Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mortalium Animos - Pope Pius XI Speaks on Ecumenism (pt 2 of 2)

Yesterday, we looked at the beginning of Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mortalium animos in which the Holy Father took stock of the ecumenical movement that was gathering a head of steam in the early twentieth century. We saw how we must distinguish between a true ecumenism, which is a great good, and a false ecumenism, which leads to indifferentism and atheism and saw some of the errors and dangers of the early ecumenical movement.

Today, we'll finish looking at this great encyclical, one which has as much resonance for us in the early twenty-first century as it did for Pope Pius' contemporaries.

7. And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question... depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed...to bring forward these words of Christ: "That they all may be one.... And there shall be one fold and one shepherd," with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment. For they are of the opinion that the unity of faith and government, which is a note of the one true Church of Christ, has hardly up to the present time existed, and does not to-day exist... They add that the Church in itself, or of its nature, is divided into sections; that is to say, that it is made up of several churches or distinct communities, which still remain separate, and although having certain articles of doctrine in common, nevertheless disagree concerning the remainder; that these all enjoy the same rights; and that the Church was one and unique from, at the most, the apostolic age until the first Ecumenical Councils. Controversies... and longstanding differences of opinion (on articles of the faith)... must be entirely put aside, and from the remaining doctrines a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief (a "mere Christianity), and in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers. The manifold churches or communities, if united in some kind of universal federation, would then be in a position to oppose strongly and with success the progress of irreligion...Among them there indeed are some, though few, who grant to the Roman Pontiff a primacy of honor or even a certain jurisdiction or power... Others again, even go so far as to wish the Pontiff Himself to preside over their motley, so to say, assemblies. But, all the same, although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor (which is the goal of true ecumenism)...

8. This being so, it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ. Shall We suffer, what would indeed be iniquitous, the truth, and a truth divinely revealed, to be made a subject for compromise? (how many today would answer 'yes') For here there is question of defending revealed truth. ...If our Redeemer plainly said that His Gospel was to continue not only during the times of the Apostles, but also till future ages, is it possible that the object of faith should in the process of time become so obscure and uncertain, that it would be necessary to-day to tolerate opinions which are even incompatible one with another? If this were true, we should have to confess that the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and the perpetual indwelling of the same Spirit in the Church, and the very preaching of Jesus Christ, have several centuries ago, lost all their efficacy and use, to affirm which would be blasphemy. ...

9. These pan-Christians who turn their minds to uniting the churches seem, indeed, to pursue the noblest of ideas in promoting charity among all Christians: nevertheless how does it happen that this charity tends to injure faith? Everyone knows that John himself, the Apostle of love, who seems to reveal in his Gospel the secrets of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who never ceased to impress on the memories of his followers the new commandment "Love one another," altogether forbade any intercourse with those who professed a mutilated and corrupt version of Christ's teaching: "If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him: God speed you." For which reason, since charity is based on a complete and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united principally by the bond of one faith. Who then can conceive a Christian Federation, the members of which retain each his own opinions and private judgment, even in matters which concern the object of faith, even though they be repugnant to the opinions of the rest? ...We do know that from this it is an easy step to the neglect of religion or indifferentism and to modernism, as they call it (or religious relativism as we call it, this of course is what has happened since Pius wrote this)... Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental (these are the forefathers of today's 'fundementalists'), as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction...

10. So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it. During the lapse of centuries, the mystical Spouse of Christ has never been contaminated, nor can she ever in the future be contaminated... For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one... it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.

11. Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors. Did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls? Alas their children left the home of their fathers, but it did not fall to the ground and perish for ever, for it was supported by God. Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults previously heaped on the Apostolic See, will receive them in the most loving fashion. For if, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, "the Mother and mistress of all Christ's faithful"? Let them hear Lactantius crying out: "The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God...

12. Let, therefore, the separated children draw nigh to the Apostolic See, set up in the City which Peter and Paul, the Princes of the Apostles, consecrated by their blood; to that See... not with the intention and the hope that "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" will cast aside the integrity of the faith and tolerate their errors, but, on the contrary, that they themselves submit to its teaching and government. Would that it were Our happy lot to do that which so many of Our predecessors could not, to embrace with fatherly affection those children, whose unhappy separation from Us We now bewail...

13. You, Venerable Brethren, understand how much this question is in Our mind, and We desire that Our children should also know, not only those who belong to the Catholic community, but also those who are separated from Us: if these latter humbly beg light from heaven, there is no doubt but that they will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it, being united with us in perfect charity. While awaiting this event, and as a pledge of Our paternal good will, We impart most lovingly to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people, the apostolic benediction. 

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the 6th day of January, on the Feast of the Epiphany of Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the year 1928, and the sixth year of Our Pontificate.


Pius XI

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mortalium Animos - Pope Pius XI Speaks on Ecumenism (pt 1 of 2)

There is a lot of talk these days about ecumenism in the Church. For those who might not know, ecumenism refers to the relations between the Church and other Christians. The push toward a more ecumenically friendly relations between Christians has been ongoing for over a century. To form a solid Catholic opinion of the matter, it is helpful to see what the Magisterium had to say at the inception of this movement and to distinguish between true and false ecumenism. To that end, here is Pope Pius XI from 1939 in his encyclical Mortalium Animos on Religious Unity (my emphasis and comments added).

Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction. 

Never perhaps in the past have we seen, as we see in these our own times, the minds of men so occupied by the desire both of strengthening and of extending to the common welfare of human society that fraternal relationship which binds and unites us together, and which is a consequence of our common origin and nature...

(First the Pope turns to address what we now style "inter-religious dialogue.")
2. A similar object is aimed at by some, in those matters which concern the New Law promulgated by Christ our Lord. For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission. Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little. turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion. (Pius sees that the idea that all religions are "good" quickly leads to religious relativism, then to atheism. He was a prophet.)


(and now we look at ecumenism proper - the relationship between the Church and other Christians)
4. Is it not right, it is often repeated, indeed, even consonant with duty, that all who invoke the name of Christ should abstain from mutual reproaches and at long last be united in mutual charity? ... All Christians, they add, should be as "one": for then they would be much more powerful in driving out the pest of irreligion, (Dr. Kreeft's 'ecumenical jihad')... These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; and these men, so far from being quite few and scattered, have increased to the dimensions of an entire class, and have grouped themselves into widely spread societies...This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed.(the "pan-Christians" were advocating a "mere Christianity" where Christians would put aside their theological differences and decide to get along in charity. Pius notes that true ecumenism leads souls back to the Catholic Church and doesn't water down the faith.)


6. ...God might... have prescribed for man's government only the natural law, which, in His creation, He imprinted on his soul, and have regulated the progress of that same law by His ordinary providence(God could have only gave man a 'natural' non-revealed religion) ; but He preferred rather to impose precepts, which we were to obey, and in the course of time, namely from the beginnings of the human race until the coming and preaching of Jesus Christ, He Himself taught man the duties which a rational creature owes to its Creator... From which it follows that there can be no true religion other than that which is founded on the revealed word of God: which revelation, begun from the beginning and continued under the Old Law, Christ Jesus Himself under the New Law perfected. Now, if God has spoken (and it is historically certain that He has truly spoken), all must see that it is man's duty to believe absolutely God's revelation and to obey implicitly His commands; that we might rightly do both, for the glory of God and our own salvation, the Only-begotten Son of God founded His Church on earth. (i.e. the Church is willed by God to aid men to rightly obey God's commands and believe His revelation, the Church isn't optional for it is established by God.) Further, We believe that those who call themselves Christians can do no other than believe that a Church, and that Church one, was established by Christ; but if it is further inquired of what nature according to the will of its Author it must be, then all do not agree. A good number of them, for example, deny that the Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, (many Protestants hold this view today) at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government; but, on the contrary, they understand a visible Church as nothing else than a Federation, composed of various communities of Christians, even though they adhere to different doctrines, which may even be incompatible one with another. Instead, Christ our Lord instituted His Church as a perfect society, external of its nature and perceptible to the senses, which should carry on in the future the work of the salvation of the human race, under the leadership of one head, ... for which reason He attested by comparison the similarity of the Church to a kingdom, (visible) to a house (also visible), to a sheepfold,(visible again) and to a flock (visible). This Church, after being so wonderfully instituted, could not, on the removal by death of its Founder and of the Apostles who were the pioneers in propagating it, be entirely extinguished and cease to be, for to it was given the commandment to lead all men, without distinction of time or place, to eternal salvation... It follows then that the Church of Christ not only exists to-day and always, but is also exactly the same as it was in the time of the Apostles, unless we were to say, which God forbid, either that Christ our Lord could not effect His purpose, or that He erred when He asserted that the gates of hell should never prevail against it.(which would make Christ a false prophet and thus not Divine).

(We'll look at the rest of Moralium animos tomorrow).

Pius XI

Friday, December 27, 2013

Should Personal Taste Influence the Liturgy?

Have you ever been talking to someone about the Mass, about the differences between the traditional Latin Mass and the common experience of the vernacular Mass as celebrated in most American parishes, and the other person (who typically prefers secular sounding music, felt banners, and hymns about 'the people') brushes the whole thing off as a matter of taste - of mere personal preference?

I'd suggest that if a person's liturgical theology is based on personal preferences then it is already wrong no matter what conclusions follow. That goes for an introvert going to the Latin Mass to avoid people as much as for an extrovert going to the "English Mass" in order to socialize, for the chant-lover who attends the TLM to hear the music he loves and for the parishioner of a certain age heading to a folk Mass for his love of acoustic guitar .

guitar player

The Mass simply isn't about us at all. In fact it is so little about us that a priest, by himself, can say a Mass worth every bit as much as a Papal World Youth Day Mass with a million in attendance. Likewise, a football stadium full of lay Catholics can sing, shake hands, and "create community" all day long, but without a priest no Mass will ever come of it. The Mass is what it is regardless of us, our culture, or what we like. It can be hard for us to realize that, but the Mass is more important than us, it's bigger than us. We have to submit ourselves to the Mass, allowing it to change us, rather than trying to force the Mass to accommodate us, our cultures, and our prideful vanity.

Can our personality type shape the way we see the Mass? It can, indeed it is very hard for it not to, but when it comes to formulating a liturgical theology, it simply mustn't.

I'm not anti-social or opposed to the building up of Christian brotherhood. I recognize the importance of creating a network of faithful Catholics who can support each other as we all struggle to live a devout life. To that end, I strive to make and maintain good Catholic friendships, which is why I strongly support social outreach. I attend theology on tap, doughnut socials after Mass, Knights of Columbus breakfast buffets, teach CCD, attend Men's Retreats and Bible studies, etc in order to make those friends, but I understand that the Mass simply isn't the time or the place to focus on we the people. The Mass is one of those times in which we are called to transcend ourselves, our petty likes and dislikes, our personality types, and enter into the worship of the all holy God. We are to focus, not on our neighbor (though we are sent to do that with the Ite, Missa est and empowered to do that by the Eucharist) but on God, on Christ.

Therefore, what happens at Mass can only be judged on whether it aids or distracts from the worship of the Almighty, from the knowledge that we stand on hallowed ground, at the very foot of the Cross on Calvary. Anything that takes away from that needs to go. Does the music we hear make us realize we have left the secular behind? If not, it must go. Do the sacred furnishings elevate our minds to the things above? If not, they must be replaced. Does the architecture of the church building dispose the soul for worship? Does it make us realize we are, in a real sense, entering into a foretaste of the Heavenly liturgy? Or does it make us feel like we are in a community center, playhouse, or school auditorium? Is the language sacral? Do the gestures of the priest speak to us of a sacrifice? Does the altar look like something a sacrifice could even be offered on or does it remind us of our dining room table? These are the kinds of questions we must ask.

Catholic Mass

This is how we naturally judge things all the time. It's only because the reform of the liturgy has become a flash point in larger issues that people have trouble doing the same with the Mass. To illustrate this, let's put the liturgy to a side and imagine we are instead heading to a Broadway play. Suppose I'm an extrovert who loves socializing. I decide to get up, walk around the theater, introduce myself to and talk to other people in the audience and even, when I discover someone whose husband has taken her to see the show as a birthday gift, break into a rendition of Happy Birthday. Is this appropriate behavior? Is it justified because I'm an extrovert? Because I prefer emphasizing the "social / communal" dimension of seeing a play? Because I dislike tradition? Of course the answer is no because a Broadway show isn't the appropriate place to socialize thus. In fact my behavior is rude and distracting to the people who came to watch the show (the whole point after all of going).

We need to be able to ask the same question of the Mass - is this action Appropriate or Inappropriate for the Mass because of what the Mass is. Answering this will enable the "reform of the reform" to continue at full speed, which will fuel the engines of the New Evangelization, which, in turn, will (God willing) transform our culture, and save many souls. Glorifying God and saving souls, that is, after all, what it is all about.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pope Benedict on Christmas

Last week we looked some recent reflections Pope Francis had on Christmas. Today, I thought we'd take a look at what Pope Benedict had to say last year, remember we have to understand the actions of the Church today through the lenses, not of secular culture, but of the Church herself - this is the hermeneutic of continuity that both Francis and Benedict have called us to. (emphases and comments are mine)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me. (ponder that for a second. God loves us so much that He emptied Himself of His glory and became a small child, just so we can better love Him.)

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. (if we are not careful that is exactly what we'll get, for all eternity)...We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. ... Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world. (despite reports to the contrary Pope Francis isn't the first pope to care about the poor.)

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds. (nor is Francis the first pope to speak of the Joy of the Gospel).

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone....While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - atheists all) ... while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, (to summarize Frank Sheed, this is a matter of sanity not just sanctity) across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. (Do you live as if this were true?) Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pope Francis on Christmas

In a recent interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis corrected the record on many misinterpretations of his papacy. He addressed his comments on capitalism in Evangelii Gaudium, the possibility of women cardinals (spoiler alert: there won't be any), how he sees the role of the papacy developing, and many other "hot topic" issues that have been well reported in other places. I was drawn however, to something in the interview that I haven't seen mentioned in the blogsphere, Francis' comments on Christmas. Let's take a listen (emphasis added).

La Stampa: What does Christmas mean for you?

Pope Francis: “It is the encounter Jesus. God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and promised to be always be close to them. The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation. Many times after the midnight mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn mass. I experienced a profound feeling of consolation and peace... For me Christmas has always been about this; contemplating the visit of God to his people.

La Stampa: What does Christmas say to people today?

Pope Francis: “It speaks of tenderness and hope. When God meets us he tells us two things. The first thing he says is: have hope. God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the father who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I become fearful when Christians lose hope and the ability to embrace and extend a loving caress to others. Maybe this is why, looking towards the future, I often speak about children and the elderly, about the most defenceless (sic) that is. Throughout my life as a priest, going to  the parish, I have always sought to transmit this tenderness, particularly to children and the elderly. It does me good and it makes me think of the tenderness God has towards us.”

La Stampa: How is it possible to believe that God, who is considered by religions to be infinite and all-powerful, can make Himself so small?

Pope Francis: “The Greek Fathers called it syncatabasis, divine condescension that is: God coming down to be with us. It is one of God’s mysteries. Back in 2000, in Bethlehem, John Paul II said God became a child who was entirely dependent on the care of a father and mother. This is why Christmas gives us so much joy. We don’t feel alone any more; God has come down to be with us. Jesus became one of us and suffered the worst death for us, that of a criminal on the Cross.”

La Stampa: Christmas is often presented as a sugar-coated fairy tale. But God is born into a world where there is also a great deal of suffering and misery.

Pope Francis: “The message announced to us in the Gospels is a message of joy. The evangelists described a joyful event to us. They do not discuss about  the unjust world and how God could be born into such a world. All this is the fruit of our own contemplations: the poor, the child that is born into a precarious situation. The (first) Christmas was not a condemnation of social injustice and poverty; it was an announcement of joy. Everything else are conclusions that we draw. Some are correct, others are less so and others still are ideologized. Christmas is joy, religious joy, God’s joy, an inner joy of light and peace. When you are unable or in a human situation that does not allow you to comprehend this joy, then one experiences this feast with a worldly joyfulness. But there is a difference between profound joy and worldly joyfulness.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pope Benedict on Marriage

Yesterday on the blog, we looked at Pope Benedict's answer to the question, "what's so new about the New Evangelization." In doing so, we turned to a homily he gave on Oct 7, 2012 - right at the beginning of the Year of Faith. Today, I want to draw our attention to another part of that homily, where our Pope Emeritus addresses the issue of marriage, something much in the news these days what with the upcoming Synod on Family and Marriage. (Emphasis added)

The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage...

We won't fix the problems of marriage until we fix the faith of most Americans. We won't win the same sex marriage struggle until we win souls for Christ. We won't see the divorce and cohabitation rates drop until we convert our society to the Truth of the Church. Using "secular" arguments will only get us so far - this is a battle that can only be won by bringing our country under the light yoke of Christ the King. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What's New about the New Evangelization?

I've heard it asked "what's new about the New Evangelization? Hasn't the Church always been evangelizing? When did the old evangelization end?" We can find the answer in a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI from October 7, 2012 (emphasis added)

I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelization, and its relation to ordinary evangelization and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church’s evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania ... Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific “branches” developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelization in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelization which complement and enrich each other...

Thus, the answer to the question, "when did the old evangelization end?" is never. It is still ongoing. "What is so new about the New Evangelization? To whom it is directed. The New Evangelization is a re-evangelization, frequently of baptized Christians (or children of baptized Christians) who have fallen away from the embrace of Christ and the Church. In this way it presents us with a much more challenging task. The missio ad gentes seeks to bring Christ to those who never knew Him. The New Evangelization seeks to bring Him back to those who have rejected Him or who, even worse, simply don't care. It's the difference between dealing with a virgin and a divorcee - a difference filled with distaste, disgust, and distrust of the Church, her Lord, and her teachings.

This is where the witness of Pope Francis has been so powerful. He is able to connect emotionally with the fallen away and make them at least admit to liking this pope, even if they are still unsure about the Church he leads. They see a man they can admire and that small spark is something we can try to fan into a flame of love for Christ and the Church.

Of course, we all know that Benedict is also a compassionate man, one who hugged babies and loves the poor, but Francis has been able to get that message across in a way his predecessor was not able to, primarily because of a hostile press that insisted on seeing Benedict solely as the "Panzerkardinal." I'm not sure how long the media "honeymoon" will last, but Francis has managed to change the narrative and that is something we can all be thankful for.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Homeless King

Yesterday on the blog we looked at a great new statue recently blessed by Our Holy Father. In our reflections on the image we drew on Matthew 25, in which we learn that Christ will judge us according to how we treat the least among us, indeed He will consider such treatment as if it were done to Him.

Today, I want to provide a little balance to what was said yesterday.

We must be wary of reducing Christ to one dimension. This is the path of heresy, the path trodden by Arius (who reduced a Christ to a man who wasn't also God), the Docetists (who reduced Christ to God and not a man), and those 'scholars' who invent a never ending set of contradictory "historical Jesus" theories. What is the tempting reduction in the homeless Jesus statue? Forgetting He is also the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Some Catholics can become so enthralled to the "poor fisherman from Galilee" that they cannot see the Pantocrator. But see the King they must, otherwise they fail to worship the real Christ, instead bowing before an idol of their own creation.

For Christ is both to be identified with the lowest and weakest among us and to be revered as the Almighty, as the King of Glory. He gives us this hermeneutic right in the very verses wherein He most closely idntifies Himself with the poor, right in Matthew 25, right in the same parable we looked at yesterday. When Christ tells of the future judgement and of his separation of the righteous and the wicked based on how they treated Him (as present in the poor and downtrodden), He refers to Himself thus (emphasis added)

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another"

Like Aragorn (from The Lord of the Rings)who is both Strider, slipping behind enemy lines and keeping his flock from harm, and the heir of Isildur, the rightful King of Gondor, Christ is both the poor Galilean born in a stable and the King who will return in Heavenly glory, to forget the one is to lose sight of the whole Christ, of The Lord. When we fail to keep the totus Christus squarely in view, we end up either forgetting the poor (and thus risk being counted Amon the wicked) or forgetting His Majesty (and risk denying His Divinity) and we see things like the "bishop of bling" on the one hand and the use of felt banners and clay chalices at Mass on the other. Let's call this last the "Indiana Jones heresy"  - forgetting that the homeless Galilean preacher (cf. Matt 8:20) is really the rightful King (cf. Rev 19:16) in disguise.

What do you think? Do you struggle to see Christ as both a poor first century Jew and the King of the Universe? Is one image easier for you? Why?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Homeless Jesus

Have you seen the statue of Our Lord that Pope Francis blessed recently? It vividly portrays Christ as a homeless man, showing in bronze the identification He makes between the least of us and Himself.

It's a great reminder of Christ's words in Matthew 25 where He tells us that when He returns He will separate (eternally) the righteous from the wicked. He says He will turn to the righteous and say:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

When the righteous ask when they did such things for Christ, He responds:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Then, to the wicked, who He consigns to the eternal fire, He says

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 

When the damned wonder when they so mistreated The Lord, Christ replies:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Powerful words and a powerful image, one that reminds me of a similar statue on the grounds of Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Mother Teresa, one of the great saints of the twentieth century, used to implore her sisters, who worked with the poorest of the poor, with this "five finger gospel." She would hold up a finger for each word and repeat the words of Christ, "you did it to me."

These images are great to meditate on during this Advent. While you look at them ask yourself, how have I treated Christ? What will He say to me when He returns (remember Advent is not just about Christ's first coming in Bethlehem, but also about His last coming, at the end of the world).

What do you think? Do you like these statues? Why or why not? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Spirit of Scrooge

The Mrs. and I saw A Musical Christmas Carol the other day and it was quite enjoyable. One line jumped out at me, as it has before when I've read the story, that has much greater resonance today than it even did in Dicken's England. It's right in the first chapter where Scrooge, in his place of business on Christmas Eve, is confronted by some gentlemen looking to raise some funds for "the Poor and Destitute." Scrooge, of course, is little interested in giving his precious money away and instead asks if the prison, Union workhouses, the Treadmill, and the Poor Law are still able to continue "in their useful course."

The Treadmill

When the gentleman insists that such treatment "scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind and body" and this being Christmas Eve "Want is keenly felt" while "Abundance rejoices." Of course, Scrooge will hear none of this and insists the poor (or the Poor as Dickens would have it) must be content to be dealt with by the aforementioned programs. The gentleman, shocked, responds, "Many can't go there; and many would rather die." Scrooge," If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Later, when with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is taken to see the family of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, celebrate Christmas. Scrooge, much moved by the sickly Tiny Tim wonders if the boy will live. The Spirit tells Scrooge that, if the future is not changed, the boy will die. Scrooge, already partially changed by his experiences with the Ghost of Christmas Past, replies, "Oh, no, kind Spirit! Say he will be spared." The Spirit turns to Scrooge and says, "If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." Scrooge hangs "his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief."

Why do these lines strike us today with so much force? Certainly, we still have those Ebeneezer Scrooges and Jacob Marleys who turn their back on the "Poor and Destitute" while adding their ledgers, but today an even more insidious evil lurks among us - those who literally see swaths of humanity as "surplus population" in need of decreasing. These people clamor in support of abortion and euthanasia, seeing places like Calcutta as in great need of "population control." Oddly, they never seem to think others of their socio-economic status might be "surplus."

I wonder how a Catholic might treat those same "surplus" people?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Isn't Football Music

Have you seen the Bud Light commercial where a guy is watching a football game in a bar and a Paula Cole song, I Don't Want to Wait, is playing in the background? Our fan thinks to himself, "This isn't football music, this is figure skating music." While the commercial, which you can see HERE, ends with our fan superstitiously deciding the song gives luck to his team, the commercial does make a good point - certain music is for certain events.

It's not that our fan doesn't happen to like Paula Cole, it's not a matter of taste, rather it is a matter of propriety, of appropriateness. It simply is objectively true that the Paula Cole song doesn't fit with watching football, it doesn't belong, it is as out of place as wearing a bathing suit to the Opera.

I am struck by the same feeling by the music I hear at Mass (when I attend the Ordinary Form). The music isn't bad, some of the songs I actually quite enjoy and would listen to in the car, but it isn't appropriate for the Mass, not because of my taste, but because of what the Mass is.

If we ever hope to reform the liturgy, especially the music we hear at Mass, we have to move the conversation away from "I like chant and polyphony" vs. "I like Matt Maher," a conversation without resolution as both styles of music can be enjoyable, to "is music x appropriate or inappropriate to be singing at Mass because of what the Mass is." 

We have to break out of the shackles of post-Kantian philosophy, which tells us we cannot know "things in themselves," a philosophy most people don't consciously know but which is behind much of modern relativism and dare to base our liturgical decisions on the essence of the Mass (what the Medievals would call its quiddity - its thatness).

The next time you attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass ask yourself, is this song appropriate to be singing at the foot of the Cross, at Calvary? For that is where we are when we attend Mass. ask yourself, is this song one that gives honor to God alone or does it honor "the people" in the congregation more than Christ?

Here is the song, you can view the commercial that features it online HERE.

What do you think? Does the music you hear at Mass fit the essence of the liturgy or is it "figure skating music?"

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Need for Silence

Soren Kierkegaard once said,

“The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply, 'Create silence'.”

That was in the first half of the Nineteenth century, before i-pods, CDs, records, radios, telephones, cars, TV sets, movies, computers, or the vast majority of the noise machines we have surrounded ourselves with. Simply put, he lived in a much quieter world than do we. Yet, his quote still stands. Life then, and more so now, is diseased (the theologians call this 'original sin'). The cure, or at least a necessary element for it, is silence.

C.S. Lewis, writing in 1942 (a much quieter time still than ours), put these words into the mouth of his "senior" demon Screwtape to the "junior tempter" Wormwood:

"Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it."

Hell hates silence. Why? Because the voice of God isn't, normally, thundering forth from the Heavens. The prophet Elijah hears God not in earthquakes or fires, but in a "small still voice." (cf. 1 Kings 19:12). That is why we need silence, so we can hear the voice of God in our lives. God is a gentleman, He won't shout at us.

In silence we come face to face with the realities of life and death. In silence we feel the weight of eternity (both Hell and Heaven) pressing down upon us. Noise distracts us. Noise makes us forget. Noise buries the "melodies and silences of Heaven." In Hell there is neither of these, no song and no silence, only unending noise.

This is why our liturgical worship must include both song and silence if it is to truly reflect the Heavenly Liturgy. Pope Emeritus (then Cardinal Ratizinger) wrote in his The Spirit of the Liturgy

"We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is a part of the liturgy. We respond, by singing and praying, to the God who addresses us, but the greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons to silence." 

But silence isn't only for the Mass. Our whole lives are preparation for the Heaven (or Hell) that awaits us eternally beyond the grave. This advent practice silence. Practice being still and quiet with the Lord. Go to a Low Mass in the extraordinary form (the traditional Latin Mass). Go to Eucharistic Adoration. Or just turn down the constant noise of the world and be healed by silence.

How will you "create silence" in your life this Advent?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sacrosanctum Concilium Turns 50

Yesterday Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, turned fifty years old. Below are some of its explicit instructions on how the Mass was to be said following the Council. As you read through these ask yourself, "does my parish celebrate the Mass as Vatican 2 wanted?"

22. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church...no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

36. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

54...steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things.

122. ... all things set apart for use in divine worship should be be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful...The Church has been particularly careful to see that sacred furnishings should worthily and beautifully serve the dignity of worship

124... Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of art which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prince of Peace, Taylors SC

I recently visited with my sister, who lives in Greenville, South Carolina. As we were there over the weekend, I had to find a place to attend Mass. As luck would have it, I found Prince of Peace in Taylors, about a half hour from my sisters house. The liturgy was stunningly well done and was offered in the forma ordinaria, putting the lie to anyone who suggests that the post-conciliar Mass must be celebrated with as little beauty as possible. The parish also offers the Traditional Latin Mass and many of the ways they celebrate the ordinary form have clearly been influenced by the great Tridentine rite.

I mention this because I just stumbled across an interview with the pastor of this parish in The Catholic World Report. You can read the whole thing there. The article makes an excellent point right off the bat (emphasis added),

Not only is this parish attracting families interested in regular access to traditional liturgy and the sacraments, it is beginning to be recognized by even the non-traditional Catholic audience as a beacon of the “New Evangelization,” due to the number of converts and reverts it draws into the Catholic Church.
Think about that. The Traditional Latin Mass is a "beacon of the New Evangelization." How often do we hear that the liturgy needs to be dumbed down, that we need more laity running around performing 'tasks' during the Mass, more altar girls, more bad pop music songs to get the people to come to Mass. This parish turns that on its head. They offer the Mass as it ought to be offered, not to attract people, but to offer right worship to God and what happens? The people come.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Santa Claus, Herald of Christmas or Anti-Christ?

This is the time of year that many Catholics, if they are anything like me, begin to wonder how to deal with Santa Claus. Do we tell our kids the same things our secular neighbors tell their kids? Is it all just fun and games?

Or has Santa replaced Christ in our increasingly dechristianized society? Should we ban him from our homes as an anti-Christ (i.e. something undermining Christ on Christmas)? Is Santa just a shill for toy companies? Is he the high-priest of Mammon trampling Advent under his black boots with his Christmas season (Thanksgiving to December 25) preemptively striking Christ's (December 25 to Epiphany)?

The case for exorcizing Santa from our home seems strong. But then I read this from one of my favorite writers:

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation.  I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.  I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it.  I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them.  I had not even been good – far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . .  What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it  takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill. -- G.K. Chesterton

Which gives me pause. I'm not saying I'll be dressing in a red suit this year, but I might have been to ready to condemn the jolly old elf. 

Perhaps the way out of the conundrum is to try focusing more on the man behind Santa - the fourth century bishop of Myrna, Nicholas. Bishop Nicholas was a selfless giver, patron of the poor and of children, a holy man of God, and a good Catholic. He even punched the heresiarch Arius at the Council of Nicea for denying the Divinity of Christ (my kind of saint)! Perhaps instead of milk and cookies, I can explain to the kids that St. Nicholas (i.e. Santa) is a saint in Heaven and, as such, is (temporarily) separated from his body, thus he won't be eating and that the real presents he brings are our prayers to the foot of the throne of Christ the King.

After all, Santa is real, just all the stories about him are not. We can get carried away by the puritanical spirit that these United States were founded on and forget that revelry, games, presents, and stories are all apart of Christmas. Of course they need to serve Christ (like all things) but they needn't be replaced with a dour faced "celebration" devoid of all fun. We are Catholics not Calvinists after all and as Hillaire Belloc once remarked

I suppose in the end, I will focus more on the "historical Santa" (perhaps Rudolf Bultmann, if still alive could write a book of that title) on the Catholic Saint without crushing the "commercial Santa" entirely. I won't actually tell the kids Ol' Saint Nick is watching them or will be bringing gifts and I won't leave letters or eat cookies on his behalf, but I won't crush their imaginations either, treating Santa more like Mickey Mouse and Superman than a demon to be destroyed at all costs.

What do think? Do you tell your children Santa is real? How will you handle the competing claims of Santa and Christ to this season? Does any of it even matter?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

How We Keep Christ in Christmas

"I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by

Please consider following your hosts
in appreciation for the work that they do…
and be sure to visit as many links as possible,
listed at the bottom of this post.

We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus our Advent and Christmas on JESUS!

Advent is one of the least appreciated and least celebrated seasons of the Church's year, being largely squashed by the ever growing commercial Christmas shopping season. We try to give our kids a liturgical sense of time, lex orandi, lex credendi, which is toughest to do this time of year. 

Here are a few things we do to keep Advent from being replaced by Christmas (and to make sure we are still happily celebrating Christmas until Epiphany, when most people are burned out by Dec 26).

A lot of our Advent traditions center around dinner. We always eat together as a family (which is important in its own right) so this is a good time to center our day on The Lord and focus our attention on Advent. To this end, we've made a special playlist of Advent music which we play all during dinner. If dinner happens to run long, we have the soundtrack from Fr. Barron's Catholicism series as a handy backup to keep the spiritual mood of the season in tact.

Like many families we have an Advent wreath on our table. The wreath has four candles. Each Sunday another candle is lit while we pray a set of Advent prayers. We light our candles at dinner and eat with no other light on. Each week as we light another candle we eat in increasing light, reflecting the nearing of Christ, the light of the world, coming to dispel the darkness of death and sin. This has a great effect on the kids and makes the meaning of the season more concrete for them.

Prayer Sticks
A favorite of the kids and another dinner time ritual. My wife takes popsicle sticks, write the name of someone on each. We all take a turn drawing a stick and saying a short prayer for whoever is named on the stick. The sticks include both family and friends, famous people, the leaders of our Church and country, and general categories of people (e.g. the sick, the poor, the lonely).

We keep the Christmas tree stowed away until Guadete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent, December 15 this year), but our Nativity scene goes up on the first Sunday of Advent. We have a nice little set by Fontanini, which we add a few figures to each. We put everything out except the Christ Child, which Stays put away until Christmas Eve when we gather together, sing Silent Night, and place him in the manger.

Good Deeds
To inspire the kids to be extra good around the holidays, instead of telling them to try to get on Santa's good list (not that I have anything against Santa), we give them a small string or piece of straw which they place in the empty manger. The more good deeds they do, the more straw there will be to warm the Christ Child. This changes the focus of doing good deeds to ultimately get presents for yourself, to doing good to please God.

Last year I purchase 24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus published by Ignatius Press. This great children's book features one story a day starting on December 1 right through Christmas Eve. With great stories like, The Annunciation to Mary (Dec 2), The Christmas Truce (Dec 8), Saint Lucy's Day (Dec 13), The Angels' Christmas (Dec 22), and The Nativity (Dec 24) this book can't be beat for keeping Christ in Christmas. I don't let the kids read ahead, but once we finish a story they can hear it again and again until the book goes back into storage (typically when we put away our Christmas decorations after Epiphany).

My very crafty wife likes to change this up each year, but the basic idea remains basically the same. Every day that passes between the first Sunday of Advent and Christmas is marked in some way. Last year we had a cardboard calendar with each day hidden behind a flap door. In the morning the kids would open the next flap and read whatever Bible verse was hidden beneath. This year she is thinking of having them make paper chains, adding a new link each day, and strinimg them up in the dining room.

Holy Heroes
To make sure our other traditions are supported by strong teaching, my wife signs up for the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure. This great program includes daily emails (save Sunday) which include short videos, Bible stories, and instructions on how to make Jessie Tree ornaments. Best of all, its Free!

With these traditions we hope to instill a love for Christ, His Holy Church, and the great season of Advent in our kids as they grow older. Have a Happy New (liturgical) Year!

How does your family keep Advent from being swallowed up by commercial Christmas? I'm always grateful for new tips and ideas.

For more ideas check out these great blog posts:

Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Coffee Moments with Sam     The Light of Hope
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others

Canadian Catholic Mom         Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling   Keep Christ in Christmas
Home to 4 Kiddos        Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith          Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
City Girl, Country Home         Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

Training Happy Hearts            10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Campfires and Cleats How We Keep Christ in Christmas
Homeschooling With Joy        Keeping Christ in Christmas
Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas
Dominique's Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas