Thursday, December 25, 2008

In the Company of Saints at Christmastime

It is Christmastime and the chapel is filled with flowers sharing their fragrance and beauty with all of us in Mass today, a gray, cold, and cloudy day, brightened so much by the fact we are at Mass and the flowers are lovely and precious, brought by the saintly women of the parish.

My wife and I are converts to the Catholic Church, having been baptized in 2004, so we’re still in the process of learning about this universal community stretching through eons of time and encompassing so much temporal and spiritual space; but one thing we have learned is how much deeper we appreciate Christmas—the Advent Season—since becoming Catholic.

For many months the glow from our baptism carried me happily along in the observance of the sacramental life of the Church so familiar to many Cradle Catholics, attending Sunday Mass regularly, supporting the Church, blending many of the rituals around the liturgical seasons into our daily life; but then as the glow from the baptism wore somewhat off I entered a period of spiritual dryness.

The dryness came largely from the increased reading and study of the Catholic life in the United States and around the world, and as I began to see the human failures and satanic work in the priestly abuse of children; apparently connected to the deep trough of relativism the Church in America and Europe had been wallowing in for several decades as she struggled to combat the enemies from within and without.

I began exploring membership in strongly devout lay Catholic organizations I felt would help recapture the glow of baptism but what I found instead, was that what I thought I needed from Catholic organizations was something I only needed to do myself; embrace the daily practice of communion, prayer, and devotion.

The spiritual dryness I thought was calling me deeper back into the Church through lay organizational involvement was instead just a simple call to the daily table.

In June of this year I began attending daily Mass and observing the daily practice—praying the rosary, midday and evening prayers—I knew was part of living a deeper sacramental life in the Church. After several weeks of the daily practice I began to realize that the blessing and grace I was receiving was so wonderful in itself I needed no further stimulus to maintain it.

I also found, in the daily homiletic teaching from the priests of our parish, refreshment and broadening of spiritual grace that was deeply enhancing our journey into Catholicism as well as the sacramental grace received through daily reception of the Holy Eucharist.

However, the most wonderful grace is that received from being in the company of saints—Mass with the saints—both those whose stories we acknowledge each day, and the many saints surrounding me in the parish pews whose stories I do not know but whose faith and devotion to Holy Mother Church is so evident through their daily practice, and so beautifully represented in the flowers this Christmastime.

Their apostolates are reflected in their prayer intentions where they call for prayers for the apostolate of life, for vocations, for recovery; ah, what work these women do.

I have no doubt that those who come to daily mass are among the most deeply faithful of the parish and how much more potently will their prayers bring comfort to the suffering for whom they pray.

Women—who have been so marginalized throughout human history, yet retain the clarity of spirit, as did Mary, the mother of our Lord and Mary Magdalene, to see the truth—and it is they who are first in the daily mass, they who do almost all of the readings, they who mostly distribute the body and blood of our Lord; they the saints aborning, who I am privileged to be among each morning; and which most deeply resonates during Christmastime.

Merry Christmas!