Are you living a contemplative life?

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Two Girls Praying By Emil Munier

Are you a contemplative? Some people, faced with this question, would answer an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Perhaps they are saints, at a high stage of union with God. Or perhaps they practice Eastern (as in Hindu or Buddhist) forms of meditation that they equate with contemplation. Some would call themselves contemplative because they are thoughtful and quiet. The rest of us might answer, “No.” Since we are not saints, we wouldn’t dare think of ourselves as contemplatives in the proper sense.

Nevertheless, everyone, no matter his stage in the spiritual journey or his vocation, can live a contemplative life.

A contemplative life is a life ordered toward union with GodIf you have read The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, you know Teresa divides the spiritual life into seven stages, which she called mansions.  (To be completely accurate, she says that a soul goes back and forth among these stages, rather than proceeding from one to the next in a straight line.) Supernatural contemplation begins in the third or fourth mansion. But contemplative living can begin at our first conversion, even in childhood. Contemplative living prepares us to receive God’s gift of supernatural contemplation.

Read the rest at  Contemplative Homeschool.

Appreciating Advent Through Art for the First Week on Advent

Detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (1512)

Today is the start of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. It also marks the first Sunday of Advent for the Latin Church (other Eastern Churches started a fortnight beforehand). In our secular society, we can be tricked into thinking that the Advent calendar is only a countdown for Christmas shopping.  But scripture during Advent reminds us of the dual nature of the season:  to prepare for the cyclical celebration of Our Lord’s birth as well as Parousia (the Second Coming). 

The Lectionary during Cycle A features Isaiah’s prophetic vision (IS 2:1-5) when God reigns Supreme and swords are hammered into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, a professor of liturgy at Loyola University in New Orleans, uses a detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to illustrate the scripture.  

The Gospel (MT 24:37-44) alludes to the Second Coming where Jesus exhorts the faithful to be prepared as Noah was for the Flood.  This is sobering “Good News” but it should help lead us with our walk with the Lord, especially in this period of preparation.  

The Isaiah panel on the Sistine Chapel prompts a ponderous thought. Zsupan-Jerome wondered if position of Noah’s Ark about Isaiah prompted the prophet to think  of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark landed, as he handed the vision of God’s Holy Mountain? This would lend the aspiration that man should seek God’s holy mountain to, borrowing a phrase from the Responsorial Psalm (PS 122), “dwell in the House of the Lord.”

The Noahide Covenant established that the Lord would not destroy humanity through a flood. The Messiah’s admonition to be prepared has some soothing subtexts rather than relying upon our own inadequate righteousness. The name Jesus can be translated to “Yahweh Saves”.  Moreover, the Lord so loved the world, He sent His only son to be born of this world in all things but sin and be an intregal part of our salvific history. 

As we come into this season of  devout and joyful expectation, it would behoove us to consider the nuances, hermaneutics and deeper meanings of Advent, as expressed through art, scripture and the easily overlooked holiday trappings.  

h/t:  Loyola Press 

Advent activites for your family

D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.

D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.

Advent is here and with it our six-week break from homeschooling. Instead of doing school work, we do an activity each day preparing for Christmas. Some are distinctly religious. Others are not. Here are some ideas for activities you can do with your family.

Learn and sing Advent hymns 
Sunday at Mass, D was amazed that I knew many of the verses of O Come, O Come, Emanuel by heart. Well, that was the only Advent hymn I learned in Catholic school, and I don’t recall singing any other one at Mass in the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until I started praying the Divine Office as an adult that I learned some of the beautiful hymns I had been missing. Here are some you will want to learn along with your kids, if you don’t know them already:
People, Look East. This song by poet Eleanor Farjeon helps you to see all the preparations for Christmas–including setting a merry  table–as preparations for Christ. This is a good one to start your Advent.Wake, Awake, the Night is DyingCome, Thou Long-Expected JesusO Come, O Come Emanuel.  Sing this one beginning December 17, when the Church prays the O Antiphons.Behold, a Rose of Judah. My personal favorite for Advent, save this one for the last week or two before Christmas.
Read the rest of the ideas at Contemplative Homeschool.

Meditation for kids: the thankful leper

File:CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers.jpg  Instructions for Parents I recommend that you meditate on Luke 17:11-19 in your own prayer time before presenting it to your kids. If you’re not sure how to do this, look at last Thanksgiving’s meditation. Talk to the Lord about it from your heart. Ask Him to teach you to be truly grateful, and to lead your children towards thankfulness.

Next, read and discuss the passage with your children. Use your favorite children’s Bible. Define any words they may not know. (I have highlighted some words in the meditation you may want to define before praying with them.)

Choose one or two of the optional activities at the end of this post to help them dig deeper into the meaning of the passage.

Finally, read the meditation aloud to them, pausing for several seconds to a couple of minutes after each of the first two paragraphs. Ask them to repeat the final prayer after you, sentence by sentence.
This meditation works best with children ages seven to ten. For younger or older children, see the variations. It is especially appropriate for those making their First Confession this year.

 Read the meditation at Contemplative Homeschool.

Harvesting Pope Francis's Call for Peace In Syria

Italian artist Dario Gambarin took six hours to plow the likeness of Pope Francis in his parents field in Castargnaro, Italy.

The artist chose Pope Francis as a subject as Mr. Gambarin was inspired by the Pontiff’s call for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on September 7th

Field Artist Dario Gambarin 

Gambarin relies on his innate sense of proportion and his tractor driving capabilities to create his field art.   The image can only really be appreciated when flying near Verona. 

This type of art is deleted after a few days so the field can be cultivated for the new sowing of seed. 

May this act of artisinal agriculture remind us that “Love Liberates” as the world prays for peace in Syria. 

h/t: The Telegraph

[originally posted on DC-LausDeo.US]

Lord, I am not worthy…

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Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

This response at Mass seems to me to sum up the whole spiritual life. It provides wonderful material for meditation.

I am not worthyOn my own, I cannot please God. I can only vaguely know His character. He had to reveal Himself to me through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church. He gave me parents who were loving enough to have me baptized and teach me the faith. He continues to show me His design for my life. All this is a pure gift which I could not merit.

But I have found the Christian life to be a constant battle. I fall every day. I repent, make resolutions to be good, then sin again. God’s purity is so beyond me. His holiness is a burning fire that I would never dare approach.

Except…

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

DO WE TRUST MORE IN THE POWER OF GOD OR THE DEVIL?

Mary Crushes Satan – We cannot allow fear of the devil and deception to be stronger than our trust in God’s Mercy and Grace. Fear freezes us, often preventing the inner spiritual journey that leads to fullness of life in Christ. 

As Catholics, we are often leery of personal revelation. Of course we should be cautious but what are we so worried about? The Church protects us with the gift of confession, the mystical tradition of the Church, spiritual direction and encourages us to study the bible. All theses tools act as personal sign posts and safe guards. Like all  Christians, Catholics  have received the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth.
Why don’t we, as Catholics,  give the Holy Spirit permission to do His job? The Holy Spirit is our inner Companion who leads us; we do not  live in fear of  spiritual revelations. Many of God the Father’s children are so afraid that the devil will lead them astray, they do not even listen to His interior whispers of love. Surely we trust more in God  the Almighty, ruler of heaven and earth than a mere fallen angel?
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13
What a conundrum in the Body of Christ. I cannot helping feeling sorry for our Lord as I observe the discord between His children. Catholics mistrust revelations of other Christians and Protestants often think that Catholics are open to the occult by praying to Mary and the Saints. They even wonder if we are  saved! Let’s not behave like arrogant Pharisees but humbly trust solely in God to lead and teach us as His children and leave condemnation to the Evil One.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
III. THE GIFTS AND FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.
Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ
Often  Christians must simply acknowledge that we cannot intellectually grasp all heavenly mysteries. We  choose to continue our walk in, with, and through the Holy Spirit, trusting in God without fear of making a mistake. We cannot allow fear of the devil and deception to be stronger than our trust in God’s Mercy and Grace. Fear freezes us, often preventing the inner spiritual journey that leads to fullness of life in Christ. Trust me, I know what fear can do to a person. Now I realize that God the Father will bring me into the light; He will lead me into all truth.
I once attended a retreat where a Madonna House priest, actually Archbishop Raya, the Archbishop of Lebanon, said something like this:
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because Jesus will wash you clean and then tell you to go play again. He does not say, “Stand in the corner and don’t you dare get dirty again.” Just like a mother, he bathes a dirty child and then tells him to go outside and play again.
Trust more in God’s power to guide than the Devil’s to deceive.

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.