Archive | December, 2013

say often in family and in prayer

29 Dec

Holy Family 01

For the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, six things that we do well to say often in family: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. You are wonderful. How can I help you?

Perhaps you think of the one in your family to whom you last said one of these, or the one to whom you would do well to say one of these six things: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. You are wonderful. How can I help you?

Something dawned on me while I was coming up with the list.

I was shooting for five. The first four came easily: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.

Something had me notice that they were the kinds of things that we often say in prayer. They matched three of the four “kinds” of prayer that we talk about: petition (please), thanksgiving (thank you) and contrition (I’m sorry; I love you).

The one kind of prayer that was missing was adoration. You know how we say to God, “You are wonderful. You just are.” Well, we can say that to someone in family, too, and we would do well to say that often to family. I had reached five.

But then I thought that there is something else we often say in family, “How can I help you? How can I help you accomplish what you are trying to do?” We can say that to God, too, “God, how can I help you to pull off what you are trying to make happen?”

It dawned on me that what we do well to say in prayer we would do well to say in family, and what we say in family we can also say in prayer.

So, which prayer best matches your emotions and desires at this moment, “Please, O God. Thank you, God. I’m sorry, God. God, I love you. O God, you are wonderful. God, how can I help you?

Holy Family 03

Did something ruin your Christmas?

28 Dec

Didn’t get what you want for Christmas? Do you have food, clean water and shelter? That’s more than many have. Can you say thanks to God?

Family drive you crazy at Christmas? Many refugees and war victims have no families at all. Can you thank God for even your crazy family?

Someone didn’t like your gift? Many people can’t afford gifts for their families. Can you thank God for the ability to give in this way?

Christmas a disappointment? Many Christians suffer persecution and cannot go to Mass safely. Can you thank God you’re free to worship Him?

Did something human – like illness, anger, lust – ruin your Christmas? Can you thank God for becoming human and entering into our messy human life?

Those five reflection questions come from Father James Martin. I follow Father Jim, a Jesuit priest, on Twitter and in America magazine. Either of his latest books are an easy read and would make a great gift to just about anyone: “Between Heaven and Mirth” and “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.” (This is not a hint or disguised request. I have both books already.)


2013 Christmas Message from Father Rob Waller

27 Dec

At all six Masses on Christmas at St. Andrew we presented to each person a booklet with all the prayers and music for the celebration. The first thing people saw was a welcome message and an explanantion of the preace dove.


(click on image of program to see it enlarged)

By yourself or with family,

grateful or hurting, disappointed or satisfied,

successful or stressed, sick or healed, elated or deflated,

feeling the loss of health, home, loved one and employment,

or with everyone and in good relationship

with everyone whom you love and who loves you,

we come to Mass on this holy day

and approach the altar

with grateful and humble hearts.


Jesus is on the altar at every Mass

as truly as he was in the manger on the first Christmas.

As he was in the wood of feeding trough

and on the wood of the cross,

he is truly present on our altar-table

for our nourishment and our salvation.


At every Mass

we are in Bethlehem on Christmas,

at Calvary on Good Friday

and at the empty tomb in Jerusalem on Easter morning.


May you experience always

the spirit of Christmas which is peace,

the joy of Christmas which is hope,

and the heart of Christmas which is love.


A “peace dove” with lighted candle will remain on the ledge at the tabernacle in our church throughout the Christmas season. Our friends in our partner parish and school in the Beit Jala area of Bethlehem will light a candle for us on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They will remember us in Bethlehem, as we will remember them here. The Christians who live in Bethlehem still do not enjoy the peace the angels sang about on the first Christmas. As we sing the opening words of the Gloria – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will” – we will pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem, throughout the Holy Land and all throughout the Middle East.


♫♪ On the feast of Stephen ♫♪

26 Dec

In “Good King Wenceslas” we sing, “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen.” On the feast of Stephen, December 26, many are out shopping, looking for bargains and sales. Good King Wenceslas sought out a poor person.

Toward the end of the song, there is a line that we have rarely paid any notice: “Ye who now will bless the poor/Shall yourselves find blessing.”

Father James Martin likes the version of the Christmas song sung by the Roches, for it highlights how helping the poor helps us … 

It should be of no great surprise that I like best a version sung by a lovely Irish girl, Roisin Dempsey, because, well, she’s a lovely Irish girl with a lovely Irish voice singing with some lovely Irish flavor  … 

Roisin and I appeared together in Celtic Woman’s “Songs from the Heart” DVD that was taped at Powerscourt House and Gardens in Dublin, Ireland … well, actually, she sang in the show on stage … and I was in the audience … but we can both be seen on the same DVD.


our island of misfits

25 Dec

charlie in the box

My nose and my fingers are crooked. My right ear sticks out like a car door that is opening. One of my legs is longer than the other one.

I am a bit of a misfit.

In a classic Christmas movie, Rudolph the Reindeer, the one with the red nose, accidentally comes to the island of misfit toys. Something is wrong with each of the toys. They are convinced that no one would want them or love them.

There is an elephant that had spots, and a bird that couldn’t fly but it could swim. There is a water pistol that shoots jelly, and a train that has a caboose with squares wheels. And there is Charlie:. He is a bit of a surprise and has a spring in his legs. He hides in a box, and pops out. But his name is Charlie, and he is convinced that no one would ever want to play with a Charlie in a Box.

We are all misfits. Somewhere, and someone all of us don’t fit in. I don’t meet the standards that I have set for myself. I don’t match up with what the Church thinks that I should be and what the Gospel demands of me. I have not become all that God created me to be.

God came on purpose to our island, this island of misfits, to show us what was in his heart that needed to be in ours, that we are wanted and loved by God. God wants you. God loves you. No one is truly happy until they are convinced deep down within them that they are truly wanted and  truly loved by God. That is what makes Christmas the most wonderful day of the year!

Christmas peace be with you!

25 Dec

At Midnight Mass we prayed this prayer:

“That our Holy Land partnership with Annunciation Church and School in Beit Jala will help replace their despair with hope, their fear with security, and their humiliation with human dignity. We pray to the Lord …”

The Paradox of Christmas

24 Dec

Two thousand years ago

in the small town of Bethlehem

one silent night

loudly proclaimed God’s love for the entire world.


For our all-powerful God came to earth

in the form of a helpless child,

and though many people had waited for his coming

few actually noticed this baby’s arrival,

so much so

that there was no room for him that night

in the world which he had made.


But still he came.


He who was divine became human.

He traded in his heavenly seat

for an earthly manger.

He exchanged robes of splendor

for swaddling clothes.

He left the songs of a multitude of angels

for the praises of a few humble shepherds.

That night

though Jesus left his throne

he became our king:

a king who came not to be served but to serve,

a king whose death would bring us life,

a king whose single sacrifice would serve as the ransom for us all.


So, it’s the paradox of Christmas

that calls you to respond.

Though there are presents still waiting for you to receive

this night is truly about the gift that you have already been given.

the best news in the world (in 8 notes)

23 Dec

The best news is the world is found by playing a simple scale on the piano – with the pauses on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and last notes.

Be sure to play it the “other way” – and don’t forget the pauses.

wrapped as for Christmas

22 Dec

Gratitude Hope Joy

Imagine that there are before you three gifts, wrapped as for Christmas. One has on it a large tag marked, “Gratitude.” Another is tagged, “Hope.” The other is, “Joy.”

Answer quickly, without analyzing.  Ready? Without thinking, answer, “Which of these gifts has God given to you this year: gratitude, hope or joy?”

On the back side of the gratitude tag the words “thank you” are written as many times as is possible. On the back of the joy tag are smile faces, and hands clapping and hands raised in prayer. Backing up hope is more hope and more hope and more hope.

Which gift has God given to you this year: gratitude, joy or hope?

And of  those three gifts from God: which one would you like to be able to give to someone else in your life? Gratitude? Joy? Hope?

A young man in our parish responded quickly that God had given him joy this year: a lovely wife and a new baby. And he did not hesitate in the least to say that he would like to give his mother the gift of hope.

 Gratitude, Hope, Joy. Which of the gifts has God given to you this year? Which one would you like to give to someone at Christmas?

That he smelled like eternity

22 Dec

What Mary Knew

That he was beautiful,

love’s most holy writ.

That he was the world in small,

and she loved it.


That he had undone death.

That he would be her joy.

That he would grow more beautiful

as he became a boy.


That he was grace in human form

and paradise to hold.

That he smelled like eternity.

That he would not grow old.


That he was heaven’s gift,

dressed in flesh and baby clothes.

That he was wholly beautiful.

What every mother knows.

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell is a professor of English and associate director of the Curran Center for American Studies at Fordham University in New York City. Janet McKenzie, an artist in Vermont, is working on a new project called “African-American Women Celebrated.” © America Magazine  


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