Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today is a special day. It is the feast day of St. Andrew, the first day of Advent and my birthday. We will begin our Jesse tree and open the first door on our calendar as well as light the first candle on our wreath.

I celebrated my birthday with friends on the 22. Once I get the picture scanned in I'll post more about the event.

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor.
The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes.

Prayer for the Advent Wreath

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people.He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us.He is the Savior of us all.O Lord,let your blessing come upon us as we light the first (purple) candle of this wreath.May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation.May He come quickly and not delay.We ask this in His holy name. Amen.


We light a candle today, a small dim light against a world that often seems forbidding and dark. But we light it because we are a people of hope, a people whose faith is marked by an expectation that we should always be ready for the coming of the Master. The joy and anticipation of this season is captured beautifully in the antiphons of hope from the monastic liturgies:
See! The ruler of the earth shall come, the Lord who will take from us the heavy burden of our exileThe Lord will come soon, will not delay. The Lord will make the darkest places bright.We must capture that urgency today in the small flame of our candle. We light the candle because we know that the coming of Christ is tied to our building of the kingdom. Lighting the flame, feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, reconciling the divided, praying for the repentant, greeting the lonely and forgotten – doing all these works hastens His coming.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Preparing for Advent

This week I am preparing for Advent. The first of the four Sundays of Advent begins on November 30. Many have forgotten that the time leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation for the coming of the Savior. It is a time of anticipated joy, like a mother preparing for the birth of a child. She is joyous, yet restrained, hesitant and humbled until the moment of birth arrives. There should be somber anticipation and restrained joy in each of us that grows each day until Christmas Day, Christ's birthday.

The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ's manifesting Himself as God and King -- to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfthnight -- 5 January -- being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ (at which time the season of Time After Epiphany begins). But Christmas doesn't end spiritually -- i.e., the celebration of the events of Christ's life as a child don't end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn't end -- until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.

This week I am looking for activities, novenas and recipes for the next four weeks and the weeks following Christmas day. We will count down to Christmas day with an Advent calendar, say evening prayers while lighting candles on an Advent wreath and cleaning the house again. I will be making the ornaments for our Jesse Tree as well.

The focus of Advent is preparation for the coming of the Lord -- both in commemoration of His Nativity and His coming again at the end of time. Though most Protestants -- and far too many Catholics -- see this time of year as a part of the "Christmas Season," it isn't; the Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass at Christmas Eve, and doesn't end liturgically until the Octave of the Epiphany on January 14. It goes on in the spiritual sense until Candlemas on February 2, when all celebrations of Christ's Childhood give way to Septuagesima and Lent. The mood of this season is one of somber spiritual preparation that increases in joy with each day, and the gaudy "Christmas" commercialism that surrounds it in the Western world should be overcome as much as possible. The singing of Christmas carols (which comes earlier and earlier each year), the talk of "Christmas" as a present reality, the decorated trees and the parties -- these things are "out of season" for Catholics; we should strive to keep the Seasons of Advent holy and penitential, always remembering, as they say, that "He is the reason for the Season." To sum up the similarities and differences between Advent and Lent as penitential seasons, there's this, by Fr. Lawrence Smith:
Advent is the time to make ready for Christ to live with us. Lent is the time to make us ready to die with Christ. Advent makes Lent possible. Lent makes salvation possible. Advent is the time when eternity approaches earth. Lent is the time when time reaches consummation in Christ's eternal Sacrifice to the Father. Advent leads to Christ's life in time on earth. Lent leads to Christ's eternal Life in Heaven. The Cross -- through the Mass, penance, and mortification -- is the bridge connecting Advent and Lent, Christ and His Church, man and God.Each of the Church's penitential seasons is a dying to the world with the goal of attaining new life in Christ.
Catholic apologist Jacob Michael wrote something very interesting about how secular America sees "Christmas" as beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on 25 December, and then makes "New Years Resolutions" at the beginning of the secular year:
...what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming. We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes -- and that Coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it's too late -- Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.

So please, restore Advent and don't think "Christmas is here" until it truly comes. One way to help focus on the theme of preparation is to read the
parables of The Fig Tree, The Man Going on a Long Journey, The Faithful and Wicked Stewards, and The Ten Virgins in the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel. Another way to help you do this is to think of the Saint who embodies the spirit of this Season more than any other: the great St. John the Baptist. If you have an icon of him, venerate it especially now. Make special prayers to him and consider the message of this "voice of one crying in the desert": "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." You will note that the readings of the second, third, and fourth Sundays of Advent focus on St. John, the earthly herald of Christ's coming whom St. Ephraem likened to the Star of Bethlehem, the Heavenly herald of His coming.

God's Blessings.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The evening of All Souls we lit candles for our grandparents and said a prayer for the departed. Grace was so sweet. She went back and spent a time looking at each picture. Then she very lovingly said "may you rest in peace." I wish I had been able to sneak a picture. It is a memory that I will cherish.

I love fall. The cool crispness to the air (which is so welcome in the deep south) and all the colors! I think it would be wonderful to have the leaves keep their autumn glory from spring through fall.

These are pictures of a wonderful hickory tree in our front yard. The oaks are catching up in color and the leaves will be knee deep pretty soon. My children are going to have lots of jumping to do.

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours going through my grandmother's set of Childcraft books and her encyclopedias. A few years ago I stumbled across some in a thrift store and had to bring them home. There was a poem in one that I felt was quite fitting for today.
A Vagabond Song
There is something in the Autumn
that is native to my blood---
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple
and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples
can shake me like a cry
Of bugles goin by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters
like smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October
sets the gypsy blood astir,
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls
each vagabond by name.
Bliss Carman

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Souls Day

O God, the Creater and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of thy servants and handmaids departed, the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen

Today is the feast day of All Souls. It is a day to remember those loved ones who have passed on before us. A day to share their stories with our children. A day to pray for them.

Before my conversion to Catholocism, praying for the dead was something that my Protestant family did not do. But people I knew would say "God rest his soul", "May he rest in peace" and things along those lines. To me, even as a young child, I thought these things sounded like a prayer. I never quite understood the double standard that was applied here. The "we say these things but never pray for anyone after their death."

I find comfort in knowing that my prayers may aid others on their way to heaven. And also in asking those who have stepped into the next world to pray for me.

The following is an excerpt from

Today is a good day to not only remember the dead spiritually, but to tell your children about their ancestors. Bring out those old photo albums and family trees! Write down your family's stories for your children and grandchildren! Impress upon them the importance of their ancestors! Bring to their minds these words from Ecclesiasticus:

Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15 Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation. The Lord hath wrought great glory through his magnificence from the beginning. Such as have borne rule in their dominions, men of great power, and endued with their wisdom, shewing forth in the prophets the dignity of prophets, And ruling over the present people, and by the strength of wisdom instructing the people in most holy words. Such as by their skill sought out musical tunes, and published canticles of the scriptures. Rich men in virtue, studying beautifulness: living at peace in their houses. All these have gained glory in their generations, and were praised in their days. They that were born of them have left a name behind them, that their praises might be related:

And there are some, of whom there is no memorial: who are perished, as if they had never been: and are become as if they had never been born, and their children with them. But these were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed: Good things continue with their seed, Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever: their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise.

Celebrate your family, your history, your faith.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

Father, All-Powerful and ever-living God,
today we rejoice in the holy men and women
of every time and place.
May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours

Today we made pretzels in celebration of All Saints Day.

Grace is trying to get the hang of rolling out logs.

Sean just wants to eat the dough.

Gabriel thought eating an iced cookie was a much better idea.

We shaped them as an 8 or infinity symbol in remembrance of the saints.

The Number eight is clearly the new beginning, or a new cycle. The number 8 is made up of 7+1. Seven symbolizes that something is complete. The number one means a beginning.

The number 8 symbolizes the new life the Saints enjoy in the presence of God. The infinity sign is representative to me of eternal life.

I used a recipe from Sandy over at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking. It was very easy to follow.


Finally, I am posting picts of our scarecrow. Grace and Sean had a ball "helping" me stuff him.

We picked some great pumpkins on our rainy trip to the Grand Ol Pumpkin Patch. I think the kids had more fun running through the rain than picking out pumpkins.

Here is Jack, our happy pumpkin.

The kids, even the big ones, dressed up for Trick or Treating. The boys were cowboys and Grace was a princess of course. Michael got in on the act as Zorro.

Gabriel was very excited that his mommy was going to be a cowboy girl too.

I have to say I was disappointed in our street. No lights were on. We had to walk two streets over before we found anyone offering treats. The back street in our neighborhood was well decorated and had families sitting on their steps enjoying the night. Our kids had a great time. After Sean got his first piece of chocolate he was more content to stay in the wagon and eat his candy. Grace and Gabriel raced each other to ring the doorbells. It was really nice to see all the families out walking together.

After making it back to our home, we had several children knocking on our door. I made mummy dogs and hot chocolate for all. Along with ghost cookies and pumpkin cake. Our friends stopped by with some wine. We enjoyed our spirits and had a wonderful evening.