Advent

My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of my mercy. Do not argue with me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of my grace
Diary of Sister Faustina No. 1485

Advent

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.
During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
Father William Saunders, “The History of the Advent Wreath.” Arlington Catholic Herald

Thanksgiving

Lutheran pastor Martin Rinckart, served in a German town named Eilenburg that became a refuge for military and political fugitives during the Thirty Years War. Eilenburg became overcrowded with refugees who were victims of famine, and victims of the Black Plague epidemic that arrived in 1637. Pastor Rinckart buried two of the town’s four pastors on the same day and the third one fled to a healthier climate. As the sole remaining pastor, Rinckart conducted as many as forty to fifty funeral services a day, totaling to about 4,480 funerals. While living in this town that was dominated by death, Pastor Rinckart is best known for writing this hymn:
Now thank we all our God with heart and hand and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices; Who, from our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us; Preserve us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, And free us from all ills in this world and the next.
Click on link and listen to hymn
King’s College Choir Cambridge: Now Thank We All Our God …
https://www.youtube.com › watch

contemplative awareness

The Lord desires so intensely that we love him and seek his company, so much so that from time to time he calls us to draw near him. And his voice is so sweet. . . . They come through words spoken by other good people, or through sermons, or through what is read in good books, or through the many things that are heard and by which God calls.
Teresa of Avila

a quiet meditation

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole that she carried across her shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. Each day, for two years the woman would bring home only one and a half pots of water. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. The cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and miserable because it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years, it spoke to the woman by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.” The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day, on our walk back, you watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace my house.”
Living Through Cancer, a practical guide to cancer related concerns

all souls

Rita truly appreciated her Catholic high school education. She remembers a story one of her teachers told to her class. Long ago, somewhere in the eastern United States, there was a knock at the rectory door. The priest answered and saw a young girl in a white First Communion dress and veil. She told him that her mother was very sick. He said he would visit her, which he did. The mother lived alone, and after the visit the priest noticed a photograph of a young girl on her First Communion day. Since she looked like the girl at the rectory door, the priest asked who she was. “She is my daughter,” the woman said. “She died a few years after that picture was taken.”

Judy Cooper, OCDS

a quiet meditation

Of course there will be distractions when we pray. Prayer would not be prayer without them. As soon as we are aware of a distraction, it should take us back to prayer. One of the stories Fulton Sheen liked to tell was about Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard was horseback riding with a friend of his, and the friend said to him, “I never have a distraction during prayer.” Bernard said, “I have many.” And Bernard then said, “Very well, you get off your horse, and if you can say the Our Father without a single distraction, I will give you my horse.” So this friend got off his horse, and began to recite the Our Father. When he got to the words, “Give us this day our. . .” he stopped and said to Bernard, “Can I have the saddle, too?”
Everyday Holiness, A Guide to Living Here and Getting to Eternity

contemplative awareness

Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise: in all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways. O loving wisdom of our God! when all was sin and shame, a second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came. O wisest love! that flesh and blood, which did in Adam fail, should strive afresh against the foe, should strive and should prevail. And that a higher gift than grace should flesh and blood refine, God’s presence and his very self, and essence all divine. O generous love! that he, who smote in man for man the foe, the double agony in man for man should undergo. And in the garden secretly, and on the cross on high, should teach his brethren, and inspire to suffer and to die. Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise: in all his words most wonderful; most sure in all his ways.
John Henry Newman
Click on link and listen to this hymn
Catholic Hymnal: Praise to the holiest in the height – YouTube

a quiet meditation

Lord, your harvest is the harvest of love; love sown in the hearts of people; love that spreads out like the branches of a great tree covering all who seek its shelter; love that inspires and re-creates; love that is planted in the weak and the weary; the sick and the dying. The harvest of your love is the life that reaches through the weeds of sin and death to the sunlight of resurrection. Lord, nurture my days with your love, water my soul with the dew of forgiveness, that the harvest of my life might be your joy.
Frank Topping

Francis of Assisi

All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher, some sing out loud on a telephone wire, some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they’ve got now. Listen to the top where the little bird sings, and the melodies and the high notes ringing, and the hoot owl cries over everything, and the blackbird disagrees. Singing in the night time, singing in the day, when little duck quacks, and he’s on his way, and the otter hasn’t got much to say, and the porcupine talks to himself. The dogs and the cats they take up the middle, while the honeybee hums and the cricket fiddles, the donkey brays and the pony neighs, and the old gray badger sighs. Listen to the bass, it’s the one on the bottom, where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus moans and groans with a big t’do, and the old cow just goes moo. It’s a simple song a little song everywhere, by the ox and the fox and the grizzly bear, the dopey alligator and the hawk above, the sly old weasel and the turtle dove. All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher, some sing out loud on a telephone wire, some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they’ve got now. All God’s creatures got a place in the choir.
Bill Staines
Click on link and listen to this song
Celtic Thunder Heritage – “A Place in the Choir” – YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqm-S9J1s_k