Monday, December 09, 2019

Christmas Tree - A Christian Tradition

Is the Christmas Tree a Christian tradition?

Well, yes - and no!

First the "No"

The use of greens, especially evergreens, to celebrate the Winter solstice, dates back to the ancient Egyptians. At the solstice, the days would again start to become longer - and since they worshipped the Sun god, Ra, they would decorate their homes with green palm branches as a symbol of life being victorious over death - as the Sun was growing "weaker and weaker" culminating on the shortest day of daylight (December 21st or 22nd), after the solstice the days were getting longer again and soon would come Spring and Summer when nature came back to life again.

The Romans also celebrated the solstice for similar reasons as the Egyptians before them. They knew that soon would come the Spring and farms and orchards would come back to life again. The Romans would decorate their homes and temples with evergreen boughs to celebrate the lengthening of days.

Similarly, the ancient Druids/Celts decorated their temples with evergreen boughs, again symbolizing not just new life, but everlasting life. The Vikings also believed evergreens were a special gift of the Sun god, Balder.

And now the "Yes"

Christmas Trees, as we have come to know them now, started in Germany in the 16th century. Most credit Martin Luther with being the first to tie candles to the branches with wire and lighting the tree. It is said that Luther was on a walk one Winter evening and was inspired by the stars shining  among the evergreens. He used an evergreen tree in his home to show his family what he experienced on his walk.The evergreen being a symbol of everlasting life, the eternal life in heaven; the candles represent Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. He also put red decorations on the tree to represent the blood of Christ - keeping in mind that while they were celebrating Christmas, Jesus came to earth to be sacrificed on the Cross.

Christmas Trees in the United States were basically unheard of until the 19th century when German settlers to America brought with them the tradition of the Christmas Tree.

Did Christians Celebrate Christmas Based Upon the Solstice?

The answer here is NO! Many modernists believe Christians "wanted a holiday" to coincide with the pagan's celebrating the Winter Solstice - but this is simply not true. The date of Christmas actually has its roots with the death of Jesus! In the early days of the Church it was thought that one's death day was the same date as the day they were conceived. The death of Jesus Christ, based upon the Jewish lunar calendar and Passover, which was on the 14th of Nisan - and in 33 AD that equates to March 25th on the Gregorian calendar. So, believing Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost on March 25th, nine months later is December 25th. No pagan ritual involved, just coincidence.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In 2019 the Second Sunday of Advent (December 8th) is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (IC). The celebration of the IC supersedes the Second Sunday of Advent in the Mass for this day. It still IS the Second Sunday in Advent and the week following is still the second week of the Advent Season (again, this is NOT the Christmas Season... yet).
 
Theotokos with her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna.

Many still think the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus' conception (which is actually celebrated on March 25th) but this is the day we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Mary, according to the dogmatic definition (no faithful Catholic can deny this) was, from the very moment of her conception, preserved from the stain of Original Sin. The wording from Ineffabilis Deus:
We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. 
https://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/docs/pix_ineffabilis_deus.htm

There is a stern warning to any Catholic who would deny this teaching:
Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart. (ibid)

Again, this still IS the Second Sunday in Advent - so don't forget to light that second violet candle!

Blessed Advent, my friends!

Please share!

 

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Blessed Advent - not Merry Christmas...yet

I like to remind people that this is NOT the Christmas Season... right now it is the Advent Season. Christmastide starts with Christmas Day and, depending on the tradition lasts 12 Days - till Epiphany (January 6th) - or all the way to Candlemas, which is on February 2nd. Some like to observe all the way till the start of Lent. Regardless, THIS season is Advent, O Come, O Come, Emanuel... and... Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

When someone wishes you a Merry Christmas during Advent, you could respond "And a blessed Advent to you!"  Just a thought, and maybe an ice-breaker to start a discussion on your faith. 

(The image above, if you click on it to make it full-size, the right-click and save image as to your computer, makes a nice Facebook cover image!) 

Please share!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Celebrate St. Nicholas Day!  

 

Give a gift to your children and/or grandchildren

And tell them the story of St. Nicholas of Myra!

December 6th

The Feast of St. Nicholas!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Santa or St Nick

Often, as we begin the Advent Season today (it's NOT the Christmas Season - yet!) the subject of Santa Claus v. Saint Nicholas comes up. Is Santa a representation of St. Nicholas? Let's take a closer look.
Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus?

St. Nicholas of Myra was born on March 15, 270 AD and died on December 6, 343 AD. It is on December 6th each year that we honor St. Nicholas with a feast day in memory of him. St. Nicholas was in attendance at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, where the council fathers sought to end the heresy of Arianism defining "homoousios" (Greek for "of one substance") teaching that Jesus Christ was fully divine and fully human.

So where does "Santa" come from? It is actually from a Dutch tradition of "SinterKlaas" and the Dutch are actually referring to St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra! Little is known of the actual life of St. Nicholas, but traditions and legends say he loved children. In the Dutch tradition, SinterKlaas rides through town on a white steed, giving presents to the "good" children and switches to the "bad" children. There are also stories of SinterKlaas going from rooftop to rooftop and dropping presents down the chimney for the children (no word on how he got there though).

The story of Santa's reindeer was unheard of until 1823 when the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was penned. Authorship of the poem is a bit disputed, some say it was Clement Clarke Moore, others say it was Henry Livingston, Jr. Regardless, before this poem it is unclear if completely unknown about Santa's reindeer.

The story I told my children, when they were old enough to start questioning Santa Claus, is that Santa was indeed a real person and the legend has it that he gave presents to the good children and switches (or lumps of coal) to the bad children. Santa Claus was originally known as Saint Nicholas, who was indeed the Bishop of Myra (in today's Turkey). The spirit of giving at Christmas is keeping the tradition of St. Nicholas alive and well. So you CAN believe in Santa Claus, but he wasn't (or isn't) the commercialized (largely by the Coca Cola Company in the early 20th century), but he did exist and many stories and legends have come about due to Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. We also celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th by giving them a little present that day too - though the day of the ultimate gift to mankind, celebrated on December 25th, the Christ Mass (Christmas) overshadows St. Nicholas - as it should.

Links supporting Santa Claus:

https://www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com/the-story/

https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

And his reindeer:

https://www.ibtimes.com/history-santa-claus-reindeers-rudolph-may-be-most-popular-what-about-dancer-prancer-comet-vixen

https://homesteading.com/santas-reindeer-everything-need-know-history-christmas-reindeer/

https://www.cnn.com/2012/12/22/opinion/galloway-reindeer/index.html

Link not favoring St. Nick to Santa Claus:

http://suewidemark.com/santaandsue.htm

Happy New Year!

With Sunday, December 2nd - the First Day of Advent - we welcome in the New Year - the liturgical new year, that is!  Wish your friends a Happy New Year!  When they look at you funny, there is your opportunity to share a bit of Jesus Christ and His Church with them.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Disciples not Fans


What the world needs is disciples, not fans of Jesus Christ.


A fan really likes Jesus, supports Jesus even keeps up with going to church and hearing Jesus - but a disciple is committed to Jesus (Guarendi, 2019). Are you committed to Jesus Christ and the Church He founded on The Twelve Apostles - our first bishops? Or, are you a fan - who really likes Jesus Christ, you even go to "a" church every week - but not necessarily one in communion with a bishop in apostolic succession from The Twelve? Maybe you like singing along with Christian singers and even go to a really "happening" worship service - well, all that is great for a "fan" - but there is more to being a disciple.

Why Choose the Catholic Church? Because the System Works!


Choices, the Church says do it this way but we want to do things our way.  It is like the car manufacturer saying, "this is your car, it runs on gasoline" but  we decide that salt water is cheaper, "I want my car to run on salt water." Going against the advice of the manufacturer is not a good choice! (Richards, 2019). Again, Jesus selected twelve disciples, the Apostles and our first bishops and taught them how He wanted His Church to be run. He told them how to take regular bread and wine, bless them and then declare them to be His body and His blood - not representations of body and blood, He said, "This IS My body" and "This IS My blood." And then He commanded them to do as He has done. Recalling what He did was select bishops, so they were to select bishops to come after them and spread His Church throughout the whole world. THESE were the instructions from the Manufacturer of the world - and each of us! So, is it wise to go and follow someone or some teaching which is not in communion with one of these bishops? Or worse, separated in protest (where we get the word "Protestant" from) from those bishops?

If you are seeking to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, do not stop with the humanistic pleasures found in many places of worship - but continue seeking until you find THE Church which Jesus Christ founded upon Twelve Chosen Ones - who did as He commanded, and continued to build the Church which Jesus Himself started.


References

Guarendi, Dr. R. (2019). Living Right with Dr. Ray. EWTN. Aired September 24, 2019.

Richards, Fr. L. (2019). Living Right with Dr. Ray. EWTN. Aired September 24, 2019.

Image Source:

Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator

Monday, September 09, 2019

Roman Catholic Man - We Need an Elijah Movement

My wife pointed me to this site today...  thought I would share:

https://www.romancatholicman.com/america-needs-an-elijah-movement/



In today’s Gospel, Jesus “gets our attention” by proclaiming: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” In another part of the Gospel, Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” And in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, there is no life in you.” John’s Gospel goes on to say, “After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.” That “walked no more with him” line comes at John 6:66 … 666 … interesting.
The point is that Jesus cannot be accused of watering down the message, of “casting a wide net” of “softened language” for fear of “triggering” anybody that might leave. No, it is clear Jesus is recruiting only “cross carrying,” strong and courageous souls to join ranks with Him.
The miscalculation of so many is that a mushy, weak religion will be more accessible to more souls but, in reality, the opposite is true. Souls are looking for strength … a real supernatural power that is capable of freeing them from depression and addiction, and any other power that has consumed them, up until now.
Jesus modeled speaking with strength, so I will try to follow that model here, as I do my best, as a Shepherd, to warn of the present dangers, and map out the way to verdant pastures.

To continue reading:
https://www.romancatholicman.com/america-needs-an-elijah-movement/

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Sports Is Not the End-All

When I opened my browser today a news story popped up asking "Whatever happened to Villanova basketball star Shelly Pennefather? Subtitle: "So I made this deal with God." The author of the article, Elizabeth Merrill ponders, "But I cannot grasp what Pennefather -- now Sister Rose Marie -- has chosen to do." Ms. Merrill, Sr. Rose Marie has chosen something bigger - there is really no comparison! She would have been a flash in the pan for a few years, providing she didn't get hurt, and then what? She chose to store up her treasures in Heaven than to have temporal riches here on Earth. For what does it profit for one to gain the whole world and lose their soul? (Mark 8:36).

https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/27297631/happened-villanova-basketball-star-shelly-pennefather-made-deal-god

Sunday, August 04, 2019

What Happened to Our Sunday Best?

It wasn't that long ago that when you were going to somewhere special you made sure you dressed in your "Sunday best" so as to not be an embarrassment to yourself or your family. For women, they wore dresses (below the knee) and covered their heads, even in Protestant churches - women typically wore a nice hat.  Men would wear a suit and tie. What does "your Sunday best
mean today?  Often at Mass one will see people in t-shirts, sports jerseys, jeans or shorts and women, if they wear a dress at all (as opposed to pants) it is often a short skirt. In traditional chapels (of the Extraordinary Rite) the dress tends to be more conservative, but even there most men are not wearing suits (though many are).


What's the point here?  If you were called to dine at the White House, would you show up in a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes?  I think not!  In fact, you likely would not even be allowed to enter if not in proper attire for the dinner. When we attend Mass we are in the presence - the Real Presence - of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - the King of Kings! Should we not be appropriately dressed to be in His Presence?  Some may grumble at this and think me a "fuddy-dutty" but I am reminded of one of Jesus' parables of the Wedding Feast,
and the one who showed up without a wedding garment (Matthew 22:1-14), that man was bound and thrown out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Those same grumblers will then be saying, "you're not to take that passage so literally!" But should we not exemplify the importance of being properly attired when we are at the Eucharistic Feast?  Are we being respectful of our Lord when we show up in purely casual dress?  

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July - Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus


July is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus. I encourage you to join me in regularly praying the Litany of the Most Precious Blood. Favorite this entry and come back here regularly for a video (from EWTN) guided prayer. It takes less than five minutes, so I hope you will frequent this page this month.


Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. 
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. 
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son
of the Eternal Father, save us. (after each line)
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God,
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament,
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony,
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging,
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns,
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross,
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation,
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness,
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls,
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy,
Blood of Christ, victor over demons,
Blood of Christ, courage of martyrs,
Blood of Christ, strength of confessors,
Blood of Christ, bringing forth virgins,
Blood of Christ, help of those in peril,
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened,
Blood of Christ, solace in sorrow,
Blood of Christ, hope of the penitent,
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying,
Blood of Christ, peace and tenderness of hearts,
Blood of Christ, pledge of Eternal Life,
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from purgatory,
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor,
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
V. Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in Thy Blood.
R. And made us, for our God, a kingdom.
Let us pray:
Almighty and eternal God, Thou hast appointed Thine only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world and willed to be appeased by his blood. Grant, we beg of Thee, that we may worthily adore this price of our salvation and through its power be safeguarded from the evils of the present life so that we may rejoice in its fruits forever in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Happy Birthday Catholic Church!


Happy Birthday to the Catholic Church!

How Old Is Your Church?

Year -- Church --- Started by ----- Where?
33 -- Catholic -- Jesus Christ -- Jerusalem

1054 - Orthodox - Catholic Bishops - Constantinople

1517 - Lutheran - Martin Luther - Germany

1521 - Anabaptist - Storch & Munzer - Germany

1534 - Anglican - Henry VIII - England

1536 - Mennonites - Menno Simons - Switzerland

1555 - Calvinist - John Calvin - Switzerland

1560 - Presbyterian - John Knox - Scotland

1582 - Congregational - Robert Brown - Holland

1609 - Baptist - John Smyth - Amsterdam

1628 - Dutch Reformed - Michaelis Jones - New York

1648 - Congregationalist -Pilgrims/Puritans - Massachusetts

1649 - Quakers - George Fox - England

1693 - Amish - Jacob Amman - France

1717 - Freemasons - Mason from 4 lodges - London

1739 - Methodist - John & Charles Wesley - England

1774 - Unitarian - Theophilus Lindey - London

1784 - Methodist Episcopal - 60 Preachers - Baltimore, Maryland

1789 - Episcopalian Samuel Seabury - American Colonies

1800 - United Brethren - Otterbein & Boelin - Maryland

1827 - Disciples of Christ - Thomas & Alexander Campbell - Kentucky

1830 - Mormon/LDS - Joseph Smith - New York

1836 - Church of Christ - Alexander Campbell & Warren Stone - Kentucky

1844 - Seventh Day Adventists - Ellen White - Washington, NH

1844 - Christadelphian (Brethren of Christ) - John Thomas - Richmond, VA

1865 - Salvation Army - William Booth - London

1867 - Holiness (Methodist) - United States

1874 - Jehovah's Witnesses - Charles Taze Russell - Pennsylvania

1879 - Christian Science - Mary Baker Eddy - Boston

1895 - Church of God in Christ - Various Church of God groups - Arkansas

1850-1900 - Church of Nazarene - Various - Pilot Point, TX

1901 - Pentecostal - Charles F. Parham - Topeka, KS

1906 - Pentecostal - Azusa Street Revival (Seymour) - Los Angeles, CA

1902 - Aglipayan - Gregorio Aglipay - Philippines

1914 - Assembly of God - Pentecostalism - Hot Springs, AZ

1914 - Iglesia ni Christo - Felix Manalo - Philippines

1917 - Four Square Gospel - Aimee Semple McPherson - Los Angeles, CA

1961 - United Church of Christ - Reformed and Congregationalist - Philadelphia, PA

1965 - Calvary Chapel - Chuck Smith - Costa Mesa, CA

1968 - United Methodist - Methodist/United Brethren - Dallas, TX

1972 - Harvest Christian Greg Laurie - Riverside, CA

Friday, June 07, 2019

Last Day of Eastertide

Happy Easter!
Though Eastertide ends with Pentecost, you have one more week to fulfill your Easter Duty*, this week is your last chance this year!

Pentecost, 

the birthday of the Catholic Church!
(see Sunday's blog entry).


There is some confusion on "the end of Eastertide" and when is the last time we can fulfill our "Easter Duty" (to receive Eucharist at least once during Eastertide). The Easter Season officially ends with the Vigil of Pentecost on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday. However, in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, there is an indult (special permission) which extends the time period to receive Eucharist through Trinity Sunday (the First Sunday after Pentecost).   (See Fr. Gantley's answer on EWTN site.)

Precepts of the Catholic Church
Keep in mind, these are the MINIMUM requirements...

  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor. 
    We must “sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, “and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.”
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. 
    We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. 
    This “guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.”
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. 
    “The fourth precept ensures the times of ascesis (rigorous self discipline) and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” See below for more about fasting & abstinence.
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. 
    “The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.”

Fasting is reducing the amount of food you eat below normal levels. Specifically, on fast days you may eat one full meal and two smaller meals, but those two smaller together should not exceed the amount of the normal meal. Snacking is also prohibited on fast days.
All Catholics age 18 to 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. You are excused from fasting if you have a legitimate need to eat a normal amount of food on fast days. This includes:
  • The sick or infirm, including handicapped or mentally ill people who need the nourishment or cannot make a free choice to fast
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • Some manual laborers
Abstinence means not eating meat (fish is not considered meat in this case). All Catholics 14 and older are required to observe abstinence on these days:
  • Ash Wednesday, Good Friday (the Friday before Easter), and all Fridays in Lent.
  • Outside the U.S., this is required on all Fridays of the year, in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.
  • In the U.S., it is still strongly recommended to observe Friday abstinence outside of Lent, but Catholics may choose to substitute another penitential practice or act of charity for these days. 
    • The point to remember is this is not optional to either abstain or choose another penitential practice or act of charity. 
    • Be consistent! It doesn't mean much if you change the practice every week.
Do I need to make confession as part of my Easter Duty?
Well, not if you are already in the state of grace. Canon 988 does not state a timeframe for going to confession - only that it must be done if one is in mortal sin. Canon 989 while providing the timeframe of "at least once a year" does not explicitly state during Eastertide. Receiving the Eucharist, however, is mandated by Canon 920.2 at least once per year and during Eastertide (paschal time). Again, if one is already in the state of grace (no unconfessed mortal sins) then reception of the Eucharist during Eastertide (Easter Duty) does not require confession. If one is in mortal sin then they must go to confession before receiving the Eucharist - SO - if one has not kept up with all the other precepts of the Church (which is a mortal sin) or is outside the state of grace, then in order to fulfill the Easter Duty of receiving the Eucharist they would have to go to confession first.