Thanksgiving Celebration

MERIDIAN – St. Patrick Middle School students served lunch to those in need at LOVE’s Kitchen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, as part of the school’s Thanksgiving service project. LOVE’s Kitchen is a nonprofit, charitable organization whose purpose is to feed the hungry in Meridian and Lauderdale County. From left to right: LOVE’s Kitchen head cook Belinda McElroy, Jean Mayo, middle school teacher Crissy Bonner, James Wassell and John Wassell prepare to serve lunch at LOVE’s kitchen.
(Photo by Mary Yarger)

Youth groups feed the hungry

JACKSON – Members of the Pearl St. Jude Young Apostles prepared and served the homeless at Smith Park in Jackson on Sunday, November 19, for their November service project. The youth members prepared chicken spaghetti for the organization “Why Not Now” which feeds the homeless community in Jackson every Sunday rain or shine. (Photo by Elizabeth Walter)

Living by church’s calendar at home draws families closer to saints, Mass

By Maria Wiering
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) – Growing up in St. Louis, Susanna Spencer loved her family’s Advent tradition of adorning a Jesse Tree with Old Testament symbols leading up to Christ’s birth.
She continued the tradition while in college at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where she met her husband, Mark.
“After seeing (Advent traditions) in my childhood, I thought, I want to do this the whole year, not just for the short four weeks before Christmas,” said Spencer, 31.
Even before they were married, Susanna and Mark both felt “drawn to liturgical life” and began incorporating more aspects of the Catholic Church’s calendar into their daily lives, from praying the Liturgy of the Hours to observing saints’ feast days. Now parents of four, ages 2 to 8, and parishioners of St. Agnes in St. Paul, the Spencers are intentional about shaping their home with the rhythm of the church seasons.
“A lot of the things that we’ve done are taking the Advent wreath idea and conforming it to the other liturgical seasons,” Susanna said.
The first Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of a new church year, and for some Catholic families, the liturgical “New Year” is tied to special traditions at home. This year the first Sunday is Dec. 3.
While enhancing a family’s “domestic church” through aspects of the liturgical calendar is nothing new, Catholics who are interested in liturgical home practices can find an increasing wealth of information online, where Catholics share ideas on blogs dedicated to the practice, such as Carrots for Michaelmas, www.carrotsformichaelmas.com, and Catholic All Year, www.catholicallyear.com.
Spencer noted that Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, used a set of 15 books dedicated to the annual cycle of feasts and fasts in their 19th-century French home; Spencer has an edition on a shelf in her own living room.
In the Spencer’s West St. Paul home, the church’s season is regularly reflected in two spots: the dining room table centerpiece and the family’s small prayer table. The latter contains candles and a few icons, statues and artworks of saints and devotions, some of which change to reflect certain feasts or seasons.
The family prays there together daily, often noting that day’s saint or memorial. Sometimes, they mark a saint’s feast by attending daily Mass, where the saint is commemorated in the liturgy.
The Spencers’ centerpieces range from an Advent wreath, to a crown of thorns during Lent, to fresh flowers during ordinary time. Susanna anticipates feast days while meal planning, serving spaghetti on an Italian saint’s memorial or a blueberry dessert on days honoring Mary, which the church traditionally symbolizes with blue.
“One of the ways that you can learn about holiness is living with the saints,” she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “If we never think of them, we … can’t benefit from their intercession.”
She realizes that observing the Catholic Church’s calendar can feel like another task on the to-do list, and therefore potentially overwhelming or discouraging. She encourages Catholics who want to try it to keep it simple.
That’s also the advice shared by Beth Morgan, who was inspired to incorporate the church year into her home after becoming a mother. Now with two girls under age 4 and a baby due in January, she said the practice helps her teach her children the faith.
“It’s hard to engage (children) in Mass if you don’t make it tangible, and I think having (aspects of the liturgical year) at home makes it tangible,” said Morgan, 28, a parishioner of Transfiguration in Oakdale.
Like the Spencers, the Morgans try to reflect the church season with their dining table centerpiece, because it’s a daily focal point in their home. The Advent centerpiece includes a purple cloth to help her daughters connect their home to what they see at Mass, she said.
“The church has a beautiful tradition, and everything we do in our life goes to that same cadence,” she said. “We want to instill that Jesus and God are part of everything we do.”
Morgan also rotates some of her daughters’ bedtime books to correspond with Christmas, Lent and Easter; celebrates the feast days of the saints for whom her daughters were named; and changes the family’s prayer routine to reflect the season or devotional month, such as adding Hail Marys to their evening prayers in May, the month the church especially honors the mother of God.
The Morgans’ Advent will include a Jesse Tree and special daily prayers paired with their meal prayer. On Christmas Day, Morgan will swap her Advent wreath’s purple and pink candles for white, and she’ll place the Nativity scene’s Baby Jesus in the center to await the arrival of the Magi – whose figurines Morgan plans to move closer to Jesus each day until Epiphany.

A lit candle is seen on an Advent wreath. Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins Nov. 27 this year. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St Louis Review)

Near St. Joseph in West St. Paul, Heidi Flanagan’s family has developed an Advent tradition that has connected its members more intimately to the communion of saints.
On the first Sunday of Advent, Heidi; her husband, John; and their six children – ages 2 to 12 – select a slip of paper from a shoebox. On that paper is the name of a saint who becomes their patron for the liturgical year.
Heidi, 43, received the box – and the idea – about eight years ago from a friend who does something similar in her home. St. Joseph parishioners, the Flanagans say a small litany of the saints daily, asking each member’s patron saint for that year to pray for them. They also celebrate their feast days throughout the year.
“I feel like it’s given them this buddy in heaven – this sense of security – that we’re not alone, that they have these superheroes rooting for them and praying for them in heaven,” Flanagan said of her children. “They develop friendships with these saints.”
The tradition has provided an opportunity to learn more about the saints’ lives, and the saints have helped all of the Flanagans grow in their spiritual lives. Before they select their saints, the Flanagans also pray that the saints selected would also “choose” them.
“It’ s been so cool how often we look back at the year and say, ‘Oh, I can totally see how this saint chose me,'” because different challenges or opportunities seemed suited to that saint’s intercession.

Youth, religious, priests encourage each other at conference to hear call

By Sean Gallagher
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – The theme of the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis was “Called,” so it was appropriate that the more than 20,000 Catholic youth gathered Nov. 16-18 from across the country gave a bit more attention to the many priests and men and women religious who prayed with them, listened to inspiring presentations with them and had fun with them during the conference.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Members of McComb St. Alphonsus Parish, (l-r) Ajay Vijayakumar, Jacob Harvey, Gina VanNorman, Adrianna Medina, Emily Mullen, Todd Mullen and Shellie Mullen carry a banner into the opening ceremonies of the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo credit to Natalie Hoefer/The Criterion).

Maybe God was using that interaction to call the youth to give prayerful reflection to a religious vocation. “Here we’re able to see their real personalities come out,” said Lillieyne Thompson of the Gary Diocese. “They’re seen more as real people and not just as holy figures. You see how they’re cool and do normal things like everyone else does.
“It helps me realize that I can follow God. You can have a fun life, be yourself without the peer pressure of high school,” she told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “Seeing how cool all the priests are is so inspiring.”
Six young people from McComb St. Alphonsus Parish made the trip with three parish chaperones. The most common reaction among these teens was excitement to be around so many other Catholics.
“Once I understood how enormous our community was, I understood how powerful it was too. Seeing well- known men and women from across the country share their stories and wisdom, helped me realize that Catholicism is bigger than my home town of McComb or even the convention. Catholicism is truly shown in the community,” said Todd Hoang in an email to Mississippi Catholic. The high school senior said it rejuvenated his faith.
“It was an unforgettable experience. My favorite part was being surrounded by so many Catholics my age who are all longing for that relationship with God. It’s so comforting knowing that the Catholic community is so much larger than what we think it is. We are not alone on this journey. I left Indy thankful for friends, my Catholic faith and the love Jesus has for each and every single one of us,” said Shellie Mullen.
Mullen and Ajay Vijayakumar both reflected on how encouraged they were to see how universal the Catholic faith is. “Although we were from different parts of the country, everyone came together to share our faith. I am so glad that I got a chance to meet other Catholics from the whole nation and join them in song and prayer. It was a spiritually life-changing experience for me,” said Vijayakumar.
The priests and religious present at NCYC also represented more dioceses and religious communities than any of the young participants could know in their homes.
“There’s a lot of not knowing what’s out there,” said Oliver Severance of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska. “Coming to a place like this, you get to realize that they’re not super far away, stuck in an abbey somewhere. It makes them more accessible. Once you get that realization, it’s easier to go from not knowing what your vocation is to starting to discern and then choose one.”
Salesian Brother Damien Ho of Orange, New Jersey, agreed.
“A lot of young people don’t recognize that they have a vocation or might not even want to know what it is unless they get exposed to different religious groups or missionary groups,” he said. “People here are willing to share about their vocations. The best way to get more vocations is to share about each other’s vocations.
“It’s encouraging, because, as Salesians, we work with young people. So when we see young people see that they have a potential to be better, to become saints, then that’s when our mission gets fulfilled.”
Other religious at NCYC shared the encouragement experienced by Brother Damien.
“Young people today are so open to their faith and seem to have a passion for living it, not only in the Church, but also in service,” said Sister Jean Rhoads, a Daughter of Charity, who lives in Evansville, and serves as a vocations director for her order. “I am hope-filled and encouraged by that. Is this not the most exciting thing in the church today?”
Seminarian Liam Hosty can speak to the effect that NCYC can have on young people trying to hear God’s call in their lives.
He attended two of the conferences while a student at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. At the time, he was thinking that God might be calling him to the priesthood, but he wasn’t sure about it.
“I told a couple of priests at NCYC that I was thinking about going to seminary,” said Hosty, a sophomore at Bishop Simon Brute College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis. “I’d say to them, ‘I’m thinking about going to seminary. What do you think?’ Each time, the answer was, ‘Yes. I think you’d be a great fit.'”
He added, “It definitely ramped up my faith. It was absolutely incredible to witness 20,000 youths on fire from all across the country, seeing amazing speakers and having the sacraments available.”
As a seminarian, he participated in his third straight NCYC, but this time as a volunteer, assisting at liturgies and in the room in the Indiana Convention Center where dozens of priests and bishops heard confession.
“It’s life-giving just seeing the young church alive,” Hosty said. “It’s incredible. It’s really cool to be on the other side of the fence trying to help out and kind of give back what all the seminarians and priests gave to me in NCYC.”

(Gallagher is a reporter at The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Wendy Blue, youth minister for St. Alphonsus contributed to this story)

Children’s books show Christmas’ true joy with beautiful stories, art

By Regina Lordan
NEW YORK (CNS) – The following books are suitable for Christmas giving:
“The Watcher” by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017). 42 pp., $17.

“The Watcher” is a rare treasure in the world of children’s books: The verse is poetic, the illustrations are a compelling blend of photographs and drawings, and the story is a gripping tale of bully and victim … or is it? The narration unfolds and reveals that the instigator is really just a lonely child desperate for a friend. Influenced by Psalm 121, which attributes all help to God’s loving protection and care, it is written in “golden shovel” form, in which the last word of each verse is a word from the psalm. “The Watcher” is a story that holds onto you as it slowly reveals understanding, compassion and innocent faith in God’s love and protection. After it is read, its lyrical tale will not be soon forgotten. Ages 6-10.

These children’s books are suitable for Christmas giving: “The Watcher” by Nikki Grimes, “That Baby in the Manger” by Anne E. Neuberger and “The Secret of the Santa Box” by Christopher Fenoglio. The books are reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS).

“Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls” by Amy Brooks. Gracewatch Media (Winona, Minnesota, 2017) 100 pp., $20.
“Be Yourself” is a place for Catholic girls and young women to indeed learn how to be themselves, just the way God intended them to be. Colorful, interactive and brimming with saint spotlights, prayers and biblical quotes, “Be Yourself” will encourage Catholic girls to, as author Amy Brooks writes, nourish their relationship with God to better know his will for them and to use the journal to “navigate that relationship – on good days and bad days.” Ages 9 and up.

“Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas” by Laura Alary, illustrated by Ann Boyajian. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2017) 32 pp., $16.99.
Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting, but it can also be a time for reflection and mindfulness of today … if we take the time to look. Author Laura Alary welcomes children to be aware, appreciate and change during Advent within a biblical and present-day context. She tells the story of Jesus’ birth within the framework of children’s daily lives, and she encourages children to anticipate Christmas by preparing to say “yes” to God with simple, practical activities and works of service. Ages 5-10.

“Anointed: Gifts of the Holy Spirit” by Pope Francis. Pauline Books and Media (Boston, 2017) 120 pp., $18.95.
Intended for young men and women preparing to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation, but appropriate for all teens, “Anointed” is a compilation of the teachings of Pope Francis brightly illustrated with graphics and photos, Bible verses and prayers. “Anointed” makes the pope’s teachings accessible and engaging, and invites readers to openly receive the gifts that God has given us. Ages 12-18.

“That Baby in the Manger” by Anne E. Neuberger, illustrated by Chloe E. Pitkoff. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Massachusetts, 2017) 31 pp., $15.99.
Father Prak was puzzled: A group of curious children, beautiful in their multicultural diversity, were preparing for Christmas Mass when they started asking questions about the statue of the baby Jesus. Why didn’t he look like many of them, and why didn’t he look like Jesus most likely did, with dark skin, hair and eyes? The priest turned to God for help while an innocent parishioner in the church overheard the discussion. Answering Father Prak’s prayers through the eavesdropper’s clever idea, the children discovered that through the gift of Christmas, Jesus has come to save each and every one of them, no matter what they look like. A perfect Christmas gift for children, this book celebrates the truth of Christmas while highlighting the mystery of God’s interactions with us through prayer and each other. Ages 4-10.

These children’s books are suitable for Christmas giving: “The Watcher” by Nikki Grimes, “That Baby in the Manger” by Anne E. Neuberger and “The Secret of the Santa Box” by Christopher Fenoglio. The books are reviewed by Regina Lordan. (CNS)

“Angel Stories from the Bible” by Charlotte Grossetete, illustrated by Madeleine Brunelet, Sibylle Delacroix and Eric Puybaret. Magnificat (New York, 2017) 47 pp., $15.99.
Beginning with Jacob’s ladder and ending with the angel appearing at Jesus’ tomb, author Charlotte Grossetete adapts biblical passages of God’s celestial messengers into children’s short stories. Children will enjoy the illustrations of the five stories, created by three artists with varying styles, and the narratives of God intervening in human lives with his angels out of love and care. Particularly appropriate for Christmas, “Angels Stories from the Bible” includes St. Gabriel the Archangel visiting Mary to announce Jesus’ impending arrival. Ages 5 and up.

“The Secret of the Santa Box” by Christopher Fenoglio, illustrated by Elena K. Makansi. Treehouse Publishing Group (St. Louis, 2017). 32 pp., $16.95.
There comes a time in every parent’s life when a child anxiously asks them, “Is Santa real?” Many parents struggle with this answer, knowing that with the loss of belief in the jolly old man comes the loss of a part of childhood. But fear not, the Catholic faith shows us that the real joy of Christmas is Jesus’ birth itself and the joy of the mystery of Christmas comes not from Santa but from everyone but Jesus himself. “The Secret of the Santa Box” is a needed book for curious children ready to move past the secular stories of Christmas and into a deeper relationship with the true meaning of Christmas. It gently explains the sometimes sensitive topic in cheerful and thoughtful rhymes and illustrations. Ages 7-10.

These children’s books are suitable for Christmas giving: “The Watcher” by Nikki Grimes, “That Baby in the Manger” by Anne E. Neuberger and “The Secret of the Santa Box” by Christopher Fenoglio. The books are reviewed by Regina Lordan.

araclete Press (Brewster, Mass., 2017) 64 pp., $11.99
Ever find yourself at a loss of words when trying to pray? Sometimes the actual effort to find the right thing to say is so distracting that prayer is lost in frustration. Author Sybil MacBeth found her words trivial and trite compared to the magnitude of her prayer intentions, so she created a doodle book to encourage focus, creativity and a space to pray. Guided by a relaxed formula, older children can practice this version of “lectio divina.” “Pray for Others in Color” and “Count Your Blessings in Color,” also by Sybil MacBeth, offer similar avenues for intercessory prayers and prayers of gratitude. Ages 12-18.“Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper” by Jean Schoonover-Egolf. Gracewatch Media (Winona, Minnesota, 2017) 32 pp., $11.
One in a series, “Molly McBride” helps normalize discussions about religious vocations through its cheerful and accessible narratives about a young girl and her women religious friends. Molly wants to be one of the “Purple Nuns,” and she wears her purple habit everywhere. But she will be attending Catholic school soon and will have to wear a school uniform. Thankfully, a fun-loving priest and her parents help Molly understand that Jesus’ love is much deeper than the clothes she wears. Children will love Molly and her cute wolf pet named Francis. Ages 4-8.

(Lordan, a mother of three, has master’s degrees in education and political science and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.)

Join revolution of tenderness

Sister Constance Veit

Little Sisters
By Sister Constance Veit
TED is a media organization that posts online talks under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” Earlier this year Pope Francis surprised the world by digitally giving his own “TED Talk” at the organization’s annual conference in Vancouver. In his nearly 20 minute talk, our Holy Father challenged his listeners to ignite a much-needed revolution of tenderness in our world.
Tenderness, the Holy Father suggested, “is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.”
What better time could there be to launch a revolution of tenderness than during the Advent and Christmas season? After all, the heart of Christmas is the story of God’s coming among us as a helpless baby – this is the epitome of tenderness. As Pope Francis shared, “God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love. Tenderness is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”
Imagine what Christmas would be like if we opted out of the commercialism of the season in favor of tenderness! If we didn’t have to be on the lookout for the next sale or the latest decorating ideas, we could better use our eyes to see the lonely and the misfit. If we chose silence over the 24-hour Christmas carol station once in a while, we would grow more attuned to the cry of the poor and the deepest hopes and fears of our children. And if our arms weren’t so full of packages, we could more easily reach out to others with the caress of God himself.
But we can choose tenderness over materialism and consumerism this Christmas! It’s a matter of slowing down, putting Christ at the center and prioritizing people over things. Reaching out to serve those on the peripheries and cherishing those who are close to us will bring us deeper fulfillment and more precious memories than all those material gifts we don’t really need. Tenderness is its own reward!
Meeting with a group of young people last Advent, Pope Francis invited them to welcome the joy of the season as a gift and to witness to it in their families, schools and parishes. He specifically encouraged them to share it with their grandparents by talking to them, asking them questions and learning from their memories and experiences. He also told grandparents that they should make an effort to understand their grandchildren, and to listen to their aspirations and hopes.
As a Little Sister of the Poor, I can think of no better way to launch the revolution of tenderness than for families to strengthen intergenerational bonds this Christmas. If you are young, reach out to your grandparents or elder aunts and uncles. And if you are older, shower the kids in your extended family with the unconditional love and attention that only elders know how to give.
I have one last suggestion this Christmas – and it springs directly from our Holy Father’s TED Talk. “Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others,” Francis told his audience. And then, incredibly, he asked for a little tenderness for himself: “We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us.”
So, as you help ignite the revolution of tenderness this Christmas, don’t forget to say a little prayer for the man who inspired it!

(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

The Incarnation and the birth

Sister alies therese

from the hermitage
By Sister alies therese
Many of you will be familiar with the works of St. John of the Cross, OCD,: The Dark Night, The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Spiritual Canticle, Living Flame of Love and so on. However, have you read his other poetry? Particularly the Romances? Of these I am particularly fond and for our purposes would like to share Romances 7-9, “The Incarnation and the Birth.”
St. John of the Cross, OCD, (1542-1591) was not only a writer of spiritual works but he was considered one of Spain’s finest poets. A graduate of the Jesuit College in Medina del Campo, John received a solid formation in the humanities. In 1559-63 that meant six hours a day devoted to grammar, rhetoric, Greek, Latin, and religion. He then went on to study for the priesthood and took the Carmelite habit in1563. In 1567 he was ordained in the spring and sang his first Mass in his hometown of Medina del Campo in September. It was here he met Madre Teresa of Avila, OCD, who was setting up her second foundation for her nuns of the Reform. She was 52 and he was 25. John had wanted to transfer to the Carthusian Order for a deeper life of prayer and solitude. She offered it to him in her plan to restore the Primitive Rule.
The following summer he finished theological studies and became an assistant professor at the Monastery of Santa Ana in Medina. He met with Madre Teresa and became convinced, that the Reform was where he needed to be. Soon there were six men in Duruelo who formed the first community. Because they were barefoot they were soon referred to as Discalced Carmelites.
However, by 1577 the Calced and the Discalced friars were deeply at odds. They demanded that John renounce the Reform and he declined. The tribunal called him rebellious and contumacious and ordered imprisonment. He remained in a closet 6’x10’, no window, cold, and extremely hot in summer. They took away his hood and scapular; his food only bread, sardines and water; and three evenings a week he had to eat kneeling on the floor in the middle of the refectory. It was here he wrote, in his head, the Dark Night and other poems that would make him so famous. After six months in that little prison, he was assigned another warder who showed him some compassion. He received a change of clothes and paper and ink. He, however, took advantage of the new jailer and in 1578 he escaped to the Discalced nuns in Toledo who hid him.
He would be elected to this and that as he grew and matured the Discalced vocation. But it was later in life he somehow found time to write things down. In 1591, however, there were great difficulties and he was not elected to any post. John felt free and commented in a letter to Madre Ana de Jesus: “…this life is not good if it is not an imitation of His life.” Efforts were made to expel John from the Reform. This horrible process was never completed as John died in Ubeda, at 49, in the odor of sanctity without agony or struggle. His prayers seemed to be answered: “not to die as a superior; to die in a place where he was unknown; and to die after having suffered much.”
He wrote the Romances probably in 1578 in Toledo in prison. This little bit of historical context is important. A beautiful way to use these Romances is to read them aloud to one another. There are several translations. I like this one.
Romance 7. The Incarnation
Now that the time had come when it would be good To ransom the bride Serving under the hard yoke
Of that law Which Moses had given her, The Father, with tender love, spoke in this way:
Now You see, Son, that Your bride Was made in Your image, And so far as she is like You she will suit You well;
Yet she is different, in her flesh Which Your simple being does not have. In perfect love this law holds:
That the lover become Like the one he loves; For the greater their likeness The greater their delight.

Surely Your bride’s delight Would greatly increase Were she to see You like her, In her own flesh.
My will is Yours, the Son replied, and My glory is That Your will be Mine.
That is fitting, Father, what You the Most High, say; For in this way Your goodness will be the more seen,
Your great power will be seen And Your justice and wisdom. I will go and tell the world, Spreading the word Of Your beauty and sweetness And of Your sovereignty.
I will go seek My bride And take upon Myself Her weariness and labors In which she suffers so;
And that she may have life I will die for her, and, lifting her out of that deep, I will restore her to You.
Romance 8. The Incarnation (cont.)
Then He called The archangel Gabriel And sent him to The virgin Mary,
At whose consent the mystery was wrought, In whom the Trinity clothed the Word with flesh
And though Three work this, It is wrought in the One: And the Word lived incarnate In the womb of Mary.
And He who had only a Father Now had a Mother too, But she was not like others Who conceive by man.
From her own flesh He received His flesh, So He is called Son of God and of man.
Romance 9. The Birth
When the time had come for Him to be born He went forth like the bridegroom From his bridal chamber,
Embracing His bride, Holding her in His arms, whom the gracious Mother laid in a manger
Among some animals That were there at that time. Men sang songs And angels melodies
Celebrating the marriage Of Two such as these. But God there in the manger Cried and moaned;
And these tears were jewels The bride brought to the wedding. The Mother gazed in sheer wonder On such an exchange:
In God, man’s weeping, And in man, gladness, To the one and the other things usually so strange.
Many blessings during this Christmas season.

(Sister alies therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)

Bishop adds holiday calls to communication lineup

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz made a few phone calls Thanksgiving week, a few thousand phone calls. For the first time, the bishop tried out an automated call system to send a Thanksgiving greeting to parishioners. Anyone who had a home number on file with their parish received a call. Bishop Kopacz recorded the messages earlier in the month.
The response was overwhelming. The chancery offices were inundated with calls to ask about the program and thank the bishop for the message. “I felt like this was a good way to greet people on a special holiday as we entered the season of Advent,” said the bishop. “I love traveling to the parishes and meeting people – this was a good way to keep in touch, so to speak,” he added.
“We initiated this program to bring people together and stay connected,” said Rebecca Harris, Director of Stewardship and Development for the Diocese of Jackson. She coordinated the program. “During the holidays when we gather with family and friends, we often give thanks. We wanted people to know we are thankful for them, for their faith and for all they do in our parishes, schools and missions,” added Harris. The parishes and the chancery work together to track membership through an online database program called ParishSoft. Both the office of Stewardship and Development and Mississippi Catholic use that database to get addresses and contact information for people in the parishes.
A second call will go out with a Christmas message on December 22. Those who wish to be on the call list should make sure their home land line phone numbers are on file with their parishes. Or you can email your cell phone number and expressed permission to Rebecca.harris@jacksondiocese.org. Those who do not wish to receive a call please email Rebecca Harris.