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There is a scene in the film “Sgt. Bilko” where Phil Hartman’s character Major Thorn is on a date with Glenne Headly’s character Rita. They order some wine and trying to impress Rita, Major Thorn picks up the cork and sniffs it.

Rita asks “Why do you smell the cork?”

And Major Thorn responds with “Your eyes are hazel,” obviously not knowing the answer to her question. (Rita’s eyes are actually green.)

I felt like this a while ago when my brother-in-law asked me why we (Catholics) cross ourselves on the forehead, lips and heart at the beginning of the gospel reading at Mass. I vaguely remembered something Sr. Jane had said way back in 3rd grade about mind, tongue and heart, but didn’t have any details to fill in. 

I did not comment on his eye color, though. (Blue, I think?)

Turns out, it boils down to courage. Admitting fault in ourselves and preparing ourselves to receive the word of God in a way that we can change ourselves for the better is no easy task. 

For the word which Christ brought and which is set down in this book we are willing to stand up with a mind that is open, we are ready to confess it with our mouth, and above all we are determined to safeguard it faithfully in our hearts. (CIN-Origin of the Sign of the Cross, Father Mateo, July 28, 1991)

In this action we are also mimicking the action of the priest who silently prays “Almighty God, cleanse my heart and my lips that I may worthily proclaim Your Gospel” as he bows before the Gospel reading. He then not only crosses his head, lips and heart, but starts by crossing the reading.

We too want (and need) the Word to penetrate our thoughts, words and actions. This small gesture is a physical reminder to ourselves to be open to whatever transformation the Word will make in our life. It’s a prayer for bravery.

So in what small way have you been brave in your faith this week? What is one small thing you can do this week?

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In a parish hall, a catechist patiently explains to a group of adults what the Eucharist is all about. In an office, a co-worker promises to include the intentions of his colleague in the current novena he is praying. At home, a mother patiently corrects her children and tells them the importance of obedience in God’s eyes.

These are a few examples of ordinary lay Catholics who, in their own little ways, contribute to the Church’s mission of evangelization. They may not be priests, nuns or religious, but that does not stop them from sharing and living out the Gospel in their day-to-day lives. Indeed, they are fulfilling the Great Commission — Jesus’ missionary mandate to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

 

The Laity’s Role

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (897), the laity is —

All the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state approved by the Church. That is, the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God…and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World.

The Church recognizes the importance of the laity, who make up most of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the role of the laity is further defined:

By reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit to the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they must manifest Christ to others.

Because the laity is found in every sphere of society, they have a special mandate to reach out to those in their own spheres, to take on that responsibility of bringing Christ to these areas. And it does not have to be in grand ways; rather, it is so simple and doable, and yet so amazing that the laity can “contribute to the sanctification of the world” by “fulfilling their own particular duties” as mentioned above.

An article in Catholic Digest even streamlined it in three steps: “Know the Faith. Live the Faith. Share the Faith” (http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/trends/2013/04-03/what-is-the-new-evangelization).

 

Why a New Evangelization?

The term “new evangelization” was first coined by St John Paul II when he made a historic visit to Poland in 1979, proclaiming, “A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever.”

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, he said that “the new evangelization is very much tied up with entering a new missionary age, which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians…respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of or time.”

This new evangelization is necessary because, although many people have been evangelized in the past, the pace and culture of the modern world has been influenced and inundated with such secularism that individuals need to be re-evangelized within that context.

 

Going Forth

By virtue of Baptism, one is brought into the Family of God with the duty to further His purposes on earth. It takes a process of growth and formation, all the while being among members of the Church, drawing ever closer to the Good News — Christ Himself.

How can you take part in this great work of evangelization? Where you are already gives a clue as to how to you can live it out.

 

 

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This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, and it’s a doozy of a Sunday. It completes the Easter Octave and comes with an awesome promise: “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment…. Let no soul fear to draw near Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.” (from St. Faustina’s diary – paragraph 699).

That’s huge. 

Mercy is Love. Simple formula, right? M = L

“Divine” is God, so Divine Mercy is God’s love for us, and help and blessings he extends to us because of that love.

St. Faustina is the one credited for bringing our attention to Divine Mercy and relaying to us the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Novena. She was a Polish nun who was also a mystic who experienced revelations of Jesus and kept meticulous records of these experiences in her diary. 

Even though St. Faustina lived very recently (1905-1938), Divine Mercy Sunday has been around since the very early traditions of the Catholic Church. St. Faustina re-emphasized the importance of the feast. Turns out, pretty much everyone had forgotten about it. Without Jesus’ revelations St. Faustina, Divine Mercy would not exist in its current form. By virtue of a Decree issued on May 5, 2000 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Holy See proclaimed the Second Sunday of Easter also as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The cool parts of Divine Mercy

There are many, and it goes beyond the complete forgiveness He offers on Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus will “pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the font of [His] mercy.” (Faustina’s Diary – paragraph 699).

The promises of Divine Mercy are many, and this list is not all inclusive.

  • The chaplet said by the side of a dying person allows God’s mercy to suround the soul
  • Whoever recites the chaplet “will receive great mercy at the hour of death”
  • Also for whoever says the chaplet: “It pleases [Him] to grant everything they ask of [Him] (para 1541)
  • “When hardened sinners say [the chaplet], I will fill their souls with peace, and the hour of their death will be a happy one”  (para 1541)
  • The chaplet can be said by dying sinners as a last hope for salvation (para 687)
  • Praying at the Hour of Great Mercy (3:00 pm) – “I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion” (para 1320)
  • By praying the novena God “will grant every possible grace to souls” (para 796)
  • “Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask.”
  • Anyone who venerates the Divine Mercy Image “will not perish” (para 47)

The Chaplet and Novena

The Novena is a series of prayers said over 9 days. Traditionally the Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday and concludes the day before Divine Mercy Sunday, but can really be begun at any time. Each day of the Divine Mercy Novena brings a particular group of souls to God as dictated in Faustina’s revelations. They are as follows:

Day 1: All Mankind, especially sinners
Day 2: Priests and Religious
Day 3: Devout and Faithful
Day 4: Those who do not believe in God
Day 5: Those who have separated themselves from the Church
Day 6: Meek and Humble Souls, and Children
Day 7: Those who venerate and glorify His mercy
Day 8: Those in Purgatory
Day 9: Those who are “Lukewarm” – “Souls without love or devotion”

 

The Divine Mercy Chaplet can be said on a regular set of rosary beads as follows:

1. Make the Sign of the Cross

2. Optional Opening Prayers

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!

3. Our Father

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.

4. Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

5. The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

6. The Eternal Father

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

7. On the Ten Small Beads of Each Decade

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

8. Repeat Steps 6 & 7 for the remaining 4 decades

Saying the “Eternal Father” and 10 “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion”

9. Conclude with Holy God

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

10. Optional Closing Prayer

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

 

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What Are The Seven Last Words?

A loved one is nearing the end of his life. In between struggling breaths he manages to say a few words. Those who surround him lean in, making sure that each word is not spoken in vain, that each phrase is recorded in their minds, its worth and meaning embedded in their hearts. More often than not, a dying man’s wish carries much weight, and those whom he leaves behind will make sure to treasure and fulfill his final instructions.

Such is the case with Christ and His Church. While He hung dying on the cross, that Friday on Calvary, He proclaimed what is now called The Seven Last Words.” These words, based on Gospel texts, were His final statements. They serve as a guide for deeper meditation and reflection on His Passion and Death.

Many Catholics and Christians have composed their own insights on The Seven Last Words, among them Venerable Fulton J Sheen. In his book, Life of Christ, he explains:

“Our Lord spoke seven times from the Cross; these are called His Seven Last Words. In His goodness, Our Blessed Lord left His thoughts on dying. He was representative of all humanity. In this sublime hour He called all His children to the pulpit of the Cross, and every word He said to them was set down for the purpose of an eternal publication and an undying consolation. There was never a preacher like the dying Christ; there was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross; there was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words.”

(You can read his reflections here.)

 

The Seven Last Words

Here are The Seven Last Words:

  • First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” [Luke 23:34]
  • Second Word: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43]
  • Third Word: Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” [John 19:26, 27]
  • Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46]
  • Fifth Word: “I thirst.” [John 19:28]
  • Sixth Word: “It is finished.” [John 19:30]
  • Seventh Word: Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” [Luke 23:46]

Jesus’ words reveal both His divinity and His humanity, His virtue of compassion alongside His feelings of abandonment, His longings and His surrender.

During Holy Week, the Seven Last Words are the subject of many sermons and retreats, as well as small group discussions. But you may also find it beneficial to meditate on these words on your own, discovering new spiritual treasures and most importantly, deepening one’s friendship with the Savior.

 

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We didn’t have advent wreaths growing up (except the construction paper one I made in 3rd grade). So establishing the tradition in my home now seems a bit intimidating.

With that in mind, we’ve done the research for you and hopefully will help you on your way to starting your own family tradition (with the potential for a bonus family dinner).

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath is one of the Catholic symbols for Advent. It not only serves as a reminder of the meaning of the season, but it is also a call to prepare for Christ’s coming through prayer.

History

This wonderful tradition has its origins in pre-Christian times. “There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of spring,” writes Rev. William Saunders. “In Scandinavia during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn ‘the wheel of the earth’ back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.”

It was in the 16th century when German Catholics began to use it as a sign of Christ’s coming. The tradition spread, albeit slowly, as the Germans immigrated to various countries.

Symbolism

The wreath, which is made of evergreens, is a circle — signifying that God has no beginning and no end; thus, everlasting life. It is also a sign of hope.

The light from the candles’ flames symbolizes Christ as the Light of the World — that no matter what darkness exists in the world, His light prevails.

The four candles — three are purple and one is pink — represent the four Sundays of Advent. On the first Sunday, only one purple candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two purple candles are lit. On the third Sunday, two purple candles and the pink candle are lit. And on the fourth Sunday, all candles are lit. Purple is the color for penance, while pink is the color for joy — since the third Sunday of Advent is also Gaudete Sunday (“rejoice” in Latin).

Additionally, a white candle is sometimes placed in the middle of the wreath. It symbolizes Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve to recall the Savior’s birth.

Shop Advent Wreaths

Starting your own Tradition

Rev. William Saunders suggests: “In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent Wreath proceeds.”

The wreath, if not used before, can be blessed by you or someone else in your house with the following, and sprinkle with Holy Water:

Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

Leader: O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Each evening following, begin by praying over your food, praying the advent prayer, and then light the appropriate number of candles. (The candles stay lit until the meal is over).

Week One: 

Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, That by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Week 2

Leader: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Week 3

Leader: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Week 4

Leader: O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy Grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

So gather the family together and make the Advent Wreath part of your Christmas preparations. It will help you quiet your heart, regain peace amid all the festivities, and focus on the real meaning of the season.

 

Sources:

 

For Advent Prayers:

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We’ve been going through the 33 Days of Morning Glory Marian consecration at our church. One suggestion is that we wear a Miraculous medal once we are consecrated.

While I’ve seen the medal a hundred times, I haven’t fully understood its symbolism and purpose. So here is what we found out:

Mary’s Design: The Miraculous Medal

What would you do if Our Blessed Mother appeared to you one night and revealed to you her very own design of something you could actually wear?

This happened nearly 200 years ago to a young woman named Catherine Labouré, a novice with the Daughters of Charity in Paris, France.

On July 18, 1830, Catherine first sees the Virgin who tells her, “My child, I am going to give you a mission.” A few months later, on November 27, 1830, Catherine has another vision of the Blessed Mother. Referring to the vision, the Blessed Mother tells Catherine, “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”

Catherine then shares her experiences to her confessor. With the Church’s approval, the first medals are made in 1832. And in 1836, the apparitions are declared genuine.

The result is the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, now more popularly known as the Miraculous Medal.

The Design and Its Meaning

The front side of the oval medal shows Mary standing on a globe, recognizing her as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her feet crushing a serpent depicts the defeat of Satan, in reference to Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Rays of light emerge from her outstretched hands, symbolizing the many graces that can be obtained through her. And around this scene are the words, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee,” which confirm her Immaculate Conception.

The opposite side displays a cross with a bar on its base, and a large “M” suspended on the bar. The cross refers to Christ and the salvation of the world, while the bar is the sign of the earth. The “M” is for “Mary” and “Mother.”

Below the “M” are two flaming hearts: the left with a crown of thorns, the right pierced by a sword. These symbolize the love of God through the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The twelve stars encircling these elements refer to the 12 Apostles that signify the Church.

Back of Miraculous Medal

Miracles and Purpose

Since the distribution of the medals, miracles have been attributed to its use, including healings, protection from serious illnesses and a dramatic conversion of a former hater of Catholicism.

Today, many people have a devotion to Our Lady through the Miraculous Medal. Most important to note is what the Association of the Miraculous Medal declares: “There is no superstition, nothing of magic, connected with the Miraculous Medal. The Miraculous Medal is not a ‘good-luck charm.’ Rather, it is a great testimony to faith and the power of trusting prayer. Its greatest miracles are those of patience, forgiveness, repentance, and faith. God uses a Medal, not as a sacrament, but as an agent, an instrument, in bringing to pass certain marvelous results.”

Product Plug: Find Miraculous Medal related items here: http://www.discountcatholicproducts.com/Search.aspx?k=miraculous

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It’s human nature. Something incredible happens, people are inspired, spirits are lifted… and then… what?

Most of the time it wanes away.

What of Pope Francis’s visit? His inspiring words challenged us to be better people. But many times we make the mistake of saying “see – people should be better” without actually reflecting on what I can do to help bring Pope Francis’s vision alive.

It’s actually a little uncomfortable to think about. It certainly takes me outside my comfort zone. What can I be doing to follow Pope Francis’s example? Not to duplicate it, but just to move my life a little bit more towards that direction? Continue reading Now what?

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Keep up with the Holy Father’s visit from afar.

For those of us that can’t be on the East Coast for Pope Francis’s 2015 USA visit, here is a list of websites where you can watch all of the events LIVE.

Find the live feed for most events at EWTN and Vatican News.

In case you miss something, live and recorded events at WalkWithFrancis. Continue reading The Ultimate Guide to Pope Francis’ Visit to the USA

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In March, to celebrate Pope Francis’s first year as Pope, we decided to donate 5% of all sales to two different organizations: The St. Luke Foundation for Haiti and Catholic Charities USA.

One of the main reasons we picked the St. Luke Foundation is two-fold. First, the work that they are doing to try and help out some of the poorest areas in the world is wonderful. Additionally, one of our owners has spent time in Haiti volunteering with the St. Luke organization there and has seen first hand the work that they have been doing.

Thank you for those who helped support this and all of the charities out there that are helping those who have less each and every day.

 

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