Monday, December 27, 2010

The Glorious Mysteries and the Holy Family

A belated Merry Christmas!

I took a break from writing for the past few weeks to focus on my family and our trip to California to visit my parents and sisters.  Many thanks to those who have prayed for my dad.  He is now off all antibiotics and does not require open heart surgery at this point.  We're still praying that the next few check-ups and tests show that the infection is completely gone.

Yesterday, I did a late-night Rosary Workout on the treadmill in our hotel as I knew I would be sitting on airplanes all day today.  As I prayed the Glorious Mysteries, I thought about Jesus, Mary and Joseph since it was the Feast of the Holy Family.

As I prayed the first decade, I contemplated Jesus descending to the dead and seeing his foster father, St. Joseph.  Jesus loved him dearly, and I imagined the joy that St. Joseph must have experienced at seeing his beloved foster son and knowing that he would soon enter heaven.   I also pondered Jesus appearing to His beloved Mother after He rose from the dead.  Even though Scripture does not record such a meeting, I'm pretty certain that Jesus put her at or near the top of His list of people to visit after rising from the dead.

During the second decade, I thought of Jesus' and Mary's bittersweet parting before He ascended to heaven.  I imagined the emotions that Mary must have felt knowing that she would be briefly separated from her beloved Son but also knowing that it was time for Him to take His rightful place at the right hand of the Father.  Although I have no concept of what heaven is like, I think it likely that Jesus must have greeted St. Joseph with special attention when He arrived, although Joseph, in his great humility, would never have expected it.  The bond of the Holy Family must have been so very powerful.  It gives us a model for the holiness in our own families.

As I meditated on the third decade, I thought of Mary in the Upper Room, again filled with grace by the Holy Spirit.  At the Annunciation, she was "full of grace," even before the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, multiplying the grace exponentially.  At Pentecost, she received even more grace.  She will bestow it upon us, if only we ask.  I thought of St. Joseph and how his role was to be Mary's protector, while the Holy Spirit is her true spouse.  (For an excellent article covering this somewhat confusing topic, see Catholic Culture's The Holy Spirit and Mary.)

As I ran up an incline with a burst of late-night energy, I prayed the fourth and fifth decades.  During my meditation, it occurred to me that the Holy Family was finally reunited after Mary's Assumption and Coronation.  What a joyful day that must have been!  We are blessed to be able to ask for their heavenly intercession and protection for our own families.

I try to pray the Rosary every day (although I occasionally fall short of this goal), and at times it can almost seem monotonous, which is my own fault.  Yet when I try a fresh perspective like meditating on the Glorious Mysteries through the eyes of the Holy Family, I see the mysteries in a new light.  I am continually amazed by the depth of the Rosary every time I put a little more effort into praying it.  The next time you pray the Rosary, try a new perspective in your meditation and see if that doesn't bring new revelations.  If so, please share them!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Slice of Rural Southern RV Life on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Catholics celebrate the day Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, free from Original Sin.  Mary is the only person in human history to be granted this gift. 

Many Catholics mistakenly believe that the Immaculate Conception refers to the day Mary conceived Jesus in her womb.  Simple math proves that this could not be correct.  The Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8th and Christmas on December 25th.  Mary would have had either the longest, or the shortest, pregnancy in history!  Of course, Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb is honored on the feast of The Annunciation.  It is celebrated, appropriately, on March 25th.

Today I had an occasion to call on Mary in her role as the Immaculate Conception.  While we wait for a new house to be built, we are living in our RV, which presents many challenges in the winter.  Although our RV is roomy, cozy and built for four seasons, we can’t keep water outside from freezing.  Since our campground is “down in the holler,” temperatures are often colder than the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, it has been so cold that the water froze inside our hose as well as in the spigot to which it is attached.  We quickly depleted the water in our tank, and I had to find a way to thaw the hose to get more water despite the fact that the temperature was still below freezing.

As is the case in situations where I need help, I mentally searched for a saint who could assist me in getting running water.  I quickly thought of St. Bernadette and the miraculous water in Lourdes.  Then it occurred to me that Mary told St. Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  After praying to both Mary and St. Bernadette, I was confident that I would have running water.  I bundled up and went outside to check the hose.  It was still frozen solid, but I spied another hose we use occasionally, lying under the RV.  It had only a little ice in it, which boiling water quickly removed.  I connected it to the RV and filled the tank, grateful for the heavenly assistance.

I had just enough time to wash the dishes before heading out to watch my son’s swim meet and then take him to Boy Scouts.  During the Scout meeting, I headed to the gym, not to work out as usual, but to take a long hot shower.  By the time I returned home, the water would be frozen again, and I needed to save the precious water in the tank for morning.

As I stood under the hot water, I heard the voices of a bevy of young swim team girls as they converged into the shower room. 

Girl #1:  Jasmine, do you have a pool in your back yard?

Jasmine:  No, but we’ve got a creek.

Girl #1:  A creep?

Jasmine:  No!  A creek. C-R-E-E-K.  My daddy says he’s going to make us a pool in the creek next summer.

Girl #2:  Every time my daddy says he’s goin’ to do somethin’ awesome, he never does.

Girl #1:  Hi Brittany!  How come you’re always the last one in the shower?

Brittany:  I don’t know.

Girl #2:  Well, who do you talk to since everyone's done?

Brittany:  I don’t  know.  Myself, I guess.  I just like to sing too.

(I was never treated to Brittany’s singing since Girl #1 thoughtfully lingered to talk to her for a few minutes so she wouldn't be left alone.)

Girl #1:  Brittany, are you going to church tonight?  (Southern Baptists go to church on Wednesday nights.)

Brittany:  I don’t know.

Girl #1:  Well if I don’t see you at church, then I’ll see you tomorrow!  Bye!

Brittany:  See ya!  Bye!

I like to think that the Blessed Mother enjoyed eavesdropping on this delightful, innocent girl talk as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Power of Prayer

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend and that Advent has not caught you by surprise. Can you believe that we're already 3 days into Advent? What are your plans during this holy season? I enjoy the daily readings and meditations in the Magnificat Advent Companion which my generous mother buys for the whole family each year.  I also ordered a Daily Meditations booklet and CD from Belmont Abbey College.  The gorgeous artwork alone is worth the cost of the set.  I'm currently attending a weekly Bible study, taught by my wonderful pastor.  Of course we light our Advent candles each night during dinner, and I'd really like to make a Jesse Tree with my children.  If you have any interesting Advent practices, please leave a comment and share them.

I received some wonderful news!  My dad, who was in the ICU recently with an infection so serious that I flew home to see him, just saw his doctor yesterday.  Apparently, the antibiotics are curing his infection and he longer seems to need surgery.  He will rest at home and should be able to return to work at the beginning of next year.  Many thanks to those of you who prayed for him.  My family is famous for our prayer chains, and we had people all over the US and around the world praying for him.  Studies show that prayer can have a remarkable impact on illness and recovery.  Perhaps during Advent we can all pray for sick people who have no one to pray for them. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Journey Home

I forgot to post the information about my Journey Home appearance on EWTN, but I have been a bit distracted as my dear dad is in intensive care, clear across the country. He has the same infection that resulted in open heart surgery and an artificial heart valve 11 years ago. He has been feeling better, but I would very much appreciate your prayers for his speedy recovery, without additional surgery.

I was honored to be a guest on The Journey Home to tell the story of my "reversion" to Catholicism. For many years, I was a lukewarm Catholic, despite being raised in a very devout Catholic home.

The show will also air on EWTN on Thursday, Nov 11th at 2:00 pm ET and Saturday at 11:00 pm ET. If you don't have EWTN or can't watch the show, I've posted the youtube video below.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sorry for the break

I apologize for the long break in posts, but I needed to leave the Latin Mass article up for awhile since the link was posted in my parish paper.  (If you're looking for the Latin Mass article, it's on the Oct 21st entry, below)

Before I resume my "Minute Meditations" on the Rosary mysteries, I wanted to share this wonderful video I came across.  It's just over 3 minutes, but is so interesting and inspiring:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Missa Cantata in Mayberry

Today's post is an extension of an article I wrote for my diocese newspaper, the Catholic News Herald.   If you are visiting my blog for the first time, welcome!  You may also be interested in the Rosary "Minute Meditations" series I'm writing for the month of October.  You can find them below this entry or in the Archives, at right.  If you would like to receive updates, please subscribe through the links on the right-hand column.  I always welcome comments!  You can leave one at the end of the post.

As a Vatican II-era child, I had no recollection of attending Latin Mass (known as the Tridentine Mass or Mass in the Extraordinary Form), so I was very curious about the recent revival of this ancient form of the liturgy.  I hoped for the opportunity to attend a Latin Mass and finally found one several years ago while on vacation.  I was instantly struck by the reverence and the formality of the Extraordinary Form.  As I followed along in the Latin-English missal, a simple question came immediately to mind:  Why on earth isn't the Ordinary Form a closer translation?  I think that the upcoming changes are a positive step in that direction.  In fact, I think it’s worthwhile to buy a copy of the Latin-English missal even if you never intend to attend a Latin Mass.  The beautiful prayers included in the booklet alone are worth the price.

Last year, my husband got a job in a little town called Mount Airy in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina.  I was surprised to discover that it was also known as "Mayberry" since it is Andy Griffith's boyhood home and the inspiration for that idyllic small town.  I was even more surprised to discover that Mount Airy was home to more Quakers than Catholics!  There’s a Baptist church on every corner, but only one small Catholic Church, named in honor of the Holy Angels. 

I knew I had found the right parish when I learned that Holy Angels pastor, Father Eric Kowalski, offers Latin Mass every Sunday at noon.  Once a month, a Schola (Gregorian Chant choir) sings the Missa Cantata (“Sung Mass”).  We occasionally attend Mass in the Ordinary Form, but even my children prefer the Latin Mass.  My non-Catholic husband notes that although he can’t understand the words, he has an appreciation for the solemn reverence of the Extraordinary Form.

When I was recently hired as a freelance writer for the diocese newspaper, the first article I proposed to my editor was one on the Latin Mass in our parish.  Father Kowalski graciously offered his assistance and suggested that I interview those who attend the Latin Mass regularly.  He even allowed me to take a few photographs during Mass.

Everyone I interviewed praised Father Kowalski to the skies, and rightly so, expressing sincere gratitude for his generosity and commitment to offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday.  Not only does he have to pray the Mass in a language he doesn’t use every day, but he also has to prepare two separate homilies as the readings and Gospels are different for each form.

Father Kowalski had no idea that he would be offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form when he was assigned to Holy Angels in 2001.  One of his first projects was to renovate the beautiful granite chapel, built in 1921.  He discovered gorgeous hardwood floors under layers of carpet and tile, not realizing that he was improving the acoustics so that one day in the future the Schola could “make the walls sing.” 

Father often states that offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form has changed him personally.  “If you’re not careful, when you offer Mass [in the Ordinary Form], it’s very easy to make it about yourself.  With the Extraordinary Form, the ritual itself takes all of that away because you’re focused on the meaning behind certain gestures.  It’s not about the quip or the funny joke.  It’s about you offering the sacrifice In Persona Christi, standing before God and realizing your own unworthiness.”

The first group I interviewed was the Schola, led by Winston-Salem resident and attorney Robin Shea, who showed me the unique musical notations of the Gregorian Chant on her ipad.  Yes, there’s an App for that!  (It’s called “Liber Pro” if you’re interested.)  She was first introduced to Gregorian Chant when she was “volunteered” to learn it for the Latin Mass offered at the Wake Forest campus chapel.  Sue Harmer-Sommer, of Kernersville, also volunteered and serves as the group’s Latin pronunciation expert as she studied Latin and Gregorian Chant in school.  Patricia Donadio completed the group and jokes that the most difficult aspect is getting along with the other two ladies. 

When the Wake Forest Latin Mass was discontinued, the trio kept practicing, hoping to find another venue for their talents.  They discovered that Father Kowalski was offering the Extraordinary Form in Mount Airy and quickly volunteered to bring the Missa Cantata to Mayberry, much to Father’s delight and relief.  As he stated, “When the Schola is singing, I’m offering my prayers.  It fits seamlessly, unlike the Ordinary Form where everything is blocked.   It flows and it’s a very intimate moment with God.”  

Robin agrees. “The music is really beautiful and adds so much reverence to the Mass. I’ve been praying the whole time and didn’t even realize it.”  Robin would love to add more members to the Schola.  (If you're interested, you can talk to her after Mass.)

If you do attend the Latin Mass in Mount Airy, you’ll likely be welcomed by Sid Cundiff.  He drives from Winston-Salem every Sunday to serve as an usher.  He’s also the informal “communications officer” and keeps an email list to update anyone interested in the Extraordinary Form in the state of North Carolina.  You can add your name to his list by emailing sidcundiff@gmail.com  

Sid points out that Mass in the Extraordinary Form has three important characteristics.  It is serious, it is a solemnity and it is holy.  He is quick to add that he is not opposed to the Ordinary Form or that it lacks these characteristics, but that the Extraordinary Form is more focused on these three aspects of liturgy and “that something out of the ordinary is being done.”

Ron and Libby Boyd attend Latin Mass every Sunday, driving nearly two hours from Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, because it reminds them of their childhood.  As Libby stated, "We were raised in the Latin Mass.  It is solemn and respectful.  It's quiet and you can pray.  We like that atmosphere." 

Holy Angels parishioners Paul and Joan Zomberg attend daily Mass in the Ordinary Form where Paul is a lector.  Paul says that they prefer the Extraordinary Form because "it's more spiritually satisfying."  Joan adds, "We praise God because He is good.  Latin Mass is more about praising God that petitioning God."

Robert and Doris Cross are also Holy Angels parishioners who attend both the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Robert, as a convert, had only seen Latin Mass on TV and was curious about it.  Doris, on the other hand, grew up with the Latin Mass.  She says that she likes the wider range of Scriptures in the Ordinary Form, but the Extraordinary Form "is very focused on being prayerful and quiet and you focus on Jesus.  You can kneel for Communion like we used to do back home."

Gerald and Billy Healy drive from Yadkinville because "they were raised with the Latin Mass and love it."  Billy, a convert for nearly 60 years, declares that at Latin Mass they are "home again."   Their grandson, Patrick Healy, is a Greensboro resident and a grad student studying Chemistry.  He became an altar server for the Latin Mass over 15 years ago and fills in when young trainee Michael Kafant is not available.  Patrick is grateful that Mass in the Extraordinary Form is "close by with a regular schedule." 

Winston-Salem resident Emmanuel Kafant is a convert from the Greek Orthodox Church.  His six adorable, well-dressed children behave perfectly and are so reverent.  Emmanuel drives his family of eight to Latin Mass every Sunday because it expresses "the faith of Catholicism-- what we believe about the Mass, what we believe about the Eucharist-- without any ambiguities.  It's distinctly Catholic."  He's a Belmont Abby College graduate and has been attending Latin Mass since 1991.  His son, Michael, an altar boy, says that Latin Mass and serving in Latin “just feels normal” as that’s all he has known.

Michael Long, also a Winston-Salem resident, found a Latin Missal several years ago in a thrift shop.  He said it's the best dollar he ever spent.  He doesn’t mind the drive to Mount Airy every Sunday because he feels that he “has gone the extra mile and that God has brought me to a very holy time and place.”  Opening his missal, he reads, “Send forth your light and your fidelity to lead me on and to bring me to your holy mount.”  Michael thinks that there is no coincidence that he is driving to Mount Airy.  As he points out, “God has richly provided for this faith community…  Father had the inspiration to restore this chapel and brought back the altar rail [not knowing] that we would bring back this liturgy… The choir members had an inspiration to start studying Gregorian Chant.  I’ve seen the altar boys and where they got their training, and it’s very good training.  God was preparing all these things to happen, and who knew when the time was going to come when the pope would say, ‘Let’s make this more available.’  God had even prepared me through finding this [Latin] missal.”

Indeed!

Notes:

There will be a special Missa Cantata in honor of All Souls Day on Tuesday, November 2nd, at 6:30 pm at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Mount Airy.  During the Mass, the new black vestments will be blessed.

Sid Cundiff provided the following links for more information on the Mass in Extraordinary Form:
Sancta Missa is a highly informative site that is well worth your time to read if you are planning to attend a Latin Mass (or even if you aren't).  You can read the English-Latin Missal online at this link

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Transfiguration

When I reflect on the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration, I think not only of Jesus changing His appearance to strengthen the resolve of the future leaders of the Church, but also of my own transformation through the power of the Rosary.  I was not always a devout Catholic, despite my solid Catholic upbringing in a very devout family.  I made many mistakes as a young adult, and I mourn for those lost years.  Yet the one relative constant in my life is the Rosary.  I often think of the words of St. Louis de Montfort in his must-read book, The Secret of the Rosary:  

“... Even if you are now on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil, sooner or later you will be converted. Heaven will amend your life and save your soul if you say the Rosary devoutly every day of your life.” 

I can definitely attest that heaven WILL amend your life if you are devoted to the Rosary.  Over the past few years, I have become aware of sinful practices in my life and have worked to eliminate them, one by one.  Some have come fairly easily and others were fierce battles, but I am slowly but surely trying to live a holier life.  I still have a long way to go, but the Rosary is a powerful weapon. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Proclamation of the Kingdom

John the Baptist was the first to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2), and he was also known as the "Voice crying out in the wilderness," (Matthew 3:3) fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3.  I often think of these two Scripture verses while meditating on the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom.

I reflect on how I can proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand through my actions, words and deeds.  I resolve to act as a true Christian and treat all people as brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for them, even when they are rude or insensitive or just plain sinful.  It is a difficult task, and I often fail, but I continually pray for the grace to accomplish this.

I also want to be a "voice crying out in the wilderness."  In our secular society, too often we Catholics are reluctant to speak up for what is right.  Sometimes we just don't know what to do, but we can pray that God will show us. 

As an example, a few weeks ago, I read an article in a local church bulletin about the 40 Days For Life campaign.  A group would be praying daily outside an abortion clinic in a nearby city during the campaign.  The next week, I had a hair appointment in the city but didn't feel comfortable joining the group.  I was afraid of being arrested or accosted or any number of other possible negative consequences.  Later that day, I wrote a blog entry which had nothing whatsoever to do with abortion or praying outside an abortion clinic.  Then two people wrote comments on the entry about praying outside an abortion clinic.  I instantly knew that God was telling me to go.  I had to drive to the city twice that week to get my car repaired, and both times I prayed outside the abortion clinic.  I wept as I prayed the Rosary, overcome by emotion at what was being done to the most innocent human beings.  I was not arrested or accosted.  Instead, I met several wonderful people and felt that I was at least doing something to end this horrible abomination in our country.

Pray the Rosary today and ask for the courage and the resources to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Wedding Feast at Cana

I often think of Mary's intercessory powers when meditating on the Wedding Feast of Cana, but I also reflect on the institution of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1613):

The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana.  She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence.

My own wedding was one of the happiest days of my life, and I am blessed that God sent me such a wonderful husband.  Yet sadly, the sanctity of marriage is quickly eroding in this country and around the world.  It's easy to target the acceptance of gay "marriage," but as Catholics we must also pray and act to end other mockeries of marriage such as fornication, cohabitation before marriage, "trial" marriages and divorce.   We must be charitable but firm in expressing our beliefs that marriage is sacred.

As Jesus Himself stated in Mark 10: 7-9

"Jesus said to the Pharisees, 'God made them male and female.  For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become as one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no man must separate...'"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan

When I meditate on the mystery of Jesus' Baptism, I often think of the book of Exodus.  The journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land parallels our lives today.  They first passed through water (the Red Sea), which prefigures Baptism.  Next, they wandered in the desert for 40 years (a generation), which parallels our time on earth.  Only then could they reach the Promised Land, or heaven.  In order to reach the Promised Land, they must cross the Jordan River, led by Joshua.  Joshua is a "Christ figure" who leads the people through the Jordan River, prefiguring the Baptism of Jesus who will lead us to eternal life.

Sadly, few Catholics study the Bible, let alone the Old Testament.  The rewards to those who do are priceless.  The entire Old Testament shouts out that the Savior is coming, but you must study it and reflect on it.  The Rosary Mysteries are a perfect place to start.  Pick up a Scriptural Rosary booklet as a good resource for Old Testament passages that relate to the Rosary mysteries. 

For a more in-depth Bible study, check out The Great Adventure Bible study program.  If you can't find a study group or seminar near you, look into bringing it to your parish.  It literally changed my spiritual life, and I can't recommend this program enough.

Speaking of Bible studies, it was such an honor to be a guest on Marcus Grodi's EWTN Radio program, Deep In Scripture.  We discussed several Bible verses that relate to exercise and healthy eating. I recorded the show on Wednesday in Ohio after filming The Journey Home.  Since the radio program was videotaped in the studio, you can watch/listen at the Deep in Scripture website.  It will be on the main page until the next episode airs on Oct 20th.  After that, you can access it through the archive link on the left side of the page.  The date of the show I recorded is Oct 13th. 

My Journey Home segment will air on Monday, Nov 8th on EWTN.  If you can't catch the show, it will be posted on EWTN's youtube channel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Short Break for Minute Meditations

I will be taking a short break from the Rosary Minute Meditations as I'm  leaving today for Ohio to tape an episode of EWTN's The Journey Home.  It will air on Monday, November 8th.  I'll also be taping an EWTN radio program called Deep In Scripture.  It will air on Wednesday, October 13th at 2 pm eastern at this link.  It will also be archived on the website if you can't listen on Wednesday.

Wednesday is the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, so I've been praying a novena to Our Lady of Fatima.  Please pray for me! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

I'll never forget the time we lost our daughter briefly at a very busy night at the county fair. She was only about two years old, and one moment she was at my side and the next she vanished. Panicked, my husband and I quickly searched through the crowd as I silently prayed Hail Marys. We found her a few minutes later, trustingly holding the hand of a kind older woman who was helping her to find us. Thank heaven she was found quickly and unharmed!

When I meditate on The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, I can relate to Mary and Joseph's distress while searching for their beloved child. My frantic search lasted only about 3 minutes but seemed like an eternity. Imagine Mary and Joseph's panic after 3 DAYS spent looking for the Son of God! Then imagine their relief and joy in finally finding Jesus in the place where they should have looked for Him first.

I compare this distress followed by joy to the times in my life where I have been searching for Jesus but could not find Him. Sometimes I was not physically aware that I was searching, but my soul longed for something greater than the lukewarm faith that I was practicing at the time. At other times, I experienced spiritual dryness and felt abandoned and lost. There's nothing quite like the joy at finally finding Jesus when you thought He was lost. Of course, like Mary and Joseph, I always find Him in the obvious place, every time-- in His Father's House (Luke 2:49)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Presentation

Although it's not written in the Bible, Catholic tradition states that Mary was a consecrated virgin who lived in the Temple from childhood until she was betrothed to St. Joseph.  Simeon and Anna, both mentioned in Luke's gospel account of The Presentation in the Temple, were Mary's teachers during her time in the Temple.  When I think of The Presentation, I imagine Simeon hitting himself on the forehead and thinking, "Why on earth did I not realize that this holy young woman, right under my nose, would be the mother of the Savior since I was to see Him before I died!"

Take a better look at those people you see every day.  Consider that they are instruments of God's Divine Plan and may be destined for great things.  Treat them accordingly!

I posted the video below on this blog a few months ago, but it's worth repeating during the Month of the Most Holy Rosary.  I hope it will inspire you to pray the Rosary today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Nativity

When I think of the mystery of The Nativity, I like to think of the day when each of my two children was born.  Along with the day I married my husband, those two days are my most memorable.  There is nothing quite like finally holding the child who grew in your womb for nine months, looking into the tiny face with wonder and delight.

Yet the wonder and delight can turn to frustration and helplessness when the tiny baby cries inconsolably or demands to be fed at 3 a.m.  There is also the process of working through selfishness as a mother.  The baby's needs must come before the needs of the mother and sacrifices are required which are not always met with joy and acceptance.

I then reflect on the perfect love between the holiest of all mothers and her Divine Son.  Since Mary was conceived without Original Sin and Jesus was God Incarnate, there were no barriers of selfishness to interfere with that mother-son bond.  I think of my own love for my children and multiply it a million times.  Then it occurs to me that Jesus has the same love for me!  How can I not devote 20 minutes a day to pray the Rosary as a small return of that enormous, unfathomable love?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Visitation

In honor of the Month of the Most Holy Rosary, I'm running a series of "Minute Meditations" on the 20 mysteries of the Rosary. 

When I contemplate the second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I like to think of the great joy Mary must have experienced as she hiked to the hill country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth.  Mary was around 14 years old and must have been full of youthful energy.  Add to that the joy of being chosen to become the mother of the Messiah, and she must have been literally bursting with joy.  I wouldn't be surprised if she even skipped and danced a bit on the long journey.

When Mary arrives at her cousin's home, she proclaims her beautiful canticle, The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  A canticle is a song, and I imagine Mary had the loveliest singing voice. 

Every time we pray the Rosary, we fulfill the prophecy in Mary's Magnificat that all generations will call her "blessed."  When you pray your Rosary today, ask Mary to share her great joy with you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Minute Meditations: The Annunciation

In honor of the Month of the Most Holy Rosary, I'm going to post a series of "Minute Meditations" on each of the 20 mysteries.  I'll start this week with the Joyful Mysteries.  These are just short little thoughts on a particular mystery that I hope will inspire you to learn more and to try to pray the Rosary every day during October (and beyond, if you can!).

The Annunciation is truly one of the most pivotal moments in human history.  Imagine!  God became a man for us!  He took on a human form and human weakness and suffering so that we might have eternal life.

I've always been fascinated by the stories of Greek and Roman mythology, but their gods are so petty.  They usually take on human form so that they can seduce some beautiful maiden.  They certainly do not suffer or humble themselves.  Yet our God, the One True God, became flesh through a miraculous conception, AFTER He asked a humble Jewish girl if she would be the God Bearer (Theotokos, in Greek).  Of course this Jewish girl was far from ordinary, yet she thought she was less so.  A humble God incarnate chose a humble woman to be His mother to teach us that humility and serving others is the way to heaven, not glory and riches.

This blessed moment of The Annunciation is literally shouted from the pages of the Old Testament, if you know where to look.  Study the Bible devoutly, and you will see types and precursors of Jesus and Mary throughout the Old Testament books.

Related links:


I found this terrific article about how to deal with distractions while praying the Rosary.

I'm thrilled to be a part of the wonderful Catholic Vitamins podcast.  My regular segment, "Fitness For Faith" starts with the Vitamin A podcast, posted today. (Click on the "Podcast" link and then the "Vitamin A' link.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Feast Day St Therese and Happy Month of the Rosary

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as The Little Flower.  I really admire her approach of offering up all the "little things" that grate on one's nerves during a typical day.  Annoyances like rude people, slow drivers, overly chatty acquaintances and bad hair days can be turned into blessings by offering them up.

I also like her analogy of souls to different types of flowers:

Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be. 
- from Story of a Soul
 
St. Therese is also known as "St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face."   That is the name she took when she entered the Carmelite Monastery due to her devotion to the infant Jesus and her fascination with the image of Jesus' suffering face imprinted on Veronica's veil.

My mother recently gave me a holy card with the image of Jesus' face, at right, and I always carry it in my purse.  It was created by NASA using the negatives from the shroud of Turin.  I love His eyes in this image.  They are so gentle and loving yet they stare straight into your very soul.

October 1st also ushers in the Month of the Most Holy Rosary.  It's a perfect opportunity to begin (or renew) a devotion to the Blessed Mother's favorite prayer.  Try to pray the Rosary every day this month.  Ask St. Therese to help you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Rose Garden

The word Rosary comes from the Latin word rosarium, which means a rose garden, often circular. In Catholicism, the images of a garden, a rose and a circle are rich in symbolism. 

To see how the rosary beads are like a garden, place then in front of you in a circle with the crucifix pointing toward you. The short chain, known as the pendant chain, is like a pathway leading to a garden, which is
represented by the circular part of the rosary.

The crucifix marks the opening prayer of the Rosary, The Apostles’ Creed.  The Creed (and our corresponding faith) is the key to unlock the garden gate, where uur Blessed Mother will lead us to a deeper
understanding of the mysteries of the Rosary.

The five beads on the pendant chain represent a pathway into the garden as we recite the prayers they represent-- The Our Father, three Hail Marys and the Glory Be. The three Hail Mary are traditionally prayed for an increase in the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. The three beads are also said to honor the three persons of the Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We enter the garden, or circle of beads, when we begin the first decade of the Rosary. While we‘re in the garden, we meditate on five mysteries, leading us to a deeper understanding of the Gospels. We exit the garden after making a final prayer of praise and petition to our Blessed Mother, the Hail Holy Queen.

The Rosary is ultimately a path to the garden which we most long to enter: Paradise.

Note:  The lovely painting of Mary as a gardener, above, is called "Mary, Nazarene" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  This is an unusual image of Mary, but it's so beautiful.  Since there is a small dove by her shoulder, then perhaps it represents The Annunciation.  I always like to think of Mary in a garden during The Annunciation.  I like the image of her humbly working in the garden, reversing Eve's long ago "No" in the Garden of Eden.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why God Matters

This summer, I attended the Catholic Marketing Network Conference and the Catholic Writer's Guild Live Conference in the Philadelphia area.  I met so many wonderful Catholic writers, including fun, fedora-wearing Karina Fabian.  We have a lot in common in addition to our love for writing.  We're both former Air Force officers who fell in love with non-Catholic men (Karina's husband converted before they married), and we both homeschool and enjoy sci-fi.

Karina has recently published a book that she co-wrote with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert.  The book is titled Why God Matters: How To Recognize Him in Everyday Life.  Just 114 pages, this little book can easily be read in an afternoon and is full of inspiring quotes and little "slice of life" stories about God and the Catholic faith.  It reminds me a bit of the Chicken Soup series.

Each chapter has a different theme such as "So help me God, I Didn't Do It," or "Love in a Pot of Rice."  Karina and her dad alternate their stories and include related Bible quotes or excerpts from the Cathechism of the Catholic Church.  Some stories made me smile and others brought tears to my eyes, but all of them were touching and inspiring. 

I especially appreciated the questions scattered throughout the book and the list of references at the end.  Why God Matters would make a nice gift for a newly married couple or a friend or family member who is lukewarm in their Catholic faith. 

More reviews are posted on publisher Tribune Books' site, and there's a tab to post your own story of "Why God Matters."  You can order the book through Amazon.

Speaking of reviews, Catholic Exchange published my movie review of the excellent film, Like Dandelion Dust.  If it's not showing in your area, then be sure to rent it when it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Fresh Perspective

After a long weekend out of town helping to chaperone my husband's Junior ROTC cadets, I was eager to get on my road bike and burn off some of the indulgent food I'd eaten.  (Once a year I get to eat a corn dog with lots of mustard!)

As I set off for one of my favorite routes, I spontaneously decided to ride the route backwards.  The ride seemed completely new as I was now going up hills I that I usually raced down.  This gave me a fresh perspective on the scenery.  I noticed cute little farm houses that I usually whizzed right by, as well as hidden ponds and a few acres of peaceful forest. 

As I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, I recalled a reflection on The Visitation I had recently read.  Unfortunately, I can't remember where or by whom, but the gist of the piece was that we imitate Mary in The Visitation every time we receive Communion.  Just as Mary carried Jesus, hidden inside her womb, to Elizabeth, so we carry Jesus, hidden inside us in the Eucharist, to everyone we encounter.

What a fresh perspective!  I had never considered that I am like Mary after I receive Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  Just imagine how many people would be drawn to the Catholic faith if all us acted as Mary did when she first carried the hidden Savior out to the world.  If only, like Mary, we were so overjoyed that we could declare, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1:46-47)  Then perhaps those we encounter might leap for joy as the unborn John the Baptist did.

The next time you receive Holy Communion, pause a moment on your way out of the church to consider the importance of carrying the hidden Christ to everyone you meet.
___________________
On a lighter note, I have a new guest post out today on my friend Sarah Reinhard's blog.  It's a new endeavor for me-- a video post.  I had to do about 10 "takes" before I was finally satisfied with the final product.  The topic is "Healthy, Holy Lunch Boxes."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bring Back Baptism

I love my new road bike so much that I want to ride it nearly every day.  For me, biking is the best way to really reflect on the Rosary mysteries.  My mind just completely clears, and all the burdens I'm carrying almost magically slip from my shoulders.  My Rosaries somehow stretch into 40 minutes or more while I ride.  My mind sometimes wanders or my attention is diverted by traffic or a country dog, but I often have revelations that surprise me.

Today as I prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, the First Luminous Mystery, The Baptism of Jesus, held my attention.  I recalled the days when I was a lukewarm Catholic, attending Mass every Sunday mainly as an insurance policy against hell.  On the days when the "Reserved" signs on the front pews and the babies dressed in white frills indicated a Baptism, I'd impatiently look at my watch. 

"Great!  Mass is going into overtime!" I'd think, despite the fact that I rarely had anything important to do the rest of the day.  I fear many Catholics have the same thoughts since Baptisms are rarely performed during Mass these days.  What a shame!

Imagine what would have happened nearly 2000 years ago if that attitude had prevailed.  What if the people passing by the Jordan River sometime around January of 30 A.D., rolled their eyes and said, "There's that John the Baptist again, blocking the roads with crowds watching some guy get dunked in the river!"  They would have missed an amazing event. 

The Son of God, the Word Made Flesh, the Messiah, the Redeemer was about to initiate the Sacrament of Baptism by humbly undergoing it Himself.  That too-busy-to-find-15-minutes-to-watch-a-Baptism crowd would have missed the opening of heaven when "... the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22)  I don't think even the Super Bowl could top that!

I think that it is important to baptize babies and new Catholics during a Mass, in front of the congregation.  Baptism is a sacrament of initiation, and should be celebrated publicly, not in some side room on a Saturday afternoon.

Another benefit of Baptism during Mass is the opportunity to renew our own Baptismal promises.  We should occasionally reflect on these promises and what they mean in our lives.  Are we really remaining true to these promises?  (Especially the ones about rejecting Satan's work and empty promises!) 

Next time you see the Reserved signs and the babies swathed in white lace, rejoice at the opportunity to welcome another lamb or sheep into the fold and to renew your own promises to truly live your life as a follower of Christ.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross, a feast I had never heard of until very recently.  I showed up at daily Mass, as I usually do on Tuesdays, and was surprised to smell incense.  Apparently, this must have be an important feast!

I should have known better since I am aware that our parish is blessed with a relic of the True Cross.  Usually, it is partly out of view in the tabernacle, but today it sat on the altar for all to see (similar to the photo at left).  At the beginning of Mass, Father X told us that we would be able to venerate the relic and receive a blessing after Mass.  The usual daily Mass group was present, but I wondered, "Why is the church not overflowing with parishioners and visitors at the prospect of this great honor?"

The readings for Mass today remind us that the foretelling of Jesus' death on a cross goes all the way back to Moses and the book of Exodus.  The cross, an instrument of torture and death, has become a symbol for eternal life through Jesus' ultimate sacrifice.  Every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we recall this sacrifice and proudly show the world that we are Catholic Christians.

The Sacrifice of the Mass moved me to tears today as Father X said the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin, and the presence of the relic on the altar really focused my attention on the fact that we offer Jesus' sacrifice to the Father during every Mass.

After Mass, it was a supreme honor to venerate the relic with a kiss and then to be blessed by the relic as Father X touched it gently to my forehead, then made the Sign of the Cross with the relic over my head.  Being so close to the instrument of Jesus' sacrifice has has a profound effect on me today.  I only hope that it will aid me in my quest to become more Christ-like.

Related links:

Excellent article about the history of this feast on Catholic Culture.  I especially enjoyed the story of the Emperor Heraclius' inability to carry the True Cross up to Calvary.

As I posted before, The Living Wood, by Louis De Wohl, is a terrific book about St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, and how she discovered the True Cross. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mary and an Unexpected Gift

Today is the Blessed Mother's birthday!  I wrote an article for The Integrated Catholic Life about the history of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin and a few ideas to celebrate the feast, along with a lovely prayer I found online.

My daughter placed her statue of Mary in the middle of our kitchen table to honor her birthday.  As I passed it throughout the day, I thought of the Blessed Mother and offered prayers of thanksgiving for the many favors and blessings she has bestowed upon me and my family.

This morning, I reorganized a cabinet in my bedroom as I searched for a missing receipt.  To my surprise, I came across a little book called The Sorrows of Mary.  I have no idea where this book came from as I do not remember purchasing it or receiving it as a gift.  I tucked it into my purse and took it out to read it this evening after Mass. 

While reading the first chapter, I discovered that the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is just one week from today-- September 15th.  As I continued reading the beautiful meditations, it occurred to me that Mary had given me a gift on her birthday.  She wanted me to read this little book in preparation for her feast day next week.  She never ceases to surprise and amaze me!

I searched for this book online, and the only link I could find to purchase a copy is at the Life of Christ Newsletter Bookstore.  Many of the meditations are taken from a book called The Mystical City of God by Venerable Mary of Agreda.  This is a multi-volume set that is not exactly an easy read, but I've read parts of the abridged version, The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin, and it's much shorter and a beautiful reflection on the life of Mary.

Related links:

You can learn more about the Seven Dolors (Sorrows of Mary) at http://www.7dolors.com/

Another intersting site I discovered is an Italian devotion to Bambina Maria (Baby Mary).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finding Friends on The Road to Emmaus

It was a glorious morning yesterday, so I jumped on my bike to enjoy a workout in the great outdoors.  As I pedaled up and down the rolling hills in the countryside, I prayed the Glorious Mysteries.  I offered my Rosary for my friend, author Theresa Doyle-Nelson.  She was scheduled for her first interview on The Catholic Revolver With Jerry to talk about her upcoming book, More Saints of the Bible, and had asked me to pray for her.

As I meditated on the First Glorious Mystery, The Resurrection, I recalled the story of "The Road to Emmaus,"  (Luke 24:13-31) where Jesus appeared to two disciples traveling to the town of Emmaus on Easter Sunday.  I recalled that I had literally met Theresa on the Road to Emmaus when I first read her interesting article on this topic in Canticle magazine.  I contacted her about the article, and we have become good friends.  We pray for each other and encourage each other in our writing endeavors.   Theresa is the type of person who makes my heart "burn within me" (cf Luke 24:32) because she encourages me to truly live the gospels.

I have been so blessed to have encountered many others on the Road to Emmaus-- good Christian people whom I have met in person or online who challenge, encourage or inspire me on my faith journey.  I hope and pray that I too have helped others on their journey.

The next time you feel your heart "burning within you" when you're with a particular person, thank Jesus for sending you a friend on your Road to Emmaus.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mary's Persuasion

This morning, I ran on a path that meandered by a tree-shaded river, enjoying the cool air and a light breeze.  As my feet pounded the pavement, I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  On my third mile, I began the 5th decade and reflected on The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. 

At 12 years old, Jesus was considered a man in the Jewish community.  For the first time, He entered the area of the temple denied to Him when He was a child, and He was eager to get to His Father's work.  His mother, however, was not so eager.  Perhaps Simeon's warning, "... and you yourself a sword will pierce," was still very fresh in her mind.  Mary knew the Scriptures and Isaiah's prophecy of the Suffering Servant and no doubt was beside herself at the thought of such a young man-- her young man-- suffering so greatly.  Mary gently led her Son back home, and He obediently complied.

As I contemplated the joyful additional 18 years that Mary spent quietly with Jesus, I actually stopped running and exclaimed "OH!" aloud as I connected the 5th Joyful Mystery to the 2nd Luminous Mystery, The Wedding Feast at Cana.  It was Mary who propelled Jesus back to His Father's work when she gently urged Him to perform His first miracle, changing water into wine.

Jesus loves His mother so much that He permitted her to time the beginning of His Father's work on earth.  When she held Him back in the Temple, He obeyed.  He waited patiently for 18 years until she was prepared to finally let Him go.  When she gently urged Him to perform a miracle at Cana, He changed His mind ("My hour has not yet come...") and agreed to manifest His Godly power through a miracle, thus beginning His final journey to the cross and our salvation.

By prayig the Rosary, we too can compel Jesus to hold back or to take action, through the intercession of His beloved Mother.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Great Resource: Catholic Parents Online

I can't remember how I came across the Catholic Parents Online (CPO) website, but I subscribed to their newsletter, and they always send interesting and relevant information.  Their website is definitely worth a visit.  I really like the Prayer For Consecration of the Family.

One of the recent emails they sent me included a lovely Triduum (Three Days) of Prayer to St. Monica.  It's a perfect way to start of the school year.  I couldn't find it on their website, so I'm reproducing the prayers below.

Saint Monica Triduum of Prayer
August 26th, 27th and 28th
Feast of Saint Monica: August 27th & Feast of Saint Augustine: August 28th

Daily Novena Prayer

Dear Saint Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Pause to mention intentions in silence.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence, that your prayers will gain favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God's perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you. Amen.

Parents' Prayer to Saint Monica

Saint Monica, patron of Christian parents, we entrust to your protection, the children whose names you can read in our hearts. Pray for them, that they may be granted strength to combat weakness, victory over temptation, guidance to resolve their doubts, and success in all their undertakings.

May they enjoy good health of mind and body, see beauty and worth in all created things, and serve the Lord with firm faith, joyful hope and enduring love. Amen.

Prayer for Our Children

Dear Saint Monica, patroness of all parents, please take our children, especially those who have turned from the ways of Christ and His Church, under your protection. Let them always remain faithful to their Baptismal vows. Give them the strength to walk always in the ways of the Lord, despite the temptations and false values they find in the world today. Pray for them that they may share with you the joys of eternal life. Amen.

Prayer in Adversity

O Blessed Saint Monica, after a lifetime of tearful prayers, fasting and sacrifice, you were at last granted the happiness of witnessing the conversion to Christ Jesus and His Church of both your son and husband.

Intercede for us that we might experience the same peace, faith and acceptance of God's will so that we may live all our years in serenity and go joyfully to our heavenly home secure in the knowledge that our loved ones are on the way of Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Petition

Dear Saint Monica, once sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petition to the Lord God of heaven and earth. (Pause to mention intentions in silence.) Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us, as you did so fervently for Augustine, your firstborn.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain a favorable hearing in heaven. Mother of a sinner-turned saint; obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God's perfect timing. In His appointed hour, in His merciful way, may He respond to your prayer and ours, which we offer through you. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

We turn to you with grateful hearts, dear Monica, as we rejoice and render thanks for your powerful intercession. You 'have carried our pressing needs to God and have obtained for us the trust, perseverance and patience we desired.

Please continue to plead for us in all our needs, spiritual and temporal, and teach us to be truly thankful for all the blessing bestowed upon us. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Hail Mary!

I taught my children the Hail Mary, and other Catholic prayers, when they were very little.  They love to memorize new prayers, and our tradition was to repeat the prayers every night before bed until they know them.  You'd be amazed at how quickly even very young children can memorize these prayers, even if they don't understand the words. 

Now that my children are older, I am teaching them the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Angelus.  I remind them to pray throughout the day, even when I'm not there to prompt them.  This is especially important now that school is starting.  My children attend public school after being homeschooled for over four years.  We live in a small, conservative, Christian town, but not all children in their school are good influences. 

I think it is so important that my children pray every day in order to develop what I hope will be a lifelong habit.  I always begin each day by consecrating them to the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart and asking their guardian angels to protect and guide them. 

This morning, I came across the following article on the website, America Needs Fatima:

Hail Mary Saves Student From Hell; Companion Not So Lucky

Consider the following instance of the great mercy of Mary:


In the year 1604, in a city in Belgium, there were two young students who gave themselves up to a life of debauchery instead of following their studies.

One night they were at the house of an evil woman; but one of the two, who was named Richard, stayed only a short time and then returned home. While he was preparing to retire, he remembered that he had not yet said the few Hail Marys that were his daily practice.

He was very tired and half inclined to omit them; nevertheless, he forced himself through the routine, saying the words half asleep and with no particular devotion. Then he lay down and fell asleep.

Suddenly he was wakened by a violent knocking at the door. The door was closed, but the figure of a young man, hideously deformed, passed through it and stood before him.

"Who are you?" Richard cried. "You do not know me?" asked the other. "Ah yes, now I do," said Richard; "but how changed, with all the appearance of a devil!"

"Alas, unhappy creature that I am," said his companion, "I am damned! When I was leaving that house of sin, a devil came and strangled me. My body lies in the street; my soul is in Hell.

"And know this — the same fate awaited you, except that the Blessed Virgin spared you for that little act of homage of the Hail Marys. If you are not a fool, profit by this warning which the Mother of God has sent." He then opened his mantle, showing the flames and serpents by which he was tormented, and disappeared.

Breaking into a flood of sobs and tears, Richard went down on his knees to give thanks to Mary his protectress. Then as he pondered how to change his life he heard the bell of the Franciscan monastery ringing for matins. "It is there," he said, "that God calls me to do penance."

He went immediately to the monastery and begged the Fathers to admit him. Since they knew his wicked life, they were hardly willing to do so. But sobbing bitterly, he told them all that had happened. And when two Fathers had been sent to the street and had found the strangled body, which was charred and blackened, they admitted him.

From that time on he led an exemplary life and at length went to preach the Gospel in India, and thence to Japan. There he had the happiness of giving his life for Jesus Christ, being burnt alive for the faith at Nagasaki on September 10, 1622.

*Taken from The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori.

Please teach your children the Hail Mary, the Rosary and as many Catholic prayers as you can.  Instill in them a love for the Blessed Mother and she will always protect them. (Obviously, you want to also instill in them a love and reverence for the Holy Trinity.  I like to think of St. Louis de Montfort's slogan "To Jesus [and ultimately, the Father] through Mary.")

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hail Holy Queen!


Today we celebrate the feast of the Queenship of Mary.  We reflect on Mary's role as the Queen of Heaven and Earth every time we pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.  In fact, we honor her EVERY time we pray the Rosary, as the final prayer is the "Hail Holy Queen."

The painting above, "Mary, Queen of Heaven," captivated me when I first saw it at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.  It's painted by a artist know simply as the "Master of the St. Lucy Legend."  The painting dominates the gallery hall where it hangs, and I was instantly drawn by the vivid colors.  Mary's gown and cloak look so real that you want to reach out and touch them.  Each angel has a unique robe that appears to have been woven by the finest craftsmen.  The angels guide Mary to heaven, where the Holy Trinity anticipates her arrival and queenship with a golden crown.

Every time I visit the National Gallery, I always return to this painting.  I often think of it while mediating on the fourth and fifth Glorious Mysteries.  If you ever visit Washington, D.C., you must view this exquisite work of art.  To learn more about the painting and artist, see this link.

To better understand Mary's queenship, read this imformative article on Catholic Culture

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reflections on the 3rd Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom

As part of my children's religious education, I rent a variety of DVDs from the fabulous Catholic online rental club, Pius Media.  The monthly membership fee is comparable to other online rental businesses, and they offer a huge selection of Catholic, patriotic and wholesome secular movies and documentaries.

I find that my children learn and retain more information when they can process it visually.  For example, when we were studying the Old Testament, I'd read a Bible story such as Abraham and Isaac, then we'd rent a DVD from Pius Media.  I'd pause the DVD occasionally to relate the film to the Bible reading and ask a few questions.  It was a very effective lesson.

The most recent DVD we rented was an animated film titled, "The Kingdom of Heaven."  It offered the perfect opportunity to help my children understand the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom.  I even find this mystery difficult to comprehend. 

The DVD used a series of Jesus' parables and the actions of a few spectators in the crowd to explain the Kingdom of Heaven.  The parables included the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4: 1-20, Matthew 13: 1-23, Luke 8: 1-15), the Parable of the Wheat and Tares/Weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30), the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13: 44-46).

After each parable was illustrated in the film, I paused the movie and asked my children if they could figure out what Jesus was trying to teach.  By the end of the 30-minute movie, they had a much better understanding of Jesus' parables on the Kingdom of Heaven.  (My children are 11 and 13, but younger children could easily understand this film.)

One very important point made in the film illustrates the hierarchy of the Church: 

"The disciples approached him and said, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' He said to them in reply, 'Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.'"  (Matthew 13: 10-11)

We, the people in the crowd, need to rely on our Church leaders to help us to interpret and understand the teachings of Jesus.  We need to study the writings of the early Church Fathers, the successors of the Apostles.  We should participate in Bible studies (alone or in a group), read the Catechism and the writings of the Doctors of the Church.  Our efforts will be rewarded.

Of course, certain Scripture passages may speak to us in a personal way, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but as Catholics, we do not interpret the Bible ourselves.  Read this address by Pope Benedict to better understand why.

By learning more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we can help proclaim it on earth and attain it for eternity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pleading For Us at the Right Hand of the Father

I prayed the Rosary tonight during Eucharistic Adoration, before Mass.  As I meditated on the Second Glorious Mystery, The Ascension, I gazed at the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  His right hand reaches out toward the congregation, beckoning us, with the wound  from the nail clearly visible.

Jesus' glorified body could have been perfect, just as His human body was "without blemish."  Yet He chose to retain the five wounds of His Passion-- two on His hands, two on His feet and the wound in His side from the soldier's spear. 

I could not explain why any more eloquently than Caryll Houselander, in her lovely book, The Essential Rosary:

Christ,
  ascended into Heaven,
You bear the wounds
  of the whole world
  in Your hands and feet
  and in Your heart.
They plead for us,
 shining like stars
 before the secret face of God.
By Your five wounds
  purify our five senses;
  lift up our hearts into Heaven.
While You draw down
God's mercy to us,
  showing our wounds
  in Your glorified Body,
let us draw men up to You,
  showing Your wounds to the world,
    scored on our grey dust
      in the bright crimson
        of Your love.

~ Caryll Houselander

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

THE BEST MARY VIDEO EVER MADE



This is a bit long, but worth every minute of your time.  You can also find this same information (and more!) in Scott Hahn's excellent book, Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

False Assumptions About Mary

This morning, I attended Mass in a parish near my brother-in-law's house, as we were visiting them for a few days.  Since today is the Feast of the Assumption, I was looking forward to hearing the priest's homily in hopes of learning more about this Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. 

Unfortunately, Father X decided to use Mary's Magnificat in the Gospel reading as a platform for his political beliefs.  He concluded by daring talk radio hosts to brand Mary as a Communist!  Even worse, he characterized the Blessed Mother as a self-centered teenager, randomly chosen by God, who hesitated to give her fiat to the Angel Gabriel because "she had her whole life ahead of her..."  (I'm quoting Fr. X here.)  As if Mary could possibly have had a better plan for her role in Salvation History!

I prayed that someone would educate Fr. X in Marian history.  Anyone who has studied the Blessed Mother knows that she was never a "typical teenager" or a typical girl or woman, for that matter.  Nor was she chosen out of a hat for her role as the Mother of God.  She is God's masterpiece of Creation, planned from all eternity.  Mary is the Immaculate Conception, free from sin from the very moment the egg was fertilized in St. Anne's womb.  Due to this special gift, Mary did not have concupiscence, or a tendency to sin.  Although she is very different from us, Jesus gave her to all humanity as our mother as part of His Seven Last Words from the cross:  "Behold your mother." (John 19:27)

Mary also received another special gift, which we honor today.  God would never allow his new ark of the covenant (Rev 11:19) to decay in the earth.  Instead, Mary likely experienced a "dormition" or "falling asleep."  It was not like the death that we will experience, but she probably did go through a type of "death" before receiving the gift of a glorified body before the Second Coming.  There is still some debate about the death of Mary (see second link below for more), but Catholics do believe that Mary was assumed, or brought up into heaven, body and soul.

On this great feast, we look with hope to the future and our own glorified bodies.  Mary has given us a tool to fulfill that hope-- the Rosary.  Don't forget to pray it today.  (Please also pray for Fr. X.)

Related links:
- A great article on the Assumption/Dormition by my friend, Lisa Hendey, whom I finally had the privilege to
  meet in person last week at the Catholic Writers' Guild Conference last week
- A blog post on the Assumption by another friend, Sarah Reinhard (whom I just missed meeting in person at
   another conference in Boston)
- A brief article on the Assumption and Dormition at Catholic Culture
- Another good article at New Advent
- A wonderful collection of resources on the Assumption, again at Catholic Culture (If you want to learn 
  more about the Assumption and Marian doctrine and Apologetics, this link is well worth your time
  to investigate.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting out of a "Rosary rut" with a treadmill and the Sorrowful Mysteries

Since I try to pray the Rosary every day, usually in conjunction with a workout, I occasionally get into a "Rosary rut."  I find it difficult to meditate and get easily distracted.  Part of this can be a stage of ongoing spiritual dryness, but I sometimes get out of the rut by changing things up a bit.

I make use of resources such as Scriptural Rosaries, online Rosaries, or audio Rosaries.  I might re-read one of my favorite books on the Rosary or visit a website devoted to the Rosary.  Sometimes a simple change of location helps such as praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, during Eucharistic Adoration or a in beautiful place in nature.

This morning, I needed to get a workout and decided to use my brother-in-law's treadmill since we're staying at his house.  I didn't have my ipod audio Rosary or my trusty finger Rosary, so I searched the treadmill console for 10 buttons I could use to keep track of the Hail Marys in each decade.  I found a series of 10 labeled buttons across the bottom of the screen, and I decided to be creative and incorporate them into my meditation.  The buttons were meant to be used to program a variety of workout programs, but I found a way to make them apply to the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I'll give an example of how I did this, using the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, The Carrying of the Cross.  The button labels are in bold type, and my new meaning for them as well as my reflection for each Hail Mary follows:

1.  Manual -  An overall view of the mystery, imaging myself panning across the scene with a camera.  I took in the scene of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows), with Jesus patiently, painfully making his way toward Calvary, carrying the heavy cross through the jeering crowds.

2.  Fat Burning - This button made me think of flesh, so I focused on how much Jesus suffered from the open wounds from the scourging, the pressure of the cross digging into his shoulder, the sheer physical exhaustion of all He had endured so far.

3.  Hill - The obvious hill in this mystery is Golgotha, "place of the skull," where Jesus will die.  Yet He turns it into the "place of Redemption," sanctifying the ground with His Precious Blood.

4.  Cardio - This made me think of Jesus' heart and how it must have been so heavy as He listened to the taunts of the crowd and felt the cruel blows from the Roman soldiers on His battered body.  He loved every single one of them, yet they returned only scorn and hate.

5.  Strength - Imagine how much strength it took to get up from under the heavy cross after falling not once, nor even twice, but three times, knowing that even more cruel torture lies ahead.

6.  Interval - I applied this label to just a snapshot of the mystery, viewed through Jesus' eyes.  I imagined what it must have felt like, at the end of the road to Calvary (the Latin word for "skull"), looking up at the place where He would die, knowing that the intense suffering He had endured so far was just the beginning.

7.  User 1 - I used this button to view the mystery through the eyes of a bystander at the scene.  In this case, I thought of Simon the Cyrenean, pulled from the crowd to help Jesus carry the burden of the cross.  What must if have been like to walk, side by side, with the Son of God?  Simon was obviously affected as we know that his sons, Rufus and Alexander (Mark 15:21), were well-know Christians.  No doubt, their father told the story of how he carried the cross with the Savior over and over.

8.  User 2 - Another bystander, this time Veronica.  Although she is not mentioned in the Bible, the story of how she wiped Jesus' face with her veil is recalled in the Stations of the Cross.  How brave she must have been to push past the Roman soldiers to give a small measure of comfort to the suffering Messiah.  Did she know Jesus personally, or was she so overcome watching the "lamb led to the slaughter" that she had to do something -- anything -- to ease His pain?

9.  Heart Rate 1 - I used these last two buttons to consider the perspective of two people beloved by Jesus who were at the scene of the mystery.  The first person is His mother, Mary.  She must have recalled the words of Simeon, "... You yourself a sword will pierce." (Luke 2:35), as she watched her Divine Son stagger through the streets of Jerusalem.  Yet she must have known that it was all for us, that we would be saved through the shedding of His Precious Blood. 

10. Heart Rate 2 - The second person is St. John.  Since he was present at the foot of the cross, he somehow managed to quietly follow Jesus on the road to Calvary.  Did he have to duck into alleys or side streets or did he boldly walk the Via Dolorosa?  He was the only Apostle with enough courage to do so.

I hope this gives you some ideas to aid in your Rosary meditation.  You don't need buttons on a treadmill, but simply look at a given mystery from different angles to find a new perspective.  Ask the Blessed Mother, your Rosary guide, to help you.