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
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:
3. FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Sunday
6. Nicholas, Opt. Mem.
7. Ambrose, Memorial
8. IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF
9. Juan Diego (USA), Opt. Mem.
10. SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Sunday
11. Damasus I, Opt. Mem.
12. Our Lady of Guadalupe (USA), Feast
13. Lucy, Memorial
14. John of the Cross, Memorial
17. THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, GAUDETE
20. Ember Wednesday
21. Peter Canisius, Opt. Mem.
22. Ember Friday
23. John of Kanty; Ember Saturday,
24. FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, Sunday
25. NATIVITY OF THE LORD
26. Stephen, Feast
27. John, Apostle, Feast
28. Holy Innocents, Feast
29. 5th Day in the Octave of
Christmas; Thomas Becket, Opt. Mem.
31. Feast of the Holy Family, Feast
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.
Travel and Events
Kick off the month with a tour of the National Christmas
Tree. Located on the White House’s South Lawn, a towering 40-foot evergreen
spruce has been a seasonal fixture of the nation’s capital since 1923.
San Antonio River Walk
Keep the Christmas spirit
going in San Antonio. Every December, more than a mile of the San Antonio River Walk comes alive with over 100
underwater lights, as well as LED rope lighting crossing from one side of the
river to the other.
Besides being a great time to visit (December is the start of New Zealand’s summer season), the country has a Hobbit movie set tour on upper North Island.
This December, put Colorado on your outdoors adventure map: Colorado's robust winters lure ice-fishing enthusiasts to gear up and head out for the thrill of the catch. Prime spots include Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a 1,550- acre reservoir, about 100 miles west of Denver.
The best ice fishing lakes in AZ include Show Low Lake,
Sunrise Lake and Rainbow Lake. The most popular species are rainbow trout,
brook trout and bluegill. See a list of lakes and species below.
Ice fishing is as basic as
fishing gets. During winter, it is popular here in the state. Aside from the
tools one uses to create a hole in the ice, all other gear is very basic. A
simple rod, reel, line and hook or lure is all you need. Lures, live bait and
prepared bait are options, depending on the fish species in the lake or pond.
Cruise: Early December
For an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first two weeks of December are your best bet for bargain prices on cruises and hotels, before fares rise come Christmas and New Year’s. Combine your warm winter escape with cool events, like the Bahamas International Film Festival.
Metro Phoenix: Apache Trail Tour with Canyon Lake Cruise
This full-day Apache Trail Tour gets to the heart of the Sonoran Desert with a combined cruise and drive. Glide across Canyon Lake, visit a ghost town and rest at an old wagon stop before the day is out.
Ballet Arizona takes the Symphony Hall stage in grand fashion with this holiday classic. Celebrate the joy and wonder of the season with Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker as Tchaikovsky’s cherished score is masterfully performed by The Phoenix Symphony. Follow Clara’s wintry adventures as she battles mischievous mice and charms the Sugar Plum Fairy. Whether this is your first Nutcracker or your 101st, this heartwarming tradition never fails to enchant and draw smiles from all!
December 21 Stonehenge Winter Solstice
Take in the winter solstice at Stonehenge.
Every year, more than 5,000 people gather at the prehistoric monument in
Wiltshire, England, to mark the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest
altitude above the horizon. Be sure to explore the new visitor center close to
the ancient site, too.
Arizona. Saturday, December 23, 7:00 pm
The 11th Annual Old Town Center for the Arts Winter Solstice Concert will feature some of the world’s favorite Christmas melodies, uplifting songs of the spirit, original songs, and a special visual, musical tribute to honor our indigenous ancestors, in observation of the ancient winter solstice ritual.
House in North Pole
Just where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, Alaska, of
course. Head to this small, wintery city in the heart of Alaska to see Santa
Claus House. A storefront, built in the early 1950s, it’s the spot from
which the Original Letter From Santa is mailed out, proclaiming the bearer to
be “on Santa’s Good List.”
Arizona. North Pole Experience.
Your journey begins by boarding one of Santa's Magic Trolleys at the
breathtaking Little America Hotel. Your Trolley Elf will whisk your family away
and transport you through the Magic Portal to the enchanted North Pole
destination, Santa's Grand Workshop. Once you knock on Santa's Grand Workshop
doors, you'll experience a holiday family adventure unlike any other. First
stop is Santa's famous Toy Hall of Fame. Next, it's all hands on deck as you
help Santa's Elves build toys for children around the world!
Hit the Slopes
Hit the slopes this month at North America’s most popular
ski resort. In addition to being home to more groomed terrain than any other
resort in the world, Vail,
Colorado, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For
the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson
Hole, where over 90 percent of the trails fall into intermediate to expert
Village in Philadelphia
Come December, the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a Christmas Village. This annual holiday market in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park features traditional German Christmas market items, displayed by more than 60 vendors in decorated booths and tents. Get your fill of holiday goodies like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine.
December 1st MASS
December 5th St. Nicolas Eve
December 6th St. Nicolas
December 7th Pearl Harbor Day
December 8th Feast
of the Immaculate Conception
· December 9th St. Juan Diego
December 12th Our
Lady of Guadalupe
December 13th Santa
December 20th Ember
December 21st Feast
of the St. Thomas, Apostle Winter Solstice
December 23rd Ember
December 25th Christmas
Full Cold Moon
December 27th Feast
of St. John, the Apostle
December 28th The
December 29th St.
December 30th The
December 31st St.
1 First Friday
Job, Chapter 6, Verse 14
A friend owes kindness to one in
despair, though he has forsaken the FEAR
of the Almighty.
now speaks and goes on to chide his frienemies for not giving kindness to him
when he is destitute. Even the ungodly treat their friend with respect. I can
imagine that when Job was at his height of power and prestige before the
devil’s attack; his friends were sucking up to him and fondling his ego to
great extremes but now they have nothing but contempt for him. True friends are
faithful to the end. Job longs for a true friend. We should reflect on this
that Job longed for what we have received by the grace of God; an intimate
relationship with Him via the Holy Spirit and the action of the Son of God;
Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is our true friend and our closest ally he will
never abandon us let us not wait until the end to discover this; trying to make
a death-bed repentance.
upon Death-Bed Repentance
Can the sinner rely upon being
converted at the end of his life?
By no means, for this would be to sin against the
mercy of God, which is much the same as the sin against the Holy Ghost. “God”
says St. Augustine, “usually punishes such sinners by allowing them at the last
to forget themselves, who in the days of their health and strength have allowed
themselves to forget Him.” God Himself also says: “They have turned their back
to Me and not their face, and in the time of their affliction they will say,
Arise and deliver us. Where are thy gods whom thou hast made thee? Let them arise
and deliver thee in the time of thy affliction”. It is true we have a consoling
example of conversion at the moment of death in the penitent thief, but, as St.
Augustine further says, while this one example is given so that no sinner may
despair, it is the only one, so that no sinner may defer repentance through
What may we hope of those who are
converted at the close of life?
that is good, if they be really converted; but this is a most rare thing. Of
the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been wicked,” writes St. Jerome,
“hardly one will be converted at the hour of death and obtain forgiveness of
his sins.” And St. Vincent Ferrer says it would be a greater miracle for a
person who has lived wickedly to die well than for one who is dead to be
restored to life. And no wonder; for repentance at the hour of death is
generally but an extorted repentance. It is not so much that the sinner
forsakes his sins as that his sins forsake him; and the resolution of amendment
is one which he would hardly make, were he not driven to it by the agonies of
What is there to expect from such a
repentance? When, therefore, ought we to do penance?
While we are in possession of our reason and strength; for, as St. Augustine says, the repentance of the sick is a sickly repentance. In time of sickness, as experience teaches, the pains of disease, the hope of recovery, the fear of death, the torments of conscience, the temptations of the devil, and the care of all depending on him, so continually distract a man that he can hardly collect his thoughts at all, much less bestow them upon a work of a true repentance. If to many it is so difficult to do penance while they are yet in health and hindered by nothing from raising their thoughts to God, how much more difficult will it be when the body has already become weak! We have heard a number of persons who had been sick admit after their recovery that they had no knowledge of what happened to them during their illness, and even had no recollection of having received the holy sacraments. Accordingly, Isaias admonishes us: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. And Christ says: You shall seek Me and shall not find Me, and you shall die in your sin” (John vii. 34; viii. 21). If, therefore, you have committed mortal sin, delay not to return to God, by perfect contrition and a good confession. Put it not off from one day to another; for repentance thereby becomes more and more difficult; for, as St. Gregory says, one unrepented sin by its own weight impels a man to still further sins, and all the while makes him the weaker, and his adversary, the devil, the stronger; so that at last he cannot be converted without the extraordinary grace of God. But how can the presumptuous sinner expect such grace? God will laugh in his destruction, in like manner as he has despised His instruction, counsel, and reproof (Prov. i. 26-28). “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good” (Gal. vi. 10), for who knows whether we may not be suddenly prevented, by severe sickness, from working out our salvation!
First Friday Devotion
Nine consecutive Fridays in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lord appeared to St.
Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690), a French nun in the
Visitation Order, and gave her the special task to spread devotion to His Most
Sacred Heart at a time when religion was growing cold in the hearts of mankind.
He said to her:
“Behold this heart which, not withstanding the burning love
for men with which it is consumed and exhausted, meets with no other return
from most Christians than sacrilege, contempt, indifference and ingratitude,
even in the sacrament of my love [the Eucharist]. But what pierces my heart
most deeply is that I am subjected to these insults by persons especially
consecrated to my service.” Jesus asked for special prayers and practices to
make amends (reparation) for this great neglect to the proper reverence owed
to God. For those who did this faithfully, he made what St. Margaret Mary
referred to as the “Great Promise” which was the last and greatest of the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“I promise you in the unfathomable mercy of my heart that my
omnipotent love will procure the grace of final penitence for all those who
receive communion on nine successive first Fridays of the month; they will not
die in my disfavor [the grace of final repentance], or without having received
the sacraments, since my divine heart will be their sure refuge in the last
moments of their life.”
Conditions to Fulfill the First Friday Devotion
The specific conditions to receive the Great Promise of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus are:
1. Receive Holy Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays
of the month (this assumes that the person is in a state of grace, having made
a sacramental confession for any mortal sins prior to receiving communion).
2. Having the intention, at least implicitly, of making
reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all the sinfulness and ingratitude
Octave of Christ the King
Mass daily or via EWTN or the internet
doing the Daniel fast (Monday-Saturday).
· Exercise-Universal Man Plan.
Life a gift
God does not require anyone to pass an exam to merit birth. Life is a gift from our creator via our parents. A child is not a trophy but a gift. Families are a communion of people essential to understanding love. At the same time, the family home can often be the scene of pain as well. We experience death through the self-taking of the world through greed, manipulation, indulgence, and infatuation, which masquerade as love. Wounded, we begin to shy away from the gift, to be coerced into choosing to fear rather than love. Attacks on marriage and the family, such as same-sex unions, no fault-divorce, free love, cohabitation, pornography, and adultery are attacks on love itself and the very identity of the human person. Healing means returning to the original form of love we were meant to learn as children. The gift of self makes love visible. As long as conflicts/anger is buried, they do not heal. Yet our hearts long for love which is our first memory. Love is the authentic surrender of self for the good of the other. A fundamental truth of Christ and the Catholic Church is this “Culture of Life” which stems from love.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
she graciously offers free – both full color and black and white.
Tree Scriptures (The Symbols Are Only Suggestions)
December 1 Creation: Gen. 1:1-31;
2:1-4 Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth
Fitness Friday- “on the sixth day God created man”
Charles Atlas Inspired Workout
While several of these movements aren’t very familiar to today’s generation of athletes and fitness enthusiasts, it can be argued that dynamic tension can have a place in the modern fitness program.
Below is a workout that
can challenge the entire body and be performed in around 25 minutes. This
workout will include movements and time for each. Squeeze and contract the
muscle like you would with resistance. Feel a stretch before performing the
next rep. Take 30 seconds of rest between each exercise before moving on to the
Pushup (2 Sec Hold)
Standing Chest Fly (2 Sec Hold)
Row Squeeze (2 Sec Hold)
High Elbow Row
Bicep Curl (1 Sec Hold)
Close Grip Push Up (1 Sec Hold)
Seated Toe Raise
Standing Calf Raise
Single Lying Leg Raise
Give the program a shot
for yourself. It can be performed as a beginner routine for up to 6 weeks.
of the Catholic Church
PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST
SECTION ONE-MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE
1699 Life in
the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made
up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously
offered as salvation (chapter three).
Devout Instructions, 1896.
 J. Brian Bransfield, Living the
Beatitudes-A Journey to Life in Christ.