31 December 2019

The Tenors: "Auld Lang Syne"

As this blessed year draws to a close, I offer this version of The Tenors presenting "Auld Lang Syne":

Cal Thomas on Life 100 Years Ago Vis-à-vis Life Today

"It's can be useful and instructive to observe the turning of a decade by looking back on what life was like in America a mere 100 years ago.

"On Jan. 2, 1920, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 108.76. Today it is over 28,000 points.

"In 1920, the U.S. had become an economic power, which is remarkable considering the bloody 'war to end all wars' that ended just two years earlier. . . . The beginning of the Roaring 20s featured new rights for women, including the right to vote, daring flapper outfits and cigarette smoking. . . .

"The one thing that hasn't changed in the last 100 years - and for that matter since the first humans walked the Earth - is human nature . . ."

In a recent commentary, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas reflected on some of the differences between life in 1920 and life in 2010.

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

Townhall: Cal Thomas: As We Move Into New Decade, A Look at Life 100 Years Ago (31 DEC 19)

Stephanie Mann on Christmas Conversions in Classic Hollywood Films

"So I was talking to Matt Swaim on the Son Rise Morning Show about G.K. Chesterton's great appreciation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and he mentioned that many Christmas-themed movies feature conversions like Scrooge's: he brought up The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or The Grinch as an example, and It's a Wonderful Life. But as Turner Classic Movies and other cable stations are showing movies with Christmas settings, I began to think of many more Christmas conversions - changes of heart, family reconciliations, and renewed hope brought about by the 'spirit of Christmas.' Even all those Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are about some kind of conversion: from career to family; from expedient marriage to finding true love, etc.

In a recent commentary, writer Stephanie Mann reflected on some of the Christmas conversion stories (often moral conversions, not necessarily spiritual conversions).

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

National Catholic Register: Blogs: Stephanie Mann: Christmas Conversions in Classic Hollywood Films (27 DEC 19)

On the Kindness Library Ministry of a Sudbury, MA, Teen

"A Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School junior is doing his part to make sure that local children are reading.

"Joseph Duggan, 16, has built 'kindness libraries': small, wooden structures that house books and are free for people to use, to give, and take books. Created with the help of a few parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima in Sudbury, they can be found outside Loring Elementary School and Curtis Middle School."

A recent article in the Metro-West Daily News (Framingham, MA) reported on Joseph's ministry.

To access the complete report, please visit:

MetroWest Daily News: Sudbury teen creates kindness libraries (30 DEC 19)

The Living Stones Quartet: "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of The Living Stones Quartet presenting "O Little Town of Bethlehem":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings You have poured on us during the calendar year 2019.

Susan Klemond on Mark Herwaldt and His Journey with ALS

"Mark Herwaldt of Sugar Grove, Illinois, has been recording some of the important moments of his life that occurred before ALS left him only able to communicate with his eyes two years ago.

"But as the 57-year-old retired youth minister who can no longer move his limbs, speak or eat on his own seeks to keep God at the center of his life, the moment he's focusing on is the present moment.

"'We are not wishing to be somewhere else or with someone else,' Herwaldt said recently. 'God gives us only so much time. He places us in all kinds of situations or with specific people. We need to be present to the moment at hand.'"

In a recent commentary, writer Susan Klemond reflected on the life and ministry of Mark Herwaldt as he continues his journey with ALS.

To access Ms. Klemond's complete essay, please visit:

National Catholic Register: Blog: "I Serve a Mighty God Who is Using This Suffering for a Purpose Greater Than Myself" (29 DEC 19)

Reflection Starter from Henry Ward Beecher

"The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world's joy." - Henry Ward Beecher

30 December 2019

Celtic Woman: Do You Hear What I Hear?"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Celtic Woman presenting Do You Hear What I Hear?":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of shared stories that give meaning to our celebrations.

Br. Vincent Mary Bernhard, O.P., on Telling Again the Story of Jesus' Birth

"In Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the Israelites, 'remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past; ask your father, he will inform you, your elders, they will tell you' (Deut 32:7). Telling the story of God's wondrous deeds within Israel's history from generation to generation was an important element of passing on the inheritance of the covenant and remaining faithful to God. 'We have heard with our ears, O God,' we read in the psalms, 'our fathers have told us, what deeds you did perform in their days, in the days of old' (Ps 44:2).

"Christians continue to tell the story of salvation and exhort their children to remember the actions of God within history, above all the full revelation of his love when the Son entered the world and suffered and died for us on Calvary. Especially during the Christmas season, we return to the story of Jesus' birth, an event in history that has been memorialized through storytelling. . . ." 

In a recent commentary, Brother Vincent Mary Bernhard, O.P., reflected, with special attention to the singing of 'Once in Royal David's City,' on our wondering anew at "the mystery of God becoming man as we tell once again the story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem."

To access Br. Vincent Mary's complete post, please visit: 

Dominicana: From Generation to Generation (30 DEC 19)

Reflection Starter from Charles Schulz

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia." - Charles M. Schulz

29 December 2019

Trans Siberian Orchestra: "What Child is This"

As we continue our Sunday celebration, I offer this version of the Trans Siberian Orchestra presenting "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 Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23. The Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 128 (Psalm 128:1-5).

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

YouTube: "Psalm 128: Blessed are Those Who Fear the Lord" (Alstott) - Pax Christi (MN) Choirs

The Gospel reading is as follows:

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

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

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

Reflections on these readings:

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sunday Reflections: Feast of the Holy Family (December 29, 2019)

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: Sundays Salesian: Holy Family (December 29, 2019)

Community in Mission: Biblical Teaching on Marriage and Family - A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family (28 DEC 19)

Crossroads Initiative: Holy Family Feast - Piety in the 21st Century?

The Sacred Page: The Readings for Holy Family Sunday (27 DEC 19)

The Sacred Page: The Holy Family (The Mass Readings Explained) (23 DEC 19)

St. Paul Center: Saving Family: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Holy Family

Word on Fire: Herod and Joseph (Feasts * Holy Family)

National Catholic Register: Sunday Readings: Make Christ the Center of the Family (29 DEC 19)

Catholic News Agency: Pope Francis asks families to put down their phones on Holy Family feast (29 DEC 19)

Spirituality of the Readings: Immense Danger (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

In Exile: The Human Struggle with Sexual Energy (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

Glancing Thoughts: Weeping for the Children (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

The Perspective of Justice: Our First Priority (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

Let the Scriptures Speak: It takes a Covenant to Raise a Family (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

The Word Embodied: Holy Ground (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

Historical Cultural Context: The Holy Family (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

Thoughts from the Early Church: Commentary by John Chrysostom (The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph)

Thank You, Lord

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

Msgr. Pope on the Bloody Octave of Christmas

"Many are shocked to walk into daily Mass on December 26 and instead of hearing more of the 'Baby Jesus' we are confronted with Martyrdom, 'The Feast of Stephen' is ancient on the Church's calendar. More ancient than the Christmas cycle and hence it was not removed to another time.

"Bu[t] the martyrdom does not stop there. We are in the midst of the Christmas Octave, an Octave filled with blood as we shall see. . . . 

"During the week following Christmas many of the prayers speak of each day as though it were still Christmas. For example some of the prayers and antiphons say, 'Today is born our savior, Christ the Lord.' A purist might say, but it is NOT today that he is born, it was back on . . . the 25th that he was born. But, in certain sense this IS still Christmas day. Christmas Day is one long day of eight days from . . . the 25th to . . . January 1st.

"It is the same with Easter where for one whole week we announce: 'This is the day the Lord has made…' 

"So here we are in the Christmas Octave and, in a strong sense it is thus still Christmas Day. TODAY is born our savior Christ the Lord. This feast is so important that we stretch its observance a completed week and into the eighth day.

"Bloody Octave – But one of the striking things about the Christmas octave is its bloodiness. It is one of the bloodiest weeks of the Church's years. Thus, on December 26th, when we have hardly digested our Christmas dinner, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the Martyr who was stoned to death. On December 28th we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the young and infant boys who were murdered by Herod seeking to kill Christ. On December 29th we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Becket who was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Even St. (King) Wenceslaus of whom we happily sing 'on the Feast of Stephen' was brutally killed by his brother."

In a recent commentary, Monsignor Charles Pope (pastor of Holy Comforter-Saint Cyprian Parish, Washington, DC) reflected on why the Christmas Octave is so bloody, including a reminder that "Jesus came to this world, ultimately to die" and that "many of us too will share in Christ's lot."

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

Community in Mission: A Meditation on the Bloody Octave of Christmas (25 DEC 19)

Reflection Starter from Pope Francis

"The nativity scene reminds us how important it is to stop and contemplate. Because only when we recollect ourselves can we embrace what counts in life. Only if we leave the noise of the world outside can we open ourselves to listening to God, who speaks in silence." - Pope Francis

28 December 2019

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra: "Sleigh Ride"

As this blessed week draws to a close, I offer this version of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra presenting Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride":

Warren Memorial Sculpture Garden, Westbrook, ME

"It didn't grow overnight or sprout from a magic seed, but the Warren Memorial Sculpture Garden is a miracle nonetheless. The ambitious public art project happened quickly and with minimal controversy.

"The garden, with sculpture by five Maine artists, recently opened in downtown Westbrook in what had been a neglected city park. The sculpture is permanent and spread out in a wheelchair-accessible green space just off Main Street, alongside the 'Greetings from Westbrook' mural. Westbrook Arts & Culture, a local arts nonprofit, organized and executed both the mural, which was painted in 2016, and the sculpture garden, which opened in October."

A recent Portland Press Herald article report the Warren Memorial Sculpture Garden in Westbrook, ME.

To access the complete Portland Press Herald report, please visit:

Portland Press Herald: Sculpture garden adds more art to Westbrook's Main Street (11 NOV 19)

Background information:

Vimeo: Warren Memorial Sculpture Garden - Meet The Artists

City of Westbrook

Wikipedia: Westbrook, Maine

Maine Veterans Project's Windy Warrior Initiative

"In 2017, seven years after he'd completed two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Auburn resident and Maine National Guard veteran Scott Morgan had hit rock bottom with his post-traumatic stress disorder. He barely left the house. Social gatherings were a constant source of anxiety. He couldn't drive after the trauma of an IED explosion in a vehicle, in which he was injured and a fellow soldier was killed right in front of him.

"That summer, Doc Goodwin, founder of the Maine Veterans Project, told Morgan about his new effort, Windy Warrior, a program that gets veterans coping with combat-related PTSD to try skydiving, free of charge. Morgan shrugged and agreed to give it a shot."

A recent Bangor Daily News article reported on the Maine Veterans Project's Windy Warrior initiative.

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

Bangor Daily News: To cope with PTSD, these combat veterans are jumping out of planes (11 NOV 19)

Saving a Retired Scituate, MA, Fire Engine

"Sitting in Bob Quinlan's driveway on Old Oaken Bucket Road in Scituate is a piece of history: a 1924 White Motor Company firetruck, one of the fire department's three original motorized trucks.

"Quinlan, along with three other retired Scituate firefighters, recently bought the truck and are now looking to restore a piece of their department's history. It'’s a little out of place among the high-end sedans and commuter cars that are usually zipping down the street, but the group is happy to have the truck back in town after a circuitous route through Central Massachusetts and across state lines, luckily avoiding the grim fate of a junkyard."

A recent article in The Patriot Ledger reported on the efforts to preserve this retired Scituate, MA, fire engine.

To access the complete article, please visit:

The Patriot Ledger: Retired Scituate firefighters work to save a 'piece of history' (2 NOV 19)

Pentatonix: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Pentatonix presenting "O Come, All Ye Faithful":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord for the blessing of Christmas lights.

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio on the Deeper Meaning of Christmas

"We all know the elements of the Christmas story: Caesar’s census and Herod, shepherds and Magi, ox , swaddling clothes & manger, a stable and not room in the inn, Bethlehem and the Prince of Peace. But underneath each of these people, places, and things, there is deeper meaning that often goes unnoticed."

In this reflection, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio offers some thoughts on different aspects of our Christmas celebration.

To access his complete essay, please visit:

Crossroads Initiative: The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

Reflection Starter from Fr. Andrew Greeley

"It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God - the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people - kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people - no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush. . . ." - Father Andrew Greeley

27 December 2019

Libera: "O Holy Night"

As our Christmas celebration continues, I offer this version of Libera presenting "O Holy Night":

On an Unkind World Needing Saint Joseph as a Patron for 2020, Developing a Proper Sense of Reverence, and Other Catholic-related Matters

A number of articles/posts have recently been published on a variety of Catholic-related subjects worth considering.

To access some of these, please visit:

Word on Fire: An Unkind World Needs Saint Joseph, the Perfect Patron for 2020 (19 DEC 19)

Magis Center: Wednesday on the World: Move from Depression to Faith and Happiness (28 NOV 19)

Crux:: Aleppo priest says dire Christmas awaits Christians trapped by Syria's civil war (18 DEC 19)

Crisis Magazine: Our Patient and Indulgent Mother Church (5 NOV 19)

National Catholic Register: Commentary: Cardinal Gerhard Müller: Why the Real Presence Is Real (26 OCT 19)

U.S. Catholic: The unlikely Catholic heart of a Korean pop sensation (September 2019)

Knowing Is Doing: How does one develop a proper sense of Reverence? (4 DEC 19)

National Catholic Register: Blogs: John Clark: Trade Your Fears for Christ's Peace - Go to Confession! (16 DEC 19)

Catholic Herald: Pope Francis installs cross in Vatican for migrants who died in Mediterranean (20 DEC 19)

Psychology Today: Top 10 Myths About Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Church (August 2019)

Aspen Daily News: New St. Mary pastor says he was a 'fallen-away Catholic' (2 DEC 19)

The Stream: The Professor Talked About Jesus, and Made Her Throw Up (7 DEC 19)

2-Year-Old Truck Fan Receives Gift from Garbage Truck Driver

"Aiden loves big trucks.

"Monster trucks, garbage trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, you name it, Aiden loves it. He can tell you the difference between each kind of truck and identify the parts that pertain to its specific job.

"Aiden is also 2 years old and every Tuesday and Friday, around 7 a.m., you'll find him screaming at the top of his lungs in anticipation of the garbage truck that comes rolling down his street in the Quail Valley North, Missouri City neighborhood."

A recent article in the New Haven (CT) Register reported on the Christmas gift given to Aiden by the driver of this garbage truck in Missouri City, TX.

To access the complete report, please visit:

New Haven Register: Garbage truck 'Secret Santa' drops off gift for child who waves to him every trash day (26 DEC 19)

Pope Francis in Christmas Homily: 'You Are Loved'

"Christmas night tells each person, no matter how poor or sinful, that they are utterly and totally loved by God, Pope Francis said as he celebrated Jesus' birth.

"The grace of God revealed in the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem 'is divine love, the love that changes lives, renews history, liberates from evil, fills hearts with peace and joy,' the pope said in his homily Dec. 24 as he celebrated the nighttime liturgy."

In a recent homily on the readings for Christmas, Pope Francis reflected on how the love of God has been revealed to us in Jesus.

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

The Boston Pilot: Christmas says, 'You are loved,' pope says in homily (24 DEC 19)

Jerry Newcombe on the Impact of Jesus Christ in the World

"Twenty-five years ago, D. James Kennedy and I came out with a book called, What if Jesus had Never Been Born? It ended up becoming a best-seller.

"The message is very simple: Because Jesus was born, look at all these incredible blessings we have throughout the world.

"For instance, the Christian church created the phenomenon of the hospital and has created hospitals all over the world. Christianity has inspired some of the world's greatest music and arts, and has expanded education from the elite to the masses - even creating the entity of the university."

In a recent commentary, writer Dr. Jerry Newcombe reflected on some of the secular benefits that resulted from the coming of Jesus into the world.

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

Townhall: Columnists: Jerry Newcombe: The Incredible Impact of Jesus Christ (26 DEC 19)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: "Christmas Waltz"

It’s time for some classical music. This is a presentation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Christmas Waltz, as played by the Evanston, WY, Civic Orchestra:

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of selfless acts of love and for the many ways in which they touch the hearts of the people being served and the people observing these acts.

An Irish Monk and the Purpose of Life

August Turak jumped out of an airplane. He had a parachute on, of course, but his skydiving attempt with some college students he was working with at Duke University resulted in a hard landing that "smashed my ankle to smithereens," he recalled on Christopher Closeup.

What he didn't know at the time was that this incident would cause him to rethink his life and become more open to the promptings of God.As Turak spent a week in the hospital, he began experiencing panic attacks and a deep depression. He came to realize that his fractured ankle was just symbolic of the fact that he was facing his own mortality for the first time. This reaction was particularly ironic since Turak made his living coaching college students on spirituality and finding meaning in their lives. Yet here he was, the teacher who offered advice to others, but who found himself empty.

Eventually, the panic attacks stopped, but the emptiness continued to torture him. At the gym one day, a man that Turak recognized commented to him, "Not feeling too good, are you, Aug? It feels like your heart's broken, don't it?" Turak was shocked that this relative stranger knew exactly how he was feeling. The man continued, "In AA, we call it the Soul Hole. I'm here to tell you that you're in for two years of so much hell, you're going to be wishing you was never born. But you're going to come through the other side. When you do, you're going to love yourself a whole lot more than you do right now."

A few days later, Turak received a call from a student he'd coached who was spending time at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist Monastery and working farm in South Carolina. Turak felt a sudden urge to go there himself, as if this was the place that could lead him to the answers he was looking for. At first, he traveled to the Abbey for several weekends of prayer and meditation and found the monks' kindness and selflessness made a big impression on him. But it was when Turak became a monastic guest over the Christmas season that he had his life-changing encounter with Brother John.

Following Christmas Eve Mass and a small party afterward, Turak was ready to return to his room in a separate building. He heard raindrops hitting the roof and realized he'd forgotten his umbrella. Cursing to himself because he knew he would get drenched, he approached the doorway and saw 60-year-old Irish monk Brother John standing there with an umbrella, waiting to walk people who'd forgotten their umbrellas to their rooms. Despite the cold and rain, the monk in his thin habit walked guests across the grounds, sharing with them his single umbrella.

For the next week, Turak couldn't get Brother John's simple gesture of kindness out of his head. The monk had anticipated the needs of others and was willing to endure discomfort in order to help them. This, Turak realized, was love. Turak got the message that God was sending him. He discovered the way to fill his "soul hole" was by practicing selflessness and love.Turak has now shared this story in an illustrated book called Brother John. He concluded, "Most people these days are relativistic. We're all supposed to find our own purpose. I say, we all have the same purpose. . . . We're all put here for the exact same reason: to be transformed from selfish people to selfless people."

This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column written by Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, 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

Mepkin Abbey

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

26 December 2019

Chris Armstrong on the Incarnation and Our Everyday Lives

"Christianity is so much more solid, and real, and human, than the 'spiritual, but not religious' imitations of today. Christian faith touches every aspect of our lives - material, social, cultural. It does so because our God was born as a human baby in a stable and nurtured by a teenaged girl named Mary."

In a recent commentary, Chris R. Armstrong, senior editor of Christian History Magazine, reflected on the importance of recovering an incarnational way of living and working.

To access his complete post, please visit:

Public Discourse: The Incarnation and Our Everyday Lives: A Christmas Meditation (December 2019)

Casting Crowns: "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day"

As we continue our Christmas celebration, I offer this version of Casting Crowns presenting "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day":

Thank You, Lord

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of community Christmas celebrations.

Fr. Neil Kilty, OSFS, on a Christmas Message from St. Francis De Sales

"The Christmas season of 1622 was a busy time for St. Francis de Sales. He had just finished participating in a series of official meetings between the governments of France and Savoy. Since these meetings had been held at Lyons, he decided to stay there for Christmas and with the Visitation nuns.

"The last letter he penned was dated December 24, 1622. It was written to Roger de Saint Lary, the Duke of Bellegarde. He, too, had been a participant at the meetings and was still in Lyons at the time.

". . . This is a simple letter with a simple request asking a kindness for a poor man, which is part of the heart of the Christmas message."

In a recent commentary, Father Neil F. Kilty, OSFS, refected on this letter from St. Francis de Sales, a letter which included the message "[w]orks of mercy are in season at this time which is dedicated to the great mercy shown to us by the Son of God when He was born on earth for our salvation."

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

Oblates Weekly: Salesian Christmas: A Time of Mercy (26 DEC 19)