Want to draw closer to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Then this manual is for you

There is a rich history in the Catholic Church of pious devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. These devotions were all born out of a deep love of our Blessed Mother and were aimed at helping the faithful draw close to Mary so as to draw closer to Christ.

However, during the past 50 years most of these devotions fell out of style and children attending catechism classes were barely taught how to pray the rosary. This has led to a void in the Catholic Church that is not easily filled and a person who wants to explore these various Marian traditions typically has to scour old book stores to find an ancient book of devotions.

That is, until now.

5 practical ways to pray more in the New Year

Start the New Year off right in your spiritual life! Check out my latest article at Aleteia:

As the New Year approaches many of us will pledge ourselves to numerous “New Year’s Resolutions” –typically these involve such goals as losing weight or exercising more. If we’re really feeling inspired we may pledge to visit the Tabernacle every day or even read the entire Bible cover to cover.

Unfortunately, as with most New Year’s Resolutions, our spiritual stamina only lasts for about a week and we find ourselves right back where we started, feeling like failures and wondering “Is it possible to commit to praying more in the New Year? Should I just give up now and get it over with?”

Incorporating more time for prayer is not easy task, so to help you get closer to your spiritual goals, here are five practical tips that can give you a head-start on making 2017 your best spiritual year ever:

1) Believe in your goal and in God

This first step might sound obvious, but we usually miss it. Often when we think about getting “serious” about prayer, we say something like “I know I will fail. I could never do it. I will never be holy enough.” In all honesty, these thoughts come straight from the Deceiver, who will do everything he can to dissuade you from starting a program of prayer. He will try to convince you that you are “not holy enough,” or “too busy,” or someone who “never follows through.” Satan is hell-bent on preventing you from praying every day and will fill your mind with numerous lies that all revolve on the idea that “you don’t have what it takes.” Don’t listen to him!

You are a son or daughter of God and he is with you at your side. You can do it! If we open ourselves to God, he will guide us and give us the strength we need. We need to have faith that God will be there for us and that we can do the impossible. Above all else, faith is a gift given by God. So like all gifts, ask for it! Ask God to increase your devotional fervor.

“For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:19)

2) Recall what has worked and what hasn’t

In the spiritual life, there are bound to be highs and lows; times when you felt fully alive and times when you felt dead in the water. Look back at the past and see what worked and when you felt “fully alive.” You may notice some patterns that may be useful or that you may want to replicate in the present.

Additionally, we all have different habits. This could be the way we get ready in the morning to the particular way we fold our laundry. Prayer also needs to be a habit. When thinking about the other habits you engage in, what is a common thread? Most likely it is something you learned when you were little and continued to do every day of your life. It then became ingrained into your life and you barely think about it. Making prayer a habit is extremely important if you want to add more prayer in the New Year.

And don’t be afraid to start small. Even as small as beginning and ending the day with a Sign of the Cross and a “Glory Be.” Of such small beginnings, have saints arisen.

– Read More

How to Find Interior Peace When the World is in Turmoil

When the world is in a state of division, it is often hard to find peace of heart. Here is a great little book that I found helps me maintain peace when everything else is in shambles:

Is your heart restless? Do you struggle with prayers not being answered? Are you worried about what is happening in the world? Do you need more peace in your life? If you are interested in finding peace in your soul and relieving the anxiety you feel in your heart, I highly recommend Father Jacques Philippe’s book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart.

In the short book, Father Philippe sets out to teach the reader how to maintain a peace of heart that allows a soul to discover God’s will in all things and remain faithful in the midst of any trial. He describes the task of his book by using an analogy:

“Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun can not be reflected in it…The more our soul is peaceful and tranquil, the more God is reflected in it, the more His image expresses itself in us, the more His grace acts through us.”

Father Philippe explains that “God is a God of peace. He does not speak and does not operate except in peace, not in trouble and agitation…Often, we cause ourselves to become agitated and disturbed by trying to resolve everything by ourselves, when it would be more efficacious to remain peacefully before the gaze of God and to allow Him to act and work in us.”

Read More…

Where Is Your Treasure?

 “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21).

There are 24 hours in a day, about 8 of those hours are spent sleeping, which gives us 16 hours for prayer, work, family time and recreation. Most of us are “slaves” of the workday and have no choice but to work 8 hours a day, leaving us 8 hours for prayer, family time and various hobbies.

How do we spend that extra time we have? What is the first item on the to-do list to “go” when something comes up during that time? Where are our priorities?

Or as Jesus would say it, “where is your treasure?”

Why do we bless seeds on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday?

My latest article from Aleteia:

On September 8 the Catholic Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In context, the date is exactly nine months after the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Connected with this particular feast is an ancient “blessing of seeds” that has taken place on this day for hundreds of years.

Farmers and other parishioners would arrive at Mass with their seeds or seedlings and the priest would bless them afterwards. It is a custom that takes as its biblical basis the command of God given to Moses, “Tell the children of Israel that when they enter the land of promise which I shall give them, they are to offer the first-fruits to the priests, and they shall be blessed.”

The traditional text of the blessing can be found in the Roman Ritual.

“Holy Lord and Father, almighty everlasting God, we ask and beseech you to look with merry countenance and fair eyes on these seeds and seedlings. And as you proclaimed to Moses, your servant, in the land of Egypt, saying: “Tell the children of Israel that when they enter the land of promise which I shall give them, they are to offer the first-fruits to the priests, and they shall be blessed”; so too at our request, O Lord, be merciful and pour out the blessing + of your right hand upon these seeds, which you in your benevolence bring forth to sustain life. Let neither drought nor flood destroy them, but keep them unharmed until they reach their full growth and produce an abundant harvest for the service of body and soul. We ask this of you who live and reign in perfect Trinity forever and ever.”

“Almighty everlasting God, sower and tiller of the heavenly word, who cultivate the field of our hearts with heavenly tools, hear our prayers and pour out abundant blessings upon the fields in which these seeds are to be sown. By your protecting hand turn away the fury of the elements, so that this entire fruit may be filled with your blessing, + and may be gathered unharmed and stored up in the granary; through Christ our Lord.”

The annual blessing of seeds on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a way for farmers to mark the closing of the summer harvest and the beginning of fall and winter planting. Before they engaged in such an endeavor, they sought the blessing of the priest to bring God’s protection on their actions. It was a way to recognize the power God has over creation and to place the following year’s growing season into his hands.

Read more

Why You Need To Write Your Own Eulogy Now

We have all been to a family member’s funeral. When it comes time for the eulogy, a close relative will get up and talk about their favorite memories of the deceased, sometimes making a joke to lighten the mood. Often the virtuous attributes of the deceased are highlighted, like being a hard worker, caring, loving or putting others first; but how often is a person’s prayer life mentioned? It is possible that the relative did not know about the person’s prayer life, but it is also possible that the deceased did not leave a strong spiritual legacy behind. It did not punctuate their daily life and so it went unnoticed by family and friends.

This topic of leaving behind a “spiritual legacy” brings up the question of, what do you want others to say at your funeral?