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.

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 .) 


Lent is Here

I’m ready for Lent.  I’ve been ready for weeks.  The world seems so depressing lately, and life seems to be going so fast that I’m ready to focus on quiet and getting closer to God.  I’ve already somewhat started.  On Sunday we went to another parish in the neighborhood because the time was more convenient. I discovered that their daily Mass schedule would enable me to get to daily morning Mass.  I may be somewhat late many days, but if I push my kids to be ready for school just 10 minutes earlier it could work.

So for the last two days I’ve been able to go, and even though I came in during the homily today, I felt a strong sense of peace.  I did not go up for Communion today because I was so late, but just being there made my day more calm and peaceful.  On some days I might even be able to stay for Adoration.  I have felt the Lord calling me to these things, but did not think my schedule allowed it.  Frankly, I just did not try hard enough.

So, for Lent I’m going to try to get to daily Mass a few times a week if not every weekday and go to Adoration once a week.  These are things I should be doing anyway but lapsed out of the habit.  I’m also going to continue reading The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila.  I have been really surprised at how readable she is.  I was given the impression that she was SO difficult and only those really deep in a prayer life would benefit from reading her works, but I’m enjoying it.  Perhaps I’m just shallow and the true benefit is over my head but so far, so good.

I’m also going to start, and this time finish, the absolutely wonderful book by Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth .  Now that a second volume has come out I need to finish the first.  The parts I read before were incredible and I want to study it in more depth.  I have the study guide for it I just need to focus.  To complement all this I really need to remember the Friday Stations of the Cross.  In years past I have completely forgotten to go each Friday.  This year I’d like my kids to go with me and experience it.  I would love to take them to the nearby parish that has it outside by torch light.  It is very memorable.

For a few years, once I had gotten past the extremely shallow “giving up chocolate” stage, I gave up things like the radio during Lent.  Normally, I would listen to it while I was running errands in the car, or at home during the day.  So I would listen to the few minutes of the news and then shut it off.  I found giving that up to be very conducive to prayer and I liked it.  Then the radio in my car gave up the ghost and it was permanent.  Last year I started to listen to podcasts on my iPod while in the car, and at the moment I’m listening to Scott Hahn CD’s from my parish library.  I think that while I still may listen to them, I will cut down somewhat so I can perhaps pray the Rosary, or just sit in the quiet with the Lord.  My time in the car is very fruitful for me.

What about the computer you say?  Are you not going to be giving up time on the computer?  Facebook?  Well, honestly I can say that since I have started working from home I’m not on it as much as before.  That is why I have not posted very often.  I work all day on the computer and going to it for fun is just…not as fun.  So, no I’ll not really be reducing Facebook etc. because I have already.  I would also like to share Lenten resources with you over these 40-some days and I would not be able to do that if I did not continue posting on Facebook and here on the blog.

Here are a few websites I’d like to share with you that you might find helpful for Lent:

Catholic Culture’s Personal Program for Lent
EWTN’s Lenten Reflections & Stations of the Cross
Pope Benedicts XVI’s Letter to You for Lent 2011
James Akin’s All About Lent
and last but not least
RC.net’s Readings & Meditations for Lent including excellent sermons by the Early Church Fathers & Readings for reflection and study.

I will have more coming soon.  I wish you a prayerful and blessed Lent and that you grow deeper in love with the Lord, realizing His great sacrifice for us.

A Sharp-Edged Sword

This morning I was reading the Mass readings from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant.  Four passages in Isaiah are designated as “Servant Songs.” These are poems which the early Christians saw was a foreshadowing of Jesus.  They are Isaiah 42:1-7, 49:1-7, 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12.  In this case, I was reading Isaiah 49: 1-7.

1 2 Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
2
3 He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.
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4 You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.
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Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God.
5
For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength!
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5 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
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Thus says the LORD, the redeemer and the Holy One of Israel, To the one despised, whom the nations abhor, the slave of rulers: When kings see you, they shall stand up, and princes shall prostrate themselves Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.

I was particularly struck by verse 3:   “He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.”

A sharp-edged sword.  It’s not what we usually think of Jesus.  Loving, gentle, guiding Jesus.  Our light.  This Jesus is a polished arrow, a sharp-edged sword….a King.

Usually, when I picture Jesus I see the Sacred Heart or the Divine Mercy, which are “soft,” gentle pictures – but really he is a strong figure.  He is more like the “Pantocrator” above, which is a 6th Century icon from Mt. Sinai in Egypt.  I have this picture, on wood, in my home and it is my favorite picture of Jesus.

If I think of Jesus as a strong, confident King – along the lines of King David – I find that I have a greater reverence to Him.  It seems to be easier to follow this Jesus.  He has everything in order.  His battle plan is ready.  He is my leader and I am in his service.  He has a mission for me that only I can do.  One that He has created from before I was born.  I need to be faithful and strong in the face of the enemy.  I also need to show honor, reverence and adoration to my King.

It is hard to follow a wimpy Christ, but when I think of my Savior and my King as he is – the Creator of the world, who holds the world and it’s creatures in the palm of His hand – I know that I have a strong leader.  A leader who I can follow, and to whom I am also accountable to.  It is harder to try to escape my duties or make excuses to a King who is a Sharp-Edged Sword.

It Is Still Lent

It seems sometimes that Lent lasts forever, or maybe it is just the trials everyone seems to be going through this Lent, that it appears that way.  Since Lent feels like it is lasting a long time, I thought I would give you a few more Lenten resources that could be helpful to you:

Eric Sammons at The Divine Life blog posted this wonderful speech given by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Houston/Galveston at the Convocation of Houston Baptist University
What is great about this is the excellent unpacking of John 14:6 (”I am the way, the truth, and the life.”)  I found his scholarship and faith riveting and enjoyed watching it very much.

Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register has a link to a beautiful panoramic virtual tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the church that marks the place of Christ’s death and resurrection.  The detail and clarity of the tour is marvelous and you might find it helpful in meditation.

I wish I could remember where I found this in my travels online, but here is a link to the National Gallery of Art in Washington where they have a beautiful exhibition until the end of May called “The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700”  Click on Exhibition Highlights to see a beautiful slideshow of this sacred art.  These stunning works would also be wonderful for meditation and each has a brief explanation that is very helpful.

7 Quick Takes – Vol. 3

1.  This week finds us in the midst of a strep throat mini-epidemic in our house.  The 6 year old was really sick last week.  His dad wound up going to the urgent care center on Sunday, and while they did not test him for strep he probably has it, plus double ear and sinus infections.  Today, the 14 year old has a sore throat… I’m just waiting for it to get me…we’ll see.

2.   A friend of mine recommended this blog post to me and I found it to be so beautiful and profound.  It is about the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb which is a French contemplative order that enables girls with Down Syndrome to answer their vocation to Christ.  It is good to be reminded that those who are disabled in some way still are people, they are not a faceless victims of a disability that have no worth or meaning.  They are people who have deep feelings, and a soul with the capability of donating all to Christ.

3.  Discover the beauty of the earth with the new photo NASA Blue Marble.  If you click “All Sizes” on the upper left you can enlarge it and take in the lovely aqua water of the Caribbean, the beautiful mountains and deserts of the West, and the Polar icecaps.  What a marvelous planet.  You might also find the photos from the Goddard Space Flight Center breathtaking as well.

4. There are two new books out by Catholic blogging moms that you might want to check out.  CatholicMom.com Lisa Hendey’s  The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul and Rachel Baulducci of Testosterhome has How Do You Tuck In a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.  Both sound lovely – by two lovely ladies.   Pull out your credit card right now!

5.  Back in November, a wife, mom and blogger in her 30’s named Anissa Mayhew, suffered a stroke.  I first learned of her on Twitter.  She has been in the hospital or in a nursing facility since then.  This past weekend she finally came home.  I urge you to take a look at the blog Hope4Payton that her husband has used to chronicle their difficult journey.  This is an amazing family.  Her husband is a tribute to all husbands, and it is wonderful to see them all home again.

6.  Well, how is Lent going for you?  I’m trying to be more patient with the kids and not get annoyed when interrupted.  I find myself slipping, but catching it first is a challenge.  I have been reading more.  I have got a great deal out of Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer from Fr. Thomas Dubay.  Abstinence is not so great.  Last Friday, I completely forgot it was Friday and gratefully and happily accepted that bacon and egg on an English muffin my non-Catholic husband handed me.  Groan.  I realized it later.  So, if you do it unwittingly is it a sin?  I did not make a conscious choice to eat that bacon.  I forgot.  So, I’m figuring that is not a sin.  But I just completely forgot God that morning….yeah…real great, that one.

7.  I’m looking forward to a Moody Blues concert my husband is getting the four of us free tickets to.  Now, they were big when I was a toddler, but I’m sure they will be fantastic, as long as we don’t freeze to death.  It is outside on the water I think (we do live in a warm climate, but lately it hasn’t been so warm.)  Too bad it is not date night, cuddling on the bay while listening to great music would be very romantic.  Listening to complaining children…not so much.  But it will be nice to expose them to real live music.  Wish us luck.

OK, you’ve read my ramblings, now go see more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

You Should Go to Confession

Lent is a time of cleansing.  A time of introspection.  A time of forgiveness.  All of these are manifested in the much neglected and maligned Sacrament of Reconciliation.   

I have met lots of people who neglect going to Confession.  Here are the reasons they give for not going:

  • They don’t think their sins are bad enough.
  • They “forget” to go.
  • They have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Posted times are not convenient.
  • They are not comfortable with making an appointment, “Father is really busy.”
  • They are uncomfortable telling their sins to someone.
  • They don’t trust priests anymore.
  • Excuses. excuses. excuses.

YOU need to reconcile with Christ.  You sinned – You need forgiveness.  You fell, and Christ is there to pick you up and help you get on with your life.  You have a great gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Christ created this gift for you.  So, find a church on Saturday with a priest you like and can feel comfortable with, make an appointment, or even corner a priest when you see him.  Unless he looks like he is about to pull his hair out at that moment, I have not known a priest to turn someone away who wants to go to Confession.  “Hey Father, do you think you have the time to hear my quick confession?”  I do think that it is best though, if you have not been for a LONG time, or have some serious sins, that you make an appointment, or at the very least make the time on Saturday.

You can do this.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  If you have not been for a long time you will have such a burden lifted.  You will feel lighter and the graces you get from Confession will give you the strength to continue on.

Here are some websites to help you:

The Archdiocese of Boston has a fantastic website on Confession for this Lent.  It is very good and will have everything you need.  The Light is On For You

This is my favorite Examination of Conscience  from Catholic Parents Online that will help you remember your sins.  Pray for the grace to see all your sins first.

Feeling Bad About Confession Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about how it is not necessarily the sins you feel bad about that are the worst.

From Perfunctory Penitence to Compelling Confession In Four Easy Steps at the Archdiocese of Washington’s website.  Msgr. Charles Pope discusses that just a superficial telling of sins is not enough. To be really effective you have to go deep into the why’s of the sins you are committing. This is very helpful in advancing your walk with God.

Here is a quick little guide to the Seven Capital Sins & Their Contrary Virtues