Advent Greetings from Notre Dame High School!
As part of our preparation for this holy miracle that lies ahead, we wish to offer a Daily Advent / Christmas Reflection penned by various members of the Notre Dame Family.
Some tell of the season's magic, others reflect on the miracle; some tap into long-standing memories while others look to the future of Christmases yet to come. But all are personal.
We thank all of them for sharing.
We offer each as an opportunity to steal a moment from the day’s chaos to reflect on the gift that God has sent us. Have a blessed Advent and Christmas Season!
December 24, 2017
Bethlehem, in a stable. In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad, in the year seven hundred and fifty-two since the foundation of the City of Rome.
It was real.
Bethlehem is a real place. It’s named. Where do you live? For the people of that time and place, saying that he was born in Bethlehem, was as real as saying that a baby was born in Soddy or Hixson or Ooltewah.
And the year he was born was real.
When my sisters and I were finally old enough to stay awake, my family started going to Midnight Mass on Christmas. Before Mass began, a cantor with a deep booming voice chanted the Christmas Proclamation, listing all the ways that we could mark this day, from God’s works to the 1st Olympiad (776 BC according to Olympic.org) and the founding of the City of Rome.
I was in middle school when I first heard the birth of Christ announced in this way. At the time I was struggling to believe that God existed at all, yet the varied way of dating this even made an impression on me. It was a real time. And here was a Church filled with people who were celebrating His birth.
The place was real.
The year was real.
And He is real.
He promised that he would come. And He did.
He promised that he would remain with us always and he will. He will be with you in the place where you are. Now.
The Christmas Proclamation
The Twenty-fifth Day of December,
when ages beyond number had run their course
from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created heaven and earth,
and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood,
as a sign of covenant and peace;
in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith,
came out of Ur of the Chaldees;
in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses
in the Exodus from Egypt;
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two
since the foundation of the City of Rome;
in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace,
JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence,
was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and when nine months had passed since his conception,
was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah,
and was made man:
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Sister Margaret Mary, O.P.
Theology Department Chair
December 23, 2017
In Matthew 8:5-11, a centurion calls on Jesus to save his servant. When Jesus accepts, the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). After Jesus heard this, he was amazed since he hadn’t found anyone in all Israel with such a level of faith in Him.
Throughout my whole life, I’ve trusted my dad. I share his same beliefs and trust in all that he tells me. Throughout the years I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t just do this because I view him as an authoritative figure but because I know he always wants the best for me. His plan for me is the ideal one since he has learned to understand me after years of watching me grow.
Just as in the healing of the centurion’s servant, the centurion immensely trusts Jesus and all that he has planned for him, just as I trust my dad.
Just like my dad, God is there for me, He serves as a father figure. He has seen me grow throughout the years and knows me more than anyone. In addition, he as the ideal plan in store for me because he loves me and knows me so well.
Of course, I sometimes might doubt my father’s rules, as I may doubt what’s happening in my life, so my objective would be to never lose trust or hope, because in the long run, everything has a reason why it happened and leads me a step closer to God’s plan for me.
When life is going terrible for you for a period of time, would you rather give up or trust that the best is yet to come?
December 22, 2017
Dalton, GA—December, 1985.
One of my first Christmas memories was of me at my grandparents’ house in what is now Little Mexico in Dalton.
Thinking back, the houses are old and small, but lovingly kept. Nanaw and Papaw live in a small white wooden house toward the end of Barbara Avenue with a little fenced-in back yard that, in the summer, is home to a vegetable garden, strawberry patch, grape vines, and a very scruffly little shi-tzu named Milo that wandered up one day and never left.
At this point, they’ve lived there for at least 40 years. In the summertime, every morning and afternoon Nanaw takes a break from her chores, fries up some bologna or an egg, and handfeeds it to Milo in the backyard while she smokes and chats with her neighbor Joe over the fence.
But I digress. That’s summertime and a whole other set of memories to be explored.
Back to December - I know it’s 1985 because almost every year of my life from this point on is catalogued with picture albums and VHS recordings. We’ve just been to the Ridley family Christmas reunion at a church somewhere out in the county. A Baptist church with wood-paneled walls and worn out chairs and tables from the 1970s in the fellowship hall.
Even as a little kid, I love going to these family reunions—stuffing myself full of fried chicken, deviled eggs, sweet tea, and chocolate cake. I have no first cousins at this point, but between Nanaw’s seven siblings, I have lots of second cousins that I get to play with at these gatherings.
Nanaw is close to all her brothers and sisters—they talk every week if not every day, but once a year the extended family will get together for a Christmas potluck. Being the naughty child that I am, my favorite thing to do at these reunions is play hide-and-seek with my second cousins in the parts of the church that are dark and off-limits to us. The adults are too busy catching up over coffee and dessert to notice, and, since it’s the 1980s, our parents don’t feel the need to keep us in their sight at all times.
Tonight I have stuffed myself with country potluck food and played for what seemed like hours in the darkened rooms of the church. I say goodbye to my playmates and beg to spend the night with Nanaw and Papaw. My mom has anticipated me and already has an overnight bag packed in the car, so I get into the backseat of Nana and Papa’s grey Mercury Cougar. (A few years later I would wonder why my friend sounded so impressed when I said my grandparents drove a Jaguar. Cougar…Jaguar…same thing, right?)
It’s a 20 minute drive, but it’s late at night and freezing cold when we get to Nanaw and Papaw’s house. There’s no central heat in the house, but there’s something even better—a giant electric furnace in the living room that blows hot air out the bottom like an enormous hair-dryer. On freezing days and nights, there’s no better place to be than lying on the shag carpet in front of that thing with a pillow and a fuzzy blanket. And that’s where I’m going to sleep tonight.
When we get home, the house is lit only by the Christmas tree in the corner. It’s covered in garish multicolored lights, gaudy ornaments, and silver tinsel, and I can’t take my eyes off it. There’s also some sort of revolving colored light thingy in the window that changes colors every few minutes. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.
I lie down in my spot on the floor in front of the heater with a pillow and blanket and fall asleep looking at the lights and hearing Papaw snore in the next room. As usual, Nanaw will wake up at around 4:00 am and make coffee, read the paper, and start her chores. Later, when the sun has come up, she’ll bring me a biscuit with jelly and a cup of milk with sugar and a shot of coffee in it to have in front of the heater while I watch cartoons.
A week or two later we’ll gather here with my aunt and uncle and mom and dad and great-grandmother for our traditional Christmas Eve—a feast that Nanaw has prepared in her tiny, dishwasherless kitchen and served on her special Christmas china.
My favorite is Nanaw’s mashed potatoes and gravy. Later, we’ll open presents in the living room with the electric furnace blazing. Thanks to the magic of VHS, I can still name a few of the presents that were exchanged at Christmas this year. My best friend and favorite toy right now is a Magic Eight Ball named, aptly, Ball. Ball gets his own presents too, which I help unwrap.
In the extant footage which is now archived on DVD and external hard drive, I can be heard exclaiming, “Look! Ball got another telescope!” (The video then zooms in on a paper towel roll that my mom had wrapped up for Ball, apparently the second one of the evening.) Next we see my babushka-clad Great-Grandma opening a present which contains a box of her favorite crackers from the grocery store and then Papaw opens up a box of cookies and randomly asks for someone to explain to him what apartheid is.
Fast forward thirty-two years. It’s 2017. Nanaw has been gone for nearly seven years and Papaw for ten. I haven’t been in the house since it was sold in 2011 but nearly every day something reminds me of it or them and I feel a warmth inside me like that of the furnace. There are no more Christmas potluck Ridley reunions in country churches with wood-paneled walls, and my childhood relatives are grown now with families of their own. I run into them in town every now and then and my mind flashes back to hide-and-seek games in dark and musty church basements.
Those places exist now only in my memory (and my external hard drive) and I think about them often to keep them alive for as long as possible. When 2017 feels too difficult to deal with (and it usually does), I think back to the stillness and warmth of that night in front of Nanaw’s twinkling Christmas tree, and I feel content for a few minutes.
Foreign Language Department Chair
December 21, 2017
Psalm 118:1 “Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever.”
This psalm is a hymn of thanksgiving. It glorifies the Lord and asks him for good fortune. This passage reminds me of songs we sing in choir during Mass. Each song we sing is for the Lord and praises Him.
Giving thanks is also a major theme throughout our songs. My favorite one is called Sanctuary. It asks the Lord to prepare us to show him all our thankfulness. Just as they wrote a hymn thanking the Lord many years ago, we are still to this day doing the same thing.
My first two years at Notre Dame, I was always scared to join the choir but since I have, I enjoy Mass so much more and can physically show my faithfulness and love to the Lord by singing.
I challenge you the next time you attend Mass or church to at least sing along to the hymn that is being played. Once you allow yourself to get comfortable, maybe thank the lord for allowing us to make music and sing for him. The Advent season is a great time to start!
December 20, 2017
“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” - Mt 2:1-2
This verse reminds me of a tradition that my family has during the beginning of Advent through Epiphany. When Advent begins, we set up a small nativity scene, but rather than place any figures inside, we instead position the figures (Joseph, Mary, shepherds, wise men) elsewhere in the house.
As the Advent season progresses, we move the figures around the house as if they’re traveling. By Christmas Eve, Mary, Joseph, and a donkey have made it to the manger.
By Christmas morning, we place Jesus and the shepherds there. Until Epiphany, the magi remain travelling in search of Jesus, always having them facing the star above the manger.
I hope that this year, I take some more time during the Advent season to do more than just buy gifts, listen to songs and put up cute decorations. I want to get myself more involved, such as trying to spend more time doing the Jesse tree throughout the season.
Stop and think about the meaning of the season. When you’re decorating or spending time doing something “Christmas-y,” think back to why we celebrate and truly spend time remembering the true meaning of the Advent season.
December 19, 2017
“So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”
- Luke 2:16-18
This passage reminds me of my own childhood, for on the night before Christmas, my siblings and I wouldn’t sleep because we were so excited. At about 4:00 AM, we could sneak down and look over the balcony at our presents. When the clock finally passed 6:59, we would run and wake up our parents and grandparents.
Scripture says the shepherds, “went in haste,” implying their excitement. That is similar to how my siblings felt. We were overjoyed that Christmas Day, was finally here.
My hope is that this Christmas, my excitement won’t be because I unwrapped a nice jacket, or a new iPhone. I hope it will also be present when we go to Mass on Christmas Eve and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
I don’t want to leave Church and focused only on the Christmas Eve traditions of eating a delicious dinner of casseroles and attempting to sleep with the only thought on my mind the presents I will be unwrapping the next day. I will challenge myself to pray before opening my gifts in gratitude and love for what makes Christmas so special –family and the birth of the ultimate healer, savior and God.
I challenge you to take time, even five minutes, to ponder the birth of Jesus. Think about the excitement of the shepherds and bring Jesus into your Christmas.
December 18, 2017
During Advent, we wait for the Lord.
Years ago, during a trip to Sea World, I experienced what it's like to wait for someone. My family and I had climbed into their “Lazy River” where everything was fine until it was time to pull ourselves out of the current.
My brother (age 7 at the time) wasn’t strong enough to push himself out of the River, so my mother needed to help him. She could hardly get out on her own, but she eventually got herself and my brother into the exit pool. However, my 9-year-old self remained stuck in the river because I couldn’t pull myself out and no one was there to help me get out of the current.
I decided my best bet was to ride the current all the way around the river and try again. My second attempt wasn’t any more fruitful. So I went around a third time and this time, I was smart and grab a rock in the water and pulled myself up.
My mother however had begun to panic after fifteen minutes of me being missing and she had left to try to find me, so I just sat there and waited for her. After almost 30 minutes, she found me and was bawling because she thought someone had taken me.
Psalm 25 encourages us to wait and not lose faith. I knew if I waited, my mom would find me. Keep believing in Jesus’ love even when it feels like you are lost and alone.
December 17, 2017
On the first Sunday of Advent, we hear, “Be watchful! Be alert!” During the second week, John the Baptist says, “One mightier than I is coming after me.” The third Sunday continues the theme. He will come.
When reading today’s scripture, I thought of the first big event that I attended back in 2015 when Pope Francis visited the U.S. I had never been up north and even more exciting was going through the crowds and lines waiting hours to see this holy figure passing me and others, just a few feet away.
The first and second readings mention being happy, and they encourage us to rejoice because Jesus will come again. We felt almost the same, Christ’s representative on earth was mere feet away from thousands of his followers.
December 16, 2017
In Psalm 23, David writes, "Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage . . . only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life."
Biblical historians believe this psalm was written during David's darkest hour, grieving and broken. This is when humanity turns to God most often, when they are so hungry for salvation. This psalm is a gorgeous proclamation of God's care as our shepherd who protects us, restores us and guides us.
The first time I heard this psalm was with the Chattanooga Girls Choir. We were learning the song "Beside Still Waters" by Rollo Dilworth, a piece set to the words of Psalm 23. Instantly, it was my favorite. In the beginning I just loved it because it sounded so pretty.
The night of our winter concert, however, I woke up. Every word sang by every girl in radiant harmonies and dissonance altered my awareness and suddenly I was singing the words of David, not simply my part. I really believed what I was singing--"The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want."
Since that concert, that psalm has been my go-to passage when I need reassurance and grace. It’s such a powerful psalm because it addresses God's lost sheep, who feel forgotten, worthless, unwanted. It stands before them and says, "God is watching over you."
When we lose sight of what's meaningful, we lose God. We halfheartedly sing. We fear. David's words remind us of God's love, the most important thing that we forget. It's our task to remember.
December 15, 2017
No one is disgraced who waits for you . . .Make known to me your ways, LORD; teach me your paths. – Psalms 25: 3-4
During the season of Advent, we reflect on the time we spend waiting for Jesus to come. Psalm 25 discusses what it’s like to wait for the Lord. The passage expresses, “No one is disgraced who waits for you.” This means that if a person waits for God’s presence and keeps their faith strong, they will always remain in his favor.
This passage is also asking for God’s mercy and guidance. It conveys, “Put an end to my affliction and suffering” and “Guide me in your truth and teach me.” It also asks for his teaching and help. It relates to a parent’s relationship with their child.
For example, when I was in the hospital when I was two years old, and being put to sleep, my mom was there in the operating room holding my hand. They had snuck her in and put a pair of scrubs on her so she could be there to calm me down. The one thing I remember was seeing her face right before I was put to sleep and it calmed me down.
Just like the presence of God calms us so does our parents presence. Our parents also help us and give us guidance. God’s help and presence makes us able to conquer tasks and gives us the courage we need to make it through everyday life.
I hope to continue to remember God is always with me and will watch over me every day. During the this Advent season particularly, I want to remember that God is not just there for the bad times but also the good. His help and teaching are available to us at any time.
Remember He is there and thank God for His help. Remind yourself to help those around you. Think of individuals other than yourself.
December 14, 2017
“. . . The time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Lk 2:6-7
My family has a tradition of creating our own small nativity scene somewhere in the hose. This was important because it made our family focus on the true meaning of Christmas, rather than the chaotic version of Christmas. Focusing on the Nativity scene made it easier to remember how the Son of God came down to us to save us. My challenge is to not get wrapped up in a Christmas that loses its attention of Christ, but rather one that recognizes what Christmas is all about.
December 13, 2017
There’s always something a little miraculous about the first snow fall: it’s not only beautiful and gives great light to the earth, but it also seems to cover all of the mud that we’ve experienced and piled up over the past few weeks or months due to the falling leaves.
As we approach the nativity of our Lord, we experience the darkest time of the year, not only physically but it seems often to be spiritually as well. Advent comes as a sign of hope. It renews us like snowfall, it gives us courage in the face of despair, it keeps us warm in the chill of reality.
Advent does all of this with a single image, a little child born of poor parents, in a remote corner of civilization. When we think about this we see hope. Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption.
I believe all devotion to the Christ Child must start with the Gospel; St. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus is a wonderful heartwarming story. It is filled with deeply engaging images: mother and child, shepherds and angels, stables and mangers.
An Angel teaches Mary. An Angel teaches Joseph. An Angel teaches the shepherds as well. There is a simple road which leads by humility to wisdom. Nowhere in the whole course of the Old Testament do we find that the angels, who so constantly appear to the patriarchs, came in the day. This privilege was rightly kept for a time when there arose in the darkness a light. It follows that, the Glory of God shone around them. He lies in a common inn, but lives in celestial light.
The Child Jesus is the essence of humility. Christ turns our need for autonomy upside down in his infancy. If we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like little children.
In the days leading up to Christmas, we may find ourselves asking, in what ways can we offer the Infant King a gift? Going back to when I first entered the Seminary, I recall that I was preparing to dedicate my life to a book which I had never fully read. Beginning in August of that year I decided I would offer as a gift to the child Jesus my own dedication to read the holy Word of God in its entirety. In subsequent years I have offered other devotions such as service to the poor, novenas, etc. I believe merely placing an image of the infant Child in a prominent place in the house is also a good reminder.
I close with a wonderful Christmas Carol named In the Bleak of Winter by the English Poet Christina Rossetti.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
- Father Christopher Floersh
NDHS Spiritual Director
December 12, 2017
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I grew up in San Antonio. Arguably the most beautiful city in Texas, nestled a mere two hours from the Mexican border. My home town is imbued with lively Mexican culture and much fiesta fun.
On this day, all the stops are pulled, because Catholic or not, Mexican people love Our Lady of Guadalupe. She is for them the icon of their country, their family life, and the hearts.
When I was in the third grade, it was “our turn” to act out the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the all school Mass. Standing head and shoulders above the entire class, I did not get chosen to play the part of Mary, for the costume would not even be close to fitting, and my classmate Monica looked more like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was literally plastered on the side wall of our parish Church.
But I did get to be reader and announce a portion of the beautiful story of how the Blessed Mother appeared to a humble Indian man at the foothills of Tepeyac, and told him to ask the bishop to build her a Church. I remember being mesmerized by the narrative and the miracle of the roses, which would never have been blooming in December, yet became the sign for the bishop to heed this man’s request.
Greater still is the miracle of the image miraculously imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma made of cloth that should have disintegrated within a few years, but remains intact and beautiful displays the image of his apparition in Mexico City.
The Mexican people are indebted to Our Lady for their conversion to Christianity and her motherly protection. Rare is there a home without an image of her.
A few years ago, I was asked by my principal in Oak Ridge if I could find a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the school. I was upset that I could not find one in the states that satisfied my tastes. So I asked a friend to procure one from Mexico. He was able to get an absolutely beautiful one, but not before he said to me “Sister, it doesn’t matter to the Mexican people whether the statue is beautiful… it is about the image… it is about Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
I was convicted in faith, when he said that to me. I thought I too loved this image, one in which Mary is with Child, awaiting the coming of her own Son, but he surpassed me in faith with this comment. May she pray for us during this Advent Season, for an increase in faith and in devotion to Jesus.
Sister Mary Rebekah, O.P.
December 11, 2017
I grew up in the prototypical middle-class home. Dad worked two jobs (sometimes three) while Mom stayed home and took care of their three kids until the youngest was old enough to go to school. When the last of us enrolled, she took on a part-time job too so that she could be home for us after the school day ended.
Christmas was always a great celebration. My sisters and I never failed to receive good and plentiful presents. Christmas morning was always captured on an 8mm handheld camera with an attached bar of extremely bright lights that might remind you of an alien invasion. The rule was that none of us could come downstairs on Christmas morning until Dad had positioned himself, camera in hand, at the bottom of the stairs.
I remember trying to negotiate the 13 stairs, bleary-eyed yet full of excitement, walking toward those glaring lights. Sometimes you have to pay the price to get the prize!
I didn’t know at the time, but that was my initial introduction to the concept that I came to know as delayed gratification. But it was worth every second of temporary blindness and the danger of falling down the stairs!
My Christmas wish is that our students come to realize that delayed gratification beats instant gratification every time. Good things come to those that wait!
Social Studies Chair
December 10, 2017
2nd Sunday of Advent - "John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. . . And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals." - Mark 1:4, 6-7
In this reading, John the Baptist's words were to prepare the way of the Lord, knowing someone mightier than he was to come.
I recall when I met one of women’s basketball’s greatest coaches. I remember people around him telling him how great a coach he was and he being very humble. I can even recall him commenting on the hoodie I wore that day and then asking me if I was ready, because if not, I needed to get ready.
My reply to him was, “I’m always ready.”
In return he told me, "I'll see you on the other side, maybe even in one of my uniforms."
This Gospel excerpt speaks of preparation. We don’t know when Jesus will come or when the opportunity to meet him will be, but as Christians we need to prepare our souls. We must be ready when he comes because second chances are often hard to come by.
So every day prepare yourself to be the best version of yourself so that you will not be passed by.
My personal hope is to better myself in all my relationships so that I cannot only learn, but lead and guide others in the right direction for whatever may be their goal.
Do you know what goal you strive for? I challenge you to look within and achieve a victory over whatever it is that you bury at every opportunity. The one weakness that defines you—let it define you no more. Prepare yourself and be ready.
December 9, 2017
1st Saturday of Advent – “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.” – Matthew 9:35
Something very big impacted my life. My best friend throughout elementary school was riding his dirt bike in 9th grade, just crossing the highway to get to the other side of his property. He only needed to travel about 10 yards to get to the other side.
All of a sudden, at the moment he decided to cross, the sun was in his eyes. He didn’t see the car that was struck him at 60 mph. My friend flew over the car’s hood where he landed on the road with a number of injuries. Bad ones.
I can relate this so well to this particular excerpt of Matthew’s Gospel. Not only did my friend not die, he had a speedy recovery.
The scripture tells us all about Jesus healing others and what love He has for us. I truly believe Jesus was with him when he was hit by that car. At that speed, he was supposed to die.
Somehow he didn’t; he recovered fairly quickly even with pretty major injuries. Jesus healed him. Jesus made sure that he made it through.
My hope is to start saying thanks for the people in my life more often. How can you be more thankful for the people you have?
An Anonymous Student
December 8, 2017
I received my first Holy Communion on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
I had no idea what the Immaculate Conception meant at the time, but years later, when applying to enter the convent, we had to submit copies of our sacramental records. Then, for the first time since age seven, I looked at the certificate I received from my first Communion and there was the date --- December 8th, 1985.
The Solemnity of Our Lady actually meant something to me by then, and I was touched by the fact that she was watching over me that day so many years before. Perhaps she had been praying for me knowing that I would one day become a religious Sister.
It is fitting that we remember Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception during Advent, for we believe that at this moment God graced Mary to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. He filled her with His special love, so that she might be a worthy vessel to carry the Son of God in her womb.
During the Advent Season we see so many images of Mary: statues, Christmas cards, nativity scenes. But never do we see her alone, but who she is in relation to her very special son. Mary, Immaculate Conception, and Mother of Jesus, pray for us.
Sister Mary Rebekah, O.P.
December 7, 2017
Advent is a time of true joy in my heart. I love the look on the students' faces as they anticipate this Christmas season. I thank God every day for the gift of viewing the world through the eyes of His children.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help School
December 6, 2017
The Advent and Christmas season is both the most anticipated time of year but also the most hectic time in our household. We all have shopping lists to make, sales to find, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, and Christmas cards to create.
We balance this with helping our teens with college and scholarship deadlines, school exams, and extracurricular activities. We can all relate to the hustle and bustle that detracts from the real reason for the season.
However, I think as Christians, we really shine during Advent in helping those in need. For our family, one of the traditions we started years ago was visiting with residents at a local nursing home that were without family. Through the years, my daughters and their friends have gathered together to make personalized gifts and stockings to give, sang Christmas carols, and brought a little joy to a lonely elderly person.
These residents are so happy to see the girls and many lasting memories have been made through the power of one random act of kindness. Advent for me is a time of giving, sacrifice, and waiting in anticipation for the coming of Jesus.
In reflection this Advent and Christmas season, I hope that our entire ND family experiences the joy, hope, and love that is alive through the birth of Jesus.
Trina Hicks and family
Vice-Chair, NDHS School Board
December 5, 2017
“Be watchful! Be alert!” (Mark 13:33) “Stay awake,” says Jesus.
We have studied how long a person can stay awake. It’s about eleven days. Try to push beyond that, and we die. Not only is the desire for sleep built into us, but sleep appears essential and inevitable. We don’t understand why, yet it is true.
But, of course, Jesus isn’t talking about sleep. He is talking about prayer. Be watchful of the mind, keep awake our desire for the eternal reality, and let go of all that is fleeting. What a great message!
Why wouldn’t we want to spend our lives thinking about God’s infinite love for us and experiencing it here and now? Who wouldn’t want to know and live out the peace and serenity that Jesus offers? Even though prayer can give us all of those things and more, prayer is hard. It seems to be the hardest thing we can do.
Just as we are wired for sleep, so at times it seems we are wired to forget the eternal, to forget God, and only see what is in front of us. That robs us of peace. It robs us of knowing God’s love. Even though prayer is challenging, we must do it. It is the only place where we can find meaning; it is the only place we can discover the unconditional love we desire.
Advent is a good time for us all to rediscover prayer, to wake up and keep watch with Christ. So, try this exercise. Find a quiet place, free of all distractions and noise. Sit down. Set a timer for five minutes. Calm yourself. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and exhale. Say out loud, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” Then sit in absolute silence.
You may feel this to be the most protracted five minutes of your life. Every possible thought and idea will flood your mind and lull you back into the sleep of distraction. And that is ok. There is no reason to be frustrated or give up. Instead, take each idea, each diversion, as it comes to you and acknowledge it for what it is. Acknowledge your cares and anxieties. Then offer them to Christ. Say, “Jesus I give you this distraction. I entrust it to you. I know that you love me enough to take care of it.”
Then let it go. Do this for every distraction. If it comes back, do it again. Keep doing it until the words you are saying, the prayer you are offering, takes root in your heart and you truly believe it, until you believe it with every ounce of your strength.
An infinitely powerful God loves you and cares for you and would do anything to lead you to happiness. Through this prayer make room for him. Just as Jesus was born into the world, he can be born into our souls, and he will transform us. He will give us the peace we long for, the love we search for, and the happiness that exceeds all we can imagine.
Commit to doing this exercise, this simple five-minute prayer, every day of the Advent season and you will learn the power and love of our God.
- Father Adam Royal
December 4, 2017
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus warns us to watch out and be alert because we do not know when the Lord will come. Imagine that you are in a car driving to your destination, and are trying to pull out onto the main road but cars keep flying by. You have to wait for an opening to pull out so that you can get to your destination.
Ultimately, our destination is heaven and all the cars flying by are the challenges that you face. You have to overcome them and to watch out for the opening that the Lord gives us to reach our destination.
The challenge is finding that open space on the busy road with all these obstacles in our way. We hope our faith is strong enough to last until we find an opening in the traffic.
Keep looking for the opening.
- Megan Bordash