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Posts Tagged ‘Gifts’

Today–when we celebrate Epiphany— is one of my favorite days in the liturgical calendar.  It is the day I get to move the magi into the manger scene, and as a kid, I always loved rearranging, gazing on and meditating before the Nativity set we had under the tree.

In today’s homily, Fr. Tom told us about a friend of his from Peru who had never heard of Santa Clause until he got here to America.  (Santa Claus is a very European tradition.)   His family did not celebrate Christmas Day in the way we do here.  They gathered, went to mass and had a wonderful feast dinner.  But it wasn’t until Epiphany that they exchanged gifts.  On the morning of Epiphany, the children would rise to find gifts from the magi who had been following the star searching for the Lord.  The children would be told that when the magi came to the family’s house, the magi found the love of Christ so strong, they were sure that the Christ child was there, so they left gifts for Him….and those of course became what we would think of as Santa gifts.

Fr. Tom gave us homework.  He told us to make Epiphany a day of gift-giving “from the heart.  A day to give something of our faith to those we love–a Bible, a spiritual book, Rosary, whatever.”  He said, “Wouldn’t that be something?”

Inviting gifts of the season by having a Christ-centered, loving home.  An Epiphany gift given from the heart.  Wouldn’t that be something?

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A Merry Christmas story for you.  :-) 

From the Washington Post comes this unusual but heartwarming adoption story.  All grown up now, the “baby” of the story–now a young woman–has found the man and woman who found her on a doorstep when they were each teenagers.  Notice how happy the girl is to be given this chance.   I’m sure she is glad her birth mother chose life, even if she was abandoned.  

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 17, 2009; A01
Christopher Astle and Emily Yanich were teenage pals strolling back from a 7-Eleven that afternoon in late summer — two ordinary kids on an ordinary Wednesday after school — when they found the abandoned baby. 

It was Sept. 6, 1989. They discovered the newborn wrapped in towels at the front door of a townhouse in their Fairfax County complex and took the infant to Emily’s, where her stepfather called police. 

The whole thing was over pretty quickly. The authorities took the baby girl, who was later adopted. Chris and Emily, both 15, went on with their lives, although Emily often cried when she told people the story, and the two called each other every Sept. 6. Twenty years passed. Then, on Dec. 2, a college student named Mia Fleming sent them both a message via Facebook: Might they be the same Chris and Emily who had once found a baby left at a stranger’s door? If so, she just wanted to say thanks. After all these years, the little girl they had found had found them. The story of Mia, Chris and Emily, recounted by the three over the past few days, is a nativity narrative for modern times. There were no heavenly hosts that warm afternoon in 1989, just the distant ambulance sirens after the call to 911. But the event seemed blessed all the same. Chris and Emily, both now 35, stayed close friends as they grew up, moved and married, bound by their rescue of the baby. Mia, once she learned her story, never forgot them, and after numerous tries over several years managed at last, through the power of the Internet, to track them down. “I didn’t know how they would feel,” she said. Emily said: “It’s like a miracle. . . . My heart is filled now. There was always a little spot missing. ” Chris said, “It’s the best Christmas present I have ever gotten.” A reunion is being planned so the three can see one another again. Mia, now 20, said she was excited. Chris said, “I just want to give her a hug.” 

Read the full story here.

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Today’s  book is a bit off-the-wall, I know, but I think this is an excellent book for those of us with an insatiable need to know random stuff. 

There really isn’t any good reason to keep building ugly post-VII churches.

Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis McNamara; Foreword by Scott Hahn.  Here is what the publisher says about it:

This unique book delves into the deep meanings of liturgical art and architecture, and by association, the Sacred Liturgy itself. It is meant to help pastors, architects, artists, members of building committees, seminarians, and everyone interested in liturgical art and architecture come to grips with the many competing themes which are at work in church buildings today. The object of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is help the reader to drink deeply from the wells of the tradition, to look with fresh eyes at things thought to be outdated or meaningless, and glean the principles which underlie the richness of the Catholic faith.

  • Part one presents an emerging area of study: Architectural Theology
  • Part two introduces the readers for the first time to the scriptural foundations of church architecture
  • Part three focuses on the classical tradition of architecture
  • Part four examines iconography as eschatological flash and
  • Part five concludes with a discussion of the Twentieth Century and where we are now in the Age of the Church.

Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is a  foundational sourcebook for studying, designing, building, and renovating Catholic churches, this book is intended to find the middle of the road between differing and sometimes conflicting theories of liturgical architecture.  It will give architects and building committees the theological language and tools to understand the elements of church design by examining past architecture and will help decision makers link these principles to their current building projects.

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Saint Nicholas brought us stockings full of fruits, nuts, and candies last night.  Did he visit you?

CNA STAFF, Dec 6, 2009 / 04:47 am (CNA).- Today, December 6, the faithful commemorate a bishop in the early church who was known for generosity and love of children. Born in Lycia in Asia Minor around the late third or fourth century,  St. Nicholas of Myra is more than just the inspiration for the modern day Santa.

As a young man he is said to have made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt in order to study in the school of the Desert Fathers. On returning some years later he was almost immediately ordained Bishop of Myra, which is now Demre, on the coast of modern day Turkey.

The bishop was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution and only released when Constantine the Great came to power and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

One of the most famous stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas says that he threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been sold into slavery.

The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.

St. Nicholas is associated with Christmas because of the tradition that he had the custom of giving secret gifts to children.   It is also conjectured that the saint, who was known to wear red robes and have a long white beard, was culturally converted into the large man with a reindeer-drawn sled full of toys because in German, his name is “San Nikolaus” which almost sounds like “Santa Claus.”

In the East, he is known as St. Nicholas of Myra for the town in which he was bishop. But in the West he is called St. Nicholas of Bari because, during the Muslim conquest of Turkey in 1087, his relics were taken to Bari by the Italians.

St Nicholas is the patron of children and of sailors. His intercession is sought by the shipwrecked, by those in difficult economic circumstances, and for those affected by fires. He died on December 6, 346.

Church celebrates feast of St. Nicholas, the ‘original’ Santa Claus.

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2 out of 3 bible scholars think that Scott Hahn's Catholic Bible Dictionary should be in Christmas stockings.

Well, I couldn’t very well put together a Catholic blogger list of recommended books and NOT have Scott Hahn, could I?  I mean, they might take away my Catholic Blogger credentials.  Oh yeah…I don’t have any. 

Dr. Hahn has soooooo many wonderful books to choose from but I decided on The Catholic Bible Dictionary because Michael Barber requires it for his classes.  No.  I’m not making that up.  :-P   He does.  Plus I love dictionaries.  It’s one of my things.  /shrug

And look at these recos from the Amazon site!

Scott Hahn’s writings and conferences have been so effective in bringing Catholics closer to Sacred Scripture. His valuable Catholic Bible Dictionary will be another big help to faithful Catholics who have taken seriously the Church’s encouragement to become immersed in God’s Word.”
Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York

Catholic Bible Dictionary is a timely, academically solid and user-friendly response to the call of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church for the development of ways of helping the faithful more fully access the treasures of the Bible.”
Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, S.T.D., Archbishop of Washington

Catholic Bible Dictionary is an extremely useful tool for any Bible student, whether beginner or advanced. This dictionary is particularly helpful for Catholics who need both etymological studies of terms and solid theological help. My only hope is that the readers will study the articles on a regular basis and eventually read the whole dictionary as they study the whole Bible.”
Fr. Mitchell C. Pacwa, S.J., president of Ignatius Productions and host of EWTN

Thousands of people have been assisted by Scott Hahn in studying the Bible from an informed and spiritual point of view. This dictionary is a powerful part of that effort and will significantly help any reader learn more about the Bible in an organized and reliable way. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to come to a deeper knowledge and love of sacred scripture.”
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

That’s like a roster pulled from Who’s Who in the American Catholic Church.

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Oh! I thought the title was The Search for God IN Guinness. My bad.

So some of these posts just write themselves.  This is one of those posts. 

For today’s Tis the Season of … Books!  entry I bring you ==>>

It’s a book

It’s a book about God and Guinness

‘Nuff said.

Remember boys and girls:  Good things come to those who wait.**

 

** see also

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What do you mean, 'I can't sing'? I can sing!

Okay, this is a book that I have wanted for a loooong time.  Er…five years, according to Amazon‘s Wish List.  Hmmm.  Anyway, at the risk of getting all New Liturgical Movement-y on you, this is supposed to be an awesome and insightful book.     Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste by Thomas Day

I found the original review of the book from Catherine Dower on EWTN that made me add it to my Wish List –gosh, I love the internet!

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Church hopping, church shopping, steeple chasing–what are they calling it these days?  Have you done it?  I think it is relatively rare in our Catholic community, unless we move–like I did–and start over with a new community.  But among Protestants, church hopping is not only accepted, it sometimes seems to be expected.  ;-)    In my entire life, I’ve only ever had one Catholic suggest to me that I should attend their church instead of mine, but I hear Protestant friends suggest it all the time.  “Oh, you go to that Baptist Church?  uh-huh…you should come to mine!  Our [insert noun such as ‘preacher’ ‘choir’ ‘worship team’ ‘worship team leader’ ‘children’s service’ ‘small group’] is awesome!  Come to my church!”

I think we’ve all been guilty of some church shopping.  I know when I moved to Michigan, I looked at a few different Catholic parishes before settling on the one which turned out to be my true local parish.  It was the last one because I hadn’t realized it was there.  Before I found it though, I had a “church shopping moment”, I know, when I absolutely refused to return to one of the parishes I visited.  It was Holy Week and I was visiting from down south and the Good Friday service had a lot of goofy, non-liturgical additions.  The centerpiece of Good Friday was not, as you might expect, the Veneration of the Cross.  Nope, it consisted of the priest hammering nails into a piece of wood (no, it wasn’t a cross) whenever the deacon (or reader or whoever that was) read off a “sin” that we as a people have committed.  Now, this is way off the liturgy for Good Friday but I was willing to go along because heck, I thought it might make an impact on us.  But I balked at the “sins” they announced.  This part of the service was so off the rails into modernism and seeking relevance that it was farcical.  Not a single “every time I lied…cheated…failed to help…passed a stranger without encouragement…forgot to pray…didn’t thank God for my blessings…gossiped…used vulgar language….watched pornography…ignored my kids…”  I mean, there’s a lot of personal sins that could have been mentioned and which would have struck a chord of recognition in the parishioners hearts.  But nope.  Here are the ways we crucified Jesus, according to this particular church:

  • failed to recycle
  • polluted the rivers
  • elected politicians who lead us to war
  • misunderstood our Muslim brothers
  • our government didn’t help the poor (I forget where in the Bible Jesus says for governments to help the poor)
  • our intolerance

There were more but by this time, I was praying so hard for God to make me focused on Him, not on what was going on in the service, that I couldn’t listen anymore.  :-P

So…back to my point.  Church shopping is in itself, a form of worship for some Christians.  Here is a hilarious quiz from Stuff Christians Like for church shoppers:

The Church Hopping Score Card

1. If you leave without even getting out of your car because you can’t find a good parking spot = +1 point

2. While visiting a new church you park in the pastor’s assigned parking space = +1 point  (more…)

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Adults--I have your readymade excuse: oh, I keep them around because I have nieces and nephews that visit.

Are you a parent of young kids?  Do you have children on your gift list?  Have you lurched through your own childhood without experiencing the joy of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then today’s Tis the season…books! post is for you.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, if you did not know, wrote an autobiographical series of children’s books recounting her childhood in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and Missouri.  You’ve no doubt heard of them because there was a moderately successful** television series based on them.   Perhaps you may have a built-in bias against them, based on the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” and if that is the case, I beg you to forget what you think you know and consider these books afresh.

I remember reading them as a youngster myself, starting with Little House in the Big Woods, and loving them well before the tv series started.   All my friends did.  We got them from the library and I remember we had to swap them because there weren’t enough copies for us to read simultaneously.  I admit that I re-read these a couple years ago when my son was reading them.  What a pleasant re-read they were, too.

I decided to recommend them after I chanced across this Catholic Exchange article which puts into context some of the politics behind Laura Ingalls Wilder’s publication of the books.  Did you know or suspect that they were anti-New Deal?  I didn’t but I can certainly see how they could be viewed that way.  These books are about hardworking men and women, self-sufficient, industrious, family-centered, faithful, independent.  Values that most parents want to pass on to their kids.  Plus, the stories are really charming.  If you don’t have kids that you can give these to, or if the kids live outside of your house (thereby denying you the ability to sneak in your own reading), then get yourself a copy! 

I also recommend that you buy the books as a set because keeping the titles straight and in order is just too darn difficult.

** hehe

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Yes, that's right boys and girls! It's ANGEL TIME!!!

I have a son who flies through books.  I can’t keep him stocked with them.  He really likes fantasy novels and he likes thrillers.  So what more natural fit than a supernatural thriller?  Even better, it is a Christian book written by an acclaimed author, a fallen away Catholic turned atheist who has returned to the Church

The book I’m excited about is Anne Rice‘s Angel Time in the Songs of Seraphim series.   Catholic Exchange reviewed it and the monk/librarian/CE reviewer Br. Benet Exton wrote this about it:

This reviewer has never read any of Anne Rice’s Vampire stories, but he has read her more recent fictional books on Christ and her memoir about her life and her conversion. He has seen two of the movies based on her vampire stories, Interview with a Vampire starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and The Queen of the Damned. Rice’s new book is the total opposite of the vampire stories.

Since her conversion, Rice began writing about Christ, and now about angels. These “angels” are not like the ones imagined by New Age followers. She has studied what Christianity teaches about angels. She has consulted the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Pascal Parente’s book The Angels to write about them. According to Christian teaching, angels are disembodied spirits. Each is his own distinct species of angel. There are also various classes of angels or heavenly persons which are mentioned in the Scriptures. St. Paul lists nine classes, or ranks (also called choirs). Only three angels called “archangels” are named in scripture: St. Gabriel, St. Michael, and St. Raphael. There are good angels and there are bad angels. The bad angels are led by Lucifer, otherwise known as the devil or Satan, and by other names.

According to Christian teaching we humans do not become angels when we die. We become disembodied souls that will have a human body again at the Resurrection.

Anne Rice’s new book is very entertaining, and contains a conversion story of its own. An assassin, Toby O’Dare, has an experience that changes his life so much that he is willing to do anything for God. He wants to make up for all the wrong he has done. That God forgives even assassins is something most of us accept with great difficulty. We humans may think that a notorious sinner is beyond forgiveness, but God does not work that way. This fictional story of Toby and an angel, Malchiah, permits Rice to present a number of teaching moments in the story, if one is alert to them. They are correct according to Christian teachings and the Scriptures, and undoubtedly reflect on Rice’s own life and her conversion (especially clear to this reviewer after reading her memoir). Although, Rice of course was not a notorious sinner her character O’Dare was.

Anne Rice researches the historical background for her books and she has done well with this one too. Since O’Dare tells God and the angel that he is willing to do anything to make up for his sins, Malchiah sends him back in time to correct a situation in 13th century England involving Catholics and Jews. One will have to read the book to find out what happens, suffice it to say that the book keeps the reader enthralled — as many reportedly were by her vampire stories, so she is now doing with her angel stories. This book is a first in a series she plans to write while works continues on her fictional series on the life of Christ. Anne Rice must be doing well with these Christian fictional books since some are bashing her for them. This new book is highly recommended to those who want to read good Christian fiction and about angels.

So if fiction is your game, I am recommending you put this on your Christmas list.  It was on my shopping list, but it’s in the “checked off” column now.

Oh, as if it could get better, this is the first in a series so if my son gets hooked, I have a whole line of books I can go back to every gift occasion.  Score 1 for mom!

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