31 December 2014

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have bestowed on us in 2014.

NCR: Alice von Hildebrand on Fleeting Fads and Eternal Truth

"At 91, Alice von Hildebrand knows she is approaching the end of her life. However, she does not take this as an excuse to blithely give today's moral problems a free pass. As devoted to objective truth as ever, she does not hesitate to challenge moral relativists or even orthodox Catholics who might be mistaken on a given issue."

During a recent National Catholic Register interview, Alice von Hildebrand reflected on her search for truth, goodness and beauty.

To access the complete National Catholic Register interview, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Alice von Hildebrand on Fleeting Fads and Eternal Truth (29 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Thomas Merton

"By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet." - Thomas Merton

30 December 2014

"The First Noel"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of the University of Utah Singers singing "The First Noel":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of laughter.

Making People Laugh is Mystical

Jim Gaffigan is a funny guy. Just ask his wife or his five kids, or ask the five brothers and sisters he grew up with in Indiana. You could ask all the folks he's cracked up on the TV guest appearances he's made, as he did not long ago on the Rachael Ray show. Better yet, you could ask the people at TV Land, the broadcaster which has picked up The Gaffigan Show.  It will shoot in New York and begin airing next year. Check out, also, the two million followers he has on Twitter.

One thing you should understand, though. Gaffigan works clean. No questionable material mars his act. That's a tribute to his family - to wife Jeannie and to those five children - and to his Catholic faith, which he takes seriously indeed. The Gaffigan family lives in a Manhattan apartment, and they're members of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral parish.

Christie Chicoine wrote about Gaffigan recently in Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, and mentioned the way he loves to make people laugh.

"There is something gratifying about being able to change someone's mood," he told her. "There's something mystical about it. You can make someone laugh and then they can feel bad afterward. Or you can make someone laugh, and they feel better."  The latter, of course, is Gaffigan's style, and he'll stay with it.

Despite the five happy kids and the sunny outlook, though, there have been tragic moments in the Gaffigans' marriage, and they've grown through the experience. There were four other pregnancies which ended in sorrow - including their third child, who died the same day that she was born.

"We were able to hold our baby until she fell asleep and didn't wake up," Jeannie Gaffigan said of that day in 2008. And then their prayers were answered on Mother's Day of the following year, when their third daughter was born. "I think the Blessed Mother was showing me that through great pain, in a very literal way, comes a great gift from God," said Jeannie.

Jim Gaffigan's comic shtick concentrates on his love for food - any kind of food, and the junkier the better. His newest book is Food: A Love Story, typical of his humorous approach to life. He describes it, semi-seriously, as the "romanticizing of laziness" and a "confession of gluttony." An earlier book was titled Dad Is Fat - which, though hardly an accurate description of the comedian, works its comic magic as well.

The Jim Gaffigan Show, to begin broadcasting next year, was inspired by Gaffigan's own real-life experience, exploring one New Yorker's struggle to balance family life, stand-up comedy, and an insatiable appetite for food. As with all of his material, it's a collaborative effort. Jim and Jeannie hope their work attracts not only Catholics, but people of all faith - and of none.

Like the chapter in Dad Is Fat, which Gaffigan titled "Letter to My Children."

"You may be wondering how I wrote this book," he says. "From a very early age, you all instinctively knew I wasn't that bright of a guy. Probably from all the times you had to correct me when I couldn't read all the words in The Cat in the Hat . . . Love, Dad."

(This essay is this week's “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

Jim Gaffigan's website

Reflection Starter from Flannery O'Connor

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." - Flannery O'Connor

29 December 2014

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this Bill & Gloria Gaither version of "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" (including solos by Ben Speer and Amy Lambert):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You touch our hearts during periods of silence.

Elizabeth Scalia on the Need for Some Silence in Our Lives

"The silence of which we sing so wistfully at Midnight Mass, is at an all-time premium at Christmas; it is so difficult to find a silent night, let alone sit within one and become immersed in it, that the possibility of a seasonal soothing of the heart - a quieting of the grief of the world - seems the stuff of illusion and myth.

"Christmas has, in too many ways, become the equivalent of an overdone theme-park vacation. By its end, one is knock-kneed with exhaustion and desperately in need of a genuine opportunity to rest."

In a recent commentary, writer Elizabeth Scalia reflected on the gift of and the need for periods of silence during the Christmas season and beyond (and she offers one resource to assist in opening up one's self to this gift).

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

The Anchoress: For Post-Christmas: Unwrap a Bit of Silence (27 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Michael Jordan

"I’ve missed over 9,000 shots I my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot…and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

28 December 2014

Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli: "What Child Is This?"

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli singing "What Child Is This?":

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Today the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The assigned readings are Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Colossians 3:12-21; and Luke 2:22-40. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 128 (Psalm 128:1-5).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord," and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted - and you yourself a sword will pierce - so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (December 28, 2014)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (December 28, 2014)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Focused on a Functional Family: A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (27 DEC 14)

The Deacon's Bench: "They knew profound hope": A homily on the Holy Family (27 DEC 14)

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

The Sacred Page: "The Second Annunciation": The Gospel Reading for the Feast of the Holy Family (27 DEC 14)

Word on Fire: Keeping Your Family Holy (Feasts * Holy Family)

Dr. Scott Hahn: Our True Home (December 28, 2014 - Feast of the Holy Family)

CWR Blog: The Holy Family points the human family to the Heavenly Family (27 DEC 14)

Spirituality of the Readings: In the Shade (The Holy Family, 2014)

The Word Embodied: God Made Flesh (The Holy Family, 2014)

Historical Cultural Context: Children of God (The Holy Family, 2014)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Cyril of Alexandria (The Holy Family, 2014)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Feast of the Holy Family (26 DEC 14)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our families.

Msgr. Pope on the Greater Christmas Gifts

"One of the great dangers at Christmastime (and with life in general) is that we maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum, or, as Jesus puts it, we strain out gnats and swallow camels (Matt 23:24). He said this about the religiously observant of his day, who meticulously followed small, technical rules about cleanliness and ritual purity, but neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:22).

"In other words, at Christmas we can focus so much on buying things and arranging various events that we neglect or even harm those who are our greatest gift."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the greater gifts we can offer at Christmas.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: The Truer Gift As Seen in a Touching Christmas Commercial (26 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"The Christian family is missionary: it announces the love of God to the world." - Pope Francis

27 December 2014

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Nat King Cole singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your gift of serenity.

Father Jonathan Morris and Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer

"When a stranger stopped Father Jonathan Morris while he was walking on a New York City street one cold winter night, he assumed the man would ask him one of the questions he usually gets: 1) Would you pray for me?, 2) Would you hear my confession?, or 3) Hey, I know a priest named Father Jim in North Dakota. Do you know him?

"Instead, the man said, 'I want you to know I don't believe in God, but I'm still trying to be a good person.'

"The man didn't say this aggressively, so Father Jonathan responded warmly and thanked him for feeling comfortable enough to approach him. During an interview on 'Christopher Closeup,' Father Jonathan observed, 'It probably means that we as priests, as Catholics, as people of deep belief, sometimes send off the wrong message that it's because we believe in God that we can be good. [But] there are lots of people who don't believe in God who recognize the moral life is a good life and it's worth living.'"

Tony Rossi, host/producer of Christopher Closeup (the radio show and podcast of The Christophers), recently interviewed Father Jonathan Morris, who discussed his new book, The Way of Serenity: Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer.

To access this interview, please visit:

Christopher Closeup: Father Jonathan Morris on Finding Peace and Happiness in the Serenity Prayer (15 DEC 14)

Christopher Closeup podcast - Guest: Father Jonathan Morris

Background information:

The Christophers

Father Jonathan Morris

Reflection Starter from Charles Dickens

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." - Charles Dickens

25 December 2014

"Joy To The World"

As we continue our celebration of Christmas, I offer this version of Chris Tomlin singing "Joy To The World":

Christmas Blessings

As we celebrate Christmas, I offer my deepest wishes for a truly blessed Christmas to each member of my extended family, each of my friends, each of my associates in any work/ministry, each of my readers, and each of the people of this region!!!

I ask a special blessing for those who are ill, alone, and/or away from home on this day.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:5

YouTube: The Christmas Blessing- Newsong

YouTube: The Blessing Song

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). The assigned readings for the Mass during the night are Isaiah 9:1-6, Titus 2:11-14, and Luke 2:1-14. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 96 (Psalm 96: 1-3, 11-13).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Reflections on solemnity:

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

Msgr. Charles Pope: I Hear Music in the Air! – A Homily for Christmas (24 DEC 14)

The Sacred Page: "For unto us a child is born": Readings for Christmas Mass at Midnight (23 DEC 14)

Spirituality of the Readings: Love's Child (Christmas)

The Word Embodied: Subversive Celebration (Christmas)

Historical Cultural Context: Children of God (Christmas)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Theodotus of Ancyra (Christmas)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the Mystery of the Nativity and for all that it means for Your people.

George Weigel on Christmas and its Message for Intellectuals

:It might seem that everything that could be said, has been said, about the shepherds, the wise men and the Christ Child. But that's one of the marvels of Scripture: the unfolding history of the Church draws out of the inspired Word of God allegories and images previously unrecognized. Thus the familiar Christmas story and its well-known cast of characters shed light on a year in which the Church has been roiled by contention between today's shepherds and today's Magi: between those who, today, hear angels singing, and those whose experience of the faith has been thoroughly 'demythologized' and intellectualized.

"The shepherds we know: poor peasants who, initially afraid, nonetheless did as the angel commanded. And the Magi? They were scientists, intellectuals, who had a lot of obstacles to overcome in reaching their Bethlehem destination - and in comprehending just what happened to them there."

In a recent commentary, George Weigel (columnist and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC) reflected on the message of Christmas for today's shepherds and today's intellectuals.

To access Mr. Weigel’s complete essay, please visit:

The Catholic Difference: Christmas and the humbling of the wise men (22 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Isaiah

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." - Isaiah 9:1

24 December 2014

Emergency Room Recovery Coach Reaches Out to Overdose Patients

"On Christmas Eve, Brittany Silva will keep her cellphone close. She never knows when a hospital will text her about a drug overdose.

"No matter what the hour, the 23-year-old college student who wears a nose stud and a warm smile will show up at the emergency room.

"'I get the feelings,' Silva says she tells her clients. 'I get the hatred you have towards yourself. I'm not better than you…'

"Silva is a certified recovery coach. She is also in long-term recovery."
A recent Providence Journal report profiled Ms. Silva and her ministry as an emergency room recovery coach.

To access the complete Providence Journal report:
Background information:

Archdiocese of Washington: Find the Perfect Gift

The Archdiocese of Washington is offering this reflection on finding the "Perfect Gift" for this Christmas:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings You have planned for us as we enter the Christmas season.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Christmas

"His hair and beard, once salt and pepper, are all salt now. But the man can close his eyes and suddenly he is 5 again, back in his devoutly Irish Catholic home, where it is Christmas Eve 1949.

"Christmas at home meant family time and prayer and visits to the crèche at the parish church, where one day he would serve as an altar boy at midnight Mass. But not now. Now, he and his siblings are upstairs, tucked into their beds.

"His dad and uncle have been out picking over what is left on the Christmas tree lots. They will buy two or three and drill holes in the best one, using branches from the others to fill in the bare spots, constructing the perfect tree from imperfection."
A recent Boston Globe column profiled Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and his Christmas experience over the years, as well as his Christmas message of hope.

To access the complete Boston Globe column, please visit:
To access Cardinal O'Malley's Christmas message, please visit:

Reflection Starter from Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

23 December 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of our children and for all You are doing for and through them.

A Priest’s Commitment to Sober Homes

When the recovering alcoholic voiced doubt about his ability to receive the sacrament of penance because of the endless variety of sins he'd committed, Father Martin Fleming had words of reassurance at the ready. "Tim, the Church is a hospital for sinners," the 87-year-old priest said. "It's not a museum for saints."

The words did the trick. Not only did the man return to the sacraments, he returned to the Church as well. And in the process, a partnership was born. Father Fleming found in Tim Murray, 55, the person he'd been looking for to help him run a growing collection of homes for men like him, men trying to overcome an alcohol-addicted life and get back to a normal way of living. At last count the homes stood at two, the residents at 23. More are on the way.

All this is happening in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Father Fleming serves as a retired priest of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese. It's also where he was honored earlier this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Trinity Sober Homes. All proceeds from the sold-out dinner went back to Trinity, the parent organization for the houses.

As Dave Hrbacek explained it for a story in The Catholic Spirit, the archdiocesan newspaper, the homes are for men 40 and older and offer a faith-filled environment. The surroundings encourage - but do not require - an embrace of Catholicism. Plans are now being made for a third home, and after that more may be on the way.

"Trinity is just another example of Father's lifetime commitment to helping other people," Murray explained. "He's touched so many of our lives and changed our lives. He saved my life. There's no question. It's that simple. The man saved my life."

Father Fleming jokes about his age and his maladies - including Parkinson's Disease - but the conversation takes a serious turn when he talks about Murray.

"He's got boundless energy," the priest said, "and he's gifted and he's sincere. He's really the brains of the place. And he's a good CEO."

But let the talk turn to Murray's fund-raising capability and Father Fleming's sense of humor quickly returns.

"He's the best moocher in captivity," the priest said with a twinkle in his eye. "Put your hand on your wallet when he comes in the door."

Ordained for the archdiocese in 1952, he spent years as a military chaplain - which included a tour of duty in Vietnam. He comes by his interest in substance abuse naturally, having seen as a priest the havoc that misuse of alcohol can play with people's lives. He wants to help those beaten down by addiction make a fresh start in a safe, clean place, and Trinity Sober Homes gives him that chance.

A close friend explains in detail how Father Fleming accomplishes what he does: "You talk to people who've lost everything because of alcohol. Even though they're broke, even though they might be living in a car, there's still something there. It's a treasure, it's a buried treasure. Father helps these guys discover their treasure, all over again."
(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.)

Related media report:

Background information:

Reflection Starter from Psalm 25

"Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way,
He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way." - Psalm 25:8-9

21 December 2014

"Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus"

As our Sunday celebration continues, 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 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Romans 16:25-27; and Luke 1:26-38. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 89 (Psalm 89:2-5, 27-29).

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

YouTube: Psalm 89 - Forever I Will Sing by Marty Haugen

The Gospel reading is as follows:

"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 these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 21, 2014)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 21, 2014)

Msgr. Charles Pope: See What the End Shall Be – A Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent (20 DEC 14)

The Deacon's Bench: Homily for December 21, 2014: 4th Sunday of Advent (20 DEC 14)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Mystery of the Incarnation

The Sacred Page: Mystery Now Revealed: The Fourth Sunday in Advent (17 DEC 14)

Word on Fire: A Not Very Cozy Advent (Cycle B * Advent * Week 3)

Dr. Scott Hahn: The Mystery Kept Secret (December 21st 2014 - Fourth Sunday in Advent)

CWR Blog: Hail, Mary! Tabernacle of God and the Word! (20 DEC 14)

Spirituality of the Readings: Listening With the Heart (The 4th Sunday of Advent B)

The Word Embodied: This Is My Body (The 4th Sunday of Advent B)

Historical Cultural Context: Virginity & Honor (The 4th Sunday of Advent B)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Bede (The 4th Sunday of Advent B)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Fourth Sunday of Advent (19 DEC 14)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for actively calling us during this holy season of Advent.

Msgr. Pope on Hastening to Meet Jesus During Advent

"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 that we are also journeying to Him. In fact, as the Advent prayers in the Roman Missal instruct, we ought to run, not walk, and hasten to greet Him as He draws near.

"The image of the Prodigal Son comes to mind. His father saw him and ran toward him. But at the same time, he was hastening toward his father with contrition and hope. So too, in Advent, do we look for the Lord's coming. But the Lord also looks for us to come to Him by faith. We, like the prodigal son, consider our need for salvation, and with contrition (did you get to confession this advent?), hasten to meet our Lord, whom we know by faith is coming to us."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the importance of actively waiting for and reaching out to the Lord during the season of Advent.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: Run, Don’t Walk, to the Nearing Jesus! (17 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint. The Lord never lets us down." - Pope Francis

20 December 2014

Robert Goulet: "Sunrise, Sunset"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Robert Goulet singing "Sunrise, Sunset" (from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the example You gave us in Your life on earth and for the many ways in which You encourage us to follow Your example.

Br. Athanasius Murphy, O.P., on Jesus as the Root of Jesse

"Roots are the hidden plant-parts that keep the rest of the organism aloft. They're the source of life that make growth and nourishment possible. Christ, by his Incarnation, is no different. Fashioned in the womb and born of Mary, Christ makes us grow from the same shoot that sprung from Jesse. Christ, as God and through his humanity, keeps the Church alive. Here are a few things to remember this Advent about Christ’s human life, and how he’s the root and foundation of our lives."

In a recent commentary, Br. Athanasius Murphy, O.P., reflected on Jesus' humility, obedience, prayer and patience as the Root of Jesse.

To access Br. Athanasius' complete reflection, please visit:

Dominicana: Root of Jesse (19 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Fr. Brian Cavanaugh

"Even though God is the wind beneath your wings, you still have to do a lot of flapping." – Father Brian CavanaughTOR

19 December 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for placing us in our families and for the many blessings You have bestowed on our families.

Pope Francis on the Holy Family and Our Family Lives

"Pope Francis spoke . . . about Jesus' choice to be born into a family, saying that it shows the importance of the vocation, which Mary and Joseph epitomized through their everyday holiness.

"'We can learn so much from Mary and Joseph, and especially from their love for Jesus. They help us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family,' the Roman Pontiff told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Dec. 17 general audience.

"Jesus, he noted, 'was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion (and) he learned from the words and example of Mary and Joseph.'"

In this week's Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis reflected on the family, "God's gift since the beginning of creation, . . . honored and confirmed through Christ's incarnation," and he called on each family to make a place for Jesus in their home.

To access a Catholic News Agency report on the Pope's audience, please visit:

CNA: Pope: Mary and Joseph exemplify mission, vocation of family life (17 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from the Book of Proverbs

"The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps." - Proverbs 16:9

17 December 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven: "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major"

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Ludwigvan Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major," (Opus 55, also known as Sinfonia Eroica [Heroic Symphony]) as played by the NBC Symphony Orchestra: (conducted by Arturo Toscanini):

(Note: Beethoven was baptized on this date in 1770.)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways You present to us, during Advent, to prepare for the celebration of Christmas.

Fr. James Ronan on Preparing for Christmas

"There is so much noise and so many distractions in these December days that it causes me to wonder how one really can get prepared for Christmas. In the broader society, prepared means you have 'all of your shopping done.' Yet, the deeper truth is that preparing is actually something else entirely. It is an inner thing."

In a recent commentary, Father James Ronan (pastor of Saint Mary-Saint Catherine of Siena Parish, Charlestown, MA) reflected on ways to celebrate the season of Advent.

To access Fr. Ronan's complete reflection, please visit:

Boston Pilot: Echoes: So, how do you prepare? (12 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Theodore Roosevelt

"This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in." - Theodore Roosevelt

16 December 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for continuing to hold each of us in existence.

Jesus, Santa, and Service for Christmas

Actress Candace Cameron Bure, who grew up on television playing D.J. Tanner on the hit sitcom Full House, knows first-hand that you can create a Christ-centered Christmas for kids while still enjoying Santa Claus and the commercial aspects of the holiday. That's exactly what she does with her three children because it reflects how her celebration of Christmas has evolved through the years.
During a recent interview on Christopher Closeup to discuss both the Christmas movies in which she stars on the Hallmark Channel along with her book Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose, Bure said, "Christmas for us growing up as kids was about Santa and presents, and also serving because charity has always been important to my family, particularly to my mom, who modeled that so well. We definitely were taught the 'giving' part of the season."
It wasn't until a conversion experience years later that Bure fully appreciated the fact that Christmas was about the birth of the Savior. Now she incorporates the best of both worlds into life with her husband, former hockey star Valeri Bure, and their children Natasha, Maksim and Lev.
Bure said, "As a mom, I make sure the season is really focused around Christ, but I still love the commercialism of Christmas too! I think it’s wonderful, and I think that you can do both! With our kids over the years, we scaled way back on presents and told them, 'It's just not about this; Christ gives us a gift.' And the saying is so true, 'It's better to give than receive.' I love watching my kids on Christmas morning when one of them has saved up their money and they give their brother a Christmas present. The joy of giving is almost bigger than the one receiving."
There's one tradition that's especially important to the Bures: "For us as a family, we started serving at a shelter on Christmas morning. We wake up at about 5 a.m. and, with some other family members and friends, we go to a local shelter that has about 40 or 50 people staying there. We bring breakfast and we cook it there for them and then we sit down and we eat, share stories and listen to them and encourage them. For us it's about giving back first, and then coming home and having the traditional present-opening at our house and then a big family Christmas dinner with all of our relatives."
Jesus isn't just someone Bure talks about at Christmas time, but someone she makes time for every day. She said, "The busier you are, it's easy to put [God] at the bottom of your list. I don't and I won't. I make time to read my Bible. I just read the Bible this morning with the kids. Before going to school, at 6:45, we all sat on the couch and read a chapter of Corinthians. We talk about it about 15 minutes before school, but it sets your day."
Ultimately, everything comes back to being humble before God for Bure. When asked how she moves forward in hope during times of darkness, she said, "It's on my knees, literally. I have my prayer spot in my room right by my bed. And [I use it] every day, not just when times get bad. When you have that ongoing relationship and dialogue with God, I think that, overall, you will just be calmer and more peaceful, even in difficult times."
(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:

Reflection Starter from John Henry Newman

"Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to Heaven." - Blessed John Henry Newman

15 December 2014

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which the beauty of Your creation reflects Your glory.

Christopher White on Catholic Americans

"The degree to which one can be both a faithful Catholic and a patriotic American has been hotly debated over the years. In his now classic work, We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, Jesuit theologian Father John Courtney Murray posited that the Catholic tradition’s understanding of liberty could help elucidate the American understanding of liberty as a necessary political principle.

"It’s been fifty years since Murray’s original work was published, and his thesis still is questioned by some. What is undeniable, however, is that Catholics have had a significant influence on both the spiritual and political fabric of this country. . . ."

In a recent commentary, columnist Christopher White reflected on some of the influences of the Catholic Church on the heritage of the United States.

To access Mr. White's complete post, please visit:

Catholic Pulse: Proud to be a Catholic American (11 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Archbishop Fulton Sheen

"The proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble man his blessings." - Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

14 December 2014

"Come, Lord Jesus"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of Father Richard Ho Lung, M.O.P., and Friends presenting "Come, Lord Jesus":

Third Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Third Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 2 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; and John 1:6-8, 19-28. The Responsorial Psalm is Luke 1:46-50, 53-54..

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm for 3rd Sunday of Advent (Mary's Song)

The Gospel reading is as follows:

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, "Who are you?"

He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Christ."

So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?"

And he said, "I am not."

"Are you the Prophet?"

He answered, "No."

So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?"

He said: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'  as Isaiah the prophet said."

Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?"

John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."

This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Third Sunday of Advent (December 14, 2014)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Third Sunday of Advent (December 14, 2014)

Msgr. Charles Pope: Sweet, Beautiful, Soul-Saving Joy – A Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (13 DEC 14)

The Deacon's Bench: "Rejoice always!" A homily for Guadete Sunday (13 DEC 14)

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio: Gaudete Sunday: What John the Baptist Teaches us about Humility and Joy

The Sacred Page: Rejoice! The Readings for Gaudete Sunday! (12 DEC 14)

Word on Fire: A Not Very Cozy Advent (Cycle B * Advent * Week 3)

Dr. Scott Hahn: One Who is Coming (December 14th 2014 - Third Sunday in Advent)

CWR Blog: The Joyful, Particular Scandal of Advent (14 DEC 14)

Spirituality of the Readings: Holy Darkness (The 3rd Sunday of Advent B)

The Word Embodied: Gaudete: Rejoice (The 3rd Sunday of Advent B)

Historical Cultural Context: A Different Kind of Priest (The 3rd Sunday of Advent B)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by John Scotus Erigena (The 3rd Sunday of Advent B)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Gaudete Sunday (12 DEC 14)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You encourage us to spend time with You.

Msgr. Pope on the Importance of Experience

"I want to give two thumbs up for good old-fashioned experience, just experiencing life to its top … just having an experience! Too often in today's hurried age and also in this time of 24×7 news, we rush past experience right to analysis. Too often we insist on knowing immediately what something 'means' and what to think about it. This rush to think and analyze often happens before the experience is even over. And, of course, analyzing something before all the facts are in leads to limited, often poor analysis."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on the importance of being still and experiencing what God is actually doing in our lives.

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

Msgr. Charles Pope: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There! A Brief Consideration of the Importance of Experience (10 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Ecology is essential for the survival of mankind; it is a moral issue which affects all of us." - Pope Francis

13 December 2014

Ed Ames: "Try To Remember"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Ed Ames singing "Try To Remember":

A "White Christmas" Reflection

Last night, Myrna and I watched what has become a Christmas season standard - the 1954 film White Christmas. It is a great movie, with a number of good thought starters related to the ways in which we treat the people with whom we interact each day.

One particular point that caught my mind in subsequent reflection was the conclusion jumped to by Betty Haynes (played by Rosemary Clooney) regarding what she though was a self-promotional initiative by Bob Wallace (played by Bing Crosby) under the guise of helping his former commanding officer, General Thomas Waverly (played by Dean Jagger). As part of the process, Betty took a number of isolated bits of information and wove them into an erroneous conclusion about Bob.

It was a reminder to me of how easy it is to reach wrong conclusions using only partial pieces of information> it was also a reminder of an adage I often repeat - "There's always more to the story." May this lesson continue to impress itself in my mind.

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of grace and for the many ways in which You work through grace in our lives.

Pope Francis on What Is Missing in Our Spiritual Lives

"In [a recent] homily Pope Francis said that God's love is always expressed in tenderness, and cautioned that if we haven't experienced this, then something is missing in our relationship with the Lord.

"'The grace of God is another matter: it is closeness, it is tenderness. This rule is always valid,' the Pope told those present in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse for his Dec. 11 daily Mass.

"'If, in your relationship with the Lord, you do not feel that He loves you tenderly, you are missing something, you still have not understood what grace is, you have not yet received grace which is this closeness.'"

In a recent homily on the readings for the Thursday of the Second Week of Advent, Pope Francis reflected on we are sometimes tempted to think of grace a s kind of merchandise and strongly encouraged us not to turn our spiritual lives into a "spirituality of law" in which we gain grace through a point system of good work. He recommended that, instead, we open our hearts to the tenderness of God, who is capable of bringing spiritual freedom.

To access a news report on the Pope’s homily, please visit:

Catholic News Agency: Pope: Missing something in your spiritual life? It's probably love (11 DEC 14)

Reflection Starter from the Book of Proverbs

"Many are the plans of the human heart, but it is the decision of the LORD that endures." - Proverbs 19:21

12 December 2014

Two New England Communities Recognized as Climate Action Champions

The White House recently designated sixteen communities (including Boston, MA, and Montpelier, VT) as Climate Action Champions.

The Climate Action Champions competition was initiated by the White House to identify and recognize local climate leaders and to provide targeted Federal support to help those communities further raise their ambitions.

The City of Boston was recognized because it has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The City is the first in the region to adopt Green Building Zoning, add climate resilience to the large new construction review process, and work with utilities on a regional microgrid. In addition, Boston implemented a “Green Ribbon Commission,” which represents businesses, non-profit organizations, and community leaders from a variety of sectors working to develop shared strategies for fighting climate change in coordination with the city’s Climate Action Plan.

The City of Montpelier was recognized because it launched Net Zero Montpelier, a major initiative designed to make Montpelier the first effectively carbon-neutral capital city in the country by the year 2030. The City was also recognized for creating the first energy efficiency utility and the first standard offer program and for making a commitment to eliminate fossil fuel use across all sectors

For more information about this award, please visit:

Background information:

A Christmas Concert at Boston Children's Hospital

"They had to finish the concert.

"Sophie Fellows, a wispy 9-year-old with a love of the violin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last week, a day after she was stricken with a painful headache in the middle of a holiday concert in Vermont.

"With her surgery scheduled for Friday, her friends and music teacher filled a room at Boston Children's Hospital Thursday, performing a Christmas concert that was both sweet and tenderly sad. They wanted to give back something that had been taken away."

A recent Boston Globe article reported on the outreach of Sophie's friends and teacher and on the completion of the concert at Boston Children's Hospital.

To access the complete Boston Globe report, please visit:

Boston Globe: 9-year-old with brain tumor gets to finish concert with friends (12 DEC 14)

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today’s the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (patroness of the Americas). 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