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Archive for December, 2012

massacre

Christmas Eve, late at night, burning the Advent wreath down, listening to Christmas hymns, the children and Regina finishing the decorating, and contemplating the Nativity in a year that has challenged us all like few others. I’m not thinking of peaceful nativities and Hallmark images.

I’m thinking this Christmas Eve of how much the real nativity speaks to the weariness in so many hearts this year. Specifically, I’m thinking of my best friend who endured three heart surgeries and almost died as many times, of Father Luke McCann who was the most influential mentor in my life who died on Columbus Day, of Superstorm Sandy having laid waste my community, and the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary.

It’s been quite a year, yet the story we tell tonight reveals the main characters, not as humans without a care because of God’s design for their lives, but as characters who suffered greatly because of God’s design for their lives: a design that required the deepest faith to accept, and the most difficult burden to bear.

“Faith,” as Father Luke McCann would remind me, “isn’t for when we have all the answers, but for when the roof is caving in and we don’t know what’s coming next.”

Mary had to endure a lifetime of taunts, of deep suspicion and gossip over her fidelity to Joseph, and her divine son’s legitimacy. She had to walk Joseph through the doubt about her fidelity and sanity, and it would still require the assistance of angelic visions to convince Joseph to stay with her.

Then there was the unimaginable selfishness of a society that had become so calloused and coarsened to life that not one person would give up their bed for a young girl in labor.

Not one.

The indignity of a barn awaited the birth of the King of Kings. They wouldn’t be long in the barn because the government, in the person of the king, had decided to butcher every male under the age of two in an attempt to slaughter Mary and Joseph’s child. They would need to live on the road, on the run, as they fled into Egypt; far from either of their families, and with none of the help that a new and young mother needs from the older women of the family.

Homelessness, death, privation, targeting of babies for death…

Not much has changed in 2,000 years. But God came to earth and showed from the moment of His human conception that He would identify with the poor and the least among us. Having escaped murder several times, He would eventually suffer that indignity as well. The nativity narratives tell us not only of God’s great condescension in taking on our humanity, but in His great identification in all things with the suffering of the world. It is the coupling of the great condescension and the great identification with the poor and the least that point to the majesty of God, a majesty whose might is shown in His infinite mercy and forgiveness.

When people look to the tragedies of this year and ask, “Where was God?”, what is really being asked is why God could permit such evil. For me this evening, as I look at the nativity set, the answer is that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph suffered mightily as well. I often wonder what went through Mary and Joseph’s minds and hearts as they contemplated all of those children slaughtered in the effort to get their child. The joy of the birth swallowed up as their hearts must have broken beyond description.

God was right there, physically there, in the midst of it all. So it is that He remains right here with us in the midst of it all.

If it’s true that there was a murderous Herod with designs on the child’s life, then it is also true that there were Magi who returned by a different route, having left gifts to sustain the young family in Egyptian exile.

If it’s true that there was the indignity of a stable, it’s also true that there was the great Theophany, when Heaven opened onto earth and the Angels sang.

If it’s true that there was the parsimony of the residents in the inns, there was the adoration by the shepherds and the Magi.

If it’s true that Mary suffered ridicule and the opprobrium of the women of Israel, it is true that her fidelity to the Father and the Son was rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If it’s true that the slaughter of innocents heralded the first coming of our Lord in His humble origins, then it is true that this mass slaughter of innocents in the womb and the classrooms of America and the world will herald the Second Coming of Jesus in glory.

So, on this quiet night as I reflect on a year that has tried our souls, I contemplate the sufferings of Mary and Joseph, of the mothers and fathers, grandparents and families of Herod’s victims, but also on all of the goodness that God sent into their darkness. I also think of the immense outpouring of charity in the wake of that killer storm in October.

I praise God for our modern Magi; the thousands of volunteers who came from around the nation to help us rebuild, for the endless convoys of truckloads of food, clothing, and supplies. I praise God for the goodness that so much suffering elicited–mainly from church groups acting in the name of Jesus.

I praise God for the outpouring of love, and prayers, and toys for the children and residents of Sandy Hook and Newtown.

I praise God that evil never has the last word, and always evokes a far greater expression of goodness and virtue.

I praise God for all of the good people whom God has sent into my life, whose goodness has been the sign of His constant love and presence, especially for Regina and the children.

Most of all, I praise God for the witness of Mary and Joseph. In their darkest hours they never questioned God’s presence, or His love, or His goodness, or His fidelity. Their faith told them that there was a purpose beyond all human understanding and that He was with them always. They are our perfect role models in this difficult year.

Theirs is a nativity for our time.

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Merry Christmas!!

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To all here at Coming Home, a Blessed Christmas filled with peace and joy, and a very healthy and prosperous New Year!

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”

~Sigrid Undset

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cu_lourdes

Tonight is the final night of our novena. Many thanks to all who stopped in, took time, and prayed. God Bless you and your loved ones.

Day 1 here.

Day 2 here.

Day 3 here.


Day 4 here.

Day 5 here.

Day 6 here.

Day 7 here.

Day 8 here.

Prayer

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

DAY NINE

O glorious Mother of God, to you we raise our hearts and hands to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the benign Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly for the grace of a happy death. O Mother of our Divine Lord, as we conclude this novena for the special favor we seek at this time.

That your beloved Son send His Holy Sprit upon this nation in its hour of despair, to enlighten every heart, showing the sacredness of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death; that through this tragedy the scales will fall from the nation’s eyes and all will see the seamless garment of human life and dignity.

We feel animated with confidence that your prayers in our behalf will be graciously heard. O Mother of My Lord, through the love you bear to Jesus Christ and for the glory of His Name, hear our prayers and obtain our petitions.
O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/novena/lourdes.htm#day9#ixzz2FvVPwYJd

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

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cu_lourdes

As we continue our nine days of prayer, please leave your supportive messages for the folks in Newtown and Sandy Hook in the comments section here on the blog. They’ll be seeing them, I assure you. Each night as we pray for the entire community, we’ll lift up in a special way different groups within that population. Thanks for joining in. God Bless you and your loved ones.

Day 1 here.

Day 2 here.

Day 3 here.


Day 4 here.

Day 5 here.

Day 6 here.

Day 7 here.

Prayer

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

DAY EIGHT

O Immaculate Mother of God, from heaven itself you came to appear to the little Bernadette in the rough Grotto of Lourdes! And as Bernadette knelt at your feet and the miraculous spring burst forth and as multitudes have knelt ever since before your shrine, O Mother of God, we kneel before you today to ask that in your mercy you plead with your Divine Son to grant the special favor we seek in this novena.

We pray tonight for all of the citizens of Sandy Hook and Newtown, that Christmas brings a reprieve from the trauma of these past eight days. We pray, too, for eternal rest for all 28 people who died in the madness of that day, especially for those most in need of your Son’s mercy.

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

lit-candles-in-heart-shape--romantic-candle-light--photos-92789

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Church-bells-001

Today at 9:30 AM the church bells tolled 26 times: once for each of the victims in last week’s horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary. It was a fitting remembrance of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Governor did well to request it. However, there was one victim intentionally not remembered, for whom no bell tolled, and that was Adam Lanza’s mother. She was shot in the head four times as she lay sleeping, and was all but unrecognizable afterward.

By all accounts she was a mother who doted on her son, who sought the best for him given his Asperger’s disorder. Why did we not remember a loving mother shot to death by her mentally ill son?

Are we angry at her for having taught him how to shoot, and in our anger assigning to her some degree of culpability for this tragedy? If so, she’s not alive and well to receive our opprobrium. She became the first of her son’s victims, paying with her own life for whatever lack of prudence or discretion she exhibited in bonding over shooting at the rifle range.

I don’t defend Nancy Lanza’s judgement. But ten years of involvement with other parents of children on the autism spectrum has taught me a few lessons.

Nancy Lanza sought ways to reach her son, to connect with a very emotionally flat, difficult to reach young man. In very many ways, connecting with a child on the spectrum means encountering them wherever they are responsive. For us, Joseph found the Game Show channel on Cable TV and was into 70’s and 80’s reruns of game shows when he was 5 years old. That’s where we needed to begin connecting with Joseph.

Sound bizarre? You do that when you’re the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. You have little choice. The trick is to capitalize on the social connection and use that connection to build deeper ties and then slowly and gently redirect the child to more normal activities. It’s been a ten year journey with Joseph, and at age 13 1/2, he’s doing remarkable well. That said, I’m acutely aware that he’s just begun adolescence and I pray mightily that he emerges from adolescence and college in good shape.

It sounds as though Nancy Lanza found a common ground with her son and then it took a terrible turn before she could build on that connection with him. The point wasn’t shooting rifles together at a range, it was the common interest that facilitated communication.

As for the news reports of the “basement lair” or “windowless bunker” with his video games, such as Call of Duty, these sensationalized reports don’t reflect the fact that Call of Duty, Black Ops 2 sales reached $1 BILLION in just 15 days. That’s quite a few people playing these games, and shootings like this being comparatively rare.

I don’t know what was in the shooter’s mind, or whether his mother permitted these games because it might give him common ground for conversation with others. I wouldn’t have taken that road, and will not with my son. However, I also know the desperation of parents with non-communicative children. What is clear is this:

What we do with our shock, horror, and grief will either build us or twist and distort us. It is a defining moment, a watershed in American history. The bells did not toll for a desperate mother of a handicapped son who was butchered in her sleep with the same gun that she used as common ground to try and reach him in his neurologically impaired and stunted development.

So tonight in our Novena for Healing, we lifted up Nancy Lanza and her son in prayer, as well as their surviving family who are left with a burden of shame, guilt, and social stigma that they do not deserve. They’ll never live it down.

If one week into this watershed experience we don’t recognize the humanity or victim status of Nancy Lanza, it does not bode well for us as a people or as individuals. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. It is an immunization from fear, anger, and retribution. The parsimoniousness surrounding the single peel of a bell for Nancy Lanza does not bode well for us at all.

We may never have an answer this side of eternity as to why he did it. The rifle range alone doesn’t explain it.

The video games alone don’t explain why he did it.

The autism alone doesn’t explain why he did it.

There are plenty of individuals with autism who play those games and who shoot rifles who remain meek and socially withdrawn. In truth, they are far more likely to become victims of crime than perpetrators of it.

We are right to be filled with revulsion and rage at what happened. That’s normal and healthy. But St. Paul teaches that if we are to be angry that it must be without sin. Toward that end, Jesus teaches that we are to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and do good to those who hate us. Those prayers are the only thing that will give us the grace to accept that there will never be a rational explanation for the magnitude of evil that has shaken us all to our foundations.

So on this one week anniversary of that terrible, terrible day, we peel the bell once for the first of Adam’s 27 victims: the woman who gave him life and died by the vehicle she tragically employed to help salvage that life. We beg God’s mercy on Nancy and her son.

We do so because He commands us to do so.

God Bless.

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cu_lourdes

As we continue our nine days of prayer, please leave your supportive messages for the folks in Newtown and Sandy Hook in the comments section here on the blog. They’ll be seeing them, I assure you. Each night as we pray for the entire community, we’ll lift up in a special way different groups within that population. Thanks for joining in. God Bless you and your loved ones.

Day 1 here.

Day 2 here.

Day 3 here.


Day 4 here.

Day 5 here.

Day 6 here.

Prayer

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

DAY SEVEN

O Almighty God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary did prepare a worthy dwelling place for your Son, we humbly beseech you that as we contemplate the apparition of Our Lady in the Grotto of Lourdes, we may be blessed with health of mind and body. O most gracious Mother Mary, beloved Mother of Our Lord and Redeemer, look with favor upon us as you did that day on Bernadette and intercede with him for us that the favor we now so earnestly seek may be granted to us.

Once again, we lift up to you the parents, and grandparents, and godparents of those who were killed. We beg your beloved Son’s special blessings on them, for healing in heart, mind, body and soul. We lift up too, the family of Adam Lanza, who tonight bear a very different and unimaginable burden of not only loss, but shame and guilt for something of which they had no culpability. We beg your Son’s healing touch that all may find peace and reconciliation, through your loving intercession.

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

lit-candles-in-heart-shape--romantic-candle-light--photos-92789

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cu_lourdes

As we continue our nine days of prayer, please leave your supportive messages for the folks in Newtown and Sandy Hook in the comments section here on the blog. They’ll be seeing them, I assure you. Each night as we pray for the entire community, we’ll lift up in a special way different groups within that population. Thanks for joining in. God Bless you and your loved ones.

Day 1 here.

Day 2 here.

Day 3 here.


Day 4 here.

Day 5 here.

Prayer

Be blessed, O most pure Virgin, for having vouchsafed to manifest your shining with life, sweetness and beauty, in the Grotto of Lourdes, saying to the child, St. Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” A thousand times we congratulate you upon your Immaculate Conception. And now, O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of mercy, Health of the sick, Refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know our wants, our troubles, our sufferings deign to cast upon us a look of mercy.

DAY SIX

O glorious Mother of God, so powerful under your special title of Our Lady of Lourdes, to you we raise our hearts and hands to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the gracious Heart of Jesus all the helps and graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare and for the special favor we so earnestly seek in this novena.

We lift up today our shaken political leaders who are under pressure to act. We ask your intercession with your beloved Son, that He heal the shock and horror in our leaders, that they may act with prudence, wisdom, and calm deliberation for the common good.

O Lady of Bernadette, with the stars of heaven in your hair and the roses of earth at your feet, look with compassion upon us today as you did so long ago on Bernadette in the Grotto of Lourdes.

O Brilliant star of purity, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes, glorious in your assumption, triumphant in your coronation, show unto us the mercy of the Mother of God, Virgin Mary, Queen and Mother, be our comfort, hope, strength, and consolation. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

lit-candles-in-heart-shape--romantic-candle-light--photos-92789

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