Hail the New

A New Year’s message from our Provincial Director Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

2024 appears before us, shiny and new, rolling out its endless possibilities. In the words of the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” (the fa-la-la-la-la’s are implied), Fast away the old year passes, Hail the new, ye lads and lasses.

Fast away the old year passes, indeed. It seems like the calendar moves faster and faster every year. As for hailing the new, it is not that easy when you live in Chicago, like I do. Here, January wind and weather do not do much to foster new growth. Equally discouraging is the daily news, with its worldly ration of chaos and discord.

So it may be up to us to take on the new start that the calendar offers. How do we do that? Perhaps by examining the past. We can think about the times in our lives when God has granted us a new beginning, a new reason to hope, when God has somehow—sometimes through times of dismal darkness—brought light and laughter back into our world. When a good friend shows up at the door, offering support. When a favorite book or song hits us in a new way, and we gain perspective that gets us through a difficult day. When we cross paths with people who are not like us in any way, and find in them a fascinating view of the world we thought we knew.

God always calls us to new life: to hope anew, to walk in a new direction, to reach out to strangers. January 1 is as good a time as any to take the path that God offers us every day, on to new discoveries and all the possibilities that God’s loving heart brings to us.

Yours in the Blood of Christ,

V. Rev. Jeffrey S. Kirch, C.PP.S.
Provincial Director

The Shepherds’ POV

A Christmas message from our Provincial Director Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

Christmas, its images and celebrations, all have the newborn Jesus at the center. The light of the world radiates out from a tiny infant. But there are many humans in the account of Jesus’ birth: his parents on Earth, of course, and all those who came to worship him in his first hours and days of life with us.

I have often wondered about the shepherds’ reaction. How could these people, whose work took them far from the marketplace, far from any crowds, have the wherewithal to grasp and relay what they had just seen? If we in the modern world, with all its lights and technological wonders, saw the scene unfold on Christmas morning, our heads would explode.

Yet as Mary reflected on the birth of Jesus and its surrounding miracles in her heart, the shepherds “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them” (Luke 2:20). Their eyes and ears were open to the miracle.

May we all be open to the miracle, today and all days, that God loved us so much he sent his Son to Earth to walk among us. Jesus is with us still, providing all the light and love we will ever need, with plenty left over to share with whatever shepherds or kings or new little families we encounter.

The Light Will Lead Us Home

By Fr.  Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.

Advent is an adventure into the very mysteries of life. Though we associate Advent as a season of new beginnings, since 2010, I also identify Advent with endings. My younger sister, Mary, died on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010 at the age of 47. My dad was 93 when he died four years later during the first week of Advent. Dad suffered a stroke the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 and never regained consciousness. He lay still, suspended between life and death for several days.

During those days of waiting, my niece, Kathleen, was expecting her first child. The family held a shower for her on the anniversary of my sister’s death. Kathleen had second thoughts about the date, but everyone said it would be good to have the shower on that day as Mary would have probably hosted it if she were alive. I was told her spirit was very much in evidence at Kathleen’s shower as I spent the day with dad so that Mom and my sister could attend. Mary’s son, Joe, and I had lunch and told stories about his mom.

Here the mystery of faith, of hope, of love takes shape. What form it will take, God only knows. But Advent ushers us into the excitement of welcoming and celebrating a child that is on the way; the memory and grief of a sister, daughter, mother who died too soon at 47; and a 93-year-old man struggling to die. The Advent mystery coming together in a single day of waiting.

Last Advent, I found a book by Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston called “Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage.” Bishop Charleston is an elder of the Choctaw Nation. In the introduction, he shares the vision of the kiva which he describes as “a square or circular underground chamber, covered by a roof of wooden beams with an opening in the center.” One enters the kiva “by descending the ladder” and once you are “inside the packed earth chamber of the kiva, you are in darkness.” The only light comes from above and the only way to reach it is to climb the ladder.

In Native American spirituality, the kiva “is a womb,” Bishop Charleston writes. “It is a place of origins.” This is where “life first began. As the tribe of human beings, we began our existence in the womb of the earth, beneath the surface, in a place of darkness. Through many different incarnations of life on this planet, we finally emerged into the light.”

Bishop Charleston describes this journey as “the ladder not to heaven, but to home.” Our journey on this Earth is to look for the light wherever we go. Which helps to explain what Bishop Charleston calls the “spiritual resilience of North America’s indigenous peoples” because “our traditional religious practices were banned. Our sacred objects were taken from us and either destroyed or put in museums as a curiosity for our conquerors. Our families were scattered into the diaspora. Even our languages were forbidden.”

And yet, as the bishop points out, “we are still here.” Native Americans “know something about resisting darkness.” They’ve been doing it “for more than five hundred years.” Which is why the kiva “symbolizes this spiritual resilience. It reminds us that we began in darkness . . . the nurturing darkness of the womb, a place of formation and growth. Over time, through the grace of the Spirit, we learned more, understood more, until we matured and were ready to take our place in the bright world of reality. We emerged from Mother Earth.”

Bishop Charleston sees the kiva as a metaphor for our times. It teaches us that “if we are in a time of darkness, we need not be afraid of it, because it is only the beginning for us,” he writes. “As a people, we have entered into darkness before, only to emerge into the light.”

The Advent wreath captures our hope of the light of Christ coming into the world to extinguish the darkness of sin and death. With so much darkness in the world these days, wars raging, violence increasing, chasms between various groups widening, and the polarization crippling so many institutions, lighting a candle on this wheel of hope calls us to prayer and possibility.

We are living in a time when people are losing faith in our institutions. Whether it is the church, education, health care, or politics, systems are collapsing around us. The polarization that exists on so many levels and in so many institutions, one wonders if we can ever learn to live in peace with those with whom we disagree? We have seen in recent years the attacks on diversity. In the Church, the battle lines are often drawn between tradition and change.

Our spirituality and charism call us to stand in the chasms that divide us, to be bridges of blessing and hope that seek to bring those who are separated, those who are far off, near through the Blood of Christ. It is a tall order. But Advent offers us the opportunity to practice what Anne Lamott calls “stubborn hope.” She writes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”

Whether we are waiting for a birth or a death or something in between, Advent advises patience, a patience born in our own stories of waiting, watching, and working with a stubborn hope that God is always in control.

Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., a noted author, preacher and retreat leader, is the vice provincial director of the United States Province.




Be the Voice of Peace

By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.

When we were children, waiting for Christmas was marked with hope and great anticipation for Santa’s arrival and the gifts he would bring. As adults our waiting for Christmas takes on a different meaning.

Like our ancestors of old we experience a longing and a desire in our hearts for the coming of our Savior in glory. Realizing our need for a Savior is key to celebrating the mystery of the incarnation at Christmas. If we don’t see the need for a Savior, then Christmas becomes just one more secular holiday to observe.

As Christians we believe that the mystery of the incarnation continues to unfold as we encounter Jesus in our daily lives and continue the work of building God’s Kingdom on Earth. Each day we live in hope as we enjoy already on Earth a foretaste of the glory to be revealed in heaven. This encounter with the living Lord stirs within us a greater desire to work for peace in imitation of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

With so many obstacles to peace present in our lives we may be tempted to let cynicism creep into our Advent journey. If you feel this temptation, ponder the message found in this parable by Joseph Jaworsky.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” the sparrow asked the wild dove.

“Why, it weighs nothing more than nothing” replied

the dove.

“In that case,” the sparrow said, “let me tell you a story. I sat on a branch of a fir tree close to its trunk. It began to snow . . . not heavily, not like a blizzard—no, just like a dream, delicately and peacefully.

“Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I decided to count the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. The number was exactly 3,741,952. Then suddenly, as the next snowflake landed, weighing ‘nothing more than nothing’ as you say, the branch broke off.” With that, the sparrow flew away.

The wild dove thought to herself and said, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come about in the world.”

Could it be that your voice is the one missing for peace to come about in the world? With so many conflicts present in our world, communities and families, there is no doubt that we need a Savior. Christ is counting on us to be authentic witnesses of his peace in the world.

This Advent, monitor your conversations both internally and externally. Do they reflect your need for a savior and your desire for peace? Watch for people who are instruments of peace around you and share their stories with others. Let these stories stir within your heart a greater desire to be a peacemaker in your own life and let this be your gift to the Christ child this Christmas season.


Victory for our God

By Fr. Dennis Chriszt, C.PP.S.

This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today, the Church throughout the world

celebrates the great feast of Christ the King.

We rejoice that the promise made

by the prophet Ezekiel

has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ,

who came as the Good Shepherd,

who rescues us and tends us,

who give us rest

and who seeks for us when we are lost

and brings us back when we have strayed.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice that the Lord is our shepherd,

who leads us and refreshes our souls

who guides us in right paths,

who spreads a table before us,

anoints us,

and blesses us with overflowing grace.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice that the Lord has been raised from the dead,

and that through him all of us will be brought to life.

We rejoice that Christ will hand over his kingdom to the Father,

will destroy every sovereignty, authority and power,

will destroy even death,

so that God may be all in all.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice with the Son of Man,

who will come and sit on his glorious throne,

and all the nations will be summoned before him.

We rejoice with those who will be placed on his right,

those who have fed hungry,

gave a drink to those who were thirsty,

those who welcomed the stranger

and clothed the naked,

those who cared for the ill

and visited the prisoners,

those who did things for the least of their brothers and sisters,

and in so doing, did them for Christ.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


When I was a seminarian

and was home for Thanksgiving,

I heard the shortest homily ever.

It was only one sentence long.

It was the Feast of Christ the King,

and after reading the Gospel,

the preacher waited for everyone to sit down.

He looked around the church

and simply said,

“If Christ is your King, prove it!”

Then he sat down in the silence that followed.


Today’s Gospel tells us how to prove it.

Today’s Gospel tells us what the Kingdom looks like.

Today’s Gospel impels us to witness to our faith
by what we say and do.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


In baptism,

our King has anointed us

priests, prophets and royalty,

that we might worship and praise our God,

that we might proclaim God’s message

by our words and our actions,

and that we, like the King of Kings,

might care for those most in need

throughout our lives


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


However, we don’t do it alone.
Christ the King does not sit back and wait for us to act.

Christ our King helps us to do what we calls us to do.

Christ our King is more than the judge
who separates the sheep from the goats,
the good from the evil,

those invited to inherit the kingdom prepared for us

from the foundation of the world.


No, our King does not live in some far away palace,

protected from people he was called to serve.

Our King walks among us,

nourishes us with his own body and blood,

does for us what he asks us to do for others.

Our King never leaves alone,

never hides behind castle walls,

but is right here with us

at every moment of our lives.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Christ is our King!

Now let us prove it!


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Note: This is the last scripture reflection in this series. Fr. Dennis, who is the director of advanced formation for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, will continue to post homilies from time to time at https://www.dennis-chriszt-cpps.org/.