As we enter the second week of Advent, we enter into a spirit of preparation. We are not merely anticipating the coming of Christ, but are actively readying ourselves for His arrival. In the readings this week we hear from the prophet Isiah who declares:
“In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” -Isaiah 40:3 – 5
We are the desert. We are supposed to be preparing the way of the Lord. This time of Advent is a chance for us all to clean ourselves up and make ready for the arrival of Christ!
While there may be talk of cleaning the house, buying gifts, and gathering food, what’s even more important is that we prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s arrival. This second week of Advent is a great time to do an examination of conscious. Prepare your soul by confessing your sins and spend some time alone with Christ to reflect on what you can be doing to better welcome Him into your heart.
During the Christmas season, the word “Emmanuel” is certainly repeated often. Whether it’s during a Mass reading, written on a holiday card, or in the lyrics of a popular Christmas song, we are constantly reminded of Emmanuel. But what exactly does this word mean? To some, the word is synonymous with Jesus Christ, for others Emmanuel is the hope of Christ, or a feeling of anticipation. However, the actual meaning of Emmanuel stems much deeper than either of these theories. Emmanuel actually translates to “God is with us.”
You see, Emmanuel isn’t just a name or phrase: it is a promise. God is with us.
Many of us will be missing cherished loved ones this holiday season. It’s common for those who are grieving to experience an increased sense of loneliness during the holidays. Treasured memories of our loved ones will be vivid in our minds, and the traditions that once were so meaningful may be hard to bear. This is normal, but we must take heart and remember the promise of Emmanuel: God is with us. He is always with us. Even in our most lonely and desperate times, God is close to us. If you find yourself in a state of isolation, reach out to God and ask for His comfort and healing.
It is also important during this time of grief to attend Mass. While God is always with you, attending Mass is a unique opportunity to grow in physical closeness to Christ through the Eucharist. Receiving the blessed sacrament assures that God will live inside you, yet another reminder of His never ending love. Also, it is during the Mass that the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Certain portions of the Mass are even dedicated to the souls of those who have died and the saints currently in Heaven. By taking an active part in the Mass, you not only grow closer to Christ, but you have the chance to pray and reconnect with your dearly departed loved ones.
To anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one this season, you are not alone. God is with you.
Join us on December 17th for our Sunday Grief Support Group. This month’s topic will be “God’s Eternal Presence.”
In a warm, comfortable, and supportive environment, you’ll find a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences.
Come. Listen. Be in the presence of those who understand. Available at the following locations:
Holy Cross Cemetery, Akron
Holy Cross Cemetery, Brook Park
St. Joseph Cemetery, Avon
Well, we are officially entering into the busiest month of the year: December. Department stores have been advertising Christmas deals since Halloween, and The Hallmark Channel has already begun their countdown to Christmas. It seems as if the whole world is preparing for this universal holiday. However, so much of this season gets lost in the material world. You see, Christmas isn’t about gifts, or food, or even friends and family. Christmas is about Christ coming to this world. This act of love is the cornerstone of the Catholic faith. Alongside Easter, Christmas is so significant that we even have a special liturgical season to prepare His arrival. As Catholics, we call this period of preparation and anticipation Advent. Celebrating Advent and truly entering into a spirit of honor and hope is a great way for us all to grow closer to Christ and ready ourselves for the wonderful season and holiday that is Christmas! Keep reading to learn more about 5 things you should do during advent.
Get an Advent Wreath
While a seemingly minor gesture, displaying an Advent wreath serves as a visual reminder of the preparatory season. By lighting the candles each week and reflecting on their specific meanings, you can better focus your prayers and intentions to enter more fully into praise and worship. Even more so, fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. By lighting your Advent Wreath candles you are inviting the Holy Spirit into your life, allowing Him to work through you and offer you even more blessings!
We all know Christmas as a holiday of giving. Be it with friends, family, or coworkers, there is a natural expectation to give and receive gifts around the holidays. While there’s no specific attribution to this custom, this “giving tradition” is actually in honor of Jesus Christ Himself. Since He lives in all of us, we are taught to see Christ in each other—which is why we exchange gifts for His birthday! However, we are not called to see Christ in only our friends and family, we are called to see Christ in every single person we encounter. This means being charitable and giving to those less fortunate. Whether it’s donating clothes, volunteering at the soup kitchen, or donating your time at a local nursing home, try and find a way to give back.
Start a daily devotional
Advent is a great time to pick up a new spiritual habit. You can use these four weeks as a time to grow Closer to Christ by reading His Word and familiarizing yourself with scripture. Whether it’s doing the daily Mass readings or finding a special Advent-themed devotional, reading scripture each day will help you enter into the anticipatory spirit!
Go to confession
When we have a guest over to our house, it’s customary to clean and make ready everything right? So why not do the same to get ready for the arrival of Christ? Sin dirties our souls; it weighs us down and makes us spiritually “unclean.” By going to confession and offering your sins up to the Lord, you are preparing your spiritual home for His arrival. By preparing your soul you can enter more fully into the hopeful, joyful, and faithful spirit of Christmas! Find out when your local parish offers Confessions—you won’t regret it.
Spend time with Christ
The most important thing you can do this Advent season is to spend time with Christ. He is the true reason we celebrate this holiday! As you reflect back on the past year, thank God for the blessings. Talk to Him about any heartache you experienced, or any challenges you faced. Share with Him your favorite memories and then be still and listen to Him speak to you. What is He asking you to do in your life? Where will this next year take you? These questions can only be answered by spending quality time with Christ. By taking this time of Advent to grow closer to Him, you can enter the Christmas holiday and New Year reinvigorated and renewed!
The first week of Advent begins the liturgical countdown to Christmas. Whereas most of society may start celebrating the sacred holiday immediately after Halloween, Catholics have a very purposeful and meaningful perspective on anticipating the coming of Christ. This first week of Advent, we celebrate with a spirit of hope: the hope that God provides through His son, Jesus Christ. During this first week of Advent, the daily Mass readings revolve heavily around prophecies of Christ’s coming. This year we hear from the prophet Daniel who states:
“One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” -Daniel 7:13-14
You see, even thousands of years later we are all still anticipating the birth of Christ. We still celebrate His coming and the hope it brings to our world. What’s even more significant is that we notice and appreciate the faithfulness of God. The prophets were given this promise of hope in Jesus Christ. As we know, God always delivers on His promises and as a result the world was given a true Savior. Let this first week of Advent be one of thankfulness and appreciation. Our God is faithful and fills us with hope!
**Fun fact: the first Advent candle is referred to as the Prophecy Candle, or the Candle of Hope**
Life is hard—there’s no question. Whether it’s small day-to-day struggles, or major traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one, this world can be a confusing place. We may wonder why our God, who is all loving and benevolent, would allow such strife to happen. While we may never know these answers, what we do know is this world is not our final destination, but rather a stop on the road to God’s eternal kingdom. The popular Christian music group Building 429 addresses this topic in their song ,“Where I Belong.” Let’s take a closer look at this song and how we can all relate to its powerful message!
The song begins by describing the unique sensation of distance between body and soul:
Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find
The singer exposes a questioning attitude that we’ve all experienced at some point. What does it mean to be alive in this world? Why are there so many questions that can’t be answered? What is the purpose of all this ambiguity? As the chorus winds up, we are given the poetic answer:
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
The reason why this world is so confusing is because it is not our final home. We are only visiting. Our actual and eternal home is with Jesus Christ, and only with His help can we begin to understand the intricate and complex workings of life as we know it. This may seem overwhelming, but let it be of comfort. We are not supposed to understand everything in this world—not yet. If you find yourself struggling with feelings of doubt or discouragement, let this song serve as a source of hope and encouragement. One day we will be reunited with our heavenly Father, who will take away all our pain, confusion, and trouble.
Take some time to listen to the rest of the song below!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
I’m sure we’ve all recited this passage at one point or another in times of great stress. It doesn’t matter how kind you are, how selfless you are, or even how faithful you are– no one is immune to the pain that life brings. Suffering can be hard to comprehend at times– why would God, who is supposed to love us, put us in so much pain? What purpose does suffering serve in His plan? Why is it necessary?
We can turn to scripture (such as the verse above) to help guide us on our search for answers, but in the end it all comes down to trusting God and His will for our lives. Hillary Scott and the Scott Family use their music to address topics such as this. Their song “Thy Will” has grown to be incredibly popular, expressing the pain and desperation so many of us have felt throughout our lives.
I’m so confused I know I heard you loud and clear So, I followed through Somehow I ended up here
This first verse is applicable to so many of us who listened closely to God, who remained faithful and devoted to Him– yet still experienced pain and suffering. It’s these instances that are the hardest to understand. How could following God lead us astray? Hillary expresses this confusion saying:
I don’t wanna think I may never understand That my broken heart is a part of your plan When I try to pray All I’ve got is hurt and these four words
Often, when we are going through a painful experience we feel distant from God. We may even be angry that He let something so awful happen to us. As Hillary so openly reveals, we may never understand the reasoning behind God’s will. But that’s why we have faith. The chorus of the song, taken directly from the Our Father, is a repeated reminder of the foundation of the Catholic faith– having full trust in God’s will and not our own:
Thy will be done Thy will be done Thy will be done
Take some time to listen to the song. Read the lyrics and reflect on your own experiences.
While many of us “cradle Catholics” have grown up with the expectation of attending Mass the day after Halloween in observance of All Saints Day, I’m sure that there are some of us, myself included, that never really stopped to ask why All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation. Even more so, I was never aware that there are two other major Catholic observances in the month of November: All Souls Day and Cemetery Sunday. While all related, these three days are actually quite different, and each offers its own special intention. Keep reading to learn more about these three holy days, how they’re different, and how you can celebrate them.
All Saints Day (November 1st)
As I mentioned, All Saints Day (officially named Solemnity of All Saints) is the most well-known of the three November observances. All Saints Day is meant to be a celebration of the souls that are currently in Heaven. These souls include both known saints recognized by the church, and those that are unknown. Being a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day is celebrated with a special Mass.
All Souls Day (November 2nd)
Not to be confused with All Saints Day, All Souls Day is a day dedicated to souls who are not in Heaven. This day is a chance for those of us here on Earth to offer prayers and intentions for those souls in purgatory– that they may find eternal peace and rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. While not a holy day of obligation, All Souls Day is an opportunity for all Catholics to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.
Cemetery Sunday (First Sunday in November)
Cemetery Sunday, while closely related to All Saints and All Souls Day, is rather unique. Proposed by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in 1978, the day focuses on the physical location where souls are laid to rest: the cemetery. Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, as they are blessed upon their founding, and they are treated as an extension of the Church itself. Therefore, Cemetery Sunday is a day dedicated to those buried in a Catholic cemetery. The day is normally celebrated with a special Mass on cemetery grounds. Cemetery Sunday is a spiritual way to honor family members who have passed, and provides families with a special opportunity to visit the graves of their dearly departed loved ones.
The Catholic Cemeteries Association will be celebrating Cemetery Sunday on November 5th, 2017. Mass will be said at the following locations at 3pm:
All Saints, Northfield
Rev. Luigi Miola
All Souls, Chardon
Rev. Dave Woost
Rev. Thomas O’Donnell
Our Lady of Guadalupe Mausoleum
Rev. Robert J. Glepko
Holy Cross, Akron
Sacred Heart of Jesus Mausoleum
Rev. Thomas McCann
Holy Cross, Brook Park
Rev. Michael Troha
St. Joseph, Avon
St. Joseph Mausoleum
Rev. Gerald Keller
St. Mary, Cuyahoga Hts.
Rev. Andrew Panek
For more information, please email Rhonda Abrams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saint Padre Pio is one of the world’s most popular and well-loved Saints. His story is one of true dedication and devotion of God, and his spiritual gifts still stun even the most secular of scholars. What’s even more amazing is that Pio is a relatively modern saint, having only passed away in the 1960’s! Padre Pio is proof that Saints still walk among us—keep reading to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.
Padre Pio was born on May 25th, 1887 in a small town in southern Italy. His parents were two peasant farmers who worked hard to care for their 5 children. Pio was the second eldest, with one older brother and three younger sisters. With his parents being devote Catholics, the whole family was held to a strict Catholic lifestyle which included attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary each night. While his parents were illiterate, they memorized scripture and would tell Pio and his siblings stories from the Bible by memory. Pio felt a special connection to Jesus and Mary from a young age, and it’s said that he could see and speak to Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel as a child. He simply thought that all children had this ability—little did he know that he was selected by God to accomplish great things! Because of this upbringing, Pio knew by the time he was five that he wanted to devote his entire life to Christ. He began taking penances in his youth. His most notable penance including sleeping on the stone floor and using a stone as a pillow which his mother, as you can imagine, highly discouraged!
While Pio’s childhood was certainly rich in spiritual connection and growth, it was also one of great physical hardship. As a young boy, Pio contracted several severe illnesses such as typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. These illnesses were only the beginning of what would be a life-long health struggle for Pio, but this didn’t stop him from following God’s will. As he grew older, Pio started to experience prolonged visions and ecstasies where he would spend time with the Lord. This ignited his desire to enter into religious life, and at the young age of 15 he was officially made a member of the Capuchin Order of Friars as a novice. On January 22, 1903, he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio (his baptized name was Francisco) in honor of Pope St. Pius. As a friar, he took simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
When Pio was 17, he was struck with another bout of bad health and those around him started to notice changes in him. While praying, he seemed to be completely detached from reality and in some instances there were reports of him levitating off the ground. This, again, was only a precursor to what was to come throughout his life. His health continued to decline, and he was sent home to stay with his family to recover. His illness, however, did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1910. While normally this would require Pio to enter immediately into community life, due to his poor health he was permitted to stay with his family until 1916, when his health progressed enough and he was able to move to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. He would stay at this friary for the rest of his life, aside from his brief time serving in World War I in the Medical Corps (While Pio was enlisted and served for a few months, he was quickly sent home due to his poor health.)
It wasn’t until 1918 that Pio would receive the spiritual gift that would spark his worldly fame. It was in 1918 while hearing confessions that Padre Pio received the stigmata. The marks on his hands, feet, and sides would stay with him his entire life, and they reportedly smelled of flowers or perfume. The occurrence was painful, and later would be accompanied by transverberation, which is a piercing of the heart that indicates a union with God. While very painful, Pio accepted these graces from God and understood that to be in pain was to be in union with Christ. While he didn’t prefer to make any of this suffering public (Pio even wore mittens to hide the marks on his hands), news of Padre Pio spread throughout the world, and he soon became a sign of hope for those recovering from the first World War. Countless doctors and laypeople like came to examine his marks but no one could offer a logical explanation. It was clear that Padre Pio was a true servant of Christ—and the world was taking notice!
Throughout the rest of his life, Pio was known for possessing several spiritual gifts including healing of the sick, bilocation, levitation, prophesizing, extreme fasting from both sleep and food, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, and the ability to convert people. He became a very famous priest and would later become a spiritual director. His focus always remained in walking in Christ’s footsteps. He even outlined five rules for spiritual growth which were:
One of his most famous quotes “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” was adopted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sadly, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 due to health complications. It wasn’t long before he was declared a Saint on June 16, 2002 after several miracles were attributed to him. It was also discovered during his canonization that his body was incorruptible. Saint Padre Pio and his wise teachings are something we should all strive to live by—his ability to see past his suffering and keep his focus on Christ is just one of the many reasons why he is revered around the world today.
We often hear stories of Saints performing grandiose miracles, partaking on dramatic journeys and accomplishing impossible tasks.While these stories are inspiring and motivate us to better ourselves, sometimes they can make us feel as if becoming saints ourselves is unachievable. However, some saints such as St. Therese Lisieux prove that sometimes sainthood is gained through simple tasks. Keep reading about this amazing saint and her subtle road to sainthood.
Born on January 2, 1873 to Marie and Louis Martin, St. Therese was immediately immersed in an extremely devout and faithful environment. Both of her parents were strict Catholics. In fact, when Marie and Louis were first married, they lived as a religious brother and sister, practicing a marriage of celibacy. However, their confessor pressed them to discontinue this practice, and so the couple went on to have nine children. Of these nine, four would pass away before reaching adulthood. The five remaining children would all become nuns. Therese was the youngest.
Growing up St. Therese was held to the same religious standard as her older sisters and parents. This meant attending daily Mass at 5:30am, observing religious fasts, and partaking in daily liturgical prayer. As a family, they would often visit the sick and suffering and often opened their home or table to those who needed nourishment. As a young child, Therese was known for being happy yet fragile. She would cry easily and seemed to feel emotions more intensely than her family members. When Therese’s mother died in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux which is where St. Therese would start schooling and continue her religious journey.
The loss of her mother signified the beginning of what St. Therese would later call the saddest days of her life. Starting school when she was eight years old, Therese was often bullied because she was much younger than her classmates yet received very good grades. Therese also did not enjoy the loud and rowdy nature of the children at school. She would find places to hide when the situation overwhelmed her, and savored her time at home. She was very close to her older sisters and father, so when her sisters eventually began to join the local convent, it was very hard on Therese who felt as if she were losing her mother all over again. The ordeal upset Therese so much that she tried to join the convent. However, due to her young age, the prioress did not allow her to enter, but rather called her a “future daughter” and told her to return later in life.
In addition to emotional stress, St. Therese also experienced physical ailments, mainly in the form of tremors brought on by her nervousness. It was later discovered that St. Therese also suffered from scruples, which other saints have also experienced. (Scruples is the condition of feeling overwhelming guilt and sorrow for the evils of the world, and the feeling of hopelessness of not being able to cure the world of evil). This time of sorrow and illness continued until Christmas Eve of 1886 when Therese had a revelation.
Therese recounted the night saying “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant… On that blessed night… Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood.” Therese was given the strength from God to leave behind her sensitivity and made huge steps toward becoming an adult. This sparked a new beginning for Therese, and the following year her father took her on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. During this trip, Therese was given the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo blessed Therese, and she remained at his feet until the guards carried her out. After, Therese and her family visited several cities in Italy, giving her a plethora of new experiences and knowledge. This experience only heightened Therese’s desire to serve the Lord and upon her return to Lisieux in 1888 Therese became a Carmelite postulant.
While St. Therese was so happy to be admitted into the convent, soon after entering she experienced another challenging time in her life. After suffering some a series of strokes, her father began to hallucinate and he was soon admitted to an asylum. As a cloistered nun, neither St. Therese nor any of her sisters, who were in the same convent, were permitted to visit their father. This was also followed by a dry period of prayer for St. Therese. This was partially due to her realization that as a cloistered nun she could not be an active missionary or perform the same acts as a priest. She dreamed of being a martyr and found it troubling to realize she would never perform great acts. However, she would soon realize her true vocation.
Until her untimely death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese dedicated her life to acts of love. No act was too small– be it volunteering for extra work, smiling at someone, or simply being cheerful and happy. Following her death, St. Therese’s sister Pauline collected Therese’s writings and compiled them into a book, which she sent to other convents. This made St. Therese quite famous, and by 1925 she was canonized. St. Therese is a wonderful example to all of us, proving how simple, kind acts can make a world of difference.
One of the greatest elements of the Catholic faith is its ability to reach so many people from so many walks of life. The Catholic faith has been spread throughout the world, with Christ’s message being shared in hundreds of countries both near and far. The Church welcomes everyone no matter their race, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the Church celebrates these differences! Saint Benedict the Moor is a perfect example of how the Catholic Church is an all-encompassing family. Born to two African slaves, St. Benedict embraced the Catholic church and became one of the Church’s finest teachers. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable saint!
St. Benedict was born in 1526 in Italy. His parents, Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri were two African slaves that were brought to Italy (exact location is not known, but most likely near Sicily) and given new Italian names. After arriving in Italy, St. Benedict’s parents both converted to Catholicism and had their son, Benedict. Due to his parents’ “loyal service” St. Benedict was born free from slavery, but this didn’t mean his life was easy. Being a peasant, St. Benedict did not attend school, and instead spent his time working as a shepherd in his youth. Much of what he earned he gave to the poor. As he grew older, St. Benedict began to face some persecution for the color of his skin. Instead of becoming angry or upset, St. Benedict was known for being patient and dignified when these instances occurred. In fact, this humble response led to the leader of Monte Pellegrino, a group of hermits that followed the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, to reach out to St. Benedict to ask if he’d join the order. St. Benedict accepted, leaving behind all of his earthly possessions and joining the order as a cook. When he was only 28 years old, Benedict became the leader of the order, due to his superior knowledge of scripture and his leadership skills.
In 1564 Pope Pius IV decreed that all independent religious groups must be affiliated with a religious order. After this decree, Benedict joined the Order of Friars Minor where he was assigned to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary Jesus, where he again started as a cook. Over the years St. Benedict increased his rank, advancing to Master of Novices to eventually becoming Guardian of the Community, one of the major leadership roles. This was quite an accomplishment for St. Benedict, who remained to be a layperson due to his inability to read. (At the time, it was required that priests and religious figures be able to read and write). During his time as Guardian, St. Benedict encouraged and developed a more structured and strict Franciscan rule of life. St. Benedict was very well respected due to his very involved understanding of theology and scripture. He was seen as very wise and was often sought after for advice and console, as well as healing the sick and suffering. Later in life, St. Benedict returned to working in the kitchen, as cooking was something he greatly enjoyed.
St. Benedict passed away when he was 65 years old. He passed away on the exact date and time he predicted, further proving his higher connection to Christ. His death drew attention from across the continent, and King Phillip of Spain constructed a tomb to hold St. Benedict’s remains in the friary church. In 1743 St. Benedict was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV, and he was eventually canonized by Pope Pius VII. During the beatification, it was discovered that St. Benedict’s body was incorrupt. Today St. Benedict’s legacy lives on as he is the Patron saint of African Americans, and provides a source of strength for those facing racial prejudice.