As we start 2022, the lives of the saints can be an inspiration for us in our faith journey this year. Today we celebrate St. André Bessette and tomorrow we celebrate St. Raymond of Penyafort. While they lived two very different lives, they help show us that there is a unique path to holiness for each of us. On January 17th we will celebrate St. Anthony who is known as the founder of modern-day monasticism in the 4th century. Then, at the end of the month we will celebrate St. Marianne Cope and St. Angela Merici, both female religious whose lives we can look to this new year.
Saints We Celebrate Today and Tomorrow
Today, January 6th, we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette. Brother André was a brother in the Congregation of the Holy Cross in the 19th and 20th century in Canada. He had a great devotion to St. Joseph which led him to recommend devotion to St. Joseph to those who were sick. This led to Brother André’s reputation as a miracle worker. Even as his reputation grew, he remained devoted to St. Joseph and made sure he was the center of his ministry. Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort. St. Raymond is known for his work compiling canon laws and he is known as the patron saint of canon lawyers. Both of these saints came to know Christ in radically different ways and had very different life paths, but they both lived their lives for Christ. I find their feast days back-to-back particularly inspirational that Christ has a unique path to holiness for each of us.
St. Anthony the Great
St. Anthony the Great lived in Egypt in the 3rd and 4th centuries and is known as the father of monasticism. Last year, I had to read the Life of Anthony written by St. Athanasius. It is the source for most of what we know about St. Anthony and helped spread St. Anthony’s life to other monks. Even though I had to read it for class, I found my own faith being strengthen by this ancient text. What particularly stood out to me in the text was that even though St. Anthony wanted to be a monk and removed from earthly distractions, he recognized where God was calling him and followed His will. Many of the stories for the Life of Anthony have helped me grow in my own faith and realize that even when I sometimes want to be far removed from a situation, we ultimately need to listen for God’s will for us. I encourage you to prayerfully read through the Life of Anthony this new year.
Inspirational Female Religious
On January 23rd we will celebrate the feast of St. Marianne Cope. She is known for working with St. Damien in the leper colony at Molokai. Even though working with leprosy suffers could be dangerous, St. Marianne Cope led her religious community to helping the king of Hawaii with Molokai. She took on the challenge and devoted her life to caring for leprosy sufferers, recognizing that they were not defined by their illness. Her courage and dedication can be an inspiration to us this new year.
Then, on January 27th we will celebrate St. Angela Merici. She founded the Company of St. Ursula which became a religious community that was focused on the education of young girls. Like St. Marianne Cope many centuries after her, St. Angela Merici had the courage and dedication to found this community and focus on girls’ education even at a time when this was not very common. Let us pray for the intercession of both of these saints for the same courage and dedication they showed throughout their lives.
In the beginning of this new year, let us pray for the intercession of these and all the saints to help us grow in our relationship with God and to follow His will.
To learn more about the saints, visit our Catholic Feast Days Website by clicking here.
To view a calendar of the feast days in January, and each month, click here.
“The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), whom we celebrate on January 4, holds the distinction of being the first native-born American saint. Looking back over her great achievements (which include planting the seeds of Catholic education in America and founding a religious order, the Daughters of Charity), what is so special and relevant about Mother Seton is how ordinary her holiness was.
From Wall Street to Italy, from Baltimore to rural Emmitsburg, MD, Elizabeth initially lead a privileged life, but always remained humble and grounded. After becoming a widow with five children at only 28 years old, she eventually moved her young family to Emmitsburg and founded a religious order and Catholic school. After the death of her husband, her life was difficult, filled with personal trials and hardships. Yet, through all of it, she demonstrated constant dedication to discerning and pursuing the will of God, or, as she simply called it, “The Will.” In fact, it is through looking at how Elizabeth sought God’s will in the toughest moments of life that we stand to learn the most from her remarkable, yet ordinary life.
“God, forgive what I have been, correct what I am, and direct what I shall be.”
Humans are creatures of habit, which makes change a scary thing. God certainly called St. Elizabeth to change directions many times over the course of her life, even change her vocation! Elizabeth remained faithful and constant in the moment, while exercising abandonment to the will of God to respond freely as her circumstances changed. Elizabeth demonstrates how we do not become saints overnight, but grow through a day-by-day process of seeking forgiveness and correction every step of the way.
Faithfulness in Failure
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
Growing up in a prosperous family, Elizabeth enjoyed a happy and fruitful marriage, blessing her with five children. Together with her husband William, to whom she was very much in love, they inherited a successful business on Wall Street. But in a short period of time, all that changed. William’s business failed and went bankrupt.
Elizabeth knew success very early on, but learned firsthand the difference between success and faithfulness. As an American saint, Elizabeth powerfully challenges the American tendency to view outward success as an indisputable sign of God’s grace. The experience awakened in Elizabeth a newfound love of the poor, as well as a deeper understanding of the will of God in the midst of many obstacles and difficulties on the path to a holy life.
Trust During Tragedy
“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”
Not long after her family went bankrupt, Elizabeth and her husband William moved to Italy, where he became sick and died of Tuberculosis. Elizabeth had already lost her mother and sister early in life. Following her husband’s death, Elizabeth found consolation and hope in visiting and praying in various churches throughout Italy, and felt especially drawn to the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary even though she was still Episcopalian. Her experience planted seeds for her entrance into the Catholic Church.
Many of us, myself included, have experienced tragedy strike at the heart of a family. Elizabeth demonstrates that tragedy, though profoundly shaking, need not lead to despair, but an invitation to rely even more on the will of God.
Rejoice Despite Rejection
“Afflictions are the steps to heaven.”
When news of Elizabeth’s conversion in 1805 became public, many parents removed their children from the school where Elizabeth taught in Baltimore (after returning from Italy) and other friends no longer associated with her. Used to being a well-liked socialite, this experience must have been painful. Despite feelings of rejection, Elizabeth did not become bitter, defensive, or lose her natural joy and generosity. Instead, Elizabeth teaches us that following the will of God opens us to greater love and acceptance of others, not enmity with them.
The tragedies and setbacks in Elizabeth’s life were not enough to keep her from trusting the will of God. In her own words, “God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Let us approach this new year as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton would have, eager to both desire and do the will of God. Consider starting off 2017 with this novena to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton starting tomorrow, January 4th. Pray in a special way to desire, know, and follow the will of God as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!
For more resources on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, click here.
For more resources on the saints, visit our Feast Day Website.
January 1, Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, one of the holy days of obligation in the Church. This celebration is a special way to celebrate Mary’s special role in God’s plan in the Christmas story, as well as a way to start the year full of grace, ready to tackle those New Year’s resolutions. Although the practice of New Year’s resolutions is not distinctly Christian, our resolutions gain a new significance when we attend to Mary’s story.
Discern Your Resolutions
The story of Mary’s call to motherhood is a paradigm of Biblical discernment. When Mary received Gabriel’s announcement, “She was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). In faith, Mary wrestles with God’s calling. Even after her great “Yes,” and giving birth, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), revealing she is still learning what her vocation means and how to live it.
What’s this got to do with New Year’s resolutions? Discernment is a spiritual, prayerful decision-making process between possible courses of action. What specific habits or practices is God calling you to work on this year? There are plenty of worthwhile resolutions—there’s a million things I need work on—but it’s just not all possible to accomplish in a year, or ever. Prioritize resolutions that strengthen your personal vocation.
Expect Without Expectations
Mary’s faith is “expectant” but without “expectations.” In other words, Mary expects God to act in her life, but doesn’t place limitations on who, what, when, and where. Mary trusts the angel Gabriel’s words, “nothing will be impossible for God” and is free to live and say, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:37-38).
Maybe God will bring about the outcomes of your resolution through unexpected ways or people. That’s the way it often works in scripture and the lives of the Saints. When you give God permission to act on his terms, you are free to boldly expect that God will do new and great things in your life this year.
Make Room For Others
Even free from original sin, God uses other people to accomplish his plan in Mary’s life. Mary’s story was made possible through her reliance upon truthful friends and family. Her cousin Elizabeth speaks truth and hope into her situation (Luke 1:42), and her husband Joseph goes to heroic lengths to let God’s call come to fruition.
Share your resolution with someone you trust. Whether it’s a major lifestyle change or not, ask them to keep you accountable, and always with prayer. Accountability also prevents goals from becoming purely self-centered or even idols from seeking God first (e.g., just to impress people at the beach). No one can accomplish your resolution for you, but you can find people to accomplish it with you.
Resolve to Live the Truth
Mary shows the true path by always making everything about Jesus. “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). A true personal change will always lead us to more fully reflect our true identities as sons and daughters created in the image and likeness of God.
But the truth is, sometimes resolutions are born of self-loathing or lies we’ve bought instead of the desire to more fully reflect God’s truth. This often happens with body or image-related resolutions; to be thinner, smarter, stronger, etc. While these aren’t de facto bad things, the tendency becomes seeking physical solutions for a spiritual or psychological wound that really needs healing. That’s why discernment with spiritual direction and honest accountability is vital. Exercise programs or supplements say we should consult a physician first- but it’s also true when it applies to spiritual exercises for our soul! Mary and the saints save us from spiritual self-medication, which close us off from the Divine Physician.
**This post was originally published on 12/30/2015.
As we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas, I find myself grateful that the Church has established the liturgical calendar in such a way as to help shake us out of our spiritual complacency. The high-points of the Church year—and the larger Christian experience— are referenced so much in our Faith that we may sometimes find ourselves on spiritual autopilot. Before we know it, we might find that solemnities are immediately upon us (or past us), and we feel that we could have benefited from more spiritual preparation. This year, I was looking for a clear and direct theme I could really focus on as Christmas approached. I came across some writings of Venerable Servant of God Fulton Sheen that called to mind certain details of Scripture that my eyes (and spiritual life) might typically gloss over. Recalling the helpless innocence of the Christ-child ready to be born of Mary, Sheen related Mary and Joseph’s plight in searching for late-night shelter in Bethlehem to the lack of hearts open to God which can offer the King of Kings and Lord of Lords a place to dwell and reign:
[W]hen finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest lines of all will be: ‘There was no room in the inn.’ The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there’s no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is the place for outcasts, the ignored, and the forgotten… The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God-Made-Man is invited to enter into His own world through a back door.
With all the seasonal emphasis on gifts and personal generosity, I am especially touched by that first line and the reality that there was no room made available for the arrival of the long-awaited Son of God. How often do we hear calls to be watchful and ready for the Second Coming of Christ; that is, to be repentant of sin and committed to pursuing holiness? This preparation is what the first part of the Advent season is all about. When we are called before the Final Judgement seat of the Most High, and God Himself shows us what we did or did not do for Him in our earthly encounters with the people in our lives, will we say that it was too difficult or inconvenient to take up what we knew was expected of us? All of the baptized are called to be missionary disciples—people who spread the joy of the Gospel by their very lives. We can bring others into an encounter with the Living God—or at least instill a sense of hope, dignity, and love in those who are in need—in the workplace, at home, in our neighborhoods, in our parishes, and within our families. In doing so, we make room in the inn of our hearts for the Christ-child.
Without Christ present in our hearts and at the core of our being, we will find ourselves serving a different master—be it vices, worldly pleasures, fleeting successes or honors, or other vanities. Just as the innkeepers of Bethlehem two-thousand years ago declined to open their doors to the Holy Family, so too do each of us have the choice either to be seduced by the empty promises of the world or to pursue a life of holiness and of speaking the Truth among the doubtful, suspicious, hateful, or unrepentant.
This Christmas season, let us allow Christ into our lives in order to bring him to others. Let us preach the Gospel with our lives and seek to always make room for him in the inn of our hearts. Christmas is a time for celebration! We rejoice that the Lord God Himself took on human nature and was born as a helpless Child into the world He created in order to free us from sin and death and invite us to live with Him forever. The occasion of Christmas encourages each of us to be a welcoming soul to the Lord rather than one who closed their doors to the Holy Family that holy night:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
And let it begin with me. Amen.
 Sheen, Fulton. “Life of Christ” (1954).
 cf. Matthew 25:40.
**This post was originally published on 12/27/2019.
It is just a couple of days before Christmas and the sparkle and bright lights of the season have been adorned in homes, neighborhoods, and towns all over the country for weeks now. Trees are trimmed, lights are hung, special foods baked, festive music plays, and gifts are purchased and wrapped. It is the season of light, but as Christians, are we receiving Christmas or are we giving it? Are we soaking in the bright warmth of all the lights – or are we being lights? The older I get, the more mindful I am of what that first gift of Christmas helps us to be. Christmas is a gift to be received deep in our hearts and then to be shared. The first gift of Christmas is love: love incarnate, love divine. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to walk with us and instruct us how to be light in a world filled with darkness.
Unwrapping the gift of Jesus is our most important mission as Christians. We revel at the manger and are filled with warmth and joy at the birth of a newborn baby. But, we must fully comprehend the entirety of the Christmas story that brings the baby from the manger in Bethlehem to the man who was sacrificed on the hill in Calvary to ransom us from the darkness of our sin.
“Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians fear; for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading:
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through, the cross be born, for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”
William C. Dix
‘What Child Is This?’
As we enter into this holy season of light, we celebrate all the richness it bestows in our hearts and souls. Let us not forget amidst the glittery enhancements we have placed on this holiday that it is a sacred holy day- the birthday of our Savior! We receive His love that came down from heaven to earth and we rejoice in the fullness of that gift opening the door to our eternal salvation! When we really grasp the immensity of this gift, we cannot help but want to share it with everyone around us. And how do we live as Christmas lights? We shine with encouragement and support to our neighbor. We sparkle with unashamed exuberance in sharing the Good News of Christ’s saving power. We generously share what we have to those in need. We reach out in flesh and allow the divine to work through us to dispel any darkness that would prevent us from reaching our heavenly inheritance. We embody hope, peace, joy, and love in everything we do. This is how we unwrap the gift of Christmas and be His light to the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone
light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your
good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
“Each of us – let’s not forget this – has a mission to accomplish. So, let’s not be afraid to ask the Lord: what should I do? Let us ask him this question repeatedly.” – Pope Francis, Angelus, December 12, 2021
What is our mission in life? As Christians, it is obvious, we share in the mission of Christ. That is easy to say, but a challenge to do. What Pope Francis proposes is important, especially about asking the question “repeatedly.” Sometimes we might think that discernment of how we live the mission is something done once or occasionally. Instead, it is a day-to-day discernment and sometimes even moment by moment.
“What should I do, Lord?”
Consider the question now, then ask it again and again. This deeper portion of Advent, on the cusp of Christmas, provides a perfect time to reflect on what we should do for Christ, with Christ, and in Christ to accomplish well our particular mission.
We are not alone in this mission, we might have a unique way to go about it, but the mission is Christ’s. Our sisters and brothers in the community of faith that we call the Church live this mission as well. Let us pray for and support one another as we discern and then live what we should do for the Lord each day.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
May you have a blessed Christmas. Our prayers are with you.
In God, the Infinite Love,
A few weeks ago, I spent 3 days with over ten thousand Catholic youth and their leaders at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pre-pandemic, NCYC would welcome twenty-five thousand Catholic Youth and their leaders for an experience of big-name Catholic speakers, large liturgies, small group time, workshops, and more. Even though the Catholic Apostolate Center attended NCYC in 2013, this was my first. While I could write, for pages and pages, about our booth, stage, and experience, I want to focus on another aspect of my time in Indianapolis that has not left my mind since. That is the joy that was felt.
It’s fitting to reflect a bit about joy in this liturgical season of Advent. St. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We pay special attention to joy and the action of rejoicing in Advent as we await and prepare ourselves for the incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas. We have joy in this season because we know that God’s gift to man, the Word being made flesh, is on its way. As the famous hymn says, Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel, shall come to thee O Israel.
Joy is not an emotion; it is a state of being which transcends one’s individual experience or circumstances. Happiness is often conflated with joy. I’m happy because my favorite song came on the radio or because my favorite pizza was served in the dining hall. Joy, though, remains with the Christian in particular, in both good and bad. Joy remains in illness, in emergency, in suffering. Joy comes from knowing that Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, came among us, lived with us, suffered and died for us, redeemed us, and freed us from the grasp of sin and death. If hope is the rock upon which the Christian life is rooted, then joy is the flower that springs from the roots. As Bishop Arturo Cepeda said in 2019, “the joy of the Gospel begins with a smile.”
So why am I reflecting upon joy in light of my experience of NCYC? Because the joy was palpable, it was unescapable, it was refreshing. In so many parts of our world, including and at times especially in the Church, there is a lack of joy. The pandemic, racial unrest, injustice of all types has led to a world that is less and less joyful. Wherever you turned at NCYC, there was joy. It could be seen in the chants and the hats that groups used and wore as a calling card for their groups. It could be seen in the interactions at the booth as video games were played, radio shows were streamed, karaoke was sung, and conversations were had. It could be seen in the workshops as participants were challenged, were welcomed, and encountered the merciful love of Jesus Christ. This joy was most palpable in the liturgies, in adoration, and in the moments of prayer. Whether it was Christian rapper Lecrae’s concert, Eucharistic Adoration in Lucas Oil Stadium, or daily Mass in one of the conference center’s halls, you could tell that Jesus was present. He wasn’t just present because of the proximity of the Eucharist, or the gathering of his people, no that joy and his presence could be felt so tangibly because of the demeanor of his disciples who had gathered.
Anyone who knows me knows that I caution against these conferences without proper formation and accompaniment. Participants, especially youth, can fall into the trap of seeing the life of faith as being only emotional experiences, massive highs, which can result in the normalcy of the everyday life of the disciple as being unattractive. But at NCYC, I was reminded of the power of thousands of Catholics, especially young Catholics, joining together in worship, praise, and prayer. In these moments, conflicts and disagreement were not at the forefront. Certainly, if we’d polled every person there we would have found thousands of different opinions on liturgy, prayer, spirituality, music, etc., but that wasn’t the focus. No, the focus was the body of Christ and communal prayer and worship of our Lord. Isn’t that a beautiful goal for this Advent season? We know that the disagreements and the conflicts will continue. They’re not always bad in and of themselves. But can we enter into this Advent season with joy? Joy that is rooted in the hope that incarnation gives us. Joy that makes us effective evangelizers. Joy that is the hallmark of a Christian. Joy that comes from Christ alone.
Ten years of the Catholic Apostolate Center. It has been a joy to be a part of this ambitious and collaborative team for almost five years. I never pictured myself running social media for a Catholic organization. In fact, social media was just a personal hobby until my senior year of college at The Catholic University of America. I started my journey in Catholic social media at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. That opportunity honestly came to be through a few jokes made by close friends. After a few months in my role at the Basilica, Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. reached out to me about the Catholic Apostolate Center. I remember being floored. I joined the Catholic Apostolate Center team in January 2017 as the Social Media Associate.
I worked for the Center during my last year of undergraduate, my two years of graduate school, and for the first two and half years of my first full-time job at Catholic University in student affairs. I studied higher education in graduate school and thought that I would work at a university forever. During the early days of the pandemic, the Center pivoted its content to provide Covid-19 resources for our community. While it was a weird time for the world, it was a time of growth for the Center behind the scenes and in our content offerings. The Center team was churning out so much content that I found myself doing quite a bit of work for the Center during the initial lockdown. Some days I was doing more work for the Center than my full-time job (due to the early nature of remote work during the beginning of the pandemic). As the pandemic and work from home progressed, I realized that I was enjoying my work for the Center more than the work for my full-time job.
As time passed, I realized that I wanted to make a career change. I came to the realization that I wanted to shift to communications for a Catholic organization (ideally). I never expected that enjoying photography, graphic design, and social media would lead me to where I am today. I am greatly appreciative to the Center for giving me the opportunity to develop the skills that have become my career. It has been such an incredible experience to learn and grow with such a supportive team at the Catholic Apostolate Center. I have learned so much from the wonderful people that I have been able to work with.
In addition to growing my skills in social media and graphic design, the Center has allowed me to grow in my faith. I have learned so much from all of the content and resources that we produce. I have been able to strengthen my faith and theological background through the books that the Center has published and our webinars and podcasts. One of the best things about the Center is that we produce resources for so many learning styles. We have books for readers and visual learners, podcasts for audible learners, virtual retreats for those seeking spiritual resources, and so much more.
I encourage you to spend some time on our website, click through our resources, and see what you can find. One great part of my job is that there is always a wealth of content for me to promote. Some weeks I really have to pick and choose what goes on our social feeds because there is so much to be shared. I am so grateful that the Center is a part of my story, and I cannot wait to watch the Center continue to grow and evolve. I know that the Catholic Apostolate Center will be celebrating milestones for years to come.
This Advent is very special for three reasons. First, my son, who will be two in January, will be experiencing the lights, the beauty, and the gift of Advent in a brand new way this season and I’m so happy to share that with him. The second is because every year I teach about Advent to my class of PreK students, but because I’m really looking forward to it, I think I’ll be able to bring that joy into the classroom with me more than ever. Finally, this year in Advent I will be trying to intentionally do work in the service of others and helping where there is an imperative need. This year, I’m hoping to get caught up in the magic and in the giving and also appreciate the beauty of the season rather than waiting impatiently.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I went to Mass with my son and husband, along with another family with two young children. For the first half, my toddler was overwhelmed with excitement about the tree in the back filled with tags for people who need wrapped gifts for Christmas. He kept taking the tags off and swapping out one for another, screaming in joy about the whole thing while the congregation listened to the readings. After some quieting down, we went back into the pew with his little friends. As we knelt in prayer, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude between my husband and son. But the moment that really helped me see through the eyes of a child was when we walked up for Eucharist and my son noticed the purple at the altar, and the four candles with one purple one lit. He pointed and said, “Candle!” and in that moment I knew we would have such a joyful season of Advent. I invite you to notice something brand new about the lights, beauty, and hope that Advent brings to us all. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the four weeks that bring us closer to Christ and prepare us for His coming. We can use this time to reawaken our hearts and see Advent all fresh and new, especially through the gentle ways of children!
In my PreK classroom, the children love holidays and especially look forward to Christmas. So many learn about Christmas and Advent for the first time in my class, and that is a really special opportunity for me as their teacher. Already this year, one student shouted, “Presents!” as we were talking about Thanksgiving, and I had to clarify the confusion between the holidays. Then, it struck me, isn’t that how it works sometimes? We want to skip right to something fun that might be in the more distant future instead of appreciating the celebration that might be happening right in front of us. Advent is this same phenomenon. We’re worried, anticipating, and anxious about one day every year, but if you consider that every day in Advent can be a celebration of the Season, it’s really like we have a whole month of Christmas!
There is so much we can do for others in this challenging world right now and there are many in need of our help. Winter is cold and this year has already been chilly: there is a lot we can do for our Sisters and Brothers in Christ during Advent by sharing in joy, distributing resources, praying for those sick or in need, or offering kindness. In 2018, Pope Francis said, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world." Advent is a time for service, here are some examples of helping others during this time of giving:
Whether you look at Advent through a child-like perspective, find joy in the daily celebration, or assist those less fortunate this Season, do it all with intentional preparation for Christ’s coming on Christmas. I’ll be busy getting caught up in the magic and beauty too! Happy Advent!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources on the Works of Mercy.
We have entered the season of Advent and a new liturgical year. Advent offers us an important time to watch, wait, and reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ and on our encounter with him. He is encountered in the mystery of the Incarnation, which we represent by Nativity scenes placed in our churches, chapels, and homes. We could limit ourselves to only looking at the beauty of the artistic scene and not move into deeper reflection on the fact that God, who is infinite love and mercy, sent his only begotten Son to save us.
Christ is also encountered in the Eucharist, most significantly during the celebration of the Mass. Pope Francis describes this coming of Jesus:
“Mass is prayer; rather, it is prayer par excellence, the loftiest, the most sublime, and at the same time the most ‘concrete’. In fact, it is the loving encounter with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is an encounter with the Lord.” (General Audience, November 15, 2017).
And Christ will come again in all his glory at the end of time. We need to be prepared for this time not simply through passive waiting, but by active watching for the Lord and encountering him in our brothers and sisters who are most in need, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and the voiceless (Mt. 25:31-46). As baptized members of the Body of Christ, we are co-responsible for the mission that he left us until he comes again – for the salvation of souls – not only focusing on eternal life with God, but also on how we are collaborating with the Most Holy Trinity to build the Kingdom of God on this side of life.
Pope Francis also reminds us of the connection of the Immaculate Conception to the salvific plan of God.
“In the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are invited to recognize the dawn of the new world, transformed by the salvific work of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The dawn of the new creation brought about by divine mercy. For this reason, the Virgin Mary, never infected by sin and always full of God, is the mother of a new humanity. She is the mother of the recreated world.” (Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2015)
We have not been conceived without sin, but we have been washed clean of Original Sin at Baptism (and all prior sin, if one was baptized as an adult). While we have all sinned since that time, our Baptism offers us a share in the mission of Jesus Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King. Though followers or disciples, he also sends us as apostles, or as missionary disciples, out into our challenging world to witness to him by what we say and do. That is why we are told at the end of each Mass to “Go”. We are sent on mission by Christ and the Church as joyful witnesses of God’s love and mercy.
Our best example of how to be a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She followed Jesus as his disciple unfailingly during her life and continues from her heavenly home as Queen of Apostles to invite us to encounter her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
**This post was originally published on 12/7/2017.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” – St. Gianna Beretta Molla
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of my time thinking about the things that I don’t have. It’s not like I am constantly sitting in self-pity and comparison, but in the back of my head is a pretty consistent “why?” Why don’t I have this when so and so has this? I deserve this, why hasn’t God given it to me? Why why why? These thoughts certainly don’t make me happy, and they most certainly are not of God. So why is it so easy for me to live in a state of unease and ingratitude?
The evil one does not want us to count our blessings. He uses the good fortune of others to distract us from our own good fortune. He does not want us to live in the moment and bask in the glory of God’s creation. He wants us to see what everyone has, and for us to ask God, why don’t I have that? Why haven’t you chosen to give that thing to me?
The quote above from St. Gianna is such a perfect example for us to meditate on how to live each day praying in thanks to our God rather than letting ourselves sink into ingratitude. St. Gianna suffered from chronic illness in her life, and it would have been very easy for her to complain and sink into bitterness because of it. Instead, she chose to “live moment by moment” in gratitude for the gift of a life being lived for God.
Maybe an exercise we can try to practice this advent is any time we are tempted to compare, any time we are tempted to sit in self-pity instead of living in the moment, we instead offer a prayer for the people who seem to be more blessed than us. God knows their crosses as well as their joys, just as He knows ours.
And as we move forward into this new year in the Church, let’s make a resolution together. Let us follow the example of St. Gianna and the many saints in Heaven who lived singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for our blessings and for the blessings God has given to our fellow man. Let us not live in comparison and unease. Let us be grateful for every single moment!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources about St. Gianna Molla.
Many years ago, when we were settling our firstborn son in for bed, my husband would cradle him in his arms and swing him vigorously back and forth while singing “Go forth among the people, people of every nation. Tell them how Christ came to save. Tell them how he came to bring salvation.” I believe that took root in my son’s life and was nourished over the years to equip him to be a forthright disciple of Christ as an adult today. My husband and I were raised in the security of a culture of Christendom of the 1950’s and 60’s. What did this look like? Our culture, all aspects of society were steeped in Christian principles. Our laws and basic moral understanding were rooted in Judeo-Christian truth that made it relatively easy to adhere to a Christ centered life.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake! God’s saving news to all the nations
take. Proclaim Christ Jesus, Savior, Lord and King, that all the world His worthy
praise may sing.”
Over the last several decades we’ve witnessed our culture radically change. The world view of our dominant culture no longer ascribes to fundamental biblical principles, and we have shifted from the age of Christendom into an Apostolic age. Our basic mode of operation needs to change to continue to be effective bearers of Christ’s love to one another. Many Christians have become fearful and overwhelmed and even despaired because of this cultural shift. It is essential that we remain encouraged and adjust how we live so we can be bold missionaries for the kingdom of God in our world today. As far back as 1974, Bishop Fulton Sheen was a prophetic voice to help us recognize our call as Christians in a time of change. He said: “We are at the end of Christendom. Not of Christianity, not of the Church. The economic, political, and social life inspired by Christian principles has ended. But these are great and wonderful days in which to be alive. Therefore, live your lives in the full consciousness of this hour of testing and rally close to the heart of Christ.”
“Go forth and tell! God offers life to all; The Lord makes rich all who on Him
shall call. How shall they call if they have never heard the gracious invitation
of his word?”
I believe the activities and traditions my husband and I learned and practiced as we parented our six children have been instrumental in equipping them to be ambassadors of Christ in this new age of evangelization. I am forever grateful for my “upbringing,’ for the solid passing on of faith from my family, my parish, my schools, and my neighbors. The blessing of being nurtured in the age of Christendom caught me – body, mind, and spirit. Through pure grace, I continue to grow in who I am, what I am purposed to do and rely on my relationship with Jesus, the reception of the sacraments, and strive to live the Beatitudes as I journey into this current era. I am aware of the difficulties people are facing today remaining rooted in Jesus and how easy it is to fall prey to some current views that are contrary to Christianity.
“Go forth and tell! Men still in darkness lie; in wealth or want, in sin they live
and die. Give us, O Lord, concern of heart and mind – a love like Yours which
cares for all mankind.”
I recall Cardinal Wojtyla in 1976 speaking in Philadelphia to Americans, calling us forth out of our comfort into this age of evangelization to minister to the people around us in a radical new way. “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. We are facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” He was clearly prophesying to awaken us to adopt a new approach to live the Christian life and to reach the people lost and on the fringes. Later, as Pope John Paul II, he pastored us in how to counter the culture of death. God has been preparing us through prophetic voices throughout history to be aware of the days of tribulation and darkness so that the Holy Spirit can be with us to be vibrant witnesses in those times. Jeremiah reminds us in 15:21 “I will rescue you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the ruthless.” Many of David’s psalms emphasize God’s constant care for us and that He will never abandon us.
“Go forth and tell! Christ charges us to go. All power is His; from Him the
blessings flow. Live out your life as Christ your Lord shall choose; Your ransomed
powers for His sole glory use.”
In this apostolic age we are called to be intentionally evangelistic in a manner far different than ever before. We have to look back to the life of the 12 Apostles and the culture they lived in for our example. They were not theologians, had very few followers, had no church buildings, no foreign mission’s expertise, next to no monetary resources, no written gospels to preach from, and society was hostile or apathetic towards them. Yet they were ecstatic to go out to all the nations and share the perfect love of Jesus to all. What was it that propelled them so enthusiastically? They had the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit we have that empowers us today and fires us up with unrestrained joy to bring life giving support to those we encounter. Just as the Apostles and early Christians – we are commissioned by Jesus through His blood shed for us and are confirmed in the Spirit to operate in His gifts. We do not have the right or luxury to say these gifts are only for some and not for me. Each of us is accountable to the call. We cannot say “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “It’s not my gift.” Jesus calls us forth to offer words of knowledge, laying on hands for healing, saying deliverance prayers, giving encouragement, discerning spirits and to love intensely. The book of Acts is our roadmap.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, arise! Go in the strength which Christ
your Lord supplies. Go ‘til all nations His great name adore, and serve Him
Lord and King forevermore.”
Song: Go Forth and Tell by James Seddon
As we enter this Advent 2021 season, we are afforded a time to renew our identity in Christ, examine our mission call, and move forward as joyous disciples proclaiming the kingdom of God in everything we do. The simple truth is that God lives inside each of us. We are expected to be aware of His presence and to allow Him to do whatever He chooses through us. What a beautiful privilege! It is truly a blessed and anointed time to be alive! Let this be our great adventure together as committed Christians.
Advent offers a time of waiting and renewal rooted in Christ. We are waiting for the celebration of the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, which we celebrate at Christmas. We are also waiting for the second coming of Christ at the end of time. It is an expectant waiting which calls us to renewal in our hearts and minds. Yet, even in the waiting we are not alone. Christ is with us. Pope Francis offers us this consideration:
“Advent is a continuous call to hope… God walks beside us to support us. The Lord does not abandon us; He accompanies us through the events of our lives to help us discover the meaning of the journey, the meaning of everyday life, to give us courage when we are under duress or suffering” (Angelus, November 29, 2020).
Sometimes amid times of difficulty, we simply try to move forward, but may lack hope, and find it challenging to advance. Advent provides time to recognize more fully that we are accompanied by Christ and that our hope is found in him and him alone. There are many who offer messages of hope that is fleeting. The hope offered by Christ is eternal. It challenges us to greater renewal in him. As Pope Francis notes, it takes courage to journey forth, courage that comes from Jesus Christ.
As we enter the Advent season, may this time of waiting truly be one of renewal, lived in hope that has a name, Jesus Christ.
May the Charity of Christ urge us on!
In God, the Infinite Love,
Today we celebrate Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro, a Jesuit priest who ministered to the Church in Mexico in the 1920s during a time of violent government-led anti-Catholicism. At his beatification Mass on September 25, 1988, Pope Saint John Paul II described Blessed Miguel’s virtue and apostolic zeal:
“Neither suffering nor serious illness, nor the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away (cf Jn 16:22).
Indeed, the deepest root of his dedication to others was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to identify with Him, even in his death. He expressed this love especially in Eucharistic worship. The daily celebration of Holy Mass was the center of his life, as well as a source of strength and fervor for the faithful. Father Pro had organized the so-called ‘Eucharistic stations’ in particular homes, where the body of the Lord could be secretly received every day during the years of persecution.”
Before the firing squad, Blessed Miguel Pro stretched out his arms in the form of a cross and used his last breath to declare, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” meaning “Long live Christ the King!” It is fitting that having just celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the feast of Blessed Miguel Pro offers us yet another opportunity to reflect on what it means to declare Christ as our king and to live our lives as Christ’s faithful subjects.
To profess Christ’s sovereignty is to set aside every other loyalty and to surrender all that we have and all that we are to the Lord. It is to acknowledge that we are living for something greater than ourselves and greater than whatever allegiance we may have to any country, political party, sports team, or anything else. Allowing ourselves to be entrenched in such earthly things often keeps us from true communion with our brothers and sisters, especially the suffering and the marginalized. Yet, acknowledging Christ’s rightful authority over each and every one of us means living in radical unity and solidarity with one another, knowing that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
While the kings of this world seek out self-gain and self-preservation, often forcefully asserting their power, Christ’s kingship of self-sacrifice, self-gift, and rightful authority brings healing and unity to the divisions we have created for ourselves. If we wish to follow Jesus, whose kingdom “does not belong to this world” (John 18:36), we, like Blessed Miguel, must answer the call to take up our cross daily and lay down our lives for him.
Though we may not suffer religious persecution like Blessed Miguel Pro, each of us can learn from his imitation of Christ, his life of generous service, and his love of the Eucharist. Blessed Miguel’s willingness to celebrate the Mass, even at great personal risk, invites us to a greater devotion to the Body of Christ, to detachment from every earthly entanglement, and to foster true communion by making a gift of our very selves in service of others.
As we gather around the Eucharistic table, may we too be strengthened and committed all the more to building up the Kingdom of God in which justice and peace will prevail. May Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro—and indeed all the holy men and women who have given their lives for the sake of the kingdom—intercede for us that we may welcome Christ’s reign by glorifying the Lord by our lives.
In 1745, Fr. Alban Butler produced his collection of the Lives of the Saints. It’s been in circulation ever since, providing the faithful with stories of holy men and women as exemplars to imitate. Oftentimes, the stories in the volumes of the Lives of the Saints do not seem to portray real human beings. The brief passages list only miracles and pious deeds. Sometimes I feel that the examples used could even make the sweet St. Therese, the Little Flower, look positively scandalous in comparison!
This is not to say that Fr. Butler’s work is in vain. It is good that these names are recorded for us. As we celebrate All Saints’ Day, we should honor those who came before us and passed down the faith from generation to generation. But this feast day raises the question: what is a saint?
The process of canonization tells us that we know when a certain person is surely in Heaven and that their life is worth imitating, but there are more unrecognized saints than those that are recognized. Saints are people who, through the course of their lives, have grown into the image of themselves which God holds in His divine mind. They become who they were created to be in the fullest sense. The marvelous thing about saints is that they were real, gloriously messy, complex human persons. If we believe every human being is an unrepeatable expression of God’s love, then it stands to reason that every saint is an unrepeatable example of what it means to live out of that love.
I think too often we get concerned with trying to imitate certain saints, like St. Therese, and forget to discover who we were created to be. You cannot be St. Therese: Part 2, or Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati 2.0. Those roles have been taken because those two individuals had the humility to see the greatness God was inviting them into. They stepped into the journey of becoming who they were meant to be. Dr. Gianna Molla, known for giving her life to save her infant daughter’s, was not a saint because of that one action. Her life was steeped in holiness. She was a doctor, a mother, a lover of fashion, and apparently a terrible driver. But as much as I want to be her when I grow up, I can’t. I will never be a doctor, for one thing. What I can do is find pieces of my personality in hers, and I can learn from her example of how she lived and how she handled certain situations and use those lessons in my own life—much like getting advice from an older sister.
Holy lives are not replicas of each other. You cannot program holiness by inserting a set of statutes, commands, circumstances, or ideals into people. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his General Audience on April 13, 2011, said “Holiness, the fullness of Christian life, does not consist in carrying out extraordinary enterprises but in being united with Christ, in living his mysteries, in making our own his example, his thoughts, his behavior” (emphasis mine). We are called to live as Christ in a particular manner, in this particular time, with our own particular gifts. I cannot be you and you cannot be me. But I need you to be the person God has called you to be because we are part of the same mystical Body of Christ, alongside the saints. Conversely, I need to become the person God created me to be as well.
We will never know all of our spiritual brothers and sisters until we reach Heaven. As members of the Church triumphant, the saints want us united with God even more than we want to be with Him because they love more perfectly than we do. May we imitate their holy example and ask for their guidance in living out of the love of God more and more completely each day.
Reflection Questions: Who is your favorite obscure saint? What quality of sanctity do you want to grow in this season?
For more resources on the saints, visit our Catholic Feast Days Website.
**This post was originally published on 11/1/2018.