May Christ Bless This House!
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Epiphany when the three magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, followed the star to Bethlehem to adore the new born King. The three wise men brought gifts of gold because the Child was a King, frankincense because the Child was God, and myrrh because the Child was destined to be a sacrifice. Since before the middle ages, a tradition has been to bless the houses of the faithful and inscribe with blessed chalk upon the lintels the initials of the three kings. This tradition of blessing the doorways with blessed chalk symbolizes the family’s commitment to welcome Christ into their homes on a daily basis throughout the year.
Here is one form of an Epiphany House Blessing:
V. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
V. Peace be to this house and: to all who dwell here, in the name of tfie Lord.
A. Blessed be God forever.
Reader: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3.14)
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with holy water. The year and initials of the Magi are inscribed above the doors with the blessed chalk (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar with the first two numerals of the year preceding the C and the last two numerals of the year placed after the B).
As you inscribe the initials say: “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this house”.)
V. Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Blessing the Chalk
If you cannot obtain blessed chalk, it is permissible for the head of the household to bless chalk to be used. Here is a simple formula:
V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession
enjoy health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord.
And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.
Last night MTV aired a special Pregnant and 16 episode in which a teenager, Markai, decided to abort her second child. This was very difficult to watch. Not surprising is how the subject was treated. I first heard about this by a Salon article this morning and proceeded to watch the video of the episode. LifeNews.com has a story here as well. I was heartbroken, astonished, and saddened at how tragic this is in many different ways. It is worth viewing simply to see the decision making process of this young couple and the kind of support and information they receive.
The most tragic was to see a very nice girl in a poor situation receiving little or no support, receiving appallingly unscientific and false information, and ultimately rationalizing a decision clearly against her conscience which she admits will haunt her forever. This could have been avoided with simple financial assistance. Period.
Lack of support. She first discusses the dilemma with the father who says they have to make a decision that is best for him, her, and their daughter (what about the baby she is now pregnant with). They don’t want their children to suffer through poverty–admirable. She seeks the advice of her friend who offers to support her decision no matter what she decides. Adoption is not an option because she will feel too attached, “I’m in love with this baby already and this baby not doin’ nothing but making me sick” (I love this baby too much to just give her away, too much to let her suffer in poverty, therefore..). This is irrational.
Appalling information. She calls the local clinic to get information on abortion services. The very friendly woman on the phone instructs her that there is a medication abortion where the “pregnancy tissue is expelled”, and there are surgical abortions in which there is “gentle suction to remove the pregnancy”. She is so upset she needs to end the call. Later at the clinic she is told not to think of 10 fingers and 10 toes and a forehead, just a ball of cells or it will make you depressed (her baby had a heartbeat at this point). The sad reality that euphemisms and dehumanizing rhetoric are employed in order to make the unthinkable thinkable. She seeks the help of her mother and gets the following: “I can’t tell you what to do but this one you’re on your own, Mommy can’t help you.” I really feel for this poor soul.
Contradiction on display. Watching this tragedy unfold is disturbing but an fascinating glimpse into the inner struggle of conscience on vivid display. “Mommy loves you a whole bunch…she’ll do anything and everything for you in the whole wide world”. “I never called that thing a baby because I told you not even to think of it as a baby.” “You hurt my feeling when you called it a thing I know its not a person but it’s still a part of us.” “You will never feel my pain” “A thing can turn out just like that (pointing to her 1 yr old daughter)…nothing but a bunch of cells can be her.” “I wonder if we could have made a better one [decision].” “I don’t think God would have given me something I couldn’t handle”. This is difficult to witness. Tragic.
The episode ends with an interview with two other young women who had abortions. The pain of their decisions is more than evident. Pray for all victims of abortion…this includes so many women who suffer and are in pain.
Youth Pro-life Leaders Respond to MTV’s Abortion Episode
by Bryan Kemper
For weeks we have been hearing about the MTV special that would feature a teen couple contemplating abortion. We were tempted to write about this show last week but decided to wait until the show aired. We know that MTV is no bastion of decency or truth, but we did not think the show would actually go as far as it did. We were wrong.
One very telling feature of the show was that it played without commercial interruption; this is not normal for MTV. This show was obviously funded by some one or some organization with an agenda; a very deadly agenda.
To be honest it felt like this was almost scripted as the perfect pro-abortion propaganda film. The couple was young, poor, and volatile; and they also already had one baby. They talked about God and the father had a Jesus tattoo on one shoulder and was wearing a necklace that looked like a rosary. They could have made it an extreme case, but they kept it simple; I don’t think they could have cast a better couple for this show to make the audience sympathize with their decision to kill their child. Full story at LifeNews.com
For his feast day…one of the all time great movies:
Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC and newly elevated cardinal, appeared on Fox News Sunday this past weekend. (Full transcript here) In a cordial interview, Chris Wallace asked questions on topics such as a yard sign evangelization campaign, declining Mass attendance, priest sex abuse scandal, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, same-sex marriage and its implications on the Church’s social outreach.
Cardinal Wuerl’s responses were articulate and diplomatic as is his reputation, but the response that had me shaking my head was on the sexual abuse topic. Here’s the transcript:
WALLACE: I want to ask about a specific problem, though. Because clearly, you would agree that the church priest abuse sex scandal was very damaging to the church, and hurt a lot of Catholics’ views about the church.
You helped write the guidelines for the U.S. bishops. Are you confident that today that a priest who is accused of sexual abuse is not just transferred to another parish and is promptly reported to civil authorities?
WUERL: I think that is one of the great accomplishments of the Catholic Church. When we look back and we talk about sexual abuse, we’re talking about something that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago.
We have succeeded in terms of the church and her response. We have succeeded in guaranteeing that if a priest is accused and there is a credible allegation, he is simply removed from the ministry, that is reported to the authorities and we begin to try to heal whatever was damaged in that abuse.
I think it’s one of the great accomplishments of the church. It recognized there was a serious problem. It dealt with it forthright and then moved on to see that we’re in a much, much better place, a much safer place today.
Great accomplishment? Guaranteeing? Moved on? No! Note to hierarchy…strike this vocabulary from any attempt to respond to questions on this topic. This is still public relations spin on getting beyond a crisis. It leaves me and hopefully every other sentient person wondering when some clergy are going to get it–especially a new cardinal. Just three days before Christmas Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels told authorities there that he saw no reason for the church to compensate victims of sexual abuse. (as much as I hate to link to NCR, story here) There are still reports yet to be released on the crisis in Europe, never mind other dioceses around the globe that have yet to make any public revelations. The Church cannot and should not move beyond this because the damage that it caused will last generations. For victims the damage will last a lifetime. Check out this previously posted article on the topic.
Perhaps it would have been better for the cardinal to first acknowledge the cataclysmic damage, ruined lives and destroyed faith of so many in the Church caused by the scandal. Only then should he express his confidence that the Church in the US has–to the best of her abilities–taken serious measures to prevent this from recurring in the future. No moving on…in the words of Pope Benedict in his curial address:
We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen.
“We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.
|‘Massacre of the Innocents’, Matteo di Giovanni, 1482, Sant’Agostino, Siena, Italy|
|Reading||A sermon of St Quodvultdeus|
|Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ|
On Christmas Eve I took the family to Blessed Sacrament in Providence, RI. As you can see the church is magnificent:
Took the family to Blessed Sacrament in
|Agnolo Bronzino c.1535|
At the beginning of Advent my pastor brought up a question in his homily that has haunted me and was the focus of my reflection this season: “Do we need a Savior?” Those of us interested in apologetics or evangelizing often get mired in the important details and often hair-splitting distinctions and reactions to current affairs, yet fail to present the big picture. Faithful and inactive Catholics alike rarely reflect on the most basic and fundamental presuppositions of our Christian faith–and apologists err in presuming these presuppositions are equally understood and held by both. I believe this is the key to the New Evangelization and my intention this coming New Year is to focus on these fundamental questions. I hope readers will find here a valuable resource to especially share with those interested in seeking the Truth. God Bless and Merry Christmas. I’ll let Pope Benedict take it from here:
But does a “Saviour” still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium ? Is a “Saviour” still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.1
Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Saviour? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers — we are sure of it — some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness.
So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?
How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today “the true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9) came into the world. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more “unto his own”, and to those who receive him he gives “the power to become children of God”; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today “our Saviour is born to the world”, for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his “heart”, that man always needs to be “saved”. And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?
[T]he One [the Church] proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17). 2
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.3
1. Urbi et Orbe 2006
2. L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English 3 January 2007, page 18
3. Thought for the Day Christmas Message to UK 12-24-2010
O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” source
From the Dominican Antiphonarium:
O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) . source
From the Dominican Antiphonarium:
O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).
O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).
From the Dominican Antiphonarium:
O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1). source
From the Dominican Antiphonarium:
O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).
From the Dominican Antiphonarium:
December 17th marks the beginning of the Octave prior to Christmas and thus the ancient and beautiful “O antiphons” sung before the Magnificat during vespers (evening prayer). Sung each evening until Christmas Eve, the antiphons refer to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah, as well as highlight the titles of Christ.
• December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
• December 18: O Adonai (O Adonai)
• December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
• December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
• December 21: O Oriens (O Morning Star)
• December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
• December 23: O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)
O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).
From the Dominican Antiphonarium: