in responding to Christ]?  Sadly, we may discover that while we were waiting for that illusive moment, we failed to be attentive to the here and now invitations of everyday life, missing opportunities to respond with the generosity of a true follower of Christ.”

Priscilla Marck, THE MAGNIFICAT Advent Collection, p. 18


As Advent continues, consider fostering this attitude of expectation through a desire to grow in God’s grace.

St. Alphonsus Liguori once spoke about our need to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord: ‘There will be those who say: ‘that is exactly why I don’t go to Communion more often, because I realize my love is cold…’  If you are cold, do you think it sensible to move away from the fire?  Precisely because you feel your heart frozen you should go ‘more frequently’ to Holy Communion, provided you feel a sincere desire to love Jesus Christ.

Isn’t this at the heart of our preparations in Advent… a sincere desire to love Jesus Christ more fully?

St. Alphonsus continues by quoting St. Bonaventure: “‘Go to Holy Communion even  when you feel lukewarm, leaving everything in God’s hands.  The more my sickness debilitates me, the more urgently do I need a doctor.'”

Advent is a time to allow the fire, the flame of God’s grace to melt the frozen parts of our heart.

3 Ways to Encourage the flame of God’s grace in our lives and our students:

1. The Sacrament of Reconciliation – Confessing our sins and receiving the healing and mercy of Christ in this sacrament greatly assists us to be more full of God’s life.

2. The Sacrament of the Eucharist – Especially each Sunday at Mass, but also daily Mass if possible will allow us to encounter the Word made flesh, which is the most unique way possible while living on earth.

3. Daily Prayer – taking time to pray and reflect enhances our awareness of Christ as well as draws us into that marvelous exchange of friendship with God.

May your Advent journey continue with a great joy and hope as we live this Season of Expectation!


This past Sunday we gathered students in our program who do Home Study and those who attended our Summer School of Religion (an intensive religious education program over the summer – I shared a little bit about it a number of months ago Part I and Part II).  We’ve asked those participating in our Home Study or Summer Session to attend 4 enrichment session during the year.  It is a way to keep them plugged-in to the parish throughout the year.  We ask at least one parent attend with their child(ren).  Our team (about 6 adults) wanted to do something that would draw those attending into the the Advent and Christmas Season.

Our play or skit was entitled “An Ascension Christmas Carol…in a neighbor near you.”  It focused on Christmas past (the birth of Jesus), Christmas Present (living for Jesus in our everyday lives) and Christmas Future (The Eucharistic Feast of Heaven).  The skit began with a few grumpy kids beginning to decorate their family Christmas Tree for the holiday season.  The kids were sent to bed and while asleep all had an Angel visit them and take them on a “tour” showing them the true meaning of Christmas – past, present and future.  The skit lasted about a half an hour and it was wonderful!

Following the skit kids and parents went from the church to our parish hall to work on an Advent calendar where we played some music and served cider and cookies while families worked on their Advent Calendar (each day of the calendar had an faith action to perform.

Many parents commented on how their kids liked it as well as themselves.  We also got a lot of positive feedback from the evaluation forms we asked them to fill out.  Praise God!

Has your parish done anything like this? I’d like to hear how your parish is involving families.


Happy Memorial of St. Nicholas!  Yesterday, I dressed up as St. Nicholas, no not Santa Claus but St. Nicholas for the Pre-School 3 and 4 year old’s as well as our kindergarten students.  I had my Miter, a priestly robe, and a beard.  It was an enjoyable time with the students.  Many catechists commented on how attentive their students were.

If you have class this week, here are a few things to keep in mind and possibly work sharing about St. Nicholas.

1. Why is St. Nicholas the Patron Saint of Children?

He is known especially in the West as the patron saint of children.  There are many stories about him assisting children who were in danger or harms way as well as the many healings and miracles that occurred while he was alive and after his death.  I’ll comment a little more under St. Nicholas and Santa regarding his patronage of children.

2. Why is St. Nicholas the Patron Saint of Brides (those to be married).

The most popular story is Nicholas discovering that 3 young women who were fairly poor and would not be able to Marry (some stories say they would have been sold into slavery)  in the future unless they had a dowry (the sum of money given from the bride’s family to the groom’s to help provide for the newly married couple).  One night, Nicholas threw/tossed three bags of gold through an open window and they landed in the stockings of the three girls who were drying their socks above the fire place (other stories say they landed in or just beside their shoes).  Some countries even to this day have children leave their shoes out the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas in order for their shoes to be filled with candy and treats.

3. Why is he Patron Saint of Sailors and those setting out on boats/ships?

Tradition has it that he was on a ship with many others and there arose a fierce storm.  All feared that death was near.  They realized that  Nicholas was calm and in prayer.  Soon after the storm ceased and all were safe.

4. What is the the connection/link between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus?

The word Santa Claus is a derivative of the name St. Nicholas.  It is said that Nicholas spent the wealth he received from his parents on giving gifts to others to those who were in need.  In many places a tradition of anonymous/secret gift-giving began after his death.

5. What can we learn from St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas like all the saints are models of imitating Christ.  His compassion, love, and desire to give unconditionally are all qualities that model Christ-like behavior.  He stands out as a dynamic and vivid model for us to imitate.  St. Nicholas and Santa Claus should keep our eyes focused on Christ.  Christ is the reason for the Season.  Without the Birth of the Messiah, the Word becoming flesh in human history, the tradition of Santa Claus coming once a year on Christmas would have never come to be what it is today.  A perfect image is the kneeling Santa before the Christ child.  Santa Claus should teach us to model Holiness – Ho Ho Ho (I teach kids that this is short for Holy, Holy, Holy).

Do one thing today that reflects the kindness, compassion and generosity of St. Nicholas who did it all for the love and glory of God!  St. Nicholas…Pray for us!


As Catechists and individuals in ministry how do we make Advent for ourselves and our students more than a merely happy and festive time?  Often it is a time where many await and countdown to Christmas not primarily because of the spiritual meaning of the season but more for the joys of exchanging gifts and getting together with family and friends.  Even the secular culture promotes this time of year as a joy filled and special few weeks.   Although this is all well and even good it often seems to miss the heart of this time of year.  How do we help others prepare well in Advent for the Solemnity of Christmas?

Fr. Ronald Knox in a sermon on Advent said:

“This attitude of expectation is one which the Church wants to encourage in us, her children, permanently.  She sees it as an essential part of our Christian drill that we should still be looking forward; getting on for two thousand years, now, since the first Christmas Day came and went, and we must still be looking forward.”

4 Ways to Look Forward

1. Promote and teach a spirit of preparation.  Jesus said: “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Lk. 24:42)

2. Teach students not only that we remember and celebrate Jesus’ Birthday and how He came to earth to save us but also share that He will come again and we need to be ready.

3. Pray for all those who will die this month and will be meeting Jesus.  Pray that they are spiritually ready.

4. The liturgical color is purple which communicates to the faithful a spirit of sacrifice.  Encourage a spirit of penance and sacrifice during Advent.


Jared Dees from The Religion Teacher listed a number of great links to help catechists and families prepare for Advent.  They are worth checking out.


birth-boucherCláudio Cardinal Hummes, Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo and Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy in charge of all catechetical efforts in the Church wrote a beautiful Christmas Message to all who carry out the work of catechesis in the Church.  May it inspire you and draw you closer to Christ this Christmas Season.

Merry Christmas and God bless you and your family!!!    ~ William

Christmas Message 2008

I extend my joyous and fraternal wishes for a holy and festive Christmas, and that the year 2009 be enlightened, grace filled a full of accomplishments in the service of Jesus Christ and of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor or suffering. Christmas does not confine us to a commemoration of an extraordinary event in the past, recalled with gratitude and love, but it is also an event which is actualised in the present day, in our midst.

Jesus Christ comes because he loves us and wants to save us from evil: from every evil, and even from death. He comes to welcome us, to make us experience his love, to transform us into his disciples, true sons of the heavenly Father, to invite us to proclaim in the entire world that God is Love, and that he loves us unconditionally, without measure. Jesus comes! He becomes our companion on the journey of life. Let us be gathered to him. Let us allow him to overcome us and to make his dwelling within us. He will eat with us in an unimaginable communion, in which he will have us experience the mysterious and efficacious depth of his friendship and his salvation. Enlightened and transformed by this encounter with Him we will be able to proclaim him to every man and woman of our time. Behold, such is Christmas!

Cláudio Cardinal Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy


giftsConsider 3 Gifts to bring not only in the days leading up to Christmas but during the Christmas Season from Matthew 2:10-12:

[10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
[11] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,        and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
[12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The wise men brought 3 wonderful gifts:

Gold… Gold is a gift for a King.  Gold reveals something about a treasure.  Christ is that treasure and king!  What gold can you give in your life to be a gift and treasure to others?  How can you use your gift or talent during Christmas to show Christ to others?

Frankincense…This is usually burned when offering something to God or in prayer.  How can your words and actions this Christmas be an offering to praise and love God?  This is a holy time, don’t miss the opportunity to make your actions and words an authentic offering to Christ, the newborn king.  Offer Him your committment to live for Him as he comes into your heart this Christmas is the gift Christ wants! After all, it’s his Birthday!

Myrrh…This is an odd gift.  Myrrh is a scent or a balm usually used at the time of death.  This gift is a a prefiguring of Christ’s death on the cross.  Our gift is to die to our sinful ways and our imperfections so we can be the best-version-of-ourselves for Christ to use.  We want to die to what does not lead us and others closer to God’s will.

They departed…by another way — May we depart by another way having really lived this Advent Season and Christmas Season to the full.

May Christ reign anew in your hearts this Christmas!  The world longs for the gifts of our Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh!


On Sunday our parish provided a session for all parents who have chosen Home Study for their child(ren).   This year we have asked all families who are choosing to home school (we call it Home Study) their child to attend 4 session that would foster a bit of community as well as learning.  33 out of 70 attended.  Not great, but not too bad.  I gave a reflection on Advent and making room for Christ in our lives this Christmas.  We then had the students break up into four groups where they spent 15 minutes at each station focusing on one of the 4 themes of Advent (taken from the 4 themes of the Advent Wreath/candles).  So I recruited 3 of my catechists to help lead a station (I also led one): Hope, Peace, Joy & Love.  Here is what each station covered:

Hope: students were given a large sheet of paper and listed how they could bring hope to  1)Family, 2) friends and 3) into their own lives. 

Peace: Students reflected on St. Francis of Assisi’s peace prayer and listed where there is hatred_________ and how they would sow love _________. They did this for each part of the prayer. 

Joy: Students resolved to live joy each day of the week Sunday: how they would live joy…Monday: how will you live charity when at a Christmas party….when seeing Christmas decorations…when shopping…etc…

Love: studnets listened to music and when the music stopped they sat down (but there was one less chair than student).  The one standing had to answer how will you live love… when your at school this Advent…when wrapping Christmas gifts, when shopping for others, etc…

 

It was a very fruitful afternoon.  Studnets and parents hopefully were given a lot of practical suggestions to reflect on this Advent season.  May God bless them and help them live the true meaning of Christmas.  Come Lord Jesus!!!