Friday, December 30, 2011

Choose A Patron Saint for 2012!

Every year Jen Fulwiler hosts a "choose your patron saint" event at her blog, Conversion Diary.  In addition to being a stellar author, Jen also has a knack for the technical and has designed a "Saint's Name Generator."  If you follow the link, you will be taken to a site where you press a button to choose your patron saint for 2012.  You have to push the button twice, but the anticipation is worth it.  Last year my patron saint was King St. Louis of France.  This year it is St. Francis Xavier. 

Try it yourself and see who the Holy Spirit is assigning to you for guidance and inspiration in the new year.  You may even want to make choosing an annual patron saint a family tradition on New Year's Day.

Have fun, and while you're at it, visit Jen's blog at Conversion  She is a former atheist who, along with her husband, converted to the Catholic faith.  She writes beautifully about her conversion, her faith and the joys and struggles of raising her growing young family.

A blessed new year to one and all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Father, Pray For Me, I Will Not Survive"

A Catholic church was bombed on Christmas day in the village of Madalla in Nigeria.
In the church parking lot after the attack, a mortally wounded man cradled his stomach, crying out to a priest, "Father, pray for me, I will not survive."  Many others were taken to the municipal hospital where they sat on concrete floors in their own blood, crying for themselves and for their lost loved ones.  What horror during this season when we pray for "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."

St. Teresa's Church, Madalla, Nigeria  Photo:  Afolabi Satuandi: Reuters

As the video in Fr. Reynolds'  previous post contemplates, "I wonder as I wander, why Jesus our Savior did come forth to die."  The beautiful nativity, the baby in the manger, the angels, the shepherds, all foreshadow the reason for the die for us "poor, lowly sinners."  The rupture of the peace of the season by violence seems out of place.  It is certainly a reminder that even in this holiest of seasons, Christians must carry the cross.

This week we aren't given much time to  bask in the glow of the tree, the family celebration, the nativity, the carols.  The very day after Christmas,  Holy Mother Church plunges us into the reality of life as a Christian when we celebrate the death of  St. Stephen, the proto martyr of the Church.  And then, today, on December 28th we celebrate life and death of the Holy Innocents, those little children aged two and under who were murdered by King Herod, because of Herod's fear of losing his power to a savior and king who would come in quiet humility as a little baby.

In today's Office of Readings, St. Quodvultdeus is quoted: 
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
  You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself. 
  Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children. 
  The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation. 
  But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
We pray for those who are lost in these terrible atrocities.  But we live with the hope and the joy that comes from knowing we are pilgrims in this world traveling toward our true home in heaven.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pope Benedict Wishes Us "A Truly Christian Christmas"

VATICAN CITY. (VIS AG/ VIS 20111221 (690)) - "The greeting on everyone's lips during this period is 'Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas Holidays!'
Let us ensure that, also in our modern societies, this exchange of good wishes does not lose its profound religious significance, and the feast does not become over-shadowed by external factors," said Benedict XVI during his Wednesday, December 21, 2011  general audience, his last before the Feast of the Lord's Nativity.

  "With the Christmas liturgy the Church introduces us into the great Mystery of the Incarnation", the Pope told faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall.
"Christmas, in fact, is not simply the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, it is the celebration of a Mystery which has marked and continues to mark the history of man: God came to dwell amongst us, He became one of us. ... 
During Midnight Mass on Christmas Night we will intone these words in the responsorial Psalm: 'Today the Savior is born for us'. ... 
By indicating that Jesus is born 'today', the liturgy underlines that His birth touches and permeates all of history. ... 
Of course, the redemption of humankind took place at a specific and identifiable moment of history: in the event of Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus is the Son of God ... Who became flesh. Eternity entered into the confines of time and space, making it possible to meet Him 'today.'... 
When, in liturgical celebrations, we hear or pronounce the phrase: 'Today the Savior is born for us', we are not using an empty conventional expression, what we mean is that 'today', now, God is giving us the possibility to recognize and accept Him, as did the shepherds of Bethlehem, so that He can also be born into and renew our lives."

  The Pope then turned his attention to another aspect, reflecting on the birth in Bethlehem in the light of the Paschal Mystery because, he said, "both Christmas and Easter are feasts of redemption. Easter celebrates redemption as a victory over sin and death. It marks the culminating moment when the glory of the Man-God shines like the light of day. Christmas celebrates redemption as the entry of God into history, when He became man in order to bring man to God. It marks, so to speak, the starting point when the first light of dawn begins to appear."

  "Even the seasons of the year in which these two great feasts fall, at least in some areas of the world, can help us understand this aspect. Easter coincides with the beginning of spring when the sun triumphs over the cold and the fog and renews the face of the earth. Christmas comes at the very beginning of winter when the light and heat of the sun are unable to awaken nature, covered in a shroud of cold under which, nonetheless, life is pulsating".

  "At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God Who is attentive to our weakness and sin, and lowers Himself to our level. ... 
Let us live this Christmastime with joy. ... 
Above all, let us contemplate and experience this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the heart of Christmas. There Jesus is truly present, the true Bread descended from heaven, the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation. I wish all of you and your families a truly Christian Christmas. May the exchange of greetings on that day be an expression of our joy in knowing that God is near us, and that He wishes to follow the journey of life with us", the Pope concluded.

Kateri Tekakwitha Will Be The First Native North American Saint

(Vatican Information Service OP/ VIS 20111220 (320) 
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on Tuesday, December 20, 2011, signed decrees acknowledging miracles attributed to the intervention of seven "blesseds" (four women and three men) who will shortly be canonized. One of the new "blesseds" is Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North American to be raised to the glory of the altars.
Kateri Tekakwitha (Mohawk: ɡaderi deɡaɡwitha), known as The Lily Of The Mohawks, was born in 1656 in Ossernenon (present-day Auriesville, New York, USA). Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Roman Catholic Algonquian who had been educated by French missionaries.At the age of four she lost her family in a smallpox epidemic which also left her disfigured and with poor eyesight. Adopted by a relative, the chief of neighboring clan, she continued to nurture an interest in Christianity and was baptized at the age of 20.The members of her tribe did not understand her new religious affiliation and she was marginalized, practicing physical mortification as a path of sanctity and praying for the conversion of her relatives.Having suffered persecutions which put her life at risk, she was forced to flee to a native American Christian community in Kahnawake, Quebec where she made a vow of chastity and lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and care for the sick and elderly. She died in 1680 at the age of 24. Her last words were: "Jesus, I love you."
According to tradition, Kateri's scars disappeared after her death to reveal a woman of great beauty, and numerous sick people who participated in her funeral were miraculously healed.The process of canonisation began in 1884. She was declared venerable by Pius XII in 1943 and beatified by John Paul II in 1980. As the first native North American to be beatified she occupies a special place in the devotion of her people. Her feast day falls on 14 July.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Finding Faith at Lord and Taylor

Today started out a little inauspiciously.   A trip to the dentist to fix a chipped tooth (chipped on a candy cane, of all things).  Happily the repair job was quick and neat,  and to top it all off, the dentist's office just happened to be located a short ride from a nice little shopping area.

Although my shopping had been pretty much completed, I still had a  nagging thought that there may be that one sweater out there that would complete my  Christmas outfit.  (For all of you men reading this, a special occasion just doesn't feel right to women without the appropriate holiday attire.  And we are often not sure if we have the right outfit until we have tried several variations).   So, from the dentist I hightailed it over to Lord and Taylor.

For those of you who have never been to a Lord and Taylor, it is one of those lovely stores that still caters to shoppers (for a price) and exudes good taste.  It is a store in which you will find a lot of men shopping during the last days leading up to Christmas, because they know that they can't go wrong with a gift in a box bearing this store's logo... And they are willing to pay dearly for that result.  I, on the other hand, troll around the sales racks and use every coupon that comes my way, hoping to find a good buy that has somehow been overlooked by other thrifty consumers.

Anyway, I did find a sweater (or can never be sure which one will work) and took my purchase, and my coupons to the counter.  A lovely young woman with a funky hairdo and stoic demeanor began to check out my items.  She stopped for a moment and leaned forward to look at the pin on my jacket.  "Oh", she said, "Keep Christ in Christmas."  I said, "Yes.  Sometimes we forget."  She replied, "Oh, I never forget.  He is the reason we celebrate Christmas."  We both smiled and I felt profoundly grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their pin and the opportunity to take a moment out of a purely commercial activity to pause and remember the true meaning of this holy season.  We wished each other a blessed Christmas and I went on my way.

Sometimes I think that I shouldn't wear a pin with a message, or have a magnet on my car, or that I'm being obnoxious by broadcasting my point of view.  But, a couple of weeks ago I attended a talk given by Dr. Peter Kreeft, the great philosophy professor and author.  He said that being a fanatic was not always a good thing, but that being a fanatic for God and for truth was always good.  That stuck in my mind and I thought that he's right, let them think I'm a religious fanatic.  And, then, something like my little encounter with the sales clerk at Lord and Taylor happens.  If I wasn't wearing the pin, I may have thought that she was one more person for whom Christmas meant commerce and little else.  And I would have been wrong.

So, here's wishing all of you a blessed Christmas.  And also a heartfelt thank you to the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of America and the Catholic League and to all those who keep the true meaning of the season in the public square.  May God bless all of you abundantly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Launch The Missals! This Is Not A Drill!

Greetings Academicians!
There's an intriguing March 25, 2011 article from Zenit on Missals (see text and links below).
Remember Missals?
Our good friends over at New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia tell us that a Missal (Latin Missale from Missa, Mass), is a book which contains the prayers said by the priest at the altar, and the readings and hymns sung in connection with the offering of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the ecclesiastical year.
Ah, my old companion!
As a child growing up in the early 1960s in Brooklyn, New York, every Catholic girl and boy receiving their First Holy Communion received two spiritual weapons to support and expand their Catholic Faith: A Rosary and a Missal For Children.
I carried my Missal with me to every Mass I attended until I knew every prayer by heart and didn't need it anymore.  I know that I learned the prayers and the meanings of the various parts of the Mass because of that Missal -- with it's beautiful photos, artwork,  stately binding, and "Thoughts" (mini-prayers/teachings).

I still have my First Communion Missal. (The Rosary didn't fare as well, unfortunately.)  My copy of The Blessed Trinity Missal For Children is over fifty-years-old - originally printed in 1962!  It's still in good condition! They made `em to last back then!
I wrote my name in my best 2nd Grade Cursive handwriting!

I have had several "debates" over the use of Missals with priests, actual Liturgists, and self-proclaimed experts on Liturgy.
Notice: An actual tiny Crucifix embedded in the inside cover!
Many of these "experts" denounce the use of Missals by the people attending holy Mass.  The usual rationale goes along the lines of,  "People should be paying strict attention to what is happening at the Altar;" (I often wonder if that really means "to who is [i.e., me] at the Altar") "They shouldn't be reading along, but fully participating -- looking and listening to what is happening at the Altar!" (Huh? Devoutly following along isn't participating?) "Missals should be gathered up in every church and thrown away!"

The “THOUGHT” says: "I firmly Believe that Jesus changes the
bread and wine into His Body and Blood through the power
He gave His priests."  Great catechesis for 7- to 10-year-olds!
As a priest, I haven't had much patience for pseudo-liturgists' ultimatums. I find these rants egocentric, unrealistic and often disrespectful and insulting to the people praying in the pews.
I have no problem at all with the use of Missals during Mass. Frankly, there are people attending Mass who are deaf and use a Missal as part of their devotion.
Others may struggle with some form of attention deficit problem and use a Missal to deeply concentrate on the prayers and readings.
As well, in a multilingual, multicultural inner-city Diocese, there are people who do not speak or read English.  They use a Missal in their native language to pray from their hearts.
My childrens' Missal made a profound difference in my faith and devotion.  I'll bet there are thousands of Catholics who can claim the same blessings from such a small book.
I predict -- and Father Paul Gunter, OSB,  who wrote the Zenit article, seems to predict as well -- that Missals will have a strong  comeback with the introduction of new prayers and readings at Mass because of the new English translation of the texts from the third edition of the Roman Missal (which uses Latin as the official language of the Church).
And I think that Missals will achieve what they were created to do when they first appeared in the late Meddle Ages:  They will teach and nourish the Faith of the people in the pews, who will spread the Faith to their families, friends, neighbors and strangers!

So, launch the Missals!

ZE11032505 - 2011-03 -25  Permalink: 
Printed Aides Could Make a Comeback With New Liturgy Translation
By Father Paul Gunter, OSB
Benedictine Father Paul Gunter is a professor of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy Rome and Consulter to the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
ROME, MARCH 25, 2011 (

The use of missals by the laity, at least on mainland Europe, extends for considerably more than two centuries, providing access to the riches of the liturgy for lay people increasingly interested in the liturgical action unfolding before them.
In countries where religious persecution was a reality, such as in Great Britain during penal times, the possession of such a book would have provided opponents of the Catholic faith with adequate evidence of adherence to "popery." It was not, in the British context, unknown in recusancy, for the texts of certain Masses as well as the ordinary of the Mass to be printed within a broader devotional manual aimed at a catechesis of the faithful.
In Italy, the influence of the Synod of Pistoia in 1786, three years prior to the French Revolution, had its effects on the Italian liturgical movement (1672-1750) begun by L.A. Muratori, which stressed the need for increased access to the texts as intrinsic to any process of liturgical reform. Between 1788 and 1792 there appeared translations into Italian of the Mass both in the Ambrosian and Roman rites with explanations given about principal feasts, which were contained within a guide to prayer for pious faithful.
Similar happenings were found in France and Germany that mushroomed when inspired by the liturgical initiatives of Dom Prosper Guéranger during the 19th century. The use of missals fostered a manifestly liturgical association with the liturgy which incorporated the literate into the intricacies of the liturgy celebrated in Latin and schooled them in liturgical prayer.  
Missals often included the texts of vespers for Sundays, which became a feature of many parishes especially in France, the Netherlands and Germany. During the 20th century, missals increasingly contained with catechetical material about the liturgical year, commentaries on sacred Scripture and about eucological texts. Responding to the Liturgical Movement heralded by Pope St Pius X, the Cabrol Missal and the Missal of St André were in the forefront.

Symbol Of Unity, Identity
In our present day, at celebrations of the extraordinary form, missals are a considered pre-requisite, not only as a means of participating in texts which are often intentionally silent, but, more crucially, as a means of following the texts of Scripture as well as those of particular rites attached to certain days which would not be familiar. They contain an abridged version of the rubrics when compared to those contained in the altar missal. They also provide a collection of texts and illustrations of sacred art found conducive to prayer and meditation and which help to detract from inevitable distractions. Since missals could be as artistically beautiful as expensive, the faithful make sacrifices to possess one. Correspondingly, they have developed with time into a symbol of Catholic identity and pride.
In the context of the ordinary form, the purpose of a missal for participating at Mass is less clear. Though many people choose to possess one, maybe culturally inspired by the previous example, and who bring it diligently to Mass each week, the hermeneutic of participation has changed. This change has affected people to the extent that many have simply stopped using them. However, a missal remains a huge support to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and in situations where the proclamation of texts is, in practice, barely audible.
Speaking at cross-purposes about what is meant by a missal in the ordinary form is a risk. For laypeople, it is the book they use if they desire to follow the texts at Mass. In an updated style, a missal contains all that is needed in one volume, together with whatever liturgical and scriptural commentaries the edition decides to include. For the clergy, the missal is to be distinguished from the lectionary since the missal does not contain the scriptural readings proclaimed at Mass.
The majority of Catholics have grasped, if only from what they have witnessed in recent generations, that the Liturgical Movement of the 20th century strove to reform the liturgy. Few have necessarily appreciated that, when "Sacrosanctum Concilium" called for the reform of the liturgy, it did so by calling for its reform in partnership with its promotion ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 1). Far from being diminished in importance, the liturgical life of the Church was to grow in prominence.
In order for it to do so, it was necessary that the liturgy communicate effectively what it celebrates so that the minds and hearts of those who celebrate it would be able to articulate themselves what was being promoted. That hermeneutic underpinned the direction of "Sacrosanctum Concilium": "Pastors of souls must therefore realize that when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by its fruits" (No. 11).

Set Aside
Steadily, since Vatican II, missals have been depended on less in the promotion of liturgical life within the celebration as people have learned their responses and to make them together "as befits a community" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 21). The readings are read aloud with the assistance of a sound system and from an ambo that faces the assembly. Many of those who once followed texts in missals became lectors, thus discovering a new and sincere piety as they found themselves exercising a genuine liturgical function.
Clergy, encouraged by "Sacrosanctum Concilium," based their preaching on the readings of the day, with the result that sermons gave way to homilies rooted in liturgical preaching. Consequently, as they grew familiar with the rites, people needed, less and less, to read accompanying material to give them structural indications. They would, in greater numbers, subsequently, set aside their missals.
Also, for the first name in centuries, they would begin to use the word "homily" as "homilists" spoke throughout the liturgical year, now moved by "Sacrosanctum Concilium" Nos. 51 and 52, whose opening phrases are "The treasures of the Bible" and "By means of the homily." Clergy were further reinforced by the centrality of a liturgical communication of Scripture by "Dei Verbum": "Clergy must hold fast to sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study […] so that none of them will become 'an empty preacher of the Word of God outwardly who is not a listener to it inwardly'" (No. 25).
Ironically, the use of missals and of missalettes are about to make a comeback as parishes grapple with the new translations of the third edition of the Roman Missal. It remains to be seen if the renewed publication of missals for the ordinary form in the light of forthcoming new translations will augur a new interest in their communal use in the liturgy in the long term. What is certain is that these publications need to be imbued with the spirit of the liturgy and encourage conformity to what the Church is asking of us in this renewed opportunity for an authentic catechesis on the Mass gleaned from insights of the new translations.  
In order that the faithful should be led anew to a genuinely "fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," 14), those entrusted with the implementation of the new missal will need a refresher on "how to observe the liturgical laws’ ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," 17). Then, missals and other supplementary material will bring forth the beacon of unity that is a celebrated liturgy, faithfully reformed and promoted, so that it is "taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral and juridical aspects" ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 16).

Whitman's Chocolates Heard The Christmas Bells!

Hold onto your seat! Take deep breaths!

Don't swoon!  Yes, what you are seeing is real!

The images you see before you are actual wrappers adorning

Finally, a business that respects the religious sensibilities of millions of its Christian customers and forsakes the "Happy Holiday" blather to call the "holiday" what it is: Jesus Christ's Birthday and the Christmas Season!

Way to go,
Whitman's / Russell Stove!

(Whitman's Chocolates became part of Russell Stover Candies in 1993.)

Academicians, it would be right and just to show  Whitman's / Russell Stover  our approving pleasure with its decision to return Jesus as the meaning of Christmas.  

Whitman's / Russell Stover Customer Service can be reached by email, or by telephone Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Central Time: 888-311-3723.

And, more than emails or phone calls, don't you agree that these beautifully wrapped Christmas confections would make wonderful stocking stuffers? 

Why not purchase several dozen as gifts for all your Christian families and friends?

Just a suggestion...

"The Assistant Headmaster"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saint Nicholas - Patron Saint of Children

In Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other German speaking countries, the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6th is much anticipated by the children.  Traditionally, children would leave their shoes under their beds or outside their room for St. Nicholas to fill with candy on the evening of December 5th.  Other countries  may also celebrate this feast, but for the German speaking countries it is a major feast and a day to focus on the goodness of Saint Nicholas as a holy man and follower of the Lord.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, a city in modern day Turkey.  Because he lived in the early days of Christianity, the details of his life are not clear, but one thing is certain, he reflected the goodness of Christ to others, especially to the children and the suffering.  Over the centuries his feast day was observed by the Church at the beginning of the Advent season.  Unfortunately, in Germany, the country that so honored this saint, the Protestant reformation took hold, led by Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk.  Part of the separation of the Protestants from the Church included the dismissal of the honoring of saints.  Some historians say that this was what promoted the image of "Santa Claus" over that of Saint Nicholas.

Well, I say it's time to reform Santa Claus back into Saint Nicholas!  In fact in Germany, where there was a creeping advance of Santa Claus, there is now a movement to create"Santa Claus Free Zones"!

Prepare the way of the Lord....Make room for Saint Nicholas!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent Wreaths - The Pope and His Red Candles

How quickly this last year has passed!  Now we're already at the second Sunday of Advent and my purple Advent candles are once again nowhere to be found.

I thought I would post once more this little tribute to red candles on an Advent wreath (yes, I know, not liturgically correct, but don't pink and purple really conjure up more of Easter than Christmas?  Just sayin... )

When it comes to Advent wreaths, my memories go back to my childhood in a German-American family.  My  Catholic grandparents brought the tradition with them from the old country.  The Advent wreath held a place of honor in those "pre" and early Vatican II days, and the candles were always red.  I know that some say this is a Lutheran German tradition, but our Catholic family always had an Advent wreath.  And there was nary a pink candle in sight!  It seems that our Holy Father adheres to the same custom:

Here's a shot of my Advent wreath:

The Hubble Telescope Advent Calendar - 2011

Once Again, Alan Taylor at The Atlantic magazine is publishing his Hubble telescope Advent Calendar.  Each day he posts a new picture of our universe taken by the Hubble telescope.  Interestingly, these photos are processed through the University of Arizona which also hosts the stateside operations of the Vatican Observatory.

Contrary to popular belief, the Vatican has always actively promoted the sciences, especially the study of the stars and the universe.  The Vatican Observatory has its own website  ( where you can learn about its history and ongoing research of our universe and beyond.

Here is today's image, a picture of Jupiter's moon Ganymede, just before it disappears behind the planet. 

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.