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Feast Days in December

St. Nicholas- December 6

St. NIcholas was from Myra, Greece and was the abbot of a monastery.  His uncle was the bishop and when he died, Nicholas became bishop.  "There are many legends about St. Nicholas of Myra.  One story tells how he helped three poor sisters.  Their father did not have enough money to pay their dowries and thought of selling them into servitude.  Three times, St. NIcholas secretly went to their house at night and put a bag of money inside.   The man used the money so that one one of his daughters could marry.  On the third visit. the man saw St. Nicholas and thanked him for his kindness.  He also reportedly saved three men who were falsely imprisoned and sentenced to death.

"In most German countries, St. Nicholas comes on December 5th.  Children leave their shoes on the windowsill or outside their bedroom door, and St. Nicholas rewards the children who have been good all year by filling up their shoes with goodies, such as nuts, fruits and sweets."
 

Feast of the Immaculate Conception - December 8th (HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION)
Mass Schedule: 8:30 am Holy Family
                           9:00 am St. Francis-St. Mary
                           7:30 pm Holy Family
                           7:30 pm St. Francis-St.Mary

Many mistake this feast as the celebration of the conception of Jesus. It is actually the celebration of the conception of his Blessed Mother, Mary.  As Catholics, we believe and celebrate the fact that Mary was conceived without original sin. What does this mean?  It means she was born without the effects of the original sin of Adam and Eve.  She was born with a pure and immaculate soul. The devil cannot touch her, therefore, she cannot sin. This did not take away her free will, however. She was still able to make decisions for herself and choose right from wrong.  Confused yet?  I certainly was.  But then someone explained it to me like this:  Can you or someone you know sing in perfect pitch?  If so, ask yourself or your friend this question: “Can you sing off pitch?” The answer will probably be “yes, but why would I?”  Someone who is capable of singing so beautifully wouldn’t sing off pitch because they know how much more wonderful it sounds when they sing well. It was the same for Mary. She was capable of fully appreciating what saying “yes” to God was like and had no reason to sin and turn away from him.

Some ask why this was necessary.  Well she was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, who was the Son of God. If she was going to carry the Son of God in her womb, it makes sense she would have to be without sin.  She was a human tabernacle! 

This beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church was always talked about but not confirmed until 1854 when Pope Pius IX declared it a Dogma of the faith.  Four years later, Mary appeared in Lourdes, France to a young girl named Bernadette.  When Mary first appeared, she introduced herself as the “Immaculate Conception”, affirming the teaching by Pope Pius IX.

 

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - December 12th

Juan Diego was a poor Aztec in Mexico and one of very few Catholics. In the year 1531, most of the Aztecs worshiped false gods and practiced human sacrifice.  One day, as Juan Diego was walking to Mass, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him on Tepayak Hill.  She told him she wanted a church built and he needed to tell the bishop.  Juan Diego was hesitant but he did just that. The bishop told him he would think about it. Mary appeared to Juan Diego a second time and insisted he go back to the bishop. This time the bishop told him he needed to ask Mary for a sign. 

Juan Diego asked Mary for a sign and she picked some roses nearby (which were not in season in December) and arranged them in Juan Diego’s cloak.  He assumed the roses were the sign and when he went to the bishop for the third time, he released the roses onto the floor from his cloak and no one could believe their eyes. For on the cloak was a beautiful image of Mary, just as she had appeared to him on Tepayak Hill.  The image is still in perfect condition today and can be seen at the cathedral in Mexico City.

 

Fun Facts about the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

  • THE CLOAK- Juan Diego’s cloak, a poor quality cactus-cloth, which should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 470 years later and still defies all scientific explanations of its origin.
  • HER EYES- Photo imaging demonstrates that the eyes of the Blessed Virgin apparently even reflect what was in front of her in 1531! In 1979, using the most sophisticated digitization and image processing techniques, Dr. Jose Aste-Tonsmann announces the finding of at least four human figures, reflected in both eyes of the Virgin.
  • SUN AND MOON- Mary appeared in front of the sun, standing on the moon.  The sun and the moon were representations of the Aztec gods. By appearing in this way, Mary is showing she was emitting the light of the one true God.
  • HER MANTLE- Her turquoise mantle is covered in stars and astronomers have confirmed that the stars are arranged in the constellations that would have appeared in the sky during the winter solstice (the time when she appeared).
  • HER BELT- Artists note that the proportions of the woman are perfect for a maiden in her early teenage years, that the figure (Mary) is wearing a black belt, an Aztec symbol that meant she was pregnant with child.
  • HER HANDS- Her hands are folded in prayer as a sign of holiness and piety
  • HER KNEE- Her knee is bent as a sign of penitence and honor to God.
  • HER FACE- Her face is pointed downward in compassion and tenderness. This was also a sign to the Aztecs that the woman herself was not a god.
  • MIRACLES- In 1921, a bomb (hidden in a vase of flowers) placed beneath the image exploded, causing severe damage to the Church and altar but nothing happened to the cloak. An incredible list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to her. Yearly, an estimated 10 million visit her Basilica, making her Mexico City home the most popular Marian shrine in the world, and the most visited Catholic church in the world next to the Vatican.

 

Feast of St. Lucy - December 13th

Lucy was a young girl who lived in Italy during the rule of the Emperor Diocletian.  She took a vow of virginity and promised herself only to God. Her mother, not knowing of this vow, pressured her to marry a wealthy pagan man. Lucy tried to avoid this at all costs and eventually confessed to her mother of her vow. The man was very insistent, however, and got very angry when she would not satisfy his advances.  He reported her to the local governor and told him she was a Christian.  He demanded she be exposed in a house of sin but when the guards came to get her, God made her immovable and they were unable to carry her. She was tortured and eventually died in prison. It is said that during her torture, her eyes were gouged out. She is always depicted holding a set of eyes and is the patroness of eyesight.
The most common story told about St. Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city.  She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things.  Lucy means 'light' so this is a very appropriate name.  A popular food eaten on St. Lucia's day are 'Lussekatts', St. Lucia day buns flavoured with saffron and dotted with raisins which are eaten for breakfast.