24 December 2013

One More Sleep
In the classic film The Muppet Christmas Carol, when Bob Cratchit (in a compelling portrayal by Kermit the Frog) is closing up Scrooge’s shop on Christmas Eve, he suddenly begins to sing, as is his wont. He sings about some things you might expect Kermit to sing about: magic in the air, people loving and caring, the world smiling. After all, as the refrain reminds us, “there’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.”

But I would like to bring attention to a line which is almost missed unless you’re paying close attention. Just before Mr. Cratchit comes upon the penguins’ Christmas skating party (excitedly crying out, “Oh! It’s the penguins’ Christmas skating party!”) he sings: “It’s a season when the saints can employ us / To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive.”

We may not often think of the saints when we think about Christmas, but maybe we should. After all, they’re celebrating Christmas too, and much more fittingly than we. How? Not by giving gifts to one another, but by praising God for his love, shown to us in the man Jesus Christ. And the saints employ us to do the same.

We hear a lot about peace around Christmastime. But peace is a big concept, the term is broad and vast. How can we fathom its real meaning? Luke’s Gospel offers some insight. After the angel proclaims to the shepherds the birth of the Savior,
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (2:14)
The angel alone proclaims Christ’s birth, but is joined by a great multitude in praising God for it. The saints, upon entrance into the heavenly kingdom, join this worshiping multitude, singing that eternal song of peace.

And again, in the Psalms we read:
I will hear what the LORD God speaks;
he speaks of peace for his people and his faithful,
and those who turn their hearts to him.
His salvation is near for those who fear him,
and his glory will dwell in our land.
(Ps 85:9-10)
The Lord speaks of peace for his faithful, and the heavenly multitude, angels and saints alike, speak of peace among men with whom he is pleased. This proclaimed peace is the kingdom of God which is at hand for us; it is salvation; it is Christ.

Salvation is experienced after this earthly life is done—but we can begin even now, like the hungry traveler who, while still afar off, smells the great feast being prepared for his arrival home. We do this by faith, by turning our hearts to the Lord who now dwells among us. The Word made man is the cause and culmination of the peace of Christmas, which we experience by faith in the Incarnation.

After the lengthy interlude in which Bob Cratchit and his murine friends admire the expert skating of the penguins, he continues singing. Today we can join him, looking forward to tomorrow’s celebration of the divine peace brought to us in the Incarnation: “Yes, faith is in our hearts today / We’re shining like the sun . . . After all, there’s only one more sleep ‘til Christmas.”

Image: Still from ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’

18 December 2013

Saint Peter Faber

. Pope Francis recognized the sainthood of early Jesuit Peter Faber on Dec. 17 after holding a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The decision, “enrolling in the catalogue of Saints” one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus, was announced through the Holy See press office. The announcement said the Pope had “extended to the Universal Church the liturgical cult in honor of Blessed Peter Faber.”
It was also announced that Pope Francis had authorized the congregation to acknowledge a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Maria Teresa Demjanovich, a sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, from New Jersey who died in 1927; the heroic virtues of Emmanuel Herranz Estables, a Spanish priest who died in 1968; and the heroic virtues of Giorgio Ciesielski, a Polish layman and father who died in 1970.
The means of St. Peter Faber's canonization is equivalent to that of St. Angela of Foligno, whom Pope Francis canonized Oct. 9. According Italian publication La Stampa, St. Angela's canonization diverged from the normal process involving the recognition of a second miracle attributed to the saint's intercession.
Such a canonization is done “when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted,” La Stampa wrote.
St. Peter Faber was born in 1506, and studied at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier; the three went on to become the founders of the Society of Jesus. St. Peter Faber was ordained a priest in 1534, and served across Europe.
He died in 1546, and his relics are kept at the Church of the Gesu, the Jesuits' mother church in Rome. His feast has been kept Aug. 2, the anniversary of his death, by the Society of Jesus, and he was beatified in 1872 by Pius IX.
Pope Francis has referred to the new saint at least twice in his pontificate, both in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” and in his Sept. 30 interview with Jesuit publications.
In “Evangelii gaudium,” Pope Francis quoted the saint as saying “time is God's messenger,” making a point about the need for patience, an ability to listen, and docility to the Holy Spirit, in the process of drawing others closer to God.
In his Sept. 30 interview, the Pope cited St. Peter Faber as a Jesuit who had particularly affected him, saying he was moved by the priest's “dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

07 December 2013

We are Dead in this World

We are dead in this world,
we the faithful, the chaste, the constant, the pure,
we who love Christ and His bride the Church,
we who long to see the face of God,
we who seek to live in holiness,
we who strive to be one with the Divine Will.
We are dead in this world.

We are dead in this world,
we the sinful and restless and faulty,
we the lost and the lame,
we the poor and broken and lonely,
we, who despite these maladies, search for God,
we who struggle and are weak in the face of God's grace.
We are dead in this world.

The world ignores us,
the world laughs at us, shows us scorn,
the world moves on in fascination with itself,
the world gives no concern for other worldly affairs,
the world is worldly,
worldliness is our enemy, the tool of satan who seeks the ruin of our souls.

How I pray that I can be dead,
how I pray that I can be faithful, chaste, constant, and pure,
how I pray that I can love Christ and His bride the Church,
how I pray that I may long to see the face of God,
how I pray that I may seek to live in holiness,
how I pray that I may strive to be one with the Divine Will,
how I pray that I can be dead.

Slay me O world, if you will, that I may live only for God!