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.

Our Lady of Akita

Tomorrow, October 7th, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Many know about the Church approved apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Fatima in 1917. (If you don’t you should!) But most have not ever heard of the Church approved apparitions at Akita, Japan in the 1970’s, maybe because the message of prayer and repentance is similar.

In honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, I post here the book (with Imprimatur from the bishop) that details the apparitions. It is a free .pdf that you can download to your computer, or read on your iPad/Kindle. It details the weeping statue, the visionary’s healing from deafness, and explains the message.

The visionary Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, is 89 and still alive. Last year, in October she received a new message from Our Lady, urgently asking for prayer of the Rosary and penance. The book is on the website of the late John Haffert, the prolific author and founder of the Blue Army, which still promotes the important message of Fatima. I had the privilege of meeting him many years ago, and he was a most lovely, gracious, and humble man. I found this book fascinating and couldn’t put it down. Click Here to download Akita: The Tears & Message of Mary.

Is St. Corona Really The Patron of Epidemics?

Sts Corona and Victor

There’s been some controversy over whether St. Corona, a very early martyr, was a patron of epidemics. We usually think of a saint as one that gets official patronages from Rome, but throughout history patrons were more regional because the faith was, as was everything, especially in early times, more local. So while Corona, some of whose relics are in northern Italy, wasn’t a patron of epidemics there, she WAS the patron of epidemics in Aachen, Austria where the rest of her relics are buried – along with Charlemagne, in Aachen Cathedral, an historic coronation site for German kings and queens.

The point to take away is that all saints are seeing the face of God in heaven, and can pray for us to Jesus about any matter. Apparently, St. Corona has been invoked in the past for protection against epidemics and, one would imagine, has come through with that help, that is why she is a patron in Austria. So we can surely ask her for her prayers today. If she wasn’t the “official” patron before, she certainly is now.

There’s no need for controversy, all of heaven sees our distress, pain, and confusion here on earth, and they are all praying for us. This controversy certainly has been an interesting lesson in saints and their patronages. Really, any place or group, or even an individual, can adopt someone as their patron. And, as a profound thought, there are no coincidences with God. If this virus is named a “coronavirus,” and the saint was named “Corona” there’s a reason for it.

I thought you would find this one link helpful on this topic. It isn’t a Catholic source, but does have some helpful information. Stay safe – and stay home!

Photo: Sts. Corona & Victor undergoing martyrdom in 176 AD, from an Illuminated miniature in a Book of Hours, France (Paris), ca. 1480.

Carmelite Resources for Lent

Carmelite Resources for Lent, LiveCatholic.net

Carmelite spirituality is wonderful during Lent to go deeper in your spiritual life. Here are some Carmelite resources that you might find helpful, from book sales to free online retreats (sign up now!)

If I find more resources I will add them here. May you have a blessed and fruitful Lent!

2019 Online Carmelite Retreat with St. Edith Stein.

ICS Publications Weekly Video Podcast for Lent. “Join Br. John-Mary of Jesus Crucified, OCD and Br. Pier Giorgio of Christ the King, OCD as they talk about the theme of conversion and its place in Carmelite spirituality.” Subscribe on YouTube.

ICS Publications 55% off sale for Lent 2019.

Divine Intimacy Radio Podcast. Dan & Stephanie Burke with guest Sister Timothy Marie Kennedy O.C.D. on her book: “In the Face of Darkness – The Heroic Life and Holy Death of Mother Luisita” (the founder of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles .) 


The Whole World Awaits Mary’s Reply: A Meditation for Advent & Christmas

The Annunciation, Caravaggio, 1608 (Wikimedia Commons)

This is a beautiful meditation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux that was in today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (iBreviary). May it be a blessing to you as it was to me.

From a homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot, (died 1153.)

The whole world awaits Mary’s reply.

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Review: “Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family”

When I was a child my favorite movie was the The Sound of Music. I think being an only child, living with just my mother, made me appreciate a large, loving, two-parent family enormously. My favorite book, Cheaper By The Dozen, about a fun-loving family of twelve children, settles it.

Maria Von Trapp, the mother of the large family in The Sound of Music, wrote her book of memoirs that the movie was based on, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers in 1946. Author of several books, she has an exuberant writing style that is natural, pulls you in, and makes you want to be right there in the action.

Originally from Austria, the family who were a very talented folk singing group, fled during World War II to escape the Nazis and came to America in 1938. The family built, mostly on their own, a large home in rural Vermont, and a lodge for visitors to stay and hear their concerts. They toured the world singing, and some, including Maria, became Catholic missionaries to Papua New Guinea. They were always on the go and had seemingly endless energy. Once they decided on a project, whether it was a family singing tour, building a barn, clearing land, or creating a restaurant, they all pitched in and got it done in short order.

In 1955, Maria published “Around the World With the Trapp Family.” She wrote about how their family lived their Catholic faith in Austria throughout the year. I’ve read a few of her books, but this has been long out of print. Sophia Institute Press, has now republished it, so this wonderful Catholic life can be enjoyed by everyone.

My first impression upon receiving it was that this is one substantial book. Hardcover and beautifully printed, this book is meant to be kept for years, and meant to be used all through the year.

The contents follow the liturgical year, explaining the seasons and why we celebrate them. Each feast day is lovingly explored with songs and music, recipes, and simple crafts, along with wonderful memories of Catholic family life in Austria before WWII.

A separate section elaborates on how to celebrate each Sacrament within the family, anniversaries, birthdays and other special family moments, including how to handle sickness and death within the family. There is a definite focus on the spiritual life and the life beyond. I found the section on how they actually lived Sundays to be particularly significant in our culture that treats Sunday with no sense of the sacred. 

What is so lovely about this book is that Maria explains the faith and how to incorporate it into your family’s life so beautifully. It makes one long for a time past when faith was seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the community. We can, at least, weave it into our own family’s life now. It would be great to start the New Year with this book.

I really enjoyed it and recommend it to you. Sophia Institute Press is having a 25% off sale for Christmas, but you have to act on it now. Use the
Use Discount Code radio25 when ordering the book using this link:  http://sophiainstitute.com/aroundtheyear.




Old Testament Prophesies of Christ: Born of a Virgin

Old Testament Prophesies of Christ: Born of a Virgin LiveCatholic.net

The Old Testament shows God’s love and plan of salvation for His people. It is filled with many, many prophesies of the Messiah – the Christ who will come into the world to save it. You may have heard some of these prophesies, but if you haven’t really been paying attention you may have missed the connection. These hundreds of prophesies are some of the proof that the Apostles, and evangelists after them, use to show that Jesus really IS the Christ. And if Jesus really, truly is the Messiah, what are you waiting for? Your life can be better, filled with love, peace, mercy,  and the real joy that only God can give you. You just have to open your heart.

Today is the Annunciation, the day we celebrate the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, Jesus’ mother, to ask her if she will be the mother of the Savior. The day God became a man, so that man can become like God.

In honor of this, I thought I would start a special project I have been contemplating for some time: highlighting the Old Testament prophesies of Christ with the New Testament fulfillment of them. Over time you’ll be able to see that Jesus really is the Savior promised for thousands of years. I’m also adding a link to the Catechism for more information.

Old Testament Prophesy #1: The Messiah Will Be Born Of A Virgin

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin* shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.**

(Isaiah 7:14, DRV, 800 BC)

New Testament Fulfillment:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38, RSVCE)

*Some versions say “young woman.” The original Hebrew word “almah” means young, unmarried woman. The Greek translations used by the early Christians, used the word “parthenos,” which means virgin.

**Emmanuel means “God is with us.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church Connection: Paragraphs 484-511.