Friday, February 20, 2015


Today is the first Friday in Lent, which is an excellent day to pray the Stations of the Cross. If you didn't make it to church for stations, there's still time to pray it at home. And there are plenty of Fridays left in Lent, so make a resolution to go next Friday.

A few days into Lent is also an excellent time to consider our prayer life. Do we value prayer? Do we set aside time each day for mental prayer? Do we regularly converse with God throughout the day? Do we offer Him our sufferings throughout the day?

(Jesus Praying in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hoffman, Riverside Church, New York City)

Today's Office of Readings includes an excellent homily on prayer by Pseudo-Chrystostom. Here's an excerpt:
The highest good is prayer and conversation with God, because it means that we are in God’s company and in union with him. When light enters our bodily eyes our eyesight is sharpened; when a soul is intent on God, God’s inextinguishable light shines into it and makes it bright and clear. I am talking, of course, of prayer that comes from the heart and not from routine: not the prayer that is assigned to particular days or particular moments in time, but the prayer that happens continuously by day and by night. 
  Indeed the soul should not only turn to God at times of explicit prayer. Whatever we are engaged in, whether it is care for the poor, or some other duty, or some act of generosity, we should remember God and long for God. The love of God will be as salt is to food, making our actions into a perfect dish to set before the Lord of all things. Then it is right that we should receive the fruits of our labours, overflowing onto us through all eternity, if we have been offering them to him throughout our lives. 
  Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, a mediator between God and men. Prayer lifts the soul into the heavens where it hugs God in an indescribable embrace. The soul seeks the milk of God like a baby crying for the breast. It fulfils its own vows and receives in exchange gifts better than anything that can be seen or imagined. 
  Prayer is a go-between linking us to God. It gives joy to the soul and calms its emotions. I warn you, though: do not imagine that prayer is simply words. Prayer is the desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not given by man but brought about by God’s grace. As St Paul says: For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself intercedes on our behalf in a way that could never be put into words.
 Read the rest at Universalis.com.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Preparing for Lent

Ash Wednesday is next week, which means that Lent is nearly upon us. Now is the time to begin contemplating Lenten resolutions.

Here are some options:

1. Fast - Catholics are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but traditionally, Catholics fasted every day of Lent (except Sundays). Why should we fast? God has created all things good, but fasting helps us withdraw from the things of this world and depend wholly on Him. And then, when the fast is over, we feast! This cycle of fasts and feasts helps to ensure that we do not make false gods out of created things. Fasting also requires us to decide: Am I willing to set aside all and follow Christ? Or, are we like the rich young ruler (depicted below), whose happiness was rooted in the things of this world?

If we're not yet ready (or able) to fast for all of Lent, we can also engage in mini-fasts from certain pleasures: we can give up alcohol, or coffee, or only drink water; or we can give up all desserts, or snacks, or abstain from meat.

Below: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hoffman

In addition to fasting or giving up something pleasurable, we can can also add a work of mercy or devotional practice. The following are some options for these Lenten practices:

2. Pray the Rosary every day - Over and over the Church encourages us to pray the Rosary. Why? Because the regular meditation on the life of Jesus and Mary will change us: we will begin acquiring the virtues of Jesus and Mary; we will be transformed. Many of us find the Rosary difficult. It can be. But, like most things in life, it requires discipline and practice. Lent is a great opportunity to develop the habit of praying the Rosary every day. Find a certain time when you can pray 5 decades, or find several times throughout the day to pray 1 or 2 decades. A time that works for many families is to set aside the time after dinner for the family Rosary. I also recommend using images of the mysteries of the Rosary to aid you in your meditations; without images, you can easily find your mind wandering or forget which mysteries you are praying. Kids will especially enjoy the visual reminder. It was with these items in mind that I created the Sacred Art Series' Rosary Flip Book. I think it will help.

3. Read the Gospels every day - A daily reading from the Gospels or other section of Scripture is an excellent practice whether within Lent or without. But as with praying the Rosary, Lent can be a great time to start. Try reading the Gospel from today's Mass. See www.universalis.com. Or read a story from the Sacred Art Series' The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John (shown below) or from a study bible--I recommend this one from Dr. Scott Hahn. Or begin reading the daily readings of the Office of Readings found in the Liturgy of the Hours. See www.universalis.com. The first reading from the Office of Readings generally comes from Scripture; the second reading generally comes from one of the Church fathers, such as St. Augustine. There is much wisdom here, and the Church has already edited this great collection for us!

4. Pray the Stations of the Cross - Many churches have the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent. This is an excellent Catholic devotion. Support your parish Stations by bringing your family and encouraging your friends to bring theirs.

5. Eucharistic Adoration - Praying before the Blessed Sacrament--especially when exposed for adoration--is a means of extreme grace. If you stay in the sun all day, you will get a tan. The same is true with the Eucharist. If we let the light of Christ in the Eucharist shine upon us, we will soon begin reflecting that light to others. Spending 30 minutes with the Blessed Sacrament each morning is is a wonderful practice. It will change your day--and your life.

6. Daily Mass - The Mass is the source and summit of the faith: it is where we go to receive the very body of Christ in Communion; it is the re-presentation of Christ's sacrificial death on Calvary; and it is the heavenly wedding supper of the Lamb that is our true end. If you never get to daily Mass, this Lent, try going once a week; if you already attend from time to time, try going every day.

There are obviously many other options, including the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, giving alms, and, of course, getting to Confession. But this post is already getting too long, so I'll go no farther. 

Have a blessed Lent!

Sacred Art Series Discount Code: Enter discount code LENTCODE while checking out at Amazon to get 15% all items from the Sacred Art Series. This code will be valid through Fat Tuesday (February 17).

Friday, February 6, 2015

St. Paul Miki and the Nagasaki Martyrs - February 6

Following the evangelization of Japan by the great Jesuit, St. Francis Xavier, Paul Miki joined the Society of Jesus. Shortly thereafter, in a wave of Japanese persecution, Paul Miki and his companions were martyred.

Today's Office of Readings (courtesy Universalis) gives the moving account of St. Paul Miki's death. Here's an excerpt:

The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behaviour was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.” Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary.
  Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.” (emphasis added)

St. Paul Miki and companions, pray for us! May we have their courage always to preach the Gospel, and do so with humility and charity.