How the Puritans Stole Christmas

grinch-2Everybody loves Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” but let’s be honest… it’s not even that original. After all, the Puritans tried the same thing in England over 300 years ago. Christmas is such a beloved holiday nowadays that it’s impossible to imagine that anyone would actually try to destroy Christmas, and yet, that’s exactly what the Puritans did. Continue reading

And the Winner for the Best Nativity Is… St. Francis of Assisi!

Handcarved Pema Nativity Figures

We live in such a creative society, that there is an infinite variety of nativities available now-a-days. You can find everything from intricately hand-carved wooden pieces to glow-in-the-dark sets, musical nativities to nativity finger puppets. Some make great heirlooms and some are great for kids.  But of all natives ever made, I still think the best one is also the first one… the nativity made by St. Francis of Assisi.

In 1223, St. Francis decided that he wanted to have a real, live nativity for the people of Grecio, Italy.  After receiving permission, St. Francis set to work, making a manger with hay, bringing an ox and donkey. Near midnight, the villagers came by candlelight and together they sang hymns of praise and adoration.  St. Francis was “bathed in tears and radiant with joy”¹ as he chanted the gospel for Christmas mass and then preached a sermon on the “Babe of Bethlehem,”² as St. Francis called him.

DonkeyoxWhat was it that had inspired St. Francis of Assisi to create this beautiful nativity scene? St. Francis said that he wanted to see how Jesus “was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how He was bedded in the manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.”³  St. Francis knew that God’s actions reveal His goodness.  So by contemplating God’s actions (especially His birth), St. Francis knew he would better understand God… and the saint also knew that the better he understood God, the more he would love Him.

JesusmanagerSince the time of St. Francis’ nativity scene, the tradition has steadily grown and spread, and it is now considered one of the most beloved Christmas customs. Although we’ve seen more creativity in nativity scenes than St. Francis of Assisi could have ever possibly imagined, the original purpose of the nativity remains. In whatever shape or form the nativity comes, we too, can imitate St. Francis… by choosing a nativity that helps us to know God better, so that we, like St. Francis, may love Him more.

 


 1.   St. Bonaventure. Life of St. Francis of Assisi. TAN Books. Rockford, IL, 1988, p. 88.
2.  Ibid.
3.   www.strobertbellarmine.net/books/Weiser–ChristianFeastsandCustoms.pdf  Weiser, Francis. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. Harcourt Brace and Co., Inc. New York, 1952, p. 94-95


 

Gangnam Style, Ice Buckets, Blood, and the Grace of Yes

#Grace ofYesDay

Two years ago when the musician Psy released the video for Gangnam Style, I avoided watching it, in part because of a genuine lack of interest, and in part because I resist pop culture fads. This past year it was the ice bucket challenge. Yes for a noble cause, but there are many noble causes, and the whole social/viral thing was off putting for me. I try to avoid viruses. And now, into my mailbox pops an invitation to help an author I adore begin a viral marketing campaign for her newest book, the “Grace of Yes.” Hmmm…. a fresh dilemma. What to do for a friend? So, no to dancing, no to ice buckets, but an enthusiastic YES to grace.

graceofyes-blogpostLisa Hendey is a warm and generous California Catholic and her new book, the Grace of Yes, is a candid journey into eight spiritual values essential to a life of faith. I’m not done with the book yet, because I started reading it ‘buffet style’ with little tastes from all over. I began on the chapter “the Grace of No”, then skipped around snacking on different chapters before returning to the beginning to give it a proper read.

What I appreciate in her writing is the accessible, realistic and humble narrative of experiences, reflections, mistakes and successes. For me, they echo what I hear from Pope Francis. Be open to God, be concerned for others and cultivate within yourself a living faith that interacts with and transforms the world where you live. Continue reading

Advent Ideas ~ And a Prayer

Lighting the Advent CandleWhen Advent begins this year on November 30th all of the stores will already be festooned with Christmas decorations and your family calendar may start to look like there will be no time to breathe between Thanksgiving and the 25th of December.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Every November, after we have given thanks in a family gathering that fills our home (and causes us to gain a few pounds in post-Thanksgiving pie consumption) I take a deep breath and consider Christmas. Continue reading

Patron of Dogs? Not St. Francis!

I finally got a chance to look at the diocesan newspaper and it had wonderful pictures of pet blessings from around the diocese, including an adorable girl and her guinea pig. The occasion had been the Feast of St. Francis earlier this month. Pets are as welcome at our house as people and we have lots of both: 6 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 12 indoor/outdoor fish.

When I was in high school I found and brought home stray dogs, three separate times. Looking back, I can now appreciate how my parents may not have been as excited about my finding these shaggy creatures! Everyone I know immediately thinks of St. Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of animals. I have been known to send up a prayer to him when we are adopting a shelter pet to share our lives.

NotFrancis+I have always thought St. Francis of Assisi was the patron of dogs. Imagine my surprise when I found out that St. Roch is the patron saint of dogs, not St. Francis!

St. Roch is known to be a French noble who lived in the 1300s. He cared for plague victims in Italy and was known for miraculous cures. When he contracted the plague himself he went to the woods to die. We are told he was found there by hunting dogs who brought him food and licked his wounds, which began to heal. It is said that he returned to Rome with a dog, where they worked to care for and heal the sick and dying.

It is a lovely example of working side by side with one of God’s creatures. Pets become  (furry) members of our family. The next time I need a prayer for our dog, Rika, I will ask for St. Roch’s intercession.

Little People Have Faith Too!

When our children were younger we mastered the dance steps required to move through the house without stepping on a small, hard toy. Countless legos, plastic animals and dinosaurs, little people figures, cars and more made a minefield out of many a floor.toys-on-floor

This post, however, is not about the mess. Rather, it is about how play is the work of children. And, how imaginative play, especially when paired with the stories of faith, plays an important part in shaping the world our children know. Continue reading

Our Family Red Plate Tradition

One of the top songs in the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof is “Tradition.” Raising a family of faith in a secular culture, we share the struggles of Tevye, the father in the musical. In all families traditions create bonds of shared values and experience among that small community. Our mother Church recognizes this when she refers to the family the “domestic church”. In our family one of our favorite traditions revolves around a Red Plate with the words “You are special today” encircling the rim.you are special Red Plate Continue reading

What? A Catholic Children’s Bible that is actually a Bible?!

Catholic Children's BibleWhen initially asked to review a new Catholic Children’s Bible I was anticipating a small, padded book, with a handful of sweetly illustrated and reworded popular stories from the Bible.  What I was handed was a BIBLE.  A 2,000 page, you-could-do-weight-lifting-exercises-with-it-Bible!  Upon doing research I found that this Bible in particular is the only children’s Bible with the entire 27 book contents.  My interest was peeked.  What else is special about this Bible? Continue reading

4 For the 4th

Four reasons why saint medals are a fitting gift for those in the armed services.

armyamerican-flag-180pxnavy

As we approach the 4th of July and get ready to celebrate our country’s freedom and independence, we remember that 238 years ago these blessings were obtained through the brave sacrifices of patriots in the armed service of the new republic.

Today men and women continue to serve, protect and defend our country. Here are four reasons why religious medals that feature the insignia of a branch of the armed services, paired with the image of a related patron saint are a favorite for families with a loved one in the Military. Continue reading