Sunday, December 27, 2015

Friends and Family

Feast Days

St. John the Evangelist, by Domenichino

December 27 is the Feast Day of
St. John the Apostle (also known as
St. John the Evangelist).

John was one of the original twelve apostles, and lived the longest. He was the only one of them not to be martyred for the faith. His story is remarkable, even among such special men.

John is considered the patron saint of love, loyalty, and friendship, due to his closeness to Jesus, and the patron saint of authors because he wrote several books that are part of the New Testament.
Holy Family prayer card

Beginning in 1969, the Feast of the Holy Family was moved from early January to the Sunday in between Christmas and New Year's Day. (If both Christmas and New Year's Day are Sundays, the feast day is December 30.)

The feast is a celebration of the importance of family in human life, and of course family plays a central role in the Christmas season.

To celebrate the Feast of St. John the Apostle (friendship) and the Feast of the Holy Family on the same day seems especially apt at Christmastime...

"So, I'm your friend AND part of your family?"
You absolutely are...

Gratitude in the Digital Age

From the wry comic strip FoxTrot, by Bill Amend, which you should read every Sunday, as I do.

Until Next Time...

When I was growing up and attending Catholic school, the carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was always a part of our Christmas concerts. I didn't hear it often during my adolescence and adulthood, however. It isn't quite so popular as other carols and hymns. It was nice to hear it played at Mass today.

The lyrics to the song were written by a Philadelphia priest, Phillips Brooks, in 1868. Brooks had been inspired by his visit to Bethlehem itself a few years before. The melody which is most commonly used for the song in the United States is called "St. Louis," and was written by Lewis Redner, the organist for Brooks's church. English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams adapted Brooks's lyrics to an English folk song in 1903. Known as the "Forest Green" version, it is the most popular version in Great Britain. (You can listen to a splendid rendition of it here.)

Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan enjoyed modest success in the United States with her 1993 album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, which reached No. 50 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. She didn't really explode onto the American pop music scene until 1997, with the release of her album Surfacing. That recording produced two Grammy Awards and reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

One of the unforgettable songs on that album was her hit "Angel," which was used in a memorable commercial for the APSCA starting in 2007 which has generated over $30 million in contributions to date. Sarah's angelic voice, combined with those images, even wore down my resistance...

In 2006, Sarah released a Christmas album, Wintersong, which included beautiful arrangements of traditional favorites like "In the Bleak Midwinter," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "What Child Is This?" Her haunting rendition of "Silent Night" is one of my all-time favorites, and was also featured in an ASPCA ad campaign.

Today's send-off is the album's official video of Sarah's soulful rendering of "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Simply beautiful. Enjoy...

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