Liturgical Seasons



the week that changed the worldHoly Week is underway and we are on day 4 of it and I’ve been struck by a few things:

1) Just as the people were spreading their cloaks on the road of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, we need to spread our hearts on the ground for Jesus’ will and ways to be done.  In my life it is easy to be prideful, want to be a little territorial, desire justice because of “my” rights, but that is not the way of Christ.

2) In Sundays Gospel Reading (the 2nd one) Jesus asks the chief priests and temple guards:“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”  Things haven’t changed much have they?  Many of the things going on today apply.  Society’s “hour” has come, “the time for the power of darkness” – all in the name of justice, equality, freedom and love.

3) Until this week after reading the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week – The healing of Lazarus, I had never remembered that the Jewish leaders also wanted to kill Lazarus because of his testimony of the miracle performed by Jesus and how it was drawing Jews to follow Christ.  Here is the text from Jn. 12:

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

Lazarus gave testimony to the power of God in Christ Jesus and the chief priest were so outraged that they wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus.  The power of darkness can be great.  We as followers of Christ need to pray to respond with the power of the light – Christ, the light of the world.

 

Blessings to you, your family this holy week!


I don’t think I’ve read anything so profound regarding Holy Saturday as this ancient Homily that is in the Office of Readings for today:

“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday


Do you ever teach and/or draw your students in by using the texts from the liturgy?  Liturgical texts are an invaluable way to help your students encounter Christ.

For example, Sunday March 11th’s opening prayer was:

Collect: O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy. 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.

 

Ways you could teach from this:

The 3 traditional practices of Lent are a way to “remedy” sin in our lives.  We don’t do it just to be good Catholics or because we’ve always done something for Lent, but we practices fasting, prayer and almsgiving in order to rid our lives of sinful tendencies and behaviors so that we can become more united to Christ, more open to His ways, more available to doing God’s will.

 

Also, teaching students that when we examine our conscience and identify the sin or sins that need to be gotten rid of as well as forgiven we should remember that God’s mercy lifts us up (we don’t have to stay down or stuck in our sin, but God’s mercy lifts/raises us to a life that is renewed in Christ.  We indeed can begin again.

 

Another Example

The Liturgy of the Hours provides many great bite size teaching points that are invaluable.  Take for example the Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah for morning prayer on Palm Sunday: “With palms let us welcome the Lord as he comes, with songs and hymns let us run to meet him, as we offer him our joyful worship and sing: Blessed be the Lord!”

~ Before praying the canticle with your students or audience one could reflect upon this antiphon.  Sharing with them that our palms are a way to concretely welcome the Lord as He comes — and doing it with songs and hymns.  Music is central the the life of the Church and to drawing our minds and our hearts toward God.  Also, proclaiming that we are being summoned to “run to meet him (Christ) as we we offer him our joyful worship”. This worship isn’t just Mass but the worship of our lives of prayer and offering our very selves to Christ from day to day as an act of worship.

~ Additional ideas that come to mind: 1) using music in ones opening prayer.  2) For elementary age students skits could be a possibility or a reenactment of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  3) Reflection:  Asking the students to reflect if we are walking or running to meet Christ (makes me think of the Father who ran out to meet his prodigal son).  Our worship should be joyful even if that joy is experienced more from our attitude than what we see around us at Mass (Palm Sunday Mass tends to be more somber when remembering the event than joyful (especially since we know this is the beginning of his Passion).

 

Consider teaching by using text from either the Liturgy of the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours.  There is great depth to draw from and to expound upon.

How have you used texts from the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours to pass on the faith?


Quotes on the Mass

“What graces, gifts and virtues the Holy Mass calls down … repentance for sin … victory over temptation … holy inspirations which dispositions to shake off tepidity … the grace of final perseverance, upon which depends our salvation … temporal blessings, such as peace, abundance and health…”                                                                                – St. Leonard of Port Maurice

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” – St. Pio

“The Blessed Virgin Mary once told Her faithful servant Alain: “My Son so loves those who assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that, if it were necessary He would die for them as many times as they’ve heard Masses.”

The Center of Our Faith

The Christian Liturgy is at the heart of our Catholic Faith.  The Holy Mass is of inestimable value surpassing all other forms of worship.  How come today there are so many Catholic’s not going to Mass?  I read a statistic from the CARA Survey that found only 33% of Catholics attend Mass weekly.  Why the low number?  Are people too busy?  Do they not care that it is one of the 10 commandments?  Do they believe they have more important things to do?  Do they not know the value in participating at Mass each week?  It is probably all the above depending on who you talk to.

9 Ways to Foster Mass Attendance

Catechist Magazine posted a great article by Patricia Mathson on ways to encourage family participation in Sunday Mass.  I wanted to post it on my blog but Catechist Magazine asked if I would just provide the link.  Click the link above and it’ll take you right to it.  In a time when so many Catholics are not going to Mass on a weekly basis, it is so important to find ways we can encourage Mass attendance.


I stumbled across a really neat website by Cory Heimann who produced this great video clip about Easter. Check it out. It would be a great clip to show in a 5th – 8th grade class.


Today is the day that many Easter Rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  In the Western Church the Feast has been moved to the second Sunday after Christmas.

My twin brother is a non-denominational pastor.  He shared with me that on the Sunday after Christmas he was going to preach on the 3 wise men and how they had an interruption in their lives.

I had never thought of it that way before, however I began to think about what this interruption would have meant to them.   I think we can learn a few lessons from the journey of the 3 Wise Men/Magi as disciple of the Lord.

The wise men were going about their normal everyday lives when rather suddenly they were inspired by the appearance of the star to travel to Jerusalem (Mt. 2:1).  They were then summoned by King Herod who wanted to know if they knew the whereabouts of the new king?  They shared what they knew and Herod sent them on a journey – not the kind of journey Herod or the wise men expected (cf. Mt. 2: 2-8).

Lesson #1: If we are willing to obey our superiors or those in authority, God will use us and reveal Himself more fully to us, because of our obedience.

The Wise Men came upon the Manger where the star shinned high above and found the source of the world’s salvation and the King of Kings (Mt. 2:10-11).

Lesson #2: When we are lead to God and what is holy, may we take the time to give Him Homage and rejoice at encountering Him and/or His creation? It is also important to note that the light of the star lead them to Christ.  The light of Christ leads us.  May Him who is the “light that shines in the darkness” (Jn. 1:5) guide us along our spiritual journey.

3. The Scriptures tell us that “they went home by another way” (cf. Mt. 2:12). They knew that Herod was not sincerely out to welcome this new King or give homage, therefore they went back home by another way.  They left completely transformed by their encounter with Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Lesson #3: Allow yourself to be transformed by the day to day interruptions in your life and journey forward knowing that God is drawing you more deeply to Himself.

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Through the divine interruption that the Wise Men/Magi had, their lives were never the same.  May we have the willingness  and openness to God’s divine interruptions in whatever way He deems fit for our lives.


My family goes to my wife’s parents house for Christmas.  It is a joy to celebrate with family!  We then come home a few days later and continue to celebrate Christmas by having our kids open one gift each day until they have opened their gifts.  We also try to do something at meals and/or during the day that helps our family focus on Jesus’ Birthday and God’s blessings in our lives.  These are two ways we try to continue the Solemnity of Christmas beyond the 25th.  For most people in our culture Christmas was over on the 26th of December, but for Catholics we enter into a new liturgical season where the Church celebrates the wonders of the mystery of the Incarnation for 8 days like it is one (called the Octave of Christmas).  In addition the Christmas Season continues until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (always the second Sunday after Christmas).  The splendor of Christmas and God becoming man cannot be contained in just one day (or a few).  We are a liturgical people and need to seek to enter into each season as the Church calls us to do and draws us into.

Here are 2 thoughts I had about how to foster Christmas beyond one day:

1. Find ways in your religious education programs to encourage the celebration of Christmas beyond one day.  Most religious education programs are on break during the two weeks after Christmas.  However, finding ways to promote it to families before they go on break would be a good beginning.  In addition possible send an email or two during the Christmas Season promoting ways to celebrate it.

2. Foster the Christmas Season in the home.  The Word, Jesus, began His humble earthly life within a family and so it is with us, we must begin and continue our journey of holiness in our families.  Nothing is more important for a family than to foster a faith-filled home that learns to love Jesus and love one another as He loves.  Fr. Fernandez said “The Messiah wanted to start his redemptive task in the bosom of a simple, ordinary family.  The first thing that Jesus sanctified with his presence was a home” (pg. 230 of In Conversation with God).

Here is the closing prayer for both morning and evening prayer yesterday:

Father, all-powerful and unseen God,
you dispelled the shadows of this world
when Christ, the true Light, dawned upon us.
Look favorably upon us, Lord,
and we will praise and glorify his birth as man.
He lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.

Merry Christmas!

On this Fourth Day of Christmas let us continue to Rejoice! I love how the Church celebrates the Octave of Christmas (8 days as one continual Feast).

He was born so that you and I may have life. What a gift!

He is the gift to open and receive each and every day!


In Pope Benedict XVI’s last general audience before Christmas 2010 he said:

“In the night of the world, let us still allow ourselves to be surprised and illuminated by this coming, by the Star which, rising in the East, has inundated the universe with joy.  Let us purify our minds and our lives from everything that contrasts with this coming – thoughts, words, attitudes and actions – spurring ourselves on to do good and to help bring peace and justice to our world for all men and women, and thus to walk towards the Lord”.

Catechesis for Today:

~ The Christmas season will come and go but being illuminated and lead by Christ must be a constant goal for followers of Christ.  In our catechesis may we always seek to bring that wonder and joy that helps illuminate the riches of our Catholic Faith.

~ This image of purifying our minds and our lives from everything that contrasts with His coming is key for every Christian disciple.  May we spiritually seek to do this not only as we welcome into our hearts the Savior at the remembrance of His birth, but know that he will come again and we must be purified and ready!  There will be great spiritual benefit assisting those we catechize understand this.

~ Bringing peace and justice into the world for most of us is on the grassroots level – in our homes, work places, interactions wtih those in our town.  We bring not just peace from war but peace that is from God drawing others closer to Christ and His law of love.  Justice needs to be worked for and for most of us, seeking to love as Christ loves, seeking to serve as He would serve, seeking to treat others with respect, gratitude and joy is what will help us live justly.

“In the Night of the World…Be surprised and illuminated by his coming!”

Originally posted on amazingcatechists.com


Merry Christmas!  You notice I am writing on the 30th of December.  Well, the Church celebrate the Octave of Christmas (8 days like it is one) and then the Christmas Season goes until January 13th which is the Baptism of the Lord.  I wanted to share some thoughts about Pope Benedict’s Christmas Eve Message.  For the whole text please click below.

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Christmas Message:

I thought the following was very insightful and applicable to today: “In our daily life, it is not like that[to go in haste or at once to see Jesus like the shepherds did].  For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly. And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone.

What seems urgent here and now… As a Director of Religious Formation this really hit me.  I feel that there is always a lot of work to be done and sometimes I don’t take much time to really stop and “go over” to see Jesus in the church or the Adoration Chapel.  I really need to reflect on this and             remember to put God as my first priority.  Granted, I’m always trying to           seek Him and do His will but I need to always seek to put Him first to                make sure He is always leading me and guiding me in my ministry – not           the other ways around.

…”God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives.”  Don’t we feel so busy in our lives that we can feel “crushed by all the pressing matters” (our jobs, life with a family, sporting events, getting together with friends, volunteer opportunities or gatherings we want to go to or event we want to attend).

Pope Benedict continues, “Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbor is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.”   This is so true!

Pope Benedict concludes with these words which is so true as we go forth from Christmas 2009: “Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.”

May this Christmas Season and the beginning of a new year be the beginning of a deeper transformation and renewal in our lives!  Here are the three things I’ll be focusing on:

1) Seeking to go in haste to visit Jesus (prayer time) and put him first in my life.

2) Allowing all the things that seem pressing in my life to not get in the way of loving Christ and my neighbor.

3) continually seeking to be transformed so Christ’s love can bring real change in my life and hopefully those around me.