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

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.