Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Season

I'm fully into the Christmas spirit now, doing the Liturgy and the Hours and all really helps me keep the liturgical seasons first and foremost in my mind - every day I think about the birth and early years of Christ. I wanted to share something from the second reading in the Office of readings from a few days ago - on the Feast of the Holy Family. I think it is a wonderful way to think about these early years of Christ that we are now celebrating, and also about our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph.

This is a speech delivered at Nazareth by Pope Paul VI:

Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand his Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realise who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief, everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of his Gospel.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing; some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognise its value – demanding yet redeeming – and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well being.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Wonderful Christmas

I had a wonderful Christmas with all my family.  I just wanted to briefly discuss how wonderful I think midnight mass is.  We did all the smells and bells at our parish, even singing Adeste Fidelis in Latin.  I don't think I can overcome the emotions that I feel at that type of mass.  I almost teared up when we were singing Away in the Manger, just thinking about the Lord watching over our unborn child.  

Another thing that I have realized of late is that I automatically tear up every time I see the Blessed Virgin in a movie about the Life of Christ.  Thinking about the emotions she goes through just eat right at my heart, especially considering how I did not appreciate her and all her intervention on our behalf before I became Catholic.

I'm finishing up the book "The Faith of Millions" so I should be able to review that soon.  God bless you all!  Also, everyone should know that I am still reading your blogs at home on the Blackberry quite frequently but unfortunately Blogger isn't very friendly to commenting.  I am around though!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Midnight Mass

Christmas is finally upon us.  I'm about 3 hours away from Midnight Mass.  Remembering back to last year, I was just beginning to settle into RCIA and the process of becoming Catholic at this time of year.  The mass was so incredibly beautiful....just hard to describe without someone being there.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the mass again tonight, only this time through the eyes of someone who can take the Blessed Sacrament this year instead of as a Candidate for Confirmation.  

Merry Christmas everyone!  And let's keep the Mass in Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

In today's office of readings, the first reading is from the Book of Isaiah the Prophet.  It is a very good prophecy of the coming of our Lord, perfect for the Advent season.  The second reading is from St. Hippolytus (one of his treatises against the heretics).  He emphasizes the importance of reading the scriptures for all of us - something that I think most of us could work on to improve.  That's another reason that I love the Liturgy of the Hours so much, I get to read several Psalms and scriptures each day, and it isn't just me picking and choosing what to read and when.  

In other news, a major issue that I've been praying hard about has been answered in a wonderful way by God!  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Well, I finally got the Christmas/Advent Liturgy of the Hours.  Just in time to do a couple before Christmas season begins.  I can't express how much more my life feels complete with the Liturgy at hand.  I need to get back into the daily routine of doing Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the Office of Readings every day and more if I have time. 

Getting ready to go to my weekly confession, then I'll be ready to really bring on Christmas season.  Let's continue to pray for everyone and do what we can for the poor this year.  If you are Catholic, I highly recommend helping out as much as possible with the second collection for Catholic Community Services (I assume they do these everywhere, but at least those parishioners from our parish can do this!).  

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

I'm slowly trying to get to the point where I can post with home on the new Blackberry we have.  It's a little complicated as Blogger decided to make it extra hard for Blackberry users for some reason.  I do get to read most of your blogs from home, but I don't get to comment often.

Today, I have been thinking about a great spiritual hole that exists in my life right now.  About a week before Advent started, I ordered the Advent/Christmas Volume of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The company had some kind of screw up, and while I was not charged, I did not receive the LotH either.  So, last week I reordered it, this time from Amazon, but since it is Christmas, the mail is going very slow and I won't have it till next week probably.

I would have never imagined this, but being the first time since Lent that I have gone this long without being able to pray the LotH has been brutal.  It is like my relationship with God is somehow more distant when I am not structured and praying the Psalms and doing the readings regularly.  Luckily, the fact that we are having a child has drawn me closer to God, as has Advent season.  I would feel destitute had this happened during ordinary time.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

We are quickly approaching Christmas.  That being said, we found out some big news.  I am now a Father and Seraphina is a mother!  Baby is due around August, please pray for us! :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today,  I thought I would thrill my Protestant readers with a Martin Luther quote:

"There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams." "An Meine Kritiker" (by Johannes Jorgensen, p. 181)

Yep, Luther, you pretty much summed up why personal interpretation outside of true Church authority is ludicrous :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I encourage everyone to go to mass, and pray for the unborn.  Although I cannot vouch for everything this site has to say, it does raise some interesting points about the symbolism that might appear in the image on St. Juan Diego's tilma.  Someone out there more informed on the subject may want to comment, but it seems very plausible to me.  Anyway, the whole story of Our Lady's appearance to St. Juan Diego is a beautiful and amazing story. Read what was presented about the symbolism in the image:

 The Image of Our Lady is actually an Aztec 
    Pictograph which was read and understood
quickly by the Aztec Indians. 

            THE SUN
            She was greater than the dreaded 
            Huitzilopochtli, their sun-god of war.

            CRESCENT MOON  
            She had clearly crushed Quetzalcoatl, 
            the feathered serpent moon-

            THE MANTLE
            She was greater than the stars of heaven which they worshipped.  
            She was a virgin and the Queen of the heavens for Virgo rests over 
            her womb and the northern crown upon her head. She appeared on 
           December 12, 1531 and the stars that she wore are the constellations 
           of the stars that appeared in the sky that day!

            She was a Queen because she wears the color of royalty.

            Her God was that of the Spanish Missionaries, Jesus Christ her son 
            who died on the cross for all mankind.

6.         THE BLACK BELT
            She was with child because she wore the Aztec Maternity Belt.

            She was the Mother of God because the flower was a special sy
life, movement and deity-the center of the universe.

            She was not God but clearly there was one greater than Her and she 
            pointed her finger to the cross on her brooch.

            She is the Queen of the Earth because she is wearing a contour map 
            of Mexico telling the Indians exactly where the apparition took place.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

So, recovering from a sinus infection as I am, I could not sleep all night last night.  Instead, I read the second Ann Rice book "Christ the Lord - The Road to Cana".  Here we find Christ at 30 years old.  This book follows him from right before his baptism to the wedding feast at Cana.  I must admit that I was slightly weirded by some of the dialogue in this one, the fact that Christ was attracted to a woman, among other things.  But, he was tempted in all ways like we were, so I assume he did have attraction to women, and he handles it very well in the book.  

Interestingly, my complaint about the first book - that it was poorly written - has begun to develop some in this book.  The writing style is significantly better (still not the best written book I have ever read), but I think the author is developing Christ's mind as he matures, and thus brings up the style of her writing a notch or two.  

Overall, I think this one was a little better than the first, but now I will have to wait for the third one to come out before I can finish the story up.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Book Review - Christ the Lord - Out of Egypt

I have never read an Ann Rice book before this one.  And, to be quite honest, I highly doubt I would like any of her other books.  She has a very poor writing style (probably similar to mine in that it isn't complex enough to really be good literature).  That being said, Christ the Lord out of Egypt (her first in a trilogy? of the life of Christ) deals with Christ between the ages of 7 and 8 years old.  It is a reasonably interesting and thought provoking book, making you think quite a bit about what the young family life of Jesus must have been like.  Mary, for instance, is forbidden to enter the synagogue in Nazereth because they believe she was impregnated outside of marriage.  Whether or not these things are true, what traditions or legends they are based off of, etc. is really irrelevant, because I don't think the book is pushing it on us as truth, but rather trying to enlarge our minds about what Christ must have been like and how he developed into the great teacher we see in the New Testament.  

It's an interesting read, and I picked up the second book tonight.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Immaculate Conception

How wonderful today's Holy Day of Obligation is.   One thing I have definitely done is grown in my devotion to Mary over the last year.  I've said this once before, unlike many Protestants who convert, the moment I became Catholic, I had absolutely no problem asking Mary for her intercessions.  I can remember kneeling in prayer asking the Blessed Mother to pray for me to make it through the RCIA process last year.  And here I am, celebrating one of her feast days, closer than ever to her.  I've done this before, but again I strongly recommend that if you have petitions to put before God, ask Mary to pray for you.  

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Sunday of Advent

I've decided that until we upgrade our Blackberry, it is pretty much going to be impossible for me to post every day, which kind of bums me out.  I did make a mental post every day this week though, too bad I can't share my thoughts with you guys!  

Anyway, today I just wanted to reflect a little on the growth of the Church.  We've heard a lot about Churches shrinking (and the Catholic Church is growing immensely in certain areas of the world and stagnant in others).  But, on the local level we found out that we went from 700 households to 800 households in the last year....that's a net gain of 100 Households in just  a year!  That also doesn't include all our college students (which make up an awfully large portion of our parish since it is a University Parish.  Thanks be to God for this type of growth!  And with so many enrolled in RCIA classes this year, we are bound to grow again.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

I can't believe I forgot to mention this last Sunday, but I just realized I did.  Last Sunday was the first mass I attended with the intention of becoming Catholic.  (Last year when I decided to become Catholic, the first mass I attended was the First Sunday of Advent).  I re-read last year's Year A readings and the responsorial Psalm...and even the prayers in my missal.  I could not believe how much I remembered, and the feelings came flooding back about how Biblical the mass was when I was actually paying attention.  Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

I recently finished Pope John Paul II's Crossing the Threshhold of Hope.  If you havn't read the book, I highly recommend it.  Basically, a reporter sent the Holy Father several questions regarding Our Faith, many of which were very hard hitting.  He covers issues like suffering, salvation, those ouside the Church, etc.  He did a superb job of answering these questions, although many times he seemed to get off track of the original question and the reporter was a little soft on bringing him back to the original.  Much of his being "off track", however, I think flowed from his immense theological understanding that, quite frankly could leave me in the dust. While I think he tried to keep his answers to something the lay person could appreciate, his genius shines forth a little too much, making it a difficult and time consuming read, but definitely one that all Catholics should do if they get the opportunity.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday of the First Week of Advent

Last night Seraphina and I started our decorations for Christmas (Sorry all you hard corers that don't like to do it until the 24th....).  We put up our tree, our wreath on our front door, and set up our nativity set, all of which were extremely beautiful and came from her family.  It is so wonderful being able to decorate for Christmas (this is only the second year I have done it since my old Protestant denomination did not celebrate Christmas).  We decided that until Christmas, our nativity set will not be a nativity set but rather an advent set.  So, here is how we set it up (I took pictures, and will upload them later):

Mary and Joseph are both facing an angel hanging on the wall so that it looks like the angel is speaking to them.  The wise men are coming from the East and are gathered together meeting with each other, on their way to meet the Christ when he is born.  The shephards are slightly closer to where the manger will be, and are on their way with all the animals.

We thought this was a good way to remind ourselves that it was still advent and that we are preparing for Christ (both to celebrate his birth and watching for his second coming).