Jesus, The Model of Brotherly Love

Jesus Christ mosaic from the Hagia Sophia

This is from the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for today on the iBreviary app. I found today’s readings very helpful and profound for meditation during Lent.

From the Mirror of Love by Saint Aelred, abbot (His writings are considered among the finest produced in England during the Middle Ages. He died in 1167 AD.)

Christ, The Model of Brotherly Love

The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ. He who is more fair than all the sons of men offered his fair face to be spat upon by sinful men; he allowed those eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by wicked men; he bared his back to the scourges; he submitted that head which strikes terror in principalities and powers to the sharpness of the thorns; he gave himself up to be mocked and reviled, and at the end endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, the vinegar, remaining always gentle, meek and full of peace.

In short, he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before the shearers he kept silent, and did not open his mouth.

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, he says, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If someone wishes to love himself he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wishes to resist the promptings of his sinful nature he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the humanity of the Lord. Further, if he wishes to savor the joy of brotherly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.

But if he wishes to prevent this fire of divine love from growing cold because of injuries received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Savior.

Take a Devotional Journey For Lent

Devotional Journey Books

What do you know about the Mass? Whether you are a new Catholic or have been Catholic for decades, it is a good bet that you could stand to learn more about the Mass. I was baptized as a baby, went to Catholic school for awhile, did CCD, left for awhile, and have been a very serious and involved “revert” for over 20 years, and still felt that I just didn’t get it. I was there every Sunday and many, many weekdays, but I didn’t really know more than that I was supposed to show up and say some prayers, receive the Eucharist and go home.

Other people seemed to get a lot out of it. People told me how they couldn’t wait to go to Mass. Others want to start every big Church event with a Mass – and I just didn’t get why. To me it was a yawn. I had heard that it didn’t matter if you got anything out of it, showing up thanking God for one hour a week for everything in your life was the point.

I knew it had to be more than that. But I didn’t know a great deal about it until I started listening to the Liturgy Guys Podcast. And while some things are over my head, I’m fascinated by all the info about the Liturgy, the guidelines, and the incredible symbolism. One of the hosts, Christopher Carstens, is a liturgy expert with tons of credentials. A few years ago, he wrote an amazing little book called A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this little book completely changed my understanding of the Mass and propelled my spiritual life way forward. Written for your average “pew-sitter,” it is completely understandable, and explains in an amazing way, from the time you get to the front door until you leave, what is happening in the Mass and your role in participating in it. I truly think this wonderful book should be required reading for every Catholic. In fact, I wish it was its own parish video study.

Fast forward now to today. Well, actually last year. About a year ago, Carstens wrote another lovely book A Devotional Journey Into the Easter Mystery. I purchased it in early March with the happy intention of starting to read through Lent and into Easter. And then, well you know…2020 happened…and family tragedy, and I decided to put it aside until this year.

This book is specifically to help you understand the Mass during Lent and the Easter Season. It starts with understanding Ash Wednesday and Lent and why we needed Jesus and His redemption. The greatest part of the book is devoted to Palm Sunday into Holy Week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and the sacraments, and onto Easter Sunday. It finishes up with the Easter Season and how to answer God’s call to sanctity through Easter, Pentecost, and for the rest of your life. This will be my main reading for Lent, though I have already started reading the first chapters about Ash Wednesday, so as to understand the whole experience this coming week. I’m also going to be revisiting the first book as a refresher. I always pick up things I didn’t see before when I re-read a book.

So, do I understand everything about the Mass? No. I don’t think anyone could understand everything, because it is so deep on so many levels. But now I understand a great a deal more and I understand my role at Mass is to also offer sacrifice, which is so incredibly deep.

Which book would it be best to start off with? I think either one stands on its own. If you are a fast reader, or have the time, I would try to read both for Lent because they will definitely help you whatever stage you are in as a Catholic.

Have a Blessed Lent!

*Some of the above links lead to Amazon, which helps to mitigate the costs of this blog. Thanks!

Pray With St. Faustina and Jesus During Lent & Difficult Times

Praying with Jesus & Faustina cover

One of the benefits of being Catholic Book Lady on social media is that occasionally I unexpectedly get review copies of books. A nice perk I must say. A couple of weeks ago, I received a lovely little book by the wonderful author, Susan Tassone. Well known as the “Purgatory Lady,” because of all the books she has written about the topic, Susan has written several of her latest books about St. Faustina Kowalska and the Divine Mercy devotion. St. Faustina wrote the famous Diary which is the basis for one of the most popular devotions in the Catholic Church. It would not surprise me in the least if St. Faustina became a Doctor of the Church.

This latest book, Praying With Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering, truly has to be my favorite of the ones she has written, and I will absolutely be praying with it every day this Lent. What I like about the book is that it is set up like a conversation between Faustina and Jesus using quotes from the book. Each day is short and simple with a prayer, followed by a section you can use during times of suffering. So many of us could have used this book in 2020.

Because it uses mostly the text from St. Faustina’s Diary, it is an incredibly profound book. Next to the Bible, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul is my favorite spiritual book, and sits right next to my bed. The Diary and the Divine Mercy devotion has been an incredible comfort during the extremely painful times our family has suffered this past year.

If you are looking for “a little something” to both challenge and comfort you in your busy life during Lent, this could be the book. You could also use this in addition to any Bible or other Lenten studies you may be participating in, which is what I’m doing. Order soon because Lent is coming fast. This is my second early book recommendation for Lent, so you can order your books to arrive before Ash Wednesday.

If you don’t have St. Faustina’s Diary, I highly recommend the leather-bound edition. Yes, it’s more money, but if you read it a lot, and yours is getting a bit long in the tooth (falling apart!) like mine was, or you want something that is more pocket-sized, it is worth the money.

Update: If you purchase the leather version of St. Faustina’s Diary from the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, you will be supporting their wonderful apostolate. You also have the option of blue leather for the Diary, as well as the usual burgundy, and both have gold edging. I love this little book!

*Some of the above links lead to Amazon, and if you purchase with my links I would be very grateful, as it allows me to pay the fees to host this blog.

Spend Lent With St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila small portrait

Wow, Lent. Again.

Usually I look forward to Lent every year. But this year, 2021, it seems like last year’s Lent never ended. Pandemic, tragedy, violence. We need Lent this year, but it has taken on a whole new, more serious, meaning for me – and I’m sure you as well. We still are sorta in quarantine. No hugs with friends. But God is always there, and now we have an opportunity to get to the business of a deeper, more substantial, relationship with him.

It’s my plan to help you get ready for Lent. The first resource I thought you might find helpful is St. Teresa of Avila. ICS Publications, the official publisher of the Discalced Carmelites, has a show entitled CarmelCast. It is both a video series on YouTube and a podcast, which you can listen on any podcast player.

This Lent, ICS is starting a series dedicated to teaching you how to pray using St. Teresa’s spiritual classic The Way of Perfection. They will have a series of shows studying this amazing book, using the Study Edition, which I highly recommend. This is my first recommendation this year, to give you time to order the book before Lent starts. If you order the book from the publisher ICS you can get 40% off by using the code CarmelCast at check out. Click Here for more details on this book.

To go along with this study, I highly recommend you also listen to the podcast series about The Way of Perfection at the Discerning Hearts Website, with Dr. Anthony Lilles. I’m just finishing up listening to this amazing series, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you can’t find time to read the book, you should at the very least listen to this podcast series. I read and studied the book a couple of years ago and I really got a lot out of this podcast series. I listen to it on their app, but you can probably use the podcast player of your choice.

Also available is a podcast series from Dr. Lilles for St. Teresa’s book Interior Castle, that you can move on to after you listen to The Way of Perfection series.

ICS has a brand new 2nd edition Study Guide version of Interior Castle that is excellent. I am studying it now and am so impressed by how everything is explained so well. But you should surely read The Way of Perfection first.

If you are still in a Carmelite frame of mind, you can also sign up for an online Lenten retreat by email. Click here for details and to sign up for this free email which is a collaboration with the Paris and Austrian Carmelites, translated into English by Br. Pier Giorgio Pacelli, OCD.

I will have more Lenten resources coming in future posts.