Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year's Eve

Each year many people spend New Year’s Eve recalling the previous year – looking at the graces and blessings.  The year of 2016 ends formally at midnight yet 2017 has already begun in many parts of our world.  Whether you are looking ahead or looking back take some time today to sit quietly and thank God for all of the joys, blessings, trials and difficulties of life.  Take the time to recall that our God is with us every single day of every single year.  Our God graciously gives us the grace of new things, fresh starts and new beginnings.  As we move from one year to the next let us always remember to have grateful hearts and to know deep in our inner beings that our God is a God of love and compassion always and forever.  Happy New Year’s Eve!

Pat Schifini, OSU

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Feast of the Holy Family

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family which celebrates both the human family and the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The feast, not a solemnity, is usually celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas but since Christmas was celebrated on a Sunday this year it was moved to December 30th. The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families. 

St. Paul gives us some advice on family life in Colossians 3:12 – 17:

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. “

The Feast of the Holy Family is a good time for us to remember our own families and to reflect on all that Joseph and Mary did for Jesus.  How did they show their love?  How did Jesus grow by their example?  As we take time this day to be thankful for our own families let us remember with love and faith all the good things that we have learned along the way.  May we always have the gift of gratitude in our hearts.  

Pat Schifini, OSU

Thursday, December 29, 2016

God's Gift of Love

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 13

For many people this scripture passage brings very happy memories.  Perhaps a wedding of a family member, a celebration of a special event or just a scripture that has become a favorite.  For me this is truly one of my most favorite scriptures and I always enjoy reading it after Christmas.  At Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift of love of all time – the coming of Christ to each one of us.  The wrapping paper and gifts, the luscious meals and participating in time honored family traditions are over.  There is however one thing that last and that is the gift of God’s love given to every single human being.  God’s infinite love is a true gift for us and we need to keep unwrapping that gift in our daily living.  The love that our God has for us is boundless and we need to cherish that gift and let it grow in the days and months ahead.  May we always know the love of God in our minds, hearts and actions.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Learning how to see

In Wisdom 11: 24 we read, "God loves all that God has made."  As I was praying today I read the following by Richard Rohr -- "Contemplation teaches us how to see.  When we see the world is enchanted, we see the revelation of God in each individual person and creature.  Our first job is to see correctly who we are, and then to act on it.  All I can give back to God is what God has given to me, no more and no less."

God help me to see the love that you have given to this world, especially in the places that are experiencing so much hardship at this time. The Church celebrates today the Feast of the Holy Innocents and remembers the slaughter that King Herod set in motion when he was jealous of the new born king -- Jesus.  As we commemorate the lives lost so long ago let us take time today to hold in prayer the many lives that are continually lost each day in our world.  May these innocent lives continue to be held in God's loving hand.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

St. John

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John the Apostle, who was identified in the Scriptures as the "disciple that Jesus loved".  John was very close to Jesus.  He was called by Jesus, with his brother James, to be an Apostle.  They were known as the “sons of thunder.”  John never abandoned Jesus.  At the last supper, John lay his head on Jesus' chest, he had the strength and courage to be the only apostles to stand at the Cross with Mary and a few other holy women.  This is a tremendous lesson for all of us -- if we bring ourselves close to Christ, we will have the strength to endure. Let us take time today to reflect on John’s words, “Let us love one another because love comes from God!”

Pat Schifini, OSU

Monday, December 26, 2016

Today, December 26th, is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  Stephen was stoned to death because of his faith in Jesus.  Seems strange to speak of martyrdom the day after the celebration of Christmas but that is the reality of our lives as followers of Christ.  Our lives encompass the two edged sword of hope and joy as well as the pain of suffering.  The suffering reminds us of the suffering of Jesus, the suffering and death He experienced in order to redeem us.

This day many Christians throughout the world are dying for their faith while we enjoy freedom of belief.  Let us keep these Christians, our brothers and sisters in prayer at this time that they may be freed from persecution.  This is our hope, the hope given to us by the birth of Jesus.  May our good God bless each and every one.

KM Donohue, OSU

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

The blessings of Christmas are too many to number. Friends and family coming together, luscious meals prepared, and the promise of a new year- all remind us of a the most wonderful time of year.

December takes on a different meaning than most months. The entire Advent wreath is lit, reminding us that Jesus came into the world for one simple purpose- to restore humanity to the Father. With a heart overflowing with love, Jesus was sent to us in order to show us the way back to the Father.

Pope Francis said in 2015, “Jesus wanted, and still wants, to live here with us and for us. He cares about our world, which on Christmas became his world. The nativity scene reminds us that God, in his great mercy, has descended among us to stay with us always.”

May this Christmas Day be filled with many blessings for you and for your family and friends, those near and far!  May 2017 be filled with every good grace that you desire from our loving God.  Merry Christmas to all!

Pat Schifini, OSU

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve Prayer

On this Christmas Eve I share a prayer that I received from a friend.  May we always have the sense of wonder and awe that we experience at Christmastime.  
Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infants cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.
Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wisemen. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Winter Solstice

Yesterday we celebrated the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year.  It marks the beginning of the lengthening of days when we have a gradual increase in the daylight hours.  As we approach the Christmas miracle let us remember that the true light of hope and peace comes to us once again as we recall the birth of Christ.

In Rosetti’s song, In the Bleak Mid-Winter we hear the familiar hymn:

     In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

2      Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3       Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped 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 can I give him: give my heart.

As we busy ourselves getting ready for Christmas let us remember to truly give Christ our hearts!

Pat Schifini, OSU

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mary's Yes

In today's Gospel reading we hear the familiar story from St. Luke when the angel Gabriel was sent by God to the virgin Mary who was betrothed to Joseph.  The angel greeted Mary and shared with her that she was to be the mother of Jesus.  Mary was naturally frightened by the greeting and the news.  She was a woman of tremendous faith and this is what sustained her to give an affirmative response to the angel Gabriel.  He also shared with her that "Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”  Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”
Mary's "yes" changed her life and the lives of those who knew her.  She had faith and trust that we are all called to embrace.  As we live the remainder of the Advent days let us take time to reflect on Mary's response and see how we can live it out in our daily lives.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Monday, December 19, 2016

"O" Antiphons

On Saturday, December 17 we marked the beginning of the "O" Antiphons an ancient part of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies.  The antiphons beg God with mounting impatience to come and save His people. The order of the antiphons climb climatically through our history of Redemption.  The "O" Antiphons are the verses for the ancient hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The first letter of the Messianic titles: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—spell out Latin words ERO CRAS, meaning, "Tomorrow, I will come."  This song provides a wonderful source of prayer for all of us during these final days of Advent..
O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high, and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times did give the law, in cloud, and majesty, and awe.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem, from every foe deliver them that trust Thy mighty power to save, and give them victory o'er the grave.
O come, Thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home, make safe the way that leads on high, that we no more have cause to sigh.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death's dark shadow put to flight.
O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all humankind; bid every strife and quarrel cease and fill the world with heaven's peace. 
Pat Schifini, OSU

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Happy Birthday Pope Francis

Today we celebrate Pope Francis' 80th Birthday.  Pope Francis has done so much good for our world and with grateful hearts we wish him Happy Birthday.  May Pope Francis continue to lead and guide us in the days ahead.  Pope Francis embodies the virtues of this Advent Season in his daily living.  A very humble and prayerful man he always seeks the good of others.  We can learn so much from him.  Let us remember that this Advent Season calls us to make our way toward the manger to once again celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.  Ad multos annos, Pope Francis!

Pat Schifini, OSU

Friday, December 16, 2016

Let Your Light Shine

Throughout the Advent Season, John the Baptist calls us to follow Jesus’ way of living.  John is “a burning and shining lamp” bearing witness to the light of Christ.  He never relented in his belief and his exhortations of the people.  There are many people in our current times who seek to do the same. 
Today there is a great deal of darkness in our world yet the light of Christ continues to shine through.  It shines through the works of great people as well as everyday people.  Jesus’ light shines through every one of us and it is important for us to remember this.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, each day leading up to Christmas, we were all to do one small thing that let the light of Christ shine? Imagine the impact we would have if everyone practiced an intentional act of kindness! We are so used to focusing on what we haven’t done. Let’s focus instead on the fact that we are still Christ for one another.  Jesus came to share his life, and we need to remember to always have our lamps ready and our lights shining.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Saying Thanks...

This is a beautiful morning, isn't it?  The sun is coming up and the sky is lovely with color.  The super moon is still visible in the sky as well.  It is so peaceful and serene as we begin our day.  Yet under all the serenity is the hurried rush and worry that we will not get "it" all done before the 25th and the celebration of this special day.  Lest we forget the real meaning of the day is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, let us take a quiet moment this day to say a thank you to God for loving us so much, even when we ignore Him, that He saw fit to send His Son to us.  Prepare ye the way of the Lord...

KM Donohue, OSU

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

St. Lucy

The story of St. Lucy is one of those legends that everyone enjoys.  Truth be told we do not know a great deal about her except that we know for certain that she was a brave woman who lost her life during the persecution of the Christians in the early fourth century.
Lucy, according to legend, had a vision of St. Agatha who assured her that her mother’s illness would be cured through faith.  She encouraged her mother to give her dowry money to the poor so that she could enter religious life.  The man she had been promised to became enraged and betrayed her faith to the town officials.  Lucy was condemned to death and her eyes were gouged out.  She is often depicted holding a plate with her eyes on it.  Lucy, whose name can mean "light" or "lucid," is the patron saint of the blind.
Let us take some time today to say Saint Lucy's Prayer:

Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation -- every corner of our day. Amen
Sr. Pat Schifini, OSU

Monday, December 12, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.  It is a during this peace-filled season of Advent that we recall the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego.   Early one morning as he was making his way to Mass, Juan Diego hears beautiful birds and goes to explore.  He then comes face to face with an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The humble peasant famer is amazed at his conversation with Mary who chose him to carry message to the Bishop.
Mary appeared to him as a native princess and her words were sweet.  She instructs Juan Diego to ask the Bishop to build a Church on the site of her appearance, so that she could hear the petitions and heal the suffering of those who visit there.  Juan Diego was greatly troubled and went to speak to the Bishop who did not believe him at first.

Juan Diego recounts this to the Blessed Virgin Mary and asks for a sign so he could prove it to the Bishop.  The Blessed Virgin instructed him to climb to the top of Tepyac Hill and gather the wild flowers he sees and to keep them in his tilma until he reaches the Bishop.  He gathers the beautiful roses and places them under his cloak.  When he reaches the Bishop he opens his tilma and the roses fall to the floor.  On his tilma is the painted image of the Blessed Virgin as he first described her.  The Church was built and Juan Diego’s tilma is still preserved today in it.  Millions of people make pilgrimages to Mexico to see the miraculous tilma and to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Let us pray this day for all who seek the protection of Our Lady of the Americas.  May she always continue to bless and protect us.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Friday, December 9, 2016

Immaculate Conception

Yesterday we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In teaching that Mary was conceived immaculate, the Catholic Church teaches that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. This simply means that from the beginning, she was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and that she was free from the sinful inclinations which have beset human nature after the fall.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta once prayed: “Mary, Mother of Jesus, give me your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love Him as You loved Him, and serve Him as You served Him….”

Let us pray that we may always mirror St. Teresa’s fidelity and love as we approach the manger at Christmas.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Come to Me...

In today’s Gospel, Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11: 28 – 30) I find this to be one of my favorite Gospels as it gives me so much comfort and hope.

In our world, there are many who are weary and burdened and have no one to share that burden with.  Each one of us can relate to these sentiments.  Jesus promises us true relief from our burdens if we go to him.  In our daily living, Jesus invites us to come and we need to make the decision to follow.  There is a certain commitment as we accept the invitation.  What does this response look like is it praying, studying the Bible, being present to others or doing random acts of kindness?

Let us take time during this Advent waiting to move closer to Jesus and accept his invitation to come.  He invites us as we are and helps us to grow into who he wants us to be.  Jesus’ invitation of love is for all and all we have to do is take the first step.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

St. Nicholas

Advent is the time when Christians prepare to greet Christ—who came as a babe in a manger, who comes into our lives each day, and who will come again at the end of time. During this time people focus on getting ready to receive Christ by preparing their hearts and lives to make room for Jesus.  It is a time to live as Jesus would have us live. It is a time of longing in preparation of the great celebration of Christmas.  The Advent days pass all to quickly as we are pulled in many directions. 

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas.  He truly is an Advent saint.

St. Nicholas became popular because he was a faithful follower of Jesus.  His life reflected the way each one of us is called to show God’s abundant love to others.  Growing up I recall this day as the day when we would receive a small treat or surprise. This modeled what St. Nicholas did so long ago when he left treats for children particularly those in need.  This Advent let us take our cue from St. Nicholas and remember that Christmas is a feast of love, hope, kindness and generosity.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare to celebrate Christmas when we commemorate the first coming of Christ at the Incarnation some 2,000 years ago.  As I prayed today I kept recalling the song “Prepare the Way of the Lord.  It is a simple mantra that says, “Prepare the way of the Lord, prepare the way of the Lord, and all people shall see the salvation of our God.”  This is a perfect mantra for this busy Advent season. 

As I continued praying I was struck by the power of this simple song and it brought me back to the essentials of Advent.  Perhaps it is in the busyness that we need to take time to pause and reflect on what are we doing to prepare for Christmas.  I am not referring to what we are doing materially I am referring to spiritually.  We need to take time to pause and prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ at Christmas.  It may be as simple as just taking time to pray for someone in need or the needs of our world.  Let us embrace this season of Advent as a true opportunity to reflect more and be attentive to the God who loves us beyond all that we can imagine or hope for.

Pat Schifini, OSU