“I have no gift to bring…that’s fit to give the king.” -The Little Drummer Boy
What do I have to give to the Lord this Christmas? It’s a question I find myself asking as we hum along the Advent season. Amidst the beautiful lights, the Advent wreaths, the Christmas trees, and the dark nights, I turn to different types of Christmas music to help me prepare for the coming of Jesus.
I love the enchanting songs and hymns written specifically to prepare us for this season. I love songs like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “What Child is This?” and “O Holy Night.”
But lately, as I’ve been reflecting on what I have to give the Lord this Christmas, I think of another of my favorite songs: The Little Drummer Boy.
It’s a simple song. A little drummer boy is invited to meet the Newborn King and offers to play for him. It’s a touching story that has become almost like a Lectio Divina meditation of the birth of Christ for me throughout the years. This song places me easily within the scene: a cold, dark night, the smell of strewn hay, the breath of cattle, a humble couple, a group of shepherds, and then, a manger holding Christ Himself: the Creator, the Savior of the World, the King of Kings.
In my meditation, I take the place of the little drummer boy. He, like Jesus, is poor and humble. Upon seeing the gifts of the magi and the recipient of the gifts, he reflects, “I have no gift to bring…that’s fit to give the king.” He has no frankincense or myrrh, no gold or silver. He has only himself and his drum.
Most of us are like the little drummer boy. The question he asks is the question that resounds in each of our hearts. What could we possibly give to the God of everything? What gift could we bring that’s fit to give the King?
The drum of the little drummer boy symbolizes his gifts and talents. It is perhaps his singular greatest treasure. And so, in his humility, with love and tenderness, he offers the Christ Child all he has: a song on his drum. The song almost prefigures the coins of the widow in the Gospel of Mark. The little drummer boy, like the widow, gives his greatest treasure. In response to the widow’s offering, Christ says, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest.” Christ’s smile in the song of the Little Drummer Boy seems to signify the same.
These are the greatest gifts the Lord asks of us: what we hold most dear, the beautiful gifts and talents he has bestowed on us, what makes us ourselves. We love him best, we glorify him best, when we give of ourselves and strive each day to become the man or woman he has created us to be.
What can we give the Newborn King this Christmas? Our hard work, our sleepless nights, our chores around the house, the virtues we’re working to perfect, our acts of faith, hope, and love. We can give him our time in prayer, our offerings at Mass, our acts of service to those around us, our talents in art, business, and sports.
The little drummer boy’s reward for his performance is the smile of Jesus. What a touching, beautiful reward! It has led me to wonder what I can do for God each day to make Him smile. Imagine if this were what motivated each member of the Body of Christ – what a vibrant Church of missionary disciples we would have! May this be our goal during the Advent season: to make the Christ Child smile in the giving of ourselves. As we continue to prepare for the coming of Jesus on Christmas, I invite you to reflect on what you have to give the Newborn King. What is your drum? What can you do throughout this season to honor Christ? What are a few ways you can make the child Jesus smile?
For more resources to guide you through the Advent season, click here.
Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold: your king is coming to you,
a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
So begins the first liturgy of Holy Week on Palm Sunday. We hear these words referenced in the first of an unusual two Gospel readings during the procession into the church. We start our celebration of Palm Sunday, appropriately, by proclaiming and then reenacting the story in Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, a moment of great joy and excitement for the inhabitants of the city. Those in the congregation welcome the priest, who enters the church in persona Christi, as we echo the words of the people of Jerusalem, “Hosanna in the highest!” What a happy occasion! The Messiah, the One whom the prophets foretold, has come!
How fickle this joy seems, though, when we get to the Passion narrative. In a matter of minutes, we go from crying, “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” One minute, we’re giving Jesus a king’s welcome. The next, we’re condemning Him to death. I know I’m not the only one who feels a dagger through his heart every time we say—loudly—that refrain of condemnation. How dare I welcome Christ with such exuberance, knowing what I’m about to do to Him? Quite the emotional roller coaster, with Mass only halfway over!
Holy Week is exhausting. I find it the most taxing part of the liturgical year. Starting with Palm Sunday, I’m attending Masses, praying the Stations of the Cross, and singing with the choir for days on end, practically turning the Triduum into a 3-day long vigil. In recent years, I’ve taken to spending Good Friday on pilgrimage to the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., to place myself in an intentional state of prayer and reflection.
So why do I do this to myself? Why get on this roller coaster and make myself so physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained by the time Easter morning arrives? Quite simply, it’s because I love it. It’s the most rewarding experience of prayer that I have all year.
On Palm Sunday, we’re reminded of what we’ll bear witness to in the days to come. We’re invited to reflect on what’s about to be re-presented in a real-time reenactment of the focal point of Christ’s entire earthly life.
At the Chrism Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday, we bear witness to the consecration of holy oils for use in the upcoming year’s sacraments. We also see the gathering of all our diocesan priests, who renew their vows and participate in probably the largest concelebration of the year. It’s a moving and impressive sight.
Later on Holy Thursday, we see the reenactment of the Last Supper, the very institution of the Eucharist we celebrate to this day. We’re reminded, too, of the great humility we’re called to emulate: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
On Good Friday, we once again take up the cries of, “Crucify him!” as we see the events of Christ’s Passion and death unfold before our eyes. We’re called toward the sanctuary to kiss the gruesome device of our salvation, the ancient instrument of punishment used to redeem all of mankind. And after an unceremonious Communion service, the liturgy suddenly pauses and we just go home. The Church holds its breath as we wait.
And then, finally, the Easter Vigil—the happiest day of the year, of all history! We hear the no longer fickle, but truly joyous words of the Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation:
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
If I arrive at Easter morning feeling exhausted but strengthened, it means that I've truly entered into Holy Week, walking with Christ as He always walks with me. This Holy Week, may we walk more closely with Christ on His journey towards the cross, knowing that this journey continues with His resurrection. It is Christ's resurrection, His triumph over sin and death, that gives our Lenten journey meaning and enables us to exult with the Church and be glad!
Question for Reflection: How can you enter more deeply into Holy Week in order to better celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday?
For more resources to prepare you for Holy Week and Easter, please click here.
There’s something to be said for silence. In the absence of vocalizations or other sounds, one can focus more intently in his or her surroundings. At first, it may seem uncomfortable, especially if one is usually talkative and used to a noisy environment. At the same time, one might have difficulty focusing his or her thoughts in silence, suddenly having to contend with an onslaught of mental distractions. Especially in today’s society, one is constantly bombarded with external messages, symbols, and other stimuli in a magnitude never encountered previously. In one way or another, we have become numb.
We now find ourselves nearly halfway through Advent, a period of reflection, meditation, and waiting in anticipation of the solemn celebration of the nativity of our Lord. While the rest of the culture may be focused on shopping for gifts and decorating for the holidays, the faithful are called to contemplate the gift of Love made incarnate in a most humble setting over two thousand years ago. Throughout the liturgical year, but especially during this time of Advent, I find that removing myself from the demands of the world and replacing them with the stillness of Bethlehem is not only refreshing, but also an effective catalyst for drawing more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
How can silence help us dwell in this mystery? For one, sacred Scripture contains numerous accounts of how effective silence is for drawing one nearer to God and neighbor. Actually, one of my favorite biblical passages illustrates the friends of the greatly afflicted Job sharing in his miseries through their silent presence: “They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13). God is not just with us, however, in moments of suffering or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, moments of majestic power and glory. God’s love continuously invites us to draw near to Him in our daily lives as well. Remember that the prophet Elijah experienced God in the sound of a gentle breeze blowing, not in the preceding bursts of wind, earthquake, or fire (1 Kings 19:11-13).
While silence can be beneficial to one’s spiritual life, it itself is not the end of contemplation or meditation. Rather, the focus remains, as it is for all prayer, communication with God. Silence, then, is a medium for encountering God, just as music or the spoken word is employed in liturgy. There are times when words are insufficient or music fails to strike the right chords. In these cases, a silent presence can be the most appropriate expression of closeness, such as in hospice, a cemetery, nursery, hospital, or any other place where the ministry of presence is desired. Similarly, as I prepare myself for a Holy Hour of silent adoration before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I remind myself of the importance of placing myself before God’s presence. Sometimes, a tender gaze of love can be a beautiful prayer in itself.
As we continue to wait and reflect during the beginning of the new liturgical year for Christmas, let us pray to be able to free our minds from the things of this world that may distract us from seeking our “heavenly peace,” that is, union with God, the Word Incarnate, Emmanuel. For it was indeed a silent night, as the carol goes, during which our Savior came into this world and the shepherds and magi adored him. The wonder and awe of the miracle had passed over the scholars and authority figures and was instead “given to the childlike” to experience and behold for themselves (Matthew 11:25). In silence, our joy is not diminished, nor is our love any less potent, but through it we can continue to focus our attention and energy towards adoring the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: Jesus Christ, true God and true man.
To celebrate the Catholic Apostolate Center passing 50,000 "likes" on Facebook, Communications and Social Media Intern Andrew Buonopane created a list of 50 Ways to Enjoy your Faith. This is the third post in a five-part series where we'll share the whole list. Check back on the first Tuesday of the month for another installment!
#29 - Devotion to St. Joseph
St. Joseph is a great role model for all Catholics. Through his devotion to Mary and Jesus St. Joseph teaches us about familial love. The month of March celebrates St. Joseph including on his feast day on March 19th!
#28 - Learn what it means to be priest, prophet, and king
We often hear about Christ being referred to as priest, prophet, and king, but did you know that these three titles can also apply to other areas of the Church as well? Take some time to research how you can live out the role of priest, prophet, and king in your own life.
#27 - Assume the best intentions
It’s easy to rush to judgment, but sometimes we can be too hasty. This Lenten season, instead of getting frustrated and making quick judgments, try to see the best in everyone even when it is difficult.
#26 - Learn about the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization is talked about a lot, but have you taken the time to learn more about it and how you can be a model of the New Evangelization in your own life? Try checking out our New Evangelization Resource page to learn more!
#25 - Make a friend!
We can often become comfortable in our social lives, sticking with the people we are comfortable with. But making new friends is rewarding (even if it can be difficult to do). Try making a new friend this month and see how new a relationship can enrich your life.
#24 – Take a friend to Mass
Try inviting someone new to Mass this Sunday. Perhaps they are Catholic and haven’t been to Mass in a while or perhaps they have never been before.
#23 - Liturgy of the Hours
Have you ever prayed liturgy of the hours before? If not try it! Liturgy of the Hours is a great way to keep prayer a part of your entire day. For more information check out our Prayer and Catechesis resource page!
#22 – Rosary
The Rosary is a great way to show devotion to the Blessed Mother. If it’s been a while since you last prayed a Rosary, pray one this week!
#21 - Faith & Reason
Faith and Reason often can often be painted as at odds with each other. But in fact, they are very complementary. If it’s not something you’ve thought about before, check out this article where Pope Francis discusses how faith and reason intersect.
To read the previous installment in this series, click here: Part I | Part II
Andrew Buonopane is the Communications and Social Media Intern at the Catholic Apostolate Center
This past Sunday, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. On this solemnity, the Church recalls the sovereignty of our Lord over the universe and in our hearts. We are called to look forward to the “definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ”, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI identified as “the ultimate goal of history”. Having been with the Father at the very beginning, when the world was “without form or shape” will fully manifest His lordship at the end of time (cf Genesis 1:2). This past Sunday’s reading from St. Matthew’s gospel presents the great scene of this final judgment, where He who “sits upon His glorious throne with all the nations gathered before Him” will separate the “sheep from the goats”, that is, identify those who have recognized and accepted the Word of God and its messengers and those who rejected it (Matthew 24:31-32). The point of the Gospel, is not so much identifying who are the sheep and who are the goats, but, as Pope Francis noted, determining whether we live our lives in “imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which He brought about His kingdom. “
Christ’s reign is unlike any earthly notion of kingship (cf. Matthew 21:1-11). He completely identifies Himself with the poor, the sick, and the afflicted. He does not ignore the weak, the needy, or the marginalized. Christ’s kingdom is one of love, service, and Truth, not one built up by weapons, violence, or a lust for power. Unfortunately, Christ’s contemporaries frequently misunderstood the kingdom being preached as an earthly, political one. After the multiplication of the loaves, for example, the masses were so enthralled by the miracle that they wanted to declare Jesus as their king on the spot to overthrow Roman rule. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, a zealous Peter begins to fight those who came to arrest Jesus. Both times, Jesus knows the will of His Father must be completed: He withdraws to pray in the first instance, and, after rebuking Peter, submits to the mob in the second. Hearing of a new kingdom and servants, the Pontius Pilate has Jesus presented before him, but is taken aback at what he sees: the one who dared to challenge the might of Rome has been abandoned by his followers, and his enemies are crying for a most humiliating execution (cf. John 18:37). The Roman governor asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v. 33). In spite of the injury and insult He is suffering, Jesus clarifies the nature of His kingship, which is no worldly power but a Love which serves. He states that His kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world… is not from the world” (v. 36).
The kingdom that Christ inaugurates is universal. It is not confined to political borders or a single ethnic group but rather, it is universal and communal by being present among those who love as He loved, and serve as He served. In seeking the Kingdom of God, one only has to look towards those who are suffering hardship in their lives. How can one hope to enter the Kingdom based on justice, love, and peace, if that person turns a blind eye to the needs of his neighbors (cf. Luke 10:25-37)? Mother Teresa addressed this hypocrisy:
It is not enough for us to say, “I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.”… How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?
How, then, can we prepare for this Kingdom? Our Faith is not one we keep to ourselves, but something we are meant— and commanded— to share and give witness to every moment of our lives (cf. Matthew 28:19). We can bring others to Christ by our love, our service, and our humility, placing the needs of others, especially the marginalized, above our own. In doing so, and by forgoing the allures of worldly power and riches, we make ourselves ready for the greater Kingdom and Glory that Christ has promised us. And when each of us stands before Him at the Final Judgment and renders an account of the life we spent in imitation of our Lord, we can hope to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant! ... Come, share your master’s joy!” (Matthew 25:21).
Thomas Wong is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
For more information on bringing Christ’s love to others, check out the Catholic Apostolate Center’s New Evangelization Resource Page!
A few weeks ago my first niece was born. Needless to say, the pride of being an aunt flooded me and the joy of this news was shared with every person I spoke to. In these conversations I had one of those “you know you are a Catholic when” moments. The question that persistently followed “What is her name?” was “When is she going to be baptized?” This got me to think, “What’s the big deal?” And then the Holy Spirit hit me with, “PRIEST, PROPHET and KING!”
In infant baptism, we are not only cleansed of original sin and saved from “eternal damnation.” We are chosen and claimed. When immersed into the water with the Trinitarian rite – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – baptism is signifying and actually bringing about “death to sin and entry into the life of the Most Holy Trinity through configuration to the Paschal mystery of Christ” (CCC 1239).
But our rite doesn’t end there. As. Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, puts it, “we are then slathered in Jesus gel and given a crown of royalty.” In being anointed with Sacred Chrism, we are chosen by God, claimed by Christ and through the Holy Spirit are named priest, prophet and king (CCC 1241).
St. Francis de Sales writes, “Be who you are, and be that well.” We, as baptized, are priests. We are prophets. We are royalty. The call as baptized disciples is to live these attributes and to live them well. Lumen Gentium explains that by our priestly duty we are called to “consecrate the world itself to God” (LG 34) through our works, prayers, activities, and daily responsibilities. It explains that as prophets we are to announce Jesus Christ by life and word and be witnesses to “life springing forth from faith (LG 35).” And lastly, that as His disciples we are named as His kings so that we too “might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life [we] might conquer the reign of sin in [ourselves]” (LG 36).
This winter, my niece will join us in our royal dignity and become a priest, prophet and king! At that time I will begin to tell her, “Be who you are, and be that well,” and will continue to say that as she grows. The challenging part will be looking at myself as a Baptized Catholic and answering the question, “Am I being who I am – priest, prophet and king – and being that well?”
Pam Tremblay is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.