St. Francis Xavier was one of the original six companions of St. Ignatius who became the first Jesuits after taking vows in the Society of Jesus. Xavier would be a great missionary taking the Good News to Japan and then died on his way to China. He was named patron of the foreign missions. He said, "It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards one's progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken." How is our spirit of faith? People are still talking about their fears because of the unsettled state so many are experiencing after the elections. Have we considered what Jesus is saying to us now? I am sure He is repeating, "Fear not. I am with you." Let us seek the peace of Advent during these days and pray much - I read in the newspaper that San Francisco has 44,000 undocumented people in the city. Let us pray for all those who are living in our country, some for many, many years.
"Stir up your power, we pray, O Lord, and come, that with you to protect us, we may find rescue from the pressing dangers of our sins, and with you to set us free, we may be found worthy of salvation."
Stir up your power and come - we need You. We know You can save us from ourselves, from all the evil we are capable, so come, Lord Jesus and do not delay.
The Gospel has two blind men following Jesus as he passed by. They cry out, "Son of David, have pity on us!" When Jesus goes into the house the blind men approached him and Jesus asks them, "Do you believe that I can do this?" They answer, "Yes, Lord." So then Jesus touched their eyes and said, "Let it be done for you according to your faith." And the Gospel tells us that their eyes were opened.
When I beg Jesus for something, do I have the faith that He can and will do what I ask?
The reflection for today in "Give Us This Day" talks about waiting for God. It says that it sounds simple, but it is very demanding, since God's ways are not our ways and "for the Lord on day is as a thousand years." We wait. This is a time to trust the Lord. I always feel that each First Friday is a time to renew our trust in the Lord who loves each of us. I feel on vacation with Patrick here.
We wait during Advent with great expectation. We desire the day to come when we celebrate again the birth of Christ. We prepare with anticipation and joy. We want to have our hearts ready to receive Jesus again this Christmas. Perhaps our preparation is something we think about each day. We want to have time to have all ready, interiorly as well as all the exterior details that we need to do because Christmas is celebrated with sending cards to loved ones, giving gifts, decorating the home, trimming the Christmas tree, and planning the festive dinner. That just mentions a few of the many exterior preparations that most families are caught up in during Advent. Let us make sure that we find the silence so necessary to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.
I am having a friend arrive today from Miami and I am thinking that the anticipation and joy I have is making me aware of how much expectation I have for the coming of Jesus, if I have so much for my friend's three-day visit. I have even rejoiced to see that the weather promises us sunshine. I intend to take him to my sacred spot, the retreat house on the Pacific, Villa Maria del Mar, where I have spent so many wonderful hours. If they are not having a retreat, perhaps we will pray together in the little meditation Chapel. It is a beautiful drive down and back.
"Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."
The Gospel for today's feast from St. Matthew begins:
"As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him."
The "at once" is what strikes me. It is rather startling to think that they would leave just like that, but then, when Jesus calls, we also must learn to respond at once if we are to follow him.
Obviously, this Feast does not always fall in Advent. A fact that I remember because my parents told me they were married on this Feast just before Advent began. However, I think the immediate response is something that we are asked to consider in Advent since we are to "be prepared" and "stay awake."
I was struck by something said in the homily on Sunday. It seems that to have the real Advent spirit, we need to remember how we spent the weeks before Christmas longing for it to come, counting the days and doing all we could to prepare for good behavior because Santa was coming --have we the same desire, the longing, for the coming of the Lord? I hope so. I read something this morning that has helped me today. It was about connecting our need to drink water with the Living Water flowing from the Heart of Christ. I thought of this each time I drank water today and linked it with a desire for the coming of Christ again into our hearts and our world which has such need of Him.
We begin Advent with the Liturgy telling us to "Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come." Here we are not thinking of just celebrating the birthday of Jesus at Christmas, but we are to be prepared for His second coming. We do not know when that will be, but we are urged to be prepared. The Collect for today's Liturgy is worth reflecting on today: "Look with favor, Lord God. on our petitions, and in our trials grant us your compassionate help, that, consoled by the presence of your Son, whose coming we now await, we may be tainted no longer by the corruption of former ways." Advent is also a time to examen our conscience to see how we have been responding to the ways Jesus calls us; are we attentive to hear what God wants for each of us. Remember the God's first language is silence. We need to cultivate silence during Advent to be able to hear the voice of God speaking inside of us.
During Advent we often choose a practice to help us prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. Sometimes it means doing something for someone, acts of kindness, or maybe giving up something that we enjoy in order to have more time to pray or to serve others. I have been trying to discern what Jesus wants of me this Advent. One thing is also a call of our General Chapter to embrace silence in order to deepen our interior life with Jesus. I feel that I need to be attentive to the present moment and listen to what Jesus is saying to me. Of course, he often speaks through others, even through e-mails! We need interior silence to hear the way Jesus is present to us. The priest began his homily on Sunday morning by saying that to really have the Advent spirit we had to go back to when we were little and were so excited because Santa was going to come. We need that same longing now for Jesus. If we tried to be good to prepare for Santa's coming, how much more we now should be able to spend our time preparing for the coming of Jesus.
This year we will have four full weeks before Christmas. There are always four Sundays is Advent; because Christmas is on a Sunday this year, we have the full 28 days of Advent to prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus. In many homes and Churches, there is an Advent wreath that has four candles and one is lit each week of Advent until all four are burning to announce the coming of our Savior as a helpless infant. No one fears an infant so let us prepare to receive Him again into our hearts and lives.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
The day after Thanksgiving was always a quiet day with good leftovers to eat and I certainly do not remember anyone going out to shop. Now, it is Black Friday and so many sales that families cannot wait to get to the stores and the stores open earlier each year. We have really become a consumer society.
In Miami I was always amused by the Christmas decorations that appeared the day after Thanksgiving. In spite of warm weather, some homes had a sleigh and reindeer out on the lawn and often snowmen. The house across the street from us had a huge snowman who had to be blown up every morning and then it would bow and dance with the wind.
I do like to address Christmas cards and write my Christmas letter as early as possible. Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and I hope to have a good start on my cards by then. I send less each year, but I still try to write to about fifty friends and relatives and then a few to Chile and several to Europe. As I get older, I find my list gets smaller. I do not send to RSCJ as I can e-mail them; I just like to be in contact with my friends at Christmas time.
Let us make this a day full of thanks and giving joy to others. Then we will enjoy this holiday which is a family day. Let us also thank for those who are now absent from the table.
Just be grateful for what we have.
My brother, John, was born on Thanksgiving. My mother had missed Christmas dinner with us when George was born as he came before dawn, but she waited until after Thanksgiving dinner to tell my Dad that she thought it was time for her to go to the hospital. He took me, my sister, and George who was not yet two years old, home with my paternal grandmother (who had agreed to stay with us until mother came home) while two of my Dad's five sisters took my mother who, to their astonishment, had them stop on the way tot he hospital to get her a chocolate, marshmallow sundae! We always celebrated John's birthday at Thanksgiving even if the date changes a bit. He was born on November 25 and so was a grand niece of mine. We have three birthdays this week at Oakwood to celebrate! It is always good to celebrate life!
We need to remember the first Thanksgiving. The early settlers and the Indians were united in thanking for the harvest that allowed them to feast. We take so much for granted. We only need go to the store to find all we need. Of course, there are still many in our own country who have not the money to celebrate with the kind of feast we associate with Thanksgiving. Let us remember them and be grateful that so many offer to help feed the hungry and our soup kitchens welcome volunteers. My own nephew and his wife will be helping to feed all who come to the St. Vincent de Paul place in Oakland. Please pray for our twelve young religious in Rome who have begun their long retreat before final profession. We will have Mass at 11:00 and then a turkey dinner with many invited guests. I would like to pass on a recipe that is found online from the Ruth and Chris Steakhouse: it is for a sweet potato casserole and we had it last year and I promise you it is worth making - it does not need to be for this Thanksgiving, but you will not be sorry if you look up this recipe.
We have so much to thank for and I hope we do not need to wait until Thanksgiving to realize it and thank God for His many gifts. I think gratitude is something we need to cultivate; and we can learn to thank for the smallest things in life as well as the big ones.
Our prayer board is full of requests for prayers; it is great when we see a note thanking us for praying and letting us know the outcome of prayers for a particular intention.
What do I want to thank for this Thanksgiving in my own life? Take some time to reflect on your life today and even jot down what comes to mind to make sure you keep thanking the Lord for all He does for us. we have put a large sheet of paper on the Bulletin Board where each may add what they are most grateful for at Oakwood. I wonder if each family could just share this way before Thanksgiving?
Our Lady, according to tradition, was presented in the Temple at a very young age. We really know nothing about this feast, but it has always been important for the Society of the Sacred Heart as we celebrate its beginnings on this day. It was on November 21, 1800 that the Society began with the first vow ceremony. St. Madeleine Sophie was twenty-one years old, but she would be the one to soon lead the Society; she was elected the first Superior General and she governed the Society until her death in 1865. We always enjoy remembering this birthday of the Society on this feast of Our Lady. When we honor Mary, she points us to her Son. "Do whatsoever He tells you." That is what she so often says to me so then I need to turn and discern with Jesus what it is He wants me to do.
Hello, my name is Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ. Those initials stand for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Since my religious congregation began in France in 1800 and now is all over the world, we have kept the RSCJ. By now you know that I am not only known as Dr. Helen Rosenthal, but also as Sister Helen Rosenthal.
I am the oldest of four children. We were all born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. We lived in a big house with a playroom on the third floor. On Sundays we either went to my paternal grandmother's house where her six children would gather faithfully for supper or we would have my mother's father and our great aunt and uncle for a roast beef dinner at home. In summer, I would go to the lake with my Dad and I still love to swim.