Friday, December 29, 2023


Friday in the Octave of Christmas



Psalm 36, verse 2

Sin directs the heart of the wicked man; his eyes are closed to the FEAR of God.


An inclination to sin is part of our nature just as love and mercy is the nature of God. “See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:28) If you awoke today-you have another chance to begin again. Get thee to confession! Fast; avoid evil, pray! You are responsible, yes, there may be circumstances beyond your control that put impediments in your path, have faith and find out how to get around the barriers to living a Holy life. Secret Hint: Take it to Mary! She will guide us to salvation.


Fixing the Wicked Heart[1]

The mechanic at the repair shop explained to the frustrated vehicle owner that the wheels of his car were out of alignment. The mechanic asked if the driver had recently driven through a pothole or perhaps had hit a curb. He explained that this could be sufficient to have forced the wheels out of alignment. All the driver knew was that it took a lot of work to drive straight down the highway with the car constantly pulling off center. Without constant attention and constant adjustment of the steering wheel, the car tended to drift off the road. “One big pothole can do that,” the mechanic informed the puzzled driver, “and after that, it’s almost impossible to go straight without constant correction.”

What’s true for an automobile is, in this sense, also true of the human soul.

Theologians have long attempted to explain humanity’s tendency to veer off course: one big sin (that of our first parents in the garden) and it’s almost impossible to go straight without constant correction. Keeping in mind that the New Testament word for sin is hamartia, a Greek word that literally means to miss the mark or to veer off course, we might say that after original sin it’s nearly impossible to stay on the “straight and narrow.” Theologians call this tendency to sin “concupiscence.” The word concupiscence is defined as a strong desire, a tendency or attraction, usually arising from lust or sensual desires. It is, morally speaking, the tendency to go off course. Concupiscence is understood as an effect of original sin that remains after baptism. The waters of baptism cleanse us of original sin itself, but concupiscence remains as a lingering effect. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death … as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence.”

1264 Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, "the tinder for sin" (fomes peccati); since concupiscence "is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ." Indeed, "an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules."

To use another analogy, medical research cautions that a severe sunburn early in life will render a person more susceptible to dangerous skin cancer throughout life. That early sunburn may heal fairly quickly, but its effects last through life, increasing vulnerability to cancer. Precautions must be taken to shield the skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s radiation, since there is a greater susceptibility to skin damage after that major sunburn.

Original Sin

Original sin — passed down through the generations of humanity — brought to our first parents the alienation from paradise and with it all the effects of mortality: pain, illness, suffering, aging, death, and decay. Original sin caused a rupture, or break, in the harmony between body and soul that was part of God’s creation of man. In the original innocence of our first parents, there was perfect harmony: harmony with God, harmony with the surrounding world, harmony with oneself. The decision to break away from God’s will also broke the original harmony in creation, and there has been tension ever since. The first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis reveal the growth of tension and discord: starting with the perfect harmony of the garden, through the first sin, then the sin of brother against brother, and it ends with the tower of Babel — a point in human history where no two persons could understand each other. In the original innocence of our human nature, there was perfect harmony between body and soul. Since death entered the world as a consequence of sin, the separation of the soul from the body at death is a consequence of original sin. We profess our belief in the resurrection of the body, at which time soul and body will be restored to the perfect harmony that existed before original sin. Concupiscence is a symptom of the disharmony between soul and body, since the body and its appetites, or desires, wants to pull us a certain way, and the soul wants to cling to the higher things of God and grace.

In heaven, the harmony between body and soul will be restored, as will the harmony with God and the world around us. Sin will be no more. The Sacrament of Baptism washes away original sin, yet there remain the effects of original sin. One of them is an innate tendency to be vulnerable to temptation, to be inclined to sin, to be predisposed to desires that do not honor to the grace of God. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) taught that concupiscence “comes from sin and induces to sin.” Yet, concupiscence is not itself a sin. Concupiscence makes us vulnerable to sin, but susceptibility to temptation is not sin. How we act in response to temptation determines the rightness or wrongness — the sin. With constant attention, or more accurately with the acceptance of God’s constant outpouring of grace, the human person can be unaffected by this tendency to drift off course. A driver who is attentive to the path ahead can constantly adjust for a misalignment in the car’s front end, keeping the car moving toward the goal of the driver. Indeed, the Council of Trent noted that concupiscence “cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ” (Catechism, No. 1264). It is prevenient grace that precedes our thoughts and actions, waiting for us when we are tempted by concupiscence to go off course. By availing ourselves of that grace, we are enabled by God to resist the tendency to sin and instead to stay on the morally proper course.

How Do We Respond?

The story is told of the priest who asked a man in the confessional, “My son, do you entertain evil thoughts?” The penitent quickly responded, “Oh no, Father, they entertain me!” It is concupiscence that makes our minds more vulnerable to thoughts that incline us to sin and to sinful actions, but neither concupiscence nor those thoughts are sinful in themselves. The morality is determined by what we do in response: to beg God’s grace to turn away from thoughts of sin is meritorious, but to offer no resistance and give in to immoral or disordered acts is the very definition of sin itself. Concupiscence corrupts the will to the point that we are tempted to conclude that something less than God will ultimately satisfy.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught clearly that concupiscence is a consequence of original sin. Once human beings made the decision to be unbound from the will of God, the harmony within human nature also became unbound. Desires and appetites were no longer in harmony with the intellect or reason, and the two — desire and reason — fought against one another. St. Paul understood this and described it in his Letter to the Romans: “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (7:23). As a result, St. Paul could write, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Rom 7:19). Even Jesus observed concupiscence in action when He said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41; see also Mk 14:38). The prophets of the Old Testament understood this interior tension. Jeremiah asked the piercing question, “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Jeremiah understood human nature and spoke often of the stubbornness of their evil hearts (see 3:17 and many other passages), “evil thoughts” (4:14, RSV), and humanity’s “stubborn and rebellious heart” (5:23, RSV). The psalms of David offer lament for sins committed as well as penetrating insight into the lived dichotomy between weakness and grace, the lusts of the flesh and the longing for holiness. “Sin directs the heart of the wicked man; his eyes are closed to the fear of God” (Ps 36:2). In a plaintive cry for God’s mercy, the psalmist acknowledges the dueling desires within him, and acknowledges, “I have been mortally afflicted since youth” (Ps 88:16).

Staying on Course

From the earliest reflection on life lived in relationship to God — the Book of Genesis — to the present day, the tension between good and evil is well-known. Whether presented, as a life-or-death struggle in the psalms; or a comedic conversation with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other; it is innately understood that we all experience concupiscence on a daily basis. Have you noticed that the temptation to eat meat seems to be the strongest on a Friday in Lent? That’s concupiscence at work, the body at war against the soul, each pulling in a different direction. Whether we entertain evil thoughts, or they entertain us, that’s also concupiscence at work: the desires of the flesh are not in harmony with the desires of the soul. While we cannot vanquish concupiscence in this life, we can open our lives to the grace of God that provides the strength to resist the weakness of our fallen nature. Despite the choice of our first parents to “throw off the yoke of God’s will,” as St. Thomas Aquinas described it, we can today choose to take upon ourselves a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (see Mt 11:30). The grace of God that goes before us and anticipates our weakness — prevenient grace — is ours if we but open ourselves to it when concupiscence tempts us off course. Modern highways help drivers stay on course with painted lines and with a rumble strip when they veer out of the lane. In moral life, prevenient grace and our free will to do what is right perform for us the same function, and if we veer off course, the rumble of conscience will gently prod us back.

St. Thomas Becket


St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suffered martyrdom by the king's men in 1170 on this day.  There is an excellent movie about his life “Becket” if you have time to watch tonight which stars Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Becket was a man of strength.

Things to Do[2]

·         Read more about this historical event. For some web sources see The Murder of Thomas Becket, 1170, and more information on Henry II. Watch this You Tube video of Canterbury Cathedral.

·         Some wonderful literature is based on this saint. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 - 1400) follows a group of 30 pilgrims traveling to the Canterbury Cathedral, the pilgrimage spot of St. Thomas Becket. T. S. Eliot wrote a play called Murder in the Cathedral based on St. Thomas' murder.

·         See Catholic Cuisine for other recipes ideas for St. Thomas Becket.

·         Today would be a good time to gather with family and friends enjoy some Christmas goodies and spend an evening singing Christmas carols.

o    The saints who are assigned immediately following Christmas are honored because of their special connection with Christ. December 29, the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred in his cathedral by the soldiers of Henry II in 1170, is the true anniversary date of his death. Because of the great shock and sensation that this martyrdom caused at a time when all of Europe was Catholic, the Roman authorities, in the thirteenth century, deemed it appropriate to assign the celebration of his feast within the privileged days of Christmas week, thus adding him to the group of "Christ's nobility."

o    In the Middle Ages, Christmas week also assumed the note of a hallowed time within the homes of the faithful. Many observances of a religious character were introduced locally and spread over large sections of the Christian population of Europe. For the farmers and their animals, it was a time of rest and relaxation from laborious work; only the necessary chores were done in a stable and barn. Thus, the whole week became a series of holidays. More time than usual was spent on prayer and religious exercises. It is still the custom in many sections of Europe to light the candles of the Christmas tree every night while the whole family says the rosary or performs some other devotion, followed by the singing of carols.

o    Carol singing from house to house is an ancient tradition in central Europe on the twelve nights between Christmas and Epiphany. The Poles call these nights the "Holy Evenings" (Stoiete Wieczory). Another widespread practice is the performance of religious plays portraying events of the Christmas story (such as the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt, and the massacre of Bethlehem). In southern Germany and Austria many such plays are still performed in rural communities. Among the northern Slavs (Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks) a puppet theater (szopka) is in vogue; its religious scenes alternate with secular dramatic exhibits. In the cities of Poland children put on Christmas dramas (jaselka). A similar performance (Bethlehemes jatek) is done by children in Hungary; a representation of the manger is carried from house to house, little dramatic plays are enacted, and carols sung.

Christmas Calendar[3] 

Read about St. Thomas Becket, once a royal chancellor of England. He was slain in his own cathedral for defending the Church from interference by King Henry II. 

Reflect: Christ's kingdom is already present, but it is not yet fulfilled. The destruction of the last enemy, death, is still to come, and then, says St. Paul, God will "be all in all." This is why we pray "Thy kingdom come." When we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are praying for a kingdom of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love, and peace. Yet, let us also remember that for the sake of this kingdom many of our sisters and brothers are suffering persecution. 

Pray: Becket gave up his life for the sake of justice. Pray today for the many Christians who still face persecution and death because of their faith.  

Act: Take time to pray the Rosary for justice and peace today.

Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas - Day Five[4]

Given the tempo of the liturgical season with its feasts it is easy to overlook that one saint who for many centuries was, after Mary and Joseph, the most venerated person in European Christendom.

Devotion to him spread like wildfire. He was enshrined in the hearts of men, and in their arts. In statues and stained glass, in song and story this good bishop was everywhere to be found France, Italy, Spain, Sweden. Many miracles were attributed to his heavenly advocacy. — Excerpted from Days of the Lord

Five Golden Rings 

Today is the 5th day of Christmas the Five Golden Rings representing the five books of the "Pentateuch" [Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy].

Pepper Pot Day[5]

Pepper Pot, a thick and spicy soup that is an American staple dish, especially in the southern regions of the United States. What is Pepper Pot? Well, it’s a soup that contains twelve different ingredients. Now that we know the ingredients for the Pepper Pot, let us look into the history of the day named for it, Pepper Pot Day, shall we? In the modern world of today, Pepper Pot Soup has many, many variations to it. But the soup’s true origins began on December 29th of 1777 during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army had been experiencing an exceptionally harsh winter during the battle of Valley Forge. The soldiers were low on food because the farmers in the area had gone and sold all their supplies to the British Army for cash rather than the weak currency that the Continental soldiers could offer them for their crops. Christopher Ludwick, a baker general of the Continental Army, gathered whatever food he could scrounge together to feed the cold and frail soldiers. The chef was able to find scraps of tripe, meat, and some peppercorn. He then mixed the ingredients together with some other seasonings and created the hot, thick, and spicy soup we now know as pepper pot soup. It quickly became known as “the soup that won the war.” The soup gave the soldiers the warmth and strength that they needed to push the enemies back through the harsh winter weather.

How to celebrate Pepper Pot Day

To celebrate this holiday, all we have to do is gather the necessary ingredients to make our own Pepper Pot Soup and share it amongst our friends and family. Pepper Pot soup is a great way to warm up on a cold and dark winter’s night, huddled around the fireplace and listening to stories narrated by family members who always have interesting stories to be told to everyone they can tell them to. Want to make your own? The ingredients are four cups of water, four tablespoons of chicken bouillon powder, two medium grated potatoes, two medium sized carrots which are also grated, two finely chopped celery stalks, one finely chopped onion, one and a half cups of finely chopped green, red, or yellow peppers, one half cup of all-purpose flour, two teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon of pepper, one more cup of water, and finally, six cups of milk.    

Catechism of the Catholic Church





1803 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.

Friday Fitness[6]

If you are a person who remains busy in work and other matters and pays no attention to your health and wellbeing, you must take a break from the robotic routine and pick healthy habits.

According to a psychologist, eating well and exercising gives your body and brain instant benefits of managing stress, depression, and anxiety. True wellbeing comes with balance, constant growth and acceptance.

Here are a few effective and tested ways that can help you improve your wellbeing:

1. Take Proper Sleep:

It may seem to be the most common advice but trust me most of the people don’t follow the basic step towards their overall wellbeing. Our body needs proper sleep and rest to heal and renew the energy to function properly. This healing is essential for physical and mental activity throughout the day.

Sufficient sleep regulates the hormones that are directly related to our mood and emotions. Most often when you feel an irritated or emotional imbalance, chances are high that your body lacks in taking enough sleep. An adult body needs nearly 6 to 7 hours of sleep per day. So, make sure you get enough sleep.

2. Eat a Balanced Diet:

Sleep alone is not going to give you the required benefits. You need to eat a healthy and balanced diet and ensure your body receives enough amount of nutrition. The food you consume determines how healthy your inner system is. Moreover, it also helps in determining your emotional health and mental illnesses such as depression.

When your body lacks essential nutrients, it leads to serious health problems. Moreover, you end up facing emotional distress and anxiety. Health and wellness experts suggest that you should eat fruits and vegetables in sufficient amounts. Moreover, eating nuts and lentil also strengthens your heart. Try to avoid caffeine, sugar and processed food as much as possible.

3. Expose Your Body to Sunlight:

Vitamin D deficiency leads to several problems such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. When you are exposed to sunlight, it causes the release of endorphins also called ‘happiness hormones’ that is responsible for the productivity of the brain.

So, take some time out of your routine and spend some time in the sunlight. But make sure you wear sunblock to prevent sunburn.

4. Deal with Stress:

Although it is difficult to avoid stress nowadays, it is definitely possible to deal with it. It is very important to learn to deal with stress in a smart and effective way. For that, try to avoid situations that cause stress. If your stress is unmanageable, note down the causes of stress as well as what actions you can take to improve your reaction, mood, and even situation?

5. Exercise Daily:

When you remain physically active and exercise daily, your blood flow improves in your entire body. With the increased blood flow, the amount of oxygen increases, and you feel more energetic, fresh and mentally active.

Exercise and physical activities are more important if you are an office worker. Exercise not only ensures our body remains fit but also keeps your mind healthy as well. You don’t have to join expensive gyms for that. A simple walk with your pet or daily morning walk is more than sufficient. The important thing is to make it a daily habit.

In addition to your mental health, exercise strengthens your bones and muscles that prevent you from different types of personal injuries during a workout or running your daily errands.

6. Stay Away from Smoking and Alcohol:

If you keep drinking and smoking, no matter how much you spend on your health and how hard you try, your efforts are going to be wasted.

Quit smoking and drinking to ensure you lead a healthy life.

7. Be Social, as Much as You Can:

Isolation and lack of communication are the two biggest reasons for depression, mental and physical illnesses. No matter how busy your family and work life are, try to dedicate some time to friends and socialize with them.

A man cannot stay healthy without interacting with other people. Communicating with others lowers the stress level. If you have heard of laughter therapy, it also has the same purpose to reduce the stress in which you laugh with other people. Everyone needs acceptance and friendship that is fulfilled only when you socialize with others.

8. Find and Practice New Hobbies:

Hobbies help us keep busy and engaged. When you have an interest in some activities and enjoy doing them, you take healthy steps to improve your emotional wellbeing. It also keeps the work and daily life’s pressure off your brain. Finding new hobbies is great for strengthening your brain and boosting your mood.

9. Learn to Live in the Present:

The biggest reason for experiencing mood swings, depression and anxiety is when a person remains stuck in past events. Negative self-talking such as ‘why people did this to me’ steal not only the happiness but make the person miss opportunities that the present moment tires to offer.

Learn to live in the present moment and try not to think too much about the future.

It’s Simple: Laugh and Enjoy!

Don’t take life too seriously. Those who remain happy, smile more and try to keep themselves happy experience a better quality of life than those who remain worried all the time. According to a study, children laugh 200 times a day while adults laugh 15 times a day.

Staying happy and laughing more is essential for a quality life.

Daily Devotions

·         Today's Fast: Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: The Sick Afflicted and Infirmed.

·         Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood

·         Iceman’s 40 devotion

·         Universal Man Plan

·         Operation Purity

·         Rosary




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