Christmas in a Galaxy Not So Far Away


Earlier, one of our younger brothers asked me if I had an article to publish for the blog, because he noticed that I wrote several articles this week.  I told him that none of my current articles were Christmas material, to which the young brother asked me for permission to read my articles and determine for himself if any were good Christmas material.  Just a few minutes ago, he approached me and said, “You’re right, none of these articles is Christmas material.”

I was very touched by his interest in publishing a Christmas article written by me, given the fact that he is a much better writer than I am and a lot smarter, he can probably write a better article.

Suddenly, the thought hit me, “There is a dimension of Christmas that is rarely mentioned.”  During the Christmas season, we write beautiful cards and letters wishing our loved ones a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever the custom in your family may be.  We inject adrenaline into the household with shopping, travel plans or preparations to welcome friends and loved ones for the holidays.

When we go to Church, be it Midnight Mass or on Christmas Day, we hear beautiful sermons about the birth of Jesus, God’s love for humanity and how Christmas sets the stage for the Cross.  Let’s not forget that Jesus was a child born with a price on his head.  The Holy Family did not travel to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.  The Egyptians and the Canaanites were not the best of neighbors.

Mary and Joseph pick up and go to Egypt out of love for their son.  They wanted to protect him from Herod’s insecurities, which would have concluded in murdering the child along with the rest of the innocents at the time.

The more that I thought about these points and the fact that the young brother was so interested in publishing one of my articles, rather than using a piece of his own exemplary writing, spoke to me about the undercurrent of Christmas.  It is the undercurrent of Christmas that truly counts.  That undercurrent is love.

Just as an undercurrent draws in everything that gets close, so too does the love that is born at Christmas.   Brother wanted to publish one of my articles, not because I’m the best writer in the world.  We all know that’s not true.  He wanted to publish one of my articles because of love.  He loves his superior and his brother.  He rejoices when others learn from his superior’s writings and when they praise what they read.

In a simple request, Brother taught me that the Christmas spirit is truly the Love of God breaking into human history and radiating through every century, every culture and every human being to this day.  Christmas is not simply a happy holiday, it’s a celebration of generous love.  We keep Christmas alive not only when we give gifts, welcome guests or visit others.  Those are just starters.  Once the gifts are unwrapped and the greetings are over, what’s there besides food?

There is the love of God that has broken into our lives and is here to stay.  God’s love is not a feeling, but a living being whom the Father calls “Son.”  The Son of God wants to show all men that they are loved, not just give them a warm Christmas hug and a gift.  He wants to gaze into the eyes of our neighbor, through our eyes and say, “There is something special about you that I believe must be shared with the rest of the world.”

This faith in the giftedness of the brother is the highest expression of love on this side of Heaven.  It makes the birth of Christ closer to home, not as a story of long long ago in another galaxy far far away, as they say in Star Wars.  No, the birth of Christ is God saying to man, “You are special and I will prove it, by sharing in your humanity and lifting you up to my divinity.”

Brother’s request for an article was a subtle message that told me, “You’re special to me.”  This is the true message that the eternal Word of God says to mankind on Christmas morning.

Br. Jay

advent2016d

Is A Peaceful Christmas Possible This Year?


st joseph

Peace begins in the family

Normally, I prefer not to comment on the politics around me.  I’m not indifferent to right and wrong.  I’m indifferent to people who like to argue instead of engaging in a dialogue that arrives at some constructive conclusion.  I’m afraid that this Christmas is being marred by so much hatred that it would be irresponsible for any Franciscan not to say something and continue to refer to himself as a man of peace.

On the national front, we have hate speech, conspiracy theories and a great deal of anger concerning the results of the elections.  The fact is that no matter who won the election, there is no way that we would not be facing an uphill battle against sin and oppression of the voiceless, be they the preborn person or the immigrant and many others.  We do not achieve peace by exacerbating conflict, by throwing fuel into the fire.

We achieve peace first and foremost through prayer.  A man or woman who prays cultivates interior silence.  He who cultivates interior silence opens an interior space where he can hear his brothers and sisters.  The soul has many chambers.  There is also another chamber where we find true Wisdom.  In there, as well, one must be silent to hear the Word.  It is the living Word that gives us the peace that the world cannot give, but that we can share with the world.

This is discernment through contemplation.  It leads to answers that are appropriate for today’s concerns.  Without proper discernment and contemplation, we run the risk of providing our own answers to the problems of today.  So far, our answers have not taken us very far along the road to peace, interior and social peace.

There are Catholics who believe that they must provoke the Pope and the bishops until they bend or explode.  Whether the Pope and the bishops bend to a certain point of view or they lash out in anger and frustration, the fact remains that the Church does not win.  I’m not referring to the Mystical Body.  The Mystical Body is holy.  The Bride of Christ cannot be seduced to compromise with culture or to erupt in anger after being insulted and pushed around.

Those of us who make up the Body of Christ have not risen above our mortal nature.  Shouting insults at the pope and bishops, calling the pope a heretic and a Communist leaves greater scars in the minds and hearts of the faithful who read the blogosphere and listen to the podcasterium of our time.  Others who are not Catholic are looking at us and wondering, why in the world would they believe that we have the fullness of Truth, when we fail to give witness to charity, respect and humility.  Where is the prize to be won by such aggressive behavior?

There are many serious questions on the table that we pray the Holy Father will address, for the sake of clarity.  I believe that he is not a heretic and that it is not his intention to mislead the faithful and distort the faith.  We hope and pray that he shed some light on the questions on the table.

It is equally important that the faithful: lay, clergy and religious, not take it upon ourselves to speak out as if we were a newly instituted magisterium.  That’s giving in to the devil’s temptation to sow the seeds that divide rather than unite.

With terrorism surrounding us and taking innocent lives, is it necessary for Catholics and Americans to raise the level of anxiety with so much rhetoric that solves nothing and provokes every sin against virtue?

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 2:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

“In God We Trust” Really?


I’ve been trying to keep up with news and thoughts by and about Catholics on Facebook.  However, I’m starting to feel somewhat disappointed.  It is naive to believe
St_Setonthat one is going to find much that is worthwhile on Facebook; but occasionally one runs into another person who thinks with clarity and shares his or her thoughts in such a way that encourages us to rise to higher moral ground and to a more intense life of virtue and prayer.

Having said this, I must confess that it has been a great disappointment to find the many priests and consecrated religious who post on Facebook talk about every social and civil ill, encourage people to rise in protest, at times denounce those who do evil, but something is obviously lacking from their posts.  God, Jesus, the Immaculate, prayer, the perfection of charity and atonement for one’s sins and those who don’t do penance.  These are never mentioned.

A good example of this gap in “Catholic” posts is found in discussions on discrimination and racism.  Since the US elections several Catholic bloggers have taken to the Internet to denounce racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, be due to religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender-dysphoria.   They have denounced politicians, Church hierarchy, business men and women, and other members of society for behaviors that are often cruel and unnecessary, or at times for failing to speak up for the voiceless.

Another important area of life in which we find protesting, finger pointing and even name calling is in religion.  We have politicized religion to such an extent that we now speak of fellow believers using popular political jargon:  liberals and conservatives or novus ordo and traditionalists.

Here too, the language is very often offensive.  At times, it offends because it is vulgar and sometimes it offends because words are used to assassinate someone’s character.  They don’t simply describe an immoral behavior or a statement that contradicts absolute truth.  These are words that encourage hatred.

It is important for all of us to be aware of injustices, abuses and disregard for God and man.  When priests and consecrated religious brothers or sisters write only about the evils and don’t mention what the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium have to say about these things, we fail our people.  People have a right to expect clergy and religious to refer to faith to enlighten human life.  We don’t become priests or religious to be social workers or activists.  Ordination and consecrated life are not essential to the work of an activist.  Conviction is what matters.

I encourage clergy and religious who post on Facebook and in blogs to remember that faith enlightens reason.  Reason enlightened by faith strengthens convictions.  Christ did not come into the world to lead men into a godless revolution.  His followers were to be guided by their faith.  Their faith shed light on the rightness and wrongness around them.  Then they denounced what was wrong and defended what was right.  But they always proclaimed the faith that enlightened them.  Many were martyred for doing so, but there were more converts than martyrs.

Let us look at the world, including the Church, through the eyes of faith.  Let faith help us see what is good and what is evil.  Let faith supply the courage to fight for good and against evil.  Most importantly, never forget to share the faith that drives us, lest others see us as simple social activists or worse.

We who are priests or consecrated men and women have committed our lives to living according to the faith.  The Church has charged us with the duty to proclaim the perfection of charity and the Kingdom of God.  The first step in serving God is to find Him.  The search for God is the search for truth.  We must begin by discerning what God has called each of us to do and how God wants us to go about it.  For priests and religious, the call is not a call to godless social work or godless political activism.

We must never give up and never surrender our awareness of God’s presence in human affairs.  Going into battle for purely human reasons or as some say, for the sake of justice alone, is not the Gospel.  Christ exemplifies true justice.  The exercise of evangelical justice leads man back to the Father.  Christian justice and renewal is built on faith and preached with courage.  There is nothing courageous in insulting another person or group of people.  There is no hope when God is not part of the discussion for justice.