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.

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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?

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3 Steps to Reclaiming Your Spiritual Life

Over the past few weeks we have been talking about spiritual goals and moving forward in the spiritual life. Before we go any further, I am going to give you a brief overview of the process, highlighting three steps that will help you draw closer to God, deepening your friendship with Him and giving you a compass that will lead you in the right direction.

One of the best and most ancient spiritual analogies that describes our life here on earth is the ship sailing towards the harbor of heaven. Saint Thérèse explained that it was one of her favorite analogies:

“[T]he symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile of this life. Does not the Wise Man tell us—”Life is like a ship that passeth through the waves: when it is gone by, the trace thereof cannot be found”? – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul.

It reminds us that heaven is our true home and that our life on earth is temporary. All ships must come in at some point and cannot stay out at sea forever.

Additionally, ships out at sea must use a compass to ensure that they are going in the right direction. If the captain of a ship does not use a compass, he/she runs the risk of drifting off course and ending up in the wrong place. A storm in the middle of the ocean can easily take a ship off course and when the waters die down, the captain must use navigational tools to steer the ship in the right direction.

So too in the spiritual life.

If we are not oriented in the right direction and do not have a clear idea of where we are headed, it is easy to get side-tracked when the storms of life come and try to pummel us. We can then end-up drifting into dangerous territory that will further separate us from our final destination.

That is why it is most beneficial to have a set of spiritual goals with a plan behind them to give us a spiritual compass that keeps our soul on the right path. It will help us to listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, following the voice of God to safer shores.

Moving forward, we will be going through three steps that will help us give our spiritual lives the compass that we need:

1. Find your place on the map

It is nearly impossible to reach a destination if you do not know where you are on the map. Last week we began this process with a spiritual inventory and going forward we will continue with another self-assessment that will help you where you are and where you want to be. Only when you know where you are on the map are you able to chart a course to a destination.

2. Discern where God is leading you.

We certainly may have big plans for that we want to accomplish, but God may have other ideas. This means we have to open up our hearts and discover the various movements of our hearts, recognizing what is from God and what may be a distraction. We may want to radically change our spiritual lives and life like a hermit in the desert, but God may want us to live in the city and focus on loving him in the little things of life. Discerning what our spiritual goals should be requires being open to God’s will and actively working with him to plan a better path to follow.

3. Start sailing toward your ultimate goal.

After recognizing where you are and having discerned where God wants you to be, you can begin working towards that destination. This will require great effort and the practice of virtues that will lead you in the right direction. As in all things, “baby steps” are required and we will cover in this last step how to move forward in such a way that you won’t lose sight of the end goal.

In the end, don’t worry if you are not in a place right now that you want to be. It is possible, with God’s grace, to move in the right direction and stay the course to safe harbors.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.


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Spiritual Discipline: Why We Need Spiritual Goals

As we draw closer to the Summer Olympics in Rio, we will soon be enamored by the amazing physical feats of athletes from around the world. During the competition each of the olympians will have a specific goal in mind. For some it might be to win the gold medal, while others will simply want to give their all and beat their personal best in front of the world.

These personal goals are what drive athletes to spend countless hours in training, practicing extreme discipline in what they do with their time and what food they eat. Their aim is to do whatever is necessary to reach their goal.

While finishing the race and getting a gold medal is a feat to be accomplished, what about completing the ultimate race and crossing the finish line into Heaven? Do we train with the same vigor to reach our ultimate goal of Eternal Life?

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The Fourth Step of Lectio Divina: Resting in the Gaze of Jesus

Returning to our series on lectio divina, we arrive at the final step, contemplation (contemplatio).

Thus far we have read (lectio) the passage of scripture, meditated (meditatio) on it, and prayed (oratio) to God, relating everything back to Him. It is now our duty to rest in the presence of God and simply absorb the moment.

This is how Father Luke Dysinger, OSB, describes it:

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