Joys and Sorrows

Becoming a parent is a profoundly meaningful, deeply moving, beautifully life-changing moment. It also opens up a whole vista of possibilities, uncertainties, and challenges. How will we provide for this child? What will we teach him? What will he become? Even entering into this with strong faith and firm hope, parenthood requires a great deal of prudence, resilience, adaptability, generosity, and self-sacrifice.

Parents cannot help but hear deeply every comment made about their child. “Your baby is so beautiful!” “He’s getting so big!” “He’s so alert!” “He seems a little cranky…” “Is he rolling over yet?” Each word can make a mother’s heart soar with joy, rest contentedly, begin to fret, or ache with pain. Surely this was true for the parents of Jesus as well.

Obeying the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph travel to the Temple to present the baby Jesus to the Lord, bringing the prescribed sacrifice. God again enters the Temple, but quietly. No one notices anything about this poor, young family. No one recognizes this Child, except Simeon (and Anna, see tomorrow’s Gospel). Simeon is awaiting the Messiah, watching for the Promised One, and the Holy Spirit leads him to this quiet little family. And then he says words that amaze the parents: “This child is our salvation! This child is light! This child is the glory of Israel!” How the parents hearts must have rejoiced at these words, this confirmation that God was powerfully at work already.

But then, Simeon addresses different words to Mary: “This child will be contradicted. A sword will pierce through you too.” It must have felt like the sword was already in her at those words. Why was this necessary? “So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

I’ve always marveled that the 5th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is also the 1st Sorrow of Mary’s Heart (see ). In this life, joy is always tinged with sorrow, and sorrows also have their joys. In this case, Mary’s intimate bond with Jesus would mean that her YES to the angel at the Annunciation was a YES to full motherhood and all that being the Mother of God would demand. She would feed him, clothe him, teach him, pray, and suffer with him, all the way to the Cross. She would snuggle him, marvel at him, anticipate his needs, ponder his heart.  She would be his mother, and when Jesus gave all of humanity to her from the Cross (“Behold your mother.”), she would – as the New Eve – be Mother to everyone who becomes brother and sister of Jesus through Baptism.

Mary and Joseph are not just Christmas decorations. They are real Christians, real parents, who experienced real hardship, and lived by real faith and hope and love! And now they are real intercessors who understand our needs and can really pray for us to the Son of God, who was also their son. And a son always listens attentively to his parents.

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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

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The Holy Innocents and Good St. Joseph

Today is my good friend’s birthday. We always used to joke with him about how he was so innocent because he was born on the feast of the Holy Innocents. He is actually a priest now, but his personality still holds more than a hint of mischief, so he is far from innocent.

But really, are any of us? The First Reading states: “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” That is the whole reason Jesus came to this world, because we are not innocent.

There is certainly sadness to be felt this day, knowing that so many little children who were innocent had to die due to one man’s (Herod) anger and jealousy. It makes me think of all of the tiny lives lost through abortion every single day.

Today’s Gospel contains one of the saddest passages in Scripture: A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” Yes, it is right that we mourn such an evil injustice and it is right that we mourn our own losses as well.

But let us not remain in this sadness. Let us shift our focus to the first part of the Gospel.  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream instructing him what he must do, and without argument “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.”

I am so inspired by Joseph’s holiness, his blind trust and obedience, that I named my firstborn son after him. He is mentioned so little in the Gospels and very little is known about him. Yet we know that he was so favored by God that he was chosen to be an integral part of the Holy Family. Was he scared?  Yes. Did he feel unworthy? Yes. Was he sure about what to expect? No. Yet in the end, he always made the virtuous decision to obey. And his obedience was blessed by God allowing him to live under the same roof as the Son of God.

The First Reading says: “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” Joseph certainly was a man who walked in the light. He is such a great example for us! And maybe, just maybe, as he was walking toward Egypt and all the children were being slaughtered behind him, he recited to himself today’s Psalm to calm his spirits: “Had not the Lord been with us-when men rose up against us, then would they have swallowed us alive, when their fury was inflamed against us… Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

May we follow the example of St. Joseph today and keep listening, keep obeying, and keep walking along no matter what sadness or distress or loss life throws at us.

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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 her parish, is a guest blogger on and, runs her own blog at and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

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Thoughts About My Father…

Christmas, when you come down to it, is about family. When we look into our nativities at Christmas time, we see a family. We live in a family. The Father has invited us into the heart of the Trinity, the community where we know we belong, are loved, are truly ourselves in Christ, hidden in God. St. Ambrose wrote that Jesus lived on earth that we might live among the stars. He was a slave to make us God’s children. We are his brothers and sisters and co-heirs.

This Christmas we may or may not have been able to gather as family. But this isn’t exactly what I was thinking of as I read the readings for this Feast of the Holy Family.

I’m thinking of my father, and his absolute fidelity to my mom. For just over a year they have lived in an independent living complex that she might be safe. You see, she suffers with Alzheimer’s. I noticed this year that the First Reading sounds one way when we hear it as a child, another way when we hear it as a young adult, and still another when we hear it in our fifties, as we watch the two dearest people in the world who gave us life, begin to struggle, and stumble, and hold each other to the end.

It’s no longer about obedience. It’s no longer about having to take care of them when they are old. It is about reverencing all that they have become.

In the Second Reading, the letter to the Colossians reminds us of how to live in the family instituted by Jesus, as his brothers and sisters… and in any and every family.

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.”

With every day my love for my parents grows deeper as I watch them heroically stand by and for each other through these years, even as I suffer not being able to be with them or make things just a little easier for them.

I understand that your feelings about family may be different than mine, your experience, your history, your own memories, may perhaps be tainted with sorrow. But for all of us, in our own unique ways, we can receive the words of Simeon spoken to Mary as spoken in some mysterious way to us: “…and you yourself a sword shall pierce….”

On this Feast of the Holy Family may we find our own way to reconciliation with our own families, as best we can. May we have new eyes to wonder at the courage and the love we witness, a new heart to hold the suffering and the weakness, a new will to be there for them as best we can.

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Sr. Kathryn J. HermesKathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: Public Facebook Group: For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community:

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There’s Nothing to Worry About

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 17:19–20).

As always, and especially on this Feast of Saint Stephen, the First Martyr, God promises tribulation. And as always, and especially on this feast day, God tells us not to be afraid or troubled. This can be a perplexing dichotomy: if we should expect trials, isn’t there something to worry about? Yet, Jesus is clear: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Matthew 6:34).

Saint Stephen is a great example of this tension. Because of his courageous defense of Christ as the Messiah, he faces imminent death. Even before he gave his speech, he actively debated those who disagreed. He knew that this would cause trouble, and that it might lead to worse. Despite this, Stephen pressed onward without a trace of anxiety. He did not worry.

Our First Reading begins as Stephen is finishing his eloquent defense of the Faith. Though the people are infuriated, Stephen is not paying attention to them. What is he doing instead? “But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55–56). Stephen is looking up to heaven.

Saint Stephen knows what is truly important, and it’s not how others will react to Catholicism, or the pain that comes with being a committed follower of Christ. It is the things that are above: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). This is exactly where Stephen is looking, down to the last detail. He does not mind the hatred of the crowd, because his joy is based in heaven. He is confident in his Faith, and he has a solid foundation in the teaching and power of Christ.

This should be a lesson for us. It is not that we shouldn’t expect adversity as Catholics — in fact, there’s an argument to be made that we should be concerned if we are not experiencing any kind of persecution for our beliefs. But in reality, the persecution doesn’t matter. If we have the protection of the Holy Trinity and the heavenly host, we will always conquer. Nothing but our own sin can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. There is truly nothing to worry about.

As we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, let us keep this in mind, not just as a nice phrase, but as a true and practical fact. The trials and tribulations of this life, while truly difficult, are really not important in the long run. What is important is eternal life with God, and this has been promised to those who love Him and follow His commands. Let us remember this and rejoice that Christ made it possible on Christmas Day.

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David Dashiell is the Associate Director of Liturgy for a group of parishes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When he is not spending time with his wife and infant daughter, he is writing on philosophy and theology for various online publications. You can find some of these in Crisis Magazine and the Imaginative Conservative, and you can contact him at

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The Word Became Flesh

“They found the infant lying in a manger.” These simple words from our Gospel today have a profound impact on our personal lives. When we think about Jesus becoming man, I think it’s easy to focus solely on Jesus coming to die for our sins. While this is of course true and the act by which we receive salvation, I think we do injustice to the goodness of God if we only focus on this one act. Jesus came to die for our sins and much more.

I want to briefly reflect, during this beautiful day of Christmas, on two specific reasons that God became man. The first is told to us by St. Athanasius and affirmed in the Catechism. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” CCC 460

This is our ultimate destiny, that we become divine. Not that we become our own God or a God among many, but that we perfectly and intimately participate in the divinity of God himself. Jesus is the first man to be raised to the level of divine, fully God and fully man. In a way, he becomes one of us to show us our destiny. In the Catholic Church we call this divinization. John Paul II described it this way, “Divinization means participation in the inner life of God himself. In this state penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before.”

The other reason I want to focus on is the fact that God became man to remind us about who we are. Think about it, man was made good from the beginning. But unfortunately, the human race fell short of the glory of God through the sin of Adam and Eve. We constantly need reminders of who we are, how we were created, and how we should act. Jesus accomplishes all of these things for us. By becoming man he puts flesh on the love of the creator and reminds us through that flesh how good we really are.

Catechism 1015 states, “The flesh is the hinge of salvation. We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.”

These are only a few of the reasons that God became one of us on this Christmas morning. For many more, check out this link to the Catechism:

I hope these help you reflect on the beauty of what happened in Bethlehem so many years ago. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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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 or check out his website at

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