Christmas, st Padre Pio

St.Padre Pio’s Christmas Meditation

St Padre Pio’s Christmas Meditation: So beautiful and a lesson for us all!

Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised Messiah – Jesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.

There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.

Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.

He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.

So plentiful, O Christians, are the lessons that shine forth from the grotto of Bethlehem! Oh how our hearts should be on fire with love for the one who with such tenderness was made flesh for our sakes! Oh how we should burn with desire to lead the whole world to this lowly cave, refuge of the King of kings, greater than any worldly palace, because it is the throne and dwelling place of God! Let us ask this Divine child to clothe us with humility, because only by means of this virtue can we taste the fullness of this mystery of Divine tenderness.

Glittering were the palaces of the proud Hebrews. Yet, the light of the world did not appear in one of them. Ostentatious with worldly grandeur, swimming in gold and in delights, were the great ones of the Hebrew nation; filled with vain knowledge and pride were the priests of the sanctuary. In opposition to the true meaning of Divine revelation, they awaited an officious savoir, who would come into the world with human renown and power.

But God, always ready to confound the wisdom of the world, shatters their plans. Contrary to the expectations of those lacking in Divine wisdom, he appears among us in the greatest abjection, renouncing even birth in St. Joseph’s humble home, denying himself a modest abode among relatives and friends in a city of Palestine. Refused lodging among men, he seeks refuge and comfort among mere animals, choosing their habitation as the place of his birth, allowing their breath to give warmth to his tender body. He permits simple and rustic shepherds to be the first to pay their respects to him, after he himself informed them, by means of his angels, of the wonderful mystery.

Oh wisdom and power of God, we are constrained to exclaim – enraptured along with your Apostle – how incomprehensible are your judgments and unsearchable your ways! Poverty, humility, abjection, contempt, all surround the Word made flesh. But we, out of the darkness that envelops the incarnate Word, understand one thing, hear one voice, perceive one sublime truth: you have done everything out of love, you invite us to nothing else but love, speak of nothing except love, give us naught except proofs of love.

The heavenly babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious and accepted. He deprives himself of everything, in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts. He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers, to encourage us to love poverty, and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world.

This celestial child, all meekness and sweetness, wishes to impress in our hearts by his example these sublime virtues, so that from a world that is torn and devastated an era of peace and love may spring forth. Even from the moment of his birth he reveals to us our mission, which is to scorn that which the world loves and seeks.

Oh let us prostrate ourselves before the manger, and along with the great St. Jerome, who was enflamed with the love of the infant Jesus, let us offer him all our hearts without reserve. Let us promise to follow the precepts which come to us from the grotto of Bethlehem, which teach us that everything here below is vanity of vanities, nothing but vanity.

Carmelite saints, Christmas, Miracles of the Saints

The Christmas Conversion of St.Therese of Lisieux

Thérèse of Lisieux, as you may know, is one of only three women to have been made a Doctor of the Church. Her mother died when Thérèse was 4. One by one, her four older sisters left for the cloister. She became emotionally clingy.

A key moment in her spiritual development occurred on Christmas Eve of 1886. She called it her “second conversion.”

The French custom at that time was for children to leave their shoes by the fireplace for the parents to fill with candy. As the youngest of the Martin daughters, Thérèse — 13 at the time — was the last to keep up the ritual. Returning from midnight Mass that night, her father, tired and uncharacteristically cranky, passed the pair of filled shoes and remarked: “Well, fortunately this is the last year.”

Thérèse overheard and began to run up to her room. Her impulse was to burst into tears and make a scene. Instead, halfway up the stairs she paused, willed herself to smile, turned, marched back to the parlor, embraced her father and opened the presents with good cheer and thanks.

“On that night of light the third period of my life began, the most beautiful of them all, the most filled with graces from heaven,” she wrote in her spiritual biography, “The Story of a Soul.” “I felt a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire that I had never felt so strongly. … In a word, I felt charity enter into my heart, the need to forget myself in order to please others, and ever afterward I was happy!”

Happy in spite of almost constant aridity, a frightful dark night of the soul, and an agonizing death from complications of tuberculosis — with no pain medication — at the age of 24.

Brother Joseph Schmidt, FSC, author of two penetratingly insightful books about Thérèse, points out that Thérèse turned that night from a neurotically needy schoolgirl to a mature woman with a profound capacity for authentic love. He maintains that Thérèse journeyed through what today we’d call codependence, and that her recovery was based on a recognition of the utter nonviolence of God’s love.

Here’s an excerpt from “Walking the Little Way of Thérèse of Lisieux”:

“Thérèse’s spirituality in particular shines the Gospel light on the violence hidden in Jansenism, perfectionism, and Pelagianism. These errors poisoned the spirituality of Thérèse’s day and continue in various forms to contaminate religion in our own time. … Specifically, she rejected violence, not violently but by being more and more available to the source of love. She resisted violence and subverted it, serenely bearing its pain, resisting its contamination, opening herself more fully to God’s love, and quietly living and teaching her little way of love.”

She renounced violence against herself, noting: “If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.”

She learned how to refrain from being manipulative, passive-aggressive, withholding, phony, or critical: all forms of violence toward others.

Thérèse’s path was not terribly glamorous. She was stuck in a freezing cold, cloistered convent with bad food, no spiritual peer, and a nun behind her in chapel who made a horribly annoying sound, “like two shells rubbing together,” apparently by clicking her rosary against her teeth. Thérèse trained herself by the strictest discipline not to turn around and glare at the woman. What purpose would that small act of emotional violence have served except to telegraph to the nun that Thérèse found her substandard?

Our paths aren’t terribly glamorous either. We live in a culture that mocks our faith and is saturated with violence. We have abortion, we have massacres of schoolchildren, we have nuclear weapons that are capable of destroying the planet.

And what is the antidote? Love. The antidote is to treat the crotchety old neighbor, the borderline personality and your neurotic superior, who may very well be your spiritual inferior, with love. That is the orientation of heart from which all peace-making efforts must spring. Like Thérèse in her cloister, we get to be hidden in plain sight. We get to make the smallest moment of our lives sacramental. We offer our little acts of self-denial, our prayer, our sorrows, our sacrifices, our tears, our vigils, for some, our solitary incarceration, and let Christ do with them what he wills.

In this era of rampant self-promotion, it’s also worth remembering that millions of people know Thérèse now, but no one knew about her when she was alive. Even after her death within the convent, the general tone was: She’s a saint?

But read Brother Joseph’s book. It will give you a whole new appreciation of the crazy paradox that this bourgeois French schoolgirl became one of the most important spiritual figures of our time. It will give you a whole new sense that your own outwardly meager, mostly unseen, tragicomic journey will somehow, someday, bear fruit. It will make you really, really grateful for central heating and pain medication.

And on Christmas Eve, the holiest of holy nights, may charity enter our hearts as well.

Catholic Traditions and Practices, Christmas, Pious Devotions

The Catholic 12 Days of Christmas

We are all familiar with the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

We have all smiled indulgently at the extravagance of the lover who showered upon his beloved so many fantastic and inconvenient gifts. Every day of the Christmas season she received a new token of his love, each more fabulous than the last and increasingly numerous, until she was the proud possessor of twenty-three birds, some valuable jewelry, a varied assortment of musicians and entertainers, and eight milkmaids.

But it is more than a rhapsody of strange and delightful nonsense. It is a song of Catholic instruction. Dating back to the 16th or 17th century, it was created as a memory aid to help children learn their Faith. The “true love” is no earthly suitor, but God Himself, Who gives His wondrous gifts to “me,” every baptized person.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

A partridge in a pear tree…

The partridge is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who comes to us on the first day of Christmas. He is fittingly represented as a partridge, a bird which will feign injury in order to draw predators to itself and away from its young. By offering Himself on the Cross, “He hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters. He will overshadow thee with His shoulders: and under His wings thou shalt trust.” (Psalms 90:4)

The pear tree is the Cross itself. When King David wished to free his people from the scourge of the Philistines, the Lord told him that the moment would come “when thou shalt hear the sound of one going in the tops of the pear trees, then shalt thou join battle: for then will the Lord go out before thy face to strike the army of the Philistines.” (II Kings 5:24)

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Two turtle doves…

The two turtle doves represent the Old and New Testaments which look to each other with admiration, and complement one another.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Three French hens…

The three French hens symbolize the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Four calling birds…

The four calling birds are the four Evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – because they spread everywhere the good news of the Gospel. “Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Psalms 18:5)

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Five golden ring…

The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, is represented by five golden rings. These books tell the history of man from the creation to the time of Moses and the expectation of the Messiah that was accomplished in the birth of Our Lord,

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Six geese a laying…

Six geese a laying are the six days of creation. The eggs of the geese hold the promise of life to come; which represents the maintenance and expansion of God’s creation.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Seven swans a swimming…

Seven swans a swimming represent the seven sacraments. Sailing majestically on the seas of grace of which they are the guardians, custodians, and dispensers of these living waters. “Go, and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall recover health, and thou shalt be clean.” (IV Kings 5:10)

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Eight maids a milking…

Eight maids a milking symbolize the eight beatitudes. The good that we can draw from the attitudes praised in the Sermon on the Mount are as rich and wholesome as our mother’s milk. We must observe these precepts, “…that thou mayst enter into the land which Thy Lord God will give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, as He swore to thy fathers.” (Deut. 27:3)

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Nine ladies dancing…

Nine ladies dancing stand for the nine choirs of angels. As a dancer is swift and elegant, so do the Angels of God execute His orders, moving to the music of Heaven.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Ten lords a leaping…

Ten lords a leaping are the Ten Commandments. If we keep these Commandments, we can leap from the bonds of this earth even to the heights of Heaven.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Eleven pipers piping…

Eleven pipers piping are the first eleven faithful Apostles. Like players in an orchestra, we must do our part in the great symphony of God’s plan for us. We play each the song that we are given and it becomes a part of a greater harmony, taking care not to strike a false note.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me,

Twelve drummers drumming…

Twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in the Apostle’s Creed, which constitutes the stirring, throbbing undercurrent that binds the Catholic Faith together. It is the foundation upon which the Church is built.

With the due explanation, the apparent nonsense of the carol becomes a treasure of precious stones. A summary of the principal points of the Catholic doctrine are accessible to a child under the form of an innocent Christmas song.

It is an example of the Catholic wisdom that was sprinkled onto everything in Christendom. It is an invitation for you to enjoy even more this charming song.