O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10).
                                                                                                                         ~ Fr. William Sanders
Reflection:
Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).This antiphon reflects on the Jesse tree family. Jesus was a descendant from King David whose father was Jesse and his father was Obed and so on. But the root goes deeper, even to creation itself. Christ superseded David and indeed all rulers of this earth because He is King of all creation. Today we pray that we may recognize our Lord’s sovereignty in our lives.
 
O Root of Jesse, you left your heavenly throne in order to let us share in your heavenly kingdom; Come, O Holy Spirit prepare our hearts so that we recognise Christ rule in our hearts. Amen.
                                                                                                 ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

 


O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

~ Fr. William Sanders

Reflection: 

This antiphon reflects firstly on Moses’ encounter with Adonai manifesting himself firstly in the burning bush and secondly on Mt. Sinai. The fire symbolised God’s presence and like the fire is not consumed. That fire was a sign that God would be fully revealed in His Son.
The coming of Christ expanded that Law on Sinai given to Moses for the Israelites. Our Adonai has given us a wider Law based on love – love one another as I have loved you. Today let us pray that our lives will be ones of love in which there is no bitterness, resentment, anger or fear, but only tenderness, gentleness and compassion.
O Adonai, you so loved us that you became incarnate so that we may have your example of divine love in giving us the Law of Love. Come, O Holy Spirit prepare our hearts to acknowledge you as our leader this Christmas. Amen.
                                                                                                                                                  ~ http://mariannedorman.homestead.com

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

Waiting For Justice

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Pope Benedict XVI said:

We are waiting for justice but it cannot be merely the expression of a certain requirement with regard to others. Waiting for justice in the Christian sense means above all that we ourselves begin to live under the eyes of the Judge, in accordance with the criteria of the Judge; that we begin to live in his presence, doing justice in our own lives. Thus, by doing justice, putting ourselves in the Judge’s presence, we wait for justice in reality. And this is the meaning of Advent, of vigilance.

The watchfulness of Advent means living under the eyes of the Judge and thus preparing ourselves and the world for justice. In this way, therefore, living under the eyes of the God-Judge, we can open the world to the coming of his Son and predispose hearts to welcome “the Lord who comes”.

The Child whom the shepherds adored in a grotto on the night of Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago, never tires of visiting us in our daily lives while we journey on as pilgrims towards the Kingdom. In his expectation, therefore, the believer becomes an interpreter of the hopes of all humanity; humanity yearns for justice and thus, although often unconsciously, is waiting for God, waiting for salvation which God alone can give to us.

Action:

Live under the eyes of the Judge who desire for you to live in His truth and His ways.

Prayer:

Lord, you are the just Judge who never tires of visiting us in our joys and sorrows.  Thank you.  I pray for my enemies today and those who I don’t prefer to spend my time with knowing that you judge them and judge me with the same fatherly love.


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

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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.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

Action: 

What are you afraid of – surrender to what you can’t control, looking too religious, not be accepted because of your Catholic beliefs, giving God your life and not being self-sufficient?  Take one thing for the next week to prayer; something that you are afraid of – something that prevents you from growing in your relationship with God.

Prayer: 

Your promises are true Lord God and your grace is sufficient. Please help me to trust in you.  I can’t do this by myself – I need you! I will pray as the Angel did: Hail [Mary] full of grace…


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!


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


Lord, Lord!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Too often today the idea of “being a good person” is all you need to get to heaven is too common.  “I’m a good person and God knows that”.  Yes, each of us is good by nature of being created in His image and likeness. However, we if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven we must be more than “a good person, a nice person” but we must seek to do the will of God which requires something of us.

Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for being ready for when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Action:

Today pray often of doing God’s will…. “Thy will be done” could be your phrase of the day.

Prayer: 

Jesus give me the grace to do your will and not my own today.


ImageJesus said today in the Gospel: “I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.” Jesus is our savior and without Him we fail – maybe not immediately but in the end He is our only hope and He is the hope of the world.  The world needs Jesus!  In our society everyone is saying its Christmas time and how “magical” it is.  But non-Christian and Christians alike seek to feast on things that are not what Jesus wants to feed us with.  What in your life might cause you to “collapse on the way”?

Action:

Seek to attend a daily Mass for Jesus to fill you with the most delightful of food – Himself.  Or if you are not able to attend Mass read the daily Mass readings so that Jesus may fill you with His Words of life!

Prayer:

Jesus nourish and guide me this Advent Season!  May others know your goodness and love through my witness of you! Amen.


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A blessed Advent to you and a happy new year!  This Advent I will be sharing a brief moment of reflection each day during Advent.  I pray that it may draw each of us closer to the Lord Jesus as we prepare to celebrate his birth as well as prepare for when he will come again!

In Christ,

William O’Leary

Moment #1:

In today’s 1st Reading from Isaiah it says:

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”

Action: Make a resolution to “climb the Lord’s Mountain” that you may be open to Christ “that he may instruct us in his ways and [that] we may walk in his paths.”

Prayer: God is the universe, God of my heart, may my Advent be simple and pleasing to you.  I want to climb, I want to be instructed, I want to open my heart to you! Give me your grace and wisdom.  Amen.


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This time it’s not the cart before the horse but the sled before the turkey.  What happened to preparations for Thanksgiving?  According to all that I’m see and hearing it’s about Christmas and that the Christmas Season is here.  So much of what we hear speaks about this being the happiest time of year and Christmas being the best day of the year.  Why does society find it to be such a great time of year? Is it in celebrations of Christ’s Birth which is one of the single greatest events in human history?  Is it that it is an opportunity to prepare for His second coming when he will come again to judge the living and the dead?  Unfortunately, I’m afraid non-Christians and even Christians alike tend to “love” this time of year because it raises up in them warm and happy feelings (not that it and of itself that is bad) and of people feeling like it is a magical time of year.  Some factors are: the weather, the decorations are different, the music playing is full of delight and of course we get to do one of the most enjoyable things as a society — Buy Stuff!  Image

Before we enter into the Advent Season which is still a half a month away, as followers of Christ let’s not respond to the upcoming holiday season as merely magical but as something deeply spiritual.  I like the holiday season as much as anyone, but I believe God is calling me to be rooted in the true reasons why the holiday season is special.  It’s about what God has done for us and his great care, kindness and mercy for us – for me. 

As disciples, as catechists, as parents let us seek to be in Christ, with Christ and seek Him to act through us so that the world may know Jesus, know the goodness of God the Father who provides for his people and know that presents, annual holiday parties are only secondary to celebrating the wonders of God and his infinite blessings!!!


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!


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?


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


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.”


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!


Fire of Advent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 187

“Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent…If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.”


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.