Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent and a New Year

Maybe it's the feel of something I did in my early teens and still do today that gives me a great feeling of joy whenever I prepare an Advent wreath. I  remember getting the candles and the prayer card for the family ritual from the Daughters of St. Paul when I was in high school.
Today I pulled out my "Christmas Box"--a big flat under-the-bed storage box that hides my Advent/Christmas treasures.
I found Advent candles, but my candle holders are in Boston. I improvised something sturdy to hold the four candles: three purple and one pink to symbolize the weeks of Advent and the time before Christ's coming when people awaited his coming. From clippings from holly bushes in our yard, and from fir trees hanging well over our lawn. I fashioned a wreath to encircle the candles in our living room and in our chapel.
As we prayed the evening prayer for the First Sunday of Advent, we lit the first of the candles to remind us of the season. This time celebrates our waiting for God. And, as our Mother General wrote to us, God waits for us too.
To continue the Advent theme, we fashioned a set of paper candles for our bay window. To go along a bit with the culture, we changed the wreath at our front door to one with greens and a bright red bow.
As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict asked, this weekend we pray for all the unborn around the world that their lives will be a blessing to their mothers ad fathers, to their communities, and to the entire world. May the unborn be protected, nourished and cherished. The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model in Advent. As she awaited the birth of her Son, she serenely carried out the chores of her daily life, and she was no doubt, a woman of the deepest prayer. May the words of Caryll Houselander shed light on our Adventjourney: "This time of Advent is absolutely essential to our contemplation too. If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us to us that we do not disturb this time of grace.
"It is a time of darkness, of faith. We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless we still must believe that He is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything to this almost incredible reality." (From Houselander's "The Reed of God", Ave Maria Press edition, 2006)
May you and I experience a beautiful, grace-filled Advent.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, have a blessed and joyful day!
Yesterday I went out for a few items needed for our Thanksgiving menu.
The store where we usually shop for fruits and vegetables was very crowded. shoppers were stocking up for big dinners. Others were selecting wreaths already decorated for Christmas. People were rushing in and out--in a hurry to beat the traffic which was already getting congested. Yet folks were polite and patient, especially in the parking lot.
Today I baked two pumpkin pies "from scratch"--meaning that the pies came not from a can put from a "real" pumpkin, cut open, cleaned out, and steamed to soften it for cooking. I found a nice recipe for pumpkin cookies too, so I baked some of those too.
As I mixed, and stirred and baked today, I was grateful for the health to be able to do all this; I was also thankful that we have such an abundance of food to prepare; for the spices that come from distant lands and fill our house with pleasant aromas; for the grace to be in a country that allows freedom of speech and of religious practice; for my family, my friends and the Sisters of my religious community. I thank God for giving me a mother who made sure that all of us 13 children learned to cook (at least enough to survive.) More and more when I prepare something, I think "How would Mom have done this?" Then I recall what she used to do and find myself doing likewise. Tomorrow all of my little community here in Philadelphia will prepare something for our holiday dinner, and we are all looking forward to this pause to enjoy time together before our activities resume this weekend. To each and all of you all the best for a very blessed and joyous Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Season of Thanks

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, Patroness of Church Musicians. In Rome's Catacombs of St. Callistus there is a lovely statute of this saint. With long flowing hair she is depicted as lying on her side, three fingers together signify the Triune God for whom she died. During this month, the Church has honored saints with her without canonization: all those who have "fought the good fight", and have "won the race" as St. Paul described himself.
For Americans of a certain age, this day stands out too for the shock of seeing our president assassinated 47 years ago. I remember the day and the moment when a woman emerged from a taxi in Buffalo, New York. She shouted to anyone who could hear, "They shot the president!" That was the first time in my life that someone had done violence to a political leader in my country. Then came Bob Kennedy and Martin Luther King--both victims of assassins. those events seemed to me to mark a new era in our history.
Yet, in comparison to some other places on this earth, we Americans and Canadians live in relative peace. This is something to be thankful for. Yesterday on Public Television a Benedictine Brother was featured as one who preaches gratitude as a way to gain peace. He said that "everything is a gift." He is so right about that. He qualified his statement by saying that war and other obviously evil events do not in themselves call for gratitude. However how we face up to unfortunate events can be a source of gratitude, if we make the best of them. It's worth the time it takes to transform a potential cause for griping into a cause to celebrate and to give thanks.
Thursday we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. May we each say a profound "thank you" to God, and to all those to whom we owe gratitude.
Best wishes for a very blessed Thanksgiving Day!