It’s Christmas! I want to scream and cheer like Kermit the Frog on the Muppet Show as he introduces the next act. It’s Christmas! And it continues (this year) until the evening of Sunday, January 10. So you better not take those decorations down! There’s so much to celebrate, and it continues this weekend with the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Ever since the reform of the Roman Calendar, this feast has been held on the Sunday following Christmas. It was first approved for celebration in Canada by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and later extended universally by Pope Benedict XV in 1921. Both Popes saw this feast as an excellent way to call the faithful to a deeper meditation on the true value of the family in modern society. We truly can benefit from the example of the Holy Family today in the midst of so much divorce, discord, and anti-Christian sentiment. Just start with the loving self-giving that Saint Joseph constantly made for Mary and Jesus. Nothing went as he planned, beginning with Mary’s pregnancy. But he adjusted his life for her good and the good of their son, our Savior. Just imagine how different, how much worse, things could have been had Saint Joseph put his own desires before Mary and, essentially, the holy will of God!
The human family needs to regain its place as the “Domestic Church” and a most important cell of society. It is within the family that we first learn how to love our neighbor and put others before ourselves. Finally, it is within the family that we learn what it truly means to be created in the image of God, who Himself is a communion of Persons. We are made for community, not loneliness. We are made for each other and to help each other along out of love.
So let us spend some time today reflecting on the virtues of Mary and Joseph through their home life with their son Jesus. And let us pray for all families, new and old, happy and struggling.
– Father Scott Thomas, December 27, 2020
“Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.” This line comes from the Divine Praises, which we pray together every Monday during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Joseph is so important in our salvation history that he is included in the Divine Praises, immediately following those pertaining to his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a lot to be learned from Saint Joseph, no matter what our state in life is. But what is it that we are saying by calling him Mary’s “most chase spouse”?
To call Saint Joseph “most chaste” is to say more than that he and Mary abstained from sexual intercourse the entirety of their marriage. Chastity is so much more than sexual abstinence. Chastity is more about freeing us from any selfish desires. The chaste husband does not see his spouse as his possession but instead as his equal heir to salvation. In his apostolic letter about St Joseph, Patris Corde, Pope Francis says: Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
True love is about giving of yourself for the sake of the other. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Our Lord Jesus shows us this on the Cross. Saint Joseph showed this the many times he put his own desires aside in order to live the holy will of God and protect Mary and Jesus. He did this when he took Mary into his home as well as every time he rose and took them to safety according to God’s direction.
“Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.” On December 8, Pope Francis opened a year of reflection upon the role of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of husbands and fathers. May every husband spend this weekend and the rest of the coming year contemplating and, in turn, imitating that “most chaste” love of Saint Joseph for his own spouse and children.
– Father Scott Thomas, December 20, 2020
Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One of my favorite books that I’ve read is Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness by Warren H. Carroll (Christendom Press). This book does a marvelous job of showing how Mary’s apparition in Mexico is beneficial to all of us, no matter what part of the Americas we live in. In fact, we in Natchez can find a little commonality with the story.
On Good Friday, 1519, Hernan Cortes landed in present-day Mexico and had the Holy Mass offered. From there, he traveled towards Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztec Empire. When Cortes arrived, he was welcomed by the emperor Montezuma with open arms. But this peaceful coexistence would be tough to keep considering the immense amount of human sacrificing within the Aztec civilization. Allegedly, about 80,000 men were sacrificed over a four-day period for the dedication of the sun god’s temple. It was so grotesque that it moved Cortes’s men to tears. Cortes immediately protested and moved to convert the Aztecs to the true religion of Christianity. But Montezuma wanted nothing of it, running Cortes out of town. But Cortes would return with force, and the Aztec Empire (as well as its satanic religion) would fall.
Ten years later, on December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared for the first time to St Juan Diego asking in his native Nahuatl language (the Aztec Empire’s language) for a church to be built at Tepyac Hill. She appeared as a local pregnant girl, showing God’s desire to “give birth” to His Church, the Catholic Church, in the New World. Today, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most visited shrines in the world!
When Europeans began coming to our area and encountered the Natchez Indians, they, too, found a society based on human sacrificing in honor of the death of their leader, the Great Sun. Perhaps this was the inspiration of Bishop Chanche when he created the original diocesan crest depicting the Cross of Christ in front of the sun just like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Both images show the victory of Christ and His Church over the false religions of the past that exhibited evil actions such as human sacrificing. The only sacrifice necessary is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, which is re-presented every Holy Mass with bread and wine becoming His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. And it was Mary’s intent that it be offered everywhere throughout the Americas when she appeared in 1531 as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
– Father Scott Thomas, December 13, 2020
It ain’t Christmas yet! Remember that from last year? I’m taking this chance to renew my battle cry in favor of giving the Advent Season more attention. You may notice a few things looking different or even missing in St Mary Basilica right now. And that’s because it ain’t Christmas yet.
Advent is a season of simplicity as well as anticipation. Simplicity helps us focus on what matters most. And what matters most right now is preparing our hearts to meet Jesus Christ. As Fr Shoffner pointed out last weekend, Jesus will return and we must be ready for that great adventus, that great coming of our Savior to judge the world. This reminds me of the Gospel passage we heard about three weeks ago—the parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13). They were awaiting the return of the bridegroom after his betrothal to his bride. In reality the Church is betrothed to her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and awaits His return. But will you be wise and ready with enough oil in our lamps? Or will you be foolishly unprepared when He returns?
Simplicity leads to greater anticipation of what we await. Simpler decorations right now builds up anticipation for what’s to come. So when the Nativity scene is finally put out in a few weeks, we will be so much more excited and know that we are that much closer to the coming of Christ. This may seem hard to understand at first. But don’t fall into the trap of impatience that our society pushes. We are so used to having what we want now without having to wait. But waiting is good as it builds anticipation and gives time for proper preparation.
Simplicity is a good thing during this Advent Season. How can you simplify your life to build up more anticipation for the coming of Jesus? What can you do to make room in your heart to more attentively await your Savior and give him the love He desires and deserves? Consider Adoration on Monday or daily Mass one day. Go to confession. Most of all, remember that it ain’t Christmas yet. Then, when Christmas finally does come, it’ll mean so much more!
– Father Scott Thomas, December 6, 2020