Introduce your parish or prayer group to Magnificat
Request complimentary copies for a parish-wide sampling.
Recommended for: Prayer groups, RCIA, lectors,Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, daily Mass attendees, retreats and other special parish events.
The Flesh in All Its Conditions
by Pierre-Marie Dumont
Nativity (c. 1400)
The editorial of the month
by Father Sebastian White, o.p.
When I first began as editor of Magnificat five years ago this month, I was, to be frank, more than a little apprehensive about the writing part of the job. Choosing the meditations, editing the articles, proofreading—I’ll definitely get through all these tasks, I thought, even if push comes to shove and I have to stay up late. But writing my own stuff? What if I come down with a severe case of writer’s block?, I worried. What if a deadline looms and I’m still banging my head against the wall?
So far my fears have been in vain (knock on wood), and I did not, as I thought I might, have to throw in the towel after six months. I’m not exactly Charles Dickens, I realize, but each month as I ponder the spiritual themes, readings, and concrete ways I have experienced God’s goodness in my own life, I start pushing words around the screen and an essay begins to take shape. What’s more, the act of writing often bears fruit for more than the piece at hand, a bit like the way we enter a store looking for one item and, along the way, notice half-a-dozen other things we need. Put differently, as I poke around one part of my life for a particular month’s editorial, the dust gets blown off other neighboring memories, allowing them to be seen more clearly.
In these weeks of Advent, a season that naturally tends to be nostalgic, I can’t help but recall how the day would come each December when my father would enlist my help in putting up the Christmas lights. It’s a simple story, but that it stands out in my memory after all these years tells me it has a significance worth exploring.
I was about four years old when we moved from Oakland to Waterville, Maine, where I was raised. While my parents worked hard to provide for me and my sister, they also sought to avoid spoiling us, so we were expected to do chores. I was asked to help with mowing the lawn in the summer, raking leaves in the fall, and shoveling snow in winter. Other projects, such as stacking wood in the basement and putting up the Christmas lights, were imposed as needed. (My mother, for her part, let it be known there was no room for me to “talk back.”)
My father, I realize in hindsight, gained little from my assistance with the lights, especially when I was young. Some years he practically had to drag me outside as I whined about the cold—which could not have been very convincing given that I was somehow able to “man up” to go sledding on the hill at Colby College.
My contribution, as I recall, consisted of standing next to the ladder and holding an end of the string to keep it from getting caught on anything, as he did all the work. It didn’t take all that long, as our display was not elaborate—no life-sized Nativity scenes or blinking reindeer. We simply ran the lights up one side of the house, across the overhang of the roof, and then down the other side. We would then attach a matching string around the front porch. Finally, we put lights around the garage—which, having our basketball hoop attached to it, was as important to me as the house itself.
Advent’s penitential graces
Only in retrospect do I realize that helping my father was more in my interest than his. What I experienced then as a penance was in truth an invitation to grow and mature as a person, and I remain grateful that he was not content to let me sit inside playing Nintendo. He wanted me, I believe, to have the experience of working alongside him because he knew it was good for me. He wanted me to participate in the effort of decorating our house, however modestly, in preparation for the birth of Christ.
The season of Advent begins each year with a call to remain alert and to repent in order to recognize the Lord. To think of these next weeks as a penitential season, not unlike Lent, may run contrary to the sweetness we typically associate with Advent and that comes through in the Christmas music we hear all around us. But Advent’s graces rouse us, as my father’s request for help did me, from the selfishness and spiritual sleepiness that impede our spiritual maturation. In Advent, we are invited to deepen our relationship with our heavenly Father. We are his children, and he wants us to know him and to be ready to stand before his Son when he returns in glory.
“Do not forget all his gifts” (Ps 103:2)
The Scottish writer James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, once said that “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” I suspect he meant that memory empowers us to imagine roses from the past—joyful experiences and pleasant times in our life—even if we are presently enduring a cold and barren season or are going through personal difficulties. As Catholics, we might also think of the coming feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose gift of miraculous roses to Saint Juan Diego reveals that, through her, the wilderness and the parched land will exult, that the desert will bloom abundantly (Is 35:1-2).
More than simply dreaming about past blessings, then, in the coming weeks may we remember that the Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning (Lam 3:22-23). And even more impressive than out-of-season flowers, the Lord’s mercy accomplishes what we would never even dream of: a virgin conceives, God becomes man, death is overcome—and we can share in eternal life.(Read More)