Tag Archives: Christmas

At Long Last: Photos from Rome!

“What is the first reaction to the extraordinary action of God, who becomes a babe, who becomes man? I think that the first reaction can be none other than joy… [Joy] is the theme that opens the Gospel, and it is the theme that concludes it… But let us go one step further: where does this joy come from? I would say that it is born of the heart’s wonder in seeing how close God is to us, how God thinks of us, how God acts in history; it is a joy, then, that comes from contemplating the face of that humble Child, because we know that it is the Face of God present to humanity forever – for us and with us. Christmas is joy because we see – and at last we are sure – that God is man’s good, his life and his truth; and He lowers Himself to man in order that He might raise man to Himself: God becomes close enough to see and touch.

– Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 6, 2012 (emphases mine)

Without a doubt, this was the most joy-filled Christmas I have ever celebrated. Not to be dramatic or anything, but 2011 was probably the hardest year of my life thus far – and I suppose it was precisely for that reason that I was able to approach the Christmas season with such a deep thirst for Jesus. I had never before been so desperate for Him to come into my heart, and by the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I was so fed-up with everything and so exhausted from trying to “have it all together” that I felt as though I didn’t have any words left with which to pray. So I went back to that psalm which had become the song of my soul all through Advent, and prayed:

“Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

(Psalm 51:12)

It was a prayer from the heart – and even though the Lord has indeed been good to me throughout my life, I never could have imagined just how good He would be to me this Christmas! Spending the Octave of Christmas in Italy with four of my dearest friends sounds amazing – but I’m telling you, I never could have foreseen how much the Lord would use that week to refresh my soul and restore my joy.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few dozen of my favorites.*

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first fifteen photos are from the two days we spent in Assisi. We took a train from Rome and stayed at a guesthouse owned by the Secular Franciscans, who gave us a fantastic tour of the Basilica of St. Francis on our second day. We were able to go to Mass at both Basilicas (St. Francis and St. Clare), as well as visit Francis’ family home, the Cathedral of St. Rufino of Assisi (where Francis and Clare were baptized), San Damiano (Clare’s first convent), and the Porziuncola (the tiny chapel that Francis rebuilt) in St. Mary of the Angels. I got in some really great prayer time at Francis and Clare’s tombs, and it was just the most tremendous blessing to be able to tell them “thank you” in person.

The rest of the photos are from our time in Rome – and yes, that is a photo of Pope Benedict (near the end of the slideshow) celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s! We were able to attend Solemn Vespers with the Holy Father on New Year’s Eve and Mass with him on New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. (Mario used his “seminarian magic” to score tickets for both.) What a gift!

I have to say, though – the greatest gift of the entire trip for me was the presence of Mario, Peter-George, Pius and Etsy. Words can’t say how grateful I am for their kindness, love and laughter. My life simply would not be the same if any one of them were not in it.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

– St. Thomas Aquinas


* All photos are mine – except the photos I’m in, of course! (For those who don’t know me in “real life,” I’m the blonde girl with glasses!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Photos, Quotes, Travel

On the Calendar: The Epiphany of Our Lord

N.B. for readers outside the United States: The traditional date for the celebration of Epiphany is January 6, but here in the United States, this feast is “translated” (yep, that’s how you say it) each year to the Sunday which falls between January 2 and January 8 (i.e. today). The Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following day (Monday).


O come, let us adore Him!

“The Epiphany recalls a plurality of events whose object is the manifestation of the Lord: particularly the adoration of the Magi, who recognize in Jesus the awaited Messiah, but also the Baptism in the river Jordan with its theophany – the voice of God from heaven – and the miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, as the first ‘sign’ wrought by Christ.

“A most beautiful antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours unites these three events around the theme of the marriage between Christ and the Church: ‘Today the Church hath been joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ hath washed away her sins in the Jordan; the Magi hasten with gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water’ (Antiphon from Lauds). We could almost say that, in the feast of Christmas, it is the hiddenness of God in the humility of the human condition, in the Child of Bethlehem, which is underscored. The Epiphany, instead, emphasizes His Self-manifestation, God’s appearing by means of this same humanity.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, January 6, 2012

You can read the Holy Father’s entire catechesis on Zenit.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under From the Holy See, On the Calendar, Reflections

Just a bit more Christmas cheer

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog before, but I love hearing Bible stories re-told by children. I just love their authenticity: Mary being “quite exited” and “a bit scared” at the same time,  the inkeepers saying “no, there’s no room” in angry voices because it was the middle of the night, the animal poop in the stable – but my favorite part of this, by far, is the Christmas Star!


Leave a comment

Filed under Videos

A Very Merry Christmas to All!

Ragin Cajun Catholics O Come Let Us Adore Him

Image credit: Trey Petitjean, from the Ragin Cajun Catholics Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ragincajuncatholics)

“At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God, who stoops down to our limitations, to our weakness, to our sins – and He lowers Himself to us. St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ ‘though He was in the form of God … emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’ (Philippians 2:6-7). Let us look upon the cave of Bethlehem: God lowers Himself to the point of being laid in a manger – which is already a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His Passion. The climax of the love story between God and man passes by way of the manger of Bethlehem and the sepulcher of Jerusalem.

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us joyously live the feast of Christmas… Let us live this wondrous event: The Son of God again is born ‘today’; God is truly close to each one of us, and He wants to meet us – He wants to bring us to Himself. He is the true Light, which dispels and dissolves the darkness enveloping our lives and mankind. Let us live the Lord’s birth by contemplating the path of God’s immense love, which raised us to Himself through the mystery of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Son… Above all, let us contemplate and live this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, the heart of Christmas; there, Jesus makes Himself really present – as the true Bread come down from heaven, as the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation.”

– Pope Benedict XVI,  General Audience, 21 December 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under From the Holy See, Quotes

G.K. Chesterton on Santa Claus

G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, a "jolly, happy soul" if there ever was one!

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

“As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good ­– far from it!

“And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called ‘Santa Claus’ was benevolently disposed toward me. … What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.

“Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder Who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

“Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.” 

G.K. Chesterton, Letter to The Tablet of London

Leave a comment

Filed under Quotes, Reflections

Pope Benedict on BBC Radio

I’m a little late in posting this as well, but I couldn’t resist. I just love listening to the Holy Father’s voice! As a writer, I know the power of the written word, but I feel like the spoken word has a power all its own – especially when it’s a word spoken by the Vicar of Christ.

The message is addressed to listeners in the UK, but toward the end he gives a shout-out to listeners “from every part of the English-speaking world,” which of course means you and me!

You can find a transcript of his message on ZENIT.org.

1 Comment

Filed under From the Holy See, In the News, Videos

Pope’s Christmas message: “God is not distant”

C. LeBrun, Nativity, 1689

C. LeBrun, Nativity, 1689

“God is not distant: He is ‘Emmanuel,’ God-with-us. He is no stranger: He has a face, the face of Jesus.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, 2010 Christmas message

Merry Christmas! I know I’m a little late… Then again, it’s only the third day of the Octave, which means that for Catholics, it’s still technically Christmas Day. Every time I hear a song that wonders what it would be like “if every day could be Christmas,” I always wonder: haven’t they ever heard of the Octave of Christmas? For eight days, it really is Christmas every day!

You can read the full text of the Holy Father’s Christmas message on ZENIT.org.

1 Comment

Filed under From the Holy See, Quotes

A thought for Christmas Eve: “We must let ourselves be amazed”

From this week’s Wednesday audience:

“In the night of the world, we must let ourselves be amazed and illumined by this act of God, which is totally unexpected: God becomes a Child. We must let ourselves be amazed, illumined by the Star that inundated the universe with joy. May the Child Jesus, in coming to us, not find us unprepared, busy only in making the exterior reality more beautiful and attractive. May the care we give to making our streets and homes more resplendent impel us even more to predispose our soul to encounter Him who will come to visit us.”

– Pope Benedict XVI

Read the full article on ZENIT.org.

1 Comment

Filed under From the Holy See, Reflections