Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry ChristMass

ChristMass is Here!

The Peace of Christmas

Loving Father of the human family, as we celebrate once more the birth of Jesus, your Son, we marvel at your love for us. Give us the grace to hear more deeply and live more fully the promise of peace proclaimed by the angels that first Christmas. We lift up to your loving providence all who live in the shadow of death and violence, especially those who work for freedom, justice, and peace in Iraq and in the lands where Jesus once walked.

Heavenly Father, may the reconciling love of Christ, your Son, truly dwell in our hearts and homes, making us ever-more open to His presence among us. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Scripture Texts Christmas Midnight Mass

Reading I
Is 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counsellor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13

R. (Lk 2:11) Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands. Sing to the LORD; bless his name.

R. Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Announce his salvation, day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

R. Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

R. Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes; for he comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy.

R. Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Reading II
Ti 2:11-14

The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

Lk 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, (Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Fourth Sunday and Week of Advent
Light the 1st purple candle
(repeat first week's prayer: Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Light the 2nd purple candle
(repeat 2nd week's prayer: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son: that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Light the rose candle
(repeat 3rd week's prayer: We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord,
and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds: Thou who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.)

Light the 3rd purple candle

Pour forth thy power, O Lord, and come:
Assist us by that mighty power,
so that by thy grace and merciful kindness
we may swiftly receive the salvation that our sins impede:
Who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Alternate/Complementary Prayer:
O Wisdom, holy Word of God, Jesus Christ,
all things are in your hands,
come and show us the way to salvation.
(From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)

Sunday's Scriptures:
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The long wait is almost over. Jesus' birth is nearly upon us. As we get closer to the end of a wait, our expectations grow, often into something that can't be fulfilled. We think a new job will solve our problems at home, or moving away will fix a broken heart. Christmas especially gets saddled with unrealistic expectations�perhaps of family togetherness or the perfect gift. Are you doing this to Christ's coming? Are you expecting something of Jesus? Or are you simply waiting to meet him and accept him for who he is?

December 22
(1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)

Be humble. Our society does not place great value on humility. We fear being overlooked if we don't assert our own worth. In contrast, Mary sees herself as a "lowly servant" and speaks of the mercy in store for the downtrodden. Let the Magnificat be your guide as you find ways to practice humility.

December 23
(Mal 3:1-4, 4:23-24; Lk 1:57-66)

Accept God's plan. The birth of John the Baptist marks the end of his parents' long and difficult wait for a child, but also the beginning of a life filled with great joy and great sorrow. As our wait ends, we too often find other stories unfolding. Accept the twists and turns as part of God's plan.

December 24(2 Sm 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Lk 1:67-79)

Find your role. Zechariah, struck dumb when he doubted, finally finds his voice. What joyful words tumble forth when he understands and accepts his family's role in the Redemption! What role does God want you to take in preparing for Jesus' return, and what joy can you find in that role?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Had to Say Something.

On a discussion group I belong to, one of the ignorant opponents decided to throw Blessed Teresa of Calcutta under the bus. He said that she never preached the Gospel to anyone and that what she did and taught were against the teachings of the Church. For one thing, he has NO CLUE about the True Faith. He proves it every single time he posts one of his anti-Catholic diatribes. He NEVER supports his allegations about Church teachings with Church writings OR Scripture, just lots of hot air. Secondly, to attack some one as saintly as Mother Teresa is just pitiful. No one LIVED the Gospel like Blessed Teresa. No one epitomized Matthew 25 more that Blessed Teresa. Can you tell me that NO ONE was converted by the love, compassion, and mercy of Christ that shined through that tiny Albanian woman? I didn't think so.

In 1952 the first Home for the Dying was opened in space made available by the City of Calcutta. Over the years, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity grew from 12 to thousands serving the "poorest of the poor" in 450 centers around the world. Mother Teresa created many homes for the dying and the unwanted from Calcutta to New York to Albania. She was one of the pioneers of establishing homes for AIDS victims. For more than 45 years, Mother Teresa comforted the poor, the dying, and the unwanted around the world.

In 1966, the Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded. Homes began to open in Rome, Tanzania, and Australia. In 1971, the first home in the United States was established in the South Bronx, New York.

Mother Teresa gained worldwide acclaim with her tireless efforts on behalf of world peace. Her work brought her numerous humanitarian awards, including : the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. In receiving this award, Mother Teresa revolutionized the award ceremony. She insisted on a departure from the ceremonial banquet and asked that the funds, $6,000 be donated to the poor in Calcutta. This money would permit her to feed hundreds for a year.

She is stated to have said that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her help the world’s needy.

Beginning in 1980, homes began to spring-up for drug addicts, prostitutes, battered women, and more orphanages and schools for poor children around the world. In 1985, Mother Teresa established the first hospice for AIDS victims in New York. Later homes were added in San Francisco and Atlanta. Mother Teresa was awarded Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award.

In 1991, Mother Teresa returned for the first time to her native Albania (know known as Serbia) and opened a home in Tirana. By this year, there were 168 homes established in India.

On February 3, 1994 at a National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, in Washington, DC, Mother Teresa challenged the audience on such topics as family life and abortion. She said, "Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Give the child to me."

Mother Teresa traveled to help the hungry in Ethiopia, radiation victims at Chernobyl, and earthquake victims in Armenia. Her zeal and works of mercy knew no boundaries.
In November of 1996, Mother Teresa received the honorary U.S. citizenship.

An address at the National Prayer Breakfast (Sponsored by the
U.S. Senate and House of Representatives) February 3, 1994

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"

As we have gathered here to pray together, I think it will be beautiful if we begin with a prayer that expresses very well what Jesus wants us to do for the least. St. Francis of Assisi understood very well these words of Jesus and His life is very well expressed by a prayer. And this prayer, which we say every day after Holy Communion, always surprises me very much, because it is very fitting for each one of us. And I always wonder whether 800 years ago when St. Francis lived, they had the same difficulties that we have today. I think that some of you already have this prayer of peace - so we will pray it together.

Let us thank God for the opportunity He has given us today to have come here to pray together. We have come here especially to pray for peace, joy and love. We are reminded that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor. He had told us what is that good news when He said: "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." He came not to give the peace of the world which is only that we don't bother each other. He came to give the peace of heart which comes from loving - from doing good to others.

And God loved the world so much that He gave His son - it was a giving. God gave His son to the Virgin Mary, and what did she do with Him? As soon as Jesus came into Mary's life, immediately she went in haste to give that good news. And as she came into the house of her cousin, Elizabeth, Scripture tells us that the unborn child - the child in the womb of Elizabeth - leapt with joy. While still in the womb of Mary - Jesus brought peace to John the Baptist who leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. The unborn was the first one to proclaim the coming of Christ.

And as if that were not enough, as if it were not enough that God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy while still in the womb of Mary, Jesus also died on the Cross to show that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for the leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street, no only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as He loves each one of us. Jesus gave His life to love us and He tells us that we also have to give whatever it takes to do good to one another. And in the Gospel Jesus says very clearly: "Love as I have loved you."

Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us - to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will - to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God's will - to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.

It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on Christ" as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, "You did it to Me." On the last day He will say to those on His right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me."

When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give
until it hurts.

I can never forget the experience I had in visiting a home where they kept all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them into an institution and forgotten them - maybe. I saw that in that home these old people had everything - good food, comfortable place, television, everything, but everyone was looking toward the door. And I did not see a single one with a smile on the face. I turned to Sister and I asked: "Why do these people who have every comfort here, why are they all looking toward the door? Why are they not smiling?"

I am so used to seeing the smiles on our people, even the dying ones smile. And Sister said: "This is the way it is nearly everyday. They are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten." And see, this neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried. Are we there? Are we willing to give until it hurts in order to be with our families, or do we put our own interests first? These are the questions we must ask ourselves, especially as we begin this year of the family. We must remember that love begins at home and we must also remember that 'the future of humanity passes through the family.'

I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given to drugs. And I tried to find out why. Why is it like that, when those in the West have so many more things than those in the East? And the answer was: 'Because there is no one in the family to receive them.' Our children depend on us for everything - their health, their nutrition, their security, their coming to know and love God. For all of this, they look to us with trust, hope and expectation. But often father and mother are so busy they have no time for their children, or perhaps they are not even married or have given up on their marriage. So their children go to the streets and get involved in drugs or other things. We are talking of love of the child, which is were love and peace must begin. These are the things that break peace.

But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her
child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.

Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today - abortion which brings people to such blindness.

And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere - "Let us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things - to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.

But what does God say to us? He says: "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand." We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us.

The beautiful gift God has given our congregation is to fight abortion by adoption. We have already, from our house in Calcutta, over 3,000 children adoption. And I can't tell you what joy, what love, what peace those children have brought into those families. It has been a real gift of God for them and for us. I remember one of the little ones was very sick, so I sent for the father and the mother and I asked them: "Please give me back the sick child. I will give you a healthy one." And the father looked at me and said, "Mother Teresa, take my life first than take the child." So beautiful to see it--so much love, so much joy that little one has brought
into that family. So pray for us that we continue this beautiful gift. And also I offer you--our Sisters are here--anybody who doesn't want the child, please give it to me. I want the child.

I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption - by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: "Please don't destroy the child; we will take the child." So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: "Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child." And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child - but I never give a child to a couple who have done something not to have a child. Jesus said, "Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me." By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus.

Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.
I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gifts of love in him or her.In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.

I also know that there are great problems in the world - that many spouses do not love each other enough to practice natural family planning. We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but let us never bring in the worst problem of all, and that is to destroy love. And this is whathappens when we tell people to practice contraception and abortion.

The poor are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things. Once one of them came to thank us for teaching her natural family planning and said: "You people who have practiced chastity, you are the best people to teach us natural family planning because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other." And what this poor person said is very true. These poor people maybe have nothing to eat, maybe they have not a home to live in, but they can still be great people when they are spiritually rich.

When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread. But a person who is shut out, who feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person who has been thrown out of society - that spiritual poverty is much harder to overcome. And abortion, which often follows from contraception, brings a people to be spiritually poor, andthat is the worst poverty and the most difficult to overcome.

Those who are materially poor can be very wonderful people. One evening we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition. I told the Sisters: "You take care of the other three; I will take care of the one who looks worse." So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only: "thank you" - and she died.

I could not help but examine my conscience before her. And I asked: "What would I say if I were in her place?" And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said: "I am hungry, I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain," or something. But she gave me much more - she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the home, he only said, "I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for." Then, after we had removed all the worms from his body, all he said, with a big smile, was: "Sister, I am going home to God" - and he died. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel - this is the greatness of people who are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor.

We are not social workers. We may be doing social work in the eyes of some people, but we must be contemplatives in the heart of the world. For we must bring that presence of God into your family, for the family that prays together, stays together. There is so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice, are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do.

If we are contemplatives in the heart of the world with all its problems, these problems can never discourage us. We must always remember what God ells us in Scripture: "Even if a mother could forget the child in her womb" - something impossible, but even if she could forget - "I will never forget you."

And so here I am talking with you. I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people first. And find out about your next-door neighbors. Do you know who they are?

I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said: "Mother Teresa, there is a family who have not eaten for so long. Do something." So I took some rice and went there immediately. And I saw the children - their eyes shining with hunger. I don't know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often. And the mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her: "Where did you go? What did you do?" And she gave me a very simple answer: "They are hungry also." What struck me was that she knew - and who are they? A Muslim family - and she knew. I didn't bring any more rice that evening because I wanted them, Hindus and Muslims, to enjoy the joy of sharing.

But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy and peace with their mother because she had the love to give until it hurts. And you see this is where love begins - at home in the family.

So, as the example of this family shows, God will never forget us and there is something you and I can always do. We can keep the joy of loving Jesus in our hearts, and share that joy with all we come in contact with. Let us make that one point - that no child will be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away. And give until it hurts - with a smile.

As you know, we have a number of homes here in the United States, where people need tender love and care. This is the joy of sharing. Come and share. We have the young people suffering with AIDS. They need that tender love and care. But such beautiful--I've never yet seen a young man or anybody displeased or angy or frightened, really going home to God. Such a beautiful smile, always. So let us pray that we have the gift of sharing the joy with others and giving until it hurts.

Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me: "Are you married?" And I said: "Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding - sometimes." This is really something true. And this is where love comes in - when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy.

One of the most demanding things for me is travelling everywhere - and withnpublicity. I have said to Jesus that if I don't go to heaven for anything else, I will be going to heaven for all the travelling with all the publicity, because it has purified me and sacrificed me and made me really ready to go home to God.

If we remember that God loves us, and that we can love others as He loves us, then America can become a sign of peace for the world. From here, a sign of care for the weakest of the weak - the unborn child - must go out to the world. If you become a burning light of justice and peace in the world, then really you will be true to what the founders of this country stood for.

Let us love one another as God loves each one of us. And where does this love begin? In our own home. How does it begin? By praying together Prayer for us that we continue God's work with great love. The sisters, the brothers, and the fathers and the lay missionaries of Charity and co-workers: we are all one heart full of love, that we may bring that joy of love everywhere we go. And my prayer for you is that through this love for one another, for this peace and joy in the family, that you may grow in holiness. Holiness is not the luxury of the few; it is a simply duty, for you and for me, because Jesus has very clearly stated, "Be ye holy as my father in heaven is holy." So let us pray for each other that we grow in love for each other, and through this love become holy as Jesus wants us to be for he died out of love for us.

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, "You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus--a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you." And she joined her hands together and said, "Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me."

So pray for us that we continue God's work with great love and I will pray for you, for all your families. And also I want to thank the families who have been so generous in giving their daughters to us to consecrate their life to Jesus by the vow of poverty, chastity, obedience, and by giving wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. This is our fourth vow in our congregation. And we have a novitiate in San Francisco where we have many beautiful vocations who are wanting to give their whole life to Jesus in the service of the poorest of the poor.
So once more I thank you for giving you children to God. And pray for us that we continue God's work with great love.

God bless you all!

More here:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday of Advent--Gaudete Sunday

Third Sunday and Week of Advent
Light the 1st purple candle
(repeat first week's prayer: Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Light the 2nd purple candle
(repeat 2nd week's prayer: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son: that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Light the rose candle

We beseech thee to listen to our prayers, O Lord,
and by the grace of thy coming enlighten our darkened minds:
Thou who livest and reignest with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Alternate/Complementary Prayer:
O Key of David, Jesus Christ,
the gates of heaven open at your command,
come and show us the way to salvation.
(From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)

Sunday's Scriptures:
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thess 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Third Sunday of Advent

This week we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, signifying joy. Too often we think joy means getting what we want. But consider the joyful mysteries of the rosary events filled with surprise and often trepidation. Mary didn't ask to become pregnant before marriage, Elizabeth had despaired of conceiving in her old age, and it took a visit from an angel to convince Joseph that things would be OK. Their joy and ours too comes not in getting what we want, but in accepting God's will, even when we don't understand it.

Late Advent readings are by date, beginning December 17.

(Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)

Give more. This is the season of giving, from presents for our loved ones to coins we throw in the bell-ringer's kettle. But too often, we give from our excess the change that would have ended up in our pocket, or our Christmas bonus. Remember that Jesus gave, not from his excess, but from his entire being. Then give away something you love.

(Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)

Contemplate joy. Spend some time today with these thoughts from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta: "Joy is prayer Joy is strength Joy is love Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls." And, "Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen."

**December 17th
(Gen 49:2, 8-10; Matthew 1.1-17)

Learn your history. The litany of names in Jesus' ancestry often falls on deaf ears. So many strange names how can we make sense of them all! But examined closely, they are a fascinating tapestry of powerful kings, complicated courtships and other elements of great drama. Ask a relative about your family's own dramatic stories today.

December 18
(Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-24)

Stand up for your convictions. Following Jesus sometimes means ignoring what other people say. No one knew this better than Joseph. Imagine what people said when they learned Mary was pregnant. It might have been easier to go along with his plan to abandon her quietly, but he trusted God and ignored everyone else.

December 19
(Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25; Lk 1:5-25)

Forgive your doubts. Isn't it refreshing to hear Zechariah doubt God? An angel arrives with news of a longed-for son, and he answers, in essence, "Prove it." In dark moments we all have doubted whether God's promises are real. The good news for Zechariah, and for us, is that they are real, and God keeps them even if we doubt.

December 20
(Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)

Say yes. In our over-committed, over-scheduled world, the last thing many of us want to do is accept another responsibility. Yet couldn't Mary have made the same case? "I'd love to help, God, but this will disrupt my wedding plans, and I don't really have time right now." Is there anything God is asking you to do that you should accept?

**Changed around to coincide with the correct days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

10 Easy Ways to Avoid Purgatory

I hope my title catches attention. No, I am not really saying it will be "easy" but there are easy things you can do as an offering to God.

1) Daily Prayer.
Consistently, every day, ask God to give you His Grace to go to Heaven right after death. Remember Luke 18: 1-8, persistent prayer will be answered.

2) Frequent confession.
Going to confession often helps us to avoid sin also. After all, do

Michaelangelo's 'Last Judgement'
on the wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

you really want to sit in front of the priest, yet again, and tell him you did that?

3) Frequent Mass and Holy Communion.
Attending Mass every Sunday and Holy Day is not only required but it is so beneficial it is a mystery to me, personally, why people do not see the advantages to attending. Devout attendence removes much of the temporal punishment for sin, and can potential remove it all. Attend as many week day Masses as you can for even more benefit.

4)Regular Penance.
Self-denial is an excellent way to make up for your sins. Reading Scripture, fasting, going without dessert, turning off the your favorite show, playing with your children, giving to charity (give time as well as money or things), serving at Church in some capacity, and making more time for prayer.

5) Daily Rosary.
Mary's 9th promise to St. Dominic was that anyone devoted to the Rosary would be delivered from Purgatory. Praying 5 decades every day fosters this devotion.

6) Offering up your death.
Offer all your pain or suffering or fear as a sacrifice to God for the temporal punishment we all deserve.

7) Offering up your daily crosses.
All your burdens, pains, duties, all those little jobs you hate doing (cleaning up dead mice is my favorite) can be offered up completely to God. These things are going to happen to us anyway. Give it all to God.

8) The Sacrament of Anointing.
This sacrament helps when we are sick and when we die. This sacrament takes away temporal punishment for sin. If you confess your sins, or you are already in a state of Grace, you can maximize the benefit of this Sacrament.

9) Plenary Indulgences.
A plenary indulgence, once granted by God, can potential remove all temporal punishment of confessed sin. Here are four easy to remember potential plenary indulgences:
#1 Spend 30 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament--in devout prayer and/of meditation.
#2 Spend 30 minutes reading Sacred Scripture for devotional purposes.
#3 Make the Stations of the Cross.
#4 Say a public rosary. Say it with a Church group, family, or prayed aloud in a church by yourself.
Don't forget however, that to gain a plenary indulgence you must receive communion, make confession within a week, and say some prayers for the intentions of the Pope (ie, an Our Father and a Hail Mary)

10) Partial indulgences.
A partial indulgence, once granted, potentially remove some of the temporal punishment of confessed sin.
Some ordinary ways to gain a plenary indulgence:
#1 Visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for any length of time
#2 Visit a cemetary and pray for the poor souls in Purgatory
#3 Devoutly wear or display a crucifix, rosary, scapular, or holy medal.
#4 Teach or study Catholic doctrine for any length of time.
For a partial indulgence you must, silently or vocally, express an intention to gain it.

There are many, many more things we can and should do because we owe everything to God. Pray, read, go to Mass, protect and value life, be happy.

Primary source: Beginning Apologetics 8: End Times: What Catholics Believe about the Second Coming, the Rapture, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Indulgences, by Fr. Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, San Juan Catholic Seminars, 2005.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary


The Immaculate Conception, a solemnity, is the patronal feast of the United States. It is one of the few Holy days of obligation on the Church calendar -- that is, all Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on this day. As this feast occurs early in Advent, it is a perfect time to consider Mary and her important role in the celebration of Christmas.

Image: Jean Bellegambe
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary
Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse

In 1854, Pope Pius IX's solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus, clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. In proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of the Church, the pope expressed precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This privilege of Mary derives from God's having chosen her as Mother of the Savior; thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception. (The picture above shows her mother, Anna, with the infant Mary within her womb.) This great gift to Mary, an ordinary human being just like us, was fitting because she was destined to be Mother of God. The purity and holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model for all Christians. (Women for Faith & Family –

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.

"Let it be done to me according to your word. . ."

494 At the announcement that she would give birth to "the Son of the Most High" without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that "with God nothing will be impossible": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word."139 Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace:140

As St. Irenaeus says, "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race."141 Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith."142 Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary "the Mother of the living" and frequently claim: "Death through Eve, life through Mary."143

133 Lk 1:28.
134 Lk 1:28.
135 Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.
136 LG 53, 56.
137 Cf. Eph 1:3-4.
138 LG 56.
139 Lk 1:28-38; cf. Rom 1:5.
140 Cf. LG 56.
141 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
142 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.
143 LG 56; Epiphanius, Haer. 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.

The doctrine
In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

"The Blessed Virgin Mary..."
The subject of this immunity from original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.

" the first instance of her conception..."
The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

"...was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin..."
The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin. The state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam -- from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.

" a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race."
The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Week of Advent

Second Sunday and Week of Advent
Light the 1st purple candle
(repeat first week's prayer:
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and come, that by thy protection we may be rescued from the dangers that beset us through our sins; and be a Redeemer to deliver us; who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Light the 2nd purple candle

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the paths of thine Only-begotten Son:
that we may worthily serve thee with hearts purified by His coming: Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Alternate/Complementary Prayer:
O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,
only joy of every heart,
come and save your people.
(From Christmas Prayers, Victor Hoagland, C.P.)

Sunday's Scriptures:
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 85
2 Peter 3:8-15
Mark 1:1-8

Second Sunday of Advent

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without the words /And never stops at all." Emily Dickinson's definition of hope captures what many of us have a hard time defining. Hope is not blind optimism, nor arrogant certainty, nor wishful thinking. Hope, the theme of today's Gospel, is the knowledge that God would not desert us, that we will endure difficult times to see a better day. Hope gives us the strength to seek peace and demand justice, and to envision the world as God intended it to be.

(Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38)

"The immunity from original sin was given to Mary by a singular exemption from a universal law through the same merits of Christ, by which other men are cleansed from sin by baptism. Mary needed the redeeming Saviour to obtain this exemption, and to be delivered from the universal necessity and debt (debitum) of being subject to original sin. The person of Mary, in consequence of her origin from Adam, should have been subject to sin, but, being the new Eve who was to be the mother of the new Adam, she was, by the eternal counsel of God and by the merits of Christ, withdrawn from the general law of original sin. Her redemption was the very masterpiece of Christ's redeeming wisdom. He is a greater redeemer who pays the debt that it may not be incurred than he who pays after it has fallen on the debtor.

Such is the meaning of the term "Immaculate Conception." "

Make it a habit to find one example of God at work in your life each day.

(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)

Acknowledge your sins. Today's Gospel, along with the parable of the prodigal son, shows the lengths God will go to in order to save each of us. It is easy to resent the "troublemaker" who gets all the attention, but that misses the point: We are each the lost sheep, the prodigal son, in need of salvation. God in his mercy is offering us just that.

(Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)

Seek respite with God. Both readings today promise rest to the weary. And who isn't weary this time of year? You don't have to cut yourself off from the season's busyness to find rest. Grasp moments of quiet meditation wherever you can find them�turn off the radio in your car, or recite the rosary as you clean the house.

(Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)

Listen closely. John the Baptist, who heralded Jesus' coming but was ignored and ultimately killed, takes center stage this week. If we saw him on a downtown street today, dressed in rags and preaching with a burning intensity, would we think he was crazy? Or would we listen closely enough to recognize the truth he speaks?

**Friday--Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
(Zech 2:10-13; Luke 1:39-47)

Ignore labels. Sometimes you can't win: Ascetic John is criticized for his severity, while sociable Jesus is called a glutton and worse. Today you're more likely to hear "conservative" and "liberal" thrown around, but the result is the same. Labels blind us to each other's humanity, and to the role in salvation that each one of us must play.

(Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:10-13)

Carve out some quiet time. The weekends before Christmas are usually nonstop, with little time left for prayer or reflection. It's impossible to forgo the shopping and the parties, but for every busy hour you spend, try to spend an equal amount of time in the quiet, listening and watching for signs of our Savior's arrival.

**Readings changed from those posted by American Catholic to coincide with the Marian Feast days that fall during this week

Friday, December 5, 2008

St. Nicholas Day

The Feast of St. Nicholas is December 6th. It is a fun day to celebrate with the family or within your homeschool setting.

We celebrate by putting the kids shoes on the porch. St. Nicholas deposits chocolate coins and a small gift upon each shoe. The kids have a fun time discovering their prizes. We also do some of the activities such as turning chocolate santa into St. Nick. This is one of our favorite days of the Advent season.

Go to the Saint Nicholas Center for all the information and activities you can think of on St. Nicholas.

Enjoy! Happy St. Nicholas Day!