Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

Today a Savior has been born for you.  ~Luke 2:11

Today, in the city of David, the Savior of the world is born for us: he is Christ the Lord. That city is Bethlehem. We must run there as the shepherds did when they heard these tidings, and so put into action the words we traditionally sing at this season: They sang of God’s glory, they hastened to Bethlehem.

And this shall be a sign for you: you will find the child wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger. Now this is what I say: you must love. You fear the Lord of angels, yes, but love the tiny babe; you fear the Lord of majesty, yes, but love the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes; you fear him who reigns in heaven, yes, but love him who lies in the manger.

What sort of sign were the shepherds given? You will find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It was by this that they were to recognize their Savior and Lord. But is there anything great about being wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a stable—are not other children also wrapped in swaddling clothes? What kind of sign, then, can this be?

Indeed it is a great one, if only we understand it rightly. Such understanding will be ours if this message of love is not restricted to our hearing, but if our hearts too are illuminated by the light which accompanied the appearance of the angels. The angel who first proclaimed the good tidings appeared surrounded by light to teach us that only those whose minds are spiritually enlightened can truly understand the message.

Much can be said of this sign; but as time is passing, I shall say little, and briefly.

Bethlehem, the house of bread, is holy Church, in which is distributed the body of Christ, the true bread.

The manger at Bethlehem is the altar of the church; it is there that Christ’s creatures are fed. This is the table of which it is written, You have prepared a banquet for me.

In this manger is Jesus, wrapped in the swaddling clothes which are the outward form of the sacraments. Here in this manger, under the species of bread and wine, is the true body and blood of Christ.

We believe that Christ himself is here, but he is wrapped in swaddling clothes; in other words, he is invisibly contained in these sacraments.

We have no greater or clearer proof of Christ’s birth than our daily reception of his body and blood at the holy altar, and the sight of him who was once born for us of a virgin daily offered in sacrifice for us.
And so let us hasten to the manger of the Lord. But before drawing near we must prepare ourselves as well as we can with the help of his grace; and then, in company with the angels, with pure heart, good conscience, and unfeigned faith, we may sing to the Lord in all that we do throughout the whole of our life: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

~Aelred of Rievaulx (1109-67), Sermon 2 on Christmas

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life --
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
what was with the Father and was made visible to us --
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.
~1John 1:1-4
O Adorable Jesus, Blessed and Holy Bread of Life, with all my heart I give You thanks for You alone are my life and my joy!  Amen!   Alleluia!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feast of St. Stephen

Lullaby by Wislawa Kwiatkowska
Ave Maria! Today I am posting the above image by Wislawa Kwiatkowska of our Blessed Mother with the Divine Child because it ties in so well with today's feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr for Christ.  If you look carefully at the background behind Jesus and Mary, you will see at least half a dozen crosses.  The Child of Joy, whose birth gladdens our hearts, does not wipe out the sorrow and suffering of the world.  He will grow into the Man of Sorrows and die upon a common cross, redeeming us of all our sinfulness and evil.  Only those who are willing to die for him as St. Stephen did will be able to say with Christ's first martyr, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).  Most of us will not be stoned to death with the sort of huge boulders that crushed and killed Stephen, but we will have to endure the pebbles and other smaller rocks of the sufferings that will befall us as we strive to live a life in keeping with our Lord's Gospel.  Jesus warns us that we will be hated because of his name (Matt 10:22), and often those who persecute and hurt us the most will be those within our own family and church.  But we also have Christ's blessed assurance that if we to endure to the end, we will be saved (Matt 10:22).  And we have St. Stephen's shining example to help us keep calling out to our  Savior as he did: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (Acts 7:59). 

Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!
Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so learn to love even our enemies, for we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  ~Collect, Mass for the Feast of St. Stephen

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Joy and Blessings to One and All!!!

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

Today a light will shine upon us,
for the Lord is born for us;
and he will be called
Wondrous God,
Prince of Peace,
Father of future ages:
and his reign will be without end.
The Nativity of the Lord
Entrance Antiphon, At the Mass at Dawn

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, as we are bathed in the new radiance
of your incarnate Word,
the light of faith,
which illumines our minds,
may also shine through in our deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
The Nativity of the Lord
Collect, At the Mass at Dawn


P.S.  Isn't that lovely, the happy smile on the young shepherd's face as he turns excitedly to the shepherd behind him who is doffing his hat?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve


For the Night of Christmas

Let us ask the Lord
to grant us the grace
of looking upon the crib this night
with the simplicity of the shepherds,
so as to receive the joy
with which they returned home.
Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith
with which St. Joseph looked upon the child
that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him
with that same love with which Mary saw him.
And let us pray that in this way
the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too,
and that what the angels sang that night
will be accomplished throughout the world:
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men
with whom he is pleased."

~Pope Benedict XVI

The Prayer of the Donkey

O God, who made me
to trudge along the road
to carry heavy loads
and to be beaten
Give me great courage and gentleness.
One day let somebody understand me --
that I may no longer want to weep
because I can never say what I mean
and they make fun of me.
Let me find a juicy thistle --
and make them give me time to pick it.
And, Lord, one day, let me find again
my little brother of the Christmas crib.

~from Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holding fast like Mary, with Mary...

O God, eternal majesty,
whose ineffable Word
the immaculate Virgin received
through the message of an Angel
and so became the dwelling-place of divinity,
filled with the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant, we pray, that by her example
we may in humility hold fast to your will.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

~Collect for December 20 from The Roman Missal
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me your humility that I may always hold fast to the Father's will.  Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Your prayer has been heard..."

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John." ~Luke 1:13

Ave Maria!  When I came to the above verse from today's Gospel (Lk 1:5-25), I recalled the catechesis on prayer that Pope Benedict XVI gave last Wednesday (view here), in which he reflected on the prayer of Jesus in the story of Lazarus, who had died and for whom our Lord grieved and prayed.  This prayer of Jesus, the Holy Father teaches us, "is a prayer that manifests once again His unique relationship of knowledge and communion with the Father."  Pondering  Christ's filial relationship with the Father, the Holy Father continues:

"Dear brothers and sisters, in reading this narrative each one of us is called to understand that in the prayer of petition to the Lord, we must not expect an immediate fulfillment of our requests, of our will; rather, we must entrust ourselves to the Father’s Will, interpreting each event within the perspective of His glory, of His design of love, which is often mysterious to our eyes.

"This is why -- in our prayer -- petition, praise and thanksgiving should coalesce, even when it seems to us that God is not responding to our concrete expectations. Abandonment to God’s love, which precedes and accompanies us always, is one of the attitudes at the heart of our conversation with Him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments in this way on Jesus’ prayer in the account of the raising of Lazarus: 'Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits Himself to the One who in giving gives Himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; He is the "treasure"; in Him abides His Son’s heart; the gift is given "as well"' (Matthew 6:21 and 6:33) (2604).

"This seems to me to be very important: before the gift is given, to adhere to Him who gives; the Giver is more precious than the gift. Also for us, then, beyond what God gives us when we call upon Him, the greatest gift He can give us is His friendship, His presence, His love. He is the precious treasure we should ask for and treasure always."
We really don't know much about Zechariah and his own prayer, other than the fact that his prayer was indeed answered -- and magnificently so! -- but that he also doubted for he did not believe the angel's words that his prayer had been heard.  In our "Zechariah moments," it is good to recall the Holy Father's reminder that "Jesus’ example teaches us that in our own prayers we must always trust in the Father’s will and strive to see all things in the light of his mysterious plan of love."
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me to trust in the Father's will as you did.  Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

4th Sunday of Advent

You shall conceive and bear a son. ~Luke :31

Today’s reading of the gospel calls to mind the beginning of our redemption, for the passage tells us how God sent an angel from heaven to a virgin.

He was to proclaim the new birth, the incarnation of God’s Son, who would take away our age-old guilt; through him it would be possible for us to be made new and numbered among the children of God.

And so, if we are to deserve the gifts of the promised salvation, we must listen attentively to the account of its beginning.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred.

Saint Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel. Our Lord is truly descended from David, since his spotless mother took her ancestry from David’s line.

The angel came to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.”

The angel refers to the kingdom of the Israelite nation as the throne of David because in his time, by the Lord’s command and assistance, David governed it with a spirit of faithful service. The Lord God gave to our Redeemer the throne of his father David, when he decreed that he should take flesh from the lineage of David.

As David had once ruled the people with temporal authority, so Christ would now lead them to the eternal kingdom by his spiritual grace. Of this kingdom the Apostle said: He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever. The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism.

In this house Christ shall reign for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love he dwells in the hearts of his elect, and guides them by his unceasing care toward their heavenly reward.

In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, he will exercise his kingship by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, for ever inspired by the vision of his presence, their one delight will be to praise and glorify him.

~from a homily on Advent by St. Bede

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mary, "a kind of sacrament"

Mary is the woman who does not see herself, unless it be in Christ and, through Him, in humanity; by giving birth to Jesus, who is the Son of God and the Son of Man, she gave birth to humanity. In the fiat of the Annunciation is the adherence of every one of us.

That is why no being is as permeable to the love of Christ as is the Blessed Virgin. That is why, as Dante says, she is the daughter of her Son. She is born of her Son, according to divine life, and that is why she was born of Him as He could be born of her.

This is precisely the reason why the Most Blessed Virgin remains a way of light to Jesus for us. It is a fact that it is impossible not to love the Blessed Virgin when we love Christ...

The Most Blessed Virgin is a kind of sacrament, the sacrament of God's tender love for us, for God is as much a father as a mother; and besides, she is especially the Mother of Christ in us.

For Mary's motherhood is not a motherhood in time, it is a motherhood in eternity because she conceived in a total and absolute gift of herself, because she adopted us all in this acceptance of Jesus within her entire being. There is no end to her motherhood. She is the one who is the Mother of Christ in our lives; that is her role throughout eternity.

Hence, it is absolutely natural for us to expose ourselves to the radiant influence of the Blessed Virgin in order to receive from her this Christ she is eternally responsible for bring to life in us. This is a wonderful and infallible gesture. It is impossible to turn ourselves to the Blessed Virgin without reaching Christ through her for, since she has nothing, she can only lead us to Him.

To follow that road is to follow the very order of the Incarnation since it is through Mary that Jesus entered the world. It is always through Mary that Christ will enter into our souls; and the most amazing part of our trust in this inexhaustible motherhood of the Blessed Virgin is that we can at every moment avail ourselves of the love of the Blessed Virgin and offer it to our Lord.

~Father Maurice Zundel in With God in Our Daily Life

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, I follow you because I know you will lead me to your beloved  Son, Jesus, whom you carried in your womb with love beyond all telling.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Feast Day of St. John of the Cross

Never fail, whatever may befall you, be it good or evil, to keep your heart quiet and calm in the tenderness of love.  ~St. John of the Cross in The Living Flame of Love

Ave Maria!  This morning I woke up remembering the above words from the writings of St. John of the Cross.  They've been stored in my spiritual survival kit for over 30 years now, and they speak more than ever to my inmost heart.  St. John suffered terribly at the hands of his brothers in religious life who vehemently opposed his reformations to the Carmelite Order.  They even captured him and threw him into prison, where he wrote one of the world's greatest and most famous spiritual poems, "The Dark Night of the Soul."  Later, this remarkable mystic of burning love wrote a treatise on this poem, all of which can be found here.  I don't easily gravitate to some of what St. John says, but I always listen to him because his words were purified by that Living Flame of Love which consumed his entire being, Christ Crucified, his only Lord and Master.

Forget creation,
Remember the Creator,
Seek within,
There forever be loved by the Lover.
~St. John of the Cross

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me to seek within that I may find the true Lover.  Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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?

~Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, Dec. 12, 1531

Dearest Mary, thank you for being our Mother Most Wonderful!  Amen!  Alleluia!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent

There stands among you, unknown to you, the one who is coming after me.  ~John 1:26

Into the theological plan of his gospel John the evangelist draws John the Baptist; deep calls to deep at the utterance of divine mysteries. We hear the evangelist relating the story of the forerunner, the man whose gift it was to know the Word as he was in the beginning, speaking to us of the one who was commissioned to go ahead of the Word made flesh.

There was, says the evangelist, not simply a messenger of God, but a man.

This he said in order to distinguish the man who shared only the humanity of the one he heralded from the man who came after him, the man who united godhead and manhood in his own person.

The evangelist’s intention was to differentiate between the fleeting voice and the eternally unchanging Word. The one, he would suggest, was the morning star appearing at the dawning of the kingdom of heaven, while the other was the Sun of Justice coming in its wake.

He distinguished the witness from the one to whom he testified, the messenger from him who sent him, the lamp burning in the night from the brilliant light that filled the whole world, the light that dispelled the darkness of death and sin from the entire human race.

So then, the Lord’s forerunner was a man, not a god; whereas the Lord whom he preceded was both man and God. The forerunner was a man destined to be divinized by God’s grace, whereas the one he preceded was God by nature, who, through his desire to save and redeem us, lowered himself in order to assume our human nature.

A man was sent. By whom? By the divine Word, whose forerunner he was.

To go before the Lord was his mission. Lifting up his voice, this man called out: The voice of one crying in the wilderness! It was the herald preparing the way for the Lord’s coming.

John was his name; John to whom was given the grace to go ahead of the King of Kings, to point out to the world the Word made flesh, to baptize him with that baptism in which the Spirit would manifest his divine sonship, to give witness through his teaching and martyrdom to the eternal light.

~John Scotus Erigena (c. 810-77)

Dear Jesus living in Mary, let me be Your voice, let me reflect Your light.  Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Waiting in Mary-darkness

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary,
And on one night when a great star swings free
from its high mooring and walks down the sky
to be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,
with hope’s expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:
someone is hidden in this dark with me.

~"Advent" by Jessica Powers aka Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God's goodness came very close to us.

Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying: "Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!"

On this Feast Day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen.

~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/8/05
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, grant me a share of your courage that, like you and with you, I may dare with God, whose "infinite goodness is never depleted."  Amen!  Alleluia!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Memory and Hope

"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."

~Pope Benedict XVI

I think of the days of long ago,
and remember the years long past.
At night I muse within my heart.
I ponder, and my spirit questions.
~Psalm 77(76):6-7

In you I hope all day long
because of your goodness, O Lord.
~Psalm 25(24):5

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, awaken in me the memory of your Divine Child, the Dayspring from on High, whose birth is the dawn of everlasting hope. Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How beautiful...!

Ave Maria!  As with all its issues, the December 2011 Magnificat is packed with spiritual goodies in abundance.  These two petitions from today's "Prayer for Morning" particularly caught my attention:
For those who have lost sight of your guiding light amid the lesser lights of the commercial Christmas season:  lead us all into the light of your presence and the path of your promise.

For those who have been deafened to your word by the clamor of other voices:  open their hearts to hear and follow your voice.
And then, this lovely verse from the song for "Prayer for Morning," which can be sung to the tune used for "All Glory, Laud and Honor":
How beautiful His footsteps
Upon the mountainside.
The King comes for His kingdom,
The Bridegroom for His bride.
How radiant His aspect!
How steady is His gaze!
How silent all rebellion!
How loud the angels' praise.
~From Hymns for the Liturgical Year, CanticaNOVA Publications
If you don't subscribe to Magnificat, please do consider giving yourself a subscription as a Christmas gift that you can unwrap, enjoy and savor all year long.  It is truly a magnificent spiritual feast for the soul!
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, who carried the Divine Child in your womb with love beyond all telling, help us to seek His light, to listen for His voice.  Amen.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent

Prepare a way for the Lord. ~Isaiah 40:3

Let us examine the scriptural texts foretelling the coming of Christ. One such prophecy begins with a reference to John the Baptist: The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. What follows, however, applies directly to our Lord and Savior, since it is by Jesus rather than by John that every valley has been filled in.

You have only to recall the kind of people you were before you put your faith in the Lord to see yourselves as deep valleys, as pits plunging precipitously into the lowest depths. But now that the Lord Jesus has come and has sent the Holy Spirit in his name, all your valleys have been filled in with good works and the Holy Spirit’s fruits.

Love no longer tolerates the presence of valleys in your lives; if peace, patience, and goodness find a home in you, not only will each of you cease to be a valley but you will actually begin to be a mountain of God.

Among the pagans we daily see this prophetic filling of every valley realized, just as among the people of Israel, now deprived of their former privileged status, we see the overthrowing of every mountain and hill. But because of their offense, salvation has come to the pagans, to stir Israel to emulation.

If you prefer you can visualize these fallen mountains and hills as the hostile powers that formerly raised themselves up in opposition to the human race. Such an interpretation is legitimate because, in order to fill in the kind of valleys we have been speaking of, the enemy powers—the mountains and hills—must be laid low.

Now let us turn to that part of the prophecy which also concerns the coming of Christ and see whether this too has been fulfilled. The text continues: Every crooked way shall be straightened. Each one of us was once crooked; if we are no longer so, it is entirely due to the grace of Christ. Through his coming to our souls all our crooked ways have been straightened out.

If Christ did not come to your soul, of what use would his historical coming in the flesh be to you? Let us pray that each day we may experience his coming and be able to say: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Jesus my Lord has come, then. He has smoothed out your rough places and changed your disorderly ways into level paths, making in you an even unimpeded road, a road that is absolutely clear, so that God the Father may walk in you and Christ the Lord make his dwelling in you and say: My Father and I will come and make our home in them.

~Origen, 183-253, one of the greatest thinkers of ancient times, became head of the catechetical school of Alexandria at the age of eighteen. In 230 he was ordained priest by the bishop of Caesarea. His life was entirely devoted to the study of Scripture and he was also a great master of the spiritual life. His book On First Principles was the first great theological synthesis. Many of his works are extant only in Latin as a result of his posthumous condemnation for heterodox teaching. Nevertheless, in intention he was always a loyal son of the Church.

Dear Jesus, living in Mary, strengthen me to do whatever road work You ask of me this Advent so that I may prepare Your way.  And let me leave aside my hard hat so that You may penetrate not only my head but also my heart, filling every valley of mine with Yourself, our Emmanuel.  Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Learning to Pray

"In our catechesis on prayer, we now turn to Jesus, who by his own example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer. A significant moment in this regard is Jesus’ prayer following his Baptism, which expresses his both his deepest identity as the Son of God and his solidarity with the sinful humanity whom he came to save. Jesus’ prayer reflects his complete, filial obedience to the Father’s will, an obedience which would lead him to death on the Cross for the redemption of our sins. With his human heart, Jesus learned to pray from his Mother and from the Jewish tradition, yet the source of his prayer is his eternal communion with the Father; as the incarnate Son, he shows us perfectly how to pray as children of the heavenly Father. Jesus’ example of fidelity to prayer challenges us to examine the time and effort we devote to our own prayer. While prayer is a gift of God, it is also an art learned through constant practice. Jesus teaches us to pray constantly, but also to bear witness before others of the beauty of prayer, self-surrender and complete openness to God."

~Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 11/30/11

Ave Maria!  The Holy Father says something that I tend to forget:  "With his human heart, Jesus learned to pray from his Mother."  As a child, I learned to pray from my parents, from my dear Mummie and Daddy.  And I am still learning to pray for I am still a child -- childlike, that is, not childish.  So why would I not let Mary, the Mother of Jesus and my own "Mother Most Wonderful," along with her Beloved Son, teach me to pray?  We frequently say, "Lord, teach us to pray," but how often do we ask the same of our Blessed Mother?

Dearest Jesus and Mary, thank you for teaching me to pray.  Please help me to eagerly and gladly keep learning from you the gift and the art, the beauty and the joy of prayer, of eternal communion with the Father who loves us so much.  Amen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Silence of Mary

Holy Mary, Mother of God, you who treasured all things and pondered them carefully in your heart, teach us that deep, interior silence which enfolded you throughout your lifetime ~

the silence of the Annunciation, of faith, mission and obedience;

the silence of the Visitation, of humility, service and praise;

the silence of Bethlehem, of birth, incarnation and wonder;

the silence of the flight into Egypt, of perseverance, hope and trust;

the silence of Nazareth, of simplicity, intimacy and communion;

the silence of Mt. Calvary, of courage, death and abandonment;

the silence of Easter, of resurrection, jubilation and glory;

the silence of Ascension, of fulfillment, transformation and new crea-tion;

the silence of Pentecost, of peace, power and love.
Dearest Mary, in your wisdom, teach us that silence which enables us to listen to the small, still voice of our God; which compels us to worship Him alone in spirit and in truth; which empowers us to acknowledge our nothingness and exult confidently in our Savior; which frees us to lose ourselves in unceasing adoration of the God who is Infinite Love. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and always, that we may enter into that silence of yours which unites us to Jesus, your Son, in the mystery of His silence before the Father of mercies. Amen.

Copyright 1993 ~ Alice Claire Mansfield

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Advent Prayer for Our Priests

In this time of special Grace, this blessed season of Advent, we pray to you, O Holy Virgin Mary, for our priests. Give them a heart that is able to relive Christ's coming in their lives, a heart able to contemplate the way in which the Son of God, on the day of their Ordination, radically and definitely marked their entire existence immerging them in His priestly heart. May Christ renew them daily in the Eucharistic Celebration so that their own lives become transfigured into His coming for humanity. Give our priests an attentive heart able to recognize the signs of Jesus' coming in the lives of every man, especially to the young who are entrusted to them, so that they are able to recognize the sign of that special coming which is the vocation to the Priesthood.

~Adapted from the 2011 Advent message given to priests by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

Ave Maria!  Cardinal Mauro's message, which can be accessed here, is worthy of our attention and reflection, even if we are not members of the clergy.  Our Lady is, as Cardinal Mauro calls her, the Icon and Model of the Church, and all of us can learn from her to live as she did, "in vigilance, filled with loving and grateful wonder."  Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, pray for us as we journey with you to Bethlehem.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

First Tuesday of Advent

Mary the New Eve
Statue from Ecuador

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. ~Luke 10:21

Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.

~from The Roman Missal, Third Edition
"Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar"

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me the devout and expectant delight of Advent that was yours as you sheltered in your womb the Divine Child, for whom you longed "with love beyond all telling."  Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

First Monday of Advent

Through the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet
into the path of peace.
~see Luke 1:78

Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope,
revive the spirit of Advent
in your entire Church,
so that all humanity may start out anew
on the journey towards Bethlehem,
from which it came,
and that the Sun that dawns upon us
from on high
will come once again to visit us,
Christ our God.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily of 12/1/07

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, with you I wait in expectation and hope for the birth of Eternal Light.  Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the Kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
~Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, The Roman Missal

Stay awake! You never know when the Lord will come. ~Mark 13:33

Our God will come openly; our God will come and will not keep silent. The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s Son and our God, was in obscurity; the second will be in sight of the whole world.

When he came in obscurity no one recognized him but his own servants; when he comes openly he will be known by both good people and bad. When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged; when he comes openly it will be to judge. He was silent at his trial, as the prophet foretold: He was like a sheep led to the slaughter, like a lamb before his shearers. He did not open his mouth.

But, Our God will come openly; our God will come and will not keep silence. Silent when accused, he will not be silent as judge. And he is not silent now. By no means; when people of today recognize his voice and despise him, Scripture assures us that he will not be silent, he will not hold his hand.

Nowadays when the divine commands are spoken of, some people begin to jeer. They are not at present shown what God promises, they do not see what he threatens—so they laugh at his commands. After all, good people and bad enjoy this world’s so-called happiness; good people and bad suffer from what are deemed this world’s misfortunes.

Those whose lives are geared to the present rather than the future are impressed by the fact that this world’s blessings and sufferings fall to the lot of good and bad without distinction. If wealth is their ambition, they see it being enjoyed not only by decent folk, but also by people of the worst kind. If they are in dread of poverty and all the other miseries of this world, they also see that the good and the bad both suffer from them.

Therefore they say to themselves, “God does not care about human affairs, he exercises no control over them. On the contrary; he has sent us into the abyss of this world, and simply abandoned us to its sufferings. He shows no sign of his providence.” Consequently, seeing no evidence of anyone being called to account, such people hold God’s commands in derision.

Nevertheless, each person would do well to take thought even now, because when he wills to do so, God looks, and he judges; he will not tolerate an hour’s delay. When he wills to do so, he waits.

Why does he do this?

Surely if he never passed judgment in this present life, some people would think he does not exist. But if he always gave sentence here and now, there would be nothing reserved for the Day of Judgment. That is why much is kept for that day; but in order to put the fear of God into those whose cases are deferred, and so convert them, some judgments are made here and now.

For it is clear that God takes no pleasure in condemning. His desire is to save, and he bears patiently with evil people in order to make them good.

Yet we have the Apostle’s warning: The wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and God will reward each one according to his deeds.

The Apostle takes scoffers to task by asking them: Do you think lightly of God’s abundant goodness and his forbearance? Do you despise him and think his judgment a matter of no account because he is good to you, because he is long-suffering and bears with you patiently, because he delays the day of reckoning and does not destroy you out of hand?

Do you not know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? By the hardness of your heart you are storing up wrath against yourself on that Day of Retribution, when the righteous judgment of God will be revealed and he will give every one the reward his or her deeds deserve.

~St. Augustine, 354-430

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A short prayer after a long week...

Deliver me, dear Lord, from everything
that I need deliverance from~~ especially myself!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Forbearance, continued

Ave Maria!  I've been thinking a lot about forbearance since my post on it the other day.  I looked it up in the dictionary and learned that the word "forbear" comes from the Middle English "forberen," which comes from Old English "forberan," which means "to endure."  Various dictionaries define forbearance as kindness, favor, permission, indulgence, gentleness, leniency, tolerance, self-control, patience, longanimity, refraining, resignation, long-suffering, and temperance.

When I think about a specific virtue, I automatically look to the saints and other holy men and women to see how they've lived out that particular aspect of the life of Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.  Because they've "been there, done that," I can and do learn much from them.  Here's what I'm learning from some of them.

Forbearance is ...
... St. Thérèse of Lisieux delaying her own meager meal to daily walk to the refectory a cranky old nun who constantly and bitterly berated her ...

... Bl. Francis Libermann, C.S.Sp., accepting harsh rejection by his father for converting from Judaism to Catholicism ...

... Elisabeth Leseur listening to the endless caustic rantings of her rabidly anti-Catholic husband ...

... St. John of the Cross bearing being kidnapped by some of his confreres, locked in a six-by-ten-foot cell, and cruelly beaten three times weekly by them ..

... St. Faustina resolving in the face of ongoing persecution from her sisters in religious life, "I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness" ...
And all of this forbearing was done with enormous love, for true forbearance is born of love.  Indeed, it is the love of Christ Himself who, hanging on the Cross, uttered the greatest words of forbearance ever known when He prayed from the depths of His heart, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:24).

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
make my heart like unto Thine!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings!!!


Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.

When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigour,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express,
for what thou art to thy creatures.

Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

from The Valley of Vision,
A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy!
Psalm 126:3

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Our neighbor.  Most of us have a good deal to put up with from our neighbors, yet we generally forget what they have to put up with from us.

Still, we have difficulties even with very good people.  They are  not omniscient, they often make mistakes, and they treat us according to their ideas.  It is a part of the way in which God wishes to sanctify us.

Conceited as we are, we should be much worse if we were not corrected by others.  There are many excellent parts in our characters, but some dreadful gaps.  We are like trees that have not grown straight.  If we would let our Lord have His way, and bear with what He does for us through our neighbor, we should grow more symmetrical.

Why are we not more considerate?  Why do we form such harsh judgments?  Here have we great scope for true austerity.

~from Confidence in God by Rev. Daniel Considine, S.J.

Dear Jesus, so gentle and humble of heart, teach me Your way of forbearance.  And thank you for the myriad opportunities You give me to be forbearing like You.  Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pro Orantibus Day

Ave Maria! Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. It is also the Church's Pro Orantibus Day, an annual day of solidarity and support for cloistered and monastic religious throughout the world.  "Pro orantibus" means "for those who pray."  In 1997 Blessed John Paul II asked that this ecclesial event observed worldwide on November 21, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Presentation in the Temple, as a special day to thank those in the cloistered and monastic life for serving as "a leaven of renewal and of the presence of the spirit of Christ in the world." It is also a day to remind us that we need to provide spiritual and material support to these men and women who who have devoted their whole lives, hidden in the world, to God through unceasing prayer and sacrifice.  Practically speaking, these communities depend on God's Providence, working through people like you and me, to provide them with the necessities of daily living.  So let us remember them when we pull out both our rosaries and our checkbooks!

Pope Benedict XVI speaks often of the tremendous value of the cloistered, contemplative life. Here is one of the Holy Father's previous statements on the occasion of Pro Orantibus Day.  It is his Angelus Message of November 19, 2006, and it explains beautifully the enormous need we have for and the great debt we owe to our cloistered brothers and sisters.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The day after tomorrow, 21 November, on the occasion of the liturgical Memorial of the Presentation of Mary, we will be celebrating Pro Orantibus Day, dedicated to remembering cloistered religious communities. It is an especially appropriate opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of the numerous people in monasteries and hermitages who are totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and concealment.

Some may wonder what meaning and value their presence could have in our time, when there are so many situations of poverty and neediness with which to cope.

Why "enclose oneself" for ever between the walls of a monastery and thereby deprive others of the contribution of one’s own skills and experience? How effective can the prayer of these cloistered Religious be for the solution of all the practical problems that continue to afflict humanity?

Yet even today, often to the surprise of their friends and acquaintances, many people in fact frequently give up promising professional careers to embrace the austere rule of a cloistered monastery. What impels them to take such a demanding step other than the realization, as the Gospel teaches, that the Kingdom of heaven is “a treasure” for which it is truly worth giving up everything (cf. Mt 13: 44)?

Indeed, these brothers and sisters of ours bear a silent witness to the fact that in the midst of the sometimes frenetic pace of daily events, the one support that never topples is God, the indestructible rock of faithfulness and love. "Everything passes, God never changes", the great spiritual master Teresa of Avila wrote in one of her famous texts.

And in the face of the widespread need to get away from the daily routine of sprawling urban areas in search of places conducive to silence and meditation, monasteries of contemplative life offer themselves as "oases" in which human beings, pilgrims on earth, can draw more easily from the wellsprings of the Spirit and quench their thirst along the way.

Thus, these apparently useless places are on the contrary indispensable, like the green "lungs" of a city: they do everyone good, even those who do not visit them and may not even know of their existence.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord, who in his Providence has desired male and female cloistered communities. May they have our spiritual and also our material support, so that they can carry out their mission to keep alive in the Church the ardent expectation of Christ’s Second Coming.

For this, let us invoke the intercession of Mary, whom we contemplate on the Memorial of her Presentation in the Temple as Mother and model of the Church, who welcomes in herself both vocations: to virginity and to marriage, to contemplative life and to active life.
Praised be Jesus Christ, who calls us to life on high with Him!

P.S.  The Web site Cloistered Life, a treasure trove of information about this life "hidden with Christ," offers the following prayer for Pro Orantibus Day:

Prayer in Support of the Cloistered Life

Eternal Father, we praise and thank you for those sisters and brothers who have embraced the gift of the cloistered and monastic life. Their hidden presence in our world is indispensable to the Church’s life and mission.

As we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day, let us honor the holiness and glory of the Blessed Virgin. May she intercede so that many young people might dedicate themselves entirely to Your divine service by living lives of prayer and sacrifice.

May all of us always be mindful of the spiritual and material needs of those who commit their lives to seeking God by fixing their gaze on those things which are eternal.

We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Solemnity of Christ the King

The Son of Man will take his seat on his throne of glory and will separate people from one another.  ~Matthew 25

As the holy gospel clearly proclaims, the Son of Man will gather together all nations. He will separate people one from another, as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The sheep he will place at his right hand, the goats at his left. Then he will say to those at his right: Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Come, you lovers of poor people and strangers. Come, you who fostered my love, for I am love. Come, you who shared peace, for I am peace.

Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you who did not make an idol of wealth, who gave alms to the poor, help to orphans and widows, drink to the thirsty, and food to the hungry.

Come, you who welcomed strangers, clothed the naked, visited the sick, comforted prisoners, and assisted the blind.

Come, you who kept the seal of faith unbroken, who were swift to assemble in the churches, who listened to my Scriptures, longed for my words, observed my law day and night, and like good soldiers shared in my suffering because you wanted to please me, your heavenly King.

Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Look, my kingdom is ready, paradise stands open, my immortality is displayed in all its beauty. Come now, all of you, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Then, astounded at so great a wonder—at being addressed as friends by him whom the angelic hosts are unable clearly to behold—the righteous will reply, exclaiming: Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? Master, when did we see you thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you, whom we hold in awe, naked and clothe you? When did we see you, the immortal One, a stranger and welcome you? When did we see you, lover of our race, sick or in prison and come to visit you?

You are the Eternal, without beginning like the Father, and co-eternal with the Spirit. You are the One who created all things from nothing; you are the King of angels; you make the depths tremble; you are clothed in light as in a robe; you are our maker who fashioned us from the earth; you are the creator of the world invisible. The whole earth flies from your presence. How could we possibly have received your lordship, your royal majesty, as our guest?

Then will the King of Kings say to them in reply: Inasmuch as you did this to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me. Inasmuch as you received, clothed, fed, and gave a drink to those members of mine about whom I have just spoken to you, that is, to the poor, you did it to me.

So come, enter the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; enjoy for ever the gift of my heavenly Father, and of the most holy and life-giving Spirit. What tongue can describe those blessings? Eye has not seen, nor ear heard nor human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.

~Hippolytus, a Roman priest, c. 170-236

"Crown him the King to whom is given
The wondrous name of Love!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Seven Last Words

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.
~Ephesians 4:29

Ave Maria! As I contemplated the above exhortation from St. Paul, which was part of today's Scripture reading in Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, the words of Christ on the cross came to mind. Every word that our Lord spoke to us while He was on this earth is worthy of our devout attention and serious reflection, but these final words or phrases from our crucified Savior dying on the Cross have always been a special source of prayer and meditation for men and women throughout the ages.  Myriad sermons have been preached on Jesus' last testament, scores of music have been composed, countless artistic works rendered, and numerous articles and books have been written.  They are seven, these parting words from the Word Himself:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. ~Luke 23:34

Amen I say to thee: This day you will be with me in paradise. ~Luke 23:43

Woman, behold your son...Behold your mother. ~John 19:26-27

My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? ~Matthew 27:46

I thirst. ~John 19:28

It is finished. ~John 19:30

Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. ~Luke 23:46
Did St. Paul recall these words of our Master when he instructed the Ephesians to speak only that which would "impart grace to those who hear"?  Surely these words of Jesus bestow grace in abundant measure for He, Word made flesh and splendor of the Father, is Himself grace and truth (see Jn 1:14).  Seven last words -- somewhat like the seven sacraments, effecting a new creation here and now with the promise of infinitely more to come in eternity.  Seven last words -- signs and symbols of forgiveness, hope, compassion, abandonment to the Father, longing for Him, confidence in Him, surrender to Him.  Precious and pure words -- without alloy, the Psalmist says, as silver tried by fire, purged from the earth and refined seven times (see Ps 12:8).   Self-emptying words leading through death to life.  Humble words, holy words, heart-breaking words for who can truly hear them and not have her heart pierced by the two-edged sword of Unutterable Love (see Heb 4:12)?  Yes, as St. Paul counseled, edifying words, fitting words, grace-imparting words -- words that are spirit and life!  What kind of words will I speak this day?  The choice is mine, as always.

Dear Jesus, whose word I praise (Ps 56:5), may I make Your words my own.  May they be my heritage for ever, the joy of my heart always (Ps 119:111).  Only then will the spoken words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to You and bring grace to all.  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday on Thursday

Photography by Ann L. Krumrein
Ave Maria!  I meant to post this image yesterday, but time flew by.  You could say that I was busy chasing parades!  It looks as though these horses might be thundering to a parade as well.  I can just feel the excitement, see the dust they're kicking up, and smell their earthy odor.  All you creatures, bless the Lord!  Praise and exalt Him above all for ever!  HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another parade chaser...

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.  ~Luke 19:4

Ave Maria!  In today's gospel (Luke 19:1-10), we meet up with Zaccheus.  Ah, another parade chaser!  And a most resourceful one at that!  He wanted to see the Lord, who intended to come through the town, but, being of short stature, this view was blocked by the crowd.  Unwilling to let his limitations get in his way, Zaccheus ingeniously took action, running ahead and climbing a sycamore tree, "in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way."  Not only did the Lord see him, He also called Zaccheus by name and told him to come down immediately for He was going to stay at his house.  "And he came down quickly and received him with joy."

What am I willing to do to see Jesus?  How inventive will I be today in seeking Him out?  And how zealous to receive Him when He arrives and calls me by name?  May the song of the psalmist be mine:  "My heart is ready, O Lord; my heart is ready" (Psalm 57:7)

Dear Lord Jesus, whom I long to see, please make me adroit in seeking You and eager in welcoming You, always and everywhere.  Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Passing by...

Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.  ~Luke 18:37

Ave Maria!  As my sweet Annie indicated this past summer in "The Other Mansfield Girl," her lovely reflection on our dear father, Daddy was a parade chaser.  At the first sound of a drum beating, a horn tooting, or a crowd gathering, he was off and running -- and we were right beside him, full of exhilaration at the endless possibilities to be encountered just around the corner. not wanting to miss a single moment of the glorious adventure sure to be.

Will there be a parade today?  Of course there will be!  Can't you tell?  Don't you sense the excitement, the thrill of it all?  Sound the trumpet!  Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!  "Be jubilant, my feet!"  Praise Him with timbrel and dance, with strings and pipes!  And, today and always, "O let all that is in me adore Him!"  Amen!  Hallelujah!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Because you have proved trustworthy in managing a small amount, come and share your master’s joy. ~Matthew 25:21, 23

In the parable of the talents the Master entrusted money to his servants and then set out on a journey. This was to help us understand how patient he is, though in my view this story also refers to the resurrection. Here it is a question not of a vineyard and vine dressers, but of all workers. The Master is addressing everyone, not only rulers, or the Jews.

Those bringing him their profit acknowledge frankly what is their own, and what is their Master’s. One says: Sir, you gave me five talents; another says; You gave me two, recognizing that they had received from him the means of making a profit. They are extremely grateful, and attribute to him all their success.

What does the Master say then? Well done, good and faithful servant (for goodness shows itself in concern for one’s neighbor). Because you have proved trustworthy in managing a small amount, I will give you charge of a greater sum: come and share your Master’s joy.

But one servant has a different answer. He says: I knew you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not winnowed; and I was afraid, and hid your talent. Here it is — you have back what belongs to you.

What does the Master say to that? You wicked servant! You should have put my money in the bank, that is, “You should have spoken out and given encouragement and advice.” “But no one will pay attention.” “That is not your concern. You should have deposited the money” he says, “and left me to reclaim it, which I should have done with interest,” meaning by interest the good works that are seen to follow the hearing of the word. “The easier part is all you were expected to do, leaving the harder part to me.”

Because the servant failed to do this, the Master said: Take the talent away from him, and give it to the servant who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has more will be given, and he will have enough and to spare; but the one who has not will forfeit even the little he has.

What is the meaning of this? That whoever has received for the good of others the ability to preach and teach, and does not use it, will lose that ability, whereas the zealous servant will be given greater ability, even as the other forfeits what he had.

~St. John Chrysostom, c.347-407
Grant us, we pray, O Lord, our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  ~Collect for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, from The Roman Missal, 3rd edition

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Holy Midwifery

Our souls must give birth,
not outside themselves
but inside themselves,
to the sweetest, gentlest
and most beautiful male child imaginable.
It is Jesus whom we must bring to birth
 and produce in ourselves.
You are pregnant with him,
my dear sister,
and blessed by God who is his Father. 
~St. Francis de Sales

"Holy Midwife"

Every day a little birthing awaits us,
An opportunity pregnant with possibility.
Some of these spiritual birthings go easy.
Others are long, difficult, and agonizing.
You, Holy Midwife, attend each delivery
And urge us toward expectant growth.
Remind us that we must do our part.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Let go. Let go.
Trust the painful contractions of labor
Preceding the precious life that follows.

Today: I listen to Holy Midwife urging my growth.

by Sr. Joyce Rupp, S.S.M.

O Jesus living in Mary, thank You for giving me Your mother to be my holy midwife.  When I listen to her, I hear her say, "Do whatever He tells you" Jn 2:5).  With her wise and loving help, may I gladly give birth to You today, wherever You want and however You want.  Amen. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feast Day of St. Leo the Great

Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife. ~St. Leo the Great

My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations.  James 1:2

Thank you, my Jesus, for all the temptations You so lovingly allow me to experience.  Through Your goodness and mercy, may they bring me closer to You and help me to grow in virtue, all for the Father's  praise and glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Delicious Autumn!

Fall Bouquet by Ann L. Krumrein
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot, English novelist and journalist, 19th century

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Busy day?

Lord, temper with tranquility
Our manifold activity,
That we may do our work for thee
With very great simplicity.

~Ascribed to a 17th-century medieval monk

Ave Maria!  What a terrific little prayer for a very busy day!  It's a good one for me on any day, particularly when I'm feeling harried and overwhelmed.  I'm a bit amused that this was written in the 17th century.  I mean, how busy could people have been back then, especially in a monastery?  On the other hand, precisely because they didn't have our current labor-saving devices, they were undoubtedly swamped with chores at times.  But imagine, no interruptions from the various and sundry electronic devices that beckon us around the clock unless -- gasp! -- we dare to turn them off and deliberately opt to live instead "with very great simplicity."

Dear Lord, today and always, keep me tranquil and simple in You.  Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is in God’s hands. I am finished and done with low living, small planning, the bare minimum, smooth knees, mundane talking, frivolous living, selfish giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, applause, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, the best, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith. I lean on Christ’s presence. I love with patience, live by prayer, and labor with the power of God’s grace.

My face is set. My gait is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until He comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until He stops me. And when He returns for His own, He will have no difficulty recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

Patrick Madrid

He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love.
~Song of Songs 2:4

Sunday, November 6, 2011

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Look, the bridegroom comes. Go out to meet him.  ~Matthew 25:6

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, since purity of heart leads to perfection. Two things are contained within the heart — goodness which is natural to it and evil which is unnatural. This latter gives rise to such passions of the soul as murmuring, envy, detraction, and all the rest.

Goodness, on the other hand, promotes knowledge of God and rids the soul of all these passions. If people honestly try to root out vice and avoid evil, if they repent with tears and sighs, devoting themselves humbly to a life of prayer, fasting, and watching, the Lord in his goodness will come to their aid and free them from all sinful inclinations.

Many who have lived a celibate monastic life for a long time have failed to learn what purity of heart is, because instead of studying the teaching of the fathers, they have followed their own wayward desires. So evil spirits and rebel marauders of the air have prevailed against them, hurling invisible darts by day and night, and thus preventing them from finding rest anywhere. Moreover they fill their hearts with pride, vanity, jealousy, criticism, raging anger, strife, and any number of other passions.

Such people are to be reckoned with the five foolish virgins because they have spent their time foolishly. They have not controlled their tongues nor cleansed their eyes and bodies from concupiscence, neither have they purged their hearts of lust and other deplorable defilements. It was enough for them merely to wear a woolen garment signifying virginity. Consequently they lack the heavenly joy which would kindle their lamps, and the Bridegroom does not open the door to them but repeats what he said to the foolish virgins: Truly I say to you, I know you not.

My only reason for writing you this letter is my desire for your salvation. I want you to be free and faithful and pure brides of Christ, the Bridegroom of all holy souls; as Saint Paul says: I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste bride to Christ.

Let us awake, then, while we are still in this body, and grieve overourselves, lamenting day and night from the bottom of our hearts, so that we may escape the bitter torment, the weeping, wailing, and remorse that will have no end.

We must beware of entering through the wide gate and taking the easy road that leads to perdition, for many go that way. Instead we must enter by the narrow gate and take the path of sorrow and affliction that leads to life. Few people enter this gate, but those who do are real workers who will have the joy of receiving the reward of their labors and will inherit the kingdom.

If any are prepared to set out I do beg them not to delay and waste time, for they may be like the foolish virgins and find no one willing to sell them oil. These virgins burst into tears and cried out: Lord, open to us. But he answered: Truly I say to you, I know you not. And this happened to them simply because of their laziness.

I beg you by the grace of God to obey me as I also will obey you; and may we all obey the Lord who said by the tongue of the Prophet: Who longs for life and desires to see good days? Keep your tongue from evil talk and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do good; seek and strive after peace.

~Attributed to Anthony

Dearest Jesus, kindle the lamp of my life with the joy of Your Holy Spirit, that it may always burn brightly in welcome of You, my Beloved Bridegroom. Amen.