Archive | December, 2011

The Drawer

December 31, 2011


I wrote this some time ago, but it seemed appropriate to share as we review the past year and “clean our our drawers” to start the new year!

The Drawer
The drawer at the top of my dresser is one of those skinny drawers that are really useless for storing anything. I suppose some women use it for socks, underwear or even jewelry – but mine is a haphazard collection of items.

The drawer is a mess and their seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what it contains.

It contains my memories.

Some of the items in the drawer are easily recognized as having sentimental value, like the Mother’s day cards or the anniversary card from my husband. As typically would be found in most Mothers’ collection of mementos, you can find the plastic necklace made for me by my daughter and the gum ball ring that my, now six foot three, son bought for me on a Mother’s day many years ago. Others might also guess that the silly little hat decoration (a hat the size of a thimble) was a craft from one of my childrens’ school projects. The sweet love letters from my husband need no explanation.

Other items are more abstract. In this drawer I have a scrap of green cloth that was once part of a very ugly church banner that I had made and immediately realized it was a mistake. When the priest saw it he cracked a joke about how it looked like I was hanging my bath towels out to dry in the church. I think I keep it to remember not to take myself too seriously. I also have a piece of handmade wrapping paper from a gift given to me by a friend. It is red with handmade gold polka dots on it. My friend certainly didn’t make the paper – He most likely re-gifted the paper to me. I can’t remember the gift it was wrapped in – just the person who gave it.

Other items in the drawer recall memories more bittersweet – like the tiny crocheted pink rabbit pin my sister made in the year before she died – some 30 years ago. Or the newspaper article about the fundraiser that my husband and I did for a SIDS fundraiser after we lost our son so tragically. For some reason I kept a letter – a rejection letter of sorts – that brought me pain. I look at the letter periodically and remember the pain. Maybe I keep it as a way to guard myself from being too hopeful. Afraid of disappointment.

Some items are unrecognizable even to me. There is an assortment of rocks in the back of the drawer. No doubt they were given to me by a child on a walk, or I picked them up on a vacation. One is black flat and smooth. I am sure I took it from Lake Superior but I can’t remember if it was from a trip with my sisters or from a family vacation.

Sometimes the feelings attached to the memories change. What was once a sweet memory of my little girl, is now a reminder that she has grown up – the feeling is more bittersweet. The disappointment of the rejection letter has faded after the newness has worn away.

Periodically I clean out the drawer – once every ten years or so. I throw away the items that have lost any meaning or memory and keep others. It becomes a bit of a ritual for me, a time to choose what I will keep and what I will throw away. I think I will throw away that letter – time to let go of lost hope and hurt feelings and become hopeful once again.


Wishing you a very happy happy New Year!

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Top Blog Posts of 2011

December 30, 2011


With 2011 winding down, let’s take a look back at the most viewed blog posts at Catholic Hotdish.

Are you Catholic enough to laugh at a Catholic joke like this one?

Conjoined Twins: The story of Faith and Hope

Now we know why TPT won’t air “Catholicism” in the Twin Cities

Why Catholics pray for the dead and three ways to do it

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

Why won’t TPT air Father Barron’s “Catholicism” series? Help them change their mind

Can an unborn child feel pain?

Saint Patrick, The Shamrock and The Trinity

Marian apparitions in primetime

Adoption…The Greatest Act of Love

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My Favorite 10 Aspects of the Pope’s Christmas Eve Homily

December 29, 2011


If you’re like me, during the Christmas season you’re exhausted.

By the time December 24 shows its face, I’m a lethargic blob sitting by the decorated tree, trying to muster the energy to get the baking and wrapping done. Most of us have a myriad of  jobs to do before throwing celebrations, and some poor souls (my husband included) even have last minute shopping to accomplish before Christmas Eve Mass. We squeeze our sore feet into high heels or dress shoes, pack up all the kiddos, cookies and presents and hit the parties. Late at night we come home (or clean up if we’re hosting) and get ready for Santa’s visit. After midnight our heads slam into the pillows and we’re nearly comatose until the little angels wake us up at 5:00 AM.

And of course, amidst the flurry of activity, we try our best to get spiritually ready for Christ’s coming.

It’s good to embrace life by socializing with family and friends at Christmastime– and growing in our faith. But why do we knock ourselves out each year–buying  into the commercialization of the holy day–when our focus should be on Baby Jesus and His saving Grace?

And if we think we’re exhausted, how must Pope Benedict XVI,  at age 84, feel with such relevant responsibilities? My husband and I are the shepherds of our nine little sheep, but Joseph Ratzinger is The Pontiff–the shepherd of us all!

At the Christmas Eve Mass held at St. Peter’s Bascilica, our “Papa” was fatigued. He had a moving platform glide him down the aisle because he wanted to be among the faithful, but needed to conserve energy for his heavy schedule. Even though he was worn out and had a cough, he delivered a poignant message lamenting Christmas consumerism and told us to center our thoughts on God’s appearance as a child.

His 10 Great Points:

1.  The joy of Christmas for the early Church was that God had appeared and was no longer a mere idea.

2.  The kindness and love of God our Savior for mankind was revealed and this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.

3.  A child, in all its weakness, is Mighty God. A child, in all its neediness and dependence, is Eternal Father. And His peace has no end.

4.  We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God.

5.  In 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas with an ox and ass and a manger full of hay…he kissed images of the Christchild with great devotion and he stammered tender words such as children say. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God’s humility shone forth.

6.  In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God.

7.  God became poor…He made himself dependent, in need of human love, He put himself in the position of asking for human love–our love.

8.  Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.

9.  If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness.

10. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions–the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.

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Next year during Advent I hope to take the pope’s advice. I will try to spend more time kissing images of the Christchild and less time worrying about the snow globe of activities. I’m going to make an effort to not get caught up in the superficial glitter. What about you?


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The Grinch and the Christmas Octave

December 28, 2011


Photo/Maryanne Ventrice Licensed under Creative Commons

It feels a little like the Grinch comes on Christmas Night for real. The same way that troubled green creature hauled out every trace of Christmas from Whoville, our culture removes all the signs that the Holy Day ever happened.

Trees wrapped in plastic are cast onto the curb, Christmas items are deep-discounted for quick sale on the Dec. 26 shopping holiday and Christmas music all but disappears from the airwaves.

When it comes to Christmas, the world could learn something about partying from Catholics.

The 36 hours from Christmas Eve through Christmas Night are just the beginning–our festivities go on for eight days. This liturgical octave of Christmas starts on Christmas Day and continues until the Solemnity of the Mother of God (New Year’s Day).

Besides offering seven more days for feasting and merriment, the Church has a serious reason for designating an octave celebration of Christ’s birth, along with octaves for Easter and Pentecost. It’s to help us contemplate the mysteries of these feasts experienced in the Church’s liturgies.

Old Testament roots

The octave commemoration has its origins in the Old Testament. On the eighth day, circumcision occurs in the Jewish faith, representing God’s covenant with Abraham and the Jewish people. The Feast of Tabernacles and other feasts were celebrated for seven days but the eighth day also carried special significance.

In the fourth century, the Church gave Easter and Pentecost octaves possibly because it allowed for an extended retreat for the newly-baptized. Also, since both of those feasts always fall on Sunday, the octave day of the following Sunday seems like a natural closing for a week of festivities.

The Church introduced the octave of Christmas in the eighth century. Other octaves were added for Epiphany, Corpus Christi and saints. Until the middle of the 20th century, octaves were ranked in importance. For the most “privileged” octaves, no work was done nor other feasts celebrated.

In 1955, Pope Pius XII simplified the calendar so that the Church recognizes only the octaves of Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.

Feasts within the Feast

As she celebrates Christ’s Nativity, the Church also commemorates these feasts during the octave of Christmas:

  • Dec. 26: Feast of St. Stephen
  • Dec. 27: Feast of St. John the Evangelist
  • Dec. 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents
  • Dec. 30: Feast of the Holy Family
  • Jan. 1:     Octave day of the Nativity, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

One of the ways to commemorate the octave of Christmas is by attending daily Mass:

The octave’s primary observation is by celebrating daily Mass in thanksgiving for Christ, with the gospel readings centered around the Incarnation and early years of Jesus’ life. The wisdom of the Church begins the octave with the birth of Jesus and ends it on the eighth day with the veneration of Mary’s role in the Incarnation.

Feasting and merriment are both in order for the octave of Christmas, as well as visiting family, visiting the sick and elderly, and helping the poor. Also, here are prayers and activities for each of the octave days.

In the end, the Grinch was converted and embraced Christmas. Maybe as we give this Holy feast its proper place on the calendar, our culture won’t unplug the Christmas lights so fast and will let the Nativity celebration continue.

Merry Christmas!

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“There is Joy at Every Child Born into the World!”

December 23, 2011

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Merry Christmas to you and your families! I wanted to share a verse and video with you during this blessed season.

One of my favorite verses:

In the introduction of the Gospel of Life, Blessed John Paul II states:

“At the dawn of salvation, it is the birth of a child which is proclaimed as joyful news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this ‘great joy’ is the birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world.” (cf. Jn 16:21)

The Christmas Story video:

New Zealand Children under the age of eight act in this joyful portrayal of the Nativity–and boy, do they embrace life! This YouTube sensation was produced by St. Paul’s Anglican Parish in Aukland and shows the beautiful landscape of their country.

May you have a blessed Christmas pondering the miracle of Jesus’ birth…and the birth of every child! And if you have small children, I hope you get to sleep past 5:00 am on Christmas morning before the little ones wake you up in joyous anticipation!

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Where did the Nativity scene come from?

December 22, 2011


If you’ve set up a Nativity scene in your home, maybe the “supporting characters” you’ve arranged in the stable are waiting for you to lay the Star of the show–the baby Jesus–in the manger on Christmas Eve. Whether it’s under your tree, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand or full of lights in your yard, a movable model of the Incarnation not only completes the Christmas decor, but offers a tangible means for reflecting on the source of our joy this season.

The number of Nativity scenes seems to be limited only by the imagination. As I started seeing the familiar figures, Mary Joseph, Jesus, the Wisemen … in different settings, I wondered about the origin of these scenes which are so much a part of our holy celebration.

Known as a creche in French or presepio in Italian, the Nativity scene represents a combination of passages from Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. Scripture says nothing about the shepherds, the Magi and the animals all gathered together at the same time with the Holy Family.

The first Nativity scene

But Christians began depicting the Nativity this way as early the 2nd century with frescos in the Roman catacombs.

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi created the first living Nativity scene in a cave near Greccio, Italy, at midnight Mass in an effort to make Christmas more meaningful for the townspeople. The scene contained the manger and live animals but not the figure of Mary, Joseph or Jesus.

St. Bonaventure writes about the event in his biography of St. Francis:

Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was changed by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King, and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.

It is said that miracles occurred after St. Francis’ Nativity scene, including a vision of the Christ child in the manger and healing properties of the hay used in the scene.

The first stationary Nativity scene was crafted in marble about 65 years after St. Francis’ midnight scene. Others were constructed in wood, terracotta or stone. After the Middle Ages Nativity scenes could be found in most Catholic churches.

Many Nativity scene traditions

Different countries developed their own traditions. Small hand-painted terracotta figures called santons are popular in Provence, France. In southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy figurines are hand-cut in wood. Polish szopka incorporate a historical building into the scenes. The English had the most unusual custom of baking a mince pie in the shape of a manger to hold the Christ child until dinnertime when they would eat the pie.

Some traditions place Adam, Eve and the serpent; Noah and his animals or other biblical figures in the scene. Others depict events such as Mary washing diapers in the Jordan river, or a dove descending on the baby Jesus.

Whatever our own Nativity scenes look like, large or small, they remind us daily what the season is about–Christ who came as a baby to save us.

A great way to enter into Christmas is to view Father Jerry Dvorak’s collection of 275 creches displayed until Jan. 29 at the Church of St. Peter at 6730 Nicollet Ave. S. in Richfield. Viewing hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday* and after all weekend Masses.

*St. Peter’s building won’t be open Dec. 23, 26, 30 and Jan. 2.

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As We Build This House

December 22, 2011


Sharon and "the guys"

I recently had an opportunity to work on the House of Gratitude project at Divine Mercy parish in Faribault. The project, a Habitat for Humanity style project, is a home for our priests, a new rectory that will be situated near the new parish. The occasion for me to help at the house came after I had volunteered my husband to be a site host. A site host would be someone who would arrange coffee and make sure lunch was ready for the workers, but they are also the person on call to run to the hardware store or grab a tool for the workers. Having no building experience myself and barely knowing the difference between a Phillips and a flat head screwdriver, I thought that job might better suit my husband. It came to my attention that they were in need of site hosts and my husband was unavailable. Hesitantly I offered my “fiat” when asked if I would be interested.

This invitation came to me at a time when I was feeling unsure of myself, unsure of my abilities and unsure of my own value and not just in construction matters. In my work I find myself constantly reminding others of the inherent worth of every human being, but for myself I had started feeling deflated in my own abilities and lacked seeing my actual worth. I was beginning to loose sight of the fact that I too was made in God’s likeness.

My first day at the House of Gratitude introduced me to Bill Sartor. Bill has been working on “Habitat” houses for years and I was  blessed to meet him. His welcoming and friendly manner immediately put me at ease. Leading the opening prayer and signing in the volunteers were my first duties, but pretty soon I was looking for things to do.
Under Bill’s guidance and the others’ encouragement I started helping with the skilled labor. At first I was holding two by fours while one of the seasoned workers made a cut. In no time at all I was helping to build window bucks. (And now I actually know what a window buck is!) Whenever I was standing around looking for something to do, Bill would give me a quick tutorial on a task. Before you knew it I was using a drill, setting up scaffolding and actually helping others  put up the supports for the walls!

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he speaks of the “authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you down.” (2 Corinthians 10:8) I realized that was what Bill and the others at the house were doing – they were building me up along with the house. Little by little, step by step I gained confidence and ability.

Encouragement is an amazing thing. So often I think we forget how much it means to each other. I often find myself encouraging my children, but I forget that it is needed for us adults too. Encouragement in prayer, encouragement in living a Catholic lifestyle, encouragement by letting others know that they are loved.
Later I met with a friend who had seen me on the day I was working on the House of Gratitude. He commented that I looked so free, relaxed and happy. I can’t quite explain why I had this feeling or why it was visible to others, after all I had just spent an entire day outside in very cold weather doing manual labor, but it felt better than a day at the spa!
Others who have helped with this task have mentioned the same feeling – there is something indescribable about it.

There is something other than a house being built here; as we worked on this house – God was working on us.

In the prayer that is recited at the house before work begins it states “As we build this House of Gratitude, may we all as one body turn our hearts more fully to You and receive from You the glorious vision of Your heavenly kingdom, our true home.”

I won’t be quitting my day job, as they say, to take up construction work, but I will remember that it is my job to help build up the community of believers by offering encouragement and with the encouragement of others I will continue to look for my true home.

Read more about the House of Gratitude in the December 22nd, 2011 issue of the Catholic Spirit.

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Catholic sisters get a hand from actress playing a sister

December 21, 2011


Actress Kimberly Richards has audiences at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts rolling in the aisles as the one nun in the one-nun comedy, “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: the Mystery of the Magi’s Gold.” And she adds a nice touch at the end of each show that benefits retired women religious locally.

Before the play ends, Sister makes a plea to support the nuns who taught and nursed so many during their active years and need and deserve our support now that they’ve retired. She stands at the exit with a bucket and accepts donations that will go to assist the retired sisters from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul and the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Mankato.

Publicist Connie Shaver told The Catholic Spirit that the results have been amazing. In the show’s first week donations totalled $6,000. The show runs through Dec. 31 at the Ordway’s cozy McKnight Theatre, so hurry to catch the fun — and drop some bills in sister’s bucket!

The Catholic Spirit staff and members of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocesan staff attended on two different nights last week, and my sides still ache from laughing. Going with a group not only can get you discounted tickets ($25), but some of you may get called up to be part of sister’s “Living Nativity” scene. You’ll have to guess who from Archbishop Nienstedt’s staff was picked to play Mary last week!



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New Planned Parenthood in St. Paul Opens Today

December 20, 2011

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Yes, it’s true…The new $16 million dollar abortion facility in St. Paul is open today. Pray that mothers and couples in a crisis pregnancy turn away from this place and seek pro-life assistance. Pray for the pregnancy help centers and the sidewalk counselors;

New Planned Parenthood in St. Paul

that they receive the gift of patience, knowledge, strength and perseverance. And pray that the staff at this mega clinic has a change of heart.

According to Steven Ertelt of, more than a third of all abortions in Minnesota–approximately 4,000 a year–will occur at this site. (Please read the whole article.)

Earlier this year, Brian Gibson of Pro-Life Action Ministries told a busload of people praying at the construction site: (Please read my blog about this topic.)

Planned Parenthood claims that this new facility, which is larger than a half city-block, is NOT about abortion. However, in all the years PP was in Highland, they were performing abortions during the first trimester. But unfortunately, this past summer they have expanded into doing abortions into the second trimester.

Prayer for the Hopeless Unborn

Heavenly Father, in Your love for us, protect against the wickedness of the devil, those helpless little ones to whom You have given the gift of life.

Touch with pity the hearts of those women pregnant in our world today who are not thinking of motherhood. Help them to see that the child they carry is made in Your image – as well as theirs – made for eternal life. Dispel their fear and selfishness and give them true womanly hearts to love their babies and give them birth and all the needed care that a mother alone can give.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.



Update: On December 21–the second day that this PP site was open–a baby was saved through the efforts of sidewalk counseling (according to Brian Gibson at Pro-Life Action ministries). Hallelujah!

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This Christmas, remember who was an angel in your life

December 19, 2011


Here’s an idea we just tried at our Advent wreath prayer that you might find would add meaning to your family’s Christmas gathering.

Giving everybody a couple days notice, we invited them to think of a time when someone was an angel in their life, and then to share that story with everyone around the Advent wreath. This would be great around the Christmas tree, especially with aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas and cousins.

Minutes after the e-mail invitation went out I got replies from everyone that they were in — and they knew just what they were going to share.

If you try this, you may want to have a box of tissues handy. A couple people in our little gathering got pretty emotional in telling about the angels who were there when they really needed someone.

The angels that sang Gloria in Excelsis Deo on that first Christmas give you the perfect into to make this year’s a Christmas party that doesn’t bypass the messages Jesus taught when he walked this earth. I guarantee it will be a Christmas everyone will remember.

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