Catholics throughout history have used medals as a reminder of the faith and the lives of the saints. The images of the saints remind us about the details of their lives, and they give us a way to remember to imitate the holiness of the great ones who have gone before us. Each time someone places one of these medallions around their neck, it’s a physical reminder to be faithful.
There is a great deal of history and symbolism behind all the different vessels and vestments we use in the practice of our faith. From the cassock to the ciborium and the crosier to the burse, we have a lot of items and terms that are foreign to modern ears.
We have so much history and tradition, the amount of lore associated with Catholic traditions can seem overwhelming.
However, while at times it may seem intimidating, remember that the basic tenets of the Catholic faith remain the same.
As Catholics, we learn and grow by increasing our understanding of the underlying histories and meanings behind the holy traditions of the Church such as the history of the pyx as the sacred vessel for the Eucharist.
A pyx (or pyxis) is a small container that priests or Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers use to carry the consecrated host to people who cannot, for whatever reason, attend Mass that day. Most often, they bring the Eucharist to those who are sick or homebound.
The containers are usually shaped like a cylinder. The lid, often with a sacred symbol or image on the top, may have a hinge and clasp or simply lie flat on the top. Most pyxes are made from gold, brass, silver or pewter to honor the sacred host that it contains.
The use of metal in construction is also important in cleaning the vessel. Using non-porous metal means that crumbs and particles of the Blessed Sacrament will not be embedded or lost. Taken a step farther, some pyxes are constructed with a bump in the bottom to make retrieving the individual hosts without crushing or breaking easier.
When a Eucharistic Minister places the consecrated host into a pyx, he will put the pyx in a small pouch, called a burse. The pouch is usually made out of leather or fabric, and it can be drawn closed. Often, the minister will fix the burse around his neck when he carries the pyx.
The Word, “Pyx”
The name “Pyx” comes from Greek and Latin words. The Greek root word is πυξις, pronounced puxis, and the Latin is a transliteration of the Greek word pyxis.
When the church was first formed, the term was commonly used for any kind of box. If you wanted to carry around your gold coins to go to the market, you might put them in a pyxis.
In the United Kingdom, they still use the word “pyx” in this way. They have a ceremony, called the trial of the pyx, where newly minted coins are tested to see if they fit the metallurgical standards set by the government. This tradition has remained the same since the 13th century.
Eventually, the word “pyx” came to refer to only sacred vessels. This shines a light on the naming conventions for almost all our liturgical items.
The name for nearly every piece of liturgical clothing or communion vessel was once a common term for everyday items. When the culture began to change, and people stopped using those words, the church kept them until they became terms that refer only to sacred items.
The Sacred Pyx
In the Middle Ages, the pyx was the most common term used for the cup which held the Eucharist. In the Customal of Cluny, a document from the eleventh century, it speaks of a deacon taking a golden pyx out of a large dove that hangs permanently above the altar. It would be like the tabernacles that churches use to hold the blessed Eucharist today.
In some places, the word pyx referred to a special kind of container in a specific shape, a dove. This custom developed especially in late antiquity. The example above comes from France.
They would use this pyx to hold the Blessed Sacrament between celebrations of the Eucharist. This pyx would then be suspended above the altar for all to see.
The dove, as you may know, is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it is a common image on pyxes in the Catholic Church, as well. The dove helps to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit in the mass, and it connects the work of the Holy Spirit to what the priest does in consecrating the bread and the wine. Eventually, the pyx became known as only the cylindrical objects we use to carry the host.
Eastern Christians, however, use the word to refer to their tabernacles which contain the consecrated host between celebrations of the Eucharist. This pyx is especially used during the season of Lent for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
This Eucharistic liturgy uses already consecrated bread and wine to celebrate it on weekdays during Lent. This liturgy tones down the joyful character of the Sunday liturgy in keeping with the somber and repentant themes of Lent.
The Catholic Church has many wonderful traditions that help to give meaning and history to our practices. It also makes everything a bit more confusing for the new Christian.
We use Latin terms and refer to items that no one outside the church would know. It’s important for each of us to familiarize ourselves with these traditions, so we can answer questions and pass on our faith to the next generation.
We used to pray the rosary as a family when I was a child, and though I may have found it tedious at times, I cherish these memories. Often, my siblings and I would get the giggles in between Hail Marys. However, a beautiful calm spread throughout the house whenever we prayed together.
Praying together sowed the seeds for my spiritual journey, and children, even in today’s high-tech world, still harbor a deep sense of spirituality and mystery. As parents, it is up to us to awaken this inherent spirituality as, one day, it will become a great source of strength to our children.
As a mom, I found it important to take the time to select the appropriate set of rosary beads for my kids. The beads you choose will become a beloved heirloom and provide them with memories they will treasure.
Mary Mother of God
Before you start looking at the rosary beads for children, it’s important to remember to make the rosary somewhat child-friendly. Kids probably respond best to stories, and therefore, you may like to start off by telling them lots of stories about Mary and her son, Jesus. By introducing both as real people, your children will make a personal connection, and, undoubtedly, they will want to hear more.
There are lots of lovely children's Bibles and books, crafts and coloring activities available and, by using such resources, you’ll help your kids to build a relationship with Mary and Jesus. Once you feel they understand, you may introduce the rosary and talk about finding special rosary prayer beads.
Rosary Beads for Kids
The type of rosary beads you buy for your children will very much depend on your child’s age and gender. Nowadays, you can find special rosary beads for kids of all ages. Let’s look at some of your best options:
Small Baby Fabric Rosary Beads
If you’d like to introduce your baby to the rosary, you may like to opt for a fabric, cuddly-toy, one-decade rosary. This rosary features a rather large, stuffed fabric ring with ten fabric beads and a soft rubber cross attached.
These beads are soft and snuggly, and your baby can easily hold onto the beads. This is a wonderful way of introducing the rosary early and you can, on occasion, add a prayer or a story about Mary and Jesus.
Teething Rosary Beads
Most little ones will at some point need a teething ring, so why not get teething rosary beads. They are made from colorful silicone, knotted safely and perfect to chew on!
Colorful, Chunky Wooden Rosary
Personally, I love the simplicity of a wooden rosary and the colorful, chunky beads. The children’s variety usually comes in strong primary colors, often with a different color for each decade. These beads also have a beautiful, wooden crucifix and make the perfect beads for boys or girls.
Other Types of Rosary Beads
Rosary beads are available in all colors and shapes. It's beneficial to allow your child to pick her/his favorite, because there are plenty of choices, and this is truly a personal decision. Girls usually love jewelry, and jewel-based rosaries are very popular. There are also rosaries with sports themes like football and basketball for young athletes.
Personalized and Themed Rosary Beads
Personalized rosary beads, featuring your child’s name, make for a very special, meaningful gift. By the same token, if your child has an affinity to a particular Saint, it’s lovely to present her/him with rosary beads dedicated to her/his favorite Saint. I've also seen stunningly beautiful Guardian Angel rosary beads.
Make Your Own Rosary Beads
My first choice would always be to make rosary beads with your child, because it will make them so special and unique. From buying beautiful beads to choosing a crucifix, and perhaps various medals, right through to investing the time to make the rosary beads, makes it an unforgettable and meaningful process for you and your child.
While you are making the rosary beads with your kids, you might consider telling stories about Mary and Jesus and your own experiences as a child growing up Catholic. You can turn the experience into a spiritual journey.
Your child will enjoy the crafting and be immensely proud of the rosary beads. No doubt, self-made rosary beads will be greatly treasured.
Engage Your Child and Make It Meaningful
The most important thing about buying rosary beads for your child is to make it a spiritual, personal process, one your child can understand and cherish. By doing so, you instill a love and affection for the rosary that is sure to be a great source of strength to your child throughout his or her lifetime.
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:
- Why is there no consecration on Good Friday?
- Triduum? What?
- Why do we kiss Jesus’ feet on the cross? And some people genuflect. Should I be doing that?
- 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:
- Liturgy of the Word
- Adoration of the Cross
- 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:
- 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.
- Liturgy of the Word
- Baptismal Liturgy – catechumens and RCIA candidates are baptized and initiated into the faith.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
- The Solemn Beginning of the Vigil (Lucernarium) – Service of Light
Easter Sunday – Easter Mass in morning (or afternoon if necessary). Triduum concludes with the evening prayers on Easter Sunday.
The Eucharist has always meant a lot to me because it is infinitely more than just a ritual. It is the true physical presence, not just the spiritual presence of Jesus Christ. Dedicating an entire month, all of April, to the Eucharist seems not only fitting but also very special. Attending Mass or Adoration awards us a chance to encounter Jesus in a very real way. We place ourselves in His divine presence and draw on His love and guidance.
The chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona is considered one of the seven man-made wonders of the state. Located in an area famous for its surroundings (there have been many movies shot in the area), the chapel is a prominent feature, having won the Award of Honor of the American Institute of Architects, in 1957, only a year after being built. It has been drawing visitors from all over the world ever since.
A trip to the chapel would be the ideal opportunity to breathe new life into one’s faith―the scenery and setting are truly some of the most impressive of any church.
The chapel is built on a spur, 250-feet high, and it features a large stone cross inlaid in the glass side of the building that overlooks the valley below. The chapel was constructed to capture the view of the sunset shining through the valley, and it is complemented by the beautiful, sunshiny weather in the area.
It was built in only 18 months, quite a feat, considering the literally ground-breaking amount of work needed. The total cost of building would be $2.7 million, in today’s terms ($300,000 at the time). The interior is left quite bare and undecorated so as not to detract from the atmosphere of the space around it. The glass side of the chapel is supported by the large stone cross built into it. The chapel is a good example of how some churches can really keep the cross at the center of the overall symbolism of the building.
Mass is not celebrated regularly at the chapel since the local parish is served out of the church in Sedona. The chapel is now intended as a place for private prayer and reflection. It is situated in the Coconino National Forest, at 5,000 ft. above sea level.
Visitors to the chapel should be prepared for a short walk from the lower carpark, but, overall, the climate and access are quite agreeable, with not much humidity. This and the wheel-chair accessibility make the site a majestic destination where young and old can marvel at the scenery and the impressive monument to the Catholic faith.
The chapel has a very interesting history. It was conceived by local architect and artist Marguerite Brunswig Staude. After visiting the Empire State Building, the artist was inspired to create a place of worship that was in touch with modern architecture and design. One of the final wishes of her late mother was that she build a church to spread the word of the Lord and provide a place for Catholics to get closer to God.
Originally, the project was to take place with the help of architect Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) and be modeled on the Empire State Building in style. However, the advent of the Second World War prevented the project from taking place at either of the two sites originally intended. Budapest, Hungary was the original proposed site, but the war made it impossible, and Los Angeles was an early candidate, but it was hard to get permission from the Archdiocese there (and there were also concerns the Japanese could invade the west coast).
Staude then considered Arizona as an alternative. While visiting the local area, she saw Rx engraved in a stone below where the chapel would be built, which she took as a sign from above (the family’s business was pharmaceuticals). Also, one of the surrounding hill formations resembled the Madonna and Child, while another resembled the Three Wise Men.
Several problems stood in the way of building the chapel. Lloyd Wright withdrew from the project as the project was significantly less grand, in his opinion, than originally conceived. Obtaining a building permit proved difficult, as the state owned the land. The latter problem was resolved with the help of Barry Goldwater, who met with Staude in Washington and was so impressed with the plans that he walked over to the Secretary of the Interior and immediately received the permit.
The chapel is located about 10 minutes by car outside Sedona (4 miles), which, itself, is located 30 miles south of Phoenix. Access is free, and there is free parking available, also.
Visitors are welcome every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. Adequate footwear should be worn for the climb to the chapel, as the closer parking lot to the building is reserved for the disabled.
The chapel is a prime example of how hard work and dedication to one’s faith can literally move mountains. The symbolism of the surroundings of the church is in tune with nature but, existing in its own right, has had parallels drawn between it and the message of Christ to be peaceful while also standing up for one’s beliefs. It has had a colorful history, especially during its development, but it now remains as a tranquil place of reflection that might be a good place to include on any Catholic’s list of places to visit in the southwest.
Easter is on the horizon and, as I look ahead on my calendar, I am reminded of the history tied in with this beautiful holiday and the prayers it inspires. You may already be very familiar with the Stations of the Cross, but I wanted to take this space to really reflect on Jesus’ walk to His death, the moments He experienced along the way, and the moments of grace we can find in His journey.
You may already have the Stations represented in the nave or main section of your church through pictures or high relief images depicting the different moments. You may have learned about them in bible school or just read about them.
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.
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.
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
Saint Valentine is easily one of the most famous, and most misunderstood, saints within the canon of Roman Catholic priests. It’s possible he was more than one person whose stories were put together, or he may have simply moved around and let his legend follow him. Whatever the case, the story is endlessly inspiring, and Saint Valentine is worthy of a prayer and devotion this February.
Why Do We Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
So, why do we celebrate this odd moment in February? No one knows for sure, and there are several accounts. However, according to the legend, Saint Valentine was a priest around 280 A.D. He served under Emperor Claudius II and was a staunch Christian during a time when believers were persecuted.
However, Valentine persevered and spoke to anyone who would listen about his faith. In the meantime, Claudius needed soldiers and had a theory: if young men were single, they would fight more valiantly and be willing to die more than married men. Therefore, Claudius decided to pass an edict that no young people could marry, and he worked to bring young men into his army.
Despite Claudius’ ruling, Valentine felt that any young couple ready to take their vows should have access to a Christian wedding. He began marrying couples in secret in the Christian church. Keep in mind, this was a time when the old pagan faiths were the dominant belief system. Many people were polygamous but were drawn to the idea of being in a more simplified, monogamous couple. Many of them came to see Valentine and ask for his help to convert and, consequently, keep the young male off the battlefield.
The priest was eventually caught and jailed by the Emperor and locked up in jail for a time. His jailer, or so the story goes, had a blind daughter that Valentine grew very fond of, and the two became good friends. The jailer was dismissive of their relationship and Valentine’s faith, and, one day, he challenged Valentine to restore his daughter’s sight if his god was so powerful.
There are several versions of what happened next; some claim that Valentine prayed with his hands over the girl’s eyes and restored her vision while her father watched. Others claim the girl found she could see again after Valentine’s death. However the miracle happened, it inspired the girl and her father to become Catholics themselves.
The priest Valentine was tortured throughout his stay in prison and, on February 14th, was killed and beheaded at the hands of Emperor Claudius. The day he died he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it “Your Valentine.” He was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 496, and the day of his death was marked as a feast day that became associated with romantic love.
More than anything, the story of Saint Valentine is a reminder that true faith sometimes means a Catholic must be willing to break laws or even lay down their lives to stay true to what they believe. He is also there to remind us that our love, sexuality, and marriages are sacred and blessed by God, but they forever have the shadow of the cross over them and come with very real responsibilities.
Saint Valentine's Day Devotion and Prayer
Saint Valentine is deserving of prayer. Here are some devotional words to offer up this February.
Saint Valentine taught those around him how to devote their love to one another and to our heavenly father. He defied the powerful men around him in the name of the Lord our God and helped young lovers marry and express their love in the purest form possible. He died for his faith so that we might devote ourselves to those we love now, in life and without fear of persecution.
Let us pray:
Oh glorious protector Saint Valentine,
Defender of marriage and true believers,
Defier of pagans and idols, I offer this prayer to you.
Help me in my marriage and in my daily battle to keep my faith,
Help me to defy doubts and forget my fears,
Help me devote my life to the Lord as you devoted yours.
Saint Valentine, I ask you to bless me in my time of need.
I will devote the 14th of February to you and hold your name in my heart.
Please help me see the truth and the way and the light.
Just as you fought for the young people who needed your guidance, draw your sword for me, carve a path for me. Forgive me for the sin of temptation and help me to leave temptation behind.
One Our Father
One Hail Mary
One Glory Be
May your February be a time of joy and celebration for the loves in your life. Remember those who fought for your freedom to love and be with the person you choose, and be sure to offer up your thanks this Valentine’s Day.