Calendar & Seasons

"Christian Martyrs Of Nagasaki" (detail) by unknown Japanese painter

From Silent Night to Silence

The most abrupt and shocking transition in the Church’s liturgical calendar occurs from December 25th to 26th, when the Church pivots from celebrating the birth of Jesus and with it “joy to the world” and “peace on earth to those of good will” to marking the brutal stoning of St. Stephen and, at least at first glance, the ugly and unsettling […]

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Gerard van Honthorst

The Greatest Love Offers the Greatest Gift

“I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Merry Christmas! I love holidays. I love family. The two just seem to go together, don’t they?. Some holidays are joyful gatherings, some less so. We are all too human, as the saying goes. But I say, give me holidays and family any day; warts and all! […]

"Adoration of the Shepherds" (detail) by Murillo

Learning from the Shepherds at Midnight Mass

This message, indeed, “cannot leave us indifferent.” Because it is true, “it changes everything.” There is something beautifully symbolic about the tradition of Midnight Mass. It shows that Christians are so eager for Christmas to begin that they want to start celebrating on the first moment of Christmas day. People who ordinarily never go out late at night and are […]

Why Christmas Should Bother Everybody

Just a few weeks ago, at a ceremony for the lighting of the national Christmas tree, President Obama remarked on the meaning of the season. Here are some of the things he said: “Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope […]

"The Prophet Isaiah" (detail) by Michelangelo

What are the “O Antiphons” of Vespers?

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23, with December 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil. Introduction On the evening […]

Advent: Letting Go of our Expectations

This year, Advent isn’t going as I had hoped, not even close.  I had promised myself that we wouldn’t overdo anything—baking, decorating, planning, shopping.  I wanted the liturgical season to be experienced with joyful and eager hope, rather than the frenzied flurry of pre-Christmas planning that tends to occupy the weeks preceding Christmas Day. Despite the fact that my family […]

Our Merciful Mother — Our Lady of Guadalupe

In every approved Marian apparition, Our Lady has a specific mission. Each one reveals a determined and specific message—a unique and necessary goal. In the Anáhuac Valley of Mexico, on a barren hill called Tepeyac, Our Lady of Guadalupe came as a “merciful Mother,” a healer and restorer of all who are broken in body and in spirit. It is […]

Practical Ideas for a Better Advent

We are well into the Second Week of Advent. Already! Don’t worry, if you have not begun your watchful preparation, it is not too late… One of my strongest, most enduring memories from my childhood is the time spent preparing for Christmas. We did not have any family traditions involving the Advent Wreath or the Jesse Tree. And most certainly, like all the other […]

Watching and Waiting During Advent in Carmel

Advent in Carmel To experience Advent in Carmel is to enter into a rarified atmosphere that is filled to the brim with Carmel’s living legacy of Advent customs and observances. My first Advent in Carmel remains fresh in my memory today, still as vibrant and alive as when it happened. I feel at a loss, however, to write about it. […]

Therefore, stay awake!

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). This verse is part of a larger passage (Matthew 24:1 — 25:30) where Jesus speaks about the time before his second coming—that is the time in which we all live. Of course this is immediately followed with the separation of the sheep and […]