He Keeps His Promises

I love this Gospel reading today. I really love praying the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office. There’s a reason why thousands of lips utter these same words as Zechariah every morning:

Because He keeps His promises.

He promised Noah to show eternal mercy upon His creation after the flood.

He promised our father Abraham that He would be the father of countless generations.

He promised Moses that He would deliver His people out of slavery to the Promised Land.

Throughout the Old Testament, we have the words of the prophets echoing God’s promises to deliver us from our enemies, “free to worship Him without fear.”

In today’s First Reading, God speaks this reality to David, “I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old.”

He swore that He would remember His covenant.

The most paramount promise He ever made was to the serpent in the Garden, when He swore that He would send One to rise up and crush his head.

That time is now, brothers and sisters.

Tonight, two thousand and twenty years ago, the Word of the Father became incarnate and walked among us. The Son of God came to save us.

Why? Because He always keeps His promises.

The world offers us many things to idolize: money, fame, glory, power, pleasure. But these things have proven, throughout the course of human history, to be false and fleeting. The only thing that has stood the test of time is the Word of God. This is the crux of our faith.

And that Word is still true and relevant today. Christ desires to enter into the mess of 2020, just as He entered into the mess of Bethlehem’s stable.

This has been a hard year. No one is denying that. It has been filled with political unrest, hatred, hunger, sickness, death, natural disasters, and grief. Above all, it has been filled with the unknown.

So we must hold on to what we do know. And what is that? That He is still coming. Because He said He would.

He is coming into the midst of a year bursting with suffering, wounds, traumas, fears, sin, brokenness, stress, irritations, heartbreak, and loss.

And that’s why we can celebrate. That is why this is the most wonderful time of the year. That is why the bells peal and the voices ring out in unison, “O Holy Night!”

This night is holy because it is the night that the world stopped turning on its axis. It is the night that forever changed the course of history – the night that reordered our count of years.

Zechariah’s Benedictus summarizes it well, “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Right now, we are stuck dwelling in darkness, the shadow of death permeating our culture and our lives.

But tonight, the light is breaking for us. He is leading us and guiding us. He is giving us His peace. All because He keeps His promises.

Contact the author

Sarah Rose hails from Long Island and graduated from Franciscan University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Theology & Catechetics. She is happily married to her college sweetheart John Paul. They welcomed their first child, Judah Zion, in 2019. She is passionate about her big V-vocation: motherhood, and her little v-vocation: bringing people to encounter Christ through the true, the good, and the beautiful. She loves fictional novels, true crime podcasts/documentaries, the saints (especially Blessed Chiara Luce Badano), & sharing conversation over a good cup of coffee. She is currently the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at St. Cecilia Church in Oakley, Cincinnati. You can find out more about her ministry here: https://eastsidefaith.org/young-adult OR at https://www.facebook.com/stceciliayam.

Feature Image Credit: Daphné Richard, https://unsplash.com/photos/99VLuQKiimQ

A Catholic’s Guide to the End of the World

“But who will endure the day of His coming?”

Are you prepared for The End? It’s during a year like 2020 when talk of the end of the world ramps up. People are stocking canned peas. Ammo sales are up. People are buying enough toilet paper to feed a family of chronic toilet paper eaters. Panic sets in and people lie awake at night, wondering if they prepared adequately. It’s in movies and it’s been lived out with the arrival of a disease earlier this year.

We all know that the world is hurling towards an impending…well…end. Jesus himself told us this. When doesn’t matter. Everyone wants to talk about “when,” but it has little to no importance. The only ones who should be afraid of The End are those who only have assets in this world.

There’s only one way to prep for the end of the world and it involves the state of our souls. This is real. If you’re scared or have any worries, these are the only questions that matter.

What small vices are hard to let go of? How have you grown accustomed to sin? (It’s the small little sins that can be hardest to let go of.)

  • Gossiping
  • Gluttony
  • Watching movies/shows with evil content
  • Thinking we’re better than others who are struggling with sin
  • No daily prayer time because we’re “too busy”
  • Failing to learn about our faith
  • Blaming others for our own mistakes

How have we not given our will to God? Have you charged forward with your own plans for life, ignoring what God is trying to show you?

  • Chasing money instead of Christ
  • Pleasing others instead of Christ
  • Putting work before children and/or spouse

I’m sure there are many more, but I’ll let you figure them out.

If none of these questions surface some good confession material you may suffer from moral blindness. If the greatest saints saw themselves as lowly sinners, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something to repent of. (C.S. Lewis has some really interesting things to say about Pride, I encourage you to read “Mere Christianity.”)

Although it would be far more beneficial, National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers wouldn’t be as interesting if it was about people caring for the state of their souls.

Let’s all get to Confession and ask our Lord to help us to see the sins on our heart!

Contact the author

Patrick produces YouTube content for young Catholics on Catholic Late Night and Overt TV. He loves using humor to share the Truth of the Catholic faith with anyone who will listen. He resides currently in Chattanooga, TN and is a parishioner at The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Patrick graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville with a degree in Communication Arts and a Minor in Marketing.

Featured Image Credit: Garreth Brown, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-plastic-container-on-brown-wooden-table-5721986/

Mary’s Magnificat

Mary’s Magnificat is one of the most well-known Scriptures. It is used in the Liturgy of the Hours for Morning Prayer every day. It appears as the Gospel reading more than once every single year. There is so much packed into these 9 verses.

Mary, who we know was a deep thinker and pondered the things that happened to her in her heart, had had some time to begin pondering the message of the angel. Part of the angel’s message concerned Elizabeth, who herself was experiencing a miracle. While I don’t believe Mary doubted the angel’s news, I can also imagine her immense joy when she came to Elizabeth’s home and found the angel’s words to be true.

Mary’s Magnificat is a prayer, a song almost. She praises God’s goodness and mercy. She also affirms what she has known to be true in her own life, our God is a God who keeps His promises. At Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary found both the words and the courage to boldly proclaim the wonders God was working in her own life. She takes ownership of her new role: “All generations will call me blessed.”

I heard recently that as we continue closer to Christmas, this time has in a way been akin to pregnancy. Looking back, it was in March when the lockdowns began. We celebrate the Annunciation on March 25. We have journeyed for 9 months through this pandemic as a mother journeys through pregnancy, each day with something new to learn, a new discomfort to deal with, a new reality to grapple with.

Only the young believe that after having a baby life returns to “normal.” Any parent will tell you that having a baby, be it your first or your tenth, changes your life. There is a new reality, new challenges, new joys.

Let us look toward the future with a hope that is akin to Mary’s hope. Mary’s Magnificat praises God for His goodness, His faithfulness and His mercy. She trusts that just as God has cared for the lowliest of His people He will care for her. This is a profound act of faith, and it is one we are being called to this Christmas season.

We have the opportunity to make the same profession of faith that Mary made in her Magnificat. God isn’t just some being out there, God is here, present, right now. He is waiting to be welcomed into our heart as He was welcomed into the lives of Mary and Joseph. Mary’s Magnificat recognizes that no one is beneath God’s loving gaze.

As we move forward to Christmas Day, may you feel God’s presence intimately in your life. As you lay the Christ-child to rest in the manger, may you feel Him being born anew in your heart so that you can boldly proclaim with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!”

Contact the author

Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.

Feature Image Credit: gamagapix, https://pixabay.com/photos/mary-and-joseph-donkey-figurines-5810252/

Blessed are You

The Gospel scene today is very familiar. As Mary greets her cousin Elizabeth, the baby she carries jumps in her womb. Elizabeth shares that joyful experience with Mary, crying out blessings on the infant and his Mother.

St. Ephraim the Syrian reflected on Mary’s perspective of the child in her womb, writing, “The Babe that I carry carries me.” Her ‘yes’ to Gabriel allowed the much anticipated eternal light to enter the world in human form.

The O Antiphon for today echoes this theme. ‘O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.’

Today and throughout all of history there exist times of darkness, death, new life and light. These recurring themes are ripe for several moments of quiet meditation. When you have the time, reread the above three paragraphs and sit with the images, feelings, memories or words that are brought to your mind. You can also click on one of the links below to help focus your thoughts.

Be gentle with yourself, especially if this is a new type of experience for you. There is no right or wrong way to reflect because what comes to mind is part of your unique spiritual journey. Take a few notes, journal, draw or just acknowledge what comes to you.

Carry the images or words in your mind for the day. Know that God is there with you through all of your experiences. Know that you have been created in His image and are loved. Believe that you are blessed.

Breath of Heaven, Mary’s Song
O Antiphons
Latin Chant of O Antiphons

Contact the author

Beth Price is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

Feature Image Credit: Sharath Kumar Hari, https://unsplash.com/photos/Mb2LErousEY

Handmaid of the Lord

I was recently part of a six-week journal group among mothers of my local parish. During our final session, I can recall two occurrences in particular that stood out to me. The first was that each of us were to identify another woman in our lives who has made a difference to us. Perhaps someone we view as a strong woman, or as an inspiration or a role model. Someone who had helped us learn more about who we are deep inside ourselves. Most others chose a friend of a similar age, but I struggled to identify someone.

At the close of the meeting, the group leader spoke about a memory of her father. Her father would regularly teach her that, when standing at the gates of Heaven, God will ask us three basic questions.

Did you know me? 

Did you love me? 

Who did you bring? 

Our group leader spoke of how she hoped to bring each of us with her. I was so moved. To this day, I constantly struggle with the fear of being rejected or of not being good enough. And yet, for someone who barely knew me, I knew that I was loved.

In the same model, Mary encompasses for us the values of humility, courage, and above all, love of God. She epitomizes what it is to be committed to God. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” With those words, the course of history would be changed forever. If ever I needed a female friend, who better than Mary to share with? Through her gift of self and sacrifices, she is the pinnacle of what it is to be a mother.

And when reviewing the questions my group leader posed to us, Did you know me? Did you love me? Who did you bring?,  it is by reflecting on Mary’s life that I can grow closer to the love of God. By having quiet time reflecting on prayers to my Mother, I grow in my understanding of Her beloved Son, Jesus Christ. I pray to become more humble and recall she is always by my side. Through Mary, I grow to know Christ and love Him. Through her Fiat, may we be inspired to bring countless souls on Judgment Day, when God asks us to show how we displayed our love for Him in this precious gift of life he has bestowed to us, both physical life, and spiritual life through that of His glorious son, Jesus Christ.

Contact the author

Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.

Feature Image Credit: GonzaloGY, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/853-estatua-maria-rezando

Faith and Reason

Today is Nathalie’s birthday so I would be remiss if I didn’t wish her a Happy Birthday up front. And it is fitting because today’s Gospel passage is all about birth. It’s the announcement of a very important birthday and the power of God.

Think about this passage and compare it to the announcement of Jesus. You have Mary and you have Zechariah. One is a priest and one is a simple girl from a small town. But the responses could not be more different. Mary immediately asks how this all can be because she has not been with a man. She does not doubt God is going to make it happen, but just wonders how it will take place.

Zechariah on the other hand, doubts that God can actually do it. Because of his lack of faith his mouth is sealed. Two beautiful stories about God working in the natural world to bring about his plan. Two different subjects. Two different responses.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between faith and reason. Of course these two are connected in our Catholic faith, but they are not equal. They are in fact, very different. Faith is an assent of the will to those things we cannot know, but which have been revealed. Reason is using our intellect to learn about the things we can know.

So when you think of it this way, faith is not unreasonable like many presume, but instead it is super-reasonable. That is to say, reason gets us to a certain point and faith takes us beyond.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it beautifully by saying, “In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: ‘Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.'” CCC 155

This is the message we see in the Gospel today. We can reason all we want about how a woman cannot get pregnant after menopause or how someone cannot conceive if they have not had relations with another. But at the end of the day, faith went beyond that which we could know. God revealed a seemingly impossible plan by reason standards, and our characters had to have faith that what was said would come to pass.

We now have historical accounts of what came to pass, proving that faith was not blind assent to an untruth, but it confirmed truth beyond anything we could do ourselves. In both stories, the tipping point is faith. In our story, the tipping point is faith. Do we believe? No, but do we really believe? If God spoke to us today and told us something would happen that would be impossible to reason through, would we trust? Does our understanding supersede faith or do we allow our faith to go beyond the confines of reason alone?

Let’s all pray to have faith as Mary did when she said, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” From all of us here at Rodzinka Ministry, God Bless!

Contact the author

Tommy Shultz is the Founder/Director of Rodzinka Ministry and the Director of Faith Formation for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative. In these roles, he is committed to bringing all those he meets into a deeper relationship with Christ. Tommy has a heart and flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. With a degree in Theology from Franciscan University, Tommy hopes to use his knowledge to help all people understand the beauty of The Faith. Contact Tommy at tommy@rodzinkaministry.com or check out his website at rodzinkaministry.com.

Feature Image Credit: Aaron Burden, https://unsplash.com/photos/4eWwSxaDhe4

Did You Dream?

“The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”

Have you heard that Pope Francis declared this new Liturgical Year to be The Year of Saint Joseph? It’s true. A few months ago, my wife and I did the 33 days of consecration to Saint Joseph, modeled after the 33 days of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The book on Saint Joseph is filled with unheard of stories by unheard of saints. It was exciting reading.

Do you remember Promise Keepers? It fired up thousands of men across the country to take a bolder stance for the Lord in their families and communities. The Catholic version was called Saint Joseph Covenant Keepers. Several men met at my house for about two years. Both movements started in the early 90’s. Together, we read quite a bit about Saint Joseph. Some call him the forgotten saint.  Someone prophesied that he would make himself well-known during the end times.

Today’s Gospel talks about Saint Joseph and his dreams. I guess we all have dreams, but how many of us dream that God is directing us what to do? And if he did, would we really believe it? As my wife will attest, my most frequent dreams have to do with being back in college. It is usually something along the lines of:  I forgot to study for a test, I could not remember my locker combination, and many, many more. (There were no dreams about partying!) Before college I would dream about a blimp hovering over my backyard in Ludington. Please do not try to analyze these. I already know the reason for the first one and I do not want to know the second one.

Take some time to put yourself into Saint Joseph’s sandals. First of all, to be a chosen partner of the Holy Family means he was a very faithful man! ( I can hardly wait to meet him!)  Being the holy man that he was, he was directed by the Holy Spirit to do what the Lord asked of him. And he obeyed. Pretty simple, right? Yes, but perhaps not so much for us sometimes. Feeling the Lord’s presence and “hearing” his voice is a wonderful gift. Sometimes it is still a challenge to discern what to do. It could be a mini test. The Lord desires a little more of our time spent with him, in a quiet place, just you and him, placing yourself in his love and mercy. In those moments he comes through and your face begins to glow, and your lips form a smile. You have been greatly blessed!

Now take that blessing and apply it to Advent. Now, turn the word dreaming into the word contemplating and reflect on what the Lord has done for you in his great love and mercy. Next week, we will relive the incredible gift that God the Father gave us through his Son. This was and is the greatest gift in the universe. Jesus was sent to earth as a baby, but he knew that he was sent here to save us. Remember, he saved us yesterday, he is saving us today, and he will save us tomorrow.  We do need saving. So, in this beautiful season let us prepare ourselves for His coming on Christmas, and His second coming as well. “Oh, that’s great and terrible day.”

Serve with joy!

Contact the author

Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002.  He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.

Featured Image Credit: omar trejo, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/4948-san-jose-suenos

Fiber and Flesh, and the O Antiphons

Each year the Church presents this genealogy of Jesus, which we can easily skim over when reading because the names do not hold much meaning for us. But this genealogy is significant because it establishes the historical fact of Christ, and his entry into a very human line of very real and imperfect people. Even the great poet, King David (the Hebrew letters of whose name (דוד) add up to the number fourteen, establishing the structure of Jesus’ genealogy as three sets of fourteen generations), was a great sinner.

And yet, this is how God comes to us, entering into human history, into a human family, into human time, in human flesh. “What tremendous dignity God acknowledges mankind to possess when he reveals to it a mystery that has been contained within the very fiber and flesh of generation after generation! God reveals to man not only the being of God: God reveals man to himself in all his hidden possibilities… Who could have suspected humanity’s hidden talent to be able to bear God, not as a cup bears water or as the hand bears a weight, but in the most intimate, physiological sense possible: as a mother bears her child, with everything that implies for the interpenetration of two beings?” (Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word)

In the Incarnation, we come face to face with the Mysterious Fact that we, too, are caught up in a biological and spiritual genealogy, each with the possibility and responsibility of bearing God’s Presence within us and among us, for others.

Today we also begin the “O Antiphons,” recited for the next seven days before the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours, and as the Alleluia Antiphon before the Gospel at Mass. These antiphons have been chanted since the early centuries of the Church, each one highlighting a title for the Messiah found in the prophecy of Isaiah. Most people recognize these antiphons from the popular Advent hymn, O come, O come, Emmanuel. We express our longing and pray and beseech the Messiah to come to us, invoking imagery from the Old Testament that has helped us understand our relationship with God for thousands of years. Each year, we acknowledge this patrimony and beseech the Lord to come to us anew. These supplications are reminders of preparation for the Parousia – the final Coming of Christ in glory –  the long-range focus of our Christmas preparations.

If, on Christmas Eve, we look back and start at the last title in the O Antiphons and take the first letter of each one (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) the Latin words ERO CRAS are formed, meaning “Tomorrow, I will come.” The monks arranged these antiphons with definite purpose!

Maybe you can recite the day’s antiphon before Grace at dinner each night. Maybe you can explore even more deeply the ancient meanings at prayer. Because praying with the Church is a way to grow in holiness!

Contact the author

Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

Feature Image Credit: Il ragazzo, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/15011-amor-madre

We Are Children of the Light

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I’m not the only person pleased to be approaching the end of 2020. It’s been a year filled with pain, with uncertainty, with despair, with fear… the list can go on and on, and none of it is pretty. You may be mourning loved ones who have died, adding a layer of grief to your normally festive preparations for Christmas. There are several people to whom I would usually be mailing gift packages this month. I have no gifts; the people aren’t there anymore to receive them.

It’s certainly the darkest year many of us have ever experienced; and yet I have to share that something happened a couple of weeks ago, something that changed my perspective on this season and its place in this terrible year. I’d been feeling a little “bah, humbug,” about everything, even the beautiful liturgical season of Advent, and hadn’t even bothered setting up my traditional Advent wreath. And then, on the Monday of the first week of Advent, I was sitting and working at my desk when the sun broke through the ever-present clouds outside—for I live on Cape Cod, and our winters are all about storms and wind—and a ray of light came in through the window and singled me out. Dazzling. Blinding. Bright. Warm, even.

And in that moment, in that light, I remembered where we are. In Advent. The season of promise, the season of new beginnings, the season of God-loves-you-so-much. Who was I, to consider my feelings and my experiences this one year more important, more significant than the mystery of the Incarnation? Something much bigger was going on here, something that dwarfed any human experience. It felt as though a spotlight had been turned on me, and a voice inside reminded me: don’t forget, I am with you always.

It wasn’t a road-to-Damascus event; the sun faded and I went back to my writing, seemingly unchanged by the experience. And yet those words kept echoing in the background of my daily tasks and activities. Don’t forget, I am with you always.

And a few days later, when I turned to today’s readings so I could prepare to write this meditation, I was struck by how much they reflected back to me that sudden understanding in that ray of sunlight. Isaiah, it’s not to be forgotten, was speaking to a people who’d had more than one iteration of our 2020 in their lives—and their parents’ lives, and their grandparent’s lives… these were people well-acquainted with fear and uncertainty and grief and despair. And Isaiah says to them, “Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice spring up!”

It’s a message that was sorely needed by the Israelites… and by us.

But there’s more. Listen as the psalmist adds his bit: “Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.”

Don’t forget, I am with you always. Like the people who first heard Isaiah’s words, we’re also weary, exhausted even, longing for the day when justice, wholeness, and truth are restored, when God’s people can live in peace and security. We long for God’s rule, when death, injustice, and pandemic are no more. Our troubles are real, but they’re not the whole story. These are dark days, yes; but God’s promise is of a light the darkness cannot overcome. “Near indeed is his salvation.”

A Christmas movie you may be familiar with is How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In the story, the love and witness of a little girl causes the evil Grinch’s heart to swell, and he comes to understand the Christmas spirit as love and generosity and joy. That shaft of sunlight illuminated more than my desk; it illuminated my heart, and reminded me of something I’ve been forgetting, immersed as I’ve been in the dread and depression that I’ve felt shrouding the world. The illumination? That we are children of the light. St. Paul himself told us: “Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:8-9).

Today’s Gospel underlines the point: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Advent isn’t a season that tells us everything is fine; Advent tells us that the world is indeed in disarray. There is no escaping that reality; we wouldn’t need redemption otherwise. But Advent also tells us the rest of the story: God sees that disarray—and has willingly entered it, sent his Son to walk with us through it. To make us children of the light. Don’t forget, I am with you always.

Our world is broken; we are broken. We are longing for health. We are longing for justice. We are longing for wholeness. God knows. And this Advent, as every Advent, he walks beside us through our brokenness, and allows a ray of sunlight to dazzle us as he reveals exactly what we’ve been longing for: nothing less than the Savior of the world.

Contact the author

Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

Feature Image Credit: Carina, https://unsplash.com/photos/CUaLxtP9nVg

Worshipping Amid Oppression

Today’s First Reading about the oppressing city struck a chord in my heart. I sometimes feel like we are in a time of oppressing cities. During the lockdown essential businesses were allowed to stay open. Sadly this included liquor stores and abortion clinics but churches were shuttered. I fear for the religious freedom our forefathers fought the Revolutionary War to win. I am frustrated at the hypocrisy around me. Today’s reading and Gospel bring me comfort.

Zephaniah is clear in his prophecy regarding the wickedness of the nations. “Woe to her that is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God,” he writes. As I grow more in love with Jesus, I am more bothered by the wickedness in our world. I am more outraged at the people who are trying to squash my right to worship the God of the Universe. This doesn’t stem from a place of judgment or superiority as much as wishing others trusted the Lord and desired to draw near to God. Imagine what an amazing world it would be. I have seen firsthand the wonder and generosity of God. I want others to see that too.

But these attempts to restrict our rights to freedom of religion are aggravating. Zephaniah reminded me of something that has brought me much comfort this past year – when we die, every one of us, whether we believe in God or not, has to stand in front of him and give an account of our life. That means the people who kept abortion clinics open but closed churches have to explain that decision.

And I too will have to stand before God and explain myself. This fills me with fear because telling the One who created me and has loved me unconditionally how I hurt him is going to be rough. But it also fills me with comfort because, as we read in today’s Gospel, our God is a God of mercy who welcomes our repentance. How many times have we said “No” to what is right but then changed our mind and done it anyway or sought forgiveness for that “no.” The tax collectors and prostitutes initially said “No” but when John the Baptist and Jesus called for repentance, they answered that call. They asked for and received forgiveness. We can do that too and what a glorious Father we have in Heaven who offers this to us.

None of us know what is going to happen to anyone else. I, for one, am glad I’m not involved in the judgment of anyone’s soul. That is God’s role and I trust in his justice and mercy. What I do know is that prayer is important and that even if, heaven forbid, every religious freedom we have is eroded away, no one can take God from our hearts and souls. In the end, well, we already know that Jesus won the war for all mankind. Amen.

Contact the author

Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids.  She loves finding God in the silly and ordinary.  She writes for Ascension Press, Catholic Mom, and her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is expected to be released summer 2021. You can reach her at merridith.frediani@gmail.com

Feature Image Credit: Exe, Lobaiza, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/3690-chica-oracion

The Crèche and the Cross

Just when we were getting settled into our new house and things were starting to settle down, another crisis. After so much work, so many hours, so much invested, and it all came crashing down in less than a week. What were we to do? Where were we to turn? Why was this all happening to us?

Sometimes I hear hard news about crosses that others have to bear. I begin reflecting on my own life and realize that I have very few “chronic” crosses so to speak. My family is healthy, we have food on the table and two cars that usually run well. Although one can always dream about additional wants, the truth is, I suffer very little.

So perhaps this past weekend, which I consider one of the hardest to date, was meant to be a lesson to me that life is never without its crosses. Whether they be temporary or endured for years on end, crosses are an inevitable part our earthly journey.

We may find ourselves acting like Jonah and trying to run away from them, but I propose we take a look at today’s saint. St. John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest, reformer, mystic, poet and theologian attempted to embody “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. (Mark 8:34b) Franciscanmedia.org states, “Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it.”

I have often wondered why we celebrate St. John of the Cross during Advent, when our minds are drawn to the cute Child in the manger and we try to prepare our hearts the best we can to receive him. Perhaps it is precisely because he is a reminder to us that every human, even the newborn God-man, will experience crosses, and Jesus’ is heavier than any of ours will ever be. Even during this joyful season, we cannot forget the fact that he was born to die for us.

So as we continue to hand our crosses over to God and try to bear them as best as we humanly can, let us pray together with the Psalmist:

“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.”

Teach me your ways, O Lord, even if they lead me to the cross.

Contact the author

Tami Urcia grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

Feature Image Credit: Carlos Daniel, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/8620-mediadora-todas-gracias

The Coming of the Bridegroom

Gaudate Sunday marks the halfway point of the Advent season. With the church and priest decked out in the color rose, the Church makes the shift from the second coming of Christ at the end of the time to His first coming in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem. We’ve spent the past two weeks preparing our hearts for the Last Judgment, when Christ will come and judge us according to the lives we have chosen to live. With Gaudate Sunday, we switch focus and begin to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus on Christmas morning.

Today’s reading comes from the beginning of the Gospel of John. Rather than providing us with one of the traditional nativity stories from Matthew or Luke, we hear about the beginning of Christ’s public life and ministry. This is why Christ came. He came to give sight to the blind, freedom to the captives, and joy to the downtrodden. Christ came to bring salvation to the world. And John came to make straight the path of the Lord.

John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the desert. He baptized with water, knowing that Jesus Christ would come baptizing with fire and the Spirit. As John himself said, he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandal straps. And that’s quite the assertion. On a practical level, if someone was to take off their sandals, a servant would carry them. When John said that he was unworthy to untie Christ’s sandal straps, he was saying that he wasn’t even worthy to be his servant. Jesus is God, and John is not. Jesus is divine, and John is a fallen human being. John knew that he was unworthy. But that is not all there is to John’s statement about Christ’s sandal straps.

In Jewish tradition, the removal of a man’s sandals meant that he was unworthy or unwilling to become the new bridegroom of a widow. When John said that he was unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals, he also meant that he was unworthy and unwilling to supplant Jesus Christ as the true Bridegroom (St. Gregory the Great). Israel had often been depicted as a bride, and often not a very faithful one. She had thrown herself into the sinful arms of the pagan nations, but then the true Bridegroom came to rescue her, and not just her, but the world. When Jesus came to earth, He came as the Bridegroom willing to give His life for His Bride.

The Church is His Bride. We are meant to be united with God, the lover of our souls. Christ came for us. He took on human flesh, took our sins upon Himself, becoming poor so that we might enjoy all the riches of heaven. This is what John proclaimed to all. The Bridegroom has come, and He wants to love us. We might be unworthy as the poor, sinful beings that we are, but Christ’s love makes us worthy. Christ’s love makes us lovable. And that is a great cause for joy!

Contact the author

Shannon Whitmore currently lives in northwestern Virginia with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, John and Felicity. When she is not caring for her children, Shannon enjoys writing for her blog, Love in the Little Things, reading fiction, and freelance writing. She has experience serving in the areas of youth ministry, religious education, sacramental preparation, and marriage enrichment.

Featured Image Credit: Dimitri Conejo Sanz, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/144-mosaico-bautismo-jesus