Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of December 19, 2011!
Congratulations to Ginger Marlin!
Ginger will receive a copy of The Catholic Family Connections Bible, a $26.95 value.
The Catholic Family Connections Bible helps families connect to:
- Each other- through family faith conversations
- Faith through practices of prayer and devotion
- Community-through participating in Christian service together
The Catholic Family Connections Bible uses the New American Bible text and is woven around the core content of the bestselling Catholic Youth Bible® (loved by nearly two million Catholic young people), which includes:
- Over 700 lively articles help you Pray It! Study It! Live It!®
- Catholic Connection” articles provide a presentation of key Catholic doctrine
- 28 articles address the seven principles of Catholic social teaching
- 75 inspirational illustrations
- Helpful index to life and faith issues
- Easy-to-use glossary of Scripture-related terms
- Sunday Lectionary readings for all three cycles
- "Catholic Connections" index
- "Sacraments Connections" index
The Catholic Family Connections Bible
ISBN: 978-1-59982-088-0, paper, 1968 pages
focus on faith
Have a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year
As we near the end of our Advent journey and the start of a new year, I would like to once again, on behalf of Saint Mary’s Press, wish you a blessed Christmas. I hope this Advent season has been a time of growth and renewal for you and that you are looking forward to the start of the new year with excitement. Last year at this time, I shared with you a reflection from Saint John Baptist de La Salle on the Nativity of Jesus Christ. I would like to again share these words with you as we approach the Christmas feast:
Meditation 85.3 (December 24: For the Vigil of the Nativity of Jesus Christ)
“Since we know that Jesus Christ is going to come into us today, and since we recognize him for what he is, let us prepare for him a dwelling place worthy of him, and let us dispose our hearts to receive him in such a way that he may be pleased to make his home there! With this in view let us apply ourselves to detach our hearts from all that is profane and earthly in them. The earthy soul, says Saint Paul, speaks with affection of the things of the earth, and does not know how to speak of anything else. But the same apostle says, the heavenly person speaks of the things of heaven and rises above everything else. It is for this purpose that the Son of God has come to earth and wishes to come into our hearts, to make us share in his nature and help us become altogether heavenly persons.”
The next issue of the Servant Leader will be on January, 9, 2012, so in preparation for the New Year, I want to share a prayer for your personal use or for use in your ministry. I pray that you have a joyous Christmas, and as always, I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.
New Year’s Prayer
God of Creation and New Beginnings,
As we enter into a new year we give you thanks for last year.
Thank you for all of the blessings you placed before us.
Thank you for challenges that brought us closer to you.
Thank you for the relationships that grew stronger under
another year of your guidance,
Thank you for all of the people brought into our lives last year
in whom we had the opportunity to see your face.
As we begin a new year, we ask for your continued blessing
on the journey ahead.
Bless us with the courage to speak your word in our daily life.
Bless us to see your face in those we encounter.
Bless us with the strength to endure the challenges we will encounter.
Most important, bless us with the conviction to continue Christ’s
mission of proclaiming and promoting your Kingdom.
In the name of Christ, your Son and our Savior, we pray.
make it happen
Getting a Fresh Start: A Reflection Activity on New Year’s Resolutions
From Holiday and Seasonal Ideas for Ministry with Young Teens
This reflection activity gives the young people a chance to make a concrete resolution for the New Year and to create a symbol that represents that resolution.
About 10 minutes
This strategy can be done with any size group.
- 3-by-5-inch index cards, one for each person
- pens or pencils
- envelopes, one for each person
- colored pencils or thin-line markers
1. Invite the young people to consider an area of their life that needs improvement. For example, some may need to work harder in school or use more loving behavior in a family relationship. Others might want to improve their relationship with God, such as by praying more often or paying better attention to the liturgy.
2. Give each person one 3-by-5-inch index card, a pen or pencil, and an envelope. Make colored pencils or thin-line markers available to everyone. Tell the young people that they are to write on their card a resolution for improving the area of their life that they have just considered. Then on the other side of the card, they are to draw a symbol that illustrates the resolution. For example, they might sketch a math book or a simple addition problem if their area needing improvement is academics, or a heart to symbolize the need for more loving behavior in a family relationship.
3. When the young people finish drawing, have them place their card in their envelope and write their name on the front of the envelope. Comment briefly that change is difficult and takes patience and persistence, but is always possible. Note that the support of other people is crucial in our efforts to become better people.
4. Close with the following prayer or with one you create spontaneously on the same theme:
O God, send your Holy Spirit to guide us as we face the challenges of making a fresh start. Bless our efforts and help us to remember that we are not alone. We have the support of one another and the guidance of your Spirit. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
5. Collect the participants’ envelopes and save them for at least one month. After that time distribute the envelopes to the young people to remind them of their resolutions and give them an opportunity to assess their progress.
- In step 3 instruct the young people to write their complete address on their envelope. A month later, instead of distributing the envelopes personally, mail them to the young people.
- Use this activity as part of a New Year reconciliation service, giving the young people a chance to reflect on their actions of the past year and to resolve to improve in the coming year.
- Resolutions can be made at any time of the year. Consider doing this activity as part of a kickoff for a new school year instead of a new calendar year, or for any time you want to talk about new beginnings.
- Ezek. 14:6 (Turn yourselves to God.)
- Acts 3:19–20 (Reform your lives and turn to God.)
- 2 Cor. 5:17–21 (We are made new in Christ Jesus.)
Use the space below to jot notes and reminders for the next time you use this strategy.
break open the word
December 25, 2011
Loving God, as we recall the amazing gift of your Word becoming flesh may we open our hearts to be a dwelling place for your Son and may we be changed by his presence.
The prologue to the Gospel of John can be thought of as a poem that increases our understanding of the Word of God becoming human. It provides marvelous insights into the mystery of the Incarnation, particularly the union of Jesus’s divine and human natures. John clearly wants his readers to know more about Jesus’s divinity and his intimate relationship with God the Father.
The Gospel opens, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (1:1–2). John takes us back before the dawn of Creation and reveals that the Word not only existed but enjoyed a dynamic relationship with God the Father. John proclaims the Word and Jesus Christ to be one and the same. Jesus shares the same essence, the same divinity, with God the Father but is a distinct person. He is indeed the Son of God, and with John’s help, we begin to understand something of his divine nature as well as his relationship with God the Father. This Word came into the world but was not recognized or accepted by everyone. “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (1:11). But those who did accept Jesus, the Word, and believed in him became dear and close to God. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (1:12). This verse tells us that one had to believe in order to receive. Believing in Jesus and then receiving him opens the door to becoming a child of God, which occurs through the sure will of God. This same divine will brought Creation into being.
Verse 14 is key: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father‘s only son, full of grace and truth.” This is the Good News we hear on this Christmas morning. To acknowledge the Incarnation of the Word is to bear witness to the Revelation of the divine in the human story. Jesus’s coming into the world—that is, his becoming human—makes it possible for those of us who believe to receive an abundance of blessings from God. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (1:16). John goes on to say that the Father’s gift of Jesus, through whom comes grace and truth, surpassed his gift of the Law, which was given to the children of Israel through Moses. Jesus as the only Son of God does something else that is quite extraordinary; he makes known to us God the Father. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:18). The Christmas story, according to John, is the dynamic of the Word of God taking on human form in Jesus Christ, who reveals the heart of God to humankind.
Christmas is the feast of the Incarnation, Jesus the Son of God assuming human form, which the Church celebrates on December 25. God entered the world as an infant, fully human. It is a joyful celebration because God brings us hope and joy by sharing in our humanity (see CCC, number 423).
The birth of Jesus is an expression of the depth of God the Father’s love for us. Throughout history, God tried to help humankind understand the immensity of his love, but we just did not understand. Then, with the greatest expression of love, God the Father sent Jesus the only Son to live among us so we could learn of God’s love from one whose heart had lain next to God’s heart.
The challenge of the mystery of the Incarnation is that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. No one nature negated or superseded the other. This item of faith was debated in the early Church, and many heresies and misunderstandings sprang up in coming to a doctrinal understanding that Jesus is true God and true man. We are blessed today with the clarity of this mystery of our faith (see CCC, number
The most wonderful gift of Jesus, the Son of God becoming human through the mystery of the Incarnation, is that we are now able to share, to partake in the divine nature as children of God. When we enter into the mystery of the Word becoming flesh in faith and embrace this truth, God claims us as God’s own.
For John, Jesus’s presence in the world reveals who God is. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (1:18). Jesus lifts the veil, and as a result, we have the privilege of understanding something of who God is and how God works in our world. Jesus is the light that brings enlightenment. If he hadn’t come, we would dwell in the darkness of not being aware of God. Believing in Jesus, the only Son of God, gives us entry into the family of God and grants us new birth as children of God. Thus, in John’s eyes, we should rightfully rejoice in God’s being born and in our being reborn.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
December 22 is the memorial for Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.
Saint Frances Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850. Mother Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart with a mission to minister to the poor in schools and hospitals. Sent by Pope Leo XIII, Mother Cabrini traveled to the United States to continue her work. In the United States, she reached out to immigrants and continued to establish schools, hospitals, and orphanages. She later became a U.S. citizen and was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized.
For more information on Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, go to http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-frances-xavier-cabrini/.