How To Bless Your Christmas Tears: Podcast

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xz2hb-f5f745

This year’s Christmas season is not laden with the expectations of extended family celebrations, festive Christmas meals, and open doors to visitors come to share the joy of the days of rest and peace that fill the Christmas season.

Pandemic loss and grief weigh upon these Christmas days and bring shadows to our hearts.

Maybe we feel empty. Like the world has stopped. Worry for the future seeps into the celebration of God-with-us who was born among us…. And…where is he for me? Now?

Your heart’s cry, whatever it may be, let it blend with the wail of the Infant King that midnight at his birth.

Photo Credit: Image by RitaLaura; Cathopic

How to Bless Your Christmas Tears

This year’s Christmas season is not laden with the expectations of extended family celebrations, festive Christmas meals, and open doors to visitors come to share the joy of the days of rest and peace that fill the Christmas season.

Pandemic loss and grief weigh upon these Christmas days and bring shadows to our hearts.

Maybe we feel empty. Like the world has stopped. Worry for the future seeps into the celebration of God-with-us who was born among us…. And…where is he for me? Now?

Your heart’s cry, whatever it may be, let it blend with the wail of the Infant King that midnight at his birth.

At birth a baby wails if they are not reunited with their mother after a few seconds. They cry because they may be bruised and sore from the trauma of birth. Perhaps they are cold. “Crying is the key to life,” one doctor said as he described the big difference from when baby is delivered to when she takes her first cry. When they’re born, they appear lifeless and purple. But when they make that first cry, the baby goes from being purple to pink, and they start moving, even opening their eyes for the first time. “It truly is a miracle!”

We all have been bruised by this year. Our hearts are sore from the trauma of loss and constant fear of an unseen enemy that can cause the death of loved ones. We have been isolated from anyone who has been our support in life. We’ve lost jobs, money, business, opportunities, graduations, weddings….

Crying is the key to life.

In the days after Christmas, allow your tears to mingle with the Infant’s cry. Throughout his life Jesus cried. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He wept over Jerusalem. He wept in the Garden of Gethsemane. And I’m sure he wept when he met his mother after the resurrection. Tears are a part of hoping.

My heart’s pain becomes focused when I cry. Finding someone to receive my tears is really important, even if it is a simple phone call to someone who will understand.

Tears say, “I acknowledge that this hurts. These tears cleanse and heal my heart’s brokenness and sorrow. They make way for the miracle of life, new life, new hope, renewal.” Jesus’ tears were shed at moments when the birth of renewal was underway: new life for Lazarus, entering into the drama of the passion as he wept over Jerusalem, the new life that would emerge from the passion into resurrection….

At every moment Jesus is working something new upon the face of the earth. The Holy Spirit is even at this moment being poured out upon all peoples.

Jesus’ human tears shed at moments of disappointment, grief, and fear, kept him steady and present in the emptiness of all that was missing and all that he was living. Tears keep us from running away. Tears help us bridge isolation as we reach out to another or allow us to hold the pain of someone else.

Tears keep us present until the dawn begins to break. They make sure we don’t miss the inflow of compassionate relief that gives us rest after the bitterness of our weeping. They force us to reach out to someone who at that moment is standing in the dawn and able to offer to us a few words that like a life raft carry us to safety.

So this Christmas, if tears are there waiting to be shed, let them mingle with the tears of Jesus who is our God-with-us. Reach out to another as you enter your sorrow. Be patient as the darkness of a cloudy night gives way to the first break of a tentative dawn’s beauty. Step into the newness that only faith acknowledges. God is at work in whatever you are living, that whatever is taking over your life is momentarily about to give way to God’s new power in your life.

After all, life, I believe, really is a miracle!

How we know when God is doing something new: A Meditation on St Joseph

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-h3ngb-f5692e

As we journey into the new year I’ve been thinking a lot about St Joseph. He is a “star” in the Christmas narrative, leading Mary to Bethlehem for the census. He protected her on that blessed night when the Savior of the world was born in a stable in the midnight dark.  Joseph stands out again as he saves the day, whisking Mary and Jesus off to Egypt and safely out of the clutches of Herod, who attempted to kill the baby.

Perhaps from the perspective of our eternal reward we’ll see how we too were the amazing actors in a moment of history—large or small—upon which the future of others rested.

But as Joseph trudged away from Nazareth I think he wasn’t imagining himself in any saintly celebrity status.

He was leaving his plans, his preparations for the Messiah’s birth, his workshop and place in Nazareth as the village carpenter. He was leaving behind his family, his support, his home, his synagogue. He left everything he had known, built, and shared for so many years of his life: the self he knew, the role he played in the community, his place in the larger family.

He walked into silence, mystery, glory…

Every Word He Speaks… Advent Hope

The readings of Advent are filled with hope. Today, the liturgy of the Church invites us to ponder the word of the Lord through His prophet Isaiah: 

“Thus says the Lord, your redeemer … 
[I] teach you what is for your good, 
and lead you on the way you should go. 
If you would hearken to my commandments, 
your prosperity would be like a river, 
and your vindication like the waves of the sea …” (Is 48:17-18)

God wants our good. Every word He speaks invites us to taste His goodness and unite our wills to His, so that we might become who we are: children of a Father who is Goodness Himself. 

We need to hear this word daily. We need our Father to teach us, not through weekly or even daily “classes” but as only God can teach: from within. The Holy Spirit, alive in us, rejoices at the presence of the Word of God, just as St. John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit, leapt for joy at the presence of Christ in Elizabeth’s womb. The more we place ourselves in contact with God’s living Word—in Scripture, in the Church, and in the circumstances of our daily life—the more the Holy Spirit will convict us of “the way we should go” in response to this Word.

As long as God is our teacher and His Spirit is directing our steps, there is so much to hope for! We are on a journey toward heaven, our eternal “good.” As we continue our Advent pilgrimage and look ahead to Christmas and the new year, let us resolve to keep placing ourselves in the school of the Word of God, perhaps with a book of daily reflections or a liturgical reading guide to help us. Let us renew our trust in God who “directs all things according to our good,” which is nothing less than union with Himself.

Guest Post by Sr Amanda Detry, FSP

Little Drummer Boy Mini-Retreat for Advent-Christmas Season

Come, they told me: a newborn king to see 
Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the king 
So to honor him when we come.

I have a confession to make.

I love Christmas music, and could play Christmas music all year long. And sometimes—when no one is listening—I’ll play it in my office… even in June or July or August!

Christmas carols, somehow, have this magical way of instantaneously reminding me of the story of God’s incredible love for me, for us, which is what we really celebrate at Christmas.

And Christmas carols, even secular ones, make me feel happy. They remind me of home. I still remember some verses of a song about elves who discovered “it’s better to give than receive.” The song was on a record we played at Christmas time every year in our home. That’s the one Christmas carol I associate with my childhood, with going home… I still will look for that record if I’m at home for Christmas.

And how about you? What’s your favorite Christmas carol? What song fills you with good memories of your childhood?

On to another confession.

Jeannette and I were wondering what to do for an Advent-Christmas mini-retreat this year to offer you, our loyal friends. We actually were thinking and praying about this for you in July!

We knew this Advent-Christmas might not be filled with happy family reunions for everyone. Some of us will be grieving friends and family members, having had nothing but a “Zoom wake” to mourn and remember them. Some of us will still be putting our lives on the line in hospitals and city streets and classrooms for the sake of others. Some of us will feel afraid. We’ll all be uncertain of the future. And that uncertainty makes us even more anxious…

Even a Christmas carol can’t wipe all that away. We can’t sweep all our emotions and concerns and grief under the rug to pull out the stops for a gala celebration of Christmas in our own living rooms, isolated perhaps still from other family members. Maybe it will be different; after all, it’s only November… But maybe it won’t.

And Jesus wouldn’t want us to wash away our own very real struggles in order to throw him a party, either.

Jesus came so we can find our story in the midst of his story... a story that is beautiful and sad and charming and full of promise and tragedy and hope and confusion and strength in the darkness and the triumph of light and love.

That is what Christmas is all about, really.

So after praying together about this, we decided that on Tuesdays from now until the end of the year, we’ll offer you a mini-Advent retreat based on the song The Little Drummer Boy and on the story that was adapted from it. I’m 57, so I grew up watching the animated version of The Little Drummer Boy every Christmas while my parents struggled with putting the lights on the Christmas tree. With my sister and brother, I cried every year through the story of Aaron who lost his family in a fire set by desert brigands and who then wandered the desert as an orphan with his magical drum and three animal friends who danced to its beat. But we cried even harder at the end as Aaron played for Jesus in Bethlehem and at last found love. 

Perhaps you watched it also. 

This animated version of The Little Drummer Boy is based on the original song written in 1941 by Katherine Kennicott Davis. It’s a story in which we can find our own stories this year—every year, in fact. It’s the story of the power of Christmas, and this year, like Aaron, we so need to experience the coming of Christ and what he can do in our lives in a powerful way.

So we invite you to join us in this mini-retreat every Tuesday until Christmas. The commercial Christmas season begins after Veterans Day, so that’s where we’re beginning, also, today, and we’ll continue our mini-retreat through Advent and to the end of the year. 

Welcome to The Little Drummer Boy!

Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP
I hope you’ll keep in touch by joining my letter that I send out a couple times a month here.

ENTERING INTO THE RETREAT
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Little Drummer Boy (c) 1968 Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment / Universal Pictures DreamWorks Classics

The Kingdom of Christ

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-qurdg-f28a7e

This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kingdom of Christ within me, how I surrender to the power of the King, how I turn my life over entirely to the reign of the Kingdom. As we close this year, it is a perfect liturgical Feast to prepare us for Advent and Christmas. Both an end and a beginning.

SNEAK PEEK: Virtual Retreat with St Elizabeth of the Trinity

In the past couple of days the presentations and prayer guides are beginning to come in for our 3-hour virtual retreat led by Sr Martha and myself, following the guidance of St Elizabeth of the Trinity. This is the first of our Tabernacle of the Heart retreats. (The second will be on grieving through the lens of another woman mystic: Catherine of Siena.)

So I thought I’d just give you a sense of what’s to come, hoping you’d like to join us. The retreat will be next Saturday, November 14. We will hold the retreat twice on that day, once in the morning and once in the evening so people can choose the time best for them. Can’t come on that day but still interested. We’ll be sending everyone files for the retreat: video, audio, and text. So if you come, you’ll have them to go through again at your own pace. If you can’t be there in person, you can make a private retreat on a day of your choice. Now, to some of the wonderful things filling my inbox for the retreat!

Excerpted from one of Sr Martha’s talks:

Your own personal story is where God wants to be this Fall day in 2020…no where else. God is committed to you. Are YOU committed to you? The insights and the graces I need to move forward in life’s journey, those that you need TODAY, will unfold today. The other insights and graces you need down the line, will unfold at that time. Back to the gardener analogy…no gardener in her right mind would dump a swimming pool of water on a seed, walk away and say, OK, I’ve given it all that it needs for this year to grow! God doesn’t do that with us either. He is in a dynamic, active relationship with each one of us….and his grace, some call grace “his loving us,” will guide me on the journey as I come to that next step.

Each of us here has what she needs to make the journey of CHRIST alive in me today. We can be sure of it, because God is a good gardener and will not let His lilies, roses and violets go unwatered and unfertilized. No way…

Excerpted from one of the presentations of Jeannette de Beavuoir:

What Elizabeth longed for with all her soul was to seek the Trinity dwelling in the deepest sanctuary of her heart, to listen to that Mystery, the very essence of which is Divine Silence. For that she entered the cloister of Carmel, entered the exterior cloister of the walls. Once inside, she entered more deeply into the inner cloister of her heart to seek the indwelling Trinity which had invaded her soul from the first moment of baptism. She declared: “I am Elizabeth of the Trinity, that is, Elizabeth who disappears, who is lost, who lets herself be invaded by the Three.” One of her favorite Carmelite mottos was this one: “Alone with the great Alone.”

The ultimate goal of a Carmelite nun is not different from that of other Christians; it is the perfection of charity. It is, however—thanks to a special grace of God her specific vocation–as fully understood, the unique excellence of this end, of the greatness, purity, and tenderness of God, whom St Francis loved to call “the Beautiful.” She has known “the great love” of Ephesians 2:4 with which the Father has loved her freely, and understood that such love should be preferred to everyone else, love without measure until the total gift of self. A Carmelite could not imagine even for a moment that she no longer loved the one who has loved her so much that he gave himself for her; however, she also desires to respond with a greater love, with the gift of her life. The enclosure is therefore a choice of love, of the supreme love of a creature for her Creator.

Elizabeth was no doubt a saint of the cloister. But she is perhaps even more a saint for those of us who live outside of it….

Excerpted from the video by Sr. Kathryn:

Since your baptism the Trinity has dwelt within you. Your soul is a little heaven on earth. God never leaves you alone. Just as he waits for someone to visit him in the Eucharist, he waits for us to visit him within our own heart. “You will always find Him there, longing to do you good.”

So the question is, how do you enter your own heart.

I had been a person lost in my head…in my thoughts and rationalizations and plans for the future and stories about what was happening in the present. So much so that I lived many years ago with perpetual headaches.

The past and future exist only in our minds and thoughts. They are now in the hands of God, not in ours. When we are lost in them, we let slip through our fingers the only moments we can actually intentionally seize for the glory of God and the care of others and our own soul.

So the question is, how do we enter our heart? How do we stay in the present…

That’s just a taste… We’ll be bringing together the retreat this week and praying for all the retreatants in a very special way. If you feel St Elizabeth of the Trinity saying to you that she wishes to be your sister in the spiritual life, learn more about the retreat by clicking here. I hope we see you there!

Right now we may need to hit PAUSE

We were told numberless times going into Election Day that this election was the most important election of our lifetime. On this weekend after casting our votes, we’re still living on the adrenaline of heightened concerns, hopes, and emotions…

At this point for our emotional and spiritual health, we may want to hit PAUSE and remember that no matter what is decided in this election, God has a purpose that unfolds in history, a purpose that cannot be overturned.

There is no way for us to know how this will end, no real possibility of us figuring it out or of changing the outcome to what we think the final result should be. And even after all the results are in, there will be heated discussion and commentary on whether the results are accurate. Hope is the belief that we are held in the midst of this chaos. Hope is the belief that we are cared for most tenderly even if we cannot see in the way forward how God is leading us.

Today I invite you to let the dust settle and to soak in the sense of safety and trust that is the bedrock of Psalm 23.