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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Prayer in the Family

Homeschooling, living a Catholic life, and praying in the family can be likened to this image:
Picture yourself at a restaurant near the Vatican, sitting at a table with a crisp white tablecloth, white plates, and the best bread you've ever seen. The waiter is busy pouring out sparkling Pellegrini water while holding a white napkin over his arm. You look over your shoulder, through the glass window you see the dome of St. Peter's basilica. You and your family have been out all day visiting the tombs of the apostles, praying in the shrines, seeing ancient ruins, marveling at ancient science of the aqueducts and listening to the voice of the successor of St.Peter. The day included a visit to the Santa Scala where you were able to kneel on the very steps Jesus Himself fell upon! And now with the day's pilgrimage behind you, you sit with your family, relax, and enjoy the fine cuisine and review the day that has passed.

Think of praying with your family as "the flavors of Rome." You want to bring Rome into your home. When and where do all of you routinely stop your activities ofthe day and get together? It is around the table. Here is the natural place to begin setting up your prayer schedule. We want to keep it pleasant and build up Catholic culture in our home. We don't want prayer to become a burden. Our aim is to have mealtime as pleasant as if we had spent the day in Rome and now we are at a restaurant. We have to be gentle to the little ones, or the ones with little faith. ("We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak." Romans 15:1) A few very short prayers beginning each meal will become the foundation of your family's prayer routine.

The old definition of prayer is lifting your heart and mind to God. The prayers do not have to be long in order to bring yourself into the presence of God. Prayer is a gift. It is not a matter of will power, of talking to yourself and self improving. It is a question of giving. Giving of yourself, giving of your life. Prayer should always be an offering. Prayer is the response to what God has already offered to us. He has already given up His life for us. He loved us when we were yet far off. Prayer is a response to God's gift to us. It should reflect the offering He has made first. It doesn't take many words to offer yourself.

For example: "I'm Yours"

Excellent prayer.

It is even better when you pray it consistently.

Luke 18"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said:

'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'

" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. "

An explanation of the "flavors of Rome":

Visiting shrines and historical sites.and science marvels means homeschooling and
educating your children at home.

Visiting the Holy Stairs, is an image of the times we fail at what we
are trying to accomplish.

Listening to the Holy Father is what being a good Catholic is all about.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Short, Simple, Humble, Consistent

If you are a married woman, a mother, you may find that your prayer life, for the most part, will be praying with your children. The children's physical limitations become your limitations. If your oldest child is two, and his attention span is 18 seconds, that is how long your vocal prayer lasts.

"God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect."
(St. Paul to the Romans 12)

You build up the vocal prayer time according to your children's
abilities. You build their strength in prayer gradually, in short, simple, humble yet consistent ways. This is very similar to learning to play an instrument. You begin slowly with humble songs until you don't even notice that you are practicing for an hour and playing advanced pieces.

So, let's give a practical example. Here we are at the breakfast table. I have them
all together and I have their attention. Before having breakfast, we make a morning offering, renew our consecration to the Immaculate, make a Spiritual
Communion, and then each child calls upon a saint. In the beginning, I would keep these prayers printed out and thumbtacked to the kitchen wall. We began by just saying the titles of the prayers, just as I just printed them. It takes about 28 seconds to read them off. Then as this became easy, we added a few more lines of one of the prayers. Each prayer introduced one at a time. The Spiritual Communions began like this:

"Let's think of a Tabernacle, now, let's give Jesus a

Once this became easy, the first lines were introduced. Then slowly over months, we actually all
learned a Spiritual Communion. All the prayers go like this, start small and then add when it gets easy.

I call this: Build, Build, Build.

Morning Prayers

Morning Offering

Immaculate Mother of God and my Mother, Mary, I renew my total consecration to You and I offer to Your Immaculate Heart my prayers and works, joys and sacrifices of this day in cooperation with Your mission of conquering the whole world for the Kingdom of Christ.

Renew Consecration

by saying:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to You, and for all who do not have recourse to You, especially for the enemies of the Holy Church and those recommended to You.

Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart…(pause)…I embrace You as One who has already come, and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.

Patron Saints Litany

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Father St. Francis, Holy Mother St.Clare, St. Maximilian, St. Louis IX, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Michael, Guardian Angels, Protector saints (from Epiphany) (the saint of the day) and any other saint that a child would like to call upon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Those who trust in the Lord will not be put to shame."(Daniel 3)

To begin any new prayer routine, you need to begin by praying. You need to pray for the desire, pray for the ability, pray to be able to learn the prayers. Whenever you have the inspiration to pray more, it is a grace from God. The Carmelites say "Everything is a grace." The desire to do good, the longing for prayer is a grace. Man is basically good with a flaw. The flaw is original sin, it gives us a leaning toward evil (concupiscence). (Original sin has left us with a darkened intellect and a weakened will.) If God is leading you towards good, if you have the desire to pray, continue to let Him lead you. Be the "docile instrument" in His hands. I think when a discussion of prayer comes up, most people think of vocal prayer. Vocal prayer is basically formula prayers: the Rosary, Angelus, even the Breviary. The goal, however, is to make all prayer, mental prayer. Prayer in which we place ourselves in the presence of God, we meditate, we incorporate some supernatural truth into our lives -the prayer goes passed our lips and enters our heart. A lot of times, we intellectually know what we should do. Mental prayer is the means by which our hearts learn what to do.

I don't know is this is helpful, but for the longest time, I didn't know what mental prayer was. When I would go for spiritual advice and explain that I have no patience and no peace, I would be asked,
"Do you pray?"
"Sure, angelus, rosary, breviary, loads of prayer.
"The next question would invariably be,
"Well, do you practice mental prayer?"
"What is that?"
"Of course, when I pray my prayers my mind is always full of thoughts: Who's going to start the next fight?Let me call the electrician, somebody put a wind up toy in the light socket. The kitchen sink isn't working Who knows a plumber who will fix it? I need to make some doctor appointments."

It just seemed that when the demands of many children descended upon me, my vocal prayer was no longer mental prayer. Before children, if my peace was disturbed I'd make a point of spending more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I would stay until the discord in my soul melted. But, this is no longer an option. A new solution needed to be found. A solution that fit my vocation. I see now that it was my daily Marian meditation that caused a change. (See the link on the side for Mary Vitamin.) Sometimes, by the time we realize we need to be more prayerful, our peace has already been shattered. We are in a state of great anxiety or we've developed a habit of giving into our passions. St. Francis deSales teaches us not to add to any of the anxiety, broken peace or passion when trying to overcome these obstacles in our interior life.Don't fret, if this is your state. Don't add any more anxiety. Don't apply any more passion in your pursuit of prayerful peace and meditation. Let God do the work and promise to God, you will do your part.Pray to pray, pray for desire, pray for ability, pray to learn, trying to cultivate peace interiorly. Begin with the lowest form of mental prayer: spiritual reading. Turn off the TV, put away any form of modern music, put down the newspapers and magazines, make sure your clothing is not revealing, stay in your home and go on retreat. Read an excellent biography of a saint throughout the day, in between your work, and try to make some free time in the night to read.(Books which I found helpful in making a "home retreat" were: St. Catherine Laboure, Mrs. Seton(Dirvin), Joan of Arc (Twain), Bl. Damian of Molokai(Roos?), Song of Bernadette, Fatima from the Beginning, (Marchi)
St. Teresa of Avila teaches how to turn vocal prayer into mental prayer:

"Represent the Lord Himself as close to you and behold how lovingly and humbly He is teaching you…If you grow accustomed to having Him at your side and He sees you do so with love…He will never fail you." (Way of Perfection)

Try to make all vocal prayer mental prayer. Make the sign of the cross as though you are St. Bernadette of whom it was said, that no one made the sign more beautifully. Every time you pray, remember you are in the presence of God (St. Francis DeSales). Think of Him next to you. Pray the breviary as though your were talking to Jesus Himself. Imagine Him next to you and you are David, crying out your need for the Savior.Pray in the presence of God. I find this easiest in the Breviary. St. Teresa of Avila said she couldn't think of one person of the Blessed Trinity without thinking of all three. A very good book, I didn't read the whole thing, but it is good: The Soul of the Apostolate. The gist is, the active apostolate is built on mental prayer. Being a wife, mother, homeschooler etc... is definitely the active apostolate. We should try to cultivate mental prayer. (St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle is the definitive work on mental prayer. Her experiences are extraordinary.)

C.S. Lewis wrote something like this: Whenever I feel the flame of devotion wane, I pick up my pen, a piece of paper, and study my Faith. So, spiritual reading and study are essential in the adult Christian's prayer life.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

During the School Day

#4 In the past, I tried to pray with all the children together before schooling. I found that it drained my patience too
much. Perhaps when my children are older we will be able to do this. We have prayers spread througout the day, so I
don't, per se, begin our schoolwork with prayers.
However, for me, before schooling, I privately say
some prayers for patience. A practice I have been
trying to
cultivate is to think of the seven sorrows of Our Lady
in between teaching my children. So, when I change to
a different child or a different subject, while I am
walking for a new book, run to the bathroom, go to get
a drink, stop to change a diaper, I move on to the
next sorrow. I only try to say 1 or 2 Hail Marys. The
days when I have been able to do this, at lunch time,
I am so satisfied with my morning. The schooling went
well, I did well. But, I have noticed the days when I
get to lunch and say "What have I done!" or "What am I
doing?" with a big groan, are the days when I didn't
think of Our Lady's sorrows.

Now that we have made it to lunch, a new practice this
school year, in addition to the Hail Mary for all
those entrusted to our prayers, is to review
yesterday's gospel as a means of studying Italian. At
least, this is how it started. A Sister from our
parish recommended reading the gospel as a way of
beginning to study Italian. I signed up with the Daily

I receive the Gospel in Italian via email. I print it out and read during
lunch. Before I read it, I ask the children if they
remember yesterday's gospel. We review it narration
style, and I say what words should we look for, for
example: fig tree, fox, buried his talents, fools.
Well, wouldn't you know it, something that started out
as purely academic pursuit has turned out to be of
spiritual benefit. Just calling to mind yesterday's
gospel, helps to imprint on these tender minds the
words of Jesus. This is a great practice, and it can
be done without the foreign language! However, if you
go to Mass each morning, maybe it is better to recall
the morning's Gospel reading over lunch and prepare
for tomorrow's reading at snack time.

When I put the youngest for a nap, I make a
Eucharistic meditation. I keep a book about the
Blessed Sacrament near the chair that I use to put the
littlest one to sleep. I have used St. Alphonsus di
Liguori's Little Visits to the Blessed Sacrament,
Father Manelli's Jesus Our Eucharistic Love, and also
bible passages which speak of the Bread of Life.

"Jesus called his disciples to him and said: 'My heart
is moved with pity for the crowd. By now they have
been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. I do
not wish to send them away hungry, for fear they may
collapse on the way."

Throughout your day, while on your journey, make sure
you avail yourself of this miraculous food, which the
Lord gives us because His heart is moved with pity. He
doesn't want us to collapse in our search for Him.
Make many Spiritual Communions. The simplest Spiritual
Communion is the one described at the breakfast table,
but singing Eucharistic hymns works very well, and is
also very easy: Sweet Sacrament, O Lord I am not
worthy, Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris.... singing while
thinking of the Monstrance or a particular Tabernacle
is making a Spritual Communion. We are called, as
Catholic to make our focus the Eucharist, the Bread of
Angels which sustains our souls.

One of the most helpful images for me, to help me make
many spiritual Communions in a day, is from Father
Manelli's Jesus Our Eucharistic Lord:

"Wherever I may be I will often think of Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament. I will fix my thoughts on the holy
Tabernacle - adoring Him from where I am, calling to
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the
action I am performing. I will install one telegraph
cable from my study to the Church, another from my
bedroom, and a third from our refectory; and as often
as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament." Sevant of God, Andrew Baltrami
(from Jesus Our Eucharistic Lord)

So, I tap my thigh where I have set up my imaginary
"telegraph tapper" so that I can send my frequent
S.O.S. to the Lord. Help! Oh No! Oh My! have all been
frequently sent.

But, this is the way the messages begin. Once you have
remembered to think of the Lord and find yourself in
His presence, it is so easy to say words of love.

When I remember to tap my thigh, I remember to tap my
heart and renew my consecration to Our Lady. Devotion
to Our Lady brings you a very deep love for the
Blessed Sacrament. The Annunciation leads directly to
the Lord's presence in the Eucharist. Our Lady leads
directly to the Lord.

St. Peter Julian Eymard speaks of Our Lady as the
Greatest Adorer. She had the privilege to adore Our
Lord before the world knew of Him, in Her womb. She
also continually adored Him, His entire earthly life,
at the Cross, at the grave, and as She waited,
suffering, for the Resurrection. She never slipped or
wavered, not even an inch in Her adoration. Many times
when remembering my Vow and tapping my heart to
remember Her, I end up tapping a message to Our Lord
in the Blessed Sacrament. I have told my children what
my tapping means. Example is the best teacher.

We have a half hour of adoration a week. We share the
hour with some friends. While at church, I ask the
children to check their telegraph wires, make sure
they are in good shape before we go home.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Rosary stands in a league of its own.

When I kneel
before Our Lady of Fatima as her daughter, I see in
front of me Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Our Lady is
speaking to them: Pray the Rosary every day. But, if I call myself Our Lady's daughter, I can't pretend that She is not speaking to me as well. I can't
look over my shoulder as if She is speaking to someone
else. No, She is speaking to me and to my children as

The Fatima children were very young.
Our Lady asked them to pray the Rosary. I don't ask my
youngest children to pray the whole Rosary, but, you
know what, after all these years of determined Rosary
praying, it is my youngest children, 4 &
2 years old who love to pray the rosary, who love to lead, and more
or less, pray the Rosary. I have to struggle with the
little boys, but, they hear me belt out the Rosary and
I repeat day after day "This isn't my command, but the
request of the Queen of Heaven."

I have another image from the Lord of the Rings which
illustrates the point of praying the Rosary every day.
In Moria, just before Gandalf is dragged into the pit,
he slams his staff down before that monster and says:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS! We have to be like that. The day
should not pass without praying the Rosary. We have to
figure out the way to get this done. For me, I had
this experience a few years ago. I just decided to
pray the rosary with EWTN at 3:30. That's what I was
going to do, to get it done. Well, then it happened,
that my only child at the time, would be hungry. So, before 3:30 EWTN, we
had a snack, so she would be able to make it through
the Rosary (I think she was about 3 years old at this
time.) Well, after "Build, Build, Build" happened
after several years. We have tea time, with a few of the
Mercy Chaplet prayers, a Marian examination of conscience and the gospel reading from the daily Mass.

Here's another image:

Dinner time rolls around and your kids come to you and
"Hey Mom - What's for dinner?"
"Oh, I am sorry. I had too much laundry to do today.
And you know how long your schooling took today."
"Oh, but couldn't you just boil some spaghetti and put
butter on it?"
"Well, actually, I can't even boil water today. The
baby's been sick and throwing up. I have to continue
to hold her. I can't get near the stove."
"Oh Mom! We'll be so hungry if we eat NOTHING. We were
looking in the panty and found some Cheeze Its.
Couldn't we just have Cheeze Its tonight?"
"Well, I guess because of the day its been, its all
right, just for tonight."
"Hip, Hip, Hurray!"

Please forgive the digression into processed foods,
but, I think the Cheeze It dinner, gets across
the idea of how important it is to say the Rosary
every day. Sometimes, once and awhile, the "cheeze it
rosary" is better than nothing. Do we want a steady
diet of "cheeze it rosaries"? No. But, sometimes
"something is better than nothing."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Marian Examination of Conscience

A Marian examination is very fitting for children. It
is good for adults, of course, but for children, who
are so close to their baptismal purity, who are
homeschooled, where public TV, modern music, bad
movies, foul language, and immodest clothing are at
the lowest levels, well, why not have the children
looking up at the Model of Christian
Perfection? The children are closer to Her virtue,
than we adults, with our emotional and moral baggage.
The Marian virtues (angelic sweetness) are so gentle
compared to the Ten Commandments (do not commit
adultery), you can see how well this fits children.

We make our exam around the tea/snack table. I ask the
children to look over their day. We still have the
rest of the day to do better. Let's see if we behaved
as the Blessed Virgin Mary. Did we practice:

Profound humility
Living faith
Burning charity
Universal mortification
Heroic patience
Angelic sweetness
Divine wisdom
Continuous prayer
Blind obedience
Divine purity
Seraphic poverty
Perfect joy
Resplendent modesty
Beautiful honesty
Radiant tranquility
Invincible hope
Tender piety

Did we think of Our Lady today? Did we offer our work
to Her?

Now, think of one thing you did which was not like Our
Lady and think how She would have behaved in that

Now, let's make an act of contrition.

Fr. Neubert in My Ideal, recommends when making an
examination of conscience, don't just list your faults
and sins and keep your eyes down, but rather, lift
your head up to the examples of Mary and Jesus. See
what they would have done in your place. It brings you
into contact with heaven to make the exam this way. It
refreshes your soul. Here's an analogy:

Let's say you turn to your backyard and say "Boy,
there's a lot of weeds out there and overgrown
brambles too. It would look a lot better if I cleaned
up the mess and created some beautiful flower beds and
put in some lovely flowering trees." So, you go out
there with a spoon from the kitchen drawer and start
working. After a few days, I think you would find
yourself frustrated, disappointed, and beleaguered.

Now, what if instead, you call in a professional
landscaping team? A team with a lot of experience and
personnel. The design architect looks at your yard and
designs a beautiful plan. The landscaping company has
all the machinery to make the plan a reality:
Backhoes, edgers, bucket trucks, you name it. In their
employ is the most competent foreman who directs the
legion of workers who come to get the job done right
and promptly. Of course, you provide your input.
You've lived with your garden for some time. You know
where the sun rises and sets, you know where a tree
would be helpful, where some flowers would be nice.
You know where the really big rocks are and the
troubling drainage. You point this out to the team and
they take over.

This is an analogy for taking your examination of
conscience up to God and not just remaining in
yourself. In yourself, you just have a kitchen spoon.
On the other hand, the professional landscaping
company is the Heavenly Court. The architect is your
Heavenly Mother. She has a plan for you to get to
heaven, just as we mothers have an educational plan
for our children. She is truly a Mother, the Mother to
all of us, to each of us as individuals. She truly has
a plan for you - an excellent one, a beautiful one.
The power machines represent God's power. His power is
all encompassing. Any work which needs to be done, He
can do it. The legions of workers are the Saints in
the Communion of Saints and the Angels in their
Choirs. The foreman is St. Joseph.

For the Adults:

Marian Examination of Conscience

(Excerpts from the Marian Seraphic Pathways, the
legislative text of the “Mission of the Immaculate
Mediatrix”, a public association of the faithful under
the direction of the religious Institute of the
Franciscans of the Immaculate.)

“Let us keep well in mind, unlimited consecration to
the Immaculate sanctifies in a manner more rapid and
perfect if lived…in a commitment to serious, constant,
daily examination…. ONLY this ascetical Marianization
leads to full conformity to Jesus.” (p 47 #49 SP)

“After examining at the end of the day and finding one
had never or hardly ever, thought and worked in terms
of unlimited consecration to the Immaculate, MEANS
be called a day of grace.” (#41)

Did I think and work as a “docile instrument” and as a
“thing and property” of the Immaculate in giving
totally of my time and energy to her? (#40)

Did I give up the right ever to dispose of myself in
anything and for anything. Time and space, wakefulness
and repose, joy and sorrows, present and future…Is all
Hers only? (#36)

Did I remember that the “Marian character is not an
act of devotion made or recited in a determined moment
but is a soul found in each part of our body and
presiding over our every thought, word and deed?” (SP

Did I think and work for Mary, with Mary and in Mary,
by renouncing thoughts and works of a purely natural
bent, or carried out according to my “own” way of
seeing and doing? (#40)

Did I think and work today in light of:
What would the Immaculate think? What would the
Immaculate do in this precise moment and situation?

The Virtues of Our Lady

• Did I wake lazily?
• Did I spend my time in useless chatter in place of
• Did I spend my time reading newspapers or watching
TV instead of meditation and remaining recollected?
• Did I go here and there without necessity?
• Did I lose hours of time instead of involving myself
in apostolic activity? (#45)
• Did I approach my day as a “sacrificial offering” in
intimate union with the Immaculate?
• Did I use my spare time to further my study of the
Madonna so that the mystery of Mary Immaculate could
be incorporated into my interior life and in my
• Am I faithful in attendance at our periodic MIM
formation meetings?
• Is my mortification and penance generous?
• Have I guarded my senses, mortified my will and my
natural instincts in order to be transfigured into the
• Have I mortified my pride and ambition and desire to
comfort myself in order that I might practice
humility, poverty, patience and dedication to others?
• Have I practiced the penance of fasting and
abstinence, of silence and obscurity, of prayer
• Have I renounced vanities, entertainments, trips,
worldly spectacles, superfluous vacations, after the
example of the Immaculate?
• Have I realized in myself “the being” of the
Immaculate that is all grace and the “work” of the
Mediatrix that is all salvation for others?
• Have I offered sacrifices without reserve to be
transfigured into the Mediatrix who saves souls?
• Have I worked at the apostolate with fervent and
untiring commitment giving all my energy and capacity
for work to Her?
• So long as there would be a soul to save, one
consecrated by the Marian Vow should not allow himself
peace or pause for repose: We rest in Paradise! As St.
Maximilian was accustomed to reply to whoever exhorted
him to reduce his incessant, apostolic work.
• Is this my attitude?
• Am I untiring in my approach to prayer and constant
good example, vigils and fasts?
• Am I involved in an apostolate of word and of
organized action either on one’s own initiative, or in
an M.I.M Cenacle?
• Have I been concerned, daily, about the apostolate
of the environment – family, school, factory offices?
• Have I been systematic in my efforts to find all
methods and ways of introducing the Immaculate and
radiating Her by word and works, by dedication and
self sacrifice?
• Have I distributed the Miraculous Medal and Marian
• Have I turned conversations into occasions for
efficient and enlightened Marian catechesis?
• Have I organized prayer meetings, retreats,
pilgrimages to Marian or other sanctuaries?
• Do I have the means for the direct apostolate of the

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tea Time Prayers

We have tea time, with a nice table cloth, usually clean, tea cups and tea pot filled with herbal tea. We begin with a little less than a decade of the Mercy Chaplet, led by my four year old.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion,
Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Then we make a Marian examination of conscience and review the day. I ask the children to think of one time they did not act like the Blessed Virgin Mary today and to resolve, if the same situation arises, that the next time they will act like the Blessed Virgin Mary. We all say the act of contrition:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of Hell. But, most of all, because they offend You, my God, who art all good and deserving of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Your grace, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.

We pass out the food and try to practice using some good table manners. Once everyone has had something to eat and the discussion seems to wane. I give the warning that I'm about to read the day's gospel: "Get whatever you need, so that you don't have to interrupt the reading."

I use the suggestions from the book
My Ideal.

1. Ask the Blessed Virgin to help you understand what
Jesus is going to teach you.
2. During reading tell Blessed Mary the reflections it
3. Keep in mind Jesus is talking to you.

(During the reading of the daily Gospel, if the reading begins
"Jesus said" I cup my ear and lean over, I ask the
little kids to do this too. Jesus is talking, whatever
He says is Absolutely True, absolutely.)

4. Read respectfully
5. Read slowly - not from curiosity
6. What needs reform in your life?
7. Make a resolution, give it to the Blessed Virgin

I just go around the table, asking the youngest or the
shyest to go first. What did you hear today? What did
Our Lady teach you today? What is your resolution
going to be? I am happy to hear anything remotely
similar to the gospel reading or the Catholic faith.
Just going around the table stimulates a discussion.
It really helps to remember and call upon it later. I
find this more effective for me, than if I were to
just read the Gospel on my own. I believe this is the
result of the sacrament of marriage. God is rewarding
my praying with my children.

And after, we pray the Rosary. Snack time is one of
the most important prayer times. There isn't a lot of
pressure on the meal preparation, so it lends itself
very well to prayer. It has also become one of the
secrets of waking up early in order to pray before the
children wake up.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


If you use your meal times as the basis of your family
prayer schedule, you have at least 3 meeting times. If
you add snack as a meal time, there are four. The
rosary would be a separate time, 5. Now, the angelus
can be prayer time 6 & 7.

I wouldn't pray the angelus before lunch, it may be a
little long for young children. I would save it for
after lunch, even if you have lunch at 12:00. We make
the angelus an "event". We used to have a bird clock,
it broke, which called out Noon by the hooting of a
great horned owl. It was very effective. You couldn't
forget when 12:00 rolled around. Now I just say, "Ring
the angelus bell!" If we are in the car, the kids say
"ding dong" (for a long time), if we are home I have
an Austrian cow bell that my 4 year old has the
privilege of ringing. One friend, actually hung a bell
over her kitchen sink, and she rings it to call the
Angelus. We say the Angelus and then add:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and
will be forever. 3x

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom His love love commits me here
enlighten, and guard,
rule and guide me. Amen

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual
light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen

My new build, is to add a Spiritual Communion. The
Annunciation is just so important to our salvation,
that it really shouldn't be omitted.

Anonther friend had the great idea of setting her son's
digital watch to chime at 6:00 p.m.,as a help to
remember to say the angelus again. For awhile, I set
an alarm clock with an unusual tone, to remind me to
say the angelus at 6:00. At one point, I found it very
demanding to say 3 angelus' a day. I took this to a
priest and he very wisely suggested that I not worry
so much about the prayers but remember the great event
of the Annunciation. He asked me if I wanted to give
honor to Our Lady's yes? Did I consider that God
became Man an important belief to remember? Yes, to
all of the questions. This helped me very much to get
over a hesitation to saying 3 angelus (angeli?) a day.
This is also a very good way to start saying the
angelus with young children. To just recall the event
of St. Gabriel visiting Our Lady and Her unparalleled
openess to God's will. (When I say these things, like
3 angelus a day, it is because God has given me the
grace to be a Third Order Franciscan, with the call
comes the grace to be able to pray more.)

As a practical matter, different children have the
responsibility of leading different prayers. The
youngest leads the Mercy chaplet decade (4 yr). The
next in line leads the Angleus (6). The newest reader
reads the litany. They seem happier to engage if they
are "in charge". Also, I ask children to remind me to
say prayers. "Don't let me forget after meal prayer."
(I am terrible about this, I forget more times than

Don't give in to "perfection blues." This is not going
to be the most perfect way to say prayers. But, it can
be consistent, which is more important according to
the Lord's own parables. How do you reconcile the
chaos with the peace prayer is supposed to bring?
Well, be conformed to God's Will. Prayer is an
offering. You are offering yourself to God, with your
children, in an effort to do His Will. It isn't an
exercise in our own will. We have to be able to step
back and say, maybe God doesn't want this right now.
Or maybe God wants me to be mortified right now. In
any event, tomorrow will be better. This is another
good prayer. We are going to keep trying. We will do
better later today. Or tomorrow will be better.

The schedule is not to be a burden but an assistance.
It is to prevent:
"Well, I would like to pray to God now, I don't have
the time for the Rosary, um, what should I do?" Then
nothing happens from sheer exhaustion, confusion or
ignorance. The schedule should never make you feel tha
God is a task master.

Here is where Marian meditaion sets a firm foundation
to your prayer life. With the Immaculate as the lofty
Model, actually impossible to attain through human
means due to our fallen human nature, but absolutely
possible through the power of God. She becomes the
demanding Master (Mistress). She is demanding, not in
Her demeanor or commands, but in Her example. To
follow in Her footsteps, requires much more than the
human person is capable of, naturally, but with God,
all things are possible. So, let Her change your
heart, plow your soul and replace the barren earth
bound for death with the rich earth that She can
supply with Her action in your soul. Let Her be the
Plow, the Rake, the Gardener. Let Her bring Her
Immaculate Soil, rich with the nutrients of grace.
Once She has visited, the seed can be planted.

"To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is
like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in
a garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large
bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."
(LK 13:18,19)

Once She has visited, and your eyes are fixed intently
on Her virtue, it sets you free to believe the Lord's

"My yoke is easy. My burden is light."

How often do we doubt this? How often do we say :"My
life is too hard for me! YOU are a slave driver?"
What kind of relationship is that with God?
Are we full of doubt?
What does St. James say about those who doubt?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Personal Prayer

Now I am seguing into personal prayer, prayer alone
without the children. This is very important. We need
to spend some time, not all the time, but some time,
in contact with God. We have to experience the Divine
patience, if we are going to show patience.

"See above all how with Him each word, each action
proceeds from love...You have not yet understood His
teaching if you have not discovered its source: the
infinite love of His Heart." (My Ideal)

With a set plan to read the Gospel each day with your
children, you have the basis for a conversation with
Jesus as part of your personal prayers. (See the book My Ideal for a detailed explanation of this type of conversation.)

"Go to your room and shut the door, and pray in
secret. Your Heavenly Father who sees all will repay
you openly."

Try to "leave the dry land and go out to
sea" as St. Teresa of Avila counsels. Close the door
and windows of your senses so that you retreat into
your soul in order to bring it to the refreshing
waters of the Trinity. In this prayer, bring the
blessed Virgin Mary with you. She will keep you
recollected, She will keep you honest, She will keep
you humble. Begin to "sail away" by making an act of
contrition and imagine the Lord. Put yourself at His
feet for the sermon on the mount. Use the scripture
reading you went over at tea time. Use the reading to
discover the deep love of the Sacred Heart. You must
find love. If you hear harsh words, than you have
missed the meaning. (My Ideal)

The mere fact that the second Person of the Blessed
Trinity became man to suffer for us is LOVE. The mere
fact that we have the gospel with His words recorded
is an act of intense love. If the Gospel has a rebuke
in it for you, listen with love. It is to those that
He loves that He chasizes and corrects. Always abandon
yourself to His love in these conversations.

Speak to Him about this reading. Notice His feelings,
His brilliance, His humor, His personality, His
goodness, His Honesty, His Humility, His Greatness,
His Compassion. Sheer power is not as multifaceted as
great power with gentleness and humility. The
combination is awe inspiring. The most rapid way to
make progress in anything is to make a resolution to
do better. Finish your conversation with a resolution
and give the resolution to the Blessed Vrigin Mary.
Otherwise the resolution will be vague.

This should be the most pleasant prayer of the day. Do
not omit it. Make a plan and keep to it. This
conversation could be the secret to waking up early,
before the rest of your household in order to pray.
How many of us could wake up early, at 5 am for
arduous devotions? The most demanding of the day? But,
what if you wake up early because the Lord is waiting
to speak to you, calling you from slumber to awake to
Him? That is not arduous. A little talk based on
yesterday's gospel. You don't even have to read
anything. Just slip out of bed, go to the statue of
the Sacred Heart, kneel down in front of Him, put your
hand over His wounded foot. Begin with the sign of the
Cross and then the Act of Contrition and sail out to
meet Him in your soul.

Now that you are awake and already refreshed, it is
easier to say other morning prayers. Make the coffee,
have a biscuit, and now you have time for a morning
offering, a spiritual communion, a Marian meditation
and the breviary.

A small tip, I was given a CD alarm clock for
Christmas a few years ago. I scoffed at it as too
fancy for me and never took it out of the box, until
recently. It is the BEST! I usually have little
children in my room and I don't want to wake them up
early!! But, with soft gentle music of my choosing,
usually Bach, I can wake up early without disturbing
them. I espcially like Jesu Joy of Man's desiring. The
song itself reminds me that Jesus is waiting to talk
to me. I have also found that trying to wake up 15
minutes or 25 minutes before the kids is not early
enough. It is just close enough to their wake up time
that they wake up also. But, if I wake up about 1-2
hours before them, they don't wake up. This is not for
everyone! If you are expecting or have a newborn, you
need a lot more sleep. I couldn't do this for a long
time, but, as things calmed down, this is what I have
discovered works, at least for the present, while I
still have the grace to do it.

Another secret is to be conformed to the Will of God.
If despite your best efforts, you cannot awaken, then
abandon yourself to His Will as a child would. If you
set the alarm clock and you sleep through it, abandon
yourself to His Will. If your child is up during the
night, this is your Eucharistic Adoration. Think of
waking up to visit the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament
and attend to the needs of your child. The goal is
always to conform yourself to God's Will. If you set
the alarm clock but if you get out of bed your baby
will awaken, don't become disgruntled or petulant.
Stay in bed, conforming yourself to God's Will in
gratitude and go back to sleep. You know the
difference between laziness and conforming yourself to
God's Will. Tomorrow is another day or you can try to
catch up later in the day.

If one evening you peeked into your 5 year old
daughter's room and saw that she had neatly put out
her slippers, robe, a prayer book and her teddy bear
and she was busy fiddling with an alarm clock. She
looks up at you and says "Oh good! I don't know how to
set this, would you help me?" You walk into her room
and turn the clock on and ask her "What are you
doing?" She replies "I want to get up early to say a
few prayers before my busy day gets underway."
Wouldn't your heart be touched? Wouldn't you just
think that was the most tenderest display of piety?
There really isn't much difference in our relationship
with Our Heavenly Father. We need to be like children
if we can enter the kingdom of God. Our Heavenly
Father will smile upon our attempts to wake up early
to speak with Him in prayer. The life of a mother or a
father is very busy, demanding, and tiring. God knows
how hard you are working, but the more demands that
are placed upon you, the more you need God's strength.
Make an offering of yourself to God, prepare yourself
to wake up early. Do a few things before you go to bed
which will make it easier to wake up in the morning:
1. put your clothes near your bed, your slippers, rob,
whatever you like to have.
2. Maybe set the coffee before bed
3. Line up your prayerbook, favorite devotional
picture, spiritual reading, breviary, notebook, pen.

Do all of these as a good will offering to God, as an
act of piety, as a prayer. "O Lord, I want to spend
time with you each morning in prayer. I don't know if
I will sleep through the night, but if I do, I would
like to wake up and speak to You first."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Way of the Cross

The Five Year Plan
A Home-Made Way of the Cross

I have to say, even in High School, the concept of a 'five year plan’ intrigued me. (I think it must have been the vigor of youth.) Imagine, being able to think of something in advance and then intentionally take five years to implement it. Despite its use within the Communist government, taking 5 years to get something done, is no longer a novelty to me: It has become a way of life. Normally, usually, almost always, an idea I have takes about 5 years (especially if I am in the ‘survival zone’) to become a reality. One example of this is my homemade Way of the Cross.

The Marian Seraphic Pathways, the rule book of the Third Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, says “Each Friday let [the FTI] regularly make the way of the cross and each Saturday the way of the Mother.” (SP#31)
I hung up the 14 steps of the way of the cross in my house so that I could pray the Stations at home. You can see by the picture that this is by no means perfect. Many of them are not hanging at all, and when I took this picture, I hadn't finished mounting them all on wooden plaques. And who can miss the unfinished basement walls? It was my husband's idea to mount them on wooden plaques, to prevent the rag tag edges which inevitably occur with little children rubbing their shoulders, bulked up by coats, against the pictures.

So, about 5 years ago, I set out to Michael’s craft store. I needed wooden plaques, Mod Podge glue, sponge brush, scissors, hanging apparatus, and bronze spray paint.

In the first year, I was able to get outside with a cardboard box and the wooden plaques, to spray paint the wooden plaques bronze. I had to be especially careful with the edges, they will be seen. (The edges delayed this project by about 18 months.)
Well into the second year, probably closer to the third year, I was placing the pictures over the wood, pressing any edges with my fingers that need to be trimmed, so that I could use the crease as a good cutting guide.
I learned to cut the pictures carefully (mistakes can be fixed using a pinking shear, but will add another six to eight months.)
Around the fourth year, I finally began to use Mod Podge. (Use the glue on the wood and the back of the picture, using a sponge brush which fits into the Mod Poge jar.)
Then press picture from center out with your fingers, getting rid of air bubbles.
Mod Poge the entire top of the picture.

I am already three years into the Way of the Mother project as told by this picture. I am a little ahead of schedule. I hope to have this completed this year, eventhough the plaques are all stacked up next to the phone, waiting for their Mod Podge application.

Here are some prayers for
The Way of the Cross by Saint Francis. No set prayers are required to say the Way of the Cross. It is more important to just revisit the scene of the Passion, bring your heart and mind back to Calvary to keep the Lord company in His great agony.

El Greco
Christ Carrying the Cross
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Way of the Mother

The Way of the Mother consists of seven stations, very much like Way of the Cross, depicting the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. The Franciscan Tertiaries of the Immaculate are encouraged to pray this devotion every Saturday.

The Stations of the Way of the Mother
1. Presentation in the Temple, Simeon's prophecy
2. Flight into Egypt
3. Three Days' Loss
4. Meeting Christ on the way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion
6. Pieta (The lance wound to Christ)
7. Entombment

I mentioned my ongoing attempt to make my own "Way of the Mother" a few months ago. During my search for artwork, I made a surprising discovery. (The picture is Giotto's Coronation of the Virgin.) I found it very difficult to find art images of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and I especially found it difficult to find a picture to represent the Three Days' Loss. The images I eventually discovered were painted by Giotto and they are all found in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. The artist Giotto was a Third Order Franciscan, born in 1266 and worked in the Basilica of St. Francis in 1300. (He is actually a very important artist in art history. He is one of the first to show dimensionality in his figures. Before Giotto, icons reign. You can see in the angels reverently kneeling the impression of thick, heavy legs. Giotto's figures have the dimensionality of statues.) Beside Giotto's importance in art history, I think his work demonstrates the Marian devotion of the early Franciscans. Many artists have painted scenes of the life of Christ. But, in my search to represent the "Way of the Mother", I found Giotto supplied me with all the art I needed. I found this an interesting discovery. Either by considering Giotto as a Third Order Franciscan or that the work was commissioned by the earliest members of the Franciscan order, or that the art would be used to decorate the Church in which Holy Father St. Francis is buried, any of these reasons and all of these reasons highlight the importance of Marian devotion to the early Franciscans.

Another surprising discovery. When searching for Presentation in the Temple and Finding in the Temple, the search engine at Web Gallery of Art, returned a slew of Presentation of OUR LADY in the Temple. My distinct impression was that Our Lady's presentation was the more popular choice among artists and patrons. How often in Christian circles do we hear about Our Lady's Presentation in the Temple? A feast day celebrated on November 21. However, in the history of art, among patrons of art who paid money to have these treasures painted, the Presentation of Our Lady at the age of three in the Temple is a favorite subject. ("Christ among the Doctors" is a better way to search, I later realized.)

For my set of "The Way of the Mother", I ended up buying a used copy of The Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi byElvio Lunghi (Scala, 1996). I cut the pictures from the book and Mod Podged them to wooden plaques I spray painted bronze.

I still need to buy some metal hooks to hang them. They are presently still sitting on my bookshelf, but they are useful for praying The Way of the Mother.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate have a shrine in Italy which features a Way of the Mother. The website is in Italian, but the pictures are stunning.

The following quote describing the Way of the Mother is taken from the Directory of Popular Piety.

(Since I found it difficult to link to numbers 136-7, I copied them here. The whole document is worth looking at from time to time. I especially like to look at Part Two; Guidelines for the Harmonization of Popular Piety with the Liturgy. This is a great list of Catholic practices.)

136. As Christ and Our Lady of Dolours were associated in God's saving plan (Lk 2, 34-35), so too they are associated in the Liturgy and popular piety.
As Christ was the "man of sorrows" (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have "reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is "the woman of sorrows" whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (socia passionis).
Since the childhood of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary's life was entirely lived out under the sign of the sword (cf, Lk 2, 35). Christian piety has signalled out seven particular incidents of sorrow in her life, known as the "seven sorrows" of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Modelled on the Via Crucis, the pious exercise of the Via Matris dolorosae, or simply the Via Matris, developed and was subsequently approved by the Apostolic See(140). This pious exercise already existed in embryonic form since the sixteenth century, while its present form dates from the nineteenth century. Its fundamental intuition is a reflection on the life of Our Lady from the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Lk 2, 34-35), to the death and burial of her Son, in terms of a journey in faith and sorrow: this journey is articulated in seven "stations" corresponding to the "seven dolours" of the Mother of Our Saviour.
137. This pious exercise harmonises well with certain themes that are proper to the lenten season. Since the sorrows of Our Lady are caused by the rejection of her Son (cf. John 1,11; Lk 2, 1-7; 2, 34-35; 4, 28-29; Mt 26, 47-56; Acts 12, 1-5), the Via Matris constantly and necessarily refers to the mystery of Christ as the suffering servant (cf. Is 52, 13-53, 12). It also refers to the mystery of the Church: the stations of the Via Matris are stages on the journey of faith and sorrow on which the Virgin Mary has preceded the Church, and in which the Church journeys until the end of time.
The highest expression of the Via Matris is the Pietà which has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Christian art since the middles ages.

The painting
(b. 1639, Genova, d. 1709, Roma)

Father Stefano Manelli's
Meditations for the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

For each Sorrow recite one Our Father, seven Hail Marys, 1 Glory be and the ejaculatory prayer:

"O Mary, my sweetest good, make me feel Your sorrows in my heart."

I. The Presentation in the Temple
(LK 2:34,35)

“Mary Most Holy offers Jesus to God the Father. She offers the pure, holy and immaculate Victim and with Him She offers Herself, called to be the Coredemptrix of the world: for this reason Jesus will be the crucified Victim and She will have Her soul pierced by the’sword’ of sorrow for all the sins of the world.”

II. Our Lady flees into Egypt to save the Infant Jesus from death.
(MT 2:13-14)

“The sorrowful drama of Our Blessed Lady’s exile is a sustaining grace for all of us ‘poor banished children of Eve’ who are called to pass from this world of exile into our heavenly homeland that we reach by the way of the cross, sustained and comforted by Her.”

III. Our Lady loses Jesus and finds Him after three days in the Temple of Jerusalem
(LK 2:48-51)

“Mary Most Holy suffers a terrible anguish with the loss of Jesus in Jerusalem. She searches for Her Son for three days and finds Him anew in the temple. To misplace Jesus, to lose Jesus: this is the worst disgrace that could possibly happen to us because He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; therefore we must seek Him immediately and find Him anew in the temple, in the House of the Lord, approaching by way of the sacraments of Confession and Communion.”

IV. Our Lady meets Her Son Jesus along the way to Calvary

O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. For he hath made a vintage of me, as the Lord spoke in the day of his fierce anger. Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water, because the comforter, the relief of my soul, is far from me. (Lam 1:12,6)

“Mary Most Holy encounters Jesus along the road to Calvary and traverses the painful path with Him to Golgotha, carrying in Her Heart the cross of Jesus as a ‘sword’ which penetrates Her soul ever more deeply for the redemption of sinful humanity. Let us also follow Jesus with Our Lady of Sorrows by carrying the cross of our salvation.

V. The Crucifixion
(John 19:25-27)

“Our Lady of Sorrows is present at the crucifixion and death of Jesus and suffers in Her Mother’s Heart all the torments of Jesus’ body nailed to the cross, His lips given gall to drink, and His side thrust through. Here the ‘sword’ of sorrow pierces completely through Mary’s soul, but She offers everything in constant union with Her Redeemer Son as the universal Coredemptrix of salvation. She desires to imprint the image of the Crucified in our souls.”

VI. Our Lady of Sorrows receives Jesus into Her arms as He is taken down from the Cross.
(John 19:34-37)

Mary Most Holy Receives Jesus into Her arms when He is taken down from the cross. This is the image of the Pieta. But it is also the image of the priestly motherhood of the universal Coredemptrix who offers the Divine Victim to the Father, the salvific Host for all men of every time and place. O merciful mother, take us too into Thy arms in order to offer us to God.

VII. Our Lady places the dead body of Jesus in the sepulcher.
(John 19:40-42)

Mary Most Holy places the body of Jesus in the sepulcher in order to await His resurrection with invincible faith. The sepulcher of Jesus is one of life and glory, and so shall the sepulcher be of every redeemed person who welcomes the Redeemer, while the sepulcher of one who refuses Christ shall be one of eternal perdition. The Mother of Sorrows places us too in the sepulcher of Jesus in order to rise one day like Him to eternal life.

The Compassion of the Mother in the Passion of the Christ
By Father Angelo Mary Geiger, FI

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Rosary of the Seven Glories

The Seven Glories of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Immaculate Conception
Divine Maternity
Perpetual Virginity
Universal Co-redemption
Spiritual Maternity
Assumption into Heaven both body and soul.
Coronation as Queen of the Universe.

The Rosary of the Seven Glories of Mary consists of Our Father, seven Hail Marys and one Glory for each mystery (similar to the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.) This is a devotion originating with the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

As mentioned in tonight’s Mary Vitamin, this is a very good prayer in preparation for the Feast of the Assumption because it sums up the patristic tradition explaining Mary's Assumption into heaven. (I have another post coming soon with meditations for children, the way I explained these mysteries to my children.)

Here are some quotes for each meditation:

Immaculate Conception
St. Maximilian Kolbe
“That title contains many more mysteries which, with time, will be discovered. It points to the conclusion that, as it were, to the essence of the Immaculate pertains her Immaculate Conception. This title must be pleasing to her for it signifies her first grace, conferred upon her at the pristine moment of her existence, and the first gift is always the most beloved. This name is confirmed throughout her life for shes was always immaculate and unsullied by sin. Whence, she is full of grace and God is ever with her; to that degree moreover, that she became the Mother of the Son of God.”
Will to Love, (Marytown Press: 1998), 39.

Divine Maternity (Theotokos)
"In no wise, therefore, is it lawful to divide the one Lord Jesus Christ into two Sons.... For the Scripture does not say that the Word associated the person of a man with Himself, but that He was made flesh. But when it is said that the Word was made flesh, that means nothing else but that He partook of flesh and blood, even as we do; wherefore, He made our body His own, and came forth man, born of a woman, at the same time without laying aside His Godhead, or His birth from the Father; for in assuming flesh He still remained what He was."
Pope Pius XI, Lux Veritatis (On the Council of Ephesus),
Encyclical promulgated on 25 December 1931, #28

Perpetual Virginity
Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
“Significantly, however, those who impugned her right to the title Theotokos were often the same who questioned Mary’s inviolate celibacy. Augustine hinted at a reason for this when he said, ‘When God vouchsafed to become Man, it was fitting that he should be born in this way. He who was made of her, had made her what she was: a virgin who conceives, a virgin who gives birth; a virgin with child, a virgin delivered of child—a virgin ever virgin.’

Also St. Jerome

St. Louis de Montfort
“Thou, Lord, art always with Mary, and Mary is always with Thee, and she cannot be without Thee, else she would cease to be what she is. She is so transformed into Thee by grace that she lives no more, she is as though she were not. It is Thou only, my Jesus, who livest and reignest in her more perfectly than in all the angels and the blessed. Ah! If we knew the glory and the love which thou receivest in this admirable creature, we should have very different thoughts both of Thee and her from what we have now. She is so intimately united with Thee that it were easier to separate the light from the sun, the heat from the fire; …”
True Devotion to Mary, #63

Spiritual Maternity
Our Lady is truly our mother
St. Catherine Laboure’s example at the age of nine (Mary Vitamin #14)

“[She] pulled a chair over beneath the shelf, for it was too high for her to reach, even if she stood on tiptoe. Climbing up on the chair, she stretched overhead and took down Our Lady’s image…Throwing her arms about the statue, she hugged it close to her little body, as a child might fondle her favorite doll or teddy bear. But this was no doll. In a sense, it was no longer just a statue of Our Lady. It was Mary herself… ‘Now, dear Blessed Mother’ she said aloud with childlike fervor, ‘now you will be my Mother!’”
Father Joseph Dirvin, Saint Catherine Laboure, (Tan Books: 1981), 15-6

The Assumption
John Paul II
Angelus message August 15, 1996

"We greet you, glorious Virgin, in the mystery of your Assumption into heaven: in you God the Father anticipated what he intends to accomplish at the end of time for all those who die in communion with Jesus Christ, his Son and your Son.
We greet you, Queen of Angels and Saints; you intercede for us from heaven and sustain us on our earthly pilgrimage to the promised land: Keep our faith alive, our hope firm and our love fervent for God and for our brothers and sisters.
In contemplating the mystery of your Assumption O Mary, let us learn to evaluate earthly affairs in the proper light. Help us never to forget that our true and definitive dwelling place is heaven, and support us in our effort to live together here below in ever greater brotherhood and solidarity. Make us workers of justice and peacemakers in the name of Christ, our true peace."

The Coronation of Our Lady Queen of Heaven
(Feast of the Queenship August 22)
St. John Eudes
“But blessed the heaven and the earth which have for their Queen the admirable child Mary. For she possesses more light and wisdom, strength and power, than all the kings and queens who ever were or ever will be. And this little Mary is a great Princess and a most powerful Queen; Queen of men and Angels, Empress of the universe. She was Princess and Queen from the womb of her mother. … Is it not suitable to the glory of the eternal King of Kings, that she who was to be His Mother should bear a royal crown even from her birth?”
The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, (PCP: 1998), 237.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Seven Glories for Children

Glories of Mary meditation for children
(This is written in a free style, the way I spoke to my children. It is a Continuation from a previous post.)

Immaculate Conception
Think of Our Lady as a child your age. Because of her Immaculate Conception she has never made any mistakes. She has no bad habits to unlearn. Every thing she has ever done is good and in conformity to God’s Will. She loves to speak to Him in her heart. She doesn’t have any inordinate desires. She is loving and good.

Mother of God
Is Jesus true God? Is Jesus true Man? Is Mary the mother of Jesus? Is Mary the Mother of God?

Yes, we can even say that Mary is the mother of God (not only of Jesus) because of the miracle of Jesus being both God and Man at the same time.

Perpetual Virginity
The great miracle of God becoming man is what makes Christmas such a wonderful feast in the Church. The great miracle of the God taking on human flesh has to mean that the Mother (of the Son of God) was special too. This birth is something wonderful. Because of her Immaculate Conception, Our Lady was not affected by original sin and did not have the consequence of pain in childbearing. But more than that, the child is so special that the birth of this wondrous mother was something miraculous. Jesus was born in such a special way that the best way to explain it is the similarity of light passing through glass. The glass is unharmed or changed by the light. So too, the birth of Jesus from Mary was as special as light passing through glass.
The shepherds saw and believed… they saw something wonderful.

Who flies the plane? A pilot. Does the pilot have a helper? Yes, the co pilot. Although God needs no helpers in His Omnipotence, He chose to have His Holy Mother share in His life in a way in which no other human being has ever experienced. From the beginning of her existence, she has been in the center of God’s plan for saving us. (As St. Teresa of Calcutta says, “No Mary, No Jesus.”) During Her marvelous childhood (remember she had no sin) God was preparing her for the great mission of His Son, to the time the Angel Gabriel visited her in the Annunciation and then all those hidden years in the bosom of the Holy Family. Finally in her presence at the foot of the Cross, the Mother of God continues to be a presence in the life of her Son. Her heart is joined with His on the Cross. (Remember the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism picture with Jesus on the Cross and the two hearts’ love symbolized as a burning flame, united and breaking down the closed doors of heaven?) He is the Redeemer – the Messiah. She is the Mother of the Redeemer, sharing in his sufferings and redemptive work, her prayers and sufferings being offered in addition for the salvation of souls.

Spiritual Maternity
"Woman behold your son."
The blessed Virgin Mary took these words of her Son very seriously from the Foot of the Cross. From that moment on she not only took St. John as her son, but every child of God became her real child. She looks on from heaven with her motherly concern in a real way for each of her children. You may not see her but she in a real way wants to share the gifts she has received. She knows that she didn’t deserve to be chosen to be Immaculately Conceived but instead God freely bestowed this gift on her out of His love for Her and mankind. She wants to share this gift with her children so that they may be pleasing to God and live a happy life.

Example of st. Catherine Laboure
“[She] pulled a chair over beneath the shelf, for it was too high for her to reach, even if she stood on tiptoe. Climbing up on the chair, she stretched overhead and took down Our Lady’s image…Throwing her arms about the statue, she hugged it close to her little body, as a child might fondle her favorite doll or teddy bear. But this was no doll. In a sense, it was no longer just a statue of Our Lady. It was Mary herself… ‘Now, dear Blessed Mother’ she said aloud with childlike fervor, ‘now you will be my Mother!’”
Father Joseph Dirvin, Saint Catherine Laboure, (Tan Books: 1981), 15-6

Because of all these gifts, Our Lord did not want to let our Lady’s body decay in the ground. So, He brought her to heaven to share with Him the glories of Heaven. Her death is as special as her conception and life.

Queen of Heaven
Good behavior, a life of sinless perfection, is rewarded by God.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of Saint Joseph

It is praiseworthy to dedicate each Wednesday to St. Joseph, with the recitation of the Seven Sorrows and the Seven Joys of St. Joseph, a devotion widespread in the Churches of Franciscans.

St. Joseph is an exemplar of a Marian saint. He was the first Marian Saint and the best. His whole world view was the Divine Child and the Immaculate Mother.

1 Hail Mary for each sorrow shared with the Immaculate
1 Glory for each joy, in praise of God for the spiritual gifts given to St. Joseph.

The sign of the Cross
V. O God, come to my assistance
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

V. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

1. The First Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Annunciation

a. When St. Gabriel revealed the exalted mission entrusted to the Immaculate, St. Joseph in his great humility, believed that he was unworthy of her company. St. Joseph cannot, for one second, contemplate anything but Divine Intervention in Mary’s being with child. To him, it is obviously a miraculous Act of God. In great anguish and suffering, he must extricate himself from this sublimely holy situation in which he believes he doesn’t belong. Unwilling to cast aspersions on the Immaculate’s purity and with his humble obedience to the law, he pondered the self-sacrificial position to divorce her privately.

b. St. Joseph, Prince of the Interior Life, experienced great joy when the heavenly angel brought this news during prayer: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt1:20-22) "From the moment when the angel relieved him of the tormenting doubts concerning Mary, he never ceased adoring Jesus in her womb.” (St. Peter Julian Eymard, The Month of St. Joseph, 32)

2. Second Sorrow and Joy, the Birth of Jesus
a. The suffering begins on the long journey to Bethlehem, the quiet humility of the Immaculate and her divine Son, obeying the kings of the world, at the expense of their own comfort. St. Joseph is greeted with discouragement, as each inn turns the Holy Family away. The lodging secured is far beneath the great dignity of his dependents. He is burdened by the sight of the great poverty which will greet the Son of God, the dirt, the animals, the cold, the flies, the coarse straw. The provider of the family knows, they deserve better. Hail Mary…

b. But, amidst this sorrow, St. Joseph is filled with joy by numerous signs: A brilliant star, the heavenly host sing to God’s glory, the shepherd’s humble piety, the justice of the worship of the Three Kings, the Virgin Birth and the presence of the Son of God. Glory…

3. The Third Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Circumcision
a. “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”( LK2:21) Circumcision was a sign of baptism, a sign of original sin and your belief in the promised Messiah. How great is the sorrow of St. Joseph, who knows the Glorious Nature of the infant, who understands that the Child emptied “himself, and took the form of a slave” “What a shock to Joseph to think that he himself would make the Infant-God suffer and would shed the first drops of His blood. How his heart ached at the sight of that wound, the blood that flowed from it, and the tears of the divine Mother.” (St. Peter Julian Eymard, Month of St. Joseph, 78) Hail Mary…

b. The Illustrious Son of David exercises his great inheritance, the legacy left him from his ancestor, the great King of Israel. It is to St. Joseph, chosen by God, the Just one who is given the privilege and honor to bestow the Holy Name of Jesus at this important ceremony. St. Joseph, a devout Jew, wouldn’t have even pronounced the Holy Name of God, but on this day, he will not only say the Name which means Salvation, he will be the one to command that it be given to the Infant. He well understood: “At his name every knee shall bend, in heaven on earth and under the earth” Glory …

4. The Fourth Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Presentation
a. Here we can imagine the Just and Faithful Head of the Holy Family leading his family towards the Temple in sacrificial obedience to the laws of God. In contemplative silence, he leads, almost dumbfounded by the overwhelming humility shown by the sinless Immaculate and the Only Son of God. Does the Son of God need to follow laws designed for a fallen human nature? Does the Immaculate Virgin need to be purified? However, in exceeding humility and in poverty St. Joseph offers the ransom, while the Virgin offers Her Son. Then, the great pain to hear that the beautiful Child and His Holy mother will suffer. At the words “And a sword shall pierce your heart” St. Joseph received a sword of suffering. Hail Mary…

b. The great joy at hearing the public declaration of the arrival of the Messiah: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk2:29-32)

John Paul II said:
Simeon uses an Old Testament phrase to express the joy he experiences on meeting the Messiah and feels that the purpose of his life has been fulfilled; he can therefore ask the Most High to let him depart in peace to the next world.” St. Joseph was a ‘just man’. Simeon’s joy is an insight of the joy of St. Joseph, for he too had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. Simeon’s words also open up salvation to people beyond Israel’s border, to the gentiles, in fact, to the whole human race. Here Joseph experiences the joy of the prophecy that Christ has come for all mankind.
“In his canticle, Simeon reverses the perspective and puts the stress on the universality of Jesus' mission: "For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32).
How can we fail to marvel at these words? "And his father and mother marveled at what was said about him" (Lk 2:33). But this experience enabled Joseph and Mary to understand more clearly the importance of their act of offering: in the temple of Jerusalem they present the One who, being the glory of his people, is also the salvation of all mankind.”
John Paul II at the General Audience of Wednesday, 11 December 1996

5. The Fifth Sorrow and Joy, the Flight into Egypt.
a. We see in the OT that when angels visit men to bring them glad tidings, men are frightened, they fall prostrate, trembling at their glory. What if the message is dire “GET UP – FLEE” How great is the suffering of St. Joseph, another sword in his heart.
The suffering intensifies as St. Joseph leads the Holy Family stealthily, prudently, by his own judgment into the pagan land of Egypt, leaving behind his homeland, his friends, his family and his livelihood. How would he provide for his family? How would he keep them safe in the pagan land among foreigners? Hail Mary…

b.The joy he had in having God Himself always with him and to personally witness the fulfillment of prophecies: “See the Lord is riding on a swift cloud on his way to Egypt; The idols of Egypt tremble before him, the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1, (St. Joseph saw the overthrow of the idols of Egypt.)

6.The Sixth Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, the Return from Egypt.
“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my Son.” Hosea 11:1
a. The journey back must have been difficult. St. Joseph needed two visits from the angel to guide him to the region of Galilee. “When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But, when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there.” St. Joseph heard, he had studied the conditions, he had his ear to the ground listening, watchful for any danger.We see St. Joseph exercising his role as “Watchful Defender of Christ.” He discerned something troubling. Using his reason, steeped in prayer, he turns to God for an answer. (Did he turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary?) “And because he had been warned in a dream,” St. Joseph received the supernatural help, he prayed for. “he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled” (Mt2:19-23) Hail Mary…

b. The joy of the hidden life in Nazareth. The spirit of high contemplation reigned in the Holy Family, in the Holy House now in Loreto. The Silence of the Holy Family is like the silence of a thousand Carmelite deserts (Fr. Faber) All those quiet years of work, family, and meditation on the Holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary and developing a deep relationship with His God. “What must St. Joseph have thought when he saw his divine apprentice, taking pains at His work – He who by a single word had created the universe!” (Pere Benet, The Divine Favors Granted to St. Joseph, 19.) Glory…

7. The Seventh Sorrow and Joy of St. Joseph, Losing and Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple.
a. Had His hour arrived? Was He a prisoner? Injured? Trapped? Lost? … Dead?...Did I fail at my mission? Such foreboding! Wandering the streets of Jerusalem, the Spouse of the Mother of God, keeps the dread filled vigil with the Holy Mary, who gains many graces for sinners enduring this ‘loss of Jesus’. “So great was Joseph’s anguish, so bitter were his tears that the Holy Spirit has willed to immortalize them in Mary’s words: ’My Son, why has thou treated us so?” (St Peter Julian Eymard) Hail Mary

b. “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished…” Luke 2:46-48 Why was St. Joseph astonished? St. Joseph, was the holy protector searching for his foster son. He should have expected to see Him in the Temple, didn’t St. Joseph go in to find Him? But, it is the manner in which St. Joseph finds Jesus that is his astonishment and JOY. He finds the Divine Child in a position of authority and adulation, not dejection. How happy the Foster Father of Jesus is to find his son, not only safe, but also admired by the teachers of the Law. How great is his joy after three long and terrible days of loss. Glory …

V. God made him master of His household.
R. And put him in charge of all that He owned.

Go to St. Joseph

Reflections on The Silence and Strength of St. Joseph

Whenever we find St. Joseph in the Gospel he is engaged in a difficult, life altering situation. St. Joseph faced great challenges that would make even a great man groan. Yet, St. Joseph remained silent.

What do I do? I must follow the law, but how can I? The law demands stoning. There is something so holy going on here I must not belong here. I must have made a mistake. What do I do?

Birth of Christ
I must obey the king of this world and cause my wife discomfort. She is due to have the Holy Child any day now. I must ask her to travel 70 miles in winter.
Now that I have brought my family here to Bethlehem, there is nowhere for us to stay. Turned away by all, what am I to do now? Where should I go?
A stable? Is this the fitting birth place of the King of Kings? Have I done what God wishes?

Slaughter of the Innocents
Herod is in a jealous rage. He is seeking the life of the Divine Child. He will stop at nothing. Many are his spies, his people, his soldiers. How will I evade his evil? Where can I go? How can I take my family to safety?

Flight into Egypt
No friends, no family, no business connections, no Temple, nothing familiar; with my family, I face only poverty and hard work. How long do we stay here? How do I find work to support my family? How will I practice my faith? How do I keep my family safe?

Return from Egypt
Archelaus is ruling. He may be a threat to the Divine Child. I must be cautious. How can I keep my family safe? Where shall I take them? What is the Will of God?

Loss in the Temple
Where did He go? Where should we look for Him? What did I do wrong? Look how my Holy Spouse suffers.

St. Joseph was able to lead the Holy Family successfully because of his great faith, his keen intellect, his total self detachment, and his profound prayer.

In all these events, we see Our Lady listening to and following the direction of St. Joseph. Indeed, the Lord Himself listened to Joseph. How encouraging to those facing life changing events, to place all their concerns for their families in the competent and blessed hands of St. Joseph.

Go to Joseph!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


The more one prays, the more time there is to pray.

Click on the above link to follow a series of posts from the Castle of the Immaculate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Way of the Cross - the way of the soul

I Station: The Condemnation of Jesus by Pilate

Often the soul begins the journey to Christ through the sufferings imposed upon her from the world: sickness, failure, or sadness.
Spiritual realities can also begin the way of the soul: sadness due to sin and the realization of death.

II Station: Jesus' acceptance of the cross

As soon as the soul recognizes the limitations this world has to offer, she begins to follow in the footsteps of the true Master of the soul, she begins the Way of the Cross.

III Station: The First Fall

The Way of the Master is difficult. The soul encounters failure. She began the journey to Christ on her own power. She needs to be humbled to realize who is the Master and who is the follower.

IV Station: Jesus meets His Mother (John 19:25-26)

A fall allows us to know the great compassion of the Mother. Our Lord sends Her to us when we throw ourselves at His Feet. She will be our companion along the way.

V Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross
(Matt. 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26)

With Our Lady’s encouragement, the soul now begins to turn to heavenly help and not rely upon its own power. The soul begins to carry the Cross in earnest.

VI Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

With practice, the soul’s efforts at penance and carrying the Cross give comfort to Lord – even publicly. Veronica pushed her way through the crowd, undaunted by their jeering. She had one thing in mind, to offer a small comfort to the Lord despite the price she had to pay.

VII Station: The Second Fall

Pride can enter here easily. The soul forgets Whose work this is.
The soul forgets Whose power sustains it.

VIII Station: The Sorrowing Women of Jerusalem; (Luke 23:27-31)

The soul returns to the Master and listens to His Words.
Openness to life - purity - at all costs.

IX Station: The Third Fall

Even the saints fall seven times a day.
The soul recognizes the absolute poverty and weakness it possesses.
The soul begins to earnestly pray to live in the presence of God and for final perseverence.

X Station: Jesus Stripped of His Garments (Luke 23:34, John 19:23)

Detachment from this world, the stripping of needless comforts, and a heavenly vision set in.

XI Station: the Crucifixion

Words no longer suffice to express love for the Master – only deeds which speak of a crucified heart. Promises give way to the actualization of nails penetrating flesh.

XII Station: Jesus' Death on the Cross

The Dark Night of The Soul.
No one around save the Mother and the Saints.
Is there a God? Does Heaven exist?
Where have You gone O Love of My Soul?

XIII Station: Jesus' Removal from the Cross

The soul is dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus, all in the arms of Mary, His Mother.

XIV Station: the Burial of Jesus.

The hope of heaven enkindled by closeness to the Church and Her Sacraments;
most importantly worthy reception of Holy Communion:

Make my soul the sepulcher of your Holy Body
and I will long for
and believe
that Heaven
is the soul’s final resting place.