Monday, December 26, 2011

Today's Thought. By: C.C.

"Jesus has a way of getting through, and whatever we are engaged with-whatever nets we are mending, or fish we are catching-somehow we will be sufficiently aware of his presence and call to know what it is we're being asked to do." (Tom Wright)
Perhaps one of the hardest things through our journey of faith is figuring out what the Lord is calling us to do. How often we struggle with our own feelings, goals, plans, designs, and our very own will in order to chart out our lives. We may find ourselves seeking God, waiting for Him to show up and send down a flash of lightening so that we can be secure of His will. Unfortunately this is not the case. However, it is by keeping fervent in our prayers and our openness to Him that we will surely be able to know what it is we're being asked to do. When we are open and approach the Lord with a faithful heart it will seem that His will indeed comes to us like a flash of lightening. "Whatever you are engaged with-whatever nets you are mending, or fish you are catching" be prayerful, be patient, and be faithful so that you may be aware of His presence and call to know what you're being asked to do. Lord today I pray that You allow us to keep you at the centre of all of our duties, labours, and leisure. May You continue to be the light of our path. Provide us with peace so that we will be secure in Your will for us. Give us patience with ourselves, our surroundings, and most importantly with You. Enable us to understand and realize that when we are focused on the Eternal Glory our worldly roles will fall into place. Thank You Lord for allowing us to know You and trust in You. May we always be committed to waiting upon You with prayer, faith, and love. Amen (C.C.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Let Us Remember The Manger. By: C.C.

"When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their tresure chest, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:10-11)
Tonight we will gather at Mass and honor the birth of Jesus. I anticipate the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with great joy. I look forward to finally placing my little baby Jesus figurine inside of the manger. There is no doubt a great joy surrounding the season when we set our sights on eternal things. When we truly keep our eyes on Christ and seek to get beyond the disruptions, anxieties, and tribulations that are also present amidst this Christmas joy around us. It is a time to focus on the blessings and the goodness. Today is also a time for reflecting upon the Advent journey. I spent sometime in prayer and reflection today looking back upon on how I used this time of preparation. As we continue to prepare ourselves for the Christmas celebrations, Let us not forget to continue to prepare our hearts for Christ. Let us approach him at the altar tonight as the wise men did long ago in the manger. Though we do not bring Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh..let us bring him our open hearts, our devotion, and our love. As we give gifts outwardly to those in our lives may we recognize the importance of the interior giving to Christ. Let us refrain from giving into our flesh and free ourselves from expectations. May we find joy in the spirit of giving, and approach the altar with a spirit of homage. Lord today I pray that every person be surrounded by your love, warmth, and joy during these days of celebration. May there be healing among families, comfort for the suffering, and food for the poor. Lord provide us with charitable hearts so that we can continue to share Your Joy throughout this season.Be present at every table, in every home, and everywhere that Your children are. Lord I recognize that everyone is celebrating Christmas differently, and that some may find it difficult to focus on the joy of the season when surrounded by hardship. Lord comfort those who gather around a sick relative tonight opposed to a dinner table. Provide them and those who are suffering in mind, body, and spirit with the strength, courage, soothing comfort, and peace. Lord comfort those who remember relatives and loved ones who are now home with You. Provide the lonely with your love and lead us to do Your will so that we can provide company when needed. Thank You Lord for my blessings, for the gift of friends, family, health, and food to eat. Let us remember the Manger tonight and feel You again born into our hearts. Amen. (C.C)
"Stay very close to the crib of this most beautiful child....Have great love for this heavenly child, respectful in the familiarity you will gain with him through prayer, and totally delighted in the joy of feeling the holy aspirations and effects of belonging totally to him." (Padre Pio)
"Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ."
(St. Paul of the Cross)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mart Hart: Straight to The Heart! By : C.C.

It is time to fill the pews, and not just at Christmas!
I have been fortunate enough to come across the book entitled "Blessed are the bored in spirit" written by Mark Hart. From the moment I opened the front page, I was unable to put it down. Mark shares many wonderful things within this book that each of us can benefit from. However, one part in particular caught my attention, and it is the chapter he dedicated to explaining the Catholic mass. Hart shares the importance, and the ways in which one can find deeper meaning in their attendance at Mass. I feel that it is an appropriate message to share this time of year. I say this because the reality is that many people have fallen away from taking the time amidst their schedules to attend Mass and participate in the celebration of the Blessed Eucharist. Yet, during the holiday season parish parking lots and pews are filled with people. I bring this issue up not to cause offense but in order to bring awareness, comfort, and maybe even some motivation towards getting back to Church on a more regular basis. There seems to be a part of everyone that recognizes the need to honor our Lord during the holiday season, but we must remember that He is present in our lives every day. We must truly come to recognize our Church as a place where healing can happen, and not a place that judges or claims to be without blemish. Let us remember that “A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” (Abigail Van Buren) We come to Church to be filled and to become more like the Saints. It is rather disturbing to see that one negative encounter with a person of faith who attends "Church" can be swayed away from attending weekly/daily mass. Let us not look to one another to determine our motives for attending church, but rather, be motivated by the desire to establish a better relationship with our Lord. The need to have a strong Catholic community in Christ. There are potentially many reasons why one may fall away from attending Mass, but it is never too late to return and experience It's beauty. For those of us who actively attend Mass we must recognize our responsibility of demonstrating our faith in every aspect of our lives. We are called to not only participate in the Mass but to truly acknowledge the depth and wonderful mystery presented to us through the Blessed Eucharist. We are expected to pray from our hearts and not let our prayers become mundane and solely rhythmical during the Mass. Though perfection is unattainable we must strive to become the most perfect version of ourselves while we are here on Earth. It is not enough to simply fill a pew, but it is definitely a step toward creating a deeper relationship with the Lord.
I find it rather fitting that this year's Christmas celebration falls on a Sunday (The Sabbath), a day which sadly seems to be just another working day and not a day for God and rest. Mark Hart does a wonderful job in explaining the importance of the Sabbath day, and how it has been lost amidst our schedules....I have decided to share it below.
" Sunday has become, not a day of rest, reflection and relaxation, but another day of hard work. It is not a day that we relish but a day that we catch up. Cutting the grass instead of cutting out distractions, laundering our clothes instead of laundering out souls, working on ignored homework rather than ignoring work and enjoying our homes. "Honoring the Sabbath" has become a sixteen-hour waking period into which we cram as much stuff as humanly possible in order not to have to do it on top of our incredibly busy weekday schedules. Sunday has less to do with the Son and more to do with the day. You know how busy you are. Write out a list of all the things you do on the average Sunday. How many of them draw you closer to God? How much more could your activities turn you toward God? God established this day of Sabbath rest not because He needs it-He's God, and He's tireless- but because we need it. It is the Sabbath that invites us to the family dinner, beckoning us back to the dining room table, calling us in from the fields of work and helping us to love and enjoy one another's presence. At Mass we become members of the family again; that is how we "re-member" him, as we were encouraged and commanded to do in that Upper Room so many centuries ago. Unfortunately, we miss the point. Often, we do not see the Mass as a family get together of the body of Christ. Uninterested worshipers become spectators. The modern liturgy is not as much experienced as it is observed. We are like a family that no longer sits around the dinner table sharing reality but instead sits behind TV trays watching "reality". It's simpler that way, less dangerous. It is disheartening to realize that the word obligation-as in, it is our obligation to go to Mass-has taken on such a negative connotation. But the truth is, when it comes to Sunday or a holy day of obligation; many of God's children would choose to be anywhere but church. Some of us live not as Roman Catholics but "roamin' Catholics" searching for the quickest Mass, the least challenging homily or the lowest expectation of actual participation. But, if we would enter into Mass as children coming to the Father's dinner table, we would be enlightened by His Word and fed by His Body and Blood." (Mark Hart: Blessed are the bored in spirit. pg 40-42)
How wonderful that our Christmas celebration falls on "The Sabbath" this year. Let us look to recreate the importance and significance of this day to our faith, and our lives. As we come to the table to be fed let us draw nearer to the Mass experience. Lord I pray today that each of us come to Your table this holiday season with a longing to become more united with You. I pray for the building of a stronger Catholic family amidst our parish communities. Lord give us patience in the parking lots and crowded pews surrounding us this holiday season. Help us to recognize our roles as Catholic brothers and sisters. May we be stewards of faith and always reflect Your light during Mass and into our days. Lord let us leave Your table on Christmas day and carry out the Sabbath day as You intended. May our time with family and friends reflect our love for You. Amen. (C.C)

He Works With Us. By: C.C.

"Sincere devotion-true love of God-leads us to work hard, to fulfill the duty of each day, even though it is far from easy." (St. Josemaria Escriva)
Amidst the chaos and busy schedules of our days, we can be comforted by the fact that we do not work alone. No matter how heavy or impossible the tasks before us may seem if we are truly united with the Lord we can accomplish anything! "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) It is easy to get lost in our work, in our daily duties, and in the layers upon layers of tasks that build up before us. We must make an honest effort to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize our Lord amidst the working hours of our day. I have heard many people say that they have "No time for even God" this is often said as a result of the various demands placed on them. We must realize that it is in giving our time, ourselves, and our glory to the Lord that we will truly be able to accomplish our tasks no matter how impossible or overwhelming they seem. If we continue to work void of God and separate from Him, our labours will be all the more stressful. St. Josemaria Escriva reminds us today that having a true love and devotion to God leads us to work hard and fulfill our daily duties no matter how difficult they seem. Let us remember today that we do not work alone. Take time within your thoughts to invite the Lord into your work day and into your daily chores. Lord today I pray that you stand beside us throughout our daily tasks. Help us to keep our hearts and minds rested in You so that we can fulfill what is asked of us. Allow everything we do in our day to glorify You. Lord, help those who feel overwhelmed and stressed...give them what they need to get through their days. Provide them with the clarity to find You amidst their schedules and to recognize that there is always time for You. (C.C.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today's Christmas Thought. By: C.C.

"This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. " (Frank McKibben)
Lord I pray today that you help us keep our real Christmas perspective. Give us the humility of heart to experience the holiness of this season that we are called to. Help us acknowledge the different ways that Christmas will be celebrated throughout our world. Allow us to pause and recognize the various trials that may plague other people during this time. May we give You thanks for our blessings, and praise even amidst our misfortunes. Make us sensitive and charitable in our dealings with our other brothers and sisters. I ask Lord that you continue to guide us to do Your will this holiday season. May we see in each day an opportunity to share the true wondrous gift of Jesus and look beyond the superficial representations of Christmas. (C.C.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Imitation & Less Veneration. By: C.C.

"Often we are led to believe that sainthood is reserved to a few chosen ones... saintliness, the fullness of Christian life, does not consist in the achievement of extraordinary feats, but in uniting oneself with Christ... in making His disposition ... His behavior ... our own." (Pope Benedict XVI)
"The goal of the Christian life is holiness. Those who have attained this goal we call saints. They have found their essential purpose, they have celebrated their essential purpose. They have quietly chiseled away at the defects and weaknesses in their characters, they have become the best version of themselves. They have truly applied themselves to the Christian life. They have brought the Gospel to life, and they have lived authentic lives. I ask you, Who has lived more fully than the saints?"( Matthew Kelly: Rediscovering Catholicism)
Our Saints are more than the statues, murals, paintings, and names on our parish walls. They are more than a piece of jewellery worn as a fashion statement upon the wrists of our youth. Sadly many remain in ignorance about what these men and women truly represent and why they should be imitated today. These holy men and women of our faith gave their lives to living out the Gospel. They strove to love the Lord above all things and looked to do His will. I was blessed to be given the book entitled "Rediscovering Catholicism" by a dear friend of mine. She read me a quote the other night speaking to the issue of saintly veneration opposed to imitation. I have been reflecting on this throughout the day and feel that it is an issue to bring to light. Matthew Kelly writes, "If we, as Catholics were genuinely striving to become holy, the saints and our devotion to the saints would never suffer the criticisms and blows that are endlessly hurled at them today. When veneration replaces imitation, the saints lose their genuine role in Christian spirituality." One may ask..what is the role of the saints? Our saints serve as reminders to us of our own call to holiness. They also show us the power of God through human flesh when one is open and responsive to His call. It is through learning about the lives that these men and women lived that we are able to see ourselves, our own journeys, and the power of our Lord. When we fail to relate to their lives and acknowledge the many ways that should be imitated, it is then we do a disservice to ourselves, God, and our faith. Growing up in the Italian culture I was often surrounded by pictures and statues of St Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, St. Anthony of Padua, and many others. These were most commonly on display at my grandmother's house (Nonna's house). Through childish and ignorant eyes these photographs and statues lacked significance to me, but somehow I knew to respect them. I made attempts in my poor Italian vernacular (at the time) to ask my nonna about these "people" I saw displayed before me. Nonna in her broken English attempted to share stories about the saints with me. When I was nine years of age she gave me a book entitled "lives of the saints", it is a hard cover book all written in English and I am convinced that this book at that time was already years older than my grandmother. At nine years old I ignorantly glanced through the pictures of the would sadly be years before these saints became such an important part of my life. Today I value this book immensely and consider each life explained as something to be adored and praised but also imitated. I take comfort in reading of the struggles, successes , virtues, and graces that the saints experienced. We must look toward our saints and their lives to find comfort. We must seek out their stories to properly understand why their names are written upon parish walls. There is a lesson to be learned through each of them. There is something we must take and apply to our own lives. We can pray for their intercession through our struggles, through our joys, and through every day that we live. I encourage you to start by simply reading about the daily saint, or finding out which saint is celebrated on your birthday. May we seek to not only venerate our saints but imitate them through our daily commitment to God and His will. May we recognize that in becoming like the saints we will share in a deeper union with Jesus Christ (C.C.)

Confession is an act of honesty and courage - an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God. (Pope John Paul II)

Confession:Preparing Within. By: C.C.

"Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts." (Fr. Edward Hays)
We have finally arrived at our last week of Advent. How quickly these weeks have gone by. Children eagerly count down the remainder of days on their advent calendars awaiting Christmas morning.Many of us are potentially wishing for time to slow down just a little bit so that we can properly prepare for the demands of this holiday season. However, have we taken the time within this Advent to grow in a deeper relationship with God? Have we taken the time to slow down and keep perspective? Have we been "keeping Christ in Christmas"? Tonight at Church Fr. Michael made reference to the fast approach of Christmas and brought up the importance of preparing ourselves within for the coming of Jesus. He spoke of the ways that we take care in preparing our homes for company throughout the holiday season, patiently cleaning out each room to ensure that everything is presentable. He then went on to explain the importance of us doing the same within our hearts and souls. It is important that we clean up the clutter and mess around our heart and soul so that Jesus can truly dwell within us. We must take this time and continue to prepare ourselves within. In doing so I find it helpful to reflect upon the words of Fr. Edward Hays. These questions offer us with many things to think about and highlight some areas within us that need to be cleaned up, moved out, wiped away, and ultimately CONFESSED. Yes...confession! Another point well made tonight at mass. This wonderful sacrament is so often avoided, and yet, so desperately needed. There is nothing in it to be feared, but rather an immense freedom to be felt. Confession/reconciliation is a time for us Catholics to cleanse within. It is a time to break through a lot of the mess that prevents us from properly receiving Christ. A time to spiritually remove the burdens that hold us prisoner within ourselves. Confession is freedom. Many of you who frequent confession have hopefully experienced this freedom of which I speak. Hopefully you have felt the grace within this sacrament. There is no greater feeling than going to confession and receiving the Eucharist. If you have not been to confession in a long time Advent provides the perfect avenue for beginning again. You may ask "where would I begin?" I would suggest beginning right where you are. Reflect upon the things that hold you back from feeling connected to your faith, and to Jesus. Confess those things that weigh heavy upon your heart, the actions, thoughts, and emotions that make it difficult for you to have a relationship with God. Lord I pray tonight that You continue to help us prepare the way for the birth of Christ within us. Help us to acknowledge and bring the "dark corners of our hearts" to light. Lord provide courage to those who have fallen away from the sacrament of confession. May each one of us seek to clean out every room of our soul so that You may fully dwell within us. Lord thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Thank you for the gift of reconciliation. Watch over our Priests Lord and provide them with Your wisdom to guide those who are seeking counsel and peace. Give them the patience, understanding, and strength to endure the long hours of Advent confessions. May we all continue to reflect Your light this season and share our joy with those around us. Amen. (C.C.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today's Thought

" A foolish child wails and stamps his feet when his loving mother puts a needle to his finger to get a splinter out. A sensible child, on the other hand, perhaps with his eyes full of tears----for the flesh is weak----looks gratefully at his good mother who is making him suffer a little in order to avoid much greater harm. Jesus, may I be a sensible child." ( St. Josemaria Escriva)
Lord today I pray that we live as children before You. May we approach You with the childlike simplicity that You have called us to. Let us let go of all fear, anxiety, and worry that may often distract us from living the way You desire us too. Give us the wisdom and patience we need in order to be sensible children. May we look upon all of our woes as pathways to peace and serenity. Lord give us the awareness and sensibility to see beyond where we are. Help us recognize that we rest within the most loving and protective arms. In all of our days may we turn to You and feel the warmth of your parental love. (C.C.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love." (St John of the Cross)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Human Heart. By: C.C.

"Why is the human heart shaped as it is? The human heart is not shaped like a valentine heart, perfect and regular in contour; it is slightly irregular in shape as if a small piece of it were missing out of its side. That missing part may very well symbolize a piece that a spear tore out of the Universal Heart of Humanity on the Cross, but it probably symbolizes something more. It may very well mean that when God created each human heart, He kept a small sample of it in heaven, and sent the rest of it into the world of time, where it would each day learn the lesson that it could never be really happy, that it could never be really wholly in love, that it could never be really whole-hearted until it rested with the Risen Christ in an eternal Easter, until it went back to the Timeless to recover the sample which God had kept for it from all eternity." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)
I was blessed this summer to be introduced to the writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. However, it is only recently that I stumbled upon his reflection of the human heart. What a beautiful image Sheen paints with his words. I have reflected before on the idea of God being the only one to be able to fulfill all of our needs and that He alone is love. We are called to rely, depend, and turn to Him with our greatest necessities and desires. We must recognize that before we can wholly love we must know our Lord. Sheen writes "It may very well mean that when God created each human heart, He kept a small sample of it in heaven, and sent the rest of it into the world of time, where it would each day learn the lesson that it could never be really happy, that it could never be really wholly in love, that it could never be really whole-hearted until it rested with the Risen Christ" (F.Sheen)...Here on earth we are given a glimpse of Love, a little window view into the happiness, love, and joy that awaits us in Heaven. Often times we may think that we experience this elation with another, only to then be humbled by the reality of disagreement, disenchantment, and disappointment. We may as a result run to the arms of someone else, something else, or even solitude to deprive us of knowing this disappointment and hurt of the human heart. One may ask the question "What else can be done? I would like to argue that perhaps we need to view this hurt in our hearts, these feelings of disappointment, and confusion as clear evidence that we have a need in our hearts that can not be fulfilled by any human emotion (or person) as Sheen suggests. There is a need for divine intervention and presence within us to attain a true state of love. We are not called to wallow in our "heart hurts", but to turn to God openly and say.. Lord I know you are the Father of Love and all that is good. Help me to constantly turn to You so that I may be filled with enough love here on earth to love as You intended until I am home with You. It is so difficult in the face of these hurts to offer everything up. To truly turn to God in the moments when our emotions seem to precede all reason, and faith. We must remain fervent in prayer and surrender so that we can attain the peace and serenity to fully trust in the Lord. When we recognize that our heart can only be satisfied when it rests with the Risen Christ we can then remove the judgment of unfulfilled expectations, and the unhealthy dependency on the "other" to give us what ONLY GOD CAN GIVE. Does this mean that we settle for a relationship that is less than loving? No, it means that you turn your life, your love, and your heart to the Lord and LET GOD CONTINUE TO WORK AND REVEAL HIMSELF. Trust the Lord to bring you the clarity and peace that you need to make your decisions. Have faith, and rest in the fact that He will provide all that you need to heal, learn, and love. Lord today I thank You for the gift of a loving heart. Thank you for providing me with the capacity to love and share myself. Forgive me for the times I have not turned to You, and for failing to recognize that You alone can give me all that I need. Lord help us see that it is through turning to You that we may come to know love on earth to its fullest potential until we walk with You. May our hearts become like the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Lord help us trust You so that we may give our hearts in love selflessly without expectation. Lord aid those who experience marital difficulties, may they recognize the need for You at the centre of their union. Guide each of us to live out our love here on earth as you designed it to be. Lead us to glorify You in our relationships and give us strength in purity of heart, chastity, and prayer. Bless our Priests, celibates, and single brothers and sisters, so that they may feel the warmth of your love abundantly around them. (C.C)
"The Christmas secret of peace is giving this secret garden and our whole human nature to God, as Mary gave Christ His human nature. Christmas reminds us that the reason we are not as happy as saints is because we do not wish to be saints." (Archbishop Fulton Sheen)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do Not Worry. By: C.C.

"So do not worry about tomorrow , for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:34)
It is easy to become overwhelmed as we venture through this busy season. There may be various reasons for feeling as if we are each running on empty. Arguably, many spend their day to day lives in a state of hurry, a state of complete and utter rush. Failing to live in the present moment we can catch ourselves consumed by what is to come, and often negatively anticipate what has not yet even happened. We must recognized that amidst this panic and worry we belong to a Lord who will gladly aid us through each and every concern. Sadly, something about the holiday season often brings even more worry in our lives. As we try to accommodate the commitments, demands, and seasonal stress we become burnt out. While we seek to find joy we may be distracted by the things in our lives that are not quite joyful. I reflected yesterday on 1Thessalonians where we are reminded to rejoice always despite our circumstances. Perhaps when we are put to "test" this seems rather difficult to do. As children of God we are all called to live in peace and tranquility. We should seek to cast all of cares upon Him. If we see another in need may we do our best to help them and to somehow lighten their load. Let us use this Advent season to make an honest commitment to turn our worries and anxiety over to the Lord so that He will heal us and give us the strength to get through whatever we are dealing with. Lord I pray that we can live in the present moment without fear or anxiety about what lies ahead. I thank You for the numerous blessings You have given me and for allowing me to see You in all of my circumstances. Lord provide clarity to those who are currently battling to place all of their trust in You. Bring comfort to anyone who finds themselves in a state of disharmony and worry. May You stand by us through this holiday season and allow us to see the Joy amidst everything that is going on in our lives. I would like to conclude tonight with some words from Padre Pio. " Do not anticipate the problems of this life with apprehension, but, rather with a perfect hope that God, to whom you belong, will free you from them accordingly. He has defended you up to now. Simply hold on tightly to the hand of his divine provindence, and he will help you in all events, and when you are unable to walk, he will lead you; don't worry...Don't think about tomorrow's events because the same heavenly Father who takes care of you today will do the same tomorrow and forever. Live tranquilly. Remove from your imagination that which upsets you, and often say to the Lord, "Oh, God, you are my God, and I will trust in you. You will assist me and be my refuge, and I will fear nothing." (Padre Pio Words of Hope)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" ( Thessalonians 5:16-24)
Today's reading from 1Thessalonians furthers this idea of being Holy people as we continue to follow Christ. We are reminded to "always rejoice"..this seems rather easy to do when there are many things in front of us and in our lives to rejoice about. However, we are not told to rejoice when things are great, we are called to rejoice always! This passage always reminds me of the words once spoken by our Blessed Mother Theresa "Just keep the joy of Jesus as your strength. Be happy and at peace. Accept whatever he gives- and give whatever he takes with a big smile. You belong to him." The ways in which our Lord takes and gives to each of us may be very different. Our gains and our losses are unique to us, our lives, and our experiences. Despite these differences the one constant thing through each of our circumstances is the Lord and his Love. We must strive to live as we are called to live and seek ways to always rejoice and give thanks no matter what we are going through. It is in doing this that we will truly grow in faith and in our relationship with God. When we begin to see God in all things, to give thanks, and to pray without ceasing, we will come to recognize how blessed we really are. may we always rejoice, pray, and give thanks to our Lord. (C.C.)

Continue To Prepare The Way. By: C.C.

"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…" (Fr. Andrew Greeley)
As we begin our third week of Advent I find it fitting to reflect upon our role as Christians to prepare the way for Christ as we walk amidst the secular reality during this holiday season. I have been struggling to maintain perspective too, and often find that I am regretfully being consumed with the secular demands of the holidays. The stress of preparations, accommodating family, and trying to "fit" everyone in. It is in these moments that I quickly refocus on what I know to be the most important reason for the season..... JESUS. I absolutely love this quotation from Fr. Greeley. It offers such comfort and reiterates what our duty is during this season as followers of Christ. I definitely agree that if we lived amidst a society that recognized Jesus as the true reason for the season our holiday preparations would be more joyful, prayerful, loving, and less commercialized, stressful, and chaotic. As followers of Christ we are called to bring His light into the secular world. We are called to be Holy. Obviously the idea of transforming the entire secular culture may seem impossible..but, what can we do within this Advent season and in our time of preparing our hearts for Christ? How can we show His light? We can accomplish this by staying true to the values that Jesus taught us. There are many things we can do in our homes, at work, and within our dealings to show His light and the true reason for the season. I absolutely love the "Keep Christ In Christmas" campaign that the Knights of Columbus run during the holiday season. This simple slogan speaks volumes. It is a powerful reminder that even amidst the commercialized chaos and holiday preparations we must keep focused on Him. Today let us reflect upon what we are doing to "Keep Christ In Christmas" . Father, I ask that You continue to guide us through our Advent journey. Help us to keep Your Son as the focus of our preparations. Enable us to carry out our worldly holiday duties without forgetting our call to reflect Your light. Lord help us to be Holy people even when we feel pressured and stressed. Give us the strength to be "kind, patient, generous, loving, and laughing people". Show us the ways that we can be charitable during this holiday season and grow in deeper relationship with You. Lord I pray that we can always keep You in Christmas, and may those who seek You find You during this holiday time. Amen. (C.C.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."
"We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek - Jesus, her Son." (Saint Louis Marie de Montfort)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Immaculate Conception. By: C.C.

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel said to her, ‘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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:26-38)
Today is the feast day of The Immaculate Conception. It is a time for us to recall Mary conceived without sin. Allowing us to recognize that long before Jesus walked upon this earth God's plan was fulfilled through the Immaculate Conception. Today's Gospel also invites us to meditate upon Mary's surrender to the Lord and His will. I am amazed and moved each time I read this Gospel passage. Recently I had the opportunity of watching " The Nativity Story" and it did a wonderful job of portraying this very event of which we read in today's Gospel. Being Catholic and a devoted woman to the Blessed Mother I am often asked questions by my Christian brothers and sisters regarding her role in Our faith. There seems to be a lack of understanding and often times criticism as to why She is so significant to us. I struggle frequently to provide an answer to pacify them, and perhaps fail to give an answer that will rid further judgement......I try my best. The one thing I am sure of is that a devotion to Mary has deepened my relationship with Jesus immensely, and has helped me on my journey of womanhood. How can one not honor the openness She possessed to God's will, Her conception through which she was created to be the dwelling place for our Lord. Her immaculate heart, and Her maternal ways? Despite her own fears of judgement and persecution, denying even Herself and Her own body.... Mary allowed her womb to become a dwelling place for our Savior. Ironically many of us struggle today to simply allow Him into our hearts. As we continue to venture through this Advent season let us take the time to pause and reflect upon the mystery and beauty of the immaculate conception. Lord we ask today that You help us recognize and understand the immensity of Mary's conception and her yes to our faith and Your will.. May we forever turn toward Mary our Mother for comfort, guidance and peace. Blessed Mother we thank You for carrying our savior within your womb. We admire you for your strength and for your faith. Even through persecution you kept your eyes focused on God's will and did not back away from His call. Mary help us to be like you in our own journeys of faith. Wrap your mantle around our shoulders and shield us from the things of this world that keep us from growing in union with Your Son Jesus Christ. Mary guide women with your maternal ways, your loving heart, and your example of purity. Today we pause and remember your surrender. With your yes we have our Savior, With your answer we know our Lord. Through your fear Mary you trusted
Blessed be your Holy womb. Amen (C.C.)
Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

He Will Give You Rest. By: C.C.

"Come to me , all you that are weary and are carrying burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy , and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Today's Gospel is a reminder of the love that our Lord has for each one of us. Reminding us as His followers to cast each and every care upon Him. We alone are not capable of carrying the crosses and burdens that may be present in our daily lives. Through Jesus and the teachings of the Saints we can each rest in faith knowing that we are not alone. It is often difficult to recognize this truth. Worldly pressures, familial commitments, financial woes, illness, loss, tragedy, anxiety, and other various things seem to weigh on us. It is in these times that the burden seems too much to handle. Jesus tells us in today's Gospel that He does not wish for us to carry our burdens alone. We are each called to seek Him for rest. We are invited to bring forth all of cares and our worries to the Lord. What a wonderful display of Love! I am reminded today of the "footprints" poem in which the man believed he ventured alone through all of his worldly struggles, burdens, and pains; only coming to find that Jesus carried him through all of it. Through strong faith and surrender we too can recognize amidst our burdens that we are not alone, and that our Lord indeed carries us and our heaviest loads upon His shoulders. When we are faced with burdens (as each of us are) we must turn toward the Lord and ask for His help. How often we recite our Hail Mary's, Glory Be's, Our Father's, and other various Novenas throughout our hardships, and yet fail to open our hearts and say Lord I feel that I can not do this without You, I need You, Your strength, and Your intercession amidst this trial and always. Come Lord and carry this Burden with me. I came across a wonderful reflection on Burdens by Padre Pio, he writes "We must become familiar with the sufferings Jesus will be pleased to send us as if we were to live with them always. Thus, when you least expect to be set free, Jesus , who cannot bear to see you suffer for a long time, will take care of it. He will come to relieve and console you, by instilling new courage in your soul. When he bestows a cross on one of his chosen ones, he strengthens that soul to such an extent that by bearing the weight of this cross the soul is relieved of it." (Padre Pio Letters)
Lord help us understand that we are not carrying the weight of our crosses and burdens alone. Thank you for loving us so much and not leaving us in our time of need. Forgive us for the times that we have doubted You were beside us. Forgive us for the times that we have turned away in the moments that we truly needed You the most. Lord I pray that you give each of us the strength to always persevere in our prayers and in our faith. Allow us to still praise You amidst our burdens. Strengthen our souls so that we can always serve You and do Your will. Thank you for giving us what we need to get through our difficult times. May we always turn to You and find rest. Amen (C.C.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas The True Gift. By. C.C.

"It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopper’s season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, ‘Keep it simple!’ Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking. "One gift that could fit in a…shoe, or in a stocking hanging on the fireplace, is a note that speaks of one of our most precious gifts, the gift of time. Such a St. Nicholas note might read: ‘The gift I give to you is half an hour of quality conversation each night right after the dishes are done.’ Or, ‘The gift I give to you is one Saturday a month to be with you and do whatever you want to do.’ We can appreciate the value of such a gift if we keep in mind that according to a recent survey, the average married couple in America has only 30 minutes a week of communication outside of exchanges that take place at the dinner table, and between parent and child is only 14 minutes. As you can see, the possibilities are almost unlimited for these St.Nicholas shoe gifts. (Fr. Edward Hays)
Today is the feast of our blessed Saint Nicholas. A time for us in Advent to pause, and once again reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas. I have chosen to begin today's reflection with a quote from Father Edward Hays. I feel he does a wonderful job in reminding us about the truest gift we can offer our loved ones; the gift of ourselves! Shopping centres everywhere are crowded, open later, and catering to those who are trying to purchase just the right gift. Amidst this commercialized chaos is the reality of an aching need for love, time, relationship, and for our Lord. Let us not get caught up in the glamorized culture of Christmas, but rather allow us to keep our eyes on the culture of Christ to which we belong. May we recognize the need in our own families, relationships, and our lives for the things that money can not buy. Allow us to examine ourselves and take note of the times we have not acted as a gift to our loves ones. May we use this holiday time to seek forgiveness, healing, and an honest commitment to exercising our hearts. (C.C.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Glorifying God On A Worldly Platform. By. C.C.

North American sports media has recently been focused on a young man named Tim Tebow. Beyond his talent, Tim's faith has caught the attention of many around the world. Tim proudly shows his devotion to the Lord on the football field by bending a knee and giving thanks. This action referred to as the "T-Bow" now defines the way in which Tim publicly expresses his faithfulness. The T-Bow has caused a media frenzy and also opened up the flood gates of criticism. There is so much to be learned as a Christian through witnessing this silent act of evangelization. St. Francis of Assisi(another one of my favourite Saints) said “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” It is through this simple silent gesture that Tim Tebow has made a rather loud statement. It is an opportunity for us to look inwardly and ask ourselves how we preach the Gospel beyond words, and if we use our worldly positions to glorify the Lord. I am by no means claiming to be a master of this. I too am on this journey of attempting to express my faith beyond the church environment and into my day to day life. As we each continue to grow in our faith we will hopefully find ourselves becoming more confident in who we are in Christ and truly be the light that the Lord calls us to be. While reflecting on Tim Tebow, another young man came to my mind. Philip Rivers is also an NFL football player and one who has been an incredible role model for many. Rivers is also a mighty Catholic! Recently I was fortunate enough to stumble upon something written on him by Fr. Ray Suriani in which he shared many things about Rivers' Catholic faith and the way in which he uses his life in the spotlight as a platform to glorify God and his strong devotion. Rivers has become a wonderful leader for the youth to which he openly shares a commitment to his Catholic identity, chastity, and a passion for faith which exceeds his love of football. One may be wondering why I have chosen to write about two male athletes and speak of their roles in glorifying God. I have done so because these men serve as an example of living as God intended, even while walking through the temptations, demands, and duties of this world. The professional football environment and many other worldly environments are plagued with temptations which can make it even more of a challenge to stay committed to faith. However, it is a true testament of devotion when we hear of people such as Rivers and Tebow who glorify God through what they do. Much can be learned through these two men. Arguably, many of us battle with our daily commitments to faith. Some of you may walk into various environments which do not seem to be very welcoming of our beliefs. It may be a challenge to glorify God when we feel that the very mention of His name will result in shame. However, we must be strong! We must persevere and recognize that our ways of glorifying God exceed our words and are communicated in our dealings with others, and our actions. Lord today I pray for each of us to have the strength, courage, and faith to always do Your will. May we recognize the power of Your love and presence in every place that we find ourselves. Lord let us look towards those who glorify You each day with admiration. Lead us to people who share our faith so that we can work together for Your good. Lord we are called to live in community here on earth and it is often difficult when we are faced with things that are not of You. Give us the strength to persevere through this and not give in to temptation. Give us the courage to make Christ like decisions in our daily dealings. May our words, actions, thoughts, and feelings be guided by Your ways. Lord bless Tim Tebow, Philip Rivers, and many others who use their worldly platform and fame to glorify You. May you forever guard and protect them with the "armor of Christ". Lord show us the ways that we too are called to glorify You..give us the clarity to see how we can each use our worldly platforms as a means of reflecting Your greatness. Amen (C.C.)

"Are we hesitating to respond to Christ this Advent because we are waiting for just the right moment, those perfect circumstances? Sadly, we may discover that while we were waiting for that illusive moment, we failed to be attentive to the here and now invitations of everyday life, missing opportunities to respond with the generosity of a true follower of Christ." (Priscilla Marck)
As we start our second week of Adevent may we continue to prepare our hearts, souls, and minds to receive Christ. Lord I ask that you continue to guide us with Your light through this Advent season. Help us prepare a place of peace within us where you may dwell. Lord make us spiritually active in this time of waiting, allowing us to respond daily and discover that every moment is "just the right moment". Amen (C.C.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Prayer To Guide The Youth. By: C.C.

"Young people must truly be the priority of our pastoral work, as they live in a world removed from God." (Pope Benedict XVI)
It is very easy to look around today's society and find so many issues amongst our young people. As an educator I peer into this adolescent world daily and am so shocked as to what is going on. I am only in my mid twenties and already catch myself saying "Things aren't like they used to be". It is difficult to see the immensity of anguish, pain, sin, and temptations that seem to plague today's youth. From fashion, to media, to lack of ethics and familial values, there is an urgent need for change. There is a desperate need for guidance, for restoration, and for GOD. More than ever there seems to be an abundance of broken homes, empty churches, and confusion. Yet, there is still hope! As Pope Benedict expressed "Young people must truly be the priority of our pastoral work". The youth need strong leaders in faith to understand the importance of their roles in the future of the Church and a strong society. They are responsible for creating our future families, work places, and parish communities. Let us not give up on our youth but be open to hearing their pains, sharing faith as needed, and for providing a strong example. I have written a poem that I encourage to be read by those of you who work with the youth....youth ministers, pastors, parents, and teachers.
Prayer To Guide The Youth. By: C.C.
Lord restore their innocence and help them live as new.
Keep them from all worldly harm, help us lead them back to You.
Shelter us from all sin so that we may live out Your plan.
Give us strong guiding ways to do all that we can.
Sometimes we lose our patience but we won't let darkness win
Help us overcome all doubt, and with You conquer sin.
The loss of faith is tragic, may the youth cling to Your word.
Use us as Your instruments so Your truth may be heard.
Make our actions reflect Your ways so that we preach with honesty.
And help us to be examples of true faith and purity.
With You all things are possible, may we always do You will
And when we do all that we can, let us wait for You and be still.

Today's Thought. By: C.C.

"Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?" (Saint Gerard Majella)

"To love God as He ought to be loved, we must be detached from all temporal love. We must love nothing but Him, or if we love anything else, we must love it only for His sake. "(Saint Peter Claver)

Lord as we continue to reflect on You as our true source for love, joy, and peace may we constantly be drawn to recognize Your presence throughout our day. Help us break away from all that holds us back from You. Provide us with everything that You know we need. Lord we can not escape the realities of the world around us, but in turning to You we will always find a way to cope, heal, and accept. Assist us Lord in becoming more like your Apostles so that we may do Your will amidst a world that too often forgets Your ways. Lord please give us clarity so that we may recognize the true distinction between our wants and our true needs. Correct us Lord if we desire things of this world that are not motivated by a love for You. Thank you Lord for your constant protection throughout our earthy journey. Keep us safe until the day that we may be home with You. Amen. (C.C.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

"If we find nothing in the world to please us, we should be pleased by this very not finding anything to please us." (St. Philip Neri)

Things of this world are fleeting. There is nothing unchanging that we can grasp or hang on to for stability except to He who is forever constant. At times we find ourselves seeking tirelessly for that "thing" to make us happy. We search high and low for some external item/person to fulfill us internally. One will never be satisfied until they recognize that our only true sense of fulfillment and joy can come from God. St. Philip Neri's quote reminds us that this disatisfied feeling from things on earth should be something pleasing to us. This realization in itself reveals a very profound truth about the need we have for God in our lives. A need that can only be fulfilled by turning toward the Lord and not the things of this world. Lord as we approach our second week of Advent guide us to recognize our need for You in our lives. Help us to see that the things we look for in this world will not sustain us. Lord we ask you to be patient as we continue to seek You daily. Amen. (C.C.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"What a weakness it is to love Jesus Christ only when He caresses us, and to be cold immediately once He afflicts us. This is not true love. Those who love thus, love themselves too much to love God with all their heart."( St.Margaret Mary Alacoque)

Lord today I pray that You constantly provide us with the strength and knowledge of what it truly means to love so that we are able to give You all of our heart. May we recognize our sufferings and times of affliction as a means of growing into a deeper union with you, and not as a reason to turn away. Let us always turn to You through everything. Lord remind us that it is in giving our hearts to You fully that we will come to know true love. May we recognize the things of this world as fleeting and see Your unchanging, unconditional, and constant love through everything. Help us to view our trials as a "kiss from the cross" as Blessed Mother Teresa did. Help our hearts develop so that we are able to love You even through our greatest trials. Lord we long for the joy that only you can bring into our lives. Make us open, patient, and receptive to everything You give. Today I also pray for those who do not know You Lord. I pray that they are brought comfort in their time of trial. May they recognize the need for You in their lives to help carry the weight of their afflictions. Thank you for all that You have given us. Thank you for standing beside us as we journey through our days. May we do everything out of love for You. Amen (C.C)