I have always enjoyed the season of winter, particularly winter in Minnesota. I know that this may be a surprise to some people, even my fellow Minnesotans, however, it is true. What I find so appealing about winter is not just playing hockey or the beautiful Christmas lights, but the world becomes more quiet. When there is snow on the ground and the night sets in so early, we humans quiet ourselves down. And it is when we are quiet, that we are able to notice the simple and peaceful gifts of life...and so it is with Advent.
Today, we begin our season of Advent, or as I like to call it, “the forgotten season.” The Advent season is a time of anticipation, a time of waiting, a time of preparation, and it is a season of quiet. For us, Advent ought to be a time where we actually slow down, set aside some of the clutter of our minds and truly prepare to notice Jesus Christ. Remember that Jesus Christ did not arrive with fireworks or with great notice to the world, he quietly and humbly entered into the human existence. This is true for Jesus in 2017. He does not barge into our lives, but rather, he is quiet and humble, waiting for an invitation to be welcomed into your life.
So for this Advent, I offer some ways to quiet our lives:
First, spend some time in family prayer. Choose to make time in the evening to pray as a family. Use the readings from the daily mass (found at usccb.org), read them as a family, and then have each family member go around and make a prayer to God. Then close with a Hail Mary prayer (which starts with a quote from the Archangel Gabriel to Mary).
Second, choose to turn off the TV in the evening and have some time simply listening to music as a family together. I enjoy television as much as the next person, but having some time without visible stimulation can truly help to quiet our hearts.
Finally, light an advent wreath at home. There is something quieting about the gift of a small flame in the house that reminds us of the coming of the light of Jesus Christ into the world.
You may have your own ways to enter into the quiet of Advent, to prepare your hearts and home for the arrival of Jesus. In whatever ways we can, let us embrace the spirit of Advent so that we may truly rejoice with Mary and Joseph at the arrival of Jesus at Christmas.
At the beginning of every mass and almost every prayer,
Catholics make the sign of the cross. We touch our foreheads, our heart, and our two shoulders (far one first). It has become something of habit for almost every Catholic before we can even talk. So why do we do that?
The first mention we have the “sign of the cross” dates back to 230 AD where those to be baptized were marked with the “sign of the cross.” The idea of marking our bodies with a sign from God actually goes back to our Jewish roots. Many Jews, when entering into prayer, would wear little rolls of paper with the words of scripture in little boxes. These would have straps that they would literally wear the words of Sacred Scripture on their person as a preparation to pray to God. This was following Deuteronomy 6:4-8 which says that one should “Bind [these words] at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.” These are called phylacteries.
For us, as Catholics, we do not physically bind the words of Scripture to our person, because the sign of the cross was marked on our souls at Baptism. Our souls have the mark of Christ “written” on them for all eternity, and it can never be erased. So, as an outward reminder to us of what has happened to our souls, we make the sign of the cross as we begin and end prayer. Thus, it is fitting that we should begin every mass, the height of prayer, with the sign of the cross.
If it does help, I often recommend that people think about where the sign of the cross is “placed” when we make it. First, when we touch our heads, we are asking the cross of Christ to be in our minds and thoughts. Second, when we touch our hearts, we are asking the cross of Christ to be in our souls. And then when we touch our shoulders, we are asking the cross of Christ to be in our actions.
Let us be a people who make the Sign of the Cross with seriousness, reverence, and let us allow the Sign of the Cross to help change our lives to be like Jesus Christ.
In our Catholic faith, the center of what we do is the Eucharist. Many times, when Catholics hear the term “Eucharist,” they think about the Body and Blood of Christ that is received at Mass. And while that is true, the consecrated species are properly referred to as “the Eucharist.” The primary and first meaning of the term “Eucharist” in our Catholic faith is a reference to the Mass...the entire Mass—from beginning to end.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving.’” (1360).
It is very tempting for us to attend mass on Sundays and expect to “get something” out of Mass. While it is true that we do receive at Mass, we should enter into each celebration of the Eucharist with an attitude that the reason for coming is to give thanks to God, to give God my gratitude for his love, his mercy, his peace, and his
So as we prepare for the American celebration of Thanksgiving, it is only proper that we, as Catholics, recognize the importance of giving thanks to God every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.
This article was written by the Catholic News Agency.
Venerable Solanus Casey, an American-born Capuchin priest who died in 1957, will be beatified at a November 18 Mass in Detroit, Michigan.
Who was Fr. Solanus Casey? Known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor, he will be the second American-born male to be beatified. Born Bernard Casey on November 25, 1870, he was the sixth child of 16 born to Irish immigrants in Wisconsin. At age 17 he left home to work at various jobs, including as a lumberjack, a hospital orderly, and a prison guard. He was confirmed at St. Michael Catholic Church in Stillwater, MN where he later worked as a streetcar operator. Re-evaluating his life after witnessing [a public murder],
he decided to act on a call he felt to enter the priesthood. Because of his lack of formal education, however, he struggled in the minor seminary, and was eventually encouraged to become a priest through a religious order rather than through the diocese.
So in 1898, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, in 1904 was ordained a “sacerdos simplex” – a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions. He was very close to the sick and was highly sought-after throughout his life, in part because of the many physical healings attributed to his blessings and intercession. He was also a co-founder of Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen in 1929. For 21 years, he was porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit.
He is also known for his fondness for playing the violin and singing, although he had a bad singing voice
because of a childhood illness which damaged his vocal chords.
Even in his 70s, Fr. Solanus Casey remained very active, and would even join the younger religious men in a game of tennis or volleyball. He died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87. A miracle attributed to Venerable Casey's intercession was recognized by Pope Francis at a May 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. “I’m grateful to hear from the Capuchin friars that the date of the beatification has been finalized,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit stated.
“The beatification of Father Solanus will be a tremendous blessing for the whole community of southeast Michigan, an opportunity for all of us to experience the love of Jesus Christ.” The November 18 beatification Mass will be said at Ford Field in Detroit, which can accommodate as many as 60,000.
His beatification will also be broadcast on EWTN at 3 PM on Saturday, November 18.
Maybe your parents trained you. Maybe it was your grandmother. Maybe it was Sister Mary Margaret. Someone along the way probably taught you that you should genuflect when you enter your pew in a Catholic Church. Many Catholics do it out of instinct or natural reaction. How many times have we actually paused to think about what this action means?
In our Catholic faith, the tradition of genuflecting as we enter or exit a pew actually has nothing to do with the pew, but everything to do with the one who is in the Sanctuary...no, not the priest, but rather, Jesus Christ. Catholics genuflect in Church in order to show our reverence to the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The tradition began as a recognition of the importance of Jesus in our lives. In the past, people would genuflect before important figures, such as kings or princes. It was a gesture that recognized the importance of the person in front of them. Early Christians recognized that Jesus was not just a king, but the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Prince of peace. And so, because Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist, they recognized that they should at least pay the same type of respect to Jesus as they would an earthly ruler. Thus, the tradition began.
So for us in 2017, we continue this practice. I will recommend three things to think about when you genuflect to the tabernacle. First, it is an act of humility. It is a recognition of the sovereignty of God. It is a statement saying, “You are God and I am not.” In a certain sense, it reminds us that God is more wonderful than us and we humble ourselves before his glory.
Second, it is an act of service. Just as knights would kneel before their king and say “At your service,” so too for us, as believers, we put ourselves at the service of God. And God’s service will be to love him and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we genuflect, we can see ourselves as knights before the great King.
Finally, it is an act of love. Many times, when a man proposes to a woman, he will kneel before her with a ring in his hand. He asks for the privilege of giving himself to her and of her choosing to love him back. In a similar way, we do this when we genuflect to Jesus. An opening of our heart in love to the one who loves us to the point of death on a cross.
So today, and for the rest of our lives, let us not simply genuflect out or reaction or habit. Rather, let us genuflect out of humility, service, and love. When we do this, we will be more open to recognizing Jesus’ love for us in our lives.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl