The Joy of the Lord: Advent Week 3, Day 5

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

I don’t know what kind of year you had, but I’m certain that there are times that God brought you out of the dark. If you feel like you’re still in the dark, know that God is already rescuing you from that. You may not see it, but like the famous Footprints poem, God is carrying you through whatever adversities or trials you are undergoing right now.

Read the rest here

A Joyful Heart: Advent Week 3, Day 4

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

Today’s passages come from tonight’s Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office). For those who don’t know, the Liturgy of the Hours is a series of prayers dating back to the times of St. Benedict. Most religious orders pray the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis. Leah Libresco, author of Arriving at Amen, prays the Liturgy of the Hours as part of her daily commute. During Advent, the prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours take on a joyful tone.

Psalm 126 is a joyful song of captives being set free. These particular verses resonate with me:

“Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap. They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.” Psalm 126:6

Read the rest here!

The Lord Guides Us To Joy: Advent Week 3, Day 3

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

Some of us may find it hard to trust in the Lord.

But as the Psalm says

“those who choose another god multiply their sorrows.”

We may not bow down before statues of cows, but many of us would rather find comfort in things such as wealth, pleasure, power and honor. In this time of year, wealth and pleasure are especially tempting idols. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can hold onto our things like a miser. We can also overindulge in shopping or eating too much or drooling over attractive actors. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but none of them will fulfill us the way that God does.

Read the rest here!

Seven Quick Takes on Marian Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 5

— 1 —

My friends and I are starting a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots tomorrow. If you wanna join in, I’ll post the novena on this blog!

As many of you, Our Lady of Knots is Pope Francis’s favorite Marian devotion, so this is a perfect way for you to get a good start on this Year of Mercy. Offer this novena for anything that you’re struggling with, especially if you have an addiction or some unresolved issues that stem back from long ago.

— 2 —

One thing I remember from my retreat was that my friend Julie kept saying “Bye Patricia!” It’s a play on the slang “Bye Felicia!” For those who don’t know, “Bye Felicia!” is the millenial way of saying “See ya, suckers! I’m not even bothering to be polite, cuz I gotta go!” My friend’s new catchphrase came from the fact that even though Hurricane Patricia was a Category 5 hurricane that passed through Mexico, there were no fatalities or any major issues that devastated the country. Julie attributes that to Our Lady of Guadalupe. So yeah. Bye Patricia! Mary’s got Mexico covered!

— 3 —

Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is offering online groups for Marian Consecration. One that’s coming up right now starts on December 31st and ends on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (February 2, 2016). Marian Consecration is the perfect way to start off the new year! Click the link to check it out!

— 4 —

So a couple days ago, I got notified that Fr. Michael Gaitley was going to be on EWTN Live. Fr. Michael Gaitley basically taught me everything I know about Marian Consecration as well as how a devotion to Divine Mercy impacted the life of St. John Paul II. Up until I watched the show, I have never seen Fr. Michael Gaitley’s face. I just heard his voice and read his words. I didn’t Google the guy so I had no idea what he looked like. Imagine my surprise when I finally see a picture of him from a Facebook page and took a good look at his adorable baby face.

NO PRIEST SHOULD LOOK THIS CUTE! I thought.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I had my first priest crush. Even though Fr. Michael Gaitley had a beard when he was on EWTN Live, I still couldn’t get past the fact that he had such a baby face. How old was he when he went into seminary? 15?

Oh well. Holiness is always an attractive quality in a man and now I understand why that French girl who later became a nun had such a crush on him. And I learned once again that people who enter into religious life are full of suprises.

Check out the video here:

And check out all of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s works on Lighthouse Catholic Media.

— 5 —

If you want to know why I have major issues with the song “Mary Did You Know,” check out Fr. Robert Mcteigue, SJ’s article on Aleteia.

Catholic Sistas shared this picture from Catholic Fortress. I consider it a good retaliation for the song as well.

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A Protestant friend of mine, however, still doesn’t understand the nuances behind the term “full of grace.” Thankfully, Dave Armstrong has something to say about that.

— 6 —

I learned that yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. I remember praying the Litany of Loreto as part of my Marian Consecration and that Mother Teresa was initially a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Loreto before going on to begin the Missionaries of Charity. Feel free to pray the litany with me:

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

 

— 7 —

And for lulz, I’m gonna leave you with this meme I created:

tik tok

Don’t stop, Holy Pop! Jesus turn that mercy up!

Tonight shine the light, shine light of Christ!

Tik tok! Advent’s clock counting down to the day that He comes back

Oh-whoa-oh-oh! Oh-whoa-oh-oh!

 

Another picture from Andrea Marie Lopez, shared by The Catholic Memes on their Facebook page:

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There’s also this funny video from Brandon Vogt. Equally hilarious:

Finding Light in the Darkness: Advent Week 2, Day 4

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Darkness and light are huge themes in Advent. My friend Elizabeth Imms from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship shared three Bible verses in the reflection she wrote for today:

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Matthew 4:16

“And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness does not overcome it.” John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

I grew up in New Jersey and I remember how the way the seasons changed was so clear to me. I remember the colors of fall that painted the boulevards of my neighborhoods. I remember sledding in the local park as a child and praying that I get snow days. In Texas, it almost never snows. But given, for some reason, the sky is bigger in Texas than anywhere else I know (Texas bias, I know, but go with me on this), I can still see the change of the seasons by how quickly it takes for the sky to get dark.

Whenever I go on retreats, they usually take place somewhere out in the city where you can actually see the stars at night. The stars remind me that there is still light in the darkness. During one retreat, there was a distant thunderstorm and although I didn’t see the stars that night, the lightning that flashed across the sky was dazzling and frightening all at the same time.

The light of the Lord is very much like the stars and the lightning. Sometimes, He can seem cold and distant like the stars or as dangerous as lightning. In truth, like the stars, the light of the Lord guides us in the darkness, and like the lightning, it’s natural that we fear the Lord. In fact, fear of the Lord is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, the fear of the Lord isn’t a paralyzing fear the same way other phobias are.

According to Pope Francis: “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us. It is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace when the Holy Spirit lives in our heart, he instills consolation and peace in us.”

You may not know this, but St. Thomas Aquinas was afraid of lightning storms due to his sister being killed in one such storm. Whenever a storm broke out, Aquinas would hide in a church.

 

In this time of Advent, let the Lord guide you in these dark times. Understand that it is only through God that we are able to find peace. As Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Juan Diego's Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 3

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I didn’t grow up knowing St. Juan Diego the way a lot of other Cradle Catholics did. In fact, I actually learned about St. Juan Diego from a show called “Wishbone.” The episode was called Viva Wishbone and centered on the main character, David, learning the story of Juan Diego from his Mexican nanny. David wanted to get a good present for his mother for Mother’s Day, especially when he feels like his mother likes one of his friends more than him. However, through the story of Juan Diego, David learned what it means to be devoted to one’s mother.

Juan Diego was a simple man and showed his devotion to Our Lady in spite of the local bishop’s skepticism. The only time he strayed from his mission to please Mary was when his uncle was sick. However, Mary assured him that everything would be okay. Acting on faith, Juan Diego went up to the hill where a mass of flowers bloomed in spite of the winter cold. After gathering the flowers in his tilma, he took them to the bishop. As he unrolled his tilma, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. Juan Diego spent the rest of his life taking care of the shrine.

What I love most about this story is Juan Diego’s simple devotion. His determination to make sure that Mary had a shrine in her honor reminds me of a passage from today’s first reading:

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.- Isaiah 40:30-31

If you’re curious, check out the episode of Wishbone on YouTube. I’ll tell more about how amazing Our Lady of Guadalupe is later this week.

 

The Immaculate Conception and the Year of Mercy: Advent Week 2, Day 2

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One of the greatest lectures I ever heard was from Fr. Michael Gaitley about how Mary played an important role in bringing Divine Mercy to the world through St. John Paul II. Through doing Marian Consecration, Fr. Michael Gaitley gained a devotion to Divine Mercy. It is only appropriate that Pope Francis would choose this wonderful Marian feast to officially begin the Year of Mercy.

So what exactly what does The Year of Mercy entail? Check out this short video from Fr. Roderick:

 

Also, check out this wonderful video from Redeemed Online’s #ShareJesus series:

 

I love how Sister Therese Marie Iglesias connected Mary to the concept of mercy. That Mary was given mercy before she even existed and that she carried mercy with her. My mom sees Mary as a woman of simplicity, which is true. Mary was a simple, humble woman who had great responsibility thrust upon her. It’s one of the reasons the song “Mary Did You Know” is one of my least favorite holiday songs.

And yet, I understand why that song exists. The idea of being the mother of the savior is mind-boggling. This version from Peter Hollens takes an honest approach to the questions asked in the song:

It helps that it comes off like a person actually contemplating Mary. Granted, I don’t know Peter Hollens’s religious affiliation, but this is actually a version of “Mary Did You Know” that I actually like because of how honest it sounded.

But the best part is that the answer to that song is actually out there. Mary is the answer to all the questions in that song. In her Immaculate Conception, she knew that the Lord delivered her before she was even born. In her Magnificat, she knew of all the great things that the Lord would go on to do. When shepherds and wise men came to visit, she contemplated their stories and knew that her son was the King of Kings. Although she was still in awe of her son when she and Joseph found him at the temple, she understood that there was a wisdom in her son beyond her own and acknowledged her humility in that moment.

I’ll leave you with this wonderful rendition of Mary’s Magnificat by Catholic singer/speaker/blogger Jackie Francois Angel:

The Necessity Of Prayer: Advent Week 1, Day 5

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Photo courtesy of Rachel Penate from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship.

There are days that I just want to hide away inside a cloister and pretend that the outside world doesn’t exist. I usually believe in the best in people, but when tragedies such as the ones in San Bernardino and Colorado happen and with threats of ISIS and other acts of terrorism and all the hatred in the world loom all over the news like the perpetually gray December skies, I can completely understand why Thomas Merton chose to go into monastic life.

What makes me even sadder is when the world condemns those who say that they will pray. Has this world become so cynical that the mere idea of prayer has become offensive? I mean when a verse as lovely as Corinthians 13 sets off a “trigger warning,” what good is left in the world?

It calls to mind this scene from an episode of Buffy called “Lie to Me” in which Buffy deals with the fact that an old friend of hers chose to become a vampire in the hopes of escaping the fact that he has brain cancer.

Buffy: Does it ever get easy?

Giles: You mean life?

Buffy: Yeah, does it get easy?

Giles: What do you want me to say?

Buffy: Lie to me.

Giles: Yes. It’s terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and… everybody lives happily ever after.

Buffy: Liar.

 

Life isn’t easy. It’s messy and complicated and at first glance, prayers may seem like empty promises or a way for politicians to pay lip service to the voters.

But here’s the thing. There is power in prayer. I know this because I’ve experienced it. Prayers aren’t like wishes that magically undo the damages or instantly change the heart of a sinner. Saint Monica can testify that it took a long time for her prayers to finally change Augustine. It took Alessandro Serenelli a long time before he finally repented and admitted that murdering St. Maria Goretti was wrong. Prayers don’t work overnight. The point, however, is that they do work.

It’s easy to believe that the universe is indifferent. It’s easier to try and create our own meaning so that life can be whatever we see it. In the end, though, that kind of existentialist belief is no better than the prisoners in Plato’s cave, who create reality from mere shadows.

I know there are some cynics out there who will say that Christians are really the ones in the cave, creating realities from shadows. Yet look at the lives of people like Mother Teresa, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Pope John Paul II. The saints all had to endure hardships, living in a world that didn’t make any sense. In spite of that, Mother Teresa was able to make life better for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. St. Maximilian Kolbe saved the life of an entire family. Pope John Paul II changed an entire generation of people and continues to do so now.

Prayer changes lives, but never in the way that we expect. It is through prayer that we accept that the world is broken. It is through prayer that we can try and find a way to take what is broken and make things whole again. It is through prayer that we can be a light to the world and maybe change the hearts of others along the way.

God is the one who breaks the prisoners free and leads them out of the caves of their illusions. In this first week of Advent, let us keep hope alive through fervent prayer, especially for those who need God’s mercy the most. Pray for the souls of the people who died in San Bernardino. Pray for the conversion of the shooter as well as for the person who attacked the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Pray for peace in this world. It may not seem like much, but it’s enough to help restore hope.

I’ll leave you with this poem that I wrote back in April:

Of Monsters and Men

Life is terribly complicated
Sometimes the best of friends
turn out to be people who stab you in the back
The bad guys are not easy to see
because many of these monsters
come in the forms of handsome men
There are battles you can never win
because you can’t stand on your own
There are good days and bad days
and some of them can never be saved.
And sometimes happily ever after
is the farthest thing from your reach.

But somehow, things always turn around
You heal the scars that run down your back
You find some monsters that turn out to be friends
Who help you fight the battles you can’t handle on your own
You look out at the sun as it dawns
and realized that every day starts out fresh and new
even if yesterday couldn’t be saved
And even if you don’t have a happily ever after
You start with what you have now
and find happiness there

Finding Hope, Finding Myself: Advent Reflections Week 1

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When the end of the year comes around, there’s this desire to reflect on our lives. We think about our successes, our failures, and ways that we can improve in the new year. Each year seems to go by faster. Summer seems like it was just a month ago instead of almost half a year ago. In this holiday rush, I want these reflections to be a time for you and me to reflect.

The Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is doing a Bible study for Advent that you can subscribe to and read here. The theme of the first week of Advent is Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle.”

During Mass, the Psalm for this Sunday’s readings particularly resonated with me.

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

I feel like the whole Psalm is a microcosm of the spiritual journey I took this year. My trust in the Lord has changed my life in so many ways. He carried me through bad dates and broken hearts. He led me to people who understood my Asperger’s Syndrome and fellow writers who encouraged me to work on my novel. It was through the intercession of the saints and Christ’s wonderful Divine Mercy that I was able to find forgiveness and take another step forward in the process of letting go of all the things that make me anxious.

As the Year of Mercy begins, my intention is to live out the verse from Galatians. This verse is my hope for this new liturgical year as well as the year of 2016.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:19-20

Today, I want you to reflect on how you think Christ has changed you and how you think you can live out the verse from Galatians. It’s through Christ that I have hope. My hope for this Advent is that Christ continues to live in me.