Categories
Christmas Faith Formation Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Most Christians believe that once they get to Christmas day that they have finished the Christmas race. It’s Jesus’ birthday and as of December 26th Christmas is over. As Catholics we know that Christmas Day is simply the beginning of the Christmas season. Up to now we have been celebrating Advent- the preparation for Christ’s birth. Christmas starts on Jesus’ birthday! Once we come to Christ’s birthday celebration we know that there are indeed many more days left to celebrate!

For some families Christmas extends to the Epiphany- the day where the Wise Men came to pay homage and worship the newborn Savior. In other traditions Christmas is celebrated until the Feast of Christ’s baptism. Whichever tradition your family holds, know that there are many ways you can celebrate in the coming days even though all the stores are ready to put Christmas aside.

What a great joy we have to be able to celebrate our Savior’s birth for more than just a day! Here are a few ideas to help extend your celebration and to foster the Christmas spirit in your home and lives (especially if you are already feeling tired from the secular push over the last month!):

  • Keep your tree and decorations up! No need to take them down right away. We are still celebrating! Take advantage of the clearance sales at the stores to buy a new decoration to remind you of the real reason for the season.
  • Do kind deeds for others. Each day of the Christmas season find someone whom you can bless with kindness. It can be a small act like paying for someone’s coffee or a bigger one like giving food, drink, clothes, or shelter to the homeless. Regardless of what you do, do it with great love!
  • Create new Christmas traditions. One of the great Christmas traditions I love is to set up the nativity scene but have the Three Wise Men travel from “a far” each day until the Epiphany when they will finally “find” the Christ Child. This is a fun activity especially if you have younger children who will love to see how far the Wise Men have traveled and how far they have left to go. Find a new tradition that works well for your family.
  • Celebrate the St. Stephen- the first martyr (the second day of Christmas), St. John- Christ’s beloved disciple (the third day of Christmas), and the Feast of the Holy Innocents (the fourth day of Christmas). Likewise there are other feasts on each day of Christmas including the Feast of the Holy Family. Discover those feasts with your family and not only talk about them but find a way to incorporate them into your family’s celebrations.
  • Craft with your kids. Make new ornaments or find some sort of Christmas craft to do together. During the secular Christmas season we may find ourselves very rushed and overwhelmed. One of the really awesome aspects of continuing our Christmas celebration is that we have more time to simply be together and not rush so much. Take some time to play together, to craft together, to do something as a family.
  • Bake something. There is something so satisfying about baking something that you can enjoy with your family. Make a little extra and give it as gifts to neighbors, friends, or family. I don’t know very many people who don’t appreciate home baked gifts! Additionally, after all the rush of the last month, a home baked item is sure to bring a little bit of peace and comfort to just about everyone.
  • Go to Mass and Adoration. Take time to spend with Christ in the Eucharist. Thank Him for all the gifts He has given you. The ones that were wrapped under the tree are just a tiny portion of the gifts He has given us. We need to make sure we properly thank Him for every gift He so lovingly bestows on us.
  • Rest. The secular aspect of getting ready for Christmas, plus all the celebrating we do prior to the actual Christmas season, can really wear us down. After parties for work, shopping for our kids, and cooking in great quantities, sometimes we don’t want to continue the celebration past Christmas day. Take it easy and rest for a while. Simply enjoy being with your family and contemplate the birth of our tiny Savior and the implications this has for our lives. Rest easy and simply be.

 

It is easy to get sucked into the secular aspects of Christmas and to be relieved once Christmas day has come and gone; but Christmas is not about the decorations, the presents, or the parties. It is about the gift of love and this gift of love is worth celebrating!

God loved us so much that He wished to restore our broken union with Him. To do so He literally became man. He humbled himself and took on our nature. But He didn’t come with fanfare or trumpets resounding; instead, He came to us as a tiny infant. Lowly, small, and helpless, He was dependent on His mother for all His needs. He came to us vulnerable and meek. It was through this humble beginning that He presented us with the gift of life, love, and salvation.

As we celebrate His birth I pray we will remember how great this gift is. It is not a present that lies under the tree waiting for us to unwrap it and toss it aside. It is a gift that we must continue to open each and every day knowing that contained inside is the greatest gift we will ever receive.

Merry Christmas! May the Newborn King fill your hearts with love, joy, and peace.

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers

Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
Luke 19:1-10

           How easy is it to say, “Oh this story.  I’ve heard this one” and begin tuning out, making a grocery list, thinking about what needs to be done for Monday?  How about if we look at it differently?
            Jesus goes to Jericho planning to pass through it.  Jericho was a place of sin.  We all have places of sin inside of us.  The chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, climbed a tree in order to see Jesus better.  Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, which probably means he was middle-aged.  I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting too old to climb any trees.  Climbing a tree was probably a very difficult feat for him.  
            Who was Zacchaeus?  A chief tax collector, a sinner.  He could be any one of us.  We are all sinners, all bedeviled by something, some power other than God.  We can identify with Zacchaeus.
           Despite his wickedness, something lured Zacchaeus in Jesus’ direction.  Maybe it was dissatisfaction with his life; maybe it was a growing realization that while he was richer, he was not happier.
           So he climbs that tree.  How about me?  Am I willing to go out on a limb to get a better look at Jesus?  All Jesus needs is the smallest move on our part.  As soon as we do, He’s ready.  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly.  I must stay at your house.”
           Jesus wants to stay in our soul.  He wants to move into our lives, our souls, all of us, public and private, friendships, marriage, job, relationships.
           What happens after Jesus moves in? Zacchaeus says he will give away half of his possessions and pay back four times anybody.  
           When Grace pours in, love pours out.  This is the very definition of salvation.  “Today salvation has come to this house.”
           Are you ready to go out on that limb? This Advent, are you going to climb that tree to see Jesus?  Are you going to invite Him to not just visit but move in and stay?  All it takes is that first step.

Zacchaeus Tree

Categories
Ink Slingers Marriage Mary P. Motherhood Prayer

When You Question God’s Love, Prayer is the Answer

prayer
I went to a different parish than usual this weekend. The priest’s homily focused on the question “Is God Here?” The priest acknowledged that it was a strange question to be asking in a church setting. (I would add: especially in a Catholic church, where Jesus is present body, blood, soul, and divinity). But he pointed out that even people who attend church ask this question at various times in their lives. For my part, I have never doubted God’s existence, but I’ve doubted his personal love for me. I know God is out there, but is God here? I don’t doubt that He abides in the Tabernacle, but does He abide with me? Does He want to be near me, or does he look upon me from a distance, scowling at my many flaws and sins?

The priest went on to say that atheists start with the thesis that God is not here, and then demand proof that He is. However, they don’t see the proof that is right in front of them. The heavens declare the glory of God, and even the stones cry out. But someone who does not have eyes to see will be blind to anything but that which supports their preconceived ideas. It’s often the same way with me and my version of the question of God’s presence. If my starting point is that God is displeased with me in all my imperfection, and is therefore not really near to me, then I won’t have eyes to see when he reveals himself to me. If I assume that I am not lovable, then I won’t notice when the God of the universe is pursuing me.

The priest reminded us that that’s what Christmas is about – God pursuing us. Love Himself came down from Heaven for each of us, individually and personally.

When I’ve asked God why I don’t feel His love for me, He’s answered me pretty clearly. He’s told me that I don’t pray enough (I neglect especially the “listening” part of prayer). He’s called, and He’s shouted (as one of my favorite Matt Maher songs goes), and I’m deaf to it, because I am not taking the time to listen. I’m so busy thinking about how much I suck at life (pardon the expression), that I’m not even giving Him a chance to tell me otherwise. What kind of relationship can I expect to have with God when I’m constantly looking in a proverbial mirror at myself instead of gazing at Him?

And when I’m feeling badly about what I see in that mirror, I look outside, to other people and things, to make me feel better, to fill the void in my heart. I turn away from God— the only One who can satisfy the deepest longings of my heart—in the hopes that someone else will make me feel loved. I think of how unworthy I am of God’s love, so I hide from Him. And then, I become dissatisfied and angry with others (particularly my husband and my children) because they can’t fill up my emptiness.

Meanwhile, God waits for me patiently. He waits for me to realize that my heart will be restless until it rests in Him. He waits for me to understand that even though I am not perfect, and I can’t love him perfectly, He wants whatever pathetic offering I can muster. He waits for me to see that I will never stop feeling like a failure until I look to Him to see my worth. Because the way to heal guilt, low self-esteem, and self-doubt is not to look inward or outward, but upward.

I can only accomplish all this through a better prayer life. As we begin a new Church year, I am at this very moment resolving to start working on this now. If your prayer life has been stagnant and your belief in God’s love for you has been waning, please join me in this resolution.

Categories
Advent Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Yesterday we began the new liturgical year within the Church. It is an exciting time to say the least! As we begin our Advent journey towards Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth, it’s important that in the rush to prepare for the secular part of Christmas that we don’t take this time for granted. We must slow down and recognize the importance of the Advent season. It isn’t merely the time we need to shop for gifts but instead it is time set aside to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Savior.

The word Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus. It means “coming” or “arrival”. Advent is the season in which we prepare for the coming of Christ. But while we are preparing for Christmas and the birth of our Savior (the first coming of Christ), we are also preparing for the second coming of Jesus.

At Mass our priest reminded us that Advent is not a penitential season but instead the season of hope and joy. And really, he is right because what could be better than preparing to meet the Lord? The Church, in her wisdom, has given us the gift of time to prepare a place in our hearts for Jesus to reside. The question remains- will we take the time to prepare a place for Him?

I pray that during this Advent season we each will set aside time to contemplate on the hope, peace, joy, and love that God brings to us through Christ our Savior.

Have a blessed Advent season and may your new year be filled with God’s light, love, mercy, and hope

Categories
Ink Slingers Instagram Photo Challenge Rita

2016 Advent Photo Challenge

csadvent2016

Advent begins in less than 1 week! At Catholic Sistas we love helping you prepare for and reflect on the liturgical seasons. Some people began preparing for Advent 6 weeks ago with the Christmas Shopping Challenge that we released last year, and others have taken time to review The Official 2016 Catholic Christmas Gift Guide and Giveaway, and enter the giveaway.

Another way we love preparing for and reflecting on the liturgical seasons is through our Advent and Lent Photo Challenges. As a visual person, I love the opportunity to explore, express and share my Advent season reflections and preparation for Christmas. And so I’m excited to again co-lead the 2016 Advent Photo Challenge.

Each Photo Challenge allows us to share in images and words how the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts, minds and souls in seeing God daily. Some of the words in the Photo Challenge word-of-the-day are relatively easy, and some of them are pretty darn hard. But that’s just like our relationship with God. Sometimes it’s easy to visualize God in our lives, and other times we must deeply reflect and consider how God is present in our lives. But that’s part of what makes a Photo Challenge a great opportunity for reflection in Advent and Lent.

And so I invite all our readers to join my fellow photo-happy friends, BRITTANYADRIENNEROSEMARYCINDY and KRISTIN (and find me HERE) in the 2016 Advent Photo Challenge.

Please know you don’t have to be part of the social media world to participate in the 2016 Advent Photo Challenge! While it’s definitely 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, than that’s what counts.

To help you in your challenge, below you’ll find the whats, hows and hashtag info for joining the 2016 Advent Photo Challenge. I’m excited to get started on this photo challenge with y’all next week 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 2016 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 (#wreath, #candle, #Catholic, 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 2016 Advent Photo Challenge are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we are present on many other platforms. Tag us with @CatholicSistas on INSTAGRAMPINTEREST and FACEBOOK, @Catholic_Sistas on TWITTER and +CatholicSistas on GOOGLE+. 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 2016 CSAdvent 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!

cs-advent-2016