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December 29, 2005 Edition

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Living the Scriptures (for Jan. 1, 2006)
Living the Scriptures (for Jan. 8, 2006)
Faith Alive!
This week's readings (for Jan. 1-7, 2006)
This week's readings (for Jan. 8-14, 2006)
Pope's Prayer Intentions
Prayer for St. Raphael Cathedral

Keep the faith or keeping the faith?

photo of Meghan Filbrandt

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Meghan Filbrandt 

As a nursing student, I was fortunate to work with a parish nurse during fall semester. One of our parishioners, "Dorothy," had advanced dementia and was unable to remember the faces or names of people she met. Her declining memory, however, did not affect her ability to feel the Lord's presence.

She whispered along with us when we prayed the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary," and clearly recognized the healing power of the Eucharist when we brought her Communion. After receiving, she would close her eyes and bow her head for a few moments, and then look up and smile, her heart at peace.

Every time we visited, I would look at her with amazement and respect and think, "Wow, this is a woman of faith."

of the Blessed
Virgin Mary
(Jan. 1, 2006)
Nm 6:22-27
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Gal 4:4-7
Lk 2:16-21

We celebrate another woman of faith this Sunday - Mary, the Mother of God. The extent to which Mary trusted in God is almost incomprehensible to me.

Here was a recently engaged young woman who had her life all planned out. She would marry Joseph, they would have children, and she would be a good wife and mother.

However, God had other plans for Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she would indeed have a child, but that He would be conceived through the Holy Spirit and would be the Son of God.

Instead of laughing this off as a dream and returning to her wedding plans, Mary listened to the angel and, with great faith, accepted the honor, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

In a similar way, God asks us to remain faithful to Him when we are asked to do difficult things in our lives. Whether it's starting a new job, dealing with the death of a family member, or taking that last final exam before break, Mary's example teaches us that we can turn these worries over to God and there is no doubt that He hears you.

He is always listening, especially when we are struggling to see how a certain trial fits into God's plan for us.

The trouble comes when we do not get an instant reply from God. We begin to doubt if He has indeed heard our petition and if He is ever going to answer our prayers. We struggle to maintain our faith in His unending grace and mercy, and start to look for answers where we think they should be.

God does not work this way. He does not always answer right away, and he usually does not answer in the way we were expecting. A good friend once told me, "God answers prayers in four ways:


"Yes, and here is more."

"No, not right now."

"No, I love you too much."

I try to remember this when I doubt if God has heard my prayers, or if I find myself looking for a certain response from Him. I have to constantly examine the condition of my faith and what I can do to strengthen it.

Reflection question

• Do I doubt that God hears my prayers because I didn't get the answer I wanted?

We all need to be conscious of this, because with faith, there is no doubt that God hears us. With faith, there is also no doubt that He will answer our prayers as He sees fit. And with faith, there is the generous comfort of the Holy Spirit, who guides us as we learn to accept God's answer.

Thy will be done, Lord.

Meghan Filbrandt is a fifth-year senior majoring in nursing at UW-Madison, who will graduate in May. She is on the women's rowing team and helps lead the student chapter of Nurses' Christian Fellowship. She is a lector co-coordinator and sacristan at daily Mass at St. Paul's.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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The thin line: Between silence and shouting

sketch of St. Paul University Catholic Center

Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Steve Meer 

The image of the servant of the Lord presented in the first reading this week really struck me. The servant of the Lord is the one who will ". . . bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street."

What a stark contrast this image presents to me after being shouted at for the past six months about the presidential election and getting shouted at by advertisers to buy the right gift for Christmas. The servant of the Lord seems to take a refreshing approach, one that I would welcome in my life.

The image of the servant of the Lord is also a mystery that begs the question: how? How can the servant bring forth justice without making his voice heard?

Epiphany of the Lord
(Jan. 8, 2006)
Is 60:1-6
Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Mt 2:1-12

In our society, it seems impossible. Our eyes and ears are constantly assaulted so that it only feels natural to have to shout to be heard.

Not too long ago I got into a discussion about contraception with another Christian. The discussion soon turned into an argument which ended up with me just wanting to shout, "You're wrong and the Church is right!"

My attempt at witnessing to the truth probably had the opposite effect, because I was shouting, or at least close to it. I'm sure the devil was laughing at that point.

And yet our call as Christians, more often than not, is to not be silent. Indeed, love requires it, for as St. Paul says, "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it."

I feel the temptation to shout every day, especially at the injustice and lies that seem to increase without bound. We are called to be like the Good Shepherd, who goes in search of the lost sheep.

Yet, the question still remains: How can we bring forth justice without shouting? Perhaps the answer comes later in the first reading. The servant has been sent ". . . to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness."

This reminds me that I was once blind, that I was once a prisoner, and that I once lived in darkness. And when I remember that, I remember what it's like to be the object of a mercy and compassion without limit.

Reflection questions

• Can I be more compassionate to those I disagree with?

• How can I more fully experience God's mercy?

And that is most definitely a humbling feeling and the beginning of being able to be merciful and compassionate towards others.

If we are rooted in mercy and compassion, and then make our voices heard in the street, we can become true servants of the Lord, and "bring forth justice to the nations."

Steve Meer is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of St. Paul University Catholic Center. He recently accepted a job in Milwaukee and has moved there with his wife and their unborn child.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

Faith Alive! logo

In a Nutshell

  • Holiness takes many forms. Examples of holiness are as diverse as the saints.

  • Some holy people of the Bible were far from perfect at the outset, but ultimately they followed God's will for them.

  • What makes us holy isn't our own "goodness" but rather the decision to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us -- to say yes to God's offer of grace.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    There are many forms of holiness, but holy people have certain things in common.

    Holy people, I suspect, have a healing influence on others, and they're compassionate, they care. Holy people also, by their very presence, invite others to see themselves and the world more clearly and to grow, to change.

    Holy people embrace us, as Christ does; they embrace us "in our messy lives, with all their weakness and failures," and have ways of transforming death into life, Father Timothy Radcliffe, a former master general of the Dominican order, said in a 2004 speech. Holy people are in solidarity with others, not removed from them by attitudes of superiority, he suggested.

    Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, Wis., describing the incarnational dimension of holiness, once spoke of saints whose holiness was "gritty, earthy, messy, down-home, of the heart -- incarnational!"

    full story

    Oh, the saints I have known!
    By Father Robert L. Kinast

    Catholic News Service

    If I were to write a memoir, I would title it "Saints I Have Known." They would not be the canonized figures of Christian history, but people I have known personally, people whose union with the Lord drew me deeper into the mystery of God incarnate.

    Holiness, as the Second Vatican Council reminded us, is not reserved for the select few whom the church formally proclaims as saints. Rather, "all Christians in whatever state or walk in life are called to the fullness of Christian life and the perfection of charity," which leads to a more human way of life on earth (Constitution on the Church, No. 40).

    full story 

    Standing on the shoulders of holy people
    By Daniel S. Mulhall

    Catholic News Service

    I visited the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Ky., many times when I was in college. Through my visits I came to know Gethsemani as a holy place. The closer I got to the monastery as I drove along the narrow country backroads, the more "at peace" I became. I've not felt that way about any other place.

    I have the same experience when I encounter people who seem especially close to God.

    full story 

    People of the Bible and their surprising forms of holiness
    By Allan F. Wright

    Catholic News Service

    When we consider some characters in the Bible who were considered "holy," a few things may surprise us. They were far from perfect.

    In the Old Testament we read that King David committed adultery and had the woman's husband, Uriah, placed on the front line of battle so that he was subsequently killed. When God commanded Jonah to go one way, he went the opposite way.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    In 25 words or fewer, how would you define -- or describe -- "holiness"?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of January 1 - 7, 2006

    Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006
    Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother Of God
    Reading I: Nm 6:22-27
    Reading II: Gal 4:4-7
    Gospel: Lk 2:16-21

    Monday, Jan. 2, 2006
    Memorial of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church
    Reading I: 1 Jn 2:22-28
    Gospel: Jn 1:19-28

    Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006
    Weekday in the Christmas Season
    Reading I: 1 Jn 2:29--3:6
    Gospel: Jn 1:29-34

    Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006
    Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious
    Reading I: 1 Jn 3:7-10
    Gospel: Jn 1:35-42

    Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006
    Memorial of Saint John Neumann, bishop
    Reading I: 1 Jn 3:11-21
    Gospel: Jn 1:43-51

    Friday, Jan. 6, 2006
    Weekday of the Christmas Season
    Reading I: 1 Jn 5:5-13
    Gospel: Mk 1:7-11 or Lk 3:23-38 or Lk 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

    Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006
    Weekday of the Christmas Season
    Reading I: 1 Jn 5:14-21
    Gospel: Jn 2:1-11

    This week's readings

    Week of January 8 - 14, 2006

    Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006
    The Epiphany of the Lord
    Reading I: Is 60:1-6
    Reading II: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
    Gospel: Mt 2:1-12

    Monday, Jan. 9, 2006
    Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
    Reading I: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 or Is 55:1-11 or
    Acts 10:34-38 or 1 Jn 5:1-9
    Gospel: Mk 1:7-11

    Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006
    Reading I: 1 Sm 1:9-20 or 1 Sm 1:1-20
    Gospel: Mk 1:21-28 or Mk 1:14-28

    Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006
    Reading I: 1 Sm 3:1-10, 19-20
    Gospel: Mk 1:29-39

    Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006
    Reading I: 1 Sm 4:1-11
    Gospel: Mk 1:40-45

    Friday, Jan. 13, 2006
    Reading I: 1 Sm 8:4-7, 10-22a
    Gospel: Mk 2:1-12

    Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006
    Reading I: 1 Sm 9:1-4, 17-19; 10:1
    Gospel: Mk 2:13-17

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    January General Intention

    Unity of Christians. That the effort to bring about the full communion of Christians may foster reconciliation and peace among all the peoples of the earth.

    January Mission Intention

    Migrants. That Christians may know how to welcome migrants with respect and charity, seeing in each person the image of God.

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    Prayer for St. Raphael Cathedral

    O God,
    Whose word is like fire,
    who spoke to Your servant Moses in the burning bush;
    who led Your people Israel out of bondage
          with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night:
    hear Your people as we call upon You
    in both need and gratitude.

    May the Cathedral fire purify Your Church
    in the Diocese of Madison
    so that our hearts may burn with the knowledge
          that Your Church is built upon the bedrock
    of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

    Through the intercession of Saint Raphael,
          Your messenger of healing,
    in union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
    and with our Bishop, Robert C. Morlino,
    may we find comfort in our affliction
    and the courage to proclaim
          the Good News of Jesus Christ,
    who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
    one God forever and ever.


    For more prayer resources visit the Office of Worship's Web page at www.straphael.org/~office_of_worship/
    (Click on the link on the main page.)

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    Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
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