Personalized Gifts: Thoughtful and Unique Gifts are the Best

There’s simply nothing better than a personalized and thoughtful gift. Giving a gift is great, but giving a uniquely personal gift is even better. The person receiving your gift knows that some extra thought and effort went into your gift idea. Getting somebody a gift with their name or initials on it is really nice.

I read a post on Mom 4 Real about, The Coolest Gift For The Sports Freak in Your Life. This is a really cool gift idea for a big sports fan, I would personally love to get one. The author’s family members are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, so she had personalized calendars made. The calendars feature 12 of their favorite players for each month, and she could even make sure that her son’s favorite player was featured on his birthday month! What a thoughtful and neat gift!

What kinds of personalized gifts have you given in the past?

Giving Up Possesions

I like the story of Jesus calling over the disciples after a widow gives two cooper coins that equal a penny at the temple (Mark 12: 38-44). Before this took place the scribes came in and made a big production of giving money, making sure all were aware of their large donation. He tells the disciples that the widow gave more because she had less to give. The scribes gave a lot but still have even more at home. However she gave all she had. And that is what Jesus asks of us. Not that we should become destitute in our giving but to give with our heart.

I read of a story were a man was sharing on this subject and he stated that he gave away his most prized possession, his books. A woman cried “why your books, I could see money or food but I could never get rid of my books they mean too much to me” and her friend turned to her and told her that is precisely why.

I have a tendency to put too much importance on “things”, and as all who know me would tell you it would especially be my boots. So could I go into my closet and give away my most prized possession, my boots? I’d like to think I would but honestly I don’t know if I could! The woman in the story probably gave her last two coins but trusted so completely in God that she didn’t even hesitate.  She did this without being aware she was being watched, and more notably that it was her savior watching her. Unlike the scribes who made donating a huge production, she did what was asked of her without pomp and circumstance.

During the homily on Sunday regarding this reading the priest at my church stated that not only is it important to give financially, but of our time as well. After Hurricane Sandy blew through the Jersey shore it was amazing to see the outpouring of resources, financial and physical, that came pouring in from all across America and beyond. It reminds me how caring people really are and in dire circumstances we all band together as a community. They helped not for the recognition but because they care.

So back to the question could I give up my most prized possession and yes I can, because I do it all for the glory of God. It is what He asks of me and nothing, not even my boots, is more valuable to me than my relationship with God.

God Bless!

Black Friday Shopping: How to Prepare for the Madness

With the Christmas season fast approaching many parents will be on the lookout to score good deals on gifts for their family and friends. This can be a hectic and crazy time to shop but many parents will still choose to go out on Black Friday. If you are an avid Black Friday shopper check out this posted titled, “Preparing for Black Friday”, from Shopaholic Mommy. The post gives a list of things to help you get ready for the big day.

Do you prefer shopping for Christmas gifts on Black Friday or just getting them all online?

Two New Doctors of the Church: Saint Hildegard and Saint John of Avila

Pope Benedict XVI recently named two new doctors of the Church. Both were already recognized as saints by the Catholic Church. The two new doctors are Saint Hildegard of Bingen and Saint John of Avila. While the two were already considered saints of the Catholic Church becoming a doctor of the Church makes them part of a much smaller group. There are many saints, but only 35 of those saints are considered doctors. These two are now doctors of the Church because their doctrines have benefited the community very much.

To learn more about the two new doctors of the Church check out this article titled, “Meet the Church’s Two New Doctors” featured on Catholic Exchange.

The Life of Saint Wenceslaus: Patron Saint of Bohemia

It was uncommon for political people in history to stand up against the majority. There were many persecutors and the risk of death was too great. Saint Wenceslaus knew this but it didn’t keep him from infusing Christianity into the government of Bohemia.

The Life of Saint Wenceslaus

Saint Wenceslaus was the son of the Duke of Bohemia. His grandmother, Ludmilla, raised him as a Christian, despite his mother’s anti-Christian beliefs. Sadly, grandmother Ludmilla was later killed because of her Christian beliefs.

Most would think that Saint Wenceslaus would not be able to succeed his father’s role in the Bohemia government, but that was not what happened. Christian rivals made it possible for Wenceslaus to become the ruler of Bohemia.

In his ruling, he supported the Church. He also met with Germany to begin peace negotiations. This infuriated anti-Christians. His brother was anti-Christian like his mom. One day, his brother Boleslav invited Wenceslaus to the celebration of St. Cosmas and Damian. When Wenceslaus was on his way to Mass, his brother attacked him. In their struggle, Wenceslaus was killed by his brother’s supporters. Upon his death, Christians proclaimed him as a martyr for his faith despite opposition. He was buried and his grave is a shrine now. He is known as the patron or Saint of Bohemia.

What We Can Learn from St. Wenceslaus

Most politicians do not factor in God’s teachings in how they run the government. When they do, they usually meet opposition from anti-Christians, just as in the case of St. Wenceslaus.

What must be remembered about St. Wenceslaus is that he didn’t let that stand in his way. He knew there was a chance he would be killed for his beliefs, just as his grandmother was, but he didn’t let his faith falter. Many of us would live much closer to God if we adopted the faith St. Wenceslaus had. Many of us fear that if we stand against others, we will be punished by them. However, what happens when we stand up against God? Well, we end up turning away from Him. God has put us on Earth to help him not to go against Him. Being true to God means delivering the message He wants passed on to Earth.

How We Can Bring God Closer

Try to get involved in community activities to do good according to God. You can be of great influence to the community if you just take the time to deliver God’s message. Do things that please God. Helping the poor, encouraging peace, and helping others do the same can deliver God’s message in a way that helps people see your beliefs are for good, not for corruption. By taking an active role in your community, or local government, you can bring God closer to you and many others. If you do your part in delivering God’s message, and others do the same, our communities and life will continue to receive God’s good graces.

Saint Ambrose: Latin Doctor of the Church

Nowadays, there is a somewhat hazy division between the government and church. While some of the decisions of the government affect the church, not all of the decisions the government makes is affected by the church. Back in the 4th century, this was not the case. The government and church were intertwined. The ruler of the government religious beliefs were what framed the entire area that government ruled. This is how St. Ambrose influenced Milan with the Catholic Church’s teachings.

St. Ambrose was born somewhere in between 337 and 340, and he was raised in Trier. His father was a huge political figure, but he died at an early age. St. Ambrose went to school in Rome to learn literature, law and rhetoric.
He started his political career as a council member, and quickly became counsular prefect. Counsular prefect was another name for Governor. He was Governor of Liguria and Emilia.

This political status led him to be recommended for Bishop of Milan. St. Ambrose did not want to take this offer because he felt he was not right for it since he was not baptized. St. Ambrose hid from the emperor of the time, Emperor Gratian. He hid in a home, but the host uncovered him when a letter was sent from Emperor Gratian commending him of all he had done. After about a week, St. Ambrose was baptized, ordained, and became bishop of Milan. Unfortunately, he became bishop during a very frightening time in the diocese of Milan. There was a great conflict between Catholics and Arians.

He is known to have calmed down the conflict arising from the Arians, and integrating Catholicism into the area much more than it was. He also is known for being highly generous to the poor. He gave all of his money to the poor, and gave up all of his land. His sister, Marcellina was also religious and became a nun. He would care for her also with the money he made.
Due to St. Ambrose’s education and influence, he was named as a Doctor of the Church. This is quite an honor because it signifies his great contribution to the church in its formation.

What We Can Learn from Saint Ambrose

Saint Ambrose wanted peace in the land. While he did not reject Arians, he did want to calm the conflict between them and Catholics, which is what he did. In that, he was able to show Arians the power of God, and what He can do for them.
Through his example of generousity, St. Ambrose taught many people the importance of what it means to give to the poor. When we give to the poor, we do what God does all the time – we provide them comfort. Many people become poor not because of their own doing, but because of poor situations. It’s just like someone becoming ill. We should help them, and make their life less of a struggle because that is what God wants for them.

Even if people become poor because their own doing, it’s important to know that God forgives, and helps people get back on their feet. You can do God’s work by helping them.

New Priest Coming to a Church Near You

Do you belong to a Church or parish that has had the same priest for years? Up until about the year 2000 my parish had the same priest for many years. The pastor who was then retiriing had been there since 1975. Since then, I have to tell you, we’ve have had three different pastors. In addition to this we’ve had three Parochial Vicars that have come and gone. This folks has not been easy on our Congregation. We have a vibrant Parish, two schools, several active Ministries and a varied age group of parishoners. That’s not an easy job for any priest to take on.

Some of the priests that have come to our Church were very reverent, great homilists and good stewards while others have not exactly “jelled” with the people. You know the saying “you can’t please everybody”. That’s never been so true as when describing the role of pastor in an active parish.

What occured most recently at my Church is that our pastor was moved to fill the needs of the Diocese which resulted from the retirement of another priest. Do you see the “Domino Effect” we have because of the reduction in the number of new priests? I guess it’s like our loss is someone else’s gain. Hopefully it will be the gain of our entire Diocese.

Some would say it’s important that a “good priest” is shared with many. I suppose that this is true but I also think it’s sad that a parish would have a new pastor every five years. The days of having your parish priest become a kind of family member is not really possible. It’s not likely that the Priest that baptizes you might also marry you and even be around to baptize your children. Maybe that’s the storybook version and I’ll have to let it go. I can dream can’t I?

Have you felt the loss of a beloved priest/pastor that was moved from your Church? Do you have a priest that maybe you’d like moved? I guess I should be thankful that we’ve never gotten a pastor that we prayed would move on. Of course I am not speaking for everyone hear. There could be lots of people within my own Church that could feel differently than I. Let me know if anything like this has happened to you.

Blessings,
Erin

George Washington’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving 1789

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

The Collection Basket

Just this morning a co-worker of mine brought up a letter that had been sitting on his desk for three weeks. It turns out I received the same but I responded immediately (as I do often) and he decided to think it over a bit first.

The letter was from the new Pastor of our Church (just so happens we attend the same Church). I’m sure the task of sending this letter was planned before his arrival to our parish. Call it bad timing that while new to our Church he needed to sign an annual letter about the “Increased Offertory Program”.

The jist of the letter is a suggestion that maybe “you” which is me, could consider increasing the offering in the collection basket. I must say form letters in general bother me. The sender is bound to upset or offend someone because you can’t generalize when it comes to most groups.

Of course there is a bit of a disclaimer in the beginning of the letter that says “if our records are acurate”. Not a big fan of relying on your records when we’re talking about people. Our current fiscal environment makes sending this letter necessary but I wish the sender (my church) would have considered how the receiving of such a letter, in these hard economic times, would be received.

The letter suggests that we prayerfully consider giving between $250 – $1000 as an annual offertory commitment. My annual contribution hovers near 75% of the top number. My children have also attended the parishes Catholic Grammar School for the past 12 years with at least 6 more years to go. (Do the math I have five children).

My family also attends Mass every Sunday, every Holy Day and as many daily Masses as we can. So my question is “Did I really need to receive this letter”? I must also add that I am a very active member of several Ministries in our Parish. Don’t misread this as thinking I’m anything special. I am always concious of my inability to give financially and try to make up for it with the giving of my time. Sometimes I think time is more valuable to some Ministries than money. Maybe I was just sensitive the day I received it but now three weeks later my co-worker made me think about it again.

I did respond with a letter to the Pastor about how I felt insulted by the letter and have not yet received a response. I don’t think I’ll get one and that’s ok.

I love my Church and the people I see so often throughout the Parish and I wouldn’t let this letter have any effect on how I feel about the Catholic Church. I don’t subscribe to the comments that “all the Church cares about is money”. I know that’s not true. There’s no hiding that the Church has bills to pay just like I do. Not every function of the Church can be done with charity or volunteerism. That’s just the facts.

Maybe I just wasn’t feeling the love so to speak when I got that letter. The story of the poor widow in the Bible comes to mind, Matthew 12:42-44 which says;

A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny.

Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury;

for they have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

I’m feeling a bit like the poor widow. We are giving as much as we can and I know that I will continue to give long after the current drain on our income (tuition) comes to an end. I’m praying I live that long. I’ve been told “it’s just not my season” and I find comfort in that. Times are hard and money isn’t as available as we’d like but I wouldn’t change the blessings that I have that have nothing to do with money for any amount of cash.

Have you ever received a letter from your Church or group that made you feel like you weren’t supposed to receive this letter. Did you say “there must be some mistake”? I’d love to hear you stories.

Blessings,

Erin

Carpe Diem

“Carpe Diem” is one of my favorite sayings. The translation from Latin is said to mean “seize the day”. I read today that carpe in Latin literally means “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather” but that doesn’t sound as appropriate as seize so I guess we just changed the translation as needed. Oh my, what a can of worms that could be. Imagine if whenever you needed to translate something YOU just picked (Carped) any word you wanted. Maybe this is really why a new translation of the Roman Missal was needed.

The saying “Carpe Diem” was made popular by Robin Williams character, John Keating in the movie Dead Poets Society. He says, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” The saying is also a song the rock band Green Day. Unfortunately some have taken the meaning of this statement to do whatever they want each day. As if nothing matters and who knows how long we have on this earth. That scares me a little. Shouldn’t our last days on earth (however soon that may be) be of seizing the day to provide and receive love every minute possible. At least that’s how I’d like to imagine it.

Each day is a gift and we should always be aware that we do not know the day nor the hour that our Lord will call us home or that He will return with judgement.

So “Carpe Diem” and do that best that you can to live as God wants us too.

Blessings,
Erin