Friday, April 29, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday



This coming Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday so I thought I would post a couple quotes from St. Faustina's Diary. These are words Jesus spoke to her:

My child, make the resolution never to rely on people. Entrust yourself completely to My will saying," Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me." These words, spoken from the depths of one's heart, can raise a soul to the summit of sanctity in a short time. In such a soul I delight. Such a soul gives Me glory. Such a soul fills heaven with the fragrance of her virtue. But understand that the strength by which you bear sufferings comes from frequent Communions. So approach this fountain of mercy often, to draw with the vessel of trust whatever you need. (1487 - Jesus to Suffering Souls)


When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart. DO not fear struggle; courage itself often intimidates temptations, and they dare not attack us. Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under control; but all merit lies in the will...Do not be unduly fearful because you are not alone. (1760)

I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You." (186 - 187)

Approach each one of the sisters with the same love with which you approach Me; and whatever you do for them, you do it for Me.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do You Need to be Set Free from Stuff?

Boxed In: Do You Need to be Set Free from Stuff? by Bryan Cones is a Lenten article, but it is relevant every day of the year. He tells of needing to store half of his belongings in a storage center while his house was being renovated.

"I lived for a year without half my things, and I never really needed them. . . Why was I keeping all this stuff? . . . As I looked at my books and papers - almost all of them from my seminary and theology school days - I was surprised by my own unacknowledged sadness. Most of that library was a collection of dreams unfulfilled . . . There was regret, disappointment, even a sense of failure that I hadn't lived up to expectations. And as long as they were there in front of me, living where I live, I wasn't going to move on."

What things are you holding onto that keep you from moving forward?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another Martha?


I was introduced to this painting, "Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus" by Diego Velazquez in the May 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic. I never thought of there being a servant at the Supper at Emmaus but it is quite likely that there was. This is a representation of an unknown woman, who like St. Martha before her, busied herself in the kitchen and served our Lord. She seems to have one ear listening to the miracle going on in the next room. She appears to want to long to take part, but her place is elsewhere. I would like to think if there was such a woman, the Lord would have reached out to her as well.

Nevertheless, this painting reminds us of the invisible ones who serve. Who has served you lately that you have failed to acknowledge or even notice?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Why I Became a Sister"

I always enjoy reading vocation stories. I like to hear how God calls people, even today, amidst all the noise of the world. We are all called in some way. We just need to pray and pay attention and be willing to say "yes" when the moment comes.

The National Catholic Register is running a great article on Why I Became a Sister

Quote from St. Teresa of Avila

This quote was sent to me by a friend today (rather unexpectedly!) but it definitely fits where I am right now:

Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you in the way you will and not as I choose. Let me die to myself so that I may serve you; let me live to you who are life itself. Amen. — St. Teresa of Avila

Monday, April 25, 2011

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers

Meg Meeker, M.D., author of "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" and "Boys Should be Boys" has now turned her attention to motherhood with The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity. I haven't had the pleasure of reading this one, but it looks intriguing.

Friendship. Simplicity. Love. Value. Faith. Solitude. Money. Fear. Hope. Purpose. Dr. Meg Meeker has seen mothers struggle with these ten issues for the past twenty-five years, and it has become her passion to help them live less stressful, happier and more fulfilling lives. Her goal in writing The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers is to show women how to reduce loneliness, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem by inspiring them to embrace more positive emotions and habits. Using inspirational stories and specific action plans, Dr. Meg shows mothers how they can live more simply, learn to make time for solitude, understand their value as mothers, embrace healthy friendships, confront their fears, seek hope, find their spiritual center, reconcile their relationships with money, and learn to live boldly and deliberately.

You can read an excerpt here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/40867932/SNEAK-PEEK-THE-TEN-HABITS-OF-HAPPY-MOTHERS-by-Meg-Meeker-M-D

Dr. Meeker also offers a free 10 Habits Toolkit on her website: http://www.megmeekermd.com/wp-content/uploads/10Habits_toolkit1.pdf

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lessons from the Newest Converts

I had the privilege of being a sponsor for an RCIA candidate at the Easter Vigil this year. My parish welcomed several individuals into the faith. Three received the sacrament of Baptism; others received First Communion and/or Confirmation. These adults provide such a powerful witness. They were excited and nervous prior to the ceremony and totally committed to what they were about to do.

I am a cradle Catholic. While I have learned intellectually about other faiths, I have never known anything else. I have certainly had times when I have struggled with sin in my life and my relationship with God has not been what it should be, but I have never been away from the faith. I never stopped going to Mass; I never stopped praying. My faith has been my strength in my darkest moments. I can’t imagine life without it; I wouldn’t want to. I consider this a blessing.

Yet, there is something to be said for the incredible decision these individuals have made. They chose the faith. They have studied for a year, considered the ramifications, and decided that the Catholic Church is something that they want to be a part of. The choice was not made for them, as it was for those of us brought up in the Catholic Church. The choice is theirs. They own it.

I do not know the stories that brought them to this day. I do not know how or when they first received the call to explore the Catholic faith; the struggles that they faced along the way; the opposition that they may have come up against. I do know that such a major life choice does not come easily. I also know that the path they have chosen is not an easy one. They have chosen “the road less traveled” and it will indeed “make all the difference” for them.

The world at large says that faith doesn’t matter; following the commandments doesn’t matter; going to Church doesn’t matter. Life is about doing what feels good at a given moment. Eternal life is rarely given more than a passing glance. These converts have decided that the world is wrong. They have chosen to make a public statement that they want to be different, to live differently.

Those of us who have always been Catholic can learn from these newest members of the Catholic faith. We can embrace their enthusiasm. These are people in love with the Catholic faith. They were so excited to receive the sacraments. While Baptism and Confirmation are one-time events, how often are we excited to receive Communion or go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Do we appreciate the miracles that we are so blessed to receive?

We can also make the choice to live fully Catholic lives. Even those of us raised in the faith need to make the adult decision to continue following it. It isn’t a one-time decision. These converts may feel that this is the end of one part of their journey – the culmination of study and discernment. Indeed, it is. It is a moment to be celebrated. But it is also a beginning. They have made the choice. They now must live their lives as Catholics. They have been called to a new way of living. Each one of us is called as well. Every day we must make the choice to be committed to our faith and to make decisions in keeping with that faith.

Please join me in welcoming and praying for all the new members of our Catholic faith. We are blessed to have them as part of our Church family!

He is Risen!

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
- John 20:1-9

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Seven Last Words of Christ

1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (John 19:26-27).

4. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me, (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).

5. I thirst (John 19:28).

6. It is finished (John 19:30).

7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Congratulations to Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom

I've been privileged to write for CatholicMom since 2004. She gave me a chance when I was a writing newbie. Lisa Hendey is a remarkable woman and I am so very happy for her!


Lisa M. Hendey, webmaster of CatholicMom.com, self-taught new media entrepreneur, and author of The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul
and the forthcoming A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, was selected from over 750 entries and invited to the Vatican for an international gathering of 150 Catholic bloggers to be held on May 2, 2011—the day after Pope John Paul II will be beatified in St. Peter’s Square.

According to website of the Vatican’s Pontifical Councils for Culture and Social Communication, the purpose of this meeting is to “allow for a dialogue between bloggers and Church representatives, to listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena, and to achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community.” This meeting reinforces the directives of Pope Benedict XVI on World Communications Day 2010, in which the Roman Pontiff challenged priests to “proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”

Upon hearing that she was selected to attend the Vatican blogger meeting, Hendey said, “I am so humbled and honored to be among the 150 bloggers selected. It was an absolute surprise. . . . I'm thrilled to have this tremendous opportunity.” Hendey intends to provide regular updates via her Twitter and Facebook profiles during the Vatican meeting and invites anyone interested to follow her on these platforms.

Hendey, who founded CatholicMom.com in 2000, began as a stay-at-home mom teaching herself web design and blogging platforms, and eventually started the renowned Catholic Moments podcast. Her site welcomed over 500,000 unique visitors to its thriving online community in 2010; these numbers represents visits from people in nearly 200 countries.

Hendey is committed to serving Catholic moms through new media technologies and stated, “Moms who work full time, who parent on their own, who home school children, or who spend time volunteering can connect and learn from each other, pray for each other, and celebrate the beauty of our faith with each other. As the technology continues to grow and evolve, so does our commitment to using it as a Church to care for the faithful.”

Based in Fresno, California, Hendey routinely leads workshops and lectures around the country, encouraging Catholic moms in their vocations and teaching priests, diocesan and parish staff, and lay ministers how to integrate new media technologies into their ministries.

Pray a Rosary on Good Friday

This was forwarded to me today. Sounds like a great idea.

Imagine what might happen if every Catholic in the world would pray a
Rosary on the same day! We have an example in October of 1573, when
Europe was saved from the invasion of the mighty Turkish fleet, by the
praying of the Rosary by all Christians!

So, on Good Friday, let us all pray a Rosary for peace in the world and
the return of moral values into our communities. If possible, please
pray your Rosary between Noon and 3:00pm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Divine Mercy Novena

Jesus asked that the Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday. He gave St. Faustina an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said:

"These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.' The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy."

In her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her:

"On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy ... On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls."

The different souls prayed for on each day of the novena are:

DAY 1 (Good Friday) - All mankind, especially sinners

DAY 2 (Holy Saturday) - The souls of priests and religious

DAY 3 (Easter Sunday) - All devout and faithful souls

DAY 4 (Easter Monday) - Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him

DAY 5 (Easter Tuesday) - The souls of separated brethren

DAY 6 (Easter Wednesday) - The meek and humble souls and the souls of children

DAY 7 (Easter Thursday) - The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy

DAY 8 (Easter Friday) - The souls who are detained in purgatory;

DAY 9 (Easter Saturday) - The souls who have become lukewarm.

Divine Mercy Chaplet

In 1933, God gave Sister Faustina a striking vision of His Mercy,
Sister tells us:

"I saw a great light, with God the Father in the midst of it.
Between this light and the earth I saw Jesus nailed to the Cross
and in such a way that God, wanting to look upon the earth, had to
look through Our Lord's wounds and I understood that God blessed
the earth for the sake of Jesus."

Of another vision on Sept. 13, 1935, she writes:

"I saw an Angel, the executor of God's wrath... about to strike
the earth...I began to beg God earnestly for the world with words
which I heard interiorly. As I prayed in this way, I saw the
Angel's helplessness, and he could not carry out the just
punishment...."

The following day an inner voice taught her to say this prayer on
ordinary rosary beads:

"First say one 'Our Father', 'Hail Mary', and 'I believe'. Then on
the large beads say the following words:

'Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity
of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement
for our sins and those of the whole world.'

On the smaller beads you are to say the following words:

'For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the
whole world.'

In conclusion you are to say these words three times:

'Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us
and on the whole world'.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Holy Week for New Mothers

I read this article when it first came out in 2008 in U.S. Catholic : Baby's First Holy Week - I think it is one that most mothers of young children can relate to. I know that I didn't get to go to Holy Week services for five years after my children were born (except for Easter Sunday).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recognizing the Signs of Asperger's Syndrome

April is Autism Awareness Month. As some of you may be aware, my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome about a year ago, shortly before he turned nine years old. Asperger’s Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum. It is sometimes referred to as “High Functioning Autism.”

Autism is well-known. Like most parents, I knew to look for the signs when my children were young. Did they respond to other people? Did they have appropriate verbal skills? Were they affectionate? My answer was “yes” on all counts. I therefore never considered autism as a possible diagnosis for my “different” child. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on trying to understand and help him. I came up empty. His diagnosis came as a surprise, but it has been wonderful to be able to learn and understand why he is the way he is. I love my son. Asperger’s is not a definition of who he is – simply part of the package.

It is important to note that Asperger’s is not a disease to be cured. It is a brain difference. People with Asperger’s are simply wired differently. Various therapies and educational modifications can help them learn to function as “normally” as possible in the world at large and to manage their stress.

I am not an expert in Asperger’s Syndrome. Only a mental health professional can make a diagnosis. Over the course of the past year, however, I have done a great deal of reading on the subject. I write from my personal experience in the hopes of educating other parents to the signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, both so they might recognize the signs in their own children and be understanding of other parents whose children may be on the spectrum.

As with all levels of Autism, no two children with Asperger’s are alike. Many appear totally normal and will simply seem a bit “odd” in their behavior until they are faced with a stressful situation. Yet, most will exhibit some of the following characteristics:

Difficulty in social situations – they have a hard time “reading” other people. They may seek other people out, but they tend to stay focused on what they want to talk about as opposed to the reciprocal give and take of a normal conversation. Many have difficulty with eye contact. Some have a robot-like tone to their speech.

Repetitive routines
– enjoyment of doing the same things over and over.

Odd body movements – clumsiness and/or repetitive body movements, especially when experiencing stress.

Resistance to new situations – new situations can be terrifying. They prefer the familiar. They frequently experience high anxiety.

Rigid thinking – there is one way to do things. Any deviance from that causes stress.
Catastrophic thinking – there is no bright-side. The worse-case scenario is this first (and often the only) one thought of.

Emotional melt-downs – stress causes complete emotional melt-downs which may feature crying, screaming, and lashing out.

Sensory sensitivity
– picky eaters, dislike of certain clothing, noises, etc. Extreme sensitivity to physical discomfort.

Fixated interests – often have one area of interest that they will engage in/talk about for long periods of times.

If you recognize several of the above symptoms in your own child, I would encourage you to speak with your pediatrician or seek a mental health evaluation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

To Serve and Be Served

The scripture readings during the course of Holy Week offer several examples of service. On Holy Thursday, there is the beautiful image of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles (John 13:1-15). Here is the Son of God bending low to remove the dirt from his follower’s feet. He instructs his followers: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

On Good Friday, we walk the way of the cross with Jesus, and witness the service of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21). Simon was pressed into service to help Jesus carry the cross. It may not have been willing service. In fact, Simon may have regarded himself as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet serve he did. After the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body so that he may bury him in his own tomb (John 19:38). Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome hurry to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath is over in order to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1). These, too, are examples of service.

Most of us understand that we need to be of service to others. Sometimes, like Jesus, we do so willingly. Other times we are more like Simon of Cyrene and perform our duty somewhat reluctantly, perhaps even with a tad bit of resentment. Still, we serve.

If we are serving, however, then someone else is being served. In Scripture, Jesus not only serves. When He is in need, He allows himself to be served. If you are anything like me, you might find that to be the harder part of the serving equation. I am happy to serve (at least most of the time). I try to do what I can to help other people. I find it incredibly difficult, on the other hand, to allow someone else to serve me. I am much more like Peter at the Last Supper, protesting to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” (John 1:8)

I know I can’t do everything alone. Without question, I need God’s help. I pray daily for it and can’t imagine life without His assistance. It’s having other people help me that makes me cringe. I like to be self-sufficient. Stuck in my pride, I’m like a three-year-old stubbornly insisting “I can do it myself.”

I have gotten a little better with age. I’m still reluctant to ask for help, but if it is offered, I do try to accept gracefully. I have come to understand that other people need to serve as well, and sometimes it is OK if I am the beneficiary of that service. Indeed, I am thankful for it. We all need each other in this world. As important as it is to serve, it is also important to allow oneself to be served. Sometimes, that can be the harder lesson to learn.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What are Your Choices Adding up to?

The April 10, 2011 issue of National Catholic Register features an interview with filmmaker Roland Joffe, director of "There Be Dragons." One of the characters in the movie is St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. Joffe declares himself to be agnostic, but he has a profound respect for Escriva. He states:

"When you think about a saint you're not really thinking about a sort of continuum. You're thinking about lots of acts - lots of times when different things could have been chosen, but certain things were. So, I felt with Josemaria's life, what I was looking at was a series of choices. And if you imagine those like beads on a necklace, you could say that after many choices have been made, this man was a saint. But eit was each individual act that counts."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What are the stones you use?

We have all heard and perhaps said that old ditty - "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." And we all know it isn't true. Words have tremendous power to cut to the soul. The pain can last much longer than a physical injury. What are the words you use? Do they build people up or tear them down? What are the names you call yourself? Do you harm yourself with your own "stones?"

This is an excerpt from Sr. Joyce Rupp's reflection in today's Living Faith. She was reflecting on the following passage: "So they picked up stones to throw at him" - John 8:59

Descriptions such as "weird, worthless, loser, dimwit, bum" and other unseemly labels are hurtful stones. Each negative remark becomes a harmful projectile thrown at the Body of Christ. In this season of Lent when we renew our efforts to be Christ-like, let us be intentional about putting down our stones.

"Why God Matters" wins Book of the Year Award!


I'm pleased to announce that Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life by Karina Fabian and her father Deacon Steve Lumbert won the Christian Small Publisher Association Book of the Year under the Christian Living category. I had the privilege of reviewing this book a while back. I'm reprinting the review here for your convenience and to help spread the word about this wonderful publication. Congratulations Karina and Steve!

Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life
by Deacon Steven Lumbert & Karina Lumbert Fabian
Tribute Books, 2010

"Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life" is designed for those just beginning to take their faith life more seriously. Deacon Steven Lumbert and his daughter Karina Lumbert Fabian share stories and lessons learned from their own spiritual journeys in the hope of helping others. Deacon Lumbert tells of his own conversion experience. After years of attending Mass with his Catholic wife and children, he was in his 40s when he finally decided to take the big step of becoming Catholic himself. That road would eventually lead him to becoming a deacon. Today, he is the associate director of the Deacon Formation Program for his diocese. Karina speaks from both the perspective of daughter and mother. They both speak of the importance of seeing Christianity as a way of life. They offer this quote from 1 Corinthians 10:31 as words to live by: "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

Perhaps the most important lesson of this small book is that God is always working in people's lives, calling them to a deeper relationship with Him. This holds true in Deacon Lambert's journey. Karina's husband is also a convert. She shares the need to have faith in this when guiding our children's faith lives. Her oldest son doesn't believe. While trusting "that faith comes in its own time," she "respect[s] his right to make his own decision, but insist[s] that he respect the family by accompanying us to Mass and participating in the customs of our faith. In the meantime, I pray for him, especially the Anima Christi, and I make small sacrifices on his behalf. When I feel despair creep in on me, I remember his father and his grandfather, and I trust in God that he will eventually find his way. . . There is a time for apologetics. There is a time for education. Always, however, is the time for example." That is something for all of us to remember.

"Why God Matters" is a perfect dose of encouragement for those seeking a deeper relationship with God. Deacon Lumbert and Karina Fabian offer practical and helpful advice and inspiration.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Pro-Life Women's Center in Western Mass

Part of being pro-life is supporting centers that offer support to women experiencing crisis pregnancies. A new center is opening in Western Massachusetts just three minutes from our local Planned Parenthood Office. To support this non-profit organization, please donate or write to:

New Women's Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 562
Wilbraham, MA 01095
rosemarymckeever@gmail.com

NFP Classes Online

I know in my geographic area we have no Natural Family Planning (NFP) teachers. I'm sure there are many other people in the same situation. Or, perhaps you simply can't get out of the house to take an in-person NFP class. In any event, I was very excited to find out that the Couple to Couple League offers on-line classes. You can find out more at Home Study Course

While I was perusing their site, I also saw that they offer books dealing with NFP when it is difficult to chart (i.e. during breastfeeding and premenopause). Visit their Manuals page for more information.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Holiness is Always in Season

I saw Holiness Is Always in Season advertised in the Ignatius Spring Catalog. Anything by Pope Benedict XVI is well-worth reading and this looks like a great book.

For a Christian, the way to reach perfection is to strive for holiness. What is true perfection? Christ's words are clear, sublime and disconcerting: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." To have God as our model is a dizzying thought! Yet the Church reminds us that, "All the faithful, whatever their condition or state in life, are called by the Lord to that perfect holiness."

The Church teaches us that holiness is not the concern of a privileged few, nor does it only pertain to Christians of the past. Holiness is always a call to every Christian of every age, a challenge for anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Pope Benedict XVI says: "Holiness never goes out of fashion; on the contrary, with the passage of time it shines out ever more brightly, expressing man's perennial effort to reach God." Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote: "Holiness is not something for the extraordinary; it is not a luxury of the few. Holiness is the simple duty for each one of us."

The saints are our models and teachers in the ways of holiness. They show us that holiness is possible for us, since they experienced the same difficulties and weaknesses we do, yet persevered in achieving sanctity. The world of saints is a world of wonders, and in this book Pope Benedict XVI helps us to enter into that world.

This inspiring volume presents the Pope's numerous reflections on many saints arranged according to the calendar year. He shows how the life of each saint has something unique to teach us about virtue, faith, courage and love of Christ. Dozens of saints are covered in this wonderful spiritual book. The Pope exhorts us through their lives, "Be holy! Be saints!"


Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: "The Invisible World"


The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities That Surround Us

by Anthony Destefano
New York: Doubleday, 2011

In writing “The Invisible World- Understanding Angels, Demons, and the Spiritual Realities that Surround Us,” Anthony Destefano sought to “try to make the invisible realities that surround us just a little more visible.” To do so, he stays away from the anecdotes so common in most books about angels, demons, and the life after this one. Instead, he relies on “solid theology, informed by common sense and logic, and backed up by Biblical scholarship and the universal teaching of the Christian Church over the past two thousand years.” This is what makes this work such a valuable resource.

Destefano explores the role of angels and demons and why they continue to battle over our souls. Demons want desperately to hurt God, but they can’t hurt God Himself. Therefore, they instead try to “hurt that which bears the image of God. . . In other words, you do everything you can to hurt those miserable, fallen, and inferior creatures known as human beings. . . If the demons can persuade us to turn against God, that represents the only ‘victory’ they can ever achieve against the one whom they despise so much.” The angels, on the other hand, are there to help us. They “have a mission to accomplish – our ultimate salvation – and that’s what they spend their time focusing on.”

Destefano also examines the importance of free will and the choices we make. He also emphasizes the importance of putting God first in our lives. Even good things can be held up as idols. “If God is anything but number one in your life, then your priorities are screwed up – period. Knowing that, the devil’s primary objective is always to get you to set up ‘false idols,’ and thereby relegate God to the number two position in your life . . . or even better, get him off the list completely.”
The importance of pain and suffering and the incredible power of grace in our lives are also discussed in depth. Heaven and hell, personal and final judgment are also discussed.

Destefano is Catholic, but aims his books at a wider Christian audience. In his own words, “I try to take the CS Lewis approach, and write books which focus on those beliefs all Christians have in common.” Therefore, he does speak about the importance of God’s forgiveness but does not discuss the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the same vein, his discussion of heaven and hell includes no mention of Purgatory. He does, however, encourage the very Catholic practice of “offering pain up” in order to help others.

He largely aims his books at those who are not currently practicing their Christian faith in the hopes of encouraging them to return. This being noted, “The Invisible World” is also of great value to committed Christians and Catholics. It will help you set priorities in your life and focus on eternal , rather than solely temporal realities. It will help you understand the importance of the decisions you make, and hopefully make better decisions as a result.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Value of Pain in the Spiritual Life

The Gospel for this week (John 11:1-45) shows Martha, a dear friend of Jesus, in great pain. Her brother Lazarus has just died and she holds Jesus accountable. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Still, she trusts that He can make it right. “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus listens to her pain and allows Martha to experience her own suffering. He doesn’t discount or dismiss her feelings. Her faith is rewarded and her brother is brought back to life.

Today, I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Mark Stelzer, S.T.D. preach on the topic of pain and the spiritual life. He began his homily by stating that “pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth.” That can be a very hard statement to accept.

Fr. Mark acknowledged that we all experience pain of various forms in our lives. The sources of our pain are many: the absence of what we most desire, the end of a friendship or a romantic relationship, the loss of someone we love through death, illness, addiction, or unemployment. Yet, we have been taught from a young age to avoid it as much as possible. Our first inclination is usually to run from pain. If we can’t remove the source of the pain, we seek distractions. We do whatever we can not to think about it. We can also turn to more destructive means of coping such as drugs or alcohol.

When we are in pain, we often get angry – at others, at ourselves, and at God. Then we feel guilty for being angry. This is a no-win situation. In addition, if we do not pay attention to our pain and process it, it will always resurface. “What we don’t resolve, we only repeat.”

Fr. Mark asked us to take a different approach with our pain. What if instead of running from our pain, we paid attention to it? What if we listened to our pain “to know what God is saying to us?” What if we acknowledged that our pain, whatever its source, is not the final word? What if we trusted that even in the midst of our pain, God loves us and is working in us?

Christian writer Anthony Destefano also emphasizes the important role pain plays in our spiritual life. In “The Invisible World,” Destefano states that “the main reason God permits suffering is because he knows He can change it – somehow, in some way – into a greater good.” In suffering, we have the opportunity to die to ourselves. “The old self has to be willing to give way to the new self.” It is in the moments of the deepest pain that we grow and mature as human beings, but to do that we have to be willing to face the pain and experience it. We can’t run.

Destefano continues, “When Christ used suffering to save the world, he transformed it into a weapon to combat evil. It’s because Christ united himself to our suffering that we can now unite our suffering to him and use it to help others.” He encourages us to offer our suffering up in order to help others.

No one enjoys pain, but it has an important role to play in our spiritual development. If we ignore or bury the pain, we will never reap the benefit of it. St. Faustina once wrote: “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.” (Diary, 1804) We need to trust that our pain and suffering has value and serves a higher purpose even when we don’t understand.

For those interested in hearing Fr. Mark Stelzer speak, he will be continuing his lenten mission at Holy Name Church at 323 Dickinson Street, Springfield, MA 01108 April 11th and 12th at 5:30 pm.

YOUCAT - Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church


YOUCAT is short for Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, which will be launched on World Youth Day. Developed with the help of young Catholics and written for high-school age people and young adults, YOUCAT is an accessible, contemporary expression of the Catholic Faith. The appealing graphic format includes Questions-and-Answers, highly-readable commentary, summary definitions of key terms, Bible citations and inspiring and thought-provoking quotes from Saints and others in the margins. What's more, YOUCAT is keyed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so people can go deeper. It explains:

* What Catholics believe and why (doctrine)
* How Catholics celebrate the mysteries of the faith (sacraments)
* How Catholics are to live (moral life)
* How they should pray (prayer and spirituality)

The questions are direct and honest, even at times tough; the answers straightforward, relevant, and compelling. YOUCAT will likely become the "go-to" place for young people to learn the truth about the Catholic faith. Illustrated.

What Pope Benedict XVI has to say about the YOUCAT project:

"Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance. Make a sacrifice of your time for it! Study it in the quiet of your room; read it with a friend; form study groups and networks; share with each other on the Internet. By all means continue to talk with each other about your faith."

"This book is exciting because it speaks of our own destiny and so deeply engages every one of us."

"You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination."

Friday, April 08, 2011

Book Review: "A Willing Heart"


A Willing Heart: How to Serve When You Think You Can't
by Marci Alborghetti
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

What does it mean to practice Christian service? Do we really love Jesus if we ignore His frequent exhortation to service? How do we open ourselves to the God-given grace that makes service possible? These are the questions Marci Alborghetti sets out to answer in “A Willing Heart: How to Serve When You Think You Can’t.”

Jesus instructs us to “love our enemies.” How can we possibly love someone we don’t even like? Alborghetti states that “we must think of love as an act of will, an action we take and not a feeling that overwhelms us – a verb and not a noun. . . The best way to actually love is through service.” Alborghetti goes on to explore the many forms that service can take and ways to make it a natural part of life.

Service can (and should) be a family activity. Children who see their parents engaging in service will soon incorporate it into their own lives. Prayer is an important form of service in itself. An easy way to begin incorporating service into one’s life is to choose one person in need to pray for each day. Prayer also “strengthens and prepares us for active service.”

We need to allow God to choose who we serve. While we may have inclinations about where we would like to serve, “we must follow where God leads us when it comes to service, even when we are uncertain about the results or have no expectation.” God will both stretch our comfort zones as well as teach us valuable lessons. “No one is off-limits. We are not allowed to reject anyone.”

Alborghetti also discusses how to cope when we are tired and worn out by service. She acknowledges the need to rest from time to time, but emphasizes that God will provide the grace we need to persevere.

“A Willing Heart” is full of inspiration and practical advice. It will help readers progress in their ability and willingness to serve.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Litany of Humility

I read an article in the National Catholic Register today that referenced the "Litany of Humility." I had never heard of it, so I searched and found it:


O Jesus meek and humble of heart, hear me

From the desire of being esteemed.........Deliver Me Jesus

From the desire of being loved.............Deliver me Jesus

From the desire of being extolled ..........Deliver me Jesus

From the desire of being honored..............Deliver me Jesus

From the desire of being praised......... Deliver me Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred.........Deliver me Jesus

From the desire of being consulted...........Deliver me Jesus

From the desire of being approved.............Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being humiliated.........Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being despised............Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of suffering rebukes..............Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being calumniated...........Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being forgotten................ Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being ridiculed..............Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being wronged............Deliver me Jesus

From the fear of being suspected...........Deliver me Jesus

That others may be loved more than I..........Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may be esteemed more than I ................Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease..............Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may be chosen and I set aside............Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may be praised and I unnoticed............Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may became as holy as I should.......................Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen and Amen

Imprimatur James A McNulty Bishop of Paterson NJ

How to Help an Artist

Have you ever wanted to be a patron for an artist, but didn't know how to help? This free short ebook gives many good suggestions. It makes some great suggestions for artists as well on how to get the help that they need:

How to Help Artists

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Pope on St. Therese

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about St. Therese today:

In his general audience in St. Peter's Square on April 6th, attended by more than 10,000 people, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, "who lived in this world for only twenty-four years at the end of the nineteenth century, leading a very simple and hidden life, but who, after her death and the publication of her writings, became one of the best-known and loved saints".

"Little Therese", the Pope continued, "never failed to help the most simple souls, the little ones, the poor and the suffering who prayed to her, but also illuminated all the Church with her profound spiritual doctrine, to the point that the Venerable John Paul II, in 1997, granted her the title of Doctor of the Church ... and described her as an 'expert in scientia amoris'. Therese expressed this science, in which all the truth of the faith is revealed in love, in her autobiography 'The Story of a Soul', published a year after her death".

Therese was born in 1873 in Alencon, France. She was the youngest of the nine children of Louis and Zelie Martin, and was beatified in 2008. Her mother died when she was four years old, and Therese later suffered from a serious nervous disorder from which she recovered in 1886 thanks to what she later described as "the smile of the Virgin". In 1887 she made a pilgrimage to Rome with her father and sister, where she asked Leo XIII for permission to enter Carmel of Lisieux, at just fifteen years of age. Her wish was granted a year later; however, at the same time her father began to suffer from a serious mental illness, which led Therese to the contemplation of the Holy Face of Christ in his Passion. In 1890 she took her vows. 1896 marked the beginning of a period of great physical and spiritual suffering, which accompanied her until her death.

In those moments, "she lived the faith at its most heroic, as the light in the shadows that invade the soul" the Pope said. In this context of suffering, living the greatest love in the littlest things of daily life, the Saint realized her vocation of becoming the love at the heart of the Church".

She died in the afternoon of 30 September, 1897, uttering the simple words, "My Lord, I love You!". "These last words are the key to all her doctrine, to her interpretation of the Gospel", the Pope emphasized. "The act of love, expressed in her final breath, was like the continued breathing of the soul ... The words 'Jesus, I love You' are at the centre of all her writings".

St. Therese is "one of the 'little ones' of the Gospel who allow themselves to be guided by God, in the depth of His mystery. A guide for
all, especially for... theologians. With humility and faith, Therese continually entered the heart of the Scriptures which contain the Mystery of Christ. This reading of the Bible, enriched by the science of love, does not oppose academic science. The 'science of the saints', to which she refers on the final page of 'The Story of a Soul', is the highest form of science".

"In the Gospel, Therese discovers above all the Mercy of Jesus ... and 'Trust and Love' are therefore the end point of her account of her life, two words that, like beacons, illuminated her saintly path, in order to guide others along the same 'little way of trust and love', of spiritual childhood. Her trust is like that of a child, entrusting herself to the hands of God, and inseparable from her strong, radical commitment to the true love that is the full giving of oneself", the Holy Father concluded.


From the Vatican Information Service

Exciting News about Sophia Institute Press

Sophia Institute Press announced today that the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Holy Spirit College (Atlanta, GA) have formed a collaborative partnership to preserve and oversee the continuing operations of Sophia Institute Press.

While Sophia Institute Press will remain as an independent non-profit organization, it will now be recognized as the publishing division of these two institutions.

Gareth Genner, President of Holy Spirit College, will serve as Chairman of the Board, while Thomas More College President William Fahey will oversee the day-to-day operations and serve as its President and Publisher. Sophia’s Board of Directors will be comprised of an equal number of representatives from each college.

“This is one of the most unique and exciting partnerships in modern Catholic publishing,” said outgoing publisher John Barger. “I am thrilled to know that Sophia’s mission will maintain its integrity through a partnership between two of the most faithfully Catholic colleges in the country.”

The concept of collaboration was the brainchild of Gareth Genner, who has served on Sophia’s board for two years.

“It made sense,” said Genner. “In this economic climate, institutions with similar missions must work together to advance their common interests. In this case, we have three institutions all committed to spreading the Gospel of Christ and promoting the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. This arrangement allows us to leverage the strengths of each institution and more effectively answer the Church’s call for a New Evangelization.”

William Fahey agreed, saying, “Gareth and I have collaborated on projects in the past to the fruitful benefit of each institution and its students. Our collaboration on Sophia is our biggest venture yet, but it has already resulted in putting 32 books back into print, and we have begun to stabilize the press in just a few weeks time.”

Both presidents indicated their longstanding affection for John Barger and the mission of Sophia Institute Press.

“John has done a remarkable job publishing so many beautiful Catholic books over the years,” said Fahey. “Sophia’s books had a tremendous impact on me and on my own Catholic formation. I am eager to play a role in keeping these resources available for those who desire to grow in their faith as well as for those who are in the early stages of discerning truth.”

“Our culture needs, now more than ever, books that lead souls to Christ and to His Church,” said Genner. “Sophia is among just a few publishing houses that accomplish this in such an organized, aggressive fashion. I am honored to be a part of its restoration.”

Founded in 1983, Sophia Institute Press publishes Catholic classics and new texts by the great and enduring figures of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Over the last 25 years, Sophia has published over 200 titles and disseminated 2.5 million books worldwide to hundreds of thousands of individuals, bookstores, and educational institutions.

With the help of Holy Spirit College and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Sophia Institute Press will strengthen its marketing department, and extend its reach into bookstores, institutions, homeschool groups, parishes, and other Catholic markets.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Can We Trust God To Give Us What We Desire?

Marc Cardaronella has a very interesting post up: Can We Trust God to Give Us What We Desire?

I admit this is something I have really struggled with throughout my life. God has certainly answered some of my deepest desires, but only after long waits (I have found that seven years has a certain significance in my life - I seem to have to want something for that long, come to the acceptance that it isn't going to happen and realize that I need to make the best of my current situation before God grants the desire). Others he seems to have slammed the door shut on (Yes, I know - anything is possible with God and no one knows what the future might hold.)

As Mark suggests, I do pray every day to do God's will and ask for his help with the desires of my heart. I do try to trust that God knows better than I do what I need, and that in denying or delaying my desires he is teaching me a valuable lesson (even if I don't realize it until many years later.)Sometimes, however, the trusting is very hard.

Dear God, please help me to trust in you.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thoughts on Service

I'm currently reading A Willing Heart: How to Serve When You Think You Can'tby Marci Alborghetti which is providing much food for thought. Here are a few quotes from the book:

"If we are to love those we don't like, we must think of love as an act of will, an action we take and not a feeling that overwhelms us - a verb and not a noun."

"Grace is God's way of making to possible to accept this invitation to serve, and grace is what gives us the knowledge that God will protect us and guide us as we serve."

"Service starts with prayer, particularly when we are uncertain about how - or whether - to take action. . . Prayer is a contemplative form of service that strengthens and prepares us for active service."

"Sometimes in order to not give up on ourselves, or others, or service, we will need to 'act as if.' This is another way to persevere."

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Scriptural Way of the Cross

My original intent when sitting down to write tonight was to reflect on the image of Jesus falling under the weight of the cross in the Stations of the Cross. In the traditional Stations, Jesus falls three times. I think most of us can relate to that image. This Lent, that is the image I can most relate to. My personal cross feels very heavy and I am struggling under the strain, trying to find the resolve to keep going. I take comfort in the idea that Jesus struggled as well.

However, as I did some research to further develop this reflection, I came across a fact that I was not aware of – there are actually two approved sets of Stations of the Cross. The traditional Stations of the Cross firmly established since the 1700s have some basis in Scripture, but not all the stations are scripturally based. Pope John Paul II established a Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday 1991 and used them several times during his papacy. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved this set of stations for meditation and public celebration.

The Vatican website offers the following statement:

With the biblical Way of the Cross the intention was not to change the traditional text, which remains fully valid, but quite simply to highlight a few «important stations» which in the textus receptus are either absent or in the background. And indeed this only emphasises the extraordinary richness of the Way of the Cross which no schema can ever fully express.

The biblical Way of the Cross sheds light on the tragic role of the various characters involved, and the struggle between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, which they embody. They all participate in the mystery of the Passion, taking a stance for or against Jesus, the «sign of contradiction» (Lk 2, 34), and thus revealing their hidden thoughts with regard to Christ.

Making the Way of the Cross, we, the followers of Jesus, must declare once more our discipleship: weeping like Peter for sins committed; opening our hearts to faith in Jesus the suffering Messiah, like the Good Thief; remaining there at the foot of the Cross of Christ like the Mother and the Disciple, and there with them receiving the Word which redeems, the Blood which purifies, the Spirit which gives life.

http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/documents/ns_lit_doc_via-crucis_en.htm

The traditional Stations of the Cross are as follows:
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus is given his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His Mother
5. Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His garments
11. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus' body is removed from the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
15. The Resurrection

The Scriptural version, including the Scriptural reference, are as follows:
1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-41
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested Mark 14: 43-46
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin Luke 22: 66-71
4. Jesus is denied by Peter Matthew 26: 69-75
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate Mark 15: 1-5, 15
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns John 19: 1-3
7. Jesus takes up His cross John 19: 6, 15-17
8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry His cross Mark 15: 21
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem Luke 23: 27-31
10. Jesus is crucified Luke 23: 33-34
11. Jesus promises His kingdom to the repentant thief Luke 23: 33-34
12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other John 19: 25-27
13. Jesus dies on the cross Luke 23: 44-46
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb Matthew 27: 57-60

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a set of reflections and prayers to use with these stations at http://www.usccb.org/nab/stations.shtml.

Friday, April 01, 2011

When Our Crosses Seem Like Too Much to Bear

This passage from Pausing To Pray Lenten Meditations for Busy People truly resonated with me today. The text in bold is from Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul . The reflection is by Fr. Leszek Czelusniak.

And when it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength, contemplate My wounds, and you will rise above human scorn and judgment. Meditation on My Passion will help you rise above all things. (1184)

What do I have to do? What is my mission, my vocation? I have to look for Your will, Jesus. You want to show me that Your plan and your provisions are the best things I could ever have. Your life, dear Jesus, is my best example: You came to do the will of the Father, that was your mission. Such a difficult mission! Yet you prayed for the Father's will, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When my crosses seem more than I can bear, let me look to You with trust and echo, "Thy will be done."