Novena for my sons

Today the Novena to Saint Anne begins at one of my favorite websites, Pray More Novenas. They point out: “St. Anne is the mother of Our Lady and grandmother of Jesus. She is a very powerful intercessor!”

I’m praying for my three sons, that they find happiness and love, as they don’t seem to have luck in finding their life partners. My youngest is the age I was when I married, and neither he nor his older brothers even have steady girlfriends, let alone have married. I’ve succeeded in refraining from interfering or making recommendations or letting the boys know what my preferences may be. I’ve shown much restraint, IMO! 😀

Now, I’m taking this opportunity to pray fervently for my boys’ happiness. Saint Anne, pray for us!

Saint Anne

My two patron saints: Saint Scholastica and Saint Veronica

Today, I’m grateful for my beloved patron saints! Yes, I’ve decided I have two of them 😉 and I’ll explain why…

The first is the saint I chose for my confirmation saint, Saint Scholastica. She was the twin sister of Saint Benedict, and according to Saint Gregory the Great, she was “as devoted to Christ as she was to her brother.”

Saint Scholastica

I come from a family who valued the son, my brother, more than the daughters, and I grew up in an environment where the thoughts and aspirations of my sisters and I were given short shrift. We were raised in the culture described in this article.

Men interrupt women, speak over them, and discount their contributions to a discussion with surprising regularity.

…Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse, and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments (life) where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.

…A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

This is something I’ve struggled against my whole life — an environment and culture that dismisses and belittles women and their work. So many scholars and scientists and artists never acknowledged, their contributions ignored or appropriated by men. And Saint Scholastica?

Unlike her brother, Saint Scholastica was never the subject of a formal biography. As such, little is known of her life apart from her commitment to religious life which paralleled that of her brother.

But rather than harboring grievances and bitterness, I’ve always believed women need to assert themselves in a different manner than men, create a different and more loving, inclusive culture than the one we now inhabit. It is said that Saint Scholastica was “a sister of such angelic gentleness of character, that she would be a sort of counterpoise to the brother, whose vocation, as the legislator of monastic life, needed a certain dignity of grave and stern resolve.” Saint Scholastica is often depicted with a dove, a symbol of her gentle compassion, and of her departing, recounted here:

Scholastica used to come once a year to visit Benedict, at a house situated halfway between the two communities.

Saint Benedict’s biographer recounted a story which is frequently told about the last such visit between the siblings. They passed the time as usual in prayer and pious conversation – after which Scholastica begged her brother to remain for the night, but he refused.

She then joined her hands together, laid them on the table and bowed her head upon them in supplication to God. When she lifted her head from the table, immediately there arose such a storm that neither Benedict nor his fellow monks could leave.

“Seeing that he could not return to his abbey because of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain,” Pope Gregory wrote, “the man of God became sad and began to complain to his sister, saying, ‘God forgive you, what have you done?'”

“‘I wanted you to stay, and you wouldn’t listen,’ she answered. ‘I have asked our good Lord, and He graciously granted my request, so if you can still depart, in God’s name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone.'” Saint Benedict had no choice but to stay and speak to his sister all night long about spiritual matters – including the kingdom of heaven for which she would soon depart.

Three days later in the year 543, in a vision Benedict saw the soul of his sister, departed from her body and in the likeness of a dove, ascend into heaven. He rejoiced with hymns and praise, giving thanks to God. His monks brought her body to his monastery and buried it in the grave that he had provided for himself. Saint Benedict followed her soon after, and was buried in the same grave with his sister.

So, at Easter Vigil, Saint Scholastica and her brother, Saint Benedict, were added to our prayer of the Litany of the Saints. It is not surprising that she was more effective than he. Since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.”

green leaf

Right before the Easter Vigil, I privately chose a second patron saint as well, because Father instructed me, as penance at my first confession, to “pray to Saint Veronica”. He said that Saint Veronica could show me how to bravely step out from the crowd to offer compassion to others. Such a beautiful talk Father had with me about her, and such a moving penance he gave me!

Saint Veronica

I’ve grown very fond of Saint Veronica, and often pray to her now, as well as to Saint Scholastica. And both these saints are such wonderful examples of compassion and gentleness, and especially of selfless work for others, relying on God as their all.

My Saint Veronica medal.

My Saint Veronica medal.

Grateful for my dear local church…

Another Gratituesday rolls around, and this week I have so many things that I’ve been grateful for, that I’ll just focus on the Easter-related ones! 😀

  • I’m grateful for the beautiful Easter vigil service, and for the opportunity to be confirmed in the Catholic church, and for the others who also were baptized and confirmed last Saturday.
  • I’m grateful that I stuck with it all the way through the RCIA program, even though at times I wondered what on earth I was doing, why this was such a long, involved process (I’d truly expected that at most there’d be a couple weeks of study and then I’d be welcomed into the church) and considering my ADD whether I’d lose interest over the months of study! (I didn’t.)
  • I’m grateful for how lovely our little church is, with its many stained glass windows, and especially adorned with Easter flowers.
  • I’m grateful that our church celebrates mass every day, so there are many opportunities for me to attend.

One of the sweetest parts of Saturday’s service was during the Gloria, when the children ran up to the front of the church carrying the donated flowers, and handed them to a couple of adults who placed them around the altar, and then the children hurried to the back again to pick up more bouquets and carry them up front. It lasted a good 10 minutes at least, with so many flowers! It was so delightful!

Child with basket of flowers

I’m still contemplating Saturday’s vigil, it so impressed me and was so lovely…

Two Beautiful Evenings

The Holy Thursday and Good Friday services were so beautiful! I especially loved that at the Thursday service we actually sang a Latin hymn, the first time since I began attending this church! We sang the Pange Lingua Gloriosi:

 

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So moving, to sing this ancient hymn. And yes, Father washed the feet of all the candidates and catechumens, but I’ve had such an unnatural calm lately (for me) that I wasn’t bothered in the least by having my feet washed in front of the entire church. I was just very thankful that the water was warm, because the church was sooo cold! Both nights, very cold, so last night I wore my gloves during most of the service, until my hands finally warmed up.

 

Good Friday was also very moving and beautiful. We did Stations of the Cross at noon, and the altar boy who held the cross at each station also attended Thursday night and held the basket to receive our towels after the feet washing. He can’t be more than 10 years old, and has such a sweet, round cherubic face. I have to consciously stop myself from grinning at him every time I see him!

 

At the Friday evening service they had the Veneration of the Cross which I’d never done before, and which touched me deeply. Good thing I have this new-found calm I mentioned (perhaps from confession and penance?), otherwise I might have cried.

 

During the prayers of the people, which Father chanted, I noticed that he would be praying for the Jewish People, and I thought, “Uh oh”. Because if anything negative or disrespectful had been said, I would have had to rethink all of this. Seriously. Because that would be something I would not be able to countenance. But I was very pleased, because the prayer Father read out (chanted, actually) mentioned the Jews as God’s Chosen People whom He’d first revealed Himself to, and prayed that God would bestow on them His redemption, but didn’t say “through Christ” or anything. That may have been implied, I don’t know, but it wasn’t actually said. So I thought, “Good. That’s okay then.” Because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s any hint of supersessionism in Christianity.

 

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Romans 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Pope Francis

 

(I also love this quote from Paul van Buren: “The reality of the Jewish people, fixed in history by the reality of their election, in their faithfulness in spite of their unfaithfulness, is as solid and sure as that of the gentile church.”)

 

Two such lovely evenings, and last night everyone kept reminding me: “Only one more night!” I’ve never been to an Easter Vigil before, and am so looking forward to it!

 

First Confession

It’s now “crunch time” for RCIA candidates! Last Saturday I had my first confession, yesterday was Palm Sunday, this Thursday is the evening service where Father washes our feet (I hear he’ll only pick a few of the RCIA folks, and I sure hope it’s not me!) And of course Friday is Good Friday (Stations of the Cross at noon, and then an evening service) and Saturday night is our Easter Vigil.

Despite being coached on Confession at a couple of the RCIA classes, and again by one of the RCIA leaders right before my confession, I entered the booth and completely froze. I don’t know why, exactly. Perhaps the weight of 50+ years of sins? Perhaps just shyness (since I haven’t really met Father, not to have a real conversation anyway). But whatever the reason, I couldn’t even say the first line, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.”

But Father was very kind, and led me through the confession. I only had a couple of “major” sins to confess, the rest being more a wrong “attitude” or approach toward life, or bad habits. I’d made a list before coming in, but being tongue-tied, I know I didn’t cover all of it. But I believe I mentioned all the relevant “categories”, so to speak.

A major sin I confessed is the one time when I helped a friend get an abortion by driving her to the clinic. She didn’t want the abortion, I felt very uncomfortable driving her, but her boyfriend insisted that she had to get rid of the baby. I (and she) believed at the time that I was helping her, but I realized later that it would have been so much more helpful to have supported her in her wish to keep the baby. I’ve profoundly regretted it ever since (even though I wasn’t Catholic, or even Christian, at the time and didn’t look at it as a sin, per se). We never mentioned it afterward, and a few years later she died. I was never able to apologize to her for doing the wrong thing in not supporting her.

confession

Father and I were sitting facing each other (one of the confessional options, the other: kneeling behind a screen), and I brought up the reason I’d left the Church, a devastating time for me (since I’d been religious my whole life). I’d read the book The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal, an excellent book. Wiesenthal solicited essays from many great thinkers, both Christian and Jewish, about forgiveness, and I found, reading through them, that I agreed with every Jewish writer and disagreed with every Christian.

I agreed with the basic premise that one can forgive others for wrongs done to oneself, but one cannot forgive wrongs done to others. According to the Talmud, even God cannot forgive wrongs that man does to his fellow man, only wrongs that man commits against God. “God’s forgiveness, however extensive, only encompasses those sins which man commits directly against Him, bein adam la-Makom; those in which an injury is caused to one’s fellow man, bein adam le-ḥavero are not forgiven until the injured party has himself forgiven the perpetrator. Hence the custom of seeking forgiveness from those one may have wronged on the eve of the Day of Atonement, without which proper atonement cannot be made.”

Murder, therefore, cannot be forgiven, since the injured party is no longer present to extend forgiveness. Thus, in Wiesenthal’s example in his book, no one can forgive, on behalf of the Holocaust victims, the wrongs done to them. It’d be presumptuous to even consider that.

And yet that is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. He extends forgiveness to everyone, no exceptions. All one has to do is accept it. And this is not some minor theological point, but the heart of Christianity. That is why I had to eventually accept that I was no longer a Christian (after spending many days rereading the essays, talking with many people, pacing the floor while rereading excerpts again, and crying).

I didn’t give all this history to Father in the confessional, but just a highlight, and said that although I was coming back into the Church, I still agreed with the Jewish belief about forgiveness. I haven’t changed one iota in that regard! So I wondered if I should just ignore this whole issue? But Father said, No, that God’s forgiveness is vast, unfathomable, and that one (that I) should study it more and more. I can go along with that. 🙂

The penance Father gave me was interesting: before the Easter vigil I should do the Stations of the Cross, pausing at the sixth station to ask for Saint Veronica’s help to reach out to offer compassion. I will do the Stations this Wednesday before RCIA class (since Father said to do the prayers at actual Stations, in a church, rather than just the prayers). I was not expecting such a beautiful penance to do! Very happy…

Saint Veronica

(Just hoping my second confession goes a bit more smoothly and I don’t freeze like a deer in headlights again!)

A Beautiful Saint honored today

I was so moved by the story of today’s saint that I thought I’d post a link to his biography. Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was very humble, died fairly young, and is the patron saint of young people, students and clerics. Unfortunately most of his writings were destroyed, as he requested from his deathbed. A short biographical passage from the Catholic Culture website:

[Saint Gabriel joined] the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ [in 1856].

After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.

Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life — only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.

And here is a lovely quote from him about Our Lady:

Love Mary! …She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

“I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own.”

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Veni, Creator Spiritus

A prayer traditionally recited or sung on New Years day. Blessings to all in 2015! _()_

 

Holy Spirit

 

“A plenary indulgence may be gained by reciting or singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year. This hymn is traditionally sung for beginnings of things, calling on the Holy Spirit before endeavoring something new.” (From Catholic Culture website.)

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,

and in our souls take up Thy rest;

come with Thy grace and heavenly aid

to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

 

O comforter, to Thee we cry,

O heavenly gift of God Most High,

O fount of life and fire of love,

and sweet anointing from above.

 

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;

Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;

Thou, promise of the Father, Thou

Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

 

Kindle our sense from above,

and make our hearts o’erflow with love;

with patience firm and virtue high

the weakness of our flesh supply.

 

Far from us drive the foe we dread,

and grant us Thy peace instead;

so shall we not, with Thee for guide,

turn from the path of life aside.

 

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow

the Father and the Son to know;

and Thee, through endless times confessed,

of both the eternal Spirit blest.

 

Now to the Father and the Son,

Who rose from death, be glory given,

with Thou, O Holy Comforter,

henceforth by all in earth and heaven.

Amen.

 

A beautiful rendition of the song:


Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Amen.