Friday, December 31, 2010

Catholic New Year Ideas

The last day of the year is called "Sylvester" in Europe. This word is derived from the liturgical feast, celebrated on December 31, of St. Sylvester, pope and confessor, who died in the fourth century. 

The end of the old and the beginning of the new year was, and still is, observed with popular devotional exercises.  Special services are held in many churches on New Year's Eve to thank God for all His favors in the past year and to implore His blessings for the new one.

A distinctive feature of the traditional celebration of "Sylvester" is the feasting and merrymaking during the night, often combined with masquerades, singing, and noisemaking.  This is a relic of the pre-Christian reveling in ancient Rome; its original significance was to salute the New Year and to drive the demons away.

The main item of Sylvester drinking is the punch bowl. Today we have quite a variety of punches. The modern form of punch originated in England in the early seventeenth century.  It consists of alcohol, water, spice, sugar, fruit essence.  The word seems to be an abbreviation of "puncheon," which was the name of the cask from which grog used to be served on English ships.  For your celebration, make a bowl of your favorite punch, with alcohol or not, to share with your family and friends.

From The Catholic Cook Book, by William I. Kaufman, ©1965. 

New Year's Eve: An Hour of Watching For centuries the beginning of a new year has been the source of many customs and ceremonies in every land.  We find the Druids with their boughs of mistletoe, the wassail bowl, the rauchnacht or incense night in Austria, the search for the elbetritch, the Roman celebrations in honor of the two-faced Janus, the etrennes of the Jour de l'An.  When the Roman emperors were Christianized, they did not prohibit all the customs which came from pagan times, but an attempt was made to "baptize" them, or at least to avoid any superstitious practices among Christians.

The Church celebrates the octave of the Nativity and the Solemnity of the Mother of God on the first day of the year.  As a loving mother, she recognizes that the first day of the civil year is a holiday in every land, and as a consequence has made this day a holyday of obligation, desiring that we bring our first thanksgiving and homage to God.  May the New Year cause all people to remember that the precious gift of time which God has given us is to be used according to His divine providence in the attainment of eternity.

New Year's Eve, along with its celebration, is really a day for serious reflection.  It is true that for the Christian the real beginning of the year takes place with the First Sunday in Advent, and the children should be taught to make their annual day of recollection before that Sunday, which celebrates the New Year of grace.  However, on the eve of the civil New Year as well the children may join their parents in a holy hour, in prayer and thanksgiving for the gifts and benefits which God has given them in the past year, and pray for necessary graces in the forthcoming civil year.

Hospitality is a hallmark of the evening.  Christmas spirit should embrace the aged, the stranger, the poor and the lonely.  None should be excluded from the family festivities on New Year's Eve.  The Chinese, who are particularly devoted to elderly members of the family, could be imitated in their respect and deference to the aged.  Family spirit during this season shows love and kindness to the patriarchs and matriarchs of the family.

A serious note is added to the evening by an "Hour of Watching."  The prayer hour should be carefully timed so that it reaches a climax at midnight.  There is no better way to conclude the closing of the civil year and the opening of the New Year than by family prayer.  There  could be contrition and thanksgiving for the past, and a prayer of peace and holiness during the oncoming year.  The New Year hour of prayer could contain practically the same themes, concluding a ringing of the bells.

One idea of how to do this would be for the family to assemble a half-hour or hour before midnight and pray together, perhaps a rosary, some meditations read out loud, and conclude with the Act of Consecration of the Human Race.  We are praying for peace and unity in our world, and for our church and civil authorities, and trying to make reparation for all the sins that are especially committed on this night of revelry.

End the Holy Hour and begin the new phase of our life by renewing the act of consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This was first made by the great Pope Leo the XIII in 1899 and was intended to be a new "Covenant of Love" between the Heart of the Redeemer and the hearts of men.  Let us offer it especially that there may be indeed "One flock and one Shepherd."

Adapted from True Christmas Spirit by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin, ©1955 and Twenty Holy Hours by Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC., © 1978. 

written by Pope Leo XIII in 1899

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Your altar.  We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your Most Sacred Heart.  Many indeed have never known You; many too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.
  You are King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
  You are King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof; call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.
  You are King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism; refuse not to draw them all into the light and kingdom of God.  Turn Your eyes of mercy toward the children of that race, once Your chosen people.  Of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.
  Grant, O Lord, to Your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and Honor forever.  Amen.
Concluding prayers:
  • An Our Father and a Hail Mary for the dying and for sinners.
  • An Our Father and a Hail Mary for the world-wide triumph of the Sacred Heart, especially by daily Mass and Communion.
  • An Our Father and a Hail Mary for the special intentions of all present.
  • An Our Father and a Hail Mary for our country.
  • Five times in honor of the Saviors' Five Wounds: "Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Octave - Feast of the Holy Innocents

St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mat. 2: 1-18) describes the events that took place in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth and King Herod’s order that all male infants, two years old and younger, then living in and around Bethlehem be killed.  He ordered this in an attempt to kill the new born King who he saw as a threat to his own power.  The Book of Micah in the Bible predicted that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” (Micah 5: 2) 

We call these Holy Innocents martyrs because they died in the place of Christ. How many infants there were in Bethlehem and the surrounding area is hard to say.  It may have been up to 100. In Jesus' day human life was cheap. St. Matthew is the only writer to record this event for history. 

With the coming of Christ new value is placed on human life.  Christ reveals man to himself.  In Christ we are made aware that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God; that each and every human being is unique, precious and unrepeatable.  Each and every human being has an eternal destiny to be with God in Heaven.  

But a decline in the practice of the Christian faith has led to increasing attacks on human life in our society today.  In their document “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics” in 1998 the American Bishops wrote: 
"We are now witnessing the gradual restructuring of American culture according to ideals of utility, productivity and cost-effectiveness.  It is a culture where moral questions are submerged by a river of goods and services and where the misuse of marketing and public relations subverts public life." 
The losers in this ethical sea change will be those who are elderly, poor, disabled and politically marginalized.  None of these pass the utility test; and yet, they at least have a presence.  They at least have the possibility of organizing to be heard.  Those who are unborn, infirm and terminally ill have no such advantage.  They have no "utility," and worse, they have no voice.  As we tinker with the beginning, the end and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person.  When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting.  We are arguably moving closer to that day. Today, when the inviolable rights of the human person are proclaimed and the value of life publicly affirmed, the most basic human right, "the right to life, is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death" (Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life [Evangelium Vitae], 18).

When Christ is valued before self, human life is given its proper respect. When self is valued above Christ human life is endangered. 

Below is a passage from “Pope John Paul II from his Letter to Families" in 1994: 
Birth and Danger 
21. It is significant that the brief account of the infancy of Jesus mentions, practically at the same time, his birth and the danger which he immediately had to confront.  Luke records the prophetic words uttered by the aged Simeon when the Child was presented to the Lord in the Temple forty days after his birth.  Simeon speaks of "light" and of a "sign of contradiction".  He goes on to predict of Mary: "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (cf. Lk 2:32-35).  Matthew, for his part, tells of the plot of Herod against Jesus.  Informed by the Magi who came from the East to see the new king who was to be born (cf. Mt 2:2), Herod senses a threat to his power, and after their departure he orders the death of all male children aged two years or under in Bethlehem and the surrounding towns.  Jesus escapes from the hands of Herod thanks to a special divine intervention and the fatherly care of Joseph, who takes him with his mother into Egypt, where they remain until Herod's death.  The Holy Family then returns to Nazareth, their home town, and begins what for many years would be a hidden life, marked by the carrying out of daily tasks with fidelity and generosity (cf. Mt 2:1-23; Lk 2:39-52). 
The fact that Jesus, from his very birth, had to face threats and dangers has a certain prophetic eloquence. Even as a Child, Jesus is a "sign of contradiction."  Prophetically eloquent also is the tragedy of the innocent children of Bethlehem, slaughtered at Herod's command.  According to the Church's ancient liturgy, they shared in the birth and saving passion of Christ.  Through their own "passion", they complete "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col 1:24).
In the infancy Gospel, the proclamation of life, which comes about in a wondrous way in the birth of the Redeemer, is thus put in sharp contrast with the threat to life, a life which embraces the mystery of the Incarnation and of the divine-human reality of Christ in its entirety.  The Word was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14): God became man.  The Fathers of the Church frequently call attention to this sublime mystery: "God became man, so that we might become gods".  This truth of faith is likewise the truth about the human being.  It clearly indicates the gravity of all attempts on the life of a child in the womb of its mother.  Precisely in this situation we encounter everything which is diametrically opposed to "fairest love."  If an individual is exclusively concerned with "use," he can reach the point of killing love by killing the fruit of love.  For the culture of use, the "blessed fruit of your womb" (Lk 1:42) becomes in a certain sense an "accursed fruit". 
How can we not recall, in this regard, the aberrations that the so-called constitutional State has tolerated in so many countries?  The law of God is uni-vocal and categorical with respect to human life.  God commands: "You shall not kill" (Ex 20:13).  No human lawgiver can therefore assert: it is permissible for you to kill, you have the right to kill, or you should kill.  Tragically, in the history of our century, this has actually occurred when certain political forces have come to power, even by democratic means, and have passed laws contrary to the right to life of every human being, in the name of eugenic, ethnic or other reasons, as unfounded as they are mistaken.  A no less serious phenomenon, also because it meets with widespread acquiescence or consensus in public opinion, is that of laws which fail to respect the right to life from the moment of conception.  How can one morally accept laws that permit the killing of a human being not yet born, but already alive in the mother's womb?  The right to life becomes an exclusive prerogative of adults who even manipulate legislatures in order to carry out their own plans and pursue their own interests. 
We are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of individuals but also to that of civilization itself.  The statement that civilization has become, in some areas, a "civilization of death" is being confirmed in disturbing ways.  Was it not a prophetic event that the birth of Christ was accompanied by danger to his life?  Yes, even the life of the One who is at the same time Son of Man and Son of God was threatened.  It was endangered from the very beginning, and only by a miracle did he escape death. 
Nevertheless, in the last few decades some consoling signs of a reawakening of conscience have appeared: both among intellectuals and in public opinion itself.  There is a new and growing sense of respect for life from the first moment of conception, especially among young people.  "Pro- life" movements are beginning to spread.  This is a leaven of hope for the future of the family and of all humanity.
(Click here for the entire document)  

Pope John Paul II recognized that respect for life is an integral part of the Gospel that we are called to believe and proclaim.  Every Christian is called to be unconditionally pro-life, and to proclaim this Gospel by word and deed.  Every Christian is also called to proclaim God’s mercy and love, helping to reconcile sinners to God and the Church.  

In the slaughter of the Holy Innocents we see Jeremiah’s prophecy fulfilled: “A Voice is heard in Ramah, weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Jer. 31:15)  

This passage of the Bible was the inspiration for the Project Rachel post-abortion healing program: and Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats.  If you know someone who has had an abortion or a man or woman was in any way responsible for a decision to have an abortion, please encourage them to seek and accept God's forgiveness and to make this retreat.  Catholics should also be encouraged to return to the Sacrament of Penance. 

In his Encyclical Letter “the Gospel of Life” Pope John Paul II writes: 
99. ...I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion.  The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision.  The wound in your heart may not yet have healed.  Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong.  But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.  Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly.  If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance.  The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.  With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life.  Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.  (Click here for entire document)  
Jesus took on our human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born for us at Bethlehem and died for us in Jerusalem so that our sins would be forgiven and we might have everlasting life.  There is no sin to big that God is unable or unwilling to forgive if we repent and turn back to Him.  

Ask the Holy Innocents to intercede for us that we may bring about a renewed respect for human life in our society, to build a culture of life, protect the innocents in our day and comfort those who mourn.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Octave & Feast of St. John the Apostle

St. John, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of St. James the Great, was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry.  He became the "beloved disciple" and the only one of the Twelve who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion.  He stood faithfully at the cross when the Savior made him the guardian of His Mother.  His later life was passed chiefly in Jerusalem and at Ephesus.  He founded many churches in Asia Minor.  He wrote the fourth Gospel, and three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation is also attributed to him.  Brought to Rome, tradition relates that he was by order of Emperor Dometian cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but came forth unhurt and was banished to the island of Pathmos for a year.  He lived to an extreme old age, surviving all his fellow apostles, and died at Ephesus about the year 100.

St. John is called the Apostle of Charity, a virtue he had learned from his Divine Master, and which he constantly inculcated by word and example.  The "beloved disciple" died at Ephesus, where a stately church was erected over his tomb.  It was afterwards converted into a Mohammedan mosque.

John is credited with the authorship of three epistles and one Gospel, although many scholars believe that the final editing of the Gospel was done by others shortly after his death. He is also supposed by many to be the author of the book of Revelation, also called the Apocalypse, although this identification is less certain.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reflection on the Holy Family

We are still in the afterglow of Christmas.  The beautiful scene of Bethlehem, marked by simplicity and splendour, has the power to tap the deepest springs of human tenderness and love in every person’s heart.  That is why Christmas has always been a season of peace, joy, love, unity, fellowship, compassion and service.  At Christmas time people spontaneously reach out to one another in a spirit of reconciliation, healing, forgiveness, compassion and fellowship.  Even the strangers in our midst are made to feel quite at home, accepted, loved, appreciated and valued.  The mystery of Bethlehem has such a spiritual power to transform reality, to transform the world, to transform the human society by transforming the human heart.

It is, therefore, very appropriate and meaningful to have the feast of the Holy Family so soon after Christmas, this year, the very next day!  We are still in the Cave of Bethlehem.  We are still gazing with wonder on that enchanting scene.  We are still meditating on the meaning of Christmas.

What do we see in Bethlehem?  Nothing extraordinary!  A poor man, a poor woman and just born infant in a manger, with a few animals in the background, with animal noises, animal stench and animal fodder everywhere and a group of lowly shepherds gazing in a puzzled wonder and unspeakable inner joy and tenderness.  That is what we see with our human eyes and natural gaze.  But our faith tells us that, this is not an ordinary event.  Here the extraordinary is intertwined with the ordinary.  This child is not any human infant.  This is the Son of God become man.  This is the Incarnate Word of God in human flesh.

And, therefore, we can make sense of this incomprehensible mystery only in the content of the Incarnation.  The mystery of the Incarnation tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Beloved Son to us.”  It was God’s eternal plan that humankind must be a family, God’s family, built on a network of relationships cemented by mutual respect, mutual love and mutual service.  Out of this respect, love and service for one another would spring unity, peace and true brotherhood.

Every human family, therefore, in the plan of God, is a cell in that larger family, the whole human race.  When every human family on earth becomes truly a family built on relationships of mutual love, respect, sharing and service, then the whole of human society will be radically transformed and a deep sense of brotherhood, fellowship, freedom, peace, justice and unity will flourish everywhere.  But this can be possible only when we as individuals, families and communities truly and deeply experience God as a loving, caring, compassionate and forgiving Father, whom Jesus taught us to call “Abba.”  It is to make this possible that Christ came into this world, and by being born in a human family, growing up in a human family, reaching adulthood in a human family, taking upon himself the joys and sorrows, struggles and sufferings, pains and problems of a typical human family.  In doing this He has rendered all our experiences as families, both pleasant and painful, redemptive and salvific - making every human family a cradle of holiness.

Therefore, the Holy Family of Nazareth is a model and example for every human family.  The hallmark of the Holy Family was that Jesus was at its center, and all the other aspects of life at Nazareth were in and through this central figure, namely Jesus.  Family prayer, family work, family togetherness, family meals, family recreations and family celebrations were all centered around the person of Jesus.  So it has to be in a true Christian family.  Christ has to be the center of our life.  As a beautiful and very popular quotation puts it: “Christ is the head of this household, a welcome guest at every meal and a silent listener of every conversation.”   If only every Christian family would follow this simple rule, how happy, peaceful and united our families would be!

Every time we gather around the Eucharistic table, we do so as brothers and sisters, members of one family, God’s family, with God as our common Father.  To truly be the Church is to be the family of God.  May Jesus, Mary and Joseph teach us to love one another as Jesus loves us so that we may truly be brothers and sisters to one another building our families as model Christian families.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Message from Fr. Bateman

Finally!  For 4 weeks of Advent our church has been slowly adding light - to the trees, to the Advent Wreath, to the candles in the windows...  and tonight - at LONG LAST, "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!  Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone!"  The Light has finally appeared on the earth!

Do you see it?  Do you see the light of Christ all around you tonight?  Yes - we all do - especially at this very special Midnight Mass.  There's just a mystique about Midnight Mass - the darkness, the first moments of the new day - of Christmas Day - and the first moments in which Salvation is offered to you and to me - we are invited into the Light of Christ!  So, why is it still so dark out there?

I don't mean "dark - dark" - I mean - DARK - sad, difficult, overwhelming, mean...  If the Light has finially come in the form of this child, born in a manger so many 1000's of years ago, why is it SO dark out there?
Because, even 2010 years later - we have YET to learn the lessons that God teaches us in the birth of His Son in Bethlehem.  Remember, this is not just a child, but also God.  It's that what the angles announced to the shepherds and what the 3 Kings recognized in bringing their gifts of gold & frankincense and myrrh?  So, if this child is God - there is not a single ti He does or says that is not a lesson for us.

What are the lessons we are taught by His birth?  What Light has He shown on us in order to lead us more fully into God's Light?  First of all, he was poor.  God, who holds the whole world in His hands, strips Himself of Glory - and "takes the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men."  But poverty is what opens us up to God!

If you have everything you want - on whom do you rely?  God?

If you have everything you ask for - do you really understand what is of greatest value?

When I was a kid - we had what we needed - but not everything we wanted.  We grew up in a very "status symbol" community.  If you didn't have just the right jeans or sneakers, you were nothing.  But we couldn't afford those expensive things.  Dad worked for the church as an organist and school teacher (not a lot of money in that, is there?)  Mom worked at home - taking care of the house and me and my brother.

I really wanted that Atari set that the DeBoards' across the street had - but I never got it - we couldn't afford it.  Know what?  I lived!  I guess that was the first lesson I learned - you won't DIE if you don't have everything that you want.  I also really wanted those Levi jeans instead of the ones from Hill's.  Did you have Hill's stores here?  The kids knew I didn't have the right jeans - and I wanted to fit in.  I never got those jeans - only those ones from Hill's - until I got a paper route - and started to make a couple of bucks - then I brought my own jeans - the kind I really wanted - but, boy, were they expensive!  And the very next week, the were "out" of fashion.  Even if I did wear them, it wouldn't matter anymore.

I guess the 2nd lesson I learned was: be content with what you have - becuase what you want in this world is not guaranteed to make you happy.

Poverty.  Christ was born into poverty to teach us something VERY profound: Happiness is not to be found in an abundance of things - of earthly goods.  Happiness is found when we "find" the Light of Christ in our hearts.

Look at the shepherds.  These poor men, probably smelled something awful!  Out in the field with just those sheep.  What fills them with joy?  The message of Truth, who had been born in their midst.  The song of the angles, which reminds them, and us, where our peace and joy comes from - not a "thing", but from God: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to those on whom HIs favor rests."  

Joy, Peace, Happiness: these are all thing that our world wants SO bad!  Why can't we find them?  Because we are looking in the wrong place - we've filled our lives with stuff - and they'll never fulfill us.  Only the LIGHT will bring us warmth - only finding favor with God will bring us peace.  Only if we reflect Christ's light through our lives will we ever find what we most desire: inner peace and joy.

If we have God, if Christ's light is in our hearts, it doesn't matter what we have - or what we don't have - so long as we have the Light of Christ.  THAT is what really matters, and that is what Christ teaches us by His poverty: being born in a stable, not a palace.  Like Christ, we need to learn to live a life detached form the "things" of this world.  The designer jeans won't make you happy - only God will.

But this child in the manger also teaches us something else - humility.  God humbled Himself in order to allow us to get near to Him, so that we could give our love to Him, so that we might freely bow before Him - not out of fear of His power - but in awe and wonder of His humility.  Where do manger scenes come from?  Why did we start using them?  Well, not everyone could imagine the circumstances of Christ's birth - and not everyone can travel to SEE the place where it all happened.

This past summer some pilgrims from our parish journeyed with me to Israel and, of course, we also went to Bethlehem.  In the town - the "Little Town of Bethlehem" - there is an ancient church, the original, mosaic floor of which dates to the 4th century, and there are some key features to this church.

The Door.  It's called the "Door of Humility."  No one can stand up straight and walk through it.  Everyone must bend over to enter.  Originally it was to keep carts and looters out of the church, but later we came to understand that no one can enter into this church - and thus into this mystery - without bending low - without HUMILITY.  Humility is NECESSARY in order to meet the new-born Christ.

Then, you go under the main altar - down a flight of steps into an ancient cave - the very place that, since the 2nd century, has been honored as the location of Jesus' birth.  In the days of Jesus, it would have been common to have a small home built right next to (or even inside) a cave, as it would provide some additional shelter, cooling, and also a place for the animals and storage.  In this cave there is an altar, and under the altar a large silver star on the ground.  And on it it says, "Here, of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ was born."

Pilgrims pause, climb down under the altar, and with tears in their eyes, touch the spot on which Salvation, the LIGHT, entered into our human history.  Then, our group of pilgrims stood back and, in the middle of July, broke out into song... Silent Night... Holy Night...

There are few moments like this in life - standing in the place where Jesus was born, singing that song.  A visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem teaches you that humility is the only way to approach God.  If you want to enter, you stoop through the "Door of Humility" and, if you want to touch the spot, you climb down, crawl under and touch the place on which God was made flesh.  The place where God humbled Himself to become one of us, to give us His Light, to show us the way to live in His light: Poverty and Humility.  

Why is it so dark outside?  Because we have YET to learn two simple lessons:
- Poverty - if we are filled with all kinds of "things" we'll never be filled with God;
- Humility - if we are filled with ourselves, there's simply no room for Christ in our "inn."

The thing in which we rejoice tonight is that the Light has come - the Way to happiness and joy and peace is made flesh and proclaimed today - Christ the Savior is born!  O Come, All Ye Faithful... come, in poverty of spirit, bent low in humility, and you'll find the Light that shines in the darkness - the "Good news of great joy."

Christ our Light is born.  That's what our Christmas lights tell us - that's what those luminaries tonight tell us - those lights that beckoned us into the church - the Light has finally come!  "Come, let us adore Him - Christ, the Lord."

To all, a very blessed Christmas!


Bishop McFadden's Christmas Message

As Saint Andrew the Apostle Parish prepares to welcome our new bishop for the celebration of our 6pm Christmas Eve Mass, Bishop McFadden offers his Christmas Message to all people of good will...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Antiphons - December 23 - O Emmanuel

We reach the culmination of the O Antiphons today.  In previous antiphons our cry was directed to the Messiah as He manifested Himself to the Chosen People, to the Gentiles, and in nature; now He is addressed in person and asked to remain with us as Emmanuel. 

Reading this final antiphon gives the feeling that a climax has indeed come.  The very term Emmanuel, God with us, reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus — He wants to be one of us, a Child of man, with all our human weakness and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be man.  He wants to remain with us to the end of time, He wants to dwell within us, He wants to make us share His nature.
O Emmanuel
Now we are about to receive the Savior, Emmanuel, God with us.  God's only-begotten Son, born of the Father before all time, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, one being with the Father, is about to be born in time.  For the salvation of men, He has come down upon earth and is conceived by the Holy Ghost in a virgin.  He shall be called God with us, and yet He will be one in nature with us.  He is to be like to us in all things except sin.  He wills to share our poverty and to pray and suffer with us; He assumes our guilt.  He is God with us in every phase of our life; He even takes our place on the cross, He remains with us in Holy Communion, in our daily Mass, and in our tabernacles.  At some time in the future He will still be God with us in His beautiful heaven.  All this He has done for us even though we have repeatedly turned our back on Him.

"Come and save us."  The great God is with us.  He has come, not to destroy the sinful world, as He once destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha, but to redeem it from its sins.  This redemption is to be accomplished at the cost of great personal sacrifice to Him.  As if this did not satisfy the burning ardor of His love, He wills to remain with us in our tabernacles.  He incorporates us into Himself and shares His very life with us.  We are engrafted in Him as a branch might be grafted to a new tree.  "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5).  God with us!  We are united to Christ as a limb is united to a body, as a branch is united to a vine.  We now belong to Christ and no longer to ourselves.  We are one with Him.  What a grace, what greatness, what nobility have been conferred upon us!  God looking upon us no longer sees miserable specimens of mankind, but members of Christ.  When He looks upon Christ, He sees Christ and us as united in one body, as a tree united to its branches.  Even the smallest leaf fluttering on the farthest branch belongs to that tree and lives by the sap of that tree.  Could He have redeemed us in a more perfect manner than by thus implanting in us and infusing in us His divine life? Let us reflect upon this seriously.

God with us!  It was that He might be with us that He came that first Christmas at Bethlehem.  He came that He might lift me up from the dust, and that I might share in His life.  He will return this Christmas that He may continue and complete that work.  It is for the same purpose that He comes in every Holy Mass and Communion, and in each inspiration and grace He gives us.  His final coming will be for the same purpose, and will have the further aim of sharing with us His glorified life in heaven.  We shall then enjoy the perfect vision of God, perfect love, and the fulfillment of all our desires for all eternity. For all eternity!

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
7th O Antiphon:

Our King and law-giver, the awaited of the peoples, and their Savior, COME to save us, O Lord our God.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

O Antiphons - December 22 - O King of the Gentiles

"A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return" (Luke 19:12).  This nobleman is Christ, the Son of God, King of all nations.  His kingdom is over all men and over all things, both material and spiritual.  He has everything in His hand as God and man.  But another, Satan, has broken into His kingdom and has made himself master of many of Christ's subjects.  In the old dispensation only a small part of humanity, the chosen people, remained faithful to the almighty King.

Christ, the Son of God, came into this "far country" in order to become man and, by means of humility, obedience, and poverty, to cast out the usurper who had taken His subjects.  He came to reassert His dominion over all those who had left Him, both Jews and Gentiles 

O King of the Gentiles
"Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust."  What is man?  He is but a particle of dust, an insignificant creature who has further separated himself from God through sin.  He has been cut off from the fountain of truth and banished from God to darkness and misery.  Still in the ruins there dwells a spirit that possesses a capacity for truth.  In these ashes there is yet a spark that may be fanned to life to burn with the brilliance of divine life.  But only God can revive this flame.  For this reason the Church cries out, "Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust."  Save him who is so weak, so miserable and helpless.  Remember his nothingness.  Consider the many enemies who lay snares to rob him of divine life and to entice him into sin.  Think of his obscured knowledge and his proneness to evil, of his tendency to error, and his weakness in the face of temptation.  Guard him from the enticements of the world; shelter him from the poison of erroneous teaching; deliver him from the devil and his angels.

During these days before Christmas, the Church contemplates the overwhelming misery of unregenerated mankind.   She cries out, "Come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of dust."

Jesus is King of all nations.  "The kings of the earth stood up and the princes met together against the Lord and against His Christ.  Let us break their bonds asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us.  He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them.  Then shall He speak to them in His anger and trouble them in His rage.  But I am appointed king by Him over Sion, His holy mountain. ... The Lord hath said to Me; Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.  Ask of Me and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:2-8).  Well may Herod seek the life of the newborn king.  Indeed, many kings and tribes and nations in the course of time shall deprecate the divine King, Christ.  But to Him has been given all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28: i8).  Before Him every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall confess that He is the Lord (Phil. 2:10f.).

The more the mighty condemn the kingship of Christ, the more shall He be exalted by the Father.

Now He comes to us in the form of a lovely child.  One day in the presence of the Roman governor He will assert His right to kingship.  But after this one public confession of His royal origin He withdraws again into the obscurity which He had freely chosen.  For the present He is satisfied with this manifestation of His royal dignity.  The day will come, however, when He will manifest it with power and majesty as He comes again on the clouds of heaven.  Before all nations God will declare: "I have anointed Him King of Sion.  My holy mountain."  All men shall pay Him homage as king; all nations shall acclaim Him the King of Glory.

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
6th O Antiphon:

And their desired one, cornerstone, who makest two into one, COME save man, whom thou didst fashion out of slime.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Antiphons - December 21 - O Radient Dawn

It is the Sun, the Redeemer, whom we await.  "I am the light [the sun] of the world" (John 8:12).  Christ is the light of the world because of the faith which He has infused into souls.  He has enlightened the world by His teaching and by the example of His life.  In the crib, in Nazareth, on the cross on Calvary, in the tabernacle of our churches, He answers the eternal questioning of the benighted soul. 
O Radiant Dawn

O eternal Sun, come and enlighten us, for where Thou art not, there is darkness, death, and wickedness.  "Come and enlighten all who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

"But now [you are] light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:18).  In the Church the light has now appeared to us on the first Christmas night, on the day of our baptism, daily in the Mass and at the time of Holy Communion, and in the many inspirations and promptings of grace.  How thankful we should be for this light, which is Christ.

But we have yet to reach the full measure of the stature of Christ.  Alas! we let ourselves be burdened by earthly sorrow, we are distracted by the excitement of the moment, and our spiritual growth is hampered by our attachment to the things of this world.  Fervently we should repeat that plea of Holy Mother the Church.  "0 dawning Sun of righteousness, come and enlighten us, who yet sit in the darkness of suffering, of human reasoning, and of self-love."

The light of Christ will be revealed perfectly only when we meet Him at the time of His second coming.  Then we shall be brought into the light of glory, and we shall "shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father" (Matt. 13:48).  "Sown in corruption we shall rise in incorruption" (I Cor. 15:42).  May the day of enlightenment come soon!

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
   5th O Antiphon:

Radiance of eternal light, and sun of justice, COME enlighten those sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pope Explains Role of Saint Joseph in Christmas

O Antiphons - December 20 - O Key of David

Today is the fourth of the O Antiphons.  O sublime majesty of the coming Redeemer!  To Him has been delivered the key, the government of the house of David (Is 22:22).  Boundless is His power over the graces and privileges of the Church, over the souls and hearts and the wills of men.  He holds the destiny of the Church in the palm of His hand.  He is Master of the storms that arise to destroy the Church and the souls committed to her.  He is capable of dealing with the false principles and the errors that threaten her doctrines.  He has overcome the devil and his associates, the world, the flesh and its tribulations.  To Him all power is given (Matt. 28:18).  "He shall open and none shall shut" (Is 22:22).  Against the power that is His all other forces are powerless.  The destiny of souls and the government of the Church are placed in His hand.  He is the Lord of all.  O Key of David, I believe in Thy power; and in the many difficult situations that confront the Church and my own soul, I place my trust in Thee.
O Key of David

"Come, lead the captives from their prison."  With the key of His almighty power, the Redeemer has opened the prison in which poor, sinful man was languishing in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Key of David, come and deliver the captives from their prison.  The Church wishes that by the practice of virtue we should free ourselves from sin and unfaithfulness.  She asks God that He may spare us from punishment, deliver us from His wrath, from an evil death, and from hell.  The Church prays that God may free us from a heart that clings to the world, from a spirit that is pleased with worldliness, from a human respect that degrades us.  She urges us to return kindness and affection for scorn, love and compassion for persecution.  Our Holy Mother the Church prays that we may be delivered from ourselves, from our self-love, and from all our secret sins.  She prays that God may detach our hearts from all that can bind them to earth, for he who has been freed from the things of the earth is free with the freedom of Christ.

Key of David, come and deliver the captives from their prison.  By Thy coming free us from all that separates us from God.  Bring us freedom and redemption; incline us to surrender ourselves completely to God. So all pray for each, and each for all.

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
4th O Antiphon:

And scepter of the house of Israel, thou openest and no man dare shut, thou shuttest and no man dare open, COME lead from prison, the fettered one, the dweller in darkness and the shadow of death.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Antiphons - December 19 - O Root of Jesse

Today is the third of the O Antiphons.  Christ the King, the Lord!  Divine Wisdom, Adonai, the powerful God, is at the same time man with flesh and blood of the house of Jesse, the father of King David.  Truly, the right of kingship has now passed from the house of David.  The glory that once clothed the royal family has faded and withered, leaving only a blighted and withered root.  But from this root is to spring a glorious blossom, the King of the world.  "He shall rule from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth.  Before Him the Ethiopians shall fall down and His enemies shall lick the ground.  The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall serve Him" (Ps. 71:8-11).  To Him God has said, "Thou art My Son. . . . I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:7 f.).
O Root of Jesse

"Come to deliver us and tarry not."  The world cries out for Christ its King, who shall cast out the prince of this world (John 12:31).  The prince of this world established his power over men as a result of original sin.  Even after we had been delivered from the servitude of Satan through the death of Christ on the cross, the prince of this world attempts to exercise his power over us.  "The devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8).  In these trying times, when faith in Christ and in God has largely disappeared, when the propaganda of a pagan culture is broadcast everywhere, and the forces of evil and falsehood rise up to cast God from His throne, who does not feel the power of the devil?  Does it not appear that we are approaching that time when Satan will be released from the depths of hell to work his wonders and mislead, if possible, even the elect? (Apoc. 20:2; Matt. 24:24.)
"Come, tarry not."  Observe how thoroughly the world of today has submitted to the reign of Satan.  Mankind has abandoned the search for what is good and holy.  Loyalty, justice, freedom, love, and mutual trust are no longer highly regarded.  Establish, O God, Thy kingdom among us, a kingdom established upon truth, justice, and peace.  "Come, tarry not."  "Thy kingdom come."

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
   3rd O Antiphon:

A standard to the peoples, before whom kings are mute, to whom the nations will appeal, COME to deliver us, delay, please, no longer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

O Antiphons - December 18 - O Adonai

Today is the second of the O Antiphons, O Adonai (O Almighty God).  As Moses approached the burning bush, so we approach the divine Savior in the form of a child in the crib, or in the form of the consecrated host, and falling down we adore Him.  "Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground . . . I am who am."  "Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us."  This is the cry of the Church for the second coming of Christ on the last day.  The return of the Savior brings us plentiful redemption.
O Lord and Ruler

Thou art He "who didst appear to Moses in the burning bush."  "I have seen the affliction of My people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of the rigor of them that are over the works.  And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey" (Exod. 3:7 f.).  Thus spoke the Lord to Moses from the bush which burned but was not consumed, which is a figure of God's condescension to assume the weakness of human nature.   The human nature of Christ is united to the burning divine nature, and yet it is not consumed.

O Adonai, almighty God! Mighty in the weakness of a child, and in the helplessness of the Crucified!  Thou, almighty God, mighty in the wonders that Thou hast worked!  Mighty in guiding, sustaining, and developing Thy Church!  "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

"Come with an outstretched arm to redeem us."  This is the cry of the Church for the second coming of Christ on the last day.  The return of the Savior brings us plentiful redemption.  "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25-34). 

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
   2nd O Antiphon:

And leader of the house of Israel, who Appeared to Moses in the bush's flaming fire, And gave to him the Law on Sinai, COME to redeem us with outstretched arm.

Friday, December 17, 2010

O Antiphons Begin - December 17 - O Wisdom

We are all familiar with the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  The hymn is a summary of the 7 jewels of our Catholic liturgy, which date back to the 4th century.  They are the "O Antiphons" (because each one begins with "O") - and they begin today and continue until December 23.  The antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer.
O Wisdom

Divine Wisdom clothes itself in the nature of a man.  It conceals itself in the weakness of a child.  It chooses for itself infancy, poverty, obedience, subjection, obscurity.  "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the prudence of the prudent I will reject. . . . Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save them that believe.  For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews, indeed, a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . .  But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong.  And the base things of the world and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and the things that are not, that He might bring to naught the things that are" (I Cor. 1:19 ff.).
  • Come, O divine Wisdom, teach us the way of knowledge. We are unwise; we judge and speak according to the vain standards of the world, which is foolishness in the eyes of God.
  • Come, O divine Wisdom, give us the true knowledge and the taste for what is eternal and divine.  Inspire us with a thirst for God's holy will, help us seek God's guidance and direction, enlighten us in the teachings of the holy gospel, make us submissive to Thy holy Church.  Strengthen us in the forgetfulness of self, and help us to resign ourselves to a position of obscurity if that be Thy holy will.  Detach our hearts from resurgent pride.  Give us wisdom that we may understand that "but one thing is necessary" (Luke 10:42).  "For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26.)  The Holy Spirit would have us know that one degree of grace is worth more than all worldly possessions.
Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
   1st O Antiphon:

Who hast issued from the mouth of the Most High, Reaching from end even unto end, Ordering all things indomitably yet tenderly, COME to teach us the way of prudence.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

St. Andrew Catholic Church and School in Waynesboro will get more space - Waynesboro, PA - Waynesboro Record Herald

As most of you read in the newspaper yesterday, our project is FINALLY moving along the process of approvals and drawing and engineering and...  It is a LOT of work to be done before one shovel goes into the ground.  So, at long last, our project is ALMOST ready to begin.  The parish had a "town hall" meeting this fall to explain the entire project to anyone interested.  But in case you were not able to attend, here is some information that was contained in the newspaper article yesterday (December 15).

St. Andrew Catholic Church and School in Waynesboro will get more space - Waynesboro, PA - Waynesboro Record Herald

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saint Lucy


Tradition tells us that Saint Lucy was born of noble, wealthy, Christian parents in Syracuse, Italy.  Lucy had few memories of her father, for he died when Lucy was an infant.  As a young girl, Lucy took a secret vow to consecrate her virginity to Christ.  Thus her mother was quite dismayed when Lucy, as a teen, refused marriage to a young pagan.  When Lucy's mother developed a hemorrhage, Lucy persuaded her to visit the tomb of St. Agatha to pray for healing.  When her mother was healed, Lucy revealed her vow of virginity and asked permission to bestow her fortune on the poor.  Joyful at her cure, Lucy's mother agreed, but Lucy's pagan suitor was incensed.  With the persecution of the emperor Diocletian at its height, the jilted young man accused Lucy, before a judge, of being a Christian.  When Lucy refused to relinquish her faith, the judge ordered her to a brothel.  However, guards who attempted to drag her to the house of sin were unable to budge her.  Similarly an attempt to burn Lucy to death failed so she was dispatched by thrusting a sword into her throat.  The date of Lucy's martyrdom was December 13, 304.


According to the Julian calendar, December 13th was the shortest day of the year. The change to the Gregorian calendar altered the date to December 21st, but did not change Lucy's feast day celebration, and she is forever associated with lengthening days and more sunlight.

As early as the sixth century, Lucy was honored in Rome as one of the most praiseworthy virgin martyrs, and her name was inserted into the canon of the Mass.  Possibly because of her name, which means "light," Lucy was invoked by those who suffered from eye trouble or blindness.  Due to this connection, various legends arose.  One legend claimed that her eyes were put out by a tyrannical government official or by her jilted boyfriend.  Another declared that Lucy tore them out herself to discourage her pagan suitor.  In every story, however, the Lord restored her eyes to her, more beautiful than ever.


Saint Lucy's Day, December 13, is celebrated by several European nations.

In Sweden, the oldest (or youngest) daughter in each household traditionally carries a tray of coffee and traditional pastries called lussekatter (Lucy cats) to her parents before they arise in the morning.  She wears a white gown, scarlet sash, and a crown of greens and four, seven, or nine lighted candles.  Her brothers, wearing white shirts and tall, cone-shaped hats decorated with stars, and her sisters, all in white and carrying lighted candles, follow her.  In many towns, a Saint Lucy is chosen to carry coffee and buns to each house.  She and her followers, each bearing a lighted candle, sing carols as they traverse the dark streets while St. Steven, represented by a man on horseback, leads the way.  The procession is done in memory of Saint Lucy's traversing darkened woods to bring bread and other food to the poor.

In Switzerland, St Lucy strolls around the village with Father Christmas, giving gifts to the girls while he gives gifts to the boys.

In Venice, folks celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy by enjoying fried cheese.

Italians eat small cakes or biscotti shaped like eyes, light huge bonfires, and conduct evening candlelight processions, all in honor of Saint Lucy.