Write In Between

Monday, December 24, 2007

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

Adoration of the Shepherds
Lorenzo Lotto

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Sound of Snow

I was standing at the edge of the woods as the first snow came to New England… everything somewhat stilled, peaceful. And if you lean into it, there’s a very specific sound you cannot escape if you listen closely… one part hush, and one part something else…it’s almost mystical. New Englanders in snow country know what I mean. And maybe you know what I mean too. The sound is such that if you are distracted, you’d miss it. Nevertheless, the aural presence is there, even if you don’t acknowledge it. It’s the sound of snow.

Granted, we all know snow by itself doesn’t really make a sound… what I was really hearing was the gentle intersection of snow touching the boughs and pine needles of the nearby conifers. They, of course, are also incapable of making a noise—unless they are moved by a force outside of themselves.

As I walked, I observed the path of individual snowflakes… (Did you ever do that as a kid? Try to follow where a snowflake lands?) I saw that individual snow flakes can actually land and cling to the tiniest pine needles and find their way into the recessed interiors of pine cones—penetrating cracks and crevices with ease—transforming little dark places into white.

I kept “listening” to the snow as I continued to walk my dog, who was by this time straining at the leash to get back indoors. But my heart was really in the moment, transfixed. I looked up into to the sky and whispered a little prayer of gratitude to the Lord of All Creation. And then I “heard” it…

This is what grace sounds like.

No, no audible voice. Just a moment’s reflection that I continued to ponder.

I went inside and prayed some more. Does grace make a sound? Only when it moves us… like a force from outside of ourselves. It is we who make the sound in response to it. Like the thirstiest pine needle at the end of a long branch, or the smallest dried up leaf shifting in the wind.

And when we encounter a moment of grace, we know it. We catch our breath. Sometimes, when grace touches us, we laugh; often we weep. But always we stand in awe of such a gentle touch that could move us so deeply. That a drop of grace is… enough. As if we are surprised that the same God, who would ordain a tiny flake of snow to find a resting place within the darkest recesses of a prickly pinecone, would allow a drop of grace to touch, and abundantly redeem, the exact internal need we carry.

Indeed, our voice should sing of our thanksgiving, for that is the truest sound of grace.

Snow comes from the heavens to the earth, where it melts and eventually runs into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. The earth responds to this watering by bringing forth life in a harmonious cycle. Grace, too, comes from our Heavenly Father. When it touches us, it always transforms the landscape of our lives. So our lives can be given over, once again, to abundant-life flourishing. That is the holy cycle He intends.

So, the next time snow falls, if you are so fortunate as to be in northern climes, imagine the graces that are falling, and have fallen, on your life. And take note of grace’s gentle action upon even the darkest parts of your life.

As you ponder, let grace divulge to you its heaven-sent secret—that God truly came to earth one winter’s night. That God became a Man that we might be transformed by His grace—that by the power of God-with-us, we are given the power of God-in-us through His marvelous outpouring of grace.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to one and all!!!

[A blog break is currently in progress... until after the New Year... Peace be with you!]

Copyright 2007 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Loving the Bride, vol 45

Something old...

The Magi found Jesus at "Bêth-lehem", which means "house of bread." In the humble stable in Bethlehem on some straw lay the "grain of wheat" who, by dying, would bring forth "much fruit" (cf. Jn 12: 24). When speaking of himself and his saving mission in the course of his public life, Jesus would later us the image of bread. He would say, "I am the bread of life, I am the bread which came down from heaven", "the bread that I shall live for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn 6:35, 41, 51).

-----Pope Benedict XVI, God's Revolution, World Youth Day and other Cologne Talks.

(BTW, if you are a pope watcher, check this out.)

Something new....
Archbishop Chaput of Denver weighs in on the movie The Golden Compass. (He pans it.) So glad to see a Catholic leader who gets it right. (As opposed to this embarassment by the USCCB.)

Something borrowed...
This is why we parents encourage our kids to participate in all those Christmas pageants or Nativity plays.

And here's a good discussion about what we women want for Christmas over at Danielle Bean's blog.

Something blue...
"The Child of Mary" and a "Night Prayer" to Mary, here.

Copyright 2007 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Writer's Wednesday -- Sheldon Vanauken

In a golden summer when our love was young Davy and I had sat on a stone wall... and talked about unpressured time--time to sit on stone walls, time to see beauty, time to stare as long as sheep and cows... we had spoken of 'moments made eternity', meaning what are called timeless moments, moments precisely without the pressure of time--moments that might be called, indeed, timeful moments. Or time-free moments....

The timelessness that seems to reside in the the future or in the past is an illusion... The future dream charms us because of its timelessness; and I think most of the charm we see in the 'good old days' is no less an illusion of timelessness.

In the reality of Now the clock is always ticking.

And yet, after all, the clock is not always ticking. Sometimes it stops and then we are happiest. Sometimes--more precisely, some-not-times--we find 'the still point of the the turning world'. All our most lovely moments are timeless. Certainly it was so for Davy and me... I think we sought the timeless by a kind of intuition. Timeless moments--that 'still point'.... [this] may suggest whether, as I believe, the longing for eternity is built-in to us all...

If, indeed, we all have a kind of appetite for eternity, we have allowed ourselves to be caught up in a society that frustrates our longing at every turn... Never were people more harried by time...

And yet... time is our natural environment. We live in time as we live in the air we breathe. And we love the air--who has not taken deep breaths of pure, fresh, country air, just for the pleasure of it? How strange that we cannot love time. It spoils our loveliest moments...

Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest?

It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity. Not only are we harried by time, we seem unable, despite a thousand generations, even to get used to it. We are always amazed at it--how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where, we cry, has the time gone? We aren't adapted to it, not at home in it. If that is so, it may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home.

-----Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to all Catholics in Boston!

The Archdiocese of Boston is celebrating its Bicentennial!

Let us pray for our Church and for all our local churches!

I was encouraged by the homily from Cardinal Sean via the Internet from the opening Mass for this year of celebration. I invite you take the time to listen to it... to learn of the early history of the establishment of the Church in Boston, as well as where we are today.

It is a message of hope and renewal.

If you are in the Boston Archdiocese, (and even if you are not,) think about lighting a candle in your window this Advent as a sign that all are welcome in our home during this cold season... most especially Christ. And while you do, keep these remarks from the Cardinal in mind...

For the Irish, the most powerful Christmas symbol has been the candle, placed in the window. It was lit by the youngest member of the family and could be extinguished only by someone named Mary. I don’t have to tell you that there’s no shortage of Irish girls named Mary. The candle in the window in an Irish home had two meanings. It was a sign of welcome to the Holy Family, of Mary and Joseph looking for a place in the Inn. It was also an invitation during the times of persecution, to a priest to come and celebrate a clandestine Christmas Mass for the family. It was worth risking everything to be able to have the Eucharist.

Today, as we begin our bicentennial celebration, I am here to say that in Boston, the candle is in the window. We want to invite and make welcome our brothers and sisters, especially the alienated. Especially the poor and the newcomers...

Yes, the candle is in the window, because Christmas is Christ’s Mass.

The Eucharist gathers us, as Christ’s family, to be united in the teachings of the Apostles, in fellowship and in prayer, and in the breaking of the bread, sharing what we have so that no one will be hungry. Not materially hungry, not spiritually hungry. The urgency of the Gospel today bids us, “Gather faithfully each week, as a worshiping community.”

The stakes are high; it is a matter of life and death. The branches need the vine. We need to be nourished by Christ’s words and by his sacrament. And we need to be nourished by the presence of the brothers and sisters of the household of the faith, the body of Christ, the Church. My brothers and sisters, as we journey together in Christ, let us put a candle in the window. A candle that says, “Welcome, welcome, welcome.” A candle that says, “The Eucharist is to die for.”

- - -text from the Cardinal's homily found here.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception : A Summary of Catholic Catechesis on the Blessed Virgin Mary

The following material is from The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.

"What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ."

--Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC (§ 487)

Immaculate Conception

Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854. The Pontiff stressed that Mary's sinless-ness was not due to her own merits, but truly, by the merits of her son, Jesus. "We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful." (Ineffabilis Deus).

Simply stated, Mary possessed sanctifying grace from the first instant of her existence and was free of the lack of grace caused by the "original or first sin" at the beginning of human history.

Divine Motherhood

At the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), the Blessed Virgin Mary was proclaimed Theotokos, a Greek term that literally translates, "Birth-giver of God." (cf. CCC § 495) In the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth greets Mary as "the mother of my Lord" (1:43). Since the earliest days of Christianity, it has been acknowledged that the Blessed Virgin conceived and gave birth to a Divine Person, Jesus, the Son of God. Hence, Mary is rightly venerated as the Mother of God. Only by acknowledgment of Divine Maternity of Mary can faith in the Divinity of Jesus be upheld.

Perpetual Virginity

The Gospel narrative of the Annunciation states: "the angel Gabriel was sent from God … to a virgin … and the virgin's name was Mary" (cf. Luke 1:26-27). The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, foretold the virginal conception of the Messiah as well: "the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel" (7:14). Matthew’s Gospel repeats this prophecy (cf. 1:23). The Church confesses the real and perpetual virginity of Mary even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. The birth of the Christ "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it." (Lumen gentium, § 57) Therefore, the Church celebrates Mary as the "Ever-virgin." (See CCC, § 499-501).

Bodily Assumption into Heaven

The Church has never issued a definitive declaration about the end of the earthly life of Mary. Eastern Christianity celebrates the Dormition (falling asleep) of Mary; theologians in the West conclude that Mary died in imitation of the bodily death of Jesus. In 1950, Pope Pius XII confirmed a belief held and observed for more than a millennium and solemnly proclaimed that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven.

God accorded Mary this privilege in honor of her Divine Maternity, her complete sinlessness, her spotless chastity, and for her share in her Son’s redemptive work in the world. Mary’s bodily assumption also anticipates the glorified body and place in heaven to be awarded to the faithful at the end of time.

The National Shrine

Mary is honored at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States of America. In May of 1846, twenty-one bishops and one archbishop attended the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore, along with their theologians. It was at this Council that the American Hierarchy named for the first time, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States. Pope Pius IX ratified this action of the American hierarchy in February 1847.

There are seventy chapels and oratories. The various ethnic representations of the Blessed Mother given in mosaic, sculpture and other artistic renderings, symbolic of the immigrant population of America, as well as those of saints and biblical and salvific events, richly ornament the interior and exterior of the church. In addition, the upper and lower churches, inside and outside, provide a visual account of the history of the Roman Catholic faith, as well as the history of the Catholic Church in the United States of America.Marian


Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a composite of veneration, invocation and imitation. The well-known prayer composed in her honor--Hail Mary--is an example of such devotion: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

The first portions of the prayer, derived from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, are a series of venerations or praises addressed to Mary. The closing portions are invocations to the intercession of Mary. Through thoughtful and deliberate recitation of this prayer, the faithful come to acknowledge the virtues of Mary and to assimilate them in their lives.

Catholic Documents referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Loving the Bride, vol. 44

Something old...

[On Peace on Earth]

In fact, there can be no peace between men unless there is peace within each one of them, unless, that is, each one builds up within himself the order wished by God. Hence St. Augustine asks: "Does your soul desire to overcome your lower inclinations? Let it be subject to Him Who is on high and it will conquer the lower self: there will be peace in you; true, secure and well-ordered peace. In what does that order consist? God commands the soul; the soul commands the body; and there is nothing more orderly than this."

These words of Ours, which We have wished to dedicate to the problems that most beset the human family today and on the just solution of which the ordered progress of society depends, are dictated by a profound aspiration which We know is shared by all men of good will: the consolidation of peace in the world.

As the humble and unworthy Vicar of Him Whom the Prophet announced as the Prince of Peace, we have the duty to expend all Our energies in an effort to protect and strengthen this gift. However, Peace will be but an empty-sounding word unless it is founded on the order which this present document has outlined in confident hope: an order founded on truth, built according to justice, vivified and integrated by charity, and put into practice in freedom.

-----Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 1963.

Something new...

Just in case you missed it, you'll find Benedict XVI's newest encyclical On Christian Hope here.


Danielle Bean's blog is hosting a great discussion on the annual question regarding the parental dilemma regarding the reality of Santa.

Something borrowed...

Advent is in full swing and over at Catholic.Mom you'll find some great family resources.

Here's something else for Advent: 31 ways to "give back" this season.

Something blue... Why Mary is our "mystical rose."

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Guilt-free Advent? Talk to me in two weeks...

One week into Advent already and you've not seen a single reference to Christmas yet at this blog. I guess I'm a little bit behind...

Here's to you very organized folks who already are wrapping presents and attending Christmas parties. I admire your determination, organization, and verve.

Me? Not even close to that. But I can't let the buzz all around me get me bugged by what I've have not "done" so far. You know what I mean... the endless list-making, shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, and doing the obligatory festivities that the onset of the Christmas season brings.

In fact, I haven't even started to make a list yet of all that needs to be done. There are some years that I have my act together and some years that I don't. This is one of those off years. Oh well, here's to those of us who love the season but still do not have any external evidence of it around our house.

So far this December, I have not baked a single Christmas cookie. Not because I don't like them or because I'm on Weight Watchers, but because I have no time to bake. The local neighborhood cookie swap will live without my sugar contribution this year. I'll bring an appetizer instead and toast all the dedicated bakers I meet there!

So far this December, I have not written out a single Christmas card yet. But the way I see it, we Catholics have weeks after Dec 25th to celebrate the season, so even if they don't get written before Christmas, I'll still be right on time.

So far this December, I only have two presents purchased so far. I'll get to it. But it might have to be a lightning-like blitz next week or the next since I've got finals and papers to write.

So far this December, there is not a single Christmas light up outdoors and the snow is already on the ground... well, I'll leave that to my husband and see what he decides... if its simpler than what we've done in years past, so be it.

December is not a must-do. But Advent is. So far this advent, we do have an advent wreath and we do pray every day. And for that, I'm glad. For now, that is enough. The rest will come in time.

Copyright 2007 Patricia W. Gohn

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writer's Wednesday --- Benedict XVI

Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life.

-----Benedict XVI's SPE SALVI (his newest encyclical On Christian Hope out this past week) par. 31.

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