Why do we do the things we do?

One of my newest podcast discoveries!

Ever wonder why Catholics sit, stand, and kneel so much?  Jennifer explains it here:

I wish I’d have had these podcasts when I was a brand new baby Catholic.  Sharing for all you newbies now, and for all you seasoned Catholics who might not have known WHY you do what you do.

Blessings.

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Forty Ideas to Incorporate or Give Up this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Today we remember our station, that we are dust, and one day will return to dust.  It’s a time of personal reflection on the passion of Christ, and the imitation of Him.  It’s also a time of intentional resolve to follow the exhortation of Philippians 2, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  The sacrifices we make should be from a heart of obedience, and not for outward show.  In this, we draw near to the heart of God, as obedient children, and have the opportunity to participate in His suffering and death.  The practical application of this participation is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. We give up things, attitudes, or bad habits that may have taken a place in our hearts that is reserved only for the Lord.  We put these things aside, and work on developing good habits while we nourish our souls.

If you don’t know what to give up for Lent, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas for you to choose from:  If you’e already made your Lenten sacrifice, there’s an idea for each day of Lent for a little extra sacrifice to keep you extra focused.

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, and would love to hear yours.  Feel free to share your Lenten inspirations with me in the comments.

  1. Spend some time developing your prayer life this Lent.  I’m still adding to and organizing my own prayer journal, and working on making better habits.
  2. Give up social media.  So much time is wasted here.  I’ve actually fasted completely in the past.  This year, I’ll be partially fasting, because of work that requires me to be on social media.  My goal is balance, my plan is to abstain from sun up to sun down, then prioritize the time acquired between work, familly, and ministry. I hope to be able to continue this even after Lent is over.
  3. Television.  Turn. It. Off.  Seriously!  We actually are planning to disconnect cable altogether as soon as this billing cycle ends.  What a waste of money and resources.  It’s just a vast wasteland of mind rot.
  4. Replace TV time with reading a good book.
  5. Read Story of A Soul, or if you prefer, listen to it online.
  6. Give up some sleep.  Wake up an hour earlier than usual, or stay up an extra hour before going to sleep.
  7. Replace sleep time with prayer and/or contemplation.
  8. Learn and pray the Divine Office.  It’s online here.
  9. Give up your telephone.  Turn it off for an hour, or an afternoon, or all day.  Let your voicemail pick up important calls and you can return them later.
  10. Make and send a handwritten greeting card or letter.  Don’t you love to get REAL mail?  Give, and you will receive.
  11. Give up laziness.  When you feel like sitting and relaxing, get up and DO something.  Combat laziness with activity…go for a walk, exercise, garden….
  12. Offer up your hobbies.  We enjoy them, but sometimes they take more time than they should, time away from necessary things, even.
  13. Give up worrying and fretting.  Aint’ nobody got time for that!  Replace it with thanksgiving, and allow His peace to fill your soul.
  14. Memorize Philippians 4:6,7
  15. Pray the Rosary.  If you are a baby Catholic (like me) or are just learning the Rosary, it is helpful to listen and pray along with one of the many youtube videos available.  Check it out, and pick your favorite.
  16. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I prefer to sing it.  This is my favorite version right now.
  17. Give up your pride.
  18. Pray the Litany of Humility
  19. Turn off your electricity for a day and meditate on Jesus being the Light of the World.
  20. Pray for those who do not have electricity for refrigeration, cooking, heating/cooling, and etc.
  21. Give up your favorite Alcoholic drink.
  22. Replace your usual alcohol beverage with water while you meditate Jesus’ first miracle.
  23. Give up caffeine (!)  (I have to admit this one is a huge sacrifice for me, I really, really love and appreciate my morning coffee.  If you can’t give it up completely, what about cutting back and limiting yourself to just one cup instead of half a pot?)
  24. Cut out all sugar and carbs and replace them with healthy alternatives.
  25. Give up one meal.  Offer it up and replace the time with a Rosary for world hunger.
  26. Give up meat.  Try some new meatless meals on another day besides the usual Friday fast.
  27. The ever popular “sweets”.  Give up candy, sodas, desserts, etc.
  28. Give up that second helping.  That dinner was good, and you could easily polish off another plate of it?  Resist.  Offer it up.
  29. Give up salt. Experience the absence of salt while you do a topical study on all the times salt is mentioned in the Bible.  You won’t forget it.
  30. Visit a shut-in
  31. Read Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ 
  32. Did you know Thomas A’Kempis has another beautiful work?  I’m reading The Imitation of Mary this Lent, after finding it in our church’s bookstore.  So far, I don’t see a free version online, but Amazon has them if your church bookstore doesn’t.
  33. Give up your inclination to anger.  When you feel it rising, offer it up, and and look for an opportunity to exercise your compassion.
  34. Memorize Colossians 3:8-13
  35. Give up grumbling and complaining, replace it with thanksgiving.  This requires you to think before you speak, a worthy habit to develop!
  36. Memorize Philippians 2:12-16
  37. Give up shopping for 40 days.  Learn to be content and make do with what’s on hand.
  38. Memorize Hebrews 13:1-6
  39. Give up procrastinating.  Whatever it is you’re putting off, do it, so you can get it done!  You’re not getting any younger.
  40. Memorize Ephesians 5:14-17 — in fact, if you’ve got serious penance in mind, memorize the whole chapter.  It is RICH, isn’t it?

“Happy?”

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Before we left for Canada in 2011, I gave my oldest daughter a plastic rosary that was given to me at RCIA when we learned about prayer.  As we crossed the Confederation Bridge into PEI Canada, we got a telephone call informing us that our first grandbaby was in the hospital, due to a collapsed lung.  We would later find out that this was her only working lung, as they discovered that her left one was missing a valve that connected it to her heart.  To say that his baby has seen her share of medical professionals, hospitals, and stethoscopes, would be a severe understatement.

My daughter still has this rosary, and her children have taken to it, handling it, sleeping with it, and sometimes wearing it around their neck.  Today, Grammie Reward #1 (baby with the heart issues) had it, and was using the crucifix as a stethoscope on her Momma.  She would place the cross on her Momma’s chest, and say “Happy?”  then move it to another spot on her chest and ask again “Happy?”

Watching this Sacramental being used in a way in which she had become familiar, was both heart-gripping and profound.  Every once in awhile, I get a little glimpse of the Father’s heart.  Today was one of those times.  I’m telling you…I got a serious case of Holy Ghost bumps.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Great Physician holding the stethoscope of the Cross over our hearts, and using it to gauge its intentions, motives, and attitudes.  And he asks “Are you happy?”

And I think sometimes, all too often, he hears something that causes Him to check further…”was that a murmer of discontent?  Impatience?  Pride?  Hmmmm…this heart is not happy”, and so he begins His procedure, removing those things that are not healthy, and repairing and rebuilding what is broken.  “Heart surgery” is painful, so He sends His Holy Spirit to comfort us as we heal, and He sends His Son…His love letter…the Word to console us to teach us His ways, so that when we have our next “checkup”, he can again examine us and find a happy, healthy heart.

 

Learning to Pray the Rosary – Hail Mary

After the sign of the cross and the Apostles’ Creed, we come to the “Our Father” bead on our rosary.  I have recently done a series of posts on the Lord’s Prayer that you can read here, here, here, and here; so I’ll move to the first series of the “Hail Mary” prayer.  These are repeated three times along with the request of an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and love, then again on the ten beads of each decade.

hail maryHail Mary…Ave Maria

I love the greeting, don’t you?  The salutation in this little prayer is the same that the angel Gabriel addressed Mary with when he appeared to her (Luke 1:28) at the Annunciation.  Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  As near as I can tell, the word “Hail” is a word of greeting, like hello, but with a more respectful tone.  It says in this passage that she is troubled by these words, and wondered about this salutation to her.  I can only guess that it is her humility that wonders “why is He addressing me…a simple girl…with such a respectful greeting?” 

The only other places I could find where it’s used in the Bible is when Judas addresses Christ before betraying Him with a kiss (Matt 26:49, Mark 14:45); when the crowds mocked him in the accounts of His being mocked by the crowds (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:18, John 19:3); and in his own greeting to the women at His tomb after the resurrection (Matthew 28:9).

Full of grace

I love that the angel Gabriel addresses her this way.  Before she has conceived the Son of God in her own body, she is told that she is “full of grace”.  Some translations say “highly favored one”…but I think “full of grace” is so much richer and deeper than just being highly favored.  As a new Catholic, this phrase holds the key to understanding Mary and her role on this earth.  She was “highly favored”, or “full of grace”, even before she said yes to God.  Isn’t that amazing?  I think that insight has helped me more than anything to fully grasp the Church’s teaching of her Marian doctrines.  She was endowed with a special grace that has not been seen elsewhere in Christ’s followers.  The early Church Fathers very matter-of-factually taught that Mary was the “new Eve”, preserved from original sin, and kept pure for the sake of her destiny.  You can read more, including quotes from the early Church Fathers here.

The Lord is with thee—blessed art thou among women

Again…all this affirmation of grace…God with her…blessings, before she even says yes.  I can’t get over it, for me it’s such an epiphany of proof of her being set apart for this specific purpose.  Where the first Eve tied the knots of sin and bondage, Mary, our new Eve, unties them because of the graces given to her to say “yes” to God and His wonderful plan of salvation.  She recognizes it herself when she affirms that all generations will call me blessed.  Reminds me very much of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.  “Her children arise and call her blessed”.  Mary, the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman!

…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus

This line is taken from Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary’s presence, and the wonderful miracle that she was given insight into.  When Mary visited her cousin, the Bible tells us that Elizabeth’s own baby (John the Baptist…Christ’s forerunner)  inside her womb “leaped for joy”.  This is the only instance I can find of one being filled with the Spirit in-utero.  Elizabeth recognizes the beautiful, miraculous thing that is happening inside her own belly is in direct response to the wonderful thing that God is doing in her cousin.

Holy Mary, mother of God

Since we know that Jesus is God in the flesh, then Mary, being the mother of Jesus, is the mother of God.

…pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

When Jesus was on the cross, he said to Mary, “…behold, your son”, and to John, “…behold your mother”.  In effect he was giving them to one another, to love, cherish, and provide for.  I have no doubt in my mind that Mary loved her Son’s followers, after her loss, as her own children.  And as followers of Christ, she is given to us as our own mother as well.  My mother here on earth loved her children deeply, and she took in our friends as her own, loving, nurturing, and praying for them as if they were her own.  I love the thought of my mother, Mary, knowing my needy sinful state, taking me as her own, loving me, and praying for me, now, and through my life, and at the hour of my death.