Get these two books on Lent meditations

Today is Septuagesima Sunday. Between today and Ash Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Church observes a short period of transition between the joys of the Epiphany and the penitential period of Lent.

Catholics should use this time to identify what they need to do during Lent to deepen their spiritual life, to root out sinful tendencies that occur over and over again, to cultivate a daily practice of mental prayer, and get deadly serious about going to heaven. Don’t wake up on Ash Wednesday without a plan.

If you don’t believe in Hell and the Last Judgement, or treat them as distant imaginary places that illiterate peasants in the 12th century believed in, you’re in big trouble. If you are barely spending 15 minutes a day praying, you are also in deep trouble.

Here are two books which contain daily Lent meditations. Reading each one takes little time. What takes time is meditating on what you have read. Plan on meditating for at least 15 minutes.

Meditations for Lent by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

Bishop Bossuet was a great orator in the 17th century. His works were favored by saints and Popes (such as Pope Pius XII). Because of his great piety and eloquence, he was considered the greatest preacher of his time.

Meditations for Lent from Saint Thomas Aquinas

You can’t go wrong meditating on the writings of the great Doctor of the Church. The book starts with Septuagesima, so you can get started today.

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I urge you to pray at least 5 decades of the Rosary in addition to your daily meditation. If you manage to pray all 15 decades of the Rosary everyday devoutly, meditating on each mystery with great concentration, you’ll come out of the Lenten season a totally different person. Go to Confession regularly. Fast every Friday, and perform corporal and spiritual acts of mercy (alms giving, praying for your relatives, friends and enemies, and praying for the souls in Purgatory).

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Must read of the day: St. John of Matha

I was brought to tears this morning upon reading about St. John of Matha, founder of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Ransom of Captives, whose feast day we celebrate on this 8th day of February.

Excerpt:

While celebrating his first Mass in the Bishop’s chapel in the presence of the Prelate and several assistants, there appeared to John an Angel clad in a white and brilliant robe. He had on his breast a red and blue cross, and his arms were stretched out, crossed one above the other, over two captives, one a Christian, the other a Moor. Falling into an ecstasy at this sight, the John immediately understood that he was called to ransom captives from the infidels.

St. John of Matha worked tirelessly with Felix of Valois to secure the freedom of Christians held captives by the Saracens. He also established monasteries and hospitals. His was a life dedicated to corporal and spiritual works of charity.

Dom Prosper Gueranger on St. John of Matha:

Teach us the secret of ardent charity. Is it possible that we can see a soul in danger of being lost, and remain indifferent? Have we forgotten the divine promise, told us by the Apostle: “He that causes a sinner to be converted from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of his own sins”? (James v. 20). Get us also a tender compassion for such as are in bodily suffering and poverty, so that we may be generous in comforting them under these trials which are but too often an occasion of their blaspheming Providence. Dear friend and Liberator of slaves! Pray, during this holy Season, for those who groan under the captivity of sin and Satan: for those, especially, who, taken with the frenzy of earthly pleasures, feel not the weight of their chains but sleep on peacefully through their slavery. Ransom them by your prayers, convert them to the Lord their God, lead them back to the land of freedom. Pray for France which was your country, and save her from infidelity.

Read the entire post and reflect on it.

I cried this morning after reading this because I had just prayed five decades of the Rosary and was feeling good about myself, too good, in fact. I had said my morning prayers, thanked Our Lord that I’m alive, healthy in mind and body, and praying everyday. Yet, what have I done compared to this great saint? Here I am, sitting comfortably under a sun umbrella by a sandy beach in Southeast Asia. Yes, I know, we are called to do different things. No angel has appeared to me, instructing me to ransom captives or establish a convent.

I struggle everyday with the feeling that I am not doing enough. But at the same time I tell Our Lord how grateful I am that I’m even praying. I came back to the Church two years ago, after 40 years away (read my post on the miracle that brought me back to the Catholic Church).

I am so grateful to have been given another chance. Everyday I pray the 15 decades of the Rosary and I pray the last of the Divine Office, Completorium before I go to bed. I thank Our Lord for everything: for giving me a love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of prayer and meditation, and a fascination for the lives of the Saints, a love for spiritual reading; and for reminding me at different points during the day, to examine my conscience.

Before the miracle that brought me back to the Church, I never thought about the saints or about repentance. But He cured my blindness and opened my eyes and my mind to the Truth. And yet . . . I feel I should be doing more. I have donated money to support traditional Catholic orders and priests, and to missions in other countries. And yet . . . I feel there is something missing and I pray everyday that I be given a clear instruction on what I need to do.

Does anyone else feel this way?

The Holy Family versus modern families

I was inspired to write this post after listening to a sermon at Mass last Sunday, during which we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family (since it was the first Sunday after the Epiphany). Father urged the families in attendance to place God at the center of family life and explained in detail what this means: praying together regularly, especially the Rosary; attending Mass on Sundays and other days of obligation; parents giving their children spiritual books to read (especially about the saints) and encouraging devotion to Our Lady, and spending Sundays in a way that honors God.

How do many modern families spend their Sundays? At the shopping mall, of course, where parents take children to indulge in “fun shopping”, to acquire more cheap plastic junk than their houses can store, followed by a food binge at one of the many junk food outlets at the mall.

After lunch last Sunday, I happened to walk through a typical middle class shopping mall on my way back to my hotel (trying to escape the intense heat and humidity outside). The shopping mall had been turned into a mini-theme park whose themes are wasting your money and your time, and tempting you to eat unhealthy food. I would say judging from the massive traffic jam to get inside the mall’s parking lot and the queues outside the fast food joints, that this is how a significant number of families spend their Sundays. Sure, they’re not all Christians, but you don’t need to be a Christian to understand how awful this way of life is. Not so long ago, children would play outside with their friends on Sundays and they would also go around visiting family members (grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins).

The other Sunday obsession is watching professional sports. It always makes me laugh when I think about how the increase in obesity worldwide coincides with the world’s unnatural worship of professional sports and sports celebrities. Sitting on your ass watching football, baseball, basketball, rugby and ice hockey all the time – drinking massive amounts of beer and eating bagfuls of crisps and greasy chicken wings – is not a good way to spend your Sundays. Perhaps actually engaging in a sport is more healthy? Of course, don’t get obsessed with that too. Everything in moderation.

When the next Sunday rolls around, think carefully about how you will spend it.

Must read of the day: 60 years of a false religion

Like a sheep without a shepherd, 60 years of Sede vacante

“Looking at the extreme devastation of the Catholic landscape that has been wrought in the past 60 years, Mr. Derksen argues that an effect of such a nature and magnitude can only be explained by a correspondingly grave cause. In other words, it is impossible that the false Novus Ordo religion and all its attendant evils could have come from true Catholic Popes: “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit…. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:18,20).”

Ghost stories at Christmas

The British have traditionally told ghost stories at Christmas. That is why Charles Dickens wrote his famous story, “A Christmas Carol”. However, the most famous and best ghost stories were written by Montague Rhodes James, better known as M.R. James, a medievalist and provost of King’s College, Cambridge.

His stories were filmed by the BBC in the 1970s. You can find some of them on YouTube.

You can download M.R. James’s short stories for free here. They are best read aloud in a small cozy room, preferably with a fire going, glasses of port or sherry or wine at hand, and candlelight, on a cold, snowy night. Each person in the room should take a turn reading the stories.

I suck at evangelising: adventures in trying to explain the Trinity and the BVM

How is it possible that someone who grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school all her life, was educated by strict nuns, read the Catechism of Pope Pius X last year after returning to the Church, and has been doing a LOT of spiritual reading in order to deepen her faith, has on at least two occasions totally blew it when it came to trying to convert (gently) her non-Catholic husband? It would be utterly tragic if it weren’t so funny.

In my defense, the chances I’ve had of evangelising and converting came in the form of a series of ambushes (accompanied by heavy artillery) from the my significant  other.

(1) ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) with nuclear warhead: the Trinity

This query about the Trinity came in the form of an ICBM, least appropriately, over a lunch of ramen noodles in tiny, hot noodle bar. The question posed to me by Dear Husband (DH) was about the Trinity.

trinity

“What’s the deal with the Trinity? If the Son came from the Father, why didn’t the Father just speak as if he were the Son? Why did the Son talk about His Father when HE is HE, that is, they are the same?” DH asked.

I explained that indeed they are one essence although they are not one person, but three persons – not like three human persons, although one of them has a human nature. I explained further: the Holy Ghost hovered like a dove over Our Lord at his baptism and came to the Apostles, the Virgin Mary and the disciples at Pentecost.

Second ICBM lobbed at me by DH: “Why if he is the Son of God, or God himself did He get baptised by a mere human, St. John the Baptist?” My answer: “Ehhhh . . . ” followed by loud slurping of noodles . . . “Ehhh because He well . . . wanted to set an example.”) Disaster. Floundering on the sea of ignorance, me, cradle Catholic. Very embarrassed. Our Lord has a right to expect better from me and I just failed.

Result: When I got home, I opened “The Catechism Explained by Fr. Spirago” and read about the Trinity, and I’m better informed, but I still cannot explain it in a way that will satisfy DH or anyone who is deeply skeptical about the existence of God in the first place, as is DH.

(2) Short range missile: did the Blessed Virgin Mary ever get baptised?

Oh dear, that’s a good one. I never even thought of that. This short-range missile was fired by DH from the other side of a table at a French restaurant as we were enjoying a main course of beef cheek simmered in red wine. We had already gone through half a bottle of very good Burgundy. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, so I was tipsy when I was attempting to plumb the depths of my memory about the BVM’s baptism: no, I don’t recall there ever having been any mention of the BVM’s baptism, but I do know why she didn’t have to be baptised. Let me see . . . why exactly is that? My memory fails me. I just know. Clock is ticking. DH is staring at me, smiling, “Gotcha!”is going through his head.

So this is what I said: “Well, there is a Baptism of Desire . . . ” I knew the second after these words came out of my mouth that it was a big FAIL. DH laughed heartily. I could see from his expression and discern from his laughter that he thinks Catholicism is totally wacky.

I’m suddenly plunged into a deep sorrow, while savouring the beef cheek stewed in red wine. My glass is starting to empty and DH fills it with more wine. There won’t be any more discussions about the BVM (or indeed the Trinity) tonight!

Only later (once the alcohol has worn off) did I remember that the BVM was born without original sin, hence, no need for baptism. Hey, why didn’t the fine bottle of Burgundy insert that answer into my head at the moment the short range missile was fired at me?

On both occasions, my Jewish husband got terrible answers from me and as a result, I don’t think he is any closer to converting to Catholicism. However, he does love the old beautiful churches of Rome, the works of Michelangelo and Fra Angelico and Massacio, Gregorian chant, Baroque music, especially the cantatas of Bach, Matthaeus Passion, Weihnachtsoratorium, . . . there is hope!

I do pray for his conversion everyday, and I try to live my life as an example of a good Catholic. Hopefully, he will convert.

Book Review: Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas

If you are curious about the customs and feast days of Advent and Christmas, and you want to prepare yourself and your family for a truly fruitful (and fun) Advent and Christmas, this book by Father William Saunders is exactly what you need. It isn’t a long book. I finished it in a couple of days.

Some of the topics covered:

  • Origins of Advent
  • Symbolism of the Advent wreath (holly, ivy, and the four candles)
  • Suggestions for a good Advent preparation
  • Special Role of St. Joseph
  • Christmas greenery and plants
  • Octave before Christmas (the O Antiphons, Vespers)
  • Origins of the Christmas creche
  • Christmas tree
  • St. Nicholas (Santa Claus)

If you have children, I think it would be great to read parts of the book to them. Many of our traditions go back several centuries and the stories behind them are fascinating. Father Saunders also offers spiritual reflections that will make this Advent and Christmas more meaningful. Moreover, he doesn’t stop at the Nativity, but also devotes several chapters to the Feast of the Holy Family, The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, The Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord and Candlemas Day (the feast of the Presentation).

Get the book now:

celebrating a merry catholic christmas

Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas: A Guide to the Customs and Feast Days of Advent and Christmas by Father William Saunders

Anthony Esolen marooned on Planet Novus Ordo

Poor Anthony Esolen! I sympathise with the horror he felt while attending a Novus Ordo “Mass” in a hotel, and because it was so awful, he turned it into one of the funniest pieces I have read about the bastardisation of the Roman Rite:

A church lady stood at the lectern and began to Announce Things, including the name of the priest. She also instructed us that at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, we do not kneel after Communion—lest we show undue honor to the Lord? We were to remain standing until Father was seated, in order to show our unity with others whose order-numbers were still to be called at the In-and-Out . . .

The Second Vatican Council’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, says that Latin is the language of the Church. There was no Latin. It says that the pipe organ is best fitted for worship, for its grandeur. There was no music on the organ. There was a woman playing the piano, in that style befitting a hotel lounge or a posh funeral parlor, tinklety-tinkly ninths and elevenths and swoon. SC says that the people in charge of the music should avail themselves of the vast treasury of Christian hymns. There was one true hymn, the opening, while the other three were show tunes, slovenly, effeminate, unfit for the liturgy, and impossible for a congregation of both sexes; but that was all right, since Beverly Sills was at the microphone, drowning out every other voice, and holding the whole notes at the ends of verses just as long, long, long as her breath held out, or until the consummation of the world, whichever would come first.

Read the entire piece:

50 Years of Effect and Infertile Liturgical Culture is Enough

My own experience one Easter Sunday:

Please no more guitar masses!