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Recommended for: Prayer groups, RCIA, lectors,Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, daily Mass attendees, retreats and other special parish events.
I Give You My Peace
by Pierre-Marie Dumont
Adoration of the Magi (1609)
by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
The editorial of the month
by Father Sebastian White, o.p.
Every year, as soon as the Christmas season is over, the Gospel readings at Mass leap ahead to a Jesus fully grown and on a mission—calling the disciples, teaching, healing, casting out demons: all passages and encounters that show Christ’s divine mercy and power in action. Yet Christ’s whole life is full of meaning for us, even all those years before his baptism that, with the exception of the small glimpse we know as “the finding in the Temple,” the Gospel is silent on. So as we begin the new year we do well to ponder the mystery of Christ’s hidden life and what it reveals about our own Christian vocation.
The evidence of things not seen
“During the greater part of his life,” the Catechism explains, “Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor” (CCC 531). This is more than a merely historical observation. For it means that, centuries later, all can “enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life” (CCC 533), be it in an office, around the house, or in the halls of a convent. As Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, o.p., once put it: “There are very few people of worldly importance; far in the majority are the multitudes of ordinary people whose path to heaven is unexciting and unromantic. How very kind of God to show us by his long, hidden life that his plan of redemption includes everyone, even those whose lives are so unremarkable that the world does not notice at all.”
Now, you don’t have to be the type that daydreams about becoming rich and famous to admit that it is deeply satisfying to be noticed, to whatever degree. Don’t we all enjoy when someone is genuinely interested in us, pays us a compliment, or is impressed by what we’ve accomplished? Consider, too, how technology and social media allow us to continually know about others and to make others aware of ourselves: we post photos, share our opinions, and describe what we’re up to and where we’re at. Though I am still a social media holdout myself, I recognize that these things are acceptable in the right measure. The Vatican has two official Twitter accounts (one of which is in Latin), and I don’t mind saying that the “share your location” feature on my phone came in handy on a recent bus trip to Maine. That way my dad, who was driving from my hometown to pick me up, could see our progress. (Making calls on the bus is sure to earn threatening stares from the other passengers.)
But for all the conveniences and connectedness we have at our fingertips, it is good to recall that in the spiritual life not everything needs to be—or even can be—tracked or put on display. Though we certainly ought to strive to live a virtuous life that bears authentic witness to Christ, the goal is not that we be appreciated or admired for our fidelity to Christ, or that we be recognized as holy or gifted with special graces. In fact, saints and spiritual writers teach that what God does in our souls is not, ordinarily speaking, sensibly apparent even to ourselves.
In I Believe in Love, a book I frequently recommend, Father Jean D’Elbée memorably describes the need for faith in the hidden workings of God within the soul. Permit me to quote his own words at length, as I don’t think I could improve on them:
Bearing in mind the magnificent dogma of the communion of saints, you must never doubt that you are really apostles, if you love, and only because you love. Jesus can hide it from you in order to increase the merit of your faith, but never doubt it…. Know how to unite yourself with the miracles he works in you continually, even when you do not realize and are not aware of it. “Jesus, I unite myself to the wonders you work in me. I know for certain that I love you today more than yesterday and that tomorrow I shall love you more than today, because I have opened my heart to your grace which is a torrent which ceaselessly engulfs me and continually transforms me into yourself and spreads out to others.” I insist, hold fast, always with the same tenacity, hold fast to an immense confidence. Often our Lord hides from the apostle the fruit of his work, of his fatigue, in order to keep him humble and to test his faith, by a wholly divine wisdom. Learn how to say, “I do not expect my reward here below.” Even if you do not see the result of your prayers, of your supplications, of your efforts, believe, believe!
Beginning and ending in Jesus and Mary
For over twenty years, the opening letter on page one of your Magnificat has concluded “In Jesus and Mary.” Perhaps that seems like predictably pious language, but it really does express the deepest way we are all united, even if we never meet face to face on this earth. In Jesus and Mary, we have a friendship and bond that do not depend on being physically known to one another.
As always, one year passes and a new one begins on the octave day of the Nativity of the Lord, the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. So as human history continues on its merry way—or if instead we feel, with Hamlet, that we “bear the whips and scorns of time”—we remain sure of the Lord’s presence, and that Mary will be praying for us all, both now and at the hour of our death.(Read More)