Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 tips for your spiritual life from 2013

File:Antonello da Messina - The Virgin Mary Reading - Walters 37433.jpg
The Virgin Mary Reading by Walters. Here are the posts
from 2013 she might recommend to you.



'Tis the season for reviewing the old year. How did you advance towards God this year? Do you remember those blog posts that really struck you at the time, or have you forgotten them? Here are some reminders of how you can grow closer to Christ, taken from my blog posts over the past year.

1. Read the Gospels
If you want to advance towards God, you must learn to love Him. Read what He revealed about Himself. Need more motivation to read Scripture?
Here are 10 Reasons Catholics should read the Bible.

2. Stop making excuses for missing prayer
You’re not going to grow closer to Christ if you aren’t willing to make sacrifices to spend time with Him.
Read 7 Ways to make time for prayer.

3. Ponder God’s Word in your heart
This follows from #s 1 and 2. It’s a particularly Carmelite way of honoring Mary.
See Mary pondered all these things–do you?

4. Choose to become a saint
St. Thomas Aquinas told his sister that the way to become a saint is to will it.
See the details: Can you become a saint by sheer will power?


Read the rest of the list at Contemplative Homeschool.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Give God your widow's mite

File:Brooklyn Museum - The Widow's Mite (Le denier de la veuve) - James Tissot.jpg
The Widow’s Mite by Tissot (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).


I was thinking recently about St. Therese and Judgment Day. Therese wanted to stand before God with “empty hands.” As part of her plan to trust in God rather than in her merits, she chose to give away all her spiritual goods. She offered them to God, not for herself, but for others. She left herself spiritually poor and naked. Then she was able to focus, not on her acts of virtue and self-denial, but on the merits of Jesus. She believed that, seeing her with no works on which to be judged, God would apply Jesus’ works to her account. Thus, her confidence was in Jesus alone.

Following St. Therese, when I make a sacrifice, accept the trials and disappointments of my day, or act virtuously, I picture myself handing a plain brown box to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is my gift for the Infant Jesus. Mary takes the package and wraps it splendidly with her  love and virtues. Then she passes it on to her Son, and He distributes it as He sees fit.


Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to pray throughout the day

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The Angelus by Millet. In past centuries, Church bells  rang three times day to signal
everyone should stop what they were doing and pray.

St. Paul urges us to “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But what does this mean? How can we practice it? When we reach a high state of the spiritual life, we will be in constant communion with God (see, I am assuming we are all going to make it that far). But in the meantime, we can form habits that help us pray throughout the day.

When two people fall in love, they want to spend as much time together as they can. Not only do they go out on a date very evening, they also contact each other during the day. When I was younger, we would call each other or send emails. Today, couples might text each other. Just to hear the other person’s voice or read his words of love would keep the smile on the loved-one’s face for hours.

We need the same kind of contact with God. Our “date” with God is our daily time set aside for nothing but prayer.  But we should also talk to God throughout the day. At first, this might be difficult. It might even seem strange until we have formed the habit. We should remember that our little ways of connecting with God are acts of love.


Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Are you living a contemplative life?

File:Munier, Emile - Two Girls Praying - 19th century.jpg 
Two Girls Praying By Emil Munier


Are you a contemplative? Some people, faced with this question, would answer an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Perhaps they are saints, at a high stage of union with God. Or perhaps they practice Eastern (as in Hindu or Buddhist) forms of meditation that they equate with contemplation. Some would call themselves contemplative because they are thoughtful and quiet. The rest of us might answer, “No.” Since we are not saints, we wouldn’t dare think of ourselves as contemplatives in the proper sense.

Nevertheless, everyone, no matter his stage in the spiritual journey or his vocation, can live a contemplative life.

A contemplative life is a life ordered toward union with God

If you have read The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, you know Teresa divides the spiritual life into seven stages, which she called mansions.  (To be completely accurate, she says that a soul goes back and forth among these stages, rather than proceeding from one to the next in a straight line.) Supernatural contemplation begins in the third or fourth mansion. But contemplative living can begin at our first conversion, even in childhood. Contemplative living prepares us to receive God’s gift of supernatural contemplation.


Read the rest at  Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Appreciating Advent Through Art for the First Week on Advent

Detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel (1512)


Today is the start of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. It also marks the first Sunday of Advent for the Latin Church (other Eastern Churches started a fortnight beforehand). In our secular society, we can be tricked into thinking that the Advent calendar is only a countdown for Christmas shopping.  But scripture during Advent reminds us of the dual nature of the season:  to prepare for the cyclical celebration of Our Lord's birth as well as Parousia (the Second Coming). 

The Lectionary during Cycle A features Isaiah's prophetic vision (IS 2:1-5) when God reigns Supreme and swords are hammered into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, a professor of liturgy at Loyola University in New Orleans, uses a detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to illustrate the scripture.  



The Gospel (MT 24:37-44) alludes to the Second Coming where Jesus exhorts the faithful to be prepared as Noah was for the Flood.  This is sobering "Good News" but it should help lead us with our walk with the Lord, especially in this period of preparation.  

The Isaiah panel on the Sistine Chapel prompts a ponderous thought. Zsupan-Jerome wondered if position of Noah's Ark about Isaiah prompted the prophet to think  of Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark landed, as he handed the vision of God's Holy Mountain? This would lend the aspiration that man should seek God's holy mountain to, borrowing a phrase from the Responsorial Psalm (PS 122), "dwell in the House of the Lord."

The Noahide Covenant established that the Lord would not destroy humanity through a flood. The Messiah's admonition to be prepared has some soothing subtexts rather than relying upon our own inadequate righteousness. The name Jesus can be translated to "Yahweh Saves".  Moreover, the Lord so loved the world, He sent His only son to be born of this world in all things but sin and be an intregal part of our salvific history. 

As we come into this season of  devout and joyful expectation, it would behoove us to consider the nuances, hermaneutics and deeper meanings of Advent, as expressed through art, scripture and the easily overlooked holiday trappings.  

h/t:  Loyola Press 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent activites for your family

D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.
D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.

Advent is here and with it our six-week break from homeschooling. Instead of doing school work, we do an activity each day preparing for Christmas. Some are distinctly religious. Others are not. Here are some ideas for activities you can do with your family.

Learn and sing Advent hymns 


Sunday at Mass, D was amazed that I knew many of the verses of O Come, O Come, Emanuel by heart. Well, that was the only Advent hymn I learned in Catholic school, and I don’t recall singing any other one at Mass in the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until I started praying the Divine Office as an adult that I learned some of the beautiful hymns I had been missing. Here are some you will want to learn along with your kids, if you don’t know them already:

Read the rest of the ideas at Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Meditation for kids: the thankful leper

File:CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers.jpg 

 

Instructions for Parents

 

I recommend that you meditate on Luke 17:11-19 in your own prayer time before presenting it to your kids. If you’re not sure how to do this, look at last Thanksgiving’s meditation. Talk to the Lord about it from your heart. Ask Him to teach you to be truly grateful, and to lead your children towards thankfulness.

Next, read and discuss the passage with your children. Use your favorite children’s Bible. Define any words they may not know. (I have highlighted some words in the meditation you may want to define before praying with them.)

Choose one or two of the optional activities at the end of this post to help them dig deeper into the meaning of the passage.

Finally, read the meditation aloud to them, pausing for several seconds to a couple of minutes after each of the first two paragraphs. Ask them to repeat the final prayer after you, sentence by sentence.
This meditation works best with children ages seven to ten. For younger or older children, see the variations. It is especially appropriate for those making their First Confession this year.

 Read the meditation at Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

USCCB Reaffirms Steadfast Commitment to Religious Liberty



As the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops concluded their semi-annual meeting in Baltimore, the USCCB issued a special message on the H.H.S. Mandate.  The Bishops have been steadfast and vocal in their opposition to having the government force Catholics and other believers to violate their religious precepts in the pursuit of universal coverage. 

During his tenure as President of the USCCB, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan lead the faithful to conduct Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 and 2013 to celebrate, educate and advocate maintaining America's Fundamental Freedom--the First Amendment freedom: the freedom of exercise of religion.

As Cardinal Dolan passed the helm of the USCCB to Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,  Dolan urged his brother bishops to make the protection of religious liberty around the world a priority as he believes that it is a central social issue of our times. Dolan recalled the words of Pope Blessed John Paul II that we are living in a new age of martyrs.  Dolan stated:

We as bishops, as shepherds of one of the most richly blessed communities of faith on the planet, as pastors who have spoken with enthusiastic unity in defense of our own religious freedom, must become advocates and champions for these Christians whose lives literally hang in the balance, as we dare not allow our laudable battles over religious freedom at home to obscure the actual violence being inflicted on Christians elsewhere.




It seems incredible that the USCCB needs to again issue such a pronouncement, but useful idiots arguing for Obamacare are still convicted that Catholics just want to push their beliefs on non-Catholics, rather than protection that unalienable right.


The USCCB's special message fleshed out this fidelity to religious freedom to practice one's faith in America.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Do you know these Carmelite saints and blesseds?

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Edith Stein circa 1920, and St. Raphael Kalinowski. (All photos from Wikipedia.)



November 13 is the first anniversary of Contemplative Homeschool. The 14th is the Feast of All Carmelite Saints. To celebrate, I’d like to introduce you to a few Carmelite saints and blesseds  you may not know. In the future, I hope to delve deeper into the spiritual insights of more Carmelite saints on my blog.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

 

Elizabeth Catez was born in 1880 in France. Her father was in the army. He died when Elizabeth was seven. She, her mother, and sister moved to a home in Dijon that overlooked a Carmelite monastery.

When Elizabeth made her first Communion, the mother superior told her that Elizabeth meant “House of God.” That impressed the young girl. It became the central idea of her spirituality–the realization that the Holy Trinity lived in her soul. She made a private promise of virginity at age 14 and entered Carmel at 20. She spent only five years in the cloister before her death from a prolonged illness in 1906.


Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Submit your best spirituality post for a 2013 Frankie Award!




Have you written a blog post on Catholic spirituality that your readers loved? Has another blogger's post inspired you to grow closer to Christ? Now is the time to nominate yourself or them for a 2013 Frankie Award.

Named in honor of the great spiritual director and patron saint of journalists St. Francis de Sales, the Frankie Award recognizes the best in Catholic spiritual writing. The award winner will receive a special badge to proudly display on his or her blog, along with a $10 gift certificate to Mystic Monk Coffee. Plus, the winning post will be posted in full here at CSBN. I will promote it on social media and encourage CSBN members and our readers to do so as well.




Read the rules at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This week at The Catholic Book Blogger I featured the latest book by Joseph Pearce, Race with the Devil : My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love . You can find my review of the book here. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph and that interview can be found here. Lastly publisher Saint Benedict Press is sponsoring my weekly giveaway with a copy of Race With the Devil. Enter here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Bit of the Book Review of 40 Days for Life by David Bereit and Shawn Carney

 
40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What You Can Do (Capella Books 2013, 269 pages) is a book which chronicles the trials and tribulations for the 40 Days for Life  campaign as prayer vigil against abortion from its genesis around a wooden table in College Station Texas in 2004 to its spread world-wide.  The book is co-authored by David Bereit, a pharmaceutical rep who left comfortable career to follow the call of the Holy Spirit to do His will in uncertain circumstances.  The other narrative voice is Shawn Carney, a young Texan who inherits the College Station leadership after Bereit answered the call to work for other Pro-Life organizations in Washington, DC. Carney became the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, while  Bereit later returned  to lead the National 40 Days for Life campaign.
[L] David Bereit [R] Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life 
The 40 Days  for Life idea was modeled after several key scriptural moments, like the flood which necessitated Noah's Ark and Jesus' Prayers in the Desert before beginning His Earthly public ministry.  Similarly, the book followed a structured course. Each chapter is one of forty vignettes, followed by concurrent scriptural  passage concluded with a prayer.  Presumably, this book was intended to be read over forty days.  Perhaps it had a different impact in short, reflective increments rather than reading the contents in several sittings.
The power of the faith of Bereit, Carney and of many prayer warriors who participated in the 40 Days for Life is palpable. The book does not sugar coat the hardship and anxiety of starting up the campaign.  But their testimony shows how the Lord provides.  40 Days for Life also recounts some of the acerbic resistence which Pro-Lifer's were met with in witnessing the call of their conscience by publicly praying against abortion.
Several of the stories are quite striking and seemed pulled from current headlines.  

[***]

The details of the unhygenic conditions, the crusted blood on the linoleum floor and rusted abortion instruments at 72 Ransom Street called to mind the horrific details from the recent trial and conviction of late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The appalling conditions are not isolated incidents in abortion mills, but pro abortion advocates get apoplectic if anything id deemed to impede the so called "right to choose" or more clinically "womens' reproductive health".
[***]
The years of globe-trotting by Bereit and Carney to prayerfully support unborn children allowed for some serendipitious experiences. Shawn seemed to have quite a knack for unexpectedly rubbing elbows with his opponents. 
[***]

The book was mostly conversational in tone, reading almost like an oral history that was culled  by their collaborative writer Cindy Lambert.  However, a couple of entries  started with ambitious introductions but the transitions to their stories seemed forced and rough.

[***]

40 Days for Life would be a welcomed bedside daily devotional for prayer warriors committed to the Pro-Life cause.  It gives great examples of the power of prayer to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defend life.  The book gives many perspectives on how abortion affects the unborn child, the often grieving abortive mother, the father, the extended family and the community.  If only people spouting pro-choice propaganda would choose to  the time to read 40 Days for Life, one wonders how many hearts of stone would turn to flesh.

SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are you praying too much?

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Victory, O Lord by Millais (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).


Sunday’s Mass readings were all about prayer–winning battles through prayer, supporting each other in prayer, and never giving up. I love encouraging people to grow in their prayer life!  But today I want to ask a question that might seem odd to you: Can you pray too much? There are three ways in which I believe you can.

Don’t let prayer keep you from living out your vocation

 

Again, this might confuse you. Haven’t I said before that prayer helps us live our vocation better? That’s true. But you still need balance. If you are a stay-at-home mom with small children, you should not be spending hours a day alone in your room praying. If you are the father of a young family, you should not be spending most of every evening at Church. If you are a college student, you should not normally miss class to go to adoration. St. Francis de Sales, instructing lay people in Introduction to the Devout Life, wrote, “Do not spend more than an hour thus [in mental prayer], unless specially advised to do so by your spiritual father.”

God gave you your vocation. He works His will through it. There may be a time later, after the kids have grown older, or you are retired from your job, when you can spend hours a day in prayer. But unless you are  called to religious life, that is not God’s plan for you for most of your life. Live the vocation you have, not the one you don’t.


Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Brief Book Review of 10 Answers for Atheists by Alex McFarland


Alex McFarland, an Evangelical Protestant professor of Christian Apologetics at North Greenville University (South Carolina), has authored 10 Answers for Atheists (Regal, 2012) as an outreach tool to spread the Good News to atheists and agnostics



 [***]


Alex McFarland
The tone of McFarland’s prose was conversational with some sprinklings of erudition which reflects the author’s academic auspices.  For example, when McFarland described the scientific atheist, he alluded to “directed panspermia” as an out of this world explanation of our origins.  Moreover,  Jim Morrison of The Doors was alleged to be an “Antinomian Atheist”.  

These pop references do not always work.  To illustrate a “Biblical Scholar Atheist”, McFarland posits Penn Jillette as he rejects scripture as “B.S.”.  This Bible Scholar Atheist label on Jillette seems like a bad trick for one who does not ascribe to Judeo-Christian scripture.  

[***]

McFarland categorized atheists into ten subgroups.  There seemed to be overlap between some of the groups, like the Angry Atheist and the Injured Atheist.  The University of Tennessee study which was Assessing Atheist Archtypes with six categories seemed more on the mark.  However, McFarland may have included other categories to finesse the apologetic approach. 

McFarland offered a clear yet concise historical survey of disbelief which provides an underlying basis for agnosticism and atheism from Antiquity and the Enlightenment to present day.  

[***]

It was surprising that “Roman” Catholics and the Orthodox were not condemned along with modern Mystical spiritualism, as those original Christian creeds used their mysticism to draw closer to union with God. The crux of the Protestant Reformation was religiosity based on biblical roots (often understood as sola scriptura) as well as the primacy of a salvation by grace.  But McFarland does not divide with Catholics or Orthodox Christians on this score in the spiritual warfare against atheism. 

[***]

McFarland poses the ten questions by atheists:


  • Are faith and reason really compatable? 
  • Isn’t belief in God delusional? 
  • The dysteleological surd – If God is so good, why is there evil in the world?
  • Why join a flawed faith like Christianity which has harmed the world? 
  • Isn’t Christianity just mythological? 
  • Why believe in Zombies (a messiah resurrected from the dead)? 
  • Can’t science explain everything?
  • Why believe hypocritical Christians? 
  • Couldn’t Jesus just be a space alien?


His answers plant the seeds for useful apologetics as well as the thirty common objections included in the index.

As a Catholic, I am mindful that the practice of my faith differs with a more evangelical expression of faith by  bible based Protestants.  However, the 10 Answers for Atheists has some material which would provide some thoughtful responses when dialoguing with questioning agnostics and atheists.   Some of the book seemed extraneous to inter-(non) faith dialogue, such as the comparative religion section.  McFarland seemed compelled to justify bible based Christianity before delving into agnostic apologetics.

 Aside from the Angry Atheist and the Resident Contrarian Atheist, McFarland’s 10 Answers for Atheists could serve as a useful field manual for believers beginning dialogue with non-believers.  It does not seem geared at convincing atheists through a casual perusal.  The casual Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris dismissals would be insufficient for true non-believers.  Moreover, an agnostic or atheist reader would need to drudge through comparative religion and justifying bible based Christianity sections before getting to the crux of the answers for atheists.

SEE MORE at DCBarroco.com

Let Teresa of Avila teach you about patience

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Window in the Convent of St. Teresa (photo credit: Wikipedia).

Teresa of Ávila wrote these words on a bookmark she kept in her breviary:

Let nothing disturb you;
Nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.
St. Teresa was determined to reach the heights of holiness. Yet at the same time she was realistic, based on her own experience and those of the nuns under her care as head of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Put these two characteristics together, and you have one of the wisest guides to the spiritual life. Let’s take a closer look at her advice.

Perseverance is a key to success

 

Remember the parable Jesus told about the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8)? We must never give up praying when it seems God is not hearing us. Teresa advised her sisters to apply this lesson to growth in prayer.
… I say that it is very important – it is everything to have a strong and firm resolution, not to stop till we arrive at the water [union with God], come what may, or whatever may be the consequence, or whatever it may cost us. No matter who complains, whether I reach there or die on the way, or have not courage to endure the troubles which I may meet with, or though the world should sink under us… (Way of Perfection, Chapter XXI)
It’s easy to get discouraged in prayer. Seeing no measurable growth in intimacy with God, we might be tempted to give up. We might wish to say along with the doubters in the end times, “Where is this coming He promised?” (2 Peter 3:4).  Don’t!


Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Some of Catholicsm for Protestants Book Review

Shane Schaetzel

Shane Schaetzel is a Catholic convert from Evangelical Protestantism through Anglicanism.  Schaetzel writes the thoughtful CatholicintheOzarks.com blog as part of his lay ministry to spread the Good News through the written word.  Catholicism for Protestants (2013. Lulu)  draws upon his faith history, his love of language and history along with his religious education to answer some challenging spiritual queries that he has heard living in the buckle of the Bible Belt.  Schaetzel also sees Catholicism for Protestants to be a good primer for all Catholics on the fundamentals of the faith.

 Schaetzel starts the book with his compelling personal faith history which underlies the material. But in an effort to show that there are many different kinds of Catholics, like there are many different kinds of Protestants, Schaetzel wrote: “There are: Roman Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, and even Anglican Use Catholics”.  This conflates Churches (Roman, Maronite and “Byzantine” branch), with religious orders (Franciscan, Benedictines). Later, Schaeztel teaches that there are 23 rites in the Catholic Church.  It may be minor distinction but that is incorrect.  There are 23 Churches  which comprise Catholicism.  A Church may have several different rites.  For example, the Roman Church currently has the Roman rite, the Ambrosian (around Milan, Italy) and the Mozarabic (at several parishes in Toledo Spain).   Some might argue that Anglican Use is a rite, but for now it is part of a Personal Ordinariate established by Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI to reach out to High Church Anglican and reincorporate the richness of traditional English Patrimony in the Roman Church. For those unfamiliar with these concepts, proclaiming yourself as a Roman Catholic layman of the Anglican Use could be kind of confusing as opposed to boldly proclaiming the author’s  point of view.

Most of Catholicism for Protestants is structured in a question and answer format which is eminently readable.  This cradle Catholic was able to finish the short 100 page book in one sitting.  Schaetzel does try to answer many common questions Evangelical Protestants have about the Catholic faith.  This sort of apologetic can be challenging as Evangelicals come from a non-sacramental, non-liturgical and non-ritualistic practice of faith so Catholicism’s practices and even its vocabulary can be confusing.  While Schaetzel’s scholarship is evident in the presentation and the supplemental footnotes (pointing to scripture, Church Fathers, the Catechism and some fine contemporary Catholic scripture scholars), his prose does not get bogged down by too much high church jargon.

 [***]

 Shane Schaetzel has done a good job at authoring an engaging and enlightening apologetic aimed at answering Protestant’s common questions about the Catholic faith.  Moreover, the author is practicing his understanding of the faith by his publishing and dissemination method by employing distributism, which favor small mom and pop religious bookstores.

 Being in an inter-faith marriage, I often am prompted to explain parts of my faith to my curious in-laws.  They seem to admire my pursuit of being a good Catholic but sometimes wonder why I am spiritually compelled to do what I do.  Shane Schaetzel’s Catholicism for Protestants will not only offer a clear Catechism but will also give the chapter and verse citations which sola scriptura Christians tend to seek.

 SEE MORE at DC-LausDeo.US

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The suffering of St. Therese

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St. Therese in July 1896. (Photo credit: Wikipedia).


A short time after Therese’s first communion, her sister Marie told her, “I think God will spare you from having to suffer.” The irony is that Therese had already suffered more than some people do in a lifetime. Throughout her life people discounted her suffering. And even today some people see Therese as a saccharine saint, simple-minded, sentimental, a saint for little girls. They are ignorant of her suffering and reject her as irrelevant.

Mother loss

 

When Therese was two months old, she almost died of enteritis. Her mother Zelie–probably already suffering from breast cancer–could not nurse her. A wet-nurse saved Therese’s life. Therese had to live five miles away from her family for thirteen months. She became attached to her nurse, whom she then had to leave behind.

Zelie Martin died when Therese was 4. Therese hid her great sorrow from her father and sisters. But when Pauline, the sister who became her substitute mother, entered the Carmelite monastery, Therese’s grief overwhelmed her. She became so ill, she once again barely survived. A smile from the Virgin Mary cured her.

Only four years later, her godmother Marie, who had cared for her since Pauline left, joined Pauline in Carmel.

We could count these as five instances of losing her mother.


Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fighting demons while you sleep

File:Orthodox Bulgarian icon of St. George fighting the dragon.jpg
Orthodox Bulgarian icon of St. George fighting the dragon (photo credit: Wikipedia).



I used to have spiritual warfare dreams. For what seemed like hours, I would dream that a demon was trying to attack me. To repel him, I had to say, “In the name of Jesus, be gone!” Then he would leave–and be back a few minutes later. Over and over I did battle with demons. I would awake exhausted.

Spiritual warfare in daily life

 

I don’t usually have such dreams any more. But some days I feel like they’ve become my waking reality. Life as a homeschool mom can be trying. I must overcome constant temptations. One moment, three kids ask me for help at once. The next, “J” spills juice on the floor I just mopped. Then two others get in a fight, and one talks back when I discipline him. All during math class.

Now none of these situations is major. But when you barely have time to breathe between one and the next, you get exhausted. You discipline in anger instead of love. You yell at the toddler for acting like a toddler. You argue with your older son.

Or maybe you don’t. But I often do.

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Heart is Not in Stuff

 The sky alone is an extravagant present 
that continually fills me with the joy
 if I remember to take a break from my ‘important’ business. 

A writing prompt asked writers if we could only take five objects from a burning house, what would be the most difficult things for us to leave behind?  Well really, the only objects I consider to be important are photos of family, my computer, passport and ID, a bible and bank card, assuming that I am wearing my wedding ring and gold cross like always. That’s it.
As for regrets, I really do not think that my heart is in things. Since I was a little girl, I have felt content with what I have materially. Even now, when my nine kids ask me what I want for Christmas, I pause for a moment with a blank mind. I have to search to come up with a list.
Rather a strange state to be in because this is not the result of spiritual striving, fasting or prayer, it is just how I am. Living with little people has only strengthened an innate tendency to enjoy the little things, to be grateful to be alive and in communion with the Spirit. In addition, as a large family with barely enough cash but many blessings, we have experienced many incidents of God’s providence. This scripture resonates within all of us.

MATTHEW 6:25-34

DO NOT WORRY

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Kids understand these words, reminding me that the key to happiness and joy is not stuff but thankfulness and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. There is much to be grateful for if we will simply stop for a moment and really see what actually surround us every day. Children delight in the plethora of tiny details all around them. They are born with a sense of wonder and the ability to enjoy simple pleasures.  Perhaps it is because they are closer to the ground when we tried to go for a walk but they stopped at every flower and bug, especially a bug on a flower. As  they look, touch, smell, even lick each wonderful new discovery, all their attention is riveted on that one thing. At first it was difficult to slow down during our walks and let the toddlers set the pace but it was a wonderful instruction in how to relax and become fully present to the moment.
At first I was only capable of enjoying whatever captured my children’s notice bu t now I realize that they were experiencing so much more than I initially thought. In their silent, non-verbal attention to nature, they were in deep communion with God Himself as He is present in His creation. Adults struggle for years to merely glimpse the intimacy that little children have naturally with God. They do not need to strive or work for this state of contemplation because they are without guile, prior opinions or expectations; they are open and look with trust, ready to absorb the love, joy and peace that envelopes them. Children are grateful for everything.
Ah, to live in a constant state of gratitude and thankfulness is a taste of heaven. Even if I were to live in the midst of a concrete jungle, I could at least stop for a moment, look up and give thanks. I simply need to remind myself to glance upwards, above my little busy world and enjoy the sky. The sky alone is an extravagant present that continually fills me with the joy if I remember to take a break from my ‘important’ business. Every time we attend mass, we are constantly reminded to give thanks to a Heavenly Father simply because life in, with and through Him is a joyful experience no matter what our situation.
“The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.  Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1360).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Finding patterns in the Bible

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Transfiguration by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).



Last week for homeschool we did a narration of the Transfiguration. While reading the story aloud, I had an epiphany: it echoes the story of Moses receiving the 10 Commandments. I shared the parallel between the two stories with my boys. Now I’d like to share it–and the principle behind it–with you.

As a writer and avid reader, I am convinced of the inspiration of Sacred Scripture. (Besides, of course, being convinced as a Christian by the authority of the Church.) Dozens of writers over thousands of years produced the book we now call the Bible. They were from different cultures, used different literary genres, and had diverse purposes.

Amazingly, the same themes are developed throughout the Bible from beginning to end. Types and anti-types, prophecies and their fulfillment, fill its pages. You can follow one idea like a wave on the sea from Genesis to Revelation, or stand on the shore and admire the rhythm of the ocean that is the entire Bible.
I love to share these patterns with my children. I get excited about them, and that excites my boys!


Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are you making a daily morning offering?





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Praying Girl by Heyerdahl (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).




St. Francis de Sales is the master of the spiritual life for lay people. His book, Introduction to the Devout Life teaches us how we can grow closer to God while living out our lives as spouses or single people in the world.

One of the practices St. Francis urges his readers to make a habit of is the morning offering. In fact he says, “Never omit this practice.” A morning offering sets the tone for your day. It helps you acknowledge that the day is God’s, not your own. It can give you the strength you need to face trials, peace amid busy schedules, and added grace for unforeseen temptations.

I confess I was never taught to make my own morning offering as a child. We sometimes had family prayer in the morning. At Catholic elementary school we started the day with prayer. But no one told me I should make a private morning offering until I was much older. I found it hard to take up the practice, and even harder to maintain it over the long-term.



Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Monday, September 16, 2013

COME OUT OF THE CAVE

The worst possible fate for me would be to die and discover that I had lived an existence similar to the allegory described in Plato’s Cave. Plato describes man’s condition similar to living in a cave, chained, only seeing shadows on a wall cast from a candle. Yet the human race believes that this is all there is to life. When one person manages to break free and stumbles out into daylight, he realizes that what he thought was real were actually shadows of real objects. After this messenger makes his way back into the cave to explain this revelation of the real world, no one believes him. No one else has any reference point; they simply cannot grasp this alternate reality.
When I speak with someone who is curious about the faith, I realize my revelations about the spiritual life in the Mystical Body of Christ are completely foreign. I might as well be a fantasy character explaining life in an alternate reality. Psychologically speaking, people need to hear a completely new concept at least three times before it even begins to register in their minds. Sharing about spiritual reality is like helping God make new neurological connections and this transformation takes time. Seekers who has existed on the surface, experiencing only physical reality is wearing God-filtered glasses; the life in Christ that I share with someone is completely alien. They have no reference point... read  more

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Walking With Mary : A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross

This week I had the pleasure of kicking off Image Catholic Books Virtual Book Tour for their latest release Walking With Mary : A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross written by Dr. Edward Sri. The book was fantastic and if you are looking for an easy to read, deep exploration of Mary's faith journey I highly recommend you get this book. You can find my review here. Also click here for your chance to enter my weekly giveaway, a copy of this great book.
Pete Socks
The Catholic Book Blogger

Drawn From Shadows Into Truth: A Memoir Review

My most recent review is from The Catholic Company called Drawn From Shadows Into Truth: A Memoir. This is a true conversion story of how a married ordained minister followed the quest for truth which led him out of the Episcopalian Church and into the Catholic Church. Fr. Ryland, in a detailed format, outlines his journey from childhood, other denominations and into the Catholic Church.

In my opinion, his book reads like an intellectual autobiography which felt like text book reading at times. I appreciated his use of footnotes to back up his points but I also felt the context jumped around which left me confused at times.   I would turn back a page or two to see if I missed something.  It's not filled with emotion even though he experienced the same confusion, fear and resistance that others have gone through in their journey to the Catholic Church.

Fr. Ray Ryland has been given a dispensation from the rules of celibacy and is a married Catholic Priest.  I was glad to see in his last chapter, that he addressed the issue of him being allowed to be married as a priest. Fr. Ryland does not promote married priesthood and in fact he discusses the apostolic tradition of priestly celibacy and how he agrees with the Catholic Church.  He candidly admits, he is not as free as a celibate priest to serve God, His Church and his parishioners.  I applaud the encouragement and support his wife gave him as he walked this path with them.  It can not have been easy to make this decision even though knowing God is calling him to do so.  It takes courage and faith.

Overall, I liked the book but it took me a long time to read it.  I enjoy conversion stories but I was not captivated by this one.  I think it's because I found it to be more of a challenging read than a lighter more emotional story.  I guess those are the ones I would choose to read first.  The reason I picked this one was because it is a conversion story and it was endorsed by other famous converts.  Would I recommend this book?  Yes, but with a warning that it's not a light happy conversion story.

This book was written as part of the Catholic Company Reviewer Program.  I was given a complimentary copy of Drawn From Shadows Into Truth: A Memoir for my honest review.  The Catholic Company is a great resource for all your First Communion Gift ideas as well as many other great books, rosaries, and statues.

Peace & Blessings,
Noreen

Friday, September 13, 2013

Falling asleep during prayer

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Sleeping Biy by Lrylov (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).


If you are a parent trying to grow in holiness, you have no doubt fallen asleep in prayer. Among nursing babies, sick toddlers, wet beds, and waiting up for teenagers, parents spend years being sleep deprived. Then we go to pray and find ourselves nodding off, or even dreaming. How should we handle this?

Am I being lazy?

 

Before reading Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux, I would get mad at myself and feel like a failure when I fell asleep. Of course, if I were to tell the whole truth, I was often at fault. I used to pray mental prayer last thing before going to bed. Even though I’m a night person, this is not a good time to pray. My thoughts are already on sleep. My mind and body are tired, and it feels like I’m giving prayer the lowest priority on my daily agenda. Sometimes I prayed that late due to forgetfulness. (Whoops, I haven’t prayed yet–better do it now!) Other times I was putting it off. But at least I was making some effort.

I find morning is the ideal time to pray, even for a night owl like me. It’s harder to forget and makes prayer my top priority. My mind isn’t racing with the business of the day.  And if I’m too tired, I can adjust the time I go to bed at night until I get it just right.

That’s how I reasoned in my single days.


Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Biggest Delusion

I was never designed to live alone like an island unto myself. 
Yet, in my pride, I cling tenaciously to my throne and crown.
 Only when I was completely depleted and shattered,
 only then did I resign and give God  back His job.


There is a world of difference between a man who is aware of himself, sitting on a hill and looking at a beautiful sunrise and a man so enthralled with that very same sunrise that he forgets himself and becomes  absorbed in the scene. In the first instance the man is egocentric; he is at the centre 0f his world, not God.

When I see beauty everywhere, I experience joy and a sense of connection because my eyes are not on myself. The truth is that I am simply part of the whole. Everything does not depend on me. I am free to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the Spirit of God which permeates all when I am in the right place in the scheme of things.

I am living in a fantasy when I see myself as the center of the universe, viewing everything as it circles around me. As believers we sing and recite prayers that proclaim that God is the centre of all but our psychological make-up screams the exact opposite. I view people, events, history and yes even God through my eyes, judging what is right, trusting my thoughts and my feelings as the final judge of what is real. When Jesus says that we must die to ourselves, He is not speaking about some pious self-sacrifice that makes us look holy, no He has something much more radical in mind. The kind of inner transformation Jesus desires literally rips the rug up from under our feet and shatters our world view.
◄  Galatians 2:20  ►
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Why is modern man so anxious, nervous, out of sorts? Part of the reason is probably that many people barely see a blade of grass during their normal work day. Surrounded by concrete and glass, our innate self craves connection with the rest of the natural world, other people , the communion of saints, (both living and dead) and at an even deeper level, God Himself. Instead we live in isolated, man-made prisons which shut out other humans never mind other living creatures and God.  Each person is at the centre of their little artificial universe. That means that each of us has assumed the role of king or queen of our tiny kingdoms with everything depending on us.

I was never designed to live alone like an island unto myself. Yet, in my pride, I cling tenaciously to my throne and crown. Only when I was completely depleted and shattered, only then did I resign and give God  back His job. Only the did I surrender an ego centric point of view and embraced reality which is that God is at the centre of the universe and I am simply part of the Mystical  Body of Christ.
Silly?
Definitely absurd but I only saw this fact after I surrendered and let go of control. I cannot  find what is really important in life in self-created delusions butI can discover truth as I learn to live in harmony with a bigger universe than the one I create.
In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’
Abraham Kuyper
St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Crux), who lived in the 16th century  explains the inner process of becoming one with Christ.
I lose myself and remain,
With my face on the Beloved inclined;
All has come to rest,
I abandon all my cares
There, among the lilies, to die.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Father Larry Richards



On August 2-4 I spent the weekend attending the 2013 Corpus Christie Men's Retreat at Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmittsburg, MD. On Saturday evening after dinner Father Larry graciously took some time to answer a few questions with yours truly. This week at The Catholic Book Blogger, I posted that interview which can be found here. While visiting, hop on over to enter this weeks giveaway where you could win a copy of Father Larry's book Be A Man. You can enter the giveaway here. Lastly you can read my review of the book that changed life. This was perhaps my toughest review yet because of how personal it is. The review for Be A Man is posted here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Harvesting Pope Francis's Call for Peace In Syria


Italian artist Dario Gambarin took six hours to plow the likeness of Pope Francis in his parents field in Castargnaro, Italy.


The artist chose Pope Francis as a subject as Mr. Gambarin was inspired by the Pontiff's call for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on September 7th





Field Artist Dario Gambarin 
Gambarin relies on his innate sense of proportion and his tractor driving capabilities to create his field art.   The image can only really be appreciated when flying near Verona. 

This type of art is deleted after a few days so the field can be cultivated for the new sowing of seed. 

May this act of artisinal agriculture remind us that "Love Liberates" as the world prays for peace in Syria. 

h/t: The Telegraph

[originally posted on DC-LausDeo.US]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Waking Up Catholic

This week brings another great giveaway at The Catholic Book Blogger. My review of Waking Up Catholic : A Guide to Catholic Beliefs for Converts, Reverts, and Anyone Becoming Catholic by Chad Torgerson can be found here. This is a great book for someone entering RCIA this year. I followed that review up with an interview with Chad which can be found here. Last but not least is the giveaway of the book signed by Chad. Click here for the giveaway.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lord, I am not worthy...

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Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

This response at Mass seems to me to sum up the whole spiritual life. It provides wonderful material for meditation.

I am not worthy

On my own, I cannot please God. I can only vaguely know His character. He had to reveal Himself to me through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church. He gave me parents who were loving enough to have me baptized and teach me the faith. He continues to show me His design for my life. All this is a pure gift which I could not merit.

But I have found the Christian life to be a constant battle. I fall every day. I repent, make resolutions to be good, then sin again. God’s purity is so beyond me. His holiness is a burning fire that I would never dare approach.

Except…


Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Camerado, I Give You My Hand



This week's activity on The Catholic Book Blogger revolved around the latest release by Image Catholic Books Camerado, I Give You My Hand by Maura Poston Zagrans. This is the inspirational story of Father David Link. A widower become priest who now works in prison ministry in Indiana. Visit the links below for my review, author interview and giveaway.

Book review here.

Author interview with Maura Poston Zagrans here

Enter here to win a copy of  Camerado, I Give You My Hand

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DO WE TRUST MORE IN THE POWER OF GOD OR THE DEVIL?

Mary Crushes Satan - We cannot allow fear of the devil and deception to be stronger than our trust in God’s Mercy and Grace. Fear freezes us, often preventing the inner spiritual journey that leads to fullness of life in Christ. 
As Catholics, we are often leery of personal revelation. Of course we should be cautious but what are we so worried about? The Church protects us with the gift of confession, the mystical tradition of the Church, spiritual direction and encourages us to study the bible. All theses tools act as personal sign posts and safe guards. Like all  Christians, Catholics  have received the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth.
Why don’t we, as Catholics,  give the Holy Spirit permission to do His job? The Holy Spirit is our inner Companion who leads us; we do not  live in fear of  spiritual revelations. Many of God the Father’s children are so afraid that the devil will lead them astray, they do not even listen to His interior whispers of love. Surely we trust more in God  the Almighty, ruler of heaven and earth than a mere fallen angel?
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13
What a conundrum in the Body of Christ. I cannot helping feeling sorry for our Lord as I observe the discord between His children. Catholics mistrust revelations of other Christians and Protestants often think that Catholics are open to the occult by praying to Mary and the Saints. They even wonder if we are  saved! Let’s not behave like arrogant Pharisees but humbly trust solely in God to lead and teach us as His children and leave condemnation to the Evil One.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
III. THE GIFTS AND FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ
Often  Christians must simply acknowledge that we cannot intellectually grasp all heavenly mysteries. We  choose to continue our walk in, with, and through the Holy Spirit, trusting in God without fear of making a mistake. We cannot allow fear of the devil and deception to be stronger than our trust in God’s Mercy and Grace. Fear freezes us, often preventing the inner spiritual journey that leads to fullness of life in Christ. Trust me, I know what fear can do to a person. Now I realize that God the Father will bring me into the light; He will lead me into all truth.
I once attended a retreat where a Madonna House priest, actually Archbishop Raya, the Archbishop of Lebanon, said something like this:
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because Jesus will wash you clean and then tell you to go play again. He does not say, “Stand in the corner and don’t you dare get dirty again.” Just like a mother, he bathes a dirty child and then tells him to go outside and play again.
Trust more in God’s power to guide than the Devil’s to deceive.