Feast of the Annunciation

Feast of the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation is one of the most important in the Church calendar. It celebrates the actual Incarnation of Our Savior—the Word made flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary. It is the day that Mary proclaimed her Fiat, her yes to God. The moment she, without hesitation, submitted to the will of God and His plan for her life. Without her profound YES, God’s entire plan for salvation would have not unfolded. That yes was the most impactful, significant yes ever uttered. Typically this feast day falls during Lent on March 25th (this year due to it falling during Holy Week the feast is moved to April 8th) and is an opportunity to lay down the Lenten season of penance and fasting for a joyful celebration of this solemnity of Mary. 

The biblical account of the Annunciation is in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, which describes the news given to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Incarnation of God, records the “angelic salutation” of Gabriel to Mary, ‘Hail, thou who art highly favored. The Lord is with thee.” This is the origin of the repeated “Hail Mary” prayer of the Rosary; and Mary’s response to God’s will, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Her exultant hymn, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1:46-55, has been part of the Church’s liturgy of the hours, at Vespers (evening prayer), and has been repeated nightly in churches, convents and monasteries for many centuries.

The Feast of the Annunciation is a celebration of the actual Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This special feast day brings to light the significance and importance of the value of children in the womb. That the story of Jesus began in his Incarnation, his miraculous conception, in the most vulnerable state of life. Children may, quite naturally, think that the birth of Jesus is the time when Our Savior first ‘became Man,’ especially since Christmas has become the Christian holiday in our culture. We understand best what we can see, what is visible. The invisible, the hidden, is no less real for our lack of seeing it. (We think of the baby in its mother’s womb, known and felt, though unseen, only to her.) Bringing this feast day into your domestic home is a profound way of helping children understand that life begins at conception and that Jesus was no different, God became “like us in all things except sin.” 

Ways to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation at home:

  1. Have your own ‘yes’ day! Spend the day saying ‘yes’ to your children (find the parameters and restrictions that are necessary for your family) and enjoy the peace that comes with less decision making! Remind your children that following God’s plan for our life often leads to a more peaceful and joyful life! (Children are also charged with saying ‘yes’ to mom and dad! It is a day of joy and fun, but also obedience and a great exercise in virtue for all involved!)
  2. Pray the magnificat or evening prayer as a family.
  3. Pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary or even the single decade of the annunciation. 
  4. Reading specific excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great opportunity to bring catechesis education home. Catechism #436-511 on Article 3 of the Creed, “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary” will not only give adults a timely review of Catholic doctrine, but it can be a great help to us in transmitting important truths of the faith to our children. 
  5. Wear blue in honor of Mary
  6. Read passages from scripture this feast day, specifically Luke 1: 26-53.
  7. Bring a meal to a pregnant mother, donate to a pregnancy center like Birthright or St. Clare’s Home, and/or pray for expectant mothers.
  8. Look back on pictures of children when they were still in the womb, sonogram pictures or photos of mom while pregnant. 
  9. Eat waffles or seed cake. The word for waffle in Swedish is very close to the term for Virgin Mary, so it became the traditional Annunciation food. Enjoy a waffle today, adding strawberries to symbolize Mary’s fruitfulness. Or England’s traditional Annunciation food is the seed cake, which symbolizes Jesus, who became flesh as a seed in Mary’s womb. Enjoy a seed cake in memory of Mary’s motherhood.
  10. Decorate with lilies. The Lilium candidum or ‘Madonna lily’ is a symbol of the Annunciation. You can see it in paintings of the archangel Gabriel bringing the message to Mary as well as in paintings of Joseph, who was to care for Mary and the Son of God. 
Celebrating the Feast of St Joseph

Celebrating the Feast of St Joseph

In 2020, Pope Francis declared the Year of St. Joseph and with that, it seemed St. Joseph found our family. Joseph walked alongside our family through hard, challenging and beautiful moments of early 2020 (before the pandemic even hit!). Joseph was Dan’s confirmation Saint, so he’d been familiar with his gentleness, fortitude, and strength for sometime, but in 2020 our family devotion to St. Joseph began. His feast is almost always in the middle of lent – a welcomed feast day to celebrate in our opinion!!

In case you didn’t know, Saint Joseph is well known as the head of the Holy Family. He is silent in scripture, yet, spoken words are not needed for us to understand what a godly man Joseph was. 

Here is what Pope Benedict XVI says of Joseph’s silence: “The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his “father” Joseph that Jesus learned… Let us allow ourselves to be “filled” with Saint Joseph’s silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice.”  

Saint Joseph is the guardian and patron of the Universal Church, as well as of many causes including workers, fathers, and a happy death, due to the tradition that he died in Jesus and Mary’s arms.

“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church.” – POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II

How to celebrate this simple, yet powerful Saint on his feast day:

  1. Zeppole di San Giuseppe! Also known as creme puffs have traditionally been linked to St. Joseph! One legend has it that when St. Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt, he was out of work (there isn’t much wood there), so he had to find some way of supporting his family. Naturally, he took to selling street food, and sweet pastries were his best-seller! We found ours at Harris Teeter, but check out Beard Papa’s on Woodruff for unique creme puffs or make them at home
  2. Build something! St. Joseph was a carpenter, so build something with blocks, magnatiles, legos or wood today. Wanna kick it up a notch? This weekend, plan to build a birdhouse to prepare for spring in honor of St. Joseph. 
  3. Pasta Alla Tavola! St. Joseph’s Day Pasta, also called Sawdust Pasta or Carpenter’s Pasta, made with bread crumbs  sautéed in butter to resemble wood sawdust.   Cheese isn’t used, symbolic of the food shortage experienced in the origin legend of the tradition. This family even dumps pots of pasta directly on the table and enjoys it with their hands! Nothing easier than buttered noodles on a weeknight! Learn even more, here!
  4. Charades! Did you know St. Joseph never speaks in the Bible? A man of few words, yet bold actions. “At the moment of Joseph’s own ‘annunciation’ he said nothing; instead he simply ‘did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” St. John Paul the Great. Try your hand at silently communicating over a game of charades after dinner. What a wonderful opportunity to teach our children how actions speak louder than words. Find Catholic Charades online! “When you invoke St. Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in Heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend St. Joseph.” “Tell him, ‘If you were in my place, St. Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.’” St. Andre Bessette
  5. Feast a little! St. Joseph’s feast is almost always in the middle of the Lenten season giving us an opportunity to have a small celebration of sorts. Break your Lenten fast today in his honor.  
  6. Pray to Him! We found this sweet, accessible 33-day consecration guide and have been using it this Lenten season to prepare for his feast day. Our children have surprised us with their answers to “how we can live our faith, trust the Lord and be generous with others?” If you missed the novena this time, no worries! St. Joseph has another feast day, May 1st. The next consecration begins March 29th!
  7. The Litany of St. Joseph! What a powerful prayer! As you pray, sit with some of his titles a little longer. Pray for his intercession. May we all grow a little stronger, wiser and patient as we get to know him better. Looking for inspiration? find a print from local artist, Heather Burgess here
  8. Come to 7p Mass on Tuesday, 19 March with your bread to be blessed! 

“Go to Joseph. 

Get to know Joseph and you will find Jesus. 

Talk to Joseph and you will find Mary.” 

St. Josemaria Escriva

Celebrating the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (22 February)

Celebrating the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (22 February)

22 February: Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. While it may seem like a strange feast, the church is not just celebrating a piece of furniture today. This Feast has been celebrated since the early Church and has multifold meaning. First, it does refer to the actual chair that Peter sat on as the first pope. Officials in the Roman Empire would sit on chairs for official work. This tradition was replicated in the Church. Cathedra is Latin for “chair” or “throne” and denominates the chair or seat of a bishop, hence “cathedral” denominates the bishop’s church in an episcopal see. The physical “chair of Peter” is encased in a sculpture designed by Bernini located in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In the apse of the Basilica, a great bronze throne encloses the wooden chair from the ninth century, believed to be Peter’s own chair. On the chair itself, Bernini depicts three scenes from Peter’s life: the giving of the keys (symbolizing authority to lead the Church), the washing of feet (symbolizing Peter’s office is one of service), and Jesus’ instruction to “Feed my sheep” (pointing to Peter’s role as teacher and guide). Below the chair are statues of four doctors of the Church (Saints Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine). Above the throne is an oval window with the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove. The symbolism of this great work of art is clear: the Holy Spirit guides the Church through Saint Peter and his successors, who authoritatively teach the Word of God through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. This feast day is also about the spiritual authority bestowed upon Saint Peter by Jesus: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19). Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “So what was the ‘Chair’ of St Peter? Chosen by Christ as the ‘rock’ on which to build the Church, he began his ministry in Jerusalem… The Church’s first ‘seat’ was the Upper Room, and it is likely that a special place was reserved for Simon Peter in that room where Mary, Mother of Jesus, also prayed with the disciples… Then Peter went to Rome, the center of the Empire… So it is that the See of Rome, which had received the greatest of honors, also has the honor that Christ entrusted to Peter of being at the service of all the particular Churches for the edification and unity of the entire People of God… The See of Rome, after St Peter’s travels, thus came to be recognized as the See of the Successor of Peter, and its Bishop’s ‘cathedra’ represented the mission entrusted to him by Christ to tend his entire flock… Celebrating the ‘Chair’ of Peter, therefore, means attributing a strong spiritual significance to it and recognizing it as a privileged sign of the love of God, the eternal Good Shepherd, who wanted to gather his whole Church and lead her on the path of salvation.” In the fourth century, St. Jerome wrote to Pope Damascus I: “I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built.” 

Ideas for celebrating this feast at home:

  • Pray the Litany of St. Peter
  • See images of the Chair of Peter here. Read more about the chair here
  • Watch “Peter: Keeper of the Keys” on FORMED
  • A symbol for Saint Peter is keys (the keys to the kingdom). A fun feast day activity would be to make keys out of craft supplies, cookie dough, pancake batter, or bread dough. 
  • Have children to design a “chair” for St. Peter out of pantry supplies (cookies, crackers, nut butters, candies, pretzels, etc). Ideas here and here.
  • For dinner, make Baked Rockfish in honor of Peter “the rock” (or any type of fish, since Peter was a fisherman!) Serve it alongside a “Golden Chair of St. Peter fruit salad

(sources: ncregister.com; simplycatholic.com; www.vaticannews.va; Franciscanmedia.org; edwardsri.com) 

 

Celebrating St Scholastica (10 February)

Celebrating St Scholastica (10 February)

10 February: Feast of Saint Scholastica. Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, the Patriarch of Western monasticism. She was born in Umbria, Italy, about 480. Under Benedict’s direction, Scholastica founded a community of nuns near the great Benedictine monastery Monte Cassino. Inspired by Benedict, from early youth Scholastica dedicated her life to seeking and serving God. In his Second Book of Dialogues, Pope St. Gregory described the last meeting between these holy twins: “His sister Scholastica, who had been consecrated to God in early childhood, used to visit with him once a year. On these occasions he would go to meet her in a house belonging to the monastery a short distance from the entrance. For this particular visit he joined her there and they spent the whole day singing God’s praises and conversing about the spiritual life. When darkness was setting in they took their meal together and continued their conversation until it was quite late. Then the holy nun said to him, ‘Please do not leave me tonight, brother. Let us keep on talking about the joys of heaven till morning.’ ‘What are you saying, sister?’ he replied. ‘You know that I cannot stay away from the monastery.’ The sky was so clear at the time, there was not a cloud in sight. “At her brother’s refusal Scholastica folded her hands on the table and rested her head upon them in earnest prayer. When she looked up again, there was a sudden burst of lightning and thunder accompanied by such a downpour that Benedict and his companions were unable to set foot outside the door. By shedding a flood of tears while she prayed, this holy nun had darkened the cloudless sky with a heavy rain. The storm began as soon as her prayer was over; thunder was already resounding as she raised her head. Realizing that he could not return to the abbey in this terrible storm, Benedict complained bitterly. ‘God forgive you, sister!’ he said. ‘What have you done?’ Scholastica simply answered, ‘When I appealed to you, you would not listen to me. So I turned to my God and He heard my prayer. Leave now if you can. Leave me here and go back to your monastery.’ This, of course, he could not do. He had no choice now but to stay. They spent the entire night together and both of them derived great profit from the holy thoughts exchanged about the interior life. The next morning Scholastica returned to her convent and Benedict to his monastery. Three days later as he stood in his room looking up toward the sky, he beheld his sister’s soul leaving her body and entering the heavenly court in the form of a dove. Overjoyed at her eternal glory, he gave thanks to God in hymns of praise. Then, after informing his brethren of her death, he sent them to bring her body to the abbey and bury it in the tomb he had prepared for himself. The bodies of these two now to share a common resting place, just as in life their souls had always been one in God.” Saint Scholastica died in the year 547. She is the patron saint of convulsive children, nuns, and for protection from rain and storms.

 

Ideas for celebrating this feast day:

  • Tell your children about the “holy twins”: St. Scholastica and the love she had for her brother St. Benedict. Ask them how they can help one another become saints.
  • Children can cut paper into the shape of doves to honor St. Scholastica. Decorate the dinner table with these doves. Make an Italian dinner in Scholastica’s honor. 
  • Look up St. Benedict’s Abbey of Monte Cassino. This video gives a virtual visit. 
  • Inspired by these holy siblings, learn how to prayerfully read Sacred Scripture in this article Lectio Divina. Click here for more on praying Lectio Divina from the USCCB.
  • The need for prayer at this time in history is so great. Inspired by St. Scholastica, come pray the Liturgy of the Hours with your parish family! Sunday at 5pm; Matins/Lauds on M/Th at 7:40 and 8am, Vespers on T/F at 5:30pm.

 

“She was able to do more because she loved more.”—Saint Gregory the Great. May we all be inspired by St. Scholastica to hold love as the first rule of our lives. 

 

Celebrating Our Lady of Lourdes (11 February)

Celebrating Our Lady of Lourdes (11 February)

Before you dive into some wings, apps and Taylor Swift’s travel schedule to celebrate the Super Bowl next weekend, take a moment to honor our Lady on her upcoming feast day, February 11th: Our Lady of Lourdes.

One day, in 1858, when 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was searching for firewood, our Lady appeared to her in the town of Lourdes, France. 

Our Lady instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground nearby from which came a spring of healing properties, active till this day! To this day, pilgrims around the world visit Lourdes in hopes of being cured of their illnesses. Saint Bernadette was declared a Saint in 1933.

How can you simply celebrate?

  1. Build a fire or simply flip on your pilot light to ignite your fireplace recalling how Mary and Jesus often meet us in the ordinary.
  2. Visit the French cafe, Voila, down the street from Prince of Peace (755 Hammett Bridge Road 140, Greer) for pastries and coffee this weekend. They are closed Sundays, so plan ahead! Can’t make it there? Simply add French Fries to your Super Bowl Spread!
  3. Pray the Rosary. When Mary met Bernadette in the Grotto, she prayed the Rosary silently with her, passing the beads through her hands as Bernadette prayed. Another idea – on your way home from Mass, pray the Litany to Our Lady of Lourdes: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/litany-of-our-lady-of-lourdes-9127
  4. Light a candle. During the Fifth apparition, Our Lady taught Bernadette a prayer which she recited daily, but was never revealed. As part of the prayer, she was encouraged to bring a blessed candle with her. On Feb 11th, light a candle at your own feast! 

Smile at a stranger. When Our lady met Bernadette, she simply smiled. When asked who she was, Mary declared, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Not only was Mary smiling towards Bernadette, but all of us. Through our smiles, we share the love of Christ. “Who can measure the life-giving impact of a human smile? It is a precious act of love, transcending any language, freely bestowed upon another person.” — Fr. Louis Maximilian Smith, OFM Conv. https://engage.catholic.edu/stories/transcendent-smile-our-lady-lourdes

Celebrating St John Bosco (31 January)

Celebrating St John Bosco (31 January)

Born in Castlenuovo d’Asti on August 16, 1815, John was educated in the faith and in living according to the Gospel message by his mother. He was just nine years old when he had a dream, which called him to dedicate himself to the education of young people. While still a boy, he began to entertain his peers with acrobatics and games alternated with work, prayer and religious education.

On becoming a priest (1841), he chose as his life’s programme: “Da mihi animas cetera tolle” (“Give me souls, take all the rest” Gen. 14: 21). He began his apostolate among poor young people with the founding of the Oratory, which he placed under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales. During the time he was starting his school he had opposition in the community and he was protected by a large grey dog named Grigio who came to his aide anytime there was trouble.

He led young people to meet Christ by means of his educational style and pastoral practice, based on reason, religion, and loving kindness (the Preventive System). He led young people to reflect, to meet Christ and their brothers and sisters, to the study of the faith and to apostolic, civil and professional commitment. St. Dominic Savio stands out among the most outstanding fruits of his work.

The source of his indefatigable activity and of the effectiveness of his work was his “constant union with God” and his unlimited confidence in Mary Our Help who he considered to be the inspiration and support of his whole work.

WORK AND TEMPERANCE

He left, as an inheritance for his Salesian sons and daughters, a form of religious life that was simple but founded on solid Christian virtue and on contemplation in action, which may be summed up in the words “work and temperance.”

He sought his best collaborators among his young people, thus establishing the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians). Together with St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters).

Finally, together with good and hard-working lay men and women, he created the Salesian Cooperators to work alongside him and sustain the education of young people, thus anticipating new forms of apostolate in the Church. In the centenary of his death, which took place on January 31, 1888, Pope John Paul II proclaimed him The Father and Teacher of Youth.

8 Teachings of John Bosco:

1) Never postpone the good you can do today to tomorrow;
2) Let us treat others with kindness, with courtesy, with charity;
3) Faith opens a path through humble and concrete steps;
4) Do good to everyone, harm no one;
5) He who is humble and loving will always be loved by all;
6) It is not possible that whoever has gratitude does not have the other virtues;
7) The most effective teaching is to do what one expects from others;
8) Do the good you can, without appearing.

Miracles of John Bosco:

With his blessing, Don Bosco cured people disease. After his prayers on their behalf, the deaf heard, the lame walked, and once, a dead boy was raised to life. He had the gift of prophecy. He could read consciences, and used this gift to assist penitents in confession.

Pray: St. John Bosco Friend of the young, Teacher in the ways of God, your dedication to empowering the needy inspires us still. Help me to work for a better world, where the young are given the chance to flourish, where the poor’s dream for justice can come true, and where God’s compassion is shown to be real.

Dress: Dress as a priest and teach about how God’s love will make way for a great path in life.

Dog: Spend time with a protective and sweet dog!

Eat: Any traditional Italian Meal. A pasta dish, caprese salad or sandwich, kids can make their own pizza’s. A traditional Italian dessert like Tiramisu, Pignoli cookies, Cannoli.

Play and Learn: Don Bosco loved to play and learn often entertaining children with acrobatics to keep their attention while teaching them about God’s love. Have your children do acrobatics or magic tricks and take breaks to teach you about where they see God’s love working in their lives.