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100 years later, we can still learn from Our Lady of Fatima

The miracle that took place almost 100 years ago was the largest miracle since biblical times. Over 70,000 people witnessed the sun dancing. Newspapers – even anti-Catholic ones – reported on the event.

With that in mind, we have 3 challenges for you:

1. Learn the Rosary

Our Lady emphasized the importance of the rosary. I didn’t take up the practice until about a year ago.

If you fall into the camp of Catholics who don’t pray the rosary because it seems boring or unfruitful, try it again.

Just try it. Even a decade at a time while you’re stuck in traffic or taking a shower. Continue reading Our Fatima Challenge: 100 Years Later, Her Message is Still Relevant!

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Can we take a minute to talk about crucifixes and why Catholics use them so much more often than empty crosses?

A crucifix hanging on a living room wall immediately informs visitors that this is a CATHOLIC house. Why is that so important? What’s the big difference?

“He is risen! Get over it!”

“Why do you Catholics revel in Jesus being on the cross? It’s so negative.”

Do we? Do we really revel in it? Continue reading Why do you Catholics revel in Jesus being on the cross?

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Relevant Radio‘s morning show. It was an absolute blast!

I’m not one to listen to the radio while I work (I get distracted waaaaaaay too easily), so I usually only catch bits and pieces of radio shows in the car.

But for the last couple of weeks I’ve been listening to Morning Air and what has impressed me the most is the welcoming tone and understanding that we are all broken people. That ought to teach me not to pre-judge 🙂

So here’s a quick list of a few free places for you to go to help you keep God at the center of your day: Continue reading Free (or almost free) Resources for Personal Faith Formation

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Distractions…ugh

They plague me all day, every day. They seep into my morning prayers, they delay progress on my to-do lists, and even steal time away from my family.

I’m convinced the proverbial good intentions that pave the road to hell are a product of distractions. Distractions are harmful. They take us away from bettering our prayer, family and work lives.

Sometimes distractions get so bad I’m distracted from doing something I love (like gardening) by something I really don’t enjoy (like washing dishes). It’s almost as if my brain just wants me to do whatever I’m NOT supposed to be doing at the time, just to be contrarian. Continue reading 5 Ways to Reduce Distraction in Prayer and Everyday Life

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Pre-college, I didn’t really pay attention to the distinct differences among the services within Holy Week. To me it was a week of going to church day after day and I dreaded it. And for years after I was not a regular church-goer.

However, when I returned with vigor to my Catholic roots, I began attending as many of the services held during Holy Week as I possibly could. And with that many questions arose:

  1. Why is there no consecration on Good Friday?
  2. Triduum? What?
  3. Why do we kiss Jesus’ feet on the cross? And some people genuflect. Should I be doing that?
  4. Oh man, I really need to go to confession.

That last one is a statement and not a question, sure, but it was still a concern that arose that scared me to death. So it earned its place on the list.

Why is there no consecration on Good Friday?

The first time in my adult life I attended all services within the Triduum, I was confused when we seemed to leap-frog right to communion without the entirety of the Liturgy of the Eucharist during the Good Friday service. Turns out, this is called the Liturgy of the Presancitified.

So let’s back up to the presanctification part.

Actually – let’s back up to the beginning of the Triduum. The Triduum lasts for 3 days, but is really a single liturgical celebration. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.” – USCCB

The Easter Triduum celebrates three events – The Passion (Holy Thursday), Death on the Cross (Good Friday, Holy Saturday), and Resurrection (Easter Vigil – Easter Sunday).

The Triduum is actually a distinct liturgical period after Lent. Lent ends and the Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday night.  You will note that there are no closing rites at the end of this Mass or on Good Friday as the Triduum will continue for 3 days.

Highlights of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper:

  • Washing of the feet following the Liturgy of the Word
  • The Gloria is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. The bells rang during the Gloria will be silent until Easter Vigil. Minimal musical accompaniment, if any, is used only to support the singing and will remain so until Easter Vigil.
  • No Concluding Rite
  • Eucharist is placed in repose (a different part of the church or chapel previously prepared) – not the tabernacle which is emptied and remains open.
  • Altar is stripped and crosses are removed or veiled.
  • Adoration usually available at the place of repose until midnight.

The Triduum continues on Good Friday with a series of 3 events:

  1. Liturgy of the Word
  2. Adoration of the Cross
  3. Holy Communion
  • No Opening Rite (because it is a continuation of Holy Thursday’s celebration, which had no Concluding Rite)
  • Altar is completely bare – no crucifix, no candles
  • Anointing of the Sick and Penance are only sacraments celebrated.
  • Celebrant may completely prostrate himself before the altar (lay face down on the floor).
  • The Solemn Intercessions – The congregation is asked to kneel and pray silently for each intercession.
  • Adoration of the Cross – after which the Cross is then placed at the altar with candles on either side. (Remember all crosses were removed or veiled the night before.) The Cross can be venerated with a kiss, genuflection, or other sign of deep respect.
  • No Liturgy of the Eucharist, as the consecration took place on Holy Thursday – hence “Presanctification”. Move straight to the Our Father and Holy Communion. The priest will spread a cloth on the altar and bring in the Blessed Sacrament from its place of repose.
  • Altar is once again stripped of everything but the cross and 2 or 4 candlesticks.
  • No Concluding Rite

Holy Saturday – We wait at the tomb with prayer and fasting. The altar is still bare and Sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Holy Communion given only to the dying.

Easter Vigil – This is where we shift from waiting at the tomb to celebrating the Resurrection. We move from dark into Light.

  • No Opening Rite
  • Begins after sunset outside the church
  • 4 parts:
    1. The Solemn Beginning of the Vigil (Lucernarium) – Service of Light
      • Blessing of a fire and pascal candle outside the church and a procession with candles is led into the church. The church progressively gets lighter and lighter until all lights are at full brightness at the Gloria.
    2. Liturgy of the Word
    3. Baptismal Liturgy – catechumens and RCIA candidates are baptized and initiated into the faith.
    4. Liturgy of the Eucharist

Easter Sunday  – Easter Mass in morning (or afternoon if necessary). Triduum concludes with the evening prayers on Easter Sunday.

 

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Go to confession. Just go.

This is Holy Week meaning there is ample opportunity to go to confession. Even if your parish’s schedule doesn’t mesh well with yours, call your parish office and make an appointment.

I’m saying this as someone who once went 17 years without confession.

Just go. If you’re waiting for a sign, consider this to be it.

Stop procrastinating or making empty promises to yourself that you know you won’t keep. Just go now.

Go to build a deeper relationship with God. Go because you are truly sorry, even if you don’t even want to admit to yourself how wrong you were. Go to repair the damage sin has done.

Take the time right now to either find Communal Penance, a Sacrament of Reconciliation schedule, or call your parish office and make an appointment. You will make your priest’s day.

If it’s been a long time, ask the priest for help. Don’t worry about perfection. Getting it 1% right is a million times better than 0% right. Get the absolution you need and the relationship God so desires to have with you.

Just go. You will be so glad you did.

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Our mission at Discount Catholic Products is to provide the prayer tools that help people grow closer to God. Granted, we have a vast array of items on our site, but there is a core 5 categories that I think are the most important for those who are looking to deepen their faith.

So whether you are looking for yourself or to help a friend along their own faith journey, here is our list of the 5 items every Catholic should have. But remember – the tools only work when they get used.

1. Bible – The Church encourages us to read the Bible as part of our daily prayer lives. Whether you use your bible to practice lectio divina or simply to become more familiar with the text, having and knowing your bible is important to growing your spiritual life.

2. Scapular – “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire” – the promise of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock regarding the Brown Scapular. Wearing a scapular is a prayer in itself. It is a way to show your surrender to the protection of Mary. Any Catholic can be enrolled in the brown scapular, the most common of scapulars, by a priest. Children often receive their first scapular with their First Communion.

Wearing a scapular is certainly a test of your faith and devotion when it become inconvenient or unfashionable to wear. It’s not a commitment to be taken lightly, but the promise it bears far outweighs the temporary uncomfortable moments found in our daily lives.

3. Rosary – Mary promises great graces to those who pray the rosary. By meditating on each mystery, we give Mary the opportunity to turn our eyes to her Son. We see Jesus through her eyes.

4. Crucifix – Having a crucifix displayed in your home is an indication of how your family places Christ above all else. It is a statement that you each first belong to Him, and a way to remind yourself of that very same thing.

5. Holy Water Vessel – Whether kept in your pocket, purse, car, or home, having access to holy water is important. Holy water can heal the sick, evoke graces and banish demons. You can use holy water to bless any space including your home, work and vehicle.

 

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones – Ephesians 1:18

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Have you selected what to give up for Lent yet? I made my decision during Mass on Sunday, and as you can tell from the title – I’m giving up worrying for Lent. God asked me to trust Him in this week’s Gospel, and I want to give Him just that – my full trust.

The catch is that trust in Him means that I have nothing to worry about. We’ll see if I am able to keep my end of the bargain.

So in preparation for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I need to prepare myself for the task ahead. I need a few tools to help me on this quest.

Here’s what I came up with. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
1. Attend Adoration
Eucharistic Adoration can clean a whole lot of gunk out of your brain. Start by finding a way to focus by using a prayer or scripture reading. Allow yourself time to just sit and be still and listed to what God has to say.
2. Tell God about it
Empty yourself of your worrying thoughts by bringing them all to God and laying them open before Him. Hold nothing back. Tell Him everything no matter how trivial you may think it is. Use God as a sounding board. You may be surprised at what conclusions the two of you come up with.
3. Don’t try to force it out
It won’t end well. You could get caught in an ugly cycle of worrying about worrying. Give yourself enough slack to recognize that cold turkey isn’t the best way to stop worrying.
4. Exercise-Run the rosary
Nothing silences the voices in my head like exercise. That may be because I loathe exercise. I really do. I have to constantly talk myself into doing the next rep and concentrate on form. There’s no space in my brain for anything other than getting to the end of a workout. This may also be a good time to start Running the Rosary.
5. Get perspective
We have a wonderful place called The Banquet here in Sioux Falls where we can go serve meals to anyone who is searching for food or fellowship. An evening there certainly puts my worries in perspective. I know my children have a safe place to sleep and food to fill their bellies. It doesn’t mean my worries are any less worthy, but it sure sorts out the ones that are completely unnecessary.
6. Be grateful
This is really an extension of #5. All those little things we take for granted like the blanket keeping my feet warm, hot showers, and a beautiful sunset – when is the last time I took a minute to thank God for those things? What about the people who surround you like the room mom who helped organize the Valentine Party when you forgot the treats, or the priest who prayed made time for you when you needed help putting life in perspective? The list of things we should be grateful for is inexhaustible.
Forty days. Lent is 40 days and this exercise in trusting the Lord will hopefully make me a better Catholic. What are your thoughts on what to give up for Lent?

My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall never fall.
Psalm 62:2-3

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Last week I wrote about St. Alphonsus’s “How to Converse with God”. Many of you have that book in hand by now. Have you started reading it?

I’ve had an edge of excitement for the last two weeks since I read it. This feeling is ever-present. In trying to name the source I wrote in my notebook “A deep relationship with God can change your life.” But I don’t think those words mean what I initially thought they meant.

Usually the words “change your life” invoke an idea of material difference – position, home, surroundings. We pick out the things in life we don’t like – our job, physique, financial situation — and imagine those as “changed”.

But in reality, even if all of that stuff were to remain the same and the only difference was a vastly deeper relationship with God, our lives would be different because of how it changed our hearts.

I’m a day dreamer. I like to envision my future. But I can’t tell you the last time God had any place in those day dreams. I can tell you what my ideal vegetable garden would look like, or beach vacation, but I’ve never taken the time to daydream about the most important relationship of my life.

So that’s my challenge for myself in these coming weeks: To use what I learned from How to Converse with God, make Him a part of my day dream and everyday inner monologue.

Thoughts?

A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

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I’m a “follow-the-directions” type of gal. I’m a master at Ikea furniture and complicated Lego mechanisms if you give me the instructions. I like knowing the end result ahead of time and having a clear path to that goal. Put the words “How to” in the title of a book, and I’ll read it. Even if it’s something obscure that I know I’ll never do – like “How to Build Your Own Apple Press”, I want to read it.

Maybe this harkens back to my days watching Mr. Rogers’ Picture Picture videos about how to make things like candles, crayons and violins.

So when I came across St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work “How to Converse with God,” I was all over it. The book is small enough to carry with me – it can fit in a jeans pocket, but intricate enough to read over and over again.

The basis of St. Alphonsus’ book is confidence and love. It is simple, so why don’t we do it? It’s one of those habits that take time to build. But this one is majestic in its outcome and a pleasure to practice.

Below is my own summary of only a few of the wonderful parts of this book. Do not treat this list as if it were complete. The depth and breadth of the contents of this small book stand in stark contrast the petite size.

  • God loves you with the greatest love possible, and wants to be the greatest love of your life.
  • God wants you to talk to Him with confidence, because that means you trust him. To lack confidence when speaking to Him shows there is a lack of complete, confident love.
  • If you want to spend eternity with God, start now by speaking with Him as you would your closest friend – don’t be timid or cower.
  • “God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.” Speak to Him all the time. That inner monolog you have throughout the day can easily be turned towards addressing Him.
  • These conversations with God are not tedious or restrained. Talk about what you want to talk about. Tell Him your plans, griefs, worries, fears and hopes.
  • You will find peace by putting your confidence in God and conversing with Him regularly.
  • Beg His pardon when you sin.

Truly, I want to emphasize to you the importance of St. Alphonsus’ message in that God does not want us to talk to him with a fear so great that we cannot treat him like an intimate friend. Confidence is key.

Learn more than I can convey by reading and studying the book How to Converse with God.

And if you can’t muster the confidence, then fake it ‘til you make it.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:16)

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