Categories
Books Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa

What to Read for Lent 2021

The pandemic led to my being able to read even more than usual during 2020 and with Lent quickly approaching I have a lovely list of books to add to those I’ve recommended here in the past. Behold your Lent worthy reading list for 2021:

Non-Fiction

Impossible Marriages Redeemed: They Didn’t End Their Story in the Middle is Leila Miller’s follow up to her eye-opening expose of true accounts from children of divorce: Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak. In this new work, Leila compiled the stories of broken marriages which leaned into the redemptive power of the faith and were healed as well as several submissions from folks who continue to “stand” for their sacramental marriage in-spite of being abandoned by a spouse. 

The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones by Maggie Green was written based on her own experiences with children who have fallen away from the faith. Like Saint Monica, mothers are called to pray without ceasing and wait upon the Lord. This book was an immense help to me as I continue to pray, hope, and wait on my own wayward children.

Have you struggled with low spirits, anxiety, or depression? Has it taken a toll on your progress in your spiritual life? Dan Burke’s Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits may be the help you need in discerning how the enemy may be attacking you and actively preventing you from growing spiritually.

In February of 2019 the Pew Research Center released the results of a study showing that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had dropped to an alarming 30% of self-identified Catholics. In response to this obvious decline in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written a beautiful and concise answer for how Catholics can reestablish a firm belief in and veneration for the Holy Eucharist in The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety.

I recently finished Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St.Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer by Peter Thomas Rohrbach. It is by far the best book I’ve ever read on mental prayer and walks the reader through several variations for maintaining a relationship and real conversation with Christ. It is one I will keep constantly on hand for reference for years to come.

Fiction

After the difficulties and realities of the last year, a little escape from contemplating the current state of the world might be in order. I am a huge fan of interspersing fiction amongst the spiritual and informative works I normally read. I especially appreciate anything written with a Catholic worldview and there are many authors who have successfully written beautiful, enjoyable works of fiction with Catholic themes.

Sigrid Undset is by far my favorite Catholic author. She was a convert to Catholicism in the 20th Century who interwove Catholic themes throughout her works. 

My personal favorite novel, Kristen Lavransdatter, is a medieval Scandinavian saga which earned Undset the Nobel Prize for Literature. The trilogy follows Kristen from childhood through late adulthood—daughter, wife, and mother in Catholic Norway. 

The tetralogy, Master of Hestviken, Undset’s second medieval Scandinavian offering is not as well known but is also very enjoyable. This work explores many of the same themes but from the point of view of Olav Audunsson an orphan betrothed to the daughter of his adoptive father. 

The Wild Orchid/The Burning Bush set in the mid-20th century Norway is the story of Paul Selmer, who grows up in an enlightened household and shocks his entire family when he chooses to convert to Catholicism as an adult. As with many of Undset’s novels, marital fidelity and self-sacrifice are strong, underlying themes.

Several years ago I picked up Undset’s Ida Elisabeth and found, for one reason or another, I could not make it past the first chapter. Early in 2020 a friend finished reading this work and declared it to be one of her favorites. I am so glad she did as it led to my finally finishing this beautiful novel. Once again, the consequences of sin, marital fidelity, forgiveness, and grace flow throughout this work. 

While not personally a Catholic, some of Willa Cather’s works are very Catholic and well worth including on a list of Catholic fictional works.

Shadows on the Rock is a sweet work, set in colonial New France close on the heels of the martyrdom of North American saints such as Saints Jean LaLand Rene Groupil. The story is written from the point of view of pious 12 year old Cecile Auclair. In her mastery of vivid language, Cather paints a beautiful picture of 17th century life in remote and barely settled Quebec.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, also by Cather, tells the story of Father Jean Marie Latour. Having been appointed the Apostolic Vicar of New Mexico Father Latour travels his vast, desert mission territory shepherding his flock and spreading the gospel over the span of 40 years. This compelling character, fraught with the loneliness and gravity of his task, advances his mission by degrees in the manner of a gentle, faithful, and resourceful saint. 

Father Bryan Houghton was a well known convert to Catholicism in the mid-20th Century. Not long after converting the entire Church was rocked by the sweeping changes to the liturgy on the heels of Vatican II. Personally, I have often wondered how people actually felt as their churches were renovated and the Mass changed almost overnight. Father Houghton wrote a beautiful and touching fictional account which explores this subject in Judith’s Marriage.

On my list for Lent

Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri is a short and lovely companion to bring for a weekly Holy Hour.

Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture by Sheila Liaugminas. I recently listened to a conversation between Sheila Liaugminas and Jason Jones on his popular podcast. Intrigued, I had to pick up her book on protecting the first principles of the absolute human rights to life, dignity, and equality.

The next two on my list were recommended by our parish priest as worthy spiritual reading: Sayings of the Desert Fathers and On How to Accept and Love the Will of God and His Divine Providence by Saint Alphonsus Maria Ligouri

The Sinners Guide by Venerable Lous of Granada was a favorite of Saint Teresa of Avila. I feel anything recommended by Saint Teresa needs to be on everyone’s “must read” list. Am I right?

Are you reading anything inspiring this Lent? Share your picks in the comments.

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

The 2019 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Resources

The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Booklist for Families

Categories
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

Categories
Confession Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Liturgical Year Maurisa Purgatory Sacraments

Remember Your Death

In the span of one month this past winter, three people I care very much about lost their fathers unexpectedly. The degree to which each was prepared for death varied greatly. Being spiritually prepared for our own or for a loved one’s death is not something we discuss frequently, if at all, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, being properly prepared for death can make all the difference when it comes to the Four Last Things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

What can you do to prepare your own soul for death?

  • Remain in a state of grace by avoiding mortal sin, making use of frequent confession, and frequent, worthy reception of the Eucharist.
  • Pray for a holy death, asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron of a happy death and of the Blessed Mother who we invoke with every Hail Mary—“pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
  • Commit to the Nine First Fridays Devotion, availing oneself of confession if needed for worthy reception of communion, attending Mass nine first Fridays in a row and receiving Holy Communion. One of the promises of fulfilling this commitment is the grace of final penitence so that one dies in a state of grace.
  • To the extent that you are able, draw close to your priest and discuss what you desire in the way of a “prepared death.”
  • Make clear funeral plans and plans for Masses to be said after your death. Make sure your family knows in detail your wishes.

What can you do to prepare loved ones for death?

  • Discuss all of the above with your loved ones, especially if they are faithfully practicing Catholics. Get a clear idea of their desires and needs when it comes to preparing for death.
  • Pray fervently for the conversion of your loved ones who are outside the faith. You can even offer your Nine First Fridays on their behalf.
  • Get a priest to them as soon as possible if death is immanent or even a possibility. This is a real responsibility. Your loved one’s soul is at stake and as much as we hope they have prepared themselves for the inevitability, nothing can replace what a priest can do for a soul near death.

What should you do after the fact?

  • First of all you should assume nothing—neither canonize nor condemn your loved one.
  • Have Masses said for them.
  • Enroll them in the Seraphic Mass Association or a similar society who offers frequent or perpetual masses for the dead. Have a Traditional Requiem Mass said, if possible.
  • Continue to pray for the soul of your loved one. Our Lady gave the following prayer to the Fatima children. She promised it would be particularly efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in the most need of Thy mercy.”

This month remember your death. Let us give appropriate time, thought, and prayer focused upon our own mortality and state of our souls. May we meet our death in a state of preparation and grace.


Originally, I had written this post for this past Lent and then the world turned completely upside down. It just didn’t seem to be a truly appropriate time to publish it, especially since many of us were completely deprived of the sacraments and the recommendations I gave in this post are pretty reliant on access to the sacraments. I know there are still many who have limited access to confession and getting a priest into a hospital remains a real obstacle, but much of the information provided is so very important. You may need to forcefully advocate for your loved one with the hospital, your priest, or even the diocese to get what is needed. Just remember, your loved one’s soul may very much depend upon it.

Resources:

5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays

What is the Apostolic Pardon?

Seraphic Mass Association

Memento Mori Devotional

A Prayer for a Holy Death

What Every Catholic Needs to Know About the Four Last Things

On Commendation of the Soul and Expiration

God’s Final Act of Mercy: A Reminder to Remember the Faithful Departed This November

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Martina Prayer

Creative Ways to Lean Into Holy Week (When You Don’t Feel Like You Can)

I don’t know about you, friend, but this has been about the Lentiest Lent ever. Who knew at the beginning of Lent that we’d all be home Sunday after Sunday watching live-streamed Mass from our respective parishes – or even taking a tour around the world to watch live-streamed Masses from other places. Certainly not me. While our Faith is universal and the beauty of that connectedness now more than ever realized when we visit other churches during their Mass times, it does not make up for the fact that we are hurting for and with Jesus. We crave worship with Jesus in His house and partaking of Him – Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity. While we continue to wait for the outcome of this virus and its effects on our society, now more than ever we can lean into some creative ways to walk with Jesus this Holy Week. Let’s jump right in and see what’s going on around the Catholic blogging world for ways we can embrace our walking the way of Calvary.

While this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it also isn’t meant to exhaust you. Pick one to do or read or watch. Do what you can. I certainly don’t want this to feel like you should do all the things. Do you have any links to add that we’ve missed? Share in the comments with us!

Comfort Reading & Activities

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

O Lord, as we gaze upon You nailed to the cross, we wonder why God chose this path for our redemption. Why did there have to be such pain? Why such gore and brutality? Why did You have to go through betrayal, mockery, and emptiness? Why did the Father have to forsake You in the hour of Your greatest need?

Jesus, the mystery of suffering is hard for us to grasp. We will understand it fully in eternity, but we do know some things now. We know that You chose to be lifted up on a cross out of love for us. We know that suffering purifies us, that, if borne with fortitude and patience, it leads us to gratitude and a greater love for You. Because our sins cause others to suffer, suffering can make reparation for the sins we commit, if we join them to Your Sacrifice. In every situation where we cry with bewilderment, “why?”, God answers us with a vision of Your Passion. Help us to enter deeply into the mystery of Your suffering and death this day, and to listen what You say to us in our hearts. Amen.

Holy Saturday

The Lord’s Descent into Hell (A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday)

“What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.”

Prayer

Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with him in baptism, may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.

(We make our prayer) through our Lord. 

(Through Christ our Lord.)

Categories
Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa Reading

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

Two years ago Catholic Sistas provided The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Book List for Families. I’ve done a lot of reading since then and felt we could use an updated list of worthy spiritual reading for this Lent. This time our reading list is especially targeted to intrigue you, dear Sistas.

My number one pick for this Lent is the classic by Saint Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. I spent several months reading this gem during my weekly hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. 20 plus years a Catholic and I’d never read this book before. It completely changed my spiritual life. If you are searching for inspiration in becoming as holy as God Wills you to be according to your state in life this book is the perfect fit.

I recently finished reading Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age which is a published, extensive interview of my current hero, Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Diane Montagna. The book includes an impressive biography of the bishop who lived through the persecution of the Church behind the Iron Curtain and then proceeds in examining the many issues facing the Church today, including the numerous scandals and deep confusion we are currently experiencing. Not only does Bishop Schneider examine the crises, he offers concrete solutions. He’s an inspiring contemporary figure in the Church today and his interview left me feeling very hopeful about the future of the Church.

Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a fictional conversation imagined by Peter Kreeft. I really enjoyed the idea of this book written as if three of my childhood heroes were discussing the reality of the Eucharist. As an adolescent I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals in my home town. I always admired him and if Peter Kreeft got it right, I was able to somewhat understand his misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Of course, I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien and had no difficulty picturing their contributions to the fictional dialogue. As a Catholic, this experiment of Dr. Kreeft’s helped solidify my belief and understanding of the Real Presence.

We had an unusual influx of visitors to our home this past year. Our dear friends from Maryland, who are godparents to one of our younger boys, were able to come and stay for a long weekend. While visiting, my friend Debbie, was reading Overcoming Sinful Anger: How to Master Your Emotions and Bring Peace to Your Life by Rev. T.G. Morrow. She left her copy behind for me and I read through it quite quickly. This is definitely a book to keep in your home library, especially when you or a family member is struggling with anger, as many of us do from time to time.

I oversee a Catholic women’s book club and this year we read the popular Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe. This is another little book to keep ever present in your home library. It is an extremely valuable spiritual work to have on hand in especial times of turmoil, distress, and anxiety.

Another work our book club read was You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean. I loved this book devoted to Old Testament women and their stories. Danielle’s writing style is very accessible and relevant to today’s woman. I loved her take on each of the stories and how she related their lessons to episodes in her own life.

After hearing an interview with Dr. Carrie Gress on Patrick Coffin’s podcast regarding her book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminism, I went on a Carrie Gress kick and had to read most every book she’d written. Before diving into her book The Anti-Mary Exposed, I recommend you start with her The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. I also highly recommend Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood, especially for moms of younger children. I really wish I’d read that one when I was a young mom, but I did give it to my adult daughter who is a brand new mom to my first grand baby and she found a great amount of wisdom in her reading of it. Bonus: My two youngest boys did their Marian Consecration last May using her Marian Consecration for Children which was simple enough for our first communicant and challenging enough for our confirmand.

Danielle Bean interviewed prolific Marian author Marge Steinhage Fenelon on a recent episode of her Girlfriends podcast. Inspired by her most recent book, My Queen, My Mother–A Living Novena, I researched and wrote a piece for Catholic Sistas filled with Marian pilgrimages one could make right here in the United States. I also read her powerful Forgiving Mother–A Marian Novena of Forgiveness and Peace. Part autobiography and part devotional to Our Blessed Mother, I found it to be an extremely valuable read even though I do not have a particularly strained relationship with my own mother.

Another of my very favorite books from this past year was The Priests We Need to Save the Church by my new friend Kevin Wells. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview which was published here in December 2019. While his target audience is priests and bishops, Kevin’s book has tremendous potential for inspiring the laity to embrace the “universal call to holiness.”

In the next few days I’ll be finishing up Jay W. Richards’ newest book–Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul–A Christian Guide to Fasting. Dr. Richards (PhD in philosophy and theology) explores the history of fasting and how it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. He then goes on to encourage a return to a regiment of intermittent and long term fasting for physical as well as spiritual health. The book lays out a 46 day plan for preparing your body for longer fasts by putting it into a state of ketosis–a method which he promises will make fasting much easier without sacrificing the spiritual element. Being a true Catholic, Richards does not neglect addressing the spiritual value of feasting after the fast. With Lent upon our heels, I personally wanted to step-up my fasting and penance and this book may really help prepare the way.

What am I reading this Lent?

I have three spiritual works on my list this year.

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

What are you reading this Lent?

I love seeing what other Sistas are reading. Share your Lenten reading choices with us in the combox.

–Note: I provided links for each of the listed books. As far as I was able I linked to author websites or to Catholic merchants.