Monday, December 31, 2012

Going over to Bethlehem

"Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord has shown us."  ~Luke 2:15

Let us go over to Bethlehem.... Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.... 

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Homily at Midnight Mass, December 24, 2012

O Divine Child of Bethlehem, fill me with holy curiosity and holy joy that I may make haste for the things of God.  Like the shepherds of old, may I run to Bethlehem to seek You, and finding You, hasten to bring You to the weary world.  Amen.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"A stable-lamp is lighted..."

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.
"A Christmas Hymn"
by Richard Wilber
Ave Maria!  This Christmas hymn is one of my favorites, though I must confess that I don't know the melody at all.  It's the words in the first verse above that tugged at my heart so many years ago when I came across them in my Christmas reading.  These words speak to me of the earthiness of the glorious birth of the Divine Child, so humbly making His home among us mere mortals.  A stable-lamp, stars and stones, straw made smelly by stinking animals and unwashed human beings crowded together in a barn harboring heaven.  The "Great Lord of earth and sea and sky" comes to us where we are, in all our humanness -- and behold, a stall becomes a shrine!  "What wondrous love is this, O my soul?"  It is the love of the Word made flesh, full of the grace and truth of the Everlasting Father.  We have seen His glory!  "And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16).
Venite, adoremus Dominum!  O come, let us adore HIM!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

In memory of Mummie

Her suffering ended with the day,
Yet lived she at its close,
And breathed the long, long night away
In statue-like repose.
But when the sun in all his state
Illumed the eastern skies,
She passed through Glory’s morning-gate,
And walked in Paradise.
~James Aldrich, 1810-1856

Ave Maria!  Fifty-seven years ago today my beloved mother, Gladys Yurkevicz Mansfield, "passed through Glory's morning-gate."  Shortly after Mummie's death on December 29, 1955, Daddy found the above, typed it on a sheet of paper which he then inserted into an inexpensive frame, and hung it in his bedroom on the wall next to his rocker, where it remained until he died 17 years later in 1972.  I miss Mummie and Daddy greatly, but what joy fills my heart when I envision them now walking together in Paradise! 

The souls of the just are in the hand of God
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
~Wisdom 3:1-3

Friday, December 28, 2012

"His birth is a flowering of new life..."

“Truth has sprung out of the earth.”  ~Psalm 85:12
Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem.  That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history.  His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity.  May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!  ~Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi, Christmas 2012
O Divine Child of Bethlehem, may Your holy birth be the flowering of new life within my soul for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world.  Amen!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John the Evangelist

"The Blessed Evangelist John lived at Ephesus down to an extreme old age, and, at length, when he was with difficulty carried to the Church, and was not able to exhort the congregation at length, he was used simply to say at each meeting, My little children, love one another. At last the disciples and brethren were weary with hearing these words continually, and asked him, Master, wherefore ever sayest thou this only? Whereto he replied to them, worthy of John, It is the commandment of the Lord, and if this only be done, it is enough."

From Matins for today’s feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, from the Breviarium Romanum

Dear St. John, Beloved Disciple of the Lord, teach us to love Him who first loved us: to love as He loved us, to lay down our lives for one another, to love not in word or speech but in deed and in truth, and to follow His commandments, which, you have assured us, are not burdensome.  Only then can we hope to pass from death into life, the eternal life that is with the Father and that is the light of men, full of grace and truth.  Amen.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Stephen the Martyr

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
Ave Maria!  Today's liturgy for this first day after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen the martyr, is always a bit jarring.  After all the glorious and joyful festivities honoring the "new born and newly dear" Infant, the Church immediately reminds us that the Babe lying in the manger will one day be stretched out upon the Cross "for me, for you."  To follow the Divine Child is to live as He did, from crib to Cross to everlasting glory with the Father, whose only-begotten Son He is. 
St. Stephen, filled with grace and power, shows us how.  We must constantly draw upon the Holy Spirit, who fills us just as He did St. Stephen (Acts 7:55).  Looking up "intently to heaven," from which comes our help and strength, we must call upon Him who is our rock of refuge and a mighty stronghold, begging Him over and over again:  "Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name! ... Into your hands I commend my spirit! ... Let your face shine on your servant.  Save me in your merciful love!" (Responsorial Psalm, #31) 
Like St. Stephen, we know the One in whom we've placed our trust.  (2 Tim 1:12)  Venite, adoremus Dominum!
Raise, raise, the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

"For a child is born to us..."  ~Isaiah 9:6

"Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me."  ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Midnight Mass, 12/24/12
"And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heav'n above:
And he leads his children on
To the place where he has gone."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sleep, Holy Babe!

Sleep, Holy Babe! upon Thy mother's breast
Great Lord of earth and sea and sky
How sweet it is to see Thee lie
In such a place of rest
In such a place of rest!
Sleep, holy Babe! Thine angels watch around
All bending low with folded wings
Before Th' incarnate King of kings
In rev'rent awe profound
In rev'rent awe profound.
Sleep, Holy Babe! while I with Mary gaze
In joy upon that Face awhile,
Upon the loving infant smile
Which there Divinely plays
Which there Divinely plays.
Sleep! Holy Babe! Ah! take Thy brief repose;
Too quickly will Thy slumbers break,
And Thou to lengthened pains awake
That Death alone shall close.
That Death alone shall close.

Christmas Eve

The Saviour of the world shall rise like the sun,
and come down into the womb of the Virgin
as the showers upon the grass.
Antiphon for the Benedictus, Lauds for December 24

Sunday, December 23, 2012

4th Sunday of Advent

“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  ~Luke 1:43

Our King and Savior is coming; let us run to meet him! "Good news from afar country," in the words of Solomon, "is like cold water to a thirsty soul" and to announce the coming of our Savior and the reconciliation of the world, together with the good things of the life to come, is to bring good news indeed. 

"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings and publish peace!"

Such messengers truly bear a refreshing draught to the soul that thirsts for God; with their news of the Savior’s coming, they joyfully draw and offer us water from the springs of salvation. 

In the words and spirit of Elizabeth, the soul responds to the message, whether it be of Isaiah or of his fellow-prophets: "Why is this granted to me, that my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears," my spirit leapt for joy within me in eager longing to run ahead to meet my God and Savior. 

Let us too arise with joy and run in spirit to meet our Savior. Hailing him from afar, let us worship him, saying: Come, Lord, "save me and I shall be saved!" Come and "show us your face, and we shall all be saved. We have been waiting for you; be our help in time of trouble." This was how the prophets and saints of old ran to meet the Messiah, filled with immense desire to see with their eyes, if possible, what they already saw in spirit. 

We must look forward to the day, so soon to come, on which we celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Scripture itself insists on the joy which must fill us—a joy which will lift our spirit out of itself in longing for his coming, impatient of delay as it strains forward to see even now what the future holds in store. 

I believe that the many texts of scripture which urge us to go out to meet him speak of Christ’s first coming as well as his second. This may raise a query in your mind. Surely, however, we are to understand that as our bodies will rise up rejoicing at his second coming, so our hearts must run forward in joy to greet his first. 

Between these two comings of his, the Lord frequently visits us individually in accordance with our merits and desires, forming us to the likeness of his first coming in the flesh, and preparing us for his return at the end of time. He comes to us now, to make sure that we do not lose the fruits of his first coming nor incur his wrath at his second. His purpose now is to convert our pride into the humility which he showed when he first came, so that he may refashion our lowly bodies into the likeness of that glorious body which he will manifest when he comes again. 

Grace accompanied his first coming, glory will surround his last; this intermediate coming is a combination of both, enabling us to experience in the consolations of his grace a sort of foretaste of his glory. Blessed are those whose burning love has gained for them such a privilege! 

And so, my brothers, though we have not yet experienced this wonderful consolation, we are encouraged by firm faith and a pure conscience to wait patiently for the Lord to come. In joy and confidence let us say with Saint Paul: "I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am confident of his power to guard what has been put into my charge until the day when our great God and Savior Jesus Christ comes in glory." May he be praised for ever and ever! Amen. 

~Guerric of Igny, c.1070/l080-l 157
Dearest Mary, Virgin of Advent and Mother of the Incarnate Word, with you I run joyfully to meet our Lord and Savior!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


a virgin shall conceive,
and bear a son,
and his name shall be called
~Isaiah 7:14

Blessed is she who believed in the word of the Lord!

"In these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word."  ~Hebrews 1:2-3

"And Mary's "yes" to the will of God, in the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life, until the most difficult moment, that of the Cross.

" was Mary able to live this path beside her Son with such a strong faith, even in the moments of darkness, without losing full trust in the action of God? There is an underlying attitude that Mary assumes in the face of what happens in her life. At the Annunciation she is disturbed by hearing the angel's words - it is the fear a person feels when touched by the closeness of God - but it is not the attitude of those who are afraid in front of what God may ask. Mary reflects, she ponders the meaning of this greeting (cf. Lk 1:29). The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this 'reflection', 'dielogizeto', evokes the root of the word 'dialogue.' This means that Mary comes into intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but pauses, she lets it her penetrate her mind and her heart to understand what the Lord wants from her, the announcement's meaning. We find another hint of Mary's interior attitude in front of the action of God, again in the Gospel of St. Luke, at the time of the birth of Jesus, after the adoration of the shepherds. Luke affirms that Mary 'treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart' (Lk 2:19), in Greek the term is symballon, we could say that She 'held together', 'put together' in her heart all the events that were happening; she placed each single element, every word, every fact within the whole and compared it, guarded it, recognizing that everything comes from the will of God. Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what happens in her life, but is able to look deeper, she allows herself to be questioned by the events, processes them, discerns them, and gains that understanding that only faith can provide. It is the profound humility of the obedient faith of Mary, who welcomes into herself even what she does not understand of the action of God, leaving it to God to open her mind and heart. 'Blessed is she who believed in the word of the Lord' (Lk 1:45), exclaims her relative Elizabeth. It is precisely because of this faith that all generations will call her blessed." 
 ~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/19/12 General Audience
Dearest Mary, Virgin of Advent and Mother of the Incarnate Word, today I pray with you:  "In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear.  What can man do to me?"  (Psalm 56:10).  AMEN!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Holy Father on Mary's Faith

"The relationship between human beings and God does not erase the distance between Creator and creature, it does not eliminate what the Apostle Paul said before the depth of the wisdom of God, 'How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!' (Rom 11:33).  But the one who -- like Mary -- is totally open to God, comes to accept the will of God, even if it is mysterious, even if it often does not correspond to our own will and is a sword that pierces the soul, as the old man Simeon will say prophetically to Mary, when Jesus is presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:35).  ...[Mary's] lives the joy of the Annunciation, but also passes through the darkness of the crucifixion of the Son, to reach the light of the Resurrection.

"It is no different for the journey of faith of each one of us: it encounters moments of light, but also meets with moments where God seems absent, his silence weighs on our hearts and his will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like.  But the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith, put our trust in Him Mary...the more He makes us able, us with his presence, to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of his faithfulness and of his love.  But this means going out of oneself and one's projects, because the Word of God is a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions. 

"And Mary's 'yes' to the will of God, in the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life, until the most difficult moment, that of the Cross." 

~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/19/12 General Audience

Hail Mary, Virgin of Advent, so full of grace and joy, teach me your complete trust in God and your obedience of faith, that I, like you and with you, may give birth to your Divine Child for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why we are able to rejoice

Ave Maria!  This Sunday past, the third Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete or "Rejoice!" Sunday, our first reading at Mass was the beautiful passage of Zephaniah 3:14-18a that begins with a summons to rejoice: 
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!

This particular reading is "an insistent invitation to joy," Pope Benedict XVI said in his Sunday homily.  The Holy Father pointed out that Zephaniah's announcement is similar to that of the angel to Mary:  "Rejoice, you who are full of grace" (Lk 1:26).  Both the prophet Zephaniah and the angel Gabriel go on to say "The Lord is with you!" ( Zeph 3:17; Lk 1:26).  This, then, the Holy Father explained, is "the essential reason" why we are able to rejoice:  God is with us.  Thus, "there is no longer any reason for despair, discouragement, sadness, whatever the situation is that we must face because we are certain of the Lord’s presence, who is able by himself to calm our hearts and make them rejoice." 

The joy foretold by Zephaniah finds it fulfillment in Jesus, the Holy Father continued, "who is in Mary’s womb, the 'Daughter of Zion,' and in this way makes his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14). In fact, coming into the world, he grants us his joy, as he himself tells his disciples: 'I have told you these things so that my joy would be in you and your joy would be complete' (John 15:11).  Jesus brings salvation to men, a new relationship with God that overcomes evil and death, and he brings true joy by his presence, which brings light to our journey, a journey that is often troubled by darkness and egoism."   

Yes, we can have joy!  True joy!  Everlasting joy!  Our joy is well-founded because it comes from the Lord Jesus Himself, who dwells within us and among us.  "God exists, and God is good, and God is near," the Holy Father reminded us.  And we know with the certainty of faith that nothing in all creation can ever separate us from His love in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).  Deo gratias!  Thanks be to God!

With joy you will draw water
from the fountains of salvation.
And you will say on that day:
give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
Isaiah 12:4

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

True joy, true peace

God becomes a man like us to give us a hope that is certain: if we follow him, if we live our Christian life with consistency, he will draw us to him, he will lead us to communion with him; and there will be true joy in our hearts and true peace, even in hard times, even in moments of weakness.  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/16/12 Homily, Mass at San Patrizio, Rome

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."  ~John 14:23

Monday, December 17, 2012

God has not forgotten us...

"Advent...reminds us again and again that God has not withdrawn from the world, he is not absent, he has not abandoned us to ourselves, but comes to us in different ways, which we need to learn to discern.  And we, too, with our faith, our hope and our charity, are called every day to see and bear witness to this presence, in a world often superficial and distracted, to make shine in our lives the light that illuminated the cave of Bethlehem."  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/12/12 General Audience

"I will not forget you.
Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands."
~Is. 49:16

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaudete Sunday

Sing praise to the Lord for he has done glorious things;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, City of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
~Isaiah 12:5-6

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, CT

O Lord, you have seen;
do not be silent;
Lord, do not stand afar off!
~Psalm 35:22

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Lady and the spirit of Advent

"The Virgin Mary perfectly incarnates the spirit of Advent; this spirit is one of listening to God, of profound desire to do his will, of joyous service to our neighbor. Letting ourselves be guided by her, so that the God who comes does not find us closed and distracted, but can, in each one of us, extend a part of his kingdom of love, of justice and of peace."  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/2/12 Angelus Message

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach me to listen with you to God, the Incarnate Word and your Beloved Son, and to do whatever He tells me.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

O Mary,
immensity of heaven,
foundation of the earth,
depth of the sea,
light of the moon,
splendor of the stars in the heavens.
You are greater than the cherubim,
more eminent than the seraphim,
more glorious than the chariots of fire.
Your womb bore God,
before whose majesty mortals stand in awe.
Your lap held the glowing coal.
Your knees supported the lion,
whose majesty is fearful.
Your hands touch
the One who is untouchable,
and the fire of Divinity which is in him.
Your fingers resemble the glowing tongs
with which the prophet received the coals
of the heavenly oblation.
You are the basket for this bread of ardent flame
and the chalice for this wine.
O Mary, who nurtured in your womb
the fruit of oblation,
we children of this sanctuary
pray to you with perseverance
to guard us from the adversary which ensnares us;
and as the measure of water
cannot be parted from the wine,
so let us not be separated from you and your Son,
the Lamb of salvation.
Ethiopian Anaphora, 8th century
Ave Maria!  On this beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the above prayer is providing me with many rich images of the Mother of Jesus.  I found it this morning in a lovely book called A Book of Marian Prayers, A Compilation of Marian Devotions from the Second to the Twenty-First Century by William G. Storey.  Mr. Storey has truly outdone himself in this marvelous volume of over 350 pages, which I know I'll be drawing upon for the rest of my life to help increase my love for and devotion to our Blessed Mother.  This is an amazing collection of prayers!  It is easily affordable for $9.95 at many online bookstores, and, no, I am not being paid to tell you all this.  I just wish that I had discovered this book before I bought all my Christmas presents to give this year, but it's not too late for you if you're looking for a special book for someone in your life who loves Our Lady. 
According to Mr. Storey's bio at Amazon, he has a special interest in "the history of the Roman Liturgy, of popular Catholic piety and devotion, and in the publication of modern prayer books reflecting that interest."  He has published some 25 books in this area, as you will see from this list at Loyola Press, his publisher.  This is the first book of his that I've ever seen and purchased, but it certainly won't be the last.
According to Mr. Storey, the glorious prayer above is an Ethiopian anaphora.  I never even heard of an anaphora until I read this prayer today.  I've not yet had time to learn more from the Web about what this is, other than it comes from the Ethiopian Divine Liturgy or Mass.  A quick glance makes me think that an anaphora (apparently there are 14 different ones used in the Ethiopian Mass) may be similar to a preface used in the Catholic Mass.  Ah, another matter for me to study at my leisure!  That will be later.  Now, I am going to turn to my dear Mother Mary, glowing light and ardent flame, and beg her to lead into the brilliant radiance that is her Beloved Son, Jesus, the Eternal Light.
Ave, ave, ave Maria!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Morning Prayer

Morning Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

Ave Maria!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the above for his fellow inmates while  he was incarcerated in a Nazi prison awaiting his death.  Today I pray this prayer for all of us who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, begging that, through the tender mercy of our God, the light from on high will indeed shine upon us and guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79).  Come quickly, Lord, and do not delay!

...even darkness is not dark to you,
the night shall be as bright as day,
and darkness the same as the light.
~Psalm 139:12

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2nd Sunday of Advent

"All mankind shall see the salvation of God."  ~Luke 3:6

"The word of God was addressed to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert, and he went through all the Jordan valley. Where else could he go but through the Jordan valley."
Where there would be water at hand to baptize those wishing to amend their lives?

Now the word Jordan means descent or coming down. Coming down and rushing in full flood is the river of God, the Lord our Savior, in whom we were baptized. This is the real, life-giving water, and the sins of those baptized in it are forgiven.

So come, catechumens, and amend your lives so that you may have your sins forgiven in baptism. In baptism the sins of those who cease to sin are forgiven, but if anyone comes to be baptized while continuing to sin, that person's sins are not forgiven.

This is why I urge you not to present yourselves for baptism without thinking very carefully, but to give some evidence that you really mean to change your way of living.

Spend some time living a good life. Cleanse yourselves from all impurity and avoid every sin. Then, when you yourselves have begun to despise your sins, they will be forgiven you. You will be forgiven your sins if you renounce them.

The teaching of the Old Testament is the same. We read in the prophet Isaiah: "A voice cries out in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Build him a straight highway."
What way shall we prepare for the Lord?

A way by land? Could the Word of God travel such a road? Is it not rather a way within ourselves that we have to prepare for the Lord?

Is it not a straight and level highway in our hearts that we are to make ready? Surely this is the way by which the Word of God enters, a way that exists in the spaciousness of the human body.

The human heart is vast, broad, and capacious, if only it is pure. Would you like to know its length and breadth? See then what a vast amount of divine knowledge it can contain.
Solomon says: "He gave me knowledge of all that exists; he taught me about the structure of the universe and the properties of the elements, the beginning and the end of epochs and the periods between, the variations in the seasons and the succession of the months, the revolution of the year and the position of the stars, the nature of living things and the instincts of wild animals, the force of the winds and the thoughts of human beings, the various kinds of plants and the medicinal properties of roots."

You must realize that the human heart is not small when it can contain all this. You ought to judge it not by its physical size but by its power to embrace such a vast amount of knowledge of the truth.

But so that I may convince you that the human heart is large by a simple example from daily life, let us consider this. Whatever city we may have passed through, we have in our minds. We remember its streets, walls, and buildings, what they were like and where they were situated. We have a mental picture of the roads we have traveled. In moments of quiet reflection our minds embrace the sea that we have crossed. So, as I said, the heart that can contain all this is not small!

Therefore, if what contains so much is not small, let a way be prepared in it for the Lord, a straight highway along which the Word and Wisdom of God may advance. Prepare a way for the Lord by living a good life and guard that way by good works. Let the Word of God move in you unhindered and give you a knowledge of his coming and of his mysteries. To him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

~Origen of Alexandria, 183-253

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning.

I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made.

The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out:

The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth:

He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world.

When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths:

When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters:

When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth;

I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times;

Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.

~Proverbs 8:22-31

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing!
Ave, ave, ave Maria!

Friday, December 7, 2012

God's "plan of kindness"

Dear friends, Advent, the liturgical season that we have just begun and that prepares us for Christmas, places before us the luminous mystery of the coming of the Son of God, before the great "plan of kindness" with which He wants to draw us to Himself, to make us live in full communion of joy and peace with Him. Advent invites us once again, in the midst of many difficulties, to renew the certainty that God is present: He came into the world, becoming a man like us, to bring to fulfillment his plan of love. And God asks us, too, to become a sign of His action in the world. Through our faith, our hope, our love, He wants to enter into the world again, to make His light shine again in our night.  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 12/5/12 General Audience

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, may God's "plan of kindness" bear fruit in us that we, like you and with you, may give birth to the Everlasting Light, Jesus, your Beloved Son, for the salvation and joy of the whole world.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"a springtime of loveliness"

It is in Our Lady that God fell in love with Humanity.
It is upon her that the Dove descended, and the love of God for Humanity culminated in the conception of Christ in the human race.
When she surrendered herself to God, there was indeed a New Heaven and New Earth.  The Spirit entered the world -- light and wisdom and love, patience, fortitude, and joy entered the human heart and mind, and in the sight of God a springtime of loveliness woke in the world.
In the virginal emptiness of the girl, Mary of Nazareth, Christ was conceived; it was the wedding of God to a human child, and the wonder of it filled the earth for all time.
He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he, as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way.  ~Psalm 18:6, Gradual of the Mass of Ember Saturday in Advent
~Caryll Houselander in The Reed of God

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, how lovely you are!  So beautiful and so full of grace!  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!  Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"I will wait for God my Saviour"

…we must not only have faith in Him, but must wait on Him; not only must hope, but must watch for Him; not only love Him, but must long for Him; not only obey Him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is Himself.  We must not only make Him the Object of our faith, hope, and charity, but we must make it our duty not to believe the world, not to hope in the world, not to love the world.  We must resolve not to hang on the world's opinion, or study its wishes.  It is our mere wisdom to be thus detached from all things below.  "The time is short," says the Apostle; "it remaineth that they who weep be as though they wept not, and they that rejoice as if they rejoiced not, and they that buy as though they possessed not, and they that use this world as if they used it not, for the fashion of this world passeth away."  ~Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Waiting for Christ"
But I will look towards the Lord,
I will wait for God my Saviour:
my God will hear me.
~Micah 7:7

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mary, "the great mold of God"

Madonna with Child by Alexander Tylevich

"Mary is the great mold of God, fashioned by the Holy Spirit to give human nature to a Man who is God by the hypostatic union, and to fashion through grace men who are like to God."  ~St. Louis de Montfort in The Secret of Mary, #17
Because he that is mighty
hath done great things to me,
and holy is his name.
~Luke 1:49

Saturday, December 1, 2012

An Examination of Conscience for the Year of Faith

Ave Maria!  Today, Dec 1, is the last day of this church year.  Tomorrow, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin our new year.  Actually, the official beginning comes with this evening's celebration of Vespers.  What better way to end the old and start the new than a good examination of conscience, to be followed up with loving and generous resolutions to be more faithful to our Lord who calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)?  Advent is a prime time to move from darkness into light as we seek anew Him who is the true light which enlightens everyone (John 1:9).  

In the Magnificat Year of Faith Companion, which has already been reprinted once and is currently sold out, the reflection for November 26 was an "examination of conscience  according to faith" by the well-known Dominican, Fr. Peter John Cameron.  Father Cameron is the editor of Magnificat, and through his spiritual writings, he always feeds my soul and challenges my complacency.  As you read the following, you will see why. 

Today and always, may the light of Christ shine its healing rays on the darkness in our hearts and lead us to peace and reconciliation with Him!

by Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.

Have I been true to my faith through diligent prayer, reception of the sacraments, and works of mercy?

Do I frequently call on the holy name of Jesus and make fervent acts of faith?

Have I omitted to nourish and protect my faith?

Do I constantly renew my faith through acts of self-surrender, holy dependence on God, and humility?

Do I trust in divine providence even amidst hardships?

Have I committed voluntary doubt by disregarding or refusing to hold as true what God has revealed and the church proposes for belief?

Have I deliberately cultivated hesitation in believing what the Catholic faith teaches?

Have I shied away from the difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith?

Have I let the anxiety aroused by faith’s obscurity overwhelm me?

Have I committed the sin of incredulity by neglecting a revealed truth of the faith or willfully refusing to assent to it?

Do the actual preferences of my life betray a lack of faith?

Have I made compromises that contradict faith?

Have I been a zealous witness to the faith, withstanding fear or shame?

Am I grateful to those who led me to my faith and who help sustain my faith?

Do I truly live by faith, or do I let my emotions, my ideas, my feelings, or my passions predominate?

Is God the center and main priority of my life?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

"The Apostle is not content with merely proclaiming words, but involves his whole life in the great work of faith."  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 11/28/12 General Audience 

This is my desire, to honor You
Lord, with all my heart I worship You
All I have within me
I give You praise
All that I adore is in You

Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I'm awake
Lord, have Your way in me

~Michael W. Smith  "Lord, I Give You My Heart"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Faith, "a source of profound joy"

“…the communication of the faith must always have a tone of joy. It is the joy of Easter, which is neither silent about nor hides the realities of pain, suffering, toil, difficulties, misunderstanding and death itself, but can offer criteria for interpreting everything from the perspective of Christian hope. The good life of the Gospel is precisely this new outlook, this ability to see every situation with the eyes of God. It is important to help all … understand that faith is not a burden but a source of profound joy, it is to perceive the action of God, recognizing the presence of good, that makes no noise, and provides valuable guidance for living well one’s own existence.” ~Pope Benedict XVI, 11/29/12 General Audience

“…these things I speak in the world , that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” ~John 17:13
Dear Jesus, teach me to evangelize as you did, to be a herald of joy as you were – offering the world the Father's enduring love and eternal life, the only true and everlasting joy that no one shall ever take from us (John 16:22). Amen!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"deciding to follow that King"

“We are all called to prolong the salvific work of God, converting to the Gospel, firmly deciding to follow that King who has not come to be served but to serve and to bear witness to the truth (cf. Mark 10:45; John 18:37).”  ~Pope Benedict XVI, 11/25/12 Angelus Message on the Solemnity of Christ the King 

“I turn to you, my own Jesus, King of happiness and eternal glory, and I embrace you with all the strength of my soul. I adore you with my whole heart. I choose you to be my King now and forever. By this inviolable act of fidelity I pay you irrevocable homage. I submit myself to your holy laws and ordinances.” ~St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life, Book 1, Chapter 18 

To the King of ages,
immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory
for ever and ever!
~1 Timothy 1:17

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Come to the foot of the altar"

Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.  ~Hebrews 4:16 

Ave Maria!  Today, November 27, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.  This medal was commissioned by the Blessed Mother, who appeared three times in 1830 to St. Catherine LabourĂ©, a 24-year-old novice with the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France.  Our Lady spoke to St. Catherine about the evil times in France and predicted many sorrows and tribulations to come.  She also told St. Catherine about the personal suffering she would experience because of the mission Our Lady was entrusting to her in asking that this medal be struck.  But St. Catherine was not to lose heart for, as Our Lady instructed her, she was simply to "Come to the foot of the altar.  Here graces will be shed on all who ask for them.  Graces will be shed especially on those who ask for them." 

It’s all about Jesus.  That’s the way it is with our Blessed Mother.  She always defers to her Beloved Son, she always leads us to Him and Him alone.  At the Traditional Latin Mass this morning, the Gospel for today’s lovely feast was the account of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12).  The wine fails, so Mary brings this lack to her Son’s attention, then turns to the servants and instructs them, “Do whatever He tells you.” 

To respond to Mary’s invitation to “come to the foot of the altar” is to do whatever our Lord Jesus tells us.  It is to go to the only Son of the Father, through whom we are given all grace and truth (John 1:17).  We believe with the psalmist that “the Lord, is good, that His steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).  And we know that the Father will give us whatever we ask for in the name of His Son Jesus (John 15:16). 

And I will come to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and gladness.
Psalm 43:4