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We celebrate today the Feast of the Presentation or traditionally called “Candlemas” or “Candle Mass.”  This is an ancient feast in the Roman Catholic Church dating back to as far back as 312 with some historical homilies by bishops.  This feast falls 40 days after Christmas and commemorates the Purification of Mary in the temple in Jerusalem following the mandate of the Law of Moses in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 12:2-8).  According to this Mosaic Law, any woman who had given birth to her first-born son is considered impure, and would have to go through a process of ritual purification.  Consequently, the Child Jesus was also presented to the temple to be consecrated to God according to the same Law.  Candle Mass was originally a celebration of the blessing of candles.  These candles were blessed and were reserved for the use of the Church in its different liturgical celebrations throughout the year.  In the liturgy, we still have the part of Simple or Solemn procession and blessing of the candles.  After Vatican II, the emphasis was refocused on the feast of the Presentation itself.  It traditionally became the day when Religious renew their vows as a symbol of renewing their religious consecration.  This year the Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day of Consecrated Life on February 7th.

This feast presents to us many points for personal reflection.  There are many things which come to my mind and among these are the following:
A lesson on poverty: This feast recalls to mind how Mary and Joseph were really poor.  They offered to God what was prescribed in the Law as the offering of poor people: turtle doves.  Sometimes we may be tempted to think that the Holy Family’s poverty was a pious tradition to exalt the virtue of poverty to those who were born poor in this world. Or to pacify the restless hearts of peasants during the middle ages by the backing of religion.  But this Gospel event proves to us that they were materially poor in the true sense of the word.  It is so consoling to think that material possessions are not always a badge of God’s favor and the lack of them is not a sign of God’s disfavor.
We are all consecrated: By virtue of our baptism, we are consecrated to God.  We are set apart to do a particular mission in life to bring about the Kingdom.  Consecration is lived out in many ways.  Religious are consecrated by a certain ritual in the Church which sets them aside for a particular ministry following a particular charism, within a particular Religious Order.  Ordained Priests are consecrated to be God’s ministers of Word and Sacraments for the life of one’s soul.  A baptized Christian in the world is consecrated to be a leaven, a salt of the earth, to make present the presence of God in the market-places of the world.  No one is exempted.  We just do not exist, we live for a purpose.  The Presentation of the Child Jesus was a statement of this truth.
God lives in His temple and because of that we ought to give the House of God the respect it deserves.  The drama of Mary’s purification, Jesus’ consecration, the prophecy made by Simeon and the love of the prophetess Anna, all demonstrate to us how holy the temple or Church is.  In our Catholic Churches is present, day and night, the Son of God, Lord of Heaven and earth, who chose to remain in that little piece of bread we call the Eucharist so that He can be with us always.  And yet, for one reason or other, we take it for granted.  We need to recapture the reverence and awe we once had for the House of God.  Everyone of us can cite examples of how people can be so disrespectful of God’s temple.
The sword piercing Mary’s heart was a prophecy of the Cross.  Along with the joy of having given birth to God, the joy was lined with sorrow because the prophecy foretells  rejection, hate and death.  Isn’t this a consequence of following Jesus, of discipleship?  The Cross is never far away from those who truly follow God.  That is one reason why people are afraid to follow Christ, “it is difficult, too complicated” many would say.  It entails dying: to self, selfish desires, life of sin.
As we celebrate this feast of the Presentation, let us again be mindful of these truths and ponder the insights which God reveals to those who seek Him.  “And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek (Malachi 3:1-4).  “Are you not aware that you are God’s temple?”  Let us enter in, into the temple of our soul.  Let us remain in silence before the Lord our God.  Nothing is needed for this journey except the desire to be united with Him. The language he hears best is the silent language of love.

Let Us Make Good Use of Time

Meditation for December 31 from Divine Intimacy:

1.  Time passes and does not return.  God has assigned to each of us a definite time in which to fufill His divine plan for our soul; we have only this time and shall have no more.  Time ill spent is lost forever.  Our life is made up of this uninterrupted, continual flow of time, which never returns.  In eternity, on the contrary, time will be no more; we shall be established forever in the degree of love which we have reached now, in time.  If we have attained a high degree of love, we shall be fixed forever in that degree of love and glory; if we possess only a slight degree, that is all we shall have throughout eternity.  No further porgress will be possible when time has ended.  “Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men” (Gal 6:10).  “We must give every moment its full amount of love, and make each passing moment eternal, by giving it value for eternity” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).  This is the best way to use the time given us by God.  Charity allows us to adhere to God’s will with submission and love and thus at the close of life, we shall have realized God’s plan for our soul; we shall have reached the degree of love which God expects from each one of us and with which we shall love and glorify Him for all eternity.

2.  The growth of charity depends upon meritorious acts, that is, good works done under the influence of charity.  Every good act merits an increase of charity, which may be given to the soul at once or withheld until the end of life, according to whether the act had been performed with all the love of which the soul was capable, or whether, on the contrary, it was performed with less vigor, generoisity, and carefulness than was possible at that moment.  In the first case, the increase of charity comes like interest which is immediately accrued to the capital, and which then bears interest together with it. In the second case, it is like interest which is kept separate from the capital and hence does not increase with it, even though it remains the property of the one who has acquired it.

In order that the merit of our good works, that is, the increase of charity which we have merited by them, be granted immediately, it is necessary that these works be done with all the love possible, that is,with all the good will and generosity of which the soul is capable.  Then it is as if the soul opens to receive the increase of love it has merited, and this is added at once to the capital of charity already possessed, immediately increasing its degree and intensity.

We have only the short day of this earthly life in which to grow in love, and if we wish to derive from it the greatest possible profit, we must overcome our natural inertia and carry out our good works “with our whole heart.” Then love will increase immeasurably and we shall be able to say to Our Lord like St. Therese of the Child Jesus: “Your love has grown with me and now it is an abyss, the depth of which I am unable to sound.”  We must, then, make haste while we still ahve time, for “the night cometh when no man can work” (Jn 9:4).

Prayer:

O Lord, as I look back on the year just passed, a year given me by Your divine Providence in which to increase my love of You, I can only grieve over myself and say to You: “How little I have loved You, my God!  How badly I have spent my time!”

Restore the time I have lost, my God, by granting me Your grace both in the present and in the future, that I may appear before You wearing the wedding garment, for You can do this if You so will.

On my part, O Lord, I can think of no better way to make up for the time I have lost than to try with all my might to increase my love.   Yes, my love will grow if, for Your sake, I fulfill all my duties and perform all my good works “with all my heart” and “with all my good will.”  Alas! I am so weak, so careless, so indolent!  I am inclined to flee from exerting myself; I try to avoid making sacrifices.  My nature always seeks what is easiest, what is least tiring, and soon falls into negligence and laziness.  Help me, O Lord, and strengthen my love by Your almighty power.  What I do for You is so little, grant, O my God, that I may at least do it with all the love possible.

“I have carefully studied the principal Religious Orders and none satisfies me well, my needs, my desires, and my tastes as does the Order of Carmel. Each Order has its rule and spirit, but I prefer that Order which to an austere rule, joins a spirit of love. Each has its end, but I prefer that whose end is sustaining the church and converting sinners. Each has its characteristic means, but I prefer that whose means is prayer. Each has its advantages, but I prefer that whose advantages are those of solitude. Each has its glory, but I, while passing by in humility that whose glory is learning and with reverence that whose glory is silence and in rapture that whose glory is poverty, while (humbly) striking my breast before that whose glory is penance. I run to that whose glory, before all other glory, is the incomparable glory of love. I hasten to enter the family of Elias, of Teresa, of John of the Cross and of Magdalene of Pazzi, a family inflamed by divine love. I, a little straw picked up from the dust by the Redeemer, purified by His grace, prepared by His Charity. I entered into this Order, as into a burning furnace, to be quickly consumed for Him; thus to attain the end for which He had created me by the means which it was His pleasure to choose for me. That was my hope.”

(From Sr. Marie Aimee of Jesus, who died in the odor of sanctity in Carmel of Paris, May 4, 1874)

Saint John of the Cross

Feast Day: December 14th

Carmelite, Mystic, Doctor of the Church

The Carmelite Order celebrates the feast of Saint John of the Cross on December 14th. Saint John is first of my favorite male Saints, with St. Francis De Sales, as my second. Humanly speaking, his life is a story of poverty and sufferings but spiritually, it is a story of love between a creature and the Creator. To know Saint John we need to know some basic facts about him. Continue Reading »

Our Lady of Guadalupe

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful feast appropriately celebrated during Advent.  Just as the message of Guadalupe was a message of light piercing through the darkness, so is the message of Advent that of Light dawning upon mankind.  The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is beautiful in that it once again shows us the tenderness of Mary as mother, appearing to a humble native named Juan Diego on the hills of Tepeyac, to offer consolation and hope to a world wrapped in ignorance and darkness.  She appeared heavy with child, anticipating the beautiful event we are to celebrate Christmas night, when the Child to be born of her comes to save His people. Continue Reading »

“Dead End.” This is the last thing I would want to see when I’m trying to find my way to somewhere. It awakens a host of negative feelings inside me: disappointment over all the lost time spent driving around, anger because I’m late arriving, or fear because I don’t know where I am and it’s getting dark and isolated! Our prayer life can be just a bit like that. Continue Reading »

Used with permission by author Kathryn Marcellino, OCDS  of  CatholicSpiritualDirection.org.

First of all, let me sincerely wish all of you celebrating Thanksgiving, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Whether spending Thanksgiving Day with family, friends or alone this year, we all have something very important to be thankful for and that is the greatest gift of all, God himself.
These are difficult times for many of us, but St. Teresa of Avila reminds us that, “God alone suffices.”


Even if our finances are failing, or family and friends are not around, or our health is not what it could be, we can still rightly give thanks for the greatest gift of all which is Jesus Christ, the Lord. And this gift can never be taken away from us.

St. Columba’s ancient Irish melody reminds us:
“The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his, And he is mine forever.”

Do not worry or be afraid

Jesus reassures us in our struggles and tells us we do not need to worry. Matt 6:31-34, “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
To experience the benefits of the greatest gift of all, who is God himself, we need to take time to raise our mind and hearts to God in prayer, thanksgiving and praise. We can do this by spending some quality time alone with God in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading and daily Mass if possible. We also need to seek God’s kingship over us (Matt. 6) by learning God’s will and doing it.
We often have many challenges in life. Prayer can be like a little vacation that gives us the power, strength and grace to face all that comes our way. In prayer we not only speak to God, but can listen to God to hear any directions or inspirations. We are never really alone because God is always with us. He is as accessible as a prayer and opening our heart to him.

Be thankful in all circumstances

Every day, but especially on Thanksgiving Day, let’s take time to “be thankful in all circumstances” as St. Paul tells us. Our true home and family is the Kingdom of God. All that we are now going through is passing and changeable, but inside we can be at peace as God is there. He is knocking at the door of our heart waiting for us to open it and let him in. He loves us and wants to be with us.
Do you focus on what is not going well (either your own problems or in the news)? One idea is turn off the TV or internet and spend some of that time in pray and focusing on God and good things. Having a spiritual rule of life is a good idea. (If interested this is covered in the “Seeking Union with God” Online Personal Spiritual Formation Course.)
Keeping our focus on God and the ultimate perspective of life will keep us on the right track. And if we have gotten off-track, and are not experiencing God’s peace inside, God is inviting us at this very moment with open arms to return to him as in the story of the Prodigal Son. Making a good confession can be a new beginning if we’ve been away. There is nothing that can give us as much peace as making a good confession and hearing the words of the Prayer of Absolution from the priest: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Experiencing God’s peace includes giving thanks

Experiencing inner peace is possible even when times are tough. We know that St. Paul did not always have things easy. In fact he was severely beaten for proclaiming the Gospel, and experienced hunger and other discomforts including martyrdom, and yet he could write in the midst of his sufferings the following passage. (By the way, the Scripture passage below if one of my favorites. It has a lot of great wisdom in almost every line, so I encourage you to read it and really think about what it says.)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that now at last you revived your concern for me. You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity. Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.” Philippians 4:4-14

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also says in #2638 “As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’; ‘Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.’ ”

Inner peace is not only a gift but a decision

What I learn from the above teachings is that even if things are seemingly not going well outside of me, I can decide and learn with the help of God’s grace to get things together inside of me, to give thanks to God and have inner peace even to the point of giving thanks and rejoicing. It reminds me of what a Carmelite priest once said, “If you’ve left peace, you’ve left God.”
Jesus came to give us his peace, love and joy and these cannot be taken from us by anything if we don’t let them. An example of this is St. Ignatius of Loyola, who struggled hard to found the Jesuits. He said that if the pope ordered him disband his Society, he would need only fifteen minutes in prayer to compose himself and be on his way.
One secret of staying in God’s peace, is to not selfishly cling to anything including needing things our way. This is called detachment. Sometimes we need to let things go in order to have what God might want to give in their place. And sometimes we need to stay where we are but just change our inner attitude. St. Catherine of Siena found a refuge inside of her heart where God dwells, a cell in her heart, which she described as like being in the calmness of a depths of the ocean even when the waves on the surface were rough and choppy.

Summary

St. Paul tells us to rejoice always and giving thanks to God no matter what is happening outside of us. He says to, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” To have God’s peace includes putting our focus and attention on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise”.
When I take time to pray, to be thankful and focus on good things, I do experience more of God’s peace inside. It helps me to realize that no matter what is happening at the moment, seemingly good or bad, that it is temporary and passing. What lasts forever is God and his Kingdom of which Jesus invites us to be a part. St. Catherine of Siena is an example of what we can aspire to when she said, “All the way to heaven is heaven because He said I am the Way.”
I hope and pray that we will all experience God’s love, peace, and joy to a greater degree this Thanksgiving and every day!

Kathryn Marcellino is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS). She is the author of How to Pray the Rosary as a Pathway to Contemplation. She offers instruction and resources on the Catholic faith through her website at http://www.CatholicSpiritualDirection.org as well as offering spiritual direction and answering questions on the Catholic faith via e-mail. She is married to author, speaker and musician, Dennis Marcellino.