Saturday, December 13, 2003
Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.
Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.
Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed. As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Lucy may not have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did and we can be sure her faith withstood tests we can barely imagine.
Lucy's name is probably also connected to statues of Lucy holding a dish with two eyes on it. This refers to another legend in which Lucy's eyes were put out by Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes.
Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.
Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.
In Her Footsteps:
Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Braille is an important means of communication for those with visual impairment or blindness. Support the teaching of braille in schools and learn about it yourself by calling your local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen
Saint Lucy is still widely venerated by Italians.
The Gospel begins as Jesus and the disciples were coming down the mountain after their profound experience of God’s manifestation in Jesus’ Transfiguration. The disciples questioned Jesus about the expected coming of Elijah. Jesus told them that Elijah has already come. He was referring to John the Baptist who came in the Spirit of Elijah. Jesus reminds them (and us) that human persons are sometimes blind to God’s manifestations.
Sirach tells us how awesomely God’s beauty and power were manifested through the prophet Elijah for the sake of God’s kingdom. God is waiting to manifest God’s beauty and power through us, too. What a staggering thought! As we await the manifestation of God, God is waiting to be manifest in and through us!
What in my life keeps God waiting? What perverseness within hinders the manifestation of God’s favor through me? What fear in me blocks God from rousing His power to restore God’s kingdom through me? What blindness keeps me from recognizing the power of the Blood in myself and in my neighbor? How can I prepare the way for Jesus to come in and through me for the sake of restoring God’s kingdom?
Reflection by: Sister Catherine Wagner, C.PP.S. (O’Fallon C.PP.S.)
Friday, December 12, 2003
In no particular order:
Chip Davis, Renaissance Holiday
The Chieftans, The Bells of Dublin
Emily Mitchell, Celtic Christmas
The Harry Simeone Chorale, The Little Drummer Boy (the original, with all religious carols)
The Revels, Victorian Christmas Revels
Mannheim Steamroller, A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas/Fresh Aire Christmas/Christmas In the Aire (all three rock, the first the most)
Bing Crosby, White Christmas
The Boston Camerata, A Medieval Christmas/A Renaissance Christmas/A Baroque Christmas (again, all three are great)
Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (the original soundtrack but with some additions)
Perry Como, A Perry Como Christmas (a wonderful recording of Ave Maria)
Still more. When God pardons us he produces innocence in our soul: it is like a new creation, a real rehabilitation.
V. Del Mazza, S.D.B.
From Living and Celebrating the Advent and Christmas Seasons by Staf and Lewis.
As Patrick O'Brian, he settled in the south of France and started writing and growing grapes. O'Brian's first love was the Royal Navy of the Age of Nelson. In the 1960s, he produced the novel Master and Commander, featuring Captain Jonathan Aubrey, RN and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin.
Both main characters have great depths.
Aubrey is depicted often as a supremely competent sailor with a rogue of a father and an utter lack of ability to handle his affairs while not at sea. He is a jovial tall blonde fellow who is old fashioned and conservative, wonderfully hospitable, enjoys his bottle and his wench (he is regrettably something of a whoremonger). But Jack also has some mathemetical skill, and becomes an accomplished violinist.
Stephen Maturin is an actual physician, a calling far above the norm for Royal Navy surgeons. He is a small, thin, ugly, dark Catholic Irishman, who has more than flirted with the cause of the United Irishman (he is a cousin of Lord Edward Fitzgerald), but is devoted to the destruction of Bonaparte. He has an Irish temper, is known to be a deadly duelist who has already buried many who insulted him. To make his personality worse, he develops an addiction to opium and is a bastard. He is a enthusiastic naturalist. He is also hopelesly in love with a lovely English lady who does not love him. As if this was not enough, he enters the Royal Navy's intelligence service. He too is an amateur musician, playing the cello.
It is what we now call baroque music that brings these two together. They sit next to one another at a concert in Minorca (where we are told that the quartet of Italian musicians are playing Locatelli) and nearly engage in a duel over Jack's exuberance at the performance. But Jack goes back to his lodgings, finds a message appointing him to command of his first ship, the little HMS Sophie, and in his happiness apologizes and invites Stephen to dine with him (love of good food is a theme in most of the Aubrey/Maturin novels). During the course of dinner Jack finds out that Stephen is currently not employed and asks him to join his crew as surgeon.
And we set sail on a voyage that would go on for thirty years and twenty novels (and Royal Navy vessels of all shapes and sizes).
O'Brian ably blends themes and atmospheres from Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Homer, Ian Fleming, and other sources. He stresses old-fashioned values like friendship, continuity of culture, faith, hospitality, and appreciation of the arts.
His history is first rate. He used the published reports of the Royal Navy, The Naval Chronicle and the adventurous life of Lord Cochrane for primary sources. Period detail in naval terminology, food, medicine, politics, fashion, society, and literature permeates each of the novels.
Though he wrote in the same format as C.S. Forester's Hornblower, O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin is far superior as writing. Many literary critics believe that the Aubrey/Maturin novels, taken as a whole, are not only the best historical novels ever written, but possibly the best novels of the last four decades of the 20th century. Think about that. The competition is not that great.
Mr. O'Brian (know to his fans as POB) once said, "Obviously, I have lived very much out of the world: I know little of present-day Dublin or London or Paris, even less of post-modernity, post-structuralism, hard rock or rap, and I cannot write with much conviction about the contemporary scene." [Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography, edited by Arthur Cunningham]. In fact, Mr. O'Brian often seemed to have walked out of another era, and in his interactions with his publisher, he displayed a level of courtesy and civility rarely seen in our times.
I first read O'Brian in the spring of 1998. I had heard about the novels before, but resisted them. Remember, I am a re-enactor, and an infantryman. I was (still am) a great fan of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series. I knew nothing about sailing or medicine. But in a dreary time in my life I needed some new literary diversion. I started Master and Commander.
Six weeks later, I had read the then-existing 18 novels. What won me over? The baroque music (Jack and Stephen play duets for their own amusement on the long voyages in most of the novels), the period food and drink (I was for a year quartermaster for my regiment and in charge of provisioning the troops in the field with authentic grub), the unfamiliar world of sailing an 18th century man-o-war (I did a short stint of marine duty on the tall ship HMS Rose, a replica frigate not all that different from Jack's beloved HMS Surprise, some years before this), the good fellowship, the wonderful characters like Jack's steward Preserved Killick ("Which, I wish I could put ratsbane in their toasted cheese") and Heneage Dundas, another naval captain and life-long friend of Jack's.
When someone reads with sympathy a series such as this, at a time when one is virtually alone and friendless, one tends to identify with the characters, especially if they are a part of a time period you identify with. And O'Brian is a master of making his characters real and attractive. In one book, Stephen is jilted and finding out, is left in desolation and tears upon the top of a mountain on an island the Joyful Surprise has stopped at. Who has not felt such pangs? But tears of joy and loyalty came to my own eyes when Jack, having been stripped of his commission and put in the stocks for the fury of the London mob, is protected from harm by the serried ranks of naval officers and common sailors who have sailed with him over the years. Just this past summer, I happened to re-read that section in a used bookstore in Eagle River, Anchorage, and found the tears wanting to flow again, feeling Jack's disgrace and the love and friendhsip of so many old comrades.
I would not say that POB is a way of life, but a cottage industry has grown up around the Aubrey/Maturin books.
O'Brian's publisher Norton, maintains the official Patrick O'Brian web page here.
The food of the novels is detailed in Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, with detailed recipes showing you how to recreate the feasts, and famines enjoyed and endured by the characters.
Dean King has written a biography of POB, a manual for the terminology used in the books, and an atlas of the voyages of Jack and Stephen.
Gibbons Burke maintains the terrific unofficial site. The links here are extensive. You could lose a day or more just navigating through the fascinating links.
There are even 2 CDs (not counting the movie soundtrack) of music Jack and Stephen might have shared on their long voyages, Musical Evenings With the Captain, 1 & 2.
Here is the Patrick O'Brian discussion forum, The Gunroom .
And here is an account (with photos) of O'Brian's visit to HMS Rose, the ship used to portray HMS Surprise in the new movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
Here is a great photo of HMS Rose as HMS Surprise. Use the Previous and Next buttons to see other images of HMS Rose as HMS Surprise.
O'Brian died January 2, 2000 in Dublin while doing research for the 21st novel in the series. Here is a drawing by Geoff Hunt, who painted covers for all of the novels, of HMS Surprise in mourning for him.
A glass of wine with you, sir?
Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12 (USA) When we reflect on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we learn two important lessons, one of faith and one of understanding.
Missionaries who first came to Mexico with the conquistadors had little success in the beginning. After nearly a generation, only a few hundred Native Mexicans had converted to the Christian faith. Whether they simply did not understand what the missionaries had to offer or whether they resented these people who made them slaves, Christianity was not popular among the native people.
Then in 1531 miracles began to happen. Jesus' own mother appeared to humble Juan Diego. The signs -- of the roses, of the uncle miraculously cured of a deadly illness, and especially of her beautiful image on Juan's mantle -- convinced the people there was something to be considered in Christianity. Within a short time, six million Native Mexicans had themselves baptized as Christians.
The first lesson is that God has chosen Mary to lead us to Jesus. No matter what critics may say of the devotion of Mexicans (and Mexican descendants) to Our Lady of Guadalupe, they owe their Christianity to her influence. If it were not for her, they would not know her son, and so they are eternally grateful. The second lesson we take from Mary herself. Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European madonna but as a beautiful Aztec princess speaking to him in his own Aztec language. If we want to help someone appreciate the gospel we bring, we must appreciate the culture and the mentality in which they live their lives. By understanding them, we can help them to understand and know Christ. Our Lady of Guadalupe is patron of the Americas.
Readings: Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; Luke 1:39-47
“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Church celebrates Mary as the patroness of the Americas. In 1531 she appeared to Juan Diego (in Nahuatl, Cuahtlatohuac), a very poor Aztec convert. She spoke to him gently in his native Nahuatl language, and said that he should tell the Bishop to build a church on that spot, Tepayac Hill. “I am the Mother of all who dwell in this land,” she told him. The Bishop did not believe Juan Diego’s story and demanded proof. During her fourth appearance to him the Virgin told Juan Diego to go up the hill and pick some roses. Juan Diego then took the roses to the bishop, and as he let the roses fall from his tilma ( a type of poncho), the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on it.
She came to the poor and spoke to and for the oppressed. She gave faith, hope and love to a conquered and suffering people. This is precisely where we who listen to the cry of blood are called. If we rest in our strength and our own power and abilities we often indicate to God that we do not need him. If we face our weakness, entering our deserts where, with Mary, we have “a place prepared by God” then we too can sing "Now have salvation and power come.”
Why did the Mother of God appear to an illiterate, insignificant and poor Indian?
Have I searched for God in my weakness and brokenness?
What voices today are disbelieved in the places of power? How can I be their voice?
Reflection by: Rev. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. (Province of the Pacific) and Rosa Maria Escobar, (Precious Blood Companion)
Thursday, December 11, 2003
One wonders when his trial is to start. A year is quite a long time to be free on bail without taking the case to a trier of fact.
Readings: Isaiah 41: 13-20; Matthew 11: 11-15
Whoa there, Lord. You’ve got my attention now. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy with Your promise in Isaiah of holding my right hand and not being afraid. Where did the worm and maggot thing come from? A little harsh there, aren’t You? If not harsh, then certainly politically incorrect.
Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t stop there to pout over the name-calling. Actually those next verses help me see that between who You are and who I am there is as great a gulf as there is between the worm and the earth in which it lives.
You express the same paradox in the Gospel. John is the greatest of men born of woman, yet he is less than those born of God’s kingdom. How do we hold this Lord, this both/and: our smallness in the grand scheme of things, yet our potential for greatness when we allow ourselves to let go of our fear and be loved by You? One explanation seems to be in the mystery we celebrate throughout this liturgical season of Advent and Christmas: the mystery of the Incarnation, of Divinity pervading humanity, of humanity recognizing its divine potential.
It is You who do all that is good. It is You who save. It is You who make my life possible. It is my very humanity that You chose to embrace, my humanity that can now accomplish the wonders You call me to. The blood that runs through my veins is precious in Your sight. It sings of You in Your goodness. Through my participation in Eucharist, it becomes, as well, Your Blood in my veins, Your Blood that glorifies the Father. You are with me, not only holding my right hand, but suffusing my life with Your presence.
Thanks, Lord, I needed that wake-up call to be aware of where I fit in the big picture and of knowing that, indeed, I need never be afraid.
Reflection by: Sr. Joyce Lehman, C.PP.S. (Dayton C.PP.S.)
And don't forget to leave your prayer intentions at the appropriate part of the site. And if you have the time, say a prayer for all those who have left prayer requests there.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Bartley was a man who understood how the US economy works, which is no mean distinction. His book, The Seven Fat Years, is the best single-volume description of why the Reagan economic program greatly benefitted this country. His insight will be missed. This is a sore loss for supply-siders like me. Requiescat in pace.
Still, with around 500 active diocesan priests, not including the retired priests, that seems like enough to staff the current number of parishes. That is particularly true since it does not include priests in orders, who staff some of the parishes.
I've hinted at this before, but now let me make it plain. I think I can bluntly do so now since the death of my good pastor last month. I suggest that the Archdiocese, instead of closing a parish like St. James, which seems to fit all of the criteria for closing listed in the article, instead just no longer assign a diocesan priest there, and invite the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in to take it over as a North Shore Latin Mass center. I would suggest that one traditional, older church building in Metrowest, one in the Merrimack Valley, and one on the South Shore also have the same treatment.
This keeps the parish alive, though in an altered form, lives up to the Holy Father's request that the old rite be offered generously (one Indult Mass a week in an Archdiocese this large is scandalously niggardly), and allows a greater diversity of religious experience within the Latin Rite. It may also bring back some families who, finding the Indult Mass in Boston a hassle to get to, have fled to the Byzantine Rite.
Archbishop Sean, being from an order himself, might not have the diocesan jealousy that has, I think, prevented such an invitation from being made in the past. New orders, especially those explicitly countenanced by the Holy Father, offer vitality to the Church.
Keeping new orders out of a diocese does much to safeguard the power and perogatives of the ordinary and his diocesan priests and staff. But I am reminded of the saint who, hearing of a secular priest who forbade Franciscans (I think) from preaching within his parish (because he feared they would intrude upon his income) lambasted the priest for refusing help in saving souls when he was charged with the care of so many.
There are those, perhaps even in the Latin Mass community, who might not like the idea. The parish in Boston that hosts the current Indult Mass has no real demographic home base to support it. It offers a Mass in German for the Archdiocese's tiny German population, and a Latin Mass for the traditionalists. Neither group is geographically compact. Both draw heavily from the suburbs. Offering Latin Masses in the burbs might be the death knell for Holy Trinity.
Maybe, but one should, I think, take the risk. I'm in the "offer it, and they will come" camp on regionalized Latin Masses. As a lifelong Boston suburbanite, I think I know the beast pretty well. My sister-in-law is some 15 years my senior, and grew up in Salem until she and my brother moved to West Peabody after they married in 1976. She had never driven into Boston until their daughter needed to get into town for something while in high school. Sure she had been in Boston. She had taken the train downtown to shop. My brother had driven her in for shows and dinners out. But she had never driven into town until she was in her mid-forties, and she was driving at 16. Now she is not a Latin Mass aficianado. But the insularity of Boston suburbanites should not be underrated.
Neither should the relative docility of Boston-area Catholics. I think at least 5% of Boston-area Catholics would attend a Latin Mass if it was offered in a location convenient to them (not in downtown Boston). But very few are zealous enough to go far out of their way to attend one. They would rather sit in the pews and grind their teeth as Father Flapdoodle endlessly tinkers and experiments with the Mass. they certainly would not go to the trouble of driving into Boston on a Sunday to hear Mass, even if they would prefer the experience there greatly.
So to those who say, "The current Indult Mass isn't overflowing," or "There is no measurable demand in a specific parish for a Latin Mass," I say you are looking at it the wrong way.
True, there may not be more than a handful of people in any one parish who want to attend a Latin Mass. But in an entire region, those handfuls add up. And if you are going to close older parishes anyway, why not experiment by turning over one in each region to the FSSP? The only loss will be in not being able to sell the real estate.
Is it fear that the Latin Mass may yet prove too popular if given a fair test? A whole generation of churchmen has a lot invested in the Novus Ordo Mass. Even though the objective criteria say that it, or the way it is often abused, is part of the problem of declining church-going demographics, they may not be willing to allow the old and new rites to be celebrated side by side int he same region. Their nostrums about people wanting an interactive Mass and guitars and touchy-feely homilies might be proven wrong.
The FSSP is too small yet to handle the task? Believe me, if they are offered a chance to get a foot hold in the Boston Archdiocese, they'll find the personnel to send (and they will be some of their best, too). That is an opportunity the FSSP would love. True, it takes a while to turn out a priest. But they are turning them out in much healthier numbers than many dioceses. They will find the bodies to send here if they get the chance.
Look, if parishes are going to close for lack of priests and lack of interest on the part of the laity, would it not be better to try to revivify them with an experiment of this sort? It might just work. And if it does work, what does that say about the way the Mass is offered in other places?
And just a quick note. Does it seem to others that the idea of closing parishes with older buildings larger than they need and can afford to maintain is inherently biased against traditional churches, and biased in favor of modern "worship spaces"? Won't the effect of this be to weed out more traditional churches, most of which are old, and encourage nasty modern buildings, which are brand spanking new?
Fr. Raymond Cera, CPPS (Cincinnati Province), has translated thousands of St. Gaspar del Bufalo’s letters. He knows well the times in which our founder lived describing the country then as a seething pot of vice, with all sorts of immoralities; robberies, beatings, rapes end so on. Sitting here in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago, in the midst of violence similar to that in Gaspar’s day, I long for the coming of the Messiah.
We all find ourselves living in a world, a country, a neighborhood too used to violence. A father and son were murdered in their sleep last week just blocks from our apartment; “men faint and grow weary” and “youths stagger and fall.” Advent yearning is real year round where Isaiah’s words paint clearly the everyday trials of the weary and those who grow faint.
Responding to the chaos and retaliation of his times, Gaspar wrote, “For goodness sake, put some order in this whole business!” St. Maria de Mattias, during that same troubled era called for a “beautiful order of things.” Gaspar and Maria proclaimed that it would take the power of the redeeming Blood of Jesus to begin to bring order to their fallen times. Such a cry of the blood echoes down to our day.
Advent perks up our awareness that our spirituality is incarnate! Precious Blood People walk by a spirituality that is grounded in the realities of daily life. We are called to a tangible response to the cry of the blood. The birth of the Truly Human One who poured out blood for us invites us now to share in divinity and pour out our blood for one another. This is the beautiful order into which Gaspar and Maria and the holy season of Advent invites us to enter. Then the weary will run and not grow faint, they shall soar as with eagle’s wings.
Does Advent invite me to pray: Come into my life, Incarnate Blood of Peace!
Reflection by: Rev. Denny Kinderman, C.PP.S. (Cincinnati Province)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Is the Barbed Wire Rosary for Opus Dei members?
For those of you who don't connect the name with anything, they produced the Medieval Christmas, Renaissance Christmas and Baroque Christmas albums. These are Christmas albums you can play in mid-November, and no one will know you are playing Christmas music.
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Matthew 18: 12-14
“Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God…Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” Isaiah 40:1, 11 NAB
One of the most comforting, loving, peaceful experiences is to be held by someone who loves you unconditionally. A similar experience is to hold another during a time of suffering or rejoicing. When Isaiah describes the shepherd carrying the lambs this is an experience of peace, love and comfort for the shepherd and the lamb. When we invite God into our lives we experience this loving presence, too. This presence of God is all around us and the people in our lives make God’s presence tangible.
Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep in the gospel of Matthew continues to talk about Gods’ unconditional love and presence to us even when we have strayed. Jesus takes this beyond words and makes it his mission. Jesus seeks out to the ‘little ones’ who have strayed and brings them back into right relationship with God and the community. Jesus pours out his precious blood in His mission of love and reconciliation so that no ‘little one’ will be lost. Our call as the body of Christ is to be witnesses to Christ’s adoring, redeeming love, of which Jesus’ blood was shed, to be vibrant sign and unending covenant pledge to all especially the little ones who have gone astray.
Where have you experienced the comforting, loving, peaceful presence of God?
How can you bring this presence of Christ’s adoring, redeeming love to another?
Where will you continue Jesus' mission by reaching out to the ‘little ones’?
Reflection by: Michelle Woodruff, ASC Novice (American Province)
In case you are wondering why I'm not putting the link on the headline, it is because I tried it, and got a broken html warning because most headlines with the html for a link exceed the capacity of the title box provided by Blogger.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Alice Taylor An Irish Country Christmas We have it all here, from plucking geese to hunting the wren. Mass (but not Midnight Mass), the candle in the window surrounded by holly, gathering holly from the woods, the first appearance of Christmas goods at the local store, the Christmas cards (displayed on the tree along with balloons!), and the letter to Santa (called Santy in this family) all featured in a Christmas in 1930s County Kerry, and all are lovingly recalled by Taylor. This brief collection of essays could make you nostalgic for something you have never experienced. Very much worth a read.
This time, it is my list of the top 10 Christmas movies. My 10 favorite Christmas specials constitute another list entirely. They are in no particular order.
The Gathering Ed Asner stars as an estranged husband and father who finds out he has very little time to live just before Christmas. This movie is just chock full of scenes depicting preparations for Christmas, and Christmas being celebrated in the grand style in a wealthy household (they even have a pet protestant minister who drops everything to baptize a child at their home on Christmas Day). Ultimately this is a very heart-warming movie, though you have to blot out the "Vietnam was wrong undertone" and some 1970s clothing styles. Sadly, this movie is not currently available on VHS, though I have not checked DVD. Watch the cable listings (Fox used to carry it, try the Hallmark Channel) and tape it.
Scrooge This musical version of A Christmas Carol has some problems. For Lord-knows-what reason the producers decided to set it in 1860 (the book was written in the early 1840s) so the costumes are wrong. Albert Finney is a convincing Scrooge, but for some reason portrayed him as a recovered stroke victim. Alec Guiness has a unique interpretation of Jacob Marley. Kenneth More is very good as the Ghost of Christmas Present, but the beard he wears is rather cheesy. I think the actors who played Scrooge's nephew Fred and Bob Crachit are the best of all the versions I have watched. But the atmosphere of this rendition is terrific. You feel as if you had stepped into Victorian London at Christmas time. The song "December the 25th" is a classic. Another list will discuss and rate the various screen adaptations of A Christmas Carol .
The Homecoming This was the pilot for The Waltons. All the children reprised their roles in the TV series. I never cared for Patricia Neal, who plays Olivia. Andrew Duggan is not credible as John Walton (not after getting used to Ralph Waite). But this depiction of a Depression-era Christmas is moving nonetheless. And I grew up with it.
Jingle All The Way I saw this for the first time last year and laughed myself into coughing fits. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a stressed out dad trying to get that special toy for his son at the last minute. As an uncle who still bears the scars of the Cabbage Patch doll craze, this movie resonated. Is it me, or is there no super-hard-to-find toy this year?
A Christmas Story This is an adaptation of Jean Sheperd's works. Little Ralphie wants a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. Everyone tells him he'll shoot his eye out with it. The movie has a lot of what it felt like to be a kid at Christmas. Darren McGavin was a little old for the role of the father, but otherwise perfect.
Miracle On 34th Street There was a nice rendition in the 1970s, but you have to watch the original. Macy's Santa Claus turns out to be the real thing, but the Macy's psychiatrist wants to send him to the looney bin. The interplay between the judge and his political advisor (played by the guy who played Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy) is great.
It's A Wonderful Life Frank Capra tells us the tale of George Bailey and the Building and Loan of Bedford Falls. Jimmy Stewart is absolutely terrific as Bailey. It would not be Christmas without an evening looking at the life of George Bailey and rejoicing at his vindication. "No man is a failure as long as he has friends."
The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Oh, no, you say. Not another glorification of small-town America. Though I found the Lee Remick character sort of off-putting, Angela Lansbury made up for it. More depictions of small-town traditions. This made-for-TV movie is not available on VHS or DVD, yet. Earl Hamner wrote it, and Delbert Mann directed.
The House Without A Christmas Tree Jason Robards stars as an emotionally scarred father who is hiding from his own emotional baggage by forbidding his daughter a Christmas tree. More small town values of the early-mid 20th century.
A Child's Christmas In Wales This screen adaption is narrated by Denholm Elliot, who plays the grandfather. It is a fine adaptation (I think it is the only one). Hard to find, though, as it was filmed for British TV in 1986. I still kick myself for not buying the copy Borders had 5-6 years ago.
It is refreshing to see the Patriots get into the playoffs in convincing fashion, with the best record in the NFL, instead of what we are used to: "If these three teams lose for the next three weeks, and New England wins for the next three weeks, they will get the wild card."
Readings: Genesis 3: 9-15, 20; Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12; Luke 1: 26-38
Perhaps the greatest line the scriptures is Mary's response to the Angel: "You see before you God's servant, let it happen to me as you have said." It does not get any more clear than this. Mary is putting her whole life on the line, even though she is not sure what the implications of her response will be. Her faith is unwavering, it is total. The line is so powerful because it was said by a human being, not by God or Jesus. And it can remind us of the best of our human condition. We too can move in that direction. We can approach Mary's response, by giving our
life to the Lord.
Fr. Paul Sattler, CPPS, of the Kansas City Province, loves to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his sermons. You will have to ask him why. But Bonhoeffer was a German minister and theologian who traded places with another German in the concentration camps during the Second World War. He traded places knowing he would die and the other man live. He laid his life on the line, as Mary was doing in Luke's gospel. My young 24 year old nephew would say, "Bring it on." In
saying this, he follows Mary's wise words two thousand years ago.
We pray that Mary's words will give us insight for our own "Yes" to the Lord. Amen.
Reflection by: Rev. James Urbanic, C.PP.S. (Kansas City Province)
Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say about the Immaculate Conception.
The sidewalks are very icy and mostly not shovelled this morning. Foot traffic has to take great care, and will often find its way balked by the failure of city/property owner to clear crosswalks. Streets are narrowed further due to the huge surplus of snow.
You might say it looks pretty. It would be if it didn't make just getting by all that much more difficult. Winter in New England is bad enough without 2-3 feet of snow to deal with in early December. And, yes, I'm whining.