Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Advent Wreath Lights the way to Christ

Beyond the circle of garland Advent wreaths have really step out in the modern time being made from sterling silver and sometimes pewter. But despite all the different materials that are now used to make Advent wreaths, from the beginning the branches of evergreen formed a circle that is eternity, with no beginning and no end. Historically there were 4 candles, and now sometimes you will see 5 candles mounted to the circle of branches or precious medals.

The candles play an important part of the Advent Wreath. The colors of the candles are also significant. The first Sunday is marked with a purple candle. The week makes the remembrance of the Old Testament. The profits are called and there are some that have called this candle the profit candle, with Isaiah being the one who foretold of the coming of Jesus and his birth. There is great hope for the future with the excitement of the coming of Jesus.

As the season proceeds, additional candles are lit. The second Sunday also has a second Purple candle and historically this has been tied to love and repentance. It also has been called the Bethlehem candle.

The Third Sunday of Advent has a pink candle and this is a phase of transition in the season as we shift from the past and penitential season to the joy of the upcoming event and focusing on the joy of the season. There is a clear delineation in the transitions between looking back and looking forward.

For the fourth candle we shift back to purple and it is the peace of the season. Often this 4th candle can be called an Angel candle.

The fifth candle which has only now come into being in the later times, is lit on Christmas eve. It as whit candle and is in the center of the Advent wreath. It is to remind us that Christ has entered the circle, the world. The white also represents the purity of the season.

The Advent Wreath is a wonderful why to help keep focus on Christ in a very material society.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jesse Tree and Advent

Jesse Tree and Advent are tied together where as the Jesse Tree has biblical root. Some parishes defer the use of a Christmas tree to a Jesse Tree in the Altar or sanctuary area. Of course some of the Christmas Tree roots do go back to Pagan believes around the time of Constantine, who added some of the pagan tradition into Christianity as a conversion point. The use of a Jesse Tree and now the variation the Jesse Tree Advent Wreath provide solutions for those with concerns. The Jesse Tree is steeped in Jewish tradition and henceforth Christian tradition.

Running in parallel with the Advent wreath each week ornaments are placed on the Jesse Tree. But these ornaments are not the frosty little snowmen, or Santas they ornament well thought out to show the evolution up through the birth of Christ. In some places the ornaments are placed daily and there is a coinciding Old Testament passage to be read each day that highlight a person who contributed to moving God's word forward.

Churches may do this weekly and make it coincide with the lighting of each of the advent wreath candles. They selected Joseph, David (son of Jesse), John the Baptist and Jesus as the Sunday persons that the ornaments are to be based on. For Joseph, the ornament should be a Sack of Grain or a Coat. For David's representation it should be a Shepherd's Crook or a Harp and for John the Baptist, a Scallop Shell. And for Jesus, the ornament prescribed is a manger.

As parents struggle to keep Christmas about Jesus, the use of the Jesse Tree, especially if the parish is using one, is the reason that a Jesse tree advent wreath may be a perfect addition to the home. The scenes are displayed around the wreath to make a circle. The daily practice of speaking about Biblical Figures helps shift the focus from commercialism and the chorus of "I want" when it comes to toys.

Advent can be a season used not only as a penitential season but it can also be used to strengthen the core of the family. The Jesse Tree is sometimes called an Advent Tree because it functions throughout Advent, foretelling of the good news that is coming, the birth of our Savior.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Early Shopping Save Money on Christmas Gift Giving

Oh I can hear the groans as I say this, Christmas is coming and we should start looking at looking and ways to afford Christmas in a time when disposable income is in short supply. We here are putting together a set of tips of how to survive the Christmas Gift Season and expensive food and gas prices.

First is its never to early to buy Christmas gifts. If its May, June or July, it's not too early. Let's face it, the more pressed for time you are the more apt you are to spend more on the gift, not find it on sale and pay extra for shipping so that its there on time. June 1 will see some already starting to buy the Christmas gifts. Buy starting now you can take advantage of online sales and free shipping offers and that will help save money

By starting in the early summer you spread the cost for Christmas gifts out over 6 months. There are great bargins and sales all year long. Clearance sales to make room in stores are a great way to find a gift at a great price and all you need to have is a small corner of a closet to store the gift until Christmas time. As you walk though stores looking for flowers for your spring garden, look for items that are clearance that will make great Christmas presents.

And lastly but most importantly, Christmas is far more than Christmas gifts. It is a religious holiday and should be a celebration of the birth of our Lord. We need to remind our children the story of the nativity. We need to remind our children why we have the season and why we have Christmas gifts. In doing this you will have a wonderful Christmas and more importantly a less stressful or financially strapped Christmas Season.


Anatomy of the Catechism

In 2000, The United States Bishops took the Catechism of the Catholic church and developed a version exclusively for the individual Catholic Person in the United States. The book is very readable and is set up like a text book so that its easy to use follow and learn from format. The books appropriately is called United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

The main focus of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is the four Pillars of Catholicism; The Creed, or what we believe, the sacraments; Catholic Morality, which includes the 10 Commandments; and then Catholic Pray. The Bishops were very mindful to keep that same structure. And it mimics the main catechism.

The first thing they did was put every chapter in out there with the life story of a saint or an important person in the Catholic faith and they tried to use Americans. Saints like Elizabeth Anne Seton and noted Catholics of importance, Dorothy Day. Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI was also notable non American figures mentioned.

The next thing they did was transition into the teachings of the material to be covered. By example Dorothy Day lead the chapter that was on the 5th Commandment, Murder. Her story is an incredible one, going from having an abortion to working with poverty and understanding the needs of the poor. Her story was a great one to go with the 5th commandment because she personified the understanding of the dignity of the person as the chapter covered not only abortion, but Stem Cell Research, Partial Birth Abortion, Euthanasia, and War.

While reading the though the discussion and the summary type presentation of the tenants of the church's teaching on the 5th commandment, the actual applicable lines from the CCC are introduced, via a side bar, an area of the page that is set off from the rest of the text as it contains different information. It is the raw text from the Vatican that help form the chapter.

The book then lists from discussion questions if the book is being used by a group. Individuals are also challenged with those questions and should open up the door for some though.

Lastly and maybe most importantly, is pray and mediation and there a section to foster that as well. The Bishops took their time and produced a readable book for Catholics to better learn their faith, educating our children and being able to know and answer questions about our faith with a much greater knowledge.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Evolution of the Catechism in the Modern Era

The need for a catechism for adults is something that was sorely lacking for years within the Catholic Church. In 1992, Pope John Paul II commissioned the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. He with the help with Joseph Ratzinger, now know as Pope Benedict XVI, put together a comprehensive encyclopedia type reference book aimed at bishops, Pastors and catechists. It was not designed for the individual to use, even though it has been purchased by many Catholics globally..

After the release of the Catechism, the Vatican challenged the Bishops of each country to form their own catechism that addressed not only the concepts in the main Catechism of the Catholic Church, but also the social situations in their own countries. For example Countries such as the Netherlands has far bigger moral issues than does the United States, even though there is some cross over. They again urged that their reference book was not to be used as a textbook and thus why they wanted this to be done.

With this task in mind the United States Bishops set about the task of writing a Catechism that was based on the main Catechism of the Catholic Church but also addressed the social issues in the United States, making it uniquely germane to the United States. The Bishops took that challenge set before them very seriously and put together the United States Catechism of the Catholic Church. It took them six years to produce the book we now have in front of us.

The book from the beginning was so perfect to what the Vatican wanted the Bishops to do it only took them three revisions to get the Vatican's seal of approval. The understanding was their revisions were very small and it did not deviate from the original meaning and this book holds very true to the encyclopedia version of the catechism. The extra time and effort the bishops took put forth a valuable and extremely well written text book for the American Catholic Church to use.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer has gained in popularity though the years and is often used by groups that deal with addictions such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The origins of the prayer have divergent roots back into the early 20th century but others say it goes back to the 1700s It is believed that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the prayer and maybe as part of a sermon. Controversy arose on this and he said the prayer may have been around for years but he really felt he had written it.

The actual text of the prayer is as follows:

    "God, give us the grace to accept with the serenity the things that cannot by changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other"

The prayer was included in a book by Reinhold called the "The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected Essays and Addresses "Additionally the prayer also appeared in Niebuhr's Daughter in her book appropriated named ?The Serenity Pray, Faith and politics in Times of Peace and War."

The prayer was, as reported by Niebuhr, made its way through the Federal Council of Churches and later made it into the United States Military during World War II. The prayer has always appeared as one sentence although its always been listed as three separate lines.

However, although Niebuhr wanted to claim the prayer, maybe believe it actually was penned in the 1700s by a German named Friedrich Christoph Oetinger who was a know Theosophy, a person who worked with religious philosophy, The words Oetinger wrote were a bit different than Niebuhr, but it can be argued that is it as paraphrase of the Oetinger's Serenity prayer:

"God, give me the detachment to accept those things I cannot alter, the courage to alter those things I can alter and the wisdom to distinguish the one thing from the other."

The prayer was found on a plaque in the wall in an German army training center and was held up as a code of conduct for those German Soldiers prior to the control of Nazi German. It is interesting side note that the prayer was handing to the US troops as they fought Nazi German in World War II.



Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pray Garden to Start the Day right

As the sun comes up, the air is cool, sometimes even crisp as the steam rises from a fresh cup of coffee. It is a perfect time of day for meditation and quiet. It's a perfect time for scripture or books of prayer. Many people don't think of how to make their backyard a perfect retreat place that you can go to any morning you choose.

For some, there is no better way to hear the voice of God than to listen to the early morning. As you sit there in the quiet of a day that has not really started it s a wonderful way to get close to God and got get a great perspective and set the day on a good tone. One way to make your yard more conducive is to work on putting a prayer garden.

You may decide on the statue first because it may dictate how you fill in your garden. You may opt for a resin Blessed Mother statue that is painted or just an unpainted one. Some have a more weathered appearance. Depending on the base of your statue you may need a small cement slab to help keep the statue from tipping or you can permanently affix the statue to the ground by placing it in wet cement that will help set it. You can from there cover the statue with mulch or dirt to plant flowers at the base of it.

Another popular Saint for prayer gardens are St. Francis Statues because he is associated with wild animals and are often depicted with them circling around him. He is often a popular figured on bird baths as well. The birdbath can be coupled with Blessed Mother statue. Other items may include a bird feeder too that will help bring the wild birds to the yard in the early morning.

One last amenity you may want to choose for your prayer garden is a prayer bench, or even a regular park bench that you can place in the garden area itself and surrounding yourself with the peace of nature. It is a way to start a day that helps keep your day full of good things. It may help reduce the stresses of the day and help you better to find Jesus in the people you meet.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Need to Sell Your home, Ask St. Joseph

As anyone who has ever sold a house knows, it is one of the most difficult processes and you need all the help you can get. You have people come tell you what colors to paint your rooms, if to change you carpet but what they don't tell you is maybe one of the best things you can do is buy a St. Joseph Home Seller Kit bury a St Joseph Statue in your yard.

Many homeowners turn to St. Joseph, earthly guardian of Jesus. In a tradition that may date back to the Middle Ages, many people claim that by burying a Statue of St. Joseph in your back yard will help your home sell faster. The exact date of when this started seems to be a bit blurred but it is thought that there were some Nuns who buried a medal of St. Joseph asking for his intercession as they looked for a convent.

Other stories of its origin can be traced to Germany when homebuilders placed St. Joseph in the foundation of the houses they were building, praying to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. And others still believe this originated in Montreal when a Religious Brother wanted to by land on Mount Royal for a small chapel. After burying some St. Joseph Medals, he was granted the property in 1896.

In the US the custom started to take hold in the 80s and by the 90s, realtors were putting St. Joseph on all the properties they were selling. When the house sells, the tradition calls for the statue to be dug up and taken to the new house. However many of these realtors forgot where they placed the statues and left them saying they would protect the property however some believe the statue will cause the property to keep selling.

There are numerous people with stories of houses that have sat on the market not selling and then out of desperation, buried the statue and in weeks and some cases days saw the house sell. And of course there was one story of the guy who buried St. Joseph in the yard and after a few days he when his house hadn't sold, he threw it away. A few days later he opened his local paper to find a notice that his local garbage dumb had been sold.

The believers are so many in numbers that religious stores and website sell many of these statues a week. But it would seem it all comes down to faith. And if you think its silly but your house isn't selling what do you have to lose, $9? Get your St. Joseph Home Seller Kit

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Inspirational Tapestries

One of the most unique home décor items available are woven Inspirational tapestries. They often are scenes that reflect historical events or historical figures. They are a textile art that uses a vertical loom and hand knits strands of wool to create that picture or painting. Tapestries can be traced back to the 4th Century BC but really didn't come into favor until the middle ages or the 14th century.

In the middle ages the art form that is the making of the tapestries became perfected. This art form originated in Switzerland and crept into Germany and then spread its way to the east in the form of Holland and France. Finally France became the tapestry capital of the world. Unfortunately the French revolution and the violence of it saw many homes burned and many of the tapestries went right along with them.

There are several ways to work with the threads. When the warp threads are hidden, it makes a perfect wall tapestry. In a normal cloth weaving, you see the weft threads. The weft is a horizontal thread weaves over and under the warp threads. The main job of a weft thread is to fell in the space that are in the warp threads The warp threads are the main stay of the weave. It is the long thread that run vertically and tied to the looms and the weft threads run over them.

By adding all these different thread types the ability to make more intricate the tapestry became. It was very common to walk into a medieval church and find tapestries depicting the Annunciation, the Resurrection, and the Last Supper The rich history of tapestry is a perfect home décor item. It adds old world charm to any home or church. And an added benefit is in public display it does call attention to itself that reminds us of the religious events that help form the tapestry of our faith.








Monday, May 5, 2008

Wall Crosses for Home Decor

Crosses have been gaining favor as a way to décor homes. Through the ages the symbol of the cross has changed making it a great way decorate a home. Many now mimic the antique hand-forged iron wall crosses. Wrought Iron crosses also have been gaining favor in a way to decorate your home.

Thru the ages wrought iron crosses gained fashion. They were made in a filigree style, a very detailed and ornate style that dressed up any wall in any home. From the time of the protestant reformation, the corpus was removed from the crucifix leaving just the bare cross that has become the mainstay of décor.

Within these crosses there are also scrolls swirls and designs that make even more intricate representations of the cross. In modern times another type of cross has gained favor, the Celtic cross. Based on 18th century that avoids straight lines but uses symmetry has seen a rebirth in the early 21st century .

The Cross is always the main sign of Christianity where Christians tie it to their salvation. And how ornate these crosses have become is what lend themselves to a perfect wall décor. Some crosses have a depiction of the life of Christ carved or painted on the cross. Many have more of an orthodox type feel and appeal to them but used to decorate a room, make a stunning discussion piece for any modern home.

For the Catholic Church the use of the Crucifix is also very prevalent. The designation crucifix is delineated by the presence of the corpus on the cross, the actual presence of Jesus body mounted to the cross. In a catholic home many use this as a decoration item but place them over the doorways to rooms or over their children's beds as a way of protection.

There are many artisans that hand carve wall crosses and crucifixes, with many being done out of olive wood a common wood type for crafting crosses and corpuses. The olive wood again gives the home a unique decorating idea that adds charm to the room. Most of the fine hand carved crosses do come from Italy, however there are cheaper knock offs that do originate from China.






Saturday, May 3, 2008

History of the Catechism

The word catechism as a variety of meanings however the most accepted one comes from Greek and means to Echo. In this application it is a way to echo or repeat the tenants of the Catholic Church. Prior to the invention of the printing press in the 1400s , the beliefs and tradition of the church were handed down verbally. They asked people to repeat them over and over until they were learned, like an echo. Even in the time of Jesus the teacher taught scriptures by asking again and again for them to be repeated, until they were learned. This was a common way of teaching even before the time of Jesus. But this again invoked the Echo theme. After the invention of the printing press, it changed the way things could be taught. The beliefs were written down and there was many question and answer books to help with the catechesis process

But it wasn't until the 90s that Vatican II framer, Pope John Paul II recognized something that many overlooked. The young post Vatican II Catholic was severely under catechized and with that in Oct of 1992, he published an apostolic constitution the Deposit of Faith which announced the need for a Catechism of the Catholic Church. The date of his release coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Vatican II. The Catechism of the

As many look back since Vatican II there is an paradigm shift in the church that moved from self to community. Then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became known as Pope John Paul II, in the writing of the Vatican II documents said that to help yourself you had to help others and outlined a framework that spoke of the acts of helping others would help one's self. The other shifts in the church though are what allowed the Pope to say we need a Catechism written that would allow Catholics a reference of their faith. He saw the Catechism as a reference of Catholic Doctrine, which was something that was lacking.