Friday, February 21, 2020

To Be Holy

To be holy……..what a wonderful goal.  But how exactly does one approach holiness?  Does it mean more time on one’s knees, frequent Masses, Communions, confessions?   All wonderful devotions and practices. But what else can one do?  

Our Family Liturgy Choir has had some answers about being holy and good and bringing God’s light to their world.  They share in their prayer before we sing that they can bring Jesus to others by reaching out to a new student; they can be concerned for a sick classmate; they can show kindness to one who is not included in friend activities at school;  they can (and do) pray for a family member who is having a difficult time.  This is holiness in action.  And I learn from this group of young people how to be holy.  They are Jesus to me.

But to be holy is a daily challenge.  I have all sorts of holy thoughts as I pray in the morning at home or at Mass.  But then going into “the world” of responsibilities and work can steer me off course in matter of minutes.  That person is irritating or that task is annoying and/or frustrating.  Or I just want to stay on the couch and binge-watch a favorite Netflix series rather than do God’s work which the Lord has chosen for me.

A couple weeks ago I attended a conference in Boston on spirituality.  Two days of focusing on one simple message has given me new life for my weaknesses.  BEGIN AGAIN.  That’s it! No complicated, involved message.  Just……BEGIN AGAIN.   Every day, sometimes every hour we have a chance to have a minute with our Lord, asking Him to walk with us and help us.  If and when we fail, the Lord’s mercy is there to forgive.  It can be just a moment of recognition that we need His help to leave the moment, the situation of anger, frustration, criticism –whatever it may be – and start over.

“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”   [Levitius 19:1-2]


And what a perfect moment to BEGIN AGAIN as Lent starts this Wednesday.  We can become a people through God’s love and mercy who “gather together in the love of Christ” and see in each other that where there is love, there is God.

Reflection by Mary Keefe



Thursday, February 13, 2020

Holy Family’s Appalachian Service Project (ASP) trip

When I was asked to contribute to the blog to talk a little bit about Holy Family’s Appalachian Service Project (ASP) trip that members of the Parish take each summer, I was very excited. This is a trip that I look forward to every year and one that I hope everyone, in some capacity, can experience. It’s an incredible example of how we help serve the Lord and all his people.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the trip, ASP is a Christian service organization that repairs homes for the poorest of the poor in the Appalachian mountains. With financial assistance from our community, and with our teen and adult volunteers donating their time and labor to help make these homes warmer, safer, and drier, together we help to give dignity to these families’ otherwise very difficult lives.

When asked what makes this mission trip so great, the answer, for me, is simple. It’s a time that we can REALLY give back. I know so many of us participate in fundraisers and sit on boards and co-chair events to raise money for local families or shelters or other relevant causes – and it’s all needed and so much appreciated. However, there’s something different about being in someone’s home where you can get down and dirty and build things with your hands and interact one on one with families who truly need our help. To be able to give back in this capacity is a gift – one that changes each person in some way after returning home.

It’s such a powerful experience to see our students and our chaperones working together to make homes warmer, safer and drier for these families.  At the end of our work week, we can see the difference that we make. We can see it physically in the homes and we can see it emotionally in the smiles and hugs of those families that we help. We can also feel it within the greater community as shop owners, restaurateurs and local residents recognize the work that we do and the good we bring to the community in the true spirit of service.

This year, more than 50 students and 25 chaperones will make the pilgrimage to West Virginia – Holy Family’s 18th annual trip. We will meet people they would’ve not had the opportunity to meet and we will surprise ourselves with what we can build and how much we can contribute to making a community better and brighter.  We will experience the true meaning of service and touch the lives of many from the aging to the first walkers.

We ask that you pray for the safe travel of our caravan to West Virginia and give all of the volunteers the strength, patience and ability to recognize the power of the Lord as we set out to positively impact our West Virginia brothers and sisters.


Reflection by Kim Ballerene




Thursday, February 6, 2020

A Sword will Pierce your Heart

Luke’s Gospel on the Presentation at the Temple is a Gospel reading which is bitter sweet for me.  When I received my blog dates, and looked up the readings, I thought oh no, this one is too personal for me.  I’m not sure I can write on it and maybe I should ask for another one. But no, God wanted me to share on this one.  So here goes.  

Several years ago, I started on a year long journey of learning and practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  I met with a Spiritual Director and a group of people every Saturday at 8am. Together, we were instructed on these exercises, and each person shared their personal experiences on the contemplation of the various biblical readings throughout the week.  We were to spend at least 1 hour a night meditating on that days particular reading, and write down our thoughts, and/or experiences.  

During one of my nightly 1-hour sessions, I was sitting quietly and listening, and by the way, this scripture passage was not the one I was meditating on, the thought came into my head “a sword will pierce your heart”.  Immediately, fear overcame me, and I thought no God, not my son. Anything but that! I quickly put it out of my head and continued on with my meditation. Every now and then I would think about that, and what it meant for me.  A few years later my nephew was found dead of an overdose, and my heart physically hurt. I thought is this the sword? But after some time had passed, I had the sense that this was not the only sword that would pierce my heart.  Four years later, tragedy struck again. My youngest brother was killed in a horrific car accident. Again, I thought ok this must be the sword.  

Over the past several months I have come to realize that yes, these tragic events were piercing swords in my heart, but that there will be more.  Maybe not as tragic as these two, but there will certainly be more pain and sorrow.  

So what can we do?  How do we cope or prepare for such blows?  We all have our “swords” that pierce our hearts during our lifetime.  The only answer I can see is my faith and trust in God.

I thank God everyday for my Catholic faith which has certainly helped me through these difficult times.  I truly believe that God is always with me and will help me through whatever comes my way.  



Reflection by Cheryl Provost

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Word of God Sunday

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – THE SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD

With the promulgation of his Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio), Aperuit Illis, on September 30, 2019, Pope Francis has announced that, going forward, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (this Sunday) is to be celebrated as The Sunday of the Word of God as a way to reflect on the importance of the Word of God for everyday living.  The Holy Father cites how various local Churches have sought to “make Sacred Scripture (Bible) more accessible to believers, to increase their gratitude for so great a gift, and to help them strive daily to embody and bear witness to its teachings.”  He encourages people to read the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council, which expounds the nature of Sacred Scripture, its transmission from generation to generation, its divine inspiration embracing the Old and New Testaments, and the importance of Scripture for the life of the Church.  We believe that even though the Bible speaks about times gone by, we believe it is the Living Word of God, which contains truths, which we are to live by.  God speaks to us in His Living Word.  “The Bible cannot be just the heritage of some, much less a collection of books for the benefit of a privileged few.  It belongs above all to those called to hear its message and to recognize themselves in its words…  The Bible is the book of the Lord’s people, who, in listening to it, move from dispersion and division towards unity.  The word of God unites believers and makes them one people.” 

How have you made the Word of God in the Bible an important part of your life – both by paying close attention to the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass and by reading a portion of Sacred Scripture in your daily personal prayer?  Have you ever taken advantage of opportunities to learn about the Bible?   There are Catholic Bible commentaries available, Bible study opportunities here at Holy Family and elsewhere, and Scripture reflection booklets we make available to parishioners seasonally that help unpack the meaning of Bible passages.  “When Sacred Scripture is read in light of the same Spirit whom it was written, it remains ever new.  The Old Testament is never old once it is part of the New, since all has been transformed thanks to the one Spirit who inspired it.  The sacred text as a whole serves a prophetic function regarding not the future but the present of whoever is nourished by the word.  Jesus himself clearly stated this at the beginning of his ministry: ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:4:21).  Those who draw daily nourishment from God’s word become, like Jesus, a contemporary of all those whom they encounter: they are not tempted to fall into sterile nostalgia for the past, or to dream of ethereal utopias yet to come.  Sacred Scripture accomplishes its prophetic work above all in those who listen to it.”  The pope acknowledges that the message can be both inviting to hear and challenging as well.  If it isn’t already, make the reading of the Word of God an important part of your spiritual life.  Our priests, deacon and Faith Formation staff members are ready to help you get started.


Reflection by: Fr. Bob

Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 Vision: Love, Peace, Joy & a Smile





I like to begin each New Year by taking one final look at the faces and messages on each of the Christmas cards that I’ve received before putting them away. In so doing I noticed that the same three words kept repeating over and over again: love, peace and joy. 

January is a time where I try and create a spiritual vision for the year ahead, try to remember to change the batteries in our smoke detectors, and lastly try to schedule my yearly eye exam making sure that my physical vision remains clear. In thinking about vision and about this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm “here I am Lord: I come to do your will”, I began to wonder what is God’s vision for me, His will for me in this New Year? 

Last night while I was watching the unsettling evening news a commercial came on that I had never seen before.  It was an advertisement for batteries, yes batteries. But it was the message of the commercial that was so amazing.  The commercial showed a number of animated people in different difficult situations:  a car accident, parents arguing and children fighting.   The people involved were transformed from their anger by a stream of hearts which came flooding over them bringing with it love, peace and joy transforming them into happier people.

Then the commercial got even better when the words “We need more of God’s love, so we can love one another right now” came across the entire TV screen!  I couldn’t believe it!  What a simple yet clear message the world needs to hear.  I agree, we do need more of God’s love, and the sooner the better. Such a simple yet clear vision for us as we begin this New Year, to love one another right now! 

We can come to do God’s will by flooding love, peace, joy and a smile into difficult or challenging situations daily. Pope Frances said “we need to share our smile with the world, because a smile is the flower of the heart.” St. Mother Theresa also said “peace begins with a smile and let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”      May your 2020 vision be filled with love, peace, joy and a smile.


Reflection by Colleen Larose

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Rubber Tree Plant

As I was contemplating the end of this decade and the state of the world, I read the words from Matthew when Jesus responded to John who protested that he should not baptize Jesus, but it should be the other way around: “...it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

When I listen to the news, I don’t hear much righteousness going on and wonder how God’s righteousness is to be fulfilled. By now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Boy, is she a slow learner or what?” Yes, it hit me that we, beginning with me, are going to make this fulfillment come about. Then I get overwhelmed by thinking about what a tall order this is. I just need to remember Matthew Kelly’s advise to take one “holy moment” at a time and keep rolling those moments into more moments and more moment until we have a huge snowman of holy moments. I was very impressed by Kelly’s remark, “Our desire to see the world change is a desire to see the holy moments outweigh the unholy.” That is something I think I can wrap my head and arms around.

Of course that means I need to get busy making more holy moments. I know I could be more patient at the grocery checkout line. I mean, really! Why am I in such a hurry to rush home just to carry all the bags in and put the groceries away when I might have a nice conversation with someone else in line or the cashier? I don’t need to bore you with my list of where I can roll my holy moments because you probably already have your own thoughts and plans. And because you do, we can all have high hopes for a better world this year. We’ll put our hopes and faith in a resurrection from the unholy as we build our holy snowmen with Jesus. Such hopes remind me of Sinatra’s song about the ant and the rubber tree plant.

Just what makes that little old ant Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant Anyone knows an ant, can’t Move a rubber tree plant 


But he’s got high hopes He’s got high hopes He’s got high apple pie In the sky hopes So anytime you’re gettin’ low ‘Stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant Ooops, there goes another rubber tree plant.

Reflection by Linda Crowley

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Home By Another Way

I can never hear this weekend’s gospel without thinking of James Taylor…wait, what?!   This weekend’s gospel tells of the Magi visiting Jesus and King Herod’s anxiety about a prophesy telling of a new ruler of the people of Israel.  So what could this possibly have to do with James Taylor?  Well, Taylor had an album out in the late 80’s called “Never Die Young”.  The title of the album featured a song of the same name and that song was the only charting hit from that album.  But I’m a Taylor fan and I did purchase the CD, yes that’s correct a “CD”, remember it was the late 80’s. One of the songs on that CD was titled “Home by Another Way”.  In the song Taylor and co writer Timothy Mayer wrote about this very gospel.  It’s almost as though it was a poem of the story of the Magi and looming threats from King Herod.  It’s cleverly written as they describe the wise men visiting Jesus and enjoying their stay but “warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme, they went home by another way”.  The repeating message is all about going home by another way as the song is titled.  

I personally interpreted the song as a cautioning of avoiding bad things.  The message I heard in the song was to avoid things that seemed good or attractive on the outside but really were not good in the end, such as when Taylor sings “stay clear of royal welcomes, avoid a big to-do, a king who would slaughter the innocent will not cut a deal for you”.  Yes James, that’s right!  Avoid the “Herods” out there in the world, the tempting things that lead us astray and away from good, and away from Jesus and away from light.  There are so many things that lead us away from goodness.  The internet, TV, social media are flooded with junk that get in the way of our spirituality and lead us away from God.  So what are we supposed to do?  I certainly don’t possess the wealth of knowledge to know the answer to that question but if you think about it, we can start fresh with the New Year and try a different “way” as Taylor suggested and as God suggested to the kings in a dream.
 I’m currently reading Matthew Kelly’s book “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic”.  In it he talks about being silent and how difficult that is for people today in our culture.  It’s almost uncomfortable.  Kelly references C.S. Lewis’s book “The Screwtape Letters”. The story is about an apprentice to the Devil who must tempt a young man away from God.  The apprentice tries dreaming up new ways to do this but the Devil tells him not to waste his time thinking up new schemes but rather to use the very simple plan of “creating so much noise in the world that man can no longer hear the voice of God in his life”.  That story was written in the 1940s but has much relevance today.  Kelly also highlights many of the saints as they conversed with God.  Kelly writes “It is in silence that God speaks to us”.  One way we can try to enhance our relationship with God is by being silent.   

 If you’re feeling stuck spiritually, maybe try “another way”.  Try inserting prayer time in your daily routine.  If you already do that try a new approach. Maybe pray first thing in the morning or later in the evening.  Maybe sit in a comfortable chair and speak to God not just in scripted prayer, but a real conversation like you would your best friend.  Maybe pray the rosary while you’re on the treadmill or walking your dog?  There are many options to try and converse with God and shut out the noise.  If we use a little imagination we can make a plan and one that doesn’t seem as daunting as losing “x” amount of pounds by Valentine’s Day or whatever weight and fitness goals we often strive for in the New Year.  There are many possibilities to explore.  We don’t have to do them all.  Just try one small change and see if it makes a difference, see if it helps bring you closer to God.  Above all try to avoid the pitfalls, the temptations, the “Herods” of your life. We all have them.  And may God bless you all in this New Year on your faith journey. 

For your curiosity and pleasure, I have put the James Taylor song lyrics below. 

 Home by Another Way, James Taylor, Timothy Mayer

Those magic men the Magi
Some people call them wise
Or Oriental, even kings
Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus
They sure enjoyed their stay
Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme
They went home by another way

Yes, they went home by another way
Home by another way
Maybe me and you can be wise guys to
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes
Avoid a big to-do
A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you
He really, really wants those presents
He'll comb your camel's fur
Until his boys announce
They've found trace amounts
Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

And they go home by another way
Home by another way
You have to figure the Gods, saying play the odds
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Home is where they want you now
You can more or less assume
That you'll be welcome in the end
Mustn't let King Herod haunt you so
Or fantasize his features
When you're looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here
And to sing this song tonight
They tell me that life is a miracle
And I figured that they're right
But Herod's always out there
He's got our cards on file
It's a lead pipe cinch
If we give an inch
Old Herod likes to take a mile

It's best to go home by another way
Home by another way
We got this far to a lucky star
But tomorrow is another day
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Reflection by Mary Juliano Hayes

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Feast of the Holy Family

The theme that runs through the readings on a Sunday is not always easy to discern. However, On December 29th when the Church recognizes the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph the message of the readings is quite clear. The first reading from The Book of Sirach emphasizes the importance of respecting and caring for parents. In the second reading, St. Paul exhorts children, wives, and husbands to act with kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In the Gospel reading, the evangelist Matthew describes for us the courage and trust that Mary and Joseph displayed when they fled to Egypt with their newborn child.

The readings brought back for me memories in my life of instances of honoring one’s father and mother. I have an early memory when I was very young of traveling from Quincy to South Boston on the bus and subway with my mother so she could visit her parents. My brothers and I would accompany my father to the home of his parents as he completed chores that needed to be done. Although we probably did not always do it joyfully, at home my brothers and I would cut the grass, put out the trash, or shovel the driveway. We knew that my father worked hard and that we needed to be both responsible and helpful. I supported my mother as she assumed the huge responsibility of caring for my father at home as he slowly died from Gehrig’s disease (ALS). My own children observed me and my brothers as we cared for our mother for a number of years in a nursing home.

Honoring one’s father and mother is not always easy and for many it can be complicated. However, it may be helpful to consider that when we love our parents, we are also loving God. Given the demands and pressures placed on many families today, the readings dedicated to the Holy Family are both timely and valuable. Scripture, prayer, the sacraments, virtues, and love are available to us all and will strengthen our efforts make our families holy.


Reflection by Bob Fanning

Saturday, December 21, 2019

How have you grown this Advent?


This Advent has been quite a different one for my family and me. Both my son and I had orthopedic surgery and have been recovering for several weeks. This season has been a different kind of busy for us.   I love the Church season of Advent and I love the secular Christmas season.  As soon as Thanksgiving weekend passes, I have my Christmas to do list for my family.  I love breakfast with Santa, volunteering at My Brothers’ Keeper, going to Christmas concerts at Church, visiting Jordan’s Furniture, visiting Lasalette shrine, making and decorating cookies, going to events and celebrations and the list goes on.   I love it all and my personality is such that I set the family schedule so we accomplish it all.  Lists and accomplishments drive me in many areas of life and I love the feeling of accomplishment even if by Christmas Eve I am very tired. To say this year has been different has been an understatement.    The positive side is that I have been very faithful to my Advent prayer and practices, as I have a great deal of time and I have really put my trust in the Lord to bring healing to my family and guide us through a stressful time.   Wow, that makes me sound great.   Doesn’t it?  

The reality is even rooted in that prayer my peaceful Advent has been in conflict with my guilt and a constant nagging feeling of not “doing enough”.  I look on Instagram and Facebook and I see the world participating in all the activities we cannot do this year.  The feelings of envy and guilt sneak in.  Envy for myself because I love all that stuff and guilt for having a weakness and not being a “good enough mom” who can post the perfect Christmas pictures on social media have taken over my thoughts often.  We have not been able to participate in our usual holiday family traditions.  The drive through light display in Marshfield substituted for Lasalette shrine and Pandora has taken the place of the church Christmas concert.  Many days that has taken over my early morning peaceful Advent, and has left me a little sad, and at times my family too.

When it came time to write the blog – I thought what in the world could I write about that is full of hope, expectation, and the impending joy of Christmas.  I do not feel very much joy.  What can I possibly share?  I looked at the readings and a few thing jumped out for me. Ahaz needed and was promised a sign.   St. Paul challenges us as he often does to follow our call to grow in holiness. Then, we hear the story of Joseph, the model of holy obedience and trust in the signs and calls of the Lord.   Isn’t that what Advent really is supposed to be… waiting for a sign? ….growing in holiness? ….living in expectation of the fulfillment of that dream?  Soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, “God with us.”  So shouldn’t Advent really be about taking notice?  What have I taken notice of this Advent?

Then I looked over at the Advent wreath that sits on my table.  It is a make shift wreath we had to put together because I was not at Holy Family to buy one of those beautiful wreaths from the Bible Study women.  The centerpiece of my table is usually one of those picture perfect beautiful wreaths … This year our centerpiece is one with make an old berries wreath found in the attic and candles glued to a paper plate(My husband’s genius!).  It is not perfect and beautiful at all, but I was struck…  The candles for the first three weeks are getting really really low, so much lower than usual.  (We are getting close to fire hazard status with the paper plate.)  Usually the candles are almost new even at the end of the season.  I usually have the best of intentions with the Advent wreath but it usually just looks pretty.  I thought,  what is the difference this year?  Why are the candles so low?  As, I consider this I reviewed the weeks of Advent.   Each time we ate dinner together, we lit the wreath as always, but because we have not been out checking things off my list, we have lit it so much more.  We have gathered around the table, eating meals some prepared by family and friends that have loved and cared for us during this trying time.  We have had it lit as we have wrapped together at the counter and played many board games at the table.  I reflected on the blessings we have been given this Advent and there have been many.  This Advent, I have come to know that it is okay to be and not to accomplish (me pray to hold onto to this in the New Year!). We have stayed up late much too late because we do not have a real schedule and spent a great deal of time just being together!     Among a time of much stress and anxiety, there has been much laughter and love in our home, both amongst us, and from the many who have reached out to help us, support us, and pray for us along the way.  We have learned to be grateful in a new way.

We are lucky that we are housebound an have limited for a very short period, relative to the whole year and in the Spring it will all be a distant memory.   Life, however, is not Facebook perfect all the time and that is okay and its okay to share the less than perfect parts of our story.  Life is messy and if we are honest, we do not need to gloss over the challenges just to show the world our perfection.   In the Gospel this Sunday, Joseph a good and holy man is visited in a dream and listens to God’s will and follows it. Talk about messy, how does one explain that?  Not only does he hear and listen to the Lord, but also he must have shared his less than perfect story of his already pregnant fiancĂ©e and the dream that assured him God was with him.  Imagine having the courage to share that less than perfect story so that it could be recorded and all of us thousands of years later could be challenged to say yes to all the Lord has in store for us as Joseph did. 

I have received many blessings, learned many things, and I wait in expectation and hope for Christmas so that I can take all the Lord has shown me this Advent into my year ahead and grow in holiness following the example of Joseph. I have noticed many things that I never would have and I have learned to appreciate small things.  The comfort of my home for one and the blessings of that comfort.  So many people go without that comfort.  I have to come to respect the body God has given me and been challenged to care for it in new ways.  It takes a little less than perfect to see all that is good just the way it is.     Our messy life situations are meant to be shared, as Joseph did, to help us grow and help others grow alongside us.     

How have you grown this Advent?

Reflection by Jeanne Cregan

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Rejoice! Hurry the Lord is Near!

Happy Gaudete Sunday, or as I like to call it, Happy Pink Vestment Sunday!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know its rose, not pink, but pink is much more fun.  When I first started in ministry, I was a young 22 year old kid so I often wore dress shirts and ties every day to work to seem older, more professional.  Thanks to this habit, I collected a lot of different collared shirts.  It got to the point I had enough purple shirts I could wear a different purple shirt each Sunday of Advent and, of course, I had to have a pink one for the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  I had my own little Advent wreath of shirts in my closet.  I was always excited for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, not only because I could bring out my favorite pink shirt/tie combination but it meant Christmas is right around the corner.

During Advent, the priest wears purple and we decorate the Church in purple. We do this to symbolize the darkness we are living in.  Jesus isn't here yet, the light of the world is not with us yet.  But each week as we light a new candle on the advent wreath, the darkness lessens, a little more light can be seen as we await the Light of the World.  On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, we step out of that darkness, that purple, and celebrate the light.  The waiting is almost over.  We can see light at the end of the tunnel.  We can rejoice, the Lord is near.

It also serves as a reminder that Advent is almost over and the Lord is near...I know what you are thinking- Matt you literally just said that.  It's true I did, but how you read those statements can be very different. 

The first -  Advent is almost over!!!! The Lord is near!!!! Is an excited exclamation of someone who has truly lived Advent and has worked these last few weeks to prepare their hearts, minds and souls to receive the Lord and are anxiously awaiting His arrival.  The pink (rose) candle is a symbol of joy and excitement!

The second -  well it is more of an oh shoot, how is Advent almost over and Christmas is right around the corner?  This is a worried expression of someone who can't seem to figure out where December has gone.  How are we only 10 days from Christmas.  I have so much stuff still to do!  Gifts to buy, parties to go to, presents to wrap, etc, etc, etc.  That is an expression of someone who hasn't taken the time to truly experience and live Advent.  The pink candle is a giant warning sign of everything they haven't done yet..

If read the expression the first way, awesome!  I can't wait for you to receive the Lord in your heart on Christmas morning.

If you read the expression the second way, fear not, there is still hope! The Church gives us this reminder that the Lord is coming, so if we haven't taken the time to prepare for it yet, we still have a chance to.  I can't wait for you to receive the Lord in your hearts on Christmas morning too! 

Let's try to make our hearts as warm and welcoming of a resting place as we can for the Lord over these next 10 days. 

Reflection by: Matthew Bensman


Friday, December 6, 2019

SO. MUCH. PREPARATION.

It’s Christmas time! Yay! Let’s decorate the tree, hang lights, find those black Friday deals, force your kids to take a picture to put on the card,  check your Elf on the Shelf, buy the teacher presents, volunteer for the class party, get the kids to their practices, check the Elf again, grab the gift you forgot, donate time to those in need, make cookies, go to work, spend time with the family you don’t see often, spend time with the family you see too often, throw the Elf in the garbage (but change your mind and put it back on the shelf), and then finally, before you know it, wake up and Christmas is here!  SO. MUCH. PREPARATION.  So much EXTRA STUFF on top of the already busy lives that we lead.

We spend so much time prepping our homes, families, classes, etc.  to experience the joy of Christmas that we forget to prepare ourselves to fully experience the true joy that only comes with having Jesus present in our daily lives.  In our readings this week, we see that John the Baptist was encouraging repentance and preparing the world for Jesus’s arrival.  But today, the Lord is not “coming soon” like a feature presentation at the local movie theater, or like a distant cousin that only comes around once a year and eats all the apple pie.    The Lord is already here.  He is all around us and within us, waiting for us to quiet our minds and bodies to connect with him in each moment.  To seek his guidance in our daily life choices.  To prayerfully reflect and show gratitude for this life, where we get to love, learn and experience all the joys and sorrow of being fully human.

To be human is to love, fail, learn and grow in spirit (the ultimate goal).   We must have faith that we are here to learn the lessons in life that God wants to teach us to bring us closer to him (and to each other).  In this 2nd week of Advent, we are going to light the “Candle of Preparation” or “Bethlehem Candle” which represents FAITH and is a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.  As Mary prepared for the coming of her child, she had faith in the Lord and his plans for her life.

During Advent, I look to my own mother for inspiration on preparation and faith.  December 7th is her 75th birthday and she is one of God’s most faithful, humble servants. Each morning she prepares herself and unites with God in daily devotion and prayer.  Just 10 min a day in the morning and she sets herself up for a day of walking with the Lord by her side. He is present in her decision making, in her reactions to stressful situations, and in her words.   While I have tried meditation, prayer and downloaded the “Jesus Calling” devotional app on my phone (hey – no judgments on the phone usage), I have gotten so busy during the holidays that I have forgotten to continue to focus regularly on connecting with the source of true Joy, God.    I need to slow down, breathe deeply, sit with the Lord and be thankful for the many blessings in my life.  If I do this as a regular practice, I can be more like my mother and recognize His presence in every moment.  I will be calm, grateful, more giving, kind and less stressed.  And maybe, just maybe, the Elf on the Shelf will make it to December 26th.

Reflection by Gretchen O’Donnell


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