Branching-Out

Prayer: Hail Full of Grace!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 20, 2020 6:00:00 AM

All-powerful God,
Your eternal Word took flesh
when the Virgin Mary placed her life
at your service.
Lift our minds and hearts
in watchful hope
to hear the voice which announces
the coming of Jesus in glory.
May we be open to the Holy Spirit
as Mary was,
that we too may make Christ present
to our hurting world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, welcome, Advent, catholic RENEW program, faithful, Holy Spirit, hope, Jesus Christ, joy, prayer, RENEW International, spirit of the lord, Advent journey, season of preparation

Identity and Essence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was sitting in the kitchen half-listening to what my husband was watching on television. All of a sudden, I heard a movie character yell, “Jesus Christ!” He was not having a religious epiphany; he was expressing disfavor at some occurrence in the movie plot. I asked, “What are you watching?” Immediately my spouse changed the channel, he frequently does anyway. It certainly got my attention, but not in a good way.  

I got thinking about the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ name in everyday language, and it is disturbing. How many times I have seen OMG on social media and have heard the expression in everyday conversation. It used to be that “Oh my God!” was the beginning of a short prayer for divine assistance or the start of an acknowledgement of some wonderful blessing from God. It has become a careless habitual expression that really does not call on the Almighty. 

God’s name and Jesus’ name deserve honor and praise. In many instances recorded in Sacred Scripture, names do not just identify people but also define their essence. There are numerous passages in the Bible in which God is referred to with titles or metaphors that point out desirable attributes. For example, we read in Psalm 18:2-3:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
m
y God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

I have noticed comedians often throw some irreverent language or slang terms into their routines to be outrageous or cause listeners to pay attention. It may give certain individuals a sense of power or control if they disrespect those who are supposed to be respected. However, Romans 12:2 reminds us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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Topics: Emmanuel, every knee shall bend, Advent, catholic program renew, Jesus Christ, prayer, renew catholic program, RENEW International, Oh My God, The Lord is my rock, God with us, hallowed be thy name

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

Prayer: The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 13, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ever faithful to your promises
and ever close to your Church:
The earth rejoices in hope
of the Savior’s coming
and looks forward with longing
to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and
remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling
the joy and the hope
that Christ’s presence will bring.
For he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, welcome, Advent, catholic RENEW program, faithful, Holy Spirit, hope, Jesus Christ, joy, prayer, RENEW International, spirit of the lord, Advent journey, season of preparation

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

Opting for Silence

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 7, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Years ago, when our daughter and her family lived in the duplex apartment next door to us, my three grandkids would pop in to visit unannounced. One day, the 10-year old made an entrance and found me sitting on my couch in silence. I was not reading or working on a craft or watching television or even listening to a radio. Mandy was concerned. Was everything all right? Little Miss Busy Person could not figure out how I could be sitting there in silence. Of course, I reassured her that I was fine and just collecting my thoughts and enjoying the quiet.

At least once a year, I try to attend a silent weekend retreat at a retreat house in Massachusetts. There are inspirational sessions each day led by the retreat presenters, but for the rest of the time the retreatants do not intermingle or socialize. We pray and talk to God, read, and take peaceful walks around the lovely grounds. We take time to rest and refresh.

A long time ago, I went on a six-day silent retreat. That was really a shock to my active life. I had to get used to not seeking eye contact or exchanging friendly greetings with other retreatants I would pass in the hallways or at meals. However, I visited the reservation chapels many times, I read my Bible, I prayed, I journaled, I felt the closeness of the Lord in a very comforting way. He spoke to me in marriage images. He put happiness in my heart. He filled my silence. 

So today I am touting the praises of occasional times of silence. Silence is almost counter-cultural during these days of hi-tech electronics and constant media bombardment. We are a very audibly-informed society. We might need to enforce radio silence—-like a submarine—and take a dive into quiet for a little while.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Jesus Christ, Martha and Mary, prayer, RENEW International, silence, pandemic, COVID, virus, retreat, Be still

Prayer: Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Dec 6, 2020 6:00:00 AM

God of power and mercy,
Open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from
receiving Christ with joy
so that we may share his wisdom and
become one with him in glory
for he lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.

 

 

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, welcome, Advent, catholic RENEW program, Holy Spirit, joy, prayer, RENEW International, Advent journey, season of preparation

Wreath Reflections

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 2, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Like just about everything this year, the season of Advent will be different in a number of ways. I am considering four important words we will see in sacred scripture, reflection pieces, and other spiritual offerings: awake, prepare, rejoice, and behold. Often the first word in one of the Sunday readings during Advent, each one may grab our attention as if in boldface typeand that is a good thing! 

Awake. Pay attention! We have had to be so alert and careful about avoiding the COVID virus contagion that we are weary. However, this Awake we are seeing is a more positive encouragement. Wake up and hear the wonderful news: the best is yet to come! Sure, we have to watch out to avoid anything that will make us too content in our earthly comfort zones. Jesus came to save us and will come again at the end of time. Be ready! Be joyful! It’s really good news!

Lord, send me gentle reminders to be vigilant,
to grasp more fully my responsibility
to focus
on opportunities for goodness and positivity.
Teach me to celebrate that I
am graced
with your message of salvation and am waiting
to see your awesome
face in our kingdom of everlasting love. Amen.

Prepare. John the Baptist was very good at his job of preparing the way of the Lord. He did his work, and we can do ours. Regardless of the world situation, we can all be creative as we give witness, example, and encouragement to othersin mundane issues but, more importantly, in spiritual things. So many people are preparing their houses for Christmas with bright fancy decorations, but how much more important is the preparation we do to repent of our sins, to open the windows of our hearts to let the Holy Spirit decorate our lives with hope. 

I ask you, John the Baptist, to intercede for me
that I may shake off the shackles of
complacency and habit
so as to make straight my path to the Lord and his to me.
Help me to convey the message of the truth of Christmas
in pure and simple ways.
 Amen.

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Topics: Advent Wreath, catholic renew progam, hope, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, prayer, rejoice, RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, virus, Prepare, Awake, Behold

Temptations

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

With so much instability in the world today, we have had to adjust to cope with the disruption of routines and ways of thinking. Unfortunately, we might be faced with adapting to compromises and battling temptations. I have heard that the devil is in the details, but it is just as true that the devil is in the derailsthose times we get off track for one reason or another.

 As I thought about the possible temptations to sin, my categorizing brain reminded me that in the 1960s and 1970s there was a very popular singing group called the Temptations. They were not something to be avoided; their music and the way they did their choreography were very entertaining. Next, I looked at some of the names of this quintet’s famous recordings. So, without going into the lyrics specifically, there are song titles that seem fitting with today’s not-so-desirable temptations.

 One song was called Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today). I certainly see how that designation could apply to our poor world today. I told my husband I never thought before that I might envy the four astronauts that recently left the earth for six months away at the space station. Of course I was joking, but with so many openings and closings of schools, stores, and restaurants, it is easy to become a little cranky or short with people around us. We might be tempted to lose our patience and our temper. We might say things that are not so loving. We might indulge in a bit of self-pity. A good antidote is a few thoughts of gratitude, taken with a tall glass of water or a walk around the block.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, hope, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, temptation, pandemic, COVID, virus, despair

Prayer: Be Watchful! Be Alert

Posted by Sr. Donna Ciangio, OP on Nov 29, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Loving God,
You desire that we grow ever more deeply
in our relationship with you.
As we begin our Advent journey
waiting eagerly
for the coming of your Son, Jesus,
bless our prayer, our contemplation,
our sharing,
and our service to others. Amen.

 

 

Adapted from Waiting With Joy, Year B: Weekly Reflections on the Sunday Readingsone of RENEW International's Advent resources for small group, individual or family prayer and reflection.

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Topics: time of anticipation, Advent, catholic RENEW program, prayer, RENEW International, Advent journey, season of preparation

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