Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son"

Issue Date: December 21, 2008 (4AdvB)

BURNING QUESTION: Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"
FEATURED BLOG: The Virgin Mary: Model of Faith and First Believer
RECONCILIATION: ‘Tis the Season for Reconciliation
PASTORAL HISPANA: El sí de María nos trajo la salvación

Dear Friends,

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. This is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. Sunday's Gospel - and the Discussion Questions we've chosen - tells us how Mary prepared for that wonderful event by accepting the message of an angel, which meant allowing God to determine how she could be a mother and remain a virgin. The Virgin Mary was "A Model of Faith and First Believer."

The Sunday Readings tell us that David does not build a house for the Lord but instead the Lord provides a house for David — a great family of descendents: the House of David. Fr. Alex McAllister notes that Mary was not to build a temple for God but was to be the temple of God. Mary was given a choice. Mary said “Yes!” to the same Word of God that whispers into our ears today, calling us to continue the transformation of the world. While Fr. John Foley, S.J. asks how much do you and I listen to the voice of God’s promise that is written in our hearts? So while many will celebrate the secular Christmas season, Father Cusick reminds us all that celebrating the "holy day" is the best holiday.

Fr. Phil Bloom preaches that we not only admire Mary; we need her help. Mary models for us a life that is wonderfully fruitful through loving concern for the welfare and happiness of others. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm explains that there is no better way than this to prepare for and to celebrate the birth of Jesus, "the promise made flesh, God become Man." Fr. James Gilhooley explains how we can trace this information in the Old Testament. Christ is really and truly born for us only if we are prepared to celebrate the anniversary of his birth as a moment of faith. Just as Jesus was not born in a perfectly staged setting, Fr. Thomas Rosica exlpains how the incarnation means that we enter history and deal with the world as it is, and not as we would wish it to be.

CELEBRATING ADVENT. From Rome we bring you the 2008 Advent Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Preacher. His message: "Called by God to Communicate With his Son Jesus Christ." Lenora Grimaud shares with all her "Prayerful Advent Reflection." And if you know the Christmas Antiphons, you know that they're sung one per day beginning Deccember 15, at the Magnificat during vespers. They are very ancient, written in Latin and extraordinarily rich in references to the prophecies of the Messiah. Here they are in transcription, with a guide to interpretation. And in the form of our Burning Question this week, should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?" Believe us when we say it's not a silly question. Read on.

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS. Pope Benedict said this week that "Christmas Isn't Too Good to Be True." He affirmed that the feast reveals life's true meaning. It's a sentiment Fr. Peter deSousa shares as he declares, "The Gift of Life is the Christmas celebration." While seminarian Jerome Placido challenges us: 'Tis the Season - How presentable are we to God?

In the midst of secular images of Christmas, the Pope is encouraging the faithful to put a Nativity scene in their homes. And what's the Point of a Christmas Tree? Pope Benedict explains how it is a symbol of Life and Hope. And the Custos of the Holy Land gives his Christmas Message: If like the shepherds we are materially or spiritually poor, we must spiritually go to Bethlehem for answers to problems that "lacerate our souls."

STORE SANTAS, LAS VEGAS AND CHRISTMAS. We bring you a moving story about a department store Santa who brought holiday cheers to a little girl who was dying of cancer. And If you're planning on spending your holidays in Las Vegas, know that the Catholic Church keeps vigil in Sin City. If you feel the need to confess after a night on the Strip, two churches with priests on hand are ready nearby.

If you're like me, Mr. Last Minute Everything, here's a great resource for you: A Procrastinator's Guide to Celebrating Christmas. And if you find yourself stumped when young children quiz you about the reasons behind our many Christmas traditions, "All your questions about Christmas are finally ansered - Here!" And don't forget to explain to them "Why Jesus is better than Santa" depite all the commercial hoopla surrounding the big fellow in red.

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. May you and your family have the most blessed Christmas celebration.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Make straight the way of the Lord"

Issue Date: December 14, 2008 (3AdvB)

BURNING QUESTION: "Life & Family" or "Peace and Justice?"
FEATURED BLOG: Do you remember your last confession?
RECONCILIATION: 100 Projects for Peace
PASTORAL HISPANA: El secreto del adviento: estar alegres

Dear Friends,

We start our journey this week with Discussion Questions on the Sunday Readings for use by prayer groups or for individual prayer. On the third Sunday of Advent, penitential purple gives way to pink and we celebrate “Gaudete” or “Rejoice!” Sunday.

Dec. 12, Saturday, also this weekend, is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We share with you "The Story of the Apparition," an excerpt of the traditional narrative that recounts the famous apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Mexican Indian, Juan Diego in the year 1531.

As Christmas peeks at us from around the corner, we should rejoice not because the secular season of giving is about to begin. Instead, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says we should rejoice always in the One whose Life has recreated our lives. And while Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing," Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says we can also reverse the order of these two sentences: "Pray without ceasing, so that we will be able to rejoice always." Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. says Advent is a special time for open-hearted prayer of hope for the gift of recognizing God's coming among us. If today you should hear his voice, harden not your heart.

Father Cusick explains how John the Baptist guides us in Advent, a people who look to Christ alone to take away our sins and to open heaven for us when he comes again in glory. While Fr. James Gilhooley talks about a John the Baptist that preached God's anger but kept mum about God's love. Jesus, on the other hand realized "a hurting person needs a helping hand, not an accusing finger." Ask yourself Whose vision of God is yours?

Fr. John Foley, S. J reflects on the people's hunger for light like this. “Are you the light?” they shout to John. While Fr. Phil Bloom's bottom line is simple: John the Baptist tells us to take life seriously - in light of eternity. And St. Paul says to not take seriously the disappointments of life - instead, to "rejoice always." Fr. Alex McAllister SDS preaches that just as Jesus was among the crowd when John spoke, Jesus also stands among us today. Not threatening, not judging, not spying on us or interfering; but just there cool, calm, patient, content to let things take their course.

ORIGINAL SIN. It is one of the most overlooked and rejected dogmas. But for Benedict XVI, it is "overwhelmingly obvious." He has talked about it three times in eight days. Without it, he says, Christian redemption "would lose its foundation." He also tells us that the Christian explanation of evil and original sin is a happy proclamation since it affirms that life and living is good.

MAN, GOD & THE BIBLE. Pope Benedict said this week that "Man Needs God, Even Without Realizing It" as he urged seminarians to sow the Message of the Word of God. And from the recently concluded Vatican Synod on the "Word of God," three deep marks have come out of it. The first is that Christianity is not a "religion of the book," but is identified with a person. The second is that the Bible is not only past, but also present and future. The third is that exegesis cannot do without theology, and vice versa.

THE CHURCH & THE SACRAMENTS. "The Church Is a Body, not a Corporation" the Pope affirmed also this week. He says Christ and Neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. He explained further that the sacraments change our bodies and souls. The new humanity established by Christ comes into being through the Church, which the Holy Spirit established at Pentecost. And speaking of the Sacraments, do you remember your last Confession? If you haven’t been to confession in awhile (or even if you have!), now is the perfect time to go. Many churches offer evening penance services during Advent, where there are often several priests available to hear confessions.

STORIES OF HOPE. "You are a Daughter of the King!" Cheryl Dickow finds herself buoyed by the knowledge that every girl who reads these words will have her heart touched in a way that that creates a foundation from which a love and relationship with Christ will flourish. In "Who I Am Makes a Difference," a teacher decided to honor each of her seniors in High School with a blue ribbon telling them the difference each of them had made. Be moved by what happens when she asks the students to pay it forward. And from Mumbai, India, we bring you the gripping story of a Catholic businessman who recently survived the tragic massacre in that city. His experience is an inspiration and confirmation to all those who seek to know that we do not walk alone and how REAL the communion of Saints in heaven is on our lives.

YOUTH LIFE. A couple of youth ministers realize that their youth group was a food court of cultures, colors, ages and experiences --both gray and graying. They offer three practical suggestions to make these many “restaurants” co-exist inside the food court that is your youth program. And when Emily and Sarah Buder picked up the local paper one spring day last year, the teen sisters saw a story in the San Francisco Chronicle in March 2007 about a high school girl from a nearby town, Olivia Gardner, who was being bullied relentlessly by her classmates, they knew they had to do something. You will be amazed by the outpouring they received from across the country.

LIFESTYLE. Attention Christmas tree shopers, Here's "How To Pick, Set up, and Care For Your Tree." Everything you need to know to make it a really special tree for the season. And here's a sad reflection of the times for some people. "Should we tell our school-age kids that their dad got laid off?" Or is that putting an undue burden on their young shoulders? We hav ethe answers.

A FREE GIFT FOR YOUR FRIENDS. No, we're not asking for money. During this season of giving, we ask that you simply share the gift of ParishWorld with everyone you know - your family, friends, associates, co-workers, etc. It's free. And you allow their lives to be blessed with each of our weekly inspired email issues. If each one of you can gift just one person with a free subscription, we can double our ministry's reach from our current 800,000 page views a month to 1.6 million a month. Now woudn't that be true Evangelization in action! Click here to begin sharing our faith.

Another significant week in our Catholic world. Have a safe and blessed new week.

Keep the faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief
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Thursday, December 4, 2008

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”

Issue Date: December 7, 2008 (2AdvB)

BURNING QUESTION: What commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: A Sign of True Renewal
RECONCILIATION: Forgive for Good
PASTORAL HISPANA: San Juan Bautista nos anima a la conversión

Dear Friends, We start our journey this week with Discussion Questions on the Sunday Readings for use by prayer groups or for individual prayer. During the Second Sunday of Advent, the Readings introduces us to John the Baptist who prepares the way for our Lord.

John the Baptist didn’t mince words. He got right to the point and said what needed to be said. Fr. Thomas Rosica said the prophet would speak with equally direct words to us today and he would zero in on the weak points of our lives. And like John, we are road-menders according to Fr. Alex McAllister. It is our task to open up paths along which Christ can travel. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm we must be prepared for the new baptism of Jesus, which is not only in water but also in the Spirit. And this requires that we put aside self-centeredness and begin to be more loving and caring toward others.

Father Cusick explains that in the liturgy - the source and summit of our Christian life - we have the highest source of the upbuilding of the kingdom within us. Active participation in the Mass helps us to avoid experiencing it as an empty ritual. Fr. John Foley encourages us to let God's tender love make its way out of the church and into the world. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino reminds us that in this season of gift giving, we can give a wonderful gift to ourselves and to others. This gift is the reassurance that Jesus loves us and loves them.

Fr. Phil Bloom preaches our need to learn God's time - to avoid those sins of impatience that cause so much harm. If we wait patiently, he will give us every good thing. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains that the nature of the devil is to take great blessings from God and twist them, misdirect them, so that they become curses. In Advent, these crooked ways must be made straight. And Fr. James Gilhooley tell us What better way to turn over that famous new leaf than arranging a prime time rendezvous with the Teacher in confession.

CONFESSION, ANYONE? Curiously, many Catholics seem to be receiving Communion without the proper Confession. Perhaps the time has come for churches to stop counting activities, and start counting the number of souls who seek forgiveness through confession. When that number approaches the number of souls who come to Communion, this will be a sign that true renewal is at work in the Catholic Church.

E SEASON OF ADVENT. As the season moves along, we offer more ways to celebrate it with true significance. "Keeping the candles burning" is a terrific primer on how to give Advent meaning so we can better brace ourselves for the weeks ahead. It's from the Catholic Spirit newspaper from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the Diocese of San Bernardino has introduced weekly video presentations of Advent Sunday homilies (in English and Spanish) on its website. Click here to view and to follow the series throughout Advent. And Dr. Jeff Mirus reminds us that it's not too late. He offers "Three Steps to a Successful Advent."

PRAYER & RELIGION. Contrary to what the secular media teaches, prayer is not the first thing logically in religion. Morality is. We come to true ideas of religion and true ideas of prayer only after recognizing and accepting from within ourselves true ideas of right and wrong. And Prayer can be private or public, vocal or silent, passionate or meditative. Yet all spiritual guides agree that prayer must also be practiced privately if it is to become deeply personal and interior.

CATHOLIC NEWS. From the Vatican, Pope Benedict said Holiness does not go out of fashion. It is holiness, which gives witness to "man's constant tension toward God" through history, and inspires our Advent preparation. From the Dominican Republic, a group of prison ministers reflecting on the state of jails affirmed that "For Jesus, no life is a throw-away." In the US, a new study looks at "A Literate Church: The state of Catholic Bible study today." While in Grand Rapids, MI, its Cathedral Center opened an internet coffee shop with a twist - Coffee and internet is free. And so are the reading materials on the Catholic faith. It's like Starbucks for the Soul. Do we see any other U.S. dioceses folowing suit?

YOUTH LIFE. Kids skipping Mass? Blame ignorance, not rebellion. Young people today are not against the Church; they simply don't know much about it, says the new director of the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. And we bring you some manly lessons of Fatherhood. "Teaching My Son to Be a Man" lists the many things fathers need to teach their sons. And it lists this as possibly the single most important lesson in this brave new world: responsibility.

STORIES OF HOPE. Lately, marriage has gotten a bad rap. It seems like many people these days feel marriage is some archaic arrangement that holds people back from realizing their full potential. "The Case for Marriage - From a Man's Point of View" totally changes the discussion. While evangelist Bo Sanchez shares how he moved the over 6,000 people in his last Catholic conference when he asked them pointedly, "Are You Sexually Pure?" And a U.S. Navy Officer in Al Taqqadum, Iraq shares "A Different Christmas Poem" - a tribute to our U.S service men and women who are responsible for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

DINNER DATES AND AGING GRACEFULLY. Almost every date involves taking a woman out to eat. It is not only fun, but offers a perfect opportunity for a man to show his date his manners and character. Here are a few of the do’s and don’ts of dinner dates. If you do the do’s, you’re guaranteed to impress your date and score a second one with her. If you do the don’ts, she won’t be returning your calls. And you probably don't realize that you can find the Fountain of Youth in your grocery cart. One of the foremost nutrition and fitness experts answers eight of the most important nutrition questions.

A GIFT FOR YOUR FRIENDS. During this season of giving, we ask you for your help. No ,not asking for money. We're simply asking you to share the gift of ParishWorld with everyone you know - your family, friends, associates, co-workers, etc. It's free. And you allow their lives to blessed weekly with the inspired words of the Sunday Readings. Help them learn their faith, so they may effectively live it and happily share it with others. If each one of you can gift just one person witha free subscription, we can double our ministry's reach from our current 800,000 page views a month to 1.6 million a month. That would be true Evangelization in action! Click here to begin sharing our faith.

Finally, during this Advent Season look to the person or persons who hurt you and really try to forgive them for good. Make yourself the hero instead of the victim. And then, in your mind, say to the person, "I forgive you." And really mean it. Remember - forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, it is not an act condoning what happened to you.

May you continue to have a wonderful Advent season. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

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