Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Mary Prayer Reviews

A New Marian Devotional You Absolutely Need

Whether you have a devotion to Our Blessed Mother or not, the Manual for Marian Devotion by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is a handy little books for everything you need to know about Mary. It would be great for personal use and would make a great gift. And it will inspire you to take up a greater devotion to Mary if you don’t already have one.

First let me tell you that I just love the feel and size of this little manual. It’s roughly the size of my hand and it is bound in leather. The embossing on it is lovely, the edges of the pages are silver, and there is a ribbon bookmark built in. Of all my prayer books, I especially love the ones that have ribbon bookmarks and leather binding. The nice small size is also nice for easily tossing in my purse on my way to adoration. This one will be part of my stack of favorites, for sure.

All that exterior stuff also makes it a nice gift, and it contains a page in the front for you to fill out if you are giving it as a gift. You can record the name of the person and the date or occasion for which you are gifting it, plus a large space for leaving a special note. Nice touch!

All that above is great, but I know you want to know what this book contains. Well, pretty much everything to do with Mary. The first four chapters are dedicated to preparing for Marian devotion. I really liked how this section was broken down and covered a lot of ground. It’s a very quick look at Marian doctrines, historical facts, and much more. So don’t expect a ton of details here, but it’s enough to get you interested. For a neophyte to Marian devotion this section is perfect, and if one wants more detail this gives them a jumping off point (there’s a bibliography in the back of the book). Or, move on to the next section of the book.

Part Two of the manual (chapters 5-11) goes into more detail with aids to Marian devotion. Here is where you’ll find prayers (lots and lots, from all the basics to some less well known ones), excerpts from the Catechism and other Church documents, Mary in the liturgy, quotes from saints, poetry, synopses of miracles and apparitions, and much more. There is a lot packed into this tiny volume!

While the first four chapters were a quick read, the remaining part of the book is much different. Here is where you may find one small passage to read in the morning and reflect on the rest of the day. This is the section you could flip open when you need a spiritual shot in the arm or a little inspiration. I’ve been reading through chapter 7 (The Saints and Other Spiritual Writers) and finding a lot of great passages for reflection. And I like how this chapter is divided up by time period, from Ancient writers to twentieth century writers.

I’m also finding a lot of new information in this book: things like the very first Marian prayer from 3rd century Egypt, Marian poetry I never knew about, and a list of flowers with their Marian meanings. Chapter 8 (Marian Miracles and Messages) looks absolutely fascinating (I haven’t gotten to it yet). And if you are interested in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, the Consecration Prayer from St. Louis de Montfort is contained in this book.

I was especially pleased to find the four Marian antiphons that are traditionally said after night prayer (Alma Redemptoris Mater, Ave Regina Caelorum, Regina Coeli, and Salve Regina). As a Benedictine Oblate, my oblate prayer books contains all four, but only in Latin. The Manual for Marian Devotion lists them all together (in chapter 10, Mary in the liturgy, pgs. 275-282) in both English and Latin. So I’ve now been using the Manual along with my oblate prayer book so I can say those prayers in English. [Except the Salve Regina; I already know that one quite well.]

If there is one thing I wish were included in this book it would be an index. The table of contents does a great job breaking down large chunks, but if you are looking for something specific it can be hard to find. Maybe it’s just the librarian in me, but a few times I found myself flipping around a lot looking for something I knew I had seen and wanted to see again and an index would have been helpful. As a former librarian this may bother me more than the average person. Of course, if I use the book enough, I probably won’t have need for an index after a while.

After exploring this book and reading large chunks of it, I can definitely say that this is a prayer book that any lover of Mary should have. I have really enjoyed reading sections and using the prayers in it from time to time. And as I said above, it would make a great gift for many occasions. This is a great time of year for gift giving as well! You likely know someone making their First Communion soon or maybe receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. Plus, Mother’s Day is coming up, what a perfect gift for that special Mary devotee in your life (hint, hint to the guys reading this).

Manual for Marian Devotion is currently available from Tan Books for $29.95. You can also personalize your copy with a name or message stamped on the cover for an additional fee.

And as always, I received a copy of the book for this review and no other compensation. All opinions here are completely mine.

Allison Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer

The Prayer of the People of God

psalms the prayer of the people of God

Read the Psalms. They are pure poetry, but easier to understand than William Shakespeare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, or E.E. Cummings! The Psalms have been called a school of prayer, providing readers with historical information, plus the human connection of people’s emotional and spiritual responses to themselves, their world, and their Lord, making the words timeless and touching.

The Hebrew name for the collection is Praises and the Greek translation of that word is psalmos, referring to the twang of a stringed instrument. These verses were meant to be sung by God’s children, together raising their voices in praise, sorrow, wonder, weeping, repentance, and love. The ancient Israelites prayed and sang the Psalms; the earliest Christians prayed and sang the Psalms; and Catholics today still pray and sing the Psalms at every single Mass, every single day, all over the world. Not only is a responsorial song or chant of a Psalm part of the liturgical order, many hymns and choruses are penned directly from a Psalm.

psalmsAccording to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the people of God . . . their prayer is inseparably personal and communal; it concerns both those who are praying and all men (#2586).”

“The Psalter is the book in which the word of God becomes man’s prayer. The same Spirit inspires both God’s work and man’s response. Christ will unite the two. In him, the Psalms continue to teach us how to pray (#2587).”

“Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time (#2597).”

I am an Irish girl who grew up in Southeastern New England, so poets dear to me include Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, William Wordsworth, and Katharine Tynan. Their words about our earth, our families, humanity’s beauty and trouble, and the yearnings of the heart calm and inspire me. But the Psalms do that, too, along with the knowledge that the words passed down are definitely from God.

How many times is Psalm 23 murmured as a prayer for peace? “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures you let me rest; to safe waters you lead me . . . I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage . . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

How many times have I recited for strength my favorite Psalm 27? “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid? One thing I ask of the Lord, this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to visit his temple . . . wait for the Lord, take courage, be stouthearted and wait for the Lord!”

We have yelled with King David. “Answer when I call, my saving God. In my troubles, clear a way. Show me favor; hear my prayer.” (4:2) And, “Have pity on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me Lord for my bones are trembling.” (6:3)

We have shouted with joy. “O Lord our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens!” (8:1) And, “All you people clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries!” (47:1)

We have wept. “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul?” (13:1-3) And, “Listen to my cry for help for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers for they are too strong for me.” (142:7)

We have taken a deep breath. “I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help so that I may sing of the Lord; how good our God has been to me!” (13:6) And, “I wait for you, O Lord. I lift up my soul to my God. In you I trust; do not let me be disgraced.” (25:1-2)

We have repented. “I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done evil in your sight that you are just when you condemn. Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure; wash me that I may be whiter than snow.” (52:5; 6,9)

We have exulted in the earth- “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes to govern the earth.” (96:11-13)

And we have sung praises. “How good to celebrate our God in song; how sweet to sing fitting praise. We sing to the Lord with thanksgiving and celebrate our God with the lyre!” (147:1,7)

May we read the Psalms again and be closer to our brothers and sisters in the Faith, those here and those in heaven. May we read the Psalms again and be closer to God, our loving creator.

Charla Saints

Catholic Poetry

inkThere are many things I love and one of them is poetry. I make my living and serve my vocation as an English teacher. My faith, however, is the most important aspect of my life, because through it, I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher. All these roles overlap each other and because of this, I look to poetry to help me live out these many roles. I used to compose myself, and perhaps I will return to that one day, but for now, I try to read material that will feed my soul.

One poet that speaks to me is St. John of the Cross. I am of Spanish descent and I am enthralled by the Mystics of the Church. I am sharing my favorite poem of his (written in translation).

The Living Flame of Love—St. John of the Cross

             O living flame of love

             that tenderly wounds my soul

             in its deepest center! Since

             now you are not oppressive,

             now consummate! if it be your will:

             tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!


             O sweet cautery,

             O delightful wound!

             O gentle hand! O delicate touch

              that tastes of eternal life

             and pays every debt!

             In killing you changed death to life.


             O lamps of fire!

             in whose splendors

             the deep caverns of feeling,

             once obscure and blind,

             now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,

             both warmth and light to their Beloved.


             How gently and lovingly

             you wake in my heart,

             where in secret you dwell alone;

            and in your sweet breathing,

             filled with good and glory,

             how tenderly you swell my heart with love.


sjcWho or what is “the living flame of love”? In order to answer this elusive point of St. John’s, we must explore the text more fully. This poem is filled with paradox. Every contradiction in the piece illustrates the complexity of love and how suffering and death ironically bring life. It is a depiction of how fire possesses a meaning of passionate consumption, not just destruction and suffering. A living flame of love is active and in its effects of wounding one’s heart, it encompasses that heart with life. It is not oppressive; it completes a break through into one’s coldness of heart.

“Delightful wound” reminds us that we must suffer and break down (just as Jesus did) in order to be reborn in Christ. However, there is gentleness about this process. It is not horrific or punishing; rather, it transforms our “death into life”. Our debt of sin is repaid.

The fire analogy continues to explain how flame enlightens our path and removes any obscurity from our “deep caverns of feeling.” Warmth and light are common themes in expressing affection and feeling.

The poem ends with a stanza based entirely on love. There is expressive warmth of goodness and joy within oneself that is articulated in the closing of the poem. The diction used solidifies an intimacy: “gently,” “lovingly,” and “tenderly”.

This poem takes a bit of work to decipher, as many of the Mystics’ writings do. St. John of the Cross struggles in expressing his spirituality and desire to be closer to God. Poetry is a good vehicle to explore one’s Faith and spiritual inclinations.

What are ways we, as ordinary laypeople, communicate our struggles for intimacy with a loving God?