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Christmas Gifts

The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You

St. Paul and I Agree


My son Joseph, now seven, started praying the Blessing Before Meals at dinner in our home about four years ago, right after he learned the prayer at his Catholic preschool. Back then, when he first prayed it, he would say:

 “Blessed O Lord and these my gifts which we are about to receive from my bounty, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

 He had a little problem with the “us” and “Thy” which he conveniently glossed over. It took a good year to convince him that his “my” should be “Thy.”


His slip was due to his age, but I know that even if I know enough to say “Thy”, I often act as though it is all about “my” and “mine.”

 I remember an episode of the Simpsons where Bart Simpson echoed a similar sentiment, after saying the Grace Before Meals, Bart said: “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing,” Again, the modern cartoon reflects a modern problem—people have ceased believing that everything we have is from God.

 It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are self-sufficient, especially when everything is going well in our lives.

But wait till things turn bad: suddenly we find ourselves unemployed or are diagnosed with a terminal illness, or something horrible happens to a loved one—then the realization hits us that everything we’ve ever had and will ever have has been a gift. Only God can save us from death.

 Monsignor Muller when he was preaching on the annual Catholic Charities drive at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish had a placard hanging from the ambo. The sign read:

 “Don’t Give God What’s Left, Give God What’s Right.”

 That simple message hasn’t left me since that Sunday back in September.

 One of the real blessings of this year, for me, has been Bishop Baker’s challenge for us in the Diocese of Birmingham to read through the Letters of Saint Paul during the Year of Saint Paul. I’ve greatly benefited from this exercise.

 Saint Paul frequently in his letters will tell us to “give thanks” to God—not just in the good times, but at all times. In fact it is a consistent message of Saint Paul’s that we are to live our lives while “giving thanks” to God at all times. The Greek word for “giving thanks” that Saint Paul uses over and over is well known to us Catholics— it is Eucharist. If you listen at Mass, the Eucharist, you’ll hear the priest praying “we give you thanks” for all of us to God the Father. I have tried to do this in my life and found it to make a remarkable difference. When you give thanks to God at all times, you start to see the reality of the present moment in an entirely different light.


Let me give you a simple example. I travel on a horrible road every morning, and I’m frequently stuck in traffic. All the hand gesturing and cursing isn’t going to make the traffic move, but thanking God for that moment can change my entire attitude. I come to appreciate the slowing down of my hectic life. I often notice things along the route that I would otherwise have ignored. 

And perhaps that is what is missing from modern life, we have become so preoccupied with my plan that we don’t have time to notice God’s plan for us. I think one of the reasons for this is that we fear the real world and try our best to avoid dealing with it.


This Thanksgiving, let’s truly be thankful for all God has given us, all that God has entrusted us with, and commit to doing what Saint Paul proclaims to us: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Then let’s keep thanking God at every moment for the rest of our lives!

 Some Seed Fell… is a column of the Office of the New Evangelization and Stewardship, by the director of the office, Michael Dubruiel

The Pope and I Agree

pope-benedict-xviI was pleased to read the Pope’s exegesis of the Parable of the Talents and to see that my “Some Seeds Fell…” column on the same topic reach the same conclusion. Probably a sign that my endless reading of his writings is starting to take effect in the way I think. From Asia News Italy:


An appeal to witness, to “commerce,” by sharing and distributing the gifts that Christ has given to us: this is, according to Benedict XVI, the meaning of the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), which he commented on in the brief reflection before the Angelus, together with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. “Yes,” the pope said, “that which Christ has given us is multiplied by giving it away! It is a treasure made to be spent, invested, shared with all, as taught to us by that great administrator of the talents of Jesus who is the apostle Paul.”

The pontiff explained that the talent “was an ancient Roman coin, of great value.” Precisely because of the popularity of this parable, the “talent” has become synonymous with “personal capacity, which each one is called upon to develop.” But the pontiff clarifies: the parable talks about gifts that “the master” gives to his servants. “For this reason,” he continues, “these gifts, in addition to their natural qualities, represent the riches that the Lord Jesus has left us as an inheritance, so that we might make them bear fruit: his Word, deposited in the holy Gospels; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; the prayer – the ‘Our Father’ – that lifts us up to God as sons united in the Son; his forgiveness, which he has commanded be brought to all; the sacrament of his immolated Body and his Blood poured out. In a word: the Kingdom of God, which is He himself, present and living in our midst.”

“Today’s parable,” he continued, “insists upon the interior attitude with which this gift is to be received and valued. The wrong attitude is that of fear: the servant who is afraid of his master and his return hides the coin in the ground, and it bears no fruit. This happens, for example, to those who having received Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation hide these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudices, beneath a false image of God that paralyzes faith and works, betraying the expectations of the Lord. But the parable puts greater emphasis on the good fruits borne by the disciples who, happy over the gift they have received, have not kept this hidden out of fear and jealousy, but have made it bear fruit by sharing it, imparting it.”

Benedict XVI does not forget that the parable is also a sign of a cultural change that the faith of Christians carries within history, which is an active and transformative mentality: “The teaching of the Gospel,” he said, “has also had an effect on the historical-social level, promoting an active and enterprising mentality in Christian populations. But the central message concerns the spirit of responsibility toward God and toward humanity. This attitude is perfectly embodied by the heart of the Virgin Mary, who, receiving the most precious of gifts, Jesus himself, offered him to the world with immense love.”

Obama and I Agree

There should be a college football playoff, involving the top 8 teams.  From USA Today:

With President-elect Barack Obama supporting a playoff system to decide college football’s national champion, the future TV home of the Bowl Championship Series could become a political football.

BCS commissioners could make the call Monday on whether to move TV rights for five bowls, including the national championship, to ESPN from Fox starting in 2011. The title game would be the first major American sports championship shown on cable. There’s still roughly 16 million U.S. homes that don’t get ESPN. While ESPN has other sports properties such as Monday Night Football, a few college fans without cable have complained they’d be shut out.

So it wouldn’t be surprising to see politicians champion their cause, given that Obama told CBS’ 60 MinutesSunday that a playoff system is “the right thing to do,” For example, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., intervened last year when fans howled about Major League Baseball moving its “Extra Innings” package of out-of-market games exclusively to satellite provider DirecTV.

Fox spokesman Dan Bell said the network will let the BCS know today whether it will match ESPN’s reported $500 million offer to telecast the BCS championship and four other bowls from 2011 to 2014. ABC, ESPN’s Disney sister network, will broadcast the national championship and Rose Bowl in 2010.

ESPN declined comment.

During Sunday’s interview with CBS’ Steve Kroft, Obama laid out exactly what kind of playoff system he envisions: “Eight teams. That would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this.”

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