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A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

While I’ve never been much for making New Year’s resolutions, I do try to think about the things I’d like to do differently and the things I’d like to accomplish each New Year. And that is the thing about resolutions – they are all about “I”. This is not necessarily a negative; goodness knows there are an infinite number of things I could and should work to improve upon in my life and in my self. But this is where most resolutions begin and end – with ME. Which is likely why most of mine fade into the background, because I lack the resolve, strength, memory, or will to fulfill them over the course of the year. There is a paradox here – I want to be the one to make the necessary changes, but the truth is I am my own biggest obstacle.

Mary Untier of Knots. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mary Untier of Knots. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

It isn’t a coincidence that the Catholic Church celebrates New Year’s Day as the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. This is a day, the first day of a new year filled with hope and promise, in which the Church invites me to remember that I have a mother who is very concerned with everything that concerns me and all those I care about. She wants me to remember to involve and include her in my thoughts, plans, hopes, dreams, and resolutions for the year. This year, instead of going it alone as has been my past practice, I’ve decided to turn over my resolutions and all that needs fixing and improving and adjusting in my life to someone else’s more capable hands: Mary, the Untier of Knots. (Read more . . . )

40 Days of Prayer for Lent

Prayer and image from the 40 Days for Healing the Wounds From Abortion website

Prayer and image from the 40 Days for Healing the Wounds From Abortion website

Click here for more information, support, and resources.

Walking Along the Way of Beauty

David (detail), by Michaelangelo

I would like to consider briefly one of these helpful channels that can lead us to God and also be helpful in our encounter with him: It is the way of artistic expression, part of that via pulchritudinis — “the way of beauty” . . . which modern man should recover in its most profound meaning. Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another — before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music — to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter — a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds — but something far greater, something that “speaks,” something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul. A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human person who stands in wonder before the visible reality, who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors, sounds. Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man’s need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite. Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, opened to a beauty and a truth beyond the everyday. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.

Chartres Cathedral, Paris

But there are artistic expressions that are true roads to God, the supreme Beauty — indeed, they are a help [to us] in growing in our relationship with him in prayer. We are referring to works of art that are born of faith, and that express the faith. We see an example of this whenever we visit a Gothic cathedral: We are ravished by the vertical lines that reach heavenward and draw our gaze and spirit upward, while at the same time we feel small and yearn to be filled. . . 

Le Roi David/King David, by Marc Cagall

But how many times, paintings or frescoes also, which are the fruit of the artist’s faith — in their forms, in their colors, in their light — move us to turn our thoughts to God, and increase our desire to draw from the Fount of all beauty. The words of the great artists, Marc Chagall, remain profoundly true — that for centuries, painters dipped their brushes in that colored alphabet, which is the Bible. How many times, then, can artistic expression be for us an occasion that reminds us of God, that assists us in our prayer or even in the conversion of our heart! . . .

Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate his beauty, both in nature as well as in works of art, so that we might be touched by the light of his face, and so be light for our neighbor.

— His Holiness Benedict XVI, from On Beauty as a Way to God: Art “Is Like a Door Opened to the Infinite,” General Audience, Castel Gandolfo, August 31. http://www.zenit.org

Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

English Chant for the Immaculate Conception, posted by Jeffrey Tucker The Chant Cafe (You will need to turn on your volume to hear these beautiful chants)

Immaculate Conception Novena: November 29 — December 7

O most pure Virgin Mary conceived without sin, from the very first instant, you were entirely immaculate. O glorious Mary full of grace, you are the mother of my God – the Queen of Angels and of men. I humbly venerate you as the chosen mother of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose you for the singular grace and honor of being his beloved mother. By the power of his Cross, he preserved you from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, I have hope and bold confidence in your prayers for my holiness and salvation.
 
I pray first of all that you would make me worthy to call you my mother and your Son, Jesus, my Lord.
 
I pray that your prayers will bring me to imitate your holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.
 
Hail Mary…
 
Now, Queen of Heaven, I beg you to beg my Savior to grant me these requests…
 
(Mention your intentions)
 
My holy Mother, I know that you were obedient to the will of God. In making this petition, I know that God’s will is more perfect than mine. So, grant that I may receive God’s grace with humility like you.
 
As my final request, I ask that you pray for me to increase in faith in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in hope in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in love for the risen Jesus!
 
Hail Mary…
 
Amen.
 
Novena courtesy of PrayMoreNovenas.com

The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first day of a beautiful season of waiting, hope, prayer, and, reflection. I always love Advent. I love the time of waiting and anticipation. I love how entering this time as the season changes, with the days growing shorter and the nights colder. It’s a time to enter in to the dark night, to look for the Light to come, and to wait with steadfast patience for the angels to sing Gloria.

The Church received a beautiful gift today in anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child, the Word made flesh — today we celebrated Mass with the new translation of the Roman Missal. The prayers of both the people and the priest have been revised to more closely reflect the original Latin translation. Reading over the prayers, I was struck by how reverent the language is, and how it fosters a stronger sense of humility and awe in the liturgy. There is a great deal to reflect on, especially in the priest’s prayers. In a culture which so often twists words to mean things that lead us far away from the truth, it is a beautiful gift that we have this new translation to lead us more deeply in to the truth of our faith.

My instinct at this time of year is to slow way down and to pay attention, to be more watchful. This is in contrast to the flurry of shopping and decorating and the general hustle and bustle going on around me. I find as I get older, I am less inclined to hustle and more inclined to hibernate. But I hope to at least be able to cultivate an inner space where I can remain quiet in the midst of activity, to await the miracle that is to come in the arms of our Blessed Mother, and to be more attentive and grateful for the gift of faith.

Wishing you a blessed, holy, and peace-filled Advent season.

Viva Christo Rey!: The Feast of Christ the King

“God does not have a fixed plan that He must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways… The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.” — Pope Benedict XVI

Today, as the Church closes out the year in preparation for the beginning of the new liturgical year next Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent, it is only fitting that we celebrate the truth that Christ is Lord: of all on earth and above the earth, of all people and of all concerning them, of all life and of victory over death. This is true regardless of whether people believe He is or not, whether they acknowledge His existence or not. As we prepare to spend the next four weeks reflecting on the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation and Birth of the Lord of All, this feast is a comforting and blessed reminder that when all is said and done, Christ is the one and only King, present now and forever, until the end of time.  

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that I only just found out the circumstances surrounding the induction of this beautiful feast by Pope Pius XI as a way to combat the rising tide of secularism and hostility towards the Church that was beginning to flourish in the last century and continues on to today. If this is news to you, or if you need a refresher, you might like to read this mindful and enlightening article by Dan Burke.

Remember to Pray For Priests

Sadly, this week I also learned a wonderful and truly gifted priest from a nearby parish has left the priesthood. This was a devastating and sober reminder to me of the great need and responsibility we have to pray for our priests. While it is true that one of the duties of a priest is to be a model of holiness in leading the people in his care to Christ, it is also true that we are all indelibly marked as “priests, prophets, and kings” through our Baptism. It is not just the job of a priest to be holy so that the people he serves may be holy; it is also the job of the people to make every effort to grow in holiness and to support the priest in his service to the people of God and in the gift of his entire life in service to the Church. The priest is like a soldier on the front lines of a very great battle. To leave him to fight alone, without prayer and the individual effort to grow in holiness in response to God’s universal call, is to leave him prey to the enemy and many evils.

It is true that many are reeling from the abuse crisis in the Church, and rightfully so. But we cannot forget or abandon the many, many priests who continue to fight each day for the people of God, who continue to sacrifice unfailingly even in a climate that has made it extremely difficult to do their jobs with any dignity. St. Therese, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, reminds us of both the humanity of the priest and of his special need of prayer:

“I understood my vocation in Italy . . . I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men. If holy priests, whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the “salt of the earth,” show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn’t Jesus say too: “If the salt loses its savor, wherewith will it be salted? How beautiful is the vocation, O Mother, which has as its aim the preservation of the salt destined for souls! This is Carmel’s vocation since the sole purpose of our prayers and sacrifices is to be the apostle of the apostles. We are to pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and especially their example.” [Emphasis in the saint’s original text]

St. Therese mentions the great need priests have of prayer, those who are holy, those who are lukewarm, but what of those who have walked away and are lost? She was no stranger to this experience: all of the nuns in her Carmel grieved over a French Carmelite priest who left the priesthood. St. Therese especially offered many prayers and sacrifices for his conversion.  She teaches us emphatically that all priests need our prayers, desperately. As one Body in Christ, each one of us is affected by the actions — good and bad — of all the rest. But we also all share in the graces each receives through prayer and sacrifice. This is the beautiful treasure of the communion of saints which we share in even now.

"When the priest is on the altar, he is always Jesus Christ on the cross." -- St. Bernadette Soubirous

As we celebrate this great feast of Christ the King, it would be well if we remembered in a special way those who have given their lives to ensure that we are able to receive the graces God intends for each one of us through the sacraments instituted for the Church through His Son, Jesus Christ. It would be well if we remembered to pray in a special way for those who have given their lives to ensure that each and every day, in every Church throughout the world, Christ is able to become truly and really present — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, to be present to each one of us in the most special way. By His own design, Christ can only be present in the Eucharist through the anointed hands of the priest. It would be well if we remembered and prayed for these men, and if we were mindful of our own responsibility to grow in holiness so that through our own example others may see that Christ is the Light of the World.