Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayer. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

School and Unschool and Everything In Between

What we've been doing:

* For Ramona's book club we just finished reading Marie McSwigan's Snow Treasure. It was slow going for her at first, but once we got into the meat of it, she enjoyed it. Here's a link to my quick review from 2006. (That was waaaay back when I read it to my then 10- and 12-year olds, and Ramona was just a pre-schooler. And here's a link to loads of other WWII related reading for younger readers.)

* Ramona has a new pen pal. Snail mail lives! We use this stuff called paper, pen, envelopes, and stamps. If you haven't tried them, you should give it a whirl. It's revolutionary!

* Science for Ramona right now is mostly National Geographic Kids and Kids Discover. These also dovetail nicely into the "social studies" category. Also under the social studies category is being ten years old and living with teenagers ... all kinds of opportunities for viewing those creatures in their natural habitat and discussing their anomalies with your mother.

* Finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to Ramona. (I edit the icky, dark parts late in the book.) All past bloggy-things-Harry are here.

Dragon Box is still a hit around here.

* Ramona also likes several of the math games she's tried at Sheppard Software.

* Betsy, who's taking a French class at the college, is reading Pride and Prejudice on the Kindle -- in French. She's also re- (re-re-re-) reading a hard copy in English, so if she gets hung up, she just jogs her memory with that. She's surpassed me and the little bit of French I took many years ago. I do still remember how to ask what time it is and the location of the nearest bathroom. Vital stuff.

* Anne-with-an-e loves spring break almost as much as she loves dissecting things in her zoology class.  Or is it that she loves dissecting things almost as much as she loves a leisurely spring break? Either way, she's having a lovely week.

* Lent rolls along. Our Lamb of God is beginning to grow fuzzy. I can be heard occasionally complaining that I really want to have something sweet. Sugar! (Eeek...How spoiled am I? Really!?) I caved one evening, the Saturday night we were out of town for the girls' Winter Ball. I gobbled some regifted chocolates that night. (That is a story too long to go into, but suffice to say that I do a Christmas gift exchange with a friend each year, and I always give him oatmeal cookies, and he always gives me regifted chocolates, and this was the first time we'd seen each other since Christmas. A sad excuse, but the only one I've got.) Back to Lent: we have lots of talks about sacrifice and hardship, hunger and plenty, waste and abundance, sin and repentance. We talk about weakness and chocolate and first world problems.

We got ourselves to confession. We'll plan to get there again soon.

* We've started doing Night Prayer with the girls. I've used iBreviary for myself for some time now, and love it. Atticus and I also use it for Morning Prayer, and now Ramona is enjoying taking charge of scrolling us through the Liturgy of the Hours before bedtime. It's loverly.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Guest posting at The Snoring Scholar

I added my two cents to Sarah Reinhard's "Looking Closer at the Hail Mary" series, and my post is here.

See the whole series of reflections here.

~~~~~~

And have a happy 4th of July!

(You can find me getting cranky over all the neighborhood noise, as usual.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quotes for a Thursday

 from Through the Year With Mary, January 12

"I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary; I don't succeed in fixing my mind on them. For a long time I was desolate about this lack of devotion which astonished me, for I love the Blessed Virgin so much that it should be easy for me to recite in her honor prayers which are so pleasing to her. Now I am less desolate; I think that the Queen of heaven, since she is my Mother, must see my good will and she is satisfied with it."

~~ St. Therese of Lisieux

A great saint admitted her struggles with prayer; pray for me to humbly persevere, Mary, just as the Little Flower did. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From Charlotte's Web (which I'm reading aloud with Ramona), on Wilbur's plans for the day:

"From three to four, he planned to stand perfectly still, and think of what it was like to be alive, and to wait for Fern."

Monday, May 02, 2011

He is Blessed!


I wrote this six years ago, after John Paul the Great died. I did not yet have teenagers, Ramona was not yet three years old. Life at our house has changed a great deal in the last six years, but one thing has not changed: John Paul II, we love you.



Closer Than Ever to Papa

Our beloved Holy Father (“Holy Daddy,” as my toddler calls him) is with the Lord. There’s no doubt in my mind. I’m certain that Karol Wojtyla, our dear Pope John Paul II, lived his purgatory on earth and was taken straight into the Beatific Vision.

Granted, our family said prayers for the repose of his soul. He asked for our prayers, after all, and we know that our Church never presumes to know the state of a particular soul. But almost immediately, my husband pointed out how backward it felt: We all strongly felt the urge to ask him to pray for us.
At Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday I felt closer to Papa than ever before. I’ve long loved him, of course. As a convert to Catholicism ten years ago, I was greatly influenced by his writings and I continue to be. I grew to love the Catholic Church in large part because Papa explained it to me so thoroughly, so clearly, so beautifully. His apostolic letters and encyclicals told me of the riches of God’s providence, what it means to live a life of and for the Lord, and about the unity and beauty of our faith’s doctrines. Papa showed me that God loved me.
When he was alive, the closeness I felt to him was due to his role as my earthly spiritual father. He taught, led by example, and prayed for his flock. He exemplified a life of sacrifice, of pure and true love for God. However, although I knew his prayers for “all the faithful” included me, I also knew that on a practical level, JPII didn’t know me. He didn’t know for whom or for what I prayed, he didn’t know my private struggles and many weaknesses. He didn’t know how much I personally needed him. Now he does.
As I prayed at Mass, on Divine Mercy Sunday, I felt an overwhelming need to cry out to my papa. I asked him to pray for me. I felt drenched in his love and paternal concern as I imagined his beaming face. I felt convinced, down to my bones, that he now knows. He knows every private struggle that I reveal to him in prayer and he will lay them before my Heavenly Father’s throne, in urgent and loving intercession. He is now present to me as never before.
Like so many others, I will miss Papa’s earthly presence and leadership. But, with him and St. Faustina, I can say, “Jesus, I trust in Thee.” I know that our Church will go on and we will move forward with a new shepherd. We’ll have adjustments to make, and we’ll miss seeing dear Papa’s face, but our Church will go on. I do not have fears about our next pope. I fear only what he (and we) will personally endure as he shepherds us through the mess of the modern world. I trust in the Holy Spirit and I trust in Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. We will push on. We will overcome. Evil will not triumph.
And so, while I am sad that I will no longer read new encyclicals from JPII, hear new pronouncements, or see Papa’s face on the news, I am happy for him. His earthly suffering is over. He has entered into the eternal happiness for which we all long.
When fear creeps in, I will remind myself that Papa is closer to me than ever. I’ll ask for his prayers and know — good father that he is — that he’ll take them to the Lord. Papa told me not to be afraid. I plan to follow his advice.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I'm at Conversion Diary, reflecting on Our Father's Name



Last month, I mentioned that Jennifer at Conversion Diary was putting together a series of posts meant to reflect on the Lord's prayer, word by word. I loved her idea, especially because as I first began tentative prayer I did the same thing. (Pondered one word of the Our Father at a time, that is. Blogging wasn't a word yet.)

Not yet baptized, wondering if I had to go to a church, and reading the New Testament to learn more about this Jesus person, I'd sit down to pray and spend time with just one word of the Our Father. If you've never savored the Our Father this way, meditated on just a single word or phrase, I highly recommend it. You'll find thoughts, connections, and ideas that simply don't pop up in the middle of a rote recitation. (Not that rote recitation doesn't have its place -- in times of fear or crisis, when my brain isn't working well, it's a gift to have a string of real words at my disposal that are at once a cry, a comfort, and a prayer of supplication. And, of course, formal prayer is not automatically rote, but that's another subject.)

So, please head over to Jennifer's to read the whole series, and share in my thoughts on our Father's Name.

(Graphic is thanks to Jen. I'm not that clever.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer: Progress Doesn't Happen Overnight

Tonight a friend mentioned that at the recent mission at our parish (which we missed, mainly due to Atticus and Betsy feeling miserable with colds or allergies), our pastor discussed the wonderful A-R-R-R prayer. Since I'm being so green today, I thought I'd recycle an old post about the pirate prayer which is, I think, quite apt for Lent.

~~~~~~~~~~

I really need to be accountable. That's why I have Atticus. And children. And a cat. And a scale. And a best friend. And a spiritual director.

This weekend, I got to see my best friend and my spiritual director. I saw Atticus, the children and the cat, too, of course, but you hear about them every day, so let's move on. The best friend and the director live in Omaha, so I don't see them as often. Saturday, I had the chance to see them both, so it was a good day for accountability.

You don't really need to know, and you probably don't care, about the things I was struggling with. Like most of us, I have the same things arise again and again. My spiritual director compares God's work on these issues -- anyone's issues -- to an onion. God peels away a layer or two at a time, helping us to get closer to the core.  My best friend has always compared it to an upward spiral: our struggles keep coming up, repeating themselves, which can be discouraging. But we are being pulled upward.

Both analogies work on the same level: we're making progress, but it's slow. Sometimes painful. Sometimes we don't feel as if we've gotten very far.

When I was an atheist, I assumed that people who had conversions were all like St. Paul: instantly different in every way.  What I've learned, as a Christian, is that some things are instantly different (let's face it, to become a Catholic is to adopt some rather dramatic changes in one's life) but other things are lifelong learning experiences. Core sins or ways of being take time to change.  Most likely, though the substance of the struggles is the same, the accidents, or the way in which those struggles manifest, is very different when we are 30 or 40 or 50 than it was when we were 15 or 20 years old.

I like to take the spiral analogy and visualize it even further. I picture the spiral as something very tightly, painfully wound at the bottom -- wound so tightly it can barely be moved or untwisted. But, as God' work begins, the spring begins to loosen. And as it is unwound, the spiral opens, and widens, and moves ever upward, widening our perspective of it as well.  So, as we move upward on this spiraling, expanding path, we get a better view, a clearer and wider sense of the things we're untangling and dealing with.

I share this because if you are ever discouraged by the fact that you seem to revisit the same sins or the same patterns of behavior repeatedly, I hope you won't despair. Compare yourself to where you were five years ago with the same sin. What about ten years ago?  Do you handle it differently?  If you're striving to seriously live your faith life, my guess is that you do handle it differently. A particular temptation or inclination might still be there, but you're probably approaching it in new and better ways all the time.

Does an alcoholic stop wanting to drink? Usually not. Does a recovering alcoholic stay away from alcohol? Yes. It's the same thing with all of our sins and temptations. We're still the same people, but the ways in which we live and behave do change, with God's grace. Sometimes we even stop wanting the drink, the sin, the temptation. God can transform us that completely.

Having said all that, I'm rerunning something that I need to revisit regularly and so I'm assuming you do, too. It's what my director called the "A-R-R-R" method of prayer, and what I then dubbed pirate prayer. All you have to remember is "ARRR" (but you don't have to add "Matey" or do anything that makes you feel really foolish. You can even eschew my silly pirate label and call it something respectable, such as "a method of prayer for those of us who enjoy acronyms.") 

ARRR stands for:

Acknowledge
Relate
Receive
Respond

These steps in prayer are especially helpful to me when I'm responding to something with a great deal of emotion. At times, I find (or my spiritual director oh-so-gently points out) that I'veintellectually sifted through a problem, but I'm still reacting strongly to the situation. Intellect is not enough. It's time to take it to God in prayer, and "ARRR" helps me in this way:

Acknowledge

Acknowledge what I'm feeling -- what I'm really feeling, not what I think I should feel, what I wish I could feel, what I think God wants me to feel. Acknowledge -- to myself -- my true feelings. No matter how irrational, unjustifiable or unpleasant they may be.

Relate 
Hand those feelings over to God. Tell Him everything -- tell Him what I've honestly recognized in myself. Lay it down at His feet. Give it utterly and completely to Him.

Receive


Receive what God has to offer me in return. Is He calling me to forgiveness? To healing? To action? To grieving? Be open to what He offers. (This may not come right away. Be patient.)

Respond

This is self-explanatory. What did I receive from God, and how will I put that into practice, into action?

These steps don't always occur as neatly as I've spelled them out. The "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may stretch out over many moments or sessions of prayer. Sometimes I find that I have to acknowledge over and over again what I'm reallyfeeling about something before I'm ready to move on. So, the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may include tears or times of simply pouring my heart out to our loving God. Because I have to empty myself of my self before I'm ready to receive anything from the Lord.

But, I also have to remember that I can't get stuck in the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages. Reminding myself that I'm in the middle of a process is so helpful. When I've really and truly given up to God all that I've been holding on to, He will pour out new graces that I'll then be ready to receive. Knowing that I'm only two steps into a process wards off despair and nurtures hope. And it keeps me from stagnating in self pity or sadness.

I know that there will be gifts to receive, and that He will give me the strength to respond to them.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saying Yes, Saying No, and Jennifer's Our Father Series

Why do mothers feel so guilty about being "only" mothers?  Why do we sometimes think that if our vocation and our work is "just at home" that we should be willing to also take on all kinds of other projects?

Isn't "Home and Family" a worthwhile project?

I think so. But I'd be willing to bet that most stay-at-home moms have felt guilty about saying no to volunteering, committees, and so on, even though we know that Overcommitted = Cranky.

I'm sure we've all heard the spot-on wisdom that we must sometimes say "no" to good things in order to properly serve the people and things we've said "yes" to.

And isn't the best example of that the Blessed Mother?

When Mary said "yes" to God, she was saying "no" to a lot of other objective goods, such as an ordinary marriage and family. But the Lord didn't call her to the ordinary -- He called her to the extraordinary. She said yes.

On the other hand, He has called many of us to the ordinary, and we must say no to the extraordinary (such as being, or trying to be, Superwoman.)  It's okay to say "No, I cannot be Superwoman", no to the many demands on our time that can distract us from handling that one big "Yes" that we signed on for.

Jennifer at Conversion Diary had a great post on this very subject recently.  Visit her post for the tips, definitely, but almost as good is the graphic she threw in.

~~~~~

And, speaking of Jennifer, she's doing a terrific series right now on The Our Father, Word by Word.  She's reflecting on the each word of the prayer, and has invited some guest bloggers to weigh in, too.

My turn will be coming up soon -- I'm delighted to be part of it, and I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, check out Jennifer's first installment : "Our."  And her first guest blogger, Marcel LeJeune is here, on "Father."

And, just to be clear on the whole Yes/No issue:

If, instead of throwing in a guest post Jennifer had asked me to join a year-long committee to investigate the feasibility of doing a series of posts on the Our Father, and needed me to make 110 phone calls to see which bloggers might be free, and if she wondered aloud if I might also have time to bake ten dozen chocolate chip cookies for the first meeting and also line up the babysitting, rest assured I would have said no to all of those goods in order to say yes to the best: writing a blog post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Would You Do Differently?

I recently read a collection of answers to that question from a variety of homeschooling moms.

"If you could do it again ...."


So. Now that I have ten years of homeschooling under my belt, what would I change?

I would ....

Humph. I've been staring at this page for ten minutes.

Is there nothing I can think of that I'd change? Is our homeschool so ethereally perfect that we needn't tweak a thing?

Ummm, no.

I can round up some of the usual suspects for homeschooling change:

More or less curriculum (depending on the year), more or less glitter (depending on the day), more time outside (always),  more penmanship (nah, scratch that. Long ago, a friend told me that he feared for my life because my new boyfriend Atticus had the handwriting of an axe murderer; I think my kids just inherited their father's hand rather than my careful script.)

But, all of those things are somewhat incidental because, as helpful as "What would you do differently?" surveys are (because I do think they can help us identify weaknesses when we're in the midst of battle), generally speaking, we can't change who we are and where we are on the road.

I can tell a new mom to relax about her baby, but she's still going to fret.

I can tell the mom of a three-year-old that "they all get potty-trained eventually," but she'll still be worried.

I can tell a new homeschooler that she needn't create an Einstein in Kindergarten or first grade, but she'll still be overflowing with enthusiasm and might do too much.

Beginners make beginners' mistakes. I did. I'm still making them, because I'm still a beginner,  just in new and different stages of life. Expect mistakes. Expect tweaking. Expect overhauls.

But, here's the best homeschooling and parenting advice I can dish out:

Identify your biggest fear. Then, hand it right over to Jesus. Every. Single. Morning.  Ask Him to help you face that fear, just for today. Go to bed at night thanking Him for the chance to face the fear and ask Him for forgiveness for your mistakes and sins and ask Him to help you through the next day.

Wake up the next day and repeat.

What would I do differently?

I would never forget my own advice.

(Photo from ImageChef.com)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quote For a Sunday Night


"If you want faith, pray. If you want hope, pray. If you want charity, pray. If you want poverty, pray. If you want obedience, pray. If you want chastity, pray. If you want humility, pray. If you want meekness, pray. If you want fortitude, pray. If you want any virtue, pray.

"And pray in this fashion: always reading the Book of Life, that is, the life of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, whose life consisted of poverty, pain, contempt and true obedience."

~~ Blessed Angela of Foligno, Book of Visions and Instructions

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Simple Ways to Get More Prayer Into Your Life

On this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, some ideas for prayer and inspiration:

Ideas from my Rosary book:

Pray in the shower.
Pray in the car.
Pray while you walk.
Pray as you do chores.
Pray with your kids instead of trying to find quiet time alone.
Pray a decade of the Rosary here and there.
Pray in the middle of the night (when up with a baby, if you're an insomniac ....)
Pray on the way to Mass.

Ideas from others:

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

"The Rosary taught Bernadette everything …
The Rosary was her dictionary, her spelling book,
naming and explaining the mysteries of God’s kingdom;
it was a map guiding her to the heart of  God’s love for humanity."
~~ Fr. John Lochran, The Miracle of Lourdes

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anxiety, Stevie Wonder, and Some Assembly Required

Yesterday, at Mass, these words leapt out at me:

"Protect us from all anxiety ...."

I hear the words every Sunday. Right after the Lord's Prayer:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Some days I find that certain prayers or parts of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are like a familiar song.  Instead of really hearing the words, I feel a rhythm: "Ba dum, ba dum, ba dum. Ba dum ba dum, Amen."

Other times (better times) I don't just feel a rhythm, I enter it. Instead of riding a wave I dive into the deep, break through the water, stop skimming and start swimming. And I hear things in a new way. 

Yesterday I was struck by the fact that our Lord doesn't simply "wish" we would avoid anxiety-- He actually directs us to pray for protection from the evil of it.

and protect us from all anxiety

Protect us. From all anxiety.

Switching gears for a moment:

The other day, I assembled a futon couch. As I tweeted, "assemble-it-yourself" furniture has been known to cause divorces. However, this time, Atticus and I didn't risk our marriage. I tackled the project with my girls (because Atticus wasn't home) and we cranked up some music. Music is such a mysterious gift, isn't it? That day, it was a fun mix that a friend had just given me. How can you get tense when you're listening to Stevie Wonder singing For Once In My Life?

And, it's not just good accompaniment for furniture assembly. For me, it's a spiritual song, though my friend didn't know that.

For once unafraid
I can go where life leads me
Somehow I know I'll be strong

At some point in my conversion, Stevie and God converged on me one day:

For once I can touch
What my heart used to dream of
Long before I knew

and they were both talking about Him.

Someone warm like you
Would make my dreams come true.

And about me:

For once in my life
I won't let sorrow hurt me
Not like it's hurt me before

That day, I knew I'd never hear that song in the same way again.

For once I can say
This is mine, you can't take it
Long as I know I have love
I can make it

Music does this. Leads us and enlightens. It shows us something new, shines light on a dark corner, jolts us into a new vision.

And prayers do it, too. Sometimes, a prayer I've heard countless times is inexplicably a new lyric, a profoundly played note that wrenches a corner of my being and is forever changed for me, forever changing me.

Protect us from all anxiety.
As we wait in joyful hope

A cd from a friend, time with my daughters, cheap furniture that needs to be assembled, Stevie, a familiar prayer walloping me anew -- the simplest things can be the most mysterious.

"All art aspires to the condition of music." ~~ Walter Pater

"Anxiety comes from an irregulated desire to be delivered from the evil we experience. Therefore, above all else, calm and compose your mind. Gently and quietly pursue your aim." ~~ St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Your Favorite Catholic Devotions and Prayer Practices?

Mary de Turris Poust tagged me for a meme.  The original question was,"What are your five favorite Catholic devotions?"

But Mary responded, "To be honest, my devotions are not going to look or sound like traditional devotions. That's why I added 'prayer practices' to the headline."

Sounds good to me. I never seem to fit neatly into categories either, so I'll follow Mary's expansive lead. And some of my answers are stolen from similar to Mary's. 

1. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

I love this prayer. Years ago, before I was a Catholic, I was struggling with an enormous problem and my marriage was on shaky ground. I had stopped attending the Episcopal church, and had no place to call my spiritual home. My friend Jack gave me a copy of the chaplet saying, "Here. Pray it every day for the next month." I shrugged and supposed it couldn't hurt. I prayed daily and at the end of that month, it seemed that my problem had miraculously been dealt with and my marriage was getting a new start.

Ummm ... okay.

I knew the prayer wasn't a magic charm but it did seem to be a Catholic road sign. A big, neon one. A sign among many that had been piling up. Nine months later I was Catholic. 

2. The Rosary

A no-brainer since I wrote the book on it .... 

But, seriously, I do love it. I love that the Rosary meets me where I am. If I'm in a hurry, Mother Mary takes my hastily tossed up prayers and delivers them quickly to her Son, as if she were the head of a holy bucket brigade. If I have the luxury of time and contemplation, I am rewarded with sublime immersion into the life of Jesus. He visits me through the Rosary, holds me, accuses me, redeems me. And He does it all through the mysteries that are His life and the life of the woman He honored enough to ask Her to be His mother.


3. The Liturgy of the Hours

As Mary noted this isn't technically a devotion but since I do have a great devotion to the Liturgy of the Hours, I have to include it. I wrote more about it here (in the second part of that post.) And, thanks to pal Lissa, I now have iBreviary on my iPod Touch. As much as I love my set of prayer books, I must admit that iBreviary has saved Atticus and I many ribbonless minutes on busy workday mornings.

4. Music 

Mary also mentioned music and said that "it's a rather odd choice even as a prayer practice, but it's true."  I don't think it's odd at all! I can't imagine not including music as part of my prayer life and devotions. If I am feeling that something's missing, if I am drifting from God, if my prayer life needs a booster shot, I can almost guarantee that certain songs or kinds of music will transport me to the place I need to be: gratitude, yearning, love, attachment, detachment, awe, charity, mystery, hope. It can range from Bach to Matt Maher, from chant to Jill Phillips.

And by the way, dancing in the kitchen is a holy experience, too.

5. Embracing My Vocation

This should possibly be #1 on my list. It is so very Catholic to think of life in terms of vocation.  We are all called to something. In my case, I was called down a circuitous path to marriage and motherhood. When I embrace that vocation as a holy calling, when I have a devotion to my duties, seeing each duty as a prayer, when I offer up every suffering large and small, when I pray through every challenge and triumph, when I talk to God about everything from the laundry to an illness in the family, from dishes to writing deadlines, I am practicing a truly Catholic devotion. 

Now it's your turn.

Instead of tagging others, I'm asking you to send me a link if you blog this meme. Then, I'll put the respondents together in a post.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Another Free Book!

Today's giveaway is all about the power of prayer.

Last week, in order to win a book, you just had to leave a comment.

This week's giveaway of The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary will be another random drawing from the coffee cup:


 But first I'm asking for a little bit of inspiration-sharing.

For this weekend's giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me: 

1. Your favorite prayer (and it doesn't have to be the Rosary in order to win a Rosary book) 

or, 

2. The name of the saint you regularly turn to for intercession.

And, you don't have to, but if you have a story to share about either of those things, feel free to share it with us.

If you are not Catholic, don't have a favorite formal prayer, or wonder why anyone would ask a saint for intercession,  just leave a comment saying so.

Comments will be open until Monday at noon (central time.)

Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing frighten you
Everything passes
God never changes
Patience obtains all
Whoever has God wants for nothing
God alone is enough

~~ St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And from me ...

A rerun of last year's St. Patrick's Day post, but it's definitely worth the rerun. Be sure to listen to the clip if you have time.

~~~~~

After you've prayed this beautiful prayer today, be sure to listen to "The Deer's Cry" (St. Patrick's Breastplate set to music, hauntingly sung by Rita Connolly) here. Rita Connolly is the wife of Shaun Davey, who composed the piece.

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the deck,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Different Kind of Rose from St. Therese?

You tell me.

This morning, I got out an old book, a little novena booklet called Welcome, Jesus: A First Communion Preparation. Ramona, you see, is preparing for her First Holy Communion, and I wanted to use this book with her, just as I'd used it with Betsy. 

This got Betsy reminiscing this morning. "I loved that little book," she said. "I took it with me to Mass  for the longest time. I used it for the 'Prayer Before Holy Communion' and for the 'Prayer After Communion' every week. But, the 'After Communion' page got torn out and lost a long time ago. Where did it ever go, I wonder?"

We all wondered. Was it with our other First Holy Communion materials? No. I looked at them this morning, and it was not there. We talked about the Anima Christi and what a beautiful post-Communion prayer that one is, and then we recited it together.  I also made a mental note to add either the Anima Christi or another suitable prayer for Ramona to the back of this well worn, well loved little booklet.

Then, we left the house and we were gone all day with activities, returning at about 5:15. I unloaded some groceries, and walked over to the computer.  And, do you know what was lying on the floor next to the computer?

The missing page from the book.  Here's a picture I snapped of it:



I assure you I have no idea how it got there, or where it's been for the last several years.

But, I do know that I will be adding it back into the very special, very sweet, and now never-forgotten little book, "Welcome, Jesus."



Monday, September 28, 2009

Two things guaranteed to make my day better


1. Get myself ready for the day before the kids get up.

This makes a huge difference for me. Huge. If I'm behind on this, I feel behind on everything.  Atticus gets up first (which I admit makes it easier for me) but then I'm next ... I drag myself out of bed, head straight to the shower, and then have time to get a couple things done (and a cup or two of coffee) before I wake up the girls. Then, everything -- really, everything -- goes so much better for me. For us. 

St. Josemaria Escriva said:

The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and... up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.

I'm no hero, but I know that, for me, it's a mortification I need. That may not be true for everyone, or for every schedule, or every homeschooling household. But it helps me. 

And, please, please, please remember, if you are tempted to compare anything with anything, I'm in this season of life: kids who are 15, 13 and 7.  No baby, no toddler, no pregnancy here ... you get me, don't you?  If you've been up all night with the baby, nothing about "getting up before the kids" applies to you.  Go catch a nap.

2. The Liturgy of the Hours

This is one of the things I get done before the kids are awake. 


From today's Morning Prayer:

When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, Because I bore your name, O LORD, God of hosts. ~~ Jeremiah 15:16


I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours a couple of years after becoming a Catholic. (I would have bet all three of my children that I've written extensively about the Liturgy of the Hours before on this blog. But, I just did a search and I cannot find a thing. How is that possible?)

It was the Office of Readings that really captured me -- both the Psalms and the second reading of the day (usually some treasure from one of the fathers of the Church.)

Back when my spiritual director was a priest here in our parish (he has since moved away) he mentioned the Liturgy of the Hours at an RCIA meeting (I was on the team at the time.)  I had never heard of it, but he talked about "praying in rhythm with the Church," and I thought, "Hmm ... that's intriguing." The next time I met with him, I asked about it and he showed me what it was, and how to use it.  I fell in love with it, and especially with the richness of the Office of Readings.  I didn't think the full set of books (rather pricey) was within grasp, so for awhile I used the free, online version at Universalis.com.  (Note that Universalis doesn't use the official Catholic translation, but it was still a nice way for me to break into using the prayers while I looked at other option.) Then, Atticus bought me set for my birthday/Mother's Day that year. Oh, I love that man.

It took a bit of time to learn how to navigate through the books, the ribbons, the feast days and Solemnities. I remember having Father over for dinner shortly after Atticus gave me the books and I said, "I am loving the Liturgy of the Hours!" and Father said, "So, you know that today is the feast of Charles Lwanga and Companions!" and I said, "Ummm ... no. Who?"

So, he gave me another navigation lesson and I finally caught on.

I don't pray all of the hours, and I don't do it every day, but I still love the Office and Atticus and I try to start every work day with Morning Prayer together.  It's amazing, fascinating and comforting to me to see how often something in the prayers applies to something that I'm praying, thinking or worrying about. 

I love Night Prayer, too. Every night there is the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord, now let your servant go in peace.
Your Word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal You to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.


And there are various other Scriptures -- this is from Tuesday night prayer:

Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith. ~~  1 Peter 5:8-9

And Evening Prayer gives us the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. 
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.

Riches abound.


Awhile back, Melanie did some marvelous posts about the Liturgy of the Hours that I highly recommend. You can find them here and here (and the second one is full of links, details, recommendations, great stuff.) One other source (I can't remember if Melanie mentioned it)  is The Magnificat.  This little magazine/prayer book is an easy and beautiful way to start.

Like Melanie, I have fallen in and out of use of the Liturgy of the Hours, but I always come back to it. It's an anchor.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Discernment

I promised to be back today with a post about discernment.

Discerning God's will can be so hard, can't it?

In my atheist days I scoffed at those who thought they could figure out God's will for them. I considered "getting an answer to prayer" to be something akin to "I was beamed up to the mother ship for a quick medical exam before they returned me to the crop circle."
 
These days, I think of answers to prayer as, well,  answers to prayer. Answers aren't always definitive and clear.  They don't offer me a peek into a crystal ball, a guaranteed outcome or the thing I want, whatever that thing may be.

What they usually give me is a little nudge, a sense that I'm on the right track in a particular area, a little bit of peace where before there was confusion or anxiety.  They offer me one well-lighted step forward on a path that is otherwise still inky dark up ahead. 

I return often to some simple steps for discernment from a book by Fr. John Hardon, Retreat With the Lord: A Popular Guide to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
(I first mentioned it here, and have since returned it to its rightful owner.)

If you want to know more about St. Ignatius, read the Catholic Encyclopedia here or go to CCEL here for his spiritual exercises, (or just get the Hardon book for an excellent distillation of his exercises and how to put them to use.)

Simply, St. Ignatius offers a concise guide to discernment on relationships, activities and situations. He urges us to ask for God's guidance concerning where various people and things fall -- they will all fall into one of these four categories:

  • Things/people God wants us to enjoy
  • Things/people God wants us to endure (or suffer)
  • Things/people God wants us to remove (because they lead us to sin)
  • Things/people God wants us to sacrifice (willingly giving up an objective good, even though this thing's presence doesn't lead us to sin)

I find this immensely helpful, which doesn't mean that when I pray for discernment God beams me up to the mother ship and gives me an immediate, clear-cut answer. Nope.

But it does mean that after a fair amount of prayer, reflection and surrender, I can sometimes see into which category a situation falls. Not always. But sometimes.

And certainly more often than would be the case if I weren't asking these questions.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Of Pirates, Prayer and the Importance of Accountability

I really need to be accountable. That's why I have Atticus. And children. And a cat. And a scale. And a best friend. And a spiritual director.

This weekend, I got to see my best friend and my spiritual director. I saw Atticus, the children and the cat, too, of course, but you hear about them every day, so let's move on. The best friend and the director live in Omaha, so I don't see them as often. Saturday, I had the chance to see them both, so it was a good day for accountability.

You don't really need to know, and you probably don't care, about the things I was struggling with. Like most of us, I have the same things arise again and again. My spiritual director compares God's work on these issues -- anyone's issues -- to an onion. God peels away a layer or two at a time, helping us to get closer to the core.  My best friend has always compared it to an upward spiral: our struggles keep coming up, repeating themselves, which can be discouraging. But we are being pulled upward.

Both analogies work on the same level: we're making progress, but it's slow. Sometimes painful. Sometimes we don't feel as if we've gotten very far.

When I was an atheist, I assumed that people who had conversions were all like St. Paul: instantly different in every way.  What I've learned, as a Christian, is that some things are instantly different (let's face it, to become a Catholic is to adopt some rather dramatic changes in one's life) but other things are lifelong learning experiences. Core sins or ways of being take time to change.  Most likely, though the substance of the struggles is the same, the accidents, or the way in which those struggles manifest, is very different when we are 30 or 40 or 50 than it was when we were 15 or 20 years old.

I like to take the spiral analogy and visualize it even further. I picture the spiral as something very tightly, painfully wound at the bottom -- wound so tightly it can barely be moved or untwisted. But, as God' work begins, the spring begins to loosen. And as it is unwound, the spiral opens, and widens, and moves ever upward, widening our perspective of it as well.  So, as we move upward on this spiraling, expanding path, we get a better view, a clearer and wider sense of the things we're untangling and dealing with.

I share this because if you are ever discouraged by the fact that you seem to revisit the same sins or the same patterns of behavior repeatedly, I hope you won't despair. Compare yourself to where you were five years ago with the same sin. What about ten years ago?  Do you handle it differently?  If you're striving to seriously live your faith life, my guess is that you do handle it differently. A particular temptation or inclination might still be there, but you're probably approaching it in new and better ways all the time.

Does an alcoholic stop wanting to drink? Usually not. Does a recovering alcoholic stay away from alcohol? Yes. It's the same thing with all of our sins and temptations. We're still the same people, but the ways in which we live and behave do change, with God's grace. Sometimes we even stop wanting the drink, the sin, the temptation. God can transform us that completely.

Having said all that, I'm rerunning something that I need to revisit regularly and so I'm assuming you do, too. It's what my director called the "A-R-R-R" method of prayer, and what I then dubbed pirate prayer. All you have to remember is "ARRR" (but you don't have to add "Matey" or do anything that makes you feel really foolish. You can even eschew my silly pirate label and call it something respectable, such as "a method of prayer for those of us who enjoy acronyms.")

ARRR stands for:

Acknowledge
Relate
Receive
Respond

These steps in prayer are especially helpful to me when I'm responding to something with a great deal of emotion. At times, I find (or my spiritual director oh-so-gently points out) that I've intellectually sifted through a problem, but I'm still reacting strongly to the situation. Intellect is not enough. It's time to take it to God in prayer, and "ARRR" helps me in this way:

Acknowledge

Acknowledge what I'm feeling -- what I'm really feeling, not what I think I should feel, what I wish I could feel, what I think God wants me to feel. Acknowledge -- to myself -- my true feelings. No matter how irrational, unjustifiable or unpleasant they may be.

Relate 
Hand those feelings over to God. Tell Him everything -- tell Him what I've honestly recognized in myself. Lay it down at His feet. Give it utterly and completely to Him.

Receive


Receive what God has to offer me in return. Is He calling me to forgiveness? To healing? To action? To grieving? Be open to what He offers. (This may not come right away. Be patient.)

Respond

This is self-explanatory. What did I receive from God, and how will I put that into practice, into action?

These steps don't always occur as neatly as I've spelled them out. The "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may stretch out over many moments or sessions of prayer. Sometimes I find that I have to acknowledge over and over again what I'm really feeling about something before I'm ready to move on. So, the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages may include tears or times of simply pouring my heart out to our loving God. Because I have to empty myself of my self before I'm ready to receive anything from the Lord.

But, I also have to remember that I can't get stuck in the "Acknowledge and Relate" stages. Reminding myself that I'm in the middle of a process is so helpful. When I've really and truly given up to God all that I've been holding on to, He will pour out new graces that I'll then be ready to receive. Knowing that I'm only two steps into a process wards off despair and nurtures hope. And it keeps me from stagnating in self pity or sadness.

I know that there will be gifts to receive, and that He will give me the strength to respond to them.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)
Tomorrow: Discernment

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ahhh, St. Monica

I used to pray to her constantly for my husband's conversion. Her perseverance was my light.

I still ask for her intercession for others ... some of them are people I don't see anymore. I'm thinking of a friend from college. We fell out of touch several years ago -- I don't think he ever got over his annoyance at my conversion, and I wonder sometimes if he would still think of my prayers for him as "condescending."

I remember that feeling so well -- bristling at someone's prayers for me. The arrogance! Who were they to decide that I needed prayers, anyway? The very fact that they were asking their version of God to "help" or "change" me struck me as extraordinarily patronizing.

So, perhaps remember that if you're praying for someone's conversion.

At some stages in the conversion process, we don't really want to hear about your prayers. 

That doesn't mean we don't need them. That we won't one day understand them. It doesn't mean we don't want your love and friendship.

It just means -- sometimes -- keeping one's mouth closed a little more often than one might like.

At the same time -- and this can be even trickier than not talking -- it means knowing when to speak up, when to speak the truth in love.  But that's really another post, which will be partially inspired by my own experience, and partially by this bit of explanation from the St. Monica entry at Women for Faith and Family:

During this anguished period of prayer for her son, Monica consulted a bishop who had himself been a Manichaean before he became a Christian. He declined to intervene with Augustine, whom, the bishop correctly observed, was not open to hearing the truth. She persisted tearfully, but he refused to intervene. Nevertheless, the bishop consoled Monica that "the child of those tears shall never perish", which she took as a sign from God. Though he continued in his heresies for nine years, Monica followed Augustine to Rome and then to Milan, in an effort to rescue her son from his errors. In Milan she met Ambrose, who helped lead Augustine into the true faith.


Monica's earthly anguish was prolonged, but God was leading. He always does.