Holidays

New Year Promise

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The New Year is almost here and the first few weeks of the month are filled with a sense of having to accomplish all your New Year resolutions. By the time February rolls around everyone’s lost their steam and then we wait until next year to attempt more resolutions, only this time we resolve to be more steadfast in our resolutions. It’s an endless cycle that goes around each year, so how do we become successful? It’s really easy, put Christ first!

When we decided to become true followers of Christ, we set ourselves up for a difficult road. “We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one” 1 John 5:19. With that understanding, the evil one hates-with-a-capital-H anything that has to do with God – most specifically Jesus Christ. Simply because of who He is and most importantly because of what He stands for, Salvation.

When we make resolutions for the New Year we have to make sure that they align with what Christ would want for us. For example, let’s say you vow you want to go into the New Year and enjoy life to the fullest. There’s no specific goal or idea, just you wanting to do what you want and have fun. The big red flag here is the focus on you. We talked previously in a post about JOY – Jesus Others and Yourself. When you live your life like that, then you will find true joy. So, we should look at a New Year resolution as how can I better myself through Christ. So this resolution won’t actually bring any real lasting joy or you may find yourself not being able to accomplish as much as you wanted.

Some common resolutions are weight loss, spending more time with family, travel more, get a new hobby, etc. These can all be really great resolutions but make sure you are doing them for the right reason. If you want to travel more, travel to areas you are not familiar with and bring some evangelizing materials along with you. If funds and time permit make a pilgrimage to some religious shrines. If you want to lose weight and be healthy, that’s perfectly okay and actually quite important. However, again make sure that you are doing it to be healthy for a pure purpose and not so you can look good in a bikini for the upcoming swimsuit season. If you want to spend more time with your family, start adding in family prayer, read the Bible together and if you are able to, go to weekday masses as well.

When you put Christ in the center of your life, even your New Year resolutions, then you will be successful. Just remember, don’t ever get despairing if things aren’t coming together exactly as you had planned or how quickly as you had planned. We have to keep our head up, keep on moving and try the best we can. This is a New Year and a new opportunity for you to become Christ centered and become the way that Jesus wants you.

Dear Jesus,
Please help me to completely dedicate my life to You,
Give me the courage to do all things through you.
If it is Your will, then please let me be successful with my New Year resolutions.
I give You glory and praise.
Amen

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Advent

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We are in the second week of Advent! This time and Lent are two of my most favorite times of the year because of the significance that each event has in both our faith and our life. Advent is a special time of year because it is the anticipation of Jesus being born into our world. Our Advent is only 4 weeks long, can you imagine how long the other advent was? It was many, many years! They were always promised a new covenant, they were promised a savior. People waited for a really long time until one day a savior was born in a manger.

I find it quite funny that many people who don’t believe in Christianity but celebrate advent without even really knowing it. Usually people decorate right after Thanksgiving, which is around the same time that Advent starts, they celebrate with parties, carols and presents to others. Then on Christmas day they have a huge celebration and without even knowing it they have participated in Advent. That is where our duty as Catholics comes in to help remind them of the reason that there is even a Christmas season.

Jesus is the reason for the season and the fact that we have to keep putting up reminders is truly sad. If the world just accepted the truth then we wouldn’t have to put bumper stickers on our cars or wear pins that proclaim the truth – but we have free will. This is precisely why we have to stick up for our faith and for the beauty that Christmas truly holds. Since the fall of man this is why the faith is so important to stand by. Because people do have free will and often times get romanced by the temptations of the world.

advent-candlesThe world was in complete darkness before Jesus came, there was no hope. Then Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, was born in a manger. Not in a castle or in a mansion. He was born in a barn with hay and animals, certainly not a fitting place for a King – especially the King of Heaven, the Savior. But He did it to teach us that He is coming to save us from the world, not coming to live in the world. He was born in dust to show us that this life, that the circumstances of this world should not determine our faith.

During this advent season we have to look into ourselves by looking into Christ. Do we give Him the respect He deserves? Do we live our lives like He teaches us to? This is four weeks of preparation to make sure that we are on the right path. To make sure that our lives line up with that of what Jesus calls us to be.

Don’t get swept up in commercialism and empty Christmas greetings. Celebrate the season with Jesus in everything you do. I don’t mean skip the Christmas parties and don’t sing Christmas carols. Do it! That is what makes this season so special but know the why. When you go to the cookie exchange talk about Jesus, how excited you are about celebrating the truth of  Christmas. Say Merry Christmas to the store clerk. Use these festive, fun times as a way to evangelize and preach about the coming of our Savior and how much that truly has changed everything.

Dear Jesus,

Please give me the courage to defend your name,

Especially during this season that celebrates Your birth.

You were born in a manger,

Let me use this to humble myself.

I pray that others will learn to keep you in Christmas,

To give you the glory that you deserve.

Amen

Merry Christmas…?

Is it Christmas already? Did I miss a whole season? Oh wait, that’s right it’s just commercialism at its worse. Don’t fall into the trap!

It seems to start sooner and sooner, before Easter is even over it’s time to pick your Christmas tree with the perfect garland. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a bit but you get the point. Christmas decorations are being put out sooner and sooner it seems, which diminishes how people see the importance of the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m into the cheesy Hallmark movies and the glittery decorations but I understand what the purpose of the holiday is along with why it is important. I also don’t look at Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.

It isn’t just Santa coming down the chimney with a sack full of toys, in fact that doesn’t have anything to do with the season at all. Although it has been brought into the fold and has taken an alarming center stage of what people perceive the season to  be, it really has no place. Saint Nicholas is a real saint who accomplished so much more then what is being perceived in the now jolly Santa Clause. His parents died when he was a young boy but left him with a huge inheritance and an even greater Catholic faith. He took the money from the inheritance and helped the sick, poor and dying. To take a Saint who truly lived what Christ teaches and dedicated his life to the service of the poor, and turn him into a commercialized version that can appeal to atheists is something that just doesn’t sit well with me. Now, I love the jolly old Saint Nick and I grew up in a winter wonderland. When I was a child my parents would go all out with the Christmas decorations. We would have all these cool different scenes set up and it was truly special; but I still knew what the season was and why it was important.

Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family in the inn. Jesus is not allowed to be celebrated during Christmas because there is no room for Him in homes. Think about it, we can’t say Merry Christmas (I say it anyways) and we can’t put Nativities out to celebrate His birth. The majority of Christmas decorations involve Santa Clause, little elves and goofy reindeer. And so much money goes into commercialism and Jesus was born into poverty. There’s all these opposites that are seen from what Christmas was, to what it has become.

Keep this in mind as you walk through the store and see Christmas decorations galore. To look or not to look, that is the question. Or is it? Should it even be a question? Don’t look! I made a promise to Jesus that I wouldn’t look at Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Is it hard? Yes! I LOVE Christmas, I love the feeling that the blessed season has on people because it brings about a feeling of peace and unity. It is quite beautiful because whether people want to believe it or not, it is Jesus that causes this feeling because it is the season of His birth.

Dear Jesus,

Help me to speak out against the injustice being brought against you,

People have tried to diminish the importance of your birth.

Give me the strength to stand up against those who hurt you,

And those who don’t have you in those life.

Give me the courage to spread the importance of your message,

To stand up against the hate that is evident in today’s society.

Amen

Memorial Day

First of all, I want to wish everyone a safe Memorial day. Don’t forget the true meaning of the holiday that is wrapped up and hidden beneath the BBQ and get-togethers. It is about remembering those who gave up so much and sacrificed so much for the ones that they love. Soldiers, who despite the risk, dedicate so much to ensure our protection.

The word that sticks out most? Sacrifice. This is the mindset that all Catholics and Christians need to have when it comes to their faith. We can’t in one breath proclaim our love for God but in the next we go and do something that is against the faith. Jesus loves us, yes and He died so that we could be made worthy to spend eternity with Him. However, life is not like Monopoly and we didn’t inherit a “get out of jail” free card. It takes work and a deliberate effort on our part to live like Christ wants us to.

How do we sacrifice? It starts with little things that may be keeping us from fully attaining our full possibility through Christ. Do I listen to music or watch TV shows that go against Christian morals? Do I have fun in a wholesome way? Do I neglect smiling at people? Do I help our elderly and make them feel human? These are just a small sample of little things that we could work on to fully attain our relationship with Christ.

Next comes the big stuff, the major things that will stop us from realizing who we can be through Christ. That is the major thing to come to terms with, we are nothing without Christ but with Him we are everything. Do you constantly find yourself angry? Do you worry constantly about everything? Are you compromising your morals? Do you find yourself attracted to the things in the world? Do you neglect your duties to Christ because you are caught up in worldly things?

These are the major points that we need to work on because until we fully understand how these stop us from gaining who we are through Christ, we will be lost. We are not perfect creatures because we were born with original sin. Jesus understands that we may fall at times and we may struggle entirely but that is not to be used as a crutch. One phrase that I hear all too often is “I’m only human”. Okay, well Jesus was fully divine but He was also fully human! When we use that as a crutch instead of as a building block then we will crumble.

We have been discussing sacrifice and this is where it also comes in. When we sacrifice the crutch that we are only human then we will be able to walk more free. We can face our issues more head on and allow Christ to work through us to accomplish what He wants from us. By saying to Jesus, “I worried about this particular event, please help to ease my restless mind. I can do all things through you because you are my savior even though I am only human. I am sorry for putting my trust in myself instead of you”- we are accepting responsibility. Now imagine saying this, “I worried about this particular event but I am only human and I continue to worry.” We are not accepting it and instead our using the crutch. Instead of getting through that event, we will instead be weighed down.

Dear Jesus,

Please help me to become more in tune with your will,

I want to accomplish your desire for me.

 We are nothing without you,

Help me to bring others to the light of Christ.

Amen

Palm Sunday

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Yesterday was a very special day – Palm Sunday. It was the first day of a life changing week, when we were given our salvation should we choose to accept it. It signifies the end of Lent but the beginning of something a lot heavier, Holy Week.

Passion Sunday, which is now referred to as Palm Sunday, is the Mass that coincides with the time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem before His torture, death and eventual resurrection.  Palms hold a special place in this Mass because as Jesus was riding in people would throw palms at Jesus as well as lay them in front of the donkey as He rode through. This was done as a sign of homage to the individual who it is being done at; it is reserved for people who have great respect from their peers. This is why Catholics are given palms before entrance into the church, and then they process in together holding the palms.Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He rode in on a donkey in an act of humility.  Donkeys are non-assuming, very humble creatures. Horses are strong, proud and very showy. Jesus is very humble no doubt, which is why it is fitting that He ride in on a donkey.

Holy-Week-2015-SERIES-IMG.pngAs we continue on this week, let us try and remember just how important this week is to us. This is when the gates of Heaven were opened up to us again because of the sacrifice that Jesus made; we were made whole again.

It didn’t come without a price; in fact it was the ultimate price a person could pay – their life. Jesus was fully man AND fully divine. He didn’t let the fact that He was scared stop Him from saving us, so we shouldn’t let the fact that we are human hinder us from fully giving our lives to Jesus and serving God completely.

I encourage everyone to participate in Holy week, starting with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and finishing with Easter Sunday. Forget about focusing solely on creating the perfect Easter basket, hiding the eggs just right and visiting the Easter bunny. Prepare yourself for what Easter truly is, the beginning of forever, our new chance at life and the beauty that is Jesus Christ.

Honestly, the thought of Easter shouldn’t even be on our heads as of yet because it negates the whole passion. Jesus was beaten, scourged, spit on, made to carry a huge, heavy cross and crucified. In order to completely understand how beautiful Easter is, you have to understand how painful the journey was getting there.

So before you indulge on Easter with what you gave up or stop saying the Rosary daily like you did during Lent, ask yourself if Jesus ever quit. He is the Son of God, He could have ended the suffering, torment and agony right then and there but He didn’t.  Maybe it wouldn’t kill you to only eat meat a few times a week, fast on every Friday and continue to pray the rosary every day after Easter. Then we can fully understand the beauty, sacrifice and ultimate love that Holy Week and Easter is.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for allowing me to live the life I am.

I have a chance to spread your message to those I come in contact with.

The message of eternal life, joy and true love.

This week I will honor you, much like I should every day after.

When Easter ends, your love and my small sacrifices compared to yours won’t end.

Amen

 

 

Saint Patrick

As many of you know, today is the day to wear green or else you suffer the consequence of being pinched. You see shamrocks, top hats and Irish food galore. It is a joyous day, but what is it really? Aside from the very commercialized holiday, there is actually quite an inspiring tale behind the feast day of Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick was actually born in Britain where at the young age of fourteen he was captured by pirates and was sold into slavery in Ireland. His main job was to herd and take care of the sheep. After having a vision from God he was told to leave Ireland, he promptly ran to the coast and was taken in by some sailors; he was then brought back to his home country.

He always had a devotion to praying, no matter the time of day or what he was doing. While he was a slave he would always find moments to pray; as he was falling asleep, tending to the herd, in the mountains. He found that the elements of the seasons did not bother him as he prayed – the cold, hot or rain.

When he had been back in his country for some time, he had another vision from God and was told he needed to become a priest to spread Gods word throughout the land of Ireland. During this period of time, Ireland consisted mostly of druids and pagans who vehemently denied anything having to do with Christianity. After a close call with one when he first entered back into Ireland, he was able to convert the pagan. He then promptly went around, spreading the word of God throughout the country and building many churches. He used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to those who had never heard that before- causing many to convert! This was such an inventive way to teach about the faith while using elements that many were familiar with.

While the shamrock that is often seen during this celebration is proper to be associated with Saint Patrick, everything else just kind of branched off of the original meaning of the holiday. The color green wasn’t associated with this day until the late 1700s during the Irish Rebellion. Alcohol seems to have taken a prominent place in the celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day. Leprechauns are seen everywhere, which I have no idea when that tradition took place.  The list goes on, sadly.

We as a society have taken to commercialize and take advantage of anything that could cause revenue. What I find truly sad is the same people drinking green beer and wearing green from head to toe are the same people who want God out of everything. Guess what, Saint Patrick’s Day is a Catholic Holiday because it is the feast day of a Catholic Bishop, HA!

Saint Patrick was a humble man who lived a pious life.  He spread the word of God throughout a land that was full of heathens and those who would rather see him sacrificed and murdered then to hear his message. He succeeded though in spreading the message and even had churches build. So in our society today let’s use Saint Patrick as an inspiration to help us to spread the message to those who don’t believe.

Here is a little prayer from Saint Patrick that I have found to be quite beautiful:

The Breastplate

Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger