We turn our attention indoors with Advent prayers and preparations for the birth of Christ; for most of us, the indoors makes up the part of our environment in which we spend the most time. It is also the most unregulated and can be the most polluted part of the total environment –due to new home cleaning products and tighter ventilation. Consider a simpler home environment, where houseplants purify the air, where fresh air is plentiful, and where chemical products are limited and controlled. The yearly cycle of twelve months can make us more aware of our human environment and should help us as individuals and as a community to conduct a monthly examination of conscience.
Overview of December
The liturgy of Advent focuses on remembering Christ's first coming at Bethlehem which then directs our mind to Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. The readings focus on the people of the Old Testament awaiting the Messiah, John the Baptist, heralding the way for Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and her maternal preparations.
The feasts on the General Roman Calendar celebrated during the month of December are:
6. Second Sunday of Advent, Sunday
7. Ambrose, Memorial
8. Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patronal Feast day of the United States of America , Solemnity
9. Juan Diego (USA), Opt. Mem.
11. Damasus I, Opt. Mem.
12. Our Lady of Guadalupe (USA), Feast
13. Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday
14. John of the Cross, Memorial
20. Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday
21. Peter Canisius, Opt. Mem.
23. John of Kanty, Opt. Mem.
25. Christmas, Solemnity
26. Stephen, Feast
27. Holy Family, Feast
28. Holy Innocents, Feast
29. Thomas Becket, Opt. Mem.
31. Sylvester I, Opt. Mem.
Christmastide begins with the First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of Christmas on December 24th and ends on the Sunday after Epiphany. Christmas and Easter are the only solemnities with octaves attached in the revised calendar. The Christmas octave differs from Easter in that it includes some major feasts: St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), the Holy Innocents (December 28) and St. Sylvester I (December 31). The octave closes on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
The Reason for the Season
The month of December is filled with expectation and celebration. Preparation is the key word for the first 24 days of December. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas — shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning. Too often, however, we are so busy with the material preparations that we lose sight of the real reason for our activity.
Christmas is a Christian feast — and we must reclaim it as such! In the same way that a family eagerly prepares for a baby, so in Advent should we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. We should keep Advent as a season of waiting and longing, of conversion and of hope and keep our thoughts on the incredible love and humility of our God in taking on the flesh of the Virgin Mary. Let us not forget to prepare a peaceful place in our hearts wherein our Savior may come to dwell.
The best person we can turn to for help during Advent is Mary, Christ's and our Mother. She awaited the day of His birth with more eagerness than any other human being. Her preparation was complete in every respect. Let's crown our preparation and borrow something of Mary's prayerfulness, her purity and whole-hearted submission to God's will.
DECEMBER 1 First Wednesday
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for FEAR they may collapse on the way.”
This chapter of Matthew records the feeding of the four thousand. Some would say that God has no fear but here we see that Christ was afraid for the welfare of the multitude. He knows our needs and is concerned for us. After all, “I am the good shepherd… I know my sheep, and mine know me.” (John 10:14)
Christ knows that even if our hearts desires are in the right place and we have perfect self-control we must acknowledge the legitimate needs of the body. We are both spirit and body; the perfection of the creator, which the fallen angels despise. We must care for both because both are the gift of God.
Christ says, “They have been with me now for three days and have had nothing to eat”. I suggest that we follow His advice starting this week if we can participate in Mass sometime during our midweek so we may not collapse along the way.
I also suggest now would
be a good time to look for a retreat of three days in which you can be with the
Lord knowing He will not send you away hungry.
Our Heavenly Father desires all three hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to be honored. And so along with devotion to Jesus on First Fridays, and to Mary on First Saturdays, Our Father longs for us to add devotion to St. Joseph on each First Wednesday of the month.
"The Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have been chosen by the Most Holy Trinity to bring peace to the world." It is at God's request that "special love and honor be given to them" to help us "imitate" their love and their lives, as well as "offer reparation" for the sins committed against them and their love.
The St. Joseph First Wednesday devotion is:
1. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary - remembering St. Joseph's love, his life, his role and his sufferings
2. Receive Holy Communion - in union with the love St. Joseph had for Jesus the first time and each time he held him - his son, his God and Savior - in his arms.
In the approved apparitions of Our Lady of America, St. Joseph revealed:
· "I am the protector of the Church and the home, as I was the protector of Christ and his mother while I lived upon earth. Jesus and Mary desire that my pure heart, so long hidden and unknown, be now honored in a special way.
· Let my children honor my most pure heart in a special manner on the First Wednesday of the month by reciting the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in memory of my life with Jesus and Mary and the love I bore them, the sorrow I suffered with them.
· Let them receive Holy Communion in union with the love with which I received the Savior for the first time and each time I held Him in my arms.
· Those who honor me in this way will be consoled by my presence at their death, and I myself will conduct them safely into the presence of Jesus and Mary."
Every Wednesday is Dedicated to St. Joseph
The Italian culture has always had a close association with St. Joseph perhaps you could make Wednesdays centered around Jesus’s Papa. Plan an Italian dinner of pizza or spaghetti after attending Mass as most parishes have a Wednesday evening Mass. You could even do carry out to help restaurants. If you are adventurous, you could do the Universal Man Plan: St. Joseph style. Make the evening a family night perhaps it could be a game night. Whatever you do make the day special.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day serves to remember those who have died from AIDS and to bring about awareness of HIV/AIDS through education and publicly held events. HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system and makes it progressively more difficult to fight infections and diseases. Once HIV advances and becomes so severe that the body's immune system is too weak to fight off many infections and diseases, it is called AIDS. There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS and if left untreated by antiretroviral medication, patients' immune systems fail leading to death. World AIDS Day is also an opportunity for people to show their support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is one of the eight WHO Global Health Days. The day was created by the World Health Organization in 1988. Since its inception over two decades ago, the world has managed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV. According to the WHO, the occurrence of new cases has decreased 35% between 2000 and 2015, while AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 24% over the same time frame, all thanks to antiretroviral treatments and widespread AIDS education and awareness. World AIDS Day is observed on December 1st of each year.
World AIDS Day Facts
· The Red Ribbon is the universal symbol of support for those living with HIV/AIDS.
· The AIDS Memorial Quilt Project allows friends and family members of someone who has died from AIDS to construct a quilt panel and have it placed in the quilt. The quilt travels and is displayed throughout the US.
· The first case of what is now known as AIDS was reported in the US in June 1981.
· According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 are unaware of their infection.
· According to World Health Organization, AIDS has claimed over 39 million lives globally.
World AIDS Day Top Events and Things to Do
· Wear a Red Ribbon, an international symbol of AIDS support.
· Learn the facts of how HIV is transmitted so you can be better prepared. Remember, HIV is spread through body fluids such as blood, semen, rectal and vaginal fluids and breast milk.
· Get involved in a fundraising effort to support research into HIV/AIDS treatment. Many fundraisers are done in the form of HIV/AIDS day walks.
· Watch a movie or documentary about HIV/AIDS. Some popular suggestions: Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Philadelphia Story (1993), Longtime Companion (1990), The Age of AIDS (2006) and AIDS, Inc (2007).
· Get tested if unsure of your infection status. Local pharmacies sell HIV home test kits, or you can find free testing sites in most areas.
Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.
The name Disney is known all over the world and is the brand name of characters and stories that are cherished and beloved the world over. Behind all of this wonder, the voices of Mickey Mouse and the seemingly endless parade of characters that the company put out was the vision of one man, Walter Elias Disney. Known to his friends, which he would consider all of us, as Walt. Walt Disney Day celebrates this incredible man and the joy and laughter he brought to the world. It is perhaps no mistake that Walt Disney was born in 1901, right at the turning of the century. He would go on to turn the entire world around, changing the face of cinema and entertainment through the introduction of his incredible cast of animated characters. Born in Chicago, Walt would move multiple times throughout his life, first in 1906 to a family farm in Missouri, again in 1911 to Kansas City where he would attend grammar school. His career as an artist and illustrator would get its start in 1919 when he returned from World War I during which he served as part of the Red Cross. It would be 1928 before Mickey Mouse came into the world, the result of a sketch being done while he was on a bus. It quickly became the centrepiece of the Disney Empire, which would grow rapidly to become one of the most important names in family entertainment in the world. 90 years later Disney is a name known around the world for its beloved characters, exciting theme parks, and most recently it’s ownership of Star Wars.
How to celebrate Walt
The best way to celebrate Walt Disney Day is to get in and watch as many Disney films as you can cram into a single day, especially if you’ve never seen them before. If you’re one of those who grew up with Walt Disney as the heart of your childhood experience, then this is a perfect opportunity to take a walk down memory lane. Get together a bunch of themed food and sweets and enjoy your day with a group of friends, because Disney has always been about family.
5 Disney movies with religious messages
Disney movies are a well-known and well-loved part of most people's childhood. These stories talk and teach us things, like believing in ourselves and follow our dreams. Recently, the stories inspire courage and kindness, as well as forms of "true love." But viewers may have missed something; these popular Disney stories have religious messages.
1. Snow White is a Christian princess.
Released in 1937, the first animated story Disney made is actually about a Christian princess. It may not be explicit, but Snow White was shown briefly, praying with her head bowed down and hands clasped, asking for God's blessing to the seven dwarfs that had shown kindness to her.
2. Simba is The Prodigal Son.
The youngest son in the parable is just like Simba, King Mufasa's son who just enjoys the life of a prince. But once he realizes the part he played in his father's death, he runs away and lives with animals eating grubs. Discarding the "Hakuna Matata" lifestyle, he goes back home to face the responsibilities waiting for him.
3. Rapunzel, in Tangled, symbolizes our humanity.
Like many of the characters in the Bible, the trapped princess was able to live through the darkness in her life and find the light that sets her free. Every year following her kidnapping by the witch, who represents the devil, her parents lit up the sky through lanterns helping her find her way back home. And like God, they never got tired of doing it.
4. God's grace in Cinderella.
We might think of this heroin as not exactly the type to look up to: most the time she just lets everyone tell her what to do. She may not have deserved the happy ending she got, because she relied solely on her fairy godmother. However, the point of God's grace is it's undeserved, as depicted in the Bible stories.
5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame involves God the most.
This could be a bit of an exaggeration, as described in crosswalk.com. But remember, the beginning of the story tells of the villain wanting to kill a baby but stopped by the Church, one way the Holy Spirit works. The heroine later sings to God, how prayer should really be. Believing he's better than others, the villain constantly clashes with his faith. Whether it is intentional or not, aren't we glad Disney incorporates God and Christianity in its stories? These scenes are rarely seen in movies, so you might want to do a re-watch. You'll never see your favorite movies the same again.
The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. Even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained-glass windows. The "tree" is usually a branch or sapling and is decorated with various symbols that remind us of the purpose and promises of God from Creation to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesse was the father of King David and God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever. Two centuries after the death of King David, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2) Each Jesse Tree ornament usually consists of a handmade symbol or drawing that represents one of the major stories of the Old Testament along with a brief verse of Scripture from that story.
Jesse Tree Ornaments
If you decide to use one symbol each day during December, there are 24 symbolic ornaments to make for your Jesse Tree, so each family member will need to make several. Making the ornaments is a good project for Sunday afternoons during Advent. To make an ornament, first read the Scripture verses for the day. Then pick out one or two short verses that give the main idea. Copy these verses on the back of the ornament. By this time, you will probably be thinking of various ways to illustrate your Scripture verses. Use lots of creativity in making your ornament! You can use pictures from magazines or old greeting cards. Or draw pictures or symbols yourself. Color them with crayons, pencils, markers or paint. Look around the house for bits and pieces that will make your design beautiful! If you prefer to have a pattern already made, Caryn Talty, at Organic Living for a Healthy Family, has created 26 excellent ornaments which she graciously offers free – both full color and black and white.
Jesse Tree Scriptures (The Symbols Are Only Suggestions)
December 1 Creation: Gen. 1:1-31; 2:1-4 Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth
· Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus