On the Rosary

We need to stop taking the Rosary for granted. It’s falling into nothing but a fashion accessory, even for some Catholics. This isn’t another debate on the evil of wearing the Rosary as a necklace. With this post, I merely wish to inspire some people to pray it more. It’s a weapon that churchgoers tend to waste. It’s a loving gift that we ignore, but nothing can replace it.

The Rosary isn’t just for old people, or those who go to church every week. It’s not even just for Catholics. It’s not for the sinless (nobody is) or exclusively for nuns. In fact, I believe more is gained from the Rosary if a person prays when broken; that’s when we tend to need Mother most. That’s when her hugs help more.

It’s so ancient and perfect. It has a story–next time you see someone wearing a Rosary, explain the decades. Explain how the Rosary over the years changed. Keep one laying around to remind you to pray. It’s okay to have more than one–you get more reminders!

The earliest monks and nuns found that while their hands automatically tossed away a certain number of pebbles, their attention stayed focused on the words of the prayers that they were addressing to heaven, to the exclusion of the world around them, while their minds stayed free to meditate on God’s goodness. Later, people started using strings of beads, which eventually took the form of the rosary beads we know today. Passing a bead through your fingers at every repetition helps ensure that you don’t get lost in hours of meditation, and running out of beads gives you a gentle signal that it’s time to get back to another kind of daily prayer, the prayer of work. (Source)

I can’t say I pray it faithfully every day. Like everything else, it’s something that takes discipline. Sometimes I only feel capable of a decade per day. But regardless to my own failures regarding consistency, every time I actually get through a Rosary, I’m reminded of why I should pray it more. It’s like a warm blanket has been wrapped around my heart.

The devil loves keeping us away from the Rosary because it dispenses so many blessings. We find reasons to procrastinate and we feel ashamed to pray in public.

This website answers misconceptions about the Rosary. I encourage you to take another look if you haven’t prayed for a while; today I was reminded of just how comforting it is.

If you’re feeling down, get a hug from Mother. She’s always around to listen!

Partners in Holiness by Melaine Ryther

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Goodreads | Amazon

Partners in Holiness is a poignant book telling us little-known stories about saints and how their angels guided them. It is a powerful reminder of how our Guardian Angels are ever-present, helping us in times of trouble.

We can’t see these friends, and usually forget their presence. The book opened my eyes so I realized I am never truly alone, and there is someone who likely hears the crazy things I brainstorm–the complaining, the sleep-deprived confusion, even the prayer I don’t feel is heard.

Ryther’s writing style is solid, and the book is easy to get into. Aside from the beautiful stories told–stories about many saints, including Rose of Lima and Gemma Galgani–facts are included, and towards the end, prayers are offered to strengthen friendship with one’s Guardian Angel. The book is comforting and makes this devotion very real, something powerful and overlooked, but from which we would all be very happy.

If you’re looking for a short read, or just something to help strengthen your faith, read Partners in Holiness! I’m glad I did, not only because the writing is beautiful, but the message really sinks in.

Check out a Q&A with the author here, and her website!

God in Nature

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I’m outside listening to birdsong. There’s a gentle wind blowing all around. Out here it’s easy to see how the poets and painters got so much inspiration from nature.

Not only that–Saints went into the wilderness to find silence for contemplation. St. Francis of Assisi preached to animals. God can be seen in form of His creation, in its perfect arrangement–everything He made has a place and a purpose.

I hate bees and wasps, but even though I panic when one passes me by, I still realize that the fact they exist is marvelous. Even spiders, the awful fuzzy kind–you don’t want one in your house, but can’t help marveling at how creative our God is.

Then there are things we in general agree are lovely: Butterflies, rose bushes, the smell after a rain shower.

He created all this–even things we don’t like. We’ve got to admit it’s very impressive. What’s more, He gave us that instinct to create. As JPII said in his Letter to Artists:

“God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.”

Given that we cannot fashion things out of air, our creative power is smaller than God’s. Yet we have imaginations that are endless. We don’t see limits, and can make entire worlds with a paper and pencil.

Going outside will wake the creators in us, seeing marvelous things God fashioned out of thin air, watching them just be. We’ll realize we can create too, acknowledging that all we make comes from Him. We’ll find therapy in making something new, no matter what medium we use.

We are creators, deep inside; He gave us that instinct, making us like Him.

I might still run away from bees and wasps, but cannot deny that they’re beautiful overall. When the weather improves at this time of the year, all my inspiration comes from nature: The wind, trees, smell of flowers. By the end of summer I will have grown as an artist by observing the peace that comes from God’s creation.

Take a notebook outside and see what you come up with. Even if you wind up not writing anything at all, go outside–listen for Him in the wind.

Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert

LH_BK_JP25Book Website | Goodreads | Purchase

A French novelist once wrote, “Tell me what you love, and I will tell you who you are.” Although there are countless ways to study Saint John Paul the Great, the most direct route is by entering the man’s heart.

Discover the five greatest loves of Saint John Paul II, through remarkable unpublished stories about him from bishops, priests who organized his papal pilgrimages, his students in Poland, Swiss Guards, and others. Mining through a mountain of papal resources, Jason Evert has uncovered the gems and now presents the Church a treasure chest brimming with the jewels of the saint’s life. Rekindle your own faith by learning what (and who) captivated the heart of this great saint.

This was a book I absolutely had to read before the “day of four popes.” I had seen JPII’s life story in movies–but sometimes you just need the feel of a book in your hand. Different mediums will tell a story in different ways, and Jason Evert wrote a book not so huge and overwhelming that a young person will be intimidated.

He wrote a biography that is engaging and shows us why JPII is a saint; it tells the stories we don’t see on the big screen.

In the paragraph about the pope’s last minutes, it only took a few powerful words to make me cry. This book shows JPII in such a personal level that when we get to that part–the one where he goes home–it feels like we’re in his room seeing him off.

Or perhaps we’re part of the crowd outside holding a candlelit vigil.

This book was released in time to tell JPII’s story to young people who perhaps only hear he’s great, but don’t know why. You’ll probably find it for free at your parish, and I really hope you’ll pick up a copy; if it’s not at your parish, there are links above.

A Week Ago (Easter Vigil Poem)

A week ago I fell in love
As church candles went out.
The eve of Easter saw me sing,
While bells rang in the crowd.

No matter what trials came at home,
My joy was not put out:
Christ had gone and conquered death,
What should I cry about?

Then they switched on the lights above
And let me see the face
Of all the Church–of every age–
Of every land and race.

I fell in love with Jesus and
I fell in love with God.
A week ago I fell in love,
While bells rang in the crowd.

Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists

Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to artists, which I knew about but hadn’t read till recently.

I feel like he has read my mind–or he simply put into words what I’ve felt all this time when practicing my craft. He is taking seriously the concept of art used to glorify God. He acknowledges the duty which the Lord has given us creatives, sharing the vision I’ve always had, or maybe I share his: We are, after all, one body.

In the opening paragraph, the Pope wrote:

A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.

The video these students have put together filled me with so much joy. You can see the light in their eyes as they pass on the Pope’s message. You can see the passion of the artist as they recite each word–and I felt happiest when they mentioned writers. When someone says artist they are usually referring to the visual arts. I haven’t met a lot of people who in general attribute the word to every art medium.

I’ve always seen it as, since we’re made in God’s image, we have a creator’s instinct inside of us. Of course we can’t pull things out of a void and create them in midair–we need pencils, paper, the tools with which to make them. The Pope wrote this in his letter:

God therefore called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him. With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.

This letter puts me at rest with the truth: Art and storytelling are needed in this world.

Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is “the art of education”. Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favour of the common good.

It isn’t a very long letter, and I think everyone should read it–or else I’ll end up quoting it all here. This world tends to be difficult for artists, because everything seems to favor the computerized and digital. Trust me when I say that creativity feeds the soul more than we’ll see immediately.

Keep doing what God has called you to do, and give it all your passion–art time can be prayer time.

This video made me cry joyful tears. I urge you to watch it–a truly beautiful piece.

Hashtag #2PopeSaints

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Picture found at Daughters of St. Paul!

There is going to be an official hashtag on the canonization day of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. In other words, the Vatican is embracing social media to start a Catholic party where the young people are going to find it–online.

It just got me thinking of how long our Church has existed. In the times of St. Augustine we had letters and now we have possible future saints who run their own blogs.

We’ve outlived every empire and left evidence to show it, in whatever form we could, for future generations to see. In a few decades, will new believers be looking at our hashtag for inspiration?

Possibly not. Just because something is posted under the official hashtag doesn’t mean it agrees with Church teaching–I predict a lot of atheist trolls will use the hashtag just to make fun of us. Discernment has always been important, and now more than ever, since we all have the possibility of making our voices heard.

The hashtag will give us an opportunity to celebrate as one united Body of Christ, perhaps make new friends, and realize the scope to which people still believe.

It’s the New Evangelization doing its job and showing the world that there are many of us. We might not speak one language, but the Faith keeps us united–as does the Internet, and on April 27 we will be using both.

Will we keep using it on the days that follow? How long will our celebration last? It’s Easter, so we should all be celebrating to begin with. There should be a hashtag for that, too–and the Easter Bunny isn’t invited.

It’s a start, and I’m excited to see how this goes! Christ will always find a way to transform our lives–even if it’s Twitter!

Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

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Thomas Merton was born in France in 1915, and during his younger years religion seemed unimportant. They moved a lot–his life was hectic, where for the most part he never seemed able to settle anywhere–they moved to New York, and then for a short time to Bermuda. After that he spent some time in a French boarding school, until his father decided they were both going to England–so Merton had to leave the place after he finally settled..

Merton wasn’t someone you’d expect to become a Trappist monk. In fact, he didn’t even expect himself to ever become Catholic. For a while he would play with ideas and mull over philosophies, but never made the move to even visit Mass until adulthood. This was my favorite chapter, where he was so overwhelmed by the thought of Jesus being present that he left before the Consecration.

In his sprawling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton tells us about his conversion to Catholicism: How God pursued him for most of his young years, relentlessly tugging at his heart until he was finally baptized in 1938. It’s a conversion story that shows how thoroughly the Lord wants us, no matter what our history, no matter how stubborn we are and despite philosophies that might corrupt our times.

What I enjoyed most about this autobiography was how beautifully it was written. Thomas Merton was also born a writer, and much of the time his reflections sounded like my diary. Everywhere he went, he had to be writing–even after becoming a Trappist, the monks had him write his poetry and translate old books. You see that God gives people gifts for a reason: No talent is an accident, and they should not be wasted.

Let me share my favorite passage from the Epilogue:

By this time I should have been delivered of any problems about my true identity. I had already made my simple profession. And my vows should have divested me of the last shreds of any personal identity.

But then there was this shadow, this double, this writer who had followed me into the cloister.

He is still on my track. He rides my shoulders, sometimes, like the old man of the sea. I cannot lose him. He still wears the name of Thomas Merton. Is it the name of an enemy?

He is supposed to be dead.

But he stands and meets me in the doorway of all my prayers, and follows me into church. He kneels with me behind the pillar, the Judas, and talks to me all the time in my ear.

He is a business man. He is full of ideas. He breathes notions and new schemes. He generates books in the silence that ought to be sweet with the infinitely productive darkness of contemplation.

And the worst of it is, he has my superiors on his side. They won’t kick him out. I can’t get rid of him.

Maybe in the end he will kill me, he will drink my blood.

Nobody seems to understand that one of us has got to die. (Pages 448-449)

Merton’s autobiography can be found here as a PDF. It isn’t light reading–in fact, I only got through it the second try. His writing is so complex, has such depth, that when I first got the book I couldn’t relate to it. Now that I’m older, I seem to understand better: We are almost kindred spirits. I don’t think I have a vocation to the religious life, but if I did, I would struggle like he did to kill my inner writer. I struggle already to quiet my mind long enough to pray in peace.

Perhaps we aren’t supposed to kill our inner artist–after all, aren’t we made in His image? Doesn’t that mean we all have the instinct of a Creator within us? I don’t think God wants us to kill that creator, but rather use our imaginations to carry out the mission we are given. I’ve always seen it this way, but it makes a lot more sense now that I know I’m not the first one to struggle with this, and certainly won’t be the last.

The Seven Storey Mountain isn’t light reading, but it is worth every moment. I rate it 4/5 stars, and really hope you will give it a try.

Originally Posted Here