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

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Corpus Christi

The Eucharist is not a prize for the strong, but a source of strength for the weak, for sinners. It is forgiveness, it is the Viaticum that allows us to go forward and move along.” — Pope Francis

Corpus Christi Adoration

How fortunate I feel to be able to participate in this celebration! Every first Friday of the month, my church has Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, beginning after 8 a.m. Mass and continuing for 24 hours through Saturday morning Mass. Last month on the first Friday, I went to weekday Mass for the first time, and have been going to every weekday Mass (except for Wednesdays) ever since. Perhaps I’m hoping to make up for lost time? 🙂 Since weekday Masses begin at 8 a.m. (and on Tuesdays, at 7!) I had to turn myself from a “night owl” into a morning person to manage it, and that took a couple of weeks!

When I think of all the times I went to Mass as a child and teenager (as an Episcopalian, not Catholic) I shake my head at how mindless I was to its significance. And as an adult I left the church, and have only now returned and can begin to appreciate this beautiful (breathtaking) offering of Our Lord on behalf of us sinners.

Here is an excerpt of Pope Francis’ homily for Corpus Christi:

 

We separate when we don’t follow the Word of God. When we do not embrace fraternity among ourselves. When we compete for the top spots. When we become climbers.

…Pretending, consuming, putting oneself at the center. But also being competitive, arrogant, unwilling to accept mistakes or seek help. All these points divide us.

I am also very grateful that our priest is such a humble, kind and sweet person, not at all “putting oneself at the center…being competitive, arrogant…” It would have been so off-putting if the priest of our local church (which is the only one I’m able to attend, as I live in a sparsely populated area) were arrogant, pompous! Especially after having a Buddhist teacher who was also humble and kind…

So, remembering Father’s kindness, I took courage and went to my second confession right before the Saturday evening Mass of Pentecost. This time I wasn’t the “deer in the headlights”, as I was at my first confession! Father again kindly helped me through it, as I had questions about what are considered sins that I should be confessing. I’d gotten the impression that he had been a little startled at my asking him a question at my first confession, but he assured me that, yes, I could ask him questions. So I asked him all about “what constitutes sin” and “what if one disagrees with some of the Church’s teachings, is that a sin?”

He told me, delighted, that it is a good thing to go to confession before Pentecost, so that made me very happy! I think I’ll go to confession approximately every two months. Not every week, as that seems a bit much at this point, but not “twice a year”, as the lady from RCIA told me she does, when I asked her how often one should go to confession. That seems a bit too infrequent!

However, I also don’t want to become complacent, or take Mass, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, for granted, as might result from going so frequently to weekday Mass. I have been reading Meditations before Mass by Romano Guardini, a little bit at a time before each weekday Mass. Very helpful to prepare one’s mind and heart for receiving Christ. Also, I reflect on Saint Thomas Aquinas’ beautiful Four Points of Meditation before Receiving the Eucharist, which are really four points of prayer, but are good to meditate upon as well.

So, now that I’m a morning person, I got up early today and spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, attended Mass, and then joined my son at the farmers market to shop for our Sabbath meal. Such a beautiful way to spend the weekend!

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.

Novena starts today: Mary, Undoer of Knots

One of my favorite websites begins a novena today — to Mary, Undoer of Knots (one of Pope Francis’ favorites!)

Here is a quote from Irenaeus about Mary loosening our knot of sin:

The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.

For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.

Irenaeus

Mary undoer of knots

I hope you can join in praying this novena!

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!

 

Divine Mercy Novena Begins Today!

The Divine Mercy Novena begins today, in anticipation of Divine Mercy Sunday April 12. Please join in, if you can!

Divine Mercy prayers

The Divine Mercy prayers have become very dear to me since becoming a Christian, perhaps due to how effective they can be in developing compassion in the one praying. You truly open yourself to being a conduit of God’s mercy praying these beautiful prayers! (And one of the lessons I took out of my first confession: I can certainly benefit from learning a lot more about God’s mercy and forgiveness! 🙂

Click here to sign up to join in praying the Divine Mercy novena.