On the third Sunday of Advent, I preached a homily entitled, “From Fa la la to Joy.” I remember saying that joy is a matter of the soul; that joy comes from within whereas, “fa la la” comes from the outside. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you may experience the joy that comes from your soul warmly welcoming Jesus - the God who comes to dwell among us.
The most details we have about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus comes from the gospel of Luke. One of the main themes of his gospel is joy. Luke’s joy is the kind of joy that never fades. No matter how dark things get, Luke’s joy never fades. Thus, after the annunciation to Mary by angel Gabriel, when human concerns such as social pressure of an unintended pregnancy, or, the fear of Mary being stoned to death could have dominated the story, Luke’s Mary is capable of singing, “My soul glorifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Even at the crucifixion of Jesus, Luke does not fail to narrate a comforting, dare I say, a joyful story - that of Jesus welcoming the repentant thief into paradise. After all, it is Luke’s Jesus who declared that there is joy over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine who have no need of repentance (Lk 15: 7). Even the darkest hour of Jesus’ gruesome death is not without a reason for joy. It is because joy never fades. Indeed it cannot.
Numerous events will define our Christmas celebrations this year. We will celebrate the Christmas liturgy, have a meal with family and friends, share Christmas wishes and exchange gifts. Some will do this even though the soon ending year may have brought with it its share of life’s burdens - illnesses, deaths, unexpected financial uncertainties or broken relationships. In spite it all, the human spirit finds enough reason to celebrate Christmas. I believe this is because, somehow, for people who believe, joy never fades even when there reason for it to fade; because our soul forever belongs to our God who came to dwell with us; because God is “Emmanuel” - God with us.
When I said earlier that my prayer for your this Christmas is that you may experience joy, this is what I meant - that you may discover the child Jesus in the deepest part of your being, your soul. And having discovered him there, may you bow down in homage before him like the angels, the shepherds and the magi. In that act of homage may your soul and your God become one - like the word made flesh, like the divine now made human. In that act of homage, may you find unfading joy.
I wish you all a joyful Christmas and blessed New Year.
Christmas Mass Times
Saturday, December 24, 5 pm
(Music and carols beginning at 4:15 pm)*
Sunday, December 25, Midnight
(Music and carols beginning at 11:15 pm)
Sunday, December 25, 9 am
(Music and carols beginning at 8:30 am)
*Children's Liturgy of the Word dismissal will happen at the 5 pm Mass.
New Year's/Mary, Mother of God Masses will follow the regular weekend Mass schedule:
Saturday, December 31, 5 pm
Sunday, January 1, 8 am
Sunday, January 1, 10:30 am
Note: The Rectory Office will be closed December 26-January 2.
Friday, October 7 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In her honor, here are five ways to reinvigorate (or start!) a prayer routine that uses the rosary.
If you've never prayed a rosary before, here's a wonderful visual start guide.
1. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
2. The Jesus Prayer Rosary (sometimes called the orthodox rosary)
3. The Chaplet in Praise of the Virgin Mary
4. Pray each set of mysteries and use this CD by Danielle Rose to meditate on them.
5. BONUS: Pray the traditional rosary in using one of these ten methods to engage more of your senses.
This weekend, the United States Bishops encourage the celebration of Respect Life Sunday, which is meant to bring awareness and renewed vigor to a whole host of pro-life issues in the world: abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, genocide, contraception, reproductive technologies, and more.
The Bishops, various Catholic media outlets, and pro-life organizations within the United States rightly suggest that Catholics should enter the public discourse to promote individuals, groups, and policies that uphold the sanctity of human life. But what is one to do when voting for anti-abortion candidates isn’t enough? What if Roe v. Wade is never overturned? Should Catholics look around, shrug their shoulders, and congratulate themselves for a good effort?
This Respect Life Sunday, here are 5 suggestions to promote and protect life at its earliest stages. These are not public policy positions, but actionable items that take place within the most basic units of society: our families and our immediate communities.
1. Consider announcing a pregnancy as soon as possible
According to 2012 CDC statistics, more than 90% of abortions take place before 13 weeks of gestation. It is difficult to promote a culture that respects life from the moment of conception if couples, extended families, workplaces, and societies consider the first trimester of pregnancy to be a medical condition a woman should hide. Instead, share and celebrate the creation of a new life as soon as possible!
2. Don’t be quiet about miscarriage
Many couples choose not to announce their pregnancies until 13 weeks gestation or more because the risk of miscarriage greatly decreases. If Catholics believe that life begins at conception, then a miscarriage is a loss of a life and that life can be acknowledged. If miscarriage happens within your own family, contact a the church or a funeral home about the different options for prayer and rituals on the occasion of miscarriage or stillbirth. If you know someone who experiences a miscarriage, acknowledge it. Often, families are dealing with grief that most of society doesn’t acknowledge. Say something as simple as “I’m so sorry.” Take a meal. Offer a mass. Consider anything that you would use to show sympathy if the person had lost a relative that had been alive for many years.
3. When an unmarried woman says she’s pregnant, do anything and everything you can to support her.
Congratulate her, and mean it. Be excited that a life has been created. Bring her gifts for the baby. Buy diapers. Let her live with you. Let her know you love her, no matter what. Statistically, the woman most likely to seek an abortion is a white, single, Catholic woman in her 20s who lives on less than 200% of the federal poverty line and already has at least one child.
4. Offer free babysitting, help with chores, or do any other job that can help a mother feel less overwhelmed.
Almost 60% of women who have abortions have already had at least one previous birth, and the three most common reasons given for seeking an abortion are 1) the child would interfere with the mother’s education, employment, or ability to care for other dependents 2) the woman cannot afford to have a baby and 3) that she is/would be a single mother or is having relationship problems. Help a woman to feel secure in her ability to provide for her family and not overwhelmed by her responsibilities.
5. At appropriate times, show children pictures of babies in the womb
When there is a pregnancy in the family or when it’s time for “the talk”, consider showing children pictures of developing children. Knowing and seeing that the beginnings of a mouth, eyes, and nose are present in a 5-week old embryo can shift a perspective that otherwise might consider it “just a cluster of cells.
To be clear, abortion is not the only pro-life issue the catholic church stands for. For more ways to be pro-life across the entire spectrum of living, see this great list of 100 by Meg Hunter-Kilmer.
In the Liturgical Calendar, the last week of September includes the feast days of some heavy hitters in the Communion of Saints! Here's five feast days to recognize and celebrate:
Cosmas and Damian (Sept 26)
Patron saints of surgeons, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, barbers, and protectors of children.
Not much is known about these twin brothers. They lived and studied in Syria in the 3rd century, and became famous for being skilled physicians. Cosmas and Damian were known as Anargyroi – the moneyless ones – because they accepted no payment for their services. They were martyred during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Diocletian. They were honored by the Christian community as early as the 4th century, with many legends growing around them. There is also an unusual controversy about which cathedral reliquary houses their skulls.
Liturgical Living: Honor the feast of Cosmas and Damian by taking care of those medical needs: Make that appointment you’ve been putting off, help a loved one or neighbor get to a medical appointment, or send a cheery note or take dinner to someone who is dealing with a medical condition.
St. Vincent de Paul (Sept 27)
Patron of charitable organizations
Born in France in 1581, St. Vincent de Paul was ordained a priest in 1600. After being captured by pirates and sold as a slave, he finally returned to Paris, where, preaching a mission to the peasants, he realized he should direct his efforts toward alleviating the suffering of the poor, including instructing them in the faith. With the help of others, Vincent founded two religious orders, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Vincentians. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a charitable organization dedicated to the service of the poor, was started in 1833 by French university students. It is now in 132 countries.
Liturgical Living: Honor the feast of St. Vincent de Paul by making a plan to serve the poor. You can get more information about St. Helen’s St. Vincent de Paul chapter here and the Dayton area efforts here.
Archangels: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel (Sept 29)
We celebrate the Feast of the Archangels. Archangels are chief angels, distinct from guardian angels, who serve as messengers from God in significant matters. The three archangels named in Scripture – Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel – are celebrated on this feast day, though tradition names additional archangels.
Michael is known as the leader of the heavenly host, who cast Lucifer and the fallen angels from heaven, and protects us from evil. He is the patron of the military and police.
Raphael, named in the book of Tobit, is known to be the angel of healing and acts of mercy, because of the healing of Tobias’ blindness. He is the patron of travelers, the blind, and the bodily ill.
Gabriel, whose name means “God is my strength,” is best known as the angel of the Annunciation, appearing to Mary to tell her she will give birth to the messiah. He is the patron of communication, journalists, and messengers.
Liturgical Living: This feast day, before adding Raphael and Gabriel, was known as Michaelmas – the Feast of St. Michael. Folklore suggests that, when St. Michael kicked Lucifer out of heaven, Lucifer landed in a prickly blackberry bush, and so Michaelmas was the last day of the year to pick blackberries. Eat some blackberries and ask for the Michael to defend you from evil, Raphael to heal all your hurts, and Gabriel to help you communicate with others.
Jerome (Sept 30)
Patron of translators, Biblical scholars, students, and librarians
There’s a bumper sticker that says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” There perhaps should be one that says, “If you can read the Bible, thank St. Jerome.” Living in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, St. Jerome is most known for translating the Bible from the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) into what became known as the Latin Vulgate or “common” language. This version of the Bible is the one that Christians read for the next thousand years. As vernacular languages developed, St. Jerome’s work was used to translate the Bible into the language of the people.
St. Jerome is known as a Doctor of the Church – a category of saints who, through virtue and wisdom, made significant contributions to teachings of the Church. In addition to translating the Bible and writing important commentaries on Scripture, he is famous for having a sharp wit and being sarcastic. He also had a pet lion.
Liturgical Living: Honor his feast day by reading some Scripture. Don’t know where to start? Try the upcoming Mass readings!
Therese of Lisieux (Oct 1)
Patron of missionaries, florists and gardeners, orphaned children, France, Russia and Alaska
For being such a popular saint, Therese of Lisieux, also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus or “The Little Flower,” did, well, relatively little. Born in France in 1873, she had a conversion experience at age 14 that would lead to her insisting on joining the convent at age 15. She was so determined to become a nun that she traveled to Rome to personally petition the Pope after being refused entry by several orders, due to her age. Having suffered ill health most of her life, St. Therese was committed to the “little way” – doing little things with great love for the glory of God. St. Therese died at age 24 from tuberculosis. Only a few people attended her funeral. A year later, her autobiography, “Story of a Soul” was published, introducing the “little way” to the world. She was canonized only 27 years after her death, and 500,000 people attended. In 1997, she was declared a Doctor of the Church, proving that little things done with great love can make a huge difference.
Fun fact: St. Therese’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, were also canonized in October 2015, becoming the first married couple to be canonized together.
Liturgical Living: Honor the Feast of St. Therese by completing little acts with great love: complete another family member’s chore, surprise a loved one with their favorite meal, or visit someone who may be lonely.
These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by St. Helen of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.
The cause for sainthood of Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta) reaches its pinnacle on Sunday, September 4, 2016. Canonization is the final step in a complicated process to name someone a Saint of the catholic church. Fr. James Martin tweeted earlier this week, "God makes saints. The church only recognizes them."
1. It takes a lot to be declared a Saint.
There is a multi-step, multi-year process to become a saint. Mother Teresa passed away 19 years ago, and her cause was fast-tracked by Saint Pope John Paul II when he dispensed her case from the required five-year waiting period. Instead, her cause was opened almost immediately. Learn what is involved to be named a saint in this short 6-minute video.
2. Two miracles have been attributed to her intercession.
As with all sainthood causes, two miracles must occur and be verified as miracles before the person can be named a saint. The two official miracles both included healings of the body, the first of which took place on the first anniversary of her death. The second occurred in 2008, but wasn't reported until 2013 because the doctor that witnessed it wasn't catholic, but was later inspired by Pope Francis' visit to Brazil.
Read more about the miracles here, but the Mother Teresa Cinnamon Roll was not one of them.
3. Mother Teresa spoke often, including in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
She made a visit in 1974 that included stops at the College of Mount Saint Joseph and the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains.
She was a highly sought-after speaker, and gave many commencement speeches throughout the United States. Watch her 1982 commencement speech at the Thomas Aquinas University commencement. The text can be found here.
4. Mother Teresa had doubts about her faith
During the investigations into her cause, many of her journals and letters were discovered and published. Many people, including those who knew her best, were surprised to learn of persistent doubts and "darkness" that kept Mother Teresa from feeling close to God.
"If I ever become a saint," she wrote," I will surely be one of darkness."
Read more about her writings in this interview with the chief investigator in her case, Fr. Brian Kolodiejchuk.
5. Mother Teresa may not have said it...
An entire website has been dedicated to debunking mis-attributed Mother Teresa quotes. One of the most common quotes attributed to her that she did not write are the so-called Paradoxical Commandments (...love them anyway), which was written by a Harvard graduate and hung on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta.
Tune in to the Canonization Mass of Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata on September 4 using the SaltandLightTV Live Stream. The full schedule of coverage and events can be found here.
Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.
The unofficial end of summer. The beginning of pumpkin-spice-everything season. Labor Day.
Whether you plan to pay tribute to the contributions of workers by camping, shopping, or working, consider taking a few moments to reflect on how your work -- and dignity as a worker -- connects you to God's work.
"We need to remember that men and women have 'the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments.' Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God." -- Laudato Si, 127
Examination of Conscience for Workers
For me, prayer is often pretty easy. At some points, my prayer is like the short, quick text messages exchanged between friends or loved ones throughout the day, sharing funny or annoying moments of every day life in quick bursts. At other times, prayer is more like the deep, rich conversations shared while lingering over cups of coffee or glasses of wine, sometimes stretching long into the night, but leaving me feeling deeply satisfied and fulfilled.
But then there are the times when its not.
There are those times when prayer is just difficult. In my relationship with God, like my relationships with friends, I sometimes have times where I am so busy or preoccupied with other things that I just fail to communicate. There are also the times when my relationship with Jesus hits a rough patch: we're fighting, we're struggling to connect, or we're not hearing each other (Ok. I'm not hearing. Even when I feel like I'm not being heard, God always listens.) Honestly, sometimes I just get bored. For those moments when prayer is boring, hard or just seems pointless, here's five ways I've found to connect (or reconnect) with God. -- Amy
1. Take a Hike.
Or go for a walk or run. Talk to God about what you see. You might thank God for the beauty of nature, or ask God's blessing on the people, places, or situations you encounter. (If you're a social media user, you can search #whereIpray to see others have spent time with God. If you're on Twitter or Instagram, tag @sthelenparish and we'll share your prayer places.)
2. Draw it out.
When words alone fail or you're struggling to stay focused, try doodling. It's not about being a great artist, it's about giving your hands something to do while your head and heart communicate with God. Doodle prayer can be as simple as picking up a pen and drawing squiggles on a sheet of paper. If you're looking for more, check out Praying in Color. (Full disclosure: Art is a regular part of my prayer, even when I'm not stuck.)
3. Use the S Word.
No, not that S word! Scripture! For many people, Scripture is a regular part of prayer. If it's not your go-to, it's a great way to get unstuck. I've found that the Gospel of John is most helpful for me when I need to reconnect with Jesus. If you don't know where to start, try the Gospel for the day or the upcoming Sunday. You can find the readings on the USCCB website.
4. Find your jam.
Music has a way of communicating ideas and emotions that we otherwise struggle to articulate. Try listening to music as a way of prayer. What message are you trying to express to God? What is God trying to say to you? Find your dance-in-the-kitchen-with-the-Holy-Spirit song. While sacred and contemporary Christian music might seem like the most logical, God can speak to our hearts through other music, too. This Pete Townshend song captured what Jesus had been trying to communicate with me during a particularly difficult time in my faith journey.
5. Be still.
I think we sometimes put too much emphasis on prayer being about words. I need to remember that it is more about being present to God and aware of God's presence in my life. If you're struggling to connect, just be with God. You might consider making a "little visit" to spend time with Jesus in front of the tabernacle. Sometimes I just sit at home with a cup of coffee, mindful of God's presence. (I admit, sometimes I do this in the dark or with my eyes closed, so I don't see things I feel like I should be doing!) You don't have to do or say or think anything. Just be still and let God's love and grace surround you.
How do you kick start your prayer life when it stalls out?
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I'm sure I'm not the only one that spends just a little too much time on social media. As a positive, it's a great way to stay in touch with friends and find out what I need to know. In this study, it is reported Millennials often use social media as one of their primary sources of news, and it has made our generation pretty news-savvy, with 69% of people aged 18-34 taking in world news at least once a day.
Another way that a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feed can enrich life is by calling us to prayer. The Catholic faith is a visual faith, as the Church uses colors and smoke, crucifixes and bread, precious metals and people gathered together to enrich our prayer. For almost the entire history of the Catholic faith, the church has used images to experience the sacred and pray. In fancy church-language, it's called visio divina.
For this week's Friday five, I offer five images that I encountered via social media this week that caused me to stop and pray.
1. Back to School
O Lord, we pray for students and teachers as they begin a new school year. Help them to learn from each other as they grow in knowledge, faith, and virtue. We pray in the name of Christ, the Great Teacher, amen.
Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Pray for Us.
Almighty God, the water that we use to destroy sin and rise to new life in baptism is the same water that washed away the world in the Great Flood of Noah. While our faith tells us that what is destroyed shall return, be with your people who suffer at the hands of water. Help those of us whose homes and lives are spared to respond to your call to help our neighbor by sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, and giving drink to the thirsty. May aid be swift and helpful. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Saint Florian, patron of floods, pray for us.
3. The Boy in the Ambulance
God of all Creation, you knew each of us before we were knit together within our mothers. Watch over all your children, especially those who are most in need of your protection. Send them swift aid, comfort in their sorrow, healing for their wounds, and peace in their rest. Stretch us to welcome the stranger, for your own son was born on a night that his mother was told "there is no room for you here." In showing us the greatness of your son, you have also shown us that we should welcome, shelter, and protect not only those with whom we are comfortable, but also those people whom we have never met. Change our hearts, O God.
St. Alban, patron of refugees, and Mary, Queen of Peace and patroness of war victims, pray for us.
4. The Commandments
Eternal God, you gave us a moral code when you sent the Ten Commandments from the heavens, and sent your son to show us how to live it. Help us to be responsible users of our words and our judgment, that we might always keep at the forefront of our words and actions your call to treat each other with kindness and to act in honorable and honest ways. We pray through Christ, our Lord.
Saint Isidore of Seville, patron of the internet, pray for us.
5. Present over Perfect (a book that so many I follow are reading and recommending)
God of all Wisdom, through all time you have gifted the world with prophets who speak your truth and draw us back to you in many ways and languages. Help us to hear the prophets among us today and to avoid the false prophets and idols that would have us turn against you and your kingdom of faith, hope, and love. Guide our hearts and minds towards that which calls us back to you. In Jesus' name we pray.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of prophets, pray for us.
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