The Catholic Defender: A Quick Look At Advent

Posted by John Benko - November 27th, 2013

It is interesting that Advent begins the Church year reminding us the need to be ever vigilant.

From The Apostolic age, the Apostles encouraged the Church to follow their example.

People believed that Our Lord was returning very soon and so the expectation was high.

St Paul teaches us to be ever vigilant writing, “Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, ‘Peace and security’, then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”.

St. Paul says, “For you yourselves know very well…” indicating that he had already been preparing the people to be steadfast. This is exactly what the Church continues to do.

St. Paul continues, “But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).

Because of the many who proclaimed teachings contrary to the Apostles, St. Paul writes, “We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit’, or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand”.

From the beginning there were those who took things out of context. People still do. Other voices that proclaim teachings that are not recognized by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church take the scriptures promoting new gospels.

The doctrine of the “Rapture” comes to mind, placing dates to the Lords Second Coming also is a deception.

The Apostles instructs us to be ever vigilant, alert, and awake. St. Peter writes, “Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

This has been the mindset of the Church forever. The actual practice of Advent as part of a church calender was a development. Pope Telephorus (125) began developing such a calender but it appears that the Catholic Church instituted the Season of Advent in 567 through the Council of Tours.

This Council also proclaimed the twelve days of Christmas (25 December) to Epiphany (manifestation) (6 January) a sacred, festive season.

Following the Apostolic Tradition, the Church universal proclaims our vigilance of the Second Coming of Christ. The Scriptual readings will reflect this during Advent.

This is a rich season intending to bring in a heightened Christmas celebration. To keep Christ the center of Christmas.


The History of the Advent Wreath
FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS

(A Baptist friend asked me about the Advent wreath — its history, meaning, etc..)

I think I gave her a pretty good answer. Perhaps you could provide a little more information.

From www.catholiceducation.org

The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.

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By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas.

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In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.

During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.

During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.

Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.


The Catholic Defender: The Importance for Vigilance

Posted by John Benko - October 5th, 2013

In this fast pace society that we live it is easy to be centered on the here and now.

We take each moment and live each moment expecting that tomorrow will be a better day.

We make our plans, we go to work, go to school, take our trips, most of the time our day is already mapped out for us.

As we spend our day, how many of us realize how fragile life can be?

The following is just being reported that Catholic Priests are being forbidden  to offer Mass, even if they volunteer for no pay.  The Obama Administration is doing everything they can to inflict pain on the American people.

We have watched this beginning with the shut down of the World War II monument in Washington D.C.

It is difficult to watch WWII Veterans many over 90 years of age in wheelchairs, walking with strollers breaking through Obama barriers to keep them out?

Now it is being reported that Catholic Priests can face arrest for offering Mass for Soldiers deployed all over the world.

The Archdiocese of the Military are receiving many complaints such as “This is Outrageous, especially threatening them with arrest to voluntarily do their job”?

Because eternity is very important, I want to consider this for a moment. There are those who spend a great deal of energy studying the last times.

For me it is a great point of interest, to look at the signs the Scripture refers to the last days. People are all over the chart on this subject.

Many times people go off making attacks on the Catholic Faith because they reject it’s foundations and so like a crazy doctor who miss diagnose his patients, they make false prophecies and accusations. 

Instead, we are to live this life in vigilance. We are to stand guard not as people who are paranoid, but as pilgrims in a strange land. Our homeland is here and now, but yet Heaven is our ultimate goal.
St. Peter instructs us to “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings”. 

Recently, the attacks on Catholics in Iraq by Islamic Terrorists have made the news and how terrible this is. Those killed are martyrs bearing witness to Christ daily. 

It is interesting that the Catholic Church is the most attacked group, yet the fundamentalists like Chick continues to make false attacks leading others to continue those attacks.

Violence is a way of life as people are affected by their environment. Ever since Adam and Eve with the fall of mankind, sin and death entered the world. 

Why does evil happen to good people?Our faith does not take away the evil in life, it helps us through it, to navigate around it. Sadly, a thousand people will rise this very day not knowing for them, this is their last day. Will they be ready? 

For many who live one day to the next without regard to their eternal inheritance this will be brutal. Jesus warns, “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come”.

Recently I was told by one of our Catholic Priests of an American Soldier deployed to Iraq who came to Father wanting to go to Confession. 

He told Father that he had been in more skirmishes with the enemy and he felt that his own life was seriously in danger. 

Father heard his Confession, gave him absolution, and the Soldier left there with God’s grace. 

Six days later, this same Soldier was killed in action after an attack upon his patrol. Tragic as this is, what a great sign this Soldier has left us. Through his example, he shows a great sign of predestination knowing that he packed his bags for eternity and today is in the hands of the Lord. 

It is a terrible thing to have someone die in your hands as I did during our 2007 deployment. There was no priest. I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for this Soldier as that was all I could do.
I trusted in the Lord’s promise to those who prayed this devotion in the presence of the dying. After returning from Iraq in January 2008, our unit held a evening dinner for all the Soldiers and their families. 

As my wife and I were sitting down a man walked up to me saying that he recognized me. I had never seen him previously, he recognized me from the video given to him of his Son’s Military Memorial Service held in Iraq. 

He sadly explained to us that his wife was particularly brokenhearted over the fact their Son did not receive the Anointing of the Sick. She was deeply distraught over this on behalf of her Son.
I responded to the man that I would like to talk to her if she would like as I might have words that might console his wife.

He gladly brought her to us that evening and I explained to her the importance of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and of the Lord’s promise he gave to St. Faustina concerning this devotion. 

This was a devotion that I had been saying on behalf of our Soldiers in Iraq along with the Rosary. 

After speaking with his wife for a few minutes, she became greatly consoled with what I told her. 

You can never take the sorrow away of a morning Mother for their Child, but because she has great trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, she was greatly consoled. 

I remember my Mother at the funeral of my older Brother and how she was gathered around by the family trying to console her. Interestingly, this is the only time I remember my Mother ever playing the piano. Mom’s demeanor certainly created the somber tone of the scene.

Sadly, many are not as vigilant. They lead their lives with a terrible void they fill with fleeting things that will never satisfy the soul.

The Virgin Mary at Fatima after giving the Children of Fatima a vision of Hell (13 July 1917), told them: “You see Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If they do what I will tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace… But if they do not stop offending God… He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger, and of persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father.”



Pope Pius XII warned the world in 1950 that to be a true Christian beginning in the later half of the 20th Century they would have to live as “Living Martyrs” because the attack on the family will be so severe, because people will be greatly affected by their environment. 

The secularization of our Society is very dangerous to the soul. Because of this,many live out each day like a mouse in a maze not aware of the potential dangers lurking at any corner.

Enjoy life, it is God’s gift to you, but be ever vigilant and faithful to His Church loving God above all things. I have found that if you put God first, you appreciate the things you have more profoundly with a thankful heart.


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The Catholic Defender: Journey to the Center of the Faith

Posted by John Benko - December 13th, 2010

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen”.

Colossians 1:28 states, “It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ”.

St. Paul is basing this through the Authority of Christ as he states, “Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions on Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, o which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past”.

As we search for this center of faith, an important clue comes from St. Augustine, “the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”.

Jesus Commands the Church to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Through the apostolic Ministry of the Catholic Church, “As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number” (Acts 6:4-5).

1 Corinthians 1:10 commands us, “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Chris, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be know divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and purpose”.

Acts 14:22-23 encourages us “They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith”.

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love”.

St. Jude echos this writing “Beloved, although I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the faith that was once handed down to the holy ones. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ON THOSE WHO WAIVER, HAVE MERCY; SAVE OTHERS BY SNATCHING THEM OUT OF THE FIRE; ON OTHERS HAVE MERCY WITH FEAR, ABHORRING EVEN THE OUTER GARMENT STAINED BY THE FLESH” (Jude 3,21).

St. James echos this teaching, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

St. Paul writes, “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you o live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”(Ephesians 4:1-5).

Titus 3:15 says, “All who are with me send you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith”.

Having gone to many nations and meeting many people from around the world, I find St. Paul’s encouragement to “love us in the faith” really inspiring. The Catholic Church is truly universal and to meet people from all over has been a great blessing.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are (From Wikipedia):

  • Wisdom: With the gift of wisdom, we see God at work in our lives and in the world. For the wise person, the wonders of nature, historical events, and the ups and downs of our lives take on deeper meaning. The matters of judgment about the truth, and being able to see the whole image of God. We see God as our Father and other people with dignity. Lastly being able to see God in everyone and everything everywhere.
  • Understanding: With the gift of understanding, we comprehend how we need to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with understanding is not confused by all the conflicting messages in our culture about the right way to live. The gift of understanding perfects a person’s speculative reason in the apprehension of truth. It is the gift whereby self-evident principles are known, Aquinas writes.[4]
  • Counsel (Right Judgment): With the gift of counsel/right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right. A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus. The gift of truth that allows the person to respond prudently, and happily to believe our Christ the Lord
  • Fortitude (Courage): With the gift of fortitude/courage, we overcome our fear and are willing to take risks as a follower of Jesus Christ. A person with courage is willing to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or even physical harm and death. The gift of courage allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil, especially with regard to goods or evils that are difficult, just like Joan of Arc did.
  • Knowledge: With the gift of knowledge, we understand the meaning of God. The gift of knowledge is more than an accumulation of facts.
  • Piety (Reverence): With the gift of reverence, sometimes called piety, we have a deep sense of respect for God and the church. A person with reverence recognizes our total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Piety is the gift whereby, at the Holy Spirit’s instigation, we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, Aquinas writes.
  • Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a “filial fear,” like a child’s fear of offending his father, rather than a “servile fear,” that is, a fear of punishment. Also known as knowing God is all powerful. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7) because it puts our mindset in its correct location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Generosity
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

With these gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit this gives us the tools to fight the battle of life:

Grace
Faith
Service
Suffering
Vigilance
Cooperation
Authority
The Beatitudes
Unity
Perseverance
Faithfulness
Steadfastness
Healing
Trust
Wait upon the Lord

To go through the journey to the center of the Faith, your only true hope is to find the Catholic Faith to utilize the Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a1cD5Ej-QI&feature=BF&list=MLGxdCwVVULXd-3KO_75ylz9uCkR3woIot&index=3


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