Happy New Year! I’ve been celebrating by dragging out my good old MIDI keyboard and composing some instrumental music in GarageBand since I still don’t have my voice back yet. Argh. But I’m really fond of what I’m working on right now, so maybe there’s a silver lining in all of this after all. Of all the things I’ve composed via MIDI this is by far the best sounding. Almost sounds like I know what I’m doing. Almost. I even came up with a bass line for once and the guitars sound like guitars. Mostly. Sort of. I keep hearing more parts for it and I know if I work on this for a few days instead of hours I’ll hear even more. But I really want to sing! Argh!

Hope you’re having a marvelous (or peaceful) New Year’s celebration wherever you are. I’m going back to listening to my new song over and over to see what other parts I can come up with. Yes, this is how I party. I am a nerd. ;)

I love Nativity scenes. I currently have only a simple set, inexpensive. But I set it up every Christmas during Advent sans the manger and Christ Child which I place in the scene on Christmas Eve after dinner and sometimes at midnight. Depends on whether or not I’m attending Midnight Mass. This year I was ill (sarcoidosis, not the flu or anything contagious) during most of Advent and I didn’t get to go to Mass for the 2nd, 3rd or 4th Sundays of Advent and not for Midnight Mass either. I also lost my voice so I couldn’t even sing Christmas carols at home. Oy!

But I did manage to decorate the house last Saturday just a few days before Christmas. I’ve got stringing lights and garland on the front porch down to an art and this year I even threw a few lights on the shrubs in the flower bed. A small artificial tree on the table in the breakfast nook and a few other things here and there completed the look.

Then on Christmas Eve after the family dinner was over (and a very fine dinner it was, too, thanks to my sister and her husband!) and everyone had left or had gone to bed, I said a blessing for the Nativity scene and placed the Christ Child in the center. The three wise men are in the den, making their way on their journey to Bethlehem. They’re due to arrive on the feast of the Epiphany and then I’ll take the decorations down until next year.

But I may leave the lights in my room a bit longer. My older dog Abby hates those lights (or any lights when she’s trying to sleep) but I like ’em so I’m gonna keep ’em. For a little while. In the bleak midwinter a few little lights can bring a big smile. And I have a photo of my Nativity set to keep me company until Advent next year. Who knows? Maybe this coming year I’ll get an outdoor set for the yard.

Hope your Christmas season is a happy and blessed one wherever you are. Peace be with you now and throughout the coming year.

My Nativity scene, Christmas 2012

I hope you’ve been having a very happy Thanksgiving Day. In between all the shopping and football and parades and eating, I hope you spent some time being truly thankful, even if you’ve had a hard year and being thankful is maybe the last thing on your mind any day lately, least of all today. I know a lot of people were badly effected by storms and are still effected. I wish I could make all of that go away. I wish I had enough money and power to help everybody. And while I’m wishing for superpowers, I also wish I could make things like dementia go away and nobody’s loved ones would have it and they would be the way they used to be instead of like someone you don’t know any more. I wish my best pal, my cute and very funny dog and constant companion lo these nine years, didn’t have to be lifted up to and down from the bed, or into and out of the car all the time now. I wish other things, too, but you get the idea.

Most of all I wish that we could all stop buying and selling and cooking and decorating, and griping about buying and selling and cooking and decorating, and remember what this holiday is about. Not just a day off from work, not just the busiest day of the year at work (or day before the busiest day), but a Holy Day.

Yes, a Holy Day. This year I didn’t get to Mass for Thanksgiving and my whole day has been weird because of it. The day lost its entire aspect of holiness. A lesson learned: Mass comes first, no excuses! And not only did I not get to Mass, but I forgot to write a special post or put up a little special graphic on the blog. But I have been getting my writing done for the novel and NaNoWriMo, so that’s something. The goal is 50,000 words and my current word count is 42,057, a hefty chunk of which I managed to write in just these last four days. So that’s definitely something I’m thankful for.

Well, the dogs are asleep on the bed now and computers have finished backing up–what did I do before Dropbox, huh?–so I’m going to see how much work I can do on the novel before bedtime. Happy Thanksgiving Day, everybody! Hope yours was good. May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, now and every day. Amen.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever!

If you haven’t discovered Fr. Robert Barron yet, you’re in for a treat. If you are familiar with his Word On Fire ministry or his Catholicism series*, then you know this set of reflections on the Gospel readings for the Sundays during Lent, compiled from the series, is going to be good. (These are free — along with a lot of other great things —  on his blog, by the way. Or watch the videos below.)

Week One, Part One and Part Two

Week Two

From the description on the Word On Fire blog:

With the ashes having faded from our foreheads and the penitential season of Lent now underway, we offer you some spiritual food-for-thought from the CATHOLICISM series. Matt Leonard, Director and Editor of the series, compiled a collection of weekly clips that relate to each Lenten Sunday’s Gospel reading.

For your initial study and reflection, the readings for this upcoming First Sunday of Lent are available here.

Father Barron’s sermon for Sunday can be accessed here.

Finally, watch the compiled Catholicism footage relating to the week’s Gospel and answer the corresponding questions [at Word On Fire].

Reflections for the Gospel Reading for the Sundays during Lent:
First Sunday of Lent
Second Sunday of Lent

*If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch the Catholicism series, I highly recommend that you get hold of a set or watch episodes on EWTN in March. Watch with friends and family. Discover (or re-discover) the beauty that is Catholicism. Buy from Word On Fire. From Amazon.

Nativity Icon, larger image at end of this postIn the beginning was the Word. And below is a video from Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire ministry wherein he speaks about Christmas and the Prologue of the Gospel of John. I love Fr. Barron. He’s prolific and eloquent and my laptop, external drives and iPods are filled with hundreds of his podcasts and videos. (A note about the icon below the video and a larger view.)

May your Christmas be a blessed, holy and joyful one. Peace be with you and with your loved ones throughout the year. Merry Christmas!

About the Church in the East: Light of the East on Catholic Radio International. About the Nativity Icon, Show #378: The Nativity. Download. RSS. I recorded the show yesterday on EWTN about the Christmas customs of the Church in the East and watched it this morning. They talked about the icon in this post or one similar to it. Fascinating stuff. Or it may have been Fr. Jacob Restrick, OP, and his series, Icons: Windows Onto Heaven. I recorded them both and watched them back to back. Of course, I can’t find any links to Fr. Restrick’s show. Argh.

Nativity Icon

Looking through various posts on the web about the season of Advent, I stumbled across  the story of the well-known Twelve Days of Christmas, which, as it turns out, is not the simple song I took it to be. Composed as a “catechism song”, the Twelve Days of Christmas taught young Catholics their faith at a time when merely to be Catholic was a crime punishable by being drawn and quartered. Being Catholic was against the law in England “from 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics” there. The practice of Catholicism was illegal there, whether public or private.

Twelve Days of Christmas, an underground Catholic catechism song

I thank God daily that I live in a country where I can openly practice my beautiful Catholic faith.

At least, for now.