We’re STILL in the Christmas season…

We’re STILL in the Christmas season…

Here was a little off the cuff Christmas reflection I recorded before the Christmas break.  Don’t forget–we go until January 13–the feast of the baptism of the Lord.  So, we’re STILL in the Christmas season!  Merry Christmas!

The O Antiphons of Advent and Gaudete

The O Antiphons of Advent and Gaudete

I think I’m finally getting Advent right this year.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll attest to the fact that the two seasons of the Church calendar I love the most are Lent (and the Triduum) and Advent.

I love these two seasons, not only because I love the particular treatment of them by the Church or because I believe some of the better sacred music is tied to them. Instead, it’s because they provide us with a real and significant period of time in which to consider the gravity and magnitude of the events up to which they are leading and for which we should be preparing ourselves. Also, it’s because we, as the Church, have been marking these periods of time, in one way or another, since the moment Christ was no longer with us on earth and we began looking toward and longing for the day when He will return to us.

December 17 marks the beginning of the O Antiphons of Advent. For most people, the only contact they have with these particular antiphons is the carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and while it’s a pretty song and it covers the gist of the antiphons, I think it’s important that we as Catholics, as Christians, have a working knowledge of these antiphons.

The U.S. bishops’ website provides a nice description of the O Antiphons:

The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century.  They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from Dec. 17-23.  They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well.  Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

According to Father William Saunders in his article, “What Are the ‘O Antiphons’?”:

“The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Here’s just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies:

December 17: O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom” (28:29).

December 18: O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips” (11:4-5), and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us” (33:22).

December 19: O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (11:1), and “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

December 20: O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever” (9:6).

December 21: O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown” (9:1).

December 22: O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (2:4).

December 23: O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one — Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia — the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

I have always loved the O Antiphons.  They are beautiful, they are a magnificent theology (lesson), and, to some degree, they are mournful as they recall the darkness in which mankind was shrouded prior to the arrival of Christ.  It’s the comparison to that darkness in which man lived that makes the contrasting light of Christ’s arrival an even more awesome and joyous event.  The antiphons remind us of our roots as a people of faith and they give us the hope and joy of the coming of Christ.

By the end of the antiphons, we are told to “REJOICE! REJOICE!”

For the last week or so, I have had the Christmas carol, Gaudete stuck in my head.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not happening to too many other people.  If you’re not familiar with the carol, I highly recommend you have a listen here, as it is sung by the group, Mediæval Bæbes.

Gaudete (“rejoice” in Latin) is a sacred Christmas carol, thought to be from the 16th century, but might be even older. (*Interesting piece of Christmas music trivia: the first specifically Christmas hymns for Christians that we know of appear in fourth-century Rome.)

The particular line I’ve had stuck is the refrain, “Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!”

The full text of this carol is:

Latin English
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
To the wonderment of Nature,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

I’m thankful for two things regarding this seasonal earworm: 1. That the song stuck in my head is more respectable than, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and 2. That the line I have stuck is the one that repeats the idea of “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!”

From the moment our first parents ate that forbidden fruit, mankind longed for the arrival of the savior of the world.  Not only did He come, but He came and established Holy Mother Church so that each of us might find the means for the eternal salvation of our souls!  If there is any better reason for us to rejoice, I can’t bring it to mind.

So, for me, between the O Antiphons and Gaudete, I have been duly reminded of the importance of this season of Advent.  I have been reminded that I, a poor, wretched sinner, must make ready my mind, body, and soul before I can truly open my door to the Christ child.  I have been reminded that I need to make use of this time – -this quiet, reflective, preparatory time, to make ready anything that is unbefitting the arrival of the Lord.

I recently heard someone say that if you’re tired of Christmas by Dec. 24, then you’re doing Advent wrong.

I think I’m finally getting Advent right this year.

 

IT’S. THAT. SIMPLE.

Please take a moment to watch the newly-minted 15-second video produced by the Archdiocese of St. Louis regarding the HHS mandate.

If, after watching it, you’re so inclined, please share it via email, facebook, twitter…

It's that simple

Now Is the Time for All Good Men to Come to the Aid of Their Country

ImageGiven my age, I will admit it is surprising I’m aware of the titular phrase I’ve used for this blog entry. You see, the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” was once a typing drill taught by a teacher named Charles E. Weller (I really have no idea why I know the teacher’s name, but those who know me will vouch for the fact that I have millions of generally useless tidbits careening around in my brain.) Mr. Weller used that particular phrase because it exactly fills out a 70-space line if you put a period at the end. My use of the phrase is surprising though, because— I’ve never used a typewriter. I have no idea of the relevance of a 70-space line. I could no more set the tabs on a manual typewriter than rebuild a car engine, and yet, as an English major and communications professional, my entire academic and professional careers have both necessitated my ability to type—and to type well. The thing is, my parents taught me the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” as a kid and today as a 38-year-old woman, it sticks with me still.

There are other things, of course, that my parents taught me that have stuck with me that are, perhaps, a bit more useful in my day-to-day life as a productive, responsible adult. (I’m sure they’ll be happy to read that.) Nothing they taught me, however, has proven more useful, more meaningful, more encouraging, and more important than what they taught me about my Catholic faith.

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As a child of the 1980s, I am smack-dab in the middle of a generation of Catholics that, in my opinion, was provided with what I would describe as “less than robust” Catechesis in school. My parents, understanding the importance of sending me to a Catholic school did so and, in their wisdom and with their responsibility as my Catholic parents who were passing along the faith to their children, took it upon themselves to see to it that my sister and I were both given what I would describe as a “particularly robust” amount of Catechesis in our home.

What is more, all matters of discussion were always on the table at my house growing up, and my sister and I were encouraged to participate in the many discussions around the kitchen table. We grew up understanding politics, history, religion, and what my parents knew and thought about such topics. We were always encouraged to read and learn as much as we could so that, as we grew into adults, we would be able to intellectually form our own opinions on matters that would be facing us.

I remember my dad relaying a story to us that included the notion that, no matter how bad things got in the world, no matter how confusing society and culture became, if we wanted the truth—we should “look to Rome.” Of course, what he meant by this was that the Church would always point us in the right direction, regardless of what was coming at us from the rest of the world.

Here we are, now, in 2012, facing an issue that none of us, I think, ever thought we would have to face. We are facing the issue of having to defend our right to religious liberty as Catholic, Christian Americans. Despite how the media portrays the issue, despite what our friends, family or co-workers might think about this issue, despite what the culture at large would have us believe, the fact of the matter is—one of our most basic rights is being trampled upon.

I look at some of my fellow citizens—and even some of my fellow Catholics—and I am amazed that they seem to truly not understand the gravity of issue that is facing us and what is at stake. Well, either they don’t understand, or they don’t care. It’s easy to be apathetic about something you either don’t understand or about which you know nothing.

We are now in the midst of the Year of Faith. During this Year of Faith, the Holy Father has called upon us as Roman Catholics to both evangelize and catechize. My only concern is that we are, perhaps, entering into this time of evangelization and catechesis a bit too late to make any real difference as far as our lives as Catholic Americans are concerned.

Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke once wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Thankfully, my parents, and other parents of their ilk, did do something. They provided us, their children, with an understanding of our history as Americans, the knowledge of what it means to be a faithful Catholic, and how, as an American Catholic one must always understand the issues and our responsibility as faithful, Catholic, American citizens to defend and uphold our beliefs. Some issues of faith are non-negotiable and it is our responsibility as Catholics to not only know what they are but to defend them accordingly.

So, Mr. Weller’s typing exercise seems to have more importance to me now than just as a useless piece of trivia. Now IS the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country, I just hope there are enough of them out there who truly understand what is at stake and who, at this critical and pivotal moment in our history as a country, are willing to do what is necessary to prevent the triumph of evil.

e-Vangelization in the Archdiocese of St. Louis

My first “car phone” was a clunky black phone in a bag, with a huge battery that constantly had to be plugged into the cigarette lighter. The plug, made of red plastic, glowed when it was charging. It was only to be used for emergencies and my parents often reminded me as to what—in their opinion—constituted an emergency.

Over the years my mobile phones have changed, seemingly meeting my changing needs at the same time. The old Nokia workhorse that I’m sure would still work fine today. The Palm that was always fun at parties or in public because it could be used as a universal remote control for televisions. The Windows-based phone … which never worked. Finally, my first beloved iPhone, which impressed and mesmerized friends and family by its outer simplicity and its ability to have the cyber koi fish in the cyber koi pond “nibble” at your finger as you held it to the screen. Whether or not any of my later phones worked particularly well as a phone was neither here nor there.

In my line of work, communications and public relations, my mobile phone has always been an expensive yet necessary tool, and in the nearly eight years I have worked for the Church, it has been used in some remarkable ways. I have used my mobile phone to speak to missionary sisters in Communist Cuba. I’ve had the announcement of our new Archbishop pop up on the text message screen. I have spoken with Cardinals of the Church on my phone. I’ve tweeted messages on behalf of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I’ve posted images of the hundreds of thousands of people in the cold and sleet of the annual March for Life to the Archdiocesan Facebook page. I have photographed relics of saints, and I have taken video recordings of the Holy Father at the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican.

Of all the nifty things my phone can do and of all the really neat things I’ve captured with it, I think one of the most important—if not the most important—ways in which my phone has be utilized is as a tool for evangelization.

In the Office of Communications and Planning of the Archdiocese, we have, in the last year or so, begun to consider more carefully how we can use the medium of video to spread the Word of the Gospel as well as the work of the Church. To that end, we have been producing some incredible videos (if you didn’t see the 2011 Eucharistic Congress video, the Fortnight for Freedom Saint Spotlights, the Spiritual Reflections on archstl.org, or the 2012 ACA video, you should) on a relative shoestring, with one or two people, and—when compared to large production companies—very little equipment.

The production of each of these videos is something unseen in most other archdioceses across the country and for those of us who have been involved in their production; it has been a complete labor of love with an understanding that it is yet another way of getting out the messages of Christ.

Brian Miller, Director of the Young Adult Ministry and your blog-mistress set up the iPad telepromter and iPhone camera to record the Saint Spotlight series for the Campaign for Religious Freedom. (*Please note the incredibly hi-tech lighting rig…)

One of the most amazing things we have been able to do is to use our iPhones as recording equipment.

When one or two of us go out on these “simple” video shoots, I’m always afraid the people on the other side of the “camera” are thinking we’re not prepared, or professionals, or something else along those lines. We show up with a tripod, lights from Home Depot, a battery-operated microphone, an iPhone and nothing else. We have everything we need, really. The lights work just fine, the iPhone records video in hi-def; we can plug the mic directly into the phone for audio. What we are able to capture with our unsophisticated equipment and our phones; however, are often some of the most heart-wrenching, inspiring, educational, or faith-filled messages you will ever see or hear.

We have recorded a young mother of five who was recently widowed and who has, in spite of the financial hardship, committed herself to providing a Catholic education for her children—because it is her responsibility to do so. We have recorded Archdiocesan employees describing the fate of martyrs who were willing to give up their lives in order to protect and defend the faith and the inalienable right of religious freedom. We have recorded the ordination and consecration of young men as they begin their lives as Christ’s priests on Earth. We have recorded the Archbishop as he proclaimed “Remember Rome, Mr. Obama! Remember Rome!”

What we have captured on our little iPhones are the true Gospel messages as they are lived out every day in every corner of the Roman Catholic Church as it exists in our part of the world. What we have been able to do with those messages is what Christ commanded us to do—we have spread those messages. And we have spread them via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, via the St. Louis Review online, and our *award-winning archdiocesan website.

We are trying our best to do as Christ asked of each of us … and we’re doing it with our iPhones.

*The Archdiocese of St. Louis’ website was recently awarded the Diocesan Information Systems Conference’s 2012 Diocesan Achievement Award for Best Website of the Year. This award recognizes a diocese that has made significant strides with and has become a model for the use of technology to serve parishes, schools and parishioners within their diocese. All North American (arch)diocese websites were eligible and voting included both Canada and the United States.

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If Only St. Paul Had a Twitter Account…

Evangelizing With Modern Social Media

Let’s begin with a brief—and not entirely accurate—history of communications in the Church… We start with God touching the finger of Adam, we move on to a talking burning bush, then there’s Charlton Heston receiving the Ten Commandments (I told you, not entirely accurate), fast forward to an angel visiting Mary, then a star over the manger, the Sermon on the Mount, then we have a crudely formed fish drawn to identify one as a Christian, there’s the monks and their illuminated manuscripts, Papal bulls and encyclicals, the St. Louis Review, “Radio Replies” with Blessed Fulton Sheen, EWTN and Mother Angelica, and Pope Benedict XVI sending his first Tweet from an iPad.

Amazing what we’ve accomplished in several thousand years…

At the center and the heart of it all has been man’s need to communicate with God and about God. Unfortunately for us, we live in a postlapsarian world (that is, a world with sin after the fall of Adam and Eve), and because of that fall, everything is tainted by sin. Because of sin, nothing in the world is perfect—including language. So, we who are broken have attempted for millennia to communicate about that which is perfect—God—using language, intellect, and methods that are all tainted because of our fall into original sin… A less resilient creature might throw up its hands and give up such a Sisyphean (look it up) task—but not man.

In 2010, at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council of Culture, Pope Benedict XVI talked about what is offered to us in the new forms of communications and technology. In his address, the Holy Father stated, “The problems seem sometimes to grow when the Church addresses men and women who are distant from or indifferent to an experience of faith, whom the evangelical message reaches in a way that has little effectiveness or attractive-ness.” So, in this age of unbridled secularism, what does that mean for those of us—and as Christians, that means each of us—who attempt to share the message of God’s love? Are we just wasting our time?

Think of the early fathers of the Church, the first evangelists, and consider what they were able to accomplish with the tools they had at their disposal—they had their sandals, their voice, and the Gospel.

Now consider what is available to us, the new evangelists, and how or if we are using these tools to the best of their, and our, ability. We have Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and blogs; we can communicate in real time with some-one on the other side of the planet and what do we see these miraculous and amazing tools being used for—sending photos of cats with helmets made of limes and videos of dogs with voiceovers by their owners. It often makes me wonder if God looks at us and says aloud, “Really?”

Though the tools we have available to us are something the likes of which St. Paul couldn’t have imagined, we share with him two things: that undying need to share the love of God and the Gospel. The Holy Father reminded us in 2010 that, “In the technological culture of today, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm of en-culturation (the way we teach and/or learn something), purifying, healing and elevating the better elements of the new languages and new forms of communication.” We simply must rely on the Word of God to be our guide.

Remember, the first evangelists were successful in spreading the Word of God because of their faith, their courage, and their perseverance. We have available to us all we need to be successful evangelists—but we need to act on the hackneyed adage we’ve all heard and “walk the walk as well as talking the talk.” Again the Holy Father tells us, “We need men and women who speak with their lives, who know how to communicate the Gospel, with clarity and courage, with the transparency of their actions, with the passionate joy of charity.” So, in this, our current age of evangelization, I say to you, “Become as St. Paul! Take your tweets, status updates, and posts, root them in the truth of the Gospel, strap on your sandals, go bravely out into the world, and spread the Good News!”

Elizabeth Westhoff, Director of Marketing and Mission Awareness 

To read more on evangelization and the Year of Faith, visit: http://archstl.org/year-of-faith

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My view on the Catholic church.

My view on the Catholic church.

Catholic nuns, among some 1,000 teaching sisters attending the scheduled Minnesota Twins-Washington Senators baseball game in the Twin Cities in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota, idle the time away as rain fell, June 5, 1965. Sister Howard looks through a binocular. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick)

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Deo Optimo Maximo

From time to time, my work-life produces things that I plan to share here (articles, images, videos, etc.)  I hope you’ll enjoy.

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