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Category Archives: Catholicism

Our Advent / Christmas Reads

I’ve had a few ask for a list of our Advent and Christmas reads so I thought I would share them here today. These are all ones that we own, but, be assured, we check out a good pile from the library every year that is just as large! Each year, we like to add a couple new ones to our collection. It didn’t start out big, but with every passing year {and a few good library sales!}, we are able to grow it.

These are some of our most treasured books. They get brought out at the beginning of the Advent season and stored away at the end of the Christmas season to be discovered anew the following year. Sometimes we like to wrap them like presents to use as an Advent calendar of sorts, but this year we will simply be pulling them from their basket on the hearth during reading times.

Please share some of your favorite Christmas reads in the comments so we will have new ones to discover too!

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

Especially for Advent and Other Feast Days

 Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp — Short, lovely reflections written to share alongside your children as you follow from Adam the lineage of Jesus’ family tree.

Waiting for Noel by Ann Dixon — A perfect story to begin the Advent season. Baby Noel is due at Christmas and her family anticipates her birth, just as we anticipate the arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas. It is easy to identify with the joyful anticipation of waiting for the birth of a child!

Lucia: Saint of Light by Katherine Bolger Hyde — To celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, we read this book that shares the story of her life as well as some traditions to celebrate her feast.

 

Quiet Time Together

A Christmas Garland compiled by Grace Hudson — A lovely collection of Christmas poems, perfect for Christmas afternoon tea times or anytime, really.

All for the Newborn Baby by Phyllis Root — A song by Mary for her new little one.

Prayers Around the Crib by Juliette Levivier — Perfect Christmas prayers for your little ones.

 

Especially Sweet for Toddlers

Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate — I promise this lyrical poem told from the perspective of the manger animals will get stuck in your head. A big hit with toddlers.

One Night in Bethlehem by Jill Roman Lord — A touch-and-feel that allows children to imagine what it would be like if they had been there the night Jesus was born.

B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner — Beautifully illustrated, each letter of the alphabet gives us a glimpse of the Christmas story.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown — A toddler favorite told in lyrical form of all the important elements of the Christmas story.

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell — No matter what, there is always room for one more in the stable.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle — As a blanket of snow quietly covers the entire farm, a surprise awaits at the end as the farmer completes one, last task.

 

Nativity Stories

This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar — Told through lyrical repetition, the story of that Christmas night.

Father and Son: A Nativity Story by Geraldine McCaughrean — Joseph’s heart is revealed in this sweet story reflection on his role in the nativity.

Saint Francis and the Nativity by Myrna A. Strasser — This story reveals the origins of keeping a Nativity scene.

 

Just For Fun

The Littlest Christmas Elf by Nancy Buss — There’s a special place for all of us, even the littlest of elves.

I Spy: A Candy Cane by Jean Marzollo — The classic I Spy book is given a Christmas twist in this addition.

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson — Bear is usually asleep during Christmas, but he friends won’t let him snooze this year. Or will they?

Olaf’s Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius — A Frozen obsession drew us to this fun book. The Night Before Christmas, Olaf-style. Includes a CD read by the snowman himself.

Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond — Per usual, something’s bound to happen when Paddington goes to visit Santa Claus!

A Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett — A jolly chase to find the perfect Christmas perfect tree! Gingerbread baby is always a delight. {We also love Gingerbread Friends!}

Guess Who’s Coming to Santa’s for Dinner? by Tomie dePaola — The chaos of the family Christmas gathering. Apparently, even Santa experiences it too.

Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans — A sweet tale in the classic Madeline tradition.

The Mitten by Jan Brett — Will all the animals fit into the discovered mitten? And what will it look like when it returns to the boy? {In the same vein is her book The Hat.}

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert — A Nordic tale of a little girl’s wish to become one of Santa’s elves.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner — A rolicking tale of what those seemingly innocent and quiet snowmen actually do at night when we’re all sleeping.

 

Christmas Traditions

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas  — A story of Christmas memories beautifully told through the eyes of a child. We picked up our copy at Shakespeare and Co. when we were in Paris in October, so it’s especially meaningful to us.

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg — You will never see a candy cane the same way again. A wonderful telling of the meaning behind the candy cane.

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal — Adjectives to describe our feelings during the Christmas season, perfect for little ones to understand {and a recipe for cookies at the end!}.

An Early American Christmas by Tomie dePaola — Early American Christmas traditions are shared in this book by the famous author Tomie dePaola

Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker by — If you have a daughter who loves the ballet, this and the author’s others are perfect for her. Told through the eyes of a tiny ballerina, it gives the story of the ballet in a wonderful format.

 

Classics

 Comment le Grinch a volé Noël {How the Grinch Stole Christmas} by Dr. Seuss — We read {with translation} the French version of this famous story of the Grinch who wanted to make everyone’s life miserable on Christmas, until he found out the true meaning of Christmas.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers — Our favorite telling and illustration of the delightful Nutcracker story.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg — The classic tale, with beautiful illustrations, that belongs on every child’s shelf.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Christian Birmingham — With wonderful, large illustrations and big print, it is the perfect book to cuddle up with a telling of the famous Christmas story.

 

Books Sharing a Song

The Huron Carol illustrated by Fr. Jean de Brebeauf — A lovely Christmas carol by a Jesuit missionary to Canada, this is an illustrated version that shows how the Hurons took the story of Christmas as their own.

The Friendly Beasts: An Old Christmas Carol illustrations by Tomie dePaola — The song of the animals contribution on that Christmas night, wonderfully illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Good King Wenceslas read by Jane Seymour and illustrated by Omar Rayyan — The story of the benevolent king who went out on a cold Christmas night to bring Christmas joy to the people of his kingdom.

 

A Lesson Revealed

The Small One by Alex Walsh — Forced to sell his tiny, old donkey, a young boy won’t sell him to just anyone….

The Nutcracker Doll by Mary Newell DePalma — Big dreams start small as Kepley finds out in her first (yet tiny) role in the Nutcracker performance.

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider — A beautiful lesson revealed that it is more important to sacrifice yourself for others than to maintain perfection.

The Miraculous Child by Alvin Alexsi Currier — A Russian tale on the importance of hospitality

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson — Mortimer the mouse doesn’t want to share his newfound house with stiff strangers…until he hears the story of the first Christmas.

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo — The impact the smallest act of kindness can have on a person who is lonely.

 

The Shortest Advent

This year, Advent will be the shortest it could ever be. Christmas Eve falls on the same day as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, so we’ll be lighting that last purple candle in the evening…and heading to Mass to celebrate the birth of our Savior just a few hours later! It’s incentive to get my ducks in a row beforehand, so I’m making plans as it will be here in just two short weeks!

Advent may be my favorite time of the year. I like the preparations for Christmas, almost as much as the holiday itself. It’s not the hustle of the season that draws me, but the opposite that we are called to: the quiet, interior preparation for Jesus’ coming. I suppose it is a bit like nesting. A mother joyfully awaiting the arrival of her precious child. She cleans, she cooks, she prepares sweet “gifts” for her babe. She wants all the things to be just right when her little one comes.

I feel this way, too, waiting for Christmas. I want to prepare the hearth for my family celebrations, but I also want to prepare my heart for the coming of the Babe. There is goodness and peace found in the preparation as equally the celebration.

There are a few tools I shared in last year’s post on Advent that we will using once again, but a few different ones as well.

In the mornings before dawn, I will start the day with Laura‘s lovely words from Blessed is She’s In the Beginning 2017 Advent Journal. I will journey through the beginning of each Gospel, steeped in thoughts of how God is calling me to begin this new liturgical and calendar year.  It seems a fitting way to begin the day, no?

The beauty of beginnings is how they invite us to behold with fresh eyes. This is why newborns are a wonder. Why gardeners love spring. Why fans cheer at kickoff. Why falling in love makes your heart flutter. Why you can’t sleep the night before a new job. Why the start of each school year sparkles with promise

All that hope and energy buzzing in the air. Anything could happen.

~Laura Fanucci, In the Beginning 

Afternoons will be spent with my daughters reading through and reflecting on Take Up and Read‘s Rooted in Hope. During our tea time, we will follow along with their outstanding children’s guide. With its Lectio Divina style, it will be an excellent way to pray together. I will also gather with girl friends once a week for fellowship using their group guide, perhaps trying out a recipe or three from it to accompany our meetings.

I pray that it will be a fruitful Advent for our household, as well as yours!

“A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our Lord.”
Isaiah 40: 3-5

 

Encountering Truth ~ {A Book Review}

Encountering Truth book

A book of sermons isn’t typically high on someone’s to-read list. Mostly, because the majority of preachers are rarely consistently captivating and soul-stirring.

But Pope Francis? I dare you to find one from this current collection, Encountering Truth, that doesn’t have at least one nugget of inspiration. This man knows how to carry the Word of God to His people.

The book begins with an introduction, equally fascinating, by a fellow Jesuit, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the director of La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal with close ties to the Vatican. He speaks of what it means to be a preacher, particularly a Jesuit one, and how Pope Francis embodies this to a ‘T’.

He says:

He who preaches therefore sows and nourishes with affection, creating an adequate communicative and affective environment so that the Lord may dialogue with his people.

The preacher is effective insofar as he better fosters an opening of communication between the Lord and His people. Pope Francis is stellar at this, particularly in the intimate setting these sermons were given in.

The sermons contained in this book were given at St. Martha’s, a private chapel at the Vatican, during the daily Masses held there from about the time Pope Francis began his pontificate until about a year later. Those in attendance included the gardeners, seamstresses, cooks — those who carried out the daily duties of life in the Vatican — as well as those from outside specially invited to these private Masses. Always a small crowd, no larger than 50, who came early in the morning to pray and offer the day to God alongside Pope Francis.

Pope Francis always speaks with great candor in relating the Gospels to the every day, to the human condition — and often with great humor! His metaphors even had me laughing out loud at certain points. Some of these you will remember as quoted in the media shortly after he gave them, but they are worth reading again and reabsorbing these all-important messages that cut right to the heart.

One of my favorite Gospel readings is the passage from Mark 9 about our calling to be “the salt of the earth.” Pope Francis had a wonderful reflection on it here. I will share a few lines that struck a chord.

This salt is not meant to be preserved, because if salt is kept in a shaker it doesn’t do anything, it’s no good.

Salt makes sense when it is used to flavor things. I also think that when salt is kept in a shaker the humidity ruins its strength and it’s not good. We must ask the Lord that we not become Christians with insipid salt, with salt closed up in the shaker. But salt has another characteristic: when salt is used well, you don’t get the taste of the salt, the flavor of the salt . . . You don’t taste it! You taste the flavor of each dish.  Salt helps the flavor of that dish to be better, to be better preserved but also more flavorful. This is Christian originality!

As much as I had always been inspired by this Gospel passage–to share the message of the Good News with others–that whole aspect of the originality that salt brings out in each dish–in each person–really was a beautiful thought. God calls each of us, in our own way, to be the ‘salt of the earth.’ Important to remember.

This collection is rather lengthy and there is so much wisdom to meditate on in each 1-2 page sermon, that it is definitely one of those to keep on the nightstand and have a daily perusal through for prayer time.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Books to Read During The Year of Mercy

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

year-of-mercy-booklist

Divine Mercy in My Soul by Maria Faustina Kowalska — I suppose if you read nothing else, this would be the one to read through. This diary of St. Faustina in which she records her intimate conversation with Jesus is the jumping block for devotion to Divine Mercy. Admittedly, I’ve never made it from cover-to-cover, but have picked it up at various times in my life to find absolute jewels contained within. Her candor, her devotion to Our Lord, her simplicity, all will lead you to desire a deeper love for this devotion.

Divine Mercy for Moms by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet — Excellent for moms with little time on their hands, this easy-to-read work by two close, long-time friends relates a few anecdotes of how the devotion has played a lasting role in their lives, as well as concrete ways to live out mercy in our own lives. When the Year of Mercy commenced, I had thought of writing a few posts with ideas of how to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy at home–these ladies beat me to the punch. Such a great collection of ideas, in addition to prayers and devotions in the appendix. Visit their website for more!

You Did It to Me : A Practical Guide to Mercy in Action by Michael Gaitley — In a similar vein, Fr. Gaitley gives excellent, practical advice on living out the Works in Mercy in one’s home, parish, and community. Diving more deeply into these Works of Mercy is a fabulous way to enter more fully into the Year of Mercy.

33 Days of Merciful of Love : A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy by Michael Gaitley — A great act in this Year of Mercy is to make a consecration to Divine Mercy. Pulling from the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina, Fr. Gaitley takes the reader of this book through a 33 day retreat, culminating in consecration to Divine Mercy.

The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis — Sermons taken from the first year of his pontificate, it is easy to see how from the very beginning, Pope Francis has been calling each one of us to cultivate a heart of mercy.  Broken into short chapters that can be read individually, we’ve read these out loud as a family, and really gleaned much from his heartfelt words.

Just Mercy : A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — This and the one following are secular books, not ones you would likely expect on this list, but both have touched me deeply on the subject of mercy this year. {I know God leads us to certain reads at the time He most wants us to hear that particular story.} The author is an attorney who fights for those imprisoned, especially those unjustly so either due to innocence or to extreme duration of incarceration for the crime committed, and those on death row. In one of the final chapters of the book, he gives an excellent plea for us to consider what it means to be merciful, on a very natural level.

Just a few quotes that really struck me to entice you to read this incredible book:

“We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”

“In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy.”

“Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.”

Rising Strong by Brené Brown — This book {which I wrote a bit more about here} has some excellent tools for finding a place in one’s heart for mercy and forgiveness. Bitterness that lodges in one’s heart caused by a hurt, inflicted by another, or even oneself, precludes mercy. Tools to work past, instead of holding onto, hurt help us to come to a place of mercy.

What others would you recommend reading during this Year of Mercy? 

 

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Making Space for Grace

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

“Then for each day there is grace. Day by day, I have only to make space.”  ~Chiara Petrillo

Grace is always there. Always. It is always available.

Perhaps not in the way you want or the way you could imagine, but it is always there to carry you through.

God’s grace is always sufficient. And it provides for all our needs. But sometimes we get in the way of its reception. Sometimes we reach out for it when it is not yet available for that situation. Sometimes we try to pick and choose which means of grace we are willing to accept…or not accept.

We attempt to piece the puzzle together the wrong way. You shove this piece into that piece–a space not meant for you {perhaps just yet}–and it only ends up ‘bent’ and frustrated. It may be haphazardly shoved together, seemingly with the colors matching up, but there is not a true cohesion.

The edges of grace are meant for a certain space. Rather than demanding, rather than pushing our way in, we must open ourselves to that gratuitous gift of grace and allow it to guide us to the proper alignment. The grace must be allowed to flood in where it was meant to be.

Strength comes in making space, in trusting yourself, in truly believing that God is good and that He has only astonishing things in mind for you.

Chiara Corbella Petrillo book

This quote comes from a biography I read recently about a courageous and holy woman, named Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Her short life was an embodiment of this openness to grace. Many of the stories we hear of saintly women and men of God take place in a hidden monastery. It becomes difficult to really identify with their stories. But this one is different.

Chiara was a wife and a mother. She lived out her vocation in this world as a witness to the grace of God working in an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Her spousal love, her parenthood, her friendships, her daily life–all were imbued by the grace of God in a deep, deep manner.

In her prayer, she sought His counsel. She listened for His promptings. And she responded to the grace He poured forth abundantly in her. Almost with an effortlessness that clearly comes from the openness of her heart in close relationship with God.

It is not easy to live a life like this. We often have strong desires, great wishes, grand dreams, but God truly knows what is best for our lives. Every aspect. Down to the tiniest second.

“We do not at all feel courageous because in reality the only thing that we have done is said yes, one step at a time.” ~ Chiara Petrillo

It is that heroic moment taken over and over again. For most of us, it isn’t a grand event that will seal our heavenly reward, but a ‘yes’ to the promptings of grace. Repeatedly. Daily.

It is easy to grumble at the inconveniences, the hardships, the downright hard disappointments of life. Or detach from the situation at hand in an attempt to ignore the suffering.

But if, instead, our hearts our open to His grace, those moments of suffering are transformed. They are transformed by the Cross of Christ into beautiful moments–moments of great grace, moments of great joy–that stand out as testimony of His Love in this world.

Whoever thinks from a distance about his situation lives it with suffering; whoever is close to it lives it with consolation, the fruit of a true wisdom. 

Let us choose then, as Chiara did, to open our hearts to the promptings of His grace. Let us believe in His Providence. Let us respond to grace with our whole hearts, embracing exactly what He gives to us in each moment.

 

{I cannot recommend Chiara’s story highly enough. If you read one book this year, let this one be it. Quotes are all from the book.}

The Beginning and The End

annuncation fra angelico

Although we will not celebrate it today, it is the feast of the Annunciation–one of my favorite feast days to commemorate.

But the reason the celebration has been suspended is that today is also Good Friday.

bouguereau-pieta

I think of Jesus today. I think of the moment of His conception in His mother’s womb. I think of His consummation, His final breath. The beginning, the end.

I think of Mary today. I think of the Annunciation — her ‘yes’. I think of her standing at the foot of the Cross witnessing her Son pass from this life — her ‘yes’. Her unwavering ‘yes’ to all God had planned for her.  The beginning, the end.

When I contemplate the life of Our Lord, I often turn to Mary for help. I feel as if the mystery of her Son becomes just a bit clearer seen through the eyes of His mother. I identify with her well as a woman, a wife, a mother. She knew how to live that ‘yes’ to God with her whole being. She kept her eyes on Him no matter where or in what circumstances she found herself. ‘Yes’ when the news was good; ‘yes’ when the news was bad. But, still, sorrow in her heart when the news was difficult to bear.

My sorrow always fills with gratitude on Good Friday, just as I can imagine Mary’s heart did in each step of her sorrow. Contemplating His Wounds, I see His Mercy, His Love. I want to walk that path with Him, being able to say ‘yes’ to all — to the wounds, the crosses, the derision, the misunderstandings — just as He did…for me. From the beginning, throughout, to the end of my life.

Surrender. Surrender to His Love.

Quietly Preparing

It gets pretty quiet around here come November. I begin to get into Advent and Christmas-prep mode, so little time is left for writing my thoughts and happenings. The cooler weather also makes me pause and become more contemplative. The introvert in me comes out full-force. I miss writing, but I’m happy to be more reserved for a time.

Advent-light

I’m gathering bits and pieces for the beginning of Advent {just only over a week away!}. This year, I’m catching on with the tradition of wrapping a book for each day and opening it as a sort of Advent calendar. The bookworm bug is strong around here, so there is always much reading done, but now Evey also gets a kick out of opening packages, so it’ll be fun to add on that extra element. I’ll be wrapping them in old, brown paper bags as I could see purchasing enough Christmas paper to cover so many becoming rather expensive.

We also will be doing our beloved Advent Nativity. This was Evey’s favorite last year. She never forgot a day, as it was her first act upon rising in the morning. More important, even, than breakfast. 😉

nativity-advent-calendar

We’ll be following along with Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, together as a family and making our own Jesse Tree ornaments as we go along each day. And, of course, lighting our Advent wreath on the appropriate Sundays.

A small chocolate Advent calendar may also make it’s way to our counter too. 😉

One thing I was fairly successful at last year, which I’ve made even more of an effort to do this year, is purchasing Christmas gifts before Advent starts. It allows us to really dive into the quiet preparation for Christ’s birth. And really remember the reason for the season, without fretting over whether presents have been purchased or not and rushing to beat crazy crowds.

 

What kind of Advent/Christmas preparations are happening in your household? 

#write31days ~ Day 24: Churching Ceremony

churching ceremony

In the extraordinary rite of the Catholic Mass, the Churching ceremony is still often performed after a baptism. The Churching ceremony is done in thanksgiving for the child that was born and prayers are said over the mother for healing after birth. It is truly beautiful.

#write31days ~ Day 22: St. John Paul the Great

WYD-2000-Pope-John-Paul-II

WYD-2000-Pope-John-Paul-II

 

A little #tbt today seemed appropriate today….
{so technically these are old pictures — but great to revisit, nonetheless!}

It is the feast of one of my favorite heavenly friends — St. John Paul the Great. I was blessed to be in his presence on two occasions — World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 and the one in Canada in 2002. These photos I am sharing today are from Rome.

It was my first time traveling abroad and I can say for certain, at the time, I did not realize the immensity of the privilege I was given, both in terms of travel and being in the presence of a living saint. I was just sixteen. I was excited to be there with my friends. And I was inching my way to catch a glimpse of this holy man just like every other pilgrim. But it wasn’t until much later in life, after he had passed onto his eternal reward, that I started to more fully appreciate those sweltering days back in the summer of 2000.

His exhortations and encouragement to the youth that I have read over and over again — “Do not be afraid!” “Duc in altum: Put out into the deep!” “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures…”  “I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.” “From the depths of my heart I want to give thanks to God for the gift of youth, which continues to be present in the Church and in the world because of you.” “I look with confidence to this new humanity which you are now helping to prepare. I look to this Church which in every age is made youthful by the Spirit of Christ and today is made happy by your intentions and commitment.”  — his seemingly endless thoughts on true love {living the gift of self}; his delving deeper for us in his encyclicals into the intersection of faith and reason, the value of human life, the Rosary, the dignity and vocation of women, the value of family, better ecumenism, the greatness of Truth, etc.; and his wonderful example of redemptive suffering up to his final breath.

My life, my vocation, who I am today has been shaped by the thoughts and prayers of this great man. Thank you, John Paul II. We love you!

 

WYD-2000-Pope-John-Paul-II

Pope Francis’ Speech at the World Meeting of Families

family-pope-francis

I couldn’t find the transcription from the beautiful speech Pope Francis gave at the World Meeting of Families tonight, so I typed it up myself from the words spoken in English by the translator. Here it is in its entirety:

Thank you to those who were willing to give their testimonies. Thank you to those who gladden us with your heart, with the beauty which is the path that leads to God. Beauty leads us to God. And a true witness takes us to God. Because God also is truth. Beauty and truth. And a witness given in order to serve is thoroughly good. It makes us good persons. Because God is goodness. He takes us to God. All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful leads us to God. Because God is good. God is beautiful. God is truth. Thank you all, those who’ve offered their witness and for the presence of all of you. That is also a great witness. A real witness that it’s worth being a family, that a society is strong and solid if its edified on beauty, goodness and truth. 

Once a child asked me — you know that kids ask difficult questions — he asked me, “Father, what did God do before creating the world?” I assure you, I found real difficulty to answer the question. So I said, now, what I’m going to say to you, Before creating the world, God loved. Because God is love. And so much love–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–it was so overflowing. I don’t know think this is very logical but you’ll understand: He was so big–it was so big, this love–that God could not be egoistic. It had to be poured out of Him, so as to share that love with those out of Himself. And then God created the world. God made this marvelous world in which we live. And because sometimes we are a bit confused, we are destroying it. But the most beautiful thing that God did, says the Bible, was the family. He created man and woman and he gave them everything. He gave them the world. That they may grow, multiply, cultivate the land. Multiply and grow. All that love He that he made in creation, He gave it and shared it and bestowed it on a family. 

And let’s go back further, all the love that God has in Himself, all the beauty and truth He has in Himself, he gives to the family. But the family is really family when it is able to open its arms and receive all that love. 

Of course, its not quiet earthly paradise, there are still problems. Men and women through the astuteness of the devil, have learned, unfortunately, how to divide themselves. And all that love that God gave, almost was lost. In a little period of time, the first crime, the first instance of fratricide. A brother kills another brother. And war. Now, the beauty and truth of God…and destruction and war. And between them, we walk ahead. It’s up to us to choose, it’s up to us to decide which path we want to take forward. 

Let’s go back… when man and his wife made a mistake, God did not abandon them. So great was His love that He began to walk with humanity, with His people, until the bright moment came and He made the highest expression of love–His own Son. And where did He send his son? To a palace? To a city? To a country? No, He sent Him to a family. He sent him amid a family. In a family.

And he could do this because it was a family that had a truly open heart. Doors of their heart opened.

Let’s think of Mary. She couldn’t believe it. How can this happen? But when the angel explained it. She agreed. St. Joseph–he finds himself in this surprising situation that he does’t understand. And he accepts. He obeys. And in obedience–love of this woman, love of this man–there is family in which Jesus is born. God plans so that our hearts will be opened. He likes to bring His love to open hearts. It comes out from Him. You know what He loves most? To knock on the doors of families. And find the families who love each other. Families who bring up their children to grow and move forward. To create, to develop in society, truth, goodness and beauty. 

We are celebrating the feast of the family. Families have a citizenship which is divine. The identity card they have is given to them by God. So that within the heart of the family, truth, goodness, and beauty can truly grow. 

Some of you might say, of course, Father, you speak because you’re not married. Families have the difficulties. Families, we quarrel! Sometimes plates can fly. And children bring headaches. I won’t speak about mothers-in-law…

But in families there is always, always, always light. Because the love of God, the Son of God, opened also part of us. But just as there are problems in families, there is the light of the Resurrection afterwards. Because the Son of God created that path. Forgive me, for I have to say that the family is like a factory of hope, it’s a factory of resurrection. God opened this path, this possibility. 

And children, yes, they bring their challenges and we also are the cause of work and worry. Sometimes, at home, I see some of my helpers, they come to work and they look tired, they have a one-month old child. And I ask them, “Did you sleep?” And they say, “I couldn’t sleep because they were crying all night.” In the family, there are indeed difficulties. But those difficulties are overcome with love. Hatred is not capable of dealing with difficulties and overcoming any difficulties. Division of hearts cannot overcome any difficulty. Only love is able to overcome. Love is about celebration. Love is joy. Love is moving forward.

I don’t speak too much because it would be late, but I would like just to offer two points about the family. Take special care…somethings we really do have to take care of: children and grandparents. Children, whether young or older, they are the future and strength that moves us forward. We place our hope in them. Grandparents are the living memory of the family. They passed on the faith, they transmitted the faith to us. To look after grandparents, to look after children, is the expression of love. It promises the future The people that doesn’t know how to look after their children, and the is a people that knows not how to look after grandparents, is a people that has no future. Because it doesn’t have strength or the memory to go forward. 

Family is beautiful. But there is effort involved and there are problems. In families there are inimical relationships. Husbands and wives quarrel. It can end up badly, separated. Never let a day end without making peace. In a family, you can’t finish the day off not being at peace. 

May God bless you. May God give you hope. God give you the strength to move forward. Let us look after the family. Let us protect the family because it is in the family that the future is at play. 

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