Every year, one of the most precious and anticipated times for me is with our overlapping Novenas – to the Immaculate Conception and to Our Lady of Tepeyac (commonly called Guadalupe). The beginning of the Novena to Our Lady of Tepeyac begins on the fifth day – or center – of the Novena to the Immaculate Conception. And the Novena to the Immaculate Conception ends on the fifth day – the center – of the Novena to Our Lady of Tepeyac. These are profound and profoundly intertwined.

This year, we have the additional sign this month of a Christmas Star that will make its appearance on December 21, the Winter Solstice and shortest day of the year. I will have more to say about that in a future item.

I have been pondering the Ascension a lot lately. A little over a month before that glorious event, all the Apostles had been scattered in terror and confusion, thinking it was the end of all their hopes. I imagine that some, as they witnessed the Ascension, must have marveled with indescribable joy that what they had thought was the end was actually the beginning.

And so we find ourselves much like the Disciples while Jesus lay in the tomb – scattered and confused. We have much blood, sweat, toil and tears to come in the days and months ahead, but this is the beginning, not the end. Hold fast through all the trials and you will live unfathomable joy as your children, your family, and your friends are called back to the very Author of Joy.

Immaculate Conception, on this your Feast Day, pray for us!

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