Keep your eyes open!...


Christmas Week, 2013  



(Luk 2:10-14) And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: For, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.

POPE FRANCIS: Christmas is a feast of joyful hope, for God has become one with us in the person of his Son, true God and true man. He showed his love for us by becoming part of our world, with all its conflicts, its suffering and its poverty. Jesus is truly Emmanuel: God among us. This is the great “gift” which he brings: a divine love which heals and transforms our hearts, overcoming all uncertainty and pessimism. Our joyful contemplation of the mystery of Christmas should make us realize that, as God has become one of us, we too are called to become like God: humble, close to others, especially the poor, and ever attentive to their needs. This Christmas, let us ask Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to help us see in our neighbour the face of Jesus, God made man. May we be in this world a ray of that light which shone forth from Bethlehem, bringing the joy and peace to the hearts of all men and women.


O wondrous mystery, full of passing grace!

The grot becometh Heaven; the Virgin's breast

The bright Cherubic Throne; the stall, that place

Where He who fills all space vouchsafes to rest;

Christ our God, to whom we raise

Hymns of thankfulness and praise!

RON ROLHEISER, OMI: Reflection on the Virgin Birth

CATHOLIC HISTORY BLOG: The Pagan Origins of Christmas?

EXCERPT DIVINEMERCY.ORG: Have Yourself a Very 'Mercy' Christmas

The awesome Lord of all left heaven and became a little child for our sake. Following His example, He invites us to become like little children, growing in childlike trust in God.

We all too easily forget that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity laid aside His glory and majesty to become small for our sake. It is an invitation for us to trust in God's plan for our lives, too.

Saint Faustina was granted a powerful vision after Holy Communion in which the veil was lifted and she recognized the Child Jesus as the Lord of the universe:

... I suddenly saw the Infant Jesus standing by my kneeler and holding on to it with His two little hands. Although, He was but a little Child, my soul was filled with awe and fear, for I see in Him my Judge, my Lord, and my Creator, before whose holiness the angels tremble. At the same time, my soul was flooded with such unspeakable love that I thought I would die under its influence. I now see that Jesus first strengthens my soul and makes it capable of abiding with Him, for otherwise I would not be able to bear what I experience at such a moment (Diary, 566).

Notice how the Lord first strengthens Sr. Faustina so that she can abide with Him and bear this mystical experience. Put another way, it is her love and trust in the Lord that enable her to perceive the greatness of the Child Jesus precisely in His smallness.

It is no surprise, then, that the Christ Child comes to Sr. Faustina at Mass in another vision to teach her spiritual childhood — to ask her to become little like Himself:

... I saw the Infant Jesus near my kneeler. He appeared to be about one year old, and He asked me to take Him in my arms. When I did take Him in my arms, He cuddled up close to my bosom and said, It is good for Me to be close to your heart. ... Because I want to teach you spiritual childhood. I want you to be very little, because when you are little, I carry you close to My Heart, just as you are holding me close to your heart right now (Diary, 1481).

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

60. They said of one hermit that he sometimes longed to eat a cucumber. So he took one and hung it in front of him where he could see it. He was not overcome by his longing, and did not eat it, but tamed himself, and repented that he had wanted it at all.

Week of December 15, 2013  

(Luk 1:31-32) Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

: An Advent Paean to Christian Hope by Regis MartinSanta worshipping

EXCERPT ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP.: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’

One of the biggest sadnesses of modern life is this: We’ve mistaken comfort for happiness, and as a result, the pursuit of satisfaction has taken away our joy. We live in a culture increasingly based on the strange idea that whatever we want, we deserve — and we should have it, right now; a culture that constantly teases our appetites, fabricates new “needs” and then urges us to want more. This is a recipe for discontent.

As C.S. Lewis said more than 50 years ago, it’s little wonder that many people, including many Christians, become so fed up with the “holiday” season’s frenzy that they endure it rather than enjoy it, and can’t wait for it to be over.

In contrast, the more deeply we live Advent, and the more prayerfully and patiently we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, then the more fully we experience the joy of Christmas. For Catholics throughout the centuries, Christmas Eve begins the Christmas season, which continues through the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord. As the popular saying rightly goes, Jesus is the reason for the season.

Taking Christ out of “the holidays” removes any real joy — the winter solstice is an interesting natural fact, but the shortest day of the year is a pretty thin reason to celebrate — and it makes “peace on earth” a well-meaning but implausible platitude. There is no peace on earth; nor can there ever be without the cross of Jesus Christ.

RON ROLHEISER, OMI: To make a festival of Christmas, to surround Jesus' birthday with all the joy, light, music, gift-giving, energy, and warmth we can muster is, strange as this may sound, a prophetic act. It is, or at least it can be, an expression of faith and hope. It's not the person who says: "It's rotten, let's cancel it!" who radiates hope. That can easily be despair masquerading as faith. No. It is the man or woman who, despite the world's misuse and abuse of these, still strings up the Christmas lights, trims the tree and the turkey, turns up the carols, passes gifts to loved ones, sits down at table with family and friends, and flashes a grin to the world, who is radiating faith, who is saying that we are meant for more than gloom, who is celebrating Jesus' birth.


RON ROLHEISER, OMI: Joseph and Christmas

EXCERPT: The Prince Of Peace: Meditations (1915) by Alban Goodier, S.J.


"His name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the womb." LUKE ii. 21.

1. It is not difficult to meditate upon the Holy Name, or to use the Holy Name in prayer. More than any other name, perhaps alone among all proper names, it is appropriate to the One Who owned it. Usually the names of men are given at random; they mean nothing in themselves; a man who happens to be called John might just as well have been called Thomas or William· the mere name tells us nothing about him; it is a convenient means of distinguishing him from others, a label put upon him and little or no more. With a few human beings it has been otherwise: Adam, Abraham, Josue, John the Baptist were given names that signified the men on whom they were bestowed. But with none is this so true as it is with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. With care it was repeated to Joseph: " "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for. He shall save His people from their sins."

2. The Name stands as a complete sum mary and description of our Lord's character and office, and it is under this aspect that it has been regarded by thousands of saints, whose hearts have melted at its mere sound. To them Jesus is their God, Jesus is their King, Jesus is their Redeemer, Jesus is their Mediator, Jesus is their Saviour, Jesus is their great Priest, Jesus is their Intercessor, Jesus is the Captain under Whom they fight, Jesus is the Leader Whom they follow, Jesus is their Teacher, Jesus is the Giver of their law, Jesus is the Spouse and Shepherd of their souls, Jesus is their Light Jesus is their Life, Jesus is the Judge before Whom they rejoice to think that they must one day stand, Jesus is their final and eternal Reward, for which alone they live.
3· But He is also to them the mirror of all the most glorious and winning virtues. He is, and His Name tells them that He is unbounded Charity, infinite Mercy, extremest Kindness, deepest Humility, most devoted Piety, transparent Simplicity, uttermost Poverty, Chastity wtthout a stain. It is the prerogative of love to transform those who love into the likeness of Him Whom they love; and as the mere name of one who is loved cannot sound in the ear or be thought of in the mind without adding to the love which is already there, so the thought of the Holy Name and the mention of the Holy Name have a kind of sacramental power in the hearts of His saints. They seem to convey the grace which enables men to think like Him, to speak like Him, to act like Him, to sacrifice themselves like Him, and to Him, and for Him, and along with Him, to make Him known to others, not by word only, but also by reproduction of Him in themselves, and to win all men to love Him.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

52. He also said, 'The serpent whispered to Eve and cast her out of paradise. The man who whispers against his neighbours is like the serpent. He condemns the soul of whoever listens to him, and he does not save his own.'

Week of December 8, 2013  

(Rev 12:1) And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

ADVENT RESOURCE: God Still Comes: A Meditative Journey Through Advent by Rev. Johann G. Roten, SM

Christians in the Holy Land and the Church


ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP.: A listening heart and ‘The Joy of the Gospel’
RON ROLHEISER, OMI: The God Who Is Revealed In Christmas
RON ROLHEISER, OMI: Awakening the Christ-child

POPE FRANCIS: "The Immaculate Conception was inscribed in God’s plan; it was the fruit of God’s love whereby the world was saved".

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION Ineffabilis Deus Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful...."

CNA ARCHIVE EXCERPT: Historian reveals how Pius IX decided to proclaim dogma of Immaculate Conception

French historian and professor Louis Baunard said that while gazing upon the Mediterranean from the city, “the Pope mediated on remarks made to him by Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini: Holy Father, you will not be able to heal the world unless you proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Only this dogmatic definition will reestablish the meaning of the Christian truths and bring minds back from the paths of naturalism upon which they have become lost.”

According to Guglietta, naturalism, which rejected all supernatural truth, could be considered the “backdrop” for the Pope’s proclamation of the dogma. “The affirmation of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin laid a strong foundation for affirming and strengthening the certainty of the primacy of grace and the work of Providence in the lives of men.”

GUADALUPE: Our Lady of Guadalupe 'completely beyond' scientific explanation

MORE: Science Sees What Mary Saw From Juan Diego’s Tilma

Engineer José Aste Tonsmann of the Mexican Center of Guadalupan Studies began his study in 1979. He magnified the iris of the Virgin's eyes 2,500 times and, through mathematical and optical procedures, was able to identify all the people imprinted in the eyes.

The eyes reflect the witnesses of the Guadalupan miracle the moment Juan Diego unfurled his tilma before the bishop, according to Tonsmann.

In the eyes, Tonsmann believes, it is possible to discern a seated Indian, who is looking up to the heavens; the profile of a balding, elderly man with a white beard, much like the portrait of Bishop Zumárraga painted by Miguel Cabrera to depict the miracle; and a younger man, in all probability interpreter Juan González.

Also present is an Indian, likely Juan Diego, of striking features with a beard and mustache, who unfolds his own tilma before the bishop; a woman of dark complexion, possibly a Negro slave who was in the bishop's service; and a man with Spanish features who looks on pensively, stroking his beard with his hand.

In summary, the Virgin's eyes bear a kind of instant picture of what occurred at the moment the image was unveiled in front of the bishop, Tonsmann says.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

51. He also said, 'It is better to eat meat and drink wine than to eat the flesh of the brothers by disparaging them.'

Week of December 1, 2013  

(Rom 13:11-14) And that, knowing the season, that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed And the day is at hand. Let us, therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ: and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.

ICN REFLECTION:  Unlike Lent, the four weeks preceding the great feasts of Christ’s birth and Epiphany are not times of great penance. We are asked to prepare ourselves to welcome these feasts, but more in prayerful anticipation and silent prayer, it is the season for wakefulness, being attentive to the call of God right in our daily lives. It is also a reminder that we anticipate not only the festivals of light and joy but look beyond the limits of our world into that dark winter sky and see in the twinkling of those so far distant stars a hint of the glory and majesty of Christ our God who one day will come again.

Perhaps in our security of life we might feel that this is a long way off, we have another Christmas to get through, plenty to do, friends to contact, relations to visit. It is a season of giving! And yet, the insistent voice of scripture tells us that we have been promised that the Son of Man will come. Matthew in his direct way prepares us for that second coming, reminding us to stand ready and be prepared. That is very much the message of Advent; that He will come again as surely as He came into the world as a little child. This is why Isaiah tells us to walk in the light of the Lord, why Paul tells us that the night is nearly over and the day is at hand!

RON ROLHEISER, OMI: Advent - A Time To Learn How To Wait

EXCEPT ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP.:  The Gift of Thanksgiving and the Advent Season

This weekend, on December 1, we also celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, which opens the new Church year.  It’s a chance to begin again; a time to examine our hearts in the light of the Gospel, repent of our sins and look for the coming of our Savior.

We can’t really experience or understand Christmas unless we first conform our hearts to the longing of Advent.  Advent calls us all to refocus our lives on God’s promise of deliverance and the flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus Christ, our Deliverer – who came to us first in Bethlehem, comes to us today in the Eucharist, and will come again at the end of time.

As the Church reminds us throughout our lives, our Catholic faith, if it’s genuine, must have consequences – first in our private choices and conduct, but also in our public witness.  If we really believe in the coming of a Messiah, our lives will reflect that in the way we treat our families, our friends and business colleagues, the poor, the homeless and the suffering.

Real faith will drive us to live our lives in a spirit of humility, hope and courage, as Mary of Nazareth did.  It will also guide us to press our elected leaders – of both political parties — for laws and social policies that respect the dignity of the human person, from conception to natural death.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew the reality of poverty firsthand.  They knew the fear of being without shelter; of being hunted by enemies and being “strangers in a strange land” as refugees in Egypt.  This week might be a good time to remember that millions of immigrants in our own country – many of them undocumented; men and women who in many ways underpin our economy – feel that same uncertainty and vulnerability.  That’s why continuing efforts at immigration reform are so urgently necessary and so in need of Catholic involvement.

But immigration is only one of a dozen pressing issues like defending the unborn child, religious liberty, strengthening marriage and the family, and support for the elderly and disabled, which now face our country and cry out for prayer and action by Christians.  All genuinely Catholic action begins and ends in the worship of Jesus Christ.  If we want to change the world, we begin by saying “yes” to God, as Mary did. We begin with our own obedience to God, using Mary as our model.

The Thanksgiving holiday and the season of Advent give us a chance to start over; to begin the new Church year with a longing for God that leads to Bethlehem, to our own renewal, and to the conversion of the world.


The Christmas Scale
10 Advent Songs to Cure the Christmas Craziness
New Film Puts Christ Back into Christmas

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Self-Control

50. He also said, 'Do not let your mouth speak an evil word: the vine does not bear thorns.'

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Jubilee 2000: Bringing the World to Jesus

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