December 28, 2012

St. Andrew Christmas Novena....Ooops.

Hey, remember the St. Andrew Christmas Novena?

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.  In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.  Amen.

Well?  Did you make it?  Were you able to pray the novena prayer 15 times per day, as prescribed!?

....yeah, me neither.

I must say, it really did help to break up the novena into praying it five times at three separate meals.  The kids were super about reminding me.  "Mom!" they'd gasp.  "The prayer!"  However, the further we ventured into the busy preparations of Advent, the more often I found myself forgetting about the novena until well after midnight and into the next day, thus having missed the present day's 15 times requirement.  Again.

I was getting quite discouraged about this, until a little urging from my guardian angel reproved me for my disappointment in not fulfilling the novena.

"Really?" it said.  "Is that the reason you were praying this novena?  So that you could recite a particular incantation and win a prize?  Is that what you think!?"

Well, no!  Of course not!

And there, my dear friends, was my humble reminder that there is a big difference between superstition and prayerful petition.  To wit, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.


2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.

Thus, praying a novena, or any other prescribed set of prayers, is in no way a guarantee of the requested results.  Conversely, if a novena or prayer is not fulfilled in precisely the correct manner, that, too, is no guarantee that the Lord will not grant your desire.

Quite simply, the Lord knows your heart.  And if the desire of your heart is within His will, then He will fulfill matter what lil' ole YOU do.

So, after reading the Catechism, I not only renewed my efforts to remain faithful to praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, I have continued to recite it even after the great feast of Christmas, during the following Twelve Days of Christmas.

Did I then subsequently fulfill it every day?  Um, still no.

But, thank God for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church!  I now pray this prayer with so much more JOY and true LOVE in my heart for the Infant Christ Child, ever since I refined, researched, redefined, and renewed my focus on what it means to truly and prayerfully participate in the St. Andrew Christmas Novena.

Besides, God willing, there's always next year!

December 25, 2012

Is It REALLY Happy Birthday to Jesus Today?

Is today really the correct day to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ?  If you're like me, you've heard so many (ever popular) conflicting secular rationales for why it's probably not:

- It would have been too cold outside in December for the shepherds to have been abiding in the fields.

- It's really just the Catholic Church usurping and replacing the pagan feast of Saturnalia.

- The Church just wanted to combat the pagan superstitions associated with the Winter Solstice.

- Etc., etc., etc.

Well, here's a (bit lengthy, but thorough and concise) explanation as to exactly why the Church set the feast day for the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ squarely on December 25th:

So celebrate with confidence and enjoy!

December 8, 2012

Finding Peace with the Prince of Peace

 A friend recently posted a request for prayers, as her homeschool responsibilities and Christmas preparations had been cast aside by her son's unexpected admission to the hospital.  As a faithful Catholic, she immediately rejoiced in having time for her and her son to be together in Advent prayer and reading Jotham's Journey.  But, understandably, she nevertheless was a little disappointed that certain school and holiday tasks at home just would have to be left undone this year.

As a compulsive list-maker and cookie-baker myself, I completely understood her frustration with not being able to "accomplish" or "do" the things she wanted to achieve, in order to prepare her family for Christmas.

But, let's also be practical here:

Schoolwork always will be there, whether you do it today or tomorrow or ten months from now.  Your child's good health might not be.  See to him, see to your souls, and see to the internal preparations that God wants you to make this Advent.  Remember, the Bible doesn't say that Mary baked the shepherds some cookies and sent out The First Christmas Cards (that would be Jesus's Shutterfly, photocard, birth announcement).

But it DOES say that she treasured all these things in her heart.

We all should do the same.

I've often found that when God allows all my plans to go completely awry, it's because I was facing in the wrong direction.  Turn your face toward Him, trust in His guidance and Will, and know the inner peace of the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace!

December 1, 2012

Christmas Novena

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

While a novena is normally a nine-day [or nine hour] prayer, the term sometimes is used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the "Christmas Novena" or the "Christmas Anticipation Prayer," because it is prayed 15 times every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) until Christmas. The First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew.

The novena is not actually addressed to Saint Andrew, but to God Himself, asking Him to grant our request in the honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas. You can say the prayer all 15 times, all at once, or divide up the recitation as necessary (perhaps five times at each meal).

Prayed as a family, the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is a very good way to help focus the attention of your children on the Advent season.

(source: by Scott P. Richert at