A Prayer for Everyone Affected by Sandy

The folks at Twenty-Third Publications sent the following  beautiful prayer to those on their mailing list. They gave me permission to reprint it here for you.

As we hear of another storm threatening the East Coast, it’s good to pray with our families.

Prayer for those caught in the Storm

Oh God, Creator of earth and sea and sky,
we pray together today for our sisters and brothers
who have endured this storm
and especially for those we have lost.
Give us endurance and strength and help when needed.
We know that you remain with us
in every moment of our lives.
Lord, increase our faith now
and let it guide us in these difficult days.
Protect the safety of police officers & firefighters,
ambulance crews & medical personnel,
and those who are restoring our power & other services.
Help us focus on what is good in the human spirit
and thank you for all those who have stepped forward
to help others.
May even this become a moment of grace for us all.
We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Reprinted with permission from Twenty-Third Publications, New London, CT

 

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I blog, therefore I talk…way too much

If people seem jumpier these days, it’s probably because every time we take a cruise on the information superhighway, some alarming new statistic comes careening at us.  For example, I just learned yesterday that there are 40,000 species of spiders in the world, but about the same number are still waiting to be discovered.  With statistics like that, who can sleep at night?

Here’s another.  There are something like 450 million “active” blogs on the Internet. Of those, more than 2,000 are Catholic blogs.

People have been asking why I haven’t been posting and those stats pretty much sum it up for me. Sure, blogs can inspire. They can offer instruction and information. But does the world really need one more bloggedy-blog-blog post from me? Couldn’t we all use a little less rambling, a few less links, and a whole lot less comments?

I like the way the great Catholic author Matthew Kelly puts it in his astounding bestseller Rediscover Catholicism:

I am certain that the Church needs less and less of your ideas and mine, and more and more guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Yep. You go, Matthew Kelly. But does this mean I’m giving up blogging? Not really, I like it here. But as usual, I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing. Maybe my purpose is to point you (and me) to better sources that the Internet noise may have drowned out.

For instance, I’ve finally finished St. Faustina’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. I admit it’s not a book to breeze through, but Faustina offers powerful perspectives and example for today’s Catholics, especially when she writes about being misunderstood by others. Instead of telling her side of the story, she prayerfully puts her defense in God’s hands, saying with a simplicity that belies a far deeper meaning, “It cost me greatly.” Instead of adding her comments to the overall noise, Faustina stops, and listens to what God has to say to her. Her listening gave her the strength to make 1,828 entries in six humble notebooks, following the will of God.

Those are statistics I need these days more than ever.

(I know the Feast of the Divine Mercy is months away but in celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s feast day on October 22, I thought I’d share a few resources about Faustina)

Praying with Faustina by Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti, Word Among Us Press. Excellent book to help you reflect more deeply on Faustina’s writing.

Divine Mercy activities for kids From the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website, here are several activities for various age groups you can download.

Divine Mercy in My Soul the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, available from the Catholic Company.

 

 

This guy…

When my sons were little, everything related to trains and cars. No matter what you talked about, my boys always took the conversation back to an engine of some kind. One time I asked my five-year-old what he wanted for lunch and he told me he needed a quart of oil. True story.

But that’s one way we learn–by relating any new information our brains receive to something we already understand. Now that they’re older, my boys can make connections to a much wider range of subjects, including baseball, basketball, football, and weightlifting. Oh, and also trains and cars.

The problem is that half the time, I have no idea what they’re talking about. My understanding of their world–things like the nickel defense, or why having two starting quarterbacks is such a bad thing (what if one of them has the flu?) is hazy at best. So I find myself relating my sons’ worlds to mine. But what surprises me is how often I automatically connect what happens throughout the day to the words of Scripture or holy people. I never thought of myself as “churchy,” even though I attended Catholic school all the way through college. In fact, as a young writer, I would have laughed out loud if anyone had told me that I’d be writing Catholic books later in life.

But this is truly my world, now, and I’m not sure it has to do with my Catholic schooling (although I thank my dear mother for it with all my heart), as much  it does with what God has planned for me. And really, for you, too. And all of us.  Josemaría Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, said, “Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.”

Josemaría reminds us that it isn’t just saints who relate everything back to God and to love. It’s something each of us can do, every single day. Brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, sending e-mails, listening to our kids tell us their latest fantasy football stats—everything is extraordinary, when we remember that it’s powered by God’s love for each of us.

Josemaría showed us those connections all the time. I think that’s part of the reason he’s universally loved by so many. In a few weeks, on October 6, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of his canonization. I’d like to invite you to visit the official website of Josemaría Escriva and learn more about this beloved, modern, humble saint, who always had a twinkle in his eye. In particular, you can find two novenas that are important for many of us right now: the novena for employment, and the novena for families.

Take a look, and feel free to share your thoughts here.

God bless!

 

 

Oh please don’t put away that nativity scene yet!

Tempting as it is to put all the Christmas decorations away today, on this feast of the Epiphany, it’s a longstanding tradition to keep the nativity scene up until Candlemas on February 2. (More about that feast in a few days).

To keep Christmas just a little longer this year, I salvaged some branches from the Christmas tree (yes, they’re pretty dry, but they’ll last a few more weeks in some water) and I added a few seasonal greens, like ivy and Indian paintbrush berries, to adorn our family’s nativity scene. Of course, this is easy to do here in sunny Southern California, but even if you’re suffering through freezing temperatures, you can still leave up the nativity scene as a reminder that Christmas isn’t just one day a year, and the light of Christ’s eternal love warms even the bitterest of times.

Send me your pictures of your nativity scene, and tell me how you keep Christmas long after December 25. I’ll put up your pictures on the blog!

God bless!

The Winner of Always Advent’s Lights and Display Contest

Photo by Patrick Simons

 

Lights and display contest?! Lights and display contest?! Oh no…but nobody’s gone commercial around here.

In fact, this is the best Advent lights display I’ve ever seen. (Actually it’s the only Advent lights display I’ve ever seen.)

It was created by the Simons family of Mission Viejo, California. They’re the hands-down winners of the Always Advent First Annual Lights and Display Contest. A contest I just started yesterday in fact, when I saw this picture from their dad, Patrick Simons, on Facebook. So congratulations, Simons family. Unfortunately, you can’t win money, money, money around here. But you have won the admiration of folks everywhere who want to see Advent remembered the way it should be! Charlie Brown would love it, too!

 

You gotta love this Christmas card!

(Another in our series of guest posts from my friend, the fabulous Stephanie Baker.)

I love Christmas cards.  Over the years our family has created many homemade versions to express our greetings to family and friends.  From a spray-painted snowflake to a professional portrait of us dressed as Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion (“There’s no place like home for the holidays!”), our cards have run the gamut.  Nowadays we receive mostly photo cards from family and friends.  Those pictures tell a story so much better than a long-winded Christmas letter!  Every card, note or letter is received in our home with great joy and appreciation.

One of our most memorable Christmas greetings was created the year our youngest child, Will, was born.  December 1988 found me at home with John, age 7, sister Emily, 4, and William, born in early September.  Overwhelmed and exhausted, I was at my wit’s end as to what sort of photo to take of the kids for our card.  Inspiration came at the hands of Emily, who before her brother was born announced in no uncertain terms, “it will be my baby”.  Her motherly instincts inspired me to gather the kids and some make-shift props and costumes.  A bath robe and a blue scarf for John, Emily in her nightgown with a pink shawl draped over her head, the infant seat with a faux sheepskin blanket and baby Willie in a cloth diaper.  Yes, we had the Holy Family posed sweetly in front of our Christmas tree!  All three with their most angelic faces – John steadying the baby seat, Emily’s hands held in prayer, and Willie’s little arms extended in blessing just like the baby Jesus.  It was truly a Christmas miracle!

This Christmas 23 year old Will (no longer Willie) is engaged to be married.  His sister Emily is engaged as well.  Big brother John is Dad to a beautiful baby girl.  Our family is growing at a rapid pace – Thanks be to God!  Dear parents, the years fly by, so capture the moments carefully and share them generously with your loved ones!  Merry Christmas!

 Stephanie Baker is co-author of Kitchen Table Conversations: Preparing at Home for Sunday Eucharist (Twenty-Third   Publications), with co-author  Anna Humaydan.  Stephanie and Anna are former parish DREs with Master Degrees in Pastoral Ministry from Holy Names University. They have presented workshops, in-services, and trainings for the California Dioceses of Stockton, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Monterey, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Dallas, Texas.