Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

A War For Women

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

In this week’s Catholic New York columnI wrote about Our Lady of Guadalupe and the importance of women in the Catholic Church.  I thought you might want to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

If there is a “war on women,” those who defend the bond of marriage and the sanctity of the family (realizing that women are the ones usually left shattered and financially strapped by shattered marriages); those who believe that abortion is destructive of baby, mother, and father; those who hold that all God’s children, male and female, are made in God’s image, and thus deserve dignity and respect; those who sacrifice to run the world’s most effective projects of health care and education for women (led, for the most part, by generous, faithful women); and those thought idolatrous for placing a woman named Mary at the center of history, are hardly on the wrong side, but the right side, of such an alleged battle!

In two weeks, 75 percent of the world will come to a stop to celebrate a mother and the birth of her baby. Millions of children will point to the newborn baby in nativity scenes throughout the world and ask, “Who’s that?” and parents and grandparents will whisper, “That’s Jesus, our Lord and Savior.” Then they’ll point to Mary and inquire, “And who’s that?” and the answer will come, “That’s His mother, without whom Christmas could not have happened.”

A blessed Advent!

You can read my whole column here.

A Blessed Advent to You

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

It’s all about the kids, isn’t it?

That dawned on me over the Thanksgiving weekend, when I was back in St. Louis with my family.

Besides eating . . . which I obviously relished – - and sleeping, we spent most of our time just enjoying the kids!  There we sat, passing one little one to another, cooing, talking baby-talk, or laughing as the kids would do something new.

My nieces are mostly grown-up, and now the married ones are having babies!  So we’ve got five of them, four and under, with two on the way.  All we adults seem to do is get ready for them to arrive, wait for them, play with them, hold them, change them, feed them, get their coats back on, and tell them good-bye.  Then we can’t wait for the next time we see them.

Those babies, those kids, are the center of our lives.

Which, of course, is the way it should be!  Anthropologists, researching primitive cultures, tell us that they were centered on the protection and nurturing of babies, until the young grow up to have their own.  Not “primitive” at all, is it?  Rather “advanced”, I’d say.

I remember the old Ben Casey, M.D., TV series, which began each week, “Man-woman-birth-death-infinity.”

A culture not centered on babies and children becomes narcissistic, and soon, extinct.

Sociologists tell us, for instance, that Europe is in a “demographic winter,” since more people are dying than being born.

And I’m afraid we’re not far behind!

Babies not only insure survival but selflessness.  When a husband and wife become a father and mother, their very lives are changed:  All is now about their baby, not themselves.

And, as Blessed John Paul II reminded us, the greatest gift one can give a child is a brother or a sister.

We men are created to become husbands and fathers; women to become wives and mothers.

True, it doesn’t always happen.  Some can’t be; some (like the author) choose not to be.  But, all of us would like to be!  That drive is sacred, noble, natural, good.  Those of us who can’t be or choose not to be usually become doting aunts, uncles, and godparents!

A culture, a society, a country, that does not protect marriage, the baby, and the family, is dying.

Now we’re in Advent.  We await the baby Jesus.

All of history is dated either before or after the birth of this baby.

All existence centers on a pregnant woman, and her baby, who is our Savior.

This baby is intended to be the center of our lives.

A blessed Advent!

The Annual Advent Argument

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

A blessed Advent!

I discussed it with folks visiting me over the weekend, right after Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the First Sunday of Advent.

It’s the yearly debate about Advent, and it goes something like this: The first person began, “Why do we start to celebrate Christmas so early?  The decorations are up in early November; the carols begin before Thanksgiving; the tree goes up now . . . no wonder we’re sick of Christmas by December 26th!”

Another will chime-in, “Yeah, remember fifty years ago when we were kids?  The tree would not go up until Christmas Eve; carols would never be heard till real close to Christmas; there were some added days of fast and abstinence during Advent; even Christmas Eve was a day of penance!  Wasn’t that better?  We so looked forward to Christmas because we waited!”

But – - as the Annual Advent Argument continues – - the next person observed, “But, there’s nothing we can do about it!  Society begins the Christmas season on Thanksgiving, and ends it on December 25; the Church starts preparing for Christmas during Advent – - purple vestments, advent wreathes, no carols or decorations in church – - then begins the Christmas season with Mass on Christmas Eve, and ends it on the Epiphany  (the Sunday after New Year’s).  The Church is out of it and will just have to change.”

What to do?  Well, we can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, as much as we might be nostalgic for a very serious Advent.  So, on the one hand, I guess we’ll have to make some peace with our culture’s way-too-early celebration of Christmas.

But we can hardly forget about Advent altogether! Spiritually, it’s part of our Catholic birthright; and, even from a human point of view, we’ll enjoy Christmas a lot more if we wait . . . as the old saying goes, “pleasure delayed is pleasure enjoyed.”

For instance, just last Thursday, I enjoyed an evening at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood.  It was a magnificent Evening Prayer, followed by the seminary Thanksgiving Dinner (a week after the feast itself, since the community had been at home for their own family Thanksgiving.)  Great, I thought:  we’ll have turkey, dressing, gravy, pumpkin pie . . . bring it on!  But, we get to the table for a very delicious meal, and no meat!

“We’ve begun our forty day Advent fasting to prepare for Christmas, and we Orthodox abstain from meat,” my host explained.

They haven’t “lost” Advent. Neither should we!

So, here are a few ideas I might propose to preserve at least some seriousness about Advent:

–last night I was at our seminary for Advent Lessons and Carols.  It was splendid!

For a little over an hour, we had readings from the Bible about all the preparations for and prophesies of the coming of the Messiah, with the classical Advent hymns, and even one or two actual Christmas carols at the end to remind us of our goal.  It was a real concentration on the waiting of the People of Israel for the Messiah, a genuine Advent experience;

–Let’s take the two magnificent Advent feasts of Our Lady – - December 8, the Immaculate Conception, and December 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe, – - very attentively;

–don’t forget the advent wreath, the advent calendar, and the Jesse Tree;       

– okay, if you have to, put the tree-up now, but maybe only gradually decorate it, a few more ornaments each day, for instance, so it’s not in “full bloom” until December 24.  I was at Holy Trinity Parish at West Point Saturday, for example, and the trees were already up, but not decorated so there was a sense of expectation; or, even at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the crib is already up – - since thousands visit daily – - but the manger is dramatically empty, with the baby Jesus not arriving until Christmas.  While the visitors admire the crib scene, they realize someone is missing – - Jesus! – - and are reminded what Advent is all about;

–How about fasting from meat on the Fridays of Advent, like we do in Lent?

–A good, sincere confession before Christmas!  (Our Advent Reconciliation Monday, with confessors available for four hours in every parish, is December 17  this year);

–Pay attention to the daily Mass readings for Advent, preferably, of course, at Mass itself; but, even if you can’t attend, get a missalette and meditate on the Readings from the Bible;

–Acts of charity for the poor;

–And, finally, let’s look on the bright side; okay, we admit that society – - including ourselves – - start celebrating Christmas way too soon, usually forgetting about Advent preparation.  But, at least we can thank God that such noble sentiments abound this time of the year:  friendship, generosity, family unity, rallying for the poor and hungry, attention to babies and children, gift-giving, happy memories, goodwill.  I’ll take that anytime of the year!

However, wherever, whenever you do it . . . please do Advent!  It’s too significant to forget!  Christmas will be a lot happier if we prepare and wait . . .

Again, a blessed Advent!

Living Advent

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Rome . . . the “Eternal City,” the Caput Mundi (the “capital of the world”);

The city of Romulus and Remus, of the Caesars and Nero;

The city that gave its name to one of the most sustained periods of peace the world has ever known, the Pax Romana; the seat of government over the most extensive, unified empire ever;

Rome . . . whose edicts could summon Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the nativity of their firstborn, Jesus, and whose appointed governor, Pontius Pilate, would sentence Him to death on a cross thirty-three years later;

Rome . . . the roads, language, and law allowed the apostles to spread the message of Jesus and His Church, bringing Peter and Paul to the Tiber;

Rome . . . whose emperor would crucify Peter upside-down and behead Paul, and unleash three centuries of persecution of the Church founded by Christ;

Rome . . . whose emperor, Constantine, would finally not only tolerate the Church but allow it to become the cohesive influence holding his crumbling empire together;

Rome . . . whose bishop, the successor of its first, Saint Peter, would become the unifying force in the western world upon the collapse of the ancient empire, giving civilization learning, science, art, music, charity, health care, schools and university — a culture drawing people to God.

Rome . . . here I am this Thanksgiving, in company with my brother bishops of the state of New York, on, as required every five years by canon law, our ad limina (“to the threshold”) visit, to the tombs of the two founders of the Church of Rome, Peter and Paul.

Rome . . . a city that always seems to reflect the best and the worst in our human drama.

Even the empire brought, admittedly, law, peace, justice, security, and unity, all the good; but it also gave us violence, oppression, brutality, war, slavery.

So the church in Rome brought Jesus and His message to the world, giving us peace, human dignity, compassion, education, charity, culture, and saints; but it also on occasion showed corruption, vice, immorality and scandal.

Rome . . . it seems, with this Sunday opening the new Church year in view, to be an advent:  God always lurking there, on the doorstep, wanting us to invite Him in.

Rome . . . the city gives us hints of God’s presence: maybe in the medieval images of the Madonna on nearly every corner; or perhaps in the ubiquitous ancient churches built over the places where the first Christians quietly gathered for prayer, Mass, and community; in the catacombs where those martyred were buried; in the shrines of saints who have walked Rome’s alleys; in the candles, incense, art, and family celebrations with abundant food, wine, and song at baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings, and feast days.

Rome . . . the city is a living advent, with the Lord usually “just around the corner,” hidden, unexpected, lurking, giving us hints, obscured, at times, by earthiness and mustiness

. . . always waiting for us to discover Him anew.

Rome . . . the Lord is there in the city’s bishop, the successor of Saint Peter, our Holy Father, the Pope.

Benedict XVI is an advent, as we sense in him a hint of the Lord’s “coming” to His Church.

Maybe, on second thought, Rome is not that bad of a place to be for Thanksgiving!

It’s certainly a good place to be as Advent begins this Sunday!