Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year


I got an idea from author Holly Michael. She posted her strange terms people searched for to find her blog. Check out Holly's post here.

My list isn't as entertaining as Holly's, but here are the top ten most used search terms people have used to find my blog:

10) baby at 10 weeks gestation

 9) 12 weeks gestation

 8) baby 10 weeks

7) first communion gift ideas

6) 10 weeks gestation

5) graduation cap

4) baby at 10 weeks

3) catholic saints

2) 10 weeks

And (drum roll please) number one is...

1) rosary

What does that say about my blog posts? I suppose that I often write about unborn babies. Though I love discussing babies, that wasn't the original intent of this blog. I hope to go back to focusing on coming home to the Catholic Church, her teachings, and how to cope when you're Catholic but you have family members who either aren't or are not practicing the faith.

And music. I love blogging about music. Which reminds me, if you haven't checked out CatholicMetal.com I hope you will. There, you can hear Praising Him Loudly I, a Catholic Metal compilation. They're working on Praising Him Loudly II. I look forward to hearing that.

I'll continue writing about unborn baby issues and politics at Inglorious Ranterz where I've been invited to be a blogging team member. (Yay, I feel so wanted.) I hope you'll check out that blog.

Have a super blessed New Year!

 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Holy Family and Your Family


Today, December 30th, is the Feast of the Holy Family. On this day, let us think about making our own families more holy.
 
The Holy Family
 
 
Do you pray together? If not, I give you a challenge for the new year. Begin with just a prayer before dinner each night. Then, expand to blessing your children before bed and before they go to school (or elsewhere). When this becomes your new routine, pray as a family before bed. I hope that eventually you will pray the Rosary together, do faimly Bible reading and other devotional reading.
 
Pope John Paul II wrote On the Christian Family in the Modern World. I love this bit:

Christians also have the mission of proclaiming with joy and conviction the good news about the family, for the family absolutely needs to hear ever anew and to understand ever more deeply the authentic words that reveal its identity, its inner resources and the importance of its mission in the city of God and in that of man.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Little Jewel Boxes Full of Fun Facts


Two little jewel boxes of interesting facts for this fourth Sunday of Advent.

The Madonna of Port Lligat by Salvador Dali
 
Salvador DalĂ­ was raised atheist and embraced atheism much of his life. However, he finally realized, intellectually at least, that God must exist. “I believe in God but I have no faith. Mathematics and Science tell me that God must exist but I don’t believe it.” In 1949 he painted "The Madonna of Port Lligat" and asked Pope Pius XII for his approval. It was granted.

Jewel Box 1- Read more interesting tidbits here: "5 People It'sEasy to Forget Are Catholic"
 
12 Days of Christmas
 
We've all heard the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (as well as various parodies), which leads one (such as I) to believe there really are twelve days of Christmas. In reality, the length of Christmas varies. It runs from the first evening prayer (Vespers) on Christmas Eve through the first Sunday after the Epiphany (on January 6th). Here I was thinking it only ran until Epiphany, and I didn't even bother to actually count the days. Doh!

Jewel Box 2- Learn more juicy facts at Jimmy Akin's blog here: "9Things You Need to Know About Christmas."

*Note: Links to image sources embedded in image captions.


 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saint Ambrose's Letter


An advent letter from Saint Ambrose (born around 340 AD) was printed in my church bulletin. It is as pertinent in our day as it was in Ambrose's time.

Scores of people (including many Christians) don't appreciate the gift of Christ. I know many who celebrate Christmas and Easter, yet do not believe in Christ's divinity. They either think He never existed or that He was merely a nice wise man who taught everyone to be kind. (These latter don't explain why a nice wise man would stir up trouble and claim to be divine, but that's a post for another day.)

Ambrose points out that we should treat everyone with love. This means, even people who don't believe in Christ, family members whom we find annoying, and strangers who cut us off on the road.

Ambrose holds up the Virgin Mary as a person to imitate. Sadly, many Christians today brush the mother of our Lord aside. They think that because she's human, she isn't important. But she embraced God's call and threw herself completely into trusting His plan. She really was the first Christian. Of course we should look to her as a role model!

We'd be wise to behave like Mary and trust God. The Lord sees beyond the surface while we see mere appearances filtered through our own egos. He can use what we think of as unlikely situations and people to achieve His plan. The teenaged atheist sitting across the Christmas table from you this year may in fact be the next great theologian. Just remember, even now, they are a beloved child of God.

Now, here's Saint Ambrose's letter:

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

How beautiful, how awesome it is that our God sent His own Son to dwell among us, as one of us, to heal the breach between human and divine! And how tragic it is when frail humankind fails to appreciate the gift.

In my day, the followers of a man named Arius did not believe in Christ's divinity. They demanded that we hand over two churches for their use, but I refused to do so. In these difficult times, it was even more important for the followers of Christ to stand united. The mystery and gift of the Incarnation is that Christ came for us all. In every age, the language, customs and liturgical practices that separate the faithful are less important than the faith that unites us. While we cannot condone heresy, we must approach all those we meet with the heart of Our Lord, Who treated even sinners and tax collectors as beloved children of God.

The Virgin Mother provides us an example to emulate. She who bore the Savior understands the weight of an uncertain future. She, the humblest of women, found herself called to serve her Lords in a way that seemed impossible. Yet she embraced the call, both the gift of birth and the sacrifice of the Cross. She trusted the sure and certain hope of salvation promised of old. We trust in the equally certain promise of Our Lord's return. For God can use all situations and all people to effect His plan, even those who seem the least likely candidates. Witness myself, a Roman governor nominated as bishop of Milan even before I was baptized!

In times filled with conflict, then, endeavor to embrace the same patience and hope demonstrated by the Virgin in the days before the Nativity. May the peace of Christ dwell always in your hearts.

Your brother in Christ,

Ambrose

 
 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Immaculate Conception of Mary


Saturday (December 8th) is the Solemnity of the ImmaculateConception. For Catholics, it's a Holy Day of Obligation. That's just a fancy way of saying "Get your tail to Mass."

This is probably the most misunderstood feast on the Catholic Church's calendar. The Immaculate Conception refers to this fact: Though Mary was conceived in the normal way, biologically speaking [need I explain? ;-)], God preserved her from the stain of original sin.

What's the stain of original sin? Original sin is the sin of Adam when he disobeyed God in the Garden. We're all born with the stain of that sin. We inherited it from our first parents. This means we lack sanctifyinggrace and, as a result, have a corrupt nature.

God gave Mary sanctifying grace before original sin and its stain could take hold. Hence, she was immaculately (cleanly) conceived. Simple?

It makes sense. If God the Father is sending His Son to earth via a human woman, He'd want her to be a pure vessel for Him--a pure Arkfor the new covenent.

And to make perfectly clear, we Catholics don't worship Mary. She, like us, is a creature made by God. But we honor her, just as the angel Gabriel did (Luke 1:28), because she is the mother of Jesus and because she's our mother too (John 19:26)
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Wreaths and Home Altars


Tomorrow (Dec. 2nd) is the first Sunday of Advent; never mind that you've already opened the first door to your chocolate Advent calendar. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday from Christmas. It's a time to prepare for Christ's birthday.

Many people already have their Christmas trees decorated and lights on their houses. It's exciting to see, but I've been trying to keep our family focused on time of preparation--preparing not just our home, but our hearts.

Like Lent (the preparatory time before Easter), we focus on repentance, anticipated joy, and especially prayer. Some years we succeed better than others.

Our outer work reflects our inner world and also help us focus on what our inner focus should be. The Advent wreath is a super way to do this. It's traditionally an evergreen wreath with four  candles. Three are violet and one is rose colored. On each Sunday of Advent, we light one more. First Sunday- one violet. Second Sunday- two violet. Third Sunday (Rejoice Sunday)-two violet and one rose. Fourth Sunday-three violet and one rose.

The gradual progression helps us to anticipate Christ's birth. Evergreen branches symbolize continuous life. The circle of the wreath is for the eternity of God. Violet is for repentance. The rose candle is for hope and rejoicing that Christ will soon come.

At our home, we have the wreath on the table and light it each night before dinner, saying a special prayer. American Catholic has nice prayer ideas for Advent.

Additionally, decorating your home altar or fireplace mantel with purple and evergreen is a lovely reminder of the season.