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Sacramentals, Mercy, Advent, Oh My!

Not long ago, I attended an event where an icebreaker game was played. The icebreaker was to count up how many Sacramentals we had on each of us, and whomever at the table had the most won a prize. I happened to be at the table with our chaplain, who gave us a run for our Sacramentals, until he was told he had his own gift set aside for him.

Before he had stepped out of winning the Sacramentals game, our chaplain posed to us, “Do you think each individual is a Sacramental? Because, I count all of you as a Sacramental,” as he tried to tally us up as some of the Sacramentals he brought to the table.

His question, while posed in jest, has stuck with me several months later.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states in 1677,

Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.

Every baby baptized into the Catholic Church has been anointed and sealed with the Holy Spirit. At Confirmation, that child takes on a conscious decision to reaffirm the baptismal vows their parents typically, initially undertook on behalf of the child. And, the individual then becomes re-anointed and re-sealed with the Holy Spirit.

In essence, our chaplain was correct – we do become Sacramentals. We become a living, breathing, walking “sacred sign instituted by the Church,” to spread the Good News and the Joy of the Gospel.

Knowing we are sacred signs, what are we doing with that knowledge? Are we hiding our light under the bushel so as to not attract attention? If so, how do we get back on course?

I once confided to another Army chaplain that I wasn’t cut out for evangelizing. The “E word” scared me, and I was afraid I was too immature in my Faith to be able to defend it against questions. He chuckled at me, and asked me if I was a mother. I looked at him strangely, and answered in the affirmative because my oldest at the time was a year and a half old. He then shared that evangelization as a mother or father looks a little different than evangelization of others – by virtue of teaching our children their prayers, we are evangelizing. By ensuring our children go to church, we are evangelizing. By living and encouraging the Works of Mercy, as identified by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we are evangelizing.

Being a sacred sign comes with responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to our neighbor – to the soul we see next to us… looking past the physical presence before us, to recognize the soul behind the eyes. The Works of Mercy are such a beautiful, powerful reminder of the stepping stones to living as the hands and feet of Christ.

The saints are prime examples of having the faith and trust in God to recognize God’s children in those suffering, destitute, and in need. St. Francis of Assisi embraced a leper shortly after his conversion, while amazed at how his former self would have been repulsed to see someone else do the same. St. Damien of Moloka’i, and St. Marianne Cope would go on to not just embrace lepers, but to live amongst them, and tenderly care for them. The list of saints who lived the Works of Mercy can go on for days!

Through Christ, we get the promise of entering Heaven. Yet, in order to truly pass through Him, we are challenged to meet Him on the road, to recognize Him in others, and to extend His reach through us, to another person.

And, the Church, in her infinite love and wisdom, has shown us how to do this through the Works of Mercy. While we may no longer be in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are still called to extend mercy to those in our lives – whether they are family, friends, or complete strangers.

So, as we enter Advent this year, I encourage all of us to spend some time focusing on how we are a living Sacramental. Commit to a Work of Mercy each day during Advent, knowing you’ll repeat some several times. Don’t be afraid to take the Good News and Joy of the Season to those to whom you may initially be afraid to reach out.

Recognize Christ in your neighbor, and better yet, be Christ to others.

It is our duty and our sacred responsibility.

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2017 Advent Photo Challenge


Advent is almost here! And if you’ve checked out a calendar recently, you might have noticed that Advent is pretty short this year too; Christmas is a day after the fourth Sunday in Advent.

All that being said, in the Catholic Sistas community, many contributors and friends have begun preparations for Advent. Some began six weeks ago with the Christmas Shopping Challenge. Others prepared by purchasing and preparing to use our Liturgical Daybook (digital and physical copies available for purchase). And others by taking time to review the 2017 Christmas Gift Guide & Giveaway. Looking for some good Advent ideas for you or the family? Check out this calendar of ideas. 

And now it’s time for some of us to take on another way of preparing our hearts and minds and souls for Christmas, with our annual Advent Photo Challenge. We live in a very visual world. Many of us find ourselves snapping away on our phones (or cameras) at moments or people or things in our lives. We use these photos to reflect on what’s happening in the moment, or what has happened in the past, or even to ponder the future. Which is why our Advent and Lent Photo Challenges at Catholic Sistas are so helpful for many of us to reflect on God’s presence in our lives.

The Catholic Sistas Advent and Lent Photo Challenges allow us to share and reflect on the Holy Spirit stirring our heart and minds and souls to see God daily.

Some of the words in the Photo Challenge are easy, and some of them are difficult. Some of them will require reflection, and some of them you will known instantly what image you would like to share. It’s like our relationship with God. And that’s makes a Photo Challenge a great opportunity for reflection in Advent and Lent. The opportunity to recognize God present in our lives in the easy, difficult, times of reflection and in the instantaneous. 

And so I invite you all to join my friends, Adrienne, Brittany, Celeste, Janalin, Lynette and Rosemary and myself (Rita), in the 2017 Advent Photo Challenge. 

Please know you don’t have to be part of the social media world to participate in the 2017 Advent Photo Challenge! While it’s fun to share your photos and reflections with others, if the Advent Photo Challenge provides you with an opportunity to reflect on the season of Advent and prepare for Christmas, that’s what counts.

To help you in your challenge, below you’ll find the whats, hows and hashtag info for joining the 2017 Advent Photo Challenge. I’m excited to get started on this photo challenge with y’all on Sunday and to see how the Holy Spirit moves us all to reflect on the season of Advent and share our Catholic faith. Happy clicking (or touching your phone screen)!

HOW THE 2017 ADVENT PHOTO CHALLENGE WORKS

Each day has a word associated with it. Snap a photo or find an old photo related to that word. The photo does not have to be faith-themed, as the goal of our photo challenges is for us to see God in our everyday lives.

Use the hashtag #CSAdvent and any other appropriate hashtags (#purple, #tree, #light, etc) when you post your Photo Challenge photos. This allows us all to search Instagram and other social media platforms for others who are participating in the Photo Challenge. (CSAdvent = Catholic Sistas Advent)

• While our main platforms for the 2017 Advent Photo Challenge are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we are present on many other platforms. Tag us with @CatholicSistas on INSTAGRAMPINTEREST and FACEBOOK and @Catholic_Sistas on TWITTER. And if you’re blogging about your Advent Photo Challenge, link back to us or comment below with a link to your post.

Download the 2017 CS Advent Graphic for quick reference. Note that the dates of the weekends are a different color to help visually break up the days.

• Be sure to share the graphic with others and invite them to join the challenge too!

• Join us on Facebook in our new group Catholic Sistas – The Coffee House where we can share pics of the challenge and get to know one another in a private setting! We are currently setting up the group, so please request to be added and we will approve as soon as we are done straightening up and decorating the space. 🙂 

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A Catholic Advent Home Tour

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As we are into week #2 of Advent 2016 I thought I would share a few images of our own Catholic Sistas readers’ homes as well as a few images found on the internet.  We, as women, are the keepers of our home.  We can make decorating choices that will influence our families as well as the guests that stop in our homes about the our faith and this quiet expectant time we celebrate in Advent.  Here are some images to inspire and hopefully give you some ideas for your home. 

 

Catholic Sistas Reader Kimberly sent us these beautiful images of her home via the #CSAdventDecor Instagram thread!

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I love the front porch “O HOLY NIGHT!”

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Laura’s home featured last spring in our Decorating A Catholic Home post.

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The precious (empty) manger at the base of the tree…

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A beautiful Advent Wreath with Our Lady of Hope…

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A manger with the Advent Wreath…

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A handprint Advent Wreath the children made…

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Amber made a silhouette for the window…

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as well as a nativity tea light!

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Karen made a wonderful tradition to use this expectant Mary and Joseph set as an alternative to the Elf on the Shelf… moving them throughout their home nightly.

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Gotta have the Fisher Price and Playmobil sets for the kids to play with!

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A lovely sacrifice manger!

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Lots of gorgeous purple in Sumer’s home!

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Another lovely statue set…

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The chalkboard art is perfect here…

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A Jesse tree and a peg doll nativity!

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Erika’s family made their own beeswax Advent candles from Holy Heros!

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Another beautiful Jesse tree!

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Mother of Life picture can be found here.

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And a beautiful child friendly Melissa and Doug wooden nativity set!

 

Friends, may you have the most blessed remainder of Advent.  I pray this image round up brings you joy and inspiration! O Come O Come Emmanuel!

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Lectio Divina: The Second Sunday of Advent (2016)

second-sunday-of-advent-2016Advent is here and as we get closer, day by day, to the birth of our Lord and Savior, we reflect on the hope of the coming kingdom of heaven. In the following lectio divina reflection, we focus on this hope. John the Baptist brings a message of hope to all those coming to him for baptism. Hopefully this Sunday’s Gospel reading brings a sense of true hope to us as well. Are we continually looking ahead to when we will reach the kingdom of heaven? Do we have hope that we will reach it one day? Or have we forgotten the significance of Christ’s birth in our own, modern lives?

That’s a lot to think about. I encourage you to close your eyes, say a prayer, calm your mind, and then join me in reflecting on the Gospel passage for this second Sunday of Advent.

To follow along with me on this lectio divina prayer time, you will want to have the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading for December 4 handy. If you need to review the steps of lectio divina you can find a quick outline from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Remember to read the Gospel passage at the start of each of the four sections below (the ones that start with an “R” word).

READ

Repent; acknowledged their sins; produce good fruit.

RESPOND: What is God saying to you?

The Gospel reading for Sunday always seems to me to come across as harsh and ruthless. It appears as if John the Baptist is attempting to turn the Pharisees and Sadducees away, but in reading this through a couple times, I see more and more that John is really relaying a message of hope. They, too, can be baptized but they must show repentance. How do we show our repentance? We must produce good fruit. John the Baptist is not just speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, but to all who are listening, including us the readers. Our good works alone will not gain us entry into the kingdom of heaven. We must repent, be baptized, and then go forth and do good works, that is, produce good fruits.

In this passage I hear God’s message of hope. I need to get to confession more than once or twice a year (which has been an improvement for me, but I’m striving for more), I need to continually work at always acting as an image of God, and I need to show Christ’s love in all I think, say, and do.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Thank you, God, for the gift of the sacraments, particularly of baptism and reconciliation. I pray that I can be more mindful of my thoughts, words, and actions. Help me where I fall and forgiven me for my transgressions.

REST

Spend some time in silence after your fourth reading of the passage.

YOUR TURN

Share in the comments, what do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? 

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GIVEAWAY: A Catholic Jesse Tree Ornament Set!

GIVEAWAY: A Catholic Jesse Tree Ornament Set!

It’s Advent 2016!  Happy New Liturgical Year, Sistas!  Advent is my *favorite* time of year and we are still adding to our Advent traditions that we do together at home.  You can see my own home tour post from last year here. And don’t feel bad if your home doesn’t look like my does in that post just yet.  We just returned from an out of town trip over Thanksgiving and I still have several things to finish getting out.

Our long standing tradition that we have been doing for years is the Jesse Tree, and it is hands down everyone’s favorite!  This fall I participated in a SWAP where a group of Catholic women exchanged a set of rustic log ornaments through the mail.  This set of ornaments is great because it is Catholic and it corresponds with the Holy Hero Jesse Tree DVD.  I painted an extra set with you all in mind and am so excited to giveaway these gorgeous ornaments to one of you!

GIVEAWAY: A Catholic Jesse Tree Ornament Set!

This set of Catholic Jesse tree ornaments has been lovingly painted and prayed over by women all over the United States of America.  The winner will receive a full set of the 34 ornaments shipped to their home.  (USA addresses only please.)  Please comment below with why you or your family would benefit from this set and I will pick a winner Thursday, December 1st at 12PM CST! 

But wait, I also need your help!  In the upcoming weeks I would like to put together a Home Tour post with all of your beautiful Advent displays.  Would you please take a second to send me some photos of your home and/or your family this Advent season?  I’m looking for any way that you celebrate- decorations, displays, traditions, etc.  Use the hashtag #CSAdventDecor on Instagram or email your photos to: hello (at) janalinhood (dot) com

 

UPDATE:  Mary Jones is the winner of the Jesse Tree ornaments!  Mary, please email me your mailing address to hello (at) janalinhood (dot) com!

 

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