Is “Christmas Monday” an Oxymoron?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 29, 2023 |

When I opened my daily book of meditation, I saw “Monday, December 25.”  For a moment I felt a shock of surprise. How could the beautiful Masses I just attended be Monday, such a mundane workaday time in the week? Really? Christmas falling on a Monday? Something about it just didn’t seem right. After a reflective pause, I realized not much of the first Christmas seemed right either. So much of the most famous day of all times (around 4-7 B.C.) was ordinary with a mix of extraordinary. Now that’s an oxymoron! Extraordinary ordinariness. An ordinary feeding trough: the crib for the King of Creation. Workaday shepherds: believers in celestial beings. Messy rafters, dirt floors: Home, Sweet Home for Divinity. From all eternity the Trinity held the Mystery: Divinely Human, Humanly Divine.

The Beginning is Near

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 18, 2023 |

We’ve all seen signs “The end is near.” What would happen if I walked around with a sign stating “The beginning is near”? What? In this Advent Season as we wait in joyful hope, we are already in the endtimes inchoatively as we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. The Second Coming at the end of time shows us that the first coming in Bethlehem was not just a visitation but a permanent presence. The endtimes are already here, because all is fulfilled in Christ. It’s like a basketball game when your favorite team is ahead by 20 points and there are only 7 seconds left to play. We know the victory is already ours. We know the outcome. We’re just waiting for the clock to run out. The end time is a victorious new beginning, and the beginning is near.

Did They Know Him?  Do We?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 16, 2023 |

Jesus multiplied bread and fish, but did they know Him when he came? He cast out demons and cured disease, but did they know him when he came? He preached in their synagogues and raised the dead. But did they know him when he came? He stretched out his arms in love on a cross and stretched his body in risen glory across the universe. But did they know Him when he came?

Today you and I passed people in the grocery store. We answered phone calls. We took care of our family. We saw people from around the globe via TV and the internet. Perhaps we briefly encountered salespersons, medical personnel, mail carriers, attendants, church-goers. In these people did we recognize the Christ? Do we know Christ when he comes?

Who Are the Cousins of Jesus?

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 12, 2023 |

Jesus had relatives, but Ancestry.com probably won’t get it right. Scripture hints that Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and a few others are “cousins.” Close cousins?  Shirttail cousins? Kissing cousins? Many times removed cousins?  Ilia Delio writes that the universe “possesses in its inner constitution a relation to the uncreated Word.” Because the Word bears the imprint of the Trinity, the Incarnation “is the perfect realization of what is potentially embedded in human nature, that is, union with the divine.” Christ and the world are intrinsically connected. Minerals, plants, animals, humans are related to Christ. Every creature is connected to Christ and to one another. I think this makes us all cousins to Christ and to each other.

Why Jesus Came

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 7, 2023 |

There’s no other reason for Christ than love. The first glorious, dynamic, unbelievably powerful spark of creation, “Let there be!” launched the echo that reverberates down the eons “Let there be love!” And love has permeated the cosmos ever since. Love is the energizer in the millions of “Let there be’s” in Love’s unceasing, evolving transformation. Love became human in Mary’s “Let it be done to me.” The incarnation of Divine Love leapt into Mary’s womb like God’s all-powerful Word. And the tiny cells forming the heart of Jesus were the fire bursting into the milieu to fill all creation with His love. Let the fire of God’s love be done to us.

December: The Month that Runs Over

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | December 4, 2023 |

The waitress may say, “Tell me when” as she shreds cheese over your salad. Your response “That’s enough” stops the grater. December is the month when we might like to say “That’s enough,” but there’s always more. Nothing stops. December is a cascade of parties, plays, shopping, baking, visiting, decorating, hosting, praying, longing, expecting. Sure, there’s anxiety and fatigue in all this, but who can say “That’s enough”? If December were a piece of pumpkin pie, and December were the whip cream, why stop? Just enjoy the “too much-ness of the season.” Let the cup of December run over. In bleak January, you’ll be glad you did.

Walking like Royalty

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 29, 2023 | Comments Off on Walking like Royalty

Earliest dawn is a rose. Watch a little longer, and the rose becomes a ruby. Before I even reach my morning coffee, I feel rich, bejeweled, the recipient of Nature’s wealth. I suppose I should walk with regal step throughout the coming day wearing my Dawn tiara.

The Air Is So Heavy

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 27, 2023 |

November is my twelfth favorite month of the year. The sky is gray, the grass is brown, the trees are bare. With the change of the hour hand on a clock, the evenings are suddenly very, very dark. Clouds hang low, and I can almost feel their weight on my shoulders. The earth heaves a big sigh, acquiescing to the damp, dense despondency of lonely longing for sun and warmth and life. “Death and decay!” Nature demands.

Listen to November. What do you hear? Silence. No chirping birds or croaking frogs. It’s the silence of waiting, holding one’s breath in expectation. Or is it doubt-filled hopefulness as an atmosphere of sadness saturates frosty ground.

November is the time to visit cemeteries, pray for the deceased, light candles in remembrance. November feels like depression, but it’s not. It’s pressure. It’s the awareness of the millions in the “cloud of witnesses.” We don’t see the souls living in joy and grace, on that final lap heavenward bound. But we feel their presence. It’s like heavy air. Inhale deeply. You may whiff a heavenly scent.

Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 25, 2023 |

Before Vatican II the Solemnity of Christ the King was the last Sunday in October. although now the Solemnity rightfully occurs on the last Sunday of the Church Year (this year November 26).

Kings and kingdoms may sound pompous, but the Gospels for Christ the King show a humble and generous king. In cycle A (this year) the King welcomes into the kingdom those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Last year (Cycle C) the King from his cross welcomes a thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And in Cycle B Jesus tells Pilate that he has come into the world as a king to testify to the truth. Every year Jesus turns the focus away from himself and on his People. May humility, truth, and generosity characterize our world leaders, and may those virtues characterize us, so that we will be welcomed into the Kingdom.

Make Your Own Calendar of the Saints

By Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider | November 20, 2023 |

The Church Year continually evolves. In the first couple centuries the anniversaries of the deaths of martyrs were remembered, and many of those early saints are still on our Church calendar, such as Saint Lawrence on August 10. The list gets longer with each new decade.

Robert Taft, S.J. suggested each parish church having its own calendar of local saints. Who has been known for their lives of prayer and good deeds? The day of their death becomes their birth into eternal life, which becomes their day on the parish calendar. You may like to start your own calendar for the family and friends and coworkers who have gone before you.  Periodically flip through the pages and pray the names aloud.  “Saint N.N., pray for us.”  This becomes your own Litany of the Saints.