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The Beauty of the Rosary

As a follow-up to my somewhat negative post about my non-relationship with the Rosary I would like to point out Josh’s post on The Beauty of the Rosary.

Our religious inclinations/experiences are somewhat opposite, and that is a blessing.

Because of the Rosary’s scriptural and liturgical structure, it is endlessly adaptable to our needs and abilities. When we can focus, it is suited to meditation. When we can rest our unquiet mind, it is suited to contemplation. But when we are agitated and unfocused, we can still let the words of Scripture and Tradition wash over us. And simply praying the vocal prayers can gradually draw us into the meditation and contemplation of Christ that we so need.

Check it out.

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My Non-Relationship With The Rosary

My Twitter friend Annaclimacus ordered me to post about the rosary. I told her that I had naught to say since, despite my great reverence of the rosary, I am not a prayerful person. And then we made a secret pact to each post about our individual non-relationships with the rosary. According to the terms of our pact, once she posted on Friday I was bound to post by midnight tonight or else forfeit my entire collection of Edith Stein books. If you don’t believe me, don’t ask Anna Lindsey, for I’m sure she will have an even more sinister story for you!

I invite you, dear young people, to make of the Rosary your daily prayer. I encourage you, dear sick, to grow, thanks to the recitation of the Rosary, in the trusting abandonment to the hands of God. I exhort you, dear newlyweds, to make of the Rosary a constant contemplation of the mysteries of Christ. -Benedict XVI

Close your eyes and imagine your mother’s face. Now imagine your best friend holding a small child and laughing. Now imagine a man whom you have never met walking dejectedly through a dark forest.

Did you see them?

I did not. If I close my eyes and try to bring a face to mind… I cannot. It does not matter how hard I try, or how little I think about it. I do not visualize. The great beauty of the rosary is in its powerful mental participation in the mysteries of redemption, and I just cannot do it.

And so the rosary is for me all of the things it should not be: rote repetition, dreary penance, and an uninspiring duty.

The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary. -Pius X

It is not that I do not appreciate the rosary. I firmly believe that it is non-optional for any Catholic who accepts the testimony of the Saints and guidance of the popes. I have had a few (two?) astounding moments of understanding while praying the rosary. I have experienced the power of others praying the rosary for me.

When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ’s mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. –Benedict XVI

And I have also experienced weeks of praying the rosary daily with absolutely nothing other than the fact that that I had indeed prayed the rosary.

When you say your Rosary, the angels rejoice, the Blessed Trinity delights in it, my Son finds joy in it too, and I myself am happier than you can possibly guess. After the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is nothing in the Church that I love as much as the Rosary. -Mary to Alan de la Roche

Yet the rosary is the rosary. And it is okay that this treasury of graces is not directly open to me.

But the more pressing need at present is to remind you in your piety what a good thing it will be for all of us to take up our rosaries once again and to recite the prayers with the simplicity and fervor of the humble, of the little ones, of the devout, of the afflicted and of the trustful – and to do so for peace in the Church and peace in the world. -Paul VI

Honestly, I probably would not give the proper devotion to the rosary even if I could pray it well. If experiencing its grace one time out of a hundred is not enough, would 100 out of 100 times really make a difference?  There is a time to experience beauty, and there is a time to do what is right because it is right.

If only I would.

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Edith Stein on Praying Alone as the Prayer of the Church

The work of salvation takes place in obscurity and stillness. In the heart’s quiet dialogue with God the living building blocks out of which the kingdom of God grows are prepared, the chosen instruments for the construction forged. The mystical stream that flows through all centuries is no spurious tributary that has strayed from the prayer life of the church it is its deepest life. When this mystical stream breaks through traditional forms, it does so because the Spirit that blows where it will is living in it, this Spirit that has created all traditional forms and must ever create new ones.

Without him there would be no liturgy and no church. Was not the soul of the royal psalmist a harp whose strings resounded under the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit? From the overflowing heart of the Virgin Mary blessed by God streamed the exultant hymn of the “Magnificat.” When the angel’s mysterious word became visible reality, the prophetic “Benedictus” hymn unsealed the lips of the old priest Zechariah, who had been struck dumb. Whatever arose from spirit-filled hearts found expression in words and melodies and continues to be communicated from mouth to mouth. The “Divine Office” is to see that it continues to resound from generation to generation. So the mystical stream forms the many- voiced, continually swelling hymn of praise to the triune God, the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Perfecter.

Therefore, it is not a question of placing the inner prayer free of all traditional forms as “subjective” piety over against the liturgy as the “objective” prayer of the church. All authentic prayer is prayer of the church. Through every sincere prayer something happens in the church, and it is the church itself that is praying therein, for it is the Holy Spirit living in the church that intercedes for every individual soul “with sighs too deep for words.” This is exactly what “authentic” prayer is, for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” What could the prayer of the church be, if not great lovers giving themselves to God who is love!

Excerpted from The Hidden Life

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And I Remain With You

This is one of my favorite prayers/poems by Edith Stein. Josh and I planned to use part of it in our nuptial mass as the “prayer of the couple” but the priest forgot since apparently no one actually includes the prayer of the couple in the parish where we got married. So we only prayed it afterwards. An interesting feature of Stein’s writing is that she writes a lot more of Christmas and Pentecost than she does Holy Week. Of course this may simply be due to the fact that she fasted from words during Holy week and so would not write in the moment.

From a Pentecost Novena

1.Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother’s hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!

2.Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son’s heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.

And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through me,
Life of your life indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit eternal life!

3.Are you the ray
That flashes down from the eternal Judge’s throne
And breaks into the night of the soul
That had never known itself?
Mercifully relentlessly
It penetrates hidden folds.
Alarmed at seeing itself,
The self makes space for holy fear,
The beginning of that wisdom
That comes from on high
And anchors us firmly in the heights,
Your action,
That creates us anew:
Holy Spirit ray that penetrates everything!

4.Are you the spirit’s fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God’s eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgement ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!

5.Are you the master who builds the eternal cathedral,
Which towers from the earth through the heavens?
Animated by you, the columns are raised high
And stand immovably firm.
Marked with the eternal name of God,
They stretch up to the light,
Bearing the dome,
Which crowns the holy cathedral,
Your work that encircles the world:
Holy Spirit God’s molding hand!

6.Are you the one who created the unclouded mirror
Next to the Almighty’s throne,
Like a crystal sea,
In which Divinity lovingly looks at itself?
You bend over the fairest work of your creation,
And radiantly your own gaze
Is illumined in return.
And of all creatures the pure beauty
Is joined in one in the dear form
Of the Virgin, your immaculate bride:
Holy Spirit Creator of all!

7.Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes of each and every being?
The harmony,
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!

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Relic of the True Cross Stolen

It is not often that I regret not sinning. But right now I am regretting not stealing the relic of the true Cross from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Because if I’d stolen it, then I could return it and all would be well. As it is, someone else has stolen it, and I doubt that they plan to return it soon.

On Thursday, July 1, staff from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross learned that the relic of the true Cross was stolen from the Cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Boston Police were immediately notified and an investigation was begun to determine who might be responsible. That investigation continues.

The relic of the true Cross is an important sacramental that helps Christians contemplate the crucified Savior and the great suffering he endured for the salvation of the world. The true Cross was discovered in the fourth century, and since then its particles have been diffused to the Church throughout the world. The Cathedral’s relic of the true Cross was brought from France in the Nineteenth Century and given to Bishop Cheverus, Boston’s first Bishop.

In the Christian faith, the Cross of Christ is an expression of the triumph of Christ over the powers of darkness. Fr. Kevin O’Leary, the Rector of the Cathedral, added: “We are deeply troubled that this sacred relic was stolen, and we pray for those responsible. We ask the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston to join the Cathedral’s parishioners in praying every day for its return.” Source

I remember visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for the first time with Josh and telling him about the relic. He did not believe me until the custodian who was cleaning the carpets pointed it out to him.

The great thing about Catholic cathedrals is that they are so open and easy to get into. The bad thing about them is that it is apparently easy to steal priceless relics.

I invite you to join me in praying the Stations of the Cross not only for the return of the relic, but for the conversion of whomever stole it and all those who take it into their possession.

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In Singing, The Affection Of One Loving

While reading Pope Benedict’s “The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament” in God is Near Us I was reminded of the importance of complete bodily worship, and ashamed to realize that I do not sing. Even when praying the liturgy of the hours I simply read the hymns. I “know” the importance of music, but somehow in the past few years I have lost my connection to it. I am not musically gifted, but singing is not about having a gift, it is about using all available methods to respond to God.

The Lord gives himself to us in bodily form. That is why we must likewise respond to him bodily. That means above all that the Eucharist must reach out beyond the limits of the church itself in the manifold forms of service to men and to the world. But it also meas that our religion, our prayer, demands bodily expression. Because the Lord, the Risen one, gives himself in the Body, we have to respond in the soul and the body. All the spiritual possibilities of our body are necessarily included in celebrating the Eucharist: singing, speaking, keeping silence, sitting, standing, kneeling…

[O]nly all three together–singing, speaking, keeping silence–constitute the response in which the full capacity of our spiritual body opens up for the Lord.

Everyone knows about the issues with “Church music” but what about the role of music, and singing in particular, in our private worship? I am hardly in danger of being more moved by “the voice than the words sung” and sinning through overuse of music, so I really have no excuse for not cultivating sung prayer.

My first step has been to start singing with daily prayer. I would love suggestions for learning more of the hymns, but it really is not difficult to substitute an unknown hymn with an appropriate alternate that I can sing. It may be a while before I get around to chanting the Psalms though!

How do you incorporate music into your worship? Please share suggestions for someone with little talent who is trying to remember what it is like to sing daily.

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Working for the Love of God

I woke up this morning with a very strong knowledge that I need to reach out to God.

How ironic that some talk of “works” as if they are opposed to grace and faith and a true belief in an almighty personal God. What sort of “relationship” is it that you have that makes you think that nothing you do matters?

It is clear to me that simply “relying on God” shows nothing more clearly than that I do not believe in God.

Oh my God, how you have loved me, and how little I have returned that love!

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This is a short clip from last week’s Tenebrae service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Forgive all quality issues, I was trying to pay attention to the service.

Even though Tenebrae is an ancient tradition, I only learned about it a few years ago. My current parish does not have Tenebrae so I was quite happy that I do not live far from the cathedral.

Tenebrae is about entering into darkness. You can check out the Sisters of Carmel for a longer explanation if you like. The service I attended was held after dark on Holy Wednesday; it can also be held very early in the morning, especially on Holy Saturday. It consists of sung or chanted prayers which are taken from sad Psalms, Lamentations etc. The church is gradually darkened after each section. Candles are extingushed until the last candle is hidden and church is entirely dark. It is amazingly sad, dark, and lonely.

I suspect that to some of you it must seem like beautiful heresy. Why seemlingly celebrate darkness when Jesus came as light?

The celebrant’s homily provided a suscint answer: Tenebrae gets at the essence of Christianity through rememberance. It stands against a culture of amnesis (forgetting) which insists on pretending that everything must be happy to be valuable. Jesus Christ did not live victoriously by this world’s standards. He suffered greatly, not only on the cross, but also alone in a garden at night.

The Catholic Church does not require her children to observe Tenebrae, or even Good Friday services. We are expected to take part in Mass on Easter Sunday  to celebrate the Resurection (this is required every Sunday), but the only specific requirment for observing the suffering of Christ is to fast on Good Friday. And even that is pretty minor compared to other religions’ fasting requirements.

Even though the Catholic Church does not require participation in services which mark the sadness of Christ’s suffering, I am increadably greatful that she offers them as an opportunity for people like me who need help with suffering with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Christ (Romans 8:17).

It is good to have an innocent faith. I have friends who can happily trust God as an almost overprotective father who gives them every good thing and wipes away every tear. I am happy for them as it is good to have childlike faith and innocent entitlement. But God has not seen fit to protect me from trial. As many times I tried to simply “have more faith” the result was the same: God does not protect me from suffering. God lets me bleed. God allows me to suffer physically. God allows me to suffer in relationships. God allows me to suffer financially. God allows me to struggle with no support from friends. God allows me to feel as though there is no child who is protected from abuse. Thankfully God has not required me to suffer from those simultanously! But there is enough to make me so very greatful for a God who does not simply offer us a happy Easter story. Jesus did not merely die and rise again for us. He suffered for us, and in his suffering he offers us Life.

My plan is to cultivate this lesson during Easter (we Catholics celebrate Easter until Pentecost, so Easter lasts for 50 days!) by memorizing 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.
For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.
If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.

I would be thrilled to read any thoughts you have on Christ’s suffering, Easter, etc!

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Busy Being Not-Busy


I think that it is time for me to follow her example and get to work! I will be back in a week. May those of you who celebrate the Paschal Mystery have a truly blessed week.

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Thirsting for God

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei

Yesterday morning started out with Psalm 63:2-9

O God, you are my God, for you I long;

for you my soul is thirsting.

My body pines for you

like a dry, weary land without water.

So I gaze on you in the sanctuary

to see your strength and your glory.

For your love is better than life,

my lips will speak your praise.

It was the answer to my worn-out Saturday. While my suffering may be minimal, it is still a very strong reminder that I pine for perfection. I long for God.

It is extremely difficult to balance appreciation for life with the reality that we are also dying, even while we live. My body loves to make sure that I fully know how very imperfect this life is. I am far from able to purely unite my small sufferings with those of the Christ, but I know that it is what I want. And I am supremely happy every time I am able to partake in Mass and pray: “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: grant us peace”.

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