“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11
“Fear not little flock, fear not. Come with me to Bethlehem. Let us celebrate a joyous Christmas. Let us be merry and happy no matter what because Christ is born.” Catherine Doherty
I’ll be taking the next week off from blogging.
It’s Friday so it’s time to connect with Jen’s Conversion Diary.
As promised, I’d like to share just a few of the 25 original Christmas cards we’ve created over the past 28 years. As I’ve mentioned before, our “Family Life” cartoons began as Christmas cards 24 years ago. To learn more about this, you can read my previous guest post at Catholic Sistas entitled “Life in a Cartoon World.”
Those on our Christmas card list really enjoy and appreciate our cards; the caricatures of the members of our family are drawn by my husband. With some of these, I scanned only one part of the card, since I just wanted to share the caricatures of the family.
1. Let the Spirit In – 1989
2. She Brought Forth Her First Born Son – 1992
3. Glorious Strains – 1996
4. Cookies are Like Baby Jesus – 2002
5. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – 2007
6. Hrkach Boys Assembly Line – 2008
7. Vertical Enhancements – 2009
All text and images copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2012
As we get closer to Christmas, I’d like to share another beautiful excerpt, this one from Catherine Doherty’s “Living the Gospel Without Compromise.” This is entitled “Prayer: The Cry of a Child” and is available free as a Pass it On article at this link.
The first step in praying is to understand who we are, and that is awfully difficult. We must acknowledge that we are creatures, saved sinners, entirely dependent on God. We must be, as the bible says, anawim, poor people of God, the poor people of the beatitudes who know that they depend on God. We must face ourselves and realize that we cannot exist on our own, that we are dependent.
To the proud, this is anathema. We look at ourselves and we say “I depend on no one” — and suddenly, in the very saying, we realize that this is not so: we do depend on God. This is the beginning of prayer: that we become beggars before God, knowing that we receive even the steps we take from him.
To begin to pray we must first cleanse our souls of arrogance and pride. In grave humility and as beggars, must we come to him who alone can make us princes and kings and queens, not of earthly kingdoms, but of the kingdom of God. Only when we are thus poor and realize our total poverty, can we go to Bethlehem and meet the Child who became poor for us.
Is there any human being who does not respond to the cry of a child? Did you ever consider the first cry of the Child Jesus? It was his first message of love to us. When we know that we are poor, we can easily enter Bethlehem and answer his cry. We can easily walk behind the donkey that bears the woman and Child. If we are poor we will not hesitate to enter the humble home of Nazareth to take part in the hospitality of Joseph and Mary. Yet the proud and the arrogant look down their noses at simple folk from Nazareth: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
If we realize our own poverty we will follow him who had nowhere to lay his head. Prayer is the interpersonal relationship of a poor man with the Poor Man.
If we remain poor and keep following the Poor Man, a change will take place. Up to a point Christ will console us. But as our prayer deepens, we will enter the darkness of a fantastic faith, a faith that we have to pray for. The time will come when we will have to console Christ. For we see him all over the world — in slums, in Park Avenue — in people committing suicide because of the greed of people.
When we console him our prayer will take on a new dimension. The Son of Man became incarnate that we might console him, so that in consoling him we might learn to console one another, to be tender toward one another. He offered himself as a victim for us on the cross so that we might take him in our arms as Our Lady took him in hers.
Our prayer will be dirgelike, and yet, a joy! Our pain will be purified and our prayer will have moved into another dimension: we will want to be on the cross because Love is crucified. A strange thing will happen: our prayer will become a prayer of joy, a fantastic resting in the heart of God.
Thus from a recognition of our total dependence we are led to a prayer where we realize the Father is coming to us, know the touch of his hand, see Christ’s human face reflecting his glory. Thus does prayer become a total and final resting place, a unity, a complete union of ourselves with God. The darkness of faith grows light and there is no need for words anymore. There is only a need for rest, the rest of a beloved in the arms of her Beloved.
Self-Publishing and Web Presence My latest post for the Catholic Writers Guild.
7 Quick Takes Friday A cool video, a cartoon, a recipe and other stuff.
Trust, Fertility and Advent My latest column for both Amazing Catechists and Catholic Mom.
Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach
One of my favorite shows is “Mayday,” a documentary which recounts stories of plane crashes or near crashes. My favorite episodes are the ones where everyone (or most) survives. Survival often depends on the skill and precision of the pilots and flight engineers. I find it fascinating just what can bring a plane down and what can also save a plane.
It dawned on me recently when I was flying back from New Jersey that it takes tremendous trust to get on a plane: trust that the pilots are trained to fly the plane with precision, trust that the builders created a solid, well-performing plane, trust that the mechanics have serviced the plane properly. After all, which one of us wants to be 20,000 feet in the air when a mechanical problem happens or when a pilot encounters a situation he’s not trained to handle?
Of course, the same can be said for any situation. We trust our doctors, food companies, school bus drivers and many others. On a daily basis, we are called to trust those who are human and have the potential of making mistakes.
Consider how most couples “trust” with regard to their fertility. They take pills, get injections, apply chemical patches, insert devices, consent to operations. Instead of working with their fertility, they try to destroy it. Instead of embracing their fertility, they fight it. They “trust” that by using contraceptives, they will be able to “control” their fertility.
Newsflash: none of these chemicals, devices or operations are 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. No method, except for complete abstinence, is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. And yet millions of couples put their “trust” in contraceptive methods on a daily basis. If the methods “fail,” and a child is conceived, many will resort to abortion.
So what does this have to do with Advent?
Well, a lot. When told that she would be the mother of our Savior, Mary replied, “Be it done to me according to your word.” That took tremendous trust in God’s plan for her. She didn’t say, “Hmmm, let me think about that for a few weeks and I’ll get back to you.” Without her trust, without her yes, we would not be preparing to celebrate Christmas.
Admittedly, the times I’ve appreciated Our Lady’s fiat the most have been when I was expecting a child during Advent and Christmas. I loved being pregnant and feeling the movement of my babies. It definitely helped me to be more empathetic to what Mary went through: nine months pregnant, on a donkey and making a long journey away from home. It was equally difficult for her to give birth in a stable, surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals. And yet Mary trusted that this was God’s plan for her and accepted it without question.
So what is God’s plan for us especially regarding our fertility? I can tell you what it is not: God’s plan is not for us to destroy the gift of our fertility with devices, behaviors, chemicals or operations. This “trust” that many couples place in contraceptives can sometimes result in an unwanted, permanent loss of fertility and can lead to numerous other consequences as well. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life, 1968) talks about one of the most common consequences of contraceptive use: “A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
God’s plan is for couples to embrace their fertility and to be generously open to life. Does that mean that God wants us to have as many children as possible? No, it doesn’t. God gave us the gift of reason and he also gave us a built-in natural method of avoiding pregnancy that works with fertility and not against it. God, the Author of life, wants to be part of our decisions regarding our fertility.
What about us? Who do we trust with our fertility? Is it God or is it a device, operation or contraceptive behavior?
Couples who want to trust God with their decisions will trust Him with all of their decisions, including the beautiful gift of fertility. When couples have serious need to avoid pregnancy, Natural Family Planning is a moral way to do so. NFP uses no devices and works with God instead of against Him. Wives who use NFP seldom feel used by their husbands. NFP also works well to achieve pregnancy. It’s healthy, effective and safe. NFP encourages good communication and strengthens marital relationships.
Advent is the ideal time to rethink who we trust our fertility with. Do we trust a chemical company? Do we trust a condom manufacturer? Or do we trust God, the Author of Life?
Learning Natural Family Planning nowadays is as simple as turning on your computer. My husband and I teach NFP online through the Couple to Couple League. For more information on NFP classes or NFP in general, please comment below or email me: info(at)fullquiverpublishing.com.
Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach 2012