Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Blessed are you among women"

Fourth Sunday of Advent (4AdvC), December 20, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: What is the symbolism of Jesus being born in a manger?
FEATURED BLOG: Ever thought about Hell?
PRIEST STORY: In Kenya, an Irish priest gives his life for Christ
PASTORAL HISPANA: La promesa se acerca

Dear Friends,

This Fourth Sunday of Advent, we change our focus. The past two Sundays have centered on the ascetic, somewhat fierce figure of John the Baptist. This Sunday we focus on a young, gentle woman, who is about to give birth to a child. Her name is Mary. Our Discussion Questions will guide you during your Bible Study sessions with your family, friends and church group.

Mary, the Mother of God

On the carefully programmed Advent journey to Christmas, the Fourth Sunday belongs to Mary. Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says this is so because Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, necessarily involves the motherhood of Mary. We see her singular role as the Mother of Jesus and we also recognize she has a role in our lives.

It is for that reason, according to Fr. Phil Bloom, we pray the Hail Mary - a biblical prayer that combines the greetings of the Angel Gabriel and St. Elizabeth.

Mary as a Model of Faith

Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS points out to us that God choose to enter into our human experience through the person of the Blessed Mother. Her unconditional “yes” to God’s will untangled the knot tied by the sin of Adam and Eve. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio calls the Blessed Virgin Mary the Model of Faith and First Believer.

Fr. John Foley, S. J. asks us to imagine Mary hastening to her cousin’s house, a long trip, on foot, over dirt and sand and rocks, under the hot sun. She does not spend even a second worrying whether the way is too hard. Everything else is in second place. Mary's free choice to move forward and outward, explains Fr. Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us that it all began with Mary. As the mother of our Savior, she is also the most perfect model of fruitfulness. However, we are alsoasked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in this world. So what is God asking of you and me? Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA says it is usually in our daily life that God’s will is revealed to us. So we really need to listen deeply to what God is really asking of us.

Two Mothers and Two Unborns

What excited Mary and Elizabeth, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino, was the mystery that they had each in their own way been chosen to be vehicles of God's plan of love. Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, would leap in the womb and point to this Love become flesh. Jesus, Mary's son, would be this love. So, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains, although this Sunday's bible account is ostensibly about the meeting of two mothers,it is really about the meeting of two unborn children. John, himself already a person, salutes not merely a ten day old personless embryo but another genuine person. Just what is today's Gospel telling us through Elizabeth and her unborn son John, asks Fr. James Gilhooley? Human life, "alive, sexed, and complete," is present in every mother's womb from the beginning of her pregnancy.

This brings us into an interesting query by Taylor Marshall. Christ's blood is the price of salvation, the very life of the New and Everlasting Covenant. It is therefore worth asking whether Christ's precious blood ever mixed with Mary's or coursed through her veins. Read his take on this subject here.

Celebrating the Holidays

It's interesting to find out where the Blessed Mother is in the most popular Christmas carols. In looking at the texts of 381 English-language Christmas carols, she appears in 27 percent of them. She’s slightly behind the angels and shepherds (who both are in 28 percent of the songs) but significantly ahead of the wise men (who come in at 13 percent).

This week on Dec. 16, the Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi, the nine-day novena of dawn liturgies and early morning meal, will fill churches from the from far-flung barrios of the Philippines to parishes across the USA. Fr. Ben Alforque, a Filipino missionary in Riverside, CA explains the origins of this centuries-old novena tradition.

From the Vatican, the Pope performed the traditional blessing of the Bambinelli, the figures of the Baby Jesus brought by the children of Rome, which will be placed in the Presipi (creches) of their homes on Christmas. And along the way, he used the moment as a reminder of the scene's import beyond the symbolic sense.

Frank Capra’s classic "It’s A Wonderful Life" seems to have more resonance this year as the country struggles with recession and war. Suzanne Morse reflects on the movie and says it should be aptly renamed "It’s A Wonderful (Catholic Social Justice) Life." And for those who feel the "Happy Holidays" greeting is taking Jesus out of the season, this internet chain email article is for you. It's called "A letter from Jesus about Christmas."

Catholic News

Pope Benedict this week said,"Today there is a danger of forgetting that the Eucharist is truly the risen Christ in his resurrected body." He reminds us al, specially in this Advent season that the Eucharist is not a mere 'rite of socialization'. And completing the work initiated by Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI announced two changes in canon law this week: one regarding marriage for those who have formally renounced the Church and another clarifying the ministry of deacons.

From Washington DC, theUS Bishops reiterated their concern about the Senate's health care proposal. The U.S. episcopal conference sent two letters to lawmakers urging them to respect life, make health care affordable for everyone, and give immigrants access to basic care.

Holiday Gift-Giving

So what do we do with America’s gift-giving extravaganza at Christmas? It’s Jesus’ birthday, but the presents under the tree are the real focus, especially for the kids. Dr. Marcellino d'Ambrosio offers "A Catholic Approach to Holiday Gift-Giving."

Don't expect others to give you a cool gift for Christmas if you don't give cool gifts yourself. You have less than two weeks before Christmas, so take a little more time to make a good gift a GREAT gift. It's not about spending more money, but being creative and working with a theme.

More Holiday Stories

Many inspiring Christmas-related stories are circulating on the web this week and we bring you a couple. One tells of a little boy who climbed up on the lap of a store Santa, holding a picture of a little girl. And the little boy's Christmas wish moved Santa to tears. The other one is a recollection by Senator John McCain of his captivity in North Vietnam. It was the act of kindness by one of his communist guards that made one Christmas day in the hard confines of the POW camp a memorable one for the senator.

For some people, the holidays are all about making the best of a bad situation. Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken or addicted parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore? This article might offer some healing.

And if you have pets, you might like to hold off giving them left-over scraps from the table. Make no bones about it! Holiday meals can kill pets. Which table foods are dangerous to cats and dogs? We tell you.

Finally, join us on a colorful photo journey around the world that depicts how Christmas is celebrated in different places.

Another event-filled week in our Catholic world. Merry Christmas to you all from all of us at

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Post a comment.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"But one mightier than I is coming."

Third Sunday of Advent (3AdvC), December 13, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Should Catholics be offended by the term "Xmas?"
FEATURED BLOG: "Divorced. What now?"
PRIESTS STORIES: Fr. Cantalamessa: "Servants and Friends of Jesus Christ"
PASTORAL HISPANA: Actitudes de Adviento

Dear Friends,

“Brothers and sisters: rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice,” says St. Paul in the Second Reading. The word for rejoice in Latin is gaudete, so quite naturally this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday. Our Discussion Questions this week can be your guide when you decide to initiate Sunday Readings Bible Study groups with your family, friends or church group.

What do we do?

In the Gospel, people of various professions that approached John with the question, “What shall we do?” John the Baptist gives them - and all of us - three answers that's a great guide to living life in God's grace. The crowd knew what they had to do. But they just could get themselves to do them. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says this sound familiar because oftentimes the very thing you find difficult to do is the only thing worth doing. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us that Advent is like a retreat that the worldwide Church is making. In this upcoming third week we are to consider our lives in the context of the great beauty God has put in us and around us.

John the Baptist, says Fr.Joseph Pellegrino, makes it clear thatwe proclaim the Kingdom in the way we treat others. Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA explains further that Christianity is indeed a very practical religion. And good deeds on behalf of others and not taking advantage of another are the best ways to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time.

Conversion, a turning around, Advent

hile we talk about St. John's Baptism of Repentance, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS says a Baptism of Conversion is perhaps a more accurate meaning. As it says in the Gospel, it means sharing our spare tunic with the man who has none. It means giving food to those who ordinarily would go without. St. John laid bare this truth about the sins of the people, the tax collectors and the soldiers, instructing them as to how to correct their lives.

Father Cusick says this is good news, though painful to hear, for it will bring repentance, conversion and healing. Rejoicing will follow, for those who amend their lives to enjoy God's mercy unto everlasting life. It is the truth which is the "Good News".

Gaudete, Rejoice in the Lord always

Advent, far from being a penitential time, is also a time of rejoicing. Sheer joy arises out of a deep and abiding relationship with God that carries the believer through all sorts of trials and tribulations. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB says rejoicing in the Lord is a sort of adoration, and adoration often takes the form of prayer.

Fr.Phil Bloom says St. Paul presents this joy, a constant joy, as not just a good thing, but as a duty. He goes on to list the three basic steps to joy as preached by St. John. The first step is to obey one's conscience. The second step is humility. And the third step is the most difficult for many of us: patience.

St. Paul, according to Fr.James Gilhooley, endorses the advice of the Baptist as he writes to the Philippians, "Let your generosity be manifest to all." St. Paul further offers us, per Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB, the wonderful life-implications of trust in the Lord's presence at every moment in all the circumstance of our lives. And he also rightly points out - explains Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio - that Faith, Hope, and Love are the bottom line, the theological virtues, the qualities that make us most like God.

Believe it or not, St. John is the patron of spiritual joy. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says after all, at the presence of Jesus and Mary, it was the infant who would one day be the Baptist who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. And so in the midst of sending holiday greetings, planning meals and buying gifts, the church is also preparing — but in a different way. Here are six ideas to help keep Advent in your heart as you ready your house for Christmas.

Penance Services This Advent

Many parishes will, in the coming days, be offering Penance Services to their parish members. Webster Bull, a convert who writes a blog called "Why I am Catholic," offers this as one more reason his Catholic conversion has been a blessing to him: Because Confession Can Change the World. For many Catholics, Confession can be the most difficult Sacrament. And for good reasons. We bring you a story about one such person. He's an anonymous ParishWorld reader who is a regular Sunday Mass attendee but has not been to confession in 30 years! So to prepare the many other like him and also to encourage you to go to your parish Penance Services in the coming days, here's "A Step-by-Step Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation."

Our Blessed Mother, Life & Family

In this month of December when Catholics celebrate three feastdays commemorating the Mother of our Lord, perhaps it is time to remind our Protestant brethren that five hundred years ago, the leaders of the Protestant Reformation also believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. And many of them professed devotions for the Blessed Mother.Believe or not it, they did. Here's the story.

From Korea, we bring you the story of a parish that now has entire families as altar servers during Mass. It is a move that family members say has strengthened their bonds and deepened their faith in a special way. From Washinton DC, the US Bishops Conference lamented the US Senate's rejection of the Pro-life amendment to the Health Care bill. They point out that the proposed bill, in its current form, does not protect Life. And from the Vatican, Pope Benedict preached that the Gospel is not a myth. He said the Word of God is the subject that moves history, descending upon the earth so that it produces fruit.

"Divorced? Now What?" We look to the many divorced Catholics who struggle to keep themselves in communion with the Church. If you’ve suffered a divorce or know someone who has, you might like to know about Divorced Catholic. It corrects many misunderstood Church teachings about Divorce.

Catholic rock stars

At the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City last month, Jesus was the primary rock star. But there were other rock stars there as well who moved the crowds to Jesus. A Denver man looked at the sea of teens, joyful to be standing for Jesus Christ and celebrating our ancient faith, and wondered, “If our Lord can change the world with 12, what can he do with 22,000?” Maybe we won’t be a subculture for long.

Pope Benedict XVI seemed to echo this same sentiment when he declared this week that "God wants to "do great things" in the lives of young people, just as he did for the Virgin Mary." And the Church in Australia affirmed its desire to reach the youth by taking advantage of social networking sites as a way to communicate the love of Jesus Christ.

And finally, let's talk Tiger Woods

There's no avoiding the story. So we might as well jump in and put this issue into perspective. His “transgressions” have created a media frenzy in the moment, but what are some of the salient lessons to be learned when this story no longer dominates the headlines? Catholic Exchange offers are a few takeaways worth considering. And then we bring you "Tiger Woods, meet A.C. Green." More amazing than reports of the golfer's transgressions is how the Lakers' forward kept to his personal code during the 'Showtime' years.Green offers life advice to Tiger and to all young people everywhere.

Let me conclude with the words of Pope Paul VI in his wonderful apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, "Gaudete in Domino."

Another eventful week in our Catholic world. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Post a comment.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Prepare the way of the Lord"

Second Sunday of Advent (2AdvC), December 6, 2009

BURNING QUESTION: Did John the baptist go to heaven right after death?
FEATURED BLOG: Faithful in Living Things
PASTORAL HISPANA: Preparen los caminos del Señor

Dear Friends,

It's the Second Sunday of Advent and the Sunday Readings tell the story of John the Baptist calling the people to repentance to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Our Discussion Questions this week can guide you during your Bible Study journey with your family, friends and church groups.

This Advent we begin a new cycle of Scripture readings, called "Year C." St. Mark's Gospel dominated last year, Year B and St. Matthew, Year A, the year before last. We now focus on the Third Gospel: The Gospel according to St. Luke.

And this Sunday’s Gospel begins with a solemn introduction: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip had a similar job, and so also some guy named Lysanius, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas...”

John the Baptist

Who is St. John the Baptist - the Precursor? And why do Jews and Christians unite in reverence and love for this prophet-saint whose life is an incomparable example of both humility and courage. He is the Paradox of Advent. Father Cusick says this is because John the Baptist is the one who prepares the path of the Redeemer so that Isaiah's prophecy may be fulfilled.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that the prophet's life can be summed up in the image of a finger pointing to the one who was coming: Jesus Christ. If we are to take on John's role of preparing the way in today's world, our lives also will become the pointing fingers of living witnesses who demonstrate that Jesus can be found and that he is near.

"Making straight the way of Lord"

Sunday's Gospel, according to Fr. Phil Bloom, states that John proclaimed a "baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin." Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says John is speaking not only to the people of his day who gathered around him. He speaks to us and invites us to change our ways so that our hearts will be open to the presence of the Lord in our everyday living.

"Making straight the way of Lord" is therefore, according to Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B., a metaphor for personal conversion from prideful controlling tendencies to humble and grateful acceptance of God's sovereign rights in human life. And Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA points out that Repentance is not so much trying to go from being good to being better but above all it means looking at life with the eyes of God and responding accordingly.

The Word of God Came to John

Once upon a time, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Gospel). Listen, Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us, “Prepare the way of the Lord” inside yourself.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino adds that John proclaimed the Word of God because he listened. And we also have to listen. Now, during the busiest season of the year, when we all have so many things to do to prepare for Christmas, now more than ever, we have to slow ourselves down, and listen.

Rejoicing in Hope - Advent

The Church’s world-wide retreat in preparation for Christmas now begins its second week. Advent, the quiet time, the great contrast with our culture’s turbulent consumer-bonanza. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it’s time to blow on the spark of spiritual desire within us till it bursts into flame. Christmas lights are nice, but it is we who are supposed to be the light of the world.

Pope Benedict proclaims that the foundation of hope is Christ, who offers mankind the stability of God. With this in mind, Dr. Jeff Mirus reminds us that it's not too late to to make your Advent more successful this year. He offers you the three most important things you can do. And if you've been wondering about the origins of Advent and its history, Taylor Marshall did a little research and came up with the "Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Advent."

Now this is news to many of us. Evangelical Christians are adopting — and adapting — the rituals of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas that are traditionally celebrated by Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and other liturgical churches.

When you go about your Christmas shopping the next few weeks, don't be surprised to see shoppers with buttons that say "It's OK, Wish Me A Merry Christmas." Over 200,000 of these buttons have been distributed over the past few weeks and it's quickly making a Christian statement. Click here to find out how to get your buttons.

And while may are looking forward to celebrating the holidays, there are those who will not be as fortunate. Many families are resorting to relocating in order to make a living and put food on the table, extended families who give up the support and comfort of being near one another in order to find work. Check out the Hidden Cost of Unemployment.

Family, Life & Little Things

The year 2009 will mark the 20th annual National Night of Prayer for Life to take place from 9 PM Dec. 8th (Tuesday) to 1 AM Dec. 9th (Wednesday). Organized by Priests for Life, all parishes are encouraged to join in the celebration.

From the Vatican, Pope Benedict said the human being is entrusted with only one task: the task of loving sincerely, authentically and freely. And yet, the Pope admitted "to learn to love requires a long and demanding journey." To this, Msgr. Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington adds that when you love, little things are often important. Married couples, specifically, struggle to remember the little things that show love. A kind remark, a simple thank you. Flowers brought home for no particular reason. Little things are great things to those who love.

Conversions & More

While most Catholics in China are born to Catholic parents, many of the nearly 300,000 Catholics in Shanghai are converts. And many of these conversions are taking place in part thanks to the encouragement of Bible reading and youth outreach programs. From Nepal, we hear of the conversion story of the jailed leader of the extremist group behind the bombing of a Catholic church in Katmandu. He has has apologized and is reported to be participating in prayer and bible study classes in prison.

From Cincinnati, radio personality Brian Patrick was praying the rosary in church one morning after weekday Mass, when a homeless woman gave him an unexpected gift. He said, "What a humbling experience to know that I, who want for nothing, received a gift from someone who wants for almost everything."

Jeffrey Tucker made the keen observation that much of our efforts at our parishes focus exclusively on the people in the pews. But compared with them, he says there might be a larger number of Catholics who are not in the pews in our parishes but who should be. What are we doing for them? How can they be drawn back?

Youth Life

In a truly win-win arrangement, a group of U.S. university students get amazing access to the Vatican and the Vatican gets an enthusiastic, computer-savvy volunteer workforce. Since 2004, students from Villanova University in Pennsylvania have worked alongside cardinals and priests as part of the university's Vatican Internship Program. And as the liturgical calendar marks the dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI is exhorting young people to love and build up the Church.

Another eventful day in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

Post a comment.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to view any of our previous weeks' issues
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email