Everyday Meditations by Bl John Henry Newman

This week at The Catholic Book Blogger, I have a great little book to give away. Sophia Institute Press is sponsoring this weeks giveaway and one lucky winner gets a copy of this book. Small in size, and a total of 166 pages, this book can easily be carried with you and used in a variety of settings. It would work well for daily prayer or Eucharistic Adoration. Any manner in which it is used will certainly help you grow spiritually.
Click here to see contest details and for a link to my full review.

Reconsidering the Assumption

The Dormition of the Theotokis by Svitozar Nenyuk

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the feast when the Church commemorates Mary’s assumption of body and soul into heaven. As the young Immaculate Virgin said yes to God’s call, her body was the first temple for the Son of God. Catholics believe that Mary’s holy body now enjoys full union with her Son in eternal glory.

Taylor Marshall wrote an interesting essay “Did the Virgin Mary Die?  The Answer May Surprise You” which sought to use art, iconography and writings of the Early Church Fathers to clear up any ambiguities from Pope Venerable Pius XII’s dogmatic declaration  Munificentissimus Deus (1950). Marshall concluded that Mary was laid in the tomb and hear death when her soul was detached from her earthly body but that her Assumption from living a sinless life that was totally oriented towards Christ that the Lord allowed for the Assumption of her body into heaven.  Moreover, Marshall concluded that sin Mary died without sin that she was given dominion over Purgatory as prophesized in Ecclesiastes 24. 

Orthodox Christianity also revere the end of Mary’s life on earth. In the Eastern Churches, The Dormition of the Theotokis or, to use more contemporary parlance, “the Falling Asleep of the God-bearer” is sn as a transformation of Mary’s life into a heavenly and immortal existence without the shadows of gloom or death.

There is a persistent legend among Orthodox Christian believers that all of the disciples, save Thomas who was preaching in India, were present for Mary’s dormition and burial. These disciples were said to guard the tomb for three days. On the third day, Thomas saw Mary’s body rising to heaven. Mary greeted him as “My friend” as Thomas was escorted by angels to proclaim the assumption. This tradition echos the Church of Jerusalem’s sense that Mary’s dormition had a deep sense of the resurrection.

Marshall’s musing that Mary’s death involved separation of her soul from her body as well as appreciating the Assumption compliments the Eastern Christian’s notions of the Dormition of Mary. 

Sola Scriptura Protestants probably have problems with theology premised on this Dormition tradition, particularly on practices not christologically focused. However, the Early Church clearly revered this dormition/assumption before the scriptural canon was determined. The solemnity is not a quasi-deitization of Mary but a recognition of her place in salvific history and points to Christ.

Pope Francis meets with Coptic Orthodox Pope  Tawadros II

One of the lesser appreciated virtues of Vatican II is for the Roman Catholic Church to appreciate the riches from the Eastern Church. It is worth noting that when Pope Francis (as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio) was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he also acted as the Ordinary of the Eastern Rite Catholics in the region. Cardinal Bergoligio was known for trying to close the 1000 year estrangement with the Orthodox Christianity and advocated on behalf of the Orthodox while in dialogue with the Argentine government. So it would not be surprising if Pope Francis’ papacy features more appreciation of the riches of Christian faith from the East.

Prayer for the Assumption of Mary
Father in heaven,
all creation rightly gives you praise,
for all life and all holiness come from you.
In the plan of your wisdom
she who bore the Christ in her womb
was raised body and soul in glory to be with him in heaven.
May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness
and join in her hymn of endless love and praise.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

What the Assumption means for you

File:Virgin Mary - Diego Velazquez.jpg
August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, a Holy Day of Obligation. We celebrate the fact that God took Mary bodily into Heaven. But why did the Church make this a feast? Why is it important for your life?

Mary shows us our destiny Unlike Christ, Mary was a mere human to whom God gave special graces. When Jesus took His mother into Heaven, body and soul, He showed us what is in store for those who die in a state of grace.  At the end of time, He will raise us bodily from the dead. The faithful will have glorified bodies in Heaven. We will not be ghosts for all eternity. We will be complete, perfect versions of ourselves. This is one reason prayers like the Salve Regina call Mary our “hope.”

Mary shows us our purpose God made us to be united with Him in love. In her death, bodily resurrection, and Assumption, Mary embraced Christ’s mission. Since she was free from original and actual sin, Mary did not have to die. The Church has not defined infallibly that Mary died, but the general consensus of Church Fathers, along with the Church’s Liturgy, teaches that she did. In choosing to follow her Son’s example as closely as possible, she most likely chose to participate in our redemption through dying like He did.

God calls us to be conformed to Christ as well. We must die because of original sin. However, we can unite our suffering and death to Christ’s and help to advance the salvation of the world. We can also choose to die to ourselves in the course of ordinary events.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Educate your kids for divine union

File:Anton Francesco dello Scheggia - The Seven Virtues - Google Art Project.jpg

Through prayer and study, I’ve created a list of the elements of an education that I think best starts children on this road. Divine union comes through living a life of prayer and virtue. So, generally speaking, we want to teach about prayer and virtue, model them, and practice them with our children. But we also want a home and a school environment that is conducive to prayer and virtuous living.

Prayer requires leisure The Greek work schole, from which “school” comes, means “not-at-work time.” In classical society, school was a leisure activity, a pursuit of wisdom that had little to do with the workaday world. The truest education is free or liberal. It is not “useful” in a utilitarian sense. It is not servile. It is learning about things that are valuable in themselves, rather than means to obtain what we desire.

I wrote about leisure’s importance several months ago. Besides the suggestions you can read in my previous post, teach your kids to have an attitude of openness to learning and to God. Humility is one of the most important virtues to cultivate. Teach them to ask, seek, and knock. Show them that learning is a lifetime venture. Only God has all the answers. Continue learning yourself, especially about the faith. Model awe. Teach your children proper respect.

Try to bring these fundamental questions to each subject: What is man? What is my purpose in life? Discuss them in math, science, literature, art–even physical education. Orient everything towards our highest good.

Contrary to the notion popular in our culture, leisure is not the same thing as entertainment. True leisure never leaves us as spectators. It requires us to participate with our minds, hearts, or bodies. True leisure is time to think, to imagine, and to love. For kids especially, that also means time to play.

Continue reading at  Contemplative Homeschool.

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman

Today’s readings contain the Gospel reading, Matthew 15: 21-28, which is one that I am afraid is a bit hard for my modern sensibilities.  I feel for the woman, who is clearly an outsider, and I feel for her poor daughter. This woman goes to Jesus, mindful of the cultural walls that should have made her mission impossible (remember what Deuteronomy says about Canaanites!), yet,still, she seeks Him.
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, ‘Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is tormented by a demon.’  But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her”If I am entirely honest, the silent response of Jesus as this woman pleads for her daughter really bothers me.  It is a terror in my soul not to be noticed by the beloved, to seek Him and not have him respond.  But this woman remains undaunted, she continues to cry out to Jesus! Was His silence a non-response?  Even the disciples want Jesus to respond to her:
“Jesus’s disciples came and asked  him ‘send her away for she keeps calling out after us.’  He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  But the woman came and did Him homage, saying, ‘Lord help me.’  He said in reply, ‘It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.’  She said, ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’  Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.’  And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”First he is silent, and then he reminds her that she is not one of the children, in fact, she is a dog.  My modern, and very superficial and thin-skinned sensibilities are insulted for this woman!.  I really want to explain that Jesus really did not mean to call her a dog.  I want to imagine he was smiling and winking at her when he said this, knowing that he was really going to teach the disciples a thing or two about inclusiveness.

  Or maybe I don’t.  Maybe it is in facing down the hard truths about ourselves, without fear and in absolute humility that the full height and depth of the Gospel can penetrate to the darkest and most desolate areas in our soul. And maybe His silence isn’t rejection, maybe it is in the dark night of His silence that the deeper truth of my need for Him, and my longing for Him are more fully revealed.  He draws forth from me the desire for His mercy because, in the light of His justice and truth, all is revealed.  But these are hard to endure, and sometimes I would rather choose blindness to truth.

 This woman comes to Jesus in absolute honesty,  about who she is and where she stands in light of the Truth as He stands before her.  It is her words and actions that indicate that.  In the passages before this story, Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus explains that evil in the heart of a person is what defiles a person, and leaves them blind, like the Pharisees who cannot see that disobeying a commandment of God is far worse than not following a tradition that has been handed down by their elders.  They are offended by Jesus identifying their neglect of the commandments and in their pride they are blinded and do recognize truth when they are confronted with it.  They refuse His justice, so they refuse His mercy.

 There is much to admire in the Canaanite woman’s courage to seek Jesus, and her faith to keep on seeking him for the sake of her daughter. I am also drawn to her humility and her lack of presumption. She knows where she stands and in knowing that she avails herself fully to His mercy.  And in her perseverance to seek the Lord, she helps all of us to see in His light, and all is revealed.  No superficiality or blind arrogance will be tolerated, not if you want to receive the fullness of His healing.
God’s peace and grace be with all of you!
Heidi Knofczynski, Journey to Wisdom 

Everyone can be a saint

 The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of The Little Flower    -             By: St. Therese of Lisieux

I’ve been re-reading St. Therese’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul. Almost at the beginning she writes about her view of the “world of souls” as a flower garden. She is one little flower in it, surrounded by others. Each has its own size, color, strength, and beauty.

“[God] has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.”

It’s easy to have spiritual envy. We read about the graces God gave St. Therese and think, “That’s not fair. Why didn’t He give such graces to me? I’d like to be a saint too.”
But notice that Therese does not mention any soul in God’s garden who was not made to be a saint–just greater and lesser saints. We all have different graces, but we are all called to be saints.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Our Eyes on the Light

In today’s readings the Lord God admonished, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor’rah is great
and their sin is very grave”, He would go down and see for Himself with an intent to destroy the evil city. We all know what happened next – Abraham incrementally asked for mercy for the sake of fifty righteous citizens, then 40 and so on – all the way down to 10. Due to the persistence of Abraham, God answered that he would reserve punishment, saying “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it”.

When we look to the state of affairs in today’s society, it’s no stretch to see some similarities with Sodom and Gomor’rah and our times. Rampant promiscuity, abortion, same sex ‘marriage’ – we have it all. And the numbers of faithful appear to be ever dwindling. Yet we all know people who live their lives in Christ-like love and service. We, ourselves try to model ourselves after the saints and live lives pleasing to God. Sometimes it feels lonely to be a part of the few – when the world at large seems to be so contrary to what we believe. It’s vital, then, to take our cues from God and not man. If we keep our eyes on the Light and strive for Eternal life, we will find our way to heaven. Hopefully we will also serve as an encouragement to others.

Teach your kids the one thing necessary

Are you teaching your kids to do mental prayer? I’ve written about this in the past with a few examples  of kids’ meditations. Today I’m sharing with you a meditation for kids about… mental prayer.

You may want to print this out.

File:Georg Friedrich Stettner (attr) Christus im Hause der Martha.jpg
1. Read aloud to your children Luke 10:38-42, using your favorite children’s Bible. This is the Gospel from last Sunday, so they should recognize it.
2. Study the painting above. (It’s Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, attributed to Georg Friedrich Stettner). Ask them to identify the people in the painting. Discuss the painting in this manner: “Martha and Mary are both holding something. What do you think those objects are? What does each represent? (Mary is reading the Bible. This represents meditating on Sacred Scripture. Martha is holding a duck, symbolizing being busy with household tasks.) Who are the other people in the picture? What are they doing? How many people appear to have been listening to Jesus? (Only Mary does.) Does Mary look disturbed by what Martha is saying? (No, she looks peaceful.)
3. Discuss: Why do you think the artist filled the foreground of the picture with food? (To show how much work Martha had to do or had been doing.) Do you think Martha was doing something important? (Yes, Jesus and His disciples needed to eat.) What could she have done differently so she could sit and listen to Jesus too? (She could have made a simpler meal.)
4. Remind your children of the Feeding of the 5000. How much food did Jesus need to feed all those people? (5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.) Do you think Martha needed to work all day to cook for Jesus? (Probably not, because He could have fed them miraculously, as He had done before.) Why do you think Martha was working so hard? (She was probably trying to show Jesus how much she loved Him by making Him a great meal.)

Continue reading at  Contemplative Homeschool.