Pope Francis instituted a new observance on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Word of God Sunday is dedicated to the celebration, study and spreading of the Word of God. It is interesting in our family that over the last 5 months we have found ourselves focusing more on the gift of the Word of God. One of the things that has helped us was the discovery of a book. Occasionally we order used religious books from a convent. Sometimes we have heard of the books, sometimes we take a chance and order a few books we know nothing about with hopes we will be pleasantly surprised. We have found many gems in this way. Recently, we obtained a book that was new to us and I began reading it to my children. It is called: Surrounded by Angels. It is the true story of a Bible courier behind the iron curtain. It takes place in the late 60s or early 70s in Eastern Europe. An individual finds himself given a large number of Bibles in Bulgaria and takes the chance of crossing the border to return home to Romania. This crossing becomes the first of many he will make in order to secure and bring Bibles to those who were in need of them. As the story unfolds, many of his trips are mostly unplanned but the families and people he meets often share that they have for years prayed they might receive a Bible. Often there are tears shed by those given a Bible of their own. Hearing these stories has created an increase awareness of the gift we have been given to have access to a Bible from which we can freely read.
Sometimes it seems that Our Lord brings different things together in a short period of time to teach a person or family. Such it seems has been happening with the Word of God in our family. Even with this new attention to the incredible gift of the Word of God there is still the appreciation that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the blessings and graces available to us through study and reading of Scripture.
Our personal experience has been one where my husband reads the Old Testament to our family each night. As he is Jewish, he reads to us the Old Testament. This has been a tremendous gift since so often through my own childhood as a Catholic I often heard the Gospels but knew far less about all the old Testament stories.
Initially when we began family prayer with our children my husband read a Children's Bible but as the years have gone by we progressed to an adult Bible. We keep a Bible out in our Living Room. I have included a picture of it above.
One of the things that has beautifully complemented the reading of the Bible has been the praying of the Rosary. Since the Rosary is based in Scripture it has helped our kids contemplate the Life of Jesus.
Everything is a process and we have seen in our family that consistency with any endeavor has been important. So we humbly invite families to try to integrate the reading of Sacred Scripture into their evening routine and also the prayer of the Rosary as a family.
Shortly before Christmas we purchased a bird feeder. Our youngest son has taken an interest in bird watching. The bird feeder was very simple and attached to the window of our prayer room. On a few occasions a bird was seen feeding but it was a rare sight. The food we put also never seemed to disappear. Today things changed.
Recently I have been wanting to do a day of silence and a recent illness that has kept me home seemed to open the door for just such a day today. Thus sitting in the prayer room, I began to notice birds coming to the feeder. A brilliantly red cardinal caught my eye and then the mate which was a brown color with a red beak. At first the birds seemed nervous and approached cautiously. They perched and were quick to fly away. A sparrow came and fluttered even fearing to land. But as the day progressed the birds got more bold. They came and ate their fill. When the feeder became empty we were happy to refill it. To see the birds eating made the kids and I happy. Sitting in the prayer room the following Scripture came to mind:
"Do not worry about your life, what you will eat
[or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food
and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow
or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?"(Matthew 6:25-26)
It seemed interesting to me that today of all days the birds would discover the feeder. Sometimes Our Lord helps us to understand things too complicated for us by allowing us to observe certain things in Nature. Today in prayer, I began to see the birds in many ways as souls who may come to Our Lord hungry. While the birds may be struggling at this time of year to find food on the ground or in the trees, since our recent snow cover, here was an abundance of food only waiting to be eaten. Likewise, does God stand with an armful of grace only waiting for us to come to Him in prayer and ask for it? Today with a day of silence there was more time to appreciate such things. There was time to be quiet. Many of us think about the New Year and think of physical conditioning but the New Year is also a time for conditioning of the Spirit.
Recently in starting to read the book by Cardinal Sarah, "The Power of Silence" there were many observations made in regard to the fruits of silence. Here is one observation made in the book: No prophet ever encountered God without withdrawing into solitude and silence....The true desert is within us, in our soul.
Grace is available to each one of us. May we make good use of our time. God is generous with us and invites us to ask and promises that we will receive. (cf. Matthew 7:7)
May God bless you this New Year.
Following up our visit to Kenya, a large box of rosaries was sent this fall to Fr. Wachira and Br. Cleophus. This has helped to start a Children's Rosary prayer group at an orphanage in Masimba, Kenya. The orphanage is named after St. Clare. There are 30 children who are participating in this new Children's Rosary. The group was launched on December 22nd 2019.
We thank those who send us handmade rosaries and have made donations that allow us to cover the shipping expenses to places such as Kenya. From the smiles you can see how excite the children are to receive their own Rosary. It is so hopeful to see the faith strengthening amongst the next generation.
On Epiphany, the Children's Rosary at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, Connecticut USA was asked to help with a living Nativity at the Parish. The Rector, Fr. Sullivan, arranged to have animals present. He emphasized all would be done in a reverent way. Members of the Children's Rosary dressed up to re-create the scene in Bethlehem.
Fr. Sullivan for half of the Mass held a newborn lamb in his arms. I found myself watching both the lamb and Fr. Sullivan closely.
The lamb surprisingly was very docile in his arms and never seemed to struggle or want to get away. He sometimes would close his eyes and rest against the chest of the priest.
Other times the baby lamb would raise his head and his ears would swing forward or relax back. In turn, there were times when Fr. Sullivan would close his eyes and hug the little lamb tight.
It seemed like the cover image on our Children's Rosary book with Our Lord holding a lamb was coming to life before us. The priest is Christ's representative on earth. To see the priest holding the lamb with such care and love helped to bring to life that relationship that we are called to have with Our Lord. The lamb as I watched did not work to support his own weight. His legs hung gently down. Even when incense was brought and swung before the little lamb he did not seem to worry or become agitated. He clearly trusted the arms that held him. These moments and images that I witnessed during the Mass on Epiphany have helped my disposition in prayer. Seeing this tiny helpless lamb so safe and cared for by the priest is a reminder of the simplicity and trust we are to have as we approach Our Lord.
A special thank you to all the children who helped with the living Nativity at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Epiphany Sunday. We also thank Fr. Sullivan for inviting the Children's Rosary to be a part of this Mass.
Today we celebrate the last day of the Christmas season. Tomorrow, January 13th, we return to Ordinary Time. We are grateful to those who participated in our Children's Rosary Patiently Waiting campaign 2019. This included putting a sign in one's window that read "Patiently Waiting" through Advent. We invited those who participated to replace the Patiently Waiting sign on December 25th with one that read: Christ is born. The sign above is the sign we placed in our home. Our son Asher can be seen in the window. We have kept this sign in our window through the whole Christmas Season. It is a gentle reminder that the time of Christmas begins on December 25th....it does not end on the 25th. It is a celebration of this special time...one that we anticipated in prayer.
At our monthly Children's Rosary this morning at St. Thomas the Apostle, we had a Nativity present which the children gathered around to pray their Rosary. They took turns placing yellow roses at the crib of Baby Jesus at the end of each decade. During the Rosary, there was a moment when little Peyton, only 3 years old, was walking to the podium to help lead a mystery of the Rosary with an older child. As she passed by the altar, being so tiny, she hit her head on the corner. It clearly was very painful. She gabbed for her head and many tears followed. Her mom rushed to pick her up and cradled her in her arms. Little Peyton closed her eyes and was gently comforted by her mom. We all waited to continue the prayers until her mom gestured to us to continue. In watching Peyton, it was a special moment to think of Our Lord in the arms of His mother Mary. One could imagine Our Lady comforting Baby Jesus. The Nativity scene for those moments came alive in our prayers. In this last day of Christmas, there is still time to ask for those special graces available to us through each liturgical season.
May Jesus be born in our hearts. Amen.