Sunday, November 27, 2016


Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the preparation period before the birth of our Lord on Christmas.  It's also the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, so for even the biggest holiday stickler, it's OK to jump into Christmas decorating.  Goodness knows, I've seen a lot of trees on top of cars already.

At this time of year, the complaining begins about how secular Christmas has become.  You may think that's my theme with the title "Hijacked!".  No, I just don't see it that way.  This time of year has certainly been "hijacked," but it's Christ that has hijacked secular society, not the other way around.

By its very name, Christmas is about Christ.  Most people are well aware that it is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  It's the only religious holiday that is universally celebrated, not only by people of faith, but all people.  But isn't it too commercial? Maybe, but considering it is a day of family, decorating and gift giving, that's to be expected.  It is a birthday celebration.

Here's where Christ "hijacks" the secular holiday.  In addition to the universal celebration, gift giving and family time, everyone expresses the desire that the season bring goodwill and peace on earth.  That's EXACTLY what Christ brings: "Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more."  Psalm 72: 7.  Don't let anyone tell you it's a secular holiday or is somehow based on a pagan celebration.  Regardless of the date, Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the light of the world, Jesus Christ, and He brings justice and peace.

As you go through the business of the "holiday season," just smile when you see how God has invaded the daily life of the world.  Use the time you spend decorating, or buying gifts or addressing Christmas cards and incorporate your preparation for the coming of Christ - say a prayer, show kindness to others and don't forget the less fortunate  It is possible to bring Christ into your daily life.

Enjoy the anticipation and get ready for the celebration.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Come Ye Thankful People Come

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;
God our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God's own field, fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore.

Then, thou Church triumphant come, raise the song of harvest home!
All be safely gathered in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There forever purified, in God's garner to abide;
Come, ten thousand angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home!

Public Domain

Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy St. Cecilia Day!

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of liturgical music.  Although she is often depicted playing an organ or lute, the story of her 2nd Century life only mentions music that Cecilia sang "in her heart" to the Lord.

Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman forced to marry a nobleman, Valerian.  Before they could consummate their marriage, Cecilia told Valerian she had pledged to remain a virgin and an angel protected her.  Inspired by her faith, Valerian and his brother were baptized and devoted their lives to burying the early Christian martyrs.  For her part, Cecilia preached, converting hundreds.  She became a target for the local prefect who ordered her killed by suffocation in the baths.  Despite being locked into the baths for a day and a half in intense heat, Cecilia didn't break a sweat. (No, really, she didn't sweat.)  The prefect then sent an assassin who attempted to behead Cecilia, striking her three times with a sword.  She did not die.  For three days she bled, still preaching to those who would hear her, until she succumbed to her injuries.  Over 1,000 years later, her body was exhumed and found to be incorruptible (intact and not decayed).  She wore a veil over her head and appeared to be asleep.

On this day, liturgical musicians the world over have concerts in her honor.  While she is mostly remembered as the patron saint of music, her story is typical of the story of many women in the early Church.  Her faith was unchanging and her convictions as a virgin were unshakable.  She preached and converted those around her.  She chose to die for her love for Jesus.  She was the very first incorruptible saint.

I hope you are as inspired as I am by this great woman of faith.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Mercy Door Never Closes

Today is the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church and Pope Francis has closed the Jubilee Door at the Vatican.  Other basilicas will do the same.  During the past year, the faithful were encouraged to make a pilgrimage to a cathedral with a Holy Door and walk through in God's mercy.

During our trip to Rome last winter, my family was able to walk through the holy doors at every major basilica in Rome, as well as Assisi and Pompeii.

St. Peter's Cathedral

St. Paul in Chains (St. Paul Outside the Walls) 

In the beauty of all of those magnificent churches, we steeped in the early Church - the tradition and the history.  In the enormous grandeur of these holy places, we were repeatedly reminded of the role of God's mercy (misericordia) in our faith.  It's great to believe in God, but so humbling to know His mercy.  "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ." Ephesians 2: 3-5.  We don't deserve the love of God through Christ, it is a gift.

So does the closing of the mercy doors mean God's mercy ends?  Of course not!  "My mercy is established forever; my faithfulness will stand as long as the heavens."  Psalm 89: 3-4.  It is always there, in every age.  As Pope Francis said today in his homily of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe:

So many pilgrims have crossed the threshold of the Holy Doors, and far away from the clamour of the daily news they have tasted the great goodness of the Lord.  We give thanks for this, as we recall how we have received mercy in order to be merciful, in order that we too may become instruments of mercy.  Let us go forward on this road together.