Today is the first day of a beautiful season of waiting, hope, prayer, and, reflection. I always love Advent. I love the time of waiting and anticipation. I love how entering this time as the season changes, with the days growing shorter and the nights colder. It’s a time to enter in to the dark night, to look for the Light to come, and to wait with steadfast patience for the angels to sing Gloria.
The Church received a beautiful gift today in anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child, the Word made flesh — today we celebrated Mass with the new translation of the Roman Missal. The prayers of both the people and the priest have been revised to more closely reflect the original Latin translation. Reading over the prayers, I was struck by how reverent the language is, and how it fosters a stronger sense of humility and awe in the liturgy. There is a great deal to reflect on, especially in the priest’s prayers. In a culture which so often twists words to mean things that lead us far away from the truth, it is a beautiful gift that we have this new translation to lead us more deeply in to the truth of our faith.
My instinct at this time of year is to slow way down and to pay attention, to be more watchful. This is in contrast to the flurry of shopping and decorating and the general hustle and bustle going on around me. I find as I get older, I am less inclined to hustle and more inclined to hibernate. But I hope to at least be able to cultivate an inner space where I can remain quiet in the midst of activity, to await the miracle that is to come in the arms of our Blessed Mother, and to be more attentive and grateful for the gift of faith.
“God does not have a fixed plan that He must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” — Pope Benedict XVI
Today, as the Church closes out the year in preparation for the beginning of the new liturgical year next Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent, it is only fitting that we celebrate the truth that Christ is Lord: of all on earth and above the earth, of all people and of all concerning them, of all life and of victory over death. This is true regardless of whether people believe He is or not, whether they acknowledge His existence or not. As we prepare to spend the next four weeks reflecting on the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation and Birth of the Lord of All, this feast is a comforting and blessed reminder that when all is said and done, Christ is the one and only King, present now and forever, until the end of time.
Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that I only just found out the circumstances surrounding the induction of this beautiful feast by Pope Pius XI as a way to combat the rising tide of secularism and hostility towards the Church that was beginning to flourish in the last century and continues on to today. If this is news to you, or if you need a refresher, you might like to read this mindful and enlightening article by Dan Burke.
Remember to Pray For Priests
Sadly, this week I also learned a wonderful and truly gifted priest from a nearby parish has left the priesthood. This was a devastating and sober reminder to me of the great need and responsibility we have to pray for our priests. While it is true that one of the duties of a priest is to be a model of holiness in leading the people in his care to Christ, it is also true that we are all indelibly marked as “priests, prophets, and kings” through our Baptism. It is not just the job of a priest to be holy so that the people he serves may be holy; it is also the job of the people to make every effort to grow in holiness and to support the priest in his service to the people of God and in the gift of his entire life in service to the Church. The priest is like a soldier on the front lines of a very great battle. To leave him to fight alone, without prayer and the individual effort to grow in holiness in response to God’s universal call, is to leave him prey to the enemy and many evils.
It is true that many are reeling from the abuse crisis in the Church, and rightfully so. But we cannot forget or abandon the many, many priests who continue to fight each day for the people of God, who continue to sacrifice unfailingly even in a climate that has made it extremely difficult to do their jobs with any dignity. St. Therese, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, reminds us of both the humanity of the priest and of his special need of prayer:
“I understood my vocation in Italy . . . I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men. If holy priests, whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the “salt of the earth,” show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn’t Jesus say too: “If the salt loses its savor, wherewith will it be salted? How beautiful is the vocation, O Mother, which has as its aim the preservation of the salt destined for souls! This is Carmel’s vocation since the sole purpose of our prayers and sacrifices is to be the apostle of the apostles. We are to pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and especially their example.” [Emphasis in the saint’s original text]
St. Therese mentions the great need priests have of prayer, those who are holy, those who are lukewarm, but what of those who have walked away and are lost? She was no stranger to this experience: all of the nuns in her Carmel grieved over a French Carmelite priest who left the priesthood. St. Therese especially offered many prayers and sacrifices for his conversion. She teaches us emphatically that all priests need our prayers, desperately. As one Body in Christ, each one of us is affected by the actions — good and bad — of all the rest. But we also all share in the graces each receives through prayer and sacrifice. This is the beautiful treasure of the communion of saints which we share in even now.
As we celebrate this great feast of Christ the King, it would be well if we remembered in a special way those who have given their lives to ensure that we are able to receive the graces God intends for each one of us through the sacraments instituted for the Church through His Son, Jesus Christ. It would be well if we remembered to pray in a special way for those who have given their lives to ensure that each and every day, in every Church throughout the world, Christ is able to become truly and really present — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, to be present to each one of us in the most special way. By His own design, Christ can only be present in the Eucharist through the anointed hands of the priest. It would be well if we remembered and prayed for these men, and if we were mindful of our own responsibility to grow in holiness so that through our own example others may see that Christ is the Light of the World.
All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,/ and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,/ and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;/ But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,/ or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods./ Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,/ let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;/ for the original source of beauty fashioned them./ Or if they were struck by their might and energy,/ let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them./ For from the greatness and the beauty of created things/ their original author, by analogy, is seen./ But yet, for these the blame is less;/ For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,/ though they seek God and wish to find him./ For they search busily among his works,/ but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair./ But again, not even these are pardonable./ For if they so far succeeded in knowledge/ that they could speculate about the world,/ how did they not more quickly find the Lord?
Seeking Divine Beauty, by Rachel Balducci Faith and Family Live
Appreciating the Simple Moments, by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur CatholicMom.com
Robert Downey, Jr. Asks Hollywood to Forgive Mel Gibson – Frank Weathers, YIMCatholic (The title doesn’t sound “beautiful” but this is a beautiful example of faith and forgiveness in action where we least expect it. Read it and be pleasantly surprised.)
“Once Upon a Time” and the Ethics of Elfland, by Matthew at By Way of Beauty
Beauty Is Objective, by Marc John Paul, Bad Catholic
4 Tips For Effective Mothering From Blessed Zelie Martin, by Meg Matenaer CatholicMom.com
St. Therese’s Teacher: Our Lady of the Little Way, by Fr. John Saward, Pastoral and Homiletic Review
. . . . of my son and his choice to wear his great-grandfather’s naval uniform for Halloween this year. (You can see his great-grandfather, wearing this very uniform standing with my grandmother, in the picture Skippy is holding below)
My grandfather, Jim, was a Quartermaster on the U.S.S. Thatcher destroyer (Little Beaver Squadron) in WWII. He was a proud patriot and gave up a lot to serve the country he loved. With so many of the brave souls who fought in and experienced this war passing on, it is important to us that Skippy know and understand the sacrifices made on his behalf. Interestingly, while out trick-or-treating Skippy met another Navy man. He served on the Midway. We need to remember…..
I know my grandfather would have been thrilled to see Skippy wearing his uniform, and I know my mom would have cried. . . . here’s to you, Grampy. . . .
Postscript: Thanks reader David Navarre for pointing out this article on Wikipedia on the USS Thatcher!