Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In the Footsteps of Francis

Ascetic Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order of the Friars Minor.

Francis, the musically inclined son of a well-to-do cloth merchant in medieval Italy, sold textiles, lived the high life, scandalized his elders by becoming a troubadour (poet and singer), and even fought and was captured in one of the little wars that raged across the Italian peninsula.

Weary of such a life, Francis then devoted himself a life of learning, simple living and preaching. Later, he traveled to the Near East, where he got on good terms with the Muslim sovereigns.

In both Egypt and the Holy Land, he went among the Muslims and was allowed by them to preach to fellow Christians. His Muslim friends gave him a prayer horn which he sounded during services. It was in Egypt where Francis is believed to have contracted the illnesses that later took toll on his health.

Like Francis let us seek to live and find joy in simplicity, to be obedient and faithful, and by doing so contribute to making this world a better place.


"Make me an instrument of Thy Peace! Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light, and Where there is sorrow, joy.

"Oh grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.
What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out
of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were
not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone
during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each
element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality
which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,
Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...so pass it on if you wish.'

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Last Christmas Tale from the Devotional "Made to Matter"

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

It’s Christmas Eve 1945, and the tiny church is filled to capacity. Candles cast a soft glow in the dimly lit sanctuary. An elderly man steps to the pulpit and clears his throat slightly, gathering the attention of all in the room. “Our pastor asked me to read you this letter, written by his son last Christmas Eve.”
The room grew absolutely still. Quietly, the deacon started reading:

Bastogne, Belgium
24 December, 1944

Dear Dad,

Your letter dated 22 November arrived a while ago. I’m saving it to open on Christmas. You cannot imagine what a gift it is to get mail here. Some guys who get no mail ask us to read ours out loud, just so they can hear from home, even if it isn’t their home.

There are only six of us left now from the old gang. The rest are wounded, missing, or buried here on the other side of the world. The new guys seem so young, though most of them are only a year or two under us in age. They’ll be old too, soon enough. It’s so cold we can’t stop shaking; our water freezes almost before we can drink it! Rockport seems so far away to me now. What I wouldn’t give to be baking on its summer beaches again!

A stir near the rear of the auditorium caught the deacon’s eye, causing him to pause and look up. Near the back of the room, an old man leaned on his cane as he struggled to his feet. Expecting him to leave the pew, a young couple stepped aside to let him out, but he merely nodded and stood in place. Another man one row back also stood. Then another, and another, until eventually every man in the congregation was on his feet.

The reader at the pulpit turned to the pastor, who looked across the crowd, deeply moved by this show of respect for his son. The elder resumed his reading:

All those years you gave sermons on Christmas, I never really understood how a person could love somebody enough to give his life for them. But these guys, Dad! I know it must sound silly, but you don’t live and fight with someone without growing to love them. I know there are bigger reasons why we fight wars, but for us here on the ground, it’s about protecting each other, simple as that. For the first time in my life, I understand there’s something worth dying for, and that’s the guy in my foxhole. I’ve seen men scared beyond belief do amazing things when their buddies are in trouble.

Tonight I heard singing across the fields where the Germans are camped. I didn’t know the words, but the music was familiar. It’s hard to believe the soldiers over there are singing “Silent Night” in their language, being the enemy and all. Still it makes me wonder if they aren’t doing the same thing we are, fighting not for Hitler and his minions, but for their own buddies next to them. It almost makes me wish we could shake hands and just go home. But we can’t, and we know it.

No disrespect, Dad, but I’m not sure anyone can understand the story of Christmas better than the soldier. If he can give up a chance to see life through just because his friends are in trouble, then certainly God can love us that much. Surely that explains how Jesus could give up His place in heaven to come to earth.

As the reader paused to draw a breath, only the sniffs and sounds of muffled crying broke the silence. He continued:

Not all of us are Christians here, Dad, and I’m sorry for that. Death comes so quickly to some that I just know they didn’t have time to prepare to meet their Maker. I know it worries you that I’m here. When I signed up, I was so sure nothing could happen to me! Now what I want most is to be warm again; to be someplace quiet and safe. I want to get married, drive a new car, and all those things it feels like I’ll never do now. I don’t want to leave this world, nobody here does, but every day it looks more and more like most of us will. I want you to know, Dad, never before has Christmas meant so much to me. The story of the baby Jesus gives me hope in a place where there’s very little reason to have hope.

I know if I don’t make it, I’ll be buried over here, and it makes me sad to think you won’t even be able to visit my grave. But what joy we share knowing there will be a day when we all can see each other again in a place where we never will be sad or hurt or sorry again. So that’s my Christmas present to you, Dad. Know that this Christmas, I understand better than ever before all those things you tried so hard to teach me. Give my love to Mom. I’ll write again when I’m able.


Not a dry eye could be found in the sanctuary that evening, one full year after the letter was written. The men in the sanctuary continued to stand out of respect for the pastor’s son, and the ladies bowed their heads, showing their respect as they prayed quietly for the pastor and his family. The pastor continued to sit through this quiet salute, absorbing the love of his people for him and his son.

After a few moments, a man seated to his left stood and stepped to the podium to lead the congregation in carols. As he did, the congregation erupted in applause. Perhaps only on the first Christmas night did the appearance of a father’s son cause more joy.


The Last Christmas Tale from Made To Matter

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Letter from Jesus

Dear All,

As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated.

During this time there are many people shopping for gifts. There are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world, everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer.

It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me.

As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago.

At first people seemed to understand and be thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration.

Family and friends get together and have a lot of fun, but they don't know the meaning of the celebration.

I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, many beautifully wrapped gifts.

However, do you want to know something? I was not invited.

I was the guest of honor and they didn't remember to send me an invitation.

The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside, they closed the door in my face and I wanted to be with them and share their table.

In truth, that didn't surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me. Since I wasn't invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner.

They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a grand time.

To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: "Santa Claus, Santa Claus" as if the party were in his honor!

At midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and you know, noone hugged me.

Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me. What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one?

I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left.

Every year it gets worse. People only remember the gifts, the parties, to eat and drink, and nobody remembers me.

I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life.

I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you.

Today, I only want that you believe this with all your heart.

I want to share something with you. As many didn't invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party. I'm still making the final arrangements.

Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book.

Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party.

Those who don't answer the invite will be left outside. Be prepared because when all is ready you will be part of my great party.

See you soon. I Love you!


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Sunday, December 21, 2008


An unemployed graduate woke up one morning and checked his pocket. All he had left was $10. He decided to use it to buy food and then wait for death as he was too proud to go begging. He was frustrated as he could find no job, and nobody was ready to help him.

He bought food and as he sat down to eat, an old man and two little children came along and asked him to help them with food as they had not eaten for almost a week. He
looked at them. They were so lean that he could see their bones coming out. Their eyes had gone into the socket. With the last bit of compassion he had, he gave them the food. The old man and children prayed that God would bless and prosper him and then gave him a very old coin. The young graduate said to them 'you need the prayer more than I do'.

With no money, no job, no food, the young graduate went under the bridge to rest and wait for death. As he was about to sleep, he saw an old newspaper on the ground. He picked it up, and suddenly he saw an advertisement for people with old coins to come to a certain address.

He decided to go there with the old coin the old man gave him. On getting to the place, he gave the proprietor the coin. The proprietor screamed, brought out a big book and showed the young graduate a photograph. This same old coin was worth 3 million dollars. The young graduate was overjoyed as the proprietor gave him a bank draft for 3 million dollars within an hour. He collected the Bank Draft and went in search of the old man and little children.

By the time he got to where he left them eating, they had gone. He asked the owner of the canteen if he knew them. He said no but they left a note for you. He quickly opened the note thinking it would lead him to find them.

This is what the note said:
'You gave us your all and we have rewarded you back with the coin,' signed God the Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost. 1 Kings 17:10-16; Matthew 11:28-30


Here is your financial blessing! It's a simple prayer, you've got 30 seconds. If you need a financial blessing,continue reading this e-mail.

Heavenly Father, most Gracious and Loving God,
I pray to you that you abundantly Bless my family and me. I know that you recognize, that a family is more than just a mother, father, sister, brother husband and wife, but all Who believe and trust in you.

Father, I send up a prayer request for financial blessing for not only the person who sent this to me, but for Me and all that I have forwarded this message on to. And that the power of joined prayer by those who believe and trust in you is more powerful than anything.

I thank you in advance for your blessings.
Father God, deliver the person reading this right now and those who will read it in the near future from debt and debt burdens. Release your Godly wisdom that I may be a good steward over all that You have given me Father, for I know how wonderful and mighty You are and how if we just obey You and walk in Your word and have the faith of a Mustard seed that You will pour out blessings.
I thank You now Lord for the recent blessings I have received and for the blessings yet to come Because I know You are not done with me yet.
In Jesus name, I pray,

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Christ, kings, camels, and coins

Kings in procession

Kings in those days
were haughty, bold,
and cruel . . .

slow to pardon and
-- like Herod --
quick to kill.


But not long ago,
a Child brought to their knees
three such imperial souls!

Three Kings adoring the Child Jesus

Warned not to go back to Herod,
they returned by another route,
because, says St. Gregory,

"Having come to know Jesus
we are forbidden to return
by the way we came."


Over 35 years ago,
-- haughty, bold, and cruel --
I, too, stepped into a manger
and was pressed into service
by that newborn King.

Since that day,
I've proclaimed His name
in millions of Catholic books.


God knows
I never chose this life.

Too often, I've tried to find my way
back to what I was before, but
the Child won't let me return
by the way I came.


Pause a moment
to consider this image
and gauge the power
He wields!

Christ reigning over men and angels

A mighty sovereign,
He presses into service
rogues and royalty,

commoners and kings,
demanding all we have,
all we are . . .

King from desert

. . . and then He drives us back into the desert
to get for Him
what we don't
already have!

King from desert

With banks failing
and thousands unemployed,
He's just thrust me out the door,
demanding I raise money to proclaim
His name in the coming hard times.


Where can I turn?
Wall Street's busted;
Congress won't help.

Man with camels trekking through desert

So my desert trek
leads me to your door.


Let me show you what
I've got in my saddlebags,
to give the Newborn
just after Christmas:

Francis of Assis (cover)
The Man Christ Jesus (cover)
End of the Present World (cover)
Man, Woman, and the Meaning of Love (cover)
Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk (cover)
Golden Legend of Young Saints (cover)

Fresh from the printer, these are
the kinds of holy Catholic books
that lead kings and commoners
(and you and me!)
to kneel before Him
in humility and awe
. . .
as we ought.


But there's
a problem.


The troubles that broke
the banks and may doom Detroit
have torpedoed book sales,
slashing our income.

Next month, $40,000 in printers' bills
come due, plus the $35,000 in loans that
kept us publishing these past few months.

Can you help?

Can you help with a
Christmas donation today?


Frankly, it's lonely out here.

Man with camels trudging through desert

I've trudged these desert wastes for decades,
seeking help to publish Catholic books . . .
and never once encountered a King
-- Christian or otherwise --
to write a big check.

Out here, there's just you and me.
What I don't raise from you,
we won't have.


I know you can't contribute
the $75,000 we need
. . . nor half of it,
nor even a tenth.

But could you use this button
to send $100 today,
or even $50?

Make donations with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

Let it be your gift
to the Newborn King,
sleeping here below!

Thank you,
and please pray for me.
John Barger, Ph.D.
Publisher, Sophia Institute Press


Please forward this email to others
who may be interested.

Madonna and Child

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