Monthly Archives: December 2013

Advent Reflections for Sat, Dec. 21

Today’s Readings from USCCB

Some feastdays that we celebrate seem to be too rich or too complex for us to do them justice in either our celebrations or our homilies. I think here especially of Holy Thursday, but I have the same feeling about Christ’s Baptism and the Transfiguration. The one that interests me the most, however, is what we are focusing on in this passage from Luke.

When we celebrate on March 25, what happens here, we call this the feast of the Annunciation, and what we center on almost exclusively is Mary herself and her response to God. That is not what the word “annunciation” indicates, however, although that centering is better than dwelling on Gabriel impersonally announcing to Mary what God is about to do, as if she had no voice in the matter. That is simply not what Luke says.

If we wished to retain the concentration on Mary and on her response, we might well begin to refer instead to this as the feast of the Invitation, where the Father asks whether Mary would be willing to bear His Son. This could bring out the respect God shows her as well as the very personal attitude she manifests in accepting.

I myself would prefer to call it instead the feast of the Incarnation, since considering our position on the point at which a human life begins (and consequently our position on abortion), this is the day on which we celebrate the most central event in the history of the universe and all creation. I think we might well transfer some of the emphasis we give to Christmas to this day, whether the quiet scene with Mary and Gabriel has all sorts of warm images and memorable stories attached to it or not.

We might do a sort of contemplation of this scene in our prayer. Where is the Father in all of this? And the Second Person? What is Gabriel thinking as he appears and speaks for God? How does Mary feel in having such a visit, even in just the first moments? How does she feel as the angel leaves her? Just exactly what is it that the Spirit does (outside of the obvious physical arrangement)? Talk to each of them and ask them to tell you.

And what does any of that say to each of us about our own lives?

Chas. Kestermeier, SJ

News Briefs, Dec. 19

Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read their News Briefs for Thursday, Dec. 19.

Reflections for Dec. 20

Readings from USCCB

Of all the contrasts between Zechariah and Mary in St. Luke’s infancy narratives, the starkest is found in their responses to the good news announced to each. What makes Mary’s response to St. Gabriel even more striking is that objectively, the message entrusted to her was much more difficult to understand from an “earthly perspective”. After all, what Gabriel announced to Zechariah was news which he and his wife had been longing to hear for many years. While the facts foretold by Gabriel were unlikely from a human standpoint, they were not impossible even by human standards, and had precedent in biblical history.

Mary is unique. Her response to the Good News is possible only through faith. Zechariah did not even have faith in a human possibility. Yet Mary has faith in a seeming human impossibility. She trusts that God will accomplish what He wills, and speaks only of what He wills. How different are you and I: we speak not only of what we will, but also of what we desire and dream about, what piques our interest even momentarily, and even what would harm us. Worse yet is what we so often do, which in facts harms us spiritually, bodily, emotionally and in other ways: in fact, “personally”, in its fullest sense.

Mary is a person as God created human persons to be. Jesus is a divine person (with a human nature), but Mary is like you and me in that she’s a human person. But she lives up to, and shows us what it truly means, to live as a person, which means fully to relate to others, and to the Other who created and redeemed us in His Son. Mary accepts God as her Creator and Savior, and lives for Him rather than for herself.


News Briefs, Dec. 18

Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Read their News Briefs for Dec. 18

Priest invents Confession tool for deaf

A Philippine priest serving in the United States has invented a device to make it easier for the deaf to go to confession, the Philippine bishops’ news service reported.

The device, according CBCP News, “consists of two laptop computers running on special software and connected exclusively for penitent and priest to type on and send their messages to each other … Priests who are not skilled in sign language will be able to communicate with deaf people using the chat function through a secured setup of two connected computers with American Sign Language (ASL) instructions and videos.”

Father Romuald Zantua’s device is awaiting the approval of the Holy See.


News Briefs, Dec. 17

Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here are their News Briefs for Tuesday, Dec. 17

Reflections for Dec. 19

Readings from USCCB

During the “Advent Octave” (that is, the last eight days of Advent, which are usually called the “Late Advent weekdays”), the Gospel heard at weekday Masses shifts to the infancy narratives. It might surprise some that not all four Gospel accounts tell us about the infancy of Jesus. Only Matthew and Luke do. In his prologue (John 1:1-18), John one-ups those two evangelists by accounting for the life of God the Son from all eternity in brief and brilliant poetry. Mark begins his Gospel account (the shortest of the four) with Jesus already an adult.

On the first two Late Advent weekdays, the Church proclaims passages from the infancy narratives of Matthew. On the last six days of this “octave”, the Gospel comes from Luke. Key to Luke’s infancy narratives is a parallelism between John the Baptist and Jesus. Their “annunciations” and births are described similarly. Yet even more significant are the differences between the two sets of narrative.

Today’s Gospel passage recounts St. Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah of the immanent conception of John. Two differences from the Annunciation of Jesus stand out. The first concerns the circumstances of each. John is conceived through natural means by an elderly, “barren” woman. Jesus is conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit by a young virgin.

Perhaps even more significant are the differences between the persons to whom Gabriel appears, and their responses to heavenly messenger. Focus today on the response of Zechariah to Gabriel. Zechariah is struck mute because of his disbelief. This is ironic given that his son is destined to be “the voice crying out” the advent of the Word made flesh. Pray today asking God not only that your voice might be His instrument, but also that disbelief may never prevent you from listening to another who is pointing your attention towards God.


The Church: year in review for 2013.

Here’s a great video from Catholic News Service.

New Bishop named for San Angelo

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the pastoral governance of the Diocese of San Angelo (USA) presented by His Excellency, Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI, in conformity with Canon 401, paragraph 1 of the Code of Canon Law, the bishop having reached the age limit.

The Holy Father has named Bishop of San Angelo (USA) Monsignor Michael J. Sis, of the clergy of the Diocese of Austin, up until this time the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Diocese of Austin.

Monsignor Michael J. Sis was born January 9, 1960, at Mount Holly, New Jersey, in the Diocese of Trenton. He attended the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana, receiving his Bachelor of Philosophy Degree in 1982. He then took his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 1982-86. Successively, he received a License of Moral Theology degree from the Pontifical Academy of St. Alphonsus in Rome in 1990.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin on July 19, 1986.

After his priestly ordination, he had the following assignments: Parochial Vicar of Cristo Rey (Christ the King) Parish (1986-88) and of St. Mary’s Cathedral (1990-92), vice chaplain at St. Mary’s Center at Texas A&M University (1989 and 1992-93) and then chaplain at A&M from 1993-2006; Director of Vocations from 2006-2009, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Austin (2009-2010). Since 2010 he has been Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.

He was named a Chaplain of His Holiness in 2009.

In addition to English, he knows Spanish and Italian.

(Translation of Italian announcement from the Vatican)

Reflections for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today’s Readings from USCCB

Today’s Responsorial is not taken from one of the psalms, but from the Old Testament Book of Judith. The verses of the Responsorial, by which the Church praises Mary today, in their original setting praise the Old Testament heroine Judith. In the thirteenth chapter you can read of Judith beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes, thus freeing her people from foreign control. The praise that follows, which we hear in today’s Responsorial, is offered by Uzziah, the king of Judah.

Although the transposition of these words of praise to honor Mary makes sense when one reads the verses themselves, the original setting might give one pause. However, even the setting in which Judith receives praise offers insight into the vocation of Our Blessed Mother, especially as we honor her today under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the first book of the Bible, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent and declares: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The Church has always heard these words as foreshadowing the advent of Christ and His mother Mary. It is through Mary’s vocation as the Mother of God that the power of evil is destroyed. As we ask the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, we trust that her maternal love will transform our country and world into a culture of life.

from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita