31 December 2015

"Auld Lang Syne"

As this blessed year draws to a close, I offer this version of André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra presenting "Auld Lang Syne":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have bestowed upon each of us, as individuals and as families/other groups, over the year that is coming to a close.

George Weigel on Christmas and Our Upside-down World

". . . Preachers at Christmas often, and rightly, emphasize the lowliness of the Christ Child's birth and its first annunciation to a gaggle of herders not highly esteemed by their countrymen. What St. Paul reminds us, in First Corinthians, is that this pattern of inversion -- turning everything upside-down -- continues throughout the public ministry of the Lord Jesus and reaches its dramatic climax in his death and resurrection.

"Jesus doesn't evangelize the principalities and powers (although they, too, are welcome to listen and learn): he goes to the outcasts, including lepers and prostitutes, to announce and embody a Kingdom in which Israel's God is king, not just of the people of Israel, but of the whole world. The child 'wrapped...in swaddling clothes and laid....in a manger' (Luke 2.7) will not establish God's rule and kingdom by political cunning, or by a display of worldly wisdom, or by knocking emperors and procurators off their thrones or judgment-seats: he will reign from a different throne, an instrument of torture -- the Cross. He will not be celebrated, like victorious Roman generals, with a 'triumph,' a vast spectacle conducted in the capital of world empire: the signs of his 'triumph' will be an empty tomb; the pierced hands and feet of a transfigured, glorified body that defies time and space; burning memories of a walk to Emmaus; a breakfast of grilled fish on the lakeshore; a commission to go and convert the world, issued to a group of nobodies.

"It's all inversion -- all upside-down -- all the way."

In a recent commentary, George Weigel (columnist and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC) reflected on Christmas and its part in the paradox of the victory of Jesus.

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

The Boston Pilot: Echoes: Christmas and a world upside-down (22 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Harriet Beecher Stowe

"To do common things perfectly is far better worth our endeavor than to do uncommon things respectably." - Harriet Beecher Stowe

30 December 2015

"I Wonder As I Wonder"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Tajci and the Michael Alvey Trio presenting "I Wonder As I Wonder":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for Your constant presence, whether we are aware of it or not.

Norm Pattis on God's Presence

"It is the day before Christmas, and I should be scurrying around, doing my last minute shopping, and letting the holiday spirit overcome me all at once. I fight it, you see, feeling somehow that a day celebrating the birth of the Son of God by a virgin is just too much to take.

"But I yield in the end, not so much to the theology, but to the chance to draw close to those I love, and to shut out the world for a few days.

"Christmas is like that, you see. If you let it, the holiday will transform you. Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t the only one undone by love. . . .

"I am not saved. The cross is foolishness to me. Or so it seemed …

"You can't escape the cross in Italy. It's everywhere. There are churches seemingly at every square. In recessed alcoves on street corners, religious figures peer out onto passersby. Works of art proclaim a story of sacrifice, salvation, and damnation. . . .

"God, it seems, is everywhere. . . .

"But there’s something more substantial than the eye candy, something lingering in the silence. Just what it is, I cannot say, but I know enough to want more of it.

"It is easy to scoff at the Church until you stand inside one. There’s a silence in the air, the intimation of something holy. All truly is calm. . . ."

In a recent commentary, lawyer and columnist Norm Pattis reflected on his encounter, as a non-churchgoing person, with an awe-inspiring "something" in a church.

To access Mr. Pattis' complete essay, please visit:

New Haven Register: Columns: Norm Pattis: God, it seems, is everywhere (24 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from St. Francis de Sales

"Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly." - Saint Francis de Sales

29 December 2015

Ryan Kraeger on Senior Citizens' Call to Holiness

"'We should start referring to 'age' as 'levels'. So when your Lvl 80 it sounds more badass than just being an old person.'

"My mom posted this image on my facebook wall this morning. It was undoubtedly the mysterious and ironic workings of Providence that prompted her to do so, because as it so happened I had been contemplating that exact idea for several weeks, off and on. More ironically still, I had been thinking about it at Holy Hour that very morning while wondering what to write about for my upcoming Ignitum post.

"So, as I said, a Providence moment. Sometimes even I can take a hint.

"Seriously though, that is my exact conception of aging, in gamer metaphor. An 80-year-old ought to be twice as powerful and holy as a 40-year-old, or else what on earth is the point of getting older?

In a recent commentary, writer Ryan Kraeger reflected on senior citizens' call to holiness.

To access Ryan's complete post, please visit:

Ignitum Today: Leveling Up (14 DEC 15)

Jackie Evancho: "The First Noel"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Jackie Evancho presenting "The First Noel":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the ways You deem to answer the prayers being offered for us.

Reflection Starter from 1 John

"We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" - 1 John 4:16

28 December 2015

Manheim Steamroller: "Still, Still, Still"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Manheim Steamroller presenting "Still, Still, Still":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many prayers that are being offered for us, as individuals and/or as part of a group.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe on Christmas Mercies

"We were so far ahead this year. For the first time in 10 years or more, the lights and decorations were up on Thanksgiving weekend and all our holiday preparations seemed to be under control. Then life happened. We passed through a round of colds in succession, and through a few weekends with too much crammed into them. Then Andrew worked very late to complete some tasks at his job, kids had semester final exams, we had an unexpected trip to the ER for a dislocated ankle, and the cold returned with a vengeance in the form of at least one sinus infection, and a case of bronchitis. Suddenly, everything we were ahead on fell behind or through a crack or off the radar entirely. I give up!"

In a recent commentary, writer Jaymie Stuart Wolfe reflected on holiday expectations, receiving what we need, and the gift of Mercy.

To access Ms. Wolfe's complete post, please visit:

The Boston Pilot: Echoes: Christmas mercies (25 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Psalm 128

"Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways." - Psalm 128:1

27 December 2015

Massachusetts Police Officers Deliver Food on Christmas Day

"On Christmas Day, Nicole Esposito knocked on the door of an apartment on Rose Kennedy Lane at the Framingham Housing Authority.

"A man answered the door holding a salami sandwich.

"'I told him, 'Put that damn salami sandwich down, you got some hot food,'' said Esposito.

"Esposito was one of more 50 volunteers with the Framingham and Natick police departments who delivered Chinese food to needy people on Christmas Day."

A recent MetroWest Daily News article reported on this outreach by officers to 300 people in the two Massachusetts communities. The food was donated by Sabrina Wong III, a Chinese restaurant located in Framingham.

To access the complete MetroWest Daily News report, please visit:

MetroWest Daily News: Police from Natick and Framingham deliver food on Christmas Day (26 DEC 15)

Background information:

Framingham, MA, Police Department

Natick, MA, Police Department

Town of Framingham, MA

Town of Natick, MA

Wikipedia: Natick, Massachusetts

Wikipedia: Framingham, Massachusetts

On Ways to Become a Holy Family

"The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that our families are called to be holy, too.

"Concluding World Meeting of Families 2015, Pope Francis said, 'Holiness is always tied to little gestures. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life and life to become faith.'

"So how can a family grow in holiness in daily life?"

In a recent commentary, National Catholic Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen offered a number of recommendations (including doing works of mercy, eating meals together, and praying) on how a family may grow together in holiness.

To access Mr. Pronechen's complete essay, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Eight Ways to Become a Holy Family (27 DEC 15)

Luciano Pavaroti and the Vienna Boys Choir: "Gesu Bambino"

As our Sunday and Christmas celebrations continue, I offer this version of Luciano Pavaroti and Wiener Sängerknaben (the Vienna Boys Choir) presenting Pietro Yon's"Gesu Bambino":

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 2:41-52. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 128 (Psalm 128:1-5). 

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

YouTube: Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 128 "Blessing of the home of the just and the reverent"

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Each year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."

And he said to them,"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (December 27, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Holy Family (December 27, 2015)

Community in Mission: God’s Plan for Marriage and Family - A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (26 DEC 15)

Aleteia: Deacon Greg Kandra: "This Family Shares Our Burdens": Homily for Feast of the Holy Family (26 DEC 15)

Word on Fire: Hannah, Her Son, and the Holy Family (Feasts * Holy Family)

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: Our True Home: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Holy Family (21 DEC 15)

The Dispatch: "Why were you looking for me?" (27 DEC 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: There He Sat (Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph C)

Let the Scriptures Speak: The Open Family (Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph C)

The Word Embodied: The Centrality of Christ (Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph C)

Historical Cultural Context: Jesus in the Temple (Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph C)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Origen of Alexandria (Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph C)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord for the gift of our families and for the many ways in which You work through family life.

Msgr. Pope on the Nighttime Celebration of Christmas

"Some sing, 'O Holy Night.' Some sing, 'Silent Night.' Some sing, 'It Came upon a Midnight Clear.' Christmas, it would seem, is a festival of the middle of the night. Jesus was born when it was dark, dark midnight. We are sure of it. And why shouldn't we be?

"Even though we are not told the exact hour of His birth, we are sure that it must have been at night. Scripture does say that the shepherds who heard the glad tidings were keeping watch over their flock by night (cf Luke 2:9). Further, the Magi sought him by the light of a star, and stars are seen at night - deep midnight. None of this is evidence that Jesus was born at 11:59 PM, but it sets our clocks for nighttime - deep midnight. . . .

"How fitting it is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the true Light of the World, in deep and dark December. Jesus, our light, kindles a fire that never dies away. Indeed, in the dark hours of late December, we notice a trend. The light is returning; the darkness is abating; the days are growing longer from this point on. It is subtle now, but it will grow! And with the return of light, we celebrate our True Light: Jesus."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on celebration of the birth of the Light of the world and what this means for us, His people.

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

Community in Mission: Why Christmas Is Celebrated at Night (22 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"God is in love with us. He becomes small to help us love him in return.Pope Francis

26 December 2015

"12 Days of Christmas Our Father Gave To Us"

As we continue our Christmas celebration, I offer this version of Rebecca Even's "12 Days of Christmas Our Father Gave To Us" (see earlier post, "Joseph Pronechen on Celebrating Christmas Fully"):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have poured on our family celebrations of Christmas.

Joseph Pronechen on Celebrating Christmas Fully

"Popular culture says Christmas is over on Dec. 26.

"But Catholics know that Christmas is 12 days (from Christmas Day through the Epiphany) -  and then some (the Christmas season ends on the feast of the baptism of the Lord in January)."

"Santa Claus may be society's holiday staple, but his Catholic roots as St. Nicholas shouldn't be ignored either."

The National Catholic Register recently re-shared an essay by staff writer Joseph Pronechen in which he reflected on the importance of celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, the real saint behind the popular depiction of Santa Claus, and the meaning of Christmas - "God becoming man to journey with us as the Light of the World."

To access Mr. Pronechen's complete essay, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Celebrate Christmas Fully (25 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from William Frebuger

"Luke's Gospel account of the Christmas event is full of activity. . . . And yet, in the middle of the frenetic action, here is this woman wrapped in mystical silence. . . . She demonstrates the necessity of a quiet place within ourselves at Christmastime - that place where we are most ourselves in relation to God.

"It is a place of silence, not because it is untouched by all the activity of our lives, but because it is capable of wonder. Every prayer begins with silent wonder before it turns to words. Our first response to God is dumbstruck awe at who he is and what he has done for us." - William Frebuger

25 December 2015

Joseph Pearce on the Spirit of Christmas and "A Christmas Carol"

"It could be argued and has been argued that, after Shakespeare, Charles Dickens is the finest writer in the English language. His works have forged their way into the canon to such a degree that it is much more difficult to know which of his novels to leave off the recommended reading list than it is to choose which to include. Each of us has our favourites and each invariably begs to differ with his neighbour's choice. True, in terms of pure brute statistics, we would be forced to concede that A Tale of Two Cities is most people's favourite because it is usually listed as the bestselling novel of all time, with sales exceeding 200 million (though Don Quixote, which is excluded from official statistics and has never been out of print since its first publication four hundred years ago, has probably sold more copies).

"Those who are justifiably skeptical of the claim that the bestselling is necessarily the best, might point to a poll conducted by the Folio Society, a de facto private members club for bibliophiles, as a more objective way of judging the best of Dickens as opposed to the most popular. More than ten thousand members of the Society voted in 1998 for their favourite books from any age. . . . In any case, and irrespective of these populist and elitist judgments, none of these Dickensian heavyweights wins my vote as Dickens' greatest work. That accolade belongs, me judice, to the diminutive genius of A Christmas Carol.

"Originally published in 1843, A Christmas Carol is sandwiched chronologically between Barnaby Rudge and Martin Chuzzlewit, much weightier tomes. Yet Dickens' ghost story not only punches beyond its weight but outpunches its heavyweight rivals. Switching metaphors, the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, like a genie released or unleashed from a bottle, escapes from the pages of the book to charm the collective psyche of the culture. He is a literary colossus who, without the benefit of eponymous billing, has emerged from Dickens' imaginary menagerie as a cautionary icon of mean-spirited worldliness. Serving as a 'mirror of scorn and pity towards Man,' which Tolkien considered one of the chief characteristics of all good fairy-stories, Scrooge has shone across the generations as a beacon of hope and redemption, as powerful parabolically as the Prodigal Son of which he is a type."

In a recent commentary, Joseph Pearce, Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative, reflected on the Spirit of Christmas as exemplified by A Christmas Carol.

To access Mr. Pearce's complete essay, please visit:

The Imaginative Conservative: Holy Ghosts & the Spirit of Christmas: "A Christmas Carol"

"O Come, All Ye Faithful" ("Adeste Fideles")

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" ("Adeste Fideles"):

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 day are Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, and John 1:1-18. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 98 (Psalm 98: 1-6).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
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.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
 He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man's decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father's only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
"This was he of whom I said,
'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.'"
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side,
has revealed him. 

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Nativity of Jesus Christ (December 25, 2015)

Community in Mission: I Hear Music in the Air! – A Homily for Christmas (24 DEC 14)

The Deacon's Bench: "How Does This Happen to Me?": Homily for December 20, 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent (19 DEC 15)

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

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for becoming one of us coming into the world in such a special way.

R. Jared Staudt on Art and the Embodiment of the Incarnate Word

"Our celebration of the great feast days should instantiate in our lives the realities they communicate. For Christmas, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, our actions, such as gift giving, caroling, the symbols of green life in winter, should make present the gift of the new life of Christ coming into the world. Like the angels, we sing our joy at the arrival of our Savior.

"Music provides one of our most common experiences of Christmas and this is fitting. Even in the midst of the secularization of the feast, the most profound and cherished musical pieces still reflect the sacred mystery we celebrate. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to see the realities of Christmas. We take them for granted. They have become hackneyed, plastered on Hallmark cards and shaped into plastic ornaments. Christmas can become marked by kitsch and confined to the sentimental.

"To respond to the many threats to our experience of true festivity, we must interiorly reclaim the mysteries of faith so that we can translate them into the world around us. This renewed experience of the reality of Christ's birth can be aided by a broader use of art in our celebration. I am presenting a triptych of art, which entails a movement from a renewed formation of the inner word, to its outer expression in an image, culminating in an outer instantiation in the world."

In a recent commentary,  R. Jared Staudt, Director of the Catholic Studies Program, University of Mary, Bismarck, ND, reflected on how art can shape the embodiment of the Incarnate Word in our lives.

To access Dr. Staudt's complete essay, please visit:

Crisis Magazine: Art and the Embodiment of the Incarnate Word (24 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from William Arthur Ward

"Christmas is not just a season,
Christmas is not just a day,
Christmas is more than a reason
For parties, presents and play.

"Christmas is truly the essence
Of joy that the Savior brings;
Christmas is surely the presence
Of Jesus, the Kings of Kings!" - William Arthur Ward

24 December 2015

Fr. Longenecker on Why Atheists Should Celebrate Christmas

"Sometimes I hear Christians grumbling about atheists celebrating Christmas. So they're hypocrites. Big deal. Aren't you?

"In thinking it through, there are good reasons why Christmas matters for atheists and for everyone.

"If they don't realize why it matters, maybe the prominence of the season will  make some of them stop and think twice and realize that Jesus Christ is real, and that his birth is something to celebrate.

"Jesus matters and therefore his birth matters and everyone who cares about life, love and all things 'illimitably yes' should celebrate Christmas for some good, solid reasons. Even if they don't believe the Christian truths, the beliefs of Christianity compel all men and women to think again about their true values and what really matters to all of us as human beings."

In a recent commentary, Father Dwight Longenecker (parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Greenville, SC) offered several reasons why atheists should celebrate Christmas (including the truths that children are a treasure and the supernatural is natural).

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

Standing on My Head: Ten Reasons Why Atheists Should Celebrate Christmas (24 DEC 15)

Background information:

Dwight Longenecker - Catholic priest and author

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of each member of our family.

Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, on Appreciating Family Members

"Whether it's the in-laws, someone's new significant other, or a blood relative, someone inevitably may come close to challenging our Christmas spirit. Will there even be a person at our Christmas dinner table we wish was not? Maybe Jesus' family was just like ours.

"In the gospel reading from Matthew for Christmas Eve Mass, also known as the Vigil Mass, the genealogy - or family tree - of Jesus is to be read. It is a long reading with many hard-to-pronounce names. Parishes will frequently forego this selection for a more child-friendly reading of the birth of Jesus, since so many families come to this Mass. Nevertheless, it is an essential piece of our salvation history.

"We see clearly that Jesus' ancestors were not all saints. In fact, there were some infamous sinners. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Father Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, reflected on the importance of appreciating our family members, even "those driving us crazy."

To access Fr. Kevin's complete post, please visit:

Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS: Those Darn In-Laws

Reflection Starter from St. Francis de Sales

"Do everything for God, uniting yourself to him in word and deed." - Saint Francis de Sales

23 December 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of bells and their chiming.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Bells. Bells! Few sounds are so joyously teamed with Christmas as that of bells - happily ringing, singing to all that Christmastime is here once again. And one of our most beloved Christmas carols celebrates just that.

     I heard the bells on Christmas Day
     Their old familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet the words repeat
     Of peace on earth, good-will to men.

The "lyricist" was none other than Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose 1863 poem inspired the carol. It was first set to music in 1872, but you probably know the music written much later, by Johnny Marks in 1950. (The carol was recorded by - among many others - Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.)

Most of us know only the first verse. There's much more to it, though, and it was all told in an op-ed piece in The Record, a North Jersey paper, by an old acquaintance, Charles Austin, a retired Lutheran pastor who used to report for The New York Times. It goes like this:

When he first wrote the poem, Longfellow was still mourning the death of his wife in an 1861 fire. Only a month before, he learned at his Massachusetts home that his son had been seriously wounded fighting for the North in the Civil War. His spirits were sagging, although they revived as he wrote the first stanza and another that followed it. But by the third and fourth he allowed despair to grip him once more - and wrote that the War, which consumed the country, had made the concept of peace on earth "forlorn" once more.

     And in despair I bowed my head:
     "There is no peace on earth," I said,
     "For hate is strong and mocks the song
     Of peace on earth, good-will to men."

But yet the theme persisted - as if in answer, Austin wrote, to Longfellow's sorrow.

The poet took up his task yet again:

     Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
     "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
     The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
     With peace on earth, good-will to men."
     Till ringing singing, on its way,
     The world revolved from night to day,
     A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
     Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

"We need to hear more bells," Austin concludes his article. "Perhaps we could train ourselves to hear even the pop tunes and secular carols as reminders that this season is a time when, although 'peace on earth, good will to all' might not cover the world, it can be present and, indeed, is present so long as we sing about it - and let even a small measure of peace on earth and good will into our lives."

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:

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wikipedia: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

The Christophers

Reflection Starter from Meister Eckhart

"What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?" - Meister Eckhart

20 December 2015

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this presentation of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel":

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Micah 5:1-4, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:39-45. The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 80 (Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 20, 2015)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Salesian Sunday Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 20, 2015)

Community in Mission: A Summary of our Salvation - A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (19 DEC 15)

The Deacon's Bench: "How Does This Happen to Me?": Homily for December 20, 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent (19 DEC 15)

Word on Fire: Mary, David, and the Theo-Drama (Cycle C * Advent * Week 4)

St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology: A Mother's Greeting: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (14 DEC 15)

The CWR Blog: The Virgin Mary bore the King and the Kingdom, the Messiah and the Church (19 DEC 15)

National Catholic Register: Sunday Guide: Mary Had a Busy Advent (20 DEC 15)

Spirituality of the Readings: Spaciousness (4th Sunday of Advent C)

Let the Scriptures Speak: Old Sons, New Key (4th Sunday of Advent C)

The Word Embodied: Stirring in the Womb (4th Sunday of Advent C)

Historical Cultural Context: Vigilance and Prayer (4th Sunday of Advent C)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by Guerric of Igny (4th Sunday of Advent C)

Word to Life Radio Broadcast: Fourth Sunday of Advent (18 DEC 15)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Your Mercy.

Mgr. Pope on Religion and Its Duties as an Act of Justice

"In his Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the virtue of religion within his treatise on justice. This surprises some, who expect it to be treated under the theological virtue of faith. But Thomas clearly states that religion is not a theological virtue. Theological virtues have God Himself for their object, whereas religion has as its object the reverence, worship, and honor due to God (cf IIa, IIae 81.5). Religion is a matter of justice because we owe God a debt of honor, worship, and gratitude (cf IIa, IIae 81.2).

"I would like to briefly consider an extended notion of this concept (that the virtue of religion is a part of justice), drawing it out in a way that St. Thomas permits but does not himself develop (likely due to the fact that atheism and other forms of irreligion were less widespread in his times).

"We can see how religion and the internal and external acts associated with it (devotion, prayer, adoration, sacrificial offerings, tithes, vows, etc.) are a matter of justice in relation to God. God is worthy of our praise. As the author, sustainer, and giver of every good and perfect gift, He is owed a great debt of gratitude from us. It is our duty to praise Him.

"In an extended sense, there is also some duty we have to one another and to the common good by the virtue of religion and its acts. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on why it is important that we rediscover religious practice as an aspect of justice (including its assisting and motivating us to consider more seriously the consequences of our actions on others).

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

Community in Mission: Religion and Its Duties Are Not Only an Act of Justice Toward God, but Something We Owe One Another (13 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"Mercy is the path uniting God with man, for it opens the heart to the hope of an eternal love." - Pope Francis

19 December 2015

"Holy Is His Name"

As this blessed week draws to a close and as we approach our celebration of the birth of Jesus, I offer this version of Lynn Geyer singing "Holy Is His Name":

On Accidents Involving Driverless Cars

"The self-driving car, that cutting-edge creation that's supposed to lead to a world without accidents, is achieving the exact opposite right now: The vehicles have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers.

"The glitch?

"They obey the law all the time, as in, without exception. This may sound like the right way to program a robot to drive a car, but good luck trying to merge onto a chaotic, jam-packed highway with traffic flying along well above the speed limit. It tends not to work out well. As the accidents have piled up -- all minor scrape-ups for now -- the arguments among programmers at places like Google Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University are heating up: Should they teach the cars how to commit infractions from time to time to stay out of trouble?"

A recent Bloomberg report examined this issue and related research.

To access the complete Bloomberg report, please visit:

Bloomberg Business: Humans Are Slamming Into Driverless Cars and Exposing a Key Flaw (17 DEC 15)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities and resources You offer us to nourish our faith.

Carrie Gress on Nourishing Our Faith Lives

"One of the patterns I have noticed among combox chatter when Latin, litanies and rich liturgy are discussed is the ever-present individual who chimes in with, 'You just want to take the Church back to the 1950s.' This prevalent sentiment in the blogosphere and beyond (I assume it isn't just one person repeating it over and over) seems to imply that Catholicism in the 1950s was bad and anything that came after it is good.

"This 'old is bad, new is good' idea is an odd response given the age of the Catholic Church - it's pretty much older than dirt. The Church is the only organization still standing that witnessed the Roman Empire, the historic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the five decades from 1960 to the present are not much more than a flash on the timeline of 2000 years of Church history. Much of what exists within the Church, from the Mass to prayer to defining doctrine, happened before 1960.

"But even if we ignore all of these facts, there is still another compelling reason to consider looking back to what the Church offered before the 1960s: simply the reality that the Church knows how to help people become holy. Those of us accused of wanting to dredge up the 1950s (personally, I prefer the 1350s - the Dawn of the Renaissance) aren't simply looking for traditional trappings but to slake the very real thirst for true holiness and union with God."

In a recent commentary, writer Carrie Gress reflected on the importance of nourishing our faith lives in the same spirit with which we take in good food to nourishing our bodies.

To access Ms. Gress' complete post, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Carrie Gress: Have You Developed a Fast Food Faith? (17 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Dr. James Dobson

"Children need adults who can go for casual walks and talk about fishing and stuff like that . . . and slow down to look at pretty leaves and caterpillars . . . and answer questions about God and the nature of the world as it is." - Dr. James Dobson

16 December 2015

"O You Time of Stillness (Oh du stille Zeit)"

As our Advent celebration continues, I offer this version of the Santec Music Orchestra presenting "O You Time of Stillness" ("Oh du stille Zeit"):

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You touch our hearts in our celebration of the Advent and Christmas season.

The Best Christmas Gift You'll Ever Receive

"If I knew things would no longer be, I would have tried to remember better." That’s a line from the 1990 movie Avalon, which comes to mind every Christmas season because it's a time of year that prompts me to reflect on the past and the best gift I ever received.

It was December 24, 1980, and the wait was grueling. My 11-year-old self had asked for the popular "large size Star Wars action figures" for Christmas, and I couldn't wait to find out whether they would be under the tree.

There were already a couple of gifts there so, being a little sneaky, I put saliva on my finger and rubbed it on the wrapping paper thinking it would become more transparent. No luck. My mother is a gift-wrapping ninja who encased my presents in so much paper, not even Superman's x-ray vision could see through it. The only solution was to wait it out. A nap would be a good idea, I thought, so I lay in bed telling myself to fall asleep. That worked as well as it does today when I'm suffering from occasional insomnia. I wound up staring at the clock and thinking, "Time sure does pass slowly."

Finally, it was time to go to the Christmas Eve vigil Mass with my mother, father, and maternal grandparents, who lived a few doors down from us. Despite difficult challenges, like my grandfather's advancing Parkinson's Disease, we always went to church as a family. It was never seen as a burden, but as something special and necessary to live a good life. Also, my family had survived some harrowing experiences in Yugoslavia after World War II before they immigrated to the United States, and they attributed that to God."

Mass was so festive that it distracted me from my preoccupation with presents. We got to sing carols instead of Advent songs - and a feeling of palpable joy emanated from everyone wearing their finest garb in an overflowing church.

After Mass, we made the traditional rounds: first to my paternal grandparents, then to my maternal grandparents, and finally back home. Sure enough, I hit the action figure motherlode. There were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and more. At the time, I thought those were the greatest presents I ever received.

Adulthood brings a different perspective, though. While the toys provided me with hours of fun, it's the memories that I truly treasure because they were grounded in love. God blessed me with two grandmothers who loved to bake, so their affection was displayed through crescent cookies, made out of ground almonds and dusted with sugar - and through apricot cakes and linzer cookies that made the house smell divine.

I'm also overwhelmed by everything my mother and father did for me that Christmas and throughout my childhood. They worked hard to support our family: my father as a customs broker at Kennedy Airport, and my mother as a coat-check attendant at the Waldorf Astoria. I never lacked love growing up and I know now that gave me a great advantage in life. I'm grateful to still have my parents with me.

Middle age has also taught me that time actually passes very quickly, not slowly, like my 11-year-old self  believed. So when you gather with your family and friends to celebrate Christmas this year, take it all in, even the smallest details. In other words, "remember better." Those moments will be the best Christmas gifts you'll ever receive.

This essay is this week's "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

Reflection Starter from St. John Paul II

"The liturgy of Advent . . . helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an 'advent,' a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously." - Pope Saint John Paul II

15 December 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the everlasting comfort You have planned for us.

Br. Aquinas Beale, O.P., on Facing Our Littleness

"But that’s not what I said! What I was trying to say was much subtler, much more profound, much more just than that…

"How often do we think these words when we experience the (sometimes playful) derision and ridicule of others in response to a complaint we have made? Even if we can see how our complaint can be taken as petty and selfish, it can be a struggle to take the not so subtle criticism gracefully. Indeed, the temptation is to become indignant and frustrated that our complaint has seemingly fallen upon deaf ears. How can we be sure that they even understood what we were saying? After all, that’s not what I said!

"Perhaps Job had a similar reaction to the dramatic criticism of Elihu. If there was ever a person with justice on his side, it must have been Job. Here was a man whom even the Lord upheld as unparalleled in his piety and fear of God (Job 1:8), yet he still suffered immensely.  To make matters worse, his own friends refused to accept the justice of his case, advising him to own up to some transgression he never committed. And if that wasn’t enough, there came along that pesky upstart, Elihu, who exaggerated Job’s claims to innocence (33:9) and apparently fabricated his alleged transgressions (34:8). When would this mockery on mockery come to an end? How could Job endure such an unjust representation of his complaint?"

In a recent commentary, Brother Aquinas Beale, O.P., reflected on the seeming injustice we face in various circumstances and on God's response to these issues.

To access Br. Aquinas' complete post, please visit:

Dominicana: Facing Our Littleness (15 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Mrs. Charles Cowman

"It is easier to work than to wait. It is often more important to wait than to work. We can trust God to do the needed working while we are waiting; but if we are not willing to wait, and insist upon working while He would have us be still, we may interfere with the effective and triumphant working that he would do in our behalf. Our waiting may be the most difficult thing we can do; it may be the severest test that God can give us." - Lettie Cowman (Mrs. Charles Cowman)

14 December 2015

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the individual special gifts You instill within and/or the development of within each person You create.

Bishop Barron on Our Lady of Guadalupe

"How wonderful that Our Lady of Guadalupe appears as a pregnant woman clothed in the sun! In the book of Revelation, Mary is described in just this manner (Rev 12:1). But we should not approach this symbolism in a superficial or merely sentimental way. The woman clothed in the sun and with the moon at her feet is portrayed in Revelation precisely as a warrior. Confronting her is a terrible dragon intent upon devouring her child as soon as it is born. Through God's grace, the child is in fact delivered from danger, but the dragon is furious, sending a torrent of water from its mouth to sweep the mother and child away. In the wake of the child's birth, moreover, a war breaks out in heaven between the dragon and Michael and his angels."

In a recent commentary, Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, reflected on Our Lady of Guadalupe and her effect on the evangelization of the people of Mexico.

To access Bishop Barron's complete post, please visit:

Word on Fire: The Challenge of Our Lady of Guadalupe (11 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Sam Levenson

"I believe that each newborn child arrives on earth with a message to deliver to mankind. Clenched in his little fist is some particle of yet unresolved truth, some missing clue, which may solve the enigma of man’s destiny. He has a limited amount of time to fulfill his mission and he will never get a second chance, nor will we. He may be our last hope. He must be treated as top-sacred." - Sam Levenson

13 December 2015

"Comfort, Comfort, O My People"

As our Sunday celebration continues, I offer this version of the Conrad Grebel College Chapel Choir presenting "Comfort, Comfort, O My People":

Third Sunday of Advent

Today the Church celebrates the Third Sunday of Advent. The assigned readings are Zephaniah 3:14-18, Philippians 4:4-7, and Luke 3:10-18. The Responsorial Psalm is Isaiah 12 (Isaiah 12:2-6).

The Gospel reading is as follows:

The crowds asked John the Baptist,"What should we do?"

He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise."

Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?"

He answered them,"Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."

Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?"

He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying,"I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.  

Reflections on these readings:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for providing us with the opportunity to run to meet You during this holy season of Advent.

Msgr. Pope on Running to Jesus

"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 that we are only passively waiting for Him to come. It is not just that the Lord is coming to us; 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.

"This notion of running to meet God is set forth as a consistent theme in the prayers of the Roman Missal. . . ."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on why we should be running and hastening to meet the Lord.

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

Community in Mission: Run to Jesus! An Advent Reflection (8 DEC 15)

Reflection Starter from Henry Ward Beecher

"There never was a person who did anything worth doing who did not receive more than he gave." - Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

12 December 2015

On Internet Sleuths and Cold Cases

"A car crash victim has been identified 20 years after he was killed, thanks to help from some online amateur detectives.

"Citizen sleuthing has been popular with Internet users for several years now, as curiosity about historic mysteries has inspired self-appointed detectives to try to crack high-profile cold cases like the infamous disappearance of extortionist D.B. Cooper in 1971 or the serial murders of the late 19th century committed by the assailant known only as Jack the Ripper. But some amateur detectives skills have also been applying their sleuthing skills to more recent and less publicized cases in an effort to bring closure to families."

A recent Christian Science Monitor article reported on the efforts of "citizen sleuths" using the Internet to slove current (and older) mysteries.

To access the complete Christian Science Monitor report, please visit:

Christian Science Monitor: How Internet sleuths solved the mystery of the 'Grateful Doe' (11 DEC 15)

Related article:

Christian Science Monitor: The Skeleton Crew' author Deborah Halber explains how ordinary citizens are helping solve murders (8 JUL 04)

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many ways in which You renew our strength.

On the Ministry of Sister Angela Daniel, C.P.

"Sister Angela Daniel's dream of teaching was crushed decades ago by an energy-zapping disease, but fate sent her to a place where's she’s helped countless families feed themselves.

"I was asked if I wanted to help out here," Sister Angela said, referencing Assumption Parish on Potters Avenue in Providence.

"Back in the late 60's the parish’s food pantry was serving about two families a month. The need would grow exponentially, with almost 3,800 people fed so far this year and more than 11,000 last year."

A recent WPRI-TV "Street Stories" report profiled Sister Angela and her ministry in Providence, RI.

To access the complete report, please visit:

WPRI-TV: Sister Angela serves food for the cupboard and compassion for the soul (20 NOV 15)

Background information:

Sisters of the Most Holy Cross and Passion (Passionist Sisters)

Reflection Starter from Isaiah

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; they will run and not grow weary; walk and not grow faint." - Isaiah 40:31

11 December 2015

Marketta Gregory on Making Room For Jesus During this Season

Years ago, I had a pin that I wore on my coat that said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But the phrase has become a bit worn and faded – not just on my pin but in my heart.

“I know I want to keep Christ in Christmas, but I want to invite him in a new way, a way that is deeper than a slogan. So I started asking others how they made room for Jesus in the most hectic time of the year, a time when calendars and to-do lists are full.”

In a recent commentary, writer Marketta Gregory reflected on ways one can make room for Jesus during this busy time.

To access her complete post, please visit: 

Old Colony Memorial: Simply Faithful: Make room for Jesus over the holidays (7 DEC 15)