Tag Archives: Holiday

“Peace on Earth” – Classic MGM Christmas Cartoon

23 Dec

Peace On Earth. Classic Christmas cartoon. MGM 1939. Anti-war.

Here is my early Christmas gift to all of my friends and visitors to this blog. I hope you take the 8 1/2 minutes to watch this extraordinary classic cartoon. It is distinguished as being the only cartoon to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I would describe this as a post-apocalyptic, dystopian-yet-utopian tale that presents the true meaning of the peace associated with the Christmas story in a manner that makes it still as relevant today as it was when it was first released, back in 1939. Think of it as an extended meditation on the twin themes of the “peaceable kingdom” and “turning swords into plowshares” that figure so prominently in the Book of Isaiah; two themes which serve as a backdrop to the story of the first Christmas found in the Gospels of Mathhew and Luke. What is ironic and sad is that this cartoon’s powerful anti-war message was largely forgotten or ignored just two years later when the USA entered the throes of WWII.

I post this now as we enter into this year’s Christmas season in hope that perhaps the message of this cartoon may engender in some people a reconsideration of the subversive but much needed message of Christmas: of the power of non-violent love that was incarnated in the coming of the Christ child some 2000 years ago. As we reflect on the sorrow, injustice and violence that plague our world right now, it should be clear that we need this cartoon’s simple message of peace and hope even more today.

I would love to have you post your reactions and thoughts here once you enjoy this heartwarming cartoon and ruminate over its message. And you are certainly encouraged to share or re-post this!

Merry Christmas and “Peace to All People of Good Will!!!”

Tom

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Video Meditation for Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

9 Dec

Please take a moment to settle back and quiet yourself,

recalling God’s ever present love.

 

Set aside all of the cares and concerns of this day.

 

Be in touch with your deep desire for God;

your own deep need for Love, for Grace, for Peace, and for Hope.

 

Pray: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” several times as you breath deeply.

 

Please watch now, with an open heart, a truly inspiring Advent meditation that I found to share with you this day.

 

 

Blessings,

Tom

Advent Resource: Feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6th

7 Dec

Icon of St. Nicholas by contemporary artist James Christensen

As most people know, our modern figure of Santa Claus had a real life inspiration in the 4th century saint, St. Nicholas of Myra. Myra, where he was born, was a busy port city on the Mediterranean Sea, helping to link Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Nicholas came from a wealthy family with parents who taught him to be generous to others, especially the poor and needy. He later came to be ordained a priest. Then one morning, after the bishop of Myra had died, many local people were gathered praying in the village church for a sign to help them discern who should be the next bishop. Divine inspiration told them that the next priest to enter the church should be ordained . This was Nicholas, who became bishop by popular acclamation, as was the custom of the times. Many stories are told of St. Nicholas’ holiness and generosity, including miracles he is said to have performed.

The Story of the Three Impoverished Daughters

One such story depicting the generosity of St. Nicholas concerns a rich man in Myra who had lost all of his money when his business failed. This man had three lovely daughters who all wished to get married. Unfortunately, the father had no money to offer as a dowry.  Without a dowry, the daughters were doomed to be lifelong spinsters, or even worse, subject to being sold into slavery.

The father felt that he was a failure. Desperate to provide food for his family, the man decided to sell one of his daughters into slavery, hoping that they other two would survive.

 

The night before his first daughter was to be sold, St. Nicholas took a small bag of gold into his hand. Then after quietly approaching their house in the darkness, tossed the gold into the house through an open window, and then quickly vanished.

The next day, the father found the bag of gold which had fallen into one of his stockings* hanging next to his bed. He had no idea where it came from. At first he thought that it must be counterfeit, but once he tested it and found out that it really was gold, he set about pondering which of his friends or relatives could have done such a thing. He decided that none of them could have possibly have given this to him.

The poor man fell to his knees and great tears came to his eyes. He thanked God for this beautiful gift. His spirit rose again to new heights of gladness as he quickly set to arranging a wedding for his first daughter. As it turns out, there was enough money not only for her dowry, but for he and the rest of his family to live for a year. But he often wondered who had given them the gold!

After a year had gone by, the father once again found himself broke. Desperate and distraught, he decided that his second daughter must be sold into slavery. Once again, Nicholas, upon hearing of the father’s plight, once again came to the house by night and tossed in another bag of gold. The next morning, the father rejoiced and thanked God as he once again found the gold. The father also begged God’s forgiveness for losing hope. But he was once again left to ponder what mysterious stranger gave him such a gift?

The man kept a vigil by the window for many nights after this, hoping to catch his benefactor, but to no avail. And so he arranged another joyous wedding for his second daughter. Once again, after a year, his money ran out and he found he and his last daughter in poverty.  In the dead of one night, the father heard steps outside of his house and a bag of gold being tossed through the window. He quickly rushed out to see who had thrown it there and discovered the saintly bishop walking away in the dark. After catching up with St. Nicholas, he recognized who his benefactor had been all along.

“Why did you give me this gold?” the father asked?

“Because you needed it,” answered Nicholas.

With tears in his eyes, the father embraced the bishop and thanked him. But he asked, “Why did you not tell us who you were?” “Because it is good to give  and have God alone know about it.”

*This lovely story seems to be the origin of putting stockings out to be filled with goodies and toys, be it on Christmas and/or the feast of St. Nicholas. Also, some versions of the story tell of the gold landing in shoes instead, which explains why many put shoes out instead.

The Legend of St. Nicholas and the Evil Butcher

There is a story, or rather legend, that is told about St. Nicholas, helps to explain why he has traditionally been viewed as the patron saint of children. The story of “The Evil Butcher” can be found in several forms, but the most intriguing is the story as it is popularly told in France. This version, dating apparently from the middle ages, is rather gruesome, sounding an awful lot like one found in a collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. Below is a short form of this story that I found:

Nicholas Saving 3 Children from the Evil Butcher

Three little children sought the plain
Gleaners of the golden grain.
They lingered past the angel-song,
And dewy shadows swept along.

‘Mid the silence of the wood
The butcher’s lonely cottage stood,
“Butcher! lodge us for the night,
Lodge us till the morning light.”
“Enter in, ye children small,
I can find a place for all.”

The butcher seized a knife straitway,
And did the little creatures slay.
He put them in a tub of brine,
In pieces small as they were swine.

St. Nicholas, at seven years end,
His way did to the forest wend.
He sought the butcher’s cottage drear:
“Butcher! I would rest me here!”

“Enter! enter, St. Nicholas!
You are welcome, St. Nicholas!
Enter! enter, St. Nicholas!
There’s place for you the night to pass.”
Scarce had the Saint his entrance made,
He would the supper board was laid.

“Will you have of ham a slice?”
“I will not, for it is not nice!”
“Of this veal you’ll take a bit?”
“No! I do not relish it.”

“Give me of the little swine,
For seven long years have laid in brine!”
The butcher caught the words he said,
And forthwith from the portal fled.

“Butcher! butcher! do not flee,
Repent and God will pardon thee!”

St. Nicholas the tub drew near,
And lo! he placed three fingers there.
The first one said, “I sweetly rest!”
The second said, “I too am blest!”
The third replied, “Tis well with me,
In Paradise I seem to be!”

*freely translated from the French by English poet James Henry Dixon (1803–1876)

 

There are dozens of other fascinating stories and legends surrounding the figure of St. Nicholas, many of them truly inspiring. Always they are delightful to read. I would invite and urge you to spend some time at the links and sites available on the internet. Like me, once you begin to do so, you’ll surely find yourself fall in love with St. Nicholas all over again!

The most comprehensive internet site is most certainly one called The St. Nicholas Center. There you will find a massive collection of information about St. Nicholaus, including: historical information and primary documents; stories and customs about St. Nicholas from around the world; online copies of illustrated children’s books; a large collection of religious icons and paintings of St. Nicholas and his life; and dozens of resources for celebrating and teaching about St. Nicholas. And this just scratches the surface! It would take weeks to make your way through everything there.  I certainly plan on returning there often during the remainder of this Advent season.

Here are a few quick links from the St. Nicholas Center that I found intriguing, and I bet you will, too:

  • Because of how large the site is, start at the site map page found here:   http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=23 . The site is so large and detailed, unless you go to this page, I find that you’ll run the risk of missing much of the fun it offers, especially if you were to rely solely on the side panels for navigation.
  • A large collection of stories, legends and miracle accounts surrounding the life of  St. Nicholas can be found here, including The Golden Legend: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=911 .  Many of these are lavishly illustrated, and some are interactive.
  • The Life of St. Nicholas shown in paintings, icons, and frescoes from around the world is found here:    http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=913
  • For an interactive page for discovering how the feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated with different customs around the world. Almost three dozen different countries are represented. Go here:    http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=76
  • A collection of online stories, activities, and games for children can be found here:  http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=166
  • An wonderful collection of articles and prayers to enhance your celebration of this great saint can be found here  http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=120 and here http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=1 . One of the articles found there that I especially like include a magical story by the well-known spiritual author Fr. Edward Hayes called The Pay-less Shoe Gift Shop & Hobbit Gifts. Another article I found was a reflection by Orthodox Christian and peace activist Jim Forest on St. Nicholas and the death penalty  called A Saint Who Stopped an Execution.” Once you go there, I’m sure that you’ll find others that appeal to your interests and spiritual needs.

    Banner for St.NicholasCenter.Org (Click me!)


Advent Retreat At Home?: Some Resources for You!

4 Dec

Many of us might wish or dream that we could stow away for an Advent / Winter retreat, but given today’s economy, we find that we can afford neither the time nor the money to do so. Advent is time provided us by the Church to intensify our ongoing conversion to the Gospel, to becoming more attune to God’s presence in our lives, and to grow more Christ-like in our love and service to others. Thankfully, there are many excellent free resources to be discovered right on the internet today that allow you and I, with a little discipline and effort, to make a meaningful spiritual retreat right in the comfort of our own home! I’d like to share a few. These are ones that I have either  personally found beneficial or they are resources on websites that I often visit and know to be of solid value.

It just so happens that in each of these cases, the retreat resources come from members of the Jesuit order. For those of you not familiar with the Ignatian traditions for prayer (another name for the Jesuit tradition), you will find it a scripturally-centered approach that emphasizes using one’s imagination and feelings as important tools for prayer. You will also find that wherever commentaries are provided on particular scripture passages, they are invariably well-written and enlightening. Here they are some links with a brief description of each:

  1. One Day Advent Retreat: If you are strapped for time, or have a whole day to yourself, and want to spend some time in prayerful solitude, an anonymous priest (from the internationally acclaimed site  Sacred Space, which is run by an Irish Jesuit community) has provided the materials for a guided mini-retreat here: http://www.sacredspace.ie/retreat/retreat200511_index.htm.  As you will see, there are three sessions comprising the retreat. You are instructed to make out a schedule for your sessions. Just scroll down to the bottom of the web page and then download the retreat materials, either as a Microsoft Word document or in PDF format.
  2. “PRAYING ADVENT”: I would call this excellent site provided by the Jesuit Community of Creighton University a kind of “Build-Your-Own-Advent-Retreat” or “Spiritual Erector Set” approach, aimed at helping spiritual seekers pray their way through the Advent and Christmas season. The link is found here: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/ In addition to providing a daily meditation for each day of the Advent and Christmas seasons, there are a large number of additional articles, prayers, devotions and and scripture meditations to be found here that can be personally adapted to your interests, needs and time, so that you can prayerfully escape the hustle-bustle of life. In the lower right-hand corner of the web page, you will also find audio retreats (from actual retreat sessions) led by Fr. Lawrence Gillick, S.J. and Andy Jaspers, S.J. You can listen to one session a day or once a week, making it a more extended mini-retreat experience for yourself. This can be done spending as little as ten minutes a day.  So that you get the maximum benefit of the materials found on this site, I suggest that you be sure and read this brief “Guide to Daily Prayer” article found on the site: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/dailyguide.html.
  3. Advent Devotions for High School and College Age Youth: The campus ministry program at Creighton University continues its long tradition of providing daily meditations on scripture written by various students. I have always been struck by how insightful and spiritually challenging these reflections are. Young or old, you’ll find these wonderful aids to making daily prayer an important part of your Advent and Christmas seasons! Go here where you will find the daily reflections displayed in a calendar: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html
  4. “Advent Reflections” On-the-Go (PODCAST FORMAT): Many people (and I am one of them) like to listen to podcasts on their iPod or MP3 Player. And I have a number of podcasts that I listen to that have spiritual themes. If you are one of these, perhaps you might try this Advent retreat podcast, compliments of the Jesuit community of the New England Province. There are four audio files that can be downloaded for listening to on your portable sites, one for each week of Advent, and each presented by a different Jesuit priest.  The topic themes for each week are: Anticipating Joy, Using the Examen During Advent, Imaginative Prayer, and Advent Gifts and Graces. One of the great advantages here is that listeners are introduced to and taught many of the elements of Ignatian prayer, including how to discern (recognize)  God’s presence (the Ignatian motto is “See God in All Things”), the prayer of the Exam (a wonderful prayer form used to help one learn to “hear” what God is saying), and the use of the imagination in prayer. The site is found here:  http://www.sjnen.org/AdventReflections

There are so many more great resources out there but I hope you find one or more of these sites helpful in enriching your prayer during this blessed season of Advent!

Maranatha! (Come Lord Jesus!),

Tom

Advent: What Are We Waiting For? — Some Resources for Jump-starting Your Observance

3 Dec

 

Advent Prayer

by Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness,

send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Amen.

 

Orthodox Christian author Matthew Gallatin has claimed that we in America have traditionally celebrated the Christmas season in a backwards fashion. He writes: “Just as the guest of honor walks through the door, it’s all over.” Wow! Ain’t that the truth! It is my hope that I might be of service in helping you, my reader, and others to rise above the crass commercialism surrounding the business world’s countdown to Christmas by helping you find ways to enter as deeply as possible into the mysteries of this sacred season of Advent. As I have already indicated, I hope to provide a series of resources to assist you in doing just that. Here are a few general but important ones on the internet that I think you might like:

For those of you who might want a simple and even folksy introduction to the meaning of the Advent season, I suggest you visit an article entitled “Advent Introduction: What is Advent? Why Does It Matter? How Can We Celebrate It?” at this link: http://blog.beliefnet.com/markdroberts/pages/advent-introduction.html

If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of the meaning, including an overview of the history of the season of Advent, here is an excerpt from a book by a Benedictine monk named “Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B:  http://www.internetpadre.com/christmas/history_of_advent.html

Prayer and the reading of scripture are two the most important practices for entering into the spirit of Advent. Here are some excellent general resources to get you on your way:

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a new site with many resources for helping you and your family pray your way through Advent. They have even included an online Advent calendar wherein each door opens to a new web page containing lectionary readings and prayers for the day:  http://www.usccb.org/advent/advent_index.shtml . You can also find at this site a printable booklet in PDF form called “Advent and Christmas with Pope Benedict XVI” with excerpts from his homilies accompanied by scripture readings and prayers. There is a different entry for each day of Advent and Christmas. This booklet is available for download at this link: http://www.usccb.org/advent/AdvChr.pdf .
  • If you are a little hurried, or just like things relatively short and sweet, a community of Irish Jesuits have provided their own online Advent Calendar that is not only inspiring, but is visually pleasing, appearing in the form of an animated Advent Wreath. Each day once again opens to a link to the lectionary readings of the day, accompanied by a brief but inspiring devotional and prayer. They even set it up so you know what day to click to get your inspiration! Check it out here: http://www.ciadvent.ie/2010/wreath.php

That’s it for today, but I’ll return tomorrow with some more resources, including links to online Advent retreats you can take advantage for free in the comfort of your own home!

If you find discover something personally helpful here, or if you know of an online resource you’d like to share with the visitors to my blog, you are encouraged to leave a comment. Likewise, if you have an Advent devotion or practice you’ve found personally helpful, you are likewise encouraged to share that with us!

Shalom,

Tom

Introducing a Series of Advent/Christmas/Winter Solstice Resources

30 Nov

Hi, everyone! I’ve been meaning to get around to write again to for a few days now but I have decided that I would post a series of posts in the spirit of the Advent / Christmas seasons. I won’t be a purist here, avoiding any mixing of Advent and Christmas material. However, think of this as a kind of virtual online Advent Calendar that you can visit. For your edification, you will find spiritual reflections, readings, prayers, music, videos, helpful links, recipes, and even some fun to hopefully help you join me in entering more deeply in the spirit of this blessed time of the year. Since I plan on posting at least once everyday, I will not even try to make everything I post original. That way I can keep up with all I wish to accomplish.  And I’m really going to enjoy this!

I hope you like what you find here enough to visit often, if not daily, for an infusion of grace to brighten your day! Please let me know when you like something I’ve shared through a thumbs up and/or adding your own thoughts through a comment. And you are more than encouraged to share your own related thoughts and reflections as we journey together. As the old song says: “It’s a Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

Shalom!

Tom

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