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Showing posts from 2016

"The Thrill of Hope": Reflections on O Holy Night

Fun fact alert!   I read in the book, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas  , that O Holy Night was the very first song ever to be broadcast over the radio waves on Christmas Eve 1906, launching a completely new platform for music to be transmitted and enjoyed.  What an amazing experience it must have been to have heard this beautiful hymn on the air waves for the very first time.  Just another miracle of Christmas. Let us pray that all radio transmissions give glory to God the way the very first one did! O Holy Night is my hands-down favorite Christmas hymn and much to my children's chagrin I can listen to it over and over and over again (especially if Josh Groban is crooning it). This song is rich in meaning and has provided much to meditate on and pray about. Let's look at a few of it's most powerful lines.....  "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth."  For many, Chr

"He Will Bring Us Goodness and Light": Reflections on Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's Christmas quiz time : The topic of conversation at your family Christmas dinner is (pick all that apply): How yummy the lasagna is. The number of batches of Christmas cookies Aunt Betty baked this year. Whether the Mets will trade Noah Syndegaard or not.  A heated discussion of how much the kids have grown.  The mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. If you guessed that the conversation at my Christmas dinner is numbers 1-4 you aced this quiz.  I come from a practicing Catholic family, yet any discussion of the "true meaning of Christmas" is conspicuously absent from our Christmas gatherings. What's up with that?   Granted, Christmas dinner is hardly the time for a presentation of a theological treatise on the hypostatic union.  Nor is anyone really interested in listening to Uncle Jimmy practice his preaching career, roaring fire and brimstone while Aunt Betty nods approvingly and continues to munch on  a butter cookie. How

"I Have No Gift to Bring": Reflections on The Little Drummer Boy

Pssst.  I have a secret.   I AM the little drummer boy . Well, not exactly... I mean,  I'm a girl and I don't play the drums, and while I am, ahem , somewhat vertically challenged, overall I don't think I'm all that little. Details, details, details. The fact remains that I AM the little drummer boy.  I have approached the King of Kings more times than I can count, 100% convinced that I have no gift to bring that is fit to give him. My weaknesses, my failings, my poverty and my littleness seem completely unfit to present to His Majesty. Worse than that, the gold, frankincense and myrrh that others around me have to offer possess a WOW factor that I can't even hope to imitate. My guess is that there are a lot of us drummer boys out there.  We drummer boys spend all our energies lamenting what we don't have and wishing for the gifts that others have.  In keeping our vision focused on our weaknesses and others strengths, we stand before Jesus, stuc

Gloria in Excelsis Deo: Spiritual Reflections on Christmas Carols

As a child, Christmas engaged all five of my senses .  The fresh Christmas tree engulfed our Brooklyn row-house living room each year with its unmistakable scent of pine. I loved the feel of the tinsel sticking to my arms as I raced past the tree on my way to the kitchen which was filled with tins of cookies that my Mom baked from scratch each December. I can still remember laying on our couch watching the lights twinkle on the tree, munching on butter cookies and listening to the sounds of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathias croon Christmas carols from my parents' Christmas album collection. Those memories fill my heart today with the same mixture of emotions I felt as a young child - a sense of wonder and joy along with a deeper tug of longing.  When I was younger, I could not fully understand why the trappings of Christmas which so captivated my senses, left me feeling a little bit empty on the inside. I watched others around me approach the Christmas season with such excite

Why do you pray to a statue?

Huh? Pray to a statue?  Well that sure does sound like a bizarre practice - doesn't it.  I can assure you I have never, ever prayed to a statue.  Having cleared that up, I can equally assure you that I count among my closest friends a Bishop from North Africa who lived in the 4th century, an 11 year old Italian peasant girl who was brutally martyred, and a globe-trotting, baby-kissing, truth-preaching Polish Pope. They are my "go-to" people for back-up prayers and spiritual advice. Ok, so these are not exactly people I met at the local homeschool group, but they are some of the best friends a girl could ask for.  And they most certainly are NOT statues.  The Communion of Saints is one of the most mysterious aspects of what it means to be Catholic.  Even for cradle Catholics it is puzzling to think that people who lived hundreds of years ago and thousands of miles away can be some of our closest friends and greatest spiritual mentors. Misunderstandings of Catholics'

7 Lessons from Pope John Paul II

Narrowing down the lessons taught by Saint John Paul II to a mere 7 is a nearly impossible task. These are the 7 things that have most touched me - please feel free to share how he has impacted your life in the comments below! --- 1 --- Do not be afraid. "Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power....Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ." These words, spoken by Pope John Paul II during his inaugural homily  on October 22, 1978, are perhaps the most well-known words of his entire pontificate. They resonate deeply in the heart of each of us because they challenge us to overcome a nearly universal fear - the fear of the Lord's demands. I am not referring to the gift of a holy fear of the Lord - that is a virtue which enables us to experience awe and wonder at the majesty of God. I am speaking about the fear in our heart of what surrender to the Lord Jesus will require of us. What habits will I have to give up to follow Je

The Teaching Power of the Parish Bulletin

You read that title right .  I know, I know  - you must think I am out of my mind - I mean, does anyone even read the parish bulletin anymore?  I believe that the parish bulletin provides a unique tool which can aid in illustrating how the teachings of the Church are lived out in a practical, local way.   Inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use, the average parish bulletin provides a wealth of examples which can assist students of all ages to recognize how the church’s teachings “work” in the parish community they call home.    Here are seven tenets of the faith that can be illustrated using the parish bulletin:   The Sacraments Dates, times and locations for the celebration of the Sacraments can be found in nearly every parish bulletin.   After completing a lesson on the seven sacraments, have your students scour the bulletin to find information for each of the sacraments.   Ask them to try and identify which sacraments are celebrated most frequently – this ca

5 Ways to Spiritually Prepare for the New School Year

This article was originally posted on Seton Magazine. While this post is written from my own perspective as a homeschooling family, most of the suggestions can be used regardless of where your children go to school. September is nearly upon us and for most families that means a return to the regular school-year routines.  As parents, we expend considerable energy, effort, time and money in preparing for the upcoming school year – ensuring that our children receive the best education, the most well-rounded set of extra-curricular activities and do it all in style (who can resist that dizzying array of colorful backpacks). It is not as often that we prepare ourselves spiritually for the upcoming school year, and yet, as the old axiom wisely states: Failing to plan is planning to fail . Here are five ways you can prepare yourselves and your family spiritually to enter the new academic season with the Lord at the center of your academic life. 1.        Bless your books and your

The Moral Theology of St. Maria Goretti

  As a homeschooling Mom and a theology student, I am learning new theology lessons all the time. What is amazing to me is that it is through examining the lives of the saints that I have learned the most profound lessons in theology. In their witness we see the truths of God and the doctrines of the church come to life in vivid detail. When my children begin to view their catechism lessons as “boring”, all I need to do is pull out a video or story of a saint and immediately I have a rapt audience, eager to soak in all that the saints have to teach us. Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration , describes the saints as "the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out."(p78)   Each individual saint offers a unique lesson on the universal and unchanging truths of our

Shelter From the Storm

The rain pounded the windshield of my car as I tugged on the wiper controls, hoping to make my already whizzing windshield wipers go faster. My hands gripped the wheel as tight as I could and I peered out the window hoping to steer my car and my children to a safe spot to wait out the storm. We had left a friend's house only a short while before, noting the dark clouds in the sky, but not expecting that Mother Nature would unleash such a severe thunderstorm within a few short minutes. I finally settled the car into a parking spot when the wind picked up dramatically, hail started to pound the roof and the branches of the tree above us began to violently thrash about. "Let's go to St. John's..." whispered my daughter from the backseat.  St. John's was the parish which housed our homeschool co-op.  I knew it was only about a mile away, but I secretly doubted that its doors would be open in the middle of a random Wednesday afternoon.  Still, I knew we we

7 Lessons From the Visitation

The church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation on May 31, bringing to a conclusion the month devoted to our Blessed Mother. The account of Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth from Luke's Gospel (Luke 1:39-56) is reflected upon by Catholics in  the second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and I number it as one of my favorite scriptural accounts. Here are seven lessons the actions of Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation have taught me. -1- Put a little pep in your step.  Luke's account of the Visitation opens with the following line: "During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste..." (Luke 1:39) . The phrase that always jumps off the page at me is "in haste". Mary went in haste to be of service to her cousin, Elizabeth, whom she had just found out was pregnant in her old age. Let's consider a few things here: First, Mary is pregnant. Second, she didn't jump in her SUV, stop at Dunkin Donuts for an Iced Coffee on