Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 11, 2016

"Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord." -- James 5:7

“Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” — James 5:7


Dec. 11, Third Sunday of Advent

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10

      Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

      2) James 5:7-10

      Gospel) Matthew 11:2-11


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

While I was studying for my degree in theology, a professor told us: “The secret to joy is waiting.” I had never considered waiting as criteria for joy. I had always thought of joy as something experienced in the moment at some event or in a person or thing. But as he expounded on this concept, I was reminded of my grandmother and finally understood the connection between joy and waiting.

There were four children in my family for 12 years and then Matthew came along. I was 15 when this happened. Growing up, I was not blessed to live in the same city as my grandmother so anytime we got to see her was a big deal. When Matthew was born, we found out that Grandma was coming to stay with us for a few months to help around the house. The excitement and anticipation was overwhelming for all of us.

You see, Grandma coming meant homemade bread, cookies, jam and on and on. I am sure my mother was excited for other reasons, but to a 15-year-old, food was pretty important. Not only did Grandma make homemade bread, but she always “accidentally” made too much dough and would use the leftovers for cinnamon rolls.

As this expectancy swirled in my mind, the days, hours and minutes of waiting for Grandma to come seemed merciless. But finally she arrived and oh, the joy that filled my heart (and stomach).

This week’s readings tell of the preeminent experience of waiting and joy. In Isaiah we hear the prophecy about the good things that will occur when the Messiah comes. The Letter of James exhorts us to have patience, and the Gospel reveals that Jesus is the long awaited fulfillment of the prophecy.

The Israelites had waited centuries for the promised Messiah and he came. Now, we, the pilgrim church, await the second coming of Jesus. We are in the days between the promise and the fulfillment, but even as we wait, we encounter moments of joy as we each experience small morsels of the coming of Jesus daily in our hearts.

Yes, the secret to joy is waiting, but there is joy, too, in the anticipation.


How have you experienced joy from a time of waiting? What is something you currently are waiting to come to pass? How do you share this waiting with the Lord?

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‘A day which will live in infamy’

Even 75 years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Dec. 7, 1941, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it is “such a powerful event,” a priest-historian told Catholic News Service in an interview in advance of tomorrow’s anniversary of the attack.

“Before that, we were debating whether to get involved with World War II or not. We were basically a neutral country, trying not to get engaged in it. It (the attack) changed the tenor, and the president’s resolve,” Father Daniel Mode said in a telephone interview from the Pentagon, where he where he works for the chief of chaplains. “It brought our country together to fight a common threat.”

A ship is seen sinking during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

A ship is seen sinking during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. (CNS photo/Pearl Harbor Museum)

In a video interview with CNS, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services reflects on the “incredible heroism” that day by members of the military that day, including Father Aloysius Schmitt, a chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.

The priest pushed a dozen men out a narrow porthole to safety during the attack at the cost of his own life as the ship was sinking. He was the first U.S. chaplain to die in World War II. It was only recently that his remains had been positively identified and returned to his home Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, for burial.

The Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu, in its Dec. 1 issue recalled some of the paper’s coverage of the time. ” The Herald’s 1941 war edition, published four days after the bombing, expressed the faith and patriotism of island Catholics.

These reflections on the Pearl Harbor attack and the more than 2,000 American lives lost prompted us at CNS to look back into our own news archives:


(Special Correspondence, N.C.W.C. News Service)

Honolulu, Dec. 29 — With war come to Hawaii; with Catholics carrying on in the way that has marked their loyalty in every national emergency; with priests, religious and members of the laity giving edifying examples of their courage, a notable revival of the faith has also come to these islands.

Confessions have been heard in record number and the Communion rails have welcomed many a strange face. Catholic churches were packed more than ever the Sunday following the air raid at Pearl Harbor.

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 4, 2016

"Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips." -- Isaiah 11:5

“Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” — Isaiah 11:5

Dec. 4, Second Sunday of Advent

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 11:1-10

      Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

      2) Romans 15:4-9

      Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

“Going to church” in the Protestant American South holds a certain amusing lore through which I fondly recall the small Louisiana congregation of my girlhood, although at the time I was embarrassed by some of its quirky traditions at worship services.

One was the singing of a favorite hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus,” in which congregants would eagerly remain on the edge of their seats during the organ’s introductory notes then suddenly (with great rustling of arms, legs and hymnals) rise up as one and belt out, “Stand up! Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross!”

Another was “Roll Call Sunday,” when the preacher called the roll of church members and each family would stand and be counted as their name was called. That annual service unfailingly opened with an enthusiastic (by the pastor, at least) rendition of “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder (I’ll Be There).”

The Scriptures for this Second Sunday of Advent refer to a similar call to accountability at the coming of Christ. But they emphasize a deeper requirement of faithfulness than symbolic acts of loyalty. Isaiah notes, “Not by appearance shall he judge.”

I would never question the true committed faith of the people of my childhood church. After all, they are the ones who first introduced me to Jesus. Today’s Gospel points out what they knew and modeled for me: Producing “good fruit” is the telling proof of one’s relationship and commitment to Jesus. (I’m just glad there wasn’t a hymn about every tree not bearing good fruit being thrown into the fire.)

Jesus came to us in his day, and comes to us now, to re-create the peaceful world the Father intended. Isaiah declares the promise of Christ bearing the gifts of the Spirit — wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge and awe before God — gifts he offers us to serve God’s purposes well.

His overriding purposes are justice and peace brought about through compassion.

As we prepare the way of the Lord this Advent, let us rely on the gifts of Jesus’ Spirit to move beyond the mere appearances of faith. Let us commit to intentional acts of justice and love that will produce the good fruit Christ seeks.


What works of justice and compassion will you commit to this Advent? What particular gifts of the Spirit do you need in your efforts to produce “good fruit” for the Lord?

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Remembering Florence Henderson

The year was 1994, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had been in Anaheim, California, covering the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention for CNS. Since I was so close to Hollywood, management thought I could stay some extra days to snag interviews with some emerging stars like Nick Turturro, then on “NYPD Blue,” David Hyde Pierce of “Fraser,” Jay Leno, who was settling in comfortably on “The Tonight Show,” and a pre-“Everybody Loves Raymond” Ray Romano. I also got to interview some more established types, like Robert Wise, who directed “The Sound of Music,” and everybody’s favorite blended-family mom, Florence Henderson, ex of “The Brady Bunch.”

Florence Henderson (1934-2016). (CNS photo/Fred Prouser, Reuters) See story to come.

Florence Henderson (1934-2016). (CNS photo/Fred Prouser, Reuters)

For the Henderson interview, I got to meet her on a Monday evening at a restaurant near her home in Santa Monica, California, where she was a member of St. Monica Parish. We talked about her life and career, with the conversation invariably rebounding back to “The Brady Bunch.” The series still has a home in the 500-channel universe; Me-TV plays four episodes in a row every Sunday, calling it a “Brady Brunch.”

It’s not a surprise, since despite her ample acting and singing skills  — she was the original Maria on Broadway in “The Sound of Music” — Henderson helped make the Bradys a family that the ratings just couldn’t kill.

Even after the original sitcom was canceled after five seasons, “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” soon followed, as did “The Brady Girls Get Married,” “The Brady Brides,” “A Very Brady Christmas,” “The Bradys,” and playing Grandma Brady in “The Brady Bunch Movie” in 1995. She even did a turn as Carol Brady in a 1987 episode of “The Love Boat.”

The unmistakable impression I got once the interview was over was how unfailingly polite Henderson had been. Not that at her age — which is my age now — she needed to go traipsing out of her house to do interviews on her free time. But she did, and she was a great interview subject.

Henderson talked about how she chose her confirmation name of Gemma after a Benedictine sister who taught her in grade school, and with whom she still corresponded 50 years later. She also spoke of doing a fundraiser for Ursuline-run Brescia College in Kentucky, not far from her Indiana birthplace. She even talked about prayer, which isn’t the typical subject actors talk about. Henderson said it keeps entertainers “from having a distorted image of who they are,” and opens them up to new people when the go from city to city. “And those are what I call moments of grace,” she told me. “I’m a great believer in the Holy Spirit, in grace.”

While visiting New York City over the Columbus Day holiday this year, we turned on the TV in the hotel room to find something suitable to watch. Lo and behold, the Disney Channel was showing one of my daughter’s favorite programs, “K.C. Undercover” starring Zendaya as a high-school-age secret agent. And in this episode, she infiltrated a senior citizens’ home as a grumpy grandpa, only to be sidetracked by Henderson as an attention-starved granny.

There is no doubt Florence Henderson lived a rich, grace-filled life.

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With death of Fidel Castro, pope, archbishop ask prayers to Cuba’s patroness

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Quoting from the Book of Ecclesiastes and referencing judgment, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, of Miami issued a statement on the Nov. 25 death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“Now he awaits the judgment of God who is merciful but also just,” wrote Archbishop Wenski in a brief statement posted on the archdiocese’s website Nov. 26. “His death provokes many emotions — both in and outside the island. Nevertheless, beyond all possible emotions, the passing of this figure should lead us to invoke the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, asking for peace for Cuba and its people.”

Pope Francis and former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana in Sept. 20, 2015. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Pope Francis and former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana in Sept. 20, 2015. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Castro was 90 and ruled Cuba from 1959 — when his regime overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista — until 2009 when he handed power over to his brother Raul.

Pope Francis sent a telegram in Spanish to Cuba expressing condolences for the “sad news” of “the death of your dear brother” to Raul Castro, who currently rules the island. He also expressed condolences to the government and to its people, and said he was offering prayers and entrusting the nation through intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.

Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist party in Cuba, said the formal public mourning period and homages to Fidel Castro will begin today and go through Dec. 4. On Nov. 30 the transport of his ashes to the province of Santiago will begin, concluding Dec. 3 at the cemetery of St. Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba, where the Cuban national leader Jose Marti is buried.

Archishop Wenski concluded his message asking that “Our Lady of Charity, hear her people’s prayers and hasten for Cuba the hour of its reconciliation in truth, accompanied by freedom and justice.”

Through the intercession of Mary, may “the Cuban people know how to traverse that narrow road between fear which gives in to evil and violence, which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse,” he added.



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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Nov. 27, 2016

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares." -- Isaiah 2:4

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares.” — Isaiah 2:4


Nov. 27, First Sunday of Advent

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 2:1-5

      Psalm 122:1-9

      2) Romans 13:11-14

      Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44


By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

Noah’s neighbors were so engrossed in celebrating their good fortune that they were caught unprepared for the calamity of the Flood. Had they invited the less-fortunate villagers, perhaps the party may have ended in joy.

Historically, lack of economic opportunity has led to civil wars and international conflicts, including terrorism. Hence, our economic choices involve ethical dimensions, moral issues and global challenges. Let us beware: Poverty remains a scourge invoking God’s wrath.

Today, 3 billion people (about one-third of humanity) live in “poverty,” on less than $2.50 per person per day. Half of those people are perpetually stuck in “extreme poverty,” living on less than $1.25 per person per day. The dollar distinction reflects the desperate reality that extremely poor people cannot save any money at all and thus are unable to invest in their children’s future.

The amount of money necessary to lift those 1.5 billion people out of extreme poverty equals only 0.7 percent of world gross domestic product, an amount equivalent to only four days of military spending by all nations!

To build peace on earth, converting a few swords into plowshares appears to be a no-brainer.

For another frame of reference, consider the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in September 2000. Signed by the U.S. and 190 other nations, the goals commit each nation to allocate 0.7 percent of their annual income for official development aid to the poorest countries. Note that’s 0.7 percent — not 70 percent or 7 percent of our nation’s annual wealth. It is only seven-tenths of 1 percent!

So, is America a generous country? Yes and no.

In absolute dollars, we donate more money in development aid than any other nation, yet we are also the biggest laggard in meeting our millennium goals commitment. In 2015, the U.S. has contributed only 0.17 percent of our national income in development aid. That is about one-fourth of our official pledge. Though generous, we could do a lot better.

Advent is a time of spiritual reckoning. If the Christ child was welcomed by Magi from the East with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, is it not time to reverse the flow of wealth to feed his hungriest children?


For the sake of our poorest neighbors, can we not reduce military spending by four days to welcome our infant Creator and Savior into his kingdom?

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Skirling at St. Peter’s Square

VATICAN CITY — After the bells tolled for the noon Angelus today, the melodies and drone of Scottish bagpipes could be heard near St. Peter’s Square.

Pipe Sergeant Mauro Nenci of Rome helped catch the attention of passersby and media as part of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh’s announcement of the development of “The Catholic App.”

The new GPS-powered app is meant to help people find the nearest church offering Mass and confession in the way most people today find things: with their smart phone or tablet, Archbishop Leo Cushley said.


Mauro Nenci on bagpipes and Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews & Edinburgh presenting a new app Nov. 22 that uses GPS to help people find church Mass and confession times. (Photo courtesy of the Scottish Catholic Media Office)

“Websites are losing popularity. What is needed to engage with the mobile generation is an app that is smart and personal, an app that is like a companion, a friend that takes the initiative to inspire you — that’s the vision behind the Catholic App,” said Maciej Zurawski, founder and CEO of Musemantik, the Scottish tech company designing the app.

Inspirational messages, news and parish information will also be among some of the app features.

The archdiocese hopes to release the app early next year, but it also needs as many dioceses as possible across the world to take part, offering needed data (Mass and Confession times, location etc…) to make the app even more effective, said David Kerr, the archdiocese’s director of communications.

Check out the interactive mock up here: https://marvelapp.com/9faa1d/screen/10012695

Dioceses, parishes and individuals interested in finding out more can contact the developer at catholicapp@musemantik.com or David Kerr.



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