31 December 2013

Celtic Woman: “O Come All Ye Faithful”

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Celtic Woman singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have bestowed upon us, whether we were aware of them or not, during 2013.

Eric Mahl and the Message of Divine Mercy

“Eric Mahl has always loved a challenge. In his youth, it was the prospect of being the best football player ever. This desire drove him to bench press 450 pounds, earn an NCAA Division I football scholarship and later a place on the Cleveland Browns’ roster.

“The 30-year-old Ohio native’s challenge now, however, is sharing the message of Divine Mercy with the world — particularly the poor and most abandoned. This has meant enduring regular rejection and sometimes sub-freezing temperatures on the streets of Cleveland and other cities, in the hope of convincing souls that God’s love for them has not expired.”

A recent National Catholic Register interview profiled Mr. Mahl, his football career, and his ministry with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception at Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA.

To access the complete interview, please visit:

National Catholic Register: From Merciless Linebacker to Merciful Messenger (24 DEC 13)

Background information:

Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M.

Reflection Starter from George Washington

“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” – George Washington

30 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the grace of patience.

Randy Hain on Being Authentically Catholic All Year

“One of the most famous Christmas quotes of all time is this one from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: ‘I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’ Reflecting on this quote has made me think about resolutions a little differently for 2014.  I would like you to join me in a different kind of commitment for the New Year. With apologies to the late Mr. Dickens…‘I will honor Christ in my heart and try to be authentically Catholic all the year.’  This is the kind of commitment that will cost us something for sure, but the reward is great.  In the coming year let’s make every effort to acknowledge Christ before others and defend (as well as follow!) in a loving way the teachings of His Church.  Let us refuse to be silent and passive.  The instinctive response to this challenge may be ‘it’s not that easy.’  Actually, it is that easy if we choose to think and act differently and place His will before our own.”

In a recent commentary, writer Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life, reflected on make and live up to this commitment through prayer, finding our voice, acting with more love, and praying and listening more.

To access Mr. Hain’s complete post, please visit:

The Integrated Catholic Life: “I will honor Christ in my heart and try to be authentically Catholic all the year.” (26 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespected hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

29 December 2013

Duke Ellington and His Christmas Greetings

“The story goes that if the legendary composer and orchestrator Duke Ellington had met you, and gotten his hands on your mailing address, you’d have gotten a Christmas card from him. It may not come at Christmas, but at some point during the year, his personally written and signed greetings would grace your mailbox.

“‘Duke Ellington and I exchanged Christmas greetings each year,’ wrote Joe Delaney of the Las Vegas Sun. ‘Mine were sent in mid-December. Duke sent his when the spirit moved him.’

“A reformed Ebenezer Scrooge may have pledged to ‘honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year,’ but for Ellington, no reform was needed. His card list was extensive, and he faithfully wrote out his greetings while traveling, or when there was a little downtime between gigs. Friends said he found nothing strange in dropping some Christmas wishes in the dog days of summer, when chestnuts roasting on an open fire seemed a hellish idea, and a stable suggested only a stench.”

In a recent National Review commentary, writer Elizabeth Scalia reflected on the ways in which Duke Ellington, through his Christmas cards with their hand-written messages, proclaimed the Christmas message – and its theme of Christ’s Incarnation – throughout the year.

To access Ms. Scalia’s complete post, please visit:

National Review Online: Duke Ellington and the Great Christmas Secret (24 DEC 13)

Straight No Chaser: “Hark the Herald Angels” Medley

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Straight No Chaser presenting a medley of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We have Heard on High”:

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The assigned readings are Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; and Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 128 (Psalm 128:1-5).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”

Reflection on this feast:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Feast of the Holy Family (December 29, 2013)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Biblical Teachings on Marriage and Family. A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (28 DEC 13)

The Deacon’s Bench: Grace is everywhere: a homily for December 29, 2013, the Feast of the Holy Family (28 DEC 13)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: The Feast of the Holy Family: Piety . . . in the 21st Century?

The Sacred Page: Feast of the Holy Family (28 DEC 13)

Word on Fire: Sermon 677: Herod and Joseph: Feast of the Holy Family

Dr. Scott Hahn: Saving Family (December 29th 2013 – Feast of the Holy Family)

The Catholic World Report Blog: The Holy Family and the Unity of God’s Family (28 DEC 13)

Spirituality of the Readings: Defending the Family (Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph A)

The Word Engaged: Holy Ground (Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph A)

For additional reflection:

Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II: Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) (22 NOV 1981)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our families and for the many blessings You have bestowed on them.

On the Pope’s Christmas Observance

“After you’ve been in the Vaticanology business for a while, it’s hard to be surprised by the occasionally tone-deaf questions people ask. During a Christmas Eve broadcast just before the pope’s vigil Mass, however, I was briefly at a loss when asked how I expected Francis to ‘shake up’ Christmas.

“On the surface of it, the notion that any pope would consciously upend one of the most sacred periods on the church’s calendar seemed so silly it was tough to know how to respond. . . .

“For sure, Francis did not redact the basic Christmas message, nor did he significantly depart from the script that previous popes have followed. Yet there was nonetheless a distinctive Francis imprint on Christmas 2013, which can be expressed in terms of how it reflected three emerging pillars of his papacy.

“I’ve written before that those three pillars are:

  • Leadership as Service
  • The Social Gospel
  • Mercy”

In a recent National Catholic Reporter commentary, writer John L. Allen Jr. reported and reflected on how Pope Francis observed Christmas.

To access his complete post, please visit:

National Catholic Reporter: A very Franciscan Christmas after all (27 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Desmond Tutu

“You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” – Rev. Desmond Tutu

28 December 2013

“O Little Town Of Bethlehem”

As we continue our Christmas celebration, I offer this version of Jim Reeves singing “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for family holiday traditions and for the many ways You touch our hearts through them.

God, Music, and Forgiveness for Christmas

Great songs are often inspired by difficult times, even great Christmas songs. Yet music has a way of turning pain into a relatable way of connecting with others, a form of consolation, and even an opportunity to create a more hopeful situation.

When former “American Idol” finalist Brooke White released her Christmas album – called, appropriately enough, White Christmas – she didn’t just include her favorite joyful hymns and carols; she also included a new song, “Christmas Card,” that has the potential to impact people in a positive way because it contains a message of reconciliation.

During an interview on Christopher Closeup, White explained, “I’d like to say that every relationship I’ve had is peachy and dandy and there’s never been any sort of contention. But that’s just not life. There are always a few people that something happens with or you lose touch with. So that was on my mind and my heart.”

When she sat down to write an original song for the album, the idea of opening her address book to start working on Christmas cards popped into her mind. She thought of seeing the name of a person with whom a relationship had been severed and wondering if she should send them a card.

White said, “There’s that thought that maybe this is my chance to reach out. It doesn’t mean that everything’s fixed or back to normal, but it’s an attempt at either forgiving another person for being hurtful or apologizing to a person for, even in the most innocent ways, hurting them. I think every human being has a few people that they wish they could make things right with. So this song is my opportunity to put that into words.”

One of the motivations for White’s recording “Christmas Card” and other songs on the album, like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night,” was her faith. She said, “I wanted it to be, not just a fun Christmas record, but one that celebrates Christ. ‘Christmas Card,’ even though it doesn’t necessarily bring up Christ, it’s about forgiveness which is a strong Christian theme.”

The traditions of home are on White’s mind since she grew up in Mesa, Arizona, in a family that cut down its own Christmas tree (and still does) – and went for twice-weekly rides in their Aerostar van to look at Christmas lights in the neighborhood. However, White is no longer just a daughter, sister and wife; she’s a mom.

In May 2012, she gave birth to her and her husband Dave’s first child: a daughter named London. And just like Jesus came as a gift of love for all of us, London has been a divine blessing as well. White said, “I had just gotten home from New York and performing at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting. I laid London down to take a nap and she locked eyes with me . . . I was stressed out at the moment and a little overwhelmed – and she looked at me and, truly, it was like the face of God. It’s like she was telling me, ‘This is what’s important, and it’s okay.’”

White concluded, “Since she was born, everything shifted in my mind. I know most every parent goes through some sort of transformation, but for me it was instant with London. She came out not crying; her eyes were open, and she was this alert little person ready to live. I can’t wait to see this little person blossom and grow. I love her. She’s perfect. She is love.”

(This essay is a recent “Light One Candle” column, written by Tony Rossi, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

Background information:

The Christophers: Christopher Radio & Video

Brooke White website

Reflection Starter from St. Philip Neri

“We must not give up praying and asking, because we do not get what we ask all at once.” – Saint Philip Neri

27 December 2013

Bing Crosby and David Bowie: “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth”

As our Christmas celebration continues I offer this version of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth”:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the little treats You offer to us – whether in the natural world, via interactions with family members and other people You place in our lives, through the fine arts, and/or in other ways (whether we are aware of them or not).

Fr. Kiley on the Example of St. Joseph

“Following the lead of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, our current Pontiff, Pope Francis, has determined that the name of St. Joseph should be included in all four standard Eucharistic prayers read at Mass.

“Now Jesus, present in sacrament, along with Mary and Joseph, present in memory, recall to believing minds the complete Holy Family of Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth. Quite prominent during the Christmas season from Advent until the Purification, the entire Holy Family will now receive attention throughout the Church’s entire year. . . .

“Amid all the concerns that modern families bring to mind, St. Joseph, as husband and father, ably ‘demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ.’ Clearly, the male role in contemporary family life is in desperate need of analysis and encouragement. The growing number of fatherless families affects both boys and girls.”

In a recent commentary, Father John Kiley, a senior priest in the Diocese of Providence, reflected on the importance of fathers in family life and on how the “Holy Family, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, celebrated both popularly and liturgically at this Christmas season, must be not simply a fond memory but much more importantly an enduring model.”

To access Fr. Kiley’s complete essay, please visit:

Rhode Island Catholic: The Quiet Corner: Honoring St. Joseph: a good and genuine example (19 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Khalil Gibran

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Khalil Gibran

26 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have bestowed on family and on church community celebrations of Christmas.

Msgr. Pope on Some Mysteries of the Incarnation

“In the ancient Church, and until rather recently, we genuflected at the two references to the incarnation in the Mass: at the Creed and at the Last Gospel (John 1). Why did we do this? It was explained to me that the mystery was so deep that one could only fall in silent reverence.

“There are many paradoxes and seeming impossibilities in the incarnation. As mysteries they cannot be fully solved, so they claim our reverence. We genuflected in the past, and we bow today at the mention of the incarnation in the creed for it is a deep mystery.

“As we celebrate Christmas I would like to list some of the paradoxes of Christmas. I want to say as little of them as possible, just enough to make the paradox clear. This paucity of words, not common with me, is in reverence to the mystery and also to invite your own reflection.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on some of these paradoxes, including the Infinite One becoming an infant, He who looks down on all creation looking up to see his mother, He who indwells all creation being born in homelessness, He (to whom all things in heaven and on earth belong) being born in poverty and neediness, and He who is our sustainer and our food, being hungry and fed by his mother.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Some Paradoxes and Mysteries of the Incarnation (25 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Mark the Ascetic

“When rain falls upon the earth, it gives life to the quality inherent in each plant: sweetness in the sweet, astringency in the astringent; similarly, when grace falls upon the hearts of the faithful, it gives to each the energies appropriate to the different virtues without itself changing.” – Saint Mark the Ascetic

23 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many beautiful sights, sounds, and fragrances of this holiday season.

Msgr. Pope on Hastening to Meet the Lord

“The Lord’s coming is near. And though we have all been well taught that the word ‘Advent’ means ‘coming’  there is the danger that we think we are only passively waiting for him to come.  It is not just that the Lord is coming to us, but we are also journeying to him. In fact, as the Advent prayers in the Roman Missal instruct, we ought to run (don’t walk) and hasten, to greet him as he draws near.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the importance, during the Advent season, of hastening to meet Jesus.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Run, Don’t Walk, To the Nearing Jesus. How Advent is a season of running more than waiting. (18 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Ignatius of Loyola

“Adversity is such, that it is really advantageous to the just man, for it causes him a profitable loss; just as a shower of precious stones might break the leaves of the vine, but would replace them by the most beautiful treasures.” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

22 December 2013

Night Angels Help Those in Need on Streets of Hartford, CT

“Night Angels were constantly roaming around the Hartford area where they warmed hearts, literally.

“‘Food, warmth, whatever it may be,’ said Night Angels Founder Carrie Howe. ‘If I can change that for somebody, I’m going to do it.’

“It’s not an unusual sight to see Howe walking or driving the streets of Hartford at night. She’s constantly on the lookout for those she can help.

“Howe was giving out personal belongings, sweaters, old blankets.

“For the last three years, she’s been connecting face-to-face with the needy and handing those necessities out.”

A recent WFSB-TV news report profiled Ms. Howe and the Night Angels’ ministry.

To access the complete WFSB report, please visit:

WFSB-TV: Group roams the streets of Hartford helping those in need (20 DEC 13)

Background information:

Facebook: Night Angels

Wikipedia: Hartford, Connecticut

Twila Paris: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of Twila Paris singing “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”:

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Isaiah 7:10-14, Romans 1:1-7, and Matthew 1:18-24. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 24 (Psalm 24:1-6).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 24 “The Lord, the king of glory”

The Gospel reading is as follows:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Reflections on this day and on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 22, 2013)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Crisis At Christmas – A Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent (21 DEC 13)

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio: St. Joseph’s Claim to Fame

Verbum Domini: Righteous Joseph (19 DEC 13)

The Deacon’s Bench: Homily for December 22, 2013: 4th Sunday of Advent (21 DEC 13)

Word on Fire: Sermon 676: The Slave of Christ: 4th Sunday of Advent

The Sacred Page: “A Virgin Shall Conceive”: The Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (18 DEC 13)

Dr. Scott Hahn: God Is With Us (December 22nd 2013 - Fourth Sunday of Advent)

The Catholic World Report Blog: St. Joseph’s doubt and the angel’s gift (22 DEC 13)

Spirituality of the Readings: An Inner Assurance (Fourth Sunday of Advent A)

The Word Engaged: Joseph (Fourth Sunday of Advent A)

Asia News: Pope: Celebrating Christmas contemplating Mary and Joseph (22 DEC 13)

Historical Cultural Context: Honoring God’s Will (Fourth Sunday of Advent A)

Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph: Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Fourth Sunday of Advent (20 DEC 13)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of hope with which You touch so many hearts during this special season.

Another Interview with Pope Francis

In a recent interview, Pope Francis reflected on (among other subjects) Christmas, hunger in the world, the suffering of children, the reform of the Roman Curia, and his upcoming visit to the Holy Land.

To access the complete interview, please visit:

LaStampa: “Never be afraid of tenderness” (14 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Polycarp of Smyrna

“Help one another with the generosity of the Lord, and despise no one. When you have the opportunity to do good, do not let it go by.” – Saint Polycarp of Smyrna

21 December 2013

“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Bing Crosby singing “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You guide the threads that are weaving this beautiful tapestry You are developing.

On the Role of the Virtues in Character Education

“In Aesop’s fable of the miller, his son, and the donkey, the trio are criticized by passersby as they make their way to town, first for not riding the donkey, then for making the young son walk, then for leaving the elderly father to walk, and then for overburdening the donkey. After each critique, they revise their traveling formation and finally, when the miller and his son tie the donkey’s feet to a pole and carry it between them, it kicks two feet free, falls into a river, and drowns.

“The miller had clearly practiced the virtues of humility and openness to counsel, but he fell miserably short in the more central virtues of prudence and temperance, and because he had emphasized non-central virtues he fell short of excellent living.

“In the character education literature of the past 40 years, one will frequently find imaginative configurations of two to twenty-four or more natural virtues recommended as the foundation of a character education program. It is a good baseline to found a character education program on virtues, admirable moral qualities, rather than on values, the standards, admirable or not, of any given person. Further, the recommended virtues are usually good ones. It is best, though, to cultivate desire for the virtues that are most central to a well-lived life, so that our efforts to live well are both productive and balanced. A misplaced emphasis on a non-central virtue can undermine the whole project of areté.

In a recent commentary, Sam Vanderplas reflected on the importance of prudence and the other cardinal virtues in supporting a vibrant and effective character education.

To access Mr. Vanderplas’ complete post, please visit:

Crisis Magazine: The Role of the Virtues in Character Education (10 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Edith Wharton

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

20 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You shine Your Light on our paths.

Msgr. Pope on Advent Fasting And Penance

“I was explaining to a new Catholic recently that the color purple (violet) used in advent is akin to its use in Lent, in that both are considered penitential seasons. Hence we are to give special attention to our sins and our need for salvation. Traditionally Advent was a time we would, like Lent take part in penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence.

“Of course, in recent decades Advent has almost wholly lost any real penitential practices. There is no fasting or abstinence required, they are not really even mentioned. Confession is encouraged and the readings still retain a kind of focus on repentance and a focus on the Last Judgment.”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the spirit of fasting and penance in our times vis-à-vis the spirit of fasting 100 years ago.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: What Ever Became of Advent Fasting And Penance? (11 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Teresa of Avila

“Each of us has a soul, but we forget to value it. We don’t remember that we are creatures made in the image of God. We don’t understand the great secrets hidden inside of us.” – Saint Teresa of Avila (a.k.a. Saint Teresa of Jesus)

19 December 2013

Andre Rieu: “I Will Follow Him”

As we continue to live this week, I offer this version of Andre Rieu leading a presentation of “I Will Follow Him”:

YouTube: Andre Rieu - I Will Follow Him

Thank you, John STROADE Shay, Sr., for the tip!

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the unique gifts You give each of Your people and for the many ways in which You call upon us to use these gifts.

Tony Rossi on the Influence of “Mary Poppins”

“Though much of the Mary Poppins-related attention today will be directed at the new Disney movie ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ I’m reminded of a different story about everybody’s favorite flying nanny and how she influenced someone I consider to be one of the best comedy writers of our era: Phil Rosenthal.”

In a recent commentary, Tony Rossi, of The Christophers, offered a reflection on the impact made by the movie Mary Poppins on Mr. Rosenthal (creator of Everybody Loves Raymond).

To access Tony’s complete essay please visit:

Christopher Closeup: How “Mary Poppins” Inspired One of the Best Comedy Writers of Our Era (13 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Robert Orben

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben

18 December 2013

George Frideric Handel: “Messiah - A Sacred Oratorio”

It’s time for some classical music. This is a BBC presentation of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah - A Sacred Oratorio, presented by the London Symphony Orchestra and the choir Tenebrae, conducted by Sir Colin Davis:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You send angels to guide us and guard us.

Frank William Brennan on Catholics Believing in Ghosts

“When I was ten years old I had a direct encounter with a ghost. My brother and I were playing in our bedroom, which was in the attic, of our three-story house in New Jersey. There were steep stairs leading up to the bedroom from the third floor walk way. My brother and I were playing Power Rangers as usual and I ended up pushing him down the stairs. He tumbled all the way to the bottom hitting his head against the door. He began to cry and I, like any good brother, ran and hid from the impending doom that awaited me by my parents. My mother heard his cries and ran upstairs. She opened the door and saw him in tears, but with a pale white face. As she made contact I felt the grip of her eyes lock around my neck, but quickly release itself. For my brother spoke, ‘Mommy, a lady kissed me.’

“It was known that our old Jersey house had a ghost lady who walked the third story in a white night gown. She had been seen by my uncle, my grandmother, my mother, my cousin, my cousin’s friend, and now my brother. I prayed that I would never see her because I was too frightened, but my brother’s words were enough to send shivers down my spine for years and instill the fear of sleeping in my room ever again.

“Was it a ghost? I’ve always ask myself that, if so how can I as a Catholic understand it? Does the Catholic Church even recognize the existence of ghosts?”

In a recent commentary, writer Frank William Brennan reflected on the spirits which the Church believes are real, including human spirits and angels.

To access his complete post, please visit:

Catholic Lane: Do Catholics Believe in Ghosts? (6 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Thomas Aquinas

“Pray thee, spare, thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work.” – Saint Thomas Aquinas

17 December 2013

U.S. Air Force Band Holiday Flash Mob

As we approach our celebration of Christmas, I offer this Holiday Flash Mob at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – the United States Air Force Band presenting music of the season:

Thank you, Deacon Greg Kandra, for the tip!

Additional commentary:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Jesus and Christian Faith in the Public Square? Yes! And Proclaimed by a Military Band! (10 DEC 13)

America’s Health Rankings: New England States Continue to Rank High Among Healthiest States

The 2013 edition of America’s Health Rankings shows the six New England states each made the top twenty of the list of healthiest states this year.

The rankings:
2 – Vermont
4 – Massachusetts
5 – New Hampshire
7 – Connecticut
16 – Maine
19 – Rhode Island

This annual report, by the United Health Foundation, looks at four groups of health determinants:

  • behaviors (including the everyday activities people do that affect personal health, including habits and practices people develop as individuals and families that have an effect on personal health and on utilization of health resources; these behaviors are modifiable with effort by the individual supported by community, policy, and clinical interventions),
  • community and environment (which reflect the reality that the daily conditions in which people live have a great effect on achieving optimal individual health),
  • public and health policies (indicative of the availability of resources to encourage and maintain health and the extent that public and health programs reach into the general population), and
  • clinical care (reflecting the quality, appropriateness, and cost of the care received at doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals).

America’s Health Rankings is designed to combines individual measures of each of these determinants with the resultant health outcomes into one, comprehensive view of the health of a state. In addition, it discusses health-related influencing factors separately from health outcomes and provides related health, economic, and social information to present a comprehensive profile of the overall health of each state.

To access the complete report, please visit:

United Health Foundation: America’s Health Rankings

Msgr. Pope on on Guadalupe and Mother Mary

Last week the Church celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) offered a reflection on how, whether at Guadalupe or during other times “in the midst of a bloody and violent world, the Lord often extends a rose, His mother.”

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: In the Midst of Much Blood God extended a Rose. A Meditation on Guadalupe and Mother Mary (13 DEC 13)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the special beauty that each season of the year contains.

Br. Joseph Martin Hagan, O.P., on the Spirit of Advent

“Is Advent still possible in our culture? It’s supposed to be a time to prepare for Christ’s coming – past, present, and future – but our Decembers are quickly filled with deadlines, gift lists, and get-togethers. The rush to Christmas seems anything but prayerful: we crash into the 25th just wanting it to be over. And through it all, the culture wars wage tiresome battles: Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.

“But this is no modern problem. Long before Black Fridays and flight delays, humanity was still too busy to receive its Savior. Bethlehem’s innkeepers were overworked and exhausted, grumbling against Caesar’s census. They had no time for another pair of poor travelers from up North. They had no sympathy for a woman on the verge of giving birth. They just wanted the hubbub to be over.”

In a recent commentary, Br. Joseph Martin Hagan, O.P., offered a reflection on the spirit of Advent in our times and on our participation in this holy season.

To access Br. Joseph’s complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: Ready or Not (13 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Nelson Mandela

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

16 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways, as proclaimed in Psalm 25, in which You guide the humble to justice and teach the humble Your way.

Dr. Regis Martin on Gratitude for Those Who Are Gone

“An old and valued friend, who retired after a half-century cheerfully and productively spent in the classroom, used to tell me that it was silly to think anyone would remember him once he was gone. ‘Like a stone falling into a river,’ he’d say, using one of several similes to which he was drawn, ‘I’ll be a ripple or two for awhile. After that … nothing.’ Knowing the legendary status his skills as a teacher had earned him among generations of grateful students, I remonstrated with him, insisting that it was simply not possible that anyone as redoubtable as he had been would ever, ever be forgotten. ‘Why, you’re positively Homeric around here!’ I exclaimed. ‘Nobody’s going to put out your light.’

“Turns out he was right. In all the years since leaving the University, I cannot recall more than a handful of colleagues asking about him. And students?  Forget it. They’d never even heard of him. So much for a full half-century’s immersion in the work of their intellectual formation. He might as well have been the delivery boy from the local Pizzeria for all the impact he’s had.”

In a recent commentary, Dr. Regis Martin (Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, Franciscan University of Steubenville) reflected on the passing of those in our lives, on the perceived effects of their lives, and on why the any of this matters.

To access Dr. Martin’s complete post, please visit:

Crisis Magazine: Gratitude For Those Who Are Gone (4 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Josemaría Escrivá

“Seek union with God and buoy yourself up with hope – that sure virtue! – because Jesus will illuminate the way for you with the light of his mercy, even in the darkest night.” – Saint Josemaría Escrivá

15 December 2013

“Lo, in the Time Appointed”

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of the Saint Peter’s Choir, Philadelphia, PA, singing Healey Willan’s “Lo, in the Time Appointed”:

Third Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Third Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; James 5:7-10; and Matthew 11:2-11. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 146 (Psalm 146:6-10).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Bukas Palad – Lord, Come and Save Us (Psalm 146)

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Reflections on this day and on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Third Sunday of Advent (December 15, 2013)

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Perfect Gift – A Homily for Gaudete Sunday (14 DEC 13)

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio: John the Baptist Teaches Us To Rejoice in Hope

Verbum Domini: The Baptist and the Rebuttal (12 DEC 13)

The Deacon’s Bench: Homily for December 15, 2013: 3rd Sunday of Advent (14 DEC 13)

Word on Fire: Sermon 675: The Virtue of Hope: 3rd Sunday of Advent

The Sacred Page: Waiting While Nothing is Going Right: 3rd Sunday of Advent (11 DEC 13)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Here is Your God (December 15th 2013 – Third Sunday in Advent)

The Catholic World Report Blog: Awake! Repent! Rejoice! (14 DEC 13)

Spirituality of the Readings: Wait and Be Small (Third Sunday of Advent A)

The Word Engaged: Waiting (Third Sunday of Advent A)

Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph: Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Third Sunday of Advent (13 DEC 13)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many Advent blessings You offer to us, whether we avail ourselves of them or not.

Kathy Schiffer on a Catholic Priest Bringing the Spirit of Christmas to Detroit

“I’m from a family of Christmas-lovers.   My Dad always took us kids downtown to watch the annual Thanksgiving Parade.  Bundled and mittened, my sisters and I shivered anyway in the cold, perched on ladders to peer over the crowd of merry-makers.  And the highlight, of course, was always Santa – his merry ho-ho-ho! thrilling children lining Woodward Avenue along the route which ended with Santa’s climbing to his throne in front of J.L. Hudson’s.

“Years later, when my own children were small, we took them to the Parade, as well.

“And years later, I got to meet Santa—the jolly, bowl-full-of-jelly elf who waved to our family and to all the children of Detroit from his sleigh at the end of the parade.  I learned something I’d never known, in the years of watching old Saint Nick bring happiness to little children:

“Santa Claus was really a Catholic priest.

“No, really.  And I don’t mean St. Nicholas, whose feast we celebrate today. . . .

“The St. Nick who brought holiday cheer to the city of Detroit was actually Father Joseph Marquis, a Catholic priest in the Byzantine rite.”

In a recent commentary, writer Kathy Schiffer reflected on the double ministry of Father Marquis – as a Catholic priest (pastor of Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church, Livonia, Michigan) and in the St. Nicholas Institute – a school for Santas which he founded.

To access Ms. Schiffer’s complete post, please visit:

Seasons of Grace: Catholic Priest Brings the Spirit of Christmas to Life in Detroit (6 DEC 13)

Background information:

St. Nicholas Institute

Facebook: St. Nicholas Institute

Reflection Starter from St. Charles Borromeo

“Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” – Saint Charles Borromeo

14 December 2013

Roomful of Blues: “Jambalaya”

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Roomful of Blues playing “Jambalaya” at the 2012 Rawa Blues Festival in Poland:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for creating each of us and for putting each of us in this world for a purpose.

Becoming a Priest at Age 71

The bishop knew who he wanted – and he got his man.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Indiana, and David T. Link, former dean of the Law School at the University of Notre Dame and now, after studying for the priesthood, Father Link. But there’s a great deal more to the story than that, of course, and it goes something like this...

David Link was a family man, with a large family at that. He and his wife had five children and 13 grandchildren, and he found much satisfaction in his work. He had begun teaching at Notre Dame in 1970 and served as dean of the law school there from 1975 to 1999, turning out more than 4,000 future attorneys over the years. They were good ones, too.

Following his own pattern as a young lawyer – he reserved one day a week to see those who couldn’t afford to pay him, and served as cofounder of a center for the homeless in South Bend – they carved out careers marked by pro bono work, civil rights activism, and a view of the legal profession as something noble.

“That all came out of Dave Link’s pulpit,” one of them said.

With his career winding down, Link’s wife, Barbara, suggested that he try prison ministry as a volunteer. Reluctantly at first, then warming to the task, he discovered how much he enjoyed it. At the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, he found himself teaching “lifers” with no guards and marveled at their eagerness to learn.

“They’re all children of God,” Link told Jeanette Flood of Our Sunday Visitor.

He suffered sad times, too. Barbara died in 2003, and Link stepped up his volunteer work at the prison as a sort of therapy. “I needed to be needed,” was the way he put it.

Meanwhile his work with prisoners was attracting attention, and among those who were impressed was Bishop Melczek. “You’ve been doing a lot of prison ministry,” he told Link. “I need a prison chaplain. Would you consider going into the seminary?”

After prayerfully thinking it over, and discussing it with his own family, he said that indeed he would. He enrolled at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Wisconsin, where he sailed through his courses, and on June 7, 2008, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Melczek in Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary. As promised, the bishop assigned Father Link to the post of prison chaplain – at the age of 71 – and he’s been there since.

“I’m 71 and I finally know what I want to do,” he said at the time. “I’m at the highest point I could ever be.” His enthusiasm for his calling continues to this day, totally unabated.

Father Link is conscious of his family background, and the prisoners know that as well. “I’m old enough to be their dad or grandfather so I’m the one they talk to, and they bare their souls to me,” he said. “I’m privileged – in addition to being their spiritual father – to be able to be their surrogate father too.”

Still, he never loses sight of his main goal, and more than enjoying it, he delights in it.

“I need to bring them hope, and knowledge of eternal life.” He paused. “And I love that.”

(This essay is a recent “Light One Candle” column, written by Jerry Costello, of The Christophers; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.)

Background information:

The Christophers: Christopher Radio & Video

Reflection Starter from Henry David Thoreau

“All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.” – Henry David Thoreau

13 December 2013

“At The Name Of Jesus”

As we continue to live this week, I offer this Renewal Music version of “At The Name Of Jesus”:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You teach us what is for our good and lead us on the way we should go (as noted in Isaiah 48).

Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P., on Wanting to Be Remembered

“‘It’s absolutely beautiful! We went cliff jumping in an awesome spot today . . . then enjoyed sea bass, gelato, and fresh mojitos on the beach tonight at the ancient ruins of Diocletian’s palace.’

“When my sister wrote me earlier this semester about her travels in Croatia, this line made me smile. What has become of history that the lodgings of an emperor have become a stoop for the cocktail parties of American teenagers? What kind of stare would Diocletian cast down his long Roman nose on these intruders dressed in hoodies, muddying his porch with their flip-flops?

“Diocletian certainly isn’t a ‘nobody’ in history, being one of Rome’s most successful military generals and political organizers. He is most known, however, as one of the bloodiest emperors for his severe persecutions of the early Church – hence the irony of Christians socializing over drinks at his home. While historians recall his name, the average visitor asks, ‘Dio-who?’ ”

In a recent commentary, Brother Timothy Danaher, O.P., reflected on how we, unless we find something outside of ourselves to live for, strive to assert ourselves so that we will be remembered.

To access Br. Timothy’s complete reflection, please visit:

Dominicana: Wanting to Be Remembered (6 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Ruth Ann Schabacker

“Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.” – attributed to Ruth Ann Schabacker

12 December 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today’s the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The assigned readings are Zechariah 2:14-17 and Luke 1:26-38. The Responsorial Psalm is Judith 13:18-19.

In December of 1531, a “Lady from Heaven” appeared to an Aztec (whom we now know as Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin) at Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City. Juan Diego was on his way to Mass (a fifteen-mile trip).

This “Lady from Heaven,” who was dressed as an Aztec princess, identified herself as the Virgin Mary and asked Juan Diego to speak with the bishop and request that a church be built on the site.

The bishop, Juan de Zumarraga (a Franciscan), hesitated (because he was somewhat skeptical), and he asked for something to prove the lady’s identity.

However, before Juan Diego went back to the Lady, he learned that his uncle was dying. In his hurry to get a priest, Juan avoided meeting the Lady. However, she met him on his way and told him that his uncle had been cured.

She then told him to go to the top of the hill where they first met. He was surprised to find flowers growing there, and he gathered them in his tilma to bring to the bishop.

Juan met the bishop again and told him what had happened. The he opened his cloak. To the ground fell the flowers – Castilian roses (which grew in Spain, but not in Mexico). Then the bishop saw an image of the Lady imprinted on the inside Juan’s cloak.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Image

This image, which may still be seen today (at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City), resists all scientific explanations of its origin, and it shows no sign of decay, although the cloth should have deteriorated within 20 years.

For more information about Our Lady of Guadalupe, please visit:

Cross Publications: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

American Catholic: Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Guide for the New Millennium

Crossroads Initiative: History of Our Lady of Guadalupe (by the Indian scholar Antonio Valeriano)

YouTube: The Amazing and Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pope John Paul II composed a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe. To view this prayer, please visit:

Crossroads Initiatives: John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Additional commentary related to this observance:

Vatican Radio: Pope Francis sends Message to the Americas (11 DEC 13)

Catholic Herald: Our Lady of Guadalupe is the essence of what evangelisation should be about (Commentary)

YouTube: Word on Fire in Mexico: At Our Lady of Guadalupe

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You reach out to and show Your love to those who appear to be among the disadvantaged.

Msgr. Pope on a Proper Understanding of Relevancy

“One of the recurring words of modern times is the word ‘relevance’ and it’s related form ‘relevant.’ There is great insistence today that whatever is said, taught, or presented should be relevant. Often what this means is that it should be applicable, reasonable, understandable, easily grasped etc.

“But there is also a more problematic temporal dimension often added to the concept, so that in this sense, relevance has to do with being in agreement with, or in step with modern times, with the thinking leanings, customs and mores of people today, here and now.

“And not only are our ideas, teachings, and views expected to be relevant, so are our institutions, such as the Church. Widespread and often are the demands that the Church should be relevant; that her teachings, structure, methods and views should be up-to-date, and also speak to current issues in peoples lives.

“With proper distinctions, relevance does have its place and is important. It is important for the Church to speak to issues which currently engage or beset people. . . .”

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) offered some thoughts on “relevance” and its meaning and place.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Toward a proper and richer understanding of the word “Relevant.” (5 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from Desmond Tutu

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Rev. Desmond Tutu

11 December 2013

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as played by the English Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Leonard Slatkin):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the hope You offer to us during the holy season of Advent.

Tod Warner on the Necessity of Advent

“Dear Jesus, do I need Advent. I just do. Living in the upper Midwest during the melancholic waning days of fall, begrudging the early arrival of snow flurries and enduring the bone-chill that summer had (mockingly) made me forget, I need Advent. You see, I am predisposed to what Winston Churchill once called ‘the black dog’. The black dog is an ill-defined woefulness that can gnaw at you at unpredictable times for indescribable reasons. Not classically a depression, it is rather a longing for something that is unfulfilled by anything here on earth. If not tilting into a fuller depression, perhaps this is a good thing. C.S. Lewis, after all, once wondered, ‘If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.’”

In a recent commentary, writer and physician Tod Worner reflected on our need for Advent as a season of hope.

To access Dr. Worner’s complete post, please visit:

A Catholic Thinker: The Vital Necessity of Advent (3 DEC 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Francis de Sales

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” – Saint Francis de Sales

10 December 2013

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You reach out to the ones who are straying from You.

Fr. Longenecker on the “Four First Things”

“It’s traditional in Advent to preach on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

“While I value the tradition, why not think this year about the four first things instead of the four last things?

“By these, I’m thinking of the foundation principles, not just of the Catholic faith, but of everything that is. If you don’t have the foundations in place, when the tempest rages, the house will fall. And one of the problems with the Catholic Church today (and with our modern society) is that we have built on shaky foundations.”

In a recent commentary, Father Dwight Longenecker (parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenville, SC) reflected on the first four things, Light, Life, Law, and Love, being intertwined and being incarnate in the Child of Bethlehem.

To access Fr. Longenecker’s complete post, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Commentary: The Four First Things (8 DEC 13)

Background information:

Dwight Longenecker - Catholic priest and author

Reflection Starter from William Shakespeare

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” – William Shakespeare

09 December 2013

“Immaculate Mary”

As we continue our celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I offer this version of “Immaculate Mary,” as sung at the Church of Saint Michael, Stillwater, Minnesota:

8-Alarm Fire Strikes South Boston Building

An eight-alarm fire in the early morning of Tuesday, 3 December, heavily damaged a five-story brick building at 327-333 Summer Street in the South Boston section of Boston, MA.

The initial alarm for the fire was transmitted at approximately 4:30 AM. The building has been undergoing renovation.

Media reports:

Boston Globe: Eight-alarm fire sweeps through South Boston building on Summer Street; no injuries reported (3 DEC 13)

NECN: Very active scene in Boston’s Seaport District after 8-alarm building fire (3 DEC 13)

WBZ-TV: 8-Alarm Fire Guts South Boston Building Under Renovation (3 DEC 13)

WCVB-TV: Fire causes $2 million in damage (3 DEC 13)

WFXT-TV: Crews battle 8-alarm fire in Boston (3 DEC 13)

WHDH-TV: Crews battle 8-alarm fire in South Boston (3 DEC 13)

WCVB-TV Slideshow: Crews battle massive fire

Background information:

Boston Fire Department

City of Boston

Wikipedia: Boston

Google Map: 327-333 Summer Street, Boston, MA

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patronal Feastday of the United States of America (it is usually celebrated on 8 December, but the celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent took precedence). The assigned readings are Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; and Luke 1:26-38. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 98 (Psalm 98:1-4).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Immaculate Conception - Psalm 98

The Gospel reading is as follows:

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.

Reflections on this celebration and on these readings:

National Catholic Register: Jimmy Akin: The Immaculate Conception: 8 things to know and share . . .  (8 DEC 13)

The Crossroads Initiative: Virgin Mary, Mother of the Re-created World – St. Anselm

Fallible Blogma: Quote of the Day: Immaculate Conception

Fr. Tommy Lane: Homily for December 8th - The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

Homily of John Paul II: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (8 DEC 2004)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the marvelous deeds You have done (as proclaimed in Psalm 98).

Fr. Barron on C. S. Lewis and Evangelization

“Two famous men died on November 22, 1963. The first did so in the most dramatic way possible, assassinated in the full glare of publicity on the streets of Dallas; the second in relative obscurity, in the upstairs bedroom of his simple home on the outskirts of Oxford, England. John F. Kennedy’s legacy has, of course, been enormous, but I wonder whether C.S. Lewis has actually, in the course of these past 50 years, had a greater impact on the culture than his counterpart. When he died at the age of 65, Lewis’s reputation was on the wane, but he has enjoyed an extraordinary posthumous vogue, as two successive generations have delighted in his literary criticism, his novels, and above all, his clever and incisive Christian apologetics.

“One reason why Lewis has proven so persuasive to so many is that he was compelled to undergo a transition – halting, painful, anguished – from non-belief to belief. Though he had been brought up in a Christian environment, he had lost his faith by the time he entered university. He was not someone to whom religious conviction came naturally or effortlessly; he had to work his way to it, in the face of often harsh opposition, both interior and exterior. This very personal struggle gives him credibility with the millions today who want to believe but who find ideological secularism and militant atheism enormously challenging.”

In a recent commentary, Father Robert Barron reflected on the life and legacy of C. S. Lewis – especially as it relates to proclaiming the Good News of the victory of Christ.

To access Fr. Barron’s complete essay, please visit:

Boston Pilot: C.S. Lewis and the art of evangelization (29 NOV 13)

Reflection Starter from St. Maximilian Kolbe

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.” – Saint Maximilian Kolbe

08 December 2013

“On Jordan’s Bank”

As we continue our Advent Sunday celebration, I offer this version of “On Jordan’s Bank”:

Second Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Second Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Isaiah11:1-10, Romans 15:4-9, and Matthew 3:1-12. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 72 (Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17).

For one version of the Responsorial Psalm set to music, please visit:

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 72 “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever”

The Gospel reading is as follows:

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Reflections on this day and on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Second Sunday of Advent (December 8, 2013)

Msgr. Charles Pope: A Prophet Who Prepares. A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent (7 DEC 13)

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio: 2nd Sunday of Advent: First the Fast – Then the Feast

Verbum Domini: The Good Cop Gospel (5 DEC 13)

The Deacon’s Bench: Homily for December 8, 2013: 2nd Sunday of Advent (7 DEC 13)

Word on Fire: Sermon 674: Eden, The Mountain, the One Who Baptizes with Fire

The Sacred Page: “He Will Baptize With Fire”: The Readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (4 DEC 13)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Kingdom Come (December 8th 2013 – Second Sunday in Advent)

The Catholic World Report Blog: St. John the Baptist, "angelic" guardian of Advent (7 DEC 13)

Spirituality of the Readings: Prepare the Way (Second Sunday of Advent A)

The Word Engaged: Entrance Rites (Second Sunday of Advent A)

Historical Cultural Context: John the Dipper (Second Sunday of Advent A)

Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph: Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Second Sunday of Advent (6 DEC 13)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement You give us through Holy Scripture.

Msgr. Pope on Lady Wisdom and Her Effect on the World

“What would happen if God were ever to remove his sustaining wisdom. What would happen if his abiding presence should ever cease to be present? Truly, all things would cease instantly to exist at all, vanishing. For if the cause be removed, so also the effect.”

In a commentary earlier this year, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on how God’s wisdom infuses and sustains all things and on what would happen if God were ever to remove His sustaining wisdom.

To access Msgr. Pope’s complete post, please visit:

Msgr. Charles Pope: Lady Wisdom as Seen in a Beautiful Video (31 MAY 13)