Monday, December 20, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
CLUSTER PAUL 2011... BE FEARLESS!
God's instructions: Do Not Be Afraid - Fear Not! In Matt 14:27 Just before Peter walked on the water, Jesus spoke to His disciples and gave them instructions saying, "Take courage! it is I; do not be afraid."
Acts 18:9-10 “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.”
Isaiah 41:10 "...do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."
BE FEARLESS! Faintheartedness can cripple. Misguided precaution and exaggerated caution can stifle. Timidity can debilitate. Fear of taking necessary risk can paralyze. Running scared through life can "kill".
Running scared can KILL joy. It can KILL hope. It can KILL enthusiasm. It can KILL opportunities. And certainly it can cause death to God's purpose for a "quality life". ~ Rouquel & Nina Ponte, RUNNING SCARED - Ugnayan.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
At times like these when it seems like nothing is going right don’t lose hope! You can stay close to Jesus and Mary with these aspirations, many of which come from old prayer books. (These prayers are great in good times or bad!)
Be inspired by with these short prayers by our Lord’s words: “pray always” (Luke 21:36) and by St. Paul’s as well: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17)!
Here’s a good one to both our Lord and his Blessed Mother, for starters:
Jesus, Mary, I love you. Save souls!
Here’s a good one to the Holy Spirit. This one is especially good when said with any prayer to the Holy Spirit, but is good all on its own, especially in those times you feel most in need of His counsel, comfort, and strength!
O Holy Spirit, sweet Guest of my soul, abide in me and grant that I may ever abide in Thee.
We’ve grouped these others into the following categories:
ASPIRATIONS (SHORT PRAYERS) TO OUR LORD
(It has been noted, incidentally, that a very good effective prayer is just to say the name of Jesus!)
Blessed be God!
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Divine Heart of Jesus, convert sinners, save the dying, deliver the holy souls in purgatory.
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, increase in us our Faith, Hope and Charity.
Good Jesus, give me a deep love for Thee, that nothing may be too hard for me to bear from Thee.
Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, set our hearts on fire with love of Thee.
Heart of Jesus, I put my trust in Thee!
Jesus I trust in You!
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our heart like unto Thine.
Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things!
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
May the most just, most high, and most adorable will of God be done in all things, praised and magnified forever.
My God and my all.
My Jesus, mercy!
My Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of Thy sufferings, grant me such faith, hope, charity, sorrow for my sins, and love of prayer as will save and sanctify my soul.
My Lord, grant that I may love Thee, and that the reward of my love may be to love Thee ever more and more.
My sweetest Jesus, be not my Judge, but my Savior.
O Good Jesus, shelter me from the evil one, shed Thy dew upon me to calm my soul, and dwell in me fully, that I may wholly love Thee.
O Good Jesus, my God and my All, keep me ever near Thee, let nothing for a moment separate me from Thee.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forevermore.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come!
Savior of the world, have mercy on us.
Sweet Heart of Jesus, be my love!
Sweet Heart of my Jesus, grant that I may ever love Thee more.
We adore and praise Thee, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
ASPIRATIONS TO OUR LORD IN THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
Jesus, my God, here present in the Sacrament of Thy love, I adore Thee.
O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, have mercy on us.
O Jesus, in the most holy Sacrament, have mercy on us.
Praised and adored forever be the most holy Sacrament.
We adore Thee, thou true Bread of angels.
ASPIRATIONS TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Mary, Virgin Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.
Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Mary, our hope, have pity on us!
Mary, most sorrowful, Mother of Christians, pray for us.
O Mary, virgin Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.
My Queen! my Mother! remember I am thine own. Keep me, guard me, as thy property and possession.
O Mary, thou didst enter the world without stain; do thou obtain for me from God, that I may leave it without sin.
ASPIRATIONS TO THE HOLY FAMILY
Jesus, Mary, Joseph!
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us now and at the hour of our death.
When you ask someone to pray for you are you worshiping that person? Of course not! It’s the same when we ask the saints to pray for us! In our prayers to saints we ask them to “put in a good word” for us with God in Heaven. They are not the focus of our worship, God is.
In this regard, it is worth noting that many compilations of prayers to saints also include prayers by them as well, to our Lord. The important thing to remember is that all these prayers have the same Divine destination, for our salvation.
The authors of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (“light of the nations”) noted that it was important that we “suppliantly invoke" the saints and "have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour."
For example, in one well known prayer to St. Joseph we ask him to
“assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your
divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.”
In the saints we have as advocates members of what is called the Church triumphant (those already in heaven.) We on earth are part of the Church militant.
In addition, with the Church suffering (those in purgatory) we all make up what is known as the Communion of Saints, part of one glorious mystical body of Christ in His Church. We are truly all in this together!
Note that the saints had their weaknesses and struggles just we do. But they also had a tremendous devotion to God. They became canonized (that is to say, officially recognized) as Catholic Saints after their deaths. This was usually done after a lengthy review of both the holiness of their lives and miracles associated with them.
What is comforting is that with the saints we have so many members of our Church in heaven to look out for us! Do you ever feel some days like you need all the help you can get? You can ask one of many patron saints for their assistance. They’ve been “put in charge” of various causes, occupations, (and even countries!), though popular traditions or by the Church. These saints are considered our protectors as well as our intercessors.
St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland, for example, and people get their throats blessed on the feast day of St. Blase. (Just as a reminder, a feast day in the Catholic Church is a day to give special honor, that is to say recognition, to God, saints, doctrines, or sacred events.)
Many saints are patrons of more than one occupation or cause, such as St. Joseph, who, besides being a Universal Patron of the Church is also considered a patron saint of fathers, carpenters, and social justice. St. Therese of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," is patron saint not only of florists but also of missions as well.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is also considered a patron saint and has been given quite a few names as one, including many for places she has appeared (as in Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady
Many prayers to saints take these “patrons” into account. For example, people pray to St. Anthony for lost items; to St. Jude (or perhaps St. Rita) for lost causes; and to St. Peregine for Cancer victims. For many years the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel was included at the end of Mass for his help in defeating Satan.
Keep in mind that God also calls on us to be saints. If this seems like too tall an order, remember that, with God’s help we can live our lives reflecting His love and goodness, letting Him work through us, just like the saints!
As we read in the wonderful prayer of St. Francis “Lord make me an instrument of your peace…grant that I may not so much seek to be loved as to love.” Just ask for God's help in prayer. Remember, He’s an important part of your prayers to saints as well.
Do you feel worthless sometimes? Does your life seem meaningless? Prayers to St. Therese of Lisieux, pictured at left, (who is affectionately known as the “Little Flower”) can help remind you that in God’s eyes your “nothingness” is really something, as long as you give Him your best each day!
What’s more, you don’t need to be a bigwig or a hero to be worthy of His love. St. Therese’s “little way” calls us all to a very special kind of holiness, that of doing God’s work out of love for Him in the way we handle our daily chores and cares.
St. Therese, born Therese Martin to a devout French family in 1873, became a Carmelite nun in 1888. With characteristic humility, she noted in her memoir Story of A Soul, written at the behest of her superiors, that “I may aspire to sanctity in spite of my littleness. For me to become great is impossible, I must bear with myself and my many imperfections; but I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way.”
Her idea was to do everything in life, especially the little things, out of love for God and for our neighbors. We shouldn’t expect a reward or even recognition. Doing daily errands can be as holy as doing missionary work if our desire is to serve God as best we can.
In our prayers to St. Therese we can ask for her help in following this simple yet beautiful approach to spirituality. She showed so much love for our Lord in answering His call for humility and service that she made the ordinary extraordinary!
Soon after her untimely death from tuberculosis in 1897, Story of a Soul touched so many hearts so quickly that it was widely translated and published throughout the world, and Therese was canonized as a saint in 1925!
At the Carmelite convent, St. Therese took the name “Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.” She wanted to approach our Lord with a childlike trust, while inspired by the image of His Holy Face to do His work “hidden” and “forgotten,” as she put it.
(On a side note, Therese is called “St. Therese of the Child Jesus,” “St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face,” or even “St. Therese the Little Flower of Jesus” in different prayer books and websites. Sometimes her name is spelled “Teresa,” but usually with one of these descriptions added to distinguish her from St. Teresa of Avila.)
St. Therese wrote of herself in her autobiography as “The Little Flower,” who “rejoices in the wholly undeserved favors bestowed upon her by Our Lord. She knows that she had nothing in herself worthy of attracting Him: His Mercy alone showered blessings on her.”
She added “I will let no tiny sacrifice pass, no look, no word. I wish to profit by the smallest actions, and to do them for Love. I wish to suffer
for Love’s sake, and for Love’s sake even to rejoice: thus shall I strew flowers.”
Among prayers to St. Therese, this one touches on the Little Flower’s “little way” itself:
O Little Therese of the Child Jesus,
Please pick a rose for me
From the heavenly gardens
And send it to me
As a message of love.
O little flower of Jesus,
Ask God today to grant the favors
I now place with confidence
In your hands.
(Mention your specific requests)
help me to always believe,
As you did,
In God's great love for me,
So that I might imitate your
"Little Way" each day. Amen
Some prayers to St. Therese, like the novena below, ask for her help in loftier terms. It is a beautifully divine irony that she who thought herself incapable of doing great things has been credited with numerous miracles since her death.
O Glorious St. Therese, whom Almighty God has raised up to aid and inspire the human family, I implore your Miraculous Intercession. You are so powerful in obtaining every need of body and spirit from the Heart of God. Holy Mother Church proclaims you 'Prodigy of Miracles... the Greatest Saint of Modern Times.' Now I fervently beseech you to answer my petition (mention here) and to carry out your promises of spending Heaven doing good on earth...of letting fall from Heaven a Shower of Roses. Little Flower, give me your childlike faith, to see the Face of God in the people and experiences of my life, and to love God with full confidence. St. Therese, my Carmelite Sister, I will fulfill your plea 'to be made known everywhere' and I will continue to lead others to Jesus through you. Amen
Let your prayers to St. Therese shower you with a fragrant spiritual bouquet to help you on your “little way” to Heaven with God’s help and His love. Remember, no one is too little or no task is insignificant in God’s eyes if it is done out of love for Him in accordance with his will.
The janitor is as precious to Him as the movie star or the high powered executive. In a world full of hype and flash, that thought, much like the prayers to St. Therese above and others listed here can provide comfort indeed!
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Are you looking for special prayers for a special favor? Novenas can provide you with some wonderful choices! These prayers for particular intentions or graces have been a great source of comfort and strength for the faithful for centuries. They are typically said as public or private devotions over nine consecutive days, or on one day a week for nine weeks. (The word “novena” itself is derived from the Latin word for the number nine.)
Most novenas are addressed to saints or angels (such as those shown in the painting above of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven), or to our Lord or His Blessed Mother. There are often several prayers to choose from for each of them.
While not formal liturgies per se when prayed in public, they nonetheless can include liturgical prayers of the church. Indeed, attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion daily are often an important part of these devotions.
The versatility and richness of these prayers goes hand in hand with their popularity. You might find some novenas in prayer books consisting of one particular prayer (sometimes a popular one like the prayer to the Holy Spirit) to be said each day for nine days.
Others might have a prayer of this type followed by other specific prayers for each day. And still others, particularly when used in public church services, might have additional readings, reflections, litanies or hymns. Clearly these are not cookie cutter one-size-fits-all prayers!
Many think of Mary, the Apostles and the disciples praying for the nine days before the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts1:14) as an inspiring model for the novena. Yet, it seems to have been adapted from the Greeks and the Romans’ nine day mourning period for the deceased.
There are novenas of:
a) Mourning (such as during the nine days following the death of the pope);
b) Preparation (for nine days of prayer before special feasts in our calendar such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost);
c) Prayer for particular intentions as mentioned above; and finally,
d) Indulgence (to help us satisfy our remaining temporal punishment before God for sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance, otherwise known as confession.)
Many prayers fit into more than one of these categories.
Novenas of masses and prayers for popes and cardinals, among the departed, became customary in the Middle Ages. So did those of preparation for Christmas (first in Spain and France), which paid tribute in part to the nine months our Lord spent in His Blessed Mother’s womb.
By the 17th century, many religious orders celebrated the memory of their founders with novenas of preparation leading up to their feast days. This practice dovetailed nicely with that of saying prayers for special needs to particular saints. Along this line, many prayer books include great opportunities for you to “(mention your request here),” as it is often written in a particular prayer.
The novenas we’ll cover on subsequent pages, including those to St. Joseph, St. Therese, St. Anthony, St. Jude, St. Benedict, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Souls in Purgatory, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Anne, and the Novena of Grace, are relatively simple. There are others in prayer books and websites such as these that include specific prayers for each of the nine days. Keep in mind, though that these prayers don’t contain some magic formula for God to honor these requests automatically at the end of a nine day period! Still, they encourage in us the spirit of perseverance that we need in our prayer lives.
Jesus extolled this virtue in Luke’s Gospel, saying “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find” (Luke 11:9). He’s always listening to each of our prayers, whether or not He gives us the answer we desire, seeking to guide us in doing His will.
Whether you pray directly to God or to Mary and the saints (in which case you’re still praying to Him through them), pray with humility, sincerity and love. Then, if nothing else, our Lord will at least give you the precious gift of His Holy Spirit to help guide you in the midst of your trials and troubles.
As Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the good Spirit to those who ask him?”
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Do you have a big exam coming up? These prayers before studying can help you focus on doing well, with God’s help! Maybe you’re taking the SAT, GRE, GED, LSAT, MCAT, or some other standardized test. Or perhaps just you’re just studying for a history quiz at school. Whatever the case, it never hurts to ask our Lord for His grace and guidance before you hit the books.
He can help steer you through the fog of anxiety and distractions so you can concentrate on your work. Two of these prayers before studying also ask for help from another powerful and loving source: our Blessed Mother!
This first prayer comes from a 1916 Catholic prayer book. The lofty language employed here centers in at its end to our most essential task. Passing the “exam” for Eternal Life!
The second one has a more contemporary feel:
And, finally the third of our prayers before studying was composed by the “Angelic Doctor,” one of the Church’s greatest theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). His writings, such as his celebrated Summa Theologica, provide essential commentary and teachings about our Catholic faith.
When St. Thomas first attended the University of Paris, his quiet manner and heavyset frame earned him the nickname “the Dumb Ox”. Yet his teacher and mentor, St. Albert the Great, upon seeing his amazing memory and grasp of detail, said famously “we call him the dumb ox, but one day he will emit such a bellowing in his teaching that it will be heard throughout the world."
Note in this prayer as well how Aquinas appeals to Mary, “the mediatrix of grace” as St. Alphonsus Liquori called her, to help him receive the grace of the Holy Sprirt. St. Thomas honors, not worships, our Blessed Mother with his petitions.
Remember the key element in all three of these prayers before studying: calling on God (as well as the Blessed Virgin Mary) to help you succeed! You don’t have to feel alone at your desk. Keep in mind as well that whatever the outcome, you’ll at least know did your best for God by sincerely seeking His help and preparing thoroughly for your test with the help of His grace. Good luck!
Friday, November 19, 2010
- Archbishop Fulton Sheen
-Pope Leo XIII
-Pope Pius XI
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Many people find it helpful to start the day with a morning offering. These prayers we present here for offering up suffering can help you and others as well. We start first with this well-known prayer Our Lady taught the three Fatima
visionaries, the children Lucia Dos Santos, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, in 1917, to be said when offering up sufferings, sacrifices, or penances:
Oh my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In a similar vein, we offer this prayer:
Help me to remember in these troubled times
The cross you carried for my sake,
So that I may better carry mine
And to help others do the same,
As I offer up (whatever your concern or problem here) to you
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins
And for the salvation of souls. Amen
Here’s a shorter version that expresses the same sentiment:
I offer you (whatever your concern or problem here)
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins and
For the salvation of souls. Amen.
As the well-known Catholic author Peter Kreeft once wrote in this article, our suffering can help both ourselves and others we may not even know. As he put it "If we are 'in Christ', we, like him, can offer up our sufferings to the Father—and he uses them. They become seeds, or rainwater, and something beautiful springs up that we seldom see in this life."
This concept of redemptive suffering is one of those wonderful divine mysteries, much like our Lord’s Incarnation and His Resurrection that we as human beings will never fully be able to explain but that can give our lives so much meaning. Our sufferings can have a purpose!
God has given us free will to choose to follow Him or not. We’ve abused it many times because of our own sinful nature. And yet He can not only forgive our sins through the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) but also, if we stay close to Him in prayers of offerings, He can take our troubles of any size and use them to make amends for our sins or those of others. (Think of this like paying to fix a window you or someone else broke!)
As Bishop Fulton Sheen once wrote “Pain, agony, disappointments, injustices-all these can be poured into a heavenly treasury from which the anemic, sinful, confused, ignorant souls may draw unto the healing of their wings.”
Think of your sufferings and prayer offerings such as these as contributions into an “Atonement Bank.” It’s not in danger of needing a bailout, and it can give you quite a high rate of return! Your “deposits” can help you, your loved ones or people you don’t even know attain salvation and Eternal Life!
We’d also like to share with you this prayer to offer up sufferings related to confusion, doubt or despair you might naturally feel in bad times:
Dear Lord, during this trial,
I offer up to you my confusion
Give me clarity
I offer up to you my despair
Give me hope
I offer up to you my weakness
Give me strength
I offer up to you my pettiness
Give me generosity of spirit.
I offer up to you all my
Negative thoughts from Satan
So that when he asks ‘Where is Your God now?”
I may respond “Right here with me, giving me His grace
As a Heavenly beam of light penetrating your darkness!"
Remember that in God’s eyes, not one of us is useless. He doesn’t want to lose one sheep in His flock, not one! The one we call the devil, Lucifer, or Satan, however, would like nothing better than to see our destruction.
For most of us, the devil doesn’t turn us into Linda Blair types in need of an Exorcist (as in the movie of that title). His approach is more subtle but it can be deadly nonetheless.
Satan, the father of lies as our Lord referred to him once (John 8:44), tries to play on our weaknesses, our doubts and fears, even in good times, much less in the bad! Don’t let him get you down!
Do you feel like a failure? Frustrated beyond belief? At your wit’s end? Offer all that baggage up to our Lord. Give Him your frustrations and failures. Don't give them to the devil and his forces of darkness.
Do you feel lost? Think of people you look up to, or who inspire you. You think they’ve all had it easy? Look at Jesus. He was born in a cave to die on a cross between two thieves. He was abandoned as a common criminal by his disciples! He must have been a total failure, right? Not at all!
Our Lord came down on earth to share in our sufferings and to give His life not just for our Eternal Life but also so that we may see just how much He loves each of us. This love can strengthen us in our struggles and also help us to share our sufferings with His on Calvary. We can also get His grace, guidance and help through the Eucharist in Holy Communion and in Confession as well!
So, remember, as Blessed Robert Southwell, a 16th Century martyr for Christ once said "God gave Himself to Thee; give Thyself to God."
Angels are pure spirits and possess superior knowledge to ours. Our first prayer is attributed to Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans (1802-1878), a vigorous promoter of catholic education in France.
O almighty and merciful God, Who hast commissioned Thy angels to guide and protect us, command them to be our assiduous companions from our setting out until our return; to clothe us with their invisible protection; to keep us from all danger of collision, of fire, of explosion, of falls and bruises; and finally, having preserved us from all evil, and especially from sin, to guide us to our heavenly home. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
While there were many hazards involved in 19th century travel, some listed in this prayer, we have our own more contemporary risks from cars (as mentioned above), trains, and air travel as well.
This second prayer is addressed directly to our guardian angels.
My holy angel guardian, ask the Lord to bless the journey which I undertake, that it may profit the health of my soul and body; that I may reach its end; and that, returning safe and sound, I may find all at home in good health. Do thou guard, guide, and preserve us. Amen.
Each of us has a guardian angel to protect us and guide our thoughts and inclinations. There is even a Guardian Angel Prayer that is easy to memorize. The rosary is also good to pray while traveling. (Or even just the Hail Mary!)
For all our daily concerns and often hectic schedules, life is fleeting, after all. So it never hurts to call on our angels, our Blessed Mother, and our Lord Himself to help see us through whatever perils we may experience on our journey towards Eternal Life, be they physical or spiritual.
Along with these prayers for travelers we leave you with this inspiring quote from the Old Testament book of Tobit, in which Tobit sends his son off on an important errand, assisted by the Archangel Raphael: “May you have a good journey, and God be with you in your way, and his angel accompany you.” (Tobit 5:22)
This moving prayer, known as a Prayer in Time of Sickness, is a wonderful appeal to our Lord for His grace as we offer our illnesses to Him in imitation of His sacrifice for us on the Cross at Calvary.
Jesus, You suffered and died for us. You understand suffering. Teach me to understand my suffering as You do; to bear it in union with You; to offer it with You to atone for my sins and to bring your grace to souls in need. Calm my fears; increase my trust. May I gladly accept your holy will and become more like You in trial. If it be your will, restore me to health so that I may work for your honor and glory and the salvation of all. Amen
While Christ’s Passion brought us our redemption, our Lord desires nonetheless that each of us unite our sickness and other troubles with His for the salvation of souls. This can transform our pain into atonement for sin, as we read above.
St. Augustine once wrote “God could in no way permit the kind of evil out of which He could not being good.” Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection gives us the ultimate powerful example of this. Who would have thought that our Lord’s humiliation on the Cross would precede His triumph over sin and death for us all? He desires to bring as much good out of our misfortunes as we let Him.
This might become easier to manage if we put as much love as possible into offering up our sickness for ourselves and others. Our illnesses, like all our trials and tribulations, can indeed help us and others achieve salvation.
It also helps a great deal to keep our “eyes on the prize”: the bliss of Eternal Life in Heaven! St. Paul wrote that this magnificence may indeed be ours “if we suffer with Him [Christ], that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:17). In the same vein, St. John Vianney, the famous Patron Saint of Parish Priests once referred to our crosses as “the ladder to heaven.”
Also, as this Prayer in time of Sickness points out, if we can trust in God to see us through no matter what, we can glorify Him and contribute to our salvation (and that of others as well) in sickness and in health!
Celebrating Advent with Your Family
There are a number of ways families can celebrate the season of Advent:
- Make an Advent wreath and place it in the middle of the dining room table. An Advent wreath consists of a frame holding four candles placed inside a circle of evergreens. The greenery in the wreath symbolizes the promised new life in Jesus. The four candles denote the four Sundays of Advent. There are three purple candles and one rose candle. Purple is a sign of penance, and rose is the color denoting the anticipation of joy. Light a candle on each Sunday evening of Advent, saying a short prayer or singing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The light of the candles represents the light coming into the world as we prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth.
- Advent calendars are available at many gift stores. The calendar consists of two pieces of cardboard on top of each other. Twenty-four doors are cut out of the top layer. One door is opened each day from December 1 through December 24, revealing a picture.
- There is a long tradition in Christian art of depicting the Jesse Tree, a symbolic tree or vine with spreading branches on which there are images depicting the genealogy of Jesus. There are several variations of the Jesse Tree. In one variation, each ornament has a picture on one side and a Scripture passage on the other. An ornament is hung on the tree every day during Advent.
Jim Campbell is the author of 52 Simple Ways to Talk to Your Kids about Faith: Opportunities for Catholic Families to Share God's Love. He is also a father of two, a grandfather of six, a religious educator, and an author. He is the coauthor of the Finding God religious education program and the general editor of the Harper's New American Bible Study Program.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
The hectic pace of family life can often mean that prayer gets lost in the shuffle. Here are five simple, practical tips to encourage families to pray more often:
When you rise from bed, get down on your knees
Try this method for morning prayer: Put your bedroom slippers or shoes far under your bed at the end of the day. Each morning, while on your knees retrieving your footwear, say a quick prayer offering the whole day to God.
Communicate with God whenever you climb into the car
Many families spend a whole lot of their time in the family vehicle. As you buckle up, say a quick prayer that you will be aware of God’s presence in your day.
Place a prayer jar in the kitchen
Keep a jar in the kitchen in which each family member, each day, places a note listing a “special intention” that others in the family can pray for. Before each family member goes to bed, he or she pulls a note from the jar and prays for that need.
Fold your hands before you unfold your napkin
Before each meal, take a few moments to thank the One who provides all that you need and blesses you with the lives of those around the table. Try mixing up rote prayers with spontaneous prayers, silent prayers with sung prayers.
Pray when people or events upset you
If you want a sure-fire way to pray more each day, make a habit of saying a short prayer whenever someone irritates you. A quick “Help me, God” is sufficient. You’ll never run out of opportunities!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
This prayer for a cure below makes reference to our Lord’s healing power. Our Divine Physician did indeed work wonders in his Earthly ministry, such as in curing the blind man near Jericho (Mark 10:46-52, depicted in this picture above), the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5-13), and a leper (Luke 5:12-13), among other miracles.
But, as this prayer rightly points out, we have to have the grace and strength from Jesus not to become embittered if He doesn’t cure our afflictions right away, (or even at all)!
Gentle Jesus, who cured the sick and laid a healing hand upon the lame, the blind and the handicapped, look with compassion upon me in my suffering. If it is not your Will to cure me, then give me strength to bear my burden and offer it up to You. You suffered so much for me. Give me grace to offer my sufferings in union with Your own, in reparation for my sins and those of others, for the needs of this troubled world, and for the release of the souls in purgatory. Mary, compassionate Mother, pray for your weary child. Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, pray for me. Amen.
Just as Christ suffered for us on the Cross so also He asks us to suffer for Him, that is to say, to unite our sufferings with His in reparation for sins and for the salvation of souls. As St. Augustine once said, “let us understand that God is a Physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation.”
Keep in mind that if we trust in God to do what is good for us, and reinforce this trust through prayers such as this one, we can achieve that wonderful state of grace where we can be content in sickness or in health, knowing that God is in charge and wishes to bring about our good for His glory, no matter what may happen.
As John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in one of his well-known prayers “God has created me to do Him some definite service….therefore I will trust Him…if I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him….He knows what He is about.”
This prayer for a cure is good also in that it brings our Blessed Mother into the picture. When our Lord said to St. John from the cross “Behold, thy Mother”, he made her our Mother as well, as noted by St. Bernadine of Siena. As such she is more than ready to pray for us to her Divine Son. St. Basil once said that “such is the Divine Will that she should help in every kind of in every kind of necessity.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for her assistance as well as that of Jesus! As we read in the wonderful prayer the Memorare, “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.”
It has been said that Christ is closest to us in our suffering. This prayer for grace in sickness can help you cope during those times when you need to feel our Lord’s presence most!
Dear Lord, by allowing me to experience this affliction, so that I may share in your suffering on the cross for sin, you take a sublime chance that I might either draw closer to you for comfort, or turn away from you in my misery. O my Savior, grant me that precious grace to offer up my pain, as you did in Your Passion, to atone for sin. Help me to imitate your patience and to turn my complaints into offerings for my sins or for those of others, as you see fit. In this time of distress and pain, I ask, I seek, and I knock, for the grace of endurance, perseverance, and above all, trustful submission to Your Divine will, for my good and your glory.
This might seem like a tall order, particularly when you are undergoing a great deal of pain. We might admire those who carry their crosses gracefully. We might even feel grateful for a particular cross if we emerge stronger after bearing it, once the ordeal is over!
But how often do we embrace our crosses during sickness? You might have heard it said that God will only send us the crosses we can bear. Yet, especially during a serious illness, that cross seems to be made of lead, not wood, as it crushes down on us.
When we turn away from God then, we risk turning fragile moments into brittle ones. We lose the opportunity to bear our pain with love for Him as He bore His suffering out of love for us on the Cross. We lose the grace of trusting in Him to see us through our ordeal and to help us get to Heaven.
What we need to pray for most, as implied in this prayer above, is a patient, persevering trust in God to do the right thing for us if we seek to follow His will, no matter what the circumstances.
The degree to which we are receptive to God’s graces is the degree to which we will be given more! You might have heard the popular expression “Let Go and Let God.” Let Jesus help you carry your crosses in prayer!
While there is nothing wrong with being proud of a job well done, vanity has no place in our spiritual lives. Our Lord famously illustrated this in his parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (captured by the French Artist James Tissot in the painting above) in which the contrite tax collector is justified before God rather than the smug Pharisee boasting about his religious achievements (Luke 18:9-14).
This prayer for humility starts out with a memorable quote from scripture:
O God, who resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble: grant us the virtue of true humility, where of Your Only-begotten son showed in Himself a pattern for Your faithful; that we may never by our pride provoke Your anger, but rather by our meekness receive the riches of Your grace.
The first line (about God resisting the proud and giving grace to the humble) is quoted approvingly by the apostles St. Peter (1 Pet. 5:5) and St. James (Jas. 4:6) in their New Testament letters. God’s favoring the humble is also mentioned numerous times in Scripture (such as in Job 22:29, Sirach 3:18, Psalm 18:28, and Matt. 23:12)
Humility is also an important element of the Blessed Mother’s prayer the Magnificat, in which she proclaims that God “has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart” and “has exalted the lowly” (Luke 1:51-52).
Why approach God with humble hearts? Because he can work with (and through) us then, when we’re not all full of our own egos and puffed-up pride, treating our Lord as if we’re doing Him a favor by being devout.
Note also that this prayer for humility makes reference to God’s grace. God gives us the inclination with His grace to do good things and to avoid evil. (To do good for God, as it were!) Yet we must be truly open to receiving God’s grace for it to be effective in our lives.
Perhaps you’ve seen a picture of Christ knocking at our door (such as the one shown at right). We can’t let Him in if we’re too full of ourselves. There’s no room for Him in our souls if they’re cluttered with our own smug self-importance.
In terms of meekness, remember also our Lord’s famous line from the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the meek because they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).
(Matthew quotes another of His most famous sayings later on in his Gospel: “He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12).
Note, however, that showing meekness doesn’t mean being a doormat or not standing up for what is right, in our faith and in society in general. Christ showed great humility in his earthly ministry, from being born in a manger to dying on a cross!
Yet He also showed unwavering devotion to His Heavenly Father in setting the example of humble love and service to God and to Humanity he wished us to follow. As the Word made flesh dwelling among us (John 1:14), Christ always displayed a firmness of purpose in carrying out His Father’s will for our good and His glory.
As St. Paul put it so movingly in his letter to the Philippians Christ “humbled Himself…even to death on a cross..therefore God has also exalted Him and has bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:8-9). In His Passion, our Lord conquered death so that we might have Eternal Life with Him in heaven.
We all have times when we feel frustrated by other people’s conceit or by our own feelings of inadequacy. We hope this prayer for humility can help you turn these gloomy thoughts over to God for His grace in dealing with them!
Friday, October 29, 2010
God's Love for You: The Gospel of Jesus the Messiah
The World Around Us
Every person longs for happiness and love. This is the most basic desire present deep within every human heart - including yours.
Sometimes, the stunning beauty of the world around us awakens or increases within us this deep yearning for “more.” At other times we may be struck by the beauty and goodness of the people around us whom we know and love. We are fascinated by the mystery of humanity which often reflects so much truth, beauty and goodness.
Yet at the same time we also know that there is something terribly wrong with the world, so often marred by ugliness, evil and suffering. Everywhere we hear of poverty, illness, injustice, selfishness, anger, crime, violence, cruelty, and war, to the point that life can easily become filled with fear, loneliness, pain, hopelessness and despair. Many people try to temporary escape from this harsh reality through the elusive and artificial paradises of drugs, alcohol, or temporary relationships, but these in the end only increase our pain and alienation from the world. Sometimes we find comfort in genuinely good things, such as music, entertainment, sport, hobbies, work, friends, and family - yet deep down inside we know that these things cannot fully satisfy our restless heart.
Can we make any sense of this world, so beautiful yet wounded by so much evil and suffering?
Thursday, October 28, 2010
THE SEEDComposed by Tito Gene Alvarado
Music by C2CD
Chords: D9 A9 Bm G
A SEED WAS PLANTED IN THIS LAND OF NEW
OF DIFFERENT MINDS AND DIFFERENT VIEW
A FOREIGN SEED NO ONE EVER KNEW
WILL MULTIPLY, FLOURISH AND IT GREW
A SEED OF LOVE BESTOWED TO ALL
LIKE MUSTARD SEED IT STARTED SMALL
LORD JESUS CHRIST YOU ARE THE SEED
FROM GOD THE FATHER THE WORLD RECEIVED (2x)
A SEED WAS PLANTED A SEED HAS GROWN
IN EVERY HEART THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN
GREATER THAN SILVER PRECIOUS THAN GOLD
LORD YOUR WORDS YIELD A THOUSAND FOLD
REJOICE, REJOICE THE HARVEST IS NEAR
THE AIR IS CRISP AND THE SUN IS CLEAR
REJOICE, REJOICE LET’S SING TOGETHER
LORD JESUS CHRIST IS GOD FOREVER
BRIDGE: G A D Bm
THE HARVEST IS GREAT, THE WORKERS ARE FEW
THEY’LL DO IT LORD FOR THE LOVE YOU
THE HARVEST IS GREAT YET WE ARE FEW
WE’LL DO IT LORD FOR THE LOVE YOU
D9 A9 Bm G
12 YEARS AGO A SEED WAS SOWN
LIKE MUSTARD SEED IT STARTED SMALL
LORD JESUS CHRIST YOU ARE THE SEED
FROM GOD THE FATHER THE WORLD RECEIVED (2X)