Lent: Day 1

I’m here. It’s cold and my will is starting to wane. My food supply holds no appeal to me at this time. The only thing I hear are the sweets in the cupboard taunting me. Already, I’m experiencing odd reflexes of my hands. I see a bowl of food and my hand lunges towards it. Sometimes I catch it mid-air, other times it nearly makes it to my mouth with the contraband food.

Hallucinations have set in. Everywhere I turn I see Twix and Snickers.

I hear the cries of the unused coffee pot on my counter.

The finger foods are plotting an invasion later.

I feel unusual shifts in my moods. I woke up with such hope for this season but now the winter frost has set in. I can’t take it anymore! Why did I give up chocolate?! Am I nuts?! And fasting between meals–my stomach groans at the very smell of my neighbor’s bacon and sausage breakfast.

I’m not sure when the next round of temptation will occur but it’s likely to get worse every Friday for the next forty days.

Facebook has never held so much appeal as a distraction as of now. If only I could access it more than once a day! Ugh! How will I know if I’m as hilariously funny and ridiculously good looking as I think I am if I can’t see how many ‘likes’ I’ve gotten?!

My mind doesn’t know what to do with itself. Less television, less internet, and there are these strange paper things that have been sitting on my shelves for ages. They have words all over them. Strange names adorn the by-lines like, “St. Maria Faustina”, “Dr. Edward Sri”, “Dr. Brant Pitre”, “St. Mary of Agreda”, “Pope St. John Paul the Great” and “Bible”. These names, I’ve heard them before. But it is becoming harder and harder to remember the last time I read something from them. These books also speak to me, I will keep you posted when I answer.

At Church, priests talk about ‘sacrifice’ ‘prayer’ ‘almsgiving’ and being joyful in sacrificing and drawing closer to Jesus. How can I do this when I have so many things to do? I mean, the time I did have is now consumed with dreams of bacon wrapped hotdogs served with a Mike’s hard lemonade and a large hot fudge sundae. They tell me to read, to pray, to accept this quietness that is now around me. Withdrawl is naturally difficult, it will take time to wean myself of the noise of life. Perhaps those heavy bound paper things will help me.

This strange blog page keeps appearing. I can’t help it, I have to write. When I do, I am oddly at peace. Perhaps this Lent won’t be so hard after all.

Pray for me and I will pray for you.

I can only hope to make it through the night of Lent to the light of Easter.
God be with you in your Lenten sacrifices,

~Veronica

Lent is hard.

Every year we give up certain pleasures under the guise of ‘sacrifice’. But does giving up chocolate really get me closer to heaven? At times, yes. Every sacrifice, big and small has an effect on our souls. A small sacrifice is like a pebble being dropped into a lake, a large is like a boulder. Lent is here not to annoy us or to make less chocoholics in the world for 40days. It is here to draw us deeper into God’s grace.

Like this past week’s Gospel, we see Jesus get into Simon’s boat and instruct him to go out into the deep. That is what Lent is about, God taking our boats out into the deep. The catch is, we have to be willing to let him in the boat. To tell us where to go. And to follow His guidance.

Sacrifice without a purpose is like a boat without a rudder.

If chocolate is a true addiction which harms you, your family and those around you, then by all means give it up. It is a means of distracting you from Jesus, absolutely, throw it out the window. But if you do, don’t walk around groaning and mourning the loss of your precious sacrifice.

What is the point of sacrifice? In life, it is often to show love. We give things up so others around us won’t have to.

Example: My son has been saving up for everything PAW Patrol. He earns money and he pays me for his newest item once he hits the set price. The price I set is at least half of what the item actually costs. I want to give him things but I want him to earn them. I love seeing his face light up when he earns something new or when I surprise him with a ‘raise’ because he has been such a good boy.

I give up the money I have saved to buy PAW patrol things that I know he probably won’t care about a year from now.

Why?

Because I love him, I love his little face, I love seeing him jump up and down and get so excited. I love the hugs, the broad smile and giddy laughter. I-love-him. I give up sleep for his baby sister, I give up my food to his little brother and I give up some of my material wants for him. Why? Because I love him. The sacrifices don’t seem so bad when I think about the person they are for.

This is no different then Lent. Why do we give things up or go out of our way to do more? Because we love Jesus. Period. If we love Jesus we will want to give more, lose more, pay more, etc. Because He is worth it.

So, no matter your chosen Lenten sacrifice, just make sure of one thing: You’re doing it for the one you love, for Jesus. Because no matter what you chose, you won’t be able to out do His Lenten sacrifice-the Cross. He gave His life for you. Give Him your twix, your coffee, your cigarette, your spare change, your unused clothes, your attentiveness, your extra prayers, your time. This Lent, get to know Jesus!

Joyful! Joyful! We Adore Thee!

I will be honest with you…I’m a pessimist. It’s true, when I look at a glass it is usually half empty, it is always partly cloudy instead of partly sunny, and no, I don’t see the silver lining.Lincoln

Despite this negative trend I am a happy person. Happy. But not joyful.

Have you ever met those people who are so full of joy that you would swear that they never had a bad day in their life? You know, those people who have the broadest, biggest most infectious smiles that you can’t help but smile along with? Those people who can’t seem to contain the inner joy of their hearts that outshines every inch of darkness of their day? I don’t understand these people yet I am oddly and irreversibly attracted to their beauty like a mosquito to a bug zapper.

It is only getting close to these beautiful souls that joy is uncontrollably zapped into me.

And then for a brief time I feel like they do. And I’m not going to lie, joy is great.

It is a deeply rooted beauty that bubbles up inside my heart that longs to become a permanent fixture of my life. Yet, Johnny Raincloud inevitably returns and I’m back to being me.

The Gospel readings of the last few weeks of Mass from the beginning of Advent to now have focused on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. We had Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, the Presentation and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. Like many, these readings seem routine. Yeah, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary traveled to visit Elizabeth, Jesus is born yadda yadda, prophet says some stuff and then Jesus is lost then found. Big whoop.

Whenever we are ‘bored’ as Catholics we need to slam on the spiritual brakes. Because boredom means we missed something.

 

minion of boredom

So, let’s throw our spiritual cars in reverse and look at these events again.

These 5 Mysteries of the Rosary are called Joyful. That in of itself is interesting. Why? Because they show that there there is a distinct reason that God chose Mary as His mother. Put yourself in her place.

First, the Archangel Gabriel appears.

In Scripture, Gabriel only appears at the most vital, integral and pivotal points of change in Israel’s history. When he appears, it means something HUGE is about to happen. The Gospel of Luke opens with Gabriel appearing twice. First, to Zechariah (husband to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth) who is offering the prayers of the people to the Lord inside the Holy of Holies. It is here that Gabriel appears and tells him that his prayers have been answered and that his wife will have a son. EPICALLY HUGE!

His job as a priest was to offer the petitions of the entire country. He was there to pray for their return to God’s grace, redemption, forgiveness and the worldwide kingdom and blessing promised Abraham, etc. And Gabriel says his prayers have been answered: your wife will bear a son.

Jigga what?!

Did I miss where it said he slipped in a prayer for he and his barren wife to have a child?

Nope.

Gabriel doesn’t stop there but goes on to say that his son will be named John. He will not drink wine, be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit will go before him like Elijah and he will prepare the way for God’s chosen one (Luke 1). To the ears of a Jewish person bells would be ringing. Gabriel is saying that John will be set apart, like a Nazarite (check the old testament for others like him) and he will be a prophet like Elijah (HUGE!)

He will prepare the way for the Messiah. In the Eastern Rite they refer to John the Baptist as the ‘Forerunner’.

So, Gabriel has just set the forerunner in motion.

Now it is time for the Messiah.

From there, Gabriel goes onto appear to Mary–the mother of the Messiah.”Hail, full of Grace. The Lord is with Thee”, he tells her she will bear a son who will be conceived by the Holy Spirit. And Mary replies, ‘fiat’. An unreserved and joyful ‘YES!’ to God’s proposal. And yet these are called the Joyful Mysteries…

It is Joyful, right?!

Would you be joyful?

I’m pretty sure if this had been asked of me, these would not be called the Joyful Mysteries but the ‘Mysteries of Worry’ or the ‘Anxiety Mysteries’.

My Persepective:

Annunciation: Angel Gabriel–Hey, I know you haven’t moved in with your husband yet and you’ve consecrated yourself to God as a virgin but you have been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Don’t worry though, you won’t conceive Him through human means but through Divine Grace. Me: Haha, yeah right. Oh, you’re serious?

Visitation: “Mary! My son is a prophet and is leaping before you like David in front of the Ark of the Covenant! He’s going to be the King…aka take on the Roman Empire.” Shoot. That’s not going to be easy.

Nativity: I’ve just traveled for this many days, on a donkey, nine months pregnant and there is no room in the freaking inn? And now, this child, conceived by the Holy Spirit is coming, yeah, great, why not?

Presentation: “Lord, we dedicate our Son to you.” Simeon, “This is the Messiah!: Me: Wohoo! Simeon: he will be a light for the Gentiles. Me: Wait, the promise of Abraham being fulfilled? Uhh, wow. I’m the Mother of the Messiah…Simeon: He will be a sign spoken against, he will divide the nation. Me: Wait, what? That’s not good. Simeon: And for you, Mary, a sword will pierce your heart.” Me: Should’ve seen that one coming.

Finding of Jesus in the Temple: “I lost who?!”

So, how is it that these are called the JOYFUL MYSTERIES?! Two things: the events themselves and also Mary’s ‘Yes’. Many people growl at the rosary because they believe Mary is too overemphasized. That Mary scores 10 Hail Mary’s and Jesus only gets mentioned in the Glory Be. On the contrary, as always, Mary points onward to her son. The mysteries themselves revolve around the crucial points of Christ’s life. Just like when parents get to see their first positive pregnancy test, it is an incredible moment. It is a memorable event.  That is when Christ’s life on earth began. The events of the rosary, especially the joyful can be traveled through the eyes of a mother watching her Son grow in a very unique way. (I will explore the Hail Mary more in the next post)

Mary’s response to God’s joyful proclamation that the time of the Savior had come was one of joy. In my mind, this only furthers the fact that Mary was conceived without original sin or concupiscence (our tendency to sin thanks to the Fall of Adam and Eve). She did not begrudgingly give her consent to God’s request for her to be the mother of His Son. She didn’t ask for some time to think about it or go ask her close friends for advice. She did not look at herself, she did not see fear or worry, she saw only God’s will.

Mary yields freely without fear and full of joy. Because through her the Messiah would come, Israel would be restored, Gentiles would be converted and God would dwell among His people once more. She saw Jesus’ life with joy. It is her perspective and joyful response that set into motion the other joyful events heaven had in store–the events that would lead to the redemption the entire world.

The rosary allows us, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “contemplate with Mary the face of Christ” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 3).  And that is precisely what I will do in the following posts!

 

Someone else

I wish I could blow this picture up to take up the entire screen. This is the story of my life:

mother angelica

I recently went to confession and the priest asked me, “What do you think is at the root of your sins?” I knew instantly what it was. The answer lodged itself in my throat. I didn’t want to say it out loud. I was afraid that if I did the tears I had been struggling to hold back would break free. But the fact remained. The root of much of what holds me back spiritually is rooted in one little word. Failure.

God has given me great missions in this life i.e. being a wife and mother. Two of the highest callings He has to offer me. And I fail at them. Constantly. This concept is new to me. In school, I was one of those students who never really had to work hard. Most subjects came easy to me and those that did make me work were the ones I was most passionate about so I wanted to do the extra work.

Parenting isn’t a college course.

There is no textbook to reference or physical tests. Yet, day after day I fear that if God could hand me a grade on the amount of virtue gained by myself or imparted to others, the growth in knowledge of Him, the openness to the heavenly graces He has to offer in prayers and the sacraments, etc. my paper would have a big fat ‘F’ on it.

At the end of the day the moments of failure stick out as glaring beams in my spiritual eye.

I wasn’t patient.

I yelled at the kids…a lot.

I failed to impart more knowledge onto my kids.

I spent half my day putting away the same ten toys only to have them left on the floor because I got too tired at the end of the day to pick them up again.

Regardless of my intentions it was leftovers for dinner again.

I dreaded the painful demands of my children’s voices resorting in hiding in the bathroom for ten minutes.

I had mental fights with my husband before he ever came through the door.

Yes, yes, I used the t.v. as a babysitter to check Facebook and have some quiet.

No, the laundry isn’t done…or the dishes in the sink.

There are times I wonder if there is someone better out there, better equipped than myself to be in this state of life.

When I was younger this person was always my older and closest sister. As good as I thought I could do, she always managed to do better. You know that phrase ‘the grass is always greener on the other side?’ Yup, she was the other side of my fence. I would look longingly at her patch of grass and sigh. Why couldn’t I be more like her? Think like her? Look like her? Do what she does as well as she did it?

It came to one simple thought: I was not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not creative enough. These thoughts drove me to other things that I thought I could succeed in writing, theology, work, etc. Anything that seemed like I could have relatively easy success in to feel better about myself. But one by one each of these areas slipped through my fingers.

Deadlines passed, theological knowledge once vivid in my memory faded behind the story books of my children (I can’t tell you about all the Kings of Israel after the divide of the kingdom but I can recite Bubbles Bubbles on demand), and all the work I performed was not enough to receive the affirmation I desired that…drum roll please…that I was enough.

As I contemplated the graces of the sacrament on my drive home God’s heavenly dump truck ran smack into me.

“By what standards are you measuring your success?”

Boom.

In my mind I admitted to myself that I had given up success on the eternal level awhile ago. Always looking into other people’s spiritual fields I would see lush green lives full of joy and innocence in their love of the Lord. Whereas mine has been killed under the hot sun of self-scrutiny. The truth still remained, I was not enough. I had to make something of myself in order to be wanted, to be loved and to be a saint in God’s heavenly court.

I know I am not alone in this. Many in the Bible and the saints have thought that someone else would better fit the missions given them by God. Moses told God that Aaron would probably be a better mouthpiece and leader for God’s people. St. Juan Diego thought perhaps a nobleman would be a better messenger of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s messages. Even Mother Angelica wondered why God would choose her to fulfill His mission for a television network and religious order in the southern United States.

There is a gaping difference between these people and me. They, like me, were well aware of their weaknesses, ineptness and failures. This was not seen as a crippling blow to their missions. Instead, they persevered and come through the other side of holiness. Not on their own accord through God’s grace. In regular terms, they said, “God, if you want this to be done and me to do it then you are going to have your work cut out. Direct me and I will follow. Show me and I will go. Tell me and I will act.” They were completely reliant on the grace of God to overcome their weaknesses. And He did.

Now, it is my turn.

“You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope?…Do not be afraid to look into his eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy and for true happiness. Come to him and do not be afraid!” 

~Pope Francis September 2015

 

A Little Pick-Me-Up

“You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

I recently saw this picture on Facebook and it was exactly what I needed to see.

by Yunsung Kim

by Yunsung Kim

Me being a mighty theologian automatically thought of Jim Gaffigan, the comedian. Classy, right? Gaffigan, in one of his routines talks about life with four kids. He describes it like this:

“Imagine you’re drowning and then someone hands you a baby.”

This. is. my. life. I love my kids more than I ever thought possible. But there are days. Days of stepped on toys, mounding laundry, spit up so volcanic that it calls for multiple garment changes, spilt milk on carpet, fights over trains, planes and the fact that one kid looked at a toy in the near vicinity of the other child, etc. There are days that I feel myself sinking beneath the responsibilities of motherhood.

Peter, who this picture’s perspective is really from, sank beneath the waves when he lost faith in Jesus (Matthew 14). “You of little faith,” Jesus says, “Why did you doubt?” What a dagger to the heart of St. Peter! Because of this people are quick to throw old Peter under the rutter. “What a weak man! He didn’t trust Jesus. As in, JESUS, the Son of God. As in the man he’s been following for three years?!”

Let’s give St. Peter a chance. This episode plays out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, AT NIGHT, during a STORM. The apostles are busy trying to keep their boat on course during the storm. Suddenly, they see a figure moving across the waves and wonder if it is a ghost. Peter is the one who calls out to the figure.

“Lord, if it is you then tell me to come to you on the water!”

Boom!

Right there!

Freeze frame!

Read that again.

What does it tell us about Peter’s faith in Jesus?

Peter reveals that he has a sturdy faith by telling the Lord to call him. He does not simply yell, “Come up to this boat and prove to me that you are Jesus!” nor does he say, “Lord show me a sign that it is you and I will believe.”

Instead, like a man, he throws out a bold challenge. “Lord if it is you, tell me to come on the water”. First of all, sweet request. I hope if I’m ever presented with a chance to challenge the Lord in this way I can come up with something awesome like that. Second, it shows he is ready to test his faith in Jesus. He is ready to step out into the unknown. Into the storm. Into the night and meet his Lord. Not on a boat but on the firmness of hope and faith. His faith is sure and is ready for testing it, to make it better, to perfect it.

(Side note: hope has gotten a bad rap these days. Hope is never talked about in a way that is sure. It’s always in the context of “I hope this happens” “I hope I don’t break my leg” “I hope he does”, etc. It’s just shy of wishing on a star. But the hope of Christians is firm, it is meant to be walked on, to set beneath our feet and guide our path. It is sure.)

So, down climbs Peter and he walked on water.

Also important. Peter didn’t sink right away. Scripture doesn’t say, “Peter climbed out of the boat and sank like a rock.” or “Peter tripped on a wave and fell” or “Climbing out of the boat his feet instantly sank beneath the stormy waves”. Which means Peter didn’t have one of those “What in the world was I thinking?!” moments. He wasn’t scared or panicked as he placed his feet on the waves. If he had been he would have sunk right off the bat. Instead scripture says that he walked on the water. Peter’s faith buoyed him toward the Lord.

I think its important to note that Scripture doesn’t say how many steps Peter was able to take towards Jesus that night on sea. How far away was Jesus? Was he half a mile? Fifty feet? We don’t know. But we do know that Peter in fact made enough headway to be termed as walking on water.

So far so good. St. Peter has the faith to call to Jesus and to go out to him.

When does it falter, then? When he saw the storm around him. Felt the wind, saw the waves, etc. It was when the storms of the world built up around him that he took his eyes off of Jesus. Fear entered his heart.  Peter looked at the world around him with human eyes. Fear robbed him in an instant of the reality that he was WALKING ON WATER. 

It is interesting though, Jesus doesn’t calm the storm as we’ve seen in other places in the Gospel. He doesn’t give Peter, the future leader of His Church, a calm serene path to Himself. In fact, it seems like the opposite probably happened. Peter made the request to walk on water during the storm. If he wasn’t afraid then nor when he was climbing down onto the sea then something must have changed once he was out there.

Anyone who is chosen to be the Lord’s al-byit (his right hand man and holder of the keys to the kingdom until Jesus’ return. Read Isaiah 22:20-23 and Matthew 16:18-19; it is an office meant to be passed on until the return of the King), has to be able to stand firm and fearless in the darkness that this world possesses. In the midst of his fear his feet dive beneath the water’s surface.

Again, something interesting, Peter’ has time to yell out, “Lord save me!” before he’s consumed by the storm. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure only a gasp of fear and a four letter word would have slipped out of my mouth in that moment. Instead, Peter uses what could be his last breath to call out for the Lord’s mercy.

Some may view this as a failure of faith on Peter’s part. Yet, I still think there is an incredible amount of merit in his actions even to the end. Yes, Peter sank. Yes, he let fear steal his heart from God, yet, in the end he implored God’s mercy to save him.  Epic save. This is a HUGE theological principle. Even when we fail and focus on our fears, Christ is still there when we call out to Him. His mercy endures forever.  He could have punished Peter, could have let him drown or at least stay down there for a few seconds to really scare him. But He didn’t. Instead, Scripture says He reaches out and catches Peter. There is a good chance that Peter’s head didn’t even get wet.

With all of this in context. The line of Jesus does not seem like a dagger to the heart but a gentle disappointment like that of a Father trying to teach His son to ride a bike without training wheels. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then, Jesus does something that makes my heart happy. Matthew tells us that the two climbed into the boat.

I’m going to make a biblical assumption here (dangerous, I know)–but if Peter’s faith was shaken by the storm and the storm is still raging, I’m going to guess that he did not walk back to the boat on his own volition. Instead, having been caught by Jesus, is carried back to the boat in the arms of Christ. If that is true, I can’t imagine how uplifted Peter must have felt. Not only did Christ have mercy on him to save him from his fears and from death. Jesus pulls him into his arms and carries him back to the safety of the boat. It is said that the apostle John often laid his head on Jesus’ chest. But I’m going to guess that this may have been the only time that Peter was able to lay his head on the heart of the Jesus. And what a better scene then that? To be in the arms of your Lord in the midst of his storm with the beating of his heart as the calming echo in your soul as you walk together on the water toward the safe haven of the boat. Makes you think of heaven, doesn’t it?

So, as my footsteps seem to sink beneath the waves of work, toys, fears of the world and the relentless sense of failure, I can look at this picture and relate. Peter may not have made it beneath the waves but no matter how deep I am, I am never out of the reach of Christ who will come for me if only I call on His mercy. Then, Christ will cradle me in His arms and carry me through the storms of this life toward the safe haven of heaven.

Ero Cras

nativity

The nativity star in Jerusalem.

‘Tis the seasons of gifts. It is also the season of crazy people elbowing each other in the aisles of neighborhood stores trying to get the hottest deals of the season. I will admit, I have been one of those people. For years my family and I would sit around the table after Thanksgiving dinner and tear through the Black Friday ads. We would all make our lists and compare. Before we were in bed, we assigned who was going where, getting what, and where to meet afterward.

I lined up with my fellow bargain hunters and waited for hours in the cold. As opening crept closer, so did my footsteps toward the door. The excitement was palpable to even the most frozen people in line. We were just yards from the deals of the season.

Managers emerged to warn us shoppers about the dangers of running in the store and begged us not to run. Of course, these warnings were forgotten the instant the doors opened. Everyone barged through the doors of the store on a mission: to get the best deal.

I wonder what it would be like if the Church had a Black Friday special.

You know, something that would spur the excitement of the season for all people from the procrastinating pilgrims to the curious soul or the devotion junkie looking to grow in a new way. For those who, to the best of their abilities, tried to find their advent wreath in the mountain of Christmas decorations in the garage only to come up empty handed, hold your head high. For those who attempted to craft all the ornaments for a Jesse Tree but didn’t make it past Noah before the glitter spilled, kids cried and dinner burned. Do not fear! Hold on to hope, because there is a doorbuster around the corner that can save your Advent devotions! One last rush right before the doors of Christmas are opened and you dive head first into that season.

traditionalcatholicliving.com

traditionalcatholicliving.com

The ‘O Antiphons’ are a tradition which dates back to the very dawn of the Church. Known as the ‘Golden Nights’, the antiphons are taken from the Liturgy of the Hours and run from December 17th to December 23rd:

December 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (Lord and Ruler)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (Dawn of the East)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the Gentiles)
December 23: O Emmanuel (God With Us)

Each day invokes another title for the Messiah from the prophet Isaiah. Yet on the last day, it may seem that the scavenger hunt is over for the deal of the season. However, like the great writer that He is, God tucked away a little message among the antiphons.

Like a door of an advent calendar opened each night, the antiphons provide the letters SARCORE. Which do not seem like much. However, when seen with eyes of a pilgrim who has reached his destination, the letters are transformed. They are not seen as a list from top to bottom but as a path from end to beginning. Glancing back down the path which led us to the ‘eve of the Eve’, the letters become something much more. ERO CRAS in Latin means “Tomorrow, I will Come”. It is a promise. A promise that the flood of grace will come barging out the doors of Christmas the following day and spill forth into the world. Let us rush towards the Incarnate God in these final days of Advent. With reckless abandon, may we thrust ourselves against the distractions of the secular season of Christmas and instead journey with the patriarchs of the past towards the promise of the Messiah.

For a prayer companion head over to: http://www.liturgies.net/Advent/prayers/oantiphons.htm

The Pope’s Parish

For the upcoming feast day!!!

10 Fun Facts: The Pope’s Parish

St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s and St. John Lateran make up the four major churches of Rome. Among them is hidden the Cathedral of Rome. Many may be surprised to learn that the cathedral of Rome is not St. Peter’s. In fact, the true cathedral of Rome is St. John Lateran whose feast day we celebrate this month. Why? How? What makes it special? So here are 10 facts about St. John Lateran:

  • John Lateran was a gift from Constantine to Pope Melchiades together with a parcel of imperial property and its buildings specifically for a church and papal residence. The property was known as “Lateran” because it had previously belonged to Plautius Lateranus. It was consecrated in 324 A.D.
  • The Cathedral served as the residence of the Pope until 1304. It was originally dedicated to the Savior in 324 and later St. John the Baptist (904-911) and later St. John the Evangelist (1144-1145).
  • Five Ecumenical Councils (1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, 1512) were hosted here.
  • It is home to the Holy Door which is only opened during a Jubilee year. It was last opened in 2000.
  • It is the home of the Tomb of Pope St. Leo XIII and houses relics of Sts. Cyprian, St. Giustina, Rufina, Secuda and Venatius.
  • The Baptistry, found in the northwest corner of the church, is the original to the Lateran. Built by Constantine this Baptistery features a step down circular area for baptism by immersion. In the center is a basalt where baptisms are now performed. Around the baptistery area are eight oil paintings depicting scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
  • The Egyptian obelisk found in the plaza in front of the Lateran is the oldest in Rome and dates back to 1500 B.C. It was originally placed in the Circus and moved here in 1588.
  • The Lateran is home to the Papal Altar where only the Pope can celebrate Mass upon. The altar itself is said to contain portions of a wooden altar which was used by Peter, the first pope, and subsequent popes up to Sylvester I.
  • Above the Papal Altar is a silver grate. Behind this are two silver busts said to contain the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • The Altar of the Holy Sacrament is crowned with a bronze relief of the Last Supper. Behind this is fragment of wood thought to be a piece from the table used at the Last Supper.

St. John Lateran is at the heart of the Church in Rome. Its walls have seen many wars, been sacked, damaged, rebuilt, etc. Yet the Lateran stands as a measuring tape for the growth of the Church in Rome. From the relics of the earliest papal altar to a portion of the Last Supper the Lateran houses two of the most amazing and pivotal moments of the Church which served as a springboard for the papacy and the Eucharist. In a way which no other church can claim, St. John Lateran has seen the artistic contributions from many different centuries thus connecting generations of Christians beneath one roof. The physical beauty of this church is astounding in all the symbolism, paintings and sculptures. Yet, the most beautiful contribution comes through the spiritual graces which exudes from every sacrament celebrated within its boundaries.

Seasons of the Heart

Fall

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/rakings-all-done-mike-martin.html

Some of the most glorious smells and tastes come with the season of Autumn. Apple Cider. Cinnamon scented everything. Pumpkin spiced cookies. The air outside turns from dense humid air to the crisp cool air that reinvigorates the soul and beckons one to curl up with a cup of something warm. Everything about Autumn invites us to find comfort in the richness of smells, tastes and comforts of the season.

While the world outside turns silently from lush green lawns of summer to the warm fields of Fall another change starts inside our homes. From the food on our table to the decorations hung on the fireplace or front door, our homes change with the passing seasons. The food on our table no longer holds the cool sweetness of juicy summer fruits. In their stead are large round pumpkins, squash and apples warmed to deliciousness and covered in cinnamon. The bright fun colors of summer transform to the warm rich colors of rust, orange and brown. The beautiful blossoms of spring have slowly and quietly into beautiful fruits of Fall.

The rhythm and path of our lives are very much like the changing leafs outside of our windows. Deeply rooted inside each one of us is the desire to embrace the warmth and richness of the things around us and bestow on it others. This should start with our spouse. Scripture tells us that there is a time for everything “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

What season are you in with your spouse? Perhaps you are a young couple just starting out and bursting with excitement. You are full of cute uplifting notes for your spouse and doing all the little things you know he loves. Maybe you are embarking in the hot summer months of life with three little ones hanging off your arms like monkeys and are feeling overwhelmed by the laboring in the hot sun of life. Then again, maybe you are in the Autumn of life when your children are growing before your eyes into mature, well rounded, compassionate and God-loving adults. Or, you could be in a very difficult time in your marriage when things feel stagnant, hard and frozen. But with winter comes hope for the thaw and new growth.

 Found on allthingsblog56.blogspot.com

Found on allthingsblog56.blogspot.com

No matter the season of life, there is beauty to be found in the season of our marriage. Whether we are madly in love, steadily growing, indulging in the harvest of labors in the hot summer sun or chipping away at the frost of a love stagnant for a season, inside each one of us is a fire. Here we can curl up with a comforting blanket of peace, knowing that each season will bring forth growth and beauty beyond our hopes if we only have faith in the Lord and make the choice of loving the one chosen for us.

It is up to us to bring the inner warmth to our families. Women are the more inclined nurturers. As such, we are particularly inclined to know our spouses like the back of our hands. We know what buttons to push when, what he likes and what pleases him. In this time of beautiful change I challenge you to bring the warmth of the season into your marriage. Whether it is making the favorite dish of your spouse, leaving him small notes of appreciation or making sure to kiss him every night before going to sleep, make the effort for the small things. Most of all pray for your spouse. There is nothing more powerful than prayer to nurture our love. From the small glowing embers of prayer can come a great blaze as long as we fan the flames.

A Mother’s Vision

My mom was always full of wisdom. Whenever I struggled to find my way through a situation she would come up with some great perspective. “You don’t know what they may be going through”, “Don’t throw rocks”, “You’re face is going to get stuck like that”, “Turn the other cheek”, etc. The one that stuck with me the most was, ‘Put yourself in their shoes’. For some reason, this always worked. I may not have liked seeing the other side of the story but it always made me stop and think. Almost instantly my heart would soften. Though she was wise, my mother did not come up with the phrase or wisdom on her own. Whether she knew it or not, she learned it from the rosary.

Each year the Church sets aside October as the month of the Holy Rosary. Viewed by some as an antiquated and unnescessary prayer, the rosary appears to be a monotonous Marian prayer for the beloved devotees twenty minutes before Mass; a generational prayer that has lost its functionality and potency.JPII rosary

The Saints of the Church beg to differ. One of our newest saints, Pope John Paul II, did not hide his devotion to this litany of love. During this month of his feast day I thought it appropriate to explore his document Rosarium Virginis Mariae (RVM). This document, of all his documents I believe sets the tone for Pope Saint John Paul II to unfold a small corner of the preciousness of Our Blessed Mother’s rosary to his heart and her Son Jesus.

In a sense the rosary is pocket sized Paschal Mystery. Every mystery of the rosary leads us deeper into the mystery of the Gospel and allows us to see the beauty and face of Christ.

In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son… The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son’s side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life. (RVM, 10,11)

The quiet rhythm of the rosary and the lingering pace are there to help us meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. The litany of Hail Mary’s becomes in itself a praise of Christ who is the object of Gabriel’s announcement and of Elizabeth’s greeting at the Visitation. (RVM, 18) The repetition is an outpouring of love. Just as a husband lavishes his love upon his wife with every word of affection and endearment so too, do the rosary beads lavish love on our Lord. No wife would say to their husband, “You say ‘I love you too much’, can’t you think of anything else to say?” No, we take pleasure in the words of our beloved and the reminder of their sustained love.

At the heart of the Rosary is Jesus. His Incarnation at the forefront, the fulfillment of prophesy in the middle, and His mercy of intercession at the end. The Hail Mary is not about praising Mary above Christ but praising Jesus who is with Mary.

Like a good mother, Mary uses these mysteries not just to teach what Jesus taught but to help us learn of him. (RVM, 14) Through its mysteries, Pope Saint John Paul II argues, the rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side. (RVM, 15) No creature knows Christ better than Mary. No one can lead us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than His mother. Just like if someone were to come ask you to describe your child. A mother can do this uniquely precisely because of her perspective. The details would vary between their likes, dislikes, quirks, accomplishments, virtues and qualities. We always want to give the full picture of the beauty of our children.

That is why the Rosary goes through the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries. Mary is painting the whole picture for us to see of Jesus, to attempt to convey the depth of beauty, devotion and love which Christ has for His people. These precious beads are meant to share in the joy, sorrow and glory of Christ through the eyes of Mary. Saint John Paul II once said, “The rosary is our daily meeting which neither I nor the Blessed Virgin Mary neglect.” Don’t wait to talk to your mother. She is waiting to put you in her shoes.

(Read this article also on Radiance + Grace online magazine.)

The Cross

HILL OF CROSSES in Lithuania

Hill of Crosses in Lithuania (If you have time, read about this hill at hillofcrosses.com)

Crucifixes. Whether you only have one that you received as a wedding gift or one over each doorway, the crucifix is a staple of the Catholic home. On September 14th we, as a Church, celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Some among us may shrug our shoulders. After all, the Church likes to celebrate a lot of different feasts throughout the year. What about this feast is any different?

On many of the Church’s feast days we are mourning the loss of a person but also celebrating their entrance into their heavenly reward. The Church’s feasts are almost always centered around holy persons. There are only a select few that are based on other events or holy artifacts. On this feast, we celebrate the finding of something.

What does this feast offer us spiritually? It offers us the tangibility we long for when we seek God. The crucifix is not just a symbol. The Passion of Jesus is not just a story. This Cross which we exult is the one upon which the gates of heaven were opened, the powers of Hell defeated and the Kingdom of God established on the earth through the Church. His heavenly blood spilled down the bark of this earthly tree. With heaving breaths, He gained painful seconds of life. As He hung upon this Cross, He prayed for souls, He prayed for His persecutors, forgave sins, fulfilled prophecies and bestowed the Church with the gift of His Blessed Mother.

This Cross is not simply wood. It was chosen as an instrument which touched the wounds of the Incarnate God. Its very surface absorbed the blood of Christ into its inner fibers. Upon this Cross of Christ were the world’s sins and hopes nailed. Christ did not turn His face from the world; instead, He entrusted Himself

Found on catholiccompany.com

Found on catholiccompany.com

fully. The Incarnation leads to the Cross which ultimately leads to the Resurrection. Every mystery of the rosary we pray focuses around these truths. Every torture of His Passion was one more soul saved, one more sin forgiven, and one more step to defeating death forever.

Beneath this Cross knelt His Most Sorrowful Mother. Her heart tore deeply with each drop of His Precious Blood that was spilt and each painful breath He took. Like a true mother, she suffered along with her Son yet offered it all to God. With complete surrender, Our Lady looked on as another dagger pierced her heart. Though her suffering had been foreseen by Simeon the prophet, it did not dull her anguish. Yet still, she had two more daggers to bear in the taking down from the Cross and burying of her Son. The love of Our Lady is not a shallow cove but a deep pool of joy and sorrow. In her, the words of St. Paul ring most true, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

So, why do we exalt the finding of a Cross? It is not for the sake of having some thing. It is for the sake of someone. It is for our sake that we have the physical relics of the Cross and the replicas in our homes. If there is a crucifix in our home, take time and kneel before it. Fix your gaze upon the downturned head of Jesus. Meditate on each of the wounds inflicted upon Our Lord. Allow yourself to be still in the presence of the crucifix. Speak to the Lord in His Passion and suffering. Offer to him something to alleviate His pain. Offer contrition for your sins. Pray for the salvation of your family. Pray in thanksgiving for the life he has provided.

On this feast, meditate on the Cross of Our Lord. May the words of St. Gemma resound in your heart, “It is not enough to look at the cross, or wear it, we must carry it in the depth of our heart.” Thank Him for the suffering He endured and for the events He has allowed us to venerate through the relics of His Most Sacred Cross. Take your place beneath your family’s crucifix or the one at your church. Give Him five minutes before or after Mass to be with Him, to thank Him, adore Him and praise Him.

(Article can also be found at Radiance + Grace online magazine)

The Treasure Hunt

Watching my kids play outside I can’t help but wonder how their little minds work. They jump, they climb, they make up stories about their cars and planes. Goodness knows their toys have been to more countries in their minds than I will ever visit in my entire lifetime. One of the most special times in our relationship comes when we tell the stories together. Finally, dull old mom gets to help tell the story of a great drag race or plane adventure that takes us all over the world. Of course, I always try to slip in something educational, but there is something wonderful that happens when we are both on the same page. The discovery of a common thread warms my motherly heart.

Though precious, I pray that this bond with my children will grow beyond the stories of toys and bloom into other areas as well, especially the Catholic faith. To be a part of a Church which is so rich in traditions, feast days, customs and teachings the depth of material to cover is amazing. For this journey, I look to St. Helena who shared a unique bond with her son that took her to the most sacred places on earth to recover a great treasure near to both their hearts. The treasure which was most precious to them is one in which the whole world is indebted to them for.

After Constantine’s conversion around 312 A.D. he converted his mother St. Helena. As time passed, Constantine desired to find the relics of Christ’s Passion and build a Christian church on the site. Like a good son, he sent someone he would trust to do the job right—his mother. Though she was nearly eighty years old, St. Helena agreed and journeyed to the Holy Land. The excavation led to the discovery of three crosses buried together.

Septemeber 14th is credited for being the day the True Cross was recovered and thus the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross was borne. How were they able to identify the True Cross? Many credit St. Helena with bringing forth a woman burdened with an incurable illness and had her lay upon the crosses. The one upon which she was fully cured revealed the True Cross. Others, like St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom argue that the cross could most accurately be identified by the sign which hung on Jesus’ cross. The charges were written in three languages and clearly state the to whom the charges were rendered. It is unlikely that another Jesus of Nazareth would have been executed at the same time. Also, the wood Christ was crucified on would have been black pine. (Grzegorz Gorney, Witness to Mystery:Investigations into Christ’s Relics. (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2013), 95.

After finding the Cross, St. Helena split it into three parts, one to stay in Jerusalem, another to go to Rome and the last went to Constantinople. (Gorney, 80) Upon her return to Rome St. Helena brought numerous relics, among them was half of the titulus (the sign stating the crime), one of the three nails, fragment of the Cross and sacks of earth from Golgotha to be scattered on the chapel’s floor. (Gorney, 84)

A church was commissioned in Rome and is now known as Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. To this day, a person can enter the Chapel of St. Helen built on that soil from Calvary. In the Chapel of the Relics of the Passion are housed six relics. Three fragments of the true Cross, a portion of the titulus, finger of the Apostle Thomas, a nail, two thorns, fragments from the Holy Sepulchre, the column of flagellation and the Bethlehem crib.

St. Helena and Constantine knew something about the human heart even at the beginnings of the church. Humans are tangible people. Relics of such sacredness deserved to be resurrected so that the whole world may come to know that the life of Jesus is more than a story but one that is true and beautiful. On the feast of the Exultation of the Cross let us not get complacent but gaze longingly at the Cross upon which our Savior died for the entire world.

(Article also found at Radiance + Grace Magazine )