Sunday, April 29, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #20

Today is the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena, but because it falls on a Sunday this year, it is not celebrated.  Saints can't trump the celebration of the Lord's Day.  However, as it is my Feast Day, I am still celebrating, so I will pepper this Keeping the Sabbath post with some St. Cate wisdom.

1. A Song

2. A Verse
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God's children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."
1 John 3:1-2

3. A Quote
"Be who you are called to be, and you will set the world on fire." ~St. Catherine of Siena

4. An Image
Catherine was known for her letter writing- even though she was uneducated and considered illiterate.  She dictated fiery messages to the great leaders of the Church in her day, including the Pope.  She was strong, and vibrant, and demanded excellence.

5. A Blessing
I got to spend a lot of time this past week with my sisters, and we had a lot of fun.  Check out my post from yesterday, and see if you can guess some of our activities.

6. An Intention
Today is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations.  We celebrated by having an event today called "Sunday with the Sisters."  We can all pray that young people listen to the call that God has placed on their hearts to do His will and to serve His Kingdom.

7. A Challenge
I am going to pray this prayer for the next week for the kids in my CCD Program and Youth Ministry.  It is from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest, send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.

Open the hearts of Your children
that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.

Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I wish I had pictures

In the past 72 hours, much has happened.
I was trying to think of a post to capture everything, and realized that pictures would be so much better.
But I didn't take any pictures.
So, alas, here is a mere list, in no particular order.
-A town-wide garage sale that was an epic fail. 
-A dead Bambi.
-A 44 minute door-to-door ER visit.
-A presentation where I almost lost my voice.
-A lot of miles on my new car.
-A woman in labor.
-A life sized horse on a front porch.
-A complaint to slow down and speak English.
-Steak and Shake used as bribery.
-Wedding planning.
-A giant pregnant catfish and an albino bass.
-Babies on four wheelers.
-A wicked lightning storm.
-An agricultural education lesson using a hummus and sprouts sandwich.
-A car repair shop.
-A Benjamin Franklin siting.
-Walking in squares.
-Ring shopping.

As the local small town paper would say, a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Plant a Mary Garden


For all you nature lovers out there, I think spring is really here....maybe.
We have had some strange weather here in Illinois- With 80 degree weather in March and then freeze warnings in late April, you never can be sure.
I have been meaning to start my flower seeds inside...well, awhile ago, but I never got around to it.  I am still willing to give it a shot. (For a farmer's daughter, I don't have much of a green thumb.)
So I pulled out the seed packets I had picked up.  The flowers that I had selected got me thinking.  Almost all of them were different shades of blue (my favorite color) and the seed packets looked lovely laying all together.  Shades of blue made me think of Mary.  Mary and flowers made me think of Mary Gardens.  Does this remind anyone else of "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie"?

Have you heard of Mary Gardens?  I don't know a lot about them, but here is the gist:
Medieval Europe was a time of great devotion to Mary, partially because of the strong feelings about chivalry and the dignity of women.  The people also wanted to redeem the secular culture, so they started doing it in simple ways.  For example, many flowers had/have names of pagan origin.  So instead of continuing to use the names that connected beauty and nature with paganism, they gave them all new names, centering around Christianity with an emphasis on Mary.

Hence, the Mary Garden.  Not only were they redeeming the flowers, but they created quiet places of prayer.  You can do the same thing today.  You can pick a favorite flower, look up its Marian name, and plant it in a pot in your windowsill.  Or you could create a large, rambling Mary Garden complete with 50 varieties of flowers, statues, Rosary stepping stones, prayer labyrinths, etc.  Guess which choice I will be taking this spring... :)

I also thought that using this idea of the Mary Garden could be fun to use with kids- especially those that really like the outdoors or getting dirty.
You could just teach them about Mary Gardens and look up some of their favorite plants online to find out their Marian Names (there are tons!)
You could also talk to them about the symbolism of a seed dying and rising to new life in connection to Christianity.
If you are really adventurous, you could get permission to plant a Mary Garden at your church, complete with the flowers, statues, and stepping stones mentioned above.
Or, you could just do what I am planning and send the seeds home with the kids :)

I made labels for 24 common flowers that have Marian names.  For example, here is Our Lady's Mantle, aka Morning Glory.  The labels are just circles which I covered with contact paper so that they would weather a little better.  You also could laminated them.  I cut two small slits in the top and bottom of the circle and slid a chopstick so that the label could be stuck in the soil.  Popsicle sticks would work just as well, but a chopstick is what I had handy.
Stick the new plant label and a seed pack into a pretty (but cheap!) pot, and you have a great Mothers' Day gift for kids.
I was also excited to find that a lot of herbs were part of Mary Gardens.  I am planning on planting these little babies very soon.
For example, Basil is also known as the First Communion Plant.  It was used to decorate homes and was given away as a gift.  (What do you think the 2nd graders that I work with would do if I gave them a pot of basil as a gift at their First Communion in a few weeks? Should I give it a shot?)
Dill was known as Devil Away.  (Maybe it is because it gives you bad breath. Just kidding.)
Click here for a long list of plants and their Marian names.
Click on the image below for a link to the labels.  Happy gardening!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Memorizing Prayers

Memorizing really can be fun, you know.

Unfortunately, the term memorize gives me flashbacks of all night cram sessions in college, which was not a very positive experience.

So what does it have to do with prayer?

There are lots and lots of ways to pray- to communicate with God. Spontaneous prayer, contemplative prayer, lectio divina, group prayer, individual prayer...etc.  Somewhere in the midst fits in memorized prayer.

Now, I should preface this by acknowledging that some people really don't think that memorized prayers, like the Rosary, are valid forms of prayer.  I can see where they are coming from, if memorized prayer is nothing more than that- a group of words recited from memory.  However, I think that memorized prayer has a valid place in our communication with God.  Without getting too lengthy, here are a few reasons why:

1. It is Scriptural.  The Apostles asked Jesus how to pray, and he gave them the Our Father.  If Jesus gives me the perfect prayer, I am going to memorize it.  Ever notice how repetitive the Psalms are?  They are meant to be memorized.  Also, many key prayers from different people in the Bible echo one another- showing that they had to have memorized the words of earlier believers.
2. We should want to commit words to God on our hearts so that they roll easily off our tongues.  When I wake up in the morning, I might not want to be praising, but I can easily say "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Where my words go, my thoughts and actions follow.
3. And finally, there are times when we cannot know how or what to pray.  While the Holy Spirit can teach us to pray, and certainly understands the inner groanings of our hearts, there is something to be said for having a prayer to fall back on when all other words fail you.  After all, prayer is not about changing God's mind, but aligning our heart to do His will.  If I have no words, then I can use those of others to bring me back to His presence.  And sometimes those words can free up my mind so that my heart can reflect on the meaning beyond them.

OK, bringing it back to religious education now-
So, how do you help little ones memorize prayers?
Here is one technique that I have used that could grow with kids:

It is very simple, and you could make them yourself with no trouble.  (I made up documents for the Our Father and the Hail Mary just as examples, and the links are at the bottom of this page.- you could do this yourself for any other prayer or scripture verse.)  Print two of each of these pages on different colors.  Cut one apart into individual cards and tape the other together to make a master sheet.

Here is the Hail Mary, for example:
And here is the Our Father, same thing, just a tad longer:
So what do you do with these cards?  By themselves, they are pretty simple and boring.  But they could be a great help to kids as they are memorizing, especially for kids who are visual (they can see the words instead of just hearing them) and tactile kids (because they can physically move the words around).

Here are some suggestions, generally going from easier to harder.

1.  For pre-readers, give them the master sheet and one or two words.  Have them see if they can visually match the word card to its spot on the master sheet using general shape or letters that they already know. Read the word together.  Work up to more and more cards until their word recognition allows them to read some of the prayer themselves.
2. For early readers, print a white copy of the master sheet and let the child color in each box as they can read a word, starting with easy sight words like the and be first and working up to harder words.  When the whole sheet is filled in, read the whole prayer.
3. Cut a master sheet into horizontal strips, mix them up, and help the child arrange them until the whole prayer is in order.
4. With the whole sheet cut into cards, give the child only the words needed for a particular sentence or phrase.  Let them arrange those into the correct order, and read the sentence out loud.  Then give them the next few words, put them in order, and read it all together.  Continue until the whole prayer is finished.
5.  Give the child only the cards with no master sheet.  Mix them up, and challenge them to put all of the words in order.  This could be a quiet time activity just for personal challenge, or could be used with older kids with a timer or in a competition.

So there you go- there are lots more ways to use this concept, so be creative!
Here are the links to the Hail Mary and Our Father documents to get you started.  Happy memorizing!

***Update- The cards for the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be are also available in Spanish here***

Mary and Scripture

"What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ." ~CCC 487

Many times I have had people comment to me something along the lines of "I don't understand how Catholics can make so much out of Mary when there is so little of her in the Bible."

I am not going to attempt to address that whole topic in this post, but instead have a project to offer that helps stretch our understanding of Mary.

If I said that Jesus was nowhere in the Old Testament, most Christians would disagree with me.  Although the Incarnational Christ was not physically present at the events in those books of the Bible, he certainly was included in "types" that pointed to the kind of Messiah God was going to send.  You can see types of Christ in Adam, in Noah, in Abraham, in David.  Everything points to Christ and His Father's plan for salvation. 

On the same notion, you can see other types of people or things to come with the Messianic fulfillment.  You can see types of the Church, types of John the Baptist, types of Peter.

And you can also see types of Mary.  This makes sense to me, because if God had been planning for thousands of years to send His Son, He is going to do it at just the right time and place, with the right group of people, speaking a certain language, living within certain economic, cultural, political and religious standards.  All of those factors were determined by one thing: the Woman God chose to be His Mother.  If God had been planning for this Woman since the Fall in the Garden, then I think he would be pointing to her throughout Salvation History, giving people a taste of the story to come.

So, I created some cards with 20 examples of Old Testament figures that connect to Marian Typology.
Each card has the Old Testament info on one side and how Mary connects on the right.  They include Biblical references, quotes, some short explanations, and pictures.
Most of them are connecting Mary with another woman from the Old Testament, but a few connect her with "things", like the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark carried the Law (stone tablets), Aaron's Rod (he was the high priest), and a jar of Manna from the Desert (bread that sustained the people).  Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant because she carried Christ within her for nine months.  Christ is the the fulfillment of those three items: He is the New Law, the New High Priest, and the New Bread from Heaven.  Included on the card are Scripture references to where all of those connections can be found.

So, what do you do with these?  I would use them with Middle Schoolers on up, and here are a few ideas:
1. Give each kid a set of their own cards and challenge them to explore the Old Testament stories about Mary to help them become more familiar not only with the Mother of God, but with the stories of the Old Testament.
2. Use the cards for classroom jigsaw activities.  Jigsaw activities are an easy concept that helps teachers cover lots of material in a less time consuming way, and it gets kids involved.  Instead of teaching the whole "puzzle" you give each of the kids a "piece." For example, you could give each student a card and a Bible and challenge them to look up at least one Scripture verse on each side.  After having time to work, the kids each briefly tell the rest of the class one reason why Mary connects to that Old Testament type.  After all of the kids have shared their jigsaw answer, the whole class can see the bigger "puzzle" put together.
3. After the kids are more familiar with the stories.  Have them draw a card out of the deck and share the story without looking it up in the Bible.
4. Use the cards to generate questions and discussion about what the Church believes about Mary.
5. I can think of lots more ways...but I am sure that you can too.  I think that these cards would be great to have on hand as reference material for when the opportunity comes up to discuss Marian Typology.

Click on the images below to be taken to actual documents.  There is a black and white set and a color set.  Each document is six pages long.  Five of the pages have the information side of the card, and the sixth page is the back of the cards, which is in the picture below.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #19

1. A Song:
Loved loved loved seeing her in concert on Friday.  Also loved hearing her story to go along with this song.  She first heard His Eye is On the Sparrow on Sister Act 2 (yes!) and sang a bit of her own Lauryn Hill impersonation before singing her version. Enjoy two songs today!

2. A Verse:
"O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon put gladness into my heart." ~Psalm 4:7-8

3. A Quote:
"All the elements, then, glory in the Resurrection of must be that the sun should rejoice in the Resurrection of the One at whose suffering it had lamented." ~St. Maximus of Turin

4. An Image:

5. A Blessing:

I was able to spend my Friday night surrounded by many friends, uplifting music, and coffee.  It doesn't get much better than that.

6. An Intention:
To remember that each task is an offering to the King of the Universe, and I can share in His work cheerfully or begrudgingly.  I will choose cheerfully.

7. A Challenge:
Patience with people make unintentionally harmful comments.  You know, the ones that they don't think anything of, but drive right to the core of a pain in your heart.  They don't know that they are hitting a sore subject, but alas, they have.  And you have the choice to graciously continue the conversation... or to punch them in the face.  My challenge is to meet them with joy, and to keep my hands to myself.

Friday, April 20, 2012


“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” ~John XXIII

What do Daniel and the lions' den and Blessed John XXIII and Vatican II have to do with each other?  Daniel and Pope John both had a whole lot of trust in our Lord.  Trust with His plans for their lives, trust for their safety, trust that His opinion of them was the only one that mattered...the list goes on.  Below is a link to a discussion guide for a youth group lesson on trust using these two men as examples.  Throw in a fun trust game, like a trust fall or blind man's trust walk, (and some snacks!) and you have a ready made youth group meeting. 



“The torch of our faith has been given to us not to delight our eyes but to enkindle the torches of our fellow men.” -Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


Something that we all need.  Something that much of our culture has lost.

In this youth group lesson, the topic of Discipleship is taught using Mary as an example.   I explain to kids that discipleship involves "sitting at the feet of" someone.  You learn from their words and actions, you live the way they live, you emulate what they believe.  Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Christ.  She "pondered all these things in her heart" and told us to "do whatever he tells you."

Click below for a discussion guide about the heart of discipleship as well as Mary's role in Salvation History.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Go Bishop Go

Listening to this podcast has been on my to-do list for a couple of days, and I am now sorry that I waited so long.

On Saturday, hundreds of men gathered at the Cathedral in Peoria for the Annual Men's March.  Bishop Daniel Jenky addressed them in his homily, and took the last line of the Gospel from Mass “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” as a springboard to connect the disciples' reactions in the days following Easter, the spread of the early Church, and the battle that Christians are fighting today.

He spared no words and and held nothing back in describing the seriousness of the situation Catholics and other Christians are facing in America right now.  President Obama and his plan for health care are in serious violation of First Amendment rights, religious liberty, and moral standards. 

Bishop Jenky said these words about our current political situation:

"For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.
The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism.
And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.
The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.
May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.
As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction."

Go, Jenky, Go!

The Bishop was honest about the possibilities we are facing, and the battle that we are fighting:

"Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral." 

But he concluded:
"We have nothing to fear, but we have a world to win for him. We have nothing to fear, for we have an eternal destiny in heaven. We have nothing to fear, though the earth may quake, kingdoms may rise and fall, demons may rage, but St. Michael the Archangel, and all the hosts of heaven, fight on our behalf.
No matter what happens in this passing moment, at the end of time and history, our God is God and Jesus is Lord, forever and ever.
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ wins! Christ reigns! Christ commands!"

The full text of the article can be found here:

And you can listen to the homily here:


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Seemingly Unconnected List

Here's a list of random for you, with a small thread of connection trailing through...

1.  I had a great time this weekend at a cookout with a couple of families from my church.  We spent the end of the evening gathered around two long tables playing some serious games of Apples to Apples.  There were a lot of people, and we only got through two rounds because both lasted over an hour.  The surprise?  I won…both rounds, despite some tough competition.  I probably am a little too proud of this accomplishment.

2.  At that same cookout, we had a conversation about scary movies.  I used to like watching scary movies at sleepovers in my Junior High days, but I just can’t handle today’s scary movies like Saw, The Ring, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.  There was a very clear difference in opinion during this conversation between the kids (middle and high schoolers) and the adults.  The adults were with me.  On the other hand, the kids are ok with staying up all night wetting their pants as they watch yet another pretty girl be dismembered by flesh eating monsters.  I blame this conversation for the nightmare I had last night.  I was pregnant (?) and was being pursued by zombies.  At a critical moment, just as I was about to have my brain sucked out by a nasty looking dude, I stopped him by holding out my hand and yelling, “At the name of Christ, be gone!”  He promptly blew up, but I was protected from the gore by an invisible magic shield.  I was then taken into protective custody by a Bishop.  No big deal.

3.  I would hate to give anyone crazy nightmares like me.  I should have put a disclaimer on number two for all my non-scary-movie watching friends, like Bonnie.  Speaking of Bonnie, we will be at the same JJ Heller/Audrey Assad concert later this week.  Usually, when people go to a concert, they hope to hear their favorite song, right?  Well, Bonnie didn’t just hope- she took the matter into her own hands.  She wrote this blog post, and then used Facebook and Twitter to contact JJ Heller to see if she would sing My Savior’s Love Endures.  AND JJ SAID YES.  Rock on, Bonnie.
4. The last time I went to Bonnie’s house, it was a beautiful day for a drive.  I enjoy the back-roads way that I get to her house, and I happened to have a little small town entertainment this time.  How is this sign for redundancy?  

I would love to know the story behind this sign.  Did they really think that their sharpie-on-cardboard creation is more convincing than the red-reflective-legal sign?  Maybe it is because they say please...oh excuse me, PLZ.
No, this was not taken in Oh-Henry, which I think is the cardboard sign capital of the world.  My favorite Oh-Henry Cardboard sign was stapled to the stop sign at a main intersection and read “Nik-Nak and J-Dog’s Baby Shower, this way!”  Awesome.  I hope that they named their daughter Kit-Cat.

5. Speaking of driving, I had an interesting experience a couple of nights ago.  I was driving home after/during a thunderstorm.  There was some debris on the road, things like small branches and leaves.  I was driving carefully, but hadn’t seen anything to worry about, until I saw a strange looking lump in the middle of the road.  I couldn’t tell what it was, so I moved so it would pass under my car instead of under my tires.  But, at the last second, the lump MOVED.  The move looked like a hop.  And I discovered too late that the lump was a very large frog.  A frog makes a surprisingly large THUMP against the undercarriage of a car.  (sorry to any frog lovers)  I was surprised, but then I kept seeing more lumps that started hopping.  They were everywhere- frogs hopping onto the road, frogs crossing the road, frogs hanging out in the middle of the road.  I have never seen so many frogs at one time.  I decided that I had a few choices.

A. Pull over and wait for the mass frog migration to conclude, thus preventing any more casualties.

B. Look at this as a kind of reverse Frogger in which my challenge is to drive down the road while dodging frogs, instead of the traditional frog crossing road dodging cars.

C. Break the speed limit getting home so that I can find myself an unblemished lamb and a sprig of hyssop, because if the Plagues are starting up again, I need to be ready for the Passover and a New Exodus.

 I chose a combination of B and C.

How’s that for a list of random? Has anything random happened to you lately?

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Get the Most out of Mass

Recently at the Young Adult Bible Study that I am a part of we, watched the 7th episode of Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Project.  It was all about the liturgy.  You can watch part of it here. (Click on the panel to the right to choose the episode.)

We have great discussions with this group, and the night we watched that video was no exception.  Because we were running a little late, so we started with one topic that we thought would be meaningful but quick.  It turned out to be awesome, and I am glad that I decided to start writing down the suggestions.  I’d like to share them with you.

The topic:  What are some practical tips that help you get the most out of Mass?

We talked first about we don’t go to Mass to “get,” we go to worship.  However, effort on our part to enter fully into the liturgy can be life changing.

Here’s the list, complete with catchy bylines.  I think that this would be a great list to share with Confirmation classes and Youth Groups, not just adults.  (And although this was a group of Catholics talking about the Mass, I imagine that many of these would apply to Protestants and their Sunday worship services, also.)

1. Be Prepared
Think about how much preparation you put into daily actions.  Getting ready for a job interview...Hosting a party in your home...Making decisions about a fantasy football league...Packing for a vacation...Now imagine the King of the Universe was coming to your local church for a visit later this week.  Would you prepare?  Yes! But, we don't have to imagine...the King of Heaven and Earth is at every Mass.  Put effort into your preparation accordingly.
2. Get This
Get some kind of publication that has the Mass readings, prayers, and reflections in it.  Magnificat, Living with Christ, and Word Among Us were a few that were mentioned.  Use it to read the Mass readings ahead of time, or to read them on weekdays when you can’t get to Daily Mass.  The reflections also come in handy during a boring homily.  Just kidding.  If you don’t want to spend the money to subscribe to one of those, you could always ask your pastor if the church has any extra missalettes.  It is not recommended to just steal one out of the pews, however.
3. There’s an App for That
Another way to not have to spend the money on something like the Magnificat is to use online resources.  The USCCB has all of the readings, etc. on its website.  There are also Apps for smart phones so you can always have the resources at your fingertips.
4. Follow Along
There is a beautiful rhythm to the Liturgy, not only in the Liturgical Year, but within each Mass. Follow along in the resources provided by the church or in some kind of publication like in #2.  Bring your Bible and read the readings straight from it so you can understand more of the context and see the continuation of the story from Mass to Mass.  Spend time becoming more familiar with the Mass; where the prayers come from, the symbolism behind everything, the Biblical origins of the words and actions.  You can't love something unless you know it.  Know the Mass=Love the Mass.
5. Get There Early 
One of the quickest ways to throw off your focus is to be late.  We speak from experience.  You will be more ready to enter into worship if you can calmly walk into church and have time to kneel and pray before the Mass begins.  You can gather your thoughts and place them all before God, your worries and frustrations, your thanksgivings and petitions.  You can review the readings.  You can decide on a personal intention for the Mass.  Things always go better if you are there a little early.  (Now, a note for those that this is really hard for- those with small kids, those who have far to travel, those who are involved at ministries that require your attention before Mass starts- If getting to Mass early just is not going to happen, be more intentional about your preparation earlier in the week or even the night before.)
6. Show Up
When all else fails, show up.  Simply being in the presence of the Lord (instead of at home with the covers over your head) is an act of worship on your part.  Be there.  Our relationship with Christ is never about us finding Him, but Him pursuing us.  So sit back, and let Him woo you.
7. First and Last
Mother Theresa advised priests to celebrate each Mass as if it was their first Mass and their last Mass.  The laity can look at it the same way- Receive the Eucharist each Mass with the enthusiasm of our first time and the devotion of our last time. 
8. Why were you ever out?
Coaches use lots of motivational sayings to inspire their sports teams.   One that makes a great analogy to Mass is that winning a game is an all time thing, not a one time thing.  Worship is an all time thing, not a one time thing.  If you shut off worship when you leave the church at 8:59 a.m. on Sunday, and don't turn it back on until 7:58 a.m. the following week, there is a problem.  Worship should be like breathing- you should never be "out."
9. Why are you bored? 
Bored is an overused term in our society.  Why are you bored?  If you have done steps #1-8, you will not be bored.  We don't remember Acts 2:42 saying "They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and prayers AND the amazing technicolored light show and phenomenal music set."  Nor do we remember in Luke 24 Jesus revealing himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus through opening the Scriptures, breaking the Bread, and performing an awesome liturgical dance.  Our expectations of "entertainment" need to change.  We are not there to receive, but to give.
10. Where are you going?
Don’t go sneaking out after Communion.  You have five more minutes.  
Remember, Judas left early too.
11. Everything Flows From Sunday
Sunday is not the end of the week.  It is the first day of the week, and it deserves to be seen as such.  Instead spending a chunk of Sunday dreading Monday, start looking at Sunday as the point from which every other day flows, your source of strength for the week.
12. It’s for Him
This should be the overarching theme. 
"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness." ~Psalm 29:2

Here's a link to a pdf of the list of twelve:

Do you have any other suggestions to share about entering more fully into the Mass or your worship services?

Keeping the Sabbath #18

Sorry for the late post- no internet access makes things interesting :)
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
~John 20:26-29

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hello World

Hello World!
Long time no see.

While my lack of posting during Holy Week was intentional, my lack of posting this week was not.
I have been busy.
  • With family.
  • And friends.
  • And working.
  • And crafting.
  • And cleaning. Scratch that.  I should have been busier cleaning.  My apartment is a mess a disaster.

But  I have material for you.
  • Random stories from small towns.
  • New craft creations.
  • Youth group lessons to share.
  • And new religious education ideas for you.
 I'll be back next week!  See you soon :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #17

Alleluia!  Happy Easter!  I hope you had a great day celebrating our Lord's Resurrection!

I attended our church's Vigil Mass last night.  I love Easter Vigil.  If I have anything to say about it, I plan to go to one every year for the rest of my life.  The church starts dark, quiet, and empty.  It is slowly lit by candles.  The church becomes bright, the altar is dressed, flowers are brought in.  Bells and incense bring all of our senses into worship.  Then the singing begins.  Oh, the singing, and the chanting, and the responses.  It is so powerful.  I love singing the Alleluia again after 40 days of waiting.  I love hearing the story of salvation history through the reading from the Old and New Testament.  I love being inspired by the message of the homily (my pastor's was great, btw.) I love witnessing the desire of adults who come to be baptized, and renewing my baptismal promises right along with them.  I love watching the eager anticipation of the catechumens desiring full initiation into the Church through Confirmation.  I love it all.

Instead of the seven usual parts of my Keeping the Sabbath post, you get a song and the text below.  This is the beginning of the very long Easter Proclamation chanted just after we fill the church with candle light.  The line that struck me over and over last night was "This is the night." We start the Easter vigil with a dark, silent church reminiscent of the the first Easter vigil.  Closed tomb, body inside, silent waiting.  We end the Easter Vigil celebrating the "dawn" bringing with it an empty tomb and abundant hope.  "This is the night" reminds me of the four questions asked at a Jewish Seder meal- What makes this night different from all other nights?
This night is different.  This night showed us the power of our Savior.  This night was the fulfillment of all God's promises.  This night is the manifestation of our faith.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire
destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin
and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night when Jesus Christ
broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave
you gave away your Son.

Happy Easter!