The Willson Family
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
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.
In the province of Algeria there was a slave market. In it, men and women, and even children, were bought and sold, just as you see cattle bought and sold in our markets at home. When any one of them was bought, he was driven home to his master's house, where he had to work all his lifetime, and get not wages, but often blows and ill-treatment, if he did not do the which was given him to do.
One day there were a great many children standing in the market-place for sale.
In was a said sight. They had been stolen from their happy homes far away by pirates, and brought to this place to be sold. Merchants were gong about buying them to make them slaves.
Amongst these merchants there was one who appeared to be different from the others. He went about among the children, chose out a few of them, and when he had payed the price that was asked, he took them along with him to the house where he lived, and spoke to them these words:
"My children, you belong to me now. I paid a great price for you. If I had not bought you, some of those other cruel masters might have purchased you, and would perhaps have ill-treated you. But now you shall have nothing to fear from me. I have chosen you, and for what purpose? To be my slaves? No; I am to be a father to you, and you are to be my children, and I am going to give you everything you can desire, to make you happy. for I love you, my children.
"You will have to remain here in this place for a little time, the I will come again, and take you all home with me to my own country, where I have large estates, and there you will be perfectly happy. When you grow up, I will give to each one of you a house and lands and wealth, which you will enjoy as long as you live."
When he had finished speaking the fortunate children burst into tears of joy, and falling down on their knees before their generous benefactor, tried to thank him, but they could not find words. They wondered why he had chosen them for this great happiness, instead of so many others who were left their sad fate.
"My children," he said, "you have done nothing to merit this: it was entirely out of my own goodness that I made choice of you. I am sure, then, you will be grateful, and never do anything to displease me, since I have been so kind to you."
They all promised to love and serve him all their lifetime, and never to forget the great favour he had bestowed on them.
My child, God has done something like this to you. You were a slave, and Satan was the cruel pirate who stole you, and thousands of others along with you, from the home of your Father in Heaven. But our dear Jesus came down amongst these slaves. He looked about and He chose you out of the multitude of your fellow slaves, and brought you into His own house this is, His Church and said to you: "I have chosen you just out of My own kindness to you, and now you are to be My child, and in my Church you will get every good thing you need; and in a short time, I will come and take you to Heaven, My country, and you shall be happy there for ever."
Oh, what a treasure God has bestowed on you, in giving you the one true Faith!
Source; The Catechism in Examples- Imprimatur; 1908
We are giving away 3 copies of our 2014 Catholic Liturgical Year Calendar. You can view a copy of it here. And you can enter to win one of them below.
There shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. (ST. MATT. xxiv. 21)
I. AFTER a day of more than usual contention with His bitter enemies, Jesus turned His back upon them and left the Temple, never again to enter within its hallowed courts. But before He did so, He first completely silenced and confounded the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Herodians, and launched forth against them those well-merited anathemas, which brought matters to an open rupture between Him and them, and raised in their hearts that thirst for His blood, which eventually brought Him to the disgraceful Cross.
As He left the sacred precincts of the Temple, His disciples called His attention to the beauty of its architecture, and to the richness of the material out of which it had been built. Turning to them, He bade them mark these things well, for that the day drew now close at hand when not one stone of this magnificent structure should be left upon another. Then, while the evening came on apace, He led the way to the summit of Mount Olivet, followed by His sad and dejected Apostles. There they sat down, and looked upon the city which lay beneath them. What a scene of beauty must have met their eyes, as the setting sun bathed with its splendour the public buildings and the glorious Temple one of the world's wonders, and their own nation's proudest boast. With aching hearts they looked upon all this magnificence, and asked, with fear, when these things of which He had spoken should come to pass. Then Jesus told them the signs which were to precede the overthrow of their nation, and put before their eyes that terrible picture of their city girt round by a besieging army, and torn by bloody factions within the walls. He spoke of the famine and the pestilence, which were to consume what the sword of civil discord should spare. He told them of the assault, the capture, and the destruction of their city; of the burning of the Temple; of the overthrow, the subjugation, and the dispersion of their race.
Passing next to the still more distant future, He spoke to them of the final destruction of all earthly things; of the signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars; of the famines, the wars, the pestilences; of the sea rushing in upon the land; the earth bursting asunder and vomiting forth fire; men withering away for fear and expectation of what should come upon the world. Then, said He, shall they see the Son of Man now despised, rejected, and soon to be crucified coming in the clouds of heaven, with great power and majesty. The Angels shall go before His face, to summon from the four corners of the world all the dead, and call them to judgment. For every man, without exception, shall manifest himself before the throne of Jesus Christ, to give an account of all the deeds done in the body, whether they have been good or evil.
II. From both these terrible predictions, you may gather much that will teach you lessons of spiritual wisdom, on this the last Sunday of the ecclesiastical year. Your soul, like Jerusalem, is the city and temple of the living God. Upon it have been lavished multitudinous favours and graces, from the treasury of His mercy. To it there have been granted secret inspirations of the Holy Spirit, urging it on to greater perfection. God's servants and God's ministers have carried His message to it, and have been sent to guide and direct it. It has been a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up, and protected on every side against evil. Nay, God Himself has come down and taken up His abode in it. He has set a seal upon it, by the unction of His Holy Spirit, and given the care of it to His Angels, that they may keep and defend it from evil.
All this has God done for your soul. What return have you made for His loving condescension? Just reflect a little! Can you say that you have gratefully received all these favours, and that you have tried to make Him some little return? Alas ! how many are there whose conscience will force them to strike their breasts with sorrow, and to acknowledge with bitter remorse, that they have abused the grace of God, and trampled it under foot, by profaning the channels which conveyed it to their souls. When the Holy Spirit either gently pleaded with them to follow the lead of grace, or sternly reproved them for their sins, they drowned His voice amid the tumult of unruly passions. When God's servants and ministers instructed them in their duties, and warned them against the snares of the devil, they laughed them to scorn. When either duty, or the great festivals of the year, brought them to the Holy Table, they gave Jesus the traitor's kiss in that banquet of love, and received Him into their polluted hearts. Those hearts were once the temples of God, but now they are the abodes of furious passions. They have broken down the gates of the Sanctuary; they have suffered every unclean beast to enter; they have set up the abomination of desolation where once there stood the throne of God. They have done all these things, and God has been silent.
III. But will God be silent for ever ? No; for there is no evil deed committed for which a reckoning of some kind or other has not to be made. Though the accounting-day is long a-coming, yet it comes at last. At present it seems but a mere speck in the far-off future, for you are now in the heyday of youth. You have health, and strength, and buoyant spirits; you fear nothing; no unpleasant consequences follow; and therefore, like the fool in the Scripture, you begin to think that there is no reckoning to be made, that there is no God to notice these things.
But what says the Wise Man ? With the bitterest irony he thus addresses the youthful sinner: Young man, give a loose rein to thy passions. Refuse thine eye nothing that it covets, nor thy heart aught that it desires. Satisfy to the full all the base passions of thy nature, but remember that for all these things thou shalt answer before God. When the measure of iniquity has been filled up, and while the wicked repose in fancied security, dreaming only of still further gratification the Son of Man will come to judgment. There will perhaps be no warning. But as lightning coming out of the east, and, in the twinkling of an eye flashing across the whole expanse of the heavens unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
What would be your lot for all eternity if He were to come at this very instant ? What would it have been, had He come at a certain time which you can well remember ? The very thought of this makes, you shudder ! If you desire never to be taken unawares, let the memory of the day of wrath be ever present to your mind. Think frequently of it how the heavens shall roll aside, like the curtains of a tent, and disclose to your view the Son of Man, Christ Jesus, coming with great power and majesty. You will be standing in the valley of judgment, awaiting His coming, either among the blessed or among the reprobate. If among the blessed, you will fear nothing; but if among the reprobate, you will call upon the mountains and the hills to fall upon you and hide your turpitude from your fellow-men and from the piercing glance of God s all-seeing eye.
Keep this dreadful scene before your mind, and it will keep you out of all evil. If you should now be in the state of sin, reflect that for you personally the judgment-day may come at any time; for if death were to strike you with his merciless dart, your eternal lot would be decided in a moment, and your position fixed for that last great day of terror and of wrath. You have now to blot out, by tearful sorrow, the black catalogue which is written up against you. Do not allow this season of grace to slip through your hands. Be converted to the Lord, turn away from the wickedness of your sin, and ask God to fill your heart with so salutary a fear of that day of calamity and of misery, that it may keep your feet for ever in the narrow way which leads to life.
Say to Him from the depth of a contrite heart: Pierce, O Lord, my flesh with Thy fear, and direct my steps in Thy sight. That fear will teach you to tame your unruly passions and bring them into subjection ; that guidance will support your tottering footsteps and lead you to the golden gates of His eternal Kingdom.
Source: Lectures for Boys, Volume I, Imprimatur 1896
With Advent just around the corner I thought I would share an article that I came across many years ago. It really made me think about the way that Christmas is celebrated in a secular world and how we as Catholics should be celebrating this wonderful HOLYDAY!
The Giving of Gifts at Christmas
Because we Americans are so used to seeing presents piled up under the Christmas Tree, we tend to forget that Christmas is Jesus' Birthday, and not our special day [except for those blessed ones actually born on December 25]. Actually the exchange of gifts is a lovely gesture and merits its tradition; however as Americans we like to do things to excess, if we do them at all.
How did the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas begin? I bet you already know, if you think about it . . .
With the Magi coming to worship the Savior King at Epiphany. Until the last few generations in the Catholic Church the season of Advent was one of penance, but practiced more arduously. Gift-giving was, as it ought to be still, was what we, the penitent Catholic gave up for the Christ Child, and this took place before Christmas, not Christmas Day. Christmas Day was for a treat after four weeks of self-denial in some way, each befitting the age and circumstance of the child old enough to do so.
In fact, just as the fantasy of Santa Claus was developed from a real Saint, a bishop, Saint Nicholas, so too, the tradition of leaving a snack for Santa was borrowed from the little treats that children gladly offered up to the Christ Child, spiritually. The little acts of penance were marked by placing a small piece of candy in a specially decorated box, and come Christmas Eve, the box was sealed and wrapped and placed with the family crèche or under the tree, after that, too became customary. Christmas Day it was opened and passed around between the children, in honor of the gifts the Magi brought to the Christ Child and in honor of Our Lady who was immaculately conceived and bore our Savior King!
Eventually as prosperity was generalized and as secularization became a force that threatened simple piety, these practices waned and the giving of gifts became man-centered and a sumptuous practice with much commerciality. The merchants certainly benefit but the Christ Child, to whom we owe everything, was no longer the central focus! How could we let this happen? Back then the focus was on humility, first and foremost the humility of Jesus Who consented to be born in a lowly stable, and the humility we ought to have before Him, and before each other. Not just simple modesty, but humility, a true poverty of self-esteem and detachment from the things of this world. Modernity has no understanding of this virtue and considers anyone taking it seriously to be strange. How far we have come to have advanced so little in the devout life. This is what ought to be thought of as strange and yet it isn't. Below is a little poem by the artist and writer, Christina Rossetti who wrote during a time of lavish Christmas celebrations, during the Victorian era. It is a simple yet elegant way of putting us in the right spirit of Advent and Christmas.
What Can I Give Him
What can I Give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring Him a lamb;
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part:
Yet what can I give Him,
Give Him my heart!
Isn't i sweetly true? The longer we think the of the Blessed Sacrament. the more our hearts seem to melt in tenderness and love. And oh! how it hurts us when others make fun of this most sacred and consoling mystery of our Holy religion! What a dreadful sin that is!
In 1807, in a village in Prussia, there lived a very wicked man. He was so bad that on the fifth of January that year he invited twelve companions just as wicked as himself to dinner. When they were all seated at table the wretch it is too terrible to think about! Took the bread and wine and mockingly pronounced over them the words of the consecration. Then, still continuing the impious blasphemy, he distributed the bread and wine to his fellows. When his turn came to partake of it a deadly faintness took possession of him, a horrid blackness obscured his sight, and he dropped his head on the table dead! God's punishment of the scoffer was swift and awful. His body was buried the next day outside the cemetery wall, as though it were a body of a beast. And his soul? Alas!...
But let's turn away from this disgusting sight. Lets breathe a prayer of love and reparation and think of some noble act. You have heard of Count Rudolph, haven't you, and of how he one day gave his horse to a priest? Let me tell you about it again.
Count Rudolph was out hunting one day with a great number of attendants. Suddenly the tinkle, tinkle, tinkle of a little bell fell on his ears. He looked around and saw a priest passing with the Blessed Sacrament. It was a public sick call. Immediately the Count dismounted from his horse and knelt in adoration upon the ground. Then he accompanied his Eucharist King.
Now, it happened that there was a little brook to be crossed. But the plank that had served as a bridge had been washed away. So the priest prepared to wade over. When the nobleman saw this he hastened forward, and obliged the priest to mount his own beautiful hunting horse and thus cross the streamlet and proceed to his destination.
The next day the priest brought the horse back to the Count. He would not accept it. "No," he said to the clergyman, "I will never ride the steed again that has had the honor o carrying my Creator and my Lord; keep it yourself and employ it in Gods service."
Deeply moved at this evidence of faith, the priest uttered these prophetic words. "Be assured that the Most High will not fail to reward this generous act of yours; He will grant high earthly honors to you and your posterity."
And so it was. The pious Count was elected Emperor of Germany in 1273; he was the founder of the Austrian imperial dynasty.
God does not suffer Himself to be outdone in generosity. Would you be honored? Then honor the Eucharist King.
Source; "Tell Us Another!"~ Imprimatur;1925
According to her legendary Acts, St. Cecilia was a native of Rome. At and early age she made a vow of virginity, but her parents forced her to marry a nobleman named Valerian. She converted him to the Faith of Christ, and, by the providence of God, preserved her virginity. She also converted Tiburtius, the brother of Valerian. Both these men suffered martyrdom for the Faith, and St. Cecilia died the same glorious death a few days after. Their death occurred probably in the reign of Marcus Aurelius or of Commodus, between the years 161 and 192.
The name of St. Cecilia has always been most illustrious in the Church, and since the primitive ages it has been mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. She is honored as the patroness of ecclesiastical music.
Source~ Lives of the Saints; Imprimatur~ 1955
When she was only three years old, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem by her holy parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. Mary's whole life was to belong to God because He had chosen her to be the Mother of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Blessed Virgin was happy to begin serving God in the Temple of Jerusalem, even though she had to leave her dear father and mother. And St. Joachim and St. Anne were content to offer their saintly little girl to God, for they knew that He had sent her to them.
In the Temple, the High Priest received the child Mary among the maidens who were dedicated to prayer and the service of the Temple. He kissed and blessed the holy child, seeing that the Lord had great plans for her. Then he set her down upon the altar step. Mary did not weep or turn back to her parents. She came so happily to the altar that everyone in the Temple loved her at once.
St. Joachim and St. Anne went back home, praising God for their blessed daughter. And Mary remained in the Temple, where she grew more beautiful and holy every year. She spent her days in loving God, reading the Bible, praying and serving the priests of the Temple. She made beautiful linens and splendid vestments, and was loved by all the other young girls because she was so kind. In doing each of her duties well, to please God, the Blessed Virgin Mary gained immense grace and gave glory to the Lord.
~ Every morning I will offer myself to God with my whole heart. ~
- Saints for Young People, Imprimatur 1963 ~
We have added a coloring picture for today's feast - The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can find it here.
THERE is a little golden blossom growing on many of the heaths and mountain sides of Germany, which the peasants call "Elizabeth's Flower," in memory of the Saint who dwelt in their land long ago, the child of Andrew, the pious King of Hungary, and his Queen Gertrude.
These parents had been happy when God gave them this little daughter, but their joy increased as they heard her baby tongue first lisp the Names of Jesus and Mary, because they believed she would grow up to be a very holy servant of Christ.
Before Elizabeth was four years old, a rich prince asked her parents to promise her to his son Louis when she was of an age to marry, and, though they grieved to part with her, they granted this request, because they thought it was for her good, giving her into the care of this German landgrave, who, with many nobles and ladies in attendance journeyed with her into Thuringia, which was to be her home. The young Prince Louis was then eleven years of age, and from that time they were brought up together, calling each other by the names of brother and sister. The good landgrave tried to make the little stranger child happy, and chose out some of the noblest girls of her own age belonging to his court for her companions, one of whom stayed with her nearly all her life. This friend was named "Guta," and she has told a great deal about the Saint's early days in Thuringia.
The little Elizabeth was very merry and fond of play, but she loved God so much that in the midst of her amusements she thought of Him, and often she would hop on one foot to the castle chapel with her young friends hopping after her, and even if she found the door fastened she would kiss it, and kiss the lock and the walls, for love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Who dwelt there. Before she was old enough to read, she would go to the altar steps, and putting a great, open psalter before her, folded her tiny hands reverently, thinking of God, and praying to Him. At other times she would persuade the children to go with her to the cemetery, and offer up prayers for the souls of those persons who had been buried there. If a child loves Jesus so much she becomes very sweet and gentle, and thus Elizabeth's companions delighted to be with her, and they declared that the Holy Child Himself came frequently to play with her. She fixed upon certain prayers to say every day, but if anything kept her from finishing all, she would pray quietly to God, as she lay in bed, while others supposed her to be sleeping.
Elizabeth began, even as a young child, to practise giving up her will every day in little trifling things, so that she might be imitating Jesus, and getting ready to make larger sacrifices for Him when she grew older. In the midst of a game, when she was enjoying herself the most, she would stop, saying, "Now I am quite full of happiness—I will leave off for the love of God." And in dancing, which she liked so much, she would cease when she had made one turn, exclaiming, "That will do for the world; the rest I will give up for Jesus Christ."
This gentle little Elizabeth had placed herself particularly under the protection of the Blessed Virgin; but she had so great a love for St. John the Evangelist that she chose him for her patron saint, and remained faithful in her devotion to him until the end of her life. From her infancy, Elizabeth had felt an intense love for the poor, and a great desire to relieve them, and, as she grew older, she gave away all the money which was allowed her, and would go through the passages and kitchens of the castle, seeking the scraps of meat and bread which were cast aside by the servants, but received so gratefully by the half-starved beggars who came to ask alms at the gate.
Thus, in prayers, and amusements, and good works, the time passed, until Elizabeth was nine years old, and then a great sorrow happened to her. Since she had been in Thuringia she had heard of the death of her own mother—now the good landgrave, the father of her future husband, was taken from her to her very great grief, for he had loved her as dearly as if she had been his own child, and after he died the landgravine and the other ladies of the court turned against the little Elizabeth, and treated her unkindly. All they complained of was the manner of life she led, her love of the poor, her desire for prayer; and they said she was unfit for a princess, and ought not to be the wife of Louis. But through all this, we are told that no angry or impatient words escaped her; the more harsh they were, so much the more did she fix her heart on God, whose love made up for all she suffered.
One year, upon the Feast of the Assumption, the landgravine desired Elizabeth and her own daughter Agnes to put on their richest dresses, and crowns of gold, and go with her to the large church in Eisenach to hear Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin. They obeyed, and accompanied her to the city, and into the church, where places had been specially prepared for them; but at the sight of the crucifix Elizabeth forgot the landgravine's presence, and, taking off her golden crown, lay prostrate on the ground. "What is this for, my Lady Elizabeth?" said the landgravine, angrily. "Cannot you behave better than an ill-brought-up child? Do you find your crown too heavy that you lie crouching there like a peasant girl?" Then Elizabeth rose, and with great humility and sweetness answered, "Be not angry, dear lady. How can I wear gold and jewels when I see before me God my King adorned with sharp thorns? My crown would be a mockery of His!" And she wept so bitterly, covering her eyes with the folds of her mantle, that the princesses could not help doing the same, and hiding their faces also, although in their hearts they were more than ever displeased with her.
But the dislike to Elizabeth grew with her growth, and some of the greatest counsellors urged the young landgrave to send her back to her father, while his mother would have wished to place her in a convent, so that she could never be his wife. Elizabeth was often very sad when she heard such things said of her; she felt lonely in that foreign land away from her home, and without any father's care; but God her Father in heaven had her in His keeping, and when she was most sorrowful she would kneel before her crucifix, and pour out her heart in prayer, and then, with fresh peace of mind, would return to her companions without a shadow upon her sweet face.
Although so much was done to make Louis dislike his future wife, he never ceased to love her, and when he returned home after his short absences he would bring her some little gift as a proof of his affection. Once, however, he omitted doing this, which caused Elizabeth some pain, and one of the young nobles who had come with her from Hungary spoke to Louis, asking him if he meant to break his word, and let her return home to her father. The landgrave sprang to his feet, declaring he would never give her up, that he loved her more because of the piety which all condemned, and very soon afterwards his marriage with Elizabeth took place at the Castle of Wartburg, when he was twenty, and she about thirteen years old.
Louis of Thuringia was worthy to be the husband of the Saint, for he also loved God above all things, and they lived very happily together; but her affection for him never caused her to neglect her prayer, or the works of charity she had practised before. Constantly in the cold winter nights she would rise to meditate upon the birth of Jesus in the chilly darkness of the stable at Bethlehem; she would go away from rich banquets having eaten nothing but dry bread, and yet, though she was hard with herself, she was so happy and had such a bright joyous countenance, that every one felt peace and comfort in her presence.
It pleased God in return for her faithful love to show some wonderful signs of His grace upon her. Once she was sitting down alone to a meal of bread and water, when Louis happened to come in quite unexpectedly, and raising his wife's cup to his lips, he found it full of a richer wine than he had ever before tasted. He asked the steward from whence he had drawn it, but when he heard that Elizabeth's cup was never filled with anything but water, Louis said no more, for he saw now that it was the work of Almighty God in blessing for the love she gave to Him and His poor.
Although the dear Saint's gifts to the sick and suffering were so constant, she also waited upon them and visited them herself, no matter how keen the wind, or how rough and steep the road which led to their dwellings. She also obtained the landgrave's permission to build a hospital half-way upon the rock where the castle stood, so that about twenty-eight sick people might be received there who were too weak to climb up the hill to the gate for relief These she visited every day, carrying them food with her own hands, washing their sores and kissing their feet in the greatness of her charity. It happened once that as Elizabeth, with her servant, was coming down a very steep path, she suddenly met her husband and a company of nobles returning from a day's hunting. She was almost bending beneath the weight of bread, meat, and eggs she was carrying to the poor, and folding her cloak tightly round her, stood aside to let them pass by; but Louis insisted on knowing what she had with her, and opening her mantle, he saw with surprise that it was filled with the most beautiful red and white roses he had ever beheld, and it was the more astonishing because the season for such flowers was long since passed. But the dear Saint was so troubled by God's favours to her being thus made public, that Louis tried to soothe her, but he drew back with reverence as he saw the light of a glowing silvery crucifix appearing above her head, and bidding her farewell, he rode homeward musing over God's wonders, carrying with him one of the miraculous roses, which he wore near his heart to the day of his death. Meantime Elizabeth, with great simplicity, went on her way, and when she reached the homes of the sick and destitute, the roses had vanished, and the food for their relief was again visible.
As time passed on the landgrave and his young wife had several children given them by God, and soon after the birth of each one the mother would take the newly born baby up the steep path to the church of St. Catherine, and there offer it upon the altar, beseeching God with many tears to make the little one grow up His friend and servant.
While the life of Elizabeth was passed in these lovely deeds of charity and holiness, Germany was calling upon all her princely knights to gather together in a fresh crusade to wrest the holy sepulchre of Christ from the power of the infidel Turks, Louis of Thuringia joined the number, and received the cross worn by crusaders from the hands of the Bishop of Hudesheim. It was a terrible sorrow to the Saint when she heard that he was leaving her, and at first she cried bitterly, begging him to remain at home; but when he told her that he felt called by the love of Jesus Christ to undertake this holy cause, she ceased weeping, and, begging God to watch over him, bade him farewell. They never met on earth
again, for the brave Louis was one of the first to be slain; be had gone for the love of God, and he died for that love willingly, without a murmur or regret.
Poor Elisabeth! Now, indeed, she was solitary. "I have lost everything," she said. "Oh! my Jesus, strengthen my weakness." Just at first everyone pitied her, but very soon the old dislike to her returned, all manner of evil things were spoken of her, and at last her cruel relations drove her from the castle with her little fatherless children, and not even those whom she had fed in their hunger would shelter her. From door to door she went, only to be turned away, Like Jesus her Master, she "had not where to lay her head;" but at length she was admitted into a miserable little inn, and put to sleep in an outhouse where pigs were usually kept. While resting there she heard the bell of the Franciscan church close by, and hastening to the friars, she begged that the "Te Deum" might be sung, in thanksgiving for the humiliation and suffering God had sent her; and as the music rose up to heaven, peace and joy filled her sad heart, and never again left it. But though dear St. Elizabeth was glad to suffer so as to be more like Christ when He was on earth, she could not bear to hear her little children crying with cold and hunger, therefore she resolved to bear the pain of sending them away from her, and some friend took them to places of safety.
But though every one forsook Elizabeth, God took care of her, and gave her more and more wonderful proofs of His great love, allowing her many times to have beautiful visions of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, which comforted her in her great sufferings.
After a time the Landgravine Sophia and her sons were sorry for their treatment of the Saint, and restored to her a great part of her property, so that her children were provided for, but Elizabeth chose for herself a life of continual poverty and hardship. Her coarse dress was patched with all shades and colours; she worked for her bread by preparing wool for spinning, and took part with her two companions, Isentrude and Guta, in the labour of their home.
It was God's Will that Elizabeth should become quite perfect in suffering, so He even allowed the priest, who was her confessor and a very holy man, to be often severe and harsh with her, giving her difficult commands to obey, and humbling her by great penances which needed much patience and gentleness to bear; but through every trial the Saint drew nearer to God, setting all her love upon Him, never failing in obedience to her confessor, whom she regarded in the place of Jesus Christ. Even when he sent away her two early friends, and put in their places coarse, rough women, who were very unkind to her, she behaved with perfect sweetness and submission, although at first the parting with her beloved companions made her shed many tears.
Soon she was to receive her reward, for one night, at the close of the year 1231, as Elizabeth lay praying in her bed, she had a vision of our Lord in the midst of a golden brightness, Who bade her prepare for her approaching death. She arose, and began very gladly to arrange for her burial, visit her poor friends, and divide the few things she possessed between them and her two companions; and after four days she felt the beginning of illness. For a fortnight she suffered from violent fever, but she was almost continually engaged in prayer, and was quite calm and happy. One evening, when Elizabeth seemed to be sleeping, the woman who watched her heard a sweet soft song coming from her lips, and afterwards she exclaimed,
"Oh, madam, how beautifully you have been singing."
"Did you hear it?" said the Saint. "I will tell you how it was. A little bird came and sang so sweetly to me that I could but sing with him, and he revealed to me that I shall die in three days."
From that moment she refused to see any visitors, desiring to keep herself alone with God; she made her confession to the Blessed Conrad, and afterwards talked with him of God and the joys of heaven; then, having heard Mass, she received the last sacraments with a love only known to Jesus, and on the
night of the 19th November she died, having just reached the age of twenty-four years.
Those who came to look at her in death said that never before had she appeared so beautiful, for the glory of her wonderful holiness rested upon her sweet calm face, a fragrant perfume was observed in the room where her body was lying, and angel voices were heard singing above her.
Four years afterwards, when all the accounts of her life had been made known, the Pope declared Elizabeth a Saint in heaven, whose name was to be honoured in the Church on earth; and the tidings spread far and wide, so that pilgrims from all countries began to visit her shrine, to make prayers and offerings there.
And now, in closing this story of Elizabeth's childish days, and the sweet suffering life she led when she grew older, we will put here a little, prayer which has been addressed to the Saint, begging her to get us grace to love and serve God as she did,
"Oh, dear St. Elizabeth, I honour thy pious childhood, I grieve for thy sufferings and persecutions. Why have I not passed my first years in holiness? why have I not borne my little sorrows patiently? I entreat thee, by thy blessed childhood, crush my childish wilfulness and sin, and by thy great patience obtain for me the pardon of all my faults. Amen."
Source: Stories of the Saints for Children, Volume III, 1874
Two coloring pictures of St. Elizabeth can be found below. Another can be found on our Catholic coloring page under Saints of November.
If one wishes to, today is the day to start a Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
HEAVEN is what we want, even if we do not know what we want. It is useless to wonder whether there is this or that in heaven, whether we will enjoy this or that which we find so indispensable for happiness here on earth. In heaven we will be really happy. Our nature, never satisfied here on earth, will finally be satisfied there. We will have whatever we crave. We will have whatever will be good for us. We will be happy, without any trace of unhappiness, without any possibility of losing our happiness or of becoming even slightly unhappy.
The attempt to portray heaven in human terms has often resulted in presenting a thoroughly unsatisfactory picture of heaven. Many people have no desire at all to go to a heaven of that sort. A boy fond of sport and athletics, or one who can imagine nothing more blissful than an afternoon of fishing will not be attracted by the prospect of playing a harp or even a silver trumpet.
We have to get away from too material a view of heaven. If there are pleasures on earth which we make much of—the innocent recreations of life, the refreshing dip into a cool pool, the satisfaction of a well-cooked meal, the varied pleasures and satisfactions of body and mind—we should not think heaven dull because maybe these specific things are not there. Rather look at it this way: If here on earth, in this valley of tears, there are so many partial pleasures and joys, what must be the happiness of heaven which surpasses all these beyond our power to imagine. Heaven is more than all the most intense pleasures of earthly life put together. And the happiness of heaven is not for isolated moments as on earth, but lasts forever. Heaven is precisely what we will most want. It is far better than anything we can even imagine now. The things we find so much fun now, will be as nothing compared with the undreamed of joys of heaven. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2, 9).
The Happiness of Heaven
The same God who made the pleasures of the body which we now experience, has prepared the infinitely greater joys of heaven. We need never worry that we will not like heaven. We definitely will like it. If we want to be technical we would say that the happiness of heaven consists in seeing, loving and enjoying God. God is, after all, all. Everything we have we owe to God. Everything that is, comes from God. All the beautiful and enjoyable things of life are but faint reflections of God who is all things in Himself. The world and all it contains is but borrowed beauty and borrowed enjoyment. It is God who is the source of all beauty and joy. God has put a little of His beauty and a little of His joy into the things of this world. But nothing less than God can be as beautiful and as joyful as God Himself, from whom all these things come.
In seeing God the soul beholds all beauty and all joy. But why should we worry our poor heads now in trying to imagine what the joys of heaven are? Isaias and St. Paul both assured us that no one has ever seen or heard or imagined anything so enjoyable as the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (Isaias 64, 4; 1 Corinthians 2, 9).
The happiness of heaven is without end. Moreover it cannot be lost once the soul is in heaven. In fact, heaven is certain for whoever dies in the state of sanctifying grace. Even those in purgatory and not yet in heaven are certain of entering heaven some day and of possessing its joys forever. To die in the state of grace is to be safe forever. Here on earth we experience much uneasiness at the thought of possibly losing a present joy. A holiday is marred somewhat by the gnawing knowledge that tomorrow we must go back to school or to work. A young person might be saddened by the thought that youth cannot last. Health may give way to sickness, wealth to poverty, beauty to deformity. But the supreme joys of heaven are joys forever.
Sin Impossible in Heaven
One in heaven cannot commit sin, cannot lose heaven. Here on earth a person is always haunted by the thought that he might fall from grace, and lose his soul. There is always the chance of doing just that. But in heaven one cannot commit sin, one cannot lose heaven. Everyone in heaven will be extremely happy. Some, however, will have more happiness than others. Each one will enjoy heaven according to his capacity for enjoying it. Just as a man with a larger basket can carry away more gifts, so too one who is capable of receiving more joy in heaven will receive more. But just as the man with a smaller basket has his basket filled, so too the soul of smaller capacity will be filled with joy. Or just as the boy of smaller appetite is fully satisfied by a smaller meal, so too the soul in heaven capable of receiving less joy will nevertheless be filled with joy. A boy of small appetite is just as filled by his small meal, as is the boy of larger appetite by his larger meal. And both desire no more. All such examples are terribly weak to describe conditions in heaven, but they do serve in some way to illustrate the point that not everyone in heaven will have an equal amount of happiness, although the greater happiness of some will not make others feel any less happy.
It stands to reason that those who were better on earth deserve a greater reward in heaven. God is just. He gives to everyone what he deserves. He rewards in the degree in which reward was earned. As for ourselves, since heaven lasts forever, and since the degree of happiness depends upon how we live our lives on earth, it is only good planning to live as good a life as possible so as to have as high a place as possible in heaven. It must be a great regret to lie on one's deathbed and look back over a wasted life. There was so much chance for merit. Now it is too late. How we will wish we had been more careful about avoiding the occasions of sin! Those short cuts we took, those wasted hours of leisure now plague us. If only we had done things the hard way. How wise it would have been to suffer even intensely the whole of life on earth, since now the joyful reward would be eternal. Why did we sit down to rest so soon? Why did we not force ourselves on? Those who are willing to suffer more, to endure more, justly earn a greater reward in heaven.
In heaven there will be no sadness. We will be perfectly content with the joy that is justly ours. But the fact remains that we could have actually earned a higher degree of eternal joy, if only we had done so. As soon as the soul enters heaven it will be fully happy. When the soul receives back the body at the end of the world its happiness will flow into the body too. We will then be happy in soul and body, extremely so, and that forever and ever.
Other Joys of Heaven
Besides the main happiness of seeing God face to face, there are other secondary joys in heaven. The souls in heaven will have great knowledge. They will know many things they always wanted to know while on earth. Many of our present problems will be solved in heaven, to our great satisfaction. We will never know as much as God. That would be impossible. But we will know very much. And we will not be in error about anything that concerns us. It will be a great joy to speak with the other saints in heaven, to compare notes, as it were. Everyone in heaven is a saint. Perfect sinlessness is a condition for entering heaven. Those who die imperfect are made saints in purgatory before being admitted into heaven. We must remember that we human beings remain human even in heaven, and carry with us many of our ways of acting. We will enjoy the social atmosphere of heaven, and the superb company there.
There will be no evil in heaven, no sadness, no sorrow, no grief. Sometimes a person, while still on earth, wonders how a mother could be happy in heaven when she knows her son is being tormented in hell. Her son's damnation will cause her no grief in heaven. Seeing things as she does in heaven, she will understand that her son is being treated justly by God. Here on earth we are swayed by emotions, so that often we feel in place of thinking. In heaven we will not be misled by our emotions, we will think as God thinks, and what God thinks will be our will too. Since God punishes whoever must be punished, a mother will agree with God that her son must by all means be justly punished for his sins.
Sometimes people, while still on earth, see a difficulty in family relationships in heaven. They wonder how a man who had a second wife after his first wife's death will feel and act toward his two wives in heaven.
First of all, until the end of the world we will not have our bodies in heaven. So, any bodily difficulty just does not exist. Secondly, the glorified body after the resurrection at the end of the world will not be subject to the limitations and deficiencies it now labors under. Thirdly, as far as marriage is concerned, marriage ends at death. A couple when they are married make their promises "till death do us part." Our Lord Himself answered this very question when some of the Sadducees came to him and asked which one of seven husbands would a woman in heaven have, who had been married successively to seven different men. Our Lord told them very simply that at the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven. Again, it is difficult for people happily married to imagine themselves supremely happy without each other. But again we must remember that we definitely will be happy in heaven, more so than we can imagine. If we are happy now on earth with what we have, we will be much, much more happy in heaven. Or, take the case of a woman who had a drinking husband. They never got along together. He dies with benefit of the sacraments of the Church. She reflects that she could never be happy in heaven if he were there too. But she reasons falsely. Rather she does not reason. She lets feeling blind her. She should remember that before either he or she can enter heaven, each must first be made a saint. Saints do get along in heaven, and they enjoy each other's company immensely.
Our Friends in Heaven
Here on earth we often cannot be with those whom we love most. We often have to be content with a brief visit when we would willingly spend unending hours together, if only time and circumstances would permit. In heaven we will have eternal leisure in which to enjoy the companionship of our friends. How often older people wish that they could get along with all their relatives! There always seems to be some jealousy spoiling an otherwise good relationship. In heaven we will get along. We will enjoy all our relatives.
What a joy it will be, too, to converse with our favorite saints! While on earth, we prayed to this or that saint. We cultivated a friendship, but even so there was a great gap between us. But in heaven we can associate to our utter joy with the saints we so much admired during our life on earth.
No wonder writers and preachers have spoken of life on earth as an exile. We really belong in heaven. We were made for heaven. It is our true home. While we are on earth, we are out of our true element. We are exiles. What a joy it will be to return to the kind Father who awaits us in His and in our home.
We should ever keep before our minds the guiding thought that we are made for heaven and destined for heaven. While we live on earth, we should be constantly looking towards heaven where we belong and where we desire to be. Anything that would spoil our chance of getting there, we must avoid at any cost. What a failure indeed we wrould be, if we failed to reach what we were made for!
Special Honors in Heaven
In heaven certain persons will be given a special sign of honor, the aureola, as it is called. Virgins, martyrs, and doctors will receive this special crown of victory. They deserve it. Virgins have won a victory over the flesh. Martyrs have stood courageous even to death and have overcome external persecution. Doctors, learned writers and teachers and preachers as they were, have won a victory over the enemies of the faith.
Scripture itself makes reference to special honors given to virgins, martyrs and doctors. The Church, too, singles out these courageous souls for special mention. The aureola, although pertaining to the mind, will adorn by its brilliance also the resurrected body. Although all persons in heaven will have glorified bodies, the aureola of virgins, martyrs, and doctors will be over and above the ordinary splendor of the glorified body.
The Church has never said precisely where heaven is. It is, however, a real place. It is a place separate and distinct from hell and purgatory. We usually refer to heaven as above, and to hell as below. This is, of course, only a way of speaking. To those who live on the other side of the earth, their above is the same as our below, as far as direction is concerned.
However, one might consider all the space surrounding the earth as being above the earth, since from any point on the earth some of the outer space is above. But why should we worry about where heaven is? We would do better to make sure that we get there. Let us be content to know that it is a place, and that it is situated somewhere. As for the rest, let us be content to have God show us the way in His own good time.
At present Christ and His Blessed Mother have their bodies in heaven. Possibly also Enoch and Elias who, as we have already said, were taken up bodily into heaven.
Heaven is such a delightful and glorious place that the very thought of it should make us keep out of sin so that we will not run the risk of losing it. The fear of hell is a powerful motive to keep us out of sin. The desire of heaven is also a powerful motive. We ought to develop a real longing and yearning for the joys of heaven. No matter what we might have to suffer on earth, we ought to undergo it patiently. What matter is it to suffer however much when we know that the suffering will end and the joy that replaces it will be supreme and last forever?
Source: Come The End, Imprimatur 1951
BANK holidays are a poor exchange for the feasts of the Church. It means that people's noses are now kept much longer to the grindstone than they ever were in the days when the civil year was based on the liturgy. It means too that a popular, vivid, visual way of teaching the faith has almost disappeared. Those who work with young people, in schools or any sort of youth organizations, or those with families of young children are the only ones who can ensure that this way of making religion real does not vanish completely.
Many of the Church's feasts were celebrated in a childish, obvious even crude way. This ought to be a recommendation, rather than a drawback. When boys and girls drift away from their faith the reason almost always is that this faith has never been a reality to them. The popular celebrations that obtained so long in this country did indeed help to make the faith real then to those who took part; it could do so again.
It is no good approaching these celebrations in any condescending way. Admittedly it was childish to have processions with the statue of Christ, in which the Blessed Sacrament was encased, as it were, in a monstrance, childish to drop pieces of lighted rope from the church roofs on Whitsunday; equally childish is it now to go on maying expeditions in honor of our Lady or to make St. Anne's day the feast of grandparents. However, the Church has never been a society of an intellectual elite and there is the best authority in the world for believing that the kingdom of heaven is the province of those who have become like children.
Many feasts remain to be celebrated, which are not touched on in these pages. There are, for instance, all the festival days of the early bishops, monks and abbesses, people like Dunstan, Samson and Hilda, of the Celtic monks, like Columba, of the English martyrs, led by More and Fisher. These islands have produced innumerable saints and yet to most people their names mean almost nothing, instead of being an inspiration to them. How many of us know anything about St. Alphege, St. Ethelburga, St. Winifred, St. Teilo, St. Illtyd or St. Edmund? Who even knows with which parts of the country they are associated? Yet because these are native saints they are in a special way our possession and have a claim on us; and one could make a good beginning by attempting to celebrate the days of these and similar saints in one way or another.
Still more, the feasts of Mary call out for celebration; it was not for nothing that England was once known as the dowry of Mary--a title that has become so familiar to us now that we hardly stop to consider what is implied by it. With our Lady's feasts, as indeed with any feast, the closer the link with local surroundings the better. There are shrines and holy wells galore in this country.
Once they drew pilgrims from many miles away. Now they are merely place names in dusty books of local history. Why should not some attempt be made to bring back the honor in which they were once held?All this calls for warning though. It is worse than useless to decide to introduce such feasts and customs only from the outside, as it were. Then they would be no more than semi-superstitious devotions, mere pious frills that would do more harm than good.
Flowers and may blossom and altars for Mary will cut no ice if the instigator of these things does not at least attempt to practice equally Mary's love for others, her self-forgetfulness, her courage. You may enthrone a statue of the Sacred Heart in your home and keep a lamp burning continually before it, and at the same time keep burning equally steadily a fire of resentment or dislike in your own heart. In such a case the picture should be burned too. Candles at Christmas, family prayers, Easter gardens, cribs, all these ought to be the result of a real love for Christ, they should spring out of it like flowers out of the soil. The outward show must have some relation to the inward spirit; otherwise they are like a body from which the soul had fled, they are play acting and a farce. But when they spring from a genuine motive they really are adding something to the life of the great family, of which baptism has made us members.
Source: A Candle is Lighted, 1945
From the Letter of Diognetus
Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.
Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its member despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian's lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.
A priest once seeing the great care a man was paying to his horse, thus spoke to him; "My friend, how much time does it take you every day to keep your horse in such fine condition?"
"About two hours," he replied.
"Now tell me as candidly, how much time do you give every day to the care of your soul?"
"Well, to tell the truth, not much. Every morning I bless myself, and I say and 'Our Father,' and sometimes I add a 'Hail Mary,' and I never miss Mass on Sundays."
The priest said, "Since this is the case, if I belonged to you, I would rather be your horse than your soul."
Source; THE CATECHISM IN EXAMPLE~ Imprimatur 1908
St. Martin's day once used to rival St. John's day, so much was it given to rejoicings and festivities. So often did Martinmas bring with it a brief return of warm weather that the days around the feast are still called to this day "St. Martin's summer." All types of people claimed Martin as their patron--"monks, priests, soldiers, knights, travelers, inn-keepers, charitable organizations of every kind." Why these last claimed Martin as patron the office of his feast makes clear: "At the age of 15 he became a soldier and served in the army, first of Constantius, afterwards of Julian. On one occasion when a poor naked man at Amiens begged an alms of him in the name of Christ, having nothing but his armor and clothing, he gave him half his military cloak. The following night Christ appeared to him clad in that half cloak, and said; `Martin, while yet a catechumen, has clothed me with this garment.'"
How better could one honor St. Martin's day than by living it in that spirit of his? Martin gave away half his cloak: we can go through our wardrobe and select any clothes that are at all superfluous--if we would really resemble Martin we should give more than what can be spared--and we can immediately send or give it to someone in need, either directly, or indirectly through some organization. It is important to remember, though, that Martin gave the cloak he was actually wearing, that is to say, something that was fit to be worn. The idea is not to give away merely old clothes, but garments in such condition that we ourselves would be willing to wear them. After all, when Martin saw his cloak, not on the beggar but on Christ himself, it was reality that he saw. Any clothes, any single thing that we give to another person we are giving to Christ.
Source: A Candle is Lighted, 1945
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 round 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 ceremonial that outsiders cannot be expected to appreciate? I can remember an unfailing ritual that was observed among us as children when we ate porridge. First, you ate it all round the edge until half of it was gone and then straight across until the red and blue figure of Tom the piper's son showed himself on the bottom of the plate, complete with pig and pursuing policeman. Why we did that I have no idea and I doubt if anyone can 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 astonishing 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 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.
Before the reformation we had in this country a vast number of celebrations springing from the Church's feasts and days of devotion, while much more of the civil year than one realizes is still conducted according to the liturgical calendar. Before the reformation the smallest things all had their connection with a feast day. Holy Rood day, September 14th, was the first day to go nutting. On St. James's day the first apples of the crop were blessed and the first oysters might be eaten. St. Martin's day was the signal for the slaughter of all cattle to be dried for winter meat. In the days of SS. Simon & Jude, and of St. Barnabas you took good notice of the weather, because storms were always expected on these days. On the feast of St. Bartholomew the fairs began.
Many customs like these were swept away at the reformation, and of those which survived--and in the remoter parts of the country naturally much more survived than in the towns--people came at last to forget the origin. Not unnaturally, a certain amount of superstition had certainly been present in some of those who had celebrated these feasts before, but now, when the liturgy and the faith were swept aside, superstition swelled until one finds St. Luke's day for instance celebrated in this country in the early 19th century in this way: "Let any number of young women, not exceeding seven, assemble in a room by themselves just as the clock strikes eleven at night. Take a sprig of myrtle, fold it in a piece of tissue paper; then light up a small chafing-dish of charcoal and let each maiden throw in it nine hairs from her head and a paring of each of her toe and finger nails. Then let each sprinkle a small quantity of myrrh and frankincense in the charcoal, and while the vapor rises fumigate the myrtle with it. Go to bed in silence while the clock strikes twelve, and place the myrtle under your head. Say:
"St. Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams, let me my true love see.'"
St. Mark's day fared worse than St. Luke's. In Yorkshire, the people would sit and watch in the church porch on the eve of his feast, watching from eleven o'clock until one in the morning. The third year (for it must be done three times), they were supposed to see the ghosts of all who would die in the next year pass by into the church in the order of time in which they were doomed to depart. Those who would not die, but have a long sickness, would go into the church, but presently return. "When anyone sickens that is thought to have been seen in this manner, it is presently whispered about that he will not recover, that such-and-such a one, who has watched St. Mark's eve, says so. This superstition is in such force that if the patients themselves hear of it they almost despair of recovery."
Because the origin of many of the customary celebrations of feast days was forgotten one can find ludicrous explanations vouchsafed to various rustic ceremonies, some of which have survived practically to our own days. The Oxfordshire May procession, for instance, in which the village girls would walk in procession bearing a garland of flowers and affixed to it two dolls, a large and a small doll, dressed in contemporary clothes, is given a pagan Roman origin; as though there had never been hundreds of years in which the most natural thing in the world in the month of May would have been a procession with the images of Mary and her Son! Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, on which a plough bedecked with ribbons was borne through the streets, a custom surviving until a hundred years ago, is certainly a relic of the time when ploughs were blessed, just as crops were blessed and hounds and fishing boats and herb gardens.
There are many places in England now where May processions still take place; where cart-horses, be-ribboned and be-decked, walk proudly, with stiffly-plaited manes; where farmers' carts, newly painted and adorned, vie with each other; where anyone may walk in some sort of festive tress, where the local bands play, the boy scouts and the girl guides walk, and all the local organizations. They collect money, and now it goes to the neighboring hospitals. But it is all a relic of processions in honor of our Lady, though now she has no place in it. And what else is the crowning of the May queen but the transference to the handsomest girl of the district of a ceremony that once centered round our Lady's statue?
It is, however, entirely in keeping with the Church's custom that where she found pagan festive days with a deep hold on the people she christianized these days. Thus in some cases the feasts and the celebrations around them can indeed spring from a pagan origin. Christmas day itself was chosen to coincide with a pagan festival. Certainly the one-time celebration of St. Valentine's day in this country, marked by the drawing of lots bearing the name of your patron saint for the year, is derived from Roman festivities in honor of Juno. All Souls day, Halloween, Soulmass, All-hallow even also christianized the pagan custom of giving food to the dead.
Some of the customs once generally observed are easy to understand. Fire has always been a symbol of immortality, so it is not strange that on All Souls' day bonfires were lighted all over the hillside. Nor is it unusual that on this day the people of the Western Islands of Scotland should paint crosses of tar on their cottages and on their fishing boats: nor that the boys of Lanark used on Palm Saturday to parade the streets with a willow tree in blossom ornamented with daffodils and box-branches.
Not all the traditional celebrations woven round the liturgy and corrupted after the reformation are easy to explain. Who knows what Hoke day is, or Mace Monday, the first Monday after St. Anne's day? Or why St. Luke's day was called in Yorkshire "Whip-dog day"? Or what the origin was of going "a-gooding" on St. Thomas's day? Or why the country people spent Easter Monday "lifting" or "heaving," as it is variously called, when everyone who met the chosen lifters was seized by the arms and raised high into the air three times? It is said to have been derived from celebrating Christ's resurrection, but no one really knows. Similarly, why should bushes of gorse and furze be set on fire to
celebrate St. Peter's feast, or St. John the Baptist's, and why did all the village men leap over the flames until the fires sank? Or why did all the people of Western Scotland bake St. Michael's bread at Michaelmas and insist that all the strangers they met should share it with them?
Far back, all such customs must have arisen in the liturgy, even though they became, some of them, absurd and gross, and now are forgotten almost entirely. That they did corrupt, apart from the Church, is not surprising, but that they should be left in oblivion is wrong. There are many feasts of the Church which could be celebrated now in a much more lively fashion than they are.
Obviously, no one can press for an artificial revival of all that prevailed in the fourteenth century. Fairs and theaters will never open again only when St. Bartholomew comes round. No one will wait for Holy Cross day before picking the first nuts. But what one can do, and what an attempt is made here to do is to revive some of these celebrations as they stand, to take what seems best from some, to adapt others, or even in some cases to create new ways of celebration.
Source: A Candle is Lighted, Imprimatur 1945
I missed putting this on for November 2nd - better late than never. After all the whole of November is dedicated to the poor souls
ALL SOULS DAY: SOULMASS: NOVEMBER 2ND
Fire has always been a symbol of immortality, and the immortality of the soul was symbolized by lighting fires during the night of All Souls; perhaps the simpler people thought that their little furze fires dotted over the hillsides would show the way to souls who were that day making their journey from purgatory to heaven!
Long after the Catholic faith had been cast out of this country, relics remained at Soulmass of the once universal praying for the dead, though, as was inevitable, these became empty and corrupt. Even in the 19th century girls still went "souling" from door to door; people baked and ate soul cakes, people, who would have abhorred the idea that the dead can be helped by prayers, would say on this day: "A soul cake, a soul cake, God have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake." A soul cake was a sort of oat cake, which, in Catholic times was baked specially as a gift for poor and needy people, and these people on receiving it would pray for the dead belonging to those who gave it.
All Souls' day could be made the feast day of the dead members of any family. One could pray in general for all the souls in purgatory, but surely the members of the family have first claim. Where there are children in a family one can make a soul cake for each one and ask each to undertake to pray particularly for one dead member of the family.
When the dead are buried not too far away an annual expedition could be made to the churchyard with flowers, or to tidy and clear their graves. One has only to walk through any churchyard to wish that All Souls' day could be celebrated in such a way by the whole country! In this way, starting from a quite unambitious level, children could be taught to take a real interest in the welfare of the dead members of their family and could come to have a real devotion to the souls in Purgatory.
Source: A Candle is Lighted, 1945
O my God! I firmly believe that Thou art God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; I believe that Thy divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither decieve nor be decieved.
An "act" a profession, of faith. The whole substance of the act of faith is contained in this; I believe all that God has revealed and the Catholic Church teaches. We might mention one by one all the truths God has revealed, made known to us, and all the truths the Catholic Church teaches as revealed by God. For example, we might say, I believe in the Holy Trinity, in the Incarnation of Our Lord, in the Holy Eucharist, in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, in the infallibility of the Pope, and so on, till we write and act of faith twenty pages long, and yet it would all be contained in the words; I believe all God has revealed and the Catholic Church teaches. Hence we find in prayer-books and catechisms acts of faith differing in length and words, but they are all the same in substance and have the same meaning. The act of faith in our Catechism gives a few of the chief truths revealed,that it may be neither too short nor too long, and that all may learn the same words.
Source; The Baltimore Catechism~ Imprimatur 1891
Outside South Bend, Indiana, there is a large factory that makes engines, machine parts, and gadgets for use on ships and other sea going vessels. It adver- tises its products on a big billboard, and underneath the picture of the articles adver- tised are printed the words, "The invisible Crew." Each part helps make the vessel move, yet to the ordinary person these parts are invisible. The crew that mans the ship, operating the delicate hidden machinery through the use of switches, levers, buttons, and the like, is visible to the passengers. The machinery and the parts are invisible.
Yet, which would you say is the more necessary—the crew that turns the wheels, pushes the buttons, or the hidden parts that these wheels, buttons etc. control? The invisible Crew is absolutely necessary to make the ship sail. It is a powerful union of parts properly put together and doing a wonderful piece of work. That Invisible Crew is the thing.
There is another Invisible Crew to which each of you can belong. It is more powerful than any other crew the world has ever known. This Invisible Crew will lead us to victory if we faithfully and carefully follow the instructions given for the sailing. But remember, there must be no veering either to the right or to the left. The line of action is straight ahead, a dangerous and narrow path, it is true. One slip, or pushing the wrong button, may prove fatal.
Just what is this Invisible Crew that will lead to Victory? It is the Church of God in heaven. It is an ex-elusive group. Yet each one of you has received an invitation to belong. First, however, you must serve a period of testing, to see if you are really worthy to be a member of the Crew. Just as every girl or boy who wants to be a Scout must proceed through several degrees of lower membership before being admitted as a full-fledged Scout, or just as every member of a Varsity Crew must have had long exercise and training before he can man the oars of a racing vessel; so girls and boys who wish to belong to the Invisible Crew, must prove themselves by deeds of heroism and skill, during life upon earth.
Who are the members of the Invisible Crew? If you have proved yourself worthy by your great deeds, Whom will you have as companions? The Invisible Crew has the greatest Leader the world has ever known—the Redeemer of the World, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His Mother Mary, the most perfect and most powerful of all His creatures is the Queen of this Crew, for she is the Queen of the Church Triumphant, Queen of all saints. St. Joseph, whom the Church honors next to our Blessed Mother, aids her in piloting this Crew to victory.
To prepare to join that Crew you will need practice, just as a ball player does before he can apply for the big leagues. But before we speak of practice and the steps to full membership in the invisible Crew, let's meet a few more members. Just as every hopeful big leaguer is eager to know other players who made big league baseball, so, too, you want to learn the names and the deeds of the Crew to which you will belong.
You can easily see what claim Christ has to being the leader of this Crew, and why His Blessed Mother is its honorary Queen, but you are no doubt, wondering just what St. Joseph did to belong with the rulers of the crew. Just what did St. Joseph do? Holy Scripture tells us very little about him, for he did nothing glamorous, or big enough to make headlines in the daily papers. St. Joseph was a humble man of Nazareth, and because of his genuine humility, he was chosen by the heavenly Father to take care of Jesus and Mary. You know how he worked in his carpenter shop to provide for their daily needs. The Holy Family was poor, but, they were happy. You see, Jesus is God, and He could have had all the riches in the world if He wanted them, but He wished to teach us that we need not be rich in order to be happy and good. The Holy Family was the most wonderful family that ever lived. The head of this Family on earth was St. Joseph. He never grumbled or complained that he had to work so hard to provide for his family. He teaches us to sanctify our work and to labor diligently at our appointed
tasks, because we love God.
Besides being honorably poor, diligent, hard-working, a good provider and a devoted head of the Holy Family, St. Joseph was very pure and chaste. From the earliest times the Church realized how pure of mind and action, St. Joseph was. To impress it upon the minds of others, some lovely little stories or legends, as they are sometimes called—have grown up around St. Joseph. You may believe them if you wish. You do not have to believe them, for they are not dogmas of faith. In most of them, however, there is so much of the beautiful and seemingly true, that one likes to accept them as truth.
One legend told about St. Joseph, the pure man of Nazareth, is this:
When the High Priest insisted that the Virgin Mary, who had lived for years in the temple serving and praising God, take a husband, Mary bowed to his will. You see, the High Priest, was for her the representative of God. She knew that by obeying him, God would in His own way, take care of her. She had promised God to remain pure and chaste her whole life, and had made a vow to this end. She wanted, if she had to marry, a husband who would respect her vow and help her to keep it.
On the day appointed for the suitors to make their appearance and to claim the hand of the beautiful Mary, Mary asked God to designate the one He wanted for her. All the rods of the young men who wanted Mary for their own lovely bride, were put before the tabernacle. (You see, God wasn't present in the Jewish tabernacle, as He is in ours, but the people came there to pray, and He often let them feel how very close He was.) When the High Priest came before the Holy of Holies the next day, he found that one of the rods had bloomed into a beautiful lily. It was the rod of the carpenter of Nazareth, Joseph. Mary then honored Joseph by becoming his bride, since she saw in the lily, God's desire that the pure Joseph would respect her vow.
Since God so chose St. Joseph as the patron of purity, ask Him to help you remain pure and innocent, especially these days when it isn't easy to remain so. Purity is one of the conditions for membership in the Invisible Crew — there is no admittance without it. Suppose, however, that you did have the unhappiness to fail in the past. You can start over again, after asking the Lord to pardon you, and begging the Queen of the Crew and St. Joseph to help you in the future.
Now let us meet some other members of the Crew. It is really difficult to decide which ones to talk about, as each is outstanding for some particular virtue. There is one modern saint, however, whom you all love and whom you all can imitate. Every Catholic boy or girl has heard about Saint Therese the "Little Flower." Boys and girls go for her in a big way as she was very simple and childlike in her preparation for membership in the Invisible Crew. Anyone who really desires to be good and to lead a holy life, can do it by imitating the Little Flower. We are told that the most extraordinary thing in the life of the Little Flower, is the fact that she did nothing extraordinary. She simply did the ordinary things perfectly of pure love for our Divine Lord. She burned with the desire to do big things for God, but she knew that as a member of a Carmelite Order she couldn't go out on the mission field and help convert souls. She then worked out a little plan all her own. It is known as her "Little Way", and it is so easy that any child can follow. Now, this is what the Little Flower did. Everything that she was told to do, or that she did of her own accord, she offered to God as an act of love and petition for all those who were working in the mission fields and for the conversion of sinners. You know how the Little Flower suffered, don't you? Her intense sufferings were offered for her missionaries.
The Little Flower longed to be a martyr. She didn't have her head cut off, nor did she face a firing squad for Christ, or die in prison for Christ, but she really did become a martyr—a martyr of love. Her love for God was so intense that she died a Victim of Love. Her last words were, "My God, I love Thee!" The Little Flower became a great saint, an important member of that Invisible Crew by doing small things as perfectly as she could, and by doing all for love of the Captain of the Crew. Whether she washed dishes, swept the halls, weeded the garden, or did any of the other countless little things in a Sister's life, she did them for love of God.
She was pleasant and kind when it was hard to be so. She was always ready and willing to lend a helping hand in any kind of work. She was never heard to complain. Her obedience was perfect, and because of this perfect obedience God permits the Little Flower to do as she wants in heaven. She spends her time there "doing good upon earth." She showers her roses of love and service today on all parts of the world and on all peoples. She is a very active member of our Invisible Crew, and if you ask her to send you some of her roses, she will. She will obtain the graces you need to practice her Little Way, for she wants all to know and love the good God. Suppose you ask her for a red rose of love, that you, too, may become a worthy member of the Crew that has such great people among its members.
There is still another Crew-member to whom our Lord sent roses of love,—St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Though queen of the nation, she was still a servant of the poor, an angel of charity. God loved her charity and helpfulness of the poor so much that He worked a rose Miracle for her. One day when Saint Elizabeth was going on her usual errands of mercy loaded down with provisions for the poor, she met her husband, King Louis. The King didn't quite approve of His queen being what he thought was a slave, as she tended
to the needs of the poor. He said a queen should be mighty, should stay in the courts, and not go around the "slums" of the kingdom. So the King, thinking to stop her visits, asked to see what she had under her cloak. He pulled the queen's mantle apart, and then did he see things! Although it was midwinter, he saw that she bore a beautiful shower of red roses. The King was surprised. It was a miracle! A rose miracle! To show how pleased He was with Elizabeth's charity, God had changed the bread and food into roses. From that moment, the King never again interfered with the queen's work of love for the sick and the poor.
So you see, how this wonderful person, a queen, became a servant and lavished her love on those who were in need. You, too, can be ministers of charity, doing what you are able. Yo may not have much money or food or clothing to give to the poor. But you can help them in other ways. You can be kind to them. You can be kind and considerate of others, your teachers, chums, and classmates, as well as those at home and those you meet. All these little acts seem very small, but if you do them for God, and make life happier for others, you are helping Christ Himself. These acts are your roses.
What kind of roses are they? Well, you can say "thank you" to others for services rendered. It costs nothing to say this little word, but it gives such great joy to others. I remember someone telling me about an experience she had. An old Negro gentleman was the pilot of the elevator which took her to the top of a large skyscraper. He opened the door for her, bowed nicely as she prepared to leave at the top floor. She turned, smiled, and said "Thank you sir." The old gentleman looked at her, tears welled up in his eyes, as he said, "Lady, I've taken this car up for 16 years, and you are the first one to thank me. Thank you!" It was too bad that no one before had thought to thank him. If he had made some slip, or been careless, some accident could have happened in those years.
Yet, no one thought to thank him, even though the lives of so many, were, so to speak, in his hands. We should be more generous in the use of those little "Thank you." People do so many nice things for us. Why not repay them with the rose of "Thank You." Even though the social code may not call for this, our own desire to spread sunshine and joy in the world will tell us how we may give joy to others. We can make others so happy, and make the world a finer place in which to live, just by being thoughtful and helpful to others. It costs nothing. We can, in this way, strew roses like the other members of the Invisible Crew. The fragrance of these roses will reach the throne of the King of Love, and they will be marked as citations for bravery on your record towards membership in the Invisible Crew.
Saint Martin, the soldier saint, is another member of this Invisible Crew. He has a very special message for boys. To them he would say, "Share your cloak with your unfortunate buddies." You remember the story of how St. Martin gave half of his long flowing military cloak to a poor man whom he met on the roadside shivering with cold. That very night our Lord appeared to St. Martin in a dream, and told him that it was He, His Lord, His Master, Whom Martin had clothed when he shared his cloak with the poor,
cold man. Just think of the privilege of sharing your cloak with Christ. That is exactly what you do when you befriend that little buddy of yours who had fallen into evil ways. He seems to have gotten into bad company, is unruly, steals, tells lies, and causes all kinds of trouble in school. He is breaking his mother's heart. He just wants to be a "toughie," to make the big boys think he's hard as nails, and so he goes from one evil to another. Befriend him. Take him along with you. Throw the mantle of charity around him, as you take him into your gang. Show him that you are interested in him, and are eager to help him. Will he want to share your cloak? You bet he will! Just try it!
Are you having trouble getting those arithmetic problems, or getting the other lessons in school ? Call upon another valiant leader in the Invisible Crew— St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron of students. Beg him the help of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, our Lady of Light. The story of the life of St. Thomas is one of real adventure. Read it to learn about another of your future crew members.
Perhaps you may say, "Oh, I'll never be able to make that Invisible Crew. I've committed too many sins. I've abused grace. It's too late to start to try for it. I have so many evil habits that it surely would take a miracle for me to snap out of the state of soul in which I am." If this is your state of soul, then call upon another member of the Crew — St. Mary Magdalen. From one of the greatest sinners the world has ever known she became one of the greatest saints. And why? "Because she loved much and "love covereth a multitude of sins."
St. Peter was another member of the Crew who failed His Lord miserably, when he denied Him. Yet, see where St. Peter is—at the very helm of the vessel, because he, too, loved much, and showed his love for his Captain, Christ, by doing things to prove that love. All of us can become saints. We can all become charter members of God's Invisible Crew. But we must want it. "God wills it, so I will it!" must be our cry. The saints were human beings just as we are. They had human failings, too, and some offended God very seriously. But once they were consumed with the desire to love God, they began to fight the good fight with all the zest and zeal of a St. Paul. They sanctified their lives by living lives of virtue, prayer, and penance, and then followed the commands of their Leader. They nourished their souls with the bread of angels, and increased the Divine Life in their souls through the sacrament of Penance; in fact, they made use of every means to grow in God's love. Their ambition was to reach that degree of love to which they had been destined from all eternity. What about you?
How about it? Are you going to try for the first step toward admission into the powerful Invisible Crew? Then, having won your letter, try the second, then the third, and the fourth, and so on. If you do, some day, after a life of love and service for God and souls, you will hear the Captain of the Invisible Crew, His Mother, St. Joseph, and all the members of the Crew, at the helm of heaven, welcoming you into an exclusive circle, with a "Come ye blessed of My Father, take possession of the throne prepared for you from all eternity."
Source: Hello Halo, Imprimatur 1947
Under the Southern Cross, in the old Hawaiian group, far out on the deep blue ocean, like a monster ship riding the tossing waves, is the island of Molokai.
On the side of the north is a small harbor carved in volcanic rock by wind and wave, and the hand of time. From the strand, the earth slopes gently forward, then stretches across a lava bed straight to the base of steep and crumbling mountains. This is the land of exile, the Leper's Home, on whose portals is written: -
"Let him who enters here,
Leave hope behind."
In days gone by, this spot was the abode of abject misery and despair. here leper victims men, women, and children sought the dark crevices, or crouched in lairs of beasts, or crawled the sandy beach and cursed fate and died in blasphemy.
This cry of desolation rent the heavens; and the voice of the Lord descending rang through the earth: "Who will go and be the leper's friend?"
The voice of God was hear in old Flanders. Damien heard it. He was a levite- ruddy, beautiful, comely to behold. Could he offer the holocaust? Could he drink a bitter chalice to its dregs? Was his strength, the courage, to live a leper's life, and die the leper's death?
Some knew Damien, and knew the great soul that burned within his youthful breast. He was a young lion of Flanders, descendant of Crusaders, offspring of martyrs. With his face lighted by heavenly inspiration, and eyes beaming joyful resolution, he answered heaven in the ringing words of the prophet of old, and said:
"Here I am, Lord; send me!"
Bright was the sky, calm the ocean, and smiling the sunlit peaks, that welcomed the beautiful footsteps of Father Damien to the shores of Molokai.
Like a giant, eager to run his course, he swiftly opened battle against suffering and ignorance, poverty and want, sin and despair. Armed with instruments of peace and aided by the waning strength of lepers, he cleared pathways, built cottages, dug gardens, planted flowers, and lighted furnaces.
He was a father and he gave wise precept, rebuked evil, and rewarded virtue.
He was like a mother and he rejoiced with the joyful, wept with the sorrowful, and made peace to reign.
He was a physician and he mixed soothing potion, anointed the hideous wound, and cooled the feverish brow.
He was a priest and he spoke the saving word, cleansed the sinful soul, and gave joy to the troubled heart.
To the living, he was all to all and to the dead, he was not wanting. Reverently he prepared the lifeless body, dug the deep grave, chanted the requiem, gave the last blessing and wept alone.
For nineteen long years, in labor and in vigil, in sunshine and in storm, in good report and in evil report, Father Damien, faithful to duty, forgotten by the world, struggled alone and waited.
One day, the lepers had a party on the beach. Father Damien was cook. When tired of play, the children sat around the boiling kettle, and Father Damien told them stories of the great Richard the Lion Hearted, and his mighty battles for the Holy Sepulcher.
As he stirred the embers, a coal of fire by chance fell upon his hand. He press it hard. and held it long, yet it caused no sense of pain. Lightly he threw it aside and smiled; for Father Damien knew that at last he, too, was a leper.
When evening came, and the stars were out, he humbly knelt and wrote these words to his Bishop: "I am a leper. My brightest hopes are realized at last. May we meet in heaven- for we can meet on earth no more. Let the brethren pray. To one and all -a last, long farewell. "Damien."
The dreadful disease quickly made inroads upon his strong and noble frame. Stretched on his bed of pain, in his cottage by the see, attended by lepers a sight to make the angels weep- Father Damien died.
Yet he is not dead. Father Damien is immortal. He lives in his successor. He lives in the memory of a grateful people. He lives in the memory of the age.
Source; The Ideal Catholic Sixth Reader; Imprimatur- 1916
A coloring picture can be found below.
AS SOON AS we die, we are judged. In the very instant of death we are judged by God, and His judgment is final and will not be changed.
Immediately at death, the soul on leaving the body has to go somewhere. It has to be assigned to its proper place. Heaven, hell, or purgatory are the possible places. It is for God to decide where the soul deserves to go. While on earth we can use our free will to our heart's content. We can keep God's law, or break it. We can be better or worse as we choose. God gives us free rein. At death, however, the iron curtain falls. God's judgment is passed on what we, during life, chose freely to do and actually did do. God does the judging. We furnish Him with the material for His judgment. God, of course, knows all things. He knows at one glance our status or condition. He does not have to sift evidence and laboriously weigh the case, as would a human judge. As for ourselves, at the moment of death our whole life will flash before us in an instant and we will clearly see the good and the bad.
God will not pronounce sentence by word of mouth. No, but He will light up our minds to see the verdict of salvation or damnation according as our souls are guilty or not. Now while on earth we often enough wonder just how bad a particular action was, whether we were really guilty or not. We know, of course, that however uncertain we are ourselves, God will never condemn us for an act that we performed in good faith. In examining our consciences, very often we end up in confusion and quite rightly recommend ourselves to the mercy of God to forgive us as He sees us guilty. But in the moment of death God will give us the light to see clearly exactly how we stand before Him. When the floodlights of God's judgment are turned full blast on the soul, how clearly then will every last fault show up! We will know our condition. And God will pass the unchangeable decision.
The Suddenness of Judgment
The sentence will be executed without delay. Some poor suffering person might have lain on a bed of sickness and pain for many a month or many a year. Death was slow in coming. Gradually, gradually, the spectre of death crept up on its victim. Death may have been slow in coming. But its blow when it came was sudden. How quick the events rush on! In an instant death, judgment, and commitment to heaven, hell, or purgatory. It seemed that death would never come. But in an instant the soul is judged and swiftly wrapt up to heaven, or plunged into hell, or borne to the cleansing fires of purgatory.
After the moment of death it is too late to to plead for mercy. The time for moving God is over. You should have implored His mercy long ago. Now He must judge you according as you lived.
There is not much point in trying to determine where the particular judgment takes place. If it takes place immediately after death, it would seem to take place right at the body, as the soul leaves the body. This view gives striking meaning to a death-bed scene.
To witness a death is to be present at a judgment, for Almighty God judges immediately the departing soul. What deep emotion should flood our souls as we stand in the presence of death and judgment, and meditate on a soul soaring heavenward, or plunging downward
To see someone die is occasion for a meditation without equal. We can always be grateful that we of the living still have time in which to improve the condition of our souls. It is the judgment that makes death terrible or welcome. If death were mere inactivity, we could simply ignore it . But since death means immediate judgment and appointment to some kind of life, for good or for bad, then it must concern us. And it is indeed of particular concern to each one of us. For the particular judgment is for each one of us individually.
Source: Come The End, Imprimatur 1951
Holy Mother Church
has dedicated the month
of December to the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
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