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EPISODE #265
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS WITH BISHOP KEVIN VANN

Join Deacon Steve Greco and his guest, our very own Bishop Kevin Vann from the Diocese of Orange.

Today, the Bishop catches us up on some of the latest goings-on at Christ Cathedral; and, he shares some fascinating stories of some of his favorite Christmas traditions.

Tune in for a wonderful, heartfelt conversation! 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/20/20

EPISODE #264
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: THE JOY OF ADVENT WITH GUEST FR. FELIX JUST

On today’s much anticipated episode, Deacon Steve Greco welcomes Fr. Felix Just back to the studio. Fr. Felix is, among other things, a renowned biblical scholar.

Today’s conversation generated quite a lively exchange between these two good friends, as they talk about the blessed season of Advent.

Listen in, and encourage others to do the same!

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/13/20

REFLECTING ON THE SPECIAL SEASON OF ADVENT

I recently found a series of photos on Twitter that are entitled Foto di Assisi.” I began viewing these photos of a city and land that I had come to love very much during my student days in Rome. Often, if I had a couple of days off, I would take the train to Assisi just to spend time walking and praying in this sacred and beautiful city where one truly senses the presence of St. Francis and St. Claire. 

During one of my trips to Assisi I purchased a copy of a book entitled “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” or in Italian, “I Fioretti di San Francesco.” It is a collection of stories and reflections of the early days of the “Little Brothers,” or “Friars Minor”! However one might view these accounts of the life of the early followers of St. Francis, they are above all narrations and accounts of Faith and trust in God reflected in the life of St. Francis and his early followers.  

One day I walked (I was only 30 at the time) from Assisi, down to St. Mary of the Angels, over to a place called “Rivotorto,” and then back up to Assisi, to the Basilica of St. Francis, to the Cathedral of Assisi, and then all the way up to the Fort (“Rocca”) to hear the Angelus bells ring as the sun set over the Umbrian Valley!   

In reading those stories, I could hear St. Francis speaking directly to the first Friars, calling them “Brothers all” or “Fratelli Tutti,” which is the title of the latest encyclical letter of Pope Francis, which is an encouragement to us in this time of fractures and divisions in our society and culture. The Holy Father opens his latest encyclical with these words, which can give us something to reflect on in the last days of Ordinary Time, and as the new liturgical year comes upon us with the beauty and mystery of Advent.  

“FRATELLI TUTTI.” With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother ‘as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.” (No. 1)  

As the Bishops’ support group I am in was reflecting on these words, we also had with us some reflections of Focolare foundress Chiara Lubich from the November 1981 “Word of Life.”  These were not too different from the words of Pope Francis. A short excerpt is: 

..With these words, Jesus does not want to lead people who are unhappy towards an attitude of simple resignation by promising them a reward in the future. He is thinking about the present. In fact, his Kingdom is already here, even if not definitively so. It is present in Jesus who has overcome death by rising again after dying in great affliction. It is also present in us, in our hearts as Christians: God is in us. The Trinity dwells within us. And so we can experience the happiness that Jesus promised…Sufferings remain, but there is new energy to face the trials of life to help others who are struggling in some way: there is new strength to overcome sufferings and to see and welcome them as a means of redemption as Jesus did.”  

I hope that the Advent season will be days of blessing, comfort and hope that the Lord offers us. 

Next week – more on Advent. 

God bless you always and your loved ones in these special days. 

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC

Restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 means that long-held holiday traditions will be altered significantly this year. Most people will not be able to experience the familiar liturgies and music inside the sacred space of a church. On Nov. 17, the state ordered that no indoor Masses are to be held. People who celebrate Mass outdoors in parking lots must cover their faces and stay six feet apart from one another. 

Yet the season of Advent and Christmas need not be any less important or meaningful. Mass services have already been streaming by most parishes so that everyone can connect with the Church and participate from home—and this will continue through the holidays. “A lot of people say this is a very satisfying experience considering the limitations,” says Lesa Truxaw, director of the Office for Worship. Though receiving the Holy Eucharist is not possible, she says, viewing services “helps us to enter into prayer in a time of worship.” 

The Diocese of Orange has launched a website to help Catholics celebrate Advent. Visit rcbo.org/advent 

“Advent is a season of hope and waiting,” says Truxaw. “As Catholics we’re asked to linger in this time and prepare for the birth of Jesus, just like any family preparing for a new baby.” The Advent season begins on Nov. 29 and “it ties in with what we’re expecting this year—we are waiting for this pandemic to be done. We are hopeful that we won’t get sick. We are waiting for the time when we can gather again with family and friends. Advent fits very much with our experience right now,” she says.  

Katie Dawson, director of Parish Evangelization and Faith Formation, suggests delving into Advent in a variety of ways. Reading Scripture during the week before Sunday as a family is one way, helping children to understand words they might not recognize.  

Another Advent practice is to read Scripture using Lectio Divina or “divine reading.” This story by Devon Wattam from the Catholic Sistas website (catholicsistas.com/lectio-divina-grow-closer-to-god-this-advent-through-divine-reading), a collection of blogs from Catholic women around the world, offers a step-by-step guide to this meditative reading practice. 

Advent prayers can be found on the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions) as well as the website of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange (rcbo.org). 

Family activities such as constructing a crib scene together or helping a local parishioner in need are described in another story on the Catholic Sistas site by Antonia Goddard (catholicsistas.com/being-the-living-crib-2/). The group called Abiding Together has made available reflections on the meaning of the season in a series of four podcast talks about Advent with noted Catholics (abidingtogetherpodcast.com/advent-series).  

For parents, Dawson also recommends the book called Around the Year with the von Trapp Family by Maria von Trapp, the singer whose story was the basis of “The Sound of Music.” In this book, she provides hymns, recipes and activities she shared with her children every holiday. They made Advent wreathes and calendars and studied the lives of saints—activities that strengthened family bonds. 

Truxaw recalls an Advent tradition in her husband’s large family in which each person secretly prayed someone else in the family, did their chores and bought a Christmas present for them. “The sense of anticipation and goodness that is exhibited makes this a great way to prepare for Christmas,” she says. 

It’s also helpful to remember that previous generations suffered through poverty, war and disease and still celebrated Christmas. 

“Two books from my childhood, ‘Little Women,’ and ‘Five Little Peppers,’ come to mind,” says Dawson. “Both are about families that endured hardships and found ways to create special celebrations. It is the very important task of parents to dig deep and help children to see we have many things to be thankful for. We have the great gift of Jesus, the source of our true hope. If we take a pause, say a prayer, light
a candle, and hold hands and have some silence with our children, we could find this Christmas truly a special celebration.” 

Christmas can be emotionally difficult for some people, especially for those without families or who feel alone and isolated. One antidote is to reach reach out to help others, and for Catholics there are many ways to do this, such as helping distribute groceries at the Cantlay Food Distribution Center. “Even now in this time there are still opportunities to connect by hope and healing,” says Katie Dawson. “Volunteering is a great way to contribute time and energy to benefit others and connect with other people who have the same interest in serving. We have to ask, ‘How can I make life better for someone else’? 

CELEBRATE THE SEASON

As we prepare to celebrate Our Savior’s birth, Advent offers Catholic families a new season of anticipation, gratitude, and love. 

Even with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, or perhaps now more than ever before, Advent prayers, activities, and contemplation provide peace and foster joy in the hectic weeks marching toward Christmas Day. 

“Advent is a time when we can step back from the hectic routine, slow down and contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation,” writes Maria Alejandra Rivas in her guide to Advent at catholic-link.org. “It marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church that slowly builds momentum towards Christmas as the weeks go by.” 

Rivas lists some ways we can prepare our spirits to receive Jesus, beginning with preparing our hearts through prayer. “Offer your heart as a dwelling place for the Holy family to live in,” she suggests. “Ask Jesus, Joseph and Mary to help you live out Advent as a time to prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus’ birth.” 

 

Some of her ideas include: 

  • Learn about Advent and why we celebrate different seasons in the Church.
  • Make a plan of action, including a list of things that need to get done to free up time and avoid distractions.
  • Set up a space for prayer.
  • Create a simple Advent wreath. Explanations and resources are available at Catholic websites.
  • Develop a simple family Advent calendar to count down to Christmas Day with special quotes or Bible verses about faith, hope, and love.
  • Don’t forget those in need. “Jesus came to serve,” Rivas reminds us, “so following in his footsteps we should consider how we could serve our brothers and sisters in need.”  

 

Other ideas for meaningful prayer and activities for Catholic families abound online. Printable prayers and useful explanations can be found at sadlier.com. At catholicicing.com, there’s a list of 10 Advent traditions for Catholic families that require little to no preparation. 

In addition to the Advent wreath, which provides a prayerful means of counting down to Christmas, there are several key opportunities for families to celebrate the season. 

  • On St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, it’s a tradition to tell children the story of St. Nick and fill their shoes with goodies overnight. 
  • Attending Mass as a family on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, offers the chance to explain what the feast day means. 
  • Singing religious Christmas carols like “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night” as you go about chores and errands can help you and the kids home in on the reason for the season. 
  • Consider driving around to look at Christmas lights on St. Lucia’s feast day, Dec. 13, a fitting tradition because her name means ‘light.’ 
  • Cook a Mexican dinner to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12. 
  • Display a nativity scene in your home; if you don’t have a permanent one, printable sets are available online. 

 

As you prepare to mark Advent, set aside a time for daily prayer as a family, Rivas recommends. Wake up a few minutes early or assign another time during the day or in the evening. “By doing this, you’ll have dedicated time on your schedule for prayer and reflection, and you’ll begin to grow in discipline.” 

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

The statues of the saints seemed to come to life, lit only by candles. It was our first Rorate Mass, held last Advent, and the church was adorned with candles (no electric light) in honor of Our Lady. The interplay of light and darkness echoed the anticipation of Advent as we awaited the Light of the World to dispel the darkness of sin. 

It is moments like these that remind me of the many ways technology reshapes not just our physical surroundings, but our psychological experience as well. My 6-year-old son was haunted by the predawn Rorate Mass. The normally staid facial expressions on the statues seemed to change with each flicker of the candlelight. It was a healthy fear, I think, one borne of encountering something ancient and mysterious. 

How many times can we say that we have this experience in our everyday lives? Or in the liturgy for that matter? I would venture to say that those occasions are rare, but precious. And some of that has to do with our tendency to examine everything strictly under the light of reason. 

I could have told my son not to worry, that the shifting statues were just an illusion. His eyes were just unable to focus properly under such low light. And this would have been absolutely true, in the rational sense. 

But wasn’t there another truth at work in the church that day? One that transcended the light of reason and yet did not violate it. It was true that the Light of the World was mere days away from entering the world through Mary, and that the candlelit ritual was a sign of his imminent arrival. 

The interplay of light and darkness in the church that day provided a cosmic commentary on the primordial tension between good and evil. The fact that the statues seemed to come to life under those primitive conditions illuminated the reality that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the one who gives light and life to otherwise dark and lifeless creatures. 

Now I could teach my son these ideas by reading him the Gospel or telling him the story of salvation. But I couldn’t create the conditions that brought that stunning reality to life on my own. Only the church can do that. In her tradition, her wisdom and her liturgical patrimony lies an experience that transcends our rational and technological efforts to illuminate reality. 

Next time you are on a screen (like right now perhaps), consider the source of light, both physical and spiritual. Screens shine on us from without, delivering all sorts of information and knowledge. As Catholics, our baptism ignites a light from within that brings us to a glow when we are living in accord with God’s will. That is the light that the world needs to see, the one that the darkness cannot comprehend. 

EPISODE #110
TRENDING WITH TIMMERIE: THE VIRTUE OF LOVE

Advent week four begins Sunday December 22nd with the theme of love! The virtue and one of the greatest longings we have.  Love, caritas, agape, eros, and philia are just some of the words for love.  What is love?  How can you live by this virtue?  Dr. Phillip Chavez of the Men’s Academy joins Trending with Timmerie. Together they discuss how materialism relativism, modernism, and hedonism destroy love.  They discuss how the Christian concept of love is modeled by Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary whose examples are more relatable than you realize.  Ponder the great sacrifice of Christ’s love as a child at Christmas and on the Cross at the Crucifixion.

 

Listen to more episodes at www.RadioTrending.com

Booking Timmerie to speak in 2020 https://www.radiotrending.com/booktimmerie

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/21/19

EPISODE #109
TRENDING WITH TIMMERIE: THE VIRTUE OF JOY

Being a Christian is cause for joy.  Do you wish to be a joyful person? Take up the theme of joy in the third week of Advent for Gaudete Sunday (December 15th).

Fr. Tim Grumbach joins Trending with Timmerie as they discuss this important virtue and fruit of the Holy Spirit.  What does the third Advent candle stand for?  They’ll discuss the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Francis of Assisi, and more!

 

Listen to more episodes at https://www.radiotrending.com

Bring Timmerie to your parish or event in 2020 https://www.radiotrending.com/booktimmerie

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 12/14/19

AN ADVENT MESSAGE

During this season of Advent, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the blessing of our Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Orange.  As Catholic schools across the country experience the challenges of declining enrollment and gaps in school funding, I am proud to shift the narrative and share some accomplishments in our OC Catholic schools, as guided by our Strategic Plan and supported by our Bishops.  

Since summer 2018, we have reorganized and expanded the Department of Catholic Schools to better support and serve our 34 elementary schools and 7 high schools. We have focused on leadership formation for our principals and aspiring principals to ensure that school leaders are nurtured and supported at every stage of their journey. Catholic Identity and Faith Formation are always our priority. As such, we have experienced successful collaborations with our Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation in the form of retreats for our school principals and teachers.  

We celebrate that we are slowing down the enrollment decline and engaging schools with intentionality in retention, enrollment, and marketing. Throughout our diocese, our Catholic schools continue to educate over 17,500 students in faith, academic excellence, and service. What a blessing for our Church and our world! 

In Bishop Vann’s recent pastoral letter, he reminded us that, “…prayer is essential to our relationship with God and the necessary foundation of all our endeavors.”  We are blessed with the opportunity to engage in prayer with our schools. Catholic schools are where our students want to spend their best days and their worst days because our schools are sacred spaces where children encounter Christ. In an effort to pray specifically for schools during our Year of Prayer, the Department of Catholic Schools team chooses one school each week for focused prayer. During the week, we pray individually and as a group for the intentions of the school. Our team is also committed to visiting the school or attending Mass at the school during the week of prayer. Please join us in praying for our OC Catholic schools! 

This Advent season, I am extremely grateful not only for the blessing of our Catholic schools, but for the opportunity to serve our Church in this important mission. When we express gratitude toward God, our intentions move beyond our own wellbeing toward the wellbeing of others. Gratitude is an essential Christian tool for positioning ourselves toward the kingdom of God with hope, longing, and joy.  

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, expressed this relationship perfectly by reminding us that, “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” As we await the birth of our Lord, may we remember to be people of gratitude for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education.   

This Christmas season I pray that we all strive to recognize God’s presence in our lives and the graces that illuminate our world.

BISHOP VANN: MAKING THE MOST OF ADVENT

Advent has been with us from the earliest days of the life of the Church. It is a season of expectation and anticipation for the return of Christ. Advent has varied some over the years, but I think symbolically it is one of the most beautiful seasons of the Church. 

It has a penitential aspect to us. The color of penance is purple. If you consider the second and third Sunday of Advent, you have St. John the Baptist on the calendar, with a call to repentance and preparation for the birth of Christ. 

 

[On the Advent wreath…] 

 

There are really some beautiful prayers for the blessing of the Advent wreath and the lighting of the first candle, both at Mass and at home. I encourage folks to get an Advent wreath for their home and light it at dinner with their families. 

When the season is more than half over, given the third Sunday of Advent, it means the birth of Christ is near and there is a reason to begin rejoicing. 

The penitential color of the candle is lightened from purple to a dusty rose and the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means “rejoice.” It’s an exclamation, an imperative. 

Advent has a quiet beauty to it. It’s a time of rest and of reflection on what we’re all about. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the coming of Christ and our lives and our preparation for that. 

The season has a way of touching people’s hearts in a way that perhaps event Easter cannot. With Christmas, come memories of families, and how you’ve been, and your own relationship with God. I always, especially on Christmas Eve, I always try to welcome people and thank them for coming. I say you’re always welcome here and this season is for all of us to find God once more in our lives. 

My first four years as a priest, from 1981 to 1985 (in Rome), the symbols of the season were everywhere in Italy. I was away from home for the first time. I was walking around the city of Rome. It was cold and rainy. I’d stop in a church or a store and there was the Advent wreath. It pointed me to a reality far beyond where I was. 

Advent, with its symbols, says look! There is another way. You don’t have to live in this constant turmoil.  Look to us. Look to Christ. Look to this way of living.  

 

Editor’s Note: Listen to OC Catholic Radio by visiting occatholic.com and clicking on the radio tab.