Friday, April 28, 2017

The Angelus - Rediscover an Ancient Prayer

My knowledge of the Angelus prayer was minimal at best before reading Praying the Angelus by Jared Dees (Ave Maria Press, 2017). I doubt that I am alone in that regard. Dees, a high school theology teacher, describes his own confusion when first listening to the Angelus in Latin when in Rome and then learning about the prayer from a priest in his parish who was guest teaching in his religious education program. 

This was the start of a transformative personal journey for the author in which he would begin incorporating the prayer, offered at six a.m., noon, and six p.m. each day, into his daily routine. The fruits of that experience led him to want to share this beautiful devotion with others.

The Angelus is a prayer in honor of Our Blessed Mother and the moment of the Incarnation. According to Dees, it “originated in the Middle Ages as a devotional practice for laypeople living near the great monasteries of Europe to help them follow the prayer example of those who lived monastic lives.” During Easter, the Regina Caeli is prayed in place of the Angelus “as a prayer of praise to God for the Resurrection.”

Dees shares the history of both of these prayers as well as provides a line by line explanation and reflection for each line of the prayers.

Whether or not one ultimately chooses to incorporate the Angelus into one’s daily devotions, Dees’ discussion of the value of repetitive prayer is worth reading and pondering. Being committed to a structured daily prayer practice which requires you to interrupt your day with prayer at regularly scheduled intervals has the power to transform your life. He also makes some important observations about the value of devotions in passing the Catholic faith down to our children. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Turning in Circles - A Tragic Cautionary Tale

Michelle Buckman is known for her finely crafted works of Catholic fiction. This latest offering continues that tradition. Two of the characters in “Turning in Circles” were inspired by other creative works. “Beard” was inspired by Dolly Parton’s song “Joshua” while Ellerbe DePaul finds his roots in Earl Hammer’s John-Boy Walton. As a result, I couldn’t help but picture him as Richard Thomas from “The Waltons” television program while I was reading.

That being said, this tragic story is primarily about two sisters, Savannah and Charleston, who live in a small Southern town and are only ten months apart in age. When Charleston begins to court the attention of Dillon Smith, a known bully and troublemaker, it sets in motion a string of bad choices that build one onto another, leading down a treacherous road. 

This is a thought-provoking cautionary tale of the way sin and self-inflicted pain can subtly enter our lives and then become a trap we can’t escape. 

Savannah, the narrator, is mainly a bystander, watching her sister’s spiral, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Yet, she too feels complicit, wondering if she could have made different choices and created a different ending. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Divine Mercy Novena Starts on Good Friday

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. 

During the Solemn Novena leading to Divine Mercy Sunday,
the Chaplet of Divine Mercy should be offered each day for the
day's intentions.

Read the full text of the petitions at:

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Where Did You Find God Today?

Several years ago, I had a spiritual director who encouraged me to reflect on the following question: “Where did you find God today?” That is the question at the heart of Andy Otto’s new book, God Moments (Ave Maria Press, 2017).

Otto, who has a master’s degree in theology and ministry, is a Catholic writer, speaker, blogger, spiritual director, and podcaster who teaches theology and is the campus minister at Mercy High School in Red Bluff, California. He spent almost three years as a Jesuit seminarian before discerning he was called to marriage. In this book, he seeks to share Ignatian spirituality based on awareness of God’s presence, the importance of prayer, and discernment of our vocation and important life decisions.

God has given each one of us good things and can and does use our encounters with the everyday to speak to us. God can speak to us through other people, things we read, and the beauty of creation. He can even speak to us in the messiness of life, in those difficult moments we would rather not endure.
In order to be aware of these encounters and fully appreciate them, we must engage in prayer and rest in God’s love. “Making self-reflection and prayer a daily pattern can move us toward the human beings God wants us to be.”

Only once we have prayed and tuned into God’s movement in our lives can we truly discern what God wants us to do. “Discernment is a form of decision-making that involves God’s desires and my desires.” Otto emphasizes that discernment is for choosing between two morally good choices. He also acknowledges that “sometimes we have to decide to give up on our desires because there are more important things happening.” In those instances, God can help us discover a new dream. 

Sometimes, discernment requires a great act of courage. “Courage allows us to dive in and take a risk trusting that God has a hand stretched out and is saying, ‘Don’t worry – I’ve got your back.’”

God Moments is particularly relevant for younger adults who are still trying to figure out where God might be calling them in terms of vocation, but Otto’s work also serves as a reminder for the rest of us to look for God in our everyday lives. God Moments is recommended for anyone seeking to be more aware of God’s movement in his or her life. 

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