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Ink Slingers Karen

August: The Month of the Blessed Sacrament

Last month, we discussed the July devotion to the Precious Blood. Today, we explore the August devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

August

We know, as Catholics, that we encounter Jesus whenever we go to Mass and experience the Consecration. When wine and bread are transformed into Body and Blood, and we receive Him, we are transformed. It grants a special grace to handle the trials of Christian living.

Consecrated hosts are kept in a sacred container called a ciborum that is housed inside the tabernacle. The tabernacle is what we are to face when we genuflect at Mass. Some parishes have designated times where the the tabernacle is opened and available for prayerful contemplation called Eucharistic Adoration. This is a wonderful exercise for your spiritual muscle. Take a devotional, your Bible, or simply a blank notebook with a pen and sit in quiet contemplation and take notes on what comes to you as you sit and pray. The Blessed Sacrament can teach you plenty.

 

Prayer

HERE is a prayer from EWTN that you can use when visiting the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration:

church-596933_1920Prayer While Visiting the Blessed Sacrament

My Lord Jesus Christ, for the love which You bear to men, You remain night and day in this Sacrament full of compassion and of love, awaiting, calling, and welcoming all who come to visit You. I believe that You are present in the Sacrament of the Altar: I adore You from the abyss of my nothingness, and I thank You for all the graces which You have bestowed upon me and in particular for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me your holy Mother Mary for my advocate, and for having called me to visit You in this chapel. I now salute Your most loving Heart: and this for three ends:

  1. In thanksgiving for this great gift;
  2. To make amends to You for all the outrages which You receive in this Sacrament from all Your enemies;
  3. I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are the least revered and the most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with all my heart. I grieve for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. I promise with Your grace never more to offend You in the future.

Now, miserable and unworthy though I be, I consecrate myself to You without reserve;

I give You my entire will, my affections, my desires, and all that I possess. From now on dispose of me and of all that I have as You please. All that I ask of You and desire is Your holy love, final perseverance, and the perfect accomplishment of Your will. I recommend to You the souls in purgatory; but especially those who had the greatest devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

My dear Saviour, I unite all my affections with the affections of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to Your eternal Father, and beseech Him in Your name to vouchsafe, for Your love, to accept them.

Amen.
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Craft

HERE is a wonderful craft you can do with your children to teach them more about the Blessed Sacrament, Adoration, and the tabernacle.

Categories
Communion Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary P. Sacraments

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a Child

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a Child

This past weekend, my oldest daughter, Rose, received her First Holy Communion. My husband and I were primarily responsible for preparing her for this incredibly special day. We did her lessons from the required First Communion book; we took her to Mass every week (as we always have); we took her to Confession often; we talked to her about what Communion is. We also tried to model respect and reverence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We got some compliments on her First Communion day about how reverent she was, and how well we prepared her. It would be easy for me to bask in the glow of these compliments and pat myself on the back– that is, if I weren’t so acutely aware of my own shortcomings in this area, and how much Rose has actually taught me through this process.

Seven years ago, I wrote a Facebook post about how Rose– then just barely more than one year old– was teaching me about seeing the dignity in all human life. (I published the note here a couple of years later). Just like she did so many years ago as a baby, Rose has shown me once again what Jesus meant when he talked about the importance of becoming “like little children.”

I have more book knowledge about Jesus and the Church than Rose does, and I intellectually know more about what postures and behaviors are most appropriate in Mass. I can communicate those things to Rose fairly easily. But I think she is the one who more fully recognizes and appreciates Jesus present in Host and Cup. Children are much more able to simply trust in Jesus without full understanding. Their innocence and imagination help them to have a confident assurance of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist that eludes most adults. It’s real to them in a way that it might not be for many of us – even those of us who know and believe all that the Church teaches on the matter. They don’t just believe with their heads, but with their whole hearts and souls.   

Approaching Communion with the Faith of a ChildI can’t begin to describe the excitement that Rose had for months leading up to her First Communion, and especially on the day it took place. There was a time when I thought that maybe she was just looking forward to wearing a fancy white “princess” gown and getting a lot of attention; but in talking to her about Communion, I realized I was wrong about the source of her excitement. She really knew Jesus is present in the Eucharist and she really could not wait to receive Him. She came home from the First Communion practice the night before the ceremony with the biggest smile on her face, and it didn’t leave her face until well after Mass the next day. She was positively beaming. When was the last time I felt excited about receiving the Eucharist, and full of joy at the prospect of encountering the Lord there?

After she received for the first time, she told me that she was sad that Sunday Masses were an entire week away from each other because she wanted to receive Jesus more often (I reminded her that Mass happens every day, but it’s somewhat difficult for this pregnant mama to get her three little ones to weekday Mass alone). She received for the first time on a Saturday, so she did get to receive again the very next day– and she was more excited than ever to go to a regular Sunday Mass! How often do I long for Jesus in the Eucharist during the week, or make an extra effort to get to daily Mass to meet Him?

A few days before she received First Communion, she asked to go to Confession even though it had been less than a week since she had last been (she frequently has asked to go since her first time in November). She had been having an especially difficult time behaving herself in the days leading up to First Communion (I wondered if she were under a little spiritual attack), and she knew that you need a clean heart and soul to receive the Eucharist. We weren’t able to get her there since our access to weekday Confession is very limited, so I explained to her that her sins were not so serious that she couldn’t simply pray and ask for forgiveness and the grace to behave better. But, I was in awe of the fact that she understood how important it is to be well-prepared to receive the Lord. How often have I put off going to Confession for a long time and didn’t think twice about all the “little” sins that made my heart and soul less-than-pure for the Lord? I pray at each Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,” but do I really think about the meaning of these words, and how I could prepare better so as to be a little more worthy next time? It’s so easy for adults to take reception of the Eucharist for granted, as if we are entitled to it under any circumstance. 

Rose may have learned the proper words, actions, and doctrines from her father and me, but the proper interior disposition of joy and reverence can only come from the Holy Spirit. It’s acquired most easily by those with an innocent, child-like faith. I confess that despite my head knowledge and my going through all the correct motions, I frequently fall far short of the mark when it comes to that proper disposition of heart and soul. We adults can all too easily feel overly secure and superior in our faith because of our theological intelligence and our years of practice at doing things the right way. We can forget that, while important, these things do not equate to a close relationship with the Lord, or a strong faith. Rose inadvertently reminded me of that, and inspired me to try to do much better so that I can be more like her.

I’ve been thinking with sadness about all the children who made their First Confessions and received their First Communions this year with the same joy and sure-faith that Rose demonstrated, but whose parents will not bring them back to the Sacraments on a regular basis now that they have reached this milestone. First Confession and First Communion (like Baptism and Confirmation) are too often viewed by parents as boxes to check off because they are just what Catholics are supposed to do. Then, their children’s innocent longing for the grace and freedom of Confession and for the deeply personal relationship with Jesus through the Eucharist goes unfulfilled – and eventually fades away. It’s an incredible tragedy. I may not be responsible for the genesis of Rose’s pure love for Jesus in the Eucharist, but I am responsible for nourishing it. I pray that I will always take that grave responsibility seriously, and that, in the process, I can continue learn just as much (or more!) from Rose as she is learning from me.  

Categories
Adrienne Confession Purgatory Spiritual Growth

Linking Confession and Purgatory [Part 1]

penance%201%20copyFor 2,000 years the Catholic Church has preached the necessity of Confession and of the existence of Purgatory. I have noticed that when one thinks little of Confession, one also thinks little of Purgatory, and despite the Church’s consistent teaching upon these truths, a great many Catholics think little of both Confession and Purgatory.

In the hour long confession line recently, I discovered plenty of time to loathe how the bulk of my Examination of Conscience lists the same sins every single time. I remembered back to a Scott Hahn talk discussing Confession in which he shared how he once complained to his confessor about this very same problem, repetitive sins, and the priest asked him if he would prefer new sins? Hahn laughed and realized of all the sins he could have he’d rather keep the ones he struggles with rather than take on different, potentially more insidious sins. Wisely, the priest avoided offering the state of sinlessness as an option. Subsequently, I wondered just how far I could exit the confessional before I committed one of my usual suspect sins, because even the nearest pew afforded me too much time by distance to commit a sin in my mind. In that moment, Confession struck me as ineffective, though theologically I knew that to be untrue. And that’s when I noticed a linking of Confession and Purgatory.

What is the point of Purgatory? It is often described as a place where we are punished for our sins before we are able to go to Heaven, which I don’t find a helpful answer. To the modern mind’s understanding of sin (being a one-time action, occurring in the past) this description is misleading. There is a language barrier where sin is used as a noun and thus the hearer may only understand sin in this statement as events from the past, not recognizing the source of the sin as also sin. So let me stall the answer to the question of Purgatory for a much needed explanation on one’s soul and one’s will.

attributes of the soul

One’s soul bears three particular attributes: one’s will (often described as one’s heart), one’s memory, and one’s intellect. A person’s will may be perfectly conformed to God’s will on certain matters (such as accepting God as the Creator of the Heaven and Earth and of all things), but meanwhile may not be conformed to God’s will on other matters (such as loving they neighbor as thyself, even when that neighbor is behaving poorly). When a person sins, these sins do not come forth from the areas in which one’s will is formed to God’s will. Instead, sins are committed by the parts of one’s will which are not conformed to God’s will and these parts of our will are also sin.

When we go to confession we are forgiven for the sinful actions we have committed, and once confessed and forgiven we never need to dwell upon these sinful actions again. However, because God never, ever interferes with our will (free will), when we step out of that confessional free of the guilt of our actions, our will walks out of that confessional with us, usually with the same inclinations to sin as we walked in with. Thus, we tend to retain the ability to commit those same sins again, and nearly just as easily. And this is why our Examinations of Conscience bear the same list of sins from confession to confession.  However, let us rejoice that with each passing confession, our wills are ever so slightly strengthened, both by the increase of God’s Grace in our soul, and also by the humbling action of going to confession.

Like exercise ever so slowly strengthens our muscles, frequent confession ever so slightly strengthens our will to God’s will. And think, if you exercise as often as you go to Confession, just how strong might you be? On a related note, while in line this last time (I can have a lot of thoughts in an hour, even whilst attending children), I considered how difficult it would be for me to be able to offer a count of my offenses to the priest, like is traditionally suggested. Then I realized how if I went to Confession with greater frequency, say every week, it would be easy to offer a count, and oh how much more I would resist the temptation to sin if I were to keep count!

During this Advent season, as we prepare to honor the first coming of Christ and also prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ, make your way to the confessional.  Your will and soul may need it just as much as mine.

In my next post I will tie this discussion in with Purgatory.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel!

Upon Jesus’s resurrection and visit to his disciples He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jn 20: 21-23

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers Motherhood

Just One Part?

“Go in peace, glorifying God with the life that you lead.” These are the words our pastor speaks at the end of each Mass. I leave Mass each week thinking about how I can apply them to my daily life. When I stumble during the week as I sometimes do, I tend to think back to these words again, wondering how I can change the situation so that I am once again glorifying God with the life that I lead.

commercial swimming pool

When I exercise, I tend to fall into routines of certain types of exercise. I gravitate towards the exercises that burn the most calories in the least amount of time. With my foot injury this summer, my choices became more limited. Gone was the option to go for a run in the afternoon, and many of my videos were out of the question while I heal. My mom discovered that swimming laps at our city’s pool is free in the mornings during the summer. We made it a point to start going as often as we could.

Swimming had no impact on my foot, and it seemed like it would be an “easy” alternative to running while I healed. Then we started swimming laps and quickly learned that while we may be in shape, the breathing patterns needed to swim differed from what our bodies are accustomed to. With burning lungs and sore shoulders, I realized that ignoring any part of fitness can lead to being out of shape in ways in which I may not even be aware.

Just as different exercises work the body in different ways and yet all are important, so it is in prayer and faith. Going to church each week without thought to how we behave outside the church walls is not enough to be close to Jesus. Neither is living a life full of good works but without faith. One without the other is going to leave us gasping for breath. We need to condition our faith the way we need to condition our bodies. Just one part or the other leaves us lacking and lost, still searching for Jesus.

In Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), Jesus put mud on a deaf man’s ears and spit on his tongue and said, Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” The man’s ears were opened and tongue freed. Similarly, in baptism the priest prays the Ephphatha prayer over each of us, asking God to open our ears to God’s word and our tongues to speak for the Lord. We are not commissioned to walk out the church doors and live for the world.  Instead we are asked to bring Christ to everyone we meet during the week by our actions and our words.

931e4-ephphatha2b2

 

We need to live both parts – inside the Church and outside – as disciples of Jesus, bringing His word and love to everyone we meet through our words and actions. We need to, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with the life that you lead.”

St. Mary's circa 1950

Please, Lord, help me to live according to Your will for my life today, body, mind, and spirit. Guide me, dear Lord, to bring Your Word to those I meet. Open my ears and free my tongue to Your Word. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Be Still

BroomTreeAs I prayed about what to write this month, a line from one of my daily devotions jumped out and stuck in my mind. “There is a time, too, for recognizing that our heads can never grasp the truths of God, and that our purpose in prayer is not to defend or condemn ourselves or to come up with any kind of analysis or sermon, but simply to respond, from our inmost depths, to what God is sharing with us of Himself.” (Inner Compass by Margaret Silf)

How often do I start to formulate my response or defense before the person I am talking to has even finished? How often do my children do the same to me? How do I feel when that happens? They don’t even know completely why I’m upset or what I want them to do before they start to tell me why they did what they did or said and how it is really the fault of someone else. How often do I do the same to God? Well, I would have followed Your will, Father, but so-and-so didn’t do his or her part or didn’t You see what happened in the meantime? And well….

In Sunday’s first reading, Elijah is done. He is praying for God to please just let him die. He felt beaten down, defeated. However, God wasn’t finished with him yet and woke him up, made him eat, and told him to get on his way. Elijah listened and walked for forty days. Eventually, he made it to Mount Horeb, where God revealed the next part of His plan for Elijah.

How different would history have played out if Elijah had argued with the angel?

In the gospel, Jesus says He is the Bread of Life. His neighbors argue with Him because they believe they know Him; they know where He is from and who His parents are. They believe in the hierarchy of their culture, and Jesus is nothing more than the carpenter’s son. They believe they are in charge. Because they are not willing or able to stop their response and listen to Jesus, they miss out on His call to eternal life.

For the past month, I have been slowed down by having my foot in an aircast. You can read about the beginning of this journey here. I have come to realize that this injury has been a blessing in many ways; Divine Intervention to force our family to slow down and take time together. It also has shown me how much I miss when I rush through my morning devotion time, how much God is saying to me when I actually take the time to listen.

What am I missing when I get ahead of a conversation, both with friends and family and in prayer with God? What does God have to say when I simply stop and listen and follow without formulating a response or a defense?

“Be still and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:11

Be Still