Advent day 16

This sickness has brought me down quite a bit. It’s forced me to be much quieter, much less active. And that’s not a bad thing.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a truly miraculous story. At just the time when the Protestants were breaking away from the Church, Our Lady appeared in Mexico and brought in a similar number as was lost in Europe. “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” To celebrate we had fajitas and mexi-rice.

guadalupe3-1.jpg

I’ve not been very successful at offering my daily tasks to Our Lord. Occasionally I remember. I’ll keep trying.

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A parent’s prayer

“…teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born” (Judges 13.8).

Many people know the story of Samson, God’s strong man and one of Israel’s judges before the time of the kings. He had such great strength that he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. What I didn’t know before reading his whole story, is that his barren mother was visited by an angel and told that she would bear a son. She was warned against strong drink and unclean foods during her pregnancy and told never to touch the boy’s head with a  razor. The woman told her husband, Manoah, about the angel’s visit and instructions. He entreated God to send the angel again, to “teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born.”

What if all parents were to ask this of God? What if I had during my pregnancies? You know, though, it’s not too late. Even with Stepford Son nearly 14, and perhaps even especially now, I can beg God to teach me what I am to do with the boy. And with each of my other children, too. It’s never too late to pray for your children, to ask God what you should do to help them grow to be the men and women He created them to be.

I’m sure Mary and St. Joseph prayed this often. They may have had a perfect Son, but they wanted to raise Him properly, to do God’s Will in every instance. They were not passive in their child-rearing; I’m sure they still had to make the hard decisions. God did not want automatons for parents–He wanted living, breathing, loving people to raise His Son. While Mary and St. Joseph may not have had the struggles I do with my children, still, they experienced joy, sorrow, pain, disappointment, uncertainty. And so they prayed. And so must I. I love them, I serve them, I teach them, but most importantly, I pray to God for them. That He will show me how to raise them to His glory.

The Four Words of Advent

On the First Friday of this month, the children and I attended a local parish that has a school attached to it. Now, I typically avoid “school masses” like the plague. I’m pretty sure I’d rather go to the dentist (yes, it’s pride. God’s working on it). Anyway, this school mass was not the horror that I anticipated. It was, in fact, the best school mass I have ever attended. Firstly, because of the priest’s homily and secondly, because it was followed by a period of adoration in which the entire school participated. Wow!

The priest in his homily spoke of the four words of Advent. Four weeks, four words. Do you know them? I didn’t. Well, I knew one.

The first week’s word is watch.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
[Gospel reading from first Sunday in Advent: Mark 13.33-37]

Help me, O Lord, to watch, to prepare myself for your coming, your adventus. 

The second word is repent.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

[Gospel reading from second Sunday in Advent: Mark 1.1-8]

Grant me light, O Lord, to know myself, that I may see my failings, repent of them and confess. Cleanse me and heal me, O Lord. Prepare me for your coming.

The third word is rejoice! Unlike the other three words, this one is taken from the first two readings and the psalm.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.
[Is. 61. 10-11]

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
[Lk. 1 46-49]

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.
[1 Thess. 5.16-22]

Even in this time of watching and repentance, grant, O Lord, that I may rejoice in the anticipation and fulfillment of your coming.

The fourth and final word is fiat. To find this word, you have to go back to Latin. Mary’s response to God’s request is “Fiat voluntas tua.”  In English, “May it be done according to your Will.”

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
[Lk. 1. 26-38]

May I, like Mary, O Lord, say always and to everything, Fiat voluntas tua. 

Gentleness

Each day I pray for my children, a specific virtue for each. Well, for Mini-Me, I have been praying for gentleness. She is a lovely girl, full of life, an independent and free spirit, but she can be very harsh with others (read: siblings) and with herself, both in her tone and actions. She is so very much like me. “Let’s get down to business, people. I don’t have time for your crap.”

One morning it hit me: I’m praying these virtues for my children, and they are all things that need to be strengthened in my life, too. Mini-Me will not become gentle unless I model it for her. And how can I model it for her if I am not gentle with myself? I can pretend and pretend, but unless I first become gentle with myself, I will never pass on that oh-so-important virtue to my daughter. As type A, high-strung women, gentleness is a struggle. I tend to see the mess, the job, the to-do list before the person. “Oh I ran you over? Try moving out of my way next time!”

Let’s see what my friend Sirach has to say about this: “If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous? He will not enjoy his own riches. No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself…My son, treat yourself well, according to your means” (14.5, 6, 11). Too often, we as Christians feel that we must be so incredibly hard on ourselves (or maybe it’s just me); that mercy and gentleness were meant for everyone except us. How wrong. The Church developed the saying Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You cannot give what you do not have. (I think my confessor has said this to me about a million times.) We cannot give mercy unless we have mercy. We cannot give forgiveness unless we have forgiveness. We cannot give gentleness unless we have gentleness. And we do not have _____ (insert virtue here) if we cannot practice with ourselves.

Can gentleness with ourselves be taken too far? Lead to self-indulgence, making excuses for poor behavior? Sure can! All vices are virtues that have been twisted, disordered. I’m definitely not a pro at this gentleness thing. My first inclination is to steamroll anyone who gets in the way of my “tasks.” Like, right now the Little Soldier is driving a lego motorcycle through my hair and I want to toss him out the window so I can finish this blog post and work on dinner. But our Lord’s grace is working on my heart, and I keep the Blessed Mother as my role model. Virgin of all virgins! To thy shelter take us; Gentlest of the gentle, Chaste and gentle make us.