Keep up-to-date with all the latest news on Pope Francis.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest news on Pope Francis.
Viewing 1 - 10 of 550
When I was a boy many years ago in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., there was one time of the year that all altar boys at Polish parishes waited for. It was called Koleda, and it happened around the Epiphany.
The parish priest would make his rounds of all parish families and bless their homes. At a big parish, like Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this could take weeks. He would bring along an altar boy or two to help with this mysterious ceremony.
The priest would enter the home with the altar boy carrying holy water, incense and blessed chalk. The priest would take the chalk and mark each doorway of the house with numbers and letters, for example, 20 + C + M+ B + 14. This signifies that 2,014 years ago Jesus was born. The letters are the initials of the three Wise Men who followed the star to the Christ Child— C for Caspar, M for Melchior and B for Balthasar.
Each room would be sprinkled with holy water and incensed as the family walked with the priest and altar boys to each room. Polish Christmas carols were sung by all.
Why did altar boys love this ceremony so much? Because at each home, a small feast was prepared for the visitors and gifts were shared. It was mostly Polish pastry, and it was delicious. There may have been traditional polish dishes like pierogi and kielbasa too. I remember some homes giving money to both priest and altar boy. With the food, you had to pace yourself or you’d burnb out before the day’s Koleda visits were done. No pacing was needed for the money.
We had a lot of altar boys and all got an opportunity to go on the koleda visits. Some even got to go more than once.
Besides the blessing, the priest would leave the parish calendar, written in Polish of course, for the family to use to mark the important liturgical days of the coming year.
Poles love Christmas. Polish Christmas celebrations lasted until the beginning of February, ending on Candlemas Day.
I still can remember the sights and sounds, and smell …
When it comes to the holidays, I am often amazed at the family traditions I hear from my friends. One of them has an elaborate Christmas brunch with her family before opening gifts. At my roommate’s house, opening gifts is a slow affair with family members unwrapping presents one at a time, oohing and aahing over each sweater and pair of socks. And one family I know gathers annually with relatives and neighbors to sing Christmas carols around a piano. Literally. A piano.
At my house, Christmas never has been that peaceful and, likely never will be. I’m the youngest of four, with three older brothers, who are all married with children — mostly sons — of their own. Where other families might be caroling and making gingerbread cookies, my family is more likely to be engaged in an all-out wrestling showdown or an in-basement soccer game, complete with a broken lightbulb or two.
When I was a kid, it really bothered me that my family’s traditions didn’t live up to the poinsettia-framed scenes I would see in Christmas movies and TV specials. I wanted to be part of the family that sipped hot cocoa together on Christmas Eve, but instead I was getting smothered by blankets as I tried to wake my teenage brothers up to open gifts.
I can remember clearly one year convincing my family to sing carols after Mass on Christmas Eve. The experiment was over almost as soon as it began and let’s just say, “Silent Night” did not end so silently for us.
Now that I’m a grown-up, I really appreciate the honesty with which my family celebrates Christmas. Our holiday is a hurricane of chaos and thrown wrapping paper, a pre-lit tree overflowing with decades of ornaments, and more than a dozen mismatched stockings crammed together above the fireplace downstairs — one for each family member and each grandchild, as well as any friends, roommates or significant others who have joined the craziness for the day.
Instead of heartfelt toasts before dinner, …
With all the frenzy of the season – the office Advent Day of Prayer, the Christmas cards that need to get out, the gifts waiting to be wrapped and mailed, the cookies that haven’t been baked, and the quiet time for prayer that I promised myself – I struggle to find a quiet minute at home or at work to reflect on Christmases past and how things change as the years go by.
One of my earliest Christmas memories was when my parents surprised us with a puppy when I was 4 years old. A little handful of white fur came bounding down the hall and begged to be loved. Puff was both loved and loving for the next 14 years. I remember the year Santa brought me a bicycle with red and blue tassels hanging from the handlebars.
But more than gifts, I recall many a Christmas when my Mom would take out her fine china and her freshly polished silver and set a beautiful table. Then she’d make her stuffing from scratch, the way her mother did. I paid close attention to every detail. With the turkey ceremoniously placed in the oven, and breakfast done, we’d move to the living room for the day’s festivities, including opening gifts, taking photos and making phone calls to distant relatives.
Dad’s neatly stacked wood would crackle in the fireplace as the large front windows would steam up from the cold outside. Music played softly in the background as my two brothers and I would take turns opening our gifts.
The day was filled with laughter, new gadgets being tried out, and all of us urging our parents to hurry up and open the next gift they had waiting under the tree.
Relatives arrived and eventually the dining room table was surrounded by the people I loved, all in one room — my parents, my two brothers, often our cousin from Georgetown, some close friends, and my aunt and uncle. Over the years, some of the players went missing.
In later years, things shifted and I was Santa’s main helper, getting up before my parents to arrange gifts below the tree and …
2013 had some pretty big moments for the Catholic Church worldwide and locally, for the Arlington Diocese. A pope resigned for the first time in centuries, and a new one replaced him — and quickly became the most talked-about person on the Internet. New priests were ordained.
Here are the most popular stories on catholicherald.com from the year 2013. Where multiple stories on the same topic, or articles by the same columnist, appear in the top 10, they are consolidated as one spot on the list.
1. Ireton graduate publishes Marian thriller
Stephen Ryan, a graduate of Bishop Ireton High School and a parishioner of St. Louis Church, both in Alexandria, released his first novel over the summer, entitled The Madonna Files.
2. Clergy appointments
One thing is for sure — people in the Arlington Diocese care about their parish priests and want to know where they will end up.
3. Elizabeth Foss columns
Columnist Elizabeth Foss writes about her life as a mother of nine children.
4. Father Ronald Gillis dies at 71
Known for his big heart, infectious humor, patience and wisdom, the Opus Dei priest died June 21 of colon cancer.
5. The top 10 arguments for immigration reform
Why should Congress reform the immigration process for the millions of people in the country illegally? This article explains.
6. ‘Just a terrible thing’
One of the people killed in a train derailment in Spain this summer was Arlington diocesan staff member Ana-Maria Cordoba, a well-loved benefits specialist with the Human Resources Office.
7. ‘It’s the new evangelization’
Father James Searby, a parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, uses high-tech tools to connect with people in the 21st century.
8. St. Leo DRE arrested after deadly road rage incident
In April, Librado Cena, who was director of religious education at St. …
Mary Stachyra Lopez | Catholic Herald | Posted 12/16/13 02:16 PM | Comments (0)
The Year of Faith
[View the story "Five people who made a difference in the Year of Faith" on Storify]
Mary Stachyra Lopez | Catholic Herald | Posted 11/21/13 03:21 PM | Comments (0)
Thinking about coming back to church? You are not alone. To make your transition easier, take the advice of local Catholics who have returned to the faith after being away for years.
Be not afraid
Mary Ellen Gilroy was away from the church for 30 years before coming back. She can still remember how nervous she was when she first returned.
“I was a professional woman, had spoken in a language not my own before hundreds of people and done live television interviews without stage fright, but I was really nervous, sort of hanging on the margins,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it, but didn’t want to push myself in."
If you feel uncomfortable rejoining the church, pray for courage and remember you are not alone.
“You have to sort of get over the fear,” she said. “You can’t force it, but if you notice this longing is inside of you, just try to follow it ask for the strength to do it.”
Find a buddy
When you’re coming back to the church, it’s understandable that you will have questions, doubts or concerns. Finding someone to listen to your concerns and answer your questions will help you feel more at ease with your faith. One thing that helped Gilroy adapt to life in the church was her parish’s Landings program, a ministry for returning Catholics, which encouraged members to build community by sitting together at Mass.
“What was amazing was we all had this desire to be back in the church, but we were all nervous about coming back in,” Gilroy said.
Find your niche
If you have a particular talent or hobby you are passionate about, look for a ministry where you can pursue those interests. If you love to volunteer, get involved with Catholics serving at Christ House. If you love to sing, join the parish choir. If you love to knit, join a group that knits prayer blankets for the sick.
This tactic worked wonders for Paul Ehmann, who found community in the Catholic Sports Club.
“I made really good …
The Arlington Catholic Herald recently hosted a gathering of Catholic journalists from across the southern and eastern regions of the United States. The two-day event was held in Old Town Alexandria and included Mass celebrated by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at St. Joseph Church. The St. Joseph's Gospel Choir, directed by Eugene Harper, inspired the congregation with its energy and enthusiasm.
Catholic Herald columnist Elizabeth Foss took part in a panel discussion, along with Deacon Greg Kandra of "The Deacon's Bench" and Matt Palmer, social media specialist for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Foss discussed her popular blog "In the Heart of My Home."
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, and John Garvey, president of Catholic University in Washington, were the keynote speakers.
A cardboard cut-out of "Pope Francis" attracted the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
In advance of Halloween and All Saint’s Day this week, Father Michael Witczak, associate professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology at Catholic University in Washington, shared some facts about the history of this celebration of saints.
Father Witczak, an expert on the liturgical celebration of saints, says that Halloween (or All Hallows Eve), “is a parable of the journey we are all on to the life of the saints and the hospitality we all need to arrive with the rest of the saints in glory.”
The next day, All Saints Day, Nov. 1, is a holy day of obligation.
Father Witczak shares the following facts about saints and All Saints Day celebrations:
• Saints are of all ages: 12-year-old martyrs like St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti and the 105-year-old hermit Antony of the Desert.
• Many saints have a special day in the calendar of saints. More saints don’t. For some saints we know a lot about their history, while others we know only their name and the date and place of their burial.
• A special feast honoring all the martyrs goes back to the fourth century in the Eastern part of the church. There it is celebrated in the spring, in present day on the Sunday after Pentecost.
• Pope Boniface IV instituted a feast of Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13, 609, when he dedicated the old Roman temple called the Pantheon as a church with that name.
• Pope Gregory III built a special chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in the 730s and he dedicated it on Nov. 1 in memory of all the saints.
• Pope Gregory IV and Emperor Louis the Pious extended the Nov. 1 feast of All Saints to the Holy Roman Empire in the 830s, and from there it spread to all of Europe.
• The Nov. 1 liturgy uses the imagery from the Book of Revelation: “Today … we celebrate … the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise. Towards her, we eagerly hasten as …
For the Catholic Herald | Posted 10/31/13 12:31 PM | Comments (0)
Last month, I spent a week serving the poor in Peru with Commissioned by Christ, a local organization that plans short-term Catholic mission trips for adults and families. This was my second trip to Peru with CBC — my first was featured in the Catholic Herald (8/30/2012) — and in many ways, both trips were similar. I taught English in the same school, delivered food and supplies to some of the same poor families, and even did the same kind of bamboo building projects.
This year, I was more familiar with the living conditions and social hardships of the community, so I was able to focus on other things: building relationships, figuring out new ways to serve and learning from the people we met.
The truth is, I could talk for hours about the trip — and in fact I already have — but when it comes down to it, there are four main lessons I’d like to share from my mission experience.
In Piura, the parish of Santisimo Sacramento already provides countless services to the local community. Our job as volunteers was not to save people or tell them what they needed, but simply to help the parish workers in the long-term projects they already are doing.
Often, the most important thing we did each day was spend quality time with the people we were serving. During my week, I spent a lot of time in vans and truck beds talking with people about their lives and the needs of the community. When helping children at the school and the parish, I praised drawings and played games. And while visiting people in the distant villages, I admired babies and wedding photos.
None of those acts were life-changing for the people I met, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable. Getting to know people on a basic level without high-tech distractions, sharing meals with them, laughing and even praying with them are all acts of love with real purpose, sharing God’s message that they are loved and that they have …
Bob Toth and Tom Davis, both 75, undertook a 19-month pilgrimage to attend a daily Mass at all 68 Arlington diocesan churches. Their story appeared in the Oct. 3 Catholic Herald. Both men said they were continuing this special pilgrimage by visiting, and attending Mass, at the diocese’s mission churches and the St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow.
The two men encourage all to try the 68-church pilgrimage, but as their current journey comes to an end they’re thinking of similar ways to show love and respect for the faith.
After the story appeared, I received several emails with ideas for the men to consider.
One reader suggested “a prayerful visit to the graves of all the priests who served in the Diocese of Arlington and are buried within its bounds.”
A reader from St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield had a more ambitious idea, walking “The Way,” a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The reader said he walked it with his brother several years ago when they were both in their 70s.
If you have any ideas for the pair to continue their quest, you can email me at email@example.com and I’ll pass them on. No prizes, just the satisfaction of helping Toth and Davis visibly express their faith.