Christmas is the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

When I was little, I really wanted piano lessons. My parents said I could have them when they could find a piano and a teacher we could afford. They kept their promise, but it took a lot longer than I would have liked. First, we found a used piano in the classified ads (which was going cheap because someone had done a very bad job trying to refinish it), and then we found a teacher (still a high school student herself) who charged very little. And then, I got piano lessons!

In the first reading for today, there is an amazing, breathtaking promise by God. It comes about, not because King David asks for it, but simply because God decides to make it.

The reading starts with David proposing to build a house for God. He wants to build a beautiful temple for God to dwell in, instead of the tent that is still being used, even though the people have settled, and David is living in a palace in Jerusalem.

But God sends a message to David, saying, in effect, “You want to build me a house? I’m the one who took you from being a shepherd and made you king. I fought your enemies and made you famous.” And then he makes this promise: “I will establish a house for you.” And the breathtaking part: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

So, did God keep this promise he made to David? It seemed for a while that he had not. Yes, David’s son Solomon did inherit the throne from his father, and there were kings descended from David for a period of time. But the dynasty of David went into decline for generations. It didn’t seem that there was anyone on his “throne.”

But in today’s Gospel we see that he did indeed keep it! The first hint is at the beginning, in the description of who the angel Gabriel is sent to. Before it mentions Mary’s name, she is described as: “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David” (Luke 1:26). And then, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son will be the Son of God, and “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1:32).

There are other references to Jesus as the Son of David, such as when the blind man calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). And when the crowds shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” when Jesus enters Jerusalem before his Passion.

Yes, it took a while, but God sent his Son as the fulfillment of his promise to David thousands of years ago. On Christmas, we will celebrate that coming and thank God once again for Jesus, whose kingdom is forever.

Sr. Maria Grace Dateno is a Daughter of St. Paul, and is currently an acquisitions editor at Pauline Books & Media, as well as an author of books for children. Her many nieces and nephews (25 at last count) inspire her writing, including the six-book Gospel Time Trekkers series, which are time-travel adventures for ages six to nine.

You will be Called to Your Unexpected Bethlehem

We’re nearing the end of the Advent days of waiting. Soon it will be Christmas Eve. A busy night. Christmas trees and gifts and Christmas Eve dinners. Christmas family traditions, decorating, preparation for Christmas Day cooking. Christmas cookies, and wrapped Christmas gifts. Excited children trying to sleep so Santa can bring presents to good boys and girls….

Advent has been a busy December month of preparation for Christmas. On the road yesterday, I offered praise for the love that has warmed each choice, each gift, each effort, each sacrifice, each desire to bring happiness in the hearts of holiday shoppers and Christmas family planners.

All these years as we each turn the pages of the calendar Christmas after Christmas, our busyness makes us think that Christmas is something we bring about, something we produce, something we give each other, something we do for others or for God.

The ways of God, however, are always an unexpected reversal. We take our cue from this morning’s Gospel. Mary could have helped her cousin Elizabeth with the attitude that she was giving something, providing much needed assistance, bestowing kindness on her elderly cousin. She was giving the gift. Instead, as she proclaimed in her song of praise the Magnificat, Mary knew that it was the Lord, who was the Giver of all gifts, who had done great things in her. In awe at the unfolding mystery of God’s gift, Mary put herself at the service of all God had planned. A humble joy at being a part of something so magnificent: the birth of John the Baptist to her elderly cousin who had been barren, a birth announced by an angel to her husband Zechariah, a birth of a boy that would run before the Dawn and herald the coming of the Messiah…her Child.

This is Mary’s way of putting herself at God’s disposition. Even when it came time to give birth to her own Child who would sit on the Throne of David forever, she makes no attempt to orchestrate the perfect situation for his birth. She has no pretense of greatness for having said yes to the angel Gabriel and having given her body and soul as the home of God’s Son for nine months. She is waiting, watching, listening, serving, letting him lead. She lets Jesus give the gift.

Marian eyes. Have her eyes in these days as Advent melts into Christmas joy. Eyes that look to see what Jesus is accomplishing right in front of you. Eyes that transmit faith. Eyes that offer love and understanding. Eyes that can still experience wonder at the mystery of the birth of God in our midst, saving us.

Mary left behind her planned preparation for the birth of her baby, for the uncomfortable and probably dangerous trip to Bethlehem, trusting that God had a plan. She says to me, don’t hold too tightly onto your preparations and expectations. You will be called to your unexpected Bethlehem, and it is there that you will receive the gift of Jesus.

Rest from all the work you’ve done now. Christmas is here and it will be what it will be. Let Jesus in and see what he will do within you and through you.

My heart cries out with Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog:

The Joy of Gift

One Thanksgiving when I was a child, our family prepared food at the local homeless shelter. I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the workers as well as the recipients. In spite of the hard work put into preparing the meal, the genuine act of love and care filled the room with joy. Those who gave and those who received were united in communion.

I reflect on that day quite frequently and Advent has been the perfect time for my optimistic outlook on the world to shine as brightly as that star in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. No matter how dark and negative the world may seem at times, no matter how many news stories we see about death, heartache, and pain, and no matter how many people hated Star Wars, there is something innate in the human person that makes us want to give and brings us joy when we do so.

This is not something unique only to the Christian or to the person who we would say has a high moral standard. It is a universal that comes from so deep within that one might even say it is not so much a characteristic of the person as much as it is the person itself. Man (male and female) is a gift. The Encyclical of the Catholic Church, Gaudium Et Spes, makes the claim that “man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.”

This is a bold statement; that we cannot even begin to understand who we are unless we give of ourselves. Why is that? Well, the easy answer is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This is a fact that has been watered down to meaning that we should have a positive self-image. That is part of it but really sit with this reality for a second. God creates man in His image to be with Him forever, man turns his back on God, God becomes his creation so that His creation can be reunited with Him forever. Talk about the ultimate gift.

And precisely because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is perfect gift, we truly find ourselves when we make a genuine gift. Gift transcends, every time, the physical world into the supernatural.

In one of our earlier Advent blogs, Paul Fahey reflected on “how God became man so that man might become God.” This doctrine of the Church is known as divinization, where we will share intimately in the divine nature of God when we reach heaven. St. John Paul II said,

“Divinization means participation in the inner life of God himself. In this state penetration and permeation of what is essentially human with 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.”  

This is the destiny of every human person, to be intimately united with the divine nature of God. But this is not just some abstract idea or something to look forward to. We can begin, so to speak, to enter into this reality right now. Every act of gift imitates the Divine because the Divine is the origin of the gift.

During this time of Advent, we reflect on the most beautiful gift of all, the incarnation of the Word. St. John Paul II said, “Because of the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” These are some rich words with deep meaning. This essentially means that because God became man, we can make the invisible (God), visible (tangible), through the visible (the gift of ourselves).

This is indeed reason to rejoice. So this Christmas season, if you are frustrated with the cashier at the busy store you are shopping at, having to stomach an awkward family reunion, or sad that you may not be able to see family or friends, think of one way you can be a gift. Don’t finish reading this blog without a change. Let this be a moment of transcendence. You may just find that it brings you immense joy. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

As Diocesan Publications’ Solutions Evangelist, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage.  He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at or find him online at

Allow the Incarnate Love Into Your Heart

In recent years Advent has started to mean something more to me. In the past, Advent was just a time for lighting candles and singing “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel”. However, that changed one year when I was in spiritual direction and the Priest said to me, “John Paul my prayer for you is that you allow the incarnate Love into your heart this advent.”

Since that spiritual direction much has changed. I realized that advent is not so much about what I am preparing to do, but what Christ is preparing to do in me. God loves to prepare us in unexpected ways and this is exactly what the visitation shows. Fulton Sheen writes in his book The Worlds First love:

           ” If we ever sat down to write out what we would expect the Infinite God to do, certainly the last thing we would expect would be to see Him imprisoned in a carnal ciborium for nine months; and the next to last thing we would expect is that the ‘greatest man ever born of women’ while yet in his mother’s womb, would salute the yet imprisoned God-man. But this is precisely what took place in the Visitation.”

Throughout the entire bible God surprises humanity with the unexpected. God surprised Mary with a Child while remaining a virgin, and adds to this surprise by her cousin Elizabeth who is way past the child baring age and now bares a Child.

During the Advent season God is not asking us to expect the bare minimum. God wants us to open our hearts to receive more then we could ever dream. God wants to fill our hearts with so much that they flow over, and like Mary, we go out in haste to bring Jesus to others.

Before writing this blog, I asked my mother what she would write. She responded with, “well its nothing much, or very profound but I wrote something a long time ago.” This is what she wrote:


“The stable is empty awaiting the fulfillment of the Word incarnate.

Cold, dark, a place fit for sheltering the creatures of the field who labor.

No more, no less then they need is this stable.

Yet on that night chosen by God, that stable became a palace fit for a King.

Nothing looked different but His very presence changed the dark, cold stable.

Never to be the same nor would our hearts.

He was in the baby, some did not recognize Him. He is in the Eucharist and some do not recognize Him.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

He knows us well and recognizes us at our poorest.”


In a Gospel that highlights the beauty of Motherhood, it is only fitting that my own Mother would add such a profound insight to the Birth of our Lord Jesus. What she wrote is the condition of our souls when we receive our Savior, the Infinite God. This advent season God sees how poor we are, and He loves us. He sees how broken we are, and He loves us, He sees what we fail to become by ourselves and He loves us. Allow God to break into the stable which is your heart. Allow God to do the unexpected in your heart this Advent.

John Paul is a Theology II student at Sacred Heart major seminary studying for the Diocese of kalamazooo”

That We May Become God

Last week my oldest son turned five. I remember five years ago it hit me just how totally helpless babies are. I was terrified when we were being discharged from the hospital because somehow those crazy nurses trusted me to take care of this infant that couldn’t even lift his own head. Christmas had a special significance for me that year. The idea that God himself would become a human baby was ridiculous, the God that time itself worships as its Creator became something as totally powerless as an infant. What a truly incredible thing to believe.

Why would God do this? Why would he humiliate himself by becoming one of us?

The answer that our Catholic faith gives us is so extraordinary it’s scandalous. St. Thomas Aquinas summed it up this way, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” Or, as St. Athanasius’ put it, “God became man so that we might become God.”

See, we are all broken in some way; we are all truly helpless in the face of the challenges in our life. For some of us this helplessness is always before us and for others it may only present itself when something threatens our life or the life of a loved one to betray our powerlessness, our limitations, our finitude. For some this brokenness may be public, on display for all to see, a physical disability or illness that frames one’s whole life. Or some of us have hidden struggles, addictions, sexual disorders, loneliness, burdens unseen by others that we feel left to carry alone. And some of this brokenness may be spiritual, a lack of trust in God’s goodness that paralyzes us in fear or a perfectionism that desperately seeks the approval of others in order to feel valued.

But God entered into this helplessness, he became one of us so that we may become like Him. Yes, Jesus came to heal us of our brokenness and save us from our sins, but that’s not the end of the story. St. Peter said that Jesus came so that we may become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt: 1:4). God didn’t come just to restore us, he came to make us divine! He didn’t just save us from our sins, he saved us for eternal life. He came to bridge the gap between God and man so that we could participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity.

God meets us where we are at, he comes to us in our brokenness, he enters into our helplessness to draw us to himself. We don’t believe in a God who’s wrath needed to be satiated by the blood of his Son, we believe in a God who so desperately loves us and wants us to share in his own divine life that he would descend to our level and pay the debt of sin that we could not pay ourselves.

We encounter this transformative love of God most powerfully during the liturgy. Next time you go to Mass, especially as you celebrate the Christmas liturgy, pay attention to the words the priest says at the altar as he mixes the water and wine, “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Bring your brokenness, your sins, and your wounds to the altar and let the Lord take your helplessness upon himself and not just heal your wounded nature, but transform it into something divine.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He is a student of Theology, History, and Catholic Studies. If you like what he has to say, check out his blog, The Porch, or follow him on Facebook.

Fear and Joy

A few things have kept coming to me during my prayer with today’s readings. “Do not be afraid; do not fear” and Joy; praise and glory, rejoice, Emmanuel.

In both readings an angel of the Lord appears announcing the birth of a son.  In the Gospel of Luke 1:5-25 the angel says “Do not be afraid, Zechariah”, yet he is fearful, even as he is ministering incense in the temple with the congregation outside praying. Fear is his reaction, disbelief, lack of comprehension, and he questions the angel. Zechariah is then struck mute by Gabriel.

God, his messengers, and Jesus say throughout the bible, ‘Do not be afraid’, 365 times.  One time for each day of the Gregorian calendar year. There is Grace in abundance from God, to not fear. I recently heard the acronym, FOMO: the fear of missing out or not being included in an enjoyable activity that others are experiencing.  I clearly missed out on its first usage (which dates back to 2004 and is in the dictionary).  Because of Zechariah’s fear of Gabriel, FOMO as he did not see the connection when Gabriel says ’your prayers have been heard’, he was muted and subjected to missing out. He was not able to talk to his wife during her unexpected pregnancy.  He missed out in so many ways.

Fear is one of the bigger stumbling blocks between me and the Lord.  Fear of giving up control (asking for help on a project or in a specific area of my life), not doing or saying the ‘right’ thing.  I have to remind myself constantly, that fear keeps me from the embrace and love of God.  One of my favorite advent hymns is ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’.  Emmanuel means ‘God is with us’.  During the darkness in our lives, we need to be reminded that He is, at all times, with us. Listen to the hymn by Casting Crowns or by The Piano GuysPray with the lyrics.

Zechariah is unable to speak again until he is asked to name the babe. He names the child ‘John’ which is against tradition (Lk:1-63-67) and extols the greatness of God (Lk 1:68-79). In fact, the Canticle of Zechariah is said daily by all who pray the morning office of the Liturgy of the Hours.

As a Secular Franciscan I am called to live my life according to the The Rule of St. Francis. It states in article 4: ‘The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.’

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.

I find myself living out the gospel and the responsorial psalm of today (Ps 71:8) ‘My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.’ Just like Zechariah, I am to let others know that the Lord is with us, in each and every moment of the day.  I can proclaim the greatness of the Lord because He has visited us through the Holy Spirit, through the Word, in the Eucharist, in the image of God, and through our neighbors and creation. I need to be a living example of God’s love to the world around me; in all corners and situations.  Emmanuel, God is with us!

Michael Card has a beautiful rendition of Emmanuel    

Shalom (the peace of God’s kingdom be with you) and Amen!

Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several  parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan.

Joseph, a Just Man

This Gospel is the Annunciation to Joseph. We are dealing with the greatest mystery to ever happen on earth: the Incarnation of the Lord, that God became a man. Before this mystery, we have to put aside our human way of thinking and ponder the mystery of God. The most common interpretation of this passage is that Joseph thought that Mary was at fault in some way. Knowing her goodness, he didn’t know what to make of it and tried to protect her. But there is another interpretation, less commonly held, but well grounded in the text. This ancient tradition is found in the writings of some Fathers and Doctors of the Church* and brings out the greatness and holiness of Saint Joseph.

Joseph was a “just” (dikaios) man. While that might suggest someone who observed the Law, it’s more than that. It means that a person is just before God, like the great saints of the Old Testament, who loved God and followed his will. This attitude of being just before God is expressed in a holy fear before the Lord, a reverence before the mystery.  When Moses saw the burning bush and heard God say, “the place on which you are standing is holy ground . . . “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:5-6). So too the prophet Isaiah, when he saw the Lord, cried out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5) Then the Lord cleansed him and sent him on his prophetic mission.

Joseph received a mission in his Annunciation. Although the way this Gospel is translated seems to imply something negative, it can be translated as to mean that Joseph felt himself unworthy to reveal the mystery worked in Mary, so he decided to secretly separate himself from her. Perhaps Mary told him what happened. Or maybe the Holy Spirit enlightened him so that he knew that God was at work in Mary.

Saint Thomas Aquinas held this opinion: “Joseph was minded to put away the Blessed Virgin not because he suspected her of fornication, but because in reverence for her sanctity, he feared to cohabit with her” (Summa Th., Supplement,  q. 62, article 3, reply 4). Saint Bernard also testifies: “Joseph’s reason was the same as Peter’s when he said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,’ and that of the centurion when he exclaimed, ‘I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’ Joseph looked on himself as a sinner and as unworthy to entertain one in whom he beheld a superhuman dignity. He beheld with awe in the Virgin-Mother a certain sign of the Divine Presence” (Homily, Super missus est, II, 14).

The angel tells Joseph “do not be afraid,” just as Gabriel said to Mary, and just as the Lord told so many holy people in Israel. The angel tells Joseph that even though he is before this tremendous mystery of God and rightly fears his own unworthiness, he should not be afraid to enter into the mystery. This interpretation puts Joseph squarely in the line of the great saints in the history of Israel. Just as God called Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the others, despite their human frailties, God called Joseph to play an important part in the mystery of the Incarnation. With reverence for the mystery  of God, Joseph said yes. He “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”

Each of us also has a mission from God, a role to play in the great mystery of Jesus Christ and his Church. We may feel ourselves unworthy–why would God call me? But like Joseph, we too can respond with a heartfelt yes. Whatever our vocation, God calls us and can work through us to spread the Gospel and witness to Jesus. That is the mystery of Advent and Christmas.

Saint Joseph, pray for us, that like you we too may respond with joy to the Lord’s call.


Copyright 2017 Daughters of Saint Paul

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve’ has been a member of the Daughters of Saint Paul since 1976. She has an MA in theology from the University of Dayton and has served on the editorial staff of Pauline Books & Media for over 20 years. She is the author of several books, including Mary: Help in Hard Times and Angels: Help from on High. When she’s not writing, editing, or working on logic puzzles, she can be found blogging at


* For an extensive analysis of this interpretation see Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, Alba House, New York, 1992, pp. 37-65. The quotes used are in the public domain. The quote from St Thomas is from the Benziger Brothers’ edition of the Summa. The quote from St Bernard is from Sermons of St Bernard on Advent and Christmas, trans. J.C. Hedley, Benziger Brothers, New York, 1909.

We’re Going to do Something Different Today!

I seem to remember my teachers in grade school using this line periodically: “We’re going to do something different today!” they would say. Whatever we did usually didn’t seem all that different, really, but I thought of this when reading today’s Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent.

John the Baptist is responding to those who ask him, “Who are you?” After definitively establishing that he is not the Christ, they follow up with other likely possibilities, and he responds by saying that he is neither Elijah nor the Prophet. When they persist in asking for some kind of identification, he says he is something different—he is a “voice.” John the Baptist quotes Isaiah the prophet (from last Sunday’s reading), saying, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23).

It’s a little puzzling that John the Baptist does not want to be identified as Elijah or the prophet, since, in another place, Jesus affirms that he is both of those things. (See Matthew 17: 11–13, and 11:19.) But I think John is trying to do here with his questioners what my teachers were trying to do with my class. It’s an attempt to spark expectation, interest, and openness. The idea that we are about to encounter something new and different can wake us up enough to pay attention. John brushes away what they expect and think they know about, to offer something different, something they aren’t prepared for. “No, I’m not what you think, what you are assuming I will be, what you already have a sufficient understanding of. I am someone unexpected and I will do unexpected things. So, listen! Pay attention!” This is how he woke up the people to prepare the way for Jesus.

This is what he is saying to us, too—we who may assume we know how the rest of our Advent is going to unfold. There are things we usually do, lots of work to get done, people things, etc. to deal with. But God waits to shake up our routine and inject something new and different into our lives. He actually tries to do this constantly, but when we have no expectation that anything will be different, how can he change things? And if we are not open to his grace, how can he work in us and through us in the world around us?

So, as the rest of Advent goes on, let’s be attentive to how God is looking at us, waiting to see a spark of interest and openness, waiting to see our reaction when we hear him say, “Let’s do something different today!”

Sr. Maria Grace Dateno is a Daughter of St. Paul, and is currently an acquisitions editor at Pauline Books & Media, as well as an author of books for children. Her many nieces and nephews (25 at last count) inspire her writing, including the six-book Gospel Time Trekkers series, which are time-travel adventures for ages six to nine.


Don’t Miss Jesus in the Bethlehem of your Life

It all began quite spontaneously, unintentionally. One of those things that settle on you like a gentle night or a soft dew. Peace. Possibility.

We sit there a long while, holding hands, our fingers curled together protectively, vulnerably. Understanding communicated through simple gestures. I look at her and ask Jesus: “Jesus, will you show me how you are in this my sister, my sister waiting for you to come.”

In the evening I discover her waiting quietly, as the nurse prepares her supper. She is alone. I slip into a chair beside her and reach quietly for her hand. She says something I can’t understand, but I know she is speaking to me.

“Jesus, how are you within my sister, my sister who is waiting for you to come?”

I close my eyes and wait for Jesus to guide me to whatever he wishes me to see. I sense a brilliance, a happiness. The joy of God who is putting the finishing touches on a brilliant gem that gives him immense pleasure.

When I’m in a hurry, too busy to sit for 30 minutes to hold Sister’s hand while she eats, I can’t see HIS face. When I’m too efficient to notice someone who can’t follow my train of thought, too important to do the little services or hear the whispered secrets, I miss HIS eyes.

In these days we are very near Christmas. We are looking forward to seeing Jesus in nativity sets and Christmas movies and  in Christmas liturgies, and all this is good. But let us not miss HIM where he is now, still in the Bethlehem of our lives, in the poverty of our need, for after all that is what Jesus took on himself when he came to earth.

Jesus has come, and he has stayed. He is here and his face is wherever there is human sorrow and joy. See him, and Christmas is every day.

My heart cries out with the words of today’s liturgy: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.

Give us new life, and we will call upon your name. (Ps 80: 2-3, 19)

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog:

Some People Are Never Happy

After several years of destructive behavior because of his addiction to drugs, a man changed his life. He went to 12-step meetings. He came back to the Church. He made amends to those he had hurt and reconciled with his estranged wife. When she’d left him she’d complained bitterly of his addiction: how it used up their money, hurt their children, and caused her to lose more than one job. But now, with her husband clean and sober, she found other things to complain about: he was out a lot at fellowship meetings, he was rigid about his attendance at Mass every Sunday, he constantly bought the wrong items at the store. One is left wondering if there were anything that could please her about her husband.

We all have expectations that we want other people to live up to, don’t we? From small details like putting the cap back on the toothpaste to major decisions like choosing how to raise a family, we have a strong sense of what the world “should” be like and how people “should” act. And when they don’t live up to our requirements—as inevitably happens—we complain.

Jesus knew about that tendency, and he talks about it in today’s Gospel reading. John the Baptist didn’t eat or drink, so people said he was possessed. Then Jesus came and he did eat, and he did drink, and so then they said he was a glutton and a drunkard. Wait—what? Is there anything that would have pleased the people? Any behavior they would have found acceptable?

As I said, some people are never happy.

Advent is one of the “quiet times” of the Church’s liturgical cycle. It is a time of reflection. As we prepare for the drama that unfolds every year, the coming of the Christ Child, the beginning of a new life and a new way of life, we’re asked to be mindful about what we’re doing and thinking and being.

It’s a challenge, since the commercial side of the holiday is bombarding us daily with jingle bells and cheerful Santas and the pressure to buy more, spend more, party more; it takes an effort to block all that out and be mindful of putting Jesus first. And still that’s what the Church asks of us—and more.

Because Advent is, along with Lent, a penitential season. Just as the sacrament of the Mass is preceded by the sacrament of confession, so too is the season of the Lord’s birth preceded by a season of reconciliation. Many people take this as a sign to give something up, usually something like chocolate or a favorite TV show. But today’s Gospel reading calls us to something a little deeper.

What if, this Advent, we gave up judging others?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it? From the way people dress to the way they talk or raise their kids; from their table manners to what they do on a Saturday night, we are really, really good at making judgments. People who disagree with us politically are evil. People who don’t recycle are lazy and uncaring. People on public assistance should just get a job.

There was a backstory to the man who struggled with addiction. There’s a backstory to everyone’s life-decisions, and we generally don’t know those stories, don’t know the path they took to arrive at this moment when we meet them and decide they’re doing it wrong. Over and over again the words of scripture urge us to not judge others, but we blithely ignore them and carry on. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves. Maybe it’s just fun to feel superior to someone else. But none of it is anything that we’re called, as Catholics, to be or to do.

So here’s a challenge for today—and for every day this Advent. Let’s give it up to God, this unholy satisfaction of judging other people. Let’s try to nip those thoughts in the bud. Let’s not be part of the generation that called John the Baptist possessed and called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard. Let’s decide to do better, to be better, than that.

Jesus is coming. This year, let’s be more intentional about our preparation. Let’s do something that will bring a smile to the Christ Child’s face.

Jeannette de Beauvoir works in the digital department of Pauline Books & Media as marketing copywriter and editor. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, where she studied with Adian Kavanagh, OSB, she is particularly interested in liturgics and Church history.

Fear Not, I Will Help You

San Juan de la Cruz, a Spanish Carmelite priest and monk of the 16th century, so perfectly incarnated that element in Christianity we call mystical that, on this day, we celebrate him not only as a Saint but also as a Doctor of the Church.

The eloquence and beauty of his writings, especially his poetry, are considered to be the ideal by which all else is measured within the Spanish language. It is even rumored that Pope Saint John Paul II learned Spanish with the primary goal of attaining the ability to read Saint John’s works.

A man whose very life is summed up by his most famous work, La Noche Oscura del Alma or The Dark Night of the Soul, he aptly entered into his glorious heavenly reward during this season in which the whole world prepares and waits to enter from the darkness of Christ-less-ness into the light of Christmas, Emanuel, God is with us.

It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” The Father has created us for union with himself. His will longs for us to enter into the divine life he offers, a life of perfect love. Yet, we find ourselves in a world totally darkened by sin and its effects, effects that all of us have fully experienced in our lives and in the lives of those we love. What do we make of this darkness? What is our response to be?

We are called to follow after the way of the Father’s own Son, Jesus Christ: willingly walking in the Father’s will, even unto the depths of the most profound darkness, without fear, without anxiety, and with hearts full of faith, hope, and love. This is a task impossible for human beings, yes, but not for God. He will help us! His grace is sufficient, his power made perfect in weakness. He is the one who leads us, through the mysteries of his life he has come to be with us even now, and he has promised to bring us to himself for all eternity if we hold fast to our confession: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.


Clark Thompson graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2012 with degrees in Business Administration, Philosophy, and Theology. Baptized in the Christian Reformed Church, he received his sacraments of initiation at Franciscan in 2009. For the last four years he has studied for the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan at both Mundelein Seminary in Chicago and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. A list of his notable teachers includes Bishop Robert Barron, Father Emry de Gaál, Dr. John Bergsma, Deacon James Keating, Dr. Mary Healy, and the Chicago Missionaries of Charity sisters with whom he completed a year-long internship.

Welcome the Mystery

New life is exciting…

But it’s also scary.

It’s alluring.

And enveloping.

And fulfilling.

It’s all of these things.

There is many a theological point to be made about why Christ chose to enter the

world as a baby…But I want to focus on one:

The Mystery



Welcoming a newborn into the world is all kinds of exciting, and scary, and enveloping, and fulfilling…

but most of all, it’s unknown.

 “What will he be like?”

“What will be his favorite food?”

“How will I take care of him?!”

 There are many more questions than there are answers when we welcome in a new life… and often the fear of the unknown will make us reluctant to welcome the mystery.

Yes, new life is messy (dirty diapers), scary (how will I do this?!), enveloping (primary caretaking)… so too is welcoming new life with Christ. It’s messy, scary, daunting, enveloping…

I think Christ came as an infant so that we have a permanent reminder that life with Him is brand new. He is entirely different from anyone we’ve ever loved.

Welcoming the mystery that is new life with Christ is demanding, life changing, and unknown… but it’s just the life we were made for.


Welcome the Mystery.

During the week, Matt is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band.
You can find more content by Matt and his band at