Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poem: "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio" by W. H. Auden

For the perpetual excuse
Of Adam for his fall – “My little Eve,
God bless her, did beguile me and I ate,”
For his insistence on a nurse,
All service, breast, and lap, for giving Fate
Feminine gender to make girls believe
That they can save him, you must now atone,
Joseph, in silence and alone;
While she who loves you makes you shake with freight,
Your love for her must tuck you up and kiss good night.

For likening Love to war, for all
The pay-off lines of limericks in which
The weak resentful bar-fly shows his sting,
For talking of their spiritual
Beauty of chorus-girls, for flattering
The features of old gorgons who are rich,
For the imprudent grin and Irish charm
That hides a cold will to do harm,
To-day the roles are altered; you must be
The Weaker Sex whose passion is passivity.

For all those delicious memories
Cigars and sips of brandy can restore
To old dried boys, for gallantry that scrawls
In idolatrous detail and size
A symbol of aggression on toilet walls,
For having reasoned – “Woman is naturally pure
Since she has no moustache,” for having said,
“No woman has a business head,”
You must learn now that masculinity,
To Nature, is a non-essential luxury.
Lest, finding it impossible
To judge its object now or throatily
Forgive it as eternal God forgives,
Lust, tempted by this miracle
To more ingenious evil, should contrive
A heathen fetish from Virginity
To soothe the spiritual petulance
Of worn-out rakes and maiden aunts,
Forgetting nothing and believing all,
You must behave as if this were not strange at all.

Without a change in look or word,
You both must act exactly as before;
Joseph and Mary shall be man and wife
Just as if nothing had occurred.
There is one World of Nature and one Life;
Sin fractures the Vision, not the Fact; for
The Exceptional is always usual
And the Usual exceptional.
To choose what is difficult all one’s days

As if it were easy, that is faith. Joseph, praise.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Poem: "Moonless Darkness Stands Between" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, O Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord:
                                  Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord:
                                  Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:

Now begin, on Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Poem: "Tribute to Newtown" by Adam Trudel

There is a place prepared for little children,
Those we once lived for, those we deeply mourn,
Those who from play, from learning and from laughter,
Cruelly were torn.
         There is a place where hands which held ours tightly
         Now are released beyond all hurt and fear,
         Healed by that love which also feels our sorrow
         Tear after tear.
There is a place where all lost potential
Yields its full potential, finds its true intent;
Silenced no more, young voices echo freely
As they were meant.
         There is a place where God will hear our questions,
         Suffer our anger, share our speechless grief,
Gently repair the innocence of loving
And of belief.
Jesus, who bids us be like little children,
Shields those arms our arms are yearning to embrace.
God will ensure that all are reunited;

There is a place.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Poem: "That Christmas Vacation" by Barbara Ryland

we jumped on a roller coaster
ribboning  along rails
and for a moment
we hung,
snatched up,
   suspended in air,
      swooped ,
          climbed  again
     to cascade
             another time
as our stomachs leapt to our throats
and we screamed,
and our hats flew away forever.

The Florida sun spun in the park,
radiating our joy,
and we thought all life must be like this,
held in arms of  Love,
swinging between poles of delight

      and descent.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Poem: "Rise, Brothers, Rise" b Thomas F. Mulledy, S.J. (1820)

Rise, Brothers, rise, the star has shone
   to light us to our King.
Come haste to fall before his throne
   your choicest treasures bring.

This is the star that conquer'd night
   and shed a living ray:
'Tis this that guided, by its light
   the Gentiles into day.

'Tis this will show you where your King,
   an infant lowly lies,
Although his praises Angels sing
   along the vaulted sky.

Your hidden treasures then unfold,
   your dearest gifts impart,
He asks no beams of burnish's gold,
   He only asks your heart.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Poem: "An Unclenched Moment?" by Laurie Ann Kraus

An Unclenched Moment?
Gentle me, Holy One,
Into an unclenched moment,
a deep breath, a letting go
of heavy experiences, of shriveling anxieties,
of dead certainties,
that, softened by the silence, surrounded by the light,
and open to the mystery,
I may be found by wholeness,
upheld by the unfathomable,
entranced by the simple,
and filled with the joy
That is You .

Spirituality: St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 38 on the Nativity of the Lord:

Christ is born, glorify him!
Christ from heaven, go out to meet him!
Christ on earth, be exalted!

Sing to the Lord all the whole earth, and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for him who is of heaven and then of earth.

Christ is in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy;
with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.

Christ of a Virgin; matrons live as virgins, that you may be mothers of Christ.
Who does not worship Him who is from the beginning?
Who does not glorify Him who is the last?

Once again the darkness is past;
once again light is made;
once again Egypt is punished with darkness;
once again Israel is enlightened by a pillar.

The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, let it see the great light of full knowledge.
Old things have passed away: behold all things have become new.
The letter gives way: the Spirit comes to the fore.
The shadows flee away, the truth comes in upon them.
Melchizedech is perfected.

He that was without mother comes into existence without a father
(without mother in His earlier state, without father in His later).
The laws of nature are overturned: the world above must be filled.
Christ commands it: let us not set ourselves against Him.

Clap your hands all you people, for to us a child is born, and to us a son is given, whose government is upon his shoulder (for with the Cross it is raised up), and his name is ‘the Angel of the Father’s Great Counsel’.

Let John cry, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ I too will cry the power of this day!
He who is fleshless becomes flesh, the Son of God becomes the son of man,
Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever! …

Let this Festival be common to the powers in heaven and to the powers upon earth. For I am persuaded that the heavenly hosts join in our exultation and keep high Festival with us to-day, because they love humankind, and they love God … Look at and be looked at by the Great God, who in Trinity is worshipped and glorified, and Whom we declare to be now set forth as clearly before you as the chains of our flesh allow, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom be the glory for ever. Amen!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Christmas is not in colorful lights and outward show.
The secret lies in an inner glow.
It's lighting a fire inside your heart.
Goodwill and joy playing a vital part.
It's higher thoughts and a greater plan.
It's a glorious dream in the soul of man.
May the Spirit of Christmas bring you Peace
The Gladness of Christmas give you Hope and
The Warmth of Christmas grant you Love.

The Holy Family

The Holy Family
December 29, 2013
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

The family of Jesus is honored during the Christmas octave, but we encounter them on the run as they flee to Egypt from Judea to escape the deadly plans of the conniving Herod. From the beginning of his life, Jesus becomes a refugee. During his time away, the insecure king orders the murder of all boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area to destroy the threat of the prophecy that the King of Israel would rise from Bethlehem. The parents of Jesus are able to give him safety, shelter, and a peace-filled upbringing until it was time to return to their homeland. The family nurtures him and allows him to grow in freedom, and it is freedom that Jesus eventually gives us.

We are often stuck with the dilemma of human freedom. Parents watch their children make terrible mistakes and they wish they could make decisions for those they love, but they know perfect love does not mean making choices for others but letting them choose their own course of action. In fact, every one of us has someone whom we love who we wish would follow our advice. People harm themselves and keep themselves from doing better in life and it breaks our heart that they do not listen to sound, loving words of support. Instead, we sit back and watch harm get piled upon hurt, and we feel their pain.

Herod made his decision based on his insecurity. He felt threatened at the thought of a new king who would challenge his rule would arise. He wanted to circumvent scripture and change human history. Therefore, he killed many innocent boys and ruined the lives of many mothers and fathers in Bethlehem and Judea. I can imagine he had advisors who asked him to listen to them and choose a different course of action, but alas, he did not. If he had only listened, lives would have been spared. If he had only put on the garment of love that gives freedom, not fear, so others may prosper and live in peace. Governments today act out of fear and insecurity; wars are still waged; bullies try to control and dominate others. The cycle will unduly continue until we teach others the way of peace and love and it is our responsibility as Christians to begin this long-desired process.

The wisdom figure, Sirach, gives proverbs and aphorisms for the golden rules of family life. He teaches them how to let tender love reign in our hearts – just as the Christmas message of Jesus teaches us. Sirach teaches respect for elders, children, and in fact, all people. He knows the way of truth and light will win out over the ways of self-centeredness and self-absorption. He instructs people to rule with both head and heart and peace will reign in the household, and God will always remember the good we do to others.

Paul, after having his heart converted by Jesus Christ, learns a new way to live and he gives the most beautiful instructions of our Christian lives. He says, “put on heart-felt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. And over all these things, put on love, the bond of perfection.” Other than sounding so beautiful, it shows us that we have to choose to be kind to others and we have to choose to love. The image of actively putting on these attributes is an apt one because it details the choices we make. We wear who we are and we have to deliberately make ourselves up every day and choose what sort of person we will be. We have instant decisions to make when someone is mean to us; we can be mean back or we can go against that impulse and put on kindness. The mercy we show others, the compassion we give, show others that Christ has been born into our lives and that these traits are hallmark expressions of our faith. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

Most of us can stand to be a little kinder and more patient with others and if we do not have these qualities, how are we going to teach our young ones? The family and the schools are our principal sources of learning our virtues and values, and our actions teach with greater impressions than do our words. When we think of a person who has been a hero in our lives, it is usually because of an extraordinary kindness they offered to us. We cherish those moments of learning. What is it that my actions teach others?

We have plenty of resources. When we choose to put on love, we are putting on Christ. We have to listen to him as he guides us in the right paths. We know that his love will protect us; therefore, we do not have too much to risk in reaching out and being kind to others – even when we do not feel like doing it. Forget your individual transgressions, but look on your whole effort in life and watch how Christ is growing within your choices and actions. He did not grow up all of a sudden to become our Savior. It took him a lifetime of learning and choosing. Now, we can let him nourish and teach us to put on those virtues he values so much. Be patient with yourself as you continue to learn. There is a great promise for the future when you return from your Egypt, from all that weighs you down, and you put on Christ as a garment. He makes all things new and he gives you a whole new family of faith to support you and encourage you. Choose to put on Christ today and life in his promise of salvation.  

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: John the Evangelist lets people know that their sins have been forgiven by the Christ event. Therefore, they are not to love the world or the things of the world. John tells them that they are in the last hours of the world and many antichrists will arise to try to derail those who believe in the Holy One of God. Stay close to the truth and you shall be fine. On the Feast of Mary, Moses tells Aaron how to bless the Israelites, “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!” John the Evangelist encourages the people to let what they have heard from the beginning remain in you. The presence of the Lord will do its work to keep you faithful. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. We are God’s children now.” Do not be deceived by anyone. The one who is righteous will act righteously.

Gospel: Anna the prophetess comes forward to meet Mary and Joseph. She gave thanks to God and was relieved to know that all that was spoken about the child has come true. The Prologue of John presents Jesus as the Word of God who comes down to dwell among us. In Galatians on the feast of Mary, Paul tells the people that God sent the Son, born of a woman, under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters.” The Shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, with the infant lying in a manger. John the Baptist is questioned about his origins. He denies that he is the Christ, but that there is one who is coming who is the stronger one, the one sent by God. The Baptist points towards Jesus and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He is the one who ranks ahead of John and will come baptizing in the Spirit. Two of John’s disciples were watching and saw Jesus walk by. John points him out and they go over to the camp of Jess. Andrew and his brother Simon were brought to Jesus and Andrew declares, “We have found the Messiah.”

Saints of the Week

December 29: Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr (1118-1170), was the lord chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury in England during the time of King Henry II. When he disagreed with the King over the autonomy of the church and state, he was exiled to France. When he returned, he clashed again with the king who had him murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. 

December 30: The Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, was a feast instituted in 1921. It was originally the 3rd Sunday after Christmas. The Holy Family is often seen in Renaissance paintings - and many of those are of the flight into Egypt.

December 31: Sylvester I, pope (d. 335), served the church shortly after Constantine issued his Edict of Milan in 313 that publicly recognized Christianity as the official religion of the empire and provided it freedom of worship. Large public churches were built by the emperor and other benefactors. Sylvester was alive during the Council of Nicaea but did not attend because of old age.

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen, bishops and doctors (fourth century), are two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. They are known for their preaching especially against the Arian heretics. Basil began as a hermit before he was named archbishop of Caesarea. He influenced Gregory who eventually became archbishop of Constantinople. Their teachings influenced both the Roman and Eastern Churches.

January 3: The Name of Jesus was given to the infant as the angel foretold. In the Mediterranean world, the naming of person stood for the whole person. Humans were given the power to name during the Genesis creation accounts. If one honors the name of the person, they honor the person. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 29, 1886. Publication of the beatification decree of the English martyrs.
·      Dec 30, 1564. Letter from Pope Pius IV to Daniel, Archbishop of Mayence, deploring the malicious and scurrilous pamphlets published against the Society throughout Germany and desiring him to use his influence against the evil.
·      Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
·      Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
·      Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.
·      Jan. 3, 1816: Fr. General Brzozowski and 25 members of the Society, guarded by soldiers, left St. Petersburg, Russia, having been banished by the civil government.
·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.

Prayer: Christmas canon, Orthodox liturgy

Christ is born: give him glory.
Christ has come down from heaven: receive him.
Christ is now on earth: exalt him.
O you earth, sing to the Lord.
O you nations, praise him in joy,
for he has been glorified.