Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy Feast Day, St. Martha!

I've always liked St. Martha, despite the fact that she is "anxious and worried about many things." (Luke 10:41).  She and her siblings, Mary (Magdalene) and Lazurus, were very close friends of Jesus.  Can you imagine entertaining Jesus in your home?!  No wonder poor Martha was anxious and worried!  Talk about an important guest!

I once read somewhere that Jesus had a human personality and was no doubt drawn to certain people and personalities and not so much to others.  We all know the feeling of meeting someone and instantly "clicking" as well as the experience of meeting a person who doesn't seem to be our "type".  Of course, Jesus loved every person He encountered, but it is likely that He was especially fond of a select few.  Since St. Martha is one of those lucky people who was close to Jesus on earth, she must be a very powerful intercessor.

Today, on her feast day, pray to St. Martha to deepen your friendship with Jesus and to serve Him as she did.  You might also want to add a prayer to learn to listen to His good advice, a lesson St. Martha wisely learned.  For more on this topic, read my article at The Integrated Catholic Life, Lessons On Hospitality From St. Martha.

You might also enjoy an article by my friend, Theresa Doyle-Nelson on Catholic Exchange: Un-Named Holy Ones of the Bible

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Our Father and the Rosary

Since yesterday's Gospel reading focused on the Our Father, I thought it would be a good topic for a (brief) blog post.

It is most appropriate that the Our Father begins each decade of the Rosary. It is the prayer taught to us by Jesus Himself (Matthew 6: 9-13), and it focuses our attention to the heavenly origin of the mystery on which we are about to meditate.

"There are two kinds of prayer, one of praise with humiliation, the other petitions and is more subdued. When then you pray, do not first break forth into petition; but supplicate God as if of necessity forced to. When you begin to pray, forget all visible and invisible creatures, but commence with the praise of Him who created all things."
~ St. Basil

The next time you pray the Rosary, pray the Our Fathers slowly, thinking and meditating upon this prayer that we so often mindlessly rattle off.  Take it one step farther by offering the Rosary as praise to the Blessed Trinity rather than for a particular petition. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Feast Day, St. Bridget of Sweden!

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden.  It's interesting that it falls on a Friday this year as St. Bridget was very devoted to Jesus' Passion and Crucifixion.  You can read more in my article on The Integrated Catholic Life e-magazine, "How St. Bridget Taught Me Perseverance in Prayer."

I bought a translation of St. Bridget's book, Revelations of St. Bridget on the Life and Passion of Our Lord and the Life of His Blessed Mother    It's short and easy to read, and offers a fascinating account of the lives of Jesus and Mary.

Totally unrelated to St. Bridget, but too good not to share:  A Pool Noodle Rosary!

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Healthy, Portable Breakfast-- Breakfast Cookies!

This is a bit of a departure from my usual posts, but I just finished an interview with Jerry Weber on his blog radio show, The Catholic Revolver.  (You can listen to the podcast at the link.)  During a discussion on healthy foods, I mentioned that I made Breakfast Cookies this morning.  A listener asked for the recipe, so I thought I'd post it here. 

Breakfast Cookies are healthy and nutritious and can be eaten "on the run."  You can whip them up at night (no mixer required!), refrigerate the dough and then bake them in the morning.  I always double the recipe so that I can make them throughout the week.  They do contain some sugar, and even real butter, but the total calories are just 200 per cookie.  Add a glass of milk, and you're out the door.  The recipe is based on a Cooking Light recipe for Breakfast Fig and Nut Cookies.  I've modified the original recipe a bit to suit our tastes:

Peggy's Breakfast Cookies

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/3-1/2 cup Craisins
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one orange
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (not quick-cooking)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in cranberries, vanilla and zest.  Add flours, oatmeal, baking soda and spices until just moist.  Gently fold in nuts.  Drop by level 1/4 cup measures on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Place cookies about 2" apart.  Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until almost set.  (Cookies should look a little gooey as they will continue to cook while cooling.)  Cool 2 minutes in the pan, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely.  Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition information (per cookie):  Total calories:  201; Fat: 8.8 grams; Protein: 4.5 grams; Carbs: 26.4 grams

Modifications:  I've also made these with fresh blueberries instead of the Craisins.  In this case, I use lemon zest instead of orange.  If I don't have whole wheat flour on hand, I'll increase the all-purpose flour to 1 1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds.

Happy Feast Day, St. Mary Magdalene! (With an apology)

Today is the feast day of one of Jesus' very close friends, St. Mary Magdalene.  Before I begin, I want to first apologize to St. Mary M. for the fact that unscrupulous popular writers have recently dragged her good name through the mud.  I'm referring, of course, to The DaVinci Code and its offshoots and imitators.  I read the book several years ago, just to see what all the fuss was about.  (I got it at the library so as not add to Dan Brown's coffers.)  This ridiculous book poses the notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were not only married, but had a daughter called "The Black Madonna."  Even more implausible is the theory that Leonardo DaVinci painted Mary Magdalene (as opposed to, say, St. John) seated next to Jesus in The Last Supper.

Imagine!  As there are plenty of rebuttals to these audacious claims, I won't go into detail other than to note that "The Black Madonna" is actually the Blessed Mother.  It refers to a painting by St. Luke the Evangelist and is also known as "Our Lady of Czestochowa."  The faces of the Madonna and Child appear black due to soot residue from candles lit under the painting.

I often think of St. Mary Magdalene when I pray the Rosary.  She was present at the foot of the cross when Jesus died, so she is tied to the 5th Sorrowful Mystery.  She is also part of the 1st Glorious Mystery, The Resurrection, as she is the first person to whom the Risen Lord appeared.  Obviously, she was much beloved by Jesus.

There is some confusion as to the exact identity of Mary Magdalene.  There are three (possibly four) Marys mentioned in the Gospels: the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. In the eastern church, there are thee separate saints called Mary. However, the Latin church argues that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person.

If you read the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, there are clearly at least two different Marys at the scene. But is one Mary perhaps Mary of Bethany/Mary Magdalene while the other is Mary, the mother of James and Joseph? If you read the other Biblical references to Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, children are never mentioned.

After doing some preliminary research, I'm more inclined to believe that Mary of Bethany is also Mary Magdalene. Jesus obviously loved Mary of Bethany ("She has chosen the better part..."), and it's clear that she must have been a very good friend as He visited their house frequently. It makes sense that this same Mary would follow Him to the cross and become the first person to witness the Resurrected Christ. Perhaps the confusion arises from the word "Magdalene" which can mean "curly hair". It may have just been an adjective to describe her appearance, which again makes sense as she was likely the woman who dried Jesus' feet with her hair.

I found the following articles very helpful, especially the first one:
St. Mary Magdalene:  A Model Penitent
Who Really Was Mary Magdalene?
St. Mary Magdalene:  Redeeming Her Gospel Reputation

You can read a short biography of St. Mary M. at Catholic Culture.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do Whatever He Tells You

Thursday is the traditional day to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and I'm reflecting on the Second Luminous Mystery, The Wedding Feast at Cana

Although Mary is one of the most pivotal characters in the story of Salvation History, she is rarely mentioned in the Gospels. When she is, her few words speak volumes.  Such is the case at the wedding in Cana.  After informing her Divine Son of the host's embarrassing problem of insufficient wine, she patiently listens to His protest that the time is not right.  Then Mary does something unexpected.  She does not meekly walk away nor does she in any way acknowledge her Son's reluctance.  Instead, Mary takes action.  She turns to the servants and gives the instruction, "Do whatever He tells you." (John 2:5)

Why does she do this?  Why would Mary seemingly ignore Jesus' protest?  Perhaps she was moved by the Holy Spirit.  By looking deeper into this mystery, we can discover another reason:  Jesus wants us to know that His mother has great influence over Him.  Mary is able to move her Son to action even when He does not want to act.  This has a tremendous impact on those who are devoted to the Blessed Mother.  We have a very powerful intercessor in heaven who is so beloved by Our Lord that He might overcome reluctance to give aid if His mother pleads for us. 

We can use the Rosary, Mary's favorite prayer, to tap into this amazing source of heavenly assistance.  Of course it's then up to us to follow Mary's instructions, "Do whatever He tells you."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Catholic Potpourri

As I'm tired and not particularly inspired today, I'm going to direct you to a few excellent articles on a variety of Catholic topics, including, of course, the Rosary.

First, please read this excellent article entitled, 12 Easy Ways to Find Time to BE a Catholic.  I thought it was interesting that the #1 suggestion is to pray the Rosary.  (The author promotes Rosary Workouts by suggesting that one can pray the Rosary while hiking or walking.)  The other 11 are equally good suggestions and include a few ideas that are rather unique.

I found another great article at a new e-magazine for which I occasionally write, The Integrated Catholic Life.  The title of the article, What Catholics Can Learn From Lady Gaga, certainly piques your interest, and the young woman who wrote it cleverly contrasts our modern culture's obsession with "celebrities of the moment" with the lasting truths of Catholicism.

I keep seeing links and references to a new apostolate, Catholics Come Home.  The author of the Lady Gaga article, Katie Petereson, is part of this organization, which is well worth checking out.  I think all of us know at least one lapsed Catholic, and perhaps a brief mention or link to Catholics Come Home might lead a few more souls back to the Church.

The last article is not religious at all, but the information presented is critical for parents and anyone who swims or cares about someone who does.  The author teaches us to recognize the true signs of drowning, which are very different from those shown in movies or on TV.  Drowning is not all splashy and noisy, but very quiet and easily missed.  My children are both former swim team members, so I didn't worry much until I saw a news item about a 12 year-old swim team champion who drowned in 3 feet of water.  Now I will definitely be more vigilant after reading Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reflections on the Sorrowful Mysteries

Since today is Tuesday, I follow tradition and pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  I find that the Sorrowful Mysteries are the most difficult to meditate upon.  I live in a happy and secure little world where I am the picture of health, rarely get sick, am blessed with much more than I deserve and truly suffer very little.  My crosses are mere toothpicks, yet I often get caught up in my silly little woes, magnifying my minor trials and inconveniences into more than they ought to be.

When I contemplate the great suffering that Jesus endured for me and all sinners, I feel so unworthy.  How could He suffer so much, yet give me so little to bear?  Others shoulder the great burdens of disease, poverty, hardship, loss of loved ones and other heavy crosses.  I wonder if perhaps I am spared because I am weak.  I also sometimes fear that my heavier crosses lie ahead, which makes me anxious and fearful.

Instead, I really should rejoice in the blessings that have been bestowed upon me.  I must learn to shine with the light of Our Lord's presence within me, which recalls Jesus' words in Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

I must remember that we all have different vocations and unique roles to play in the Divine Plan.  Perhaps I am not called to suffer great hardship or to bear a heavy cross.  I must pray that I can become the best instrument of His will.  What better example to follow than the Blessed Mother, echoing her words, "May it be done to me according to thy word."  (Luke 1:38)  The Rosary is truly the path to salvation if we follow in the footsteps of Mary, who will ultimately lead us to her Divine Son, and in turn, to our Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reflections on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

I just finished reading an enjoyable and thought-provoking book called The Living Wood by Louis de Wohl.  It's historical fiction and tells the fascinating story of St. Helena and her son, St, Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome.  The climax of the story is when St. Helena finds the True Cross on Calvary, which had been hidden for centuries.

This story is especially interesting to me because the little chapel where I attend daily Mass holds a relic of the True Cross.  It fills me with awe that I am participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass right in front of a part of the True Cross on which our Savior died.  When I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary after Mass, I often focus on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, The Crucifixion, as I gaze upon the relic of the Tree of Life. 

The Tree of Life represents immortality and is first introduced to us in Genesis 2:9 in the Garden of Eden.  Man lost access to it and Paradise through the sin of Adam and Eve.  The cross on which our Savior died is the new Tree of Life.  Through His Precious Blood, we can now enjoy eternal life in heaven.  Yet we must all take up our own crosses (Luke 9:23) in order to do so.  Our sins added to the burden of that Tree of Life that Our Lord carried to Calvary, but our willing sacrifices can make us like Simon the Cyrenean, helping Jesus along the Via Dolorosa. 

In our modern world, suffering is to be avoided at all costs.  Yet as Catholics, we understand the value of redemptive suffering-- offering up our burdens as a form of penance or for the benefit of others.  It is how we make sense of suffering.  We don't know why God has chosen this particular burden for us, but we can give it back to Him with love just as His Son did on the Tree of Life.

One last note:  Today is the feast of St. Maria Goretti.  She is truly an inspiration of purity, virtue and heroic courage to young girls today.  Read more about this amazing saint at this link.  I think you'll find that her life and death ties in very well with the theme of this post.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Prayers for the 4th of July

This weekend, as we honor the birthday of our great nation, don't forget to pray for our country and its leaders.  I found a compilation of several lovely prayers for America at one of my favorite sites,

Do you know that nations have guardian angels?  Please pray to the angel who guards the United States of America that we will remain "One nation, under God".

I also came across a very thought-provoking article by one of my online friends, Genevieve Kineke. (Her husband is an Anapolis graduate, so we like to tease each other about the Air Force - Navy rivalry.)  In any case, her article is a well-written and insightful reaction to a piece on women's bodies written by an Australian woman.  Genevieve shoos off male readers at the beginning of the article, but I think most men can handle this and will appreciate her viewpoint.  The article, "Racks and Ruin," is posted on Today's Catholic Woman at and is well worth the minute or two it takes to read.  You'll be thinking about this one all weekend.