Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quotes From St. Josemarie Escriva

The church celebrates the feast of St. Josemarie Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, on June 26. His classic book, The Way: The Essential Classic of Opus Dei's Founder, has sold over 4.5 million copies since it was originally published in 1939. This book is a treasury of spiritual wisdom, drawn from the saint's own personal letters and conversations. Organized into categories, the book is filled with bite-sized nuggets which challenge readers in every state of life to grow in personal holiness.

If you are looking for ways to grow in your spiritual life, pick up a copy of St. Escriva's book today and read, meditate on and implement just one exhortation per day. It will change your life! 

The quotes below are some of my favorites and have directly impacted my own spiritual growth.

I try, many times unsuccessfully, to live out this quote - rising without hitting the snooze button at a fixed time each day.  On days that I am successful at this, I have truly won "the first skirmish of the day", as St. Josemarie Escriva promises.  It is a game-changer to have that victory!

As an avid reader, this quote has long been a favorite of mine, and one I have reflected on before.  I can only pray that my own spiritual reading will make me a saint!  Check out some of my favorite Catholic books here. 

This quote really resonates with me - it is so easy for me to be deceived by my own thoughts, emotions and wishes. I have been abundantly blessed to have many wise and trusted mature Catholic friends and a Spiritual Director who I rely on for spiritual advice, especially in tough times. 

This quote reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Scripture passages: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all circumstances give thanks." (1 Thess 5:16-17).  Easy to say - a little more challenging to do, but I have experienced tremendous blessings in my life when I have learned to rejoice in the Lord when things are not going so well....

Could it really be this simple? Concentrating on the little things.. Not procrastinating...  Why oh why do I over-complicate things?  

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Overcoming Careless Words

Pope Francis has not minced words when it comes to the sin of gossip, speaking about its perils on multiple occasions:
  •  In one homily he likened the act of gossip to Judas' betrayal of the Lord, saying that when we gossip about someone we are turning them into a "commodity" and selling them for 30 pieces of silver, which is the pleasure or other gain we receive through the gossip. 
  • On another occasion, he warned that slander is a grave sin which "wants to destroy God's work and is spawned by something very nasty... by hatred." 
  • Finally, in a separate homily, he explains that the consequence of gossip is to "transform our communities as well as our family into ‘hell’ . 
The Pope cautions that none of us are exempt from this sin and that he himself is tempted by it each day.

YIKES! It gets worse...If you think the Pope's words are tough - read these words of the Lord, who doesn't limit his warnings to gossip, but rather casts a much broader net to include "every careless word".

OUCH! Meditating on this Scripture brings to mind a barrage of images of myself in a variety of life situations where I have let loose with careless words including:
  • a snippy, unkind remark made to my husband 
  • an exasperated "Why can't you guys just be quiet for one.single.minute!" shout at my children
  • a brusque "I'm really busy Mom- gottta go..." followed by a quick hang-up to my Mom
  • a snarky comment made to a friend about a mutual acquaintance's perceived fault
  • and the insidious, "I don't mean to gossip, but....." followed by a "charitable" discussion of someone else's life which is frankly, none of my beeswax...
The idea of rendering an account of each and every one of these situations to the Lord leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach, especially considering the fact that the above examples are not exactly one-hit wonders, but more closely resemble a record with its needle stuck...(and yes, I am dating myself...)

Don't worry. I have no intention in this blog post to leave myself, or you, my readers, wallowing in the depths of despair and considering drastic measures such as fasting on all speech for the next 30 days, weeks, years in order to overcome the careless words in our lives. Fortunately, the Scriptures, the wisdom of the saints, and our Holy Father offer a treasury of wisdom to help overcome the vice of careless speech.

Fill Your Fruit Basket
Every time I confess the sin of losing patience and the subsequent careless words that seem to inevitably follow, my confessor reminds me that that it is not patience that I am lacking - what I truly need is more of the Holy Spirit, whose presence in our lives bears the abundant fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). When our fruit basket is full, what flows out from our heart and our mouths is careful speech, rather than careless words - speech that reflects the life of the Holy Spirit within us. The key is to keep that basket full, and the only way for us to do that is through constant surrender to the Holy Spirit in our lives and quick repentance when our words fall short.

Respond Instead of React
The fruit of the Holy Spirit, particularly that of self-control, helps us to cultivate the habit of stopping and listening before we rush into speaking. My wise confessor has reminded me on countless occasions that it is better to respond, than to react. Taking a pause, and uttering a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit before reacting immediately to situations or conversations is a great way to think through our responses. A well-thought out response is much less likely to involve careless words than a knee-jerk reaction is.

Pope Francis points us directly to prayer and the Holy Spirit, through whom we receive the grace to live out a new life of gentleness which "makes room for others." This virtue of gentleness is what we need to cultivate in order to overcome the vice of gossip. He encourages us with these words:
"If with the grace of the Spirit, we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great and beautiful step ahead and will do everyone good. Let us ask the Lord to show us and the world the beauty and fullness of this new life, of being born of the Spirit, of treating each other with kindness, with respect. Let us ask for this grace for us all."

*I found the quote from St. Arsenius in a great book by Father Joseph Esper entitled Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems: From Anger, Boredom, and Temptation to Gluttony, Gossip, and Greed - please note than any purchases made by clicking through this link will result in my domestic church receiving a small commission which we greatly appreciate!    

Friday, June 20, 2014

7 Ways to Grow in Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The month of June is traditionally devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the feast of the Sacred Heart celebrated at the end of the Octave of Corpus Christi, 19 days after Pentecost. I have childhood memories of the various images of the Sacred Heart which adorned many friends and family member's homes in the Italian - immigrant neighborhood in which I grew up. It wasn't till I was an adult that I became interested in the history of the devotion, and eventually, we had our home enthroned to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I am by no means an expert on the devotion to the Sacred Heart, so writing this post has been both a reflection of things I have already done to grow in this devotion and a list of things I hope to do.

1. Learn
In order to for any devotion to bear good fruit, it is essential that we know the history and significance of the devotion. Catholics have long been accused of entering into dubious and suspicious devotional practices. Understanding our own beautiful tradition of devotions and entering into them with the proper dispositions does much for our own spiritual growth and guards against turning a devotional practice into something superstitious.

Here are a few links to help learn more about the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

Catholic Encyclopedia: Devotion to the Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart Institute has a wide variety of resources (CD's videos, etc) to help you and your family learn.

Three Papal Encyclical's on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart
Pope Leo XIII: Annum Sacrum (1899)
Pope Pius XI Miserentissimus Redemptor: (1928)
Pope Pius XII: Haurietis Aqua (1956)

Father James Kubicki, SJ's book  A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus provides a fresh, contemporary and readable look into this traditional devotion. Citing lyrics to Bruce Springsteen and U2 songs, and acknowledging that not everyone may share a love for the various artistic depictions of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Kubicki gets to the "heart" (no pun intended) of this devotion and its relevancy for all generations.

2. Pray

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not about a devotion to a thing, but about a love-relationship with a person, Jesus Christ.  In order to grow in devotion to the Lord's Sacred Heart, we need to grow in communication and relationship with the Lord himself. The primary means of this growth is through prayer. EWTN's page devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a great resource for daily prayers, Acts of Consecration, the Morning Offering and Novena prayers.

A word of caution - as you begin to pray these prayers, do so slowly, allowing the words and the image of Jesus' heart, which suffered out of love for each of us, to soak into your own heart. We would never expect a speedy, rote, perfunctory conversation with our spouse or child to adequately express our love for them; likewise, we should savor our prayers in order that they may authentic expressions of our love for Jesus.

3. First Friday Devotions
During one of our Lord's appearances to St. Margaret Mary Aloquoque, he instructed her in the following words:
"I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that its all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on nine first Fridays of consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they will not die under my displeasure or without receiving their sacraments, my divine Heart making itself their assured refuge at the last moment."
This Novena of Holy Communions, celebrated on the First Friday of the Month should be done in order to make reparation for those who wound the Lord's Sacred Heart through ingratitude and irreverence towards his true presence in the Eucharist. Like all prayers and devotions, this special novena is not a "get out of jail free card" but is to be part of a  life that is already pleasing to the Lord, with the special goal of increasing our own love for Jesus and our gratitude for his infinite love for us.

4. Home Enthronement
Our family was blessed to be part of a parish community where the Pastor was deeply devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and had wonderful memories of his own family's home being enthroned to the Sacred Heart when he was a child. He encouraged all parish families to have their homes enthroned and established a team of people to assist with the preparations, both spiritual and temporal, for the enthronement ceremony.

Our own home was enthroned to the Sacred Heart when our children were 2 and 4 years old.  The ceremony, which occurred in our home and was presided over by our parish priest, included a house blessing, scripture readings and finally the enthronement of the image of our Lord's Sacred Heart in a prominent place above our mantle.  We all recited a prayer of consecration and signed our names to the pledge, solemnly acknowledging that Jesus was the King of our family and ruler of our home. A quote from the Sacred Heart Institute sums up the spirit of the home enthronement:
"The  Enthronement... is somewhat more than a merely transitory act, or a beautiful ceremony.  It is and should be a permanent state of life, an every day recognition of all the rights of Christ the King, by every member of the family.  As a ceremony, it is a social and solemn recognition by the family of the divine royalty of the loving Heart of Jesus. "
5. Meditate on the 12 Promises
Jesus made 12 promises to St. Margaret Mary that he would grant to souls who devoted themselves to his Sacred Heart. Meditating on these promises highlights the depths of God's love for us and the desire he has for our salvation and the perfection of our souls.

6. Watch
Watch Dr. Mark Miravalle, professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, explain the Devotion to the Sacred Heart and the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart in this short video.

7. Teach Your Children
Some of the earliest notes I received from my children included hand-drawn lopsided hearts accompanied by professions of love and lots of xoxoxo's. Children seem to be naturally drawn to images of hearts and messages of love, making the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus a perfect opportunity to share the love of our Lord with our children.

This Pinterest board has a wide variety of idea, crafts, projects, recipes and more to help kids of all ages celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Read related posts here:
31 Ways to Grow in Devotion to Mary

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Monday, June 16, 2014

"Navigating the New Evangelization": A Book Review

Father Raniero Cantalamessa's latest book Navigating the New Evangelization provides a valuable addition to a growing body of books of the subject of evangelization in the church today. The book is a very readable compilation of teachings which Father Cantalamessa delivered to the Papal Household on the subject of evangelization during Advent 2010 and 2011. It would be a useful read not only for those who are directly involved in the work of the New Evangelization, but also for every Catholic who wishes to learn more about the history of evangelization in the church and how to respond to the current challenges facing the spread of the Gospel today - challenges faced by lay Catholics in the workplace, at backyard parties and among family members.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section provides an overview of four major thrusts of evangelization in the history of the church, including the protagonists of those waves, the time periods during which they occurred and a description of the parts of the world which were converted. The second section defines three major challenges facing evangelization today. Father Cantalamessa succinctly defines each of these philosophies and provides tools to overcome them that can be used by every Catholic.

Below is a visual representation of the content of the book:

Don't let the above visual deceive you - this is not a dry history text, nor is it an intellectual philosophy text. It is also not a detailed blueprint for evangelization. Do not read it expecting a "how-to guide". Father Cantlamessa provides something far greater than all of these- he challenges the reader to live out the principles which under-gird all evangelization efforts and have throughout the church's life. These principles are:
  • The centrality of Jesus as the object and source of all evangelization
  • The primacy and necessity of prayer over activities and programs in the work of evangelization 
  • The fact that honest, humble witness is far more effective in overcoming objections than intellectual arguments
The book is seasoned throughout with quotes from scripture, the saints and the Popes, all tied together in Father Cantalamessa's accessible, practical tone. Reading this book, and others by Father Cantalamessa, always give me the sense that I am sitting and having a conversation with a wise Spiritual Director, as opposed to reading a book. I highly recommend it.  Below is a favorite quote from the book:

Read more related posts here:

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fatherhood Quotes

As we look forward to the celebration of Father's Day this weekend, here are some quotes about Fatherhood to share:

This first quote is from Father Lawrence Lovasik's book "The Catholic Family Handbook" which is chock-full of down to earth, practical wisdom for raising Catholic families.

I first read this quote from St. Francis de Sales when I purchased a plaque entitled "Sleeping St. Joseph" for my husband for his first Father's Day. The plaque was a carving of a sleeping St. Joseph, cradling the sleeping infant Jesus in his arms. The quote from St. Francis de Sales was on the back of the plaque and it beautifully captured the image of this strong carpenter tenderly holding this tiny infant King. To this day the plaque rests in a stand on our mantle, opposite a statue of our Lady, and beneath the image of the Sacred Heart. 

Quotes 3 and 4 are taken from Sirach Chapter 3, which contains various exhortations on fatherhood and motherhood, and the promises the Lord makes to those who live out the fourth Commandment of to "honor your Mother and Father." 


Some astute insight into the ups and downs of a Father's relationship with his children, gleaned from Mark Twain's own experience growing up. Kids have not changed much since then. 

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Monday, June 9, 2014

June Daybook: A Snapshot Into My Life

Outside My Window
Too dreary and rainy outside to post a picture of that.....Instead, as the church honors the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the month of June, here is a picture of my mantle...

I am thinking...
About the amazing Pentecost Rally that I was privileged to be part of the core team for, which took place this past Saturday. Over 1500 people joined with our Bishop in attending this first-ever multi-cultural rally. It was truly a Pentecost experience bringing together the English-speaking, Hispanic, Haitian and Filipino communities in our Diocese "All together in one place" (Acts 2:1) to pray for a new Pentecost for our church.  What a joyful, Spirit-filled celebration! 

I am thankful...
For my wonderful husband who works so hard to protect and provide for our family and does it all with great love. He is a supportive homeschooling Dad and husband and seems to intuitively know when I am at the end of my rope - tossing in a lifeline of a Saturday to myself or an evening at Adoration or just cleaning the bathrooms!  I am grateful for him and for all the Dads out there who are trying to faithfully live out their marriage vows and lead their families to heaven. 

In the kitchen...
My 11 year old son has recently taken an interest in cooking and has basically taken over breakfast. He has learned to make pancakes from scratch, corn muffins and eggs and toast. I really hope this is not a passing phase because I am enjoying having my breakfast served to me! Now to work on getting him to clean up after he is done cooking....

I am wearing...
A rainy day outfit - pink tee shirt, black sweat pants and flip-flops. 
I am creating...
A weekly blog series of reflections on  the Blessed Mother, entitled "Love Beyond All Telling" that I am hoping to launch in August.  I am considering doing it as a link-up as well - if you are a Catholic blogger and are reading this - let me know if you would be interested in participating. Here is the logo for the series...

I am going...
On a whirlwind of errand running, in the pouring rain - should be an interesting day....One of my stops is the Post Office to mail Lighthouse CD's and the book "A Father Who Keeps His Promises" to the winner of the Father's Day Lighthouse Giveaway which I hosted last week. Thanks to all who participated and shared the giveaway and congrats to winner Strahlen Smith - check out her powerful blog at Single Mom Smiling.  

I am reading...
Dr. John Bergsma's book "Bible Basics for Catholics". Dr. Bergsma is a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville and this book is based on his Principals of Biblical Studies course which he teaches at FUS. The book's text  is interspersed with Dr. Bergsma's stick figure drawings which provide eye-catching visual enhancement to his lessons and are a great memory tool! I hope to write a longer review when I am finished reading. In the meantime, if you are interested in purchasing the book, (which would be a great book for a small-faith sharing group or Bible Study) it is offered by Lighthouse Catholic Media for only $5.00 a copy-click here for more info or to purchase.  It would mean a lot to me if you used my promo code 103065 for Lighthouse purchases!

I am learning...
that I need to incorporate some balance into my busy life, mainly by being able to cultivate the useful, but challenging art of saying "no". Dr. Taylor Marshall's podcast "Should You Budget Your Time" was a great motivator and provided some very practical tips that I am trying to incorporate into my life to be a good steward of God's precious gift of time. 

I am praying...
For my Dad and Husband and all the priests whom I am blessed to have as spiritual fathers - that the Lord would pour out his abundant blessings upon them this Father's Day and strengthen them as they lead their families in an increasingly anti-Christian world.

I am looking forward to...
Giving a teaching tomorrow night at a Life in the Spirit Seminar at my parish. The teaching entitled Transformation in Christ and it is the final talk of the eight week seminar. It is a joy for me to be able to share some of the amazing ways the Lord has (and continues) to transform my life! 

A favorite quote for today...
"Pentecost is a moment when a heart of stone is shattered and a heart of flesh takes its place." Father Raniero Cantalamessa 

A few plans for the rest of the week:
  • Shopping for my hubby's Father's Day gifts. 
  • Father's Day celebrations this weekend with my husband and Dad.
A peek inside my life:
Our Bishop, David M. O'Connell humbly asking for and receiving the prayers of all those gathered at this Saturday's Pentecost Rally, in imitation of our Holy Father's example the week prior at the Charismatic Conference in Rome. Thank you Lord for humble Shepherds!

For more Daybooks please visit The Simple Woman's Daybook

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