Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Peter, Paul and Mary

Today is the solemnity of two great saints, St. Peter and St. Paul.  Although I think that St. Paul wrote some of the most beautiful words ever recorded, I relate more to St. Peter. I picture him as Mr. Edwards from the TV show, Little House on the Prairie. The actor captured so well the image I have of St. Peter as kind-hearted, loyal and sincere, but rough around the edges.

Both these remarkable men were responsible for spreading Christianity throughout the world, but both had pretty rough beginnings.  St. Paul (known initially as Saul) was actually responsible for persecuting the Christians until a significant event occurred on the Road to Damascus.  His conversion story is so fascinating that it would easily net EWTN millions of viewers on "The Journey Home" if it was broadcast today.  It's important to note that he received the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17) and then proclaimed that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).  Interestingly, St. Peter did the reverse.  As we heard in today's Gospel, Peter proclaimed that Jesus is "... the Christ, the Son of the living God," (Matt 16:16)  but he did not receive the Holy Spirit until Pentecost. 

Compare pre-Pentecost Peter with post-Pentecost Peter:  Before receiving the Holy Spirit, St. Peter had moments of greatness such as his heartfelt declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, but he also had moments of weakness and cowardice, most notably the three denials in the early morning hours of Good Friday.  Yet after Pentecost, he became worthy of his office as first pope of the new Catholic Church.  He was so filled with courage and humility that he asked to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die as Jesus did.  That's what the Holy Spirit can do for you!

Of course, Mary ties in with this solemnity because she is known as a "type" of the Church.  This concept is difficult to grasp at first, but read this article to learn more.  Mary was present at the birth of the Church on Pentecost Sunday, where she was filled with the Holy Spirit for the second time.  (The first was at the Annunciation,)

Finally, the Rosary tie-in:  Did the Apostles Pray the Rosary?  This brief but insightful article explains how the Rosary is truly a compendium of the Gospel and why it is essential that we ask Mary to lead us closer to Christ through the Rosary.

Note:  Isn't it interesting that it was just a few weeks ago that the oldest icons of St. Peter and St. Paul were uncovered in the catacombs?  It's almost as if they wanted the most realistic portrayals of themselves to be discovered in time for their solemnity.  I tried to find a clear photo of the icons but couldn't.  If anyone has a link, please share it.  If you'd like to learn more, read this article.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview today on The Catholic Revolver

A recent trip to visit family in Florida and my husband's attempt to complete two masters courses online in two weeks (!) have prevented me from my regular blogging.  This post is a departure from my usual content, but it's something I can squeeze in while my husband takes a break.  In any case, I hope you'll find the links below helpful.

Does anyone listen to Catholic internet radio?  There are quite a few Catholic stations that broadcast online so that you can listen at any time.  Here is a comprehensive list

There are also quite a few Catholic podcasters out there producing high-quality programs.  Many of them are hosted at SQPN.com and you can listen at any time or download them to your ipod.  You don't need any special equipment to listen to these podcasts.

I have been honored to be a guest on several of these great programs.  I am continually amazed by the wonderful support I've received from various Catholic media outlets.  I think it's terrific that these savvy Catholics are taking advantage of new media forms like podcasting, internet radio and blogging to spread the Good News of the Gospel and Catholicism.

Tonight, I'll be a guest on a relatively new, but very high-quality internet radio program called The Catholic Revolver.  My interview is scheduled for 6:00 pm EST tonight.  If you can, listen live at this link.  If you can't a podcast version will be posted in the next day or so at the same site.

Try a few of these different Catholic media outlets to see if you find a program you enjoy.  They are so much more uplifting and informative than the worldy and often offensive programs on secular radio.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding Hope in Discouraging Times

Since I'm on a mini-vacation, visiting family in Florida, I'm going to be a bit lazy and send you to an article I wrote today on a fantastic new Catholic e-magazine, The Integrated Catholic Life.  Here's the link to the article.  While you're there, check out some of the other excellent articles on the site.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Rosary: Our Weapon

I found this lovely Rosary video on youtube.  There are many inspiring quotes and pictures, but the choice of music simply puzzles me.  Why "China Roses" by Enya?  It's odd to pair New Age music with the Rosary, so I just muted the sound.  Personally, I would have used "Ave Maria" or another Marian song, but perhaps that has been overdone?  In any case, the visual is very nice, if not the audio.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Travels and Mass

I love to travel and part of the fun is finding new Catholic churches.  I've attended Mass in tiny Revolutionary-era chapels and giant mega-churches that seat thousands.  I prefer the former, but it IS nice to see huge churches filled with Catholics. 

I don't think I've ever been in a location where I couldn't find a Mass to attend within ten miles of where I'm staying.  I rely on a wonderful website, MassTimes.org  but it's always a good idea to check the parish website or to call the parish office to verify the Mass times and to make sure none are seasonal or have been canceled for an event.  We showed up for a Sunday evening Mass in one location, only to find the parking lot deserted.  A parishioner hurrying out of the building informed us that they were having a parish picnic that evening. 

When I arrive at a new church, the first thing I look for is the tabernacle and the red sanctuary lamp.  Sadly, many modern churches have hidden the tabernacle away in some little side room like an embarrassing relative.  I understand that these Blessed Sacrament chapels are often used for daily Mass or for private adoration, but to attend Mass without the tabernacle front and center makes me feel as if something is missing.

I find it odd that the last two Sundays we have attended Mass in two different churches, in two separate states, and neither had a tabernacle on the altar nor kneelers.  These were not "temporary" churches but finished churches with pews that had no kneelers.  This always presents me with a dilemma.  Should I kneel anyway?  I don't want to call attention to myself or distract others, so I usually just follow the congregation knowing that I'll soon be back in my own parish with its tabernacle, beautiful statues, bells and kneelers.

At such churches that thumb their noses at traditional Catholic practices, I tend to be too judgmental.  I look with a more critical eye at the way the congregation is dressed, at the music selection, the lack of bells during the consecration and other things that distract me during Mass.  I have to remind myself that I am still at Mass, that Jesus is still present and that the congregation and the pastor are doing their best and might not like the lack of tradition either.  So yesterday at this tabnernacle-less, kneeler-free and bell-lacking church I resolved to look for the good. 

I found it in the beautiful Baptism ceremony.  Two adult men were becoming Catholics that day and were led to the Baptism area in the back of the church.  The priest called down the Holy Spirit on the waters, reminding me of Genesis 1:2.  The men wore gowns and their feet were bare as they stepped into the shallow water.  The priest poured water over their heads from a shell, drenching them.  It made me think of John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River and it all seemed somehow right, even if the ceremony was being broadcast by video to a screen that magically rolled down over the altar.

After their Confirmation, the priest remarked that both men had taken deep breaths as they were baptized.  He said that the water was not cold and that they were breathing in the Holy Spirit. 

I know that we are having a faith crisis in our country and in fact throughout the world, but I need to always have hope and faith in the Holy Spirit who is alive and well and watching carefully over His church.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Angels and the Rosary

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Rosary Workout:

The presence of angels is invariably linked to the Rosary. Consider that the Hail Mary was previously known as the Angelic Salutation since it begins with the Angel Gabriel‘s words to Mary in Luke 1:28. One of Mary‘s many titles is Queen of the Angels. St. Louis de Montfort writes in the Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin:

"Mary has authority over the angels and the blessed in heaven." He paraphrases the words of other saints regarding Mary‘s role as Queen of Angels:  "According to St. Bonaventure, all the angels in heaven unceasingly call out to her:  'Holy, holy, holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God.' They greet her countless times each day with the angelic greeting, 'Hail, Mary‘, while prostrating themselves before her, begging her as a favor to honor them with one of her requests." 

Pope Leo XIII elaborates the role of angels in the Rosary in his papal encyclical, On the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary:

"...In reciting the Rosary, we meditate upon the mysteries of our Redemption… [and] in a manner emulate the sacred duties once committed to the Angelic hosts. The Angels revealed each of these mysteries in its due time; they played a great part in them; they were constantly present at them… What more divine, what more delightful, than to meditate and pray with the Angels? With what confidence may we not hope that those who on earth have united with the Angels in this ministry will one day enjoy their blessed company in Heaven?  Praying the Rosary devoutly can actually connect us with the holy angels.

St.Alphonsus Liguori taught by praying the Hail Mary, we attract the angels and repel the demons.  The next time you pray the Rosary, ask the angels to join you!

You can purchase the beautiful Guardian Angel rosary pictured above at Catholic Shopper.  It would make a lovely gift for a new baby, Baptism, First Communion or a child's birthday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Rosary Prayer

During my research on the Rosary, I came across a prayer called "The Rosary Prayer" which is an optional prayer to add at the conclusion of the Rosary.  I very rarely hear it recited, but it is such a beautiful way to end Our Lady's favorite prayer.  My goal is to memorize it and to begin incorporating it into my Rosary devotion.  Maybe you can too (if you don't already).  I especially like the invocation of the Two Hears at the end.  Here it is:

The Rosary Prayer

(Verse) Let us pray:

(Response) O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation. Grant, we beseech Thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Verse) Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,

(Response) Have mercy on us.

(Verse) Immaculate Heart of Mary,

(Response) Pray for us.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Stars and Stripes!

Did you know that today is the American flag's birthday?  I found this delightful video from the Apostleship of Prayer on youtube.  I love how Fr. Kubicki weaves the Catechism of the Catholic Church into his commentary on Flag Day.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Feast Day, St. Anthony of Padua!

I don't normally blog on the weekends, but I just can't let these two feast days pass by unnoticed.  Yesterday, I wrote about the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.  Since my two children and I are San Antonio natives, we are particularly devoted to him.  Furthermore, we invoke his intercession constantly since we are forever losing things. 

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about how there are certain things he doesn't find for us, which led me to write this article on the Integrated Catholic Life e-magazine.

Check out this link for a variety of prayers to St. Anthony.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Be Our Salvation

From the website, The Sacred Heart:

FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY - Saturday after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus - The feast springs from contemporary piety but has its roots in the Marian apostolate of St. John Eudes (1680), and outstanding apostle of devotion to the the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. After repeated requests and repeated refusals between 1669 and 1729, on December 8, 1942, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Pope Pius XII dedicated the Church and the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He placed the feast on August 22 and extended it to the entire Latin Church. It has now been moved closer to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus always falling on the Saturday after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Both this blog and my book, The Rosary Workout, are dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I consecrate my family to the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart with this prayer:

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, I give myself and my family to you [add names of your family members].  And to show our devotion this day we consecrate to you our eyes, our ears, our hearts, our minds, our entire beings without reserve.  Wherefore dear Mother and sweet Jesus, as we are your own, guide us and keep us always as your property and possession.  Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Be Our Salvation!

Related websites:
- Lots of great links and prayers at TheSacredHeart.com
- Many beautiful prayers, novenas and chaplets to the Immaculate Heart at 2HeartsNetwork
- History and nature of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart at the Catholic Encyclopedia

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Interestingly, this is a "moveable" feast day since it is dependent upon the date of Easter and is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost Sunday.  My blog is dedicated to the Two Hearts: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (a feast we'll celebrate tomorrow-- more then.)

Since my real name is Margaret Mary (Peggy is an Irish nickname-- don't ask me how!), it is only natural that I should be devoted to the Sacred Heart as that particular devotion was given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary 12 Promises for those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart.

I took my children to daily Mass today, and we sat in front of the statue of the Sacred Heart.  At the conclusion of Mass, our parish priest prayed the Litany of the Sacred Heart, which he also prays on First Fridays.  Afterwards, my children and I prayed the Stations of the Cross together.  It seemed a fitting way to celebrate this special feast day.

To learn more about the Sacred Heart and a campaign to renew this important devotion, check out the excellent website, Heart to Heart.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mixed-Faith Marriages

My husband is not Catholic, although he is a better Christian than I can ever hope to be.  He has always supported my faith and is committed to raising our children as Catholics.  He even attends Mass with us frequently.  I feel fortunate that he is not actively practicing another faith, but he has not felt a call to conversion. 

I won't say that it has always been smooth sailing.  There are times when it can be very difficult to not be united in such an important facet of our marriage, yet we have both grown spiritually despite our differences (or perhaps because of them). 

My husband was a huge help in the writing and editing of my book, The Rosary Workout.  He made many suggestions that improved the spiritual content, and he has developed a great respect for the Rosary during the past few years.  I often share what I learn about the Rosary either through books and research or during my meditation.  He once remarked that more than anything else, the Rosary has made him appreciate the Catholic faith.

I pray a decade of the Rosary with my children before bed.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been including Bible readings about each mystery before we pray.  My husband does not actively participate, but I know that he is receiving grace through this favorite prayer of the Blessed Mother.  As a wise priest once told me, "Leave it to Mama."

Related links:

Faith and Family Live has been discussing the topic of mixed-faith marriages fairly frequently lately.  If you or someone you know is in a mixed-faith marriage, you might find these two posts helpful:
- Lisa Hendey's post, "Faith Parenting Alone?"
- Kate Wicker's post, "One Love, Two Faiths"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bring the Children To Me

Summer vacation is here (or almost here) for most children, but it's important to continue their faith education all year. If your children attend CCD (or whatever they call it in your parish) or Catholic school, please do not assume that they are learning everything they need to know about the Catholic faith.  As parents, it is OUR crucial responsibility to ensure that our children are prepared to defend and continue to practice their faith when they leave home.  It's a tough world out there and your children's faith will be attacked in many different and often very subtle ways.  Even spending just 20-30 minutes a few days a week teaching your children will reap many blessings and benefits for your family.

Please don't be intimidated if your own faith foundation is a little shaky.  There are plenty of wonderful resources out there, and you can learn alongside your children.  If you stay ahead of them a bit, they'll never know that you're not an expert.

After four years of homeschooling, I've tried many different religion programs and resources.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Pius Media:  Rent movies about the saints, Bible stories or just great family movies

Baltimore Catechism:  It's a bit old-fashioned, but you won't find a more straightforward, child-friendly approach to Catholicism.  My children laugh at some of the pictures, but they do retain most of what they've learned.  You really can't go wrong with this.  In fact, I often learn new truths about the faith when I teach these lessons to my children.  There are three levels and an excellent First Communion prep book.

Faith and Life by Ignatius Press:  This is a really good religion program and probably a lot more involved than what your child is learning in CCD or Catholic school.  You just need to buy the student books.  The teacher manuals are helpful but are very expensive.  If your child likes activities, the activity book is pretty inexpensive.  You might find them used on ebay or Amazon. 

Friendly Defenders: These little flash cards help teach your children how to defend their faith in a charitable way.  Especially helpful if you have family or friends who are Protestant.  Bible references are included on each card.

Catholic Heritage:  You don't have to be a homeschooler to take advantage of some of the excellent resources this company offers.  We really enjoyed their books about the saints.

Mary Fabyan Windeatt Saint biographies:  My children enjoy reading these books.  The author does an excellent job of making the saints come to life in a way that children (and tweens) can easily understand.  The link above also sells study guides, but you can buy the books at any online Catholic bookstore or even find them in your local library.

Bible for older kids and tweens:  I searched far and wide for a non-"kiddy" Bible and finally found The Bible for Young Catholics.  All the books of the Bible are included.  The language is simple but not childish, and the pictures are good.  I recently heard an interview with Heidi Hess Saxton, the author of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories , and it sounded like another good resource, but I have not purchased it yet.

Those are just a few resources to get you started.  Try browsing your local Catholic bookstore or search online.  There are many excellent Catholic resources on the internet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

One More Reason to Hope

I came across a video for an Apple ipad app on youtube called "Hello Baby".  It's wonderfully pro-life and is sponsored by Pampers diapers.  I just thought I'd share this ray of hope in our increasingly secular society.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Preparation for Mass

I'm thrilled that my new Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (New Testament) arrived today!  I plan to devote the summer to studying the gospels.  The more I learn about the Bible, the more I understand the mysteries of the Rosary.  The Mass readings make more sense to me as well, especially after studying the Old Testament.
There are many resources available to help you better comprehend the Sunday Mass readings.  If you devote a half hour or so during the week to really study the readings, then you will become a more active participant at Mass.  This is a fruit, or virtue, of the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist.

I've compiled a few resources to get you started:

The Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University website is an outstanding resource.  Simply click on the date of the upcoming Sunday from the drop-down menu and you'll be led to a variety of links to help you prepare for Mass.

For an investment of $5.00, you can receive weekly emails from Bridegroom Press with commentaries from the early Church Fathers on the upcoming Mass readings.  I just started this two weeks ago and am very happy with the material I receive.  I also appreciate the fact that the emails are delivered on Friday mornings-- a gentle reminder to study the readings before Sunday.

I just signed up today for Scott Hahn's weekly Mass reading commentaries.  I haven't received any yet, but I always expect great things from Scott Hahn so I'm sure I won't be disappointed.  To sign up for the free emails, go to the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology home page and scroll down about halfway down the page and look for the box on the right column that reads, "Sign Up Now".

If you're pressed for time, at least you can look at the readings ahead of time at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops site.

If you have children, help them prepare for Mass as well.  They're more likely to sit still and at least learn something if they understand the readings ahead of time.  Catholicmom.com has a great weekly column for kids with coloring pages, crossword puzzles, worksheets and other activities.

The blog, "Prepare for Mass" has a variety of helpful links for adults, kids and teens.

Please feel free to add any additional helpful links or resources in the Comments section.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Among Women

I'd like to introduce you to a friend of my mine, Pat Gohn.  She creates an amazing podcast called "Among Women" about a variety of topics of interest to Catholic women.  She profiles interesting women saints, conducts interviews with Catholic women and includes prayers and reflections.  You can subscribe to her podcast on itunes, and it's free! You can also listen online through her website (Quick Time player required, which is a free download) or without any special equipment or player through SQPN.

I am honored to be the featured guest on her most recent podcast, Among Women #59.  It is posted on her website and on itunes (see links above) and will be available on SQPN soon.  My interview starts about 19 minutes into the program, but do listen to the entire podcast, especially since Pat includes instructions on how to sign up to win a free copy of my book, The Rosary Workout.