Tag Archives: Advent

Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas

Blessed John Henry Newman
Augustine Institute, 160 pages

Blessed John Henry Newman was a 19th- century leader of the Oxford Movement by which many intellectuals left the Anglican Church to embrace Catholicism. He also was an outstanding orator and prolific writer who inspired many to understand and live their faith more fully. These meditations stretching from Advent through Epiphany are in this vein as they invite us to contemplate such themes as our need for truth, our dependence upon God, Mary’s role in salvation, the meaning of suffering and martyrdom, and in what true joy consists. Pick up a copy now to reinvigorate your interior life this Christmas.

Order: Amazon

Catholics in waiting: celebrating Advent

The feast of Christmas was formally established as December 25 in the early fourth century by Pope Julius I. Not long after, Christians in France began observing a 40-day period of preparation for Christmas involving penance and fasting. By the early seventh century, Pope Gregory had written liturgical prayers for the Advent season, and the practice of Advent as a penitential season continued into the middle ages. Later developments led to the four-Sunday celebration of the season we celebrate today.

According to the Church norms, advent — which derives from a Latin term meaning “coming” — is about more than just the birth of Christ. Instead, it has a dual character involving both “comings” of Christ.

The eight days leading up to Christmas, from December 17 to December 24, focus on preparations to celebrate Christ’s birth, while the period from the First Sunday of Advent (which falls on December 2 this year) through December 16 directs our hearts and minds to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.

Thus Advent “is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope,” according to a 2001 document of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The Church no longer imposes specific penitential practices during this season, but repentance remains an Advent theme. Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum pontifical university in Rome, said that while Advent is “more centered on spiritual purification and preparation to receive the Lord,” it also “has a certain penitential character,” even if not as pronounced as that of Lent.

That call to penance is reflected in the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Advent, which speaks of John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord by “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (see Lk 3:1-6).

Catholic devotions and traditions of Advent can help us prepare for the two “comings” of Christ and keep us mindful of the call to repentance during this season.

“Popular piety,” the Vatican document states, “intuitively understands that it is not possible coherently to celebrate the birth of Him ‘who saves his people from their sins’ without some effort to overcome sin in one’s own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time.”

Common traditions

Advent wreaths, Jesse trees, Christmas trees, and Nativity scenes are a few of the most common traditions.

The Advent wreath, a custom that originated in Germany, consists of a circular wreath of evergreen branches into which four candles – usually three purple candles and one rose candle – representing the four weeks of Advent are inserted. The color purple indicates the season’s penitential character, while the rose candle represents the Third Sunday in Advent, called Gaudete Sunday, a day for rejoicing as the Christmas feast draws near.

Lighting the candles each week accompanied by prayer and hymns symbolizes our hope and expectation for the two comings of Christ.

The Jesse Tree tradition dates to the Middle Ages. To a small bare tree is added each day a new ornament symbolic of God’s plan of redemption – depicting, for example, Noah’s ark or the Ten Commandments. Reading the relevant Scripture passages provides a way to reflect on salvation history.

The evergreen Christmas tree symbolizes life; it further reminds us of the tree of Eden, setting for mankind’s original sin, and the wood of the Cross by which Christ atoned for our sins. A Nativity scene with the manger left empty keeps us mindful that we await the fulfillment of our salvation in Christ.

Feasts and fasting

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) is a holy day of obligation commemorating not the Christ child, as is sometimes erroneously thought, but the Virgin Mary, who was conceived without sin in preparation for her vocation as the Mother of God.

Many families in the United States celebrate St. Nicholas Day (December 6) and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), but a lesser-known Scandinavian tradition marks St. Lucy Day (December 13). The eldest daughter of a family dons a white dress, a red sash, and a crown wreath of candles as she takes pastries to members of her household in the pre-dawn hour. It recalls St. Lucy, a third-century martyr who carried food to Christians hiding in the catacombs of Rome during the Diocletian persecutions. The white dress is reminiscent of a baptismal robe, the red sash indicates martyrdom, and the candles represent the light of Christ that dispels the darkness – all symbols worthy of reflection during Advent.

Posada, a Latin American tradition, is a re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for lodging in Bethlehem as the birth of Jesus drew near. Leading a procession of the faithful who follow while singing Advent hymns, individuals portraying the holy couple walk from house to house seeking shelter before finally finding welcome. More than an elaborate drama, posada reminds us of our need to be prepared to receive Christ when he comes.

Novenas and penances

Spiritual preparation requires increased attention to contemplation. Praying the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer of thanksgiving at the time of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, during the final week before Christmas using the O Antiphons is a longstanding Catholic tradition (see sidebar).

Advent novenas provide another tool. The St. Andrew novena is prayed 15 times a day from the saint’s feast day (November 30) through Christmas day. There also are several novenas dedicated to the Holy Child Jesus, usually prayed from December 16 through Christmas Eve.

Another Advent tradition is a novena of Masses. Celebrated in Spanish-speaking, Portuguese- speaking, and Filipino communities, this tradition goes by names such as Misa de Aguinaldo (“Gift Mass”), Misa de Gallo (“Rooster Mass”), and Simbang Gabi (“Night Mass”). The Masses are celebrated daily at dawn from December 16 to 24 (or at night on December 15 to 23) as a way to prepare for Christ’s coming with joy and thanksgiving.

Acts of penance go to the historical roots of Advent tradition. Making a good examination of conscience followed by sacramental confession during Advent is a salutary preparation for Christmas. Many parishes offer communal celebrations of the sacrament of Penance during December for this reason.

Just as Catholics observed an Advent fast through the Middle Ages, the Eastern Catholic churches have retained a 40-day fast in the weeks leading to Christmas – a period called the Nativity Fast. Beginning on St. Philip’s feast (November 15), the Nativity Fast is more rigorous than the Lenten fast in the Roman Catholic Church in that it includes abstinence from meat, dairy, eggs, and all animal products. The fast becomes even stricter over the final 12 days before Christmas.

As Pope Leo the Great said in the fifth century, “What is more effective than fasting, by which we approach God, and, resisting the devil, we overcome indulgent vices? … And through these voluntary afflictions, our flesh dies to concupiscence and our spirit is renewed for moral excellence.”

Fasting further provokes physical hunger, reminiscent of the spiritual hunger we have for Christ. This fasting, as with repentance and other Advent traditions, is an appropriate model for the anticipation of His “comings” during Advent.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Making ‘Room at the Inn’

Side-by-side on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, two buildings are in a life and death standoff. In the brick Planned Parenthood building, patient services center around impairing a woman’s reproductive system. Six recovery rooms remain vacant awaiting a license to perform abortions. “We definitely built this so we can provide abortions,” CEO of the abortion giant, Cecile Richards, announced last year.

Immediately beside it to the east, standing taller and brighter is the shiny glass building, Hope Woman’s Clinic, offering a full range of health care for the entirety of the woman, mind, body and soul. And in the heart of the building is the St. Clare Blessed Sacrament Chapel where daily Mass is offered and the power of Jesus Christ emanates to the staff to treat women of any faith and to build a culture of life.

Planned Parenthood opened for business last May, over a year later than projected, thanks to construction delays that Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans helped create. He had warned that any person or business helping with the Planned Parenthood building would not work for the Archdiocese. “We cannot cooperate with evil,” he stated.

Prime Location – Beside Planned Parenthood

The Hope Woman’s Clinic opened directly next door in October of this year. They do not want to just steal customers; they want to care for women in a way to prevent them from ever turning to Planned Parenthood.

According to the chief executive officer and attorney Angie Thomas, “The Hope Woman’s Clinic is unique in that we have paired together a full-service women’s clinic with an outreach to women in unplanned pregnancies.”

She explained that it is an extension of the Woman’s New Life Center (WNLC), which has expanded and flourished in large part due to the support of many Legates. “We can’t do this work without their help,” she said. “We don’t get half a billion dollars in government funding, and this is not a lucrative business.”

Helping Women and Children Thrive – A Brief History

In 2001, WNLC opened in New Orleans around the corner from an abortion facility, offering counseling and resources to women in unplanned pregnancies. When Hurricane Katrina shut down the abortion business in 2005, WNLC relocated right next to another abortion business in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.

The new center proved that location, location, location, is key. Many babies survived because their abortion-minded mothers took a detour after seeing signs for counseling and information, or they were handed brochures explaining the truth. That same formula for success continued when a second WNLC opened in Baton Rouge immediately next to another abortion provider.

In 2015, WNLC expanded their health care services to open Hope Woman’s Clinic in the Metairie location. The expanded services included routine wellness exams and reproductive health solutions, even teaching natural family planning. When the Metairie abortion business closed and Planned Parenthood began building in New Orleans, the Hope Woman’s Clinic followed close behind. The land adjacent to Planned Parenthood was donated for the Hope Woman’s Clinic 5,800-square-foot building, and $2.2 million was raised through a fundraising campaign.

Better Care Promotes Total Well-Being

“By meeting women where they are at and becoming their medical provider, we help them to understand their bodies and to flourish,” Thomas said. “Everything we do is in line with the Church. She explained that the clinic’s doctor, Susan Caldwell, is a primary care physician trained in NaPro Technology which stands for Natural Procreative Technology, a new way to diagnose and treat reproductive and gynecological health that is effective, scientific and moral.

Caldwell previously worked for 10 years in an outpatient clinic. Once she learned that hormonal contraception–whether prescribed for birth control or a physical problem— was bad medicine, she became committed to helping women find a better way. “NaPro gives us a way to read a women’s signs to design a diagnostic strategy to bring healing for things like polycystic ovarian disease and endometriosis,” Caldwell said.

She explained that women are cared for beyond their reproductive cycles to include the whole person—from cholesterol and blood pressure to anxiety or depression. “We are focused on showing other doctors and patients that this is better care,” she said. “It can be done.”

There are certainly challenges to thinking, such as when mothers bring their teenage daughters in for birth control, women needing treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, or the case of an exotic dancer worried about her health since she had relationships with multiple partners but with no pregnancies. “We invite the women to think differently about themselves and about sex,” Caldwell said. “We give them the message: ‘You can make a better choice. You can better understand your body and your dignity and decide not to let someone hurt you with an STD or unplanned pregnancy.’” She also helps women to understand that sex and babies go together and that the well-being of the baby is important.

Spiritual Compassion

Father Joseph Doyle is the rector of the Josephite seminary in Washington, D.C. but had served as one of three chaplains for the New Orleans Legatus Chapter for 15 years, was the principal of the all-black St. Augustine High School, and also volunteered with WNLC and
Hope Woman’s Clinic.

“Often women came to see us instead of going into the abortion clinic and then came back later with their babies,” Father Doyle said. He recalled a woman who came out of the abortion facility in tears because they would not accept her credit card. “A prayer warrior asked her why she was crying and invited her to our clinic,” Father Doyle said. “She ended up keeping her baby.”

Legate Advocacy and Support

Father Doyle described abortion as the defining issue of our time and credited Legatus as being an organization with a passion for life offering important support. Many from the New Orleans chapter have been involved.

David Lukinovich, president of the Baton Rouge Chapter and owner and president of Lukinovich Law (APLC), a law firm specializing in wealth conservation planning, said that he and his wife Kim first listened to Susan Mire, the founder of the WNLC, at a Legatus chapter meeting. “She talked about how entrepreneurship is part of the Gospel message,” he said. “She also shared her vision for crisis pregnancy centers.”

Lukinovich explained that things quickly fell into place from the start. “For instance, Susan prayed to the Blessed Mother for a phone system and the next day, Legate Steven Hubbell offered her a phone system that he no longer needed.” Lukinovich helped set up the WNLC as a 501(c)3 and was instrumental in land and building purchases.

Legates Jack and Anne Dardis have opened their home to a woman who comes to train natural family planning instructors and they had a group of medical professionals from Costa Rica stay with them during their training. According to Jack, advocating for life is a core value. “If we get a change there, we will have more people and more opportunity for money and help going to social justice causes.”

Gordon and Ann Stevens were involved with WNLC from the very beginning. Ann, a former Right to Life president of New Orleans, met Susan Mire while WNLC was still just an idea.

“This is a grassroots movement,” Ann explained. “There are so many people committed to life in New Orleans because the Catholic faith is strong here, although it crosses to other faiths.”

To her, a sign that God is supporting their pro-life efforts is that despite the expense and scarcity of land in the areas where the abortion businesses have located, they have been able to move right next door. “God knows this problem is far greater than we can solve, but he wants us to be there to represent hope,” Ann said. “It’s His plan; we just have to show up.”

PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus contributing writer.

Christ’s radical advent into our lives

The bold person of Christ – born to earthly parents and into a family, in a cold cave, embracing menial labor, injustice, and exemplifying Truth — is radical indeed. He didn’t recoil at the Father’s will for Him. He didn’t apologize, capitulate or pursue ease. He also didn’t ostracize the affluent, successful or prominent, a few of whom were among his close friends. He simply asked each to be true to God’s calling, and to reject duplicity.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Likewise He didn’t extol poverty as virtue … but being poor in spirit. Contrary to the misnomer, money isn’t the root of all evil – love of it is. “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Therein lies the rub.

People view leaders as privileged, powerful and above the fray. What they may not discern is a good leader’s autonomy of mind, loneliness through perseverance, and contention with flattery and betrayal. And if a leader stands on moral integrity, he can be more isolated still.

Each person eventually comes to his fork in the road: to enjoy the approved way, or brave the other way. The catalyst isn’t stature or affluence, but rather his condition of heart — the conviction to use God-given gifts for Godly purpose. ‘Worldlings’ prefer their own ends, at least initially, figuring maybe they’ll determine reality of God later. I did.

Colleges and mass media have indoctrinated generations of women — and men — to make their secular marks before ‘wasting time’ married with children. It crept into movies of the ‘30s — emaciated flappers smoking, drinking and doing the Charleston with emasculated married men. Satan’s ‘I will-not-serve’ mantra morphed into a slick modern equivalent – women were enticed to ‘control’ their destiny, and take advantage of irresistible ‘fruits’ to sideline parenting, avert marriage, and stockpile for retirement and traveling. It became trendy to disparage men and husbands, spend freely and covertly, and declare immunity to unenlightened traditions. One of my long-ago clients, a prominent Philadelphia plastic surgeon, said that childbirth ‘trashes a woman’s body.’ I was tasked with communicating the mega-practice’s reconstructive and aesthetic-reconfiguring procedures, and remember thinking, what am I promoting?

We were married only 13 months when our eldest son, Andrew, was born. He would enliven my soul. I longed to be home with him rather than chasing a morning train. I’d have to disentangle, and it wouldn’t come easily. God sped up the process – the ad agency had financial trouble and several of us got blindsided out. It was an early Christmas gift. I had opportunity to stumble upon EWTN. Who was this feisty Italian nun, Mother Angelica, who talked about her temper, food, and impatience like my relatives did? I loved her. One Sunday, our priest sermonized on popular modern sins, all of which I’d seen previously as ‘innovations.’ I was thrown from my horse, and had to clear the scales.

Then I realized…many like me might appreciate this Truth. It was stunning, yet magnetic and liberating. If I’m in communications, I thought … time to get to work.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

 

Advent, the Incarnation and mercy

Saint Athanasius, the great fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church, wrote the following in his work entitled On the Incarnation of the Word: “After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father, then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes, while men, looking to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.”

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

These words can serve as a starting point for our consideration of the Advent season. In a certain way, Advent is the preparation for our celebration of God’s new creation. When the Word was revealed in the body, the mystery of God’s purpose begins to be made known as he restores his creation and endows it with a yet greater dignity.

Genesis tells us that “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” But we sinned, disfiguring the divine image and losing our likeness to God. But God now reveals the mystery of his purpose, which he had from the beginning to restore, not destroy, his creation. The Word, the image of the unseen God, and the image according to which we were created, takes to himself our human nature so that, in our same nature, he may restore what was fallen.

In absolute love he is obedient to his Father’s will, even to death. By absorbing into himself all the evils of sin and the final enemy, death, and by his wondrous resurrection and ascension in our same human nature, he brings to fulfillment God’s original plan of salvation. Even more, God reveals that he has already raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus!

When the Word of God came among us in our own humanity, he revealed to us our true human nature by his birth, by his life in a family, by sharing the experiences of daily life, by his death in our mortal nature, and by rising to new life. In our Advent and Christmas celebrations, Athanasius tells us that we need to look “to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.” The idols and demons of our age would have us turn away from the truth that the Son of God lived among us as a man. They would seduce us to believe that our body is a mere accident with no relation to who we are as a person, to believe that the creation of mankind in the divine image, male and female, is a quaint and outdated myth, and that gender is a malleable social construct.

“After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father,” Athanasius writes, “then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes.” Advent is a time for us to renew our confidence in the Father’s wondrous plan of creation and salvation. It’s a time for us to renew our faith and our witness to the truth that Jesus has revealed about the Father — and about our own human nature.

Advent is also a time to marvel at the mercy and kindness of God, who did not abandon us when we were weak and fallen. The book of Genesis — after telling the story of creation and the fall, and outlining the cancerous spread of sin — begins the great story of God’s plan to gather this fragmented community together again. God calls Abraham and promises him descendants more numerous than the stars in the heaven. From among these descendants, after countless centuries of waiting, arose the Son of God, the Savior, in his human nature.

Since such great mercy has been shown to us, our witness to the Truth against the idols and demons of our present age should be tempered as well by great mercy. As the long centuries of preparation for the Christ were often tempered by setbacks and failures, we also must be patient. As we prepare to celebrate the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ our Lord, let us have great confidence that God’s love made visible in us — through the work of the same Holy Spirit which once overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary — will finally cause the deceit of the demons of our day to disappear and the Kingdom of God to be made manifest.

ABBOT PLACID SOLARI, OSB, is Belmont Abbey College’s chancellor and chaplain of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter.

Paving the road to heaven

There’s an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. One interpretation of this proverb is that unless we’re a success with whatever we set out to do, we’ve ultimately failed despite our good intentions.

novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

I respectfully disagree. My take is more along the lines of something St. Teresa of Calcutta often said: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” God ultimately looks at our hearts, not at the outcome.

Advent calls us to reflect on the Incarnation. We ponder Jesus’ first coming in order to prepare ourselves for his return in glory. Chances are good that none of us will be around for the day when all will see the Lord coming down from the clouds (Mark 13:26). It’s more likely that we’ll see him face-to-face at the particular judgment, the moment after death (Heb 9:27).

We can be certain that He will not look at our resumes, our bank account balances, our investment portfolios or our net worth. It’s even doubtful that he’ll examine our charitable giving or the number of times we genuflected at Mass.

We can be certain, however, that He will examine our hearts: Did we live for ourselves or others? Were we we merciful in the vein of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son’s father? Did we respond with love when confronted with hate? When we failed to love, did we repent and ask forgiveness? Did we die in a state of grace?

We should also ponder the key words of The Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If you break open its meaning, it’s clear that we’ll be forgiven in the same way we forgive others. If we withhold forgiveness, the Lord may withhold forgiveness from us.

We can’t pave our way to heaven with good works. Our good works, however, should flow from a heart in love with Our Lord Jesus Christ. A heart in love with Love itself is a heart that will overflow in ways that can transform every soul we encounter. That’s a heart that will live on forever, praising the Father for his merciful heart that sent his only begotten Son to us as a helpless baby in a manger — all part of his grand rescue plan for the human race.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Time to be a light shining in darkness

My oldest son is 12 years old. Watching him grow has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life — from a 21-inch newborn to a towering 5’8” pre-teen (yeah, he’s tall).

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

His growth will continue long after I’m gone. He’ll top out at 6’6’ in about four or five years, and then he’ll bulk up and weigh in around 230 lb. But his growth — like all of us — is far more than physical. We grow in maturity and, God willing, in our spiritual lives — in our understanding of who Jesus is and in our relationship with him.

These, of course, are two entirely different things. As Christians, we’re all called to friendship with Jesus — a lifelong pursuit, a love affair, really. Most people don’t get that. And I think that’s one of the biggest reasons the culture is slipping away from us.

One of my friends — a faithful Catholic in Hollywood — just sent me a text saying that he sees the culture falling into the abyss. That may well be, but it doesn’t have to be. If we Catholics activate our faith — stir up the graces of Baptism and Confirmation — and live our lives joyfully in the Holy Spirit, this culture will be turned around rather quickly.

In one of the talks I give, I hold up a glass of white milk. “What is this?” I ask. “Milk,” they respond. “No, it’s you.” They’re puzzled, but they’re following me.

I pour in some chocolate syrup. “What was that?” Silence. “The Holy Spirit,” I tell them. “Do we have chocolate milk? No. What do we need to do?”

milk“Stir it,” they respond. I hold up a spoon. “This is not a spoon, this is prayer,” I tell them as I activate the chocolate stuck at the bottom. Now they get it. We Catholics have the graces of Baptism and Confirmation stuck at the bottom of our souls. Through our friendship with Jesus — our daily/hourly conversations with him, we’re activating those graces.

Our culture may, indeed, be slipping away. But we can’t let ourselves be like red coffee cups with no message on the side. The cups imply “Merry Christmas” but don’t say so explicitly. We need to be red cups with an explicit “Catholic Christian” message on the outside.

We do that by living our faith in a dynamic way and by being in right relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. Advent is the perfect season to ignite our faith and be lights in a dark world. Many souls are counting on us!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The Vatican Museums 3D

Take a personal tour of the Vatican Museums with this remarkable documentary . . .

vatican3DThe Vatican Museums 3D
In theaters Dec. 10
Run time: 82 minutes
Not Rated
Official Website

Most Catholics will never have the opportunity to set foot inside the Vatican museums. But now most Catholics have a chance to see the world’s most formidable art collection up close and personal — and in 3D.

The Vatican Museums 3D documentary opens on Dec. 10 for a limited time in the United States after a successful run in Australia and the U.K. This film event marks the very first time Ultra HD 4K/3D film cameras have been allowed inside the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel, bringing never-before-seen art to theaters across the country as Christians begin the season of Advent.

The film is a mega-production by a team of 40 professionals who traveled hundreds of miles in the cultural setting of the Vatican museums while filming some of the most rare and precious works of art in the world, spanning all civilizations and epochs. Thanks to a combination of the cutting- edge 3D techniques used for cinema by filmmakers

like James Cameron and Tim Burton, audiences can now fully immerse themselves in these timeless masterpieces of art history.

The film captures the outstanding artistry of classic statues from Michelangelo’s Pietà, right up to Fontana’s modern sculptures; paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Chagall and Dalì; the extraordinary frescos in the Rooms of Raphael, and the spectacular work by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Theater audiences experience the journey under the artful guidance of the Vatican museums’ director Antonio Paolucci, who expertly leads viewers through the past, present and future.

If you have visited the Vatican museums in person — or even experienced a professionally guided tour — this film is an extraordinary opportunity to relive the experience and get even closer to some of these treasures. The 3D experience is, in some ways, better than being there because the big screen reveals so much. Because of this, Vatican Museums 3D is not so much a movie but a pilgrimage to the world of art and history.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Advent, Mother Teresa, Holy Family

FR. SHENAN BOQUET writes that Blessed Mother Teresa will inspire you this Advent . . .

boquet

Blessed Mother Teresa’s tendency to offer quotes of spiritual genius offers timeless inspiration. In all the good she did, it was her faithful disposition that led her to accomplish great things for God’s glory.

Her willingness to help those suffering physical poverty, regardless of race or creed, clearly demonstrates “love for neighbor,” as demanded by biblical and Church teaching. Yet her greatest gift was her concern for people’s spiritual poverty. How can we acquire such a disposition in light of our own obstacles and sufferings?

Perhaps the holy woman of Calcutta simply placed herself where material and spiritual poverty knew no bounds. Picture the dramatic scene in Bethlehem. Joseph, keen to protect and provide for his expectant wife finally reaches his destination. The couple desperately seeks lodging after a long, weary journey on a road rife with dangers.

When a shelter is finally discovered, it’s just a very simple dwelling — a drafty, dank, dark and pungent cave surrounded by curious creatures. To make matters worse, what comfort could a feeding trough — a mere shallow and empty depression used to nourish livestock with food or water — provide for a swaddled newborn babe?

Imagine the holy couple amid such great difficulty, completely dependent on God, trusting in him to provide for their material and spiritual needs. History’s greatest accomplishment is delivered in the nativity, God’s gift of salvation through the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Even in the face of suffering, discomfort, and uncertainty, the greatest of deeds can be accomplished — just as the greatest of gifts can be unwrapped. This scripture passage presents God’s disposition for unveiling his eternal gift of salvation through the incarnation: “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

This is precisely why, in the humblest of settings, God’s works are accomplished completely through the desired dependence and disposition that the holy couple possessed. How to embrace such a disposition toward God is best explained by Mother Teresa: “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your own weakness.”

Life’s many obstacles are best overcome with complete dependence on God. Likened to the trough of the nativity scene, God cradles all of our material and spiritual needs in the most humbling and mysterious of ways when we empty ourselves. Following in the holy footsteps of St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother, we too must embrace the cradle of a greater poverty of spirit, an impetus for an intimate and life-saving prayer life.

Such transformation allows God to fully maximize any talent, ability, wealth, reputation, influence and achievement to bring about great accomplishments for his kingdom. As Mother Teresa cautions, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depth of our hearts.”

In this season of anticipation, joy, and wonder, consider for a moment the disposition we should have toward God, the giver of all gifts. Are we allowing ourselves to be emptied, addressing the temporal and spiritual poverty of our neighbor  — like Mother Teresa and the Holy Family — through our personal and professional lives?

I strive to live this very disposition in serving the Lord and his Church — my neighbor — as priest. The Lord continues to inspire me to exercise this disposition to accomplish great deeds in his vineyard in my current role as president of Human Life International. Such wondrous transformation brings about great accomplishments as seen in this admirable Catholic and educational apostolate. Throughout HLI’s 40-year mission, we have worked to encourage the faithful to embrace a disposition toward God and neighbor, following his will to cultivate, sustain and build a Culture of Life around the world in defense of life and family.

Perhaps this final pearl of wisdom from Mother Teresa will be an inspiration for your own disposition: “It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.”

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.

Make a Catholic Advent

Patrick Novecosky writes that Catholics need to embrace the real meaning of Advent . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

You probably share my frustration. A week or so after Labor Day, you’re walking through The Home Depot or Walmart and you hear “Jingle Bells,” and as you round the corner: Christmas trees and tinsel.

I get it. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Wouldn’t it be great to have the Christmas feeling all year-round!? Yes… and no. All good things are worth waiting for, and Christmas is one of them.

First, let’s get the language right. We need to celebrate Advent and Christmas, not “the holidays.” The incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity is not merely a “holiday,” but rather the launch of God’s ultimate rescue plan for the human race.

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Adventus is the translation of the Greek parousia, which means the second coming of Christ. Advent anticipates Christ’s coming from two different perspectives: We share in the ancient longing for the Messiah’s coming, and we develop a heightened alert for his return.

The four weeks of Advent are a time to “prepare the way of the Lord.” The Catechism teaches that “when the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming” (#524).

What does this mean in practical terms? December is a busy month for everyone, so prioritize. Sift out what’s important and what’s not. In doing so, you can make time to embrace this essential season. That doesn’t mean shopping online so you have more time for baking or entertainment. It means cutting out the non-essentials so you have time to pray and ponder Jesus. Go to Mass during the week. Go to Confession. Make an Advent retreat (yes, they exist). Read a spiritual book. Ponder the empty manger (keep Baby Jesus put away until Christmas).

If you keep a Catholic Advent, you can be sure that when Christmas Day arrives, your heart will be overwhelmed with thanksgiving for what God has done for us through Jesus. One last thing: Christmas doesn’t end on Dec. 25. It begins. The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Be countercultural. Keep the decorations up a little longer this year. When the neighbors notice, tell them it’s still Christmas!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.