The song “Twelve Days of Christmas” is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts. Catholics in England, during the period 1558 to 1829, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law--private OR public. It was a crime to be a Catholic during this time. Roman Catholics could not purchase land, hold civil or military offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion freely without incurring severe civil penalties and even death. “The Twelve Day of Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. The “true love” mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor; it refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The other symbols mean the following: Two (2) Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments. Three (3) French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues. Four (4) Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists. Five (5) Golden Rings = The First Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace. Six (6) Geese A-laying = the six days of creation. Seven (7) Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments. Eight (8) Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes. Nine (9) Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Ten (10) Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments. Eleven (11) Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles. Twelve (12) Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed. The next time you hear this classic Christmas hymn, you can use it as an opportunity to teach others about the truths of the Catholic Faith.
Why is Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, celebrated on December 25th every year? Is there special significance to that date?
There is no date given in Sacred Scripture as to the exact day when Jesus was born. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in the year 336 AD under the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th of December. Certain historians speculate that Christians picked December 25th in order to overshadow and take the place of pagan winter solstice festivals, a Roman Mithras cult or the celebration of a Roman cult of the unconquered sun. The truth is that a very early Christian tradition from the writings of Hippolytus (204 AD) says that the day when the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she would conceive Jesus (now called the Annunciation) was on March 25th—and it’s still celebrated today on the 25th of March. Nine months after the 25th of March is the 25th of December, the Feast of Christmas! The fact of the matter is that the evidence that December 25th held special significance to Christians predates the proof of any link to Roman cults or worship of sun gods. Emmanuel, our God is with us!
If I can pray to God about anything I want, what is the purpose of praying to saints and Mary and asking them to pray for me?
What if you could do both? It is not as though one sort of prayer excludes another. This question might well be applied to any number of scenarios. Why would I ask you to pray for me? Or, why do I often say to someone, “I will pray for you!” And why does scripture call us to pray for one another (e.g. Eph 6:18)? Why does Paul ask others to pray for him (e.g. Rom 15:31)? If Jesus is on the main line, and we can talk directly to him, why pick up line two? And yet, it is our instinct to do exactly that. Both lines are important and Scripture commends both forms of prayer. Sometimes God wills to answer us directly; sometimes he answers through another’s prayer. At the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1ff), though Jesus surely knew the need of the couple for wine, mysteriously he chose to let his mother sway his decision. So why not pray both ways and let God decide?
My baptized son or daughter is not going to Mass anymore, is living with their partner and is looking to get married civilly rather than in the Catholic Church. Is it ok to let them do this or should I be encouraging them to get married in Church?
There are a number of issues present here. First, Catholics are required to marry in the Church in order for their marriage to be considered valid. (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1108). This law is in place because of the significant difference between God’s understanding of marriage and our cultural perspectives of marriage. When couples marry outside the Church there is usually little to no preparation done with them. Getting married in the Church provides a privileged opportunity for the Church’s ministers to help couples assess their suitability and readiness for marriage. Second, there have been many independent studies conducted of couples who cohabitate before marriage and there is overwhelming evidence that shows that the longer a couple lives together before getting married the greater the likelihood is for divorce.
The best thing that a parent can do in this case is talk with them about God’s understanding of marriage and how it differs greatly from the civil understanding of marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is an unbreakable sacramental covenant between a baptized man and woman that is ordered towards the procreation and education of children and the ultimate good of the spouses: eternal salvation in heaven. Marriage from a civil standpoint is merely a contract between anyone (male or female doesn’t matter, baptism doesn’t matter) that is ordered towards the feelings and happiness of the spouses (has nothing to do with having children or getting your spouse to heaven). Keep praying for your children that God may put someone in their lives who will bring them back to cultivating a loving relationship with Jesus Christ in the Church. Who knows, maybe your son or daughter’s future spouse may teach them about God and encourage them to have the marriage validated in the Church at a later date.
The word ‘Advent’ is from the Latin word ‘Adventus,’ which means coming. Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year and encompasses the span of time from the fourth Sunday before Christmas, until the Nativity of Our Lard is celebrated. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (which is November 30th), and so it will always fall somewhere between November 27th at the earliest and December 3rd at the latest. The liturgical color for this season is purple (usually a deep purple, as opposed to the lighter, red-violet shade of purple associated with Lent). Like Lent, advent is a preparatory season. It has significance because it is a season of looking forward and waiting for something greater; both for the annual celebration of the event of Christ’s birth, and for the time when Christ will come again.
The exact time when the season of Advent came to be celebrated is not precisely known. Of course, it was not in practice before the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord was established within the later part of the 4th century. There are homilies from the 5th century that discuss preparation in the general sense, but do not indicate an official liturgical season. A collection of homilies from Pope St. Gregory the Great (whose papacy was from 590-604) included a sermon from the second Sunday of Advent, and by 650, Spain was celebrating the Sundays (five at the time) of Advent. So it seems the liturgical season was established around the latter part of the 6th century and first half of the 7th century. For the next couple of centuries, Advent was celebrated for five Sundays; Pope Gregory VII, who was pope from 1073-1085, reduced the number to four Sundays.
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