Thursday, December 13, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 3 - The Eucharist, and the importance of trust...

brrrrrrr, it's getting pretty wintry here in WNY, and I hope that you are all keeping warm and cozy.

*virtual hug*

I have lots going on over here (all good stuff) and I plan a separate post for that in addition to our final Advent Book Club post next week. Our Book Club selections are only for a single chapter next week, so that works out very well.

This week, we are snugging up with two modern saints, St. Edith Stein and St. John Paul II. Is this an awesome duo or what?! I'm super excited to dive into what they have to tell us about our faith, and how specifically we can tie that into Advent. Are you ready?! Grab your mug of hot cocoa!


It is most important that the Holy Eucharist become life's focal point: that the Eucharistic Savior is the center of existence; that every day is received from His hand and laid back therein; that the day's happenings are deliberated with Him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural. 
- "On Woman" by St. Edith Stein
To Reflect: How can I improve the way that I make the Eucharist the focal point of my day?

The Eucharist, YES. Whenever our faith needs a boost, the Eucharist is where we need to be. I used to be able to attend daily Mass, and I miss those days so, so much. My schedule and state in life make that something that just isn't happening right now. But if we're receiving on Sunday only, how can we carry the Eucharist with us in our hearts throughout the week?

We can make an Act of Spiritual Communion. From EWTN:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and united myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Fabulous, right?  We could incorporate this into our daily prayer for Advent quite easily. When we make the Eucharist the center of our faith, we can hear God so much more clearly. He is able to speak to us much more clearly this way. This makes me really appreciate Sunday Mass that much more when I dwell on this!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter's Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words 'Be not afraid!' 
- "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" by St. John Paul II
To Reflect: Do I fully trust in God's mercy and goodness, or does fear play a role in my everyday life?

John Paul II. 😍 I just love this man so much. And being that one of the messages he is most known for in his papacy is that of releasing fear, he is even dearer to my heart. As someone who struggles with anxiety daily, being afraid of things is something I'm very used to. And St. John Paul II tells us to NOT be afraid, because God has redeemed us. In the end, isn't this the only thing that is important? Yes, we have daily challenges and worries, but nothing can truly harm us because God has us. He has redeemed us, and we have hope for eternal life with Him. I personally *know* that I struggle with trust and with fear. It's a daily source of consternation for me. But I keep trying, and we're all in this together!

I find this Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life SO HELPFUL, and I have a printed copy of it in my office. Definitely check it out! It is absolutely perfect for the Advent season.

All right, those are my thoughts for the week. Please leave yours in the comments! Next week, we are finishing up with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence!"

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 2 - Prayer & Interior Silence...

Welcome back to week 2 of our book club for this Advent, reflecting along with the saints in Exploring the Catholic Classics! :) Today we are scheduled to touch base with St. Teresa of Avila, and St Francis de Sales, so we will have a mix of high mystical wisdom offered to cloistered contemplatives, and practical spirituality for the layperson. :0 I love it!

#eclectic

Our themes for the week, as you can see from the title, are prayer and interior silence. I 'm actually writing about this very topic for Catholic Mom this month, if you'd like a little more to dig into this Advent! I'll post the link as soon as it's up early next week. :) All right, let's get started, shall we?
Let us now return to our vocal prayer so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion--and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly he is teaching you...He will help you in all your trials and you will have him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? 
- "The Way of Perfection" by St. Teresa of Avila
To Reflect: In what ways can we create a domestic monastery for ourselves in our prayer lives and in our homes?

St. Teresa's life in the convent was certainly different than our own life experiences, and she did not have laypeople in mind when she wrote her work! However, I think that, in our own way, we can all cultivate a little "domestic monastery" for ourselves within our homes, and within our hearts. I like to have little nooks around my house where I have holy reminders that make a nice focal point for prayer. Small pictures and statutes of our Lord, Blessed Mother and the saints make perfect fodder. I'll leave rosary beads in each room for easy access if the mood strikes. ;-) Inspiring things to look at help to inspire us to pray, no doubt about it.

And during Advent, as we try to cultivate that peace and silence within ourselves, inspiration to pray is the perfect way to keep this cycle going. Even amidst noisy chaos, we can harbor quiet joy within. Thinking of that special night, the feelings that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing, the expectant excitement mingled with fear of the unknown...I like to take time to dwell on those things, and they help to keep my inner being at peace. Thinking of our Lord right beside us as we contemplate these things, as we pray and ask for protection over our loved ones...the quiet intimacy that St. Teresa lays out here is absolutely perfect for the season of Advent.
After finishing your mental prayer, watch against disturbing the inner peace it bestows. If possible, keep silence for a while and quietly transfer your heart from prayer to other duties. Should you meet someone on the way home, or even at the church door, with whom you must converse, do so, of course, but still try to preserve your tranquility. You must learn how to go from prayer to duties brought on by your vocation and state of life...Since both prayer and the duties of your state in life are both in conformity with God's will, you must pass from one to the other with a devout and quiet mind. 
- "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales
To Reflect: What is a practical way to start our days with prayer as St. Francis suggests? In what ways can we carry the resulting sense of interior peace throughout an entire day?

And then we come to our practical guy, St. Francis de Sales. ;-) He is a favorite of mine, for sure! He talks further about bridging that gap between our mental prayer and busy states in life. I love how he emphasizes that both things (prayer AND your daily responsibilities as a lay person) are God's will for your life, and there is no need to fear that we are failing in some way as a good, holy person if our minds and time are so often taken up with changing diapers or the expense reports that you need to complete by the end of the fiscal year. These are things that need our attention, and there is nothing wrong with that. We can just do our best to keep our minds quiet; when we have a free moment, offer your day and it's challenges up to God, and wing up a prayer for continued peace and tranquility. During Advent, this is more important than ever!

What are your thoughts on maintaining quiet prayer and a sense of inner tranquility during Advent? Have any experiences to share about previous reading with St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales? Do comment away! Next week, we will turn to modern saints Edith Stein and one of my absolute favorite guys ever, St. John Paul II! 😍