We are happy to announce a new addition to our Family Faith particiapnts! The Ahrens family, Session A, welcomed Monica Margaret Therese on Dec. 19. If you see them, be sure to stop and say hello!
Yesterday, January 8, was The Baptism of the Lord, the day we recall Jesus' own Baptism. It marked the last day of the Christmas season. Today, we officially return to Ordinary Time. The church is once again decked in green, and we are called to refocus ourselves on growth through our everyday lives.
But before we leave Christmas entirely, if anyone happened to be at St. Catherine's on December 18 you may have seen a strange sight. Outside the windows of the Faith Formation office, on the grass by the east parking lot, lay a strange, shapeless, smouldering bundle. Wrapped in a purple blanket, smoke was curling and wafting skyward, while more smoke poured out of the office windows. What's going on, you might ask?
Every day during the season of Advent, we have been faithfully lighting up our office Advent Wreath, just as we have for many years. You can guess what happened. A couple of the candles burned just a little too low and set fire to the plastic green wreath. Whoosh! It was burning in a few seconds. Thankfully, the fire was noticied very quickly. Quick as a flash, Jennifer Gamblin, our Liturgy and Adult Faith Assistant, jumped into action. She grabbed either end of the purple blanket lying under the wreath, pulled it on top of the flaming greenery, and threw the whole mess out the window. There it lay, smouldering and smoking outside, while we sat in stunned shock inside!
Coming into the office after the Advent Wreath fire had been put out, Sue, our business manager, just shook her head and said "Please don't burn down this building before I've finished the other one. I can only handle one building project at a time." Terri Moser added her thoughts, saying "It was the SPARK that IGNITED the ABLAZE!" Good one.
the New Year
This reflection on today's Gospel was written and painted by Linda Richardson, a mixed media artist who creates images to coordinate with poetry. It is part of her book of responses to the poetry in Waiting on the Word, by British poet Malcolm Guite. (https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com)
Rise! O, ever rise! Rise like a cloud of incense from the earth!
Great Hierarch! Tell thou, the silent sky and tell the stars and tell yon rising sun that Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God. (except from "Hymn Before Sunrise" by ST Coleridge)
Anyone who has ever had a “glance” of God wants to share the experience. It is like running home to show your family the beautiful butterfly you have captured in your cupped hands but when you get there it has escaped and all you have are impressions and words. In the gospel of John we hear Andrew’s response after he meets Jesus: “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.”
Words and images have power to point to an experience but they aren’t the experience itself. What we really want to do is bring people to experience what we have experienced, to bring them to Jesus like Andrew brought his brother, (to bring them to the Holy Mountain). In my little painting, the mountain sits above the words, the words point to the mountain. God’s promise is that if we seek, we will find. Talking about God is good but if we don’t also open ourselves to be transformed by the experience of God, (Rise, O ever rise..), we remain in doctrine and dogma which, although essential, only has the power to point.
Parish Voices - DecemberRead Now
Sharing Time, Talent and Treasure in Advent
This is the second post from Brooke Broussard, our guest blogger for December. Brooke is a St. Catherine’s parishioner who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her family attends Session E.
“It is surely justice to share our natural gifts.”
St. Catherine of Siena
This weekend, my 3rd grader worked on a chapter for his Family Faith session that discussed three different ways people can serve and share with others- by sharing time, talent, or treasure. Some people have all three in abundance, while others have one or two, but everyone has something to offer others. Here are some ways that you can use your time, talent or treasure to undo racism and support social justice in our community this Advent season and in the New Year:
As St. Catherine said, "it is justice to share our natural gifts," whether those gifts are our time, our talents or our treasure. Sharing is an especially important part of the Christmas season. Dan Rather recently wrote a very moving story about his experience growing up during the Great Depression and how he and his neighbors worked together to ensure that a family going through a tough time would have presents under the tree. An important lesson that he learned from his mother is that service is not done because we feel sorry for people- it is because we understand how they feel. We understand the role that luck plays in our good fortune, and that it is our duty to share with our fellow neighbors- To love one another as Jesus loved us, and to build the Kingdom of God with our hands, our words and our hearts.
Parish Voices - DecemberRead Now
To continue our November discussions on being a bridge in our own communities, we invited Brooke Broussard to be our Guest Blogger for December. She is a St. Catherine’s parishioner who can be reached at email@example.com. Her family attends Session E.
“Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.”
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
"We become bystanders who tacitly endorse evil and so share in guilt in it."
I thought I’d take a little time to introduce myself- I am a woman who wears many hats. I am a St. Catherine parishioner, a mother of two bright, athletic and spirited boys, ages 9 and 13, a wife of a very supportive husband who has served in the US Air National Guard Security Forces for 13 years, a business lawyer who counsels businesses of all sizes, from small family-owned restaurants in East Austin, to idea-stage start-ups, to large technology corporations like Google and Tesla, a volunteer lawyer for children in the Texas foster care system and child immigrants, an owner of two bossy dogs and three friendly chickens, a Cajun who grew up in rural Southwest Louisiana, and then later, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the United States, and a white woman who is part of a mixed race family and raising two biracial children.
"Have you ever felt powerless to do anything?"
Over the last few years, I started seeing story after story in the news of officer-involved shootings of unarmed Black men and boys, and story after story of retaliatory shootings of law enforcement officers. I felt deeply affected by the evil I was seeing in the world and wanted to do something about it. When people started using the hashtags “#BlackLivesMatter” (and then, the counter hashtag “#BlueLivesMatter”) on social media, and when Colin Kaepernick led the NFL national anthem protests, it seemed like society was trying to pit two groups of people against one another- On one side, people of color, and on the other side, military and law enforcement. But what about families like mine? My sons are biracial, and my husband is a military law enforcement officer. What if you love your country, but also see that we have serious issues with social injustice and racism that we need to address? What about the thousands of military service members and law enforcement officers who are also people of color, or have children and other loved ones who are people of color? A fellow lawyer, law enforcement wife and mother of a biracial son was profiled by the New York Times about how families like ours cope in the divided world in which we live.
It seemed to me like families like ours were being ignored by the national discourse, and that our country was being distracted from very serious and existential issues like systemic racism. I needed something more than a hashtag to share. I wanted to learn more about racial injustice in our community, and what we are doing to dismantle, reconcile and heal these injustices. I wanted to have serious conversations about race and social justice, and take concrete steps towards creating a more peaceful and equal world on here on Earth.
What are we doing to dismantle, reconcile and heal?
In October, the St. Catherine’s bulletin advertised “Courageous Conversations” at Holy Cross Catholic Church in East Austin. Courageous Conversations is a monthly discussion group about race and racism formed a few years ago by the Austin Diocese Office of Black Catholics, Pax Christi Austin and several local Catholic churches. At the first meeting I attended in October, we discussed ways we can undo racism in our parish communities, and at our meeting last week, Chief Brian Manley of the Austin Police Department had a candid Q&A session with us about what APD is doing to better serve the community. He mentioned that APD recently worked with community activists to adopt new de-escalation guidelines and encouraged those who have concerns to approach him directly. I left the meeting feeling hopeful and empowered.
This month, I will be blogging about ways that we can undo racism in our homes and community. The first step is to learn about racism in our community. A good place to start is by reading articles by Catholics who write about race and social justice, such as:
Session Reflections - NovemberRead Now
From Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB
The entry below was written by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, a well-known Catholic writer. Her reflections continue our November conversations on the need for contemplation.
A month of contemplation
The signal is clear: There is no time to sink into the quiet of fall that is promised with the coming of Thanksgiving. By the Friday morning that follows it, the raucousness of capitalist Christmas bursts suddenly upon us. The warning of autumn, with its browning of leaves and graying of skies, that life too, is susceptible to the wisdom of the seasons gets lost in the plastic world of limitless desire and limited resources. Shopping becomes what Advent is meant to be: the consuming preparation for one of the greatest feasts of the Christian year.
But commercialism is not the problem. We’re a consumer society whatever the season. The problem is that the lack of contemplative consideration that comes with Christmas consumerism too often drowns out the sounds of Advent and drains not only the feast but even, perhaps, the rest of the year of its meaning.
Lack of contemplation drowns Advent, and perhaps the rest of the year, of its meaning.
As a result we have managed to make Christmas an event, a passing fancy, an exhausting endurance exercise, stripped of reflection by the pressure of social protocols. But judging from the scripture of the season, Christmas is surely meant to be an attitude toward life, not a carnival. It is meant to be arrived at slowly and lived succulently. Christmas is not meant to be simply a day of celebration; it is meant to be a month of contemplation. But because Advent has been lost somewhere between the Thanksgiving turkey and pre-Christmas sales, we have lost one of the richest seasons of the year.
Advent is an excursion through scripture meant to give depth and emotional stability to the days for which there are no songs, no tinsel, no flashing lights to distract us from its raw, tart marrow. Unless we can reclaim Advent, the lack of it will show dearly in the way we go through the rest of life itself.
To read more of Sr. Joan's reflections, visit www.joanchittister.org
Contemplation is for Me?
Dowuring this month of November we are inviting families--mostly parents, but families, too--to enter into the naturally-contemplative season of autumn and winter.
To paraphrase Mary in Luke's Gospel, you might be wondering: “How can this be, since I have no time or idea how to contemplate?”
This year we are spending time with the theology, thought and prayer of St. Catherine of Siena and her Dominican heritage. At the center of the Dominican mission and ministry is Jesus, the Word of God, upon which we contemplate and that which we preach to others. We cannot give what we do not have, and we cannot speak the Word of peace, love, encouragement, strength or inspiration unless we have first contemplated it in our hearts and minds.
Christianity has its roots in the northern hemisphere, and many of our Christian feasts and celebrations have their origins in pagan rituals and celebrations. We do not know the date of Jesus' birth. However, we have chosen as a Church to celebrate it December 25. At the time of year when light is short and nights are long, we celebrate the coming into the world of the Light which is Jesus.
One of the great gifts of this timing is that autumn and winter are times of hibernation, times of slowing down, times when we naturally ponder the end of the year and the end times. The liturgical readings of November are full of the prophetic call to examine our lives and remember we wait, not just for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but the coming of Christ at the end of time. During Advent, we are invited to heed the call, again, of the prophets to prepare the way for God both on earth and in our hearts. It is no accident that the liturgical color for Advent, as well as Lent, is purple. While the color purple is meant to be a penitential color, the purple of Advent is a little more blue, like the dark night sky, whereas the purple of Lent is tinged with red, like the blood shed for us.
If you jumped headlong into Black Friday, hit the 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby for Christmas decorations, or scoured the web for Cyber Monday, you're off and running for Christmas. All around us we are told to prepare for great joy and excitement, to banish sadness, disappointment and all things negative from our lives. THAT is what makes a good Christmas.
However, there is a wisdom they miss. Catherine of Siena spent two years in prayer in a tiny room almost the size of a closet. You could say she willingly entered into the darkness in order to find the Light. Before she could preach the Word--to her family, to her town, to the Popes (yes, BOTH of them!)--she had to hear the Word in silence.
To truly see the Light, to truly hear the Word, to truly know the Wisdom, we have to be willing to enter the darkness. All of the great spiritual writers of our Christian tradition tell us this. The big way we say this is that there is no resurrection without first death. There is no new life without letting go of the old one. There is no transformation without the tomb.
This darkening time of autumn and winter are a ready-made retreat time for us. It doesn't take that much more time and effort to gently add some contemplative prayer to our lives. During our November Family Faith sessions we are taking a few moments during the opening part of the session to quiet ourselves, breath deeply, and reflect upon images of Jesus--a bridge, a line from scripture. That same process can be repeated at home, in your car, during your lunch break. Once or twice a day of closing your eyes, slowing down, entering into the quiet of our hearts, calling to mind an image or phrase and simply being still are elements of contemplative prayer. There is no goal other than silence and stillness. There is nothing to achieve but a listening and restful heart. There is nothing to do but show up and be present to God who is with and within us.
Step-by-Step Guide for Busy Parents to Become Autumn Contemplatives
The night before
1. Decide where you are going to sit. Clear off the corner of a sofa. Take socks and backpacks off a chair.
2. Find a candle and lighter (if you're into candles), and have it ready near your seat.
3. Set the coffee maker (if you're into coffee) so it's ready to go first thing in the morning.
4. Choose something to "take to prayer." It could be an image, the liturgical readings for the next day, a line from scripture, or just silence.
5. Set your alarm to go off fifteen minutes earlier than usual.
In the morning
1. Wake up, find your slippers, turn on the coffee. (If necessary, let the dog out, feed the cat, etc.)
2. Pour a cup of coffee and grab that which you are "taking to prayer".
3. Sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. Just breathe and be still for a few moments. Call to mind the image you brought or slowly read the scripture quote. Allow it to rest in your heart and mind. Don't overthink it or analyze it. Just let it be.
4. Breathe a few more times and ask God what God might want you to hear or see in these quiet moments.
5. Thank God for this time together, and promise to do it again tomorrow!
6. Go about your day, holding these few minutes of quiet contemplation in your heart.
Some Resources to "take to prayer"
* A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll HouselanderThomas Hoffman, Editor
* Advent reflection booklets to be given out by St. Catherine's parish the first weekend of Advent.
* The readings of the day for Mass: www.usccb.org
In November, the Catholic Church remembers all those who have passed on into the next life. It is a tradition here at St. Catherine's to erect a special Altar of the Dead and place photos of loved ones on it, so that we can remember and pray for them during the month.
Everyone is invited to bring in photos of your loved dead to place on the altar. Please make sure each photo is labeled with a way to return the photo to you.
Bishop Barron's new book To Light A Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age is out today. Just from the title, I could guess that Dominican spirituality is involved. If you haven't already read the page on the Dominicans, take a look HERE. One of the symbols for the Dominican Order is that of a black dog with a flaming torch in his mouth, ready to answer the call of his Master and bound out into world, blazing the world with the proclamation of the Word. When I went back to read more on Bishop Barron, I found that he did, in fact, attend a Dominican high school, which greatly impacted and formed him.
Here's a book review from Amazon.com:
"In this compelling new book—drawn from conversations with and narrated by award-winning Vatican journalist John L. Allen, Jr.—Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, proclaims in vivid language the goodness and truth of the Catholic tradition. Through Barron’s smart, practical, artistic, and theological observations as well as personal anecdotes—from engaging atheists on YouTube to discussing his days as a young diehard baseball fan from Chicago--To Light a Fire on the Earth covers prodigious ground.
Touching on everything from Jesus to prayer, science, movies, atheism, the spiritual life, the fate of Church in modern times, beauty, art, and social media, Barron reveals why the Church matters today and how Catholics can intelligently engage a skeptical world."
To buy your own copy, click this link:
All proceeds from the book sales go to support and enable the evangelical work of Bishop Barron and Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
Session Reflections - OctoberRead Now
The Trinity in the Prayers of the Eucharist
Last Sunday during Mass, I was surprised to notice how Trinitarian Eucharistic Prayer II is. It's one of the prayers commonly said for the Consecration, so having heard it so often I hadn't really noticed not only the Trinitarian language, but also how Dominican it is in its form. The prayer begins by addressing God, then requesting the descent of the Holy Spirit, before proclaiming the words of Consecration, making Christ Eucharistically present. There's a movement of the Holy Trinity that is reflected in the congregation through Praising, Blessing and Preaching.
As we talked about at the sessions during October, St. Catherine used the image of a "deep well" to explain the Trinity, saying that like a deep well, the Trinity is life giving and eternally refreshing. Eucharistic Prayer II incorporates Catherine's water imagery, saying that God is the "fount" of all holiness and asking the Holy Spirit to descend upon the gifts of bread and wine like "the dewfall."
The prayer also follows the Dominican motto of "Praise, Bless, Preach" in that it starts off praising God (You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness) then asks God to bless us and the gifts we offer (Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.) We receive this blessing at Communion, and then are called to Preach - to go out into the world and spread the Good News, to do something with the Blessing.
"Praise, Bless, Preach" - words to take with us on the journey as we seek to be in Trinitarian relationship with others.
The Dominican Order celebrated their 800th Anniversary in 2016. The Dominican community of Santo Domingo in the Phillipines produced a video to the song "Praise, Bless, Preach" to celebrate. This is the Official Hymn of the Jubilee for the Order of Preachers. You can see and hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGgVbTV1nqE
This blog is written by the Faith Formation staff, as well as other parishioners invited to reflect on topics of interest to our parish. It is called "Parish Voices" to remind us that all of us here at St. Catherine's are called to "Praise, Bless and Preach."