Calm and Bright

Those were the ideas I had chosen to focus on this Christmas. I really like the idea of something maintaining a brightness even while it is at rest or peaceful or just content. There were some moments of that this Christmas. Unfortunately,  there were also those moments of confusion, exhaustion, and loneliness. There is one thing I know I re- learned this Christmas. We are all suffering…either slightly or seriously..one way or another. And the reminder of that humble, faithful Holy Family keeps  nudging us to trust again and again in God’s will for our lives.  Someone once told me, “You are not alone in this.” Isn’t it a relief to know that?

As we approach this New Year, let’s unite in our joys and sufferings and stop feeling alone or scared or sad about whatever it is in our life that isn’t perfect.  The only way we can find peace or joy is if we adapt to that constant opportunity that time offers– to embrace the “newness” of each moment. We have everything that we need– it is the way we choose to react or not react that allows us to carry on calmly.

 To make a resolution means to resolve something, to turn something old into something new- to change! But, we must do it  with a meekness and patience.Everything around us is changing and moving and growing. So, why shouldn’t we?

Hope wherever you are this New Year  you can calmly embrace change and resolve to stay bright!

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Mary in December

So some people really like the Blessed Mother, and some people may just regard her as the figure who made the holy family complete. Some people despise her, some people idolize her, and some people think it is outrageous that she is considered virgin and mother. However you acknowledge Mary, you know she always pops up right around the beginning of December. Sure Catholic school kids crown her in May, we remember her birthday in September (especially in my family since it is my little brother’s birthday as well), and some devout souls even celebrate the Rosary Congress in October. But in December, Catholics are supposed to go to mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here is where it gets interesting.

 You sometimes have to clarify that even though the gospel reading is about the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to tell her that she is pregnant with the Son of God…that is NOT the Immaculate Conception. It is actually the moment of Mary’s conception, in her mother Anne’s womb, where God allowed her to dodge that stain of sin that we all get- thanks to old Adam and Eve. You see, God needed a new Eve. So, he picked the soon-to-be-born, Miriam(hebrew for Mary).

After that is cleared up, people start to wonder, well, how does Mary get to be conceived without sin? Answer one: God can do anything. Answer two: Like I said, He needed a new Eve. Answer three:

a quote from Bishop Fulton Sheen:

“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?

Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?” – Bishop Fulton Sheen

(Thank you http://www.fallibleblogma.com/ for that quote.)

So, what do you think of that? It surely helped me understand why Mary gets immaculately conceived. But then we have the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe coming right around the corner. Tomie de Paola, a well known writer and illustrator, reflects on his first introduction of this devotion to Mary:

Fr. Moriarity introduced me and we sat down to have tea (or bourbon) as we desired. Then, Miss Delehanty said to me, “Do you know about Our Lady of Guadalupe?”

I didn’t. We had statues of other “Mary’s” in the church and at home.

“Well,” she said… and proceeded to tell me the beautiful story of Juan Diego and the Lady who appeared to him in what is now Mexico City, a long time ago.

“So,” Miss Fanny (as she told me to call her) said, “I have a petition that I’m sending to ROME to get the POPE to make Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patron of Artists.

“After all,” she added, “it’s definitely a self-portrait.”

I signed the petition immediately!

The Pope obviously ignored the petition, because in the Roman Catholic Church, which has a saint for everything, St. Luke is STILL the patron saint for artists. (He’s also the patron saint for doctors!)

Well, NOT FOR ME!

Read my book, THE LADY OF GUADALUPE. Many Mexicans call her “La Morena.” I do, too!

She’s my patron saint for artists. She knows how hard it is to do a self-portrait.

I love all of Tomie’s work, but I especially love this story. It brings alive the brightness of the Mexican/ Aztecian culture and tells of the famous miracle with such innocence and wonder. I will be back to write more on her feast day (December 12). Until then, read about Guadalupe here .

And then of course, we see Mary in every nativity scene. We probably hear about her on Christmas Eve when we recall the laborious journey to Bethlehem. And if we looked at the birth of Christ, the way we look at the birth of any new baby, we rejoice and celebrate with the new mama.

So, Mary is all over this month, whether you like her or not.  She really finishes the year with a bang. And then she kicks it off again on the first of the year with a Solemnity. Here we acknowledge her as the “Queen of Peace.” That day is also designated the World Day of Peace.

So go on with your holy self, Mary. Thanks again for saying yes to God through Gabriel. Or better yet, thanks for saying yes before you were even conceived. You made the right choice!

ADVENTure is here.

So, here we go. It’s a new ecclesial year; it’s that season where we cannot avoid even the subtlest reminder that a long, long time ago-the world was changed for ever. Believe it or not, it is true that as soon as that little baby was born things have never been the same. When I fell in love with the writings of Flannery O’Connor in one of my undergraduate literature classes, I think it was partly because of her piercing approach to understanding who Christ is. I remember we took apart the following excerpt from A Good Man is Hard to Find:

And on the subject of Jesus he continues, “Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”
Once I thought about it, it made such sense. We are either with Him or we are against Him. Though I have often thought I have been with Him, I sometimes realize that I am more like the Misfit. No, I have never murdered or set fire to anyone’s home, but I certainly have done “meanness.” We all have.
This advent season is a season where we begin to hope for that coming or visitation of the man who as arrived to establish peace. It is a journey away from our clutter, our fears, our meanness, and our loneliness towards the humble manger where the bread of life awaits. Pope Benedict once described it as, “a time to mean God is here, he hasn’t retired to his world, he hasn’t left us alone.” Many times when we want to destroy evil or pain we rush to action. Now, we have a chance to trust and be calm and wait. We can start a new adventure in following that life that changed the world for ever. It is our opportunity to keep trying to throw away everything and follow Him.

Peace Walk

   A few weekends ago, I helped out a friend who is producing a documentary about this city of crime that we live in. The central city Peace walk was a fitting piece for them to include in their project. Check out the making of the film here: http://www.crescentcityfilms.net/index.html
  It was wonderful to see children of all ages, parents, teachers, local musicians, and community members gathered together in prayer,discussion, and a united goal: peace. I also learned of a new up and coming artist named Dee-1 who is featured on MTV’s Freshman picks. He has an incredible story. Check him out here: http://www.bestmusiconcampus.com/band/default.aspx?bandID=201 and vote for him if you believe in his message. After the peace walk, I am motivated to do more to help transform the Crescent City to a more accepting, peaceful place. Unconditonal love and perserveramce will make that possible. Please support more movements like this and let peace be your loudest instrument.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

To see some pictures form the walk…click here: with some snaps