Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 24

"But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." - Luke 2:19

Mary had numerous miraculous experiences and it was extremely hard for her to explain them or convince anyone.  

When we encounter heavenly experiences, we are in similar situation - it's quite hard to explain it to anyone. Even if we do, hardly anyone would believe us. As a result, we will end up treasuring  those wonderful experience(s) in our hearts like Mary did. 

Have faith like Mary did and believe. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Walking with Mary - Day 23

Prayer for the Queen of Peace

Most holy and immaculate Virgin, Mother of Jesus and our loving Mother, being his Mother, you shared in his universal kingship. The prophets and angels proclaimed him King of peace. With loving fervor in our hearts we salute and honor you as Queen of peace.

We pray that your intercession may protect us and all people from hated and discord, and direct our hearts into the ways of peace and justice which your Son taught and exemplified. We ask your maternal care for our Holy Father who works to reconcile the nations in peace. We seek your guidance for our President and other leaders as they strive for world peace.

Glorious Queen of peace, grant us peace in our hearts, harmony in our families and concord throughout the world. Immaculate Mother, watch over us and protect us with your motherly love.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Caroling - the new wave

The Christmas Truce of 1914

File:Christmas day football WWI 1915.jpg

This is another Christmas miracle - a story of how Christmas managed to bring enemies together as friends for a time during World War I..

On the Christmas Eve of 1914, in the middle of fierce battle, the British and German troop stood face to face in trenches divided by “No Man’s Land.” Soon their hands went out and tightened in the grip of friendship. That night, not a shot was made. All is calm. Violating order, soldiers from both sides put down their weapon, sang Christmas carols together, exchanged gifts and helped bury each other’s dead. It was the most memorable Christmas Eve in history.

The war had been going on for one year and nearly a million had died. The trenches were poorly constructed and in bad winter weather of 1914, it were flooded and turned into mud holes. The soldiers wallowed in freezing mud and decaying bodies. They were miserable and can help but feeling sympathy for each other. As Christmas approached, they started remembering the warmth of their home and love of families. The desire for a break in the fighting increased as well as the festive mood. This finally gave way for temporary peace.

The German troops began singing O Stille Nacht (Silent Night) after they finished decorating their so-called Christmas tree and placing candles on the edge of their trenches. The British troop on the other side of the trenches responded by singing English carols. Applause was heard from both sides. The two sides then began exchanging Christmas greetings and gifts - whiskey, cigarettes, jam, chocolates etc.. The German soon called the British as “comrade” and that night the artillery fell silent.

It was a foggy cold Christmas morning. Songs continuously were sung.  With Christmas spirit on the air, the soldiers were running about on top of the trenches instead of keeping their head down in it. Invitations were made once again to visit the “no man’s land”.  The land soon became a playground. The parties played football. The German won 3-2. Exchange of gifts continued afterwards. Balaclavas, hats, buttons, tunics, smokes and autographs were exchanged. Soldiers who had been barbers before the war gave free haircut. A German juggler gave an impromptu. Many British and German were chatting in no-man’s land. Cigarettes were offered and photographs of family members were shown. Bodies of recently-fallen solders brought back behind their lines for proper burials. Some of the British helped the German bury a sniper. At night, each troop returned to the trenches to have dinner.

With this weird situation, many soldiers started thinking and hoping that the war will be over in no time.

A shudder ran through the high command on either side when the leaders heard this. Here was disaster in the making - soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous peacemaking to be punishable by court marital. The leaders did not like this truce and thus the war stretched out for four more years and claimed the life of another 16 million human lives.

What can we learn from this Christmas miracle? 
May our own hearts answer that question.

A German Christmas card depicting the truce.

When I first read about this miracle I was asking myself, "Who was that one German solider - blessed with the Holy Spirit, who had the courage to spark this historic truce in the entire military history of mankind?"

Certainly the Heaven knows who that was! 


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas program agenda

Here is the preliminary program list I received for Friday, Dec 23rd. Check your program and get ready accordingly.  Work with your program coordinator.  Be ready with your costumes and props.  Achen wants to conduct evening prayers (Sann-dhyaa Nama-ss-kaa-ram) at the beginning of the program and typically would run about 30 minutes. The program is supposed to start at 6:30 PM.

Dress code for the carol song is red tops/shirts, black pant/skirt.  Carry your Santa hat too.

This year, I am not in town during the Christmas program and hence we did not take up any class program.  Instead, work with your respective coordinators. Pray to God and seek blessings from your coordinator so that your program does well. Once the program is over, do not forget to thank all those who helped you stage the program - helper parents teachers, and coordinators. Send them a courtesy email or make a phone call. I know the amount of hard work and dedication Sunday school teachers (not me) put in to make this program a success.

Program Name Participants Name
Prayer Rev.Fr.Wilson Manalethu
Song - O come all ye faithful…. Church choir
Welcome Speech Jaysee Joseph 
Sunday School Christmas Carol All the Students
Old Testament Reading Alveena Jacks
Solo Song - Atlanta Prayer Group Angela Thomas
Group Song Jemaya, Anya, Meiga
Skit Preschool, KG, Grade 1 & 2
New Testament Reading Serin Thomas
Group Song Christina, Kevin & Hannah
Song & Play - Lilburn Prayer Group Lilburn Prayer Group Members
Nativity Play Grades 3, 4, 5
Group Song Grade 7
Solo Song - Lawrenceville Prayer Group Sunil Cherian
Christmas Carol Song Prayer Group
Tableau Grades 6, 8, 9, 10
Christmas Message Guest Speaker - Rev. Fr.Dominic Joseph, Vicar, Knanaya Catholic Church, Atlanta
Recognition of Sunday School teachers
Group Song Aleysha, Riya, Rinu
Christmas Carol Song Martha Maria Samajam
Vote of Thanks K. K. Mathew
Song - Silent Night….. Church choir
Arrival of Santa Claus

Feast of St. Thomas

Today we are celebrating the feast of St. Thomas. Yesterday, we attended the church service to remember his death on Dec 21, AD 72.

Thanks to Achen for educating us and mentioning those valuable contributions of St. Thomas - we learned a great deal about St. Thomas these past days. We should commemorate this perunnal every year.  


Walking with Mary - Day 21

Mary was a just an ordinary girl on earth, but well-known in Heaven. In her daily life, her ears were not inclined to listening to words of praise from anyone, nor ever to any words of applause. All her thoughts were oriented towards the Lord, the Holy, and the Glorious. Yet those same ears heard what nobody has ever heard before, "Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with you."

She was spending time at the temple (church) as a maid/assistant. By virtue of her presence at church, she would have certainly observed the priest and administrators running the church and taking part in politics. Mary did not allow herself to be distracted by any happenings in the church, but stayed focused on the Lord and immersed herself in prayers.

Today while we attend church, there are numerous distraction that could divert our attention.  If a character like Mary was present today in our church, what would she do and how would she react?  How would she stay focused in spirituality, rather than listening to opinions of church-goers? How would such a person find favor with God and receive the Holy Spirit?

Staying away from all the worldly talks and instead be focused in spirituality - let's learn and practice that, while continuing our journey with Mary.


Christmas Cards

Writing and mailing Christmas cards is a project by itself, and one can get quite involved in it.  We begin that project right after Thanksgiving - after decorating our home, card writing is our next task. We try to mail out cards by early December to 'wake up' and remind people about Christmas.

At home, my wife has a system to track who was mailed a card last year, who responded, who delivered 'by hand' and saved 44c on stamps, who mailed after Christmas, who acknowledged the receipt of the card verbally, who sent the smallest card, who gave the prettiest card, which card had the most meaningful quote, who mailed the religious card with Joseph, Mary and Jesus, who mailed the one with Santa, who mailed the one with 'Happy Holidays' and did not specify Christmas, and so forth.  Then, she also pays attention to whether anyone of those who mailed cards used the Christmas stamps.

Every day we open the Christmas cards in mail first. After careful examination of handwriting, other minute details, and further discussion with my wife about each one, the cards find their place over our fireplace and stay there until New Year.

My wife has not yet asked me to develop a computer program to track all these by category - she knows such a tracking system will never get done (by me). I am not alone, and here is why most of us won't receive Christmas cards from certain people.

A wife was wondering if she could get her husband to write addresses on Christmas cards and she had so much other work to do. She arranged everything they needed then hopefully pulled up a chair and said, "Come on, Dear, let's get these out of the way."

He glanced at the array on the table, turned away and went into the den, only to return moments later with a high stack of cards, stamped, sealed, and addressed.

"They're last year's," he said. "I forgot to mail them. Now let's go out to dinner and relax."


Tintin in theaters

File:Adventures of Tintin Cast.png

One of my favorite childhood comic - Tintin, is coming to theaters tonight, and am really excited.  I used to share those comics with my good friends and read them over and over.  I even carry a book in my car - in case I am stuck in traffic, I flip through the pages which takes me to my childhood days.

Few years ago, I introduced Tintin to my son and got him few books - he soon fell in love with the characters and we had another topic to discuss in common. Last month he came and told me about the Tintin movie being worked upon by the legendary Steven Spielberg, that is coming out tonight. I gave him that knowing look, and said in an instant, "Let's go!" I want to go watch it tonight itself, and have lots of lovely memories surrounding Tintin.

As with every movie, I do not want to get my hopes up - reading the book and watching those images is the most wonderful experience; it was and it will stay in my heart forever.  Anyway, I cannot wait till tonight.

Click here to read all about the movie

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Music from the house

On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king. He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.

This is the season of miracles. If you are in a position to pleasantly surprise someone, go ahead and do it - the heaven and the host of angels are on your side.

Believe - in the miracle of Christmas! 

Story Credits: Paulo Coelho

Monday, December 19, 2011

Marys boy child

Walking with Mary - Day 19

The sweetness of Mary attracts us in an irresistible way to imitation. Her whole life was filled with service in a humble way, and throughout her life she was humble and walked in God's path.  While travelling with Mary, there are few notable characteristics we can visualize.

According to Paul VI, we can see that Mary was:

(a) Firm in her faith,
(b) Ready in obedience,
(c) Simple in humility,
(d) Exulting in praising the Lord,
(e) Ardent in charity,
(f) Strong and constant in the fulfilment of her mission to the point of sacrificing herself,
(g) In full communion of sentiment with her Son, who gave Himself up, to give new life to men.

Let us imitate some of Mary's qualities during our journey with her.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Don't Panic


If a 'Fat Guy' in a red suit grabs and puts you in a bag, 

Don't Panic. 

I told God, "I want a good friend for Christmas."


Christmas time

‘Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time.’
~Laura Ingalls Wilder