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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Poem: “Angels Still Appear” by Ann Weems

Angels still appear to those ready to receive blessings in spite of the barren impossibility of their lives.

Elizabeth still recognizes Jesus and calls him Lord, receiving him to her heart, in spite of the distraction of her own blessing.

Blessings still come to those who believe that nothing is impossible in the hand of God.

Mary still gives birth, not just every Advent; Mary still gives birth each day to this Child who advents into hearts, unexpectedly and forever.

Herods still live who would kill this Child, but Mary and Joseph still flee into the desert, and the night, to protect the One given into their keeping.

Doors still slam in the inns of the world.

Herods still plot, deserts and darkness still threaten our safety, but God still lives.

In spite of war and terror, Mary gives birth to the Prince of Peace.

In spite of hunger, Mary gives birth to the Bread of Life.

In spite of lost sheep, Mary gives birth to the Good Shepherd.

In spite of hearts pregnant with hatred, Mary gives birth to LOVE.

It is not done! It is not done! It is not dome!

The birthing is not over. The blessings continue.

Angels wait in the wings!

Spirituality: Resolutions for a New Year

Spirituality: Resolutions for a New Year

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants..
4. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games
7. Read more books than you did last year.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day
9. Sleep for at least 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minute walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

11. Refrain from comparing your life to others. You have no idea what goes on in their journey.
12. Refrain from holding negative thoughts about matters you cannot control. Instead invest your energy positively in the present moment.
13. Be reasonable. Do only what you can. Know your limits.
14. Laugh at yourself. Be open. Take yourself lightly.
15. Avoid precious energy on gossip or speculations.
16. Dream more while you are awake.
17. Envy is a waste of time. Settle for what you already have.
18. Remember the past gratefully. Encourage your partner to make better choices.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Find something good to say about that person.
20. Make peace with your past. We only really have the present to enjoy.
21. You make choices that lead to your happiness. Feel the power in choosing what you want.
22. “The style is the man.” How we do something is more important than what is done.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. Decide what is important to you. Allow yourself to be wrong sometimes.

25. Call your family often.
26. Each day say something nice to others.
27. Learn that forgiveness is a process. Allow yourself to be angry and use that anger in a constructive way to resolve tensions.
28. Spend time with people. Solidarity is a tremendous gift.
29. Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Form good relationships.

30. Know the difference between the good and the right. Do the right thing!
31. Use appropriately what is not useful, beautiful or joyful.
32. God heals everything. You are not God.
33. In the end, all will be well. If it is not well now, it is not the end.
34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
35. Know your emotions. They are signals of God at work within you.
36. Understand that suffering and love are part of life.
37. When you awake alive in the morning, thank God.

Song: "Old Lang Syne" by Robert Burns in 1788

English translation

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne. CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne. CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne. CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes, and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin auld lang syne. CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn, frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin auld lang syne. CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Prayer: Augustine

You are the Body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are meant to incarnate in your lives the theme of your adoration - you are to be taken, blessed, broken, and distributed that you may be the means of grace and vehicles of eternal charity.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Off to London

My sister and I stopped in to see my mother this afternoon and she was so glad to see us. She called over one of the staff members and said, "See, my brother and mother are here." We immediately checked her oxygen levels, but it was full.

She was having a hard time in London. They would not let her eat and even took away her grilled cheese sandwich. They wouldn't give her any coffee or anything to drink and she was threatening to call the police and turn them in, but even the police were not kind to her. My sister went off to speak with a staff member and I listened to her experience of her trip. She was dissatisfied with the way most people were treating her, and she wanted people to know of her discontent. She decided she would not go back to London for a long time.

We talked about visitors she had and she was pleased to see her sister and niece on Christmas Day. She saw other family members.

Just then, a mute woman who constantly darts back and forth in her wheelchair and annoys most residents approached us, smiled, and said, "Merry Christmas." My mother smiled at her and warmed her hands.

Another woman who always dresses impeccably approached my mother. I noticed they had the same color fingernail polish and I commented on how beautiful they looked. She blushed and my mother grabbed her hands and they just held each other's fingers and smiled at one another.

Then an agitated woman who constantly murmurs wheeled close by, and my mother shouted, "Mister, shut up. Can't you be quiet?" Then she turned to me, "That man. I can never understand him."

My sister came to get me and we talked with the nurse practitioner who oversees my mother's care. We talked the medication regimen, her pain levels, and her daily activities. Most concerning is her weight loss. She weighs 76 pounds, which is a decrease of 5 to 6 pounds within the last month and a half. Her appetite has decreased and her physical stamina is low. We recognize that a body's resistance is precarious at her weight and it is likely that she is surviving on her reserves. They will continue to monitor her closely and keep in close contact.

We then went back to visit my mother and my sister gave her some Hershey drops to eat. She played around with a stuffed dog and sang Christmas tunes by barking. She tried on my hat and we talked about a number of other fun things. Then we could tell she was getting tired. We wheeled her over to other residents and she started napping. She had a good day, but an afternoon nap was in store for her.

Two thousand seventeen is coming to an end. What a year it has been for her.

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Poem: “The Holy City” by Phyllis McGinley

In Palestine, in Palestine, the mantled shepherds keep
Their watches still on every hill where flocks, unsheltered sleep.

And people walk with living fear lest, singing while it fell,
Should shine upon some midnight clear the star that is a shell.

Loud are the bells in Palestine where there’s a sentry stationed,
And still the oil and still the wine are blessed before they’re rationed,

And criers chant the Sabbath for the faithful and the stranger,
But now the bugles blow no more except the song of danger.

Lower your gates, Jerusalem. Make mute the sacred horn w
While dark comes down upon that town wherein the Light was born.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Spirituality: Excerpt from “Holy Innocents” By Robert Ellsberg

This terrible story, omitted from the typical Christmas pageant, is a vivid reminder of the violent world into which Jesus was born. There were certainly those for whom the coming of the Messiah represented anything but good news. Did Jesus at some point learn the story of his birth and of the children who had perished in his place? If so, that chapter in his education is reserved for his “hidden years,” beyond the scope of the Gospel narratives. From the early centuries, however, the church has commemorated the feast of these Holy Innocents. Unlike traditional martyrs who would later die bearing witness to Christ, these little ones died unwittingly in the place of Christ. They were killed by the same interests that would later conspire in the death of Jesus and for the same reasons – to stifle from birth any hope that the world might be changed.

In our own time whole villages have been massacred on the basis of similar reports: “In such-and-such a hamlet the peasants have formed a cooperative … It is said that in such-and-such a village poor families are gathering at night to read the Bible and other subversive literature … It is well known where this is likely to lead … Advise that appropriate action be taken before the danger spreads.”

The feast of the Holy Innocents is not simply a memorial to those who died before their time. These infants represent all those cut down to prevent the seed of liberation from taking root and growing. They are those who die in the dream of a different future, hoping but never knowing that their redeemer lives. In remembering the feast of the Holy Innocents the church commemorates these victims of Herod’s rage. But it also celebrates his failure.

His power is doomed. The child lives.

Source: Michael Leach, et al, editors: Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, pp. 219-220.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Holy Family

The Holy Family

December 31, 2017
Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40

We hear about a few strong characters in today’s readings; Abraham, the exalted childless father of our faith who is called upon to become the father of many nations; Simeon, a venerable elder who rest peacefully now that the Old Testament has been fulfilled; and Anna, the aged prophetess who devoted herself to Temple life. These characters figure prominently in the life of the young Holy Family as they gather to dedicate Jesus to the Lord.

Abraham receives much attention because his obedience of faith is the model for Jesus. It was the obedience of faith from Jesus that saved us. Abram was remarkable for depending so much upon God – becoming a nomad through a harsh desert region, becoming a father in his advanced age, casting his first-born son into the wilderness, and being ready to sacrifice the all-important only biological son. Repeatedly, he trusts God when few other humans would do so. Jesus was able to imitate this example of fidelity and bring it even further when he accepted his mission of salvation. Where else does he learn his obedience? From his family. And that is the point of the Presentation of the Lord.

Joseph and Mary show their devotion to God by following the rites and customs of the faith. They bring Jesus to the Temple for his dedication, his naming, and Mary’s purification, and they meet two people who remind them of the solemn purpose of his life. For Simeon, he is the Glory of God and the fulfillment of Scripture; for Anna, he is the one who will bring about the redemption of Jerusalem. Simeon and Anna can exit gracefully. They have been obedient to their faith and can now depart from their mission because the one who is to rise has burst onto the stage.

The child Jesus began the most important part of his earthly life when the Presentation ends. He goes home with his parents and he learns obedience from them. For the most part, this is unremarkable and ordinary, but it is in the mundane, daily challenges that he learns to live his faith well. The same goes with our faith because we are called to the same obedience. Our obedience makes us part of the Holy Family. And just who is this family? It is all those people who love through the obedience of love.

We have spent some time with family and loved ones during Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas. The greatest joys and the most debilitating angst comes from our close family members, and we sometimes get respite and true holiday spirit when we spend time with friends and people who are closer to us than our families. Day after day, people come to me and ask, “Will you pray for so and so in my family? I have a special intention.” It typically is a cause of suffering and concern.

We have multiple versions of family – biological, spiritual, social, communal, and through various affinities. Few families these days have clear and distinct biological lines; families are community that we make for ourselves. A man spoke to me recently about his daughter’s half-sister. A woman once told me she might have to visit the hospital to see her sister’s mother. Bloodlines are both important and meaningless when we are defining families. Love, care, honor, affection, and commitment are relevant in forming a family, but it is the obedience of faith, the obedience of love, that makes a family one.

So, just like Jesus, we have to learn this obedience of love in the mundane, ordinary challenges of life. We stay present and we care for the one in need. We grow in our commitment and we grow in our compassion and mercy, and our family keeps enlarging because love has to enlarge. Sitting at our Christmas table, we can find a person of a different color from us, one who is adopted or widowed, the alcoholic or the one who is drug dependent, the person questioning one’s gender, the person who has been victimized. At our Eucharistic table, anyone can find a home. We need each other because we each need love, belonging, and acceptance. We need mercy that is given in those tiny, unseen gestures of welcome. Love radiates, while at the same time, it draws others in to the one who loves.

None of us needs great achievement, honor, or status. We simply need to return to our homes and practice the obedience of love that Abram and Sarai, Anna and Simeon, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus taught us. It is not flashy. It is seen by few, but it is real and enduring. Go home, grow strong in wisdom, and the favor of God will rest upon you.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (1 John 2) The liar is the one who denies Jesus is the Christ. Anyone who denies the Son also denies the Father. Let what you heard from the beginning remain with you.
Tuesday: (1 John 2) See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. The world doesn’t know us because they don’t know him.
Wednesday: (1 John 3) The person who acts in righteousness is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil. Stay in the Light as the children of God.  
Thursday: (1 John 3) The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.      
Friday (1 John 5) Who is the victor of this world? The one who believes in Jesus, who came through water and Blood, and the Spirit testifies to him.   
Saturday (1 John 5) We have confidence that if we ask anything according to his will, God hears us.

Monday: (John 1) This is the testimony of John: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert: Make straight the way of the Lord.    
Tuesday: (John 1) John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” The Spirit will come upon him and remain with him.
Wednesday (John 1) The disciples of John were asked by Jesus, “What are you looking for?” They asked, “Where are you staying?” Come and see.
Thursday (John 1) In Galilee, Jesus called Philip, who found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus. “He is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.”
Friday (Mark 1) John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The heavens were torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon him.
Saturday (John 2) In Cana, Jesus and his disciples attended a wedding, but the wine had run out. At his mother’s urging, Jesus performed his first miracle.  

Saints of the Week

December 31: Sylvester I, pope (d. 335), served the church shortly after Constantine issued his Edict of Milan in 313 that publicly recognized Christianity as the official religion of the empire and provided it freedom of worship. Large public churches were built by the emperor and other benefactors. Sylvester was alive during the Council of Nicaea but did not attend because of old age.

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen, bishops and doctors (fourth century), are two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. They are known for their preaching especially against the Arian heretics. Basil began as a hermit before he was named archbishop of Caesarea. He influenced Gregory who eventually became archbishop of Constantinople. Their teachings influenced both the Roman and Eastern Churches.

January 3: The Name of Jesus was given to the infant as the angel foretold. In the Mediterranean world, the naming of person stood for the whole person. Humans were given the power to name during the Genesis creation accounts. If one honors the name of the person, they honor the person. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

January 5: John Neumann, bishop (1811-1860), emigrated from Bohemia to New York and joined the Redemptorists in Pittsburgh before being named bishop of Philadelphia. He built many churches in the diocese and placed great emphasis on education as the foundation of faith.

January 6: Andre Bessette, religious (1845-1937), was born in Quebec, Canada. He joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross and taught for 40 years at the College of Notre Dame. He cared for the sick and was known as a intercessor for miracles. He built St. Joseph’s Oratory, a popular pilgrimage site in Canada.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
·      Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
·      Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.
·      Jan. 3, 1816: Fr. General Brzozowski and 25 members of the Society, guarded by soldiers, left St. Petersburg, Russia, having been banished by the civil government.
·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.
·      Jan. 5, 1548: Francis Suarez, one of the greatest theologians of the church, was born at Granada.

Jan. 6, 1829: Publication of Pope Leo XII's rescript, declaring the Society to be canonically restored in England.