Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Dedicated to the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and to my own family, father, mother, sisters,  brother, who, under God, have taught me the true meaning of Christmas.

May the peace of Christ and the joys of the Christmas season dwell in families and hearts, that our homes may be more fruitful nurseries for vocations, and that Priests, Brothers, and Sisters may increase in the family of the Lord to insure the peace of Jesus Christ in the family of nations.

Then shall our Christmas have a real meaning and be a happy, blessed, and merry Christmas.

The Author
(The Very Rev. Msgr. Aloysius F. Coogan)

Feast of the Sacred Heart
June 12, 1953

* See Msgr. Coogan's  Preface to Spiritual Steps to Christmas here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

"A child Is Born"
(Feast of the Nativity)

here went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the w3hole world should be enrolled.  This enrollment was first made by Cyrinus the governor of Syria, and all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.  And it came to pass,that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shep0herds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of god shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.  And the angel said unto them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people: for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.  And this shall be a sign unto you:  You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will (Lk. 2:1-14).

The message of Christmas is the sweetest story ever told -- " a Child is born"; and that Child is God, born of Mary ever virgin, a maiden espoused to a man named Joseph, the humble carpenter of Nazareth.

The message of birth is always an occasion for joy, but what greater joy could there be than the message of the birth of God amongst men.  For joy of this birth the angels sang, echoing over the hills of Bethlehem, a Gloria in Excelsis Deo, and the message;  "For this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.  And this shall be a sign unto you:  You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger." In the introit of the third Christmas Mass we read:  "A Child is born to us, and a son is given to us." The Christ Child is born for our salvation.  He is the Son of God!  He is given to us -- what a gift at Christmas!

Recently I spoke to a little six-year old school child whom I saw standing outside the school building shortly after 9 o'clock.  She was in great fear lest if she entered the school -- for she was late -- she would incur severe penalties from her teacher.  I offered to take her into the classroom to plead her cause, for she was in tears.  But she refused to let me do so and decided to return home again.  I imagine there was nothing so terrible at that particular moment for that little girl than to face her teacher.  And so it is with ourselves and the great God of heaven and earth.  Our troubles at Christmas time in a war-ridden world are more tumultuous to us than the raging seas, but I wonder if God does not see another side.  you may say, what could be more grave than the suicidal act of war -- brother killing brother.  Does God ridicule our ills as picayune?  No!  But God can see the ultimate end of it all -- that good will triumph after the world has been scourged at the pillar of suffering and has crucified its own pride and sensuality.  For we are but children to God; yes children of a larger growth, and what matters it at all if we are purged of our selfishness, our waywardness, our sinfulness here, so long as we gain the victory over our lower impulses and win life eternal?

Could nature talk to us on a beautiful night as the stars twinkle in the heavens and bombers block out momentarily the light of the moon, she would say to us, that which is small in you, you are magnifying, and that which is great in you, you are minimizing.  Your destiny lies beyond the stars, beyond the moon, beyond the earth.  your short span of earthly existence is so unimportant as compared with your eternal destiny that you are foolish to take anything serious in life except the saving of your immortal soul.  If the oxen in the cave of Bethlehem could only speak they would tell us that we would find Christ in a humble cave of the hillside and not in the inn of the world.  If nature against whose starry background the bombers fly and upon whose bosom of the sea the ships and submarines sport in war, if the very skies through which the jets speed their way could but utter a word, they would all sing, "Glory to God" and "Oh, how foolish are the sons of men who war in frenzied hate."

Ah, but the skies do speak, the stars speak!  Yes, and the oceans speak!  They tell us of God; of His power, His might, His beauty, His omnipotence!  For those who have faith the handwriting of God is seen in everything He has written, be it carved in the rocks, the brooks, the sky, or the sea!  "I see His blood upon the rose... His face in every flower," said Joseph Plunkett.

Look into the face of a child this Christmas, and you will see there the hope of the future world.  All your cares will have ceased a thousand times over when that child reaches maturity.  Look into the face of the Child in the crib, the virgin Mother, and Joseph, and you will find the message of Christmas Lift up you heart, as the priest at Mass reads:  "A Child is born," and sing "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will."


Babe of Bethlehem, help me to minimize my worldly ills by placing them all at Your feet and help me to magnify in true perspective the Church's teaching that nothing counts so much as a good life.  Help me to be humble by placing all success at Your feet, that I may know true greatness consists in acknowledging that all I have is Yours, and You are mine, and I am the littlest child of God.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Prayer and Fasting
(Vigil of Christmas)

od is lavish in His generosity.  He has bountifully bestowed upon men and women of this age and day many beneficent gifts and graces.  As such we are the custodians of His treasures, and of us He shall exact an account of our stewardship.

Today, as never before, there are opportunities for rebuilding the world according to the divine plan of things.  We are confronted with many problems, but all these grant us opportunities in the form of challenges.

The Church is looking today to Christian homes as the cradles where young hearts may be schooled in the knowledge of God in order that they may renew the face of the earth.  It is not so much the gifts of God to which we look, for these are always present, as god is all-bountiful and good.  it is the use of these gifts that counts.  The proper use of these gifts rests with the servants of God.  To use well the gifts of God some shall have to respond to the call to the religious life, other sons and daughters shall have to meet the challenge of a pagan world and go forth as Christian parents to replenish the earth with new love and life and grace.

To those who have no faith there seems to be a great chasm between the state of marriage and the religious life.  yet this is not true!  For each state, carrying its own duties and privileges, likewise carries its own joys and satisfactions.  Each one of us in every station of life has a vocation, St. Paul assures us.  To the crucifix must all men to go learn the true purpose of life, and all must climb the hill of Calvary, where sacrifice saw its perfection, as all who responded to God's grace were lifted up above the earth; Mary, Magadalene, John, and the Centurion!

Life and love have meaning only in the belief that God is our Father, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier.  Life takes off its dull, drab cloak of humdrum monotony only when there is purpose behind our every act, and when each day is consecrated to the end for which God gave it to us.

The surest way to enjoy the gifts of God is to place them at His feet and to give them back to Him and to our neighbors in humble acknowledgment of the fact that we are but custodians of God's treasures.  Giving away the gifts of God in fulfillment of the purpose of life is what the mother and father do as they bring life to the world and consecrate their own selves to fashioning more and more God's image in the souls of those entrusted to their care.  Giving away the gifts of God is what the priest, the religious do as they devote their talents to the glory of God and the service of men and bring to souls communion with the life of God.

Today, as perhaps never before, we have opportunities to dedicate ourselves to the rebuilding of a new world of the spirit.

God alone is supreme.  We are his stewards.  May He grant us the grace always to be worthy custodians of His gifts, cheerful dispensers of His bounty, and stewards who need have no fear of rendering an account.  What better time to meditate upon making a return of the gifts than Advent, when preparing for Christmas.


God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hear our prayer, we beseech You, and grant to Your servants that peace of mind and concord of soul that, using well Your gifts and graces, we may be found worthy in Your sight of everlasting reward.

Adoration of the Shepherds
- Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fourth Thursday of Advent

Christmas Means Charity -- Heaven's First Law

ove is the greatest power in the world.  It is stronger than death.  It depends not upon coercion or force but upon inspiration.  Love, which is charity, is the first law of God.  All other laws are rooted in it.  Love depends not upon any power in the world.  It has its roots and inspiration in God.  Only the almighty power of God is capable of inspiring divine love from which all human love flows -- and without divine inspiration love cannot endure.

Like the every flower that the lover bestows upon his loved one -- the rose, which bears many thorns -- so true love is often born out of sorrow.  Charity, then, which is love of God and of neighbor, shares joy and sorrow alike.

These considerations should prompt us to make an intention in all that we do for our neighbors.  That intention should be purified each day with prayer, and that should be a prayer that all things we do might be prompted by love of God.  No human motive, no matter how noble, can take the place of charity.  No philanthropic project, no matter how stupendous, if not properly rooted in God as well as man, can be compared to the widow's mite prompted by the inspiration divine.  In these days when so many drives are being carried out to alleviate the sufferings of peoples both here and abroad, it is well to rember prayerfully the words of the Apostle on charity, that it will avail nothing unless God is part of our plans.

If the Vicar of Christ had a thousand voices he could enunciate a thousand different heart-stirring appeals, he could speak of the neediest cases, and stir thousands of hearts to pity and urge them to sacrifice.  Yet, all the thousand voices and all their neediest cases would have but one motivation and one inspiration, namely, God.  For all that we do for our neighbor, we do out of the motive of love of God.  This is charity!

Did you ever playfully, but never with more serious intent, as a little child the question:  "How much do you love me?"  Then did you think long and meditatively on the child's answer?  Do you remember that there were no words spoken?  There was only an eloquent gesture.  Little arms were outstretched all the way as far as they could. The child was showing that its love was boundless.  Now, perhaps, if one could phrase the same question to Jesus as one knelt before the crib at Christmas or the crucifix on Good Friday, "How much, O Lord, do You love me?"  he would obtain the same answer.  The answer would be identical to the little child's response -- no words spoken, but an eloquent gesture of arms outstretched all the way in token of His boundless love.

If we are attuned to the charity of the Sacred heart from whence all love that is lasting must flow, then we will practice the perfect way of life and live according to the first law of love.


Bless, O Lord, all our hearts today and move them to pity.  Let this pity be for themselves, lest one day they appear before You naked of the riches of charity.  Being moved to compunction for our sins we shall then love you more and show this love to men.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Peace on Earth

eace is more than simply the absence of conflict.  Peace means God's life in our souls.  Peace means grace abundant in the souls of men.  And so, dismayed by the horrors of war, the suffering and distraught peoples of the globe look to the leaders of nations for a surcease from the pain and death of war.  On all sides, from friend and foe, from ally and enemy, this desire for a cessation of armed strife comes.  But only upon the teachings of the humble Nazarene, who came to earth as a Babe born in a stable, can there be built a lasting order of justice and charity, the two essential notes for a lasting peace.

From Bethlehem hills will echo the bells of a new Christmastide, announcing anew tidings of joy and the good news of the Gospel to all who will permit such hallowed sounds to filter through the din of the world's excitement and the roar of cannon and shell.  From the hill of the Vatican 'round the world will go the echo of Christ in the voice of Hi9s Vicar.  Yet, error and prejudice and hatred will blind many hearts and dull many souls to that message of the Pope of Peace.  Still Pius prays, "O God, from whom all just works do proceed give to your servants that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be disposed to obey Your commandments and that our days may be peaceful."

The Pope's peace plan includes the right of nations to independence, disarmament, a world court where universal justice for small nations may be obtained, and principally a return to God and religion.  Shortly after the ascension of Pope Pius XII to the papal throne war broke out in Europe.  Yet, he has more than any other man living sought daily by virtue of his office to avert the spread of that global catastrophe.  Nothing is gained by war that cannot be achieved by peace," he has warned the nations.  How true the words have been and how sorrowful have the nations become through loss of their choicest citizens because they have not heeded his advice. 

The Holy Father has spoken many times of peace at Christmas.  How true his words but recently uttered -- "a true peace is not the mathematical result of a proportion of forces, but in its last and deepest meaning is a moral and juridical process.  It is not, in fact, achieved without employment of force, and its very existence needs the support of a normal measure of power.  But the real function of this force, if it is to be morally correct, should consist in protecting and defending and not in lessening or suppressing rights.  An hour like the present -- so full of possibilities for vast beneficent progress no less than for fatal defects and blunders -- has perhaps never been seen in the history of mankind."

Today, the believing world, though rent asunder by the heresy of different beliefs, all turns to Bethlehem.  Catholics blessed with the divine deposit of faith that has remained unchanged through the ages turn to the crib of the tabernacle and the Babe of the Eucharist and, bending low in adoration like the shepherds of old, cry out "Emmanuel" -- God with us.  There in the picture of faith and devotion is the humble Mary and her spouse Joseph, true to the divine summons watching over the child of peace.

Though there may be no peace in the world where bombers fly overhead and munition plants keep wheeling out supplies,  yet there will be millions of hearts and souls, attuned to the divine will of God, who, practicing justice and charity in their own little worlds, will have the blessings of peace -- the peace which the world cannot give -- the knowledge of a good conscience and the assurance that God is watching over their eternal destiny and protecting their souls from evil.  In such hearts Bethlehem's message "Glory to God and peace to men of good will" will find a hallowed place.


O Lord, inspire rulers an peoples with counsels of meekness. Heal the discord that tears nations asunder.  You, who shed Your precious blood that men might live as brothers, bring them all once more together in peace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christ Knocks

"Behold I stand at the gate and knock," says the Lord in the Apocalypse.

     An artist has painted this scene.  In the picture Christ stands before a door and raises His hand to knock upon it.  The artist's little son, looking at the painting, said:  "Daddy, there is a mistake in the picture."  "What mistake?" asked the father.  The boy answered:  "There isn't any latch on the door to let the man in."  "Son," replied the father, "what seems to be a mistake here, really shows the truth.  That man is the Lord God.  the door opens into the human heart.  They key is on the inside.  The door must be opened from the inside before our Lord is able to enter."

     This little episode is so true that it makes a simple yet great teaching.  The latch on the inside is our free will.  God could have made, if He wished, a different kind of world than He actually made.  He could have chosen to come otherwise than as a little weak Babe.  He could have come as a powerful king.  But as a matter of fact He chose to give us free will whereby we ourselves play a part in the Redemption.  We accept Him or refuse Him accordingly as we freely open or close the inside latch on the door of our heart.

     Unto His own He comes this Christmas just as He came the first night when the angels' voices broke out in song over the hills of Bethlehem.  Whether he finds a place in the inn of our beings or not remains our decision to make.  We are the innkeepers to have and to hold, or to turn Him away and hear recorded once again those tragic, terrifying words, "And His own received Him not."

     Walking down a prominent avenue in a great city during the Advent days just preceding Christmas, and enjoying the sights of the decorations, the holly and wreaths and festive cheer, a priest was looking particularly for scenes descriptive of the real spirit of the season.  His eye was attracted to a beautiful Madonna and Child.  It was set off by splendid a display of rich ornamentation.  This was seen in a jewelry shop of Fifth Avenue in New York City, and before the Mother and Babe was a long golden chain and cross, evidently of very great value.  Adjacent to this were many articles of shining brilliance.  And then a card neatly drawn with these words:  "Jewelry has always been considered the supreme gift."

     It was a beautiful display magnificently appointed and quite dramatically arranged.  Perhaps, that is the reason why it left the viewer in a mood for thought.  The priest could not help but think quite at variance with the inscription "jewelry - supreme gift." 

     With all due regard to the creative mind of the artist who displayed his wares and so beautifully arranged the setting with Mother and Child, with proper acknowledgment, too, that we usually measure our affection by the priceless gift we present - yet, withal, the supreme gift is not to be found in silver or gold, nor indeed is it to be discovered in anything this world prizes.  The supreme gift is Christ Himself - the Incarnate God, the Eucharistic Presence - "Greater love no man hath...."  The supreme gift is the one God gave to us over 1900 years ago, and He continues to give to us today in His Eucharistic life upon our altars.

     The "supreme gift" comes from above:  "Pour out ye heavens the dew from above and let the clouds rain the just one."  The supreme gift is love of God and neighbor.  Upon this depend all other gifts.  If I have the goods of earth I can purchase the jewels of time.  But not all the world's money can purchase pure love where it does not exist.  In this sense the God-fearing laborer is richer than the kings of earth with cold hearts - Mary and Joseph are richer than all the Herods and Pilates who wear uneasy crowns.

     Do we ever stop to think how little pure love of God there is in the world.?  By pure love of God we mean loving Him for His own sake!  When we are motivated by fear of losing heaven and deserving hell, we are moved by selfish interests rather than divine love.  This is love worthy of redemption, but it is not the highest type of love.

     When we pray to Mary, Help of Christians and Mother of Christ, we are often flying to her patronage because we know she can help us from our difficulty.  Were we to seek her company and intercessory aid even in time of joy and contentment, then, indeed we could count ourselves as true children of Mary and lovers of her Son.

     Christmas is the season of contrast.  God gives His all to us.  We bargain with Him.  Could we not hold on just a little to the jewels of earth, we ask?  They seem so priceless, so supreme!  These jewels may be silver or gold.  They may be a thousand different things!  But to all of us they represent the difference between accepting Christ or compromising Him.  "Unto His own He came and" ... we are writing the remaining lines deep down in the secret recesses of our hearts.  What are we writing? - How are we living?  We know that St. John tells us, "His own received Him not!"

     Christ knocks!  The latch is on the inside!  Only beings with free will, such as we, can open the door to the inn of our hearts - and if we do, our joy is hundredfold!

     Jesus, Mary, Joseph, comes take rest in the Inn of my Heart.
     Hewn out of the rock of my daily living, it offers but little shelter.
     Kings and queens of earth would never find time for the monotony
     of my thoughts, nor would they company themselves with such lowliness
     as my heart offers.
     Yet, You, all-holy three, are willing to dwell with me.
     Joseph, humble man of carpentry, teach me to accept God's holy will.
     Mary, mother of Christ, show yourself a mother to me.
     Jesus, Babe of Bethlehem, come into my soul Eucharistically.
     Do You, all-holy three, come, possess my heart, give peace on earth
     good will to men!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Listen - God Speaks Softly

ow in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And when the angel had come to her, he said: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women.'  When she had seen him she was troubled at his word, and kept pondering what manner of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her:  'Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.  And behold thou shalt conceive in they womb and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of his Kingdom there shall be no end.'

     "But Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this happen, since I do not know man?'
    "And the angel answered and said to her:  'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God...'

"But Mary said:  'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to they word.'  And the angel departed from her."

     This is the narrative of the Gospel according to St. Luke wherein we have the first singing of the Ave Maria  by an angel.  A virgin takes up the beautiful strains and accepts the summons of grace.  An invitation is given through an angel, and Mary is receptive and graciously accedes to God's will.

     This story of the Annunciation is related not once by many times.  In the life of every man and woman born into the world there is an annunciation of the angel of God.  God's grace is poured forth from heaven into every soul.  All too often the story is very different from Mary's.  Grace is spurned.  Souls are not found in the attitude of prayer as was Mary.  They are not on their knees.  Their hearts are not as was the immaculate heart of Mary, attuned to the loving heart of God.  The voice of the angel is drowned out by the noise of the world and the distractions of modern living.

     During these Advent days God is sending His angel of grace to drop the seed of inspiration to Christian living into our hearts.  We must till the soil by prayer and penance if the seed would take root.  We must be on our knees, like Mary, and in the silence of our chamber, in reflection must we be found if the angel is to be heard above the tumultuous riot of noise and distraction which characterizes our day.  

     The important thing about the annunciation of Mary is that she heard in silence the invitation.  She reflected and then accepted.  Acceptance of God's inspiration depends upon us.  God never, never forces our wills!  We are not conditioned by grace.  We are free to refuse.  Therein is the story of salvation.

     God comes into the world as He did at Bethlehem and knocks upon the inn of human hearts.  Angels like Gabriel are sent by God as His messengers from heaven.  They give us the gravitation of heaven.  They set a tugging or pulling of our hearts.  They move us to good by gentle reminders and holy inspirations. 
But they never force our souls !

     With every annunciation, it is sad to say, there is the possibility of a renunciation of grace.  Acceptance requires the work of a good life and the practice of virtue.  Hence, Advent penance and prayer are a prerequisite if we are to imitate Mary.  Angels' songs are sweet to contemplate.  Ave Marias are pleasant to hear.  But we must do our part and add our share to the angels' task.  We are men and women of flesh and blood and have been created just a little less than the angels.  We must strive for perfection that we may be in a position like Mary to say:  Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum -
"Be it done unto me according to thy word."

     During this final week of preparation for Christmas, let our prayer be, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."  The Psalmist reminds us, "If, today, you hear His voice, harden not your heart."

     Christmas takes us back in memory to Bethlehem and to Nazareth.  The story of Bethlehem is the tale of God's obedience.  He was obedient to the will of the Father in assuming human form in order to placate divine justice.  Mary continues the procession of divine love, she places her heart at the disposal of God's movements of grace.  Without her obedience the angel's song would have been discordant.  Without God's great act of humility in coming to Bethlehem, there would have been no Redemption.  And without man's submission to God's will in imitation of Mary's response at Nazareth there can be no peace on earth.

     Bethlehem or Nazareth is not an incident of history.  It is repeated every time God comes to hearts that are opened to receive Him.  In this year of grace as we prepare for Christmas we are making history.  There is always an annunciation, for God give grace to all creatures.  Please and pray God, may there be less renunciations!


O Jesus, Savior of the world, who came to men in the weakness of a Babe, teach us that the greatest lessons are learned by humble souls.  When the noice of the world would distract us, teach us to fall upon our knees, like humble shepherds and lowly fishermen.  When angels' songs break the silence of our souls, help us to be like Mary, and to say, "Speak, Lord.  Thy servant heareth.  Be it done as Thou wilt."  And lest my aspiration to higher things be but wishful thinking, help me, O Lord, to till the soil of my heart by prayer and penance, that my soul be receptive and the seed take root.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tune In Heaven

n the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina:  under the high -priests Annas and Caiphas:  the word of the Lord came unto John the son of Zacharias, in the desert.  And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the Prophet :  'The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill be brought low:  the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain:  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Lk. 3:1-6).

Holy Mother The Church has thus far been teaching us to prepare for the Advent of Jesus by salutary fear, by inspired courage, by joyful peace, and now, as we stand almost at the threshold of the cave of Bethlehem, we are exhorted to prepare the way of the Lord by prayer and penance.  Those who wish to enter into the very presence of God must be holy.  That is why we are urged to do penance.  Only "fools rush in where angels fear to tread."  All nature and life itself attest to the fact that mortification and penance are necessary.  On Gaudete Sunday we learned that all joy is purchased at the price of sorrow and the crown of heaven won only by a penitential carrying of a cross.

    The little seedling must be buried in the ground and die to self before it can bring forth the beauty of a rose and perfume a garden of earth.  Students must assiduously apply themselves to the task at hand if they ever wish to communicate knowledge to others.  Mothers must endanger their lives in order to replenish the earth with babes that make for us a veritable heavenly nursery.  Doctors must, by long vigils of study and work, prepare before they may be entrusted with the care of human bodies.  Priests must be sanctified and grounded in learning so as to account themselves, as St. Paul tells us in the Advent epistle, "as ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God."  Only then are they to be entrusted with the care of immortal souls.  In other words, in any life whatsoever, preparation is necessary and penance is the "divine" preparation.  "Unless the seed falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone, but if it die it beareth much fruit."  Unless we are willing to do penance and to prepare for Christ's coming, we cannot hope to be His disciples nor to find the journeying star that leads to His joyous crib.

     St. Luke warns us in the Advent Gospel, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths."  This preparation of penance is to be made, as St. John exemplified, by our actions, for actions speak louder than words.

     When a distinguished visitor is announced at your door, do you not make it a point to be sure that you are prepared to meet him?  Do you not take pains to see that the home is properly appointed and all is ready?  Holy Mother the Church announces today:  "The Lord is nigh; come, let us adore."  Christ the Lord is coming.  He is nigh even at your doorsteps.  The prophets announced His coming, and yet some of the Jews were unprepared.  The Church announces again His Advent, and will it be said of you that "unto His own He came and His own received Him not"?  Are you preparing by penance for the arrival of the King?  Is it not possible that you miss the sweet inspirations of God's grace unless you are "attuned" to God's message?

     Picture in your mind's eye a person seated at a radio or a television set that is not tuned in to a station transmitting beautiful philharmonic music.  Such a person missed entirely the program.  Picture again a Catholic not at all solicitous about the penance of Advent nor the beautiful story being told by Holy Mother Church.  Such a one is not "attuned" to the spirit of the liturgy nor to the sweet whisperings of grace and God's inspirations in the soul, and he may entirely miss the message of Advent and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

     Members of Christ's Mystical Body, hearken to the "sweetest story ever old" by the greatest mother of them all!  The story is God's becoming man.  The mother is the Catholic Church.  Today she makes a last effort to enliven our faith, to increase our devotion and our preparation by penance for the coming of Jesus Christ.  As a stimulus to our faith and devotion she asks us to look to the new crib of Bethlehem, to the altar, to the snow-white manager of a corporal.  A golden chalice rests upon it.  Perhaps, we have seen a nugget of gold when first mined from the earth.  It is dark, grimy, and covered with dirt.  Yet the miner who knows its value cherishes it, refines it, purifies and ennobles it, until one day it is returned to its proper state - shining, brilliant, pure gold!  It is, then, perhaps, molded into a chalice or ciborium and, being consecrated to God's service, it holds the sacred species of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  Likewise, our hearts are gold, and more precious indeed since redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  We should therefore endeavor to purify our hearts and souls during this holy season of Advent and to sanctify them by the reception of our divine Lord in Holy Communion.


Blessed Saviour of men, the view of Calvary from afar is forbidding.  The way of prayer and penance is not easy.  There is only one way to Mount Calvary and that is to follow You, step by step.  To look up the hill of Calvary takes great courage of heart - so give me the grace to stay close to You and accompany You each step of the journey.  Bethlehem is but the first step to Calvary.  Take me by the hand of grace and teach me to walk with Mary, that my life may be good and worthy of redemption.