What the Assumption means for you

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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

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

Ignatian Discernment Found In Homeboy Industries

One of the important charisms that St. Igantius of Loyola brought through his spiritual insights is the notion of finding God in all  things.  In anticipation of the founder of the Society of Jesus’ feast day, the website Find Your Inner Iggy is s running a series of stories about finding God in unlikely places.

The text was written by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. who discerned his spiritual mission working with the poor and outcast in Los Angeles.  The language may be earthy but by keeping it real, it demonstrates the miracle of finding God in unlikely places.

Louie finished his 18-month training program with us at Homeboy Industries. A gang member and drug dealer, he was tattooed and had a long prison record.

“I was disguised as that guy,” he told me once.

He was now thriving in the new job we found him. He texted me one day: “My little fridge just died. Can you help me get a new one?” I text back: “Sears at 4:00.” He responds: “Got it. Beers at 4:00.” When I arrive at the Sears Appliance section, Louie spots me, gallops over, and gives me a bear hug. “Have they called security on your ass yet?’ “Nope,” he says, “but it’s just a matter of time.” We buy a small refrigerator on lay-away, and I drive him to his small, humble apartment.

Before he gets out, he says, “Can I tell you something, G?” He pauses. “Lately… I’ve been havin’ a lot a’ one-on-ones … you know… with God. And … the Dude shows up.”

I chuckle a little, but he is quite serious. He turns to me, “Now why would he do that?” His tears make a get-away, and he can barely speak. “I mean … after all the shit I’ve done … why would He do that?

While it is good that Louie is getting some one-on-ones with the Divine Dude, he missed out on a key insight which those who take the 30 day Ignatian silent retreat should learn.  Much like a spiritual drill sergeant, the Ignatian retreat breaks you down by reminding you of your own sin but in the end build you up by emphasizing that God loves our imperfect selves. But appreciating this unconditional love can tattoo the heart  and can draw us to build the kingdom of God. 
Fr. Boyle began Homeboy Industries in 1992 to help parolees and former gang members lead a better life by finding honest work.  Homeboy Industries does mental health counseling, education  tattoo removal,  and employment services. 

In 2011, Fr. Boyle wrote a book Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (2011) in which the ghetto Jesuit distilled twenty years of his experience into faith filled parables centering on how we could live full lives if we could find the joy of loving others and in being loved unconditionally. 
It is amazing where we can find the divine if we only look lovingly.

Pray for Me : The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope From the America’s

This week at the Catholic Book Blogger I reviewed the book Pray for Me by Robert Moynihan. You can find the review for the book here. I also had the pleasure to interview the author Robert Moynihan. That was a fantastic interview and can be found here. Lastly you can enter my weekly giveaway for a chance to your own copy of Pray for Me. Enter Here.

Drawn to Eternal Truths–"The Truth Is Out There" Comic

A cloistered Eastern Rite  Catholic monk drew upon his lifelong love of comics to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Amadeus, the nom de plum of the author who is part of the Maronite Monks of The Most Holy Trinity  in Petersham, Massachusetts, penned the short graphic novel “The Truth Is Out There” (2013) to explain the truths of the faith in an understandable manner.

The germ for the graphic novel was based on a conversation that the author had prior to entering the monastery with several cradle Catholics who were born and raised in the faith.  As they conversed, Amadeus realized how little any of them knew the faith.  He concluded that the ignorance of this splendor of truth was a stumbling block for his generation of Catholics.

“The Truth Is Out There” depicts two space aged mail carriers discussing life, the universe and everything at a coffee bar.  As the protagonists Brendon and Eric  contemplate the right path to truth and true happiness , one finds his answers ensconced in the Catholic Church.

Although Amadeus seeks to educate readers, since the characters start at the very beginning readers do not have to possess any faith to appreciate the thoughful ideas which they will encounter.  “The Truth Is Out There” seems to avoid shallow and syrupy characterizations typical of Christian media. And the plot allows the space aged couriers to put their coffee house principles to the test in the real “world”.

The author Amadeus had a lifelong love of comics and was inspired by the “Adventures of Tintin”.  His love of drafting prompted him to become an aerospace engineer.  Yet  in 2003, he answered the call to become a contemplative monk, so Amadeus  tried to put those illustration influences aside for his vocation of Eucharistic Adoration as well as praying the Divine Office and the Divine Liturgy.

Maronite Monks in worship

Amadeus found that: “[T]he moment I entered the silence of the cloister, it was like my head was flooded with cartoons. It was nonstop: I just had all these great ideas.”  With much mortification, Amadeus put the project off for a couple of years.  But Amadeus wanted to share the riches of Truth in philosophy and theology which he had discerned in his life as a contemplative monk.

Initially, Amadeus thought of sharing these insights in an illustrated letter, copying the traditions of illuminated manuscripts.  But he found that too boring and decided to do a series of comic strips because that is what he does best. Amadeus opined that: “The harder an idea is, the more helpful it is to draw it out.”

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI proclaimed this liturgical year to be the Year of Faith.  While it celebrated the Golden Anniversary of the start of the Vatican II Council, it also embraced Pope Blessed John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization.  The New Evangelization is meant to repropose the Gospel to those who have heard and forgotten the Good News as well as to those never exposed to the Christian message.

Even though a cloistered Maronite Monk seems like an unlikely messenger for a contemporary call to faith via pop art, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.  Bishop Gregory Mansour, of the Maronite Eparchy of Brooklyn, wrote that :

[S]omehow the words ‘comic book’ and ‘intellectually challenging’ don’t usually go together, but they do in ‘The Truth is Out There’ by Amadeus…Thank you, Amadeus, for presenting the journey from the prison walls of our mind to the exhilarating freedom of the truth in such an exciting way.
While comics are not my favored medium of entertainment or education, if a graphic novel can inspire other readers to see that “The Truth Is Out There” and contemplate eternal truths, that’s wonderful.

h/t: Catholic News Agency

God calls you to holy poverty

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When Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) was bishop of Krakow, friends used to buy him new cassocks, which he would promptly give to poor priests in his diocese. He would continue wearing his old, worn-out cassock. In doing so, he imitated Christ, who “for your sake made Himself poor though He was rich, so that you might become rich by His poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9).” Not only those who take religious vows, but all of us are called to this evangelical (Gospel) poverty.

In the world, people avoid poverty. The Bible, however, blesses the poor and celebrates the virtues of the poor in spirit. The widow who was destitute gave generously to the temple; the rich young man “went away sad,” because he could not give up his many possessions to follow Christ.

When we have too many possessions, we easily become attached to them and place our trust in our own resources, rather than relying on God. Our many earthly concerns distract us from heavenly matters. We find it difficult to advance in holiness.

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth

This week we have another great giveaway at The Catholic Book Blogger I would like to share with you. One lucky winner will receive a copy of the book The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth by Saint Mary’s Press.Head on over to the blog by clicking here to enter. While there also check out my review of the book…..its a good one!