Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stand for Life

It's been a crazy day, but I want to make a quick plug for a Life Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.  If you live in North Carolina, this would be a great event to attend.  There are some inspiring guest speakers, and the home page for the event offers a challenge:

Are you concerned where this country is headed in regard to Life issues?
Learn more about the issues and how you can get involved in your community.
Learn how you can be on the front lines in this battle now raging in our country!

If you don't live in North Carolina or can't attend the event, do try to participate in the upcoming 40 Days for Life campaign.  It runs from September 28 - November 6.  Check out the 40 Days for Life website for more information and to find the nearest prayer vigil in your area.  If you're lucky enough not to have an abortion center nearby, then please pray the Rosary for life as often as you can during the campaign.  Of course, you can also start praying today!

Every morning, I pray for the baby in danger of abortion whom I have "spiritually adopted."  I name each baby and pray for 9 months that he or she will be spared from abortion.  I am now on my 7th baby.  It takes just a minute every morning, and you will probably never know the outcome of your prayers until you meet the babies in heaven, but I think it's worth the small effort.  Learn more at this site.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Joy in the Joyful Mysteries

I haven't written many posts on my Rosary reflections lately, because unfortunately there hasn't been anything to write.  Summers always throw my prayer routine for a loop with the jumbled schedules and everyone at home or being shuttled off to camps, friends' houses, etc.  I still try to pray the Rosary as often as possible, but I am easily distracted or have to fit my Rosary in one decade at a time throughout the day. 

Sometimes praying the Rosary can almost seem like a chore, despite the fact that it is my favorite prayer.  I feel so limited by my human faults and shortcomings.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me put aside distractions and focus on the mysteries, but meditation is definitely a skill that requires a lot of patience and practice.  These periods of spiritual dryness are frustrating, but I know that it's important to continue to pray, even when it feels mechanical and meaningless.

School started last week, so I am getting back to my Rosary Workout routine.  Yesterday, I went for an early morning bike ride.  The sun was warm, and the cool air held the promise of autumn days ahead.  Although I usually pray the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, I decided to pray the Joyful ones instead as I had prayed the Glorious on Monday in honor of the feast of the Assumption.  (Since I'm a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, I have pledged to pray all 15 traditional decades each week, as a minimum.)

As I pedaled, I tried to find some aspect of the mysteries to focus on in order to facilitate meditation.  The Joyful Mysteries are bittersweet as each event leads Jesus and Mary closer to Calvary, yet a thought came to me to focus on only the joy in each of the mysteries:

During the Annunciation, I pondered the joy of the Angel Gabriel, offering the young virgin the opportunity to become the mother of the Messiah,  Then there is the joy of Mary, humbly accepting God's will.  The microscopic Baby Jesus no doubt felt joy at experiencing the very genesis of human life.  All heaven rejoices at Mary's fiat ("yes"), and Christians to this very day are joyful that the gates of heaven have been opened as a result of this turning point in human history.

At the Visitation, Elizabeth is not only filled with the Holy Spirit but also with a great joy: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).  Of course, John the Baptist literally leaps for joy in his mother's womb, overcome by the presence of the Savior.  Mary bursts forth in song with her joyful canticle, the Magnificat.  Tiny baby Jesus must feel joy at being brought out into the world for the first time, His presence mighty even from the womb.  The angels and all of heaven rejoice at the sanctification of John the Baptist, the "voice crying in the wilderness" who will prepare the way for Savior. All generations hence fulfill Elizabeth's prophecy as we pray the Hail Mary, rejoicing that Mary,"blessed among women," shares her joy as she leads us closer to her Divine Son.

The Nativity is a joyful scene in a humble setting-- the Holy Family, together at last, experiencing one other through human senses.  Mary and Joseph joyfully and reverently hold the infant Christ, looking upon his perfect little face, listening to the mewing cries of the newborn babe and breathing in that wonderful baby scent.  The infant Jesus finally experiences the world He created through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin of a human being.  He sees His mother Mary, from whom He took his flesh and blood and His foster father, Joseph, the man who would teach Him about human work.  Meanwhile, the angels joyfully announce the birth of the Savior to the dumbfounded shepherds, who dutifully make their way toward the meager stable, stunned by the joy that such a tiny baby could stir up feelings of awe and wonder.  The wise men later follow the star, filled with joy and curiosity at the amazing signs in the heavens.

At the Presentation, Mary and Joseph joyfully bring their Divine Son to His Father's house for the first time.  There, Simeon declares his joy at the fulfillment of the prophecy that he would see the Messiah before his death.  His canticle, or song of joy, is recalled daily in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Anna the Prophetess also recognizes the Messiah and joyfully proclaims His arrival to anyone who would listen.  Heaven rejoices at the humble obedience of the Holy Family, and baby Jesus might have experienced the joy of seeing the beauty of that ancient temple through human eyes.  Today, we rejoice that Jesus was brought out into the world, experiencing human emotions, weaknesses and limitations, a "man like us in all things but sin."

Finally, the Finding of the Child Jesus reminds me of Dolly Parton's line in the movie Steel Magnolias, "My favorite emotion is laughter through tears."  Perhaps that is what Mary and Joseph experienced when they finally found Jesus in what they now realized was the most obvious place-- His Father's house.  Frantic with worry just moments earlier, they no doubt wept with joy at finding their beloved Son.  Young Jesus might have found joy in becoming a man in the eyes of the Jewish culture, now able to go about His Father's business.  Those who listened attentively must have felt a deep joy in hearing this young man's passion for the Scriptures.  Heaven too was joyful watching the "Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  We find joy in our lives today when, like Mary and Joseph, we finally find Jesus after a long period of searching.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy feast of the Assumption, new blog title/scope and a great quiche recipe

Today is a great feast day in the Church, but most US Catholics won't realize it, unfortunately, because our bishops don't think that we should be obligated to go to Mass two days in a row.  Imagine the inconvenience!  Of course, I do understand that there are people who would not be able to attend Mass today due to school, work, etc. but why can't the rest of us be asked to do so?

Luckily, my parish will honor the Feast of the Assumption of Mary tonight with a Missa Cantata (sung Mass in Latin in the Extraordinary Form).  If your parish doesn't offer Mass today or if you can't attend, it is not considered a sin as the bishops have "abrogated" the feast this year.  If you can't go to Mass, then perhaps you can learn more about this feast and its traditions at Catholic Culture (be sure to read about St. Tarcisius at the bottom of the page) or read today's Mass readings.  You might also pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary today as the 4th mystery honors today's feast.

You might have noticed that this blog has a new title.  It was previously called "Don't Know Much About the Rosary?" I wanted to focus on the Rosary and intended to start another blog about fitness, but never got around to it.  I decided to change the title to "Tending the Temple" so that I could increase the scope of my writing to include more fitness and health information, in the context of caring for our Temples of the Holy Spirit.  I thought today's feast would be a perfect opportunity to launch this new theme because we celebrate Mary's entry into heaven, both body and soul.

Of course, I will still include plenty of Rosary posts!  When I get around to it, I'll jazz up the look of the blog to make it more visually appealing.

I chose the title "Tending the Temple" because it is the title of the new book I just finished writing, along with my co-authors Dr. Kevin Vost and Shane Kapler.  It's a 365-day devotional with daily saint bios, Bible quotes and exercises to help readers care for body and soul. I'm very excited about this book, which will be available any day now.  I'll post a link as soon as it is.  In the meantime, you can read a preview entry at my publisher's website, Bezalel Books.

Please let me know what you think of the new title and theme.

Since I've given you a few suggestions to care for your soul today (see links in the second paragraph above), I'll also share the recipe for the meal I'm making tonight: Spinach, Onion, Hash Brown and Feta Quiche.  My whole family loves this meal, and I like that we get lots of food groups in one dish.  This is based on a recipe from Cooking Light, but I've made so many changes to it, that I consider it mine at this point.  It does take a bit of prep time, but the extra effort is worth it.  If you don't have time to make this after a busy day at work, you could prepare the spinach, onions and hash browns the day before.  When you get home, mix up the egg mixture and you'll have it in the oven in mere minutes.

If you want to reduce carbs and calories, you could make this without the crust or perhaps use a few sheets of phyllo dough (in the freezer section near the puff pastry and pie crusts).  I haven't tried either modification, so if you do, let me know how it works out.  BTW, I found all the ingredients for this dish at Walmart.


Note: This recipe takes about 1 1/2 hours from start to on the table, so plan accordingly!  You won't be slaving over the stove the whole time, so don't worry.

1 (9" deep dish) pie shell, unbaked
Olive oil
10 oz. fresh spinach
1 1/2 cup frozen hash browns (or Simply Potatoes Hash Browns, in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores in a green bag)
1-2 yellow onions, sliced thin (use 2 if you really like onions)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 cup 2% or skim evaporated milk (you won't use the entire can)
2 egg whites
2 eggs
5 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Drizzle about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet or saute pan and heat for a few minutes on medium heat.  Add the onions, salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally.  (Yes, you do have to cook them this long!  They should be soft and buttery.  Be careful not to burn them.)  Meanwhile, drizzle 1-2 teaspoons olive oil into a different saute pan and heat for a minute or so.  Add the hash browns in a single layer, patting them down with a spatula.  Turn them every 5 minutes or so until most of them are golden brown.  (I find this takes about 20-30 minutes.)  Drizzle 1 tsp. olive oil into a third pan (or wait until you're finished with one of the other two) and add the fresh spinach.  Stir occasionally until all of it wilts.  You will start out with tons of spinach, but it will wilt into a small amount.  (I spend a few minutes taking all the stems off the leaves before I put them in the pan.)

Mix the eggs, evaporated milk and a dash of salt with a whisk in a medium bowl.

(Note:  If your oven tends to produce soggy crusts like my convection microwave does, then pre-cook the crust for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees before adding the other ingredients.)  

Assemble the quiche: Spread the caramelized onions and hash browns on the bottom of the pie crust.  Top with the wilted spinach and crumbled feta cheese.  Pour the egg and milk mixture on top, but don't let it spill over the top.

Place the quiche on a foil-lined cookie sheet (in case of spillover) and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh fruit and a glass of white wine.

Calories:  Approximately 300 per serving if you cut the quiche into 8 pieces.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady Gaga and the silver SUV

Today, I got my hair done and flipped through one of those gossip magazine one reads at the salon since there is nothing else to look at.  (After all, I really do need to keep up with what Kim Kardashian is doing these days...) I always feel a bit guilty, but I rationalize by telling myself that it encourages me to pray for these poor people with their empty lives.

One article spoke of how Lady Gaga's drug addiction and eating disorders will finish her career.  My first thought was relief that this obscene woman might no longer expose the world to her particular brand of "art," but I recalled that she was actually raised as a Catholic and attended Catholic schools as a girl.  I felt a sense of sadness that she had thrown away her faith in favor of fame and fortune.  Her addictions indicate that she fills that Godless void with various forms of escape and self-indulgence.  Perhaps she will receive some moment of grace that will restore her forgotten child-like belief.  I've joked several times that Lady Gaga would be the most-watched Journey Home episode ever if she reverted.  I'm praying my next Rosary that she will do just that.  If you're inclined to do so, please join me.

With newly blonde roots, I headed to an outdoor mall to see if there were any cute summer clothes left on the clearance racks.  I parked and crossed the parking lot toward the shops, noting a silver SUV at a stop sign that was turning toward me.  I continued walking, assuming the driver saw me.  To my surprise, the SUV suddenly began to get very big.  In complete dismay, I stood rooted to the spot, slowly realizing that I was about to be hit.  For some reason, I felt compelled to bend forward and push against the front of the vehicle as if I was Wonder Woman and could stop it with brute strength.  I think the real Wonder Woman was my Guardian Angel as the car did stop, and the surprised driver rolled down her window to ask if I was okay.  Dazed, I walked toward her, intending to chew her out for nearly killing me.  Instead, I nodded, and walked on, not even taking the time to write down the license plate number.

I walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, realizing that I had come very close to death or at least some very painful injuries.  I realized that God had saved me, that He had plans for me that I had not yet completed, and that He was indeed All-Powerful.  I recalled that just yesterday, I had taken my daughter to daily Mass so she could go to Confession afterward.  I decided not to go because there was always next Tuesday, and I had just gone to Confession with my son two weeks ago.  I regretted my foolishness in casually giving up an opportunity to receive much-needed grace in overcoming my sins.   

I am grateful that God spared my life today, and now I must work harder at making every single day really count.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  
- Thomas Jefferson

Countdown:  5 more days until the feast of the Assumption.  I will be changing the title of this blog (not the URL) on that day to better reflect the content of my future posts.  Don't worry, there will still be plenty of Rosary-related material.

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr.  He died a horrible death by being essentially roasted alive.  According to legend, he even managed to retain his sense of humor during the ordeal, announcing, "Turn me over.  I'm done on this side!"  The Church, in like fashion, declared him the patron saint of cooks.  Learn more at Catholic Fire.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Special Announcement

My crazy-busy summer has almost come to an end.  School starts this Wednesday, and I will once again have more time to write.  After some prayer and reflection, I have decided to change the name of this blog to better suit the content I'd like to post.  I'll announce the new name on Monday, August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.  Nothing will change except the title, so old posts will still be available, and the blog URL will remain the same.

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, also known as the Saint of the Rosary because he received a vision of the Blessed Mother with a Rosary.  She told him to pray it and spread its devotion to combat heresy.  Learn more about St. Dominic at Catholic Fire, an excellent pro-life blog with very good saint bios.

Monday, June 20, 2011

911 to St. Joseph

I recently ran into a friend at daily Mass, and we lingered outside afterward to catch up on each other's lives.  While talking about our devotions to various saints, she told me that she dedicates every Wednesday to St. Joseph.  She said she uses a "Spiritual 9-1-1" prayer that was advocated by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta but that she modified for St. Joseph.  

Note: In researching the "Spiritual 9-1-1" prayer, I discovered that it was inspired by Blessed Teresa but that Fr. Corapi, now John Corapi after his recent resignation from the priesthood, coined the term "Spiritual 9-1-1" (the three numbers used to call for Emergency Help in the US).

The prayers Blessed Teresa used are 9 Memorares, 1 Rosary and 1 Divine Mercy Chaplet.  My friend changed the format for St. Joseph by praying 9 Memorares to St. Joseph, 1 Rosary (Joyful Mysteries since they include St. Joseph) and 1 Litany to St. Joseph.  (For prayers, see below)

I liked this idea so much that I decided to use it myself, with a few changes.  Since I usually follow the traditional schedule of praying the Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Saturdays, I decided to devote Mondays to St. Joseph.  (Saturdays are already traditionally devoted to the Blessed Mother, and I like to practice the Five First Saturdays devotion, so it seemed inappropriate to use that day to devote to St. Joseph.) I also did not want to repeat the St. Joseph Memorare 9 times but instead searched for 9 different prayers to St. Joseph.  I like the variety of these prayers because they involve the various titles under which St. Joseph is invoked.  

This is the third Monday I've devoted to St. Joseph, and I am already experiencing blessings from this devotion.  He is such a powerful intercessor!

Without further ado, here are my Spiritual 9-1-1 prayers to St. Joseph:

1. An Ancient Prayer to Saint Joseph

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.  O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.

2. Memorare to St. Joseph

Remember, O most chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who implored your help and sought your intercession were left unassisted.
Full of confidence in your power I fly unto you and beg your protection.
Despise not O Guardian of the Redeemer my humble supplication, but in your bounty, hear and answer me. Amen.

3. A Prayer in Honor of St. Joseph, Protector of the Church and Consecration to St. Joseph

O glorious Saint Joseph, chosen by God to be the foster-father of Jesus, the chaste spouse of Mary ever Virgin, the head of the Holy Family and then appointed by the Vicar of Christ to be the heavenly patron and defender of the Church founded by Jesus, most confidently do I implore at this moment thy powerful aid for all the Church militant on earth. Do shield with thy truly paternal love especially the Supreme Pontiff and all the Bishops and priests who are in union with the Holy See of Peter. Be the defender of all who labor for souls amidst the trials and tribulations of this life, and cause all the peoples of the earth to submit themselves in a docile spirit to that Church which is the ark of salvation for all men. Be pleased also, dear Saint Joseph, to accept this consecration of myself which I now make unto you, that you may ever be my father, my patron and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent devotion to the interior life. Grant that, following your example, I may direct all my actions to the greater glory of God, in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate heart of Mary and in union with you. Finally pray for me that I maybe a partaker in the peace and joy which were yours at the hour of your holy death. Amen.

4. Prayer of Pope Leo XIII to St. Joseph

To you, O Blessed Joseph, we come in our trials, and having asked the help of your most holy spouse, we confidently ask your patronage also. Through that sacred bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to look graciously upon the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by his blood, and to aid us in our necessities with your power and strength.

O most provident guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ. Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin. Our most mighty protector, graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness. And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God's Holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity. Shield each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your help, we may be able to live a virtuous life, to die a holy death, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.

5. Prayer to St. Joseph

Glorious St. Joseph, foster-father and protector of Jesus Christ! To you I raise my heart and my hands to implore your powerful intercession. Please obtain for me from the kind Heart of Jesus the help and the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I ask particularly for the grace of a happy death and the special favor I now implore.

[Mention your request here.]

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel animated with confidence that your prayers in my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.

V. O glorious St. Joseph, through the love you bear to Jesus Christ, and for the glory of His Name.
R. Hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.

6. Thirty Days Prayer to Saint Joseph
To be prayed any 30 days of the year.

Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow. Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection. Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.

I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world's Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.

I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt. I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country. I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows.

I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days. I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus. I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary. I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.

I ask it through Mary's glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God.

O good father! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(Here make your request for Saint Joseph's intercession.)

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

7. Prayer to St. Joseph for Purity

Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful custody Christ Jesus, Innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed; I pray and beseech thee, by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all uncleanness, I may with spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the days of my life. Amen.

8.  A Parent's Prayer to St. Joseph

O glorious St. Joseph, to you God committed the care of His only begotten Son amid the many dangers of this world. We come to you and ask you to take under your special protection
the children God has given us. Through holy baptism they became children of God and members of His holy Church. We consecrate them to you today, that through this consecration they may become your foster children.  Guard them, guide their steps in life, form their hearts after the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. Joseph, who felt the tribulation and worry of a parent when the child Jesus was lost, protect our dear children for time and eternity.  May you be their father and counselor.  Let them, like Jesus, grow in age as well as in wisdom and grace before God and men. Preserve them from the corruption of his world, and give us the grace one day to be united with them in heaven forever. Amen.

9. A Workman's Prayer to St. Joseph

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance for the expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my inclinations; to work with gratitude and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever recoiling before weariness or difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account which I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all after your example, O Patriarch Joseph. Such shall be my watchword in life and in death. Amen.

1. Rosary, Joyful Mysteries

1. The Litany of St. Joseph

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
Renowned offspring of David, pray for us.
Light of Patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Diligent protector of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.

Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most strong, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.

Mirror of patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of artisans, pray for us.
Glory of home life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Pillar of families, pray for us.
Solace of the wretched, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. He made him the lord of his household.
R. And prince over all his possessions.

Let us pray.
O God, in your ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most holy Mother; grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our Protector: You who live and reign forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Note:  Not part of my 9-1-1 prayers, but interesting to know about...
Seven Sorrows of St. Joseph

1 - The doubt of St. Joseph. (Matt. 1:19)
2 - The poverty of Jesus' birth. (Luke 2:7)
3 - The Circumcision. (Luke 2:21)
4 - The prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34)
5 - The flight into Egypt. (Matt. 2:14)
6 - The return from Egypt. (Matt. 2:22)
7 - The loss of the Child Jesus. (Luke 2:45)

Seven Joys of St. Joseph

1 - The message of the Angel. (Matt. 1:20)
2 - The birth of the Savior. (Luke 2:10-11)
3 - The Holy Name of Jesus. (Matt. 1:25)
4 - The effects of the Redemption. (Luke 2:38)
5 - The overthrow of the idols of Egypt. (Is. 19:1)
6 - Life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
7 - The finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:46)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Building Cathedrals

Has it really been nearly a month since I last wrote?  For those of you who are breathlessly waiting for my next blog post, I apologize! ; )  As I've posted before, we're building a new house, and the deadline for my new book is in just 3 weeks, so things have been a bit crazy.

I wanted to share this wonderful essay that a friend of mine forwarded.  You might have seen it before in those forwarded emails, but it is so lovely, it's well worth reading again.  Based on a little research it appears to be an excerpt from a book by Nicole Johnson (just added to my Amazon cart...) The title reminds me of the Blessed Mother somehow.  I recently watched a Nova show on how the great cathedrals were built, so this especially hit home today. 

Invisible Mother......

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible.   The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this?   Can you tie this?  Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being.  I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?'  I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?'  I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.   She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England ..

Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in..

I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.   It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.'

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .  I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:  'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book.  And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.  These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam.  He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof?   No one will ever see it.'  And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.  It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.  No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over.. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction.   But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.
It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness.   It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder.  As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.'  That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself.. I just want him to want to come home.  And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.  And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thoughts on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery and a great video clip

After a recent surgery and a longer-than-expected recovery, I am finally able to run again.  I used my Rosary Workouts, walking for a decade then running for a decade until I can run a full Rosary, about 2-2.5 miles for me.  Today, I was almost able to run all five decades.  The last decade was particularly challenging, but I was glad that I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries.  My mild discomfort was certainly nothing compared to Jesus' intense suffering during the Crucifixion.  As I ran that last half mile, I wanted to meditate during each Hail Mary to distract myself from my aching feet and tired legs.  I decided to meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ:
  1. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do! (Luke 24:34)
  2. This day thou shall be with me in Paradise. (Luke 24:43)
  3. Woman, behold thy son.... Behold thy mother. (John 19:26, 27)
  4. My God, My God! why have you forsaken me? (Matt 27:26; Mark 15:34)
  5. I thirst! (John 19:28)
  6. It is finished. (John 19:30)
  7. Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 24:46) 
I still had 3 Hail Marys to go and wasn't sure how to continue my meditations.  A great idea popped into my head (Thank you, Holy Spirit!), and I contemplated the thoughts and emotions of the the three people who stood at the foot of the cross-- Mary Magdalene, John and the Blessed Mother.

Mary Magdalene was a very close friend of Jesus', so much so that He appeared to her shortly after He rose from the dead.  How she must have wept with grief!  When she looked at Jesus' pierced and bleeding feet, did she remember how she perfumed them with fragrant oil and dried them with her hair?

John was also one of Jesus' most beloved companions.  When he watched the soldier pierce Jesus' heart with a lance, did he remember how he leaned against Jesus' chest during the Last Supper when the Sacred Heart still beat strong?

Then, there's Mary, her heart pierced by a sword, her grief unimaginable.  Yet she, probably unlike the other two, knew that her beloved Son would soon rise and triumph over death, the very definition of bittersweet.

I slowed to a walk, having run further than I had intended.  The Rosary is a powerful tool for spiritual and physical strength!

Note:  I've just ordered this book of meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from Magnificat magazine.  I just discovered it today in a google search.  It would have been nice to have for Lent, but I'm sure it will come in handy during future Holy Hours.

In case you didn't know, the month of May is devoted to the Blessed Mother.  Each year, a wonderful group of young people creates a video to honor Mary called "May Feelings."  This year's video is especially good. 


Friday, May 6, 2011

There Be Dragons

I can't wait to see this movie!  More info is available at the official website.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Motherhood and the Joyful Mysteries

In an effort to boot myself out of my Lenten doldrums, I decided to get out in the beautiful sunshine for a Rosary power walk along my favorite riverside trail.  I offered up the Rosary for my children.  As I prayed the Joyful Mysteries, I meditated on how they applied to motherhood.

The Annunciation:  
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."  (Luke 1:38)

As I prayed the first decade, I thought of Mary's unequivocal acceptance of the vocation of motherhood.  She had planned to live her life as a consecrated virgin, dedicated to the service of God but humbly accepted her new role as Mother of the Savior.  I am ashamed to admit that I sometimes resent my primary vocation as wife and mother, seeking other means of "fulfillment."  Inevitably, I always come to the realization that motherhood is a Divine calling and that I need to put my heart and soul into this vocation to do it justice.  I turn to the Blessed Mother as my role model.  She never needed a day at the spa, tennis lessons or a new pair of perfect spring sandals.  Instead, she devoted her entire life to serving her family and raising the holiest of all children.  I do like to think that every now and then, St. Joseph or even Jesus Himself led her by the hand to the most comfortable of their meager chairs, poured her a glass of wine, and offered to do the dishes.

The Visitation:
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)

I think that the example this mystery sets for motherhood is to help other members of our community, especially other women.  We women can be so catty, judging one another's appearance, parenting styles, home decor, choice of clothing and any other number of things.  Instead, we should follow Mary's example and offer charity to our neighbors and to other women.  We can do little things like bake an extra casserole for the new mother across the street, leave flowers on the doorstep of the lonely widow or offer to watch a neighbor's obnoxious children so that she can go to the grocery store by herself.  These little acts of charity not only help our neighbors but they also help us as we become more like the Blessed Mother, and ultimately, her Divine Son.

The Nativity:
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  (Luke 2:19)

Children grow up so fast!  In the blink of an eye, they grow from tiny babies to kindergarteners, then teens and before you know it, they're off on their own.  As mothers, we often wish that our children will get older. We sigh and say, "I can't wait for the day when this child can finally take his own shower so I don't have to bend over the bathtub every night."  Then we sadly reminisce about those bygone days when he giggled and splashed in the tub.  Mary had the right idea, treasuring every moment of Jesus' life and reflecting on these moments in her heart.  Each child is a precious gift from God and a huge responsibility.  Live in the moment and enjoy your children.  Keep a journal and write about the funny little things that they do.  You will treasure it forever.

The Presentation:
They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (Luke 2:22)

Mary and Joseph obediently consecrated their newborn Son to the Father at the Temple in Jerusalem.  They placed Him in God's hands, trusting that He would guide them in raising the Messiah.  We mothers should also place our children tenderly in God's care, trusting that He will choose the best course for both all of us.  We must also pray for guidance in helping our children to determine their vocation.  We may have aspirations for our children's future, but it is important that we let God decide how to use them in His Divine Plan.  Teach your children not only to pray but to listen to God's gentle guidance in their lives.  One way to do this it to teach them to pray the Rosary.  One of the Promises of the Rosary is that those who pray it will receive signal graces-- little signs to let us know if we are on the right path.

The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple:
The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. (Luke 2:33)

Jesus was considered a man in the Jewish culture at age 12, and He began to act like a man.  He took His place among the Jewish leaders and amazed them with His knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures.  Even Mary and Joseph, who knew of the Divine nature of their Son, were astonished.  As mothers, it is so important that we prepare our children to enter the world of adults as Soldiers of Christ.  We are the primary educators of our children in the Catholic faith, a huge responsibility.  Pray for guidance, do lots of research, and teach your children all that you know about your faith.  This, of course, requires that YOU know your faith first.  Read the Catechism, study the Bible and cultivate a rich prayer life.  Pass this on to your children, and some day they will amaze not only you but others in the community.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sorry for the break

I had planned on posting a reflection on the Rosary mysteries for each day of Lent, but this last week was a bit stressful.  Due to a lingering sickness. being a bit behind on deadlines for my upcoming book, Tending the Temple, and finding myself in a bit of Lenten funk, for lack of a better term, I had to take a break from blogging this week.  In the meantime, here are a few articles I've written for my new column on Catholic Lane, in case you're interested:

Fasting for Body and Soul (includes a recipe for Fasting Brown Bread)

If you'd like more motivation to fast, read this terrific article by Christine Watkins on CatholicMom.com

I really enjoyed watching a DVD set called Charlton Heston Presents The Bible.  You can read my review at this link as well as my interview with the producer of the DVDs and Charlton Heston's son, Fraser Clarke Heston.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Assumption and The Coronation

Can you believe we're already halfway through Lent?  If you've been having a hard time keeping your Lenten resolutions or spiritual goals, you still have 20 more days to get back on track. 

These last two Glorious Mysteries conclude the first part of my Lenten reflections on the Rosary mysteries.  Beginning tomorrow, I'll write about the virtues embedded in each of the 20 mysteries.

The 4th and 5th Glorious Mysteries focus on the Blessed Mother.  After Mary's death or dormition ("falling asleep"), she was assumed into heaven and given the gift of a glorified body.  We have no record of how this event transpired, but the Church teaches that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul. 

At some point (time has no meaning in heaven), Mary was also crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth.  Again we have no record of this event, but the Church honors the feast of the Queenship of Mary  on August 22nd.  Of course, Mary is known under many titles as Queen of... 

Mary‘s Assumption and Coronation are implied in Revelation Chapter 12 and in other Biblical references, but neither is directly stated in the Bible. Both events are part of Catholic Tradition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Assumption in Sections 966 and 974.  (Catholic Culture has a wonderful and very comprehensive series of articles on Mary's Assumption and on Marian apologetics at this link.)

During Lent, spend some time meditating on Mary's role in Jesus' life.  At the foot of the cross, Christ gave all us the gift of Mary as our Blessed Mother.  She wants to help us imitate her virtue and that of her Divine Son.  Keep praying the Rosary, and she will lead you to Him.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Descent of the Holy Spirit

In yesterday's post on The Ascension, I wrote about how the Apostles were probably a bit lost and confused after Jesus departed from them.  They had a pretty big order, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15), but no specific instructions as to how to carry it out. 

We can often feel the same emotions.  We too are called to spread the Good News, but it can be difficult to discern just how to do that.  The answer can be found in today's mystery, The Descent of the Holy Spirit.  Once filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles took action.  They spoke in tongues, converted thousands and began their work of establishing Jesus' Church on earth.  The Holy Spirit can lead people to do great things.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, but it is important to continue to pray for His help to become a true soldier of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is often overlooked in prayer, but He is a very powerful Advocate.  If you are ever in doubt as to what to say when questioned about your faith, say a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit before replying.

You might also add this Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Spirit to your daily prayers:

On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, so to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth."  Amen

I really love the painting above, Pentecost, by Jean Restout II because Mary is the central figure. (The original is hanging at the Louvre, one more reason to go someday...)  She stands tall with her hands over her Immaculate Heart, looking toward heaven with a serene expression while the Apostles turn away in fear.  Mary is not afraid because she is again encountering her Holy Spouse.  Just imagine the graces she receives!  Recall that at the Annunciation, she was full of grace before the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, filling her with even more grace.  Now at Pentecost, she again receives the grace of the Holy Spirit.  It is clear, to me at least, why the Blessed Mother was chosen by God to give graces to us through her intercession.  One of the best ways to receive her favor is to pray the Rosary every day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Ascension

The Bible gives us few details about Jesus' Ascension into heaven.  Only Mark and Luke mention it in the gospels, and the details are very sparse.  The Acts of the Apostles provides us with a little more information.  I find it interesting that after Jesus disappears into heaven, two men in white robes suddenly appeared (angels?) and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?" (Acts 1:11)  These mysterious men almost seem to be trying to snap the Apostles out of a trance and bring them back to reality.  I'm sure these chosen leaders of the new Church were a bit afraid and were thinking, "Okay, now what do we do?  Jesus is obviously sending us out on our own now."

We often have the same doubts and fears.  We're on our own, unsure as to how we should spread the Good News.  How do each of us fit into the Divine Plan?  The answer can be found in the next chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and in the next Glorious Mystery.  More tomorrow...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Resurrection

During Lent, we take a little break each week on Sunday to celebrate The Resurrection.  (Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent.)

"Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.  But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day." (Mark 2:19-20)

Jesus' suffering and His Resurrection are forever linked by the wounds on His glorified body.  He pleads for us at the right hand of the Father, begging mercy for all our sins.  I found a wonderful reflection on this topic by Fr.James Farfaglia.  Since he is far more eloquent and knowledgable that I am, I direct you to his article, Reflection on the Resurrection: Why Did Jesus Rise With Wounds?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Feast of The Annunciation and The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Crucifxion

I had an interesting juxtaposition of today's Feast of The Annunciation and the next mystery in my Lenten series of reflections, The Crucifixion, at noon today.  I was alone in our little Daily Mass Chapel praying my traditional Lenten Friday Holy Hour after Mass.  I was reading a book on the Seven Sorrows of Mary when the bells in the chapel rang at noon, reminding me to pray The Angelus.  The Angelus is a short devotion in honor of the Incarnation, which of course, we also honor with today's feast.  As the bells continued to chime, it occurred to me that noon is traditionally honored as the hour that Jesus was crucified.  I love it when I get heavenly aid for my blog entries! 

When I meditate on The Crucifixion, I often recall the Seven Last Words of Jesus:

1.  "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Lk 23:34)
2.  "Amen, I say to thee: this day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43)
3.  Woman, behold thy son.” To the disciple, “Behold your mother.” (Lk 19:26-27)
4.  "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34)
5.  I thirst.” (Jn 19:28)
6.  It is consummated.”  (Jn 19:30)
7.  Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  (Lk 23:46)      

During Lent, spend some time meditating on these last words.  It's helpful to read commentaries such as this one by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Carrying of the Cross

This entry will be rather brief as I am not feeling so well (allergies maybe?).  I'm going to drink some homemade Nyquil (warm red wine with honey and lemon juice) and crawl into bed with my Magnificat magazine and my favorite guilty pleasure, In Style

When I mediate on the fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I usually find myself thinking of the Stations of the Cross.  The first ten stations describe the Via Dolorosa ("Way of Sorrows") as Jesus carries His cross to Calvary.  (BTW, in case you didn't know Golgotha and Calvary are words to describe the same place-- the hill where Jesus was crucified.  Golgotha is a Greek translation of the Aramaic term for "place of the skull," while Calvary is an Anglicized Latin translation of the same phrase.)

During Lent, most parishes pray the Stations of the Cross on Fridays and often conclude with a meatless soup and bread dinner.  This year, make an effort to participate at least once.  Take your children too!  (You can find simple prayers and meditations for Stations of the Cross for children online to print out beforehand.)  Bring a crockpot of soup or a good loaf of bread from the bakery and meet some of your fellow parishioners.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Crowning With Thorns

Today was one of those really great days.  As always, after I get everyone off to school, I started the day with prayer, reading from my Magnificat magazine.  I spent the morning writing two entries for my new book, Tending the Temple.  While writing, I learned about two fascinating new saints, St. Teresa of the Andes and St. Lidwina (who has been canonized since the article at that link was written).  I got my grocery shopping done in under half an hour, and my cute new rose-colored flats (30% off!) didn't hurt my feet and perfectly matched a spring sweater I already own. 

I also enjoyed a Rosary Workout bike ride.  I mapped out a new route and was rewarded with a few challenging hills and beautiful scenery.  As I pedaled down a road I had not traveled before, I was surprised to see a camel, of all things, grazing next to a donkey.  My first thought was that I was praying the wrong Rosary mystery for this scene!  As I turned the corner, I was brought back to the Sorrowful Mysteries as a rooster crowed loudly. 

According to the gospels, Peter denies Jesus three times and hears the foretold cock crow shortly before Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers.  They place an old purple cloak on His shoulders and fashion a crown out of thorns from a nearby bush.  I'm sure they were not gentle when they placed it on His head. 

I often wonder if the centurion who declared that Jesus was the Son of God at the foot of the cross participated in this mock coronation.  Did he watch Jesus silently suffer this humiliation with unimaginable dignity?  Did he see how Jesus' eyes still looked upon the soldiers with love?  Did he realize that he was in the presence of the Incarnation? 

There is a lesson for us here.  When we are humiliated, scorned and mocked, how do we act?  Do we lash back in anger or do we endure the humiliation with quiet dignity?  Do we love our enemies and pray for them?  Do we let others see the presence of Christ within us?  Our words and actions, while following the example of Jesus, can change hearts and minds.  Think of those who watch you as possible centurions who might experience a sudden conversion at the foot of the cross.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Scourging at the Pillar

It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to understand how my own sins contributed to Christ's suffering and death.  When I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, walk the Stations of the Cross, or meditate on Jesus' passion and death, I feel a profound sorrow for my sins and a renewed zeal to try to live a sinless life.

When I meditate on The Scourging at the Pillar, I often recall the scene from The Passion of the Christ.  When I watch the film, I always weep when Jesus (as played by Jim Caviezel) sinks to the ground and then slowly gets back up so that the soldiers can continue to scourge Him.  It's almost as if He's saying, "It's not enough yet.  There are still so many sins for which I must atone."  To think that I caused part of that suffering!

I also recall how the actress who played Mary (can't recall her name...) sobbed as if her heart were pierced by a sword as she carefully mopped up the Precious Blood.  We should have that same sorrow for our own sins, even if they are relatively minor venial sins.

During Lent, you can make some progress toward leading a sinless life by going to Confession often.  Frequent Confession gives us more grace to help in avoiding sin.  If it's been awhile, find a good Examination of Conscience booklet or check online for one.  If you can't make your parish's regular Confession times, then call the parish office and make an appointment with a priest.  Remember the 5 steps to a good Confession:

1.  Think about your sins and examine your conscience
2.  Express true sorrow for your sins
3.  Resolve never to sin again
4.  Confess your sins to a priest
5.  Complete the penance that the priest gives you

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Agony in the Garden

For me, the words that stand out in the Biblical account of the Agony in the Garden are, "Could you not watch one hour with me?"  For most of my adult life, even during the height of my very lukewarm Catholic days, I attended Mass on Holy Thursday and stayed afterward to pray for an additional hour during Eucharistic Adoration.  I figured that was the least I could do since Jesus' chosen Apostles did not.

Last year, I took this practice a step further and set a goal to make a Holy Hour every week during Lent.  I found it so profitable for my spiritual life that I decided to pray a Holy Hour at least once a month. I wish I could say that I kept that up, but my monthly Holy Hours were rather sporadic.  To get back on track, I have renewed my weekly Lenten Holy Hour this year.

I usually spend my hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament after daily Mass, usually on a Friday.  (I am blessed that our chapel is open most afternoons.)  I bring prayer books, a rosary and my Bible.  I try to offer up each Holy Hour for a special intention.  I often pray the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, then spend some time just being in the presence of Christ.  Occasionally I'll bring one of the booklets of Holy Hour prayers and meditations that I picked up in a Catholic gift shop.

I am almost always the only person in the chapel, and I enjoy the silence.  Our chapel is nearly 100 years old and has a beautiful altar and stained glass windows.  We are blessed to have a relic of the True Cross and St. Jude as well. 

I have come to enjoy these weekly visits with Jesus.  I rarely have any big moments of revelation or even an overwhelming feeling of the presence of Christ.  That's fine because I know that He is there and that He appreciates my little visits.  I leave with a sense of peace, ready to take up my cross again and follow Him.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Feast Day, St Joseph and The Institution of the Eucharist

First of all, Happy Feast Day, St. Joseph!  (For the final novena prayer, see this link.  While you're at the site, sign up for email reminders so you won't miss the novena next year.  They also send notices for other popular novenas throughout the year.)

We recently bought 20 acres of beautiful land with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The man who sold the land to us showed my husband a pile of rocks at the base of a giant oak tree.  He told my husband that he often walked to that site early in the morning and watched the sun rise over the mountains as he said a prayer for a special intention.  After he finished the prayer, he placed a rock on the pile by the tree.  The pile was already quite large, and my husband assured him that we would treat the site with respect and would likely add our own prayer rocks to the pile.

Today my family gathered at that pile of rocks and asked St. Joseph to watch over the construction of our new home and to help us grow in holiness as a family.  We placed a rock on top of the pile, the first of many, I'm sure.  As a military family, we have often called upon St. Joseph to help us sell our old home and find a new one.  Now that my husband has retired from the Air Force, I hope we will enjoy many wonderful years in this newest home.

Now, back to the Rosary Mysteries for Lent...

I recently bought one of the wonderful Glory Stories CDs and played it for my two middle school-age children in the car.  (The CDs are aimed at slightly younger children, but the stories are told so well that all of us enjoy them.)  We listened to the story of Blessed Imelda, the patron saint of First Communicants. 

During Imelda's lifetime, children did not receive First Communion until about the age of 14, but Imelda did not want to wait that long.  She watched longingly as others at Mass waited in line for the Body and Blood of Jesus.  She often said, ""Tell me, can anyone receive Jesus into his heart and not die?"  At age 11, a miracle occurred, allowing her to finally receive her First Communion.  She returned to her pew in a state of ecstasy and literally died of happiness.

During Lent, spend some time meditating on the 5th Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist.  As you wait in line for Communion, think of Blessed Imelda's words.  Are you so filled with joy at the prospect of actually receiving Jesus' Body and Blood that you could die of happiness? 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Transfiguration

The weather was beautiful once again today.  I think we reached 80 degrees!  I just had to go out for a bike ride again, but I ended up fighting a pretty strong wind.  At times, I felt like I wasn't going anywhere.  As I pedaled furiously, the mountains in the distance reminded me of the fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.

I wondered if Peter, James and John were working as hard as I was on my bike when they climbed Mount Tabor with Jesus.  Jesus frequently went "up the mountain to pray" and was no doubt accustomed to arduous climbs, but I'm not so sure about Peter, James and John.  Like most Jews of that time, they walked everywhere, but I don't know if they often climbed steep peaks like Mount Tabor.  They might have wondered where they were going and why, exactly, they had to work so hard to get there.  The reward for their efforts was to see Jesus in His glory, a brief glimpse at the possibilities of the Resurrection.

Lent can sometimes feel like fighting a strong headwind or like an arduous climb up a mountain.  At times we're not sure where we're going or why we're working so hard.  If you feel discouraged, reflect on the mystery of The Transfiguration.  Remember that our ultimate goal is heaven, where we too will some day experience a transfiguration at our own resurrection.

Reminder:  Today is Day 8 of the St. Joseph Novena.  His feast day is tomorrow!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Proclamation of the Kingdom

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Since I'm Irish, I wore green all day and made a delicious Beef and Guiness Stew

I finally dusted off my road bike for the first time in quite awhile.  An injury has kept me from riding, and it was wonderful to get outside and pray the Rosary as I enjoyed the beautiful spring weather.  The sheep and cows were grazing, the grass was a beautiful shade of emerald green, and a few wildflowers added color to the backdrop of the rolling hills with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

As I prayed the Luminous Mysteries, I reflected on The Proclamation of the Kingdom.  Jesus tells us that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 10:7)  Lent is the perfect time to reflect on how we live that reality each day.  Heaven is ours to enter if we follow in the footsteps of Christ.  A good place to start is to carefully read The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), which are often cited as part of this third Luminous Mystery.  Spend some time reflecting on how they apply to your daily life.

Reminder: Today is Day 7 of the St. Joseph Novena.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Wedding Feast at Cana

My parents had to obtain a special dispensation to get married during Lent.  My dad had just joined the Air Force and received orders to Japan, so the wedding had to happen quickly in order for my mother to accompany him. 

We don't usually think of weddings during Lent, but Jesus actually begins His road to Calvary with this first miracle at Cana.  He says to Mary, "My hour has not yet come," letting her know that if he works this miracle then he will manifest His divinity and change both their lives forever.

I often wondered why Mary chose to push Jesus out in the world, in a manner of speaking, at this point.  One day I was praying all the decades of the Rosary in chronological order during a long bike ride when a possible answer came to me.  I had recently mediated on the 5th Joyful Mystery (The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple) and was thinking of how Mary held Jesus back in the Temple when He was on fire and ready to begin His ministry at age 12 when a Jewish boy becomes a man.  Mary took Him back home and He went obediently.  As I thought about the Wedding Feast at Cana, it occurred to me that since Jesus obeyed Mary in not beginning His public ministry, He patiently waited until she decided it was time.  I was so surprised by this revelation that I actually stopped my bike to think about it.  Of course, this is my own thought and not Church teaching or interpretation as I have not seen this idea anywhere in print.  I do know though, that the more often I pray the Rosary, the better I understand the mysteries so perhaps this understanding was the work of the Holy Spirit.

Today is Day 6 of the St. Joseph Novena.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Baptism of Jesus

After Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, "the Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness.  And He was in the wilderness forty days, temped by Satan..."  This passage also calls to mind last Sunday's Gospel reading describing the temptations that Satan presented to Jesus after His extended fast.  These 40 days in the wilderness are the foundation of Lent.  Jesus spent time alone with His heavenly Father, fasting and praying, before beginning His adult ministry.  In the same way, Lent is a time of renewal, a time to focus on what is truly important.  Like Jesus, we too will be tempted as we strive to improve in virtue and holiness.  Be watchful, as Satan and his minions will hover nearby, ready to pounce as soon as they perceive any progress in your spiritual life.  I try to pray the St. Michael prayer every day during Lent.  In case you don't know it, I'll post it here:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Note:  If you are praying the St. Joseph Novena, here's the link to Day 5.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple

I often think about the bittersweet aspects of the 5th Joyful Mystery.  Like all parents, I can identify with Mary and Joseph's intense anxiety as they frantically search for young Jesus as well as their overwhelming joy when they finally find Him in the Temple.

To me, Lent often evokes the same conflicting emotions of anxiety and sorrow as well as joy and relief.  I worry that I'm "doing enough" for Lent and become frustrated if I don't accomplish  my planned prayers and devotions for a particular day.  I do better when I try to realize that my efforts are bringing me closer to God and not farther away.  This allows me to focus on the joy of learning more about my faith and enriching my prayer life through my Lenten practices.

I find the most joy in a practice I started two years ago of making a weekly Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament during Lent.  It calls to mind Jesus' words to Mary and Joseph in the Temple, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49) 

Note:  Today is Day 4 of the St. Joseph Novena.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

No reflection today, but don't forget the St. Joseph Novena

Sundays are not considered to be part of Lent as it would be inappropriate to fast or do penance on the day we celebrate the Resurrection, so no reflection today. 

If you're praying the St. Joseph Novena, then today is Day 3.  Here's a link to the novena prayer.