Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dec. 31, 2017: Holy Family

Dec. 31, 2017: Holy Family
What do you remember most fondly about your childhood? A priest shared a memory from his childhood about his dad teaching him and his three brothers how to pray each night before they went to bed. His dad was a manager at McDonald’s, and he often worked long hours and late nights. After getting home late and still in his work clothes, his dad would gather the boys in one of their bedrooms and calm them down by asking them to take three breaths very slowly. His dad would take out a little prayer card from his shirt pocket, and the boys would repeat a line of the prayer until they memorized the whole prayer. Soon they learned several prayers, and To this day, they all pray those prayers. 

When the priest was an adult, he asked his dad about those evenings when he taught his sons the prayers. His dad revealed that when he came home tired after 12 hours or more at McDonald’s, all he felt like doing was relaxing for a while. However, his wife encouraged her husband night after night to go into their sons’ rooms to pray with them. She worked behind the scenes as the gentle inspiration for her husband so that he could be the spiritual leader of the family. It’s a very touching and inspiring story, isn’t it? 

Is there something similar that your family tries to do to strive for holiness? If we need inspiration on how to foster holiness in our family, we need to look no further than the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Theirs was a community of love and sharing, a community of prayer and faith. They were materially poor, as indicated by the kind of sacrifice they were able to afford at the temple. They were not immune from challenges, struggles, and misunderstandings that ordinary families face. Joseph and Mary had no place to stay for the birth of their child, they had to immigrate to a foreign country when Herod wanted to kill their child, and they had to suffer temporary loss of their child on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But there was never a shortage of nurturing and caring love in that family. Blessed Mother and St. Joseph built a community of love and sharing by their willingness to offer themselves for the sake of another. We see their examples in scripture of total self-surrender and acceptance of God’s will. 

Our families may not be perfect; our family life is a work in progress. It takes conscientious effort and hard work to practice forgiveness, honesty, and openness within our families. It is challenging with the busyness and noise in our homes, but it is so important in our families to develop a prayer life. Although it may seem so difficult, God is here for us to help us live through our mistakes and its consequences, meanwhile making forgiveness possible. What should be a new resolution for our families this new year? How about recommitting to having God at the center of our lives. Just as the Holy Family, let us listen to Him, talk with Him, believe in Him and do his will at all times.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dec. 28, 2017: Holy Innocents

Dec. 28, 2017: Holy Innocents

Today, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, as the words of the angel to the shepherds still resound in our hearts – “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” (Lk 2: 10-11) – I feel the need to write to you. We do well to listen to that proclamation again and again; to hear over and over again that God is present in the midst of our people. This certainty, which we renew each year, is the source of our joy and hope.

Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They did not indulge in words that were comforting but unrelated to reality. For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary, they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest of terms: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2:18). It is the sobbing of mothers bewailing the death of their children in the face of Herod’s tyranny and unbridled thirst for power.

Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence. In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.

To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today. To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the Good News that the Incarnate Word wants to give us. The temptation is real.

Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?

Saint Joseph was the first to be charged with protecting the joy of salvation. Faced with the atrocious crimes that were taking place, Saint Joseph – the model of an obedient and loyal man – was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to his will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.

There are at present 75 million children who, due to prolonged situations of emergency and crisis, have had to interrupt their education. In 2015, 68% of all persons who were victims of sexual exploitation were children. At the same time, a third of all children who have to live outside their homelands do so because forcibly displaced. We live in a world where almost half of the children who die under the age of five do so because of malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2016 there were 150 million child labourers, many of whom live in conditions of slavery. According to the most recent report presented by UNICEF, unless the world situation changes, in 2030 there will be 167 million children living in extreme poverty, 69 million children under the age of five will die between 2016 and 2030, and 16 million children will not receive basic schooling.

Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us as bishops to find new courage. The courage that generates processes capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.

Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.

May we do this with the paternal fidelity of Saint Joseph and guided by Mary, Mother of tender love, so that our own hearts may never grow hard.


From the Vatican, 28 December 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dec. 27, 2017: St. John, Apostle

Dec. 27, 2017: St. John, Apostle

What was it like for those who encountered the only begotten Son of God in human form? John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, wrote his Gospel account as an eye-witness of the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14), and who died and rose for our salvation. John was the first apostle to reach the tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday morning. Like the other disciples, he was not ready to see an empty tomb and to hear the angel's message, Why do you seek the living among the dead (Luke 24:5)?  

John in his first epistle testifies: What we have seen, heard, and touched we proclaim as the word of life which existed "from the beginning" (1 John 1:1-4). John bears witness to what has existed from all eternity. This "Word of Life" is Jesus the Word Incarnate, but also Jesus as the word announced by the prophets and Jesus the word now preached throughout the Christian churches for all ages to come. One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy, hope, and courage. 

The reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact of the Christian faith. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us "eyes of faith" to know him and the power of his resurrection. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter the living Jesus Christ and to know him personally as our Savior and Lord.

reflection by Don Schwager © 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

Dec. 25, 2017: Christmas

Dec. 25, 2017: Christmas B

The children at our Christmas program sang a very touching song titled, “Happy birthday, Jesus.” “Happy birthday, Jesus / I’m so glad it’s Christmas / All the tinsel and lights / And the presents are nice / But the real gift is you.” This song speaks about how we are all glad about the Christmas festivities, decorations, carols, and presents, yet the real gift to us is the Christ Child and that our gift to him is our love and affection. Pope Francis reminded us of what Christmas truly means when he said, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it... For me Christmas has always been about this: contemplating the visit of God to his people.”  

This evening (day) we kneel before the Baby in the Manger in praise and thanksgiving to the Son of infinite love and mercy. Christ, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity, took to himself our lowly human nature and became one of us in order to raise us up to the dignity of adopted sons of his Heavenly Father. It’s staggering to ponder how the infinite, all-perfect God should bother with such imperfect, lowly creatures. As the Psalm reads, “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” What have we done or what could we ever do to merit such love, such mercy, and such humility on the part of God? No, we did not merit such love, but the infinitely unselfish generosity of God has done this. 

We should imitate the humble shepherds who returned home glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen on the night of the birth of Christ Child. We return home after this mass, to our ordinary daily tasks, with renewed spiritual resolve to reject what is ungodly and worldly, and to live a truly Christian life to make God’s love for us known to all. 

Let us listen again to the Good News of Jesus’ birth with our hearts of gratitude. 

Mary's Boy Child By Jester Hairston

1. Long time ago in Bethlehem,
So the Holy Bible say,
Mary's boy child, Jesus Christ,
Was born on Christmas day,
Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A newborn King today,
And man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.

Hark, now hear the angels sing,
A newborn King today,
And man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.

2. While shepherds watch / their 
           flocks by night
They see a bright new shining star
They hear a choir sing a song, 
the music seemed to come from 

3. Now, Joseph and his wife, Mary,
Come to bethlehem that night,
They found no place to bear her 
Not a single room was in sight.

4. By and by they find / alittle nook,
In a stable all forlorn,
And in a manger cold and dark,
Mary's little Boy was born!

Trumpets sound and angels sing,
Listen to what they say,
That Man will live forevermore,
Because of Christmas day.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dec. 24, 2017: 4th Sunday of Advent B

Dec. 24, 2017: 4th Sunday of Advent B

Where is God in the plans we make? Do we talk to God and ask him to be a part of our plans? This past weekend during a taxi ride from my parents’ home in Dallas to the airport, the taxi driver said that he was more of an agnostic person, and he was skeptical that God could influence his day to day life. For him, making plans about his life does not involve faith or trust in some higher being; his plans are based on a moment to moment whim or desire. 

We make plans with good intentions and even with high spiritual ideals. Yet, it may not be in the plan of God.  King David planned to build a house for God in the city of Jerusalem. Yet God revealed to Prophet Nathan that God himself was going to build the house and establish a  throne of David that would last beyond David’s earthly life. The prophecy came to fulfillment not exactly as David envisioned, but through Joseph and Mary.  Joseph was of the lineage of King David, and Mary’s assent to Archangel Gabriel’s message created a dwelling place for the King of kings and the Lord of lords. 

God’s ways are not our ways. God’s time is not our time. How many times in the past have we questioned God’s plans for our lives? There were events, obstacles, and tragedies that baffled our understanding of how an all-knowing and all-loving God would allow such events to happen. How confusing it must have been for Blessed Mother to hear from the Archangel that God had a plan for her life that she would have never dreamed of? Yet her resolute response, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word," speaks of the essential attitude of trust that we should imitate. She had lived in an attitude of prayer and expectation, and was prepared for a mission still unknown to her. When that crucial moment came, she was capable of trusting and obeying the angel who appeared to her with an incredible message from God. 

As we wait for the arrival of the Christ Child this Christmas and welcome the new year, we too pray for an attitude of trust and obedience to accept God’s plans for our lives. May we be open toward the mission which God has in mind for us, when and in whatever way He likes. Let us ask Blessed Mother for the grace to tell our Heavenly Father, “I’m your servant, Lord. May it be done according to Your Will.”

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dec. 22, 2017: 3rd Week of Advent

Dec. 22, 2017: Third Week of Advent

An Advent Meditation on Mary’s Magnificat
By Bill Gaultiere

For two thousand years Mary’s Magnificat has been a source of daily prayer for Christ-followers who use The Liturgy of the Hours. She exclaimed these words upon hearing her older cousin Elizabeth confirm that she was indeed carrying Christ the Lord in her womb!

We seem to have the idea that when Mary sang the Magnificat it was as if the clouds parted and a divine light beamed into her body and she burst forth singing with the assistance of a choir of angels! Probably it was more than a moment of sudden inspiration from God. It’s likely that Mary’s song was informed by her readings of the Old Testament and her conversations with family and friends about the coming of the Messiah. For instance, we know that Mary prayed and discussed the great prayer of Hannah in the Old Testament and that Mary’s song has similarities to Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

We also know that Mary was a woman who “treasured and pondered in her heart” the things that God showed her (Luke 2:19). Probably she prayed or sang her Magnificat many times throughout her life, perhaps even before her visit with Elizabeth, but especially in the days and years afterwards. That makes sense because she certainly needed the blessed words of life that God gave her! For a long time no one but Joseph believed her story that she was pregnant by a miracle of the Holy Spirit — she was branded with the Scarlet A! Like Jesus, all of her life she lived with the slanderous accusations that were spoken against her (John 9:29).

Imagine Mary walking to the village well to get water and people frowning at her and whispering about her. If she looked to them for acceptance she’d feel embarrassed and insecure, but instead she smiles and quietly hums the words of the glorious song that God gave her! “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… All generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me…” (Luke 1:46-47).

Mary experienced many other trials in her life, like poverty, fleeing to Egypt when Herod wanted to kill baby Jesus, losing her husband at young age and raising a family without him, and the sword that pierced her heart when her son was scourged and crucified (Luke 2:35). I can imagine Mary praying and singing the Magnificat to help her see with eyes of faith beyond her circumstances and into the spiritual reality of the Kingdom of God where she was indeed blessed and the strong arm of the Lord Almighty was doing great things for her and through her to others!

This is a picture of Mary that I can relate to in the trials that I face. I can practice seeing the unseen Kingdom of God in my midst and putting my trust in the risen Christ who is there with me.

Mary’s Magnificat from the Gospel of Luke
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

“He has come to help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46-55; The Liturgy of the Hours, ICET)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dec. 17, 2017: 3rd Sunday Advent B

Dec. 17, 2017: 3rd Sunday Advent B

Do you consider yourself a joyful or joy-filled person? When we describe someone as “joyful” we often mean that they bring a special light into life. Many of us experience life as a mixture of happy moments, sadness, and even tragedies. But do we strive to be joyful even when the sun stops shining? Events, people, and things can make us feel happy. We also know that these feelings come and go. What we need is an inner disposition of joy in our lives--joy that does not diminish with circumstances. An example of this resilient joy is a writing found on a basement wall of a home: 

“I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

This writing epitomizes joy because it was written by someone who was suffering a great deal in Germany during the World War II holocaust. Joy allows us to look at the world through the lens of hope and possibility. It’s this kind of joy that Prophet Isaiah spoke about in our First Reading: “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” This hope-filled joy is preached by John the Baptist, a man sent from God to testify to the light of joy coming to the world. We Christians have access to this joy, for on the night of Our Lord’s birth, the angel announced, “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people” (Luke 2:10). Through our baptism, we belong to the royalty of God’s kingdom, and that is a great cause for rejoicing. 

Pope Francis repeated many times in his homilies that a healthy Christian is a joyful Christian, even in times of sorrow and tribulation. Joy is possible because it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to love and fills us with joy. He said, “Christian vocation is to remain in the love of God, that is, to breathe, to live of that oxygen, to live of that air...Who gives us joy? The Holy Spirit! How many of you pray to the Holy Spirit? He is the gift, the gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love and fills us with joy.” Saint Paul gave us practical advice in our Second Reading, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus...Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” 

What can we do today to strive to be joyful Christians? Even when we are under difficult situations, we can choose to see hope and possibility. A cancer survivor shared how he was feeling sorry for himself and feeling awful after rounds of chemo treatment and losing hair. One day he decided to volunteer to push the wheelchair for chemo patients at the hospital. While volunteering, he forgot about himself and experienced joy in giving his time. Making a gift of ourselves for others is one way to experience joy. Let us take St. Paul’s advice, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dec. 14, 2017: St. John of the Cross

Dec. 14, 2017: St. John of the Cross

Selected excerpts from St. John of the Cross’ writings

(The Spiritual Canticle) Stanza 1. #3. You are a hidden God. Neither is the sublime communication nor the senstible awareness of His nearness a sure testimony of His gracious presence, nor is dryness and a lack of these a reflection of His absence. #6. A person who wants to find Him should leave all things through affection and will, enter within himself in deepest recollection, and regard things as though they were nonexistence. God is hidden in the soul. #7. You yourself are His dwelling and His secret chamber and hiding place. #8. God is never absent. #9. In order to find Him you should forget all your possessions and all creatures and hide in the interior, secret chamber of your spirit. And there, closing the door behind you, you should pray to your Father in secret. Remaining hidden with Him, you will experience Him in hiding, and love and enjoy Him in hiding. #10. God is the substance and concept of faith, and fiath is the secret and the mystery. #11. Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden. #12. Pay no attention to anything which your faculties can grasp. You should never desire satisfaction in what you understand about God, but in what you do not understand about Him Never stop with loving and delighting in your understanding and experience of God, but love and delight in what is neither understandable nor perceptible of Him. #19. Spiritual wounds of love are very delightful and desirable. The soul would desire to be ever dying a thousand deaths from the thrusts of the lance, for they make her go out of herself and enter into God. #20. The wounded soul, strengthened from the fire caused by the wound, went out after her Beloved Who wounded her, calling for Him, that He might heal her. One goes out from oneself through self-forgetfulness.

(The Ascent of Mount Carmel) Bk. 3. Ch. 2. #2. All these sensory means and exercises of the faculties must be left behind and in silence so that God Himslef may effect the divine union of the soul. As a result one has to follow this method of disencumbering, emptying, and depriving the faculties of their natural rights and operations to make room for the inflow and illumination of the supernatural. If a person does not turn his eyes from his natural capacity, he will not attain to so lofty a communication; rather he will hinder it. #3. If it is true that the soul must journey by knowing God through what He is not, rather than through what He is, it must journey, insofar as possible, by way of the denial and rejection of natural and supernatural apprehensions. This is our task now with the memory. We must draw it away from its natural props and capacities and raise it above itself (above all distinct knowledge and apprehensible possession) to supreme hope in the incomprehensible God. #4. The annihilation of the memory in regard to all forms (including the five senses) is an absolute requirement for union with God. This union cannot be wrought without a complete separation of the memory from all forms that are not God. In great forgetfulness it is absorbed in a supreme good. #8. Once he has the habit of union he no longer experiences these lapses of memory in matters concerning his moral and natural life. All the operations of the memory and other faculties in this state are divine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dec. 13, 2017: St. Lucy

Dec. 13, 2017: St. Lucy

What kind of yoke does the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us? And how can it be good for us? The Jewish people used the image of a yoke to express their submission to God. They spoke of the yoke of the law, the yoke of the commandments, the yoke of the kingdom, the yoke of God. Jesus says his yoke is "easy". The Greek word for "easy" can also mean "well-fitting". Yokes were tailor-made to fit the oxen well for labor. We are commanded to put on the "sweet yoke of Jesus" and to live the "heavenly way of life and happiness". Oxen were yoked two by two. Jesus invites each one of us to be yoked with him, to unite our life with him, our will with his will, our heart with his heart.
Jesus carries our burdens with us
Jesus also says his "burden is light". There's a story of a man who once met a boy carrying a smaller crippled lad on his back. "That's a heavy load you are carrying there," exclaimed the man. "He ain't heavy; he's my brother!" responded the boy. No burden is too heavy when it's given in love and carried in love. When we yoke our lives with Jesus, he also carries our burdens with us and gives us his strength to follow in his way of love. Do you know the joy of resting in Jesus' presence and walking daily with him along the path he has for you?

In the Advent season we celebrate the coming of the Messiah King who ushers in the reign of God. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would establish God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. Those who put their trust in God and in the coming of his kingdom receive the blessings of that kingdom - peace with God and strength for living his way of love, truth, and holiness (Isaiah 40). Jesus fulfills all the Messianic hopes and promises of God's kingdom. That is why he taught his disciples to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). In his kingdom sins are not only forgiven but removed, and eternal life is poured out for all its citizens. This is not a political kingdom, but a spiritual one.

Freed from the burden of sin and guilt
The yoke of Christ's kingdom, his kingly rule and way of life, liberates us from the burden of guilt and disobedience. Only the Lord Jesus can lift the burden of sin and the weight of hopelessness from us. Jesus used the analogy of a yoke to explain how we can exchange the burden of sin and despair for a yoke of glory, freedom, and joy with him. The yoke which the Lord Jesus invites us to embrace is his way of power and freedom to live in love, peace, and joy as God's sons and daughters. Do you trust in God's love and truth and submit to his will for your life?

"Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with love for you and for your ways and help me to exchange the yoke of rebellion for the sweet yoke of submission to your holy and loving word. Set me free from the folly of my own sinful ignorance and rebellious pride that I may wholly desire what is good and in accord with your will."

Reflection by Don Schwager © 2017.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dec. 12, 2017: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dec. 12, 2017: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Written by Katie Cassady

Truth be told, I am still getting to know Mary. I grew up in Protestant circles that revered Mary in the manger and then moved quickly on to her son. We landed on the common ground that was our shared faith in Jesus and I didn’t question it much. However, the more I learn about Mary the more I like her.

The story of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary from today’s Gospel reading is well-known. It is both simple and profound. Mary is approached by an angel and a conversation of utmost importance takes place. Gabriel delivers God’s message, Mary is troubled and asks questions, Gabriel responds to her questions and Mary responds with her fiat regarding the mystery that is to come. (There is a very similar conversation between Elizabeth’s spouse, Zechariah, and an angel, though in his case, his disbelief caused him to be struck dumb until the birth of John the Baptist.)

It is clear from the beginning that Mary is set apart and that she is going to have an active role in our Savior’s life.

I am inspired by her strength, humility, vulnerability and her trust in the mysterious movement of God in her life and her body for that matter. So often she is depicted as this serene, contemplative and beautiful woman we have come to recognize and honor. I cannot help but feel like that is only a portion of her identity. As I begin to teach my children about who Mary is, it feels remiss to leave out the details of the variety of ways she worked and works in the world.

Case in point, today’s feast day.

The apparition of the Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego at Tepeyac was a bit baffling to Juan Diego himself. He felt someone more esteemed than he might be fit for the role of relaying Our Lady’s message to the bishop. Yet she chose a humble and faith-filled individual to be the bearer of her important request. The details of her apparition are significant. She is depicted simultaneously as a woman of the people, and of royalty, sending a message that she is for us all. “Am I not here, who am your Mother?”

Mary was instrumental in Jesus’ first miracle. She seems to have a deep awareness of Jesus’ ministry. And I think that can be said for us, too. Mary meets all of us exactly where we are—unwed mothers, young mothers, surprised mothers, overwhelmed mothers, grieving mothers, worried mothers, compassionate mothers, widowed mothers, Spirit-filled mothers, wise mothers, strong mothers, kind mothers, humble mothers, loving mothers.

“Am I not here, who am your Mother?”

So as I continue to learn from and about the Blessed Mother, I want to honor and pass on both the peaceful, contemplative Mary depicted in statues and nativities, along with the side of her that she communicated by her apparition to Juan Diego—familiar, maternal, humble, royal, persistent, active, loving and always pointing toward the love of her son, Jesus.

(Link) Live video feed from Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dec. 10, 2017: 2nd Sunday of Advent B

Dec. 10, 2017: 2nd Sunday of Advent B

How do you typically spend your time in your car when you have some distance to drive to your destination? Do you turn on the radio or CD? This week when planning a funeral, I spoke with three of the children whose mother had died earlier in the week. They said as children, when they got in the car with their mom, the first thing they did was to pray the Rosary. The  siblings went on to say that even as adults they still pray the Rosary when they get in their car. That tradition of praying the Rosary is a beautiful example of how the faith of parents can shape and make straight the path of their children.  Parents spend the best years of their lives preparing the way for their children, in the sense of opening them to life. There is no other worthwhile effort than to show a person a straight path to Jesus, which is the path to life.

John the Baptist dedicated his short earthly life to showing people a straight path to Jesus. John cried out to the people in the wilderness, “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” This ‘way’ or the path represents a person’s manner of life and conduct. The straight road stands for right living and the crooked road stands for wrong living. The path to Jesus that John pointed out involves repentance, a conscious turning away from sin and a full- hearted turning toward God. We all have to admit that figuratively speaking we may have wandered out to the wilderness where we feel disconnected from God.  Perhaps we devoted so much time and energy to something so superficial that we gradually became insensitive to God’s presence. We feel the aching dissatisfaction that calls us from within to set things right.

If there is anything that needs to be realigned in our lives, be it a lack of spiritual fervor, selfishness, a unhealthy relationship, lack of integrity at the workplace, this season of Advent is the right time to set ourselves on the right path to Jesus. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a perfect way to set things right with God and ourselves. Take time to examine your conscience before heading in to see a priest. A good place to start for such review is to start with Ten Commandments. We can also help set others on the right path during this Advent season. There may be some who recently lost a loved one, and this will be the first Christmas without them.  There may be someone who cannot afford to give basic Christmas gifts to their children. What a joy it is for them to receive a small act of love from caring persons. Such kindness reaffirms that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and heirs to heaven. To prepare the way of the Lord then it is to help others come to know Jesus’ love and mercy through us.

In these short couple of weeks before we celebrate the arrival of Our Lord at Christmas, let us take time to reflect on our shortcomings and ask Him to help us to overcome them. Let us reach out and help those who may long to experience God’s care and concern.
 Ponder these words this week:

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Dec. 9, 2017: St. Juan Diego

Dec. 9, 2017: St. Juan Diego

Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady

The story begins in the early morning hours of December 9, 1531, when a 57-year-old Indian peasant named Juan Diego was walking along the path of Tepayec Hill on the outskirts of Mexico City.

 Keep in mind that only 10 years earlier, Hernando Cortez had conquered Mexico City. In 1523, Franciscan missionaries came evangelizing the Indian people. They were so successful that the Diocese of Mexico City was established in 1528. (Remember too that Jamestown, the first permanent English colony, was not established until 1607.) Juan Diego and many of his family members were among these early converts to the faith. He was baptized "Juan Diego" in 1525 along with his wife, Maria Lucia, and his uncle Juan Bernardino.

One must also not forget that Juan Diego had grown up under Aztec oppression. The Aztec religious practices, which included human sacrifice, play an interesting and integral role in this story. Every major Aztec city had a temple pyramid, about 100 feet high, on top of which was erected an altar. Upon this altar, the Aztec priests offered human sacrifice to their god Huitzilopochtli, called the "Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood," by cutting out the beating hearts of their victims, usually adult men but often children. Considering that the Aztecs controlled 371 towns and the law required 1,000 human sacrifices for each town with a temple pyramid, over 50,000 human beings were sacrificed each year. Moreover, the early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children fell victim to this bloodthirsty religion.

In 1487, when Juan Diego was just 13 years old, he would have witnessed the most horrible event: Tlacaellel, the 89-year-old Aztec ruler, dedicated the new temple pyramid of the sun, dedicated to the two chief gods of the Aztec pantheon Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca, (the god of hell and darkness) in the center of Tenochtitlan (later Mexico City). The temple pyramid was 100 feet high with 114 steps to reach the top. More than 80,000 men were sacrificed over a period of four days and four nights. While this number of sacrifices seems incredible, evidence indicates it took only 15 seconds to cut the heart out of each victim. (For more information, see Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness by Dr. Warren Carroll.)

Nevertheless, in 1520, Hernando Cortes outlawed human sacrifice. He stripped the temple pyramid of its two idols, cleansed the stone of its blood and erected a new altar. Cortez, his soldiers and Father Olmedo then ascended the stairs with the Holy Cross and images of the Blessed Mother and St. Christopher. Upon this new altar, Father Olmedo offered the sacrifice of the Mass. Upon what had been the place of evil pagan sacrifice, now the unbloody, eternal and true sacrifice of our Lord was offered. Such an action, however, sparked the all-out war with the Aztecs, whom Cortez finally subdued in August 1521.

Now back to our story. That morning Juan Diego was headed to Mass. As he walked along Tepeyac Hill, he began to hear beautiful strains of music, and he saw a beautiful lady, who called his name: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito." He approached, and she said, "Know for certain, least of my sons, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, the true God, through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of Heaven and earth. It is my earnest wish that a temple be built here to my honor. Here I will demonstrate, I will manifest, I will give all my love, my compassion, my help and my protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, and of those who have confidence in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate all their multiple sufferings, necessities, and misfortunes."

She told Juan Diego to go tell Bishop Zumarraga of her desire for a church to be built at the site. Tradition holds that Juan Diego asked our Blessed Mother her name. She responded in his native language of Nahuatl, "Tlecuatlecupe," which means "the one who crushes the head of the serpent" (a clear reference to Genesis 3:15 and perhaps to the prominent symbol of the Aztec religion). "Tlecuatlecupe" when correctly pronounced, sounds remarkably similar to "Guadalupe." Consequently, when Juan Diego told Bishop Zumarraga her name in his native tongue, he probably confused it with the familiar Spanish name "Guadalupe," a city with a prominent Marian shrine.

Bishop Zumarraga was a saintly man, very just and compassionate. He built the first hospital, library and university in the Americas. He also was the Protector of the Indians, entrusted by Emperor Charles V to enforce his decree issued in August 1530, stating, "No person shall dare to make a single Indian a slave whether in war or in peace. Whether by barter, by purchase, by trade, or on any other pretext or cause whatever." (Note that in 1537 Pope Paul III condemned and forbade the enslavement of the Native American Indian.) However, Bishop Zumarraga listened patiently to Juan Diego, and said he would reflect on the matter, understandably doubting such a story.

Juan Diego went back to Tepayac and reported the bishop's response. Mary instructed him to try again. So the next day, he did. Although this time it was more difficult to see the bishop, Juan Diego prevailed, and the bishop once more listened patiently. However, the bishop asked him to bring back a sign from Mary to prove the story. Again, Juan Diego reported the matter to our Blessed Mother, who told him to return the next day to receive "the sign" for the bishop.

On December 11, Juan Diego spent the day caring for his very sick uncle, Juan Bernardino. He asked Juan Diego to go and bring a priest who would hear his confession and administer the last rites. On December 12, Juan Diego set out again, but avoided Tepeyac Hill because he was ashamed that he had not returned the previous day as our Blessed Mother had requested. While making his detour, the Blessed Mother stopped him and said, "Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?" Mary reassured Juan Diego that his uncle would not die; in fact, his health had been restored.

As for the sign for the bishop, Mary told Juan Diego to go to the top of the mountain and pick some flowers. He went up to the hill which was dry and barren a place for cactus and found roses like those grown in Castille, but foreign to Mexico. He gathered them in his tilma, a garment like a poncho. He brought them to Mary who arranged them and said to take them to the bishop.

Juan Diego proceeded again to Bishop Zumarraga's house. After waiting a while for an audience, he repeated the message to the bishop and opened his tilma to present the roses. The bishop saw not only the beautiful flowers but also the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bishop Zumarraga wept at the sight of the Blessed Mother and asked forgiveness for doubting. He took the tilma and laid it at the altar in his chapel. By Christmas of that year, an adobe structure was built atop Tepeyac Hill in honor of our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it was dedicated on December 26, 1531, the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr.

December 9 marks the feast day of Saint Juan Diego and December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

(Video: 2002 Canonization mass for St. Juan Diego with Pope John Paul II in Mexico City - Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dec. 8, 2017: Immaculate Conception

Dec 8, 2017: Immaculate Conception

Whether we play sports, apply for college, or apply for jobs, we go through a process of being chosen. A company looking to fill a highly selective position may look for a candidate who is intellectually gifted, multi-talented, efficient, and experienced. Have you ever wondered how God goes about choosing a person for a role? By what basis or criteria does God use to choose His disciples? St. Paul describes it this way, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” (1 Cor 1:27-29)

St. Paul also wrote, “he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 1:4). God chose Blessed Mother in a unique way even before her conception to save her from any stain of sin so that she would be holy and without blemish before him. Blessed Mother responded to God with great humility: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." She was chosen to bring God into the world to reconcile the hurting and confused world which was shrouded in darkness.  

Like Blessed Mother, we too are chosen to bring Christ into the world through our daily lives.  Why do we want to bear Christ? It’s because we want to continue the mission of mercy and compassion that he entrusted to his disciples. We received special grace from God to be holy and without blemish through our baptism and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As adopted brothers and sisters of Christ, we too respond to God’s generous mercy by being humble servants of mercy. Like Blessed Mother, let us strive to overcome our selfishness and become instruments of joy for others, helping to gladden the lives of our sisters and brothers by becoming bearers of Christ and witnesses of his love. Through the intercession of Immaculate Mary, may mercy take possession of our hearts and transform our whole life.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Solemnity of Immaculate Conception Mass Schedule in Donaldsonville, Louisiana (Friday, Dec. 8, 2017)

Solemnity of Immaculate Conception Mass Schedule in Donaldsonville, Louisiana (Friday, Dec. 8, 2017)
7:00AM St. Francis of Assisi
6:00PM Ascension of Our Lord 
Bishop Robert Muench has removed the obligation to attend mass for the Diocese of Baton Rouge due to inclement weather. For those of you who can safely travel, we will still have 7AM and 6PM masses on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Please check the road conditions before heading out.

Dec. 7, 2017: St. Ambrose

Dec. 7, 2017: St. Ambrose

There are those who are Christians only in appearance: people who make themselves up as Christians, but in the moment of truth they have only makeup. And we all know what happens when a woman, all made up, gets caught in the rain without an umbrella: it all comes off, appearances wind up on the ground. That makeup is a temptation.

On the other hand, we have so many saints among the People of God, who are not necessarily canonized, but saints! So many men and women who lead their life in Christ, who put the Commandments into practice, who put Jesus’ love into practice. So many!

Let’s consider the smallest: the sick who offer their suffering for the Church, for others. Let’s consider the many lonely elderly people who pray and offer. Let’s consider the many mothers and fathers who work so hard for their family, their children’s education, daily work, problems, always with hope in Jesus. They don’t strut about, but rather they do what they can. Let’s consider the many priests who work with such love in their parishes: catechesis for the children, care for the elderly and the sick, preparation for newlyweds. And every day it’s the same, the same, the same. They don’t tire because the rock is their foundation.

Jesus: this is what gives holiness to the Church; this is what gives hope. We have to take great care of the hidden holiness that there is in the Church.

-Pope Francis

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dec. 6, 2017: St. Nicholas

Dec. 6, 2017: St. Nicholas

Who is the True St. Nick?

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman's father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man's daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios' parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas' feast day approached, Basilios' mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios' safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king's golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. A wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a large pickling tub. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at this very inn. In the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed earnestly to God the three boys were restored to life and wholeness. In France the story is told of three small children, wandering in their play until lost, lured, and captured by an evil butcher. St. Nicholas appears and appeals to God to return them to life and to their families. And so St. Nicholas is the patron and protector of children.

Several stories tell of Nicholas and the sea. When he was young, Nicholas sought the holy by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus' life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed, sparing them all. And so St. Nicholas is the patron of sailors and voyagers.

Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. Today he is venerated in the East as wonder, or miracle worker and in the West as patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need (see list).

Sailors, claiming St. Nicholas as patron, carried stories of his favor and protection far and wide. St. Nicholas chapels were built in many seaports. As his popularity spread during the Middle Ages, he became the patron saint of Apulia (Italy), Sicily, Greece, and Lorraine (France), and many cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands (see list). Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas' stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.

Nicholas' tomb in Myra became a popular place of pilgrimage. Because of the many wars and attacks in the region, some Christians were concerned that access to the tomb might become difficult. For both the religious and commercial advantages of a major pilgrimage site, the Italian cities of Venice and Bari vied to get the Nicholas relics. In the spring of 1087, sailors from Bari succeeded in spiriting away the bones, bringing them to Bari, a seaport on the southeast coast of Italy. An impressive church was built over St. Nicholas' crypt and many faithful journeyed to honor the saint who had rescued children, prisoners, sailors, famine victims, and many others through his compassion, generosity, and the countless miracles attributed to his intercession. The Nicholas shrine in Bari was one of medieval Europe's great pilgrimage centers and Nicholas became known as "Saint in Bari." To this day pilgrims and tourists visit Bari's great Basilica di San Nicola.

Through the centuries St. Nicholas has continued to be venerated by Catholics and Orthodox and honored by Protestants. By his example of generosity to those in need, especially children, St. Nicholas continues to be a model for the compassionate life.

Widely celebrated in Europe, St. Nicholas' feast day, December 6th, kept alive the stories of his goodness and generosity. In Germany and Poland, boys dressed as bishops begged alms for the poor—and sometimes for themselves! In the Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas arrived on a steamship from Spain to ride a white horse on his gift-giving rounds. December 6th is still the main day for gift giving and merrymaking in much of Europe. For example, in the Netherlands St. Nicholas is celebrated on the 5th, the eve of the day, by sharing candies (thrown in the door), chocolate initial letters, small gifts, and riddles. Dutch children leave carrots and hay in their shoes for the saint's horse, hoping St. Nicholas will exchange them for small gifts. Simple gift-giving in early Advent helps preserve a Christmas Day focus on the Christ Child.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dec. 3,2017: 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 3, 2017:1st Sunday Advent B

Welcome to the beginning of a new liturgical year starting with the season of Advent. We are in Year B of the three year cycle in which we are going to focus on the Gospel according to St. Mark. In the course of this new year, we will be unfolding the whole mystery of the life of Christ, beginning with the anticipation of a Messiah, through the events of his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, and his sending of the Holy Spirit. The Church’s Year is divided into two parts. The first part spans from Advent to Pentecost and is devoted to reliving the events of spread of the Gospel and retelling the events of salvation history and celebrating what God has done for his people. The second part spans from Pentecost to Advent and is devoted to contemplating events of the Gospel, how it applies in the life of the disciples and how it continues to apply in our everyday lives. The secular year in Southern Louisiana takes us through football season, hunting season, sugar cane grinding season, oyster season, Mardi Gras season, crawfish season, and sno-ball season. In contrast, the Liturgical Year takes us on a journey, traveling in the footsteps of Jesus. The destination of this journey is the Kingdom of God. Each year, the Church tells the story of Jesus again; while it seems the same, it is also ever new. Every year it is our hope that we grow in our relationship and understanding of Our Lord.

Just as we hang calendars on our walls and set resolutions at the beginning of each calendar year, there are some things we can do to enter appropriately the Season of Advent. The first step is to reset or reestablish what we truly desire in our lives. Advent is a time to renew our longing for the Kingdom of God. Frantic activities of work and family have made us feel anxious and unfocused. Our busyness has muddled what our hearts truly desire -- our love for God. Perhaps that love has become faint as we have ignored Him or pursued something trivial. Preparing for Advent means that we face the reality of our sinfulness and acknowledge the emptiness, dryness, and lifelessness of our pursuits. Conversion and renewal of our hearts through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is important during this season. Through the mercy of God, our tepid and weak longing for God is transformed by the grace of the Sacrament. Prophet Isaiah in our First Reading uses the image of God as a potter and we as the clay. When we have regained our rightful longing for God, do we appreciate Isaiah’s prayer, “You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants…”

Another step toward entering the Season of Advent is to find some time to let our minds be quiet and our hearts open in prayer. Everything seems to accelerate during the month of December--family and work obligations and parties. To spend time praying during this season may seem unproductive and pointless. Through prayer, we invite him in and grow in our relationship. 

There is a beautiful painting of Jesus by William Holman Hunt called, “The Light of the World,” that illustrates why prayer is so important. The painting is based on the scripture, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20). In the painting, Jesus is dressed in his royal garment and crown, holding a lantern in his hand,  and is standing at a door of a home in the middle of a night. The night  signifies the time when our senses are at rest and also the uncertain time when Jesus arrives. The image of the middle of the night is often used by Jesus in his parables to highlight the disciples’ need to be vigilant, wait, and watch for the Master’s return. The door of the home is overgrown with weeds and dessicated thorns,  indicating what the door of our hearts are like from our lack of prayer; it may have been awhile since we invited him. In the painting, Jesus the King is seen knocking on this door softly, not to barge in but to ask for our invitation to enter. Once we invite him in, the light from his lantern dispels any darkness in our hearts. 

Our Lord desires to prepare us for the advent for his arrival. His message to us for Advent is to wait for God in patient hope.  For some of us this Advent season is difficult for one reason or another. In the Church’s great wisdom, we begin this season that offers us an opportunity to be closer to God. He comes to us in flesh in the womb of the Blessed Mother. Rekindle your your longing for God by purifying the desires of your hearts and by spending time in prayer. We need to echo the prayer of the psalmist, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” As we begin Advent, let us pray for the grace to recognize how God breaks into our daily lives, in the joys and the sorrows, to form us in his love.