This week we look at celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas; also, Catholics in the Super Bowl, real St. Valentine’s cards, and an invitation to hang out with Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families this fall.
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COMING UP THIS WEEK
February is Catholic Press Month and Black History Month.
Saturday, January 31
Memorial of St.John Bosco, Priest
Sunday, February 1
Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.”
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
Monday, February 2
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
The Presentation of our Lord, also known as Candlemas, celebrates the ritual presentation of the infant Jesus in the Jerusalem temple in fulfillment of the law, which required first-born sons to be dedicated to the Lord. In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed by two elderly prophets, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation, and acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The readings for the day include the Canticle of Simeon, part of which inspired the tradition of blessing candles on the feast day: “. . . my eyes have seen your salvation, / which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: / a light for revelation to the Gentiles, / and glory for your people Israel.” See Seven Slices for suggestions about celebrating this feast.
Tuesday, February 3
Feast of St. Blase
Born to rich nobility, St. Blase (d. 316) became a bishop in Armenia. He retired during the reign of Diocletian, and hid away as a hermit in the forests of Argeus. His peace and solitude attracted the local animals, which he healed and nurtured. Upon discovery, the Roman governor imprisoned him and tortured him to recant his faith. In prison, he famously saved a child from choking on a fish bone. Miraculously unable to drown him, his captors tore him with combs and beheaded him.
It is traditional to invoke the help of St. Blase by having your throat blessed on this day.
Thursday, February 5
Memorial of St.Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
St. Agatha was a virgin martyr and lived in the third century. Living during a time of Christian persecution, she was arrested by a man who was angry with her for her refusal of marriage. Refusing to deny her Christian faith, she was put in prison where she suffered various tortures, one of them involving being rolled over hot coals and broken pieces of glass after her breasts had been cut off. For this reason, St. Agatha is the patroness of those fighting breast cancer.
Friday, February 6
Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. Among his companions were 26 martyrs, all of whom were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers, and laymen; Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church. Even while hanging on a cross, Miki continued to preach the Gospel to those gathered to witness his execution. After his death, thousands of Japanese around Nagasaki converted to Christianity, which is why that city has the largest Christian population in Japan today. The martyrs of Japan were beatified in 1627 and finally canonized in 1862.
Saturday, February 7
World Day for Concecrated Life
National Marriage Week begins
Here are seven ways to welcome Christ into your family life this week.
1. Read and reflect on Sunday’s reading [ages 3+]
This week’s readings focus on the authority of Jesus. The reading from Deuteronomy has Moses telling his people that one day, God will raise up “A prophet like me . . . to him you shall listen.” That prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus, who astonishes the people by teaching “as one having authority” . . . that is, he doesn’t rely on the teaching of others, but proclaims God’s revelation directly, just as Moses did.
Paraphrase the Gospel for younger children, using your own words and inviting them to supply some of the speaking parts (“What does ‘astonished’ look like?”) Then explore the Gospel with these questions:
- The Gospel says that Jesus taught with authority. Do you know what authority means? (Someone who has the power to give orders.)
- What did Jesus do to show that he had authority? (He taught the people, and he cast a demon out of someone who was possessed. The forces of chaos and evil obeyed him.)
- Who do you know who has authority? (Teachers, parents.)
- What are some of the ways that Jesus uses his authority for good? (Healing, defeating death, caring for the poor and the marginalized.)
Wrap up your reflection with a game of “Simon Says,” to underline the theme of authority.
Older children and teens
Reflect on the Scriptures with the questions listed above, adding the following into the mix:
- What is the common theme that connects the first reading with the reading from the Gospel? (Jesus fulfills Moses’ prophecy that God would send one like him that the people could listen to.)
- Why did the people of Israel ask not to see or hear God directly anymore? (They were afraid they would die.)
- Would you be afraid to see God face-to-face? Why?
- Who has positive authority in your life — that is, who uses their power to make life better for you and others?
2. Do the Super Bowl the Catholic way [ages 7+]
Watching the big game this weekend? Catch Super Bowl Catholics: Faith Is More Than a Footnote for Football’s Heroes, an article from Fathers for Good that is packed with interesting anecdotes about how Catholic football heroes have expressed their faith over the years. Did you know that the term “Hail Mary pass” originated with a Catholic player who literally prayed to Mary after making a blind desperation pass into the endzone? Or how about the faith of Super Bowl hero Troy Polamalu: “Success in football doesn’t matter. Success in anything doesn’t matter. As Mother Teresa said, ‘God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful.’ My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it.”
3. Celebrate Candlemas [ages 3+]
Monday is the Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas because of Simeon’s proclamation that the infant Jesus was the long-expected messiah, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, / and glory for your people Israel.” Here’s how to celebrate:
- Read the Scripture readings for the day, and discuss how the Old Testament reading ties in with the Gospel reading. (Find the readings here.)
- Pray the Canticle of Simeon during your family prayer.
- Light some candles during your evening meal.
- Make crepes, a traditional Candlemas food, or edible candles; both recipes can be found at CatholicCuisine.com.
- If you haven’t taken down your Christmas things, now is the latest traditional day to do so.
4. Sneak in a celebration of St. Brigid [ages 3+]
The feast day of St. Brigid is February 1. This year it falls on a Sunday, which means it is not officially celebrated by the Church, but if you are Irish, or just love St. Brigid, you can have your own private celebration. If you don’t know the many fun and interesting stories about St. Brigid’s life, get over to Wikipedia or Fish Eaters to learn more about her.
Besides reading the story of St. Brigid, you can make St. Brigid’s Oaten Bread, the recipe for which is found at CatholicCuisine.com. Catholic Cuisine also has suggestions for picture books about St. Brigid, and a link to a coloring sheet. Finally, remember that St. Brigid was especially known for her generosity to the poor; it is customary to give bread to those in need on her feast day. If you bake St. Brigid’s Oaten Bread, make an extra loaf to give away.
5. Make homemade Valentine’s cards [ages 5+]
Yes, it’s not too soon to begin thinking about getting Valentine’s cards for your kids’ Valentine’s Day celebrations at school. But if you start now, you might be able to make homemade cards that reflect the origins of the day as a celebration of the feast of St. Valentine. Incorporate Bible verses and saint’s quotes about love into your homemade Valentines. Watch the Peanut Butter and Grace Facebook page and website for more about this idea.
6. Make a dry erase board for your family’s faith agenda [ages 5+]
Keep faith front and center for your family by purchasing a nice dry erase board and dedicating it to your family’s “faith agenda” for the week. If you like, you can purchase faith-centered refrigerator magnets to decorate the board, or make your own. Some ideas for what to put on your board:
- Keep a list of prayer intentions (see the article, “Keep a List of Family Prayer Intentions” for inspiration)
- Put up inspirational quotes from the saints, rotating the quotes once a week
- Post a line or two from next Sunday’s Scripture reading
- Post the virtue that your family is working on for the week
7. Plan to attend the World Meeting of Families with Pope Francis [ages 3+]
If you have been mulling whether to attend the papal visit to the United States in September, consider registering for the World Meeting of Families September 22-27. Family registration includes keynote speakers, breakout sessions, a separate track for kids and teens, childcare, and lunch. Plus, the pope is expected to participate in the event, which is to be held in Philadelphia. Details on the pope’s involvement are expected to be released this spring or summer, but there is a substantial discount for early registration. Registration is open now, so if you are interested, head over to the World Meeting of Families website.
WHAT THE CHURCH IS SAYING…
Families come alive as they reach beyond themselves
In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other. This greatly helps us to understand the meaning of communication as recognizing and creating closeness. When we lessen distances by growing closer and accepting one another, we experience gratitude and joy. Mary’s greeting and the stirring of her child are a blessing for Elizabeth; they are followed by the beautiful canticle of the Magnificat, in which Mary praises God’s loving plan for her and for her people. A “yes” spoken with faith can have effects that go well beyond ourselves and our place in the world. To “visit” is to open doors, not remaining closed in our little world, but rather going out to others. So too the family comes alive as it reaches beyond itself; families who do so communicate their message of life and communion, giving comfort and hope to more fragile families, and thus build up the Church herself, which is the family of families.
—Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of Communications
Women play an important role in transmitting faith
It occurs to me: why is it mainly women who to pass on the faith? Simply because the one who brought us Jesus is a woman. It is the path chosen by Jesus. He wanted to have a mother: the gift of faith comes to us through women, as Jesus came to us through Mary.
—Pope Francis, in remarks to the faithful this week
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