Friday, January 2, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009 ~ Epiphany of the Lord

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Matthew 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. "When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.


What a contrast between faith and evil this Gospel shows us! We often call the three magi the three kings, which has even more meaning for this story. There are three types of kings here described, all instructing us in our obligations as Christians.

First, the newborn king is, of course, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World! He humbles Himself to be born in obscurity and spends most of His life in obscurity. Yet, He calls us to imitate His humility and His simplicity. The Lord expects us to fulfill our daily duties, just as Jesus did in the house of Joseph and Mary. Our obedience to God's will is a mirror of Christ's.

Next, the three kings, or magi, are an example of worship. The three magi have seen the star, heard the stories, and travelled many miles to pay homage to the newborn king. When appearing before the Lord, they present gifts and prostrate themselves. We, too, are called to present to our Lord many gifts throughout our lives, not the least of which is the gift of our very self. If you have never lain prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle or monstrance, you should. This practice is not reserved just for priests and religious. We should all lower ourselves to the dirt, just as we are reminded on Ash Wednesday, and pay homage to the King of Kings.

Finally, King Herod is undoubtedly evil. Herod wishes the newborn king will be killed, lies to the magi to learn of his location, and eventually orders the slaughter of the innocents.He lives a life of lies, manipulation, greed, and no honor. His instruction for the magi to return to him after visiting Jesus is a clear example of how Satan can trick us. Satan, the king and father of lies, will stop at nothing to ensure his power over us, just as King Herod was desperate for the power of his kingdom not to be taken from him. Although these events took place more than 2000 years ago, evil is obviously very rampant in our world, telling us lies about our bodies, our success, and our souls to tempt us to sin.

As Christians, we need to be aware of how evil operates in order to avoid it, but we need to be more intent on truth and life and how to imitate those. How can I steer clear of evil and direct my focus on humble worship this week?


1. To smile more often.

2. To get up on time every day.

3. To stop yelling at my children.

4. To strengthen family relationships.

5. To develop intimate friendships locally.

6. To spend quality time in silent prayer every day.

7. To maintain peace in our home and not get too busy.

8. To sustain our home business selling used books online.

9. To find a way to teach math that is "fun" for my daughter, or at least tolerable.

10. To learn how to crucify my love and grow closer to the Cross through Our Lady.

Day of Consecration

Yesterday, I took a day off from blogging, because it was my Day of Consecration! I completed St. Louis de Montfort's 33-Day Consecration to Jesus Through Mary for the first time. The most common days for this consecration are February 20 - March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, but when the Lord put on my heart that He desired this of me in mid-November, like in many things in my life, I did not hesitate to begin at the earliest possible moment. (The Consecration can be done on any Marian feast day.)

What a blessed experience it was to commit myself to 33 days of specific prayers and meditations! What a tremendous outpouring of grace I have felt! What peace and joy Our Blessed Mother has brought to my soul! Kneeling before the Our Lady of Fatima statue at our parish yesterday after Holy Mass, I knew that I was united to her and her Son in a new way, that through this simple formulaic spiritual journey, I was transformed.

If you have never done a consecration, please consider it. I had no idea it would be such a quiet, powerful experience. The basic format is 12 days of preparation followed by three weeks focusing on first understanding ourselves, then the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ultimately Christ. The site I link above recommends reading True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary first to discern that you wish to undertake this commitment, and I benefited from this, as well.

Here, I reproduce a portion of the consecration prayer as a public statement of my surrendering to my Lord God through Mary my Mother. Thank you, dear Jesus, for this gift!

I, N_____, a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thursday, January 1, 2009 ~ Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

Luke 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


Sweet Mary! This Gospel helps me to picture you as a quiet, docile woman, as you ponder the birth of my Saviour. Teach me the virtues of silence and gentleness.

Bold shepherds! You go out and proclaim what you have seen. Help me to not be shy at sharing my faith with family, friends, and strangers.

My Jesus! From before your conception, God planned for you to be born of Mary and to suffer on Calvary. Everything I am is yours.

This day is one of my favorite feasts of the year! We honor Mary as the Mother of God, as the one who bathed him, fed him, changed him, taught him, and loved him tenderly. As a mother, the intimacy Mary shared with Jesus Christ inspires me to seek intimacy with Him, as well, to draw near to Him by caring for Him. By caring for others, especially my children, and by offering Him my sufferings as comforting caresses, I hope I grow closer to Him day by day.

Mothers are called to a very special role. The Lord God had a perfect role for Mary to play, but the key component was that God's plan relied on Mary's freely offered yes. I need to work on my "yes," to offer it more frequently and wholeheartedly, and most especially in those moments of tension or frustration when I just do not want to do it God's way.

God, please send Your Holy Spirit to infuse my soul and give me the fortitude to follow your will at all times, even when it is very difficult. I am weak and do what I do not want to do. I must rely on you. Help.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I am a football fan. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy watching any and every game my family lets me turn on! And, this is my favorite football time of the year. It is almost January, time for bowl games and playoffs! Hooray! The only drawbacks are that I am the only serious fan in my family (my husband will rarely even watch a whole quarter with me), and we do not have cable. Therefore, I am limited to what the national networks show.

Those of you who know me well are not surprised by this admission, but to those who may be a bit dumbfounded at why I would spend my time watching such a man's sport, let me explain. Football is men being men; it is that simple. Baseball, basketball, or golf cannot compare to the hard-hitting strategic machismo that is demonstrated on a football field. Hockey has it, but it can be a bit too violent for me. Our culture has largely lost an understanding of what it means to be masculine and feminine. I admire the sport for its masculinity.

Now, let me clarify a few things. I am not a football fan in the sense that a man would be. I do not memorize stats or formations or obsess over particular teams or players. I will watch almost any team, and I understand just enough about the rules to follow the game. This can be funny when my husband brags to his friends that I am the football fan in the family, because they automatically assume I know as much about the game as they do and want to swap predictions and stats. I just enjoy watching.

In defense of the game, I do not believe all football players are intellectually challenged. This is one reason I particularly enjoy watching several talented quarterbacks; they are smart leaders. Admittedly, some players just grunt and tackle, but some of those are really good at taking another man down! In my playbook, that is entertainment.

I also believe, forgive me guys, that many players are amazingly graceful. If you have ever watched a QB scramble to throw a long pass to the corner of the end zone and a wide receiver leap into the air to catch the ball on his fingertips and land with both feet in the end zone, dragging those toes and maintaining control of the wobbly ball, while being thrown to the ground by 200 pounds of brute strength, you know what I mean.

I do not cheer for any particular team. There are some teams I like more than others, but I generally decide who I want to win when a game starts. Sometimes, I will even waffle and wait until the second half to decide who deserves the victory. I like college ball and professional. College ball is pure and exciting. NFL players are impressive and awe-inspiring. With both, you never know what to expect. It is almost like a good mystery novel...okay, maybe that is too much of a stretch for most of you.

There it is. You know my secret. And, beginning on Wednesday, I have the opportunity to watch at least one football game every day for 9 straight days! After that, you can be sure I will try to watch every NFL playoff game and will put the kids to bed early on Superbowl Sunday, so I can open a six-pack and bag of chips and watch a bunch of guys hitting each other hard. Oh, and the commercials are usually entertaining, too!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Smile Mortification

In an inspiring book I have been reading on and off over the past several months, You Can Become a Saint! by Mary Ann Budnik, the author speaks of including mortifications in our daily prayer habits. As a sample, she gives us some ideas on how to start such routines and includes, for the beginner, the smile mortification.

It has been a while since I have read this part of the book, so I am not going to go into any detail on Mrs. Budnik's description. Instead, I want to tell someone...

It is hard! I am not a bubbly person, so to make smiling a part of my normal daily activities is actually a challenge. I find myself with a blank stare, a mommy glare, or a tired grimace 98% of the time!

Since reading this idea, I have half-heartedly tried to pay attention to my facial expressions to no avail. After all, I have many, many reasons to smile at all the blessings in my life, but it is simply not my natural appearance. I have decided I need to change my look for my sake and my children's sakes. This is certainly an act of mortification that will help my soul, as well.

Besides, yesterday when I was smiling for a while, my husband noted how beautiful my smile is. I am not sure I agree with him, but for his sake, I should smile more. So should the rest of the world, I think. Then, our world might be an even more beautiful place, don't you think?

The Feast of the Not-Normal Family

We are not normal. Our pastor reminded me of this in his homily today. He said that this is not the Feast of the Normal Family or the Feast of the Perfect Family. It is the Feast of the Holy Family.

Now, I realize this is no shocker to those of you who know us. We tend to be pretty counter-cultural. We do not have cable. None of us own iPods (a.k.a. personal isolation devices) or Blackberries (a.k.a. crackberries). My children received only one toy each that required batteries this Christmas. We homeschool. We drive 30 minutes each way to attend Mass at a parish that values reverence and modesty in church. I could go on, but you get the point.

Our pastor also told us, "Marriage is not about fun." If you've been married for longer than five years, have children, and are still "in love" (whatever that means) with your spouse, you know this is true. Have you noticed our world is fixated on having fun? In fact, he reminded us that it is possible to be a holy family and dispense with fun most of the time.

The thing that struck me the most from his homily, however, was this point: Our sanctification comes from the sacrifices we make in and for our families. It is when we die to ourselves and unite ourselves to the suffering of Christ on the Cross that we become holy. When we embrace the natural suffering of dirty diapers and back talking children, our souls are being purified.

This purification usually hurts. It is not easy. And, above all, it is rarely fun.

That's why we're not normal. We embrace suffering. We give of ourselves until it hurts and then give some more. We love without recompense. How else can we be salve for the Wounds of Christ? How else can we caress His blood-stained body?

We must kiss our cross and unite the daily struggles we experience in our families with the True Cross of our Salvation. Then, little by little, not only will our souls be sanctified, but our offerings can be given for all sinners. In this way, we can be a part of the New Pentecost, the New Springtime in the Church.

Don't be normal. Be a holy family. It is worth the effort.