I often have people say to me after reading certain articles…”How did you know that I needed this?” or “This is just what I needed!”
Now, I am saying it…”Self, I sure needed to read this today!” 🙂
I love Christmas time. I love all the rich traditions, the beauty surrounding it, the music, the love and camaraderie of family and good friends.
But I also know it can be a very hard time for some. There are those who are extra lonely at Christmas, they are sick, they are missing someone close to them who may have recently died.
Christmas has a way of increasing that suffering, because the hardship is such a contrast to the beauty and joy of the season.
We all go through hard times. Times where we may find ourselves saying, “Where are You, God, and how come You’re not helping out?”
How many times in my life have I used these words…or at least words of this sort?
We have black times when we pray and pray and pray and our petitions seem to be falling on Deaf Ears. Sometimes we might even find ourselves getting angry at God.
Every time I reacted this way, I regretted it. The dust would settle and I would see most clearly how God was working in that situation or how incredible blessings had followed a very painful situation.
My mom always told me to thank God even in adversity, while going through it…..thank Him when things look so black and it looks like you or your loved ones had been abandoned.
That’s not an easy thing to do!! It’s definitely an act of the will.
But I remember the saying that goes something like this, “The devil trembles most when a person gets on their knees in spite of the fact that everything within him rebels .”
So I have learned through the years that, first of all, there will be dark times. That is the way of life. It has its sufferings. Period. We truly wouldn’t want it any other way. It is the Royal Road of the Cross.
I have learned also that these times are special because this is when I am sharing in His sufferings in just a little way…. a way that I know is pleasing to Him.
I also try to think about the many great sufferings of others, the sufferings of the persecuted in the Middle East (which is something that is hard to imagine in our day and age) and those who are suffering big things closer to home.
My own sufferings, though real and hurtful, (and God understands that) are nothing compared to these other sufferings. What a great reason to thank God!
I have also learned, finally, to be grateful to God for the difficulties themselves. Days of darkness will go by and I will forget… I will writhe in pain and look for ways to get out of it. I will pray, do extra holy hours or whatever I think I need to be doing. I know these are all good.
But then the light bulb goes off and I remember to THANK HIM for exactly what it is I am going through! I believe this is very pleasing to Our Lord.
I know that, in hindsight, I will be looking back and saying, “I thank You God for that situation and all the good that You have brought from it for me and for others.”
For those times when we may not see the blessings, even in hindsight, those VERY dark times….those are the times we just have to trust and lean on Him.
So whatever you’re going through today, whatever hardships you have during this Christmas season especially, take a moment to thank God for them. Give them as a gift to the Baby Jesus.
The light is always at the end of the tunnel and you don’t want to be guilty for shaking your fist at God. This is one time you DO want to “jump the gun” and “count your chickens before they are hatched.” You want to believe and KNOW that God is the Author of all and will turn this into good for you and for your family.
You want to take a moment to thank Him who is a most loving Father. He sees everything that we are going through. He WILL come. He’s shown us that many times in our lives, hasn’t He?
Remember, He has the hairs on our heads counted. That’s not just a cute cliché, it has a world of meditation in it.
Meditate on it, believe it and live it this Christmas season!
From Father Jacques Philippe:
Finally, we shouldn’t forget the sort of obedience that may be the most important and the most overlooked: what might be called “obedience to events.” This notion obviously poses a difficult theological and existential problem.
“Obedience to events” does not mean falling into fatalism or passivity, nor does it mean saying that everything that happens is God’s will: God does not will evil or sin. Many things happen that God does not will. But he still permits them, in His wisdom, and they remain a stumbling block or scandal to our minds.
God asks us to do all we can to eliminate evil. But despite our efforts, there is always a whole set of circumstances which we can do nothing about, which are not necessarily willed by God but nevertheless are permitted by him, and which God invites us to consent to trustingly and peacefully, even if they make us suffer and cause us problems.
We are not being asked to consent to evil, but to consent to the mysterious wisdom of God who permits evil. Our consent is not a compromise with evil but the expression of our trust that God is stronger than evil.
This is a form of obedience that is painful but very fruitful. It means that after we have done everything in our power, we are invited, faced with what is still imposed on our will by events, to practice an attitude of abandonment and filial trust toward our heavenly Father, in the faith that “for those who love God, everything works together for good.”
To give an example, God did not want the treachery of Judas or Pilate’s cowardice (God cannot want sin); but he permitted them, and he wanted Jesus to give filial consent to these events. And that is what he did—“Father, not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
The events of life are, after all, the surest expression of God’s will, because there is no danger of our interpreting them subjectively. If God sees that we are docile to events, able to consent peacefully and lovingly to what life’s happenings “impose” on us, in a spirit of filial trust and abandonment to his will, there can be no doubt that he will multiply personal expressions of his will for us through the action of his Spirit who speaks to our hearts.
If, however, we always rebel and tense ourselves against difficulties, that kind of defiance of God will make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God. What often happens is that, when we are confronted with painful occurrences, we either rebel, or endure them unwillingly, or resign ourselves to them passively.
But God invites us to a much more positive and fruitful attitude: that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who, as a child, said: “I choose it all!” We can give this the meaning: I choose everything that God wants for me. I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen.
St. Thérèse used the expression: “I want everything that causes me difficulties.” Externally it doesn’t change anything about the situation, but interiorly it changes everything. This consent, inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad.
What is Advent? Lent is major bootcamp and Advent is minor bootcamp. How can we make Advent incredibly fruitful for each of us?
This is a lovely excerpt about Christmas by J.R. Miller written in the early 1900’s…
We should not forget the word “peace,” in our lesson. “Peace on earth.” We should seek for the things which make for peace.
It is easy to misunderstand others, even our dearest friends. One may hold a penny before his eye—so that it will shut out all the beautiful sky, all the blue and all the stars.
It is easy, too, to make little offences grow large—as we brood over them, until, held up before our face—they hide whole fields of beauty and good in the lives of our friends!
An unpleasant word is spoken thoughtlessly by someone, and we fret and vex ourselves over it, lying awake all night thinking of it, and by tomorrow it has grown into what seems an unpardonable wrong that our friend has committed against us!
But Christ’s way is different—he turns the other cheek. He forgives, he forgets, he blots out the record—and goes on loving just as before—as if nothing had happened!
The Christmas spirit teaches us to deal in the same way with those who injure us. Life is too short to mind such hurts, which ofttimes are as much woundings of our own pride or self-esteem—as real injuries to us. In any case, heavenly love ignores them.
One says, “The hurts of friendship, of social life, of household familiarity—must be ignored, gotten over, forgotten—as are the hurts, the wounds, the bruises, the scratches of briers or thorns on our bodies!”
If we would make it really Christmas in our own hearts—we must learn to forget ourselves, and to think of others. We must stop keeping account of what we have done for other people—and begin to put down in place, what other people have done for us.
We must cease thinking what others owe to us—and remember what we owe to them; and that we own Christ and the world, the best we have to give to life and love. We must give up chafing about our rights—and begin to rejoice in giving up our rights and doing our duties.
Someone says that the best thing about rights is that they are our own—and we can give them up. We must no longer sit on little thrones and expect people to show us honor, attention, and deference, and to bow down to us and serve us—but, instead, must get down into the lowly places of love and begin to serve others, even the lowliest, in the lowliest ways. That is the way our Master did.
We must make Christmas first in our own heart—before we can make it for any other. A grumpy person, a selfish person, a tyrannous and despotic person, an uncharitable, unforgiving person—cannot enter into the spirit of Christmas himself, and cannot add to the blessing of Christmas for his friends or neighbors. The day must begin within—in one’s own heart.
But it will not end there. We must be a maker of Christmas for others—or we cannot make a real Christmas for ourselves. We need the sharing of our joy—in order to gain its real possession. If we try to keep our Christmas all to ourselves, we will miss half its sweetness.
There would seem not to be any need at the Christmastide to say a word to urge people—to be kind to others and to do things for them. Everybody we meet at this season, carries an armful of mysterious bundles.
For weeks before the happy day, the stores are thronged with people buying all sorts of gifts. To the homes of the poor—baskets by hundreds are sent, with their toys for the children. The spirit of giving is in the very air. Even the churl and the miser are generous and liberal, for the time. Everybody catches the spirit of giving, for once in the year.
But this is not the only way to do good, to help others. In a story, a good man says, “It’s very hard to know how to help people when you can’t send them blankets, or coal, or Christmas dinners.”
With many people, this is very true. They know of no way of helping others, except by giving them material things. Yet there are better ways of doing good—than by sending food or clothing. One may have no money to spend—and yet may be a liberal benefactor. We may help others by sympathy, by cheer, by encouragement.
A good woman when asked at Thanksgiving time for what she was most grateful, said that that which, above all other things, she was thankful for at the end of the year—was courage. She had been left with a family of children to care for—and the burden had been very heavy.
Again and again she had been on the point of giving up in the despair of defeat. But through the cheer and encouragement received from a friend—she had been kept brave and strong through all the trying experience. Her courage had saved her.
It is a great thing to be such an encourager—there is no other way in which we can help most people—better than by giving them courage. Without such inspiration, many people sink down in their struggles and fail.
Too many people—to far more than we think, life is very hard, and it is easy for them to faint along the way. What they need, however, is not to have the load lifted off, or to be taken out of the hard fight—but to be strengthened to go on victoriously. The help they need is not in temporal things—but in sympathy and heartening.
So far as we are told—Jesus never sent people blankets to keep them warm, or fuel for their fires, or Christmas dinners, or toys for the children. Yet there never was such a helper of others—as he was!
He had the marvelous power of putting himself under people’s loads—by putting himself into people’s lives. There is a tremendous power of helpfulness in true sympathy, and Jesus sympathized with all sorrow and all hardness of condition.
Jesus loved people—that was the great secret of his helpfulness. He felt men’s sufferings. In all their afflictions, he was afflicted. One said, “If I were God, my heart would break with the sorrows of the world.” He was blaming God for permitting such sufferings, such calamities, such troubles, as daily history records. He said God was cruel to look on in silence—and not put a stop to these terrible things. “If I were God, my heart would break over such anguish and pain as are in the world.”
He did not understand that that was just what the heart of Christ did—it broke with compassion, with love, with sorrow, over the world’s woes! Thus he was enabled to become the world’s Redeemer.
He was a marvelous helper of others—not by giving material things—but by imparting spiritual help. It is right to give gifts at Christmas—they do good, if they are carefully and wisely chosen and are given with the desire to do good. But let us seek to be helpers also in higher ways.
We can help greatly by being happiness makers. Someone says, “Blessed are the happiness makers. Blessed are those who remove friction, who make the courses of life smooth, and the fellowship of men gentle.”
There is far more need of this sort of help—than most of us imagine. We think most people are quite happy. We have no conception of the number of people about us who are lonely, and find their loneliness almost unbearable at such times as the Christmastide.
Perhaps nearly every one of us knows at least one person who will have no home on next Christmas Day, but a dreary room in itself, it may be—but made more dreary by the absence of home’s loved ones. You do not know what a blessing you may be to this homeless one—if you will in some way put a taste of home into his experience even for one hour on Christmas.
Jesus has told us how near these lonely ones are to him. He knew what it was to have no place to go at the close of the day—when the people scattered off, everyone to his own house leaving him alone, with no invitation to anyone’s hospitality and no place but the mountains to go for the night.
Then he tells us, that if we open our door to a stranger and take him in—it is the same as if we had opened the door and taken in Jesus himself. He is pleased, therefore, when, in any loving way, we make Christmas a little less lonely for some homesick one.
A word may be said, too, to those who will be alone on Christmas, who are away from their homes, or have no longer any home. There is a way in which they can do much to make the day brighter for themselves. Though no taste or touch of human fellowship and friendship be their that day—they need not grow disheartened. George Macdonald says, “To be able to have the things we want—that is riches; but to be able to do without them—that is power.” This is then the lesson of loneliness—to gain the victory over it.
One of the problems of life is to live independently of circumstances and conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. The secret was in himself. He carried in his own mind and heart—the resources he needed. No matter how bare his life was of comforts, or how full of trials and sufferings—the peace and joy within were not disturbed.
It may not be easy for the lonely ones, lacking the companionship and fellowship of home and its happiness, to go through a Christmastide, as if nothing were lacking. Yet there is a way to overcome in great measure, the lack of fellowship.
Much can be done by thinking of others who are lonely, and doing what we can to carry cheer to them. In doing this—we will forget our own lonely condition. Then we can turn our heart-hunger toward Christ—who is always willing to give us his joy. Here is a little prayer for lonely people, which some may find fitting for the Christmastide.
“True, heroic virtue is rare and where it does exist, it makes so little noise!” -Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J.
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This is a good reminder….people are more important things. Take time to smell the roses this season. Keep it simple.
by Charlotte Siems
Warning: busy times are ahead. ‘Tis the season for extra baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating and entertaining. Starting with the Thanksgiving holiday and ending with New Year’s, the addition of extra activities on top of our regularly scheduled lives can be a mite stressful.
I’m definitely in favor of doing the extras. Holidays mark the passing of the year. Traditions create a sense of belonging and comfort. Children relish those things that “we always do,” and the once-a-year foods and décor call up a sense of wonder and excitement like nothing else.
But here’s a reminder: Don’t forget the small hours.
Don’t lose sight of the people that you live and work with during this busy season. Life happens in the moments. There’s a tendency to get impatient and frustrated with the moments when there’s so much to do.
Changing diapers, wiping noses, taking time to listen to a co-worker or child’s story–we’re in a hurry to give it a slap and a promise so we can get to the important stuff. The reality is that the small hours ARE the important stuff.
All the little moments of life add up to memories, relationships and atmosphere. Our attitude in dealing with the little things affects the entire holiday season (and life year-round).
A certain holiday season stands out in my mind. It was busy as always, running from one activity to the next. The usual gathering of family for Thanksgiving, then before we knew it, Christmas. That year was especially hectic, as several family members were preparing to leave the very next day for a mission trip to Mexico.
I remember a poignant moment, captured on video, when each family opened a certain gift in unison. It was a patchwork quilt, crafted from scraps of Grandma’s dresses. The family had gathered for her funeral a few months earlier. The grown grandchildren examined the quilts eagerly, pointing out dresses they remembered her wearing. (Who says what we wear isn’t noticed by children?)
What I now remember is not so much the quilt, but the fact that we didn’t know it would be my brother-in-law’s last holiday with us. He was killed in a car accident on the return trip from Mexico a few days later, and life changed forever for the family.
I remember having the feeling that I wished we could rewind, like an old VHS tape. But there are no rewinds, no do-overs, no going back and stopping the inevitable after it has begun.
This holiday season, which has already begun, stay aware of the small hours. Beware the tendency to skip reading aloud and tucking in bed. Live life at home intentionally, and keep things simple. Encourage and love by the caring actions of everyday life: cooking meals, brushing hair, doing laundry. Wherever you are, be there.
Let us continue to add the soft straws of sacrifice and love to the Manger of our Hearts as we prepare for the coming of our Savior. Let us be more attentive to those in our home…where charity begins. “Home is the place where a man should appear at his best.” -Fr. Lasance, The Catholic Family Handbook http://amzn.to/2kljYp3 (afflink)
Beautiful and Graceful Religious Necklaces
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St. Nicholas Day has always been a special day around here. We often would have a puppet show, inviting the cousins or grandchildren over to join in the fun. But even if that wasn’t on the “menu” we made sure and had our stockings ready to be filled!
Here is the link to the Puppet Show.
On December 6 comes the feast of the Christmas saint, St. Nicholas, although most of our celebration of this feast comes on his vigil, December 5.
We find a puppet show a delightful way to tell his story, explain his relation to the Christ Child, and introduce the hanging of stockings for his feast day.
St. Nicholas was really a Turk born in Asia Minor. For a long time he was Bishop of Myra (near the southern coast of Turkey to the right of the Island of Rhodes – in case you look for it on a map).
An orphan, he grew in love of God, became a priest, and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to venerate the places of our Lord’s life.
On the voyage, a terrible storm threatened to sink the ship, but by his prayers all were saved.
For this reason he is venerated as patron of boatmen, fishermen, dock workmen, and sailors.
Returning to his native land, he was made a bishop; his generosity and love for the poor and for children, as well as his many miracles, endeared him to Christian people all over the world.
He is also venerated as the patron of scholars, coopers and brewers, travelers and pilgrims, those who have unjustly lost a lawsuit, and as patron and annual benefactor of schoolchildren (especially boys), and is invoked against robbers and (in Holland) for protection of seafaring men.
Many legends surround St. Nicholas, among them the one saint story I personally cannot abide: the tale of the three little boys murdered and salted down in a tub is too much.’ We never tell it.
The story we like best is the well-known tale of the three marriageable daughters who were nevertheless unmarriageable for want of dowries. Hearing of their plight, the saint went silently by their house one night and tossed a bag of gold through the window for the oldest, who not long after found a husband for herself with no trouble at all.
Then he crept by a second time and tossed a bag of gold through the window for the second daughter, who likewise was suddenly at no loss for suitors.
As he was about to toss the gold through the window for the third daughter, the father of the girls caught sight of him.
Throwing himself at his feet, he thanked him, confessed his sins, begged his blessing. Plainly it is from this story that the tradition has grown wherein St. Nicholas is said to leave gifts, candies, and sweets on windowsills, in shoes, and even in the stockings of good little children.
It is the Dutch diminutive Sinter Klaas (“Sant Nikolaas”) that became, by way of the New Amsterdam Dutch, the familiar American Santa Claus.
It is among the Dutch also that we find the appearance of Black Peter, his page, who follows him, distributing switches, coal, straw – whatever – to the naughty children as St. Nicholas gives treats to the good. Black Peter appeared in the Dutch festival after the invasion of Holland by the Spaniards, who brought black servants with them.
“Telling the truth about Santa Claus” need not rob children of their Christmas magic. It adds to it with another feast to celebrate, another saint to know and love, another emphasis gently persuading them to meditate on the coming of the divine Child.
And if we really fear to take away that part of it which is surprise, that marvelous moment Christmas morning when the presents are at last mysteriously there, be assured the little ones continue to pretend.
Our littlest ones, knowing the truth, continue to pretend that it is all assembled in the most mysterious and magical fashion.
“But – then – who gives us the presents?” children will ask. “Who loves you most in all the world gives you the presents.”
“Who is that?”
They screw up their faces, think hard. Then suddenly all brighten: “You – and Daddy, and Grandma and Granny!”
It is like the circle that never ends. God loves mothers and fathers and gives them children they will love, and they teach the children about God, and the children love God, and since God wants them all with Him in Heaven, He sends His Son who loves them so much that He gives up His life for them, and that is so much love that it pays for their sins and buys back Heaven for them….
At Christmas everyone is so happy about all this that we all give each other presents. Shouldn’t that be the reason we give and receive presents?
It would be a little embarrassing to be asked, “Don’t you think the Christ Child is an adequate substitute for Santa Claus?” and feel you must answer no.
He really is and He must become the all of Christmas for families who are going to try to live lives of deep faith.
It is not really worth it to toss in this “little white lie” when we are trying so hard to teach children impeccable truthfulness.
Probably not all children who discover there is no Santa, when they have been told by their parents that there is, will consider their parents dyed-in-the-wool liars, but there is the danger that they will discount some of every other truth they are taught.
This is an age when accuracy and unadorned truthfulness are not particularly in vogue.
Yet a concern to speak the utter truth in everything will teach a child better than anything else how to be utterly truthful himself, how to be honest with his own conscience – which is the same thing as being honest with God.
Santa Claus is not a serious lie, but St. Nicholas in his rightful place, gazing with us at the Christ Child, is a much lovelier truth.
One thing, however, it is not cricket to do: go about the neighborhood telling all the children who do believe in Santa Claus that “there is none.”
This kind of revelation is guaranteed to leave nothing but heartache behind. Without proper explanation or background, it is really cheating a child of something he dearly loves.
Most children can learn to keep their own counsel about this; where there is disparity on the subject in the neighborhood, with love and tact the mothers can explain and help prevent unpleasant exchanges.
One of the traps into which most parents of goodwill eventually fall before Christmas has arrived is to shout in the heat of some shortness of tempers: “How do you expect to get presents on Christmas if you aren’t good now?”
No sooner are the words out of your mouth than you could bite off your tongue. But it has been said. The ugly implication is there: you might not get presents for Christmas.
St. Nicholas’s feast is an ideal time for straightening out this problem of being good and not being good before Christmas.
It is true that the issue should have something to do with the end result, but when we threaten this way, we forget that the reason God the Father sent the Christ Child wasn’t because everyone had been good, but because they hadn’t been good.
To transfer the burden of the “be good or else” problem to St. Nicholas is infinitely more comfortable.
Here the threat involves no more than a stockingful of cookies, but it is a prospect sufficiently dreadful to give them pause.
It also involves a happy solution to the naughtiness. No good behavior – no cookies. It usually works (I speak from experience).
The shock of seeing that you meant what you said, of hearing St. Nicholas warn you the night before and discovering he meant what he said, is most salutary.
Most enfants terribles will stand dolefully watching the more virtuous munching their cookies and make a superb effort to mend their ways, and yet the event is not of such magnitude that it leaves any permanent scars.
People always ask how we handle the delicate business of sharing should this occasion produce one or two malcontents without cookies.
We are all, of course, very sad to see they have no cookies, but if it is a warning and a punishment, then it is a warning and a punishment.
Character training is involved, and also your own authority. No cookies – shared or otherwise.
“Where is the busy mother who cannot find time enough to spend thus a few moments every night with each child before it falls asleep, in sweet, loving talk; and tender, earnest prayer? Far down into the years, the memory of such sacred moments will go, proving thousands of times a light in darkness, an inspiration in discouragement, a secret of victory in hard struggle, a hand to restrain from sin in time of fierce temptation.” -J.R. Miller
St. Nicholas Coloring Pages available here.
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Wire wrapping is one of the oldest techniques for making jewelry or rosaries by hand.
Frequently, in this approach, a wire is bent into a loop or other decorative shape and then the wire is wrapped around itself to finish the wire component making that loop or decorative shape permanent.
Because of this technique for wrapping wire around itself this craft is called wire wrapping.
Not only is it quite beautiful but it makes the rosaries sturdy and durable.
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by Father Arthur Tonne, 1950’s
“It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.”
St. John, 1:9.
The story of Erna Bilkau and her so-called Mystic Candles is a tragic yet triumphant one. Born in Russia, she moved to Germany, where she married a German boy. They honeymooned in America, learning to love the land of hope and freedom. Back in Germany she was separated a few years later from her husband by the war.
With her two-year-old son she fled to America. She was making a modest living for herself and her son when he suddenly became seriously ill and passed away at the age of thirteen.
The shock almost drove the mother insane. For months she walked the streets every night, peeking with aching agony into homes where there were children. Friends tried to console her. To no avail.
At last she took refuge with God. She knelt by her bed, and with folded hands asked the Almighty to assist her. Peace and courage came with her prayer. She put up a crudely constructed altar to the memory of her dead boy, and put upon it two lighted candles.
They seemed to give her new hope.
The candles, however, burned down too quickly. She recalled some secrets of candle-making learned from her father. She experimented until she developed a candle that would burn down the center and not burn the outer shell. It gave off a strange mystical glow. She called them her Mystic Candles.
A young couple across the street accepted a few of the candles and found in them the courage to make up the differences that were slowly driving them to divorce. Others wanted candles like them. Others found peace and quiet and courage in having those candles in their homes.
She was swamped with orders. A thriving business developed. In this work she found a release from her overwhelming grief. Today thousands find inspiration and help in the Mystic Candles of Erna Bilkau, the mother who lost a son.
Inspiring as this story may be, it pales before the ageless, world-wide story of the Catholic candle, which you see glowing upon our altars, which you see in every sacrament except Confession.
Allow me to point out that the candle is one of the oldest and most widely used sacramentals in the Church. It is one of the richest religious symbols or instruments used to express spiritual ideas. What does the candle mean? Why do we use them?
The wax, produced by virgin worker bees, is a beautiful figure of the pure body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. The wick represents the soul of Christ; the flame represents His divinity, the fact that He was God. The lighted candle reminds us of Christ’s gospel, the Holy Bible, which dispels the darkness of sin and ignorance; the lighted candle also stands for the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.
For the individual Christian the candle’s flame means the faith that makes us “children of the light”; its warmth and heat show us the fiery tongues of Pentecost, “which does not consume but enlightens.”
When given to the Church, candles signify Christian self-sacrifice.
As the burning taper consumes itself, so the Christian should burn up his energies in serving God.
Light is one of the most fitting and appropriate symbols of God, who is absolutely pure light. Light is pure in itself; light penetrates long distances and into farthest corners; light moves with unbelievable speed; light awakens and nourishes life in the organic kingdom; light brightens with its brilliance all that comes within its influence.
- Holy Scripture makes frequent use of this symbolic meaning:
a.The wisdom of the Son is spoken of as “the brightness of his glory.” Hebrews 1:3.
b.And the psalmist exclaims: “Thou art clothed with light as with a garment.” Psalm 103:2.
- Light also represents the mission of our divine Lord upon earth. The prophet Isaias (9:2) calls Christ a great light and foretells that “to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death light is risen.” The saintly Simeon declared that He is “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” To this St. John added that Christ “was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.” St. John, 1:9.
And Christ says of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” St. John, 8:12.
- Lights are also symbols of respect. They are used on occasions when we wish to show more than ordinary deference to distinguished personages or to holy things. Even the pagans used lights to show honor to their gods and to prominent personages.
The Catholic Church uses blessed beeswax candles at the administration of all the sacraments that are given publicly, except Confession and in private Baptism, when only water is available. She uses them at Mass and Benediction and in other church services like blessings and processions. She gives a lighted candle to the newly baptized with these solemn words:
“Receive this burning light so as to keep thy Baptism without blame. Keep the commandments of God, so that when our Lord shall come to His nuptials thou mayest meet Him together with all the saints….”
And when that Christian is dying we place a candle in his hand. It is not that we need their light, although in the early centuries that was their practical use, in the catacombs, in the caves and underground passages where the first Catholics had to conduct their services.
Mother Church has a higher and a deeper reason than that. She uses every possible means for raising our minds to heaven.
Among the sacramentals the candle is outstanding. We love to look at a candle and see in its soft white wax the pure flesh of our Infant Savior. We see the wick penetrating the wax, and representing the soul of Christ.
Let our candles be true spiritual inspirations to us, even more than the candles of Erna Bilkau were to her friends. Have them in your home. Use them in times peaceful and times perturbed. They represent the true light of the world. Amen.
“The difference between this child and that one is often largely a matter of what he saw in and heard from his parents. His religious response, his sense of honesty, his ability to play with other children and be unselfish toward them, his attitude toward books, his appreciation of the beautiful, his sense of what is right and what is wrong, his quick apprehending of the charming and noble, his ready reaction to music that is good, his approval of heroism and his rejection of evil and cheapness – all these things need to be established in the child’s mind by the parents, who alone can deeply and strong-rootedly establish them!” – Fr. Daniel A. Lord, 1950’s
Lovely gifts! Beautiful and graceful, these Religious necklaces can be worn to show your devotion to your Heavenly Friends! Get it blessed and wear it as a sacramental! Available here.
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Advent season is here!
The time we spend with our families incorporating the rich traditions of the Church will ingrain in our children a love of our Holy Religion. We are creating a legacy that will be passed on through generations…
by Helen McLoughlin
Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year. It is a season of spiritual preparation, marked by eager longing for the coming of the Savior through grace at Christmas, and for His second and final coming. It is also an ideal time to establish in our homes liturgical customs which will restore our children to
In our family we use these age-old Advent practices to help our children live closer to Christ and His Church during the pre-Christmas season. Time-tested and proven, the customs teach the doctrines of redemption and develop a generosity with God and a coordination of the family’s spiritual efforts as effectively now as they did for our forebears. Their strong and living faith will be the heritage of our children if family religious practices, centered in the Liturgy, “the normal school of sanctity for the laity,” become established in our homes.
Secularism has invaded our households. The Bishops of the United
States have warned us that “the Christian must make his home holy–the Christian must realize the Christian ideal.”
Father Edgar Schmiedler, O.S.B., in his three excellent pamphlets, “Your
Home a Church in Miniature,” says of family customs and blessings: “They are a relatively simple, but highly important, means of union between altar and home. They are a media for channeling from one great spiritual reservoir, given into the Church’s keeping by Christ, the living and transforming waters of grace from the Saviour’s fountain.”
Children, who love the beauty and simplicity of family religious practices, make the traditions easy to establish. As a rule it is best to begin with one or two customs and add others in years to come.
It is also highly desirable that families develop their own special customs, at least by adapting traditional ones to their personal circumstances. Once established, customs recall to older members of the family long forgotten practices of their own childhood. These have a special appeal because they belonged to our forefathers and link us to the wealth of national customs now fallen into disuse.
Most popular of the Advent customs handed down to us is the Advent wreath made of evergreens, bound to a circle of wire.
German in origin–it was taken, so we are told, from the pagan fire wheel–the wreath represents the cycle of thousands of years from Adam to Christ during which the world awaited the coming of a Redeemer. It also represents the cycle of years since then that we have been awaiting His second and final coming in glory.
It bears four candles, equally spaced, three purple ones to be lighted on the “penitential” Sundays, and a rose-colored one for Gaudete, the joyful Sunday in Advent. Candles may be placed inside or outside the wreath.
Any kind of Christmas wreath such as those hung in windows may be used. It may be set on a kitchen or dining room table, on an end table in the living room, or in a child’s bedroom. However, it is most appealing when suspended by four purple ribbons from a light fixture in the ceiling.
When our children were small we bought a large, permanently preserved pine wreath and used it year after year. Now that they are going to school they help to make a new one each Advent.
Inexpensive and easy to assemble is the wreath we make from a bunch or two of laurel leaves bound to a circle of wire from coat hangers. The evergreens are secured by fine wire to the circle.
Candles and ribbons are added as the wreath is put together. Laurel is practical because it does not shed when suspended over the dining room table. Moreover, laurel is a symbol of victory, and thus reminds us that Christ’s coming means victory over sin and death.
Loveliest of wreaths and fragrant, too, is one of fresh princess pine. When we use that type, we hang it in the living room and add a single silver star to it each evening inAdvent when the candles are lighted for prayers. Stars are cut from metallic paper.
City dwellers may make an attractive wreath of fireproof green paper, while country folks will find a metal barrel hoop ideal as a frame for whatever evergreens are at hand. In our children’s classrooms in Corpus Christi School, New York City, Advent greens are sometimes kept fresh in inexpensive plastic rings.
The home ceremony for use of the Advent wreath is simple. It consists of Collects, hymns and prayers proper to the Advent season. We have put it together as follows. On the first Sunday of Advent, our family gathers for the blessing of the wreath by father, who begins:
Father: Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
All answer: Who made heaven and earth.
Father: Let us pray. 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. Through Christ our Lord.
He sprinkles the wreath with holy water. Then Myles, our youngest child, lights the first candle, and the prayer for the first week is said.
Father: Let us pray. Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord, and come, so that we may escape through Thy protection and be saved by Thy help from the dangers that threaten us because of our sins. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
During the first week one candle is left burning during the evening meal, at prayers or at bedtime.
Two candles are lit on the second Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer for the week is:
Father: Let us pray. 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 souls. Through the same Christ our Lord.
Three candles, including the rose candle, are lit on Gaudete, the third Sunday, and during that week. The following prayer is said:
Father: Let us pray. We humbly beg Thee, O Lord, to listen to our prayers; and by the grace of Thy coming bring light into our darkened minds. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
All four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer said the fourth week is:
Father: Let us pray. Stir up Thy might, we pray Thee, O Lord, and come; rescue us through Thy great strength so that salvation, which has been hindered by our sins, may be hastened by the grace of Thy gentle mercy. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
At the end of Advent, candles and ribbons are changed to white, evergreens renewed if necessary, and tiny Christmas balls added to decorate the wreath. We hang ours in the entrance hall where it adds a festive note to the house and gives us a chance to explain the wreath to neighbors and tradespeople who have not seen it previously. The wreath, unless it sheds, is kept until Epiphany.
Coloring pages for your children…
Yes, it’s that time of year again when I remind you (and me) to take this season of Advent (starting this Sunday!) to make it special for your family! The magic and charm of Christmas comes from our Catholic Heritage! Let’s monopolize on that!
This is a beautiful devotion that can be made simple! Especially now that I have some printables for you to make it easier!
It’s nice to follow this devotion from a book so consider getting the Finer Femininity Advent/Christmas Maglet.
OR The Catholic Mother’s Traditional Advent Journal which has the devotion on each day of Advent!
This is a custom we have kept throughout the years. It is a beautiful little devotion preparing our hearts for the coming of Our Lord at Christmas.
You can do the special activities indicated each day in this devotion in your own manger scene, using your imagination. When my older ones were young we made a 3D stable out of heavy cardboard and added the different themes each day…whether it was drawing in the cobwebs or making paper doll figurines for the nativity scene.
Or you can do what we have done the last few years. We put up 4 big white posterboard papers on an empty wall to make a big blank paper just waiting for the crayons and sharpies to make their mark! (You can make it as big or small as you like, using just one or two posterboards.) Each morning we draw the part of the manger scene that is applicable to that day.
I usually do the drawing in pencil then the child whose day it is traces it with colored markers and colors it in.
OR, (and I wish to thank my friend, Mary Ann for for this!!), you can use these Stable printables, get your children to color them on the day they go into the stable, and voila! you can add them to your Nativity scene!
We also print out (or write out) the special prayer for the day and put the assigned one up so we can say it throughout the day.
Here’s the devotion:
Start on December 1.
Read the thought indicated
about Christ’s first crib.
Practice it during the day. Do this daily during
December and make your heart a worthy crib for
Christ on Christmas Day.
DEC.1 – THE STABLE
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the
little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home. –
Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and
DEC.2 – THE ROOF
See that the roof of the stable is in good
condition, so that the Infant Jesus is protected
from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully
avoiding every uncharitable remark. —Jesus,
teach me to love my neighbor as myself.
DEC.3 – CREVICES
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the
stable, so that the wind and cold may not enter
there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard
especially your ears against sinful
conversations.–Jesus, help me to keep
temptations out of my heart.
DEC.4 – COBWEBS
Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib.
Diligently remove from your heart every
inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this
intention at least three times today. —My Jesus,
I want to please You in all I do today.
DEC.5 – FENCE
Build a fence about the crib of your heart by
keeping a strict watch over your eyes, especially
at prayer. —Sweet Jesus, I long to see You.
DEC.6 – MANGER
Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart
for the manger of Jesus. You will do so by
abstaining from what you like most in the line of
comfort and amusement. —Mary, use these
sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in
DEC.7 – HAY
Supply the manger of your heart with hay, by
overcoming all feelings of pride, anger or envy.
Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest
DEC.8 – SOFT STRAW
Provide your manger with soft straw by
performing little acts of mortification; for
instance, bear the cold without complaints; or sit
and stand erect. —Dear Jesus, Who suffered so
much for me, let me suffer for love of You.
DEC.9 – SWADDLING CLOTHES
Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding
your hands when you pray, and praying slowly and
thoughtfully. —Jesus let me love you more and
DEC.10 – BLANKETS
Provide the manger with soft warm
blankets. Avoid harsh and angry words; be kind and
gentle to all. —Jesus, help me to be meek and
humble like You.
DEC.11 – FUEL
Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own
will; obey your superiors cheerfully and
promptly. —Jesus, let me do Your will in all
Bring fresh clean water to the crib. Avoid every
untruthful word and every deceitful act.
—Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for
DEC.13 – PROVISIONS
Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive
yourself of some food at mealtime or candy as a
treat. —Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.
DEC.14 – LIGHT
See that the crib has sufficient light. Be
neat and orderly about your person; keep
everything in its place in your room. —Jesus, be
the life and light of my soul.
DEC.15 – FIRE
Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed
by a cozy fire. Be grateful to God for the love He
has shown us in becoming man; behave with grateful
respect towards your parents and relatives. —
Jesus, how can I return Your love; how can I show
my gratitude to You?
DEC.16 – THE OX
Lead the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without
making excuses and without asking “why.” —I will
obey for love of You, Jesus.
DEC.17 – THE DONKEY
Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine
Infant your bodily strength; use it in the service
of others. —Jesus, accept my service of love;
I offer it for those who do not love You.
DEC.18 – GIFTS
Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and
His Blessed Mother. Give alms for the poor and say
an extra decade of the rosary. —Come, Jesus, to
accept my gifts and to take possession of my heart.
DEC.19 – LAMBS
Strive to bring some little lambs, meek and
and patient. Do not murmur or complain.
my heart like Yours.
DEC.20 – SHEPHERDS
Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn
King. Imitate their watchfulness; stress in your
speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is
important because Jesus will be born again in
Jesus, teach me to love You above all things.
DEC.21 – THE KEY
Provide the stable with a key to keep out
thieves. Exclude from your heart every sinful
thought, every rash judgment —Dear Jesus, close
my heart to all that hurts you.
DEC.22 – ANGELS
Invite the angels to adore God with you.
Cheerfully obey the inspirations of
your guardian angel and of your conscience. —
Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that You
are with me always.
DEC.23 – ST. JOSEPH
Accompany Saint Joseph from door to door. Learn
from him silently and patiently to bear refusals
and disappointments. Open wide your heart and beg
Him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
—Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy
DEC.24 – THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the
manger of your heart and beg her to lay the
Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and
telephone conversations and spend more time today
thinking of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
—Come, dear Jesus, Come; my heart belongs to You.
As Advent approaches, and if you are using my Catholic Mother’s Traditional Advent Journal (if you are not, this tidbit is still a good reminder), you will want to peek at the following page. It will help you to get the things together you will need to do the Advent Traditions in the book. If there are some activities you are not doing then check or cross them off this list. We do them all but that is optional. Pick and choose as you see fit…
Tomorrow is the start of the St. Andrew Novena! Don’t forget! Say this prayer 15 times from Nov. 30th to (and including) Dec. 24th.
You can print out this page from my Advent Journal and write down your petitions!
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, may your day be filled with blessings! And thank you for your prayers for Rosie. I will keep you updated…
Below are some inspirational quotes for your day and then a small gallery of our November.
Mothers, today on Thanksgiving, know how very special you are. You are the essence, the heart of your home. Your smile lightens the burdens, your words brighten the hearts of those who will be part of your festivities. The tone of this special family time is set by you! We, as mothers, are privileged to have such an important part in the making of our homes! May your day be filled with grace and love! <3
This Thanksgiving let us offer up our little inconveniences, our stresses, our fatigue for those less fortunate than ourselves. And, on the flip side, let’s start becoming more aware of the little things and thanking God for them.
“After committing a fault of whatever kind, rather than withdrawing into ourselves indefinitely in discouragement and dwelling on the memory, we must immediately return to God with confidence and even thank Him for the good that His mercy will be able to draw out of this fault!
We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.”
Searching For and Maintaining Peace, Fr. Jacques Philippe https://amzn.to/2pSwDmQ (afflink)
Thank God for His many blessings. Make the most of each and every day. Enjoy the journey. The world will keep whizzing by but we must take time to smell the roses. Each day is a gift, each person in your life is special. Take nothing for granted.
“For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy!” ❤❤❤-St. Therese of Lisieux
Be attentive to the sacrifices your husband makes for the family. Each day he battles the world, the flesh and the devil out in the workforce for you. Don’t let that go unnoticed. Thank him often! Appreciate him. -Finer Femininity
Black Friday Sale!
$75.00 Package Deal Discount on all my books! (Catholic Wife’s Maglet included though not pictured). Available now through Sunday here.
And now a gallery…. (click on the first picture to view)
This is a post on Catholic customs…a very important part of our spiritual walk with our families….
Just an aside….Advent is around the corner and it is always nice to be prepared. Many years I put off getting things together because there is so much going on! But if we can think a bit each day about this wonderful season that is approaching, the things we want to accomplish, what materials we will need, and get it together before that first Sunday of Advent (Dec. 2nd this year), we will breathe a huge sigh of relief.
If you have been following my site, you may have adopted some of the customs we talk about here. So, I am going to post this page from my Traditional Advent Journal to get you thinking. You can print it out as a checklist on what to get together before Advent arrives…
Digital version the Catholic Mother’s Traditional Advent Journal here.
From A Candle is Lighted, P. Stewart Craig
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. And not only parents can do this, but anyone who works with young people and children, whether in school or clubs or any type of organization.
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.
“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.”
Visit Finer Femininity on Facebook. It is full of quotes and inspirations to brighten your day!
“These diapers that are changed daily, these meals that are cooked again and again, these floors that are scrubbed today only to get dirty tomorrow — these are as truly prayer in a mother’s vocation as the watches and prayers of the religious are in theirs.” -Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children http://amzn.to/2vBGgH7 (afflink)
Prepare now for Advent and Christmas! This little Maglet (magazine/booklet) is full of inspiration and devotions for your Advent and Christmas Season! Check it out here.
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