Candlemas (Presentation of the Lord)

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted(and you yourself a sword will pierce)so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” Luke 2:22-38

Image by Collinson (1878) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, formally known as “Candlemas.” In many cultures, the Presentation the Lord used to be the official ending of Christmas; therefore, one of the traditions for this feast is to light lots of candles and decorate with greenery.

For some lovely explanations and  meditations on this feast, here are some websites to check out:

Fisheaters

Churchyear.net

New Advent

celebrating candlemas

catholicculture.org

americancatholic.org

about.com

Today’s feast is also a good lead in for this month’s devotion: The Holy Family. It is good for us, as Catholics, to imitate our families after the Holy family. It is good for us to pray to the Holy Family, asking them to bless our family and help us in our needs. You can go here for some prayers to the Holy Family to get you started.

The Baptism of the Lord

HAPPY FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD. Here is a very good article about this beautiful feast day.

Image by Juan Fernández de Navarrete (circa 1567) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Saint Nicholas, Pray for Us!

You may know that St. Nicholas is the inspiration for Santa Claus. But, do you know why? In a nutshell: It’s because he had such a love for the poor and for giving that it became the central point of his life! But, there is more to St. Nicholas than the inspiration behind Santa. There is a reason he is a canonized saint. 🙂 Here is a little biography to kickstart your devotion to this excellent saint.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Early Life

St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor to pious Greek parents. Unfortunately, his parents died when he was a young man and so Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. His parents left him a large inheritance but Nicholas chose to give much of that money to those in needs.

His Ministry

Much of the stories about Saint Nicholas are legends so it is hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Still, these stories are edifying and worth knowing about. For example, there is a story that Saint Nicholas helped three daughters of a man who was going to sell them into prostitution because he was too poor to provide dowries for them so they could marry. Apparently, Saint Nicholas got wind of this situation and secretly helped them out. For each of the girls, St. Nicholas would through a bag of money through the window, and they each got married in turn. When the man found out who was helping him, he was overwhelmed in gratitude.

There are other ways of giving. For St. Nicholas, it was giving of the faith. He fought various heresies, suffered persecution, and even spent time in prison on more than one occasion. He was one of the bishops who attended the First Council of Nicaea and one of the signers of the Nicene Creed.

The Lesson

The first lesson for us is his zeal. Am I zealous about my faith or lazy and lukewarm? St. Nicholas was so zealous for his faith that he was willing to suffer persecution and go to prison. He wanted to share this faith with everyone because it was the impetus for everything he did.

The second lesson was his generosity. True, he was wealthy and had resources to give away. But, he still went over and above in giving of his resources, time and talent. For us, most aren’t wealthy or have tons of resources to give. If you do, great. If you don’t, you can still give of yourself. Christmas and Easter are times when many people volunteer and go out of their way to help others. But what about the rest of the year? Can you continue to volunteer? Or, how about visiting a shut in on a regular basis? Or take a few minutes to call someone who is going through a rough time? With some creativity, it is possible to give of ourselves without spending tons of money or even our time.

Prayer to Saint Nicholas

Give me, Lord, Nicholas as my intercessor, your great confessor whom you had glorified with the name of blessed throughout the world.

Saint Nicholas, I pray to you through him who has made your name venerated throughout the world; do not refuse to help a needy suppliant.

Why, Sir, are you called upon by all men in all the world unless you are to be an advocate of all who pray to you?

Why does this sound in all ears, “My Lord, Saint Nicholas,” “My Lord, Saint Nicholas,” unless it means, “My advocate, Saint Nicholas,” “My advocate Saint Nicholas?”

Why is your name poured forth everywhere except that the world may have some great good poured into it?

Your fame calls to me, your miracles send me to your intercession, your works draw me to seek your help.

But why do I speak about your miracles, when your power now is greater than them all?

Why do I recount what you have done, when before God you now have supreme grace? Why recount the help that you gave to many when you are able to give spiritual help now that you live in heaven, of more value than the corporal help that you gave during your pilgrimage upon earth?

For it is not as if you were able to do those things then and can no longer do them. No, I say, you could not have power only in those things that come to nothing, and to be powerless in those that go on into eternity.

Indeed, you did not only accomplish the former, you did not ascend merely that you might grant them. Bestow upon us the spiritual things in which you glory, the joys of eternity in which you rejoice, pour upon us the heavenly things to which you have turned. Through you we needy ones come to know that abundance which you receive fully in a perpetual stream.

O your plenitude of goodness, and my abundance of badness!
How far they are from each other!
How vehemently the first makes you happy, how greatly does the latter make me unhappy.

The first comes down from the plenitude of God, the latter goes up from the need of myself;
The first flows from the abundance of God, the latter surges up from my poverty.

O if only that super-abundance would overflow and flood into my abundant ills!
O if only that full plenitude would fill the emptiness of my need!

I do not doubt, Sir, that you can do this for me, if you are willing to ask that much for me of my judge who is your beloved friend.

—Saint. Anselm (hat-tip to stnicholascenter)

Other Resources to Learn More about St. Nicholas

Stnicholascenter.com

Catholic.org

Wikipedia.org

Thoughtco.com

Biography.com

Why All Saints Day is Important

November 1 is All Saints Day and a Holy Day of Obligation. It is a glorious day and one of my favorite Solemnities. Unfortunately, it is basically overshadowed by Halloween (which is technically “All Hallow’s Eve,” the vigil of All Saint’s day). However, All Saint’s day is a solemnity and a holy day of obligation for a reason: it is a very important feast for us Catholics.

Image by Fra Angelico (1445-1455) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Some Background: History of All Saints Day

All Saints Day is a very OLD feast day, dating back to the beginning of Christianity. Think back to the catacombs. They were created to bury and honor the martyrs who were killed during the persecutions. As more and more people were martyred for the faith, the celebration expanded to include everyone, known and unknown. Urban IV included the feast to “to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year” (New Advent).

Later, Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration to all saints, martyred or no. He also enjoined the clergy to celebrate the feast every year on November 1. It has been celebrated on that day every since.

Why All Saint’s Day is Important to You

All Saint’s Day reminds us that the journey of our lives lead to heaven! All those saints who have “fought the good fight,” canonized  or not, inspire us and encourage us to keep up the fight ourselves. Life certainly is a fight at times.

We live in a world where wrong is right and right is wrong. Faith in God and in the divine is all but lost and we face so many struggles and obstacles we wonder if it is all worth it. IT IS!

We can look to the saints who have come before us and be strengthened knowing that others have made it before us and we can make it too! Keep up the faith and trust in God.

Celebration Suggestions

Besides Mass, which is obligatory, All Saint’s Day is a great day to pray the Litany of the Saints. This is such a beautiful prayer. The sung version of the prayer is so lovely, too.

Another way to celebrate this solemnity is to learn about some saints you aren’t familiar with. There have been many newly canonized saints over the last few years, so why not start with one of those?

If you have little ones, have an All Saint’s Party! My son’s homeschool co-op has an All Saint’s Party every year and it is so much fun! Each child gives three clues about the saint he or she is dressed up as and the other children have to guess. You can even offer prizes to the winners if you wanted.

I hope and pray that you take some time to go deeper in your understanding of his most wonderful solemnity!

God bless,

 

More Resources

thoughtCo

New Advent

Saint Damien de Veuster

Also known as Saint Damien of Molokai, Saint Damien is a missionary priest who spent years caring for people with leprosy.

Image by William Brigham (1889) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain (Photo taken shortly before his death)

His Life

Saint Damien (Jozef de Veuster) was born in Belgium in January 1840 as the youngest of seven children. At the age of 13, he was taken out of school to help out on the family farms. His heart, however, was set on religious life and eventually he was able to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Although considered uneducated, he was ordained a priest in 1864 – two months after arriving at Hawaii. Saint Damien spent the rest of his life serving, caring, and ministering to the people in the leprosy colony of Hawaii. At that time, leprosy was still considered incurable and very contagious so people with leprosy were often ostracized and quarantined off by themselves.

After 11 years or so, Damien discovered that he, himself, had contracted leprosy. He died in April 1889 at the age of 49. He was beatified in 1995 by St. John Paul II and canonized by Pope Emmertis Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is today, May 10.

What We can Learn from Saint Damien

One of the things that is  most notable about Saint Damien is that he does not shy away from the marginalized. Whereas most people avoided the “lepers,” Saint Damien embraced them, loved them, and selflessly took care of them. Thus, his life becomes a challenge to us :

Do I (can I) embrace those who others push away or ignore? This can be something as simple as visiting the homebound or elderly. However, it can mean standing up for the unborn by joining a pro-life organization or other type of ministry. Still, it can also just mean being present to our family and taking the time to ministering for their needs!

Another thing about Saint Damien that stands out is his perseverance. Saint Damien suffered much in his life and had to deal with a lot of obstacles and difficulties. However, he never let those difficulties make him lose sight of God’s purpose for his life and he never gave up. He pushed through, trusted in God, and was able to do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii. In this too, Saint Damien’s example is a challenge to us:

Do I let myself get discouraged when I face difficulties or do I trust in God and work through them? It is not a matter of if we will have troubles and problems. It is a matter of when we will have troubles and problems. The important thing is how we respond to those problems. Unfortunately, I don’t always handle problems very graciously. If I am being honest, I don’t handle problems very graciously most of the time. Anyone else or is it just me?! Still, Saint Damien’s example encourages me. I am a work in progress and that’s okay. 🙂

So, let us pray to Saint Damien that he will intercede for us and help us have a great love for every person and to persevere in all of our struggles. Saint Damien, pray for us!

Other Resources

To learn more about Saint Damien, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

EWTN

Wikipedia

 

The Significance of Ash Wednesday

For many non-Catholics (and many NEW Catholics) Ash Wednesday can seem weird. Why would anyone want to walk around with ashes on their head all day? And, truth be told, many cradle Catholics have been going to Mass and getting ashes for years without understanding the purpose of Ash Wednesday, as well.

The Significance of Ash Wednesday

Image by Balaska (2009) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

What is the significance of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, is a day set aside for prayer and repentance. We fast, we abstain from meat, and we get ashes as a reminder of our human frailty. It is also a day to remember the spiritual reality that surrounds us; our earthly life is only part of the journey. Yes, will die and our bodies will “return to dust.” However, it doesn’t stop there. As our bodies return to dust our souls go to heaven, hell or purgatory. Therese aren’t necessary pleasant things to think about but they are important things, nevertheless.

Therefore, Ash Wednesday is a gift. Yes, a gift. This day of repentance is a gift because it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our lives. Think of it like a “spiritual New Year” where we can access our relationship with the Lord and make steps to strengthen our relationship with HIM.

  • Have I grown in our relationship with the Lord over this past year?
  • Have I grown lax or lukewarm?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to change in order to become the person God wants me to be?

From this reflection, we can make “resolutions” or a plan of action for how we will spend our Lent this year. This is where we can decide if we need to give up coffee,  sweets or something else.Or, we can work to change die-hard habits or sins which are holding us back and keeping us in bondage. Additionally, Lent is a great time to make a plan to learn more about our faith or pray the scriptures more often.

Why Ashes?

The use of ashes have a long history as a sign of repentance. I encourage you to read the History of Ash Wednesday over at American Catholic.

As regards to the rite of ashes, it is very simple. We go up to the priest or whomever is distributing the ashes. He makes the sign of the cross (well, it should be a cross. Sometimes it looks more like a blob!) on our forehead while saying “Man you are dust and to dust your shall return” or a similar phrases. This phrase comes from Genesis 3:19:

By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”

Our Obligation

Ash Wednesday is NOT a holiday of obligation. We are not required to go to mass, but it is strongly recommended that we go to Mass if we are able to. Going to mass is certainly a wonderful way to start Lent off on the right foot.

However, whether we go to Mass or not, we ARE obligated to abstain from meat and to fast today. The fasting requirement consists of one full meal and two smaller meals that equal one meal. No snacking or eating between meals is allowed. Of course, beverages are allowed at any time.  Everyone over the age of 14 is required to abstain from meat and everyone between the ages of 18-60 are required to fast. (See Canon law 1250-1252) I think pregnant women are exempt, but not sure.

Related Links

Here are a couple of links for further reading.

New Advent

About.com

Fallible Blogma

I pray that your Lenten journey be a blessed and grace-filled time for you and your family!

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PSST: If you are looking for ideas for Lent, read this blog post here. And don’t forget: Today is the last day you can get the printable Lenten Prayer Journal for only 5 bucks.

Tweetable: The Significance of Ash Wednesday

St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr

Today, many people will be getting or giving candy and flowers and planning delicious meals (or going out to dinner) because of SAINT Valentine’s day. That’s right. Most people have taken off the “saint” part of St. Valentine’s day, and it has been hijacked as a “Hallmark holiday;” however, today is the feast of a priest who was martyred for his faith. Actually, it is believed that St. Valentine’s day commemorates several martyrs.

St Valentine

Image by David Teniers III (1600) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

We don’t know much about the St. Valentine that we celebrate today. We know that he was a priest in Rome who often gave comfort and support to those suffering persecution from Claudius II. He was arrested and sent to the emperor of Rome. Then, when he refused to renounce his faith, St. Valentine was beaten with clubs and beheaded on February 14, 270 (or thereabouts).

However, there are other speculations about Saint Valentine. According to Wikipedia, the origins of St. Valentine are not confirmed and that there may have been many saints martyred on February 14:

“Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several (14 in all [2]) martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name “Valentine”, derived from the word valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity.[3] Of the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14, nothing is known except his name and that he was buried on the Via Flaminia north of Rome on February 14, he was born on April 16. It is even uncertain whether the feast of that day celebrates only one saint or more saints of the same name. For this reason this liturgical commemoration was not kept in the Catholic calendar of saints for universal liturgical veneration as revised in 1969.[4] But “Martyr Valentinus the Presbyter and those with him at Rome” remains in the list of saints proposed for veneration by all Catholics.[5]”

Catholic Online gives us the origins of the celebration of “St. Valentine’s Day”

“Historian Jack Oruch has made the case that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, had no such tradition before Chaucer.[18] He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th-century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler, the author of Butler’s Lives of Saints, and have been perpetuated even by respectable modern scholars. In the French 14th-century manuscript illumination from a Vies des Saints (illustration above), Saint Valentine, bishop of Terni, oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni; there is no suggestion here yet that the bishop was a patron of lovers.[19]”

Interesting isn’t it?  I encourage you to read more about St. Valentine and St. Valentine’s day over at Catholic Online. You’ll notice that none of it has to do with the secular celebration of romance and candy and flowers. etc. (Not that I’m opposed to candy or flowers, or romance, of course!)

BUT, it does have everything to do with real agape love – love of neighbor and love of God, even to the point of martyrdom!

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Tweetable: SAINT Valentine, Bishop & Martyr

The Holy Childhood of Jesus

Did you know that January has always been dedicated to the Holy Childhood of Jesus? It is a devotion that dates back to the 300’s AD – and even earlier.

I confess that up until a few years ago, I never had any particular devotion to the Childhood of Jesus; however, I have a statue of the Infant of Prague that my Aunt Pat gave me years ago. She always said that if I kept a dollar bill under the statue I’d always have money. (Is that because there’s always a dollar under the statue or because the Lord is watching over me, or a little bit of both?!)

There isn’t a lot of information about devotion to the Childhood of Jesus; however, if you’d like to explore the history and practices of devotion to the Childhood of Jesus (and the Infant of Prague), you can check out the sites here, here and here.

What We Can Learn from Devotion to the Childhood of Jesus

It is a deep and tremendous thing what God has done for us. He sent His only son, Jesus, to save us and show us the way to Him and to heaven. Crazier still, God sent His son to us as a baby. A baby! A humble, helpless baby. Jesus, human in all respects, grew into childhood and teenhood and adulthood. Truly amazing.

As we reflect on the childhood of Jesus we learn humility, obedience, patience, and love. Humility, obedience and patience are not particularly popular in today’s world. It wants what it wants and wants it now! But, it doesn’t always work that way. Through devotion to the Childhood of Jesus we can learn to see the world with a new perspective and understanding of God’s ways – at least in a very small way. Devotion to the Childhood can be (and is) an important part of our spiritual life. I hope that you will take some time to learning about this devotion and consider adding it into your life.

Prayer to the Infant Jesus

“O Jesus, Prince of Peace and King of the Universe, you chose to humble yourself and come into the world, not as a powerful ruler, but as a helpless infant; grant us the grace of humility and gentleness before you and our brothers and sisters. Grant, too, O Lord, that we may always strive to achieve the virtue and innocence of your own Holy Childhood. Instill in us a growing faith you, O Lord, and the strength to resist temptation in a world which so widely rejects you. Look upon us with compassion and forgive us our sins. Fill our hearts with kindness and understanding, especially for children, the aged and those we dislike or who dislike us.

O Jesus, who so loved children that you admonished us, “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” grant us a child-like faith and purity of heart. Give us the grace not only to pray fervently, but to help spread your Gospel by deed as well as word. Amen.” (From Franciscan Mission Associates pamphlet)

(Found the prayer here.)

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Tweetable: Devotion to the Childhood of Jesus

The Immaculate Conception

Today, December 8, is the glorious solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. It is a day that all Catholics should celebrate with joy and thanksgiving because this amazing gift to Mary is also a gift for us!

Immaculate Conception

Image by Murillo (1678) via wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

What is the purpose of the Solemnity?

This solemnity celebrates the great grace given to Mary in virtue of the fact that she was to be the mother of Our Savior: She was conceived without original sin.

We are all born with original sin thanks to our first parents, Adam and Eve. At baptism original sin is washed away. But for Mary, she was freed from original sin at the moment of her conception.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in articles 490-493:

“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135

The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”.136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.137″

This is a wonderful mystery that we would do well to meditate upon. I encourage you to go deeper into this mystery and for more information you can go here.

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Tweetable: The Immaculate Conception

Saint Andrew and the Christmas Novena

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, a wonderful and powerful saint. He was a great Apostle and missionary of the Lord. He is mentioned several times in the gospel. In fact, he brought Saint Peter to Jesus. I love that Saint Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41) after only one encounter! Of course there were ups and downs in his relationship with the Lord, but after the Resurrection and St. Andrew receives the Holy Spirit he becomes a mighty instrument for the Lord!

Image by unknown author (13th Century) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Image by unknown author (13th Century) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Saint Andrew died a martyr on a cross that was in the shape of an X. He was not nailed, but bound, to the cross and suffered for two days before finally passing to the Lord. Saint Andrew is the patron of fisherman and the countries of Russia, Scotland, and Greece. He also has the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena named after him.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

The Saint Andrew Christmas novena starts today, November 30, and continues until Christmas day. The prayer is very short and simple. All you have to do is say the following prayer 15 times a day, every day from now until Christmas. (I promise you, it only takes a few minutes.)

“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of his Blessed Mother. Amen.”

By the way, you don’t have to say the prayer 15 times all at once. Some years I do, but some years, I break it up and say the prayer five times in a row, three times a day. I just added it to my prayers before meals. Some years, I break it up and say the prayer two times a day (7 times and then 8 times). Also, don’t be scrupulous if you miss a day or two, I’ve done that, too!

You can get a printable version of the prayer here. No opt-in required.

Resources

Here are some links to peruse and get to know Saint Andrew better.

AmericanCatholic.org

New Advent

Catholic.org

SaintAndrew.us

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Tweetable: Saint Andrew and the Christmas Novena