There are so many beautiful traditions associated with Advent and Christmas. During Advent, we truly embed ourselves in the preparation for Christmas and for the arrival of the Christ Child in our hearts. During the Christmas season, we share in conviviality, friendship, gift-giving and song. There is nothing that creates a more beautiful backdrop for the season than its lovely music. Music enhances our liturgies and binds us together as community.
We all have our favorite Christmas hymns that connect us so meaningfully to the season. Many of these go back centuries and emanate from different countries. “Silent Night,” for example, a favorite of many, dates back to 1818. A Catholic priest named Joseph Mohr wrote the simple words on the afternoon of Christmas Eve for his small German parish. The song has become one of the most beloved of the season.
Did you know that some Christmas carols are based on poems written by famous poets? One song that I love is “In the Bleak Midwinter.” This is based on a poem written by Christina Rosetti, an English poet, in 1872. It was published posthumously in 1904 and was written as a Christian anthem in 1906. The most popular settings of this hymn were composed by Gustav Holst and Harold Edwin Darke in the early 20th century. Read the rest of this entry »
I recently facilitated a poetry reading for a group of English teachers. It was a wonderful experience. It deepened in me the sense of the beauty of words and the power of language. Each poet read her poetry with such feeling and intensity. It was like listening to a personal revelation.
For some reason, I got to thinking about some Catholic poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Sister Madeleva Wolff. Many are familiar with Hopkins work, but, how many of us know of Sister Madeleva and her contribution to American poetry? I remember reading some of Sister Madeleva’s work while I was in high school. I went to a Catholic high school, so that is probably why her works were included in our anthology. I doubt that I would have heard of her at Central High School (the public high school in our town). Read the rest of this entry »
Fall, in many parts of our country, is a season of transformation. Nature has gifted us with a colorful palette to savor and enjoy. Like Joseph, and his coat of many colors, the earth is cloaked in an assortment of reds, yellows and golds. We marvel at the beauty of God’s creation as we look to the leaves of ever-changing hue. One might say that nature has been transformed. It is a beautiful thing!
How do we go about getting a season of transformation in our own lives? Can we be transformed? What does that mean for us?
In the process of our own spiritual growth, transformation can mean that we deepen our own understanding of who we are in God’s plan. As with the changing leaves, we can change our hearts and turn closer to God. We do not become dry and brittle like the leaves dotting the ground. Instead, we become vibrant with life. We bring color and joy to those around us. Read the rest of this entry »
My Mom passed away a little over a year ago. I miss her just as much now as then—perhaps even more. I have been wondering why that is so. I think it is because, over time, I have been able to dwell on the precious gifts she left me and my family. I always knew she had these gifts, but I should have told her how much they were valued. I think she knows!
She had a tremendous faith in God and she exemplified that through all of her interactions. She didn’t speak ill of others, and she always tried to bring out the best in people. We used to joke that she could talk to anyone whether she had known them for fifty years or had just met them.
My Mother was in the habit of writing notes, and I mean copious notes! My sisters and I were amazed at finding numerous journals and diaries throughout her house. We also found hundreds of notes tucked into books she had read. They were either synopses of things she had just read or quotes from the text. She also kept lists of things to do, ways to organize her life, and books she wanted to read. Read the rest of this entry »
As young children we learn that God is everywhere. In fact, my little catechism from my French elementary school posed the question: Où est Dieu? The answer: Il est partout. (Where is God?/He is everywhere).
We were told that we could find God in ourselves, in others, in the world around us, in church, and particularly in the Eucharist. This is such a magnanimous concept, yet, one we believe in and attest to.
Sometimes we experience God in a truly remarkable way—one that touches the core of our very being. It is a true grace from God to be moved in such a way. It doesn’t happen always, but it does happen. A friend recently told me of an experience she had at a Youth Mass. She said she felt truly embraced by God and was moved to tears. Many things throughout the liturgy brought her to this place of spirituality and sensitivity. We are blessed when such a feeling occurs. Read the rest of this entry »
As I was heading for a vacation to the coast of New Hampshire, a friend of mine told me I should write a blog about lighthouses. I thought it might be too trite. You know, the beach theme is always focused on starfish, sand dollars and the intricacy of the various shells found scattered on the shoreline. There is nothing wrong with that! People spend hours scanning the beaches for just such memorabilia. However, if anything is still alive, I would hope that item would be thrown back into the sea. Just like the legend of the starfish. A young man was seen throwing star fish into the sea. An old man observed the ritual and asked the young man why he was doing that since there were so many starfish, and he couldn’t possibly make a difference. The young man replied, “Made a difference to that one!” Read the rest of this entry »
We are all experiencing a myriad of emotions following the horrific massacre in Orlando. We sense anger, bewilderment, pain, loss, frustration, emptiness and sorrow. Why did such a senseless act have to occur? We can look at and for many reasons. Yet, that doesn’t put a balm on our hurt and the hurt of our nation. The pain that some are experiencing is worse than others. For the parents, families, and friends of the slain victims, the pain must be nearly unbearable.
What we have to do now is for each of us to take our own action. To think about this incident with all of its ramifications and decide what we can do from this point on. This will involve some soul-searching and deep reflection. Does it mean we will be more tolerant? Does it mean we will be more accepting of diversity? Does it mean we will help with funding for those injured? Does it mean we will be pro-active in terms of specific legislation?
However this affects us, it should certainly motivate us to be more loving. For those of you who saw Lin-Manuel Miranda during the Tony Awards, you know he wrote an impassioned sonnet as an acceptance speech. It has come to be known as the “Love is Love” speech. Read the rest of this entry »