Branching-Out

Keeping it Handy

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It is almost time for me to put away at least some of my Christmas decorations. I am a figurine collector. All year round, most of the flat surfaces of my living space display some sort of decorative accessory amid framed family photos. Christmastime is special, with a number of angel figurines, three figures of singing children figures, and two Nativity scenes. There is also a Christmas village with small figures engaged in seasonal activities. So it is a job to put all these decorations back into their storage boxes.

I noticed this morning something that should have been obvious. The traditional décor is sharing the space with additional occupants: small bottles of disinfectants and sanitizers. I had left them out so as to be handy and to remind my husband and me of the importance of trying to avoid contracting any viruses lurking beyond our domicile.

I have a bowl of peppermint candies handy near my front door; I often grab one on my way out the door just to make sure my breath is not offensive to anyone I might encounter.

I got to thinking about the idea of keeping important things handy. I possess a large number of small prayer pamphlets and holy cards I have gotten from many different sources. They are stuffed in among books on my three bookcases, but they are not really handy or obvious reminders like the sanitizers on my tabletops.

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Topics: Bible, Christmas, catholic program renew, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, rosary, pandemic, covid-19, decorations, Nativity scene, handy, accessible

Comfort and Joy

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

There is a warm, soft blanket at the foot of my bed. My cat, Buddy, loves to get on top of it and, with his front paws as if he is marching, alternate left and right while purring up a storm. That can go on for a few minutes. He closes his eyes and appears to be comforting himself and soaking up the feeling perfectly.

With the coming of the new year, I hope we all can somehow find comfort….even if we are not marching on a soft blanket. For us, it may be best to cover ourselves with a blanket of prayer. Let’s all ask our loving Lord for a blessed new beginning, as we take comfort in Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

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Topics: Christmas, New Year, catholic program renew, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, 2021, comfort and joy

Loving Hands

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When our daughter was born, I looked at each of her little hands in aweall ten tiny fingers, little pink fingernails, small perfect knuckles. Now I wonder if Mary ever took one of baby Jesus’ hands into hers and marveled at its beauty as she compared its size to hers. Did he lightly squeeze her finger? Did she kiss that tiny hand and hold it close to her face? That’s often what mothers do. 

When the boy Jesus helped Joseph with some of his work, did Joseph ever put his bigger hand on top of Jesus’ hand to guide him in how to use a tool efficiently? Did Joseph ever, even just in his mind, compare his big hand to the little boy’s? Did Joseph make note of his own callouses, the likes of which not yet appeared on his foster son’s hands? 

Once, on a silent weekend retreat, I was praying in the chapel. My hands were intertwined, and my eyes were closed. And as I prayed, it felt as if someone’s hands were folded over mine in protective love. I sensed it was Jesus there with me, although I certainly did not see any hands but mine. What a comfort it was! For a few minutes, my whole world was in his hands, reminding me of that African-American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” 

In his ministry, Jesus’ hands came together in private prayer, made a muddy paste to give sight to a blind man (John 9), touched and healed a leper (Luke 5), wrote in the sand as he stopped the stoning of an adulteress (John 8), and grabbed struggling Peter whose faith wavered as he tried to walk to Jesus on water (Matthew 14) —-to name just a few of his numerous loving actions. 

I sometimes wish I could have been at the Last Supper to see Jesus take the bread in his hands and pass his consecrated Body to his apostles. Priests’ hands are so blessed to be able to consecrate the unleavened bread at Masses! Even the privilege of our receiving the Body of Christ into our very own hands is so special!

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Topics: Christmas, Body of Christ, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, Mary, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, St. Joseph

The White Shiny Nativity Set

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 28, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Every year, when I unpack all my Christmas decorations, I display a little white ceramic Nativity set. It has a sticker on one of the six pieces that says, “Made in China.” I do not remember where or from whom I got the figures, but something about them is very appealing to me. So much for my expensive taste, eh?

 The white color reminds me of the purity of Mary, Joseph, and the Savior Infant. The three-inch, four-inch and one-inch figures reflect the light in the room and attest to the radiance of the family’s holiness. The little touches of gold paint tell me that this is also a regal family: members of God’s kingdom. Wrapped in the folds of the parents’ clothes, I can imagine, are all the ins and outs of their experience to arrive at this holy event.

 The baby’s arms are outstretched. I remember the first time I held my baby girl. She stretched out her arms as she searched to ascertain her safe surroundings. Jesus in this Nativity set is sending a message of openness to the human experience—safe or not— and a willingness to become available to all the world.

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Topics: baby Jesus, Christmas, three kings, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Natvity set

The Cs of Christmastime

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 24, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I was in seventh grade at St. Joseph’s School, our class was part of the Christmas pageant, and we were chosen to sing all the stanzas of several Christmas carols. I went home from school one day and proceeded to memorize the stanzas of the most popular carols. That was a long time ago, but I still remember some of those stanzas.

Many of us welcome those familiar songs as we hear and sing them, usually beginning right after Thanksgiving. I wonder, though, as with so many things that become familiar, do we pay attention to the meaning of the words? The words of some of those second and third stanzas may be passed over; some of the melodies and rhythms may draw our attention away from the words. Don’t get me wrong. Music is fine; but these popular songs tell of the important news of Christ’s birth for a very weary world. C is for carols.

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Topics: angels, Christ child, Christmas, catholic program renew, Immaculate Conception, Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Christmas pageant, crib, Christmas carols

The Word Became Flesh

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Even as a child, I was drawn to what was called at Mass “the Last Gospel”the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-14, that that the celebrant recited before the final blessing and dismissal. As I wrote in an earlier post, I miss hearing that passage at Mass and wish it had not been taken out. It is not just the cadence of the reading, although I do like that; I think it’s the progression, the build up to the magnificent climaxthat the Word became flesh.

This is a wonderful gospel passage with which to pray during this season of Advent.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was
God. He was in the beginning with God.

I love to listen to words. They are informative, soothing, inspirational, and thought-provoking. So is the Word of God! Jesus was there, in the beginning, right from the start of creation.

All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into
being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all
people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

Life and light! Topics of discussion especially during this pandemic year! People are taking great measures to be safe from infection and protect their precious gift of life. So many families are putting up their Christmas lights earlier than usual to brighten their spirits. If we turn to Jesus in prayer, he is the best Light of all. He shows us how to look at life. He is our loving Light-giver! If we feel overwhelmed by the darkness of fear or doubt, Jesus is right there to give us hope. He is more powerful!

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Topics: Christmas, Emmanuel, catholic program renew, Gospel according to John, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, pandemic, God with us, The Word became flesh, In the beginning was the Word

Stress Relief

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

For many reasons, it is easy to feel stressed right now. Stress is intensified by a lack of hope or the assumption that relief is far away. Disruption of our normal routines contributes to the already-bad situation. So what can we do? 

Turning to the Book of Wisdom can be comforting. It is an easy read, and I highly recommend Chapter 7:22b-8:1. We read of the nature of Wisdom, and I am reminded right away of the multitude of reasons I should continue to pray for a personal outpouring. 

The passage to which I refer lists numerous attributes of Wisdom’s spirit: holy, humane, free from anxiety, all-powerful, loving the good—-to name a few. If we feel stuck in our stress, we need Wisdom to get us unstuck, verse 24:

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness
she
 pervades and penetrates all things.

Since we are praying in this season of Advent in preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, I particularly delight in verse 26 which tells us:

For she is reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

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Topics: Christmas, Book of Wisdom, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, stress, Christmas Star, Star of Bethlehem

Unwrapping Now

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 14, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Recently, a friend of mine gleefully shared that her Christmas shopping was done already, and she has even wrapped all the gifts. Have you ever thought about why we wrap all those presents? Wouldn’t it still be a surprise if we just said, “Here, I bought this for you because I care?” There is something to be said for the experience of wrapping, I guess; we humans seem to enjoy the anticipation, and the fancier the better. Besides, retailers make more money by selling us the fancy wrapping paper. 

One year, I decided to decorate the outside of my wrapped packages with designs made with ribbonthat is, spelling out the recipient’s name with ribbon, making the bows the flower-blossom tops of ribbon stems on the package front. It was fun for me, but quite time-consuming, and all to be ripped apart in the speedy opening of the gifts. 

I suggest to you today that we each have certain personal gifts we should unwrap during this Advent season. Let’s talk about a few of them. We are blessed to have the gift of faith in God; that we all know and are very thankful. How about the gift of gab? Some of us are easy conversationalists. It might be a good idea to strike up a cheerful conversation with a person doing a repetitive, mundane job during this busy season, just to put a smile on his or her face. It could even be a two-word opener, like: “Nice tie!” or “Lovely blouse!” I saw a store clerk the other day and remarked, “Pretty eyelashes!” She was pleasantly surprised that I had noticed. 

We could phone someone who is stuck at home during this pandemic and just share some kind thoughts or listen to that person’ s news. We might unwrap our gift of a sense of humor and share a few corny jokes or humorous anecdotes.

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas shopping, Advent, catholic program renew, God's gifts, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, scripture readings, gift wrapping

Twelve Days Before Christmas

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 9, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was thinking about that song “The Twelve Days of Christmas and decided to check out the readings for the daily liturgies on the twelve days before Christmas concerning the readings for the daily liturgies. Perhaps it would be helpful for prayer if we consider a phrase from each day’s readings.

December 13, from 1Thessalonians 5:16-24. Test everything; retain what is good. 
That is really good advice, especially with all the dangers lurking today. The Holy Spirit is a faithful aid with discernment. Call on the Spirit.

December 14, from Matthew 21:23-27. “By what authority are you doing these things.”
The chief priests and elders are questioning Jesus. We know Jesus acts with heavenly authority, and that is the best guarantee available. How blessed are we to have God’s love in the person of Jesus!

December 15, from Matthew 21:28-32. “Which of the two did his father’s will?”
C
onsider obedience in today’s world. It is so easy to rationalize our sins, to make little excuses for sinning. We can pray for more faithfulness to doing God’s will in our everyday lives.

December 16, from Isaiah 45:6c-8,18, 21c-25. Turn to me and be safe.
What an invitation! That should be our first reaction whenever we are challenged or threatened. As we have heard many times, God is always waiting to save us.

December 17, from Matthew 1:1-17. We are given the genealogy of Jesus. How are we doing with praying for our families? While some of our family members may not follow in our spiritual or religious observances, we pray for blessings and wisdom for them. Our loving example can be visual prayers for their increase in faith. 

December 18, from Matthew 1:18-25. They shall name him Emmanuel, which means God with us. 
We are assured of the Divine Presence, even when we feel most alone and dismayed. This child’s name tells us who he is right from the start of his earthy conception. What a wonderful name!

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Topics: Christmas, Book of the Prophet Isaiah, catholic program renew, Gospel according to Luke, Gospel According to Matthew, Mary, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, scripture readings, Book of Judges, Magnificat

All the Trimmings

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 25, 2020 6:00:00 AM

According to reports in the media, people have begun decorating for the approaching holidays already. One woman who was interviewed said that it makes her kids feel better to see all the bright lights inside and outside her house. Some families have put up their Christmas trees even before Thanksgiving. A business advertised on television that it employs workers who will decorate your whole front yard with tons of lights and electronic trimmings. Granted, it has been a dark year of pandemic and controversy, so we do need to lighten up.

Whether we are planning a big family meal on Thanksgiving or a small gathering, most likely the turkey will be trimmed with savory basting and spices. We may even dress to decorate ourselves a little fancier during holiday celebrations or at least wear a special gaudy Christmas sweater in December.

 As we enhance the walls of our homes and our shrubbery, our luscious turkeys and desserts, and our own physical bodies, we could lose touch with the fact that we have to have positive foundations under the trimmings. If our fuses blow, our bushes collapse, our fowl is really foul-tasting, or our appearance is disheveled, our original intentions may not realize the desired results.

 We should try to remember, for example, that while lights brighten up the early darkness outside and the pine trees in our living rooms, the true Light in our world all year long is Jesus, who shows us the way out of the darkness of sin and evil. In the incident described in John 8:12, the Pharisees were with Jesus:

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows
me will never walk in darkness
but will have the light of life.”
   

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, catholic renew progam, holiday, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, virus, trimmings, decorations, I am the light of the world

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