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Category Archives: Catholicism

Witness to Love: Promoting a Culture of Healthy Marriages One Couple at a Time

When Stephen and I got married, we were just inside the 6 month window our diocese requires for an engagement. Although we were anxious to get married soon(!), there are good reasons these times of waiting are in place.

Marriage is not for a day; it is for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony takes place over the course a day {or two or three, if you like long celebrations}, but the marriage will last many years {God-willing}. Wedding preparations are important, yes, but what is vitally important is marriage preparation.

Stephen and I had great difficulty finding a weekend between our engagement and wedding day to participate in our diocesan requirement of an engaged encounter retreat. Fortunately, our priest knew about an alternative: an online program called Catholic Marriage Prep run through the Diocese of Denver. The program teams engaged couples up with a mentor couple who go through an intensive, marriage preparation program together through email correspondence.

We had a great experience with our mentor couple {and would highly recommend the program!}, but one thing that would have enhanced the experience was the ability to establish a more lasting relationship with the couple. We certainly grew together as a couple but it was a rather detached experience with the mentoring couple for the long haul.

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A couple who have been very involved with diocesan and parish marriage preparation recently started a new ministry called Witness to Love that seeks to incorporate this longer-lasting connection between the mentoring couple and engaged couple. Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret encourage couple-to-couple marriage prep with couples that are chosen by the engaged couples. The idea being that a relationship of trust is a better way of influencing and has the potential to open up deeper communication between the couples. This starts during the period of engagement and will, hopefully, extend throughout marriage as they continue to look to the mentor couple for encouragement and help during trying times.

Their recently-published handbook, Witness to Love, goes into depth about being that witness–indirectly, through the daily living out of our vows and, directly, by engaging in shared activities and questions for discussion with particular couples.

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We are also reminded that this model of couple-to-couple mentoring helps the mentor couple also grows in their relationship. It has the beautiful effect of being beneficial for both couples. Because we can’t give what we don’t have, the mentor couple’s own marriage must be a work-in-progress in order to be an effective witness. The couples mutually enrich each other.

Even if a couple is unsure about mentoring others, this book is an excellent read as it contains a superb collection of questions for discussion between couples. It is sure to improve communication between spouses who whole-heartedly engage in the discussion suggested. {And it just might give you the confidence you need to say, ‘yes!’.}

 

Pope Francis has been calling all of us, as witnesses to the Gospel, to a “culture of encounter”. He emphasizes that dialogue is essential to being effective witnesses. This book does an excellent job of showing how to do that in the areas of marriage and family life. Our over-saturated, technology-based culture is separating those personal encounters so essential to healthy relationships, between spouses, between friends. The book gives practical, helpful advice on how to renew bonds and heal the rifts.

The authors are encouraging us laity to spread the news of this model of marriage preparation to each of our dioceses/parishes and offering our support as mentors to other couples. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book and prayerfully considering whether God is calling you and your spouse to do just that.

Defending Marriage, Defending Family {The Quoteable St. Josemaria Escriva}

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In the national life there are two things which are really essential: the laws concerning marriage and the laws to do with education. In these areas God’s sons have to stand firm and fight with toughness and fairness, for the sake of all mankind. ~St. Josemaria Escriva (The Forge, 104)

The ruling of the United States Supreme Court today saddens me greatly. As Bl. Fulton Sheen said, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” The foundation of the family is undermined in our country by this ruling, but it does not change the TRUTH about marriage: it is a union between a man and a woman. Saying otherwise does not make it so.

The growth of healthy and happy families is reliant upon its foundation: the union of a man and a woman in marriage. Families are better capable of flourishing when the couple which comprises its foundation are growing in love together. The union becomes fruitful and multiplies. {And I don’t just mean in the physical sense.}

Defending the family means defending the truth about marriage.

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Today is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva. It is also the 40th anniversary of his death. Fittingly, the prelature of Opus Dei {of which he is the founder} is celebrating #JuneForFamilies this month. They are offering prayers and reflections on the growth of a family, the love of a husband and wife, and the relationships that grow within amongst children and siblings.

St. Josemaria had a special influence on the establishment of our family {which you can read about in our love story} and continues to be a guiding light in our daily lives. If you have not had a chance yet to read any of his works, I highly recommend doing so. The Way, The Furrow, The Forge {or all three in a single edition} offer short reflections, most of a sentence or two, that give great insight into living as a Christian in one’s every day life. He makes sainthood attainable for the layman.

A few of my favorites reflections relating to family:

A person in love doesn’t miss the tiniest detail. I have seen it in so many souls. Those little things become something very great: Love! (The Forge, 443)

Some people bring children into the world for their own benefit, to serve their own purposes, out of selfishness. They forget children are a wonderful gift from God for which they will have to render a very special account.
Do not be offended if I say that having offspring just to continue the species is something that….animals can do too. (The Furrow, 845)

No Christian married couple can want to block the well-springs of life. For their love is based on the Love of Christ, which entails dedication and sacrifice. Moreover, Tobias reminded Sara, a husband and wife know that “we are children of saints, and we cannot come together in the way of the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (The Furrow, 846)

Your task as a Christian citizen is to help see Christ’s love and freedom preside over all aspects of modern life: culture and economy, work and rest, family life and social relations. (The Furrow, 302)

“You won’t laugh, Father, will you, if I tell you that, a few days ago, I found myself spontaneously offering the Lord the sacrifice of time it meant for me to mend a broken toy for one of my little children?”
I am not laughing. I am delighted because with that Love, God sets about mending our faults. (The Furrow, 986)

“It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened.
Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends. (The Furrow, 14)

“If any man comes to me without hating his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life too, he can be no disciple of mine.”
Every day I see more clearly, Lord, that family ties, if they do not pass through your most lovable Heart, are, for some, a permanent source of the cross; for others they are a cause of more or less direct temptation against perseverance; for others again, the reason why they are totally ineffective; and, for all, a dead weight which impedes their total surrender. (The Furrow, 214)

You have to learn to disagree charitably with others–whenever the need arises–without becoming unpleasant. (The Furrow, 429)

“Who said that to reach sanctity you need to seek refuge in a cell or on a solitary mountain?” That was what a good family man asked himself in amazement, and he added: “If that were so, it would not be the people who would be holy, but the cell, or the mountain. It seems they have forgotten that Our Lord expressly told each and every one of us: be holy as my heavenly Father is holy.”
My only comment was: “Our Lord, besides wanting us to be saints, grants each one of us the relevant graces.” (The Furrow, 314)

I am moved that the Apostle should call Christian marriage sacramentum magnum–a great sacrament. From this, too, I deduce the enormous importance of the task of parents.
You share in the creative power of God: that is why human love is holy, good and noble. It is a gladness of heart which God–in his loving providence–wants others freely to give up.
Each child that God grants you is a wonderful blessing from him: don’t be afraid of children! 
(The Forge, 691)

Remind others (and especially all those fathers and mothers, who call themselves Christians) that a vocation, a call from God, is a grace from the Lord, a choice made by divine goodness, a motive for holy pride, a call to serve all joyously for the love of Jesus Christ. (The Forge, 17)

7 Reasons to Inspire Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ {SQT}

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Throughout most of my life, I’ve had a strong devotion to and love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are many reasons why, but I’ve picked seven today to help inspire you to the same.

1. It is a human heart which understands our own. {and vice versa}

Christ is fully man so His is a divine love capable of being expressed in a human way. Learn from Him. He also understands in a very human way what we are going through.

2. It is the “fount of mercy”.

No matter how many mistakes we make, how many times we fall, this Heart of our Lord wants to forgive us and have us return to Him. His mercy is never-ending and all-encompassing.

3. It inspires Heart-to-heart conversations with Our Lord.

How much easier it is to speak with God when we discover a heart like our own! The humanity of Christ makes those heart-to-hearts that we would have with a close friend so much more easy.

4. It is a place to rest your weary heart.

Rest in His Sacred Heart when you feel overwhelmed, beaten down, sorrowful. He understands as He has been there Himself and will help you find a way to overcome.

5. It is ardent and constant Love for YOU.

The Love of our Lord is so IMMENSE! And He loves you as if you were the only person on this earth. He will always be there for you.

6. It is what unites all Christians — the Heart of the Body of Christ.

To be an authentic witness and member of the Body of Christ, it is important to connect with the Heart of the Body for He is our Lifeline.

7. It is the author of all that is beautiful and good in this world.

To see beauty, to create beauty, to appreciate what is good, to choose what is good–this is the place to learn.

 

Linking up with Blessed is She on the topic of ‘Heart’ this week and with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes. 

Fr. Junipero Serra: A Vital Part of California’s Heritage

Sometimes I find myself complaining that the United States seems to be lacking in heavenly friends {i.e. saints of the canonized variety}. But, in truth, there are more than I realize. Actually, one happens to be resting in the terra firma {although I’m not sure how firm it is due to those shaking quakes} of Northern California.

He’s kind of a big deal here out West.

Blessed-Junipero-Serra-

 

Blessed Junipero Serra {soon-to-be SAINT come September} started the movement and founded many of the beautiful missions that run up and down the coast of California.

I’ve long had a devotion to this California missionary. He truly is “one of the founding fathers of the Unites States” as Pope Francis recently called him, having established community and culture here in California during the 1700s. These little communities erected around the missions helped in both the material and spiritual welfare of its citizens, providing refuge from an oftentimes hostile environment out on the frontier.

The Franciscans of the missions provided instruction on useful life-skills. They aided in the development of technology of the day. They provided medical services for those who were ailing. And like many of the monks who came before them, they helped preserve texts and the sacred music of the Church too. All of this in addition to sharing the Gospel of Christ with those they encountered.

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Recently, the US Senate proposed and voted to remove Junipero Serra’s statue from the nation’s capitol, claiming he wasn’t a suitable representative of California. It is a great insult to our nation’s history, and especially that of California, to even suggest removing it. His influence was great in the founding of this state, and as San Diego’s Bishop McElroy recently pointed out, he is representative of the ever-growing Hispanic population residing in our state having come here from Spain himself.

It is unfortunate that our Senate must engage in revisionist history in order to push their agenda. And all of this is happening just as Pope Francis is preparing for his trip to Washington D.C. in September to canonize Serra.

“What made Friar Junipero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty.”

Junipero Serra had a missionary heart. He gave up much to serve the people of the Americas and bring the Good News to this nation. I’m sure his actions were not always perfect, but his intention to bring a better life and share Christ with others was full of greatness.

Let us pray with the Holy Father for an extension of this upon our country once again as we prepare for Fr. Serra’s canonization.

“We ask the Risen Jesus, Lord of all ages, that the life of our American continent may be rooted ever more deeply in the Gospel it has received; that Christ may be ever more present in the lives of individuals, families, peoples and nations, for the greater glory of God. We pray too that this glory may be manifested in the culture of life, brotherhood, solidarity, peace and justice, with a preferential and concrete love for the poor, through the witness of Christians of various confessions and communities, together with believers of other religious traditions, and people of upright conscience and good will. Lord Jesus, we are merely your missionary disciples, your humble co-workers so that your Kingdom may come!”

Life

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Jubilee of Mercy: Merciful Like the Father

 

Today the website was launched for the Jubilee of Mercy. There has been much thought put into this extraordinary year which will begin December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and reach its completion on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. There will be celebrations for youth, catechists, priests, prisoners, the infirm, the disabled, the Roman curia, consecrated, religious, workers, volunteers of mercy, etc. The Holy Father leaves no one out. He invites all to the celebration, to experience the Mercy of the Father.

 

I especially love the logo designed by Father Marko I. Rupnik for the occasion. The rich symbolism is beautiful. Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 7.16.49 AM

The logo and the motto together provide a fitting summary of what the Jubilee Year is all about. The motto Merciful Like the Father (taken from the Gospel of Luke, 6:36) serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure (cfr. Lk 6:37-38). The logo – the work of Jesuit Father Marko I. Rupnik – presents a small summa theologiae of the theme of mercy. In fact, it represents an image quite important to the early Church: that of the Son having taken upon his shoulders the lost soul demonstrating that it is the love of Christ that brings to completion the mystery of his incarnation culminating in redemption. The logo has been designed in such a way so as to express the profound way in which the Good Shepherd touches the flesh of humanity and does so with a love with the power to change one’s life. One particular feature worthy of note is that while the Good Shepherd, in his great mercy, takes humanity upon himself, his eyes are merged with those of man. Christ sees with the eyes of Adam, and Adam with the eyes of Christ. Every person discovers in Christ, the new Adam, one’s own humanity and the future that lies ahead, contemplating, in his gaze, the love of the Father.

The scene is captured within the so called mandorla (the shape of an almond), a figure quite important in early and medieval iconography, for it calls to mind the two natures of Christ, divine and human. The three concentric ovals, with colors progressively lighter as we move outward, suggest the movement of Christ who carries humanity out of the night of sin and death. Conversely, the depth of the darker color suggests the impenetrability of the love of the Father who forgives all. 

Source

The Quotable St. John Paul the Great

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I’m thinking of St. John Paul the Great today on the tenth anniversary of his death, which happens to coincide with Holy Thursday this year. He died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. It seems rather apt that the recollection of his death always falls within Lent or the Easter season, as he was an amazing witness to living the life of Christ crucified, especially towards the end of his life.

This heroic man was a man of great faith, great hope, great love in this oftentimes rough world we live in. He had a profound impact on my youth as he did in the lives of many others. That’s a story for another day, but I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes of his with you today, as well as my favorite books.

His writings and words are nearly inexhaustible and everything is so rich. Most things I have read at least twice, which is saying something as it is not something I do often with books.

 

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  • “Faith and Reason are like two wings of the human spirit by which is soars to the truth.”
  • “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.”

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  • “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
  • “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”

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  • “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
  • “Ask yourselves, young people, about the love of Christ. Acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of your heart. Return His bright and penetrating glance which opens the paths of your life to the horizons of the Church’s mission. It is a taxing mission, today more than ever, to teach men the truth about themselves, about their end, their destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. Do not be afraid of the radicalness of His demands, because Jesus, who loved us first, is prepared to give Himself to you, as well as asking of you. If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

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  • “The Gospel lives in conversation with culture, and if the Church holds back from the culture, the Gospel itself falls silent. Therefore, we must be fearless in crossing the threshold of the communication and information revolution now taking place.”
  • “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.”

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  • “Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well.”
  • “Without wonder, men and women would lapse into deadening routine and little by little would become incapable of a life which is genuinely personal.”

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  • “Christ is the sacrament‎ of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence. God is with us.”
  • “Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, can fully find himself only through a sincere gift of himself.”

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  • “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
  • “Faced with today’s problems and disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility. Escape in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence, escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. I propose to you the option of love, which is the opposite of escape.”

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Books

Love and Responsibility
Theology of the Body
Person and Community
The Jeweler’s Shop
Crossing the Threshold of Hope
Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a New Millennium
Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

Encyclicals and Letters

Faith and Reason {Fides et Ratio}
The Gospel of Life {Evangelium Vitae}
The Splendor of Truth {Veritatis Splendor}
On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering {Salvifici Doloris}
On the Most Holy Rosary {Rosarium Virginis Mariae}
On Commitment to Ecumenism {Ut Unum Sint}
On the Family {Familiaris Consortio}
On the Dignity and Vocation of Women {Mulieris Dignitatis}
On Catholic Universities {Ex Corde Ecclesiae}
Stay With Us Lord {Mane Nobiscum Dominae}

Three Great Biographies

Witness to Hope by George Weigel
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father by Peggy Noonan
Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert

Ave Maria

our-lady-of-the-rosaryHail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary is a special devotion in which we pray for the intercession of Mary to her son, Jesus, while meditating on the “mysteries” of Christ’s life, especially those which intertwine with Mary’s. It is normally said using a set of beads which helps us keep track of each decade we pray.

{For a superb way to pray the Rosary with children, check out Catholic All Year‘s Facebook post on making and praying chocolate Rosaries! 🙂 Also, what praying the family Rosary looks like in Kendra’s house.}

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annun_angelico_grtJoyful Mysteries

The Annunciation ~ And [Gabriel] came to her and said, / “Hail, full of grace, / the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) 

The Visitation ~  In those days Mary arose / and went with haste into the hill country./ to a city of Judah, / and she entered the house of Zechariah / and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, / the child leaped in her womb; / and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:39-41)

The Nativity ~ She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in Swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there Was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged. (Luke 2:7)

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple ~ When the day came to purity them according to the law Of Moses, the couple brought him up to Jerusalem so that He could be presented to the Lord “Every first-born male shall be consecrated to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22-23)

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple ~ On the day they came upon him in the temple Sitting in he midst of the teachers, listening to them and Asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)

weddingatcanaLuminous Mysteries

The Baptism of Jesus ~ And when Jesus was baptized…The heavens were opened And He saw that Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on Him, And lo, a voice from the heaven, saying, “this is My beloved son, With whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Jesus’ First Miracle ~ His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus said to them, “fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2:5-7)

Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven ~ …and preach as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give with out pay. (Matthew 10:7-8)

Transfiguration of Jesus ~ And he was praying, the appearance of his raiment become Dazzling white. And a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is My Son, My chosen; listen to him! (Luke 9:29, 35)

The Last Supper ~ He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you” and likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22: 19-20)

pietabougereauSorrowful Mysteries

Agony in the Garden ~ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

Jesus is Scourged at the Pillar ~ And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people, released to them Barabbas, and delivered up Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. (Mark 15:15)

Jesus is Crowned with Thorns ~ And stripping him, they put a scarlet cloak about him. And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand… (Matthew 27:28-29)

Jesus Carries His Cross ~ And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha. (John 19:17)

Jesus is Crucified ~ Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. (John 19: 28, 30)

assumptionGlorious Mysteries

The Resurrection ~ You need not be amazed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was crucified. He has been raised up; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

The Ascension ~ Then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into Heaven and took his seat at God’s right hand. (Mark 16:19)

The Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Apostles and Mary at Pentecost ~ All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them. (Acts 2:4)

Mary’s Assumption ~ A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, With the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1)

Mary is Crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth ~ “You are the glory of Jerusalem…you are the splendid boast of our people… God is pleased with what you have wrought. May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever. (Judith 15:9-10)

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Veronese, Battle of Lepanto c1572

By Mary’s intercession, through the recitation of the Rosary, the course of history has turned at some very powerful moments in history. In 1571, on this day, the Ottoman Turks (Muslims) were resisted against all odds by the Christians at the Battle of Lepanto. Europe would look very different today if this had not occurred, as the Muslims were set to extend the Ottoman Empire and force the Muslim culture and religion (really, one and the same) on all. The Pope at the time, Pius V, had requested all the faithful to pray the Rosary to Our Lady, asking that the victory be theirs. Under the command of Don Juan of Austria, they destroyed the Ottoman ships, and it was attributed it to Mary’s intercession.

The Rosary is a mighty “weapon.” We would do well to pray it for a very similar situation in the world today.

undoer of knots

I have witnessed Mary’s influence in my own life using this powerful weapon. Over the course of about a year or so, I had been undergoing some horrible, and ever-growing, anxiety due to a bad situation that had occurred in my life.  My roommate at the time introduced me to a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. {A novena is a set of prayers said over a nine-day period, usually for a specific intention.} A Rosary is said at the beginning of each day’s prayer, after which a prayer was said that asked Mary’s help in “undoing the knot” that was in my life. I was praying to be released from the heavy burden I felt on my soul of a past hurt and the anxiety it was causing me. Each successive day, I could literally feel the weight being taken off. The tears that poured out of me after I finished my prayers every evening were like a release of the flood of emotions and anxiety that flooded my soul. I finally was able to talk about the burden I carried. My heart was being cleansed to allow for love to enter in once again. It is amazing how palpable spiritual things can be at times to our very being.

Hope, Surprises and Joy.

wyd 2013 logo

World Youth Day is happening in Brazil at this very moment. Youth from ALL over the world have gathered in Rio de Janeiro for a week-long spiritual rally and retreat with Pope Francis. He arrived by plane to his home continent, beaming from ear-to-ear just the other day, eager to meet the pilgrims who have come to greet him and be with him throughout the week.

Pope Brazil 2013

We have a couple friends who are attending the pilgrimage in person. {Having attended two of these myself in the past, my heart fills with great anticipation and excitement for those able to attend. It is such a blessing — a true spiritual rejuvenation — for those who participate.} We joyfully sent them off with many well-wishes and prayers, anxious to hear their story upon return. As we watch and listen from afar, we “follow” in their footsteps.

pilgrim WYD 2013

Opening the week, Pope Francis spoke at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Apercida, entrusting the events to Our Lady’s protection and sharing these thoughts on the attitude of a Christian :

“I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy….

How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them. In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!….

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world. Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people….

Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us….God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him….

Dear friends, if we walk in hope, allowing ourselves to be surprised by the new wine which Jesus offers us, we have joy in our hearts and we cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy….Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us….

Dear friends, we have come to knock at the door of Mary’s house. She has opened it for us, she has let us in and she shows us her Son. Now she asks us to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Yes, dear Mother, we are committed to doing whatever Jesus tells us! And we will do it with hope, trusting in God’s surprises and full of joy. Amen.”

 

Beautiful words to bring to life in our hearts!

Saying Goodbye to Pope Benedict XVI

As I hurried along the path between the Commons and the women’s dorms to get to my next class, my friend, Lizzie, whizzed past shouting, ‘Habemus Papam!’ The white smoke had appeared. Joseph Ratzinger had been elected as the 264th successor to Peter.

Pope Benedict XVI

Just a few weeks earlier, I had arisen in the wee hours of the morning to mourn with fellow students the passing of Pope John Paul II during a live televised program of his funeral in Rome.

This was my experience of the end of a reign and the election of a new pope. In fact, it is everyone’s who is alive today. Until now.

Pope Benedict XVI has done something not done since the 15th century: resigned the papacy.

It is a little strange. We were just discussing this at dinner the other night, what would happen when a new pope was elected. My thoughts fell to the passing away of our beloved Benedetto and the cardinals hurriedly rushing to Rome to choose a successor. I never thought of him stepping down, of a ‘lengthy’ preparation for a conclave.

 

It is almost a year ago to the day that Stephen and I stood in St. Peter’s Square listening to Pope Benedict as he gave the Sunday Angelus blessing to all the pilgrims gathered there.

st peters square angelus

laurel st peters square

We went to Europe for our honeymoon last year. When choosing places to visit, we tried to stick to places neither of us had been. But we just couldn’t pass up a visit to Rome despite the fact I’d traveled there several times before, including living there a semester of college.

stephen st peters square

stephen st peters square 2

It was Stephen’s birthday. We found a place in the square hours before he was to appear. We wanted a prime spot for viewing his apartment window as he looked out on the square. A cheer rose up from the crowd as the red banner was dropped from the sill.

papa benedetto 1

papa benedetto 2

He said a few words in English, greeting the large American crowd there celebrating Cardinal Dolan’s elevation. We prayed the Angelus in Latin and were given his blessing before he retired for the afternoon.

We surely count it as a blessing to have seen him before he leaves the papacy.

 

It seems his legacy was shorter than John Paul II. But, then again, is it?

He had a great hand in shaping the documents of Vatican II (as did JPII) and even more so when he worked as the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith just prior to becoming pope. He was close friends with John Paul II. They worked on many things together over the years, helping the Church to become what it is today. There is a wealth of writings Benedict has bequeathed to the Church, most recently his three-part series on the life of Christ. He wrote an excellent exposition on the fundamentals of Catholic theology, which is extremely rich and thought-provoking. The encyclicals he gave us as pope are concise, yet never lacking. He says much in a few words, as evidenced by his resignation letter. And there is so much more he has written.

His eight years have been full. He has given much to us as he served as our shepherd, of which I and many others will be forever grateful.

There has been much commentary today both on secular and religious platforms about Pope Benedict XVI and what his resignation will mean for the future of the Church and the world. A great one I came across was one written by my college Latin professor discussing Pope Benedict’s reasons for resignation. Worth a look.

I am sad to see him go, yes, but am excited and hopeful for the future.

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