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Here I am, Lord…Broken

Here I am Lord Broken

“That next day I sat in Adoration for an hour. Instead of reading or writing, I just sat there staring at the Blessed Sacrament, fixated on it as a life source. I was all out of ideas. I wasout of energy. I was losing hope. Something far stronger than me had its grip on my son.” ~ My 13th Station, memoir

When I was young I naively believed that all I needed in preparation for the big bad world was a college degree, a solid resume, and a little luck. As a poorly catechized Catholic, I was never taught the immense richness and beauty of the faith, nor did I learn about the essential need for forming an intimate bond with Jesus. These concepts were simply foreign to me growing up. I eventually left the Church at age 18 to spend the next twenty-two years flailing about—getting that college education and building my resume while living the cycle of sin.

At age 40 I came limping back to the Church, tail between my legs. Life had humbled me. A powerful hunger for knowledge about the Church of my heritage launched a years-long process of self-teaching. I devoured books as if they might evaporate before I could finish them, such was the sense of urgency. I gobbled up books on the Saints, writings of the Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, Scripture, and became pretty well-versed at apologetics. I was on fire.

It was during these early years after returning to the Church, about twenty years ago, that I discovered Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget entering that dim little chapel and immediately, instinctively, falling to my knees in front of Jesus, present there in the
Blessed Sacrament. Thus began a deep love for spending quiet, special time with Our Lord in Adoration.

Who knew that these weekly visits would become my number one most important survival tool? It was as if Jesus timed my discovery of Adoration just in time for the exceedingly difficult years that would follow, unknown to me of course. I looked forward to my Wednesday evening “dates” with Jesus with such devotion and love in my heart. I began journaling while I sat there immersed in the warmth of His graces. Over the years I filled multiple journals with the details of my faith journey. I jotted down gushing passages about my children, as well as sorrowful entries about my crumbling marriage, while in His loving embrace.

For a few years there I gave up my weekly commitment and just popped in to the chapel at will. Funny, because looking back it is clear that those were the years that I should have committed to several hours per week. The wheels had come off. Spiritual warfare raged in my home, my marriage ended, and my dear son was overcome suddenly with depression at age 19.

Throughout the six years that my boy battled depression and, subsequently, alcoholism, I relied on just about every tool the Church provided. I found sources of strength in a daily rosary, Adoration, intercessory prayers, novenas. Still, my son’s illness worsened and his life began to unravel. I would go to that little Adoration chapel seeking solace from the Source of all graces, relishing those times when I was alone in the room with him so I would just wail and cry with abandon. Jesus was there for me.

Tragically, my beloved son didn’t make it. He lost all hope and took his own life at age 25 on October 23, 2013. I can say with all sincerity that without my deep faith and ironclad bond with Christ and His Mother I would not have survived the grief. Over these last six years since losing my son I have leaned on Jesus even more for the strength to go on. Now each week in Adoration I plead for His Loving Mercy on my son’s soul, to eventually allow him into Heaven.

I am a different person now when I visit Him. I still write in my journal and pray my rosary in the little Adoration chapel, but I am a depleted version of my former self. Even so, I know on some level that getting that dose of time each week with Jesus is helping to sustain me, even propel me. He still has plans for my life, and this time I realize how much I will need Him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Anthony is a freelance writer who specializes in writing within the addiction and mental health space. Her recently published memoir, My 13th Station, offers a transparent journey into her son’s battle with alcoholism and depression, culminating in his suicide, as well as intense spiritual warfare. My 13th Station is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both ebook and print formats.


RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

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Ink Slingers

Getting Out of the Baby Pool

“The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. -Pope Benedict XVI

I have always loved this succinct quote from Pope Benedict XVI. It’s a jolting statement that both convicts and motivates me.

And so does this particular, albeit more informal version: “Get out of the Catholic baby pool!”

This blunt directive is not a quote from a saint or a pope— it is something I wrote several years ago in the journal I use at Eucharistic Adoration. The words came to me quite suddenly, an unmistakable holy whisper to my heart, as I sat silently praying in the Adoration chapel and asking the Lord for guidance and direction. This was the answer I “heard” from him.

Well, Sistas, I don’t know if you’ve ever laughed out loud in an Adoration chapel, but let me warn you that if you do, you get some funny looks. I couldn’t help myself; it cracked me up. My Lord really knows how to speak to me on my level!

Are You in the Baby Pool? 

After I gathered myself a bit, I started to process this clever little inspiration. The truth hit me hard: As a Christian, I had been going through the motions and spiritually sleepwalking for a long time. I was not awake to how much Jesus loves me or how much he desires for me to tell his story and show his love to others. I was a spiritual couch potato, sitting around eating Doritos and flipping through channels, thinking I was doing just fine. I was going to Mass, trying not to break any commandments, being a “good” person. But I was unaware that my actions as a follower of Jesus Christ were lukewarm at best. [Side note: Jesus is not fond of lukewarm. Revelation 3:15-16 says: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”] Yep. That was me, alright, splashing around in the shallow end, the Catholic baby pool, where it was safe and comfortable and I didn’t have to take any risks. It was time to get out.

Jesus wants us out of the baby pool, my friends. Life is short here on earth and there is much work to be done! We can dive in and respond to the hurt around us with love. And kindness. And mercy. And service. Every single day. We can be bold and brave and live out our faith in big and small ways. We can be the antidote to this cold, secular world.

But not if we stay in the baby pool.

We are the hands and feet of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila tells us: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.” Jesus needs us! Join me, will you? Let’s stand up, walk on over to the deep end, take a big breath (plug your nose if you must!) and jump in. Let’s get motivated, get moving and get involved. Sistas, we are not made for the baby pool— we are made for greatness. Come on in, the water’s fine! (And it’s definitely not lukewarm!)

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Eucharistic Adoration Ink Slingers Maurisa Prayer

The Beginner’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, Part 2

The Beginner's Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, Part 2.JPG

 

In part one of “The Beginner’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration,” I laid out the fascinating history behind the practice of Adoration.  In this second part, we will delve into the practical aspects and application of Adoration.  

The Code Canon Law encourages the faithful to visit the Blessed Sacrament and lays out the prescription by which this should be carried out. (see Book IV: The Sanctifying Office of the Church Can. 897, 898, and 934-944). Visits may be as simple as making a quick trip to the sanctuary to say a short prayer before the Tabernacle to making a weekly commitment to spend an hour or more in prayer before the Sacrament of the Altar.

Opportunities for Adoration can be quite varied.  A key feature of most spiritual retreats is time spent in Eucharistic Adoration.  Many parishes offer 40-Hours Devotions and Benediction at least once a year.  Other parishes might have regularly scheduled Adoration every week, and still, others offer Perpetual Adoration.  If your own parish does not offer Adoration, a good resource for finding a parish that does is masstimes.org which has a tab for Adoration at the top of the webpage. 

In a retreat or Adoration and Benediction situation Adoration will often be guided and offer public prayer as well as hopefully have a length of time for silent prayer and meditation. Youth retreats, in particular, are likely to offer dynamic, and emotionally powerful experiences in Adoration; appealing to many youth.  Adoration in a group setting, such as a retreat can be a wonderful way to get started in the devotion and offers a sense of community as well as some direction in praying.

Many people, including yours truly, prefer the quiet solitude of private time in Adoration. Regular time spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament can be an incredibly enriching and rewarding endeavor.  In fact, the Saints have had much to say on the subject.

“Trust all things to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary Help of Christians and you will see what miracles are.” – St. John Bosco

“The Eucharist is connected with the Passion. ...To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of his love … When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then, when you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Go and find Him when your patience and strength run out and you feel alone and helpless.  Jesus is waiting for you in the chapel.  Say to Him, ‘Jesus, you know exactly what is going on. You are all I have, and you know all things. Come to my help.’  And then go, and don’t worry about how you are going to manage.  That you have told God about it is enough.  He has a good memory.” -St. Jeanne Jugan

“Good friends find pleasure in one another’s company. Let us know pleasure in the company of our best Friend, a Friend who can do everything for us, a friend who loves us beyond measure. Here in the Blessed Sacrament, we can talk to him straight from the heart.” -St Alphonsus de Liguori  

“Gaze upon him, consider him, contemplate him, as you desire to imitate him.” -St Clare of Assisi

Once you’ve found a parish or Adoration Chapel to frequent you may wonder how does one spend an entire hour in silent prayer.  There are so many ways to spend the time wisely and each one of us can find a manner which best fits our needs and personalities.

Ideas and variations that will help 

First of all, let’s talk posture.  When we enter the presence of Christ our King upon the altar, we should kneel down on both knees, one knee, or bow as our bodies will allow us and pay homage to Him who created us.  After our greeting, one may sit in a pew, kneel, or walk about the sanctuary praying as one feels drawn to do.  When our time is at an end, we should once again enter a posture of homage before leaving Our Lord.

Obviously, prayer is the manner in which we converse with Christ while we are in Adoration.  This prayer can take many forms. I love this prayer written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori and I usually begin my holy hour with it:

“My Lord Jesus Christ, Who because of Your love for men remain night and day in the Blessed Sacrament, full of pity and of love, awaiting, calling and welcoming all who come to visit You, I believe that You are present here on the altar. I adore You, and I thank You for all the graces You have bestowed on me, especially for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me Your most holy Mother Mary to plead for me, and for having called me to visit You in this church.

I now salute Your most loving Heart, and that for three ends: first, in thanksgiving for this great gift; secondly, to make amends to You for all the outrages committed against You in this Sacrament by Your enemies; thirdly, I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are present in the Blessed Sacrament and in which You are least honored and most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with my whole heart. I am very sorry for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. With the help of Your grace, I purpose never to offend You again. And now, unworthy though I am, I consecrate myself to You without reserve. I renounce and give entirely to You my will, my affection, my desires and all that I possess. For the future, dispose of me and all I have as You please.

All I ask of You is Your holy love, final perseverance and that I may carry out Your will perfectly. I recommend to You the souls in Purgatory, especially those who had the greatest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

Finally, my dear Savior, I unite all my desires with the desires of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to the Eternal Father, and beseech Him, in Your name and for love of You, to accept and grant them.”

Another method of prayer I find quite effective is to move purposefully through ACTS (Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). Spend several minutes praising God and whispering words of adoration (here I picture the sweet little angel from one of my little guy’s books who bows his head and loves God as hard as he can).  Next, do an examination of your conscience and ask Him to show you areas in which you’ve sinned or that you need to work on and then ask Him for forgiveness and the grace to overcome.  Contemplate the many gifts you’ve been given and answers to prayer you’ve received and thank God for His goodness, graciousness, and providence. Finally, offer up any prayer intentions you might have including those intentions others have asked you to pray for.  This would also be a good time to pray for the Pope, bishops, priests, and the church as well as our civil leaders.

Another way in which to pray during your holy hour could be to use favorite formulaic prayers, such as the Rosary, The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, The Stations of the Cross (here you might walk about the Stations in your parish). Say these prayers slowly, deliberately, and try meditating upon a particular attribute of God or scene from the life of Christ.  You might also read a specific book of prayers.  My favorite is The Pieta.

Probably the most difficult type of prayer (at least it is for me) is meditative or contemplative prayer, but often it is the most rewarding. Pray for the grace to quiet your mind and wait for God to speak to you. Too often we are too busy doing all the talking, we miss out on the fact that this should be a two-way conversation. He wants to speak to us even more than we could ever desire to speak to Him. Let Him speak to you in this precious silence.

Spiritual reading can certainly effectively fill a portion of a holy hour.  One might read the Bible, possibly the Mass readings for the day and reflect upon those verses. Recently I wrote a post with a sizable list of books one might choose for spiritual reading.  You can find my recommendations here.  Catholic Sista contributor, Lynette Bryant, reviewed 100 Holy Hours for Women here.  This lovely book would be another great choice for taking to Adoration.

Journaling is something I’ve found to be quite helpful during my visits to the Sacrament of the Altar.  I purchased a blank bound journal and write in it for a good portion of my hour.  I do a weekly examen, write intentions, make a gratitude list, inscribe Bible verses I love, and copy prayers or writings of the Saints in my journal.  I also look back at past writing to remind myself of what I’ve written and to see if there have been patterns of sin in my life I was unaware of or particular answers to prayers.  If a blank journal is too daunting, you can find lovely journals which guide you in Lectio Divina or have pre-written scripture reflections.

We are blessed to belong to a parish which offers Adoration during the day three days a week.  Three years ago I made the commitment during Lent to attend Adoration during the 3 o’clock hour on Fridays. It has become a valued and indispensable part of my prayer life and I look forward to my hour every week. It has born some wonderful spiritual consolation and fruits in my personal walk with the Lord. I write this as encouragement to each of you, dear sisters, to make a commitment to Adoration as you are able.  Know He is there on the altar waiting for you, His beloved. Go to Him.

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Eucharistic Adoration Ink Slingers Maurisa

The Beginner’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, Part I

The Beginner's Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, Part 1

23 years ago I sat in a pew with fellow RCIA candidates and listened as Father Timothy Fuller walked us through the Mass. He explained each aspect and answered our questions along the way.  As he described the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the meaning of the Real Presence, I boldly raised my hand and asked, “Do we have to believe that it is truly His body and blood to be Catholic?”

His answer was unhesitatingly direct, “If you do not believe don’t bother coming back to this class.  The Real Presence is an incredibly important, central tenet of the Faith and you must believe it to be Catholic.”

Right then and there I believed completely.  It was a singular, amazing gift of Grace I was given at that moment.

Over the years I’ve come to realize belief and understanding are not static things.  Once confirmed I did not stop learning about the Faith or our Traditions.  In fact, learning about the beautiful Traditions of the Church is something that has continued to fascinate me.  Most recently, I’ve become intrigued by the devotion of Adoration.  Its history and development is truly captivating and something we could all benefit from knowing.

The doctrine of the Real Presence developed over time.  In researching this topic, I read a fairly comprehensive paper entitled “The History of Eucharistic Adoration” by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.  It’s a lengthy document, but I found it to be very accessible and interesting to read.  I’ll touch on some of the highlights of the history, but you can read his entire paper here.

Historical devotion to the Eucharist begins first and foremost with the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The early Church fathers taught: The Eucharist is Christ—Christ is worthy of worship and adoration—therefore the Eucharist is worthy of worship and adoration.

Saint Paul, who was not present at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, embraced the Real Presence completely. He wrote:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:23-27

The body of belief regarding the Eucharist progressed and was solidified over time in answer to heresies which sought to subvert belief in the Real Presence.  During the first century, the Gnostics denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  In response to this denial, and as a sign of assent, hermits began reserving the Eucharist in their cells and carried it with them when they traveled.  Monasteries and convents also began to reserve the Eucharist, protected under lock and key near the altar for distribution to the sick and dying.  

Around 1047 the archdeacon of Angers, France began to teach against the Real Presence and the heresy spread leading to Pope Gregory the VII to issue a credo and ordering the errant archdeacon, Berengarius to sign it.  Gregory the VII’s declaration to the Real Presence led to increased public devotions to the Blessed Sacrament; most notably the reservation of the Sacrament for adoration outside of Mass.

In 1264, as devotion to the Eucharist spread throughout the Catholic world, Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi and commissioned Thomas Aquinas to compose the Liturgy for the feast, from which three of the most well known and beautiful hymns devoted to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament were given to the Church: O Salutaris Hostia; Tantum Ergo Sacramentum; and Panis Angelicus.

As the Reformation in the 16th century took full effect, the Council of Trent addressed the True Presence in the Sacrament extensively, clarifying definitively Catholic teaching and belief on the subject as the Reformers spread their denial of the doctrine. The teaching from Trent was so strongly reiterated that the natural conclusion was for devotion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to be more widely spread and encouraged, including public exposition for even the laity.  Adoration practices bloomed and flourished including the establishment of 40 Hours Devotions (40 hours of continual prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament on the altar) and Perpetual Adoration (uninterrupted adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as many other devotional practices.

Even Vatican II, with its emphasis on doctrinal development, contributed to the understanding and promulgation of Eucharistic Adoration. The worthiness of the Eucharist to be worshipped and adored is an essential article of the Catholic faith.

Yes, He is indeed, fully and truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar.  He is adorable and worthy of glory, praise, and honor. How does one go about it then? In the second part of this guide, I’ll explore ways in which we might participate in this richly rewarding devotion.

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Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer Reviews

Book Review: Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer

The Anima Christi, or Soul of Christ, prayer is one that I was completely unfamiliar with until about three years ago. At the time I was polling the ink slingers here about their favorite prayers for a post I was working on. Although it did not make the list, the Anima Christi was mentioned and what was said about it piqued my curiosity enough for me to go look it up.

Since then I have adopted this prayer as my post-communion prayer at each Mass I attend (and as my small, restless children will allow). Here at Catholic Sistas we also did a series of posts looking line-by-line at the Anima Christi. I had initially felt like this was a prayer that was well-known and I was behind the curve, but as I coordinated the series on this beautiful prayer I learned that I was not alone. I loved that we were able to introduce this prayer to so many through the series we did here.

Soul of Christ coverThis brings me to the book I just finished reading. Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP, discovered our Anima Christi series and shared with us the book she had written on the same prayer, also going line-by-line through it. Her book, Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer, was a wonderful read and provided me even more insight into this now favorite prayer of mine. I could end this review right here and just tell you that you need to read this book. It is fabulous.

For those who need to know why I found this book so great …

I loved the set-up of this book. You can use this book in so many ways and it is one you can read again and again. First of all, the prayer is at the front of the book in both English and Latin and is easy to refer back to at any time. At the end of the book there is an appendix that explains how to make a Pauline hour of adoration. When I started reading the book, I read the “Invitation” (sort of the book’s foreword or introduction) and then I skipped to the Appendix before starting in on chapter 1. The appendix was helpful to read early on as it put the second half of each chapter into context. I recommend this approach if you decide to read this book (which I hope you do).

The chapters each discuss one petition from the Anima Christi prayer. Within the chapters, Sr. Marie Paul breaks down each line into smaller phrases as she explores what the words mean. She touches on Scripture, the Pauline way of life, and her own personal experiences as she brings the words more fully alive. Following this discussion, the second part of the chapter can be read one of two ways: either as continued reading from the first half, or it can be used to make an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Sprinkled through the text are small boxes to guide you through some hymns, prayers, and questions for reflection during an hour of adoration. These adoration sections can be used either individually or as a group. I loved this aspect of the book, that it is more than just a book to read and gain understanding. It not only does that, but it also can be used in a practical way over and over again.

My copy is now full of underlinings, stars next to passages I especially liked, words I circled, and notes in the margins. I kept finding snippets of wisdom that I wanted to mark for future reference. I also appreciated that Sr. Marie Paul is succinct throughout the text. There are no heavy theological discussions that go on for pages and pages. As someone who sometimes can only steal 5 minutes here and there to read, I loved that the chapters had many short subsections so I could read a section as I had time without having to stop in the middle of a page somewhere (i.e., this is perfect for busy moms).

One of my favorite chapters was also on the petition that I often find the most comforting: “Within Your wounds, hide me.” I liked how Sr. Marie Paul talked about “hiding” as a way to “take a break” from the world around us. The emphasis in this chapter was on healing, strength, and hope. I’ve dwelt on this petition in my own prayer many times, and yet Sr. Marie Paul still helped me look at it with new eyes and find even more meaning in it. Regarding Jesus’ wounds, the author tells us:

We can find hope and healing when we respond to Christ’s invitation to enter into His wounds, contemplate His love, and allow that love to be our defense, our healing, our hope. (p. 95)

I had never considered that Jesus is inviting us into His wounds, inviting us to hide there, inviting us to find our hope and strength there. This is only a small taste of the many insights I gained while reading this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about this wonderful, traditional prayer of the Church, anyone who is hurting and seeking comfort and is maybe wondering where God is in your sufferings, and anyone who is seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ through the Eucharist. You will be exposed to the vulnerability of Christ in the Eucharist, you will either be introduced to Eucharistic Adoration or it will deepen your understanding of Adoraton, and you will find beauty and insight into an ancient prayer that still has the power to speak to us today. Sr. Marie Paul does an amazing job bringing the Anima Christi to life for those of us who were previously unfamiliar with this ancient and, as the title says, timeless prayer.

Soul of Christ: Meditations on a Timeless Prayer by Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP can be found at Pauline Books and Media.

Anima Christi prayer

Usual disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.