Please remember during all the festivities of this wonderful season the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is the birthday of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He longs to come into our hearts and be the center of our lives. Please think of Him often and don't leave Him out in the cold. After all, He is the reason for the Season.
As Christmas, each year, comes again,
From His blest home above,
The Christ-Child hastes to dwell with men,
And bless them with His love.
Jesus has come our hearts to win,
This holy Child and fair,
And every house he enters in
He leaves a blessing there.
TODAY we celebrate a feast of the Blessed Virgin, Mary, Mother of God, who was born without sin. She was a child of grace from the first moment of her life. Whilst all human beings are born in sin, the words of the angel, "Hail, full of grace!" are truly said of our Blessed Mother even in her birth. She, a creature of God and as human as we, never committed even a venial sin. During her whole life she never lost any of the sanctifying grace given to her by God at the very instant of her birth.
While still a child she was brought by her parents to the temple at Jerusalem, there to spend the early days of her life away from the noisy, sinful world. In that sacred place, among innocent children and virgins, she worked and prayed, laying the foundation of the wonderful holiness which made glad the heavens and the earth. The house of her parents and the temple of God were to her the dearest places. When the archangel Gabriel brought her the message that she was the one chosen by God to become the mother of His Son, he found her alone in her little room, engaged in pious thought.
St. Edmund had been brought up with a great devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. When sending him to school at Paris, his mother begged him never to let a day pass without praying to his divine protectress. The holy young man remembered the wishes of his mother and always showed himself most zealous for the glory of Mary. He went several times a day to pray before her statue; and, to mark his engaging in the service of Mary, he placed on the finger of her statue a ring, on which he had the "Hail Mary" engraved. You shall see how pleasing that devotion, so sincere and so lasting, was to the Blessed Virgin. After the death of Edmund it was noted that this same prayer was engraved on his episcopal ring* to which it gave so great a power that it was used in a large number of miraculous cures.
Mary was industrious; she did all her home duties with great care. Her place in life was lowly; she was poor and had to work to support herself. She worked, however, not only because she was poor, but also because she knew labor to be a duty for every one, as well as an excellent help to virtue. In this, too, you may take Mary for your model, since an industrious, active life is one of the surest means of obtaining grace. Those who work hard close their hearts to temptation. The devil cannot fill our mind with bad thoughts when our attention is occupied with business. So let us labor cheerfully, for work drives away sinful thoughts and helps us to think of holy things.
St. Teresa was blessed with a good and virtuous mother, who taught her when a little child to love the Blessed Virgin. Teresa was not twelve years old when her mother died, and she was almost in despair at her loss. In the midst of her sorrow she threw herself before an image of Our Lady and begged her with
many tears to be a mother to her, now that her earthly mother was taken from her. This act, done with all the fervor and simplicity of childhood, brought little Teresa the special love and protection of Mary; and the saint tells us that she never begged the help of her heavenly Mother without obtaining relief.
How zealous was Mary in the exercises of devotion and prayer! As we have heard, she spent the years of her childhood in the temple at Jerusalem, where she daily spent several hours in prayer. She prayed, as she herself revealed to her cousin Elizabeth, at three different times of the day, and even at night she arose from sleep to adore God before the altar of the temple. The last years of her life were entirely devoted to prayer and pious thought.
We must imitate Mary in her fervor at prayer so that we may be able to preserve sanctifying grace. So long as we live we will meet with temptations, and we cannot overcome them by our own strength; we need the grace of God to do it.
A young man who had many times fallen into mortal sin, went to confession. The good priest was greatly affected on learning that the young man had sinned so often. But to encourage him the priest said:
"My child, I will tell you an easy means of overcoming: the tempter, to whom you have so often yielded. If you do what I tell you, you will never sin again."
"O my Father," the youth replied, "tell me what it is, for with my whole heart I desire to overcome evil habits." "Place yourself entirely under the protection of the Blessed Virgin," said the priest. "Say a 'Hail
Mary' every morning and evening in honor of her sinless birth and her holy life, and whenever you are tempted to do evil say to her at once, 'O Mary, help me, for I am thine!'" The young man followed his advice, and in a short time was entirely freed from his evil habits.
Children, how can we live like Mary? The answer is contained in these words, which Mary spoke to the angel: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word." We can live like Mary by doing the will of God. Whatever we do, we ought to ask the question, "Is this what God would have me to do?"
In a large eastern city of our country there is a great asylum where hundreds of poor orphans, boys and girls, are tenderly cared for by Catholic Sisters. This orphan asylum was built a great many years ago by a merchant, who gave all his money to it. If you were to go and visit that asylum they would show you the ledger in which the man who founded it used to keep his business accounts. At the top of every page, at the beginning of every day, he wrote, "To the glory of God." In all his business dealings he tried to think of the honor and glory of God, and when he died he left all the money he made to be used for the caring of poor little orphans—for the glory of our Father who is in heaven. This is a splendid rule for us to follow. When we go to school, when we go to play, whatever we do, let us make up our minds that we are going to try to do it just as we know God wants us to do it; that is the sure way to make the most of our time and to live the best life here on earth to gain heaven in the life to come.
My dear children, take Mary as your model and try to live as she did. She lost none of the grace God gave her; until her death she kept every particle of it bright and pure as she received it from Him, and she did this because she lived humbly and quietly from the sinful world and because she loved work and prayer.* The ring on the fourth finger of the Bishop's right hand is called the episcopal ring, from the word episoopus, which means "Bishop."
Source: Anecdote - Sermonettes for Children's Mass, Imprimatur A coloring picture for the children can be found below.
Another can be found on our coloring pictures
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The man who has not the happiness of possessing the true religion must do what lies in his power to come to the knowledge of it, and as soon as he has discovered it, he must at all hazards embrace it, for it is the precious pearl of which there is mention in the Gospel, to obtain which, everything he possesses on earth must be sacrificed. Yet how many, my child, are found who place not value on it.
St. Josaphat, whom the Church honours on November 27, was the son of Abenner, King of the Indies. This pagan King, fearing that his son might become a Christian (for he had been warned by a certain astrologer that this would happen), took the most severe measures to keep him from the knowledge of the Christian religion. He shut him up, even in his earliest childhood, in a large castle with no one but his tutor to live with him, who was instructed to bring him up a pagan, like his father, and never, under pain of death, to speak to him of the Christian faith, and to see that nothing would be put in his way that would ever make him hear about it or inquire into it.
The tutor obeyed his orders to the letter, and for many years the young Prince never saw but the castle in which he dwelt, and the fields which surrounded it.
One day, however, when he had already reached the age of manhood, his father at length yield to his oft-repeated request that he might be allowed to go forth into the great world to visit it. He had not gone far, when he met a poor man bent nearly to the ground through old age. Josaphat was astonished at this sight so new to him, and he asked his tutor what had brought the man to that sad condition. The tutor answered that it was the effect of old age.
"And shall we also, when we are old like this man have the same infirmities?" said the Prince.
"Yes, all men must follow in the same path which leads to old age, then to death."
"And shall I also have to die one day?" asked Josaphat. "And if so, what will become of me after my death? What will happen to my soul?"
"Ah! as to that," replied the tutor, "it is a problem which it impossible for anyone to understand, and which we must not try to solve; it is a mystery which God Himself has covered with a veil."
This answer did not satisfy the young Prince, and only made him the more desirous of discovering that which his tutor wanted to conceal from him. All his thoughts from that moment were fixed on death, and the state after death. He felt that God, Who had created him, could not leave him without letting him know what was to happen to him after this life was over. "It cannot be possible," he thought, "that God could refuse to enlighten me upon that important subject if I humbly ask Him in prayer."
So he besought God in fervent prayer to make him know the truth. God heard his prayer, and in a wonderful way answered it by sending to Him a humble anchorite named Barlaam.
That holy man came to him under the disguise of a pearl merchant, who, presenting himself at the castle, was admitted, that the Prince, who was exceedingly fond of such things, might admire them and perhaps purchase some of them.
As the Prince was admiring the lustre of some of the pearls, Barlaam took the opportunity of a moment in which he was alone with him to tell him of another pearl which was more beautiful and precious than any of those he had just seen. Josaphat wanted to see it at once.
"It is a pearl that cannot be seen with the eyes," said the old man. "The pearl of which I speak is called Truth."
"Truth," exclaimed the young Prince, "that is just what I am looking for, and what I wish to possess at all price. I beseech you, O stranger, to tell me what is Truth."
Then Barlaam spoke to him of Jesus Christ, and of the eternal happiness which He purchased for us by His death. This was for the young man the light which for he had been seeking. He opened his eyes to it at once,and soon afterwards, having, by the grace of God, found means of secretly escaping the vigilance of his guard, he fled from the castle, left the kingdom of his father, and at length found the place in the desert where Barlaam dwelt. There, forgetting the crown of the earthly kingdom which was his inheritance, and all the worldly things that were to be his, he thought only of practising the holy religion of Jesus Christ, and thus became Saint. He is now reigning with Jesus Christ in Heaven, and the Church on earth venerates him as one of her powerful intercessors before the throne of God.
When a person throws away this great gift of God, or does not accept it when God offers it to him, he may never get it again, and so will lose his soul.
Source; The Catechism in Examples- Imprimatur; 1908.
When one who has received the gift of faith, and by his sinful life or neglect, has ceased to believe and profess the truths revealed by God, he is guilty of the crime of apostasy, which is one of the greatest sins that can be committed.
TRIED, AND FOUND FAITHFUL
Anyone who neglects his duty to God for the sake of the world, or for the fear of losing the esteem of
men, is not worthy to be called a child of God, and sometimes those who do this meet their punishment even in this world.
At the beginning of the fourth century the Roman Empire in Gaul was governed by an Emperor named Constantius Chloris. He was a pagan, but he did not persecute the Christians, as many of the other Roman governors did; he even gave to many of them high positions in his province, because he knew that if they were faithful to their God they would be faithful also to their temporal Prince.
One day, to the astonishment of all the people, he published a solemn edict, in which he decreed that every Christian who held any office in his household should, on a certain appointed day, go to the temple of Jupiter, one of the heathen gods, and offer sacrifice, and that if anyone refused to do this, he was immediately to be deprived of the office he held, and be banished from the country for ever. This decree was the cause of great consternation and alarm among the Christians. They had till then enjoyed peace; their religion was even respected by the pagans; and now, on a sudden, without any warning, an edict was issued against them.
The governor eagerly awaited the appointed day to see how the Christians would act. When the day came, a great crowd of people were seen approaching the palace gates. They were a band of Christians, who came to resign the offices they held. "We have come, O Prince," they said, "to give back into your hands the favours you granted to us. Willingly would we still continue to serve you, as we have always done, but we have a Master in Heaven Who is above all, and whose law must be obeyed before the orders of temporal Princes. And since His law forbids us to worship any other god but Himself, we cannot obey your decrees. Yea, we are willing to die rather than be wanting in our fidelity to Him." Constantius said nothing, but let them depart. Then, going up to the temple of Jupiter, he saw there some other Christians offering sacrifice according to the command that had been given. They were ready to deny their God rather than lose their temporal position. But they were soon punished for their apostasy. For the Emperor, assembling together his army and the rest of the people, publicly, before them all, reinstated those Christians who had been faithful to God, in all their former dignity, and restored to them all the honours they had resigned rather than offend God. Then, turning to those miserable ones who had offered sacrifice, he said: "O impious wretches, you do not deserve to be called men—yon, who denied your God and your religion for a little worldly honour and ease; listen to what I have to say to you: you can never more share my confidence; I take away from you all the offices you have enjoyed till now, and I give them to those faithful men who were wiling to die rather than offend God, and I order you to depart from my household, that my eyes may never again behold you."
Thus were rewarded, even in this world, those who had proved themselves faithful, and thus also were punished those who denied their faith.
One of the courtiers asked the Emperor why he had done this, Constantius answered: "I desired to know whom I could trust. Men who sacrifice their religion to their interests are likely to fail in their other duties. I could not expect that those who were not faithful to God would be faithful to me."
Not only did the Emperor thus publicly praise and reward those faithful men, but he chose them as his special counsellors, and committed to their care his person and his whole household.
When we are tempted for some temporal consideration to be unfaithful to God, we should remember
that on the day of our baptism we promised solemnly to serve Him to the end of our lives, and that if we do not keep our promise, we shall most certainly be punished, if not in this life, at least in the next.
The History of the Church,
Source: The Catechism in Examples, Imprimatur 1909
They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. ST. LUKE xxi. 27.
I. As fear is the beginning of wisdom, the Church upon this day opens her ecclesiastical year, by recalling to the minds of her children the terrors of the great accounting-day, upon which neither saint nor sinner can reflect without a thrill of shuddering horror. It is no wonder that they fill us with dread; for the very shadows which that day of wrath shall cast before it, will be enough to make the strong man wither away with fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the earth. The great globe beneath his feet shall rock to its very centre; the sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall not give their light; the sea shall pile up its tumultuous billows to rush in over the land; and the fires hidden in the bowels of the earth shall break forth to consume and to destroy.
It is, of course, uncertain whether you will be living when these things shall come to pass. The probability is, that centuries upon centuries will have rolled by, and that your ashes will have been scattered to the winds of heaven, before the coming of that day of darkness and of storm. Yet, though it is uncertain whether you will live to see the signs which shall precede the coming of the Almighty Judge, of this one thing you may be perfectly certain that you, together with all the men who have ever breathed the breath of life, will be standing in the valley of judgment when the sign of the Son of man shall appear in the clouds of heaven.
Your eyes will look upon Jesus Christ, coming with great power and majesty to judge the living and the dead. You will stand there, surrounded by those who have sat by your side in the study and in the class-room. You will be seen by the professors who taught you, and whom you loved so well. Your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your relatives, will all be there with you. You will be there, not as
an indifferent spectator, but as a prisoner at the bar, to answer to Almighty God for all the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil.
II. You may perhaps ask the reason why God, Who at the moment of death has already decided the eternal doom of each of us, shall once again cite the human race collectively before His dread tribunal. Many and grave reasons are given by theologians; but let this one suffice, for it is sound, and calculated, moreover, to inspire us with salutary fear: God shall summon the whole human race to a general judgment, because each of us owes to his fellow-men a debt of truth. His life ought to have been so blameless as to have enabled him to throw open the secret recesses of his soul to the gaze of all around him, and to bear their scrutiny without a blush. Has this debt of truth been paid by us to our brethren?
With sorrow we must confess that it has not. For nearly everyone bears about with him two personalities: one which is known to God and to himself, the other which is known to men. The man, as he stands before the eyes of God, is most studiously concealed from view, and little more than a mask is presented to the gaze of his neighbour. Hence it often happens that a scoundrel goes down to his grave with the reputation of an honest man; a libertine wears the garb of unspotted virtue; and pride the most detestable lies concealed beneath the cloak of humility. As a matter of fact, there is oftentimes as great a difference between the man as he really is, and the man as he appears to be, as there is between a smoothly-polished marble monument, and the rottenness and corruption which lie festering beneath it. God, therefore, has decreed that there shall be a great accounting-day, on which this debt of truth must be paid to humanity. He will then tear down the lying epitaph, and overturn the marble monument, and lay bare before the eyes of the whole world the rottenness and corruption of the soul.
The deeds which have been done in darkness shall be dragged forth into the light; the words which have been whispered in the ear shall be thundered forth by the Archangel s voice; the thoughts and the desires of the heart, springing into existence quick as the lightning-flash, multitudinous as the sands of the sea, shall all be made manifest and brought to judgment.
III. You are going this day to approach the Holy Altar, to partake of the victim which is there offered up for the sins of the world. You are going to receive into the tabernacle of your heart Him, before Whom you will one day stand in fear and trembling, to hear the sentence of your eternal doom. Therefore, look well into yourself, and see whether your soul is able to bear the searching glance of His allseeing and all-holy eyes.
Is your life so pure that you could stand up fearlessly in the presence of your companions and professors, and let their eyes see you as you appear to the eyes of your God? Just examine into the nature of the thoughts which pass through your mind as you sit poring over your books. See whether your words are so blameless that you would not fear to utter them before your masters. Are your desires always lawful? Are your actions always so innocent that they might be done in the light of day?
If, after a careful scrutiny, you find that you have not harboured evil thoughts and desires, nor spoken wicked words, nor done anything that you would be ashamed of, you need not fear to approach the banquet in which Christ is received. For before God you are that which outwardly you appear to be before men, and therefore there is no debt of truth due from you unto them. But if you cannot do this if you are conscious to yourself of not being what you seem to be if you feel that you are like the whited sepulcher, fair without and foul within stand back! Go, first, and pay your debt of truth. Reveal yourself before man, and let him see you just as you are before God.
Our merciful Lord does not require you to do this before all men, but only before one who holds His place. Before him you must manifest yourself as you are. At his feet weep over your sins, and your kind, merciful God will blot them all out for you. Then you need fear nothing; for on the dreadful Judgment-day the sins of the just shall not be made a spectacle to Angels and to men, because, having been washed away by repentant tears, they are, before God, as if they had never been. Do not fail, while Jesus dwells within you, to ask for grace to lead so pure and holy a life, that you will never be ashamed to let the whole world look into the most secret recesses of your heart. If you can do this, the day of wrath will not have any terrors for you. You will fear no evil, because you know no sin.
Source: Lectures for Boys, Volume I, Imprimatur 1896
Our posts on this blog have been sporadic lately. We are sorry about that. Could you please keep our family in your prayers? My mom had a bad fall, fractured her wrist and broke her nose. While looking at the CT scan because of a possible concussion the physician found a tumor on her brain. It is benign (non-cancerous) and she has an MRI scheduled to see if it will need to be removed. Please, please pray that she won't need an operation and that the tumor can just be monitored. Thank you so very much.
The Willson Family
Christmas is a liturgical season of great joy. It lasts forty days, from December 25 to February 2, during which the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, is celebrated as one continuous festival. The finale comes with His presentation in the temple. A season most dear to Christian hearts,
Christmas is as distinct in the liturgy as Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost.
Four weeks of Advent are scarcely enough to "prepare the way of the Lord" for His coming to us as King. However, if we have used that season as a preparation, we are ready now to receive the Redeemer who will deliver us from sin in answer to our requests. Christ's coming must be, not a lovely idyll or a pastoral scene, but a reality accomplished in our lives and our children's. Forty days of rejoicing are not too long a celebration for so great an event.
The early Church selected December 25, the date of the winter solstice when God the Creator gives the sun an increase of natural light in northern hemispheres, as the day on which to celebrate the birth of the Sun of Justice, Light of the world. Radiating from the Divine Child are a galaxy of wonderful saints whose lives afford a continuing interest in celebrating the feast of His birth. Micheas, who lived in the days of Isaias, prophesied the birthplace of the Messiah: "Thou, Bethlehem, art a little one among the thousands in Judah; out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be the Ruler of Israel; and His going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity."
The name Bethlehem signifies House of Bread. To it at Christmas - comes the Savior, who is the Bread of Life. By our participation in this mystery the divine transformation takes place whereby He "reshapes the body of our lowliness after the body of His splendor." Our forbearers gave the name Christmas to the feast of our Lord's birth because they kept the "Christ Mass" as the heart of their celebrations. Following closely the liturgy of the Church, they centered their customs and wrote their hymns and carols on her practices of the season, adoration, love, joy, and gratitude. Those practices also increased their admiration for His Virgin Mother Mary, who gave Almighty God His human form. He had created heaven and earth by His Word, but His becoming Man depended on a creature's FIAT, Be it done unto me according to Thy Word. Mary consented. Our forebearers honored her in their great masterpieces because she is God's Mother. For the same reason the world in our day honors her as Queen of Heaven.
It is to our Lady that Christian families must look for help to reestablish Christmas as a season of festivities marking Christ's birth. Either we live the liturgical year with its varying seasons of joy and sorrow, work and rest, or we follow the pattern of the world. Nor is it an easy task to break with the world and the powerful influence of advertising. Their season of Christmas begins around Thanksgiving Day when stores display wares for holiday gift-giving. It lasts until December 24. Families, who would not dream of eating their Thanksgiving turkey a week in advance or of having their 4th of July picnic in June, give no thought to the fact that, when they awake on December 25, there is not a shred of Christmas left. Every present has been opened. Every carol has been sung. The tree has dried out Christmas is apt to be a dull day given to over-eating. There was no fast in Advent, so it follows that there can be no feast.
It is difficult to keep one's home dark in Advent penance; to keep a tree fresh outside the door; to refrain from singing carols until Christmas eve. We see their friends' trees shimmering with ornaments a week before Christmas. Their houses are bedecked with lights. Television and radio blare carols. Not only is it difficult to keep from celebrating beforehand, it is even more difficult to begin forty days of the Christmas season when all around people are concluding their festivities. How
then do families return to the spirit of the Church and begin the season of joy and grace on Christmas eve?
The simplest way is by keeping Advent. Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. It is a season of spiritual preparation, marked by eager longing for the coming of the Saviour through grace at Christmas, and for His second and final coming. It is also an ideal time to establish in our homes liturgical customs which will restore our children to Christ.
These age-old Advent practices help our children live closer to Christ and His Church during the pre-Christmas season. Time-tested and proven, the customs teach the doctrines of redemption and develop a generosity with God and a coordination of the family's spiritual efforts as effectively now as they did for our forebears. Their strong and living faith will be the heritage of our children if family religious practices, centered in the Liturgy, "The Normal School of Sanctity for the Laity," are established in our homes- Secularism has invaded our households. The Bishops of the United States have warned us that "The Christian must make his home holy - the Christian must realize the Christian ideal." Father Edgar Schmiedler, O.S.B., in his three excellent pamphlets, Your Home A Church in Miniature, says of family customs and blessings: "They are a relatively simple, but highly important, means of union between altar and home. They are a media for channeling from one great spiritual reservoir, given into then Church's keeping by Christ, the living and transforming waters of grace from the Saviour's fountain."
Children love to anticipate. When there are empty mangers to fill with straws of small sacrifices, when the Mary-Candle is a daily reminder on the dinner table, when Advent hymns are sung in the candlelight of a graceful Advent wreath, children are not anxious to celebrate Christmas before time. That would offend their sense of honor. Older children who make Nativity sets, cut Old Testament symbols to decorate a Jesse tree, or prepare costumes for a Christmas play will find Advent all too short a time to prepare for the coming of Christ the King.
Children, who love the beauty and simplicity of family religious practices, make the traditions easy to establish. As a rule it is best to begin with one or two customs and others in years to come. It is also highly desirable that families develop their own special customs, at least by adapting traditional ones to their personal circumstances. Once established, customs recall to older members of the family long forgotten practices of their own childhood. These have a special appeal because they belonged to our forefathers and link us to the wealth of national customs now fallen into disuse.
Celebrating Christmas in its season can be accomplished more easily when several families try it together. Frequently there are families who, if only for sentimental reasons, would like to keep the joy and surprise of Christmas for the eve. Christians of the Eastern rite wait until their particular feast of Christmas comes in January. We should likewise begin ours on its proper day. We also need time for our festivities. As difficult as it may be, we should decline invitations to celebrate Christmas
at the various parties sprinkled throughout the Advent season. The Church gives us a period of forty days for rejoicing. Instead invite friends and family to your own joyous celebration of Christ's birth during the many days following December 25th, when for others it is otherwise a disappointing and barren time.
If during Advent we open our souls fully, the Heavens will rain the Just One." St. Pius X, whose burning desire was to restore all things to Christ, might well become the patron of parents who wish to restore their children to Christ through these practices. Our Blessed Lady and St. Joseph too will send inspiration from the Holy Spirit, for theirs was a home where feast day cooking, family customs, family prayers and singing abounded, according to prescribed Jewish law. It is to them we must look for help in order to train our children "to live temperately, justly, reverently, in this world, awaiting the Advent of the glory of the great God."
May you all have a blessed and fruitful Advent Season!
Source: Advent and Christmas in a Catholic Home, Imprimatur 1950
The winners for our calendar give-a-way are Kristen, Kathryn Murphy and Amelia Wright. We have sent emails to you with the details. Thank you for entering the give-a-way. God bless you!
THERE is a whole school of thought that sniffs at the idea of encouraging Catholic customs in the home--or anywhere else, for that matter. Customs like the saying of the rosary together, the decorating of an altar in May seem to them too childish for consideration. For them the doctrines of the Church are sufficient, without these extras. And indeed the doctrines of the Church are enough for anyone. They are like straight, unwinding roads that lead into eternity; only on either side of these roads are hedges and ditches and meadows and all sorts of flowers. The ultra-catholic Catholic is not interested in these flowers or fields. Still, such things are to a road what Catholic customs are to the faith; they adorn it, enliven it, they help to keep one on the journey.
It is not strange that all sorts of devotional practices have sprung up around Catholicism, sometimes practices that may seem rather trifling until one realizes that customs cannot be worthless that have evolved from the faith of the people through many hundreds of years, sometimes through well over a thousand years. What family is there that does not use certain sayings and phrases that have significance only for those belonging to the circle? What family exists that has no peculiar customs, nicknames, rites, birthday ceremonies that outsiders cannot be expected to appreciate? Can anyone account for the curious rites they observed as children. Those rites are not necessary for family life, but they adorn it and enliven it. And since the Church is not an institution but a family that ranges from God and God's mother and thence to the saints and thence to the souls in purgatory and from them to ourselves, is it not astonishing then that spiritual family rites and customs have sprung up? It is surprising how few people think of this. But the parents who do enter into these spiritual family customs can give their children treasures, whose value they may not realize until eternity.
There is nothing forced in this idea: why does the church in her liturgy allot the various days to the honor of her saints, or to events in the lives of Christ and of Mary, if she does not wish us to celebrate them in some way?
These feasts of the Church are fixed, but the way they can be celebrated can vary--and does vary tremendously from place to place. With the passing of time the festivities and the customs of the day have also changed, still the essence remains the same. At Christmas, for instance, Jesus is the center of the day, and everywhere in the world Christians will show their love to the new-born Child in their own way, whether this be with carol singing, erecting cribs, hanging Advent wreaths, placing lighted candles in the windows, leaving empty places at the table for the holy Family, or by making it a special festive day for children, their own or other people's. ~ adapted from: ""A Candle is Lighted," Imprimatur 1945. ~
It is with these thoughts in mind I will share those traditions that we do to help bring our Faith to life.
ADVENT - Holy Mother Church's way of teaching Her children to prepare for the coming of Christ, both on His birthday and on Judgment Day. To this family the Advent and Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year. We have many traditions that help make the season penitential as well as joyous.
My children as well as my husband and I are eagerly awaiting the first Sunday of Advent. It is on this day that we start our traditions.
Besides the Advent Wreath with it's prayers and songs, we have another tradition called "Christkindl" (Christ Child). After our Mass prayers are said and our breakfast eaten I bring out a bowl which I pass around. In it are pieces of paper each containing a different name of one of our family members. The papers are neatly rolled up, because the drawing has to be done in great secrecy. Each person then draws a piece of paper from the bowl and looks at it in secret. (This tradition is a little hard when all the children are small because the burden of keeping track of each person's Christkindl falls on the mother) The person whose name one has drawn is now in one's special care. From this day until Christmas, one has to do as many little favors for him or her as one can. One has to provide at least one surprise every single day--but without ever being found out. This creates a wonderful atmosphere of joyful suspense, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Perhaps you will find that somebody has made your bed, done your chores or has informed you, in a disguised handwriting on a holy card, that "a rosary has been said for you today" or a number of sacrifices have been offered up. (Note: I will type up on paper prayers like, 3 Hail Mary's or a decade of the Rosary, etc. and place them in the center of the Advent wreath for the children to use for each other. When it has been found by the Christkindl it is then returned to the wreath to be used again.) The beautiful thing about this particular custom is that the relationship is a reciprocal one. The person whose name I have drawn and who is under my care becomes for me the helpless little Christ Child in the manger; and as I am performing these many little acts of love and consideration for someone in the family I am really doing them for the Infant of Bethlehem, according to the word, "And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me." That is why this particular person turns into "my Christkindl." At the same time I am the "Christkindl" also for the one I am caring for because I want to imitate the Holy Child and render all those little services in the same spirit as He did in that small house of Nazareth, when as a child He served His Mother and His foster father with a similar love and devotion. Many times throughout these weeks can be heard such exclamations as, "I have a wonderful Christkindl this year!" or, "Goodness, I forgot to do something for my Christkindl and it is already suppertime!" It is a delightful custom, which creates much of the true Christmas spirit and ought to be spread far and wide.
We have a large manger (just the Infant's bed) that we set up on our domestic altar. It is empty and throughout the Advent season after our evening prayers are said, the children place pieces of hay into it for each good deed they have performed during the day. The more good they have done, the softer Baby Jesus' bed will be come Christmas morning. (Note: We use straw colored yarn cut into pieces instead of the hay that can be reused year after year.)
There is still one very important thing to do for Advent. Each member of the family writes a letter to the Baby Jesus mentioning his resolutions for the weeks of Advent and listing the wish for a gift. This "Christkindl Brief" (letter to the Holy Child) is put under the manger on our domestic altar for the Guardian Angels to take to the Christ Child. (I have kept these over the years and love to read them over again.)
It cannot be said often enough that during these weeks before Christmas, songs and hymns of Advent should be sung. No Christmas carols! Consciously we should work toward restoring the true character of waiting and longing to these precious weeks before Christmas. Just before Midnight Mass, on December 24th, is the moment to sing for the first time "Silent Night, Holy Night," for this is the song for this very night. It may be repeated afterwards as many times as we please, but it should not be sung before that holy night.
This year we will be adding yet another tradition or actually changing the way that we do one. We used to at the beginning of the school year have each child pick a Saint that they have to research, make a costume for, and tell about come All Saints Day. This year we are going to do things a little differently.
The following has been taken from: "Around the Year with the Trapp Family" and it is this tradition that we are going to adapt to our own.
"One of the old customs is to choose a patron saint for the new year of the Church. The family meets on Saturday evening, and with the help of the missal and a book called "The Martyrology," which lists thousands of saints as they are celebrated throughout the year, they choose as many new saints as there are members of the household. We always choose them according to a special theme. One year, for instance, we had all the different Church Fathers; another year we chose only martyrs; then again, only saints of the new world....During the war we chose one saint of every country at war.
The newly chosen names are handed over to the calligrapher of the family. She writes the names of the saints in gothic lettering on little cards. Then she writes the name of every member of the household on an individual card and hands the two sets over to the mother
In the afternoon of the first Sunday of Advent, the whole family meets in the living room. The Advent wreath hangs suspended from the ceiling on four red ribbons; the Advent candle stands in the middle of the table or on a little stand on the side. Solemnly the father lights one candle on the Advent wreath, and, for the first time, the big Advent candle. Then he reads the Gospel of the first Sunday of Advent. After this the special song of Advent is intoned for the first time, the ancient "Ye heavens, dew drop from above, and rain ye clouds the Just One...."
After our first gathering around the Advent light, and the singing of the first Advent hymn, an air of expectancy spreads over the family group; now comes the moment when the mother goes around with a bowl in which are the little cards with the names of the new saints. Everybody draws a card and puts it in his missal. This saint will be invoked every morning after morning prayer. Everyone is supposed to look up and study the life story of his new friend, and some time during the coming year he will tell the family all about it. As there are so many of us, we come to know about different saints every year. Sometimes this calls for considerable research on the part of the unfortunate one who has drawn St. Eustachius, for instance, or St. Bibiana. But the custom has become very dear to us, and every year it seems as if the family circle were enlarged by all those new brothers and sisters entering in and becoming known and loved by all.
Start a tradition or two with your families this Advent season, your children will learn to love and cherish them and it will help bring your Faith to life. I will in a future post put a printable up with the prayers we say during Advent.
With Advent less than a week away I thought I would share this lovely explanation from one of the old Catholic books we have.
"Catholic Ceremonies" ~ Imprimatur 1896
The Four Weeks of Advent
The time of preparation for the sweet mysteries of the birth of Our Lord is called Advent, that is to say, the coming. Its four weeks recall to Christians the four thousand years of prayers and sighs which preceded the coming of the Messias.
The Anthems of Advent
Seven days before Christmas is sung at Vespers an anthem called " The O Anthems of Advent," because it begins with this exclamation; it is a cry sent out to the Messias. It is sung at Vespers; for was it not in the evening of the world that the Messias came ? It is sung at the Magnificat to show that the Saviour for Whom we wait will come to us through Mary. (Gueranger, The Liturgical Year.) Again, the repetition of the anthem expresses well the ardent sighs, constantly renewed, of the patriarchs; the Introit has already offered us the same figure.
Practices of Advent
There remain among us to-day few traces of Advent as it was observed by our fathers. They sanctified it by prayer, fasting, and abstinence.. The old-time penitence is always practised in monasteries, but among the faithful the Church has pre- served, but its symbols. During Advent she clothes herself in purple, and this sign of mourning shows us how the Church unites herself to the desire of Israel, who waited in sackcloth and ashes the coming of the Messias. As a sign of widowhood it expresses the sorrow of the Church, who awaits that Spouse Whose absence costs her heart so dear.
Marriages are not celebrated in Advent, their worldly joy being little in agreement with the holy tears and chaste pangs of penitence. Moreover it is toward other nuptial feasts that the Church turns the eyes of her children : these are those of the eternal marriage, begun here below in the Eucharistic banquet. The Alleluia, which continues its tender harmony in these days of penitence, should make us sigh for the joys of the festival of the Lamb.
Except on feast-days, the two angelical hymns, the Gloria in excelsis and the Te Deum, are not sung till the great day when they are chanted at the crib of the infant God. The Ite, Missa est, is replaced by the call to prayer: '' Benedicamus Domino"—"Let us bless the Lord;" for we cannot pray too much in these holy days of waiting.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th.
The deluge of iniquities which has inundated the world for four thousand years is about to end ; Mary, the heavenly dove, brings the good tidings to the world. The dark night which has weighed upon humanity will soon see its shadows scattered; she whom the Holy Spirit compared to the dawn will appear in this holy season, like a forerunner of the Sun of justice. The star which precedes the morning shines upon the horizon. A thousand times blessed be the day which brings us so much joy! May all Christians hail with gratitude the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary!
Faith teaches us that at the moment when God united the soul of Mary, which He had just created, to the body which it was to animate, not only had that soul not contracted in the least the stain which till then had disfigured every human soul, but it was filled with grace tremendous in extent and ineffable in beauty. A feast in honor of this glorious mystery existed in the East in the sixth century. The Church of Lyons introduced this solemnity into France. The definition of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma was made under the
pontificate of Pope Pius IX., December 8, 1854.
The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception.--
The venerable Ursula Benincasa, on the day of the purification, saw Mary, who appeared to her clad in a white robe and a blue mantle. She held the infant Jesus pressed against her heart, and a multitude of virgins, clothed like their glorious queen, formed her train. Our Lord showed her the wish that He had of seeing a congregation of virgins arise, who, placing themselves under the invocation of Mary Immaculate, should take the habit in which His Mother was then clad. He promised the greatest graces to those who should be faithful in following the rules of this new Congregation. Ursula begged Our Lord to shower His favors upon those who, living in the world and devoted to the Blessed Virgin, should live chastely according to their state and wear a blue scapular. To prove to her that her prayer was heard, God showed her, while this blissful vision lasted, angels clothing a great number of Christians with this holy habit. The indulgences attached to the blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception are innumerable. "As for me," says St. Alphonsus Liguori, "I would take all scapulars." But above all you must know that the scapular of the Immaculate Conception, which is blessed by the Theatine Fathers, besides all its partial indulgences, has all the indulgences granted to whatever religious order, whatever devotion, whatever person there can be. And particularly that by reciting six times Pater, Ave, and Gloria, in honor of the Most Holy Trinity and Mary Immaculate, can be gained each time all the indulgences of Rome, of Portiuncula, of Jerusalem, and of Galicia, which amounts to 533 plenary indulgences, without speaking of partial indulgences, which are innumerable." (Glories of Mary, These indulgences have been confirmed by Gregory XVI. in a decree dated July 12, 1845.)
Translation of the Holy House of Loretto, December 10th,
This feast up to this time is not of obligation in the universal Church, but it is celebrated in many countries, and has for its object thanksgiving to God for the blessing with which He has enriched the West, when, in order to compensate it for the loss of the holy sepulchre. He miraculously transported to Catholic ground the house in which the Blessed Virgin received the message of the angel, and where the Word was made flesh.Many of our readers may be ignorant of this marvellous event, which we will repeat here. It was under the pontificate of Celestine V., and when the Christians had entirely lost the holy places in Palestine, that the little house wherein was wrought the mystery of the Incarnation in the womb of Mary was transported by angels from Nazareth into Dalmatia, or Sclavonia, to a little mountain called Tersato.
The miracles which were wrought every day in this holy house, the legal investigation which the deputies of the country went to Nazareth to make, to prove the translation into Dalmatia, as well as the universal conviction of the people who came to venerate it from all parts of the world, seemed to be incontestable proofs of the truth of the miracle. Nevertheless, God wished to give another, which should have, in a sense, Dalmatia and Italy for witnesses. After three years and seven months the holy house was transported across the Adriatic Sea to the territory of Recanati, into a forest belonging to a lady called Loretta; and this event threw the people of Dalmatia into such desolation that it seemed that they would not survive it, and to console themselves they built upon the same spot a church consecrated to the Mother of God, over the door of which they put this inscription: "Hie est locus in quo fait sacra Domus Nazarena quae nunc Recineti partibus colitur,'''' At the same time there were many inhabitants of Dalmatia who came to Italy to fix their residence near to the holy house.
This new translation made such stirring of Christian hearts that a multitude of pilgrims came from nearly every part of Europe to Recanati, in order to honor the house now called ''of Loretto." To prove more and more fully the truth of this event, the inhabitants of the province sent first to Dalmatia, and then to Nazareth, sixteen persons who were the best qualified for the service, who made in these places new investigations; but God deigned to demonstrate the certainty Himself by renewing twice in succession the miracle of the translation even in the territory of Recanati. For at the end of eight months, the forest of Loretto being infested with highwaymen who stopped the pilgrims, the house was transported to a point a mile further, and placed on a little height which belonged to two brothers of the family of Antici ; and when these brothers had taken arms against one another in dispute over the division of the offerings of the pilgrims, the house was transferred to an enclosure a little further removed, and in the midst of the public way, where it has remained and where has since grown up the village called Loretto.