Saturday, December 31, 2011

Devotion for Saturday/Sunday: Selections from the Liturgy of the Hours

December 31 – Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas

Morning Prayer:

Reading: Isaiah 4:2-3
On that day, the branch of the Lord will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel. He who remains in Zion and he that is left in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.

Prayer: Ever-living God, in the birth of your Son, our religion has its origin and its perfect fulfillment. Help us to share in the life of Christ, for he is the salvation of mankind, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

January 1-Octave of Christmas, Mary, Mother of God

Evening Prayer 1 – to be said Saturday night

Reading: Galatians 4:3-7
In the same way, when we were not yet of age, we were like slaves subordinated to the elements of the world; but when the designated time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to deliver from the law those who were subjected to it, so that we might receive our status as adopted sons. The proof that you are sons is the fact that God has sent forth into our hearts the spirit of His Son which cries out “Abba!” (Father!) You are no longer a slave but a son! And the fact that you are a son makes you an heir, by God’s design.

Prayer: Father, source of light in every age, the virgin conceived and bore your Son who is called Wonderful God, Prince of Peace. May her prayer, the gift of a mother’s love, be your people’s joy through all ages. May her response, born of a humble heart, draw your Spirit to rest on your people. Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Morning Prayer:

Reading: Micah 5:1-4a, 6
But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, and the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel.) He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace. The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples, like dew coming from the Lord, like raindrops on the grass, which wait for no man, nor tarry for the sons of men.

Prayer: God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Evening Prayer:
Reading: Galatians 4:3-7
In the same way, when we were not yet of age, we were like slaves subordinated to the elements of the world; but when the designated time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to deliver from the law those who were subjected to it, so that we might receive our status as adopted sons. The proof that you are sons is the fact that God has sent forth into our hearts the spirit of His Son which cries out “Abba!” (Father!) You are no longer a slave but a son! And the fact that you are a son makes you an heir, by God’s design.

Prayer: God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Devotion for today: Fathers, protect your children

Silent Night

Silent Night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright,
‘round yon virgin, Mother and Child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 2:13-15; 19-23
 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,  “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Psalm 112:7-8
The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honor.
The just man will never waver: he will be remembered for ever.
He has no fear of evil news; with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord.
With a steadfast heart he will not fear; he will see the downfall of his foes.

The Oblates of St. Joseph tell us: In this section (Mt 2:13-23), Joseph is the visible protagonist who thwarts Herod in his intention to destroy the child. In this he exercises the protective role of father necessary for the survival of the child. Twice explicitly and once implicitly, it is again Joseph whom the angel of the Lord addresses for what regards the family. Both child and mother are mentioned in a passive role, entrusted to his care. As Joseph was a "just" or "upright" man of faith in accepting his role of father in Matthew 1, so now is he an upright man of faith in exercising that role by immediate, trusting, and unquestioning obedience to the three divine commands to flee by night to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, to return to Israel, and to move to Galilee where he settled at Nazareth. In the first two of these examples as in the initial dream in Matthew 1, Joseph's response is described in words that repeat almost verbatim the words of the angel. This absolute and exact faithfulness to God in fatherly concern for the welfare of the child makes Joseph God's instrument of liberation and fulfillment. Humbly and quietly he saves the Savior's life and establishes earthly residence for him.

Prayer to St. Joseph: St. Joseph, protect our home. Pour forth from heaven blessings on our family. Remain in our midst. Help us to live in love and harmony, in peace and joy. May the wholesome fear of God strengthen us that virtue may adorn what we do and our way may lead to heaven. To you this day I give the key to our dwelling place. Lock out all things that could do us harm. Lock my home and my loved ones with me in the hearts of Jesus and Mary. This I beg of you, that our days may be like your days in the holy home at Nazareth. Amen.

My thoughts: As a good father, Joseph made sure his child slept in heavenly peace. But it didn’t mean that he himself did. As my pastor, Fr. Andrew Fisher said, he never really got much sleep once he was picked to be the earthly father of Jesus. Three times he is awakened with commands for action. Three times he responds quickly. He is a good father, putting the needs of his child above his own. Even more importantly, he is a father who is so in tune with the word of God that he knows it when he hears it. How many of us today can say that? How many of us drown out any hope of God’s getting our attention? And even if He did, would we react so quickly and cause ourselves such inconvenience to submit to it?  Joseph married a woman with child, escaped with them to a foreign country, settled in a town that was not his own, and never once complained. His son and wife were his life. His love of God was his guide. “With a firm heart he trusted in the Lord.” On this, the feast of the Holy Family, may we all strive to become like Joseph, casting ourselves aside to do the will of God.

Our prayer to God:   Take time to meditate on the picture. Joseph stands tall and strong, defending his family, lovingly holding them in his protective embrace. Imagine God, your Abba – Father, doing the same for you. St. Joseph serves as a reminder that God will always be there for us. Let us take time today to thank Him for such a gift. And fear no more. Your Father loves you very, very much. (photo from

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Devotion for today: "Christmas Bells"

 Christmas Bells
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

A series of Christmas Day church bombings rocked Nigeria on Sunday in what appeared to be a coordinated assault by a radical Islamist sect with suspected training links to Al Qaeda, raising the sect’s violent antigovernment struggle to a new and more dangerous level that the Nigerian authorities seem powerless to contain. At least 25 people were killed.
The worst bombing was at the St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala, a suburb of the capital, Abuja, where an explosion ripped through a crowd of worshipers as they left morning Mass. The bomb tore through the church, said Bassey Udo, a Nigerian journalist in Madala, and left a deep crater. A government spokesman, Reuben Abati, said at least 25 people were killed in that blast and that many were wounded in a chaos of fire and rubble, suggesting the toll would rise.  In Madala, there were charred bodies on the street and twisted cars burned in front of the church. Rescue workers struggling to cope with the mayhem faced a shortage of ambulances for the dozens of wounded and an enraged crowd that blocked them from entering the church until soldiers arrived. By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: December 25, 2011 The New York Times

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

"The LORD liveth, in Truth, in Judgment, and in Righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory" (Jeremiah 4:2).
"Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).  
"To finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in Everlasting Righteousness" (Daniel 9:24).

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Tom Stewart tells us: One of America's best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), contributed to the wealth of carols sung each Christmas season, when he composed the words to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" on December 25th 1864. As with any composition that touches the heart of the hearer, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" flowed from the experience of Longfellow-- involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling injury of his son Charles from war wounds. The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace." Longfellow's journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: "'A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me." Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and taking off one of the spinal processes. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow's journal. Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells." Longfellow's Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, "God is not dead."
The message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: "Of peace on Earth, good will to men." "For it pleased the Father that in [Jesus] should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the Blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself" (Colossians 1:19-20). Tom Stewart, December 20, 2001, (This is only a summary of his excellent article)

My thoughts: The world continues to bear bad tidings. Family members die, nation fights nation, and religious zealots kill or maim in the name of their God. Why should anyone find joy and hope at Christmas, or any time of the year for that matter? The reason is simple. Our God is a loving God, filled with mercy and kindness, and those who allow themselves to walk in His light will always overshadow those who dwell in darkness. As Longfellow realizes by the end of his poem, “The wrong shall fail, the good prevail.” Always look to the light, strengthen your resolve by holding firm to God’s word, and pray for those who follow the beat of an evil drum. God gave us the way to peace and joy on this earth. He gave us His commandments, and He sent us His Son who would spend His time on earth showing us how to love each other and live in harmony. The choice, however, rests with each individual. For peace to reign on earth, we must truly wish each other good-will. And remember, just as Longfellow eventually found the joy he so sadly lacked for many Christmases, so we, too can be confident that one day God will replace our sorrow with laughter, and wipe all tears from our eyes. Just hold onto His word, and His hand.

Scripture promises us: Rev. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.

Our prayer to God: Dear God, we pray, bring light to this world. Soften the hearts of those who hate, mend the hearts torn apart by grief, and heal the wounds of sadness and despair. Let our hands and voices be the tools you use to bring your love and healing power into a hurting world. As the promises of Christmas remain in our souls, let us be joyful and rejoice that we are not lost, but found; not blind, but see. Thank you for the gift of Christ, our new-born king.  Amen

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Devotion for today: Do You Know What I Know?

What is the message in today's carol?

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light.

Scripture for meditation: Matthew 2:16-18
 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
 weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,  because they are no more.”

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us: Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person.
- Pope Benedict XVI (London, 9/18/10)

My thoughts: The king in our Christmas Carol for today is such a good man. He hears a message from a young boy, telling him of the birth of a baby, a small shivering child worthy of gifts meant for kings. The king immediately realizes that this is Christ, the Messiah, a King even greater than he himself, and he proclaims to all the people: Pray for peace! In other words, hail your new King! He is not governed by fear for his own position or power, but by the truth. Contrast that to Herod, who has innocent children murdered for fear one of them is the Christ-child, the new-born king, someone who might take away his own power, destroy the good life he has for himself, be greater than he is. Fear leads many people to do the wrong thing. They know the truth, yet the cost of following it is too great. In our world today, we must be like the first king. Pope Benedict calls us to save life, to value it, to recognize it as the gift it is, in all its many stages and appearances. Let us promise God today that He can count on us to bring goodness and light into the world, and not darkness and death.

Prayer: Collect for the Mass of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, forever and ever.

Our prayer to God:  Today let us offer all of our prayers, sacrifices and good deeds for leaders of the world, and especially of our own country, that they will be like the king in the carol, and recognize goodness, light and life as the standard by which all governing should be based; leaders who recognize that a respect for all life leads to a country where all people are safe, loved and valued by all its citizens.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Devotion for today: What Child Is This?

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap, is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Scripture for today:  Rev. 1:5-6
 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Christ tells us: John 15:26-27:
But when the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.  And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.”

Blessed John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio states:
On the Permanent Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate
42. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Rv 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Church along her way and associates her with the witness he gives to Christ (cf. Jn 15:26-27). The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary, of the Christian family, and of the ecclesial community, which reveal a new way of living. The missionary who, despite all his or her human limitations and defects, lives a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities. But everyone in the Church, striving to imitate the Divine Master, can and must bear this kind of witness; in many cases it is the only possible way of being a missionary. The evangelical witness which the world finds most appealing is that of concern for people, and of charity toward the poor, the weak and those who suffer. The complete generosity underlying this attitude and these actions stands in marked contrast to human selfishness. It raises precise questions which lead to God and to the Gospel. A commitment to peace, justice, human rights and human promotion is also a witness to the Gospel when it is a sign of concern for persons and is directed toward integral human development.

My thoughts: Our Christmas Carol today asks a very important question. “What Child is this?” Many people in our lives can ask us that very question. “Who is this Jesus you believe in? Why do you believe in Him? What is in it for you? Where do you learn about Him? How can I learn more? Why should I even bother; your life seems the same as mine, and I don’t have all those rules to follow!” Today let us ask ourselves these very questions, and ask a few more, “If anyone knows me, do they know Christ? Does my very life itself make me a witness to a life filled with the love and grace of God? Am I someone who brings people closer to God’s love simply by the way I live?” If you can be Christ to others, they will no longer wonder “What Child is this?” They will know.

On the second day of Christmas, let us offer this prayer to God:
For Those Who Do Not Believe in Christ:
Let us pray:
For those who do not believe in Christ, that the light of the Holy Spirit may show them the way to salvation. Almighty and eternal God, enable those who do not acknowledge Christ to find the truth as they walk before you in sincerity of heart. Help us to grow in love for one another, to grasp more fully the mystery of your godhead, and to become more perfect witnesses of your love in the sight of men.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
For Those Who Do Not Believe in God:
Let us pray:
For those who do not believe in God, that they may find Him by sincerely following all that is right.
Almighty and eternal God, you created mankind so that all might long to find you and have peace when you are found, grant that, in a spite of the hurtful things that stand in their way, they may all recognize in the lives of Christians the tokens of your love and mercy, and gladly acknowledge you as the one true God and Father of us all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen (Good Friday Prayer: intercessory prayer)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Devotion for today: Freedom to celebrate Christ is not always free

Here is one explanation for the popular song that dominates the airwaves this time of year:
One theory… connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England, from 1558 to 1829. The carol, it is said, was a catechism song for Catholics to learn "the tenets of their faith," as they could not openly practice in Anglican society [source:]. Here are the verses of the song, along with their… symbolism:
  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree - Jesus Christ
  • Two Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens - The three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
  • Four Calling/Collie Birds - Four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five Golden Rings - First five books of the Old Testament
  • Six Geese-a-Laying - Six days of creation before God's rest on the seventh day
  • Seven Swans-a-Swimming - Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Eight Maids-a-Milking - Eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Ladies Dancing - Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • Ten Lords-a-Leaping - Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping - Eleven faithful disciples
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming -Twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed
December 26 – Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr
St. Stephen, a disciple of Christ chosen after the Ascension as one of the seven deacons, and “Full of grace and fortitude was working great wonders and signs among the people.” Many rose up against him, but they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the spirit that spoke. Accused of blasphemy against Moses and against God, he was brought before the Sandedrin and condemned to be cast out of the city and stoned to death. Kneeling down before his murderers he cried out with a loud voice, saying: “Lord, do not lay this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord, 35 A.D.(Lives of the Saints, Catholic Publishing Co. 1955)
My thoughts:  This is a little variance from the usual blog that I write, but the day after Christmas is usually spent recovering from much merriment and good cheer, celebrating our Savior’s birth. It is sobering to remember, however, that our faith is not always free. Just as the Catholics in England were persecuted for their beliefs, and just as St. Stephen was martyred for working great signs and wonders among the people in Jesus’ name, so, too, today, in many nations of the world, Catholics are persecuted for their Catholic faith. Let us pray today for all the people of the world who do not have the freedom to openly celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, and let us thank God if we are the fortunate ones who do.
Our Prayer: O Lord, as we remember your birth, we also remember the distress and dangers of peoples and nations persecuted for their belief in you. Hear the pleas of the imprisoned and captives, head the sorrow of the grief-stricken, the needs of refugees, and the cries of the oppressed. Protect the missionaries who place themselves in these dangerous conditions, and bring freedom of religion to all your children. We ask this through Mary, Your mother and ours. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Devotion for today: Jesus Christ is born!

Scripture for today: Luke 2:1-14
In those days Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to register, each to his own town.
 And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to David’s town of Bethlehem – because he was of the house and lineage of David – to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child.
While they were there the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
There were shepherds in that locality, living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flocks. The angel of the Lord appeared to them as the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very much afraid.
The angel said to them: “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you – tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people. This day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord. Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in high heaven,
Peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests.”