Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christ's Birth

And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host 
with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”" 
Luke 2:1-14

"I saw the radiance round the Blessed Virgin ever growing greater. The light of the lamps which Joseph had lit was no longer visible. The Blessed Virgin knelt on her rug in an ample ungirt robe spread out round her, her face turned towards the east. 

At midnight she was rapt in an ecstasy of prayer. I saw her lifted from the earth, so that I saw the ground beneath her. Her hands were crossed on her breast. The radiance about her increased; everything, even things without life, were in a joyful inner motion, the stones of the roof, of the walls, and of the floor of the cave became as it were alive in the light. Then I no longer saw the roof of the cave; a pathway of light opened above Mary, rising with ever-increasing glory towards the height of heaven. 

In this pathway of light there was a wonderful movement of glories interpenetrating each other, and, as they approached, appearing more clearly in the form of choirs of heavenly spirits. Meanwhile the Blessed Virgin, borne up in ecstasy, was now gazing downwards, adoring her God, whose Mother she had become and who lay on the earth before her in the form of a helpless newborn child. [100] 

I saw our Redeemer as a tiny child, shining with a light that overpowered all the surrounding radiance, and lying on the carpet at the Blessed Virgin's knees. It seemed to me as if He were at first quite small and then grew before my eyes. But the movement of the intense radiance was such that I cannot say for certain how I saw it. 

The Blessed Virgin remained for some time rapt in ecstasy. I saw her laying a cloth over the Child, but at first she did not touch Him or take Him up. After some time I saw the Child Jesus move and heard Him cry. Then Mary seemed to come to herself, and she took the Child up from the carpet, wrapping Him in the cloth which covered Him, and held Him in her arms to her breast. She sat there enveloping herself and the Child completely in her veil, and I think Mary suckled the Redeemer. I saw angels round her in human forms, lying on their faces and adoring the Child. 

It might have been an hour after His Birth when Mary called St. Joseph, who was still lying in prayer. When he came near, he threw himself down on his face in devout joy and humility. It was only when Mary begged him to take to his heart, in joy and thankfulness, the holy present of the Most High God, that he stood up, took the Child Jesus in his arms, and praised God with tears of joy. 

This excerpt is from this wonderful
book which I am currently reading.
TAN Books is the publisher.
The Blessed Virgin then wrapped the Child Jesus in swaddling-bands. I cannot now remember how these bands were wound round; I only know that the Child was wrapped to His armpits first in red and then white bands, and that His head and shoulders were wrapped in another little cloth. Mary had only four sets of swaddling-bands with her. Then I saw Mary and Joseph sitting side by side on the bare earth with their feet under them. They did not speak, and seemed both to be sunk in meditation. On the carpet before Mary lay the newborn Jesus in swaddling clothes, a little Child, beautiful and radiant as lightning. Ah, I thought, this place enshrines the salvation of the whole world, and no one guesses it. Then they laid the Child in the manger, which was filled with rushes and delicate plants and covered with a cloth hanging over the sides. It stood above the stone trough lying on the ground, to the right of the entrance, where the cave makes a big curve towards the south. This part of the cave was at a lower level than the place where Our Lord was born: the floor slanted downwards in a step-like formation. After laying the Child in the crib, they both stood beside Him giving praise to God with tears of joy. Joseph then arranged the Blessed Virgin's resting-place and her seat beside the Crib.  Both before and after the Birth of Jesus, I saw her dressed in white and veiled. I saw her there in the first days after the Nativity, sitting, kneeling, standing, and sleeping on her side, wrapped up but in no way ill or exhausted. When people came to see her, she wrapped herself up more closely and sat upright on her lying-in coverlet."

You can read more of Anna 
Catherine's writings.
  OR if you would like to purchase it for your home, you can visit TAN Books' Website.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On the Journey to Bethlehem

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), an Augustinian nun and mystic who carried the stigmata, the Wounds of Christ, spent her entire life in a small area in Germany. She was privileged to behold innumerable events of biblical times; going back all the way to the creation of the world. She witnessed the fall of the Angels; the sin of Adam; Noe and the Flood; the lives of St. John the Baptist; St. Anne; St. Joseph; the Blessed Virgin Mary; and St. Mary Magdalen. Also includes the birth; life; public ministry; Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; as well as the founding of His Church. Besides describing persons; places; events and traditions in intimate detail; Anne Catherine Emmerich also sets forth the mystical significance of these visible realities. Pope John Paul II declared her Blessed in October 2004.

Here is an excerpt from her vision of Mary and Joseph's long journey to Bethlehem.:


This excerpt is from this wonderful
book which I am currently reading.
TAN Books is the publisher.
This evening I saw Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by Anna, Mary Cleophas, and some menservants, starting off from Anna's house. Mary sat on the comfortable side-saddle of a donkey, which also carried her baggage. Joseph led the donkey. A second donkey was taken for Anna to ride back on. Her husband was away in the fields when they started on their journey.

5.1 This morning I saw the holy travelers arrive at an open field six hours' journey from Nazareth, where the angel had appeared to Joseph two days before. Anna had a pasture here and the menservants were told to fetch the young she-ass which Joseph was to take with him. She sometimes ran in front of them and sometimes beside them. Anna and Mary Cleophas here took a tender farewell of the travellers and returned home with the menservants. … I saw the Holy Family going on their way and climbing Mount Gilboa. They did not pass through any town; they followed the young she-ass, which always took lonely by-ways.

I saw them stopping at a house in the hills belonging to Lazarus, not far from the town of Ginim and in the direction of Samaria. The steward, who knew them from other journeys, gave them a friendly welcome. Their family was on intimate terms with Lazarus. There are beautiful orchards and avenues here. The house stands high, so that one has a very wide view from the roof. Lazarus inherited it from his father; our Lord Jesus often stayed here during His ministry and taught in the surrounding country. The steward and his wife conversed in a very friendly way with the Blessed Virgin. They were surprised that she should have been willing to undertake such a long journey in her condition, when she might have had every comfort at home with her mother Anna.

5.2 I saw the Holy Family some hours' journey beyond this last place, going at night towards a mountain through a very cold valley. It looked as if there was hoar-frost on the ground. The Blessed Virgin was suffering from the cold and Joseph said: ‘We must rest.’ Hardly had he spoken when the she-ass that was running with them stood still under a terebinth tree, very big and old, near which was a spring of water. They stopped under this tree; Joseph spread coverings for the Blessed Virgin to sit on, after helping her to alight from the donkey, and she sat down under the tree. Joseph hung a lighted lantern, which he carried with him, on the lower branches of the tree. (I often saw travellers in that country do this at night.) … They refreshed themselves here with fruit and little loaves of bread which they had with them, and drank water from the spring near by, mixing it with balsam which Joseph had brought with him in a little jug. Joseph spoke very comfortingly to the Blessed Virgin: he is so good, and so sorry that the journey is so difficult. …He spoke to her about the good lodging which he hoped to find for her in Bethlehem. He said he knew of a house with very good people where they would find a comfortable lodging at very little cost. It was, he said, better to pay something than to be taken in for nothing. He spoke highly of Bethlehem in general, and comforted the Blessed Virgin in every possible way. (.. but I knew well that things would turn out quite differently.)

So far they have crossed two little streams in the course of their journey: one of these they crossed on a high foot-way, while the two donkeys waded through the water. It was strange to see how the young she-ass, who was free to go where she would, kept running round the travelers. Where the path narrowed, as for instance between hills, and so could not be mistaken, she ran sometimes before and sometimes behind them, but where there was a parting of the ways she always appeared again and took the right path. Where they were to rest, she stood still, as here by the terebinth tree. I do not remember whether they spent the night under the tree, or whether they went on to another shelter. This terebinth was a very old and sacred tree, of the grove of Moreh near Shechem. When Abraham was journeying into the land of Canaan, he had here a vision of God, who promised him this land for his descendants. ( Gen. 15.) He then built an altar under the terebinth. Before Jacob went to Bethel, to sacrifice to the Lord, he buried under this terebinth all the strange gods of Laban and the jewels which his family carried with him. ( Gen. 35.4.) Under this tree Joshua built the tabernacle for the Ark of the Covenant and made the people assembled there renounce their idols. ( Joshua 24.26.) It was here that Abimelech, the son of Gideon, was hailed as king of the Shechemites. ( Judges 9.6.)

How often do we think of the journey to Bethlehem as being just a trivial prelude to the Nativity? But it was hard and cold and difficult, exhausting and fraught with dangers. As we make our own Christmas preparations, we would do well to remember the harsh reality, and thank God for the wonder of the Incarnation.

You can read more of Anna Catherine's writings.  OR if you would like to purchase it for your home, you can visit TAN Books' Website.

St. Andrew Christmas Novena:
"Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable at midnight in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Six Kids, Three Countries, One Family - "That's {not so} Crazy!"

The following blog post was written in the Summer:

We spent this past Saturday at a baseball tournament. Both boys were involved, so it meant some running around and coordinating schedules so both boys could get to the correct field at the correct time. Bob helps with both teams so it usually leaves me (and often my parents!) with the four younger kids.

As I was getting their lunch ready and they were sitting on the blanket waiting, a mom of one of Jacob's teammates asked how old they all were. I went through their ages and she said "that's crazy!". She then confirmed that I was indeed Jacob's mom and I mentioned we had another son playing on the 8U team, her reply "that's crazy, you guys are crazy!". Then some more of the usual questions followed... "Are they siblings?" etc, etc. Again the reply was "you guys are crazy!". I walked away from the blanket for a moment and came back with something else and she said to me "I was just curious, I didn't mean anything by the questions" and I said in return "It's no problem, we get those questions all the time". And we do. Our family looks visibly different than other families so we do open ourselves up to more stares and more questions. I am not really sure what causes more attention, the fact that we have six children who are fairly close in age, or the fact that we are an "international" family.

While we do often get many nice comments about our family, we also get the "that's crazy" response too. Obviously this mom realized that her comments were a bit awkward. I don't think my response or lack of response to "that's crazy!" was anything impolite, I am just not sure what kind of response she was expecting from me. She certainly wasn't paying me a compliment. She could have chosen to ask her questions and then made no comment at all.

We have made these choices for our family simply because they have been our choices, not because we want or need validation from others. I often wonder why people feel they have to comment at all? We do feel blessed at how God has chosen to form and grow our family and we love to talk about adoption. We also hope in some very small way that we can encourage others to consider adoption. It really was the whole point of making our blog public so that people can see, even though we are not biologically related, we still are a real family in every sense of the word.

~ Mama Jen

Jen is a wife to one amazing husband and mom to six energetic kids.  Visit Forever, For Always, No Matter What where she blogs about their Catholic faith, homeschooling and adoption.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Wreath Prayers Fourth Sunday

The 4th Week of Advent

The head of household or leader says the following prayer.

Lord, hurry and come to us. May your light shine in our lives, so that we may be freed from sin. Protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for your coming as our savior: For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

The father (or grandfather or head of household) lights all four candles; they remain lit during the meal.

Suggested reading: Luke 1: 39-45

Mary Visits Elizabeth

LUKE 1: 39
 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

Thanks be to God.

A Hymn and a Prayer: Veni, Veni Emmanuel

One of my favorite hymns during this time of the Liturgical year is Veni, Veni Emmanuel. The original Latin hymn was taken from Psalteriolum Cantionum, Colgne, 1710. If you are not familiar with the lyrics in Latin, here they are:

Veni, Veni Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel! 
Qui gemit in exsilio, 
Privatus Dei Filio. 

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel 
Nascetur pro te, Israel. 

Veni, O Jesse virgula
Ex hostis tuos ungula, 
De specu tuos tartari 
Educ et antro barathri. 


Veni, Veni O Oriens
Solare nos adveniens, 
Noctis depelle nebulas, 
Dirasque noctis tenebras. 


Veni, Clavis Davidica
Regna reclude caelica, 
Fac iter tutum superum, 
Et claude vias inferum. 


Veni, Veni Adonai
Qui populo in Sinai 
Legem dedisti vertice, 
In Majestate gloriae. 


Veni, O Sapientia
Quae hic disponis omnia, 
Veni, viam prudentiae 
Ut doceas et gloriae. 


Veni, Veni, Rex gentium
Veni, Redemptor omnium, 
Ut salvas tuos famulos 
Peccati sibi conscios. 


Saint's Faith Blog
Notice that this hymn contains the O Antiphons which are sung or recited at Vespers of the last seven days in Advent.  Each Antiphon is the name of Christ which are mentioned in Sacred Scriptures as Messianic Prophecies of the Lord Jesus Christ.. Therefore, "O Come Emmanuel" is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold:
  • Each one highlights a title for the Messiah and 
  • each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. 
Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies. Then thre's another interesting tid-bit, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose, see the first letters of the titles taken backwards form a Latin acrostic of "Ero Cras" (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) which translates to "Tomorrow, I will come", mirroring the theme of the antiphons.

Each one is used on a different day during the last week of Advent as we approach the Nativity of our Lord and Savior.  These are:
  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) 
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Lord) 
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) 
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David) 
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring) 
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations) 
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)
According to Fr. William Saunders:
"The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church."  (Source:  Catholic Education Resource Center)

Here is the English translation {translated by John M. Neale (1818-1886)}:
December 17, O Wisdom 
O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things mightily
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
December 18, O Lord and Ruler
O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might:
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In Ancient times did give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.
December 19, O Root of Jesse
O Come, thou rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust Thy mighty power to save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.
December 20, O Key of David
O Come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home,
Make safe the way that leads on high,
That we no more have cause to sigh.
December 21, O Dawn of the East
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on High
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadow put to flight.
December 22, O King of the Gentiles
O Come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid every strife and quarrel cease
And fill the world with heaven's peace.
December 23, O Emmanuel
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.


O Sapientia (December 17) O Wisdom (Eccl 24: 5), you came forth from the mouth of the Most High (Sir 24: 30), and reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly (Wis 8: 1). Come, and teach us the way of prudence (Isa 40: 14).
O Adonai (December 18) O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler(Exod 6: 13) and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2: 6), you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3: 2), and on Mount Sinai gave him your Law (Exod 20). Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us (Jer 32: 21).
O Radix Jesse (December 19) O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind (Isa 11: 10); before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse (Isa 52: 15). Come, save us, and do not delay (Hab 2: 3).
O Clavis David (December 20) O Key of David (Apoc 3: 7) Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isa 22: 22). Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10).
O Oriens (December 21) O Rising Dawn (Zac 6: 12), Radiance of the Light eternal (Hab 3: 4) and Sun of Justice (Mal 3: 20); Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness & the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10; Lk 1: 78).
O Rex Gentium (December 22) O King of the Gentiles(Hag 2: 8), Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one (Eph 2: 20). Come, and save poor man whom you fashion out of clay (Gen 2: 7).
O Emmanuel (December 23) O Emmanuel (Isa 7: 14; 8: 8), our King and Lawgiver (Gen 49:10; cf. Ezek 21: 32), the Expected of the nations and their Savior (Isa 33: 22): Come, and save us, O Lord our God.

Activity Source: Original Text (JGM) by Jennifer Gregory Miller, © Copyright 2003-2009 by Jennifer Gregory Miller  {Source: Catholic Culture}

I love the idea of reviving the old monastic custom of doing something special on each day before Christmas which is another way to celebrate the "O Antiphons" in the family atmosphere. Here's a list of blogs or websites with crafts for the O' Antiphons for some ideas:

O Night Divine

In the Heart of My Home

Waltzing Matilda

Just Another Day in Paradise
Under Her Starry Mantle

Under Her Starry Mantle
By Sun and Candle Light

O Antiphon House

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, St. Joseph, pray for us!
Our best friends, our guardian angels, pray for us!

Pax Christi,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Aquinas and Augustine on Fraternal Correction

The what, when, why, and where of telling someone
they are doing something wrong.


A friend and fellow Catholic asked me the following the other day.
"Fraternal correction... Summa says its a matter of precept and a spiritual work of Mercy.. Augustine further states that if we FAIL to correct the sinner then we become worse than the sinner...
So, how do we personally judge whether it is perceptual to fraternally correct, or best to stay silent..."

To answer his question, I looked over St. Thomas' Summa Theologiae, and Augustine's City of God, the wrote the following response. Saint Thomas harmonizes with Augustine, actually treating Augustine's doctrine in his own article on fraternal correction.

Thomas essentially fleshes out Augustine's thought line developed in Augustine's City of God, saying that fraternal correction is a precept - an ordinance or command. However, the gravity of the matter, and the time and circumstance, and possible adverse reaction, may impact where, how, and when you correct someone else.

Thomas, by stating that fraternal correction is a Divine precept, only reenforces Augustine's teaching, and simply augmented it by showing how, if you correct someone at the wrong time, the wrong way, or for the wrong thing, you actual cause problems instead of solving them.

In the Summa Theologiae, in the 2nd part of the 2nd part, Question 33, Answer 2, Thomas lays out several major objections and answers, but Objection 3 and its answer is the most important to my friend's question.

Objection 3. Further, the omission of a Divine precept is a mortal sin, which has no place in a holy man. Yet holy and spiritual men are found to omit fraternal correction: since Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): “Not only those of low degree, but also those of high position, refrain from reproving others, moved by a guilty cupidity, not by the claims of charity.” therefore fraternal correction is not a matter of precept.

Reply to Objection 3. Fraternal correction may be omitted in three ways.

First, meritoriously, when out of charity one omits to correct someone. For Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 9): “If a man refrains from chiding and reproving wrongdoers, because he awaits a suitable time for so doing, or because he fears lest, if he does so, they may become worse, or hinder, oppress, or turn away from the faith, others who are weak and need to be instructed in a life of goodness and virtue, this does not seem to result from covetousness, but to be counselled by charity.”

Secondly, fraternal correction may be omitted in such a way that one commits a mortal sin, namely, “when” (as he says in the same passage) “one fears what people may think, or lest one may suffer grievous pain or death; provided, however, that the mind is so dominated by such things, that it gives them the preference to fraternal charity.” This would seem to be the case when a man reckons that he might probably withdraw some wrongdoer from sin, and yet omits to do so, through fear or covetousness.

Thirdly, such an omission is a venial sin, when through fear or covetousness, a man is loth to correct his brother’s faults, and yet not to such a degree, that if he saw clearly that he could withdraw him from sin, he would still forbear from so doing, through fear or covetousness, because in his own mind he prefers fraternal charity to these things. It is in this way that holy men sometimes omit to correct wrongdoers.

For my part, correction involves truth, charity, humility, and appropriateness. It is rare that a circumstance arises where you would not, at some point, correct someone you know is living, or believing, falsely. Keep the following in mind:

  • God is Truth, and attesting to truth is attesting to Him, seeing the world as He does, not as mere men to. Try to know the person will understand what you are correcting is a matter of truth.
  • Charity is love of neighbor for the love of God. You need to know your motivation for correction is sincerely for the betterment of the other person(s), and that reason only.
  • You have to decrease, so that He might increase. Correct the person in as gentle a way as possible, seeking the right time and way in prayer, so that the person sees sincerity and meekness, not self-righteousness or self-importance.

Lastly, try to ascertain how knowledgeable they are about their false behavior or belief, so that you are genuinely raising a concern to someone that may not know their error. If they know they are in error, it becomes a matter of reenforcing correction, and dealing with a hardened heart. Bear in mind this applies to omission #1 above.Know who you are correcting. Some people may not hear anything but bluntness. Others need a soft glove. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide in correcting others, so as to be conformed to the Divine Will.

In Christ Who is Truth Itself,

{or would that be Papa Todd?}

Thursday, December 15, 2011

God, Christmas, Prayer and Renewal {Guest Post}

Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
(Luke 2:14)
Christmas is one of the most beautiful seasons in the Church calendar.  It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Redeemer.  Christmas is the culmination of the Incarnation of God, which is celebrated on March 25th.  God became Man.
This was made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, and by Mary, our Lady, who consented to be the instrument for the birth of Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Mary’s immaculate conception, that is, her absence of original sin, made it possible for God, who hates sin, to dwell in her womb.   It became a holy sanctuary from which Christ could burst out to fill the world with His graces.  This story of Christmas must include the role of Joseph for his devotion as a caretaker and protector of both Jesus and Mary. 
Christmas is for all, because its graces fall on all men of good will.  It is meaningfully connected to the blessed Easter season, which reflects upon the murder of God, that is, His Holy Sacrifice of the Cross and His resurrection.  This opened the gates of Heaven for the many.
Christmas Blues
Unfortunately, many Christians spend much of their time before and during Christmas struggling with people who would like to eliminate Christmas and Christianity from American culture.  The threats are many:
  • Public and private institutions that coerce their people into using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, thus gradually making the population forget the meaning of Christmas which, by the way, is a federal holy day.
  • Governments that refuse to have Nativity scenes in public property, even though they allow the placement of symbols of other religions although the majority of the population is Christian.
  • The persecution of Christians worldwide making them the most persecuted religious group in the world.
  • The unwillingness of teachers and professors to allow their students to write homework and papers on the topic of Jesus.
  • The frequent production of Hollywood movies with anti-Christian content, which appear usually around Christmas time.
  • The intentional debasement of Christmas into a commercial enterprise.
Therefore, Christians are justified in fighting during Christmas, all these anti-Christian elements culturally, economically, legally, and politically.  And yet, they should utilize Christmas primarily to purify themselves and enter into greater communion with God. 
It is only through these acts of purification and communion with God that the graces needed to improve America can be acquired. Christians cannot allow their enemies to spoil their Christmas and make them bitter.
God and A.C.T.S.
The season of Advent which precedes the Christmas Season seeks to help us purify ourselves through a process of repentance and prayer as we await Christ the Lord. Advent makes us appreciate Christmas and allows to better seek God.
According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love God.  Therefore, it is essential that we communicate with Him through the four ways which could be referred to as A.C.T.S.  It was St. Thomas Aquinas who taught us that there are at least four ways to communicate with God:
  • Adoration.  He is to be worshipped because God is our Creator, our Redeemer and our Comforter.  God created us for Himself.  He is the only one worthy of adoration.

  • Contrition.  We need to recognize our faults and sins and atone for them and beg for forgiveness.  God is full of mercy, even for the worst sinner who truly repents.

  • Thanksgiving.  God is responsible for our lives, our power to reason, our power to choose, our power to love, and our power to procreate, as well as responsible for all the resources which allow our powers to work.  We need to thank Him for He is the source of all that exists.
  • Supplication.  God made the world good, but the world as it exists now is also full of evil and is often a “valley of tears”. So we are wise in asking for His support and mercy.

These are four ways through which we can communicate with God.  Christmas is a wonderful time to seek Him in Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  These ways will bring us closer to Him and renew us so we can love our neighbors and ourselves as Jesus loved us.
Praying With the Hands
Ironically, while to love God is the greatest commandment, God will not listen to us if we have not followed his commandments, which include loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Therefore, this Christmas not only should we approach God, but we should pray for each other as suggested by the Epistle of James (5:13-16).
However, sometimes we get so distracted and tired, that we do not know for whom to pray.
A simple method is to put the hands together, palm to palm, with the two thumbs closer to the body and the two little fingers farther away. Each set of fingers will remind us of people worthy of prayer:
  • The thumbs should remind us to pray first for those closer to our hearts, that is, those we love.
  • The index fingers should remind us to pray next for those who hate us.
  • The middle fingers should remind us to pray for our leaders, including the Pope and the bishops, so that they make decisions which are wise and loving.
  • The ring fingers should remind us to pray for those who are alone, forgotten, and suffering, even in Purgatory.
  • The little fingers should remind us to pray for ourselves.
The Church is full of saints and of people of great spirituality who can teach us how to pray.  Unlike some religions which emphasize many techniques and postures to pray or meditate, for Christians the key ingredient for good prayer, whether verbal, meditative or contemplative, is to be full of love for God and for others.
Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.  Many of the things that happen to us during this wonderful season have nothing to do with Jesus himself.
However, it is never too late to disengage during Christmas from the “ways of the world”, at least temporarily, so that we can love God, our neighbors and ourselves, and help God spread His peace to all men of good will.  This will bring about the greatest personal renewal and social regeneration.
Merry Christmas!

About the Guest Blogger
Dr.Germán Muñoz was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, on July 13, 1950. He attended the Jesuit Colegio Dolores. Upon emigrating to the United States, he studied at the Salesian orphanage Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, Florida, and at the Belen Jesuit Preparatory High School in Miami, Florida. Dr. Muñoz earned a B.S. in Psychology at the Jesuit Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, a Masters of Arts in International Relations, and a Doctorate in Political History at the University of Miami, Coral Gables in May 1981.

          He is the producer of the award-winning Social Science Lecture Series, of the Faculty Forum and of The Public Affairs Forum. He is the author of Background Lessons on Global Affairs (1997), of The Social Environment: A Primer on World Civics, 11th Edition, 2008, and International Relations: a Primer on Global Affairs (2004).
          Dr. Germán Muñoz is the recipient of the following awards: “John Barret Prize for Best Dissertation on Hispanic and Latin American Affairs,”, “Excellence in Curriculum and Instruction Award,” 1987, by the Florida Association of Community Colleges, “The Times Teaching Excellence Award,” 1990, by the National-American Association of Community Colleges, “The Reverend Glen C. James Endowed Teaching Chair,” 1992-1994, “The Award for Outstanding Community College Chairs Who Encourage Teaching Excellence,” 1993, by the National Community College Academy, “The David Pierce Department Chair Quality Leadership Award,” 1995, “The National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Effectiveness,” by North Carolina State University, “The First Union Endowed Teaching Chair,” 1996-1998,  “The Excellence in the Social Sciences Award 1854-2004”, by Belen Jesuit Preparatory in 2004, The Collinfontanum Award for Professional Achievement 1831-2006, by Spring Hill College in 2006.
            Dr. Germàn Muñoz has served in the following boards: St. Kevin’s Catholic School Advisory Board; Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora’s Board of Catholic Education; the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, Inc., and the Socio-Economic Development Council of Miami Dade County.
              Dr. German Muñoz worked at Miami Dade College, the largest college in the United States, from August 1976 through August 2011. He was the Chairperson of the Department of Social Sciences from 1983-2011. Dr. Muñoz retired on August 2011 due to ALS. The College awarded him Professor Emeritus status and has created the Dr. German Muñoz endowed teaching chair.

Contact Dr. Muñoz:  Via E-Mail  or on the Web  or co-author  Carlos H. Olaechea, P.T., D.P.T., N.C.S. via E-Mail.
Reposted with permission given to Raising {& Teaching} Little Saints.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Poem by St. John of the Cross:

Advent Poem by St. John of the Cross:

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy, and say,
"I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close."
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim - the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing.

Blessings to you all on the Feast of San Juan de la Cruz