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Advent Domestic Church Liturgical Year Maurisa The Latin Mass

3 Devotions for Advent

Advent is such a beautiful season of anticipation and preparation. There are so many wonderful saints to celebrate and devotions to practice.  Over the years we’ve observed the passage of Advent using the Jesse Tree and an Advent Calendar. We’ve joyfully celebrated the feasts of Saint Nicholas, Saint Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Immaculate Conception. My family loves the traditions associated with each of these devotions. As I’ve learned more about many of the older, lesser known traditions we’ve added more to our Advent observances.  Three absolutely lovely traditional devotions are observing the Advent Ember Days, attending a special advent mass dedicated to Our Lady called a Rorate Mass, and praying the ancient O Antiphons before our evening family rosary.

Ember Days

Basically, Ember Days occur four times a year and roughly coincide with the change of seasons. The Ember Days of Advent fall the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following Saint Lucy’s feast on December 13th. Ember Days are marked by voluntary, partial fast and abstinence from meat (full abstinence on Friday, of course) as penance, by prayerful gratitude for God’s abundant gifts, and in especial prayer for the priesthood.  If you have access to a Traditional Latin Mass parish you can attend mass in which the Ember Days are particularly observed in the readings and propers for the day. For a more in-depth look at the observance of Ember Days, check out the link at the end of this post to an article I wrote for Catholic Sistas a few years ago.

Rorate Mass

A special mass found only in the Extraordinary Form is the Rorate Caeli Mass or Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Advent. It honors the Blessed Mother as the vessel which bore the Light of the World. Celebrated in the early morning before dawn and lit only by candlelight the church progressively grows brighter as the sun begins to rise. The symbolism of awaiting the dawn and arrival of the Light of the World is palpable. What a lovely way to honor Our Lady and what a deeply transcendent way to celebrate Advent meaningfully. I attended my first Rorate Mass last Advent. It was so incredibly peaceful and breathtakingly beautiful. With the times we are living in, if you are blessed enough to have access to a Traditional Latin Mass parish this devotion is definitely one with potential to raise your observance of Advent to a new level.

O Antiphons

Praying the O Antiphons on the days leading up to Christmas Eve is probably the easiest and most accessible of the three devotions to implement. Over a thousand years old, the O Antiphons are the seven antiphons recited preceding the Magnificat during Vespers. They are so named because each antiphon begins with “O”—O Sapientia (Wisdom), O Adonai (Lord), O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (Key of David), O Oriens (Rising sun), O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel (God with Us).  You may recognize each of the 7 titles of the Messiah from the familiar Advent hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel

You can easily pray the O Antiphons at home with your family. Beginning on December 17th and ending on December 23rd recite the appropriate O Antiphon, then the Magnificat, and then the O Antiphon once again. Family Feast and Feria has a lovely free printable prayer booklet you can download to assist in observing this beautiful devotion. For your little ones; Look to Him and Be Radiant has coloring pages for each of the O Antiphons. It’s a wonderful devotion that draws us into the mystery and prophesies of Christ.

If you end up adopting one of these traditional devotions this Advent, let us know in the comments. May you and your families have a most blessed and fruitful Advent and may you be well prepared to welcome the Christ Child into your hearts and homes this Christmas.

References and Resources

What are Ember Days

Rorate Caeli Masses in Honor of Our Lady

Praying the O Antiphons

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Faith Formation Mass

Mass, How I’ve Missed You

Mass How I've Missed You

I went to Mass for the first time in three months recently. Masks were on, every other pew was strategically roped off, parishioners obediently sat six feet apart. Meanwhile, hymnal boxes sat empty, holy water had been replaced with hand sanitizer, and not one paper bulletin could be found. 

I prayed quietly for a few minutes before I noticed the elderly lady two rows in front of me looking around to make sure no one saw her lower her mask to gasp for fresh air. Key West is not the place you want to be sitting with something covering your face for an hour in sweltering heat and humidity. I felt her pain.

Even with the church being only a quarter of the way full, it was eerily silent. No hushed salutations from one family to the next or chatter from fidgety children as one might expect on a typical Sunday morning. In fact, there were no small children present at all, including my own. 

After several prolonged moments of silently observing the sterile basilica, bells began to toll. It was time to begin. The organist welcomed in the masked lectors and altar servers, followed by the priest from the side of the sanctuary. She belted out approximately one verse of the opening hymn before my vision blurred with hot tears. It had been too long. 

There’s a lot to be learned from a global pandemic that leaves the whole world cooped up for months on end. Along with so many things, one revelation became abundantly clear: Mass is underappreciated.

The Church is a People, Not a Building.

When the quarantine began, my friends on social media bemoaned not being able to worship together. I shared in their heartache. Coming together as a community to praise, give thanks, and petition the Lord at the start of each week is vital for believers. It’s as necessary as taking a shower in the morning or doing the dishes in the evening. 

Not being able to do these things in a particularly tense period only makes the uncertainty of current events all the scarier.

Like all things that people take for granted, I didn’t realize how good it was to be able to go to church until I no longer could. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been lulled into a drunken state of complacency over the past thirty years. One in which being able to bear witness to my faith every Sunday in the safety of my parish walls had left me spoiled and lazy. 

If there was one silver lining to be found in being forced to spend Sundays at home, though, it was getting the opportunity to pause and consider the heart of what we as Christians truly believe. We don’t congregate for social purposes. We don’t do it for entertainment or investment opportunities or personal gain. We do it to maintain a relationship with God. And you don’t need a building to do that.

By taking the only way I knew how to worship away, the pandemic left me with no choice but to be more intentional with how I was going to keep Sunday holy, or abandon it altogether. The decision was clear, but not easy.

How would I worship Christ without a priest holding my hand every step of the way? What would motivate me to sing loudly, pray earnestly, or dress for the Lord when my neighbors weren’t there to bear witness to it? 

Social distancing had presented a big, shiny mirror up to my heart and the reflection staring back at me wasn’t always pretty. 

We are Physical Beings. Our Worship Should Be, Too.

The quarantine had proven that I didn’t need a building to worship God, but it sure does help. 

Gathering my family together to pray the rosary, watch Mass online, or read the Bible was fruitful in so many ways. Striving to deliberately keep Sundays sacred is beautiful, but it made me miss the concrete reminders of my faith that I can only find in a church all the more.

It brought to mind the time a friend who’d fallen away from the Church questioned why Catholic churches insist on being so ornate. 

“Are the elaborate stain-glassed windows, gold chalices, and expensive statues really necessary? Wouldn’t God be happier with people worshipping in a simple building and using the extra money to help someone instead?” His question was sincere, but misguided.

What he didn’t realize was that all of those “extra” things help far more people on a weekly basis than the money used to buy them would’ve been able to had they been spent on food or clothing for the needy. Those beautiful, elaborate decorations not only bring glory to God, but they help remind countless people of him constantly when they are in his presence. Each statue, window, symbol, and image draw people’s short attention spans back to the reason they came to church in the first place: Jesus. 

Are these elements essential to encounter the Risen Lord? No. Are they beneficial? Absolutely.

Mass engages all five of the senses; that’s not a coincidence. Humans are physical beings as much as we are spiritual. It’s as necessary as ever that we worship as such.

Celebrating Christ in the living room had been nice, but I needed more. I want to smell the incense, taste the bread and wine, see the beautiful images that lift my mind to heaven. I need to feel my neighbor’s hand at the sign of peace, hear the uplifting music, and kneel in adoration before the Eucharist. None of these things are accidental. It’s the way God intended worship to be: spiritual and physical.

These are experiences that we simply cannot have alone in our living rooms day in and day out. They can only be found in Mass.

If that’s not essential, what is?

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Antonia Goddard Ink Slingers Mass Prayer

Five Reasons to Wear a Veil (and Five Not to…)

Five Reasons to Wear a Veil

I’ve been a Catholic for a whopping twenty-five years, but only for the last two of them have I been choosing to wear a mantilla or chapel veil when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Whilst veiling is becoming an increasingly popular decision among young Catholic women, my journey to the mantilla has been far from easy. Everyone, it seems, has their own opinion on whether or not I should cover my head, what it signifies, whether it improves my relationship with God.

Let’s get one thing straight. The only people who should be involved in your decision to wear the mantilla are you and God. That’s it. But for those of you who – like me – were on the fence about veiling for many years, let’s explore some reasons why – or why not – women choose to veil.

Reasons to Wear a Veil

  1.  It reminds you that you’re in God’s house. When I was dating my husband, we used to meet on a bridge between our houses and walk down to Mass together. This being a town in the north of England, it was usually freezing and frequently snowing, so we’d walk wrapped up in coats, scarves and hats – which, of course, he removed on entering the church. It was his way of saying, I am in God’s home now. I, however, had no such symbolic action, and felt marginally guilty that I had no way of expressing my respect in such a way. + Wearing a veil allows me to take a moment at the back of the church to acknowledge that I have just entered Christ’s presence, and to show Him the respect and honour He deserves.
  2. To focus your attention on the altar. I’m a chronic people-watcher, and it’s a bad habit – especially during Mass. Wearing a long mantilla with sides that drape around my face helps me to keep my attention focussed on the altar. I can’t peer left or right without actively turning my head, which serves to stop my eyes and mind wandering when I ought to be praying, attending, or responding. I can’t claim it’s a miracle cure, but it’s helping me remember where I am and why I am there, and in that respect, is important.
  3. The sanctity of womanhood. Next time you’re in a church, take a glance around you at what is veiled. The tabernacle. The altar. Perhaps even the whole sanctuary has a canopy? Veiling has long been used in the Catholic Church not to conceal what is beneath, but to distinguish it as Holy. + Women play a vital and sacred role in the Church in our role as mothers and life-givers. Veiling distinguishes us from the men in this regard, and reminds us of our vocations. Whatever vocational path God has cut for you, we are all called to embrace our role first and foremost as members of His Church. Just as a bride wears a veil on her wedding day, so we wear a veil before Christ, the first Bridegroom.
  4. Following the tradition of thousands of years. Perhaps it’s a hangover from my History degree, but I particularly enjoy connecting myself to the more traditional aspects of Catholicism. The Church’s teachings and traditions define and shape many aspects of Catholicism, and head coverings are a significant part of this. Early Christian women would never have been seen in public, far less in a church, without their hair covered by a scarf, hat, or veil. In wearing the mantilla, we are following the path of thousands of saints and women who have gone before us, joining our prayers to theirs.
  5. Mary veiled. Take a look at any picture of Our Lady, and she will almost certainly be wearing a veil. From the Annunciation to the Crucifixion, she may be wearing a lacy mantilla, a thick shawl, a hijab-style covering, a silken scarf, but she is almost never depicted as bare-headed. As Catholic women we are called to imitate Mary, and veiling was one of the ways we, too, can indicate our obedience to God – embracing Mary’s Yes rather than Eve’s No.

Reasons Not to Veil

  1.  They’re pretty. Yes, mantillas are gorgeous! They appear now in every colour of the rainbow, with a huge variety of laces, patterns, and styles – from tiny kerchiefs to draping shawls. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty of a mantilla, or cooing over different designs, but if the main reason for you choosing to wear one is the prettiness of the lace, I’d encourage you to take a step back. + Whilst mantillas can, do, and should enhance women’s natural beauty, we should not be wearing colourful mantillas to draw attention, to take pride in our beauty, and to the distraction of others. Only you can say where the line falls for you, but when materialism is your primary concern in decision-making, it’s time for a rethink.
  2.  To prove your piety. Mantillas are more commonly worn by more traditional Catholics, usually at a Latin or Old Rite Mass – although as they grow in popularity, they are often seen now among younger women at Novus Ordo churches too. Whilst the majority of women who veil consider it a deeply personal decision, I have come across one or two who have looked down on others for choosing not to wear a mantilla, considering them to be less pious or less faithful Catholics. Wearing a mantilla does not make you any ‘better’ a Catholic than anyone else, it does not prove your piety, it does not give your prayers more kudos with God. And if it reaches the stage of judging other women for their decision not to veil, I encourage you to take it off and spend a few Sundays bareheaded.
  3.  If it becomes a distraction. The constant adjustments and re-adjustments, fidgeting with the ends, the desperate grab to try and keep the stupid thing on your head! Wearing a veil can be a pain at times and isn’t always the easiest thing to keep balanced, especially if you have babies or toddlers who are at the grab-and-pull-anything age. If you find yourself fidgeting awkwardly with the veil or re-adjusting it hundreds of times throughout the Mass, you’ll need to either pin it firmly to your hair or ignore it altogether. The veil should never become more of a hindrance to your prayers than a help.
  4.  You don’t want to. Some women aren’t comfortable with wearing a head covering, particularly if they would be the only one. It took me several years before I was comfortable wearing the mantilla at a Novus Ordo Mass, or where I’d be the only one – and this is fine! However, if you’re worried about the opinion of others, remember that this is a decision between you and God – no-one else should come into it.
  5. To cover up. This is a curious last point. Most religions that require women to cover their heads or hair do so because women’s hair is considered a private or sexual part of the body, to be concealed in the presence of the opposite sex. But the mantilla is different; its role is to highlight, not conceal. This is often indicated by the fact that mantillas are often lacy or transparent – the aim is not to cover the hair or conceal the head, but to show respect. + That’s not to say that modest dress has no role to play in how we should dress for Mass, but rather the mantilla is not a requirement for modest dress.

Ultimately, only you can decide whether or not to wear a mantilla, and this article only scratches the surface of the different reasons why women choose, or do not choose, to cover their heads. If you’ve never worn a veil before, or it’s just not ‘something people do’ in your parish, I encourage you to give it a go! If you’re nervous about veiling on your own, see if you can find a mantilla buddy – you may find that you’re not the only one who has been thinking about it.

It took me a while before I was confident wearing my mantilla at Novus Ordo masses, or when I was the only one – but now, I’d feel strange without it. I veil for God, to show the respect I have for Him and His Church – but I also veil for myself, to prepare myself for Mass and to help keep my prayerful focus. In doing so, I have taught myself not to care what others think of my dress code or personal choices, and come to love God in my prayers all the more.

 

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Ink Slingers Lynette Mass Prayer Respect Life

She Wasn’t Invisible

She Wasn't Invisible

It was my usual Saturday morning routine – a quick stop at Wawa on my way to the mental health support group meeting I lead to splurge on my favorite coffee (hazelnut with hazelnut creamer and a touch of sugar – a/k/a hot ice cream). As I stood at the coffee bar perfecting my brew, I noticed a woman outside sitting alone, her head bowed, crying. She was wearing black sweatpants and a black hooded ski-type jacket that was fully zipped and velcroed up tight, exposing only her eyes and nose. I stood there stirring my coffee, frozen momentarily by the duality of my thoughts – one side persuading, “see if she’s ok” – the other side dissuading, “you don’t have the time.”

“Do you see any marshmallows?” I was abruptly jarred out of my mental dilemma. I glanced at the young man looking inquisitively at me from the other side of the coffee bar. “Oh, sorry, no…”  As he expounded on the wonders of mini marshmallows in coffee, my gaze drifted back to the woman. How many had noticed her? Not sure what I was looking for in response, I stated, “I couldn’t help but notice that woman sitting there.  She’s quite upset.” He turned to look at her. “Yeah, she’s really crying.” Again, I voiced my thoughts, “I’ve been debating whether to approach her,” I said, “but I’ve got a meeting in 15 min.” He nodded with understanding, “That’s a tough one.”

I made my way to the cashier, paid for my coffee, walked out the door, and somehow convinced myself to walk toward her. Hands shoved deep inside her jacket pockets, she glanced up for only a brief second when I stopped to stand next to her. A half-full black garbage bag, presumably with her belongings, lay at her feet. “Are you ok?” I asked. “Yes, m’am,” she quietly said, head downcast. I hesitated. “Are you sure?” “Yes, m’am.” Was there nothing she needed? “Ok,” I said, not believing her, “I hope you have a nice day.”

I slowly walked back to my van, feeling that I was somehow missing something. As I got in and shut the door, the homily our pastor had just given the Sunday before came back to me. He had recounted how, on one very cold, rainy day, he had helped a woman who was standing outside of a 7-11, a tattered suitcase beside her, soaking wet from spending the night on the beach. Seeing and listening to her needs, he went and secured a hotel room for her for the next two days. Then, he went on to tell us, the very next day, he baptized a baby at Mass, and afterwards the father of the child gave him an envelope – inside was the exact amount he had paid the hotel for the woman’s room.  He related the story to us, he said, not to pat himself on the back, nor to say that in every instance will we get such clear affirmation from God. But, if we want to see the face of Jesus or hear His voice in our life, he said we need only to look and listen to the faces and voices of the people who cross our path in daily life. “God comes to us disguised as our life.” (Richard Rohr) These type of “God moments” of listening and responding are not just reserved for the clergy or people who spend a lot of time in church, but are there for each of us. Father’s closing words, “Listen, see, respond by taking action, then share your God moments with one another,” pointed the way for me, just as Eli had pointed out the way for Samuel and Andrew had pointed out the way for Simon (Peter).

Without hesitation, I reached into my wallet and took out the cash I had. As I walked back to her, she seemed surprised and perhaps a little annoyed that I was approaching her again after she had told me she was ok. She put her head down as I stretched out my hand with the folded bills and asked, “Will you accept this?” She slowly nodded and looked up at me as she took the money in her hand. It has been said the eyes are the windows to the soul. I only held her gaze for less than a minute, but the look in her eyes could have written a novel. I will never know her story, but I could see and feel her fear, her loneliness, her beaten down spirit…and, her true gratitude. Putting my hand on her shoulder, I said, “Thank you, and may God bless your day.” Without waiting for her to respond, I turned and walked away, knowing I had found the missing piece in my response.

Like my pastor, I am not sharing this “God moment” to toot my own horn. God knows, approaching her was way outside of my comfort zone.  It would have been far easier to have gone ignorantly on my way without engaging her. She could have reacted in a thousand different ways, some perhaps unpleasant.  In the past, I would have instantly pushed aside any inspiration to offer her money, judgmentally presupposing what she was going to do with it. This time I saw, I listened to that interior prompting, and I responded by taking action as I felt I was being called to do.

I have often wondered about her. What was her story? Untreated mental illness, domestic problems, drug addiction, prostitution, a transient on the move, just a fluke of circumstances? A million possibilities.  But that day, her life’s story touched mine as well as the story of that young man at the coffee bar. How we were each affected is as different and individual as we bothare. The young man may have felt sympathy for her situation, but it was empathy – being able to place myself in her shoes – that drove me past my own discomfort to reach out to her,  As for the woman, I can only pray that she knew, in those moments, that she wasn’t invisible and that her life mattered to someone.

Our pastor was right. “God moments” are present in the little and big events of our lives every day – in our families, our co-workers, our friends, and even strangers. They are an opportunity for us to hear and answer God’s call, allowing Him to work through us to touch humanity in ways we could never do without His grace. And those “God moments” need to be shared, allowing us all to see God working in each other’s lives. God, in His Divine Providence, gave me the grace to see, hear, and respond to a woman crying outside a Wawa on a chilly Saturday morning. Those few moments have touched my life in a spiritually profound way (and Wawa coffee will never be the same…).  As I sit here writing this, somehow it doesn’t surprise me He knew I would be inspired to write about her, uniting her story to those who would be inspired to read this and who will perhaps be moved to pray for her as I often do.

“Give me your eyes for just one second

Give me your eyes so I can see,

Everything that I keep missing,

Give your love for humanity.

Give me your arms for the broken-hearted

The ones that are far beyond my reach.

Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.

Give me Your eyes so I can see.”

 

Give Me Your Eyes, Brandon Heath

 

Categories
Antonia Goddard Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Prayer

Confessions of a Mass-Hopper

Confessions of a Mass-Hopper

“It’s a crisis of Catholicism,” the priest insisted, “Mass-hopping is ruining our churches.”

He had a point. Young Catholics are more transient than ever, hopping between different rented accommodation (in London, this can be as often as every few months, when the rent gets hiked). Each move requires finding a new church, a new congregation, and squeezing the new Mass times around a busy schedule. This trend is only set to worsen, as more households than ever live in unsettled or impermanent tenancies.

It’s so easy to see what’s lost in a nation of Mass hoppers. Building a strong, positive, Catholic community to draw new families to God is harder than ever when your congregation swells or shrinks week on week, with few – if any – core worshippers to hold the fort. When the faces in the congregation are new and unfamiliar each week, it’s harder to foster the sense of loving welcome we should feel when entering Christ’s home. It can be tough, too, on parish priests, who are often reliant on their regulars to fill the reading rota or serve.

However, I found myself increasingly disagreeing as the priest condemned Mass-hoppers for failing in their obligation to assist in building a Catholic community around the church they attended. Of course there are negatives, but to dismiss Mass-hopping altogether as a scourge on the faith would be shortsighted. Not only should we be praising them for attending in the first place – despite unstable lifestyles and transience and all the challenges that come with frequent home moves – but we miss out on all the joys that Mass-hoppers can bring to a congregation of faithful.

Scratch the surface of Mass-hopping, and there are plenty of silver linings. Mass-hoppers bring fresh faces to the congregation, new ideas, and a change of scenery. Priests and parishes can’t afford to let things go stale when they have a new crowd to impress each week. For the Mass-hoppers themselves, the opportunity to hear new priests, hear new ideas, and pray in different ways should not be undervalued. Even hearing Mass in another language can be a joy, as having to think through the prayers and mentally translate everything breaks us out of the habit of reciting without praying.

My husband and I, before we were married, were among the more frequent Mass-hoppers. Shifting between university and homes across three different countries meant that we rarely heard the same priest twice, and got used to attending Mass on the hoof: a quick Google usually showed up the nearest churches with Masses in the next hour. We heard wonderful ideas from inspiring new priests, taught each other to pray the Hail Mary in German and Italian, and more often than not one of us had to translate the homily for the other on the way home. I paid greater attention, knowing that I’d have to remember the lessons and translate them into English as soon as we’d left the doors.

Finally married and settled, we are loving becoming part of a strong parish community, getting to know our priests, and attending the same Mass every Sunday. But to any and all Mass-hoppers who walk through the door, I for one will welcome them with open arms. Let’s see the joys and opportunities for everyone who partakes in Christ’s sacrifice.