November 30, 2011

Christmas Novena

While a novena is normally a nine-day [or nine hour] prayer, the term sometimes is used for any prayer that is repeated over a series of days. The Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is often called simply the "Christmas Novena" or the "Christmas Anticipation Prayer," because it is prayed 15 times every day from the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) until Christmas. The First Sunday of Advent is the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew.

The novena is not actually addressed to Saint Andrew, but to God Himself, asking Him to grant our request in the honor of the birth of His Son at Christmas. You can say the prayer all 15 times, all at once, or divide up the recitation as necessary (perhaps five times at each meal).

Prayed as a family, the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena is a very good way to help focus the attention of your children on the Advent season.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(source: by Scott P. Richert at

November 24, 2011

Coraggio! (Have Courage!)


A group of us are following "Total Consecration to Jesus According to St. Louis Marie de Montfort,"  with our consecration to be made on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  It's definitely a "weed out the wimps" regime of prayer.  As promised, I sent the group some encouraging thoughts and hope these will bless you today, as well:

See?  Now that wasn't so bad, was it?  I mean, c'mon.  That first week?  The "Preparation"?  A few prayers.  A wee paragraph of reading for mediation.  I don't know about you, but I was thinking, "Hey, I can do this!  This'll be a snap!"

Then we hit Week One.

You know, I've discovered already during Week One that I'm really not interested in Knowledge of Self.  Really.  Not.  As a matter of fact, I actually cringe from it.  No, really.  You know why?  The same reason why I come out of every confession sobbing, that's why.  Because of the stunning, humbling, almost debilitating realization of how abhorrent and insulting my insignificant little self must be to the Face of God.  I mean, judging from the way He spanked the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament (several times, mind you) whenever they needed it, I cannot BELIEVE that the Almighty hasn't reached down with His thumb and forefinger and flicked me off the face of the planet, just to spare the rest of humanity the boil of my existence.

But then, in the confessional, the priest utters some of the most beautiful words in the English language:  "God, the father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins through the ministry of the church. May God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

(*heavy relieved sigh*)  And I resolve to try all over again.  I swear and promise and beg and plead anew to ACTUALLY try to know, love, and serve God in this life so I may be happy with Him forever in heaven.

Now, that's a tall order.  I haven't even had my morning tea and I've failed miserably already.  But, I'm beginning to think it's okay to start there.  Because if I didn't start with failing miserably, I might have this horrible misconception that, at least in some area, I was fine, okay, enough, good, perfect.


Hey.  Waaaait a minute.  That sounds familiar.  Wasn't there something in Genesis about that?  About the serpent promising perfect knowledge to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?  Ha.  Yeah.  And we all know how that turned out.

So.  I examine my conscience.  Confess.  Sob.  Atone.  Get on with life.  And sin again.  So, I examine my conscience, confess, sob, atone......well, you get the idea.

The point being:  It's never a pretty picture to truly see oneself as God sees us.  The word, "vermin" comes to mind.  Yet St. Louis de Montfort, Thomas a Kempis, and the Bible (Psalm 141) all encourage us not only to be brutally honest in our self-assessment, but to be confident in the mercy of God.  Mercy is when you get what you don't deserve.  Mercy cannot be earned; it must be given.  And for eternity, only Almighty God can give it.

So, visit Him, my friends. 
Make a well-worn path to the confessional, to adoration.  Be inspired in our consecration.  "Coraggio!"  Have courage!  Courage is not the absence of fear, but action in the face of fear.  Be humble yet firm of purpose as we strive to follow this way of prayer!  If you miss a day, continue to soldier on.  If you forget a prayer, return to it.  If you are distracted, redouble your efforts.  For Jesus Himself said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God," (Luke 18:27).

And THAT is a great cause for "Thanksgiving!"

(Now do you see why Luke is my favorite Gospel!?)

Please pray for me during our Total Consecration, as you may be ever assured of my heartfelt prayers for you!

May Our Lady be your joy this Advent as she leads you through the rosary, ever closer to the manger and the Sacred Heart of her Son, Jesus!


P.S. - Just by way of coolness, I also found absolution in Latin:

Deus, Pater misericordiarum,
qui per mortem et resurrectionem FĂ­lii sui
mundum sibi reconciliavit
et Spiritum Sanctum effudit
in remissionem peccatorum,

per ministerium Ecclesiae
tibi tribuat
et pacem...

Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis
in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

"What is impossible with men is possible with God," (Luke 18:27).

November 17, 2011

Oriens Vitualamen (Morning Offering)

If your brain has as little spare room as mine, it's sometimes difficult to remember to offer up what we do throughout the day.  There are many beautiful ways to consecrate one's day to the Lord from the minute your feet hit the floor, but this one is my favorite:

Our Morning Offering:
Oh my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with it the offering of my every thought, word, and action of this day.  Oh my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them to the interests of Thy Sacred Heart.  Precious Blood of Jesus, save us!  Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!  Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!  Amen.

And remember, as the saying goes, live your life so that when you wake up in the morning, the devil says, "Oh sh**, she's up!"

November 8, 2011

Keys Ut Regnum (Keys to the Kingdom)

My dog is a social butterfly.  There is little on this earth that makes her happier than when people come to see her, as clearly everyone must be when they arrive at our front door.  When the door opens, she leaps about in joy, delighted that another of her People Friends has made her day by dropping in to say hello.  Her enthusiasm bowls them over, as she covers them in kisses, tail whirling like the blur of helicopter blades.

Thus, the joke around our house is, if it were a burglar at the front door, she would invite them in and offer them the silver.

Despite this, however, my dog otherwise is a pretty smart cookie.  It didn’t take her long, for example, to figure out that the jingle of scooped up car keys meant the imminent solitude of her cage: abandonment.  And in the worst possible form for a dog from the pound.  Having lived in a cage and been abandoned to one, she never exactly has been what you would call an avid fan of crate training.  No matter how cozy we made her little den, my dog never truly resigned herself to the fact that, as the unfortunate possessor of a hamster-sized bladder, she must, for the sake of the carpet,  be relegated to her Cozy Canine Cubby whenever she is left alone in the house.  (And no, the charming moniker did not fool her either.)

So, when my dog hears keys rattle, she knows we are about to leave.  Keys, therefore, mean abandonment.

I was reminded of this last Sunday in church.  My husband and I are the antithesis of most Catholics;  we make a bee-line for the front row, right in front of the tabernacle.  I want to be front-and-center with the Lord, where He can keep an eye on me and I can keep an eye on Him, with minimal distractions.

But last Sunday, this wasn’t to be.

We were running late (no surprise, with six small children and my perpetual vice of tardiness), so we altered our path and entered the church from the rear vestibule, joining other late-comers in surreptitiously slinking into a rear pew, mumbling and fumbling through the last verse of the opening hymn as everyone settled in.

Although it was disconcerting for me to be what felt like a football field’s distance away from the Lord, all went well throughout the Mass -- until we stood for the closing hymn.  As the cantor announced the number in the hymnal, I had to struggle to hear her voice over a different sudden chorus of sound.  A chorus of jingling.


Now, I would like to think that I am smarter than my dog.  And so is God.  So, it took only a moment to put two-and-two together for what my dog already knew: people + keys = abandonment.

Not a good position to be in with the Almighty, eh?  And He is a lot smarter than me and my dog.

Barring family crisis or extenuating circumstances, let’s see whose company we keep when we decide to nip out early on the Lord as we leave Mass:

1).        Judas: Hardly a model of good manners, Judas slipped out of the Last Supper before dessert to go finalize plans to abandon the Lord.  Should we collect 30 pieces of silver along with the bulletin, too, then?

2).        The Apostles: The apostles all made hasty retreats into anonymity as the Lord was dragged from Gethsemane.  Blessedly for us, however, all but one later suffered martyrdom for the Faith.

3).        Peter: The Rock of the Church himself abandoned the Lord, denying Him three times.  Not exactly one of Peter’s more shining moments.

4).        Thomas: We do not call someone a “doubting Thomas” for nothing, do we?  Possibly an aspiring lawyer, Thomas demanded cold hard evidence before he would believe that a Man, whom he personally had seen perform numerous physical and spiritual miracles, had performed the ultimate miracle Himself.

Abandoned.  Every single one of them abandoned the Lord.  Yet, all the way up to the Cross, the Lord never abandoned us.

So, why do we keep abandoning Him?

Thankfully, eleven of the twelve apostles were “scared straight,” later spreading the Good News and, for some, even giving their lives for Jesus and His Church.

With such sacrifice in mind, I mean, really, is it that critical we get out of Mass a few minutes early?  Do we all have a dying parent to whose death bed we are rushing?  Do we not have a mere two more minutes to sing, praise, and give thanks to the God from Whom we profess to believe all blessings flow?  Or do we have one eye on our hymnal and the other on Father to see if we can beat him to the door.  As my grandmother used to say, “It’s not a race, you know!”

This is where our Protestant brothers and sisters excel.  They’re still enthusiastically singing several hymns for hours, while we’re busy watching the clock and leaving skid marks out of the church parking lot.  Forget the Sign of Peace – turn on your blinker and get out of my way, pal!

If we’re going to put an egg timer on Mass, then we’re there for the wrong reason.  Stop.  Slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Maybe even stick around for a few minutes and enjoy the soothing silence once the church is almost empty.  Don’t just show up and punch in and out.  Be there.  Be present.  Take time to be with the Lord.  After all, He’s waiting there just for you.

That’s right – the Creator of the known Universe is waiting in the tabernacle just for lil’ ole YOU!  Isn’t that grand!?

“Ugh!”  I can hear you say.  Do I sound like your mother?  Maybe.  Or a grouchy old harpie?  Probably.  But, I’ve got six young babies of my own, so I’ve already had a ton of practice in reminding little people about the importance of our Faith, which I also frequently do not fully appreciate nor utilize.

So please, remember the wisdom of a small dog:  keys mean abandonment.  You’re not fooling anyone, least of all the Lord.

He’s a pretty smart cookie, you know.

P.S. - Please note, sadly, this beloved dog has since passed away.  But, we still have our 130lb., cantankerous, grouchy, clever, perpetually hungry, protective, bear-hunting Akita.  Just in case you had your eyes on the silver.  ;-)

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”  (Matt. 26:40-41)