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.