A few days in the abbey, no better waste of time

Just before Christmas, I spent several days at the Benedictine monastery near Sherbrooke, Que.

Beforehand, and while travelling there, I wondered what exactly I was doing. The week before Christmas is a lively time in the city. There were plenty of concerts, gatherings, light shows, treats, sales. There were things to do to prepare for Christmas. That’s where the action would be. Where did I think I was going, and for what?

    Those seeking the Lord must practise what He teaches

    Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Jan. 15 (1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1: 35-42)

    Perhaps some of us have had the eerie experience of hearing our name called when no one was around. It can happen when we are awake or asleep, but there is always the very clear and startling sense that we are being called by someone.

    Most of the time we shrug it off and go on our way.  But often it leaves us with a slightly unsettled feeling.

      Prayer as seeking God’s guidance

      In her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day tells of a very difficult time in her life. She had just converted to Christianity, after a long period of atheism, and then given birth to her daughter. During her season of atheism she had fallen in love with a man who had fathered her child. She and this man, atheists disillusioned with mainstream society, had made a pact never to marry as a statement against the conventions of society.

      But her conversion to Christianity had turned that world upside down. The father of her child had given her an ultimatum; if she had their child baptized he would end their relationship. Dorothy chose to baptize the child, but paid a heavy price. She deeply loved this man and suffered greatly at their breakup. Moreover, given that her conversion took her out of all her former circles, it left her with more than a missing soul-mate. It left her too without a job, without support for her child and without her former purpose in life. She felt painfully alone and lost.

        In message for World Day of the Sick, pope stresses value of anointing

        VATICAN CITY - Anointing of the sick is not a minor sacrament, said Pope Benedict XVI, but one that "deserves greater consideration today" because of its spiritual benefits to both minister and recipient.

        The Pope's words appeared in a message for the 2012 World Day of the Sick, released by the Vatican Jan. 3. The day itself is celebrated annually Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

          Pope says Christians look to new year with hope, commitment to peace

          VATICAN CITY - Christians should look toward the New Year with hope and a commitment to working for justice and peace, Pope Benedict XVI said.

          "God is love, he is just and peaceable, and anyone wishing to honor him must first of all act like a child following his father's example," the pope said Jan. 1 during a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God and World Peace Day.

          The pope ended 2011 by celebrating an evening prayer service Dec. 31 in the basilica and offering God thanks for the past year. The next morning, he celebrated Mass in St. Peter's and recited the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

            Pope, at audience, encourages parents to teach children to pray

            VATICAN CITY - If children do not learn to pray from their parents, it will be difficult for them to ever learn to communicate with God naturally, simply and deeply, Pope Benedict XVI said.

            "In the family, children from the tenderest age can learn to perceive the sense of God thanks to the teaching and example their parents give of living in the presence of God," the Pope said at his weekly general audience Dec. 28.

              Epiphany is God’s sending of His light into the world

              Epiphany of the Lord (Year B) Jan. 8 (Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

              Just what is Epiphany and why is it important? In some Christian traditions it is celebrated as Christmas, reflecting an ancient and venerable tradition. In the West, the feast is understood as noting the manifestation of the Lord to the gentiles. But that really tells us very little.


              “Epiphany” means “manifestation” and in antiquity was usually associated with the manifestation or appearance of a god or divine being. There were rulers and tyrants who claimed to be divine manifestations, the most notorious being the insane megalomaniac Antiochus Epiphanes. He tried to destroy the Jewish culture and religion in the second century BC, igniting the revolt of the Maccabees.

                Pope to ‘the city and the world’: God extends his hand to hurting humanity

                VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning for Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Day talk and blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”).

                Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said Jesus “is the hand that God extends” to humanity, which is afraid, uncertain and troubled. All people have to do, he said, is stretch out their hands and ask for help.

                He offered special prayers for people who are suffering from natural disasters, war or political instability and tensions, including in the Holy Land, where Christ “chose to come into the world.”

                Under a deep blue, sunny sky, the crowd that flocked to the square enjoyed the music of military bands while waiting for the pope and pressed around the Nativity scene in the center of the square.

                  Christmas Eve at the Vatican

                  VATICAN CITY — The Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square was unveiled this afternoon with a focus on Mary, the Mother of God. There were traditional Christmas songs played during the event and Pope Benedict appeared at his studio window to light a “candle of peace,” setting the tone for tonight’s Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

                  Here is the full text of the pope’s homily from tonight’s Mass:

                  Dear Brothers and Sisters!

                    What’s in a name? Everything

                    Mary, Mother of God (Year B) Jan. 1 (Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21)

                    What is in a name? For modern people a name reflects personal preference and is often modelled on popular culture or family traditions. The given name has to have appeal or pizzazz.

                      Praying so as not to lose heart

                      One of the reasons we need to pray is so that we don’t lose heart. We all do sometimes. We lose heart whenever frustration, tiredness, fear and helplessness in the face of life’s humiliations conspire together to paralyse our energies, deaden our resiliency, drain our courage and leave us feeling weak in depression.

                      Poet Jill Alexander Essbaum gives us a poignant example in her poem, “Easter.” Reflecting on the joy that Easter should bring into our lives, she shares that Easter can instead be a season of defeat for us because its celebration of joy can highlight the shortcomings of our own lives and leave us with the feeling that “Everyone I’ve ever loved lives happily just past my able reach.”

                      And this feeling can drive us to our knees, in bitterness or prayer; hopefully prayer.