Happy New Year! Tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Happy Feast Day!
Here are a few of the most popular posts during 2016!
Happy New Year! Tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Happy Feast Day!
Here are a few of the most popular posts during 2016!
“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
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
I’d like to share just a few of the 28 original Christmas cards we’ve created over the past 30 years. As I’ve mentioned before, our “Family Life” cartoons began as Christmas cards 27 years ago. To learn more about this, you can read my previous guest post 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. Merry Christmas!!
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
9. Sleeping In – 2014
10. A Many Splendored Christmas (2015)
11. This year’s Christmas Card!! “Low Key” 2016
All text and images copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2016
During the holiday season, certain questions might arise within one’s heart, or asked by others. How should a person coping with the death of a loved one this holiday season respond? When thinking about death and the afterlife, I thought I would turn to Susan Tassone, an authority on Purgatory, to help answer some of those tough questions, and hopefully provide comfort and consolation, not only to the bereaved, but to our beloved dead as well, this Christmas season.
Fr. Looney: Those who lost a loved one, especially to suicide want to know if their loved one can go to Heaven. Over the years the negative stigma of suicide has changed in the Church. What can words can you offer for those coping with the tragic death of a loved one?
Susan Tassone: A few words about suicide. Often members of a family will have different feelings about the suicide of a loved one. It is likely when someone you love commits suicide you will experience a wide range of feelings. It is normal to be angry, sad, down, scared, etc.
Feelings are fleeting and change rapidly. One of the most common feelings is that of being ashamed. We blame ourselves for the suicide. You may feel embarrassed by what you feel. There is no right feeling. Remember feelings are temporary. They pass and change over time. Sometimes we may blame ourselves, others, or the person who died. Behind blame often are feelings of hurt or inadequacy. “If only I did this or noticed that.” Many of us look to assign blame. The more we can let go of blame the quicker we will heal.
People commit suicide for many different reasons. We need to focus our empathy on what pain a person must have gone through to decide to take their life. The less we judge and the more we can be empathetic, the more likely we will feel the mercy of God’s healing.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2282-2283) says: “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” This is a time to remember the ocean of mercy and kindness that is given to us by Our Lord.
Fr. Looney: During the holidays many people attend parties or family gatherings and might be asked about their loved one. What do they say to others?
Susan Tassone: You tell them that “So and So” was in great pain and ended their life. We ask everyone to be compassionate and to offer Masses and prayers so that she/he may be received into the arms of our merciful God. Our role is not to judge. Our role is to pray for healing both for the deceased and their loved ones.
Fr. Looney: How do you address the issue with a child?
Susan Tassone: It is important to shape your message to the level of understanding of the child. If they are younger, it is best to say that he/she died. They loved you very much and felt terrible in leaving you. You can pray for them and that way ask Jesus to comfort them and you. Nothing you or anyone did caused their death. It is sad to lose someone you love. But people feel many things when someone dies. Ask the child what they feel. Ask them to imagine that person is here. What would they like to say? No matter what the child says, do not correct what they feel but acknowledge the pain. Give the child things they can do to help the deceased and themselves. Light candles, prayers that they can say or drawings they can make.
Fr. Looney: What is the best way we can remember our loved ones who have died?
Susan Tassone: The best way to move the soul to heaven is to have Masses offered, particularly Gregorian Masses. Gregorian Masses are a series of thirty Holy Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for the repose of the soul of a departed person. Gregorian Masses derive their name from Pope St. Gregory the Great, who was the first to popularize this practice. The Dialogues of St. Gregory tell of the soul of a departed monk who appeared and declared that he had been delivered form purgatory upon the completion of 30 Masses. The Sacred Congregation of Indulgences declared this hallowed tradition of more than 1,300 years “a pious and reasonable belief of the faithful on the authority of the Roman Curia.” The Church does not guarantee that souls are released from Purgatory after 30 Masses, but this practice focuses on the efficacy of the Mass. Contact the Pious Union of St. Joseph to arrange for these Masses. www.pusj.org
Fr. Looney: The stories of the saints are powerful witnesses that can bring us some comfort. Are there any stories that pertain to souls who commit suicide?
Susan Tassone: There is a story of St. John Vianney who told a grieving wife that her husband who committed suicide was saved. This story is described by the Abbe Trochu in his biography of the Cure d’Ars. A certain Abbe Guillaumet met a lady on a train who was in deep mourning and when he said that he was going to Ars she asked, “Monsieur l’Abbe, will you allow me to accompany you to Ars? I may as well go there, as elsewhere…. I am travelling to distract my thoughts.”
When they reached the village, the priest led the lady to a place near the church and suddenly, St. John Vianney appeared. He stopped in front of the lady in black who, following the example of the crowd, had gone down on her knees. He bent over her and whispered into her ear: “He is saved!” The woman was startled and John Vianney repeated: “He is saved!” A gesture of incredulity was the only reply of the stranger. Whereupon the saint, stressing each word, repeated, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition. Our Blessed Lady obtained that grace for him. Remember the shrine that you put up in your room during the month of May? Though your husband professed to have no religion, he sometimes joined in your prayers; this merited for him the grace of repentance and pardon at the last moment.
The next day, the lady explained to Abbe Guillaumet that she had been in despair because of the tragic death of her husband: “He was an unbeliever, and my one object in life was to bring him back to God. I did not get the time. He committed suicide by drowning himself. I could only think of him as lost. Oh! Were we never again to meet? Now you hear that the Cure d’Ars told me more than once: ‘He is saved!’ I shall meet him again in heaven. Monsieur L’Abbe, I am cured!”
When all seems hopeless, we must remember there is always hope. Always have faith and pray for your loved ones throughout life. Have Masses offered for them while they are alive to give them the grace for conversion.
Fr. Looney: I’ve heard it said that Christmas is a very special day for the souls in Purgatory? Is this true?
Susan Tassone: According to St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Teresa of Avila, more souls are released on Christmas than any other day of the year.
Fr. Looney: How would you suggest we remember those whom we loved but are no longer with us this Christmas season?
Susan Tassone: These are quotes from my book, Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Not only should we have Masses offered for our departed loved ones this time of year, but we should give the gift of Masses and enroll your family and friends, living and deceased, in spiritual membership, a spiritual solidarity of prayer. The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, and the Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, are two great organizations for these Enrollments.
Visit cemeteries with your children. Sprinkle holy water on the graves. Teach youth to pray the Eternal Rest Prayer. Light blessed candles. The burning candle is a sign of our prayer, a bright silent intercessor. Offer your Mass and indulgence for your deceased loved ones at Christmas Mass. Place a special ornament on your Christmas Tree or wreath in remembrance. Share stories and pictures of deceased family members, remembering them in prayer.
Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflections, is another great book that helps to console those who are left behind. EWTN Host of Women of Grace, Johnnette Benkovic, lost her son to a vehicular accident. She highly recommends this book because it helped her through the grieving process. She shared this with me and all her TV viewers on her show: “This book got me through the death of my son.” It would be a great Christmas gift for anyone to begin the New Year on this soul-saving mission.
Fr. Looney: Susan Tassone has a great passion for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and reminds us we should never forget those who have gone before us. This Christmas season as memories of our loved ones flood us, allow them to become an opportunity for prayer. Although they are physically gone from us, they live on in our hearts and memories, and because of our prayers for them, they will never forget us. St. John XXIII affirms this, ““Our dead are among the invisible, not among the absent.” Jesus was born on Christmas day to set us free from all that enslaves us. Allow Jesus to bring peace to your troubled heart and soul this Christmas, and by chance, your prayers might bring peace to a loved one in Purgatory, helping to bring them home to Heaven this Christmas.
One of my favorite Advent quotes is from Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House:
“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent. Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl! Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation! Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent. Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.” Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents
Every new life encompassed within his or her mother’s womb “sings of the first Advent,” as Catherine so eloquently said in her book, “Dear Parents.” Not all of these lives will actually be born. Sadly, some will be miscarried and others will be aborted.
However, for those women who nurture their babies lovingly in their wombs, pregnancy can also be a great time for character growth. Mary was a wonderful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors and discomforts.
But Mary also acted as my consoler during seven miscarriages. For who else could understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross and watched her Son die in agony, then embraced him lovingly after His death?
Let us embrace the last week of Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.
Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach
If you are in the Ottawa Valley, please consider coming out to see LMJ (Lisa Webber, Mike McCormick and James Hrkach, my husband) performing live this Saturday (December 17th and next Monday (December 19th). Promo video below!
Today is the beautiful Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, Our Lady appeared in Mexico to a poor Indian, Juan Diego, at a time when human sacrifice was commonplace.
The following is an excerpt from a website with interesting background information and many images to download: www.sancta.org
“After complying to the Bishop’s request for a sign, She also left for us an image of herself imprinted miraculously on the native’s tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 478 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.”
Saint John Paul II named Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of the unborn.
To read more about Our Lady of Guadalupe:
There are many ways to celebrate this feast. We will be celebrating this evening by having tacos for dinner. Although our kids are older now, in past years, we have celebrated by allowing them (youngest to oldest) to break open a pinata.
Happy Feast Day!
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading this month:
This is one of my favorite Advent books. I love to curl up in a comfy chair next to a warm woodstove and read this wonderful book during December. It’s also a great companion to lighting the Advent wreath each night.
From the publisher: Meaningful and heartwarming stories, customs which you can adopt into your own Christmas celebration, and earthy and inspiring meditations to prepare the entire family for Christ’s coming. Discover how Christians celebrated Christmas before the days of television, shopping malls, and the Internet…
Catherine Doherty is well known for reviving many holy Christian traditions. In Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas, Catherine’s three-in-one book on this most ‘expectant’ of holiday seasons, you’ll receive wonderful gifts. Purchase it at the publisher’s website here (it’s available in print or ebook).
I’m about two-thirds of the way through this book and it’s quite a compelling read. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
Warriors who take cybernetic control of predatory animals. A wounded soldier-turned alcoholic exorcist. A child who attacks with his mind. As Nate Clark leads his brothers out of a broken childhood, he discovers his supernatural ability to wield eagles, wolves, and leopards as weapons. His journey to establish his self-worth by protecting good people from evil attracts Father Mark Bannen, who suspects demonic manipulation as the source of Nate’s apparently benevolent powers.
Questioning if his ends justify his means, Nate must decide if he can marry the woman he loves, draw vengeful blood, and protect his life’s work from the exorcist who threatens to expel its source.
The occult clashes with Christianity; a priest battles demons; and an epic journey of dark versus light explores the limits of mankind’s understanding of nature’s conflicting forces. It’s only .99 on Amazon Kindle.
I’m happy to be linking up with Catholic Mom in a Celebration of Advent Wreaths.
Are we using this beautiful time of Advent to prepare our hearts for Christmas? Or is the Christmas hype distracting us?
Some may think that Lent is the only good time for fasting. However, both Lent and Advent are penitential seasons of the liturgical year and both are ideal times for fasting. Advent is often called a “mini-Lent.”
Is it even possible to fast during Advent when Christmas parties occur weekly and when the world starts celebrating Christmas before Advent even begins?
Yes, it is possible! The important thing is to start.
Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays helps us to focus on the spiritual value of this beautiful season. This is the time for preparing our hearts and souls. Jesus indeed comes to save his people and we must be prepared to meet Him and to celebrate the beautiful feast of His birthday.
Praying, fasting, reading Scripture and almsgiving are all ideal ways to prepare during Advent. However, fasting especially puts a light under our prayers and helps us to remain focused on the spiritual, rather than the commercial, aspects of Advent and Christmas.
St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (1994) said, “Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil.” (P.101-102)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly brings benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”
If you’ve never fasted before, consider giving up meat, coffee and/or treats on Wednesdays and Fridays during Advent. Rather than 24 hours, perhaps try to fast for 12 hours. Once you’ve mastered fasting from meat, coffee and/or treats, then you can try eating less foods or even try to fast on bread and water alone.
For more information on how to get started with fasting, check out our website. Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.
To sign up for the LTF free biweekly fasting newsletter, click here.
Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)
copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach 2016