Monday, August 30, 2010

Mary's Persuasion

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Great Resource: Catholic Parents Online

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

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

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

Daily Novena Prayer

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

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

Parents' Prayer to Saint Monica

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

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

Prayer for Our Children

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

Prayer in Adversity

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

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

Prayer of Petition

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

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

Prayer of Thanksgiving

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

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Make Sure Your Child Knows the Hail Mary!

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

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

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

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

Hail Mary Saves Student From Hell; Companion Not So Lucky

Consider the following instance of the great mercy of Mary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hail Holy Queen!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pleading For Us at the Right Hand of the Father

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

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

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

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

~ Caryll Houselander

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

False Assumptions About Mary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The 5th Luminous Mystery and 2 New Sacraments

We have been traveling and visiting family for the past two weeks, so it has been a bit of a challenge to meet my goal of a daily Rosary.  On some days, we pray in the car as a family, taking turns leading the decades.  Other days, I listen to the Rosary on my ipod as I squeeze in a quick workout in the hotel fitness room.  Today, I prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary in the car as I ran errands, one or two decades at a time as I drove from place to place.

As I meditated on the Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist, I recalled that two new sacraments were initiated by Christ on Holy Thursday.  The obvious sacrament is, of course, Holy Communion.  In my parish, there is a beautiful carving of the Last Supper underneath the altar, serving as a visual reminder that the Last Supper is actually the first Mass. 

The second, less obvious, sacrament is Holy Orders.  When Jesus tells His Apostles, "Do this in remembrance of me..." he has ordained them as priests, giving them the authority to say Mass and to repeat the miracle of changing bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Remember that priests are the representatives of Jesus on earth.  Even if you dislike or don't agree with a particular priest, always respect this role.  Don't forget to pray for your parish priest and all priests.  In fact, why not offer your next Rosary for this intention.

Related links:
Beautiful meditations on the 5th Luminous Mystery at How To Pray the Rosary Everyday
Questions about the Holy Eucharist
Sacrament of Holy Orders

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Belated Notice: Taking a Much-Needed Vacation Break

I apologize for the sporadic blog posts this summer.  Our hectic summer vacation has left me little time for writing, and I had to hand over the laptop to my husband earlier this summer so that he could complete two masters classes in 4 weeks.

Now, we're on an extended family American history tour of New England.  I had hoped to write blog entries on the road, but the precious laptop battery time was used finding hotel rooms and backing up the quirky GPS routes.

I'll return next week with plenty of material for future blog posts.  Please pray for me and my family and know that you are in my prayers.