“Brethren, now is the hour for us to rise from sleep. . .
The night is passed and the day is at hand.
Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness. . .
Let us walk honestly, as in the day.”
Happy New Year!
Over the past several days, I’ve felt as though material for five or six different blog posts has been whirling around my head, waiting for a chance to leap out. I don’t know why it is (or actually, maybe I do) that busyness seems to creep in and disrupt the (relatively) quiet routine of daily life most during Advent. Especially such a short Advent as we have this year.
Already, during the first few days of Advent, it’s been a real struggle for quiet, stillness, prayer, reflection. But today, thankfully, there’s nowhere to go and no huge projects to be undertaken. Yesterday saw my laundry done, my Christmas budget all sorted out (finally! I’m such a terrible procrastinator!), and lots of St. Nicholas festivities, including baking and decorating two dozen cookies after the fashion of my favorite St. Nicholas picture book (yes, I love picture books), The Baker’s Dozen. Although time-consuming, it was a really fun project and very rewarding when they turned out both tasty and adorable. It was also so fun to spend time baking with my younger sister as Advent at Ephesus played in the background.
Yes, that was yesterday. Throw in a sick younger brother, a favorite episode of Laramie, some chicken fajitas, a hysterical game of Telestrations, regular prayer and chores, improvised on notepads because we don’t actually have the game itself, and the first half of the Fellowship of the Ring. . .the theatrical cut. . .so nostalgic. . .and you get the idea.
But today, I have time to sit back, breathe out, and gather my thoughts up into a blog post with a quiet and reflective spirit. This is nice.
The Holy Family with St. Barbara and St. John the Baptist
“On a time this blessed maid went upon the tower and there she beheld the idols to which her father sacrificed and worshipped, and suddenly she received the Holy Ghost and became marvelously subtle and clear in the love of Jesu Christ. . .This holy maid Barbara, adorned with faith, surmounted the Devil, for when she beheld the idols she scratched them in their visages, despising them all and saying: ‘All they be made like unto you which have made you to err, and all them that have faith in you’; and then she went into the tower and worshipped our Lord.
“. . .the judge commanded to slay her with the sword. And then her father, all enraged, took her out of the hands of the judge and led her up on a mountain, and St. Barbara rejoiced in hastening to receive the salary of her victory. And then when she was drawn thither she made her orison, saying, ‘Lord Jesu Christ, which hast formed Heaven and earth, I beseech Thee to grant me Thy grace and hear my prayer for all they that have memory of Thy Name and my passion; I pray Thee, that Thou wilt not remember their sins, for Thou knowest our fragility.’
“Then came there a voice down from Heaven saying unto her: ‘Come, my spouse Barbara, and rest in the chamber of God my Father which is in Heaven, and I grant to thee that thou hast required of Me.’
“And when this was said, she came to her father and received the end of her martyrdom. . .”
From Caxton’s The Golden Legend
When I read about St. Barbara, I can’t help but love how peppery she was. She was angry at her father’s mere question whether or not she wanted to marry–completely unafraid of ordering a third window, representing the Holy Trinity, be added to his architectural plans for a new building–scratching off the faces of his idols. And this was no sweet, meek pagan father. He eventually insisted on killing her himself. But St. Barbara, imprisoned in a tower because of his intense jealousy over her, had found Christianity in spite of his best efforts. She had found a love, the hold of which was far more powerful than his crazed jealousy. It is a gritty story, as are most martyrdoms, but radiantly beautiful. Christ entrusted to His beloved spouse Saint Barbara the courage of the most heroic of men, the purity of a child, and the faith of an angel, and after many trials freed her like a bird from her deranged father’s prison to rest in the chamber of her true Father. With what surpassing and indelible joy must she have flown to Him!
She is invoked especially against a sudden and unprepared death, hence the beautiful prayer she offers above before she is beheaded by her father, an act of adoration, a plea for grace, and a prayer for mercy upon other poor sinners. On that note, I read today that sixteen-year-old St. Stanislaus Kostka, while seriously ill in the house of an intolerant Protestant who would not allow Holy Communion to be brought to him, turned to Our Lady and St. Barbara and begged that he might not die without receiving the Blessed Sacrament. In answer to his prayer the Virgin Martyr appeared to him with two angels and administered Holy Communion to him.
St. Barbara, pray for us, share with us thy fortitude! Let us fear nothing except the loss of Christ! Assist us at the hour of our death!
A New Year
My little sister and I at the beach this summer. . .she’s even taller now!
“If we would overcome one fault a year, we would soon be perfect!”
-The Imitation of Christ
“It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life.”
-The Imitation of Christ
(Check out Mary’s free Living Virtuously Prints!)
“The Devil writes down our sins–our Guardian Angel all our merits.
Labor that the Guardian Angel’s book may be full, and the devil’s empty.”
-St. John Vianney
“We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money. . .
Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment.
When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes,
proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices!”
-St. John Vianney
“We should only make use of life to grow in the love of God.”
-St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
As another liturgical year begins, I can’t help but wonder what it may hold. It’s no joke that life begins to race by, faster and faster, as you get older. Childhood is steadily slipping into the past; womanhood is almost upon me. I am standing at the edge of a new path, straight and narrow, paved with roses and their thorns; breathing in the scent of all I’ve ever known around me, precious and yet not mine, just as I cannot belong to it.
It is God’s, and so am I.
- By a Benedictine of Mary, Queen of Apostles
This Advent so far truly is a time of patience, waiting with Our Lady for the mail to come, wondering if a response might be in it today at last. I won’t pretend it isn’t intensely difficult for me to be patient sometimes; but I know it’s a virtue I must gain, and can gain, with our Lady’s help. What a comfort to be united to her holy Expectation in this season!
While there are the bittersweet moments, the wondering if this or that event may be the last of its kind in this stage of my life, I feel so grateful that I can recognize the precious beauty of each moment now, hold it, kiss it goodbye, and give it back to Jesus with a smile, until He invites me to rejoice in it again an hundredfold in eternal life. I know without a doubt that there is nothing I could possibly give to Him that He will not, in indomitable, incorrigible generosity, turn right back around and make into the greatest of gifts.
. . .and Advent
“Do grant, oh my God, that when my lips approach Yours to kiss You, I may taste the gall that was given to You; when my shoulders lean against Yours, make me feel Your scourging; when my flesh is united with Yours, in the Holy Eucharist, make me feel Your passion; when my head comes near Yours, make me feel Your thorns; when my heart is close to Yours, make me feel Your spear.”
-St. Gemma Galgani
Before I even asked, our dear Lord answered my question of how I was to focus on receiving Him this Advent; namely, in His distressing disguise. He has whispered, too, that the only way I can do this is through true humility.
Beautiful, elusive, true humility. Like every other virtue, it comes easier with practice; so that is the theme of my journey towards Christmas this year, and thanks to Mary’s excellent suggestion, I’ve replaced my usual daily meditations with Mother Teresa’s Fifteen Steps to Humility. And, like every other virtue, it is found nowhere except in the Treasury of all Virtues, Mary Immaculate. As I renew my Total Consecration to her, I ask her as never before for true humility; because there is no way that, without relying on Jesus and Mary, I will ever attain that most precious gem.
“Be comforted, be comforted, O my people: thy Savior shall come quickly!
Why hath grief devoured thee? Why hath sorrow disfigured thee?
I will save thee: fear not: for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.”
I pray you all have a blessed and fruitful season of preparing to embrace our newborn Lord at Christmas! Oremus!