A New Year, A New You

New year’s resolutions are gaining a full head of steam. More people are deciding to seek the devout Catholic life. Weight loss may still reign at the top of many lists, but it’s very admirable for someone to add to their list to become a better Catholic. To commit fewer sins, to go to Mass on a regular basis, to frequent the confessional more often, or have a better prayer life.

With change comes discipline and the act of the will. This involves breaking old habits and forming new ones. Habits can be changed in a matter of weeks. The will acts as a beacon. A person that wants change in their life wills it. When a person decides to take their faith more serious and become a more devout Catholic, there are so many avenues one may venture.

While the list may go on within such prayer avenues, it’s the obvious approach people tend to miss. There are prayers and practices that fills the soul and are easily accessible. This simple approach to the devout life doesn’t involve a “feel good” conference for a quick “Jesus jolt.” An effective approach to the devout begins with ancient Liturgy.

The Traditional Latin Mass is the gateway to the devout. A reverent Eucharistic sacrifice is the foundation. People that take the Liturgy seriously are more likely to take their faith seriously.

“When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt.” –St. John Vianney

Eating healthy and exercising promotes a healthy side effect–weight loss. The same goes for attending a reverent Liturgy such as the Latin Mass. Mass that is taken seriously and treated reverently could itself net a healthy side effect–the intent to take the faith seriously. A genuine attempt to live the Christian life as God wills.

Lex orandi, lex credendi is a Latin phrase that refers to good Liturgy championing good theology. Not only that, but beautiful, reverent Liturgy can lead to a devoted prayer life. The Latin Mass is an accessible approach to a bona fide spiritual growth.

“The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” –St. Gregory

Soul-satisfying Liturgy from the Latin Mass can be the momentum needed to devote oneself into deeper prayer outside of the Mass. The Rosary is a most powerful prayer. It is a mighty weapon against Satan and his minions. Sinful temptations may also falter. The Rosary is also a chance to spend silent time meditating on the Mysteries of Christ through the Blessed Mother.

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” –Saint Francis de Sales

One may also choose to pray the Rosary in Latin. It is the liturgical tongue of the Church. There are good reasons for praying the Rosary in Latin. There is less distraction while meditating on the mysteries. Moreover, the devil hates Latin; he loathes Latin. The evil one is fully aware how powerful and rich praying (or speaking) in Latin is to Catholics. Latin in the Liturgy dates back over a thousand years, and some believe that the earliest Masses were offered in Latin. The traditional Rosary in Latin is a personal preference. The Most Holy Rosary offers the Rosary in both Latin and English.

“The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” –Pope Leo XIII

The Divine Office, or in Latin Divinum Officium, is a most important prayer that the Church offers using a liturgical book known as a Breviary. Traditionally these prayers are chanted by monks and nuns, but may also be recited by devout Catholic faithful. The Divine Office is made up the 150 Psalms that are spread throughout the week, and also incorporates readings from Sacred Scripture, commentaries from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and short accounts of the saints lives. A beautiful aspect of the Divine Office is that it follows the traditional liturgical calendar of the Church. One can easily incorporate the Divine Office morning prayer (Laudes) and evening prayer (Vespers) as part of their daily routine.

The Traditional Latin Mass, Rosary, and Divine Office are three obtainable methods to live a robust, healthy, and devout life with Christ in His Church.

by John Connor

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Liturgy You Deserve
Getting to Know the Mother of Jesus
Born to be Magnificent

Liturgy You Deserve

When one attends Holy Mass, there are two essentials that one may reasonably expect, namely good music and a good homily. This expectation is not demanding, and in fact it is not demanding enough. To understand better this point, let us take a deeper look beyond these two elements (music and homily) towards the Liturgy itself.

In terms of liturgical worship, we seek out the supernatural, something with spiritual substance and depth. Deep down we hunger for a Liturgy that is rich and steeped in tradition. This desire flows from our love of God which spurs us on to offer the very best to Him.

“When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.” –St. John Chrysostom

In the contemporary world, one can hear a great sermon plus entertaining music at a “mega church.” As Catholics, we are attracted to a liturgy that will satisfy our spiritual hunger. The Mass should be out of the ordinary (literally, “extra-ordinary”), rather than ordinary.

Instead of Jesus coming to us at the Mass on a natural level, we want to be supernaturally caught up to the mystical heavenly banquet that takes place right before our very eyes at Mass.

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” –St. Padre Pio

A priest’s primary role is to help us get to heaven by way of the Sacraments. His job is to administer the Sacraments, especially celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass–the Eucharist. All other side ministries and projects a priest may start or be involved in are secondary to his primary, sacramental role.

You should expect more from the Mass, and here’s how.

Ad Orientem
If one wishes to experience something “ever ancient and yet ever new,” attend a Mass wherein the priest faces the East. This is known as ad orientem worship. For the past several decades, most priests celebrate Mass versus populum, which means “facing the people.” We are more familiar with this posture. For over a millennium, however, Mass was always celebrated ad orientem and this direction has a lot of beautiful and rich symbolism.

“For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man.” –Matthew 24:27

This way we all face the same direction in joyful expectation of Christ returning to us from the east.

If one has never been to a Mass where the priest faces ad orientem, it may look like the priest is turning his back to the people. This may cause people to feel offended, like they do not matter. A priest with a charming or charismatic personality comes across stronger when he is facing you. This may seem warm and inviting, but the priest has a very important duty to perform, and that is to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice at the Mass.

When a priest celebrates ad orientem, he empties himself of his own personality, and you get a clearer picture of the Mass being a sacrifice. At Mass the priest stands “in the person of Christ” or, in Latin, in persona Christi. As the priest steps up to the altar to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice on our behalf, he is in essence entering the holy of holies. Standing before God Almighty to offer Him the greatest sacrifice–the Eucharist.

When we all face the same direction, in other words, facing God, the priest and the laity together offer worship to Him. When the priest faces the people, the Mass can come across as a theatrical play, or a simple call and response. The priest “calls” and we “respond.” When the priest faces ad orientem, it is not to insult, but to lead us in worship and adoration.


Sacred Music
God deserves the best music at Mass. By “best,” I do not mean the organist’s capabilities or the cantor singing in key or loud enough for the parish to hear. Rather, I speak of what best pleases God, what best brings out our internal participation from the external.

There are so many different musical genres to choose from. But the genre of music that deserves the most respect at Mass is not the most-trendy, upbeat music. The sanctuary of the church is a sacred place where the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered to God. Sacred music best fits a sacred liturgy.

At Mass we embark on a sacred journey where we take part in a thanksgiving sacrifice–the Eucharist. Music that is sacred fits properly with the sacredness of the liturgy. Some contemporary styles of music do not necessarily resonate the sacred, but they are entertaining. Being entertained at Mass can distract us from what is happening at the altar. Sacred music will heighten our senses far above the outward feelings and emotions we get from, for example, the praise and worship style of music.

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially proper to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” –Sacrosanctum Concilium, par. 116

Chant and polyphony are preferred by the Church, but there are plenty of traditional hymns that properly fit the criteria of sacred music. Sacred music has a mystical “awe” about it, because it is simply that–sacred. It does not convey being “entertained” at Mass as the Mass is not about being entertained, it is about worship, adoration, and sacrifice. Sacred music reflects this fact.

Lex orandi, lex credendi is a Latin phrase that means “the law of praying [is] the law of believing.” In other words, good liturgy leads to good theology, or, the way you worship is the way you believe. If Mass is beautiful, reverent, and sacred, one is more likely to see clearly (and hopefully accept) the doctrines of the Church, especially the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

In the Latin Church, there are two expressions of the Latin Liturgy—the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form. Many Catholics today are more familiar with the Ordinary Form as it is the use most seen and practiced today. I would, however, like to focus upon the Extraordinary Form for a moment as I believe it most closely represents what I have herein discussed about liturgical worship.

What is beautiful about the Extraordinary Form is that it incorporates both ad orientem and sacred music. Moreover, it is almost entirely in Latin and there’s something sacred about Latin in the liturgy. It is the liturgical tongue of the Latin Church. At the Extraordinary Form, one uses all five senses, especially at a High Mass wherein there are more “bells and whistles.” One will see a liturgy that is beautiful and reverent. Liturgy should not feel plain and mundane. No, it should lift us up from the mundane to God. Liturgy that will truly feed us, yet leave us hungry for more, is a Liturgy worth attending.

God has given us a most beautiful Liturgy in the Extraordinary Form to offer worship to Him. Rather than say I “deserve” the Latin Mass, it is this beautiful Liturgy that helps me offer my best to God.

by John Connor

Related articles:
Why Be Catholic
Why I Love Traditional Catholicism
Lord, I’m Not Worthy

Discipleship

A disciple is someone who “adheres to the teachings of another.” As Catholics we adhere to the teachings of Jesus through the Catholic Church. We are His students. Christ desires for us to be like Him.

Our discipleship begins at our baptism when we enter into the covenant family of God, and continues to form at home. We learn from our parents what it means to be Catholic by going to Mass every Sunday, going to Confession on a regular basis, praying together as a family, and receiving the sacraments.

The way we worship [at Mass] is what structures our belief system as Catholics. For instance, if Mass is celebrated reverently we will learn to believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and not just a symbol. How we worship in the liturgy resonates what we believe as Catholics. This is an important part of how our discipleship with Christ comes to fruition.

Does being a disciple of Christ mean you have to be an active participant, that you have to possibly make changes in your life?

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” – John 14:15

When you truly love our Lord and have an eagerness to be His disciple, you will follow His two Great Commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) The ten commandments are summed up in these two. Christ instructs us to keep these two as the greatest acts of love we can offer to God and others.

As disciples we follow Jesus by obeying him through His commandments, and we also have to be willing to give Him everything we have. In the story of “The Rich Man” (Matthew 19:16-22) the man followed the commandments, but was unwilling to give up everything. He enjoyed his possessions. Does following Jesus mean we have to literally give up everything we own? No, you have to make a living to put food on the table and pay your bills, etc. If there is something that comes between you and God, then yes you must be wiling to give that up. Sometimes it helps to take inventory of all the external things you love and enjoy doing to see if they get in the way of going to Mass every Sunday or daily prayer. These can be the simplest of distractions. Eliminate distractions and you’re then able to focus on God.

Christ calls you and I to be disciples by ways of our baptism, but He also calls us to form others to become disciples too (i.e. devout Catholics) when He preached the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations. That means telling others about Jesus and His Catholic Church. You have to evangelize. Share the good news about why being Catholic is awesome. Your formation of being a faithful disciple never ends. There is plenty to discover about the Catholic Church in order to help you form disciples.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Being a faithful Catholic and disciple is not easy. There will be adversity along the way. We live in a “me” culture that is very secular. You’ll run into opposition on important topics as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Jesus never said being a disciple would be easy, but you will be rewarded in the end. “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14) As Catholics, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we shall endure. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:12-13)

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” –St. Catherine of Sienna

by John Connor

Related articles:
Why Be Catholic?
A New Year, A New You
Always Remember Who You Are

God’s Love on the Cross

According to tradition, in the fourth century the Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, discovered the true Cross of Christ while on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Helena and Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to be built on the holy site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead.

Constantine abolished crucifixion c. AD 337. Until then crucifixion was an extreme means to kill the victim in an excruciating and dishonorable way. Before Constantine, the early Christians saw the cross as torture and capital punishment.

Eventually the cross became a symbol of life and love, rather than death, through the Resurrection. Jesus Christ died on the cross, and changed the course of history by being resurrected.

His death on the cross is what saves us, and the Resurrection is proof that He is the Son of God.

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” – John 3:16

Jesus loves us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for our sins. God the Father did not punish Jesus on our behalf, rather, Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself to lay down His life so that we too may have everlasting life with Him in heaven. Jesus willfully, out of pure love, laid down His own life to save us.

As Christians we look at the Cross today as an instrument or symbol of what love really is.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

The reason we have crucifixes, rather than empty crosses, is to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us out of love. He loves us so much that He gave up His life for all of salvation. As Catholics we do not leave Christ on the cross (e.g. crucifix) as punishment, rather it’s a fitting reminder of what He did for us. Save us from our sins so we make have everlasting life.

The cross was a brutal way to die. We see the cross is a symbol of love. We look to the cross and give thanks to God almighty for his love for us. His willingness to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. We do not deserve it, but we can certainly appreciate by receiving and accepting this precious gift of new life.

That is why we venerate the cross certain times of the year, such as Good Friday, and celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross every September 14, to remind us of the love God has for us and the cross was used as a means to save us from our sins.

God could have chosen any manner to save us, but He chose to die for us. Sacrificial love is the most perfect act of love. In Greek, the word agape refers to the highest form of love one can offer to someone.

The next time you’re at Mass and you see the crucifix, remind yourself of the love (agape) God has given you. We can offer our love back to him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

by John Connor

Catholicism in College

In youth group, a major concern was how to keep us Catholic in college.  We were read terrifying numbers of how many people leave the Church in their college years, we were given talks and books to prepare us for the college experience, and we were encouraged to deepen our relationship with God.  I was given great advice, but I would like to share with you a reflection on the first two years of my college life.  By finding God in each day, I not only stayed Catholic, but grew in my faith!  He is everywhere if you look for Him!

I turned the time between classes into a time to raise my thoughts, contemplate on the beauty of creation, and give thanks to God.  I was blessed to be on a beautiful campus my first two years.  Every time I walked from class to class all of the flowers, trees, and other creation pointed directly to the Creator.  It is rejuvenating to take a deep breath of fresh air, look around at the beautiful sky and earth and thank God.  But nature is not the only type of creation that points to God.

Everyone we pass by each day is a beloved child of the Father.  It is amazing how uniquely complex people are.  Everyone has hopes, dreams, fears, passions, etc.  We’re all amazing creatures that can interact with each other in complex ways, have the ability to be rational, and have the vocation to love.  Most amazing is that everyone has a soul, an immortal soul made in the image and likeness of God.  Everyone has the image of the Divine in them.  Nothing on earth can compare to the infinite beauty of our souls, not even the most breathtaking sunset, piece of art, or music.  We are surrounded by beautiful masterpieces everyday – human beings.  Yet people hardly acknowledge others.

“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

God can also be found in the classroom.  All of the subjects have the mark of the Lord in them because He is their source.  “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

In any of the sciences, we learn about how creation works and how our amazingly brilliant and wise Creator did it!  Everything is so complex and intricate that it is hard to picture anything at all coming about without a creator.

In English, we get to learn how to use language to eloquently and convincingly convey truths and the Gospel that were put in place by the Divine Author.

In history, we study those who have gone before us and witness how God worked in their lives, but also learn from their mistakes.

In government, we learn how humans should to interact to protect the rights and dignities of each other, especially the most vulnerable among us.

In philosophy, we seek truth and wisdom.  In Greek, philosophy literally means “love of wisdom.”

In psychology, we study the infinite complexities of the mind that God has given us.  In Greek, psychology means “study of the soul and mind.”

Though it was a challenge, I have even found God in math!  God brings order out of chaos.  In the beginning, He separated light from darkness, the sky from the waters, and the waters from the earth.  Just as God has brought order out of chaos, we get to bring order by the logic and rationality of mathematics.

Finding God in my studies and time in college has helped my faith grow.  He is present in the beautiful earth, the people that fill it, and the knowledge that He has blessed us with.  This mindset gives me greater perspective on what the purpose of an education is.  It is to learn and know more about God to be able to serve Him.

I think these practices of seeking God in each day is a powerful prayer that can be practiced by anyone, regardless of stage of life or vocation.  I pray that each day you will be blessed to see God’s presence in your life!

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

by Sarah Pressman

Getting to Know the Mother of Jesus

 

I encountered Christ in the sacraments for the first time when I became Catholic, and I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our relationship with Jesus is sacramental. It is a covenant, family bond. Mary does not get in the way of you and I having a familial relationship with Christ, hardly, Mary works as in instrument, pointing the way as if to say “I want to introduce you to my Son.” Mary encourages us to get to know Jesus. Momma knows best.

“When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother.” (John 19:26-27) Through baptism we become part of God’s family as adopted sons and daughters (Galatians 3:26-29). God our Father, Jesus our Brother, and Mary our Mother.

If we are to grow closer to Christ in the Eucharist through His Mother, how do we make that happen? It starts by praying the Rosary.

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales

When we pray the Rosary not only do we receive blessings and graces from it, we grow closer to Mary which then leads us closer to Christ. Praying the Rosary is also sacred because we’re giving glory to God in this prayer.

It is a beautiful gift to God to desire to pray the Rosary, but it’s not about how perfect you pray this prayer, rather, how much you want to please God through prayer.

The Rosary should not be part of a to-do list. If we have the intent to pray and we’re sincere, then God accepts that and we’ll receive graces.

Nobody wants us to fail more than satan. He will put into your mind that it’s too hard to pray the Rosary or how much time out of your day it’ll take to pray the Rosary. Satan will use any diabolical scheme, often times subtle, to discourage you, because he knows how much of an impact spending time with Mary in the Rosary can have on our lives.

Sometimes we get distracted when we pray the Rosary. We think about work, what’s for dinner, sports. Our minds have a tendency to wonder.

“Never walk away from the Rosary feeling discouraged.” – Dr. Edward Sri

God looks at your heart and He sees that you are trying. Even though we may get distracted after a long day, as a loving Father, God sees that we’re giving our best to Him.

What about “vein repetition”?

Repetition is pleasing to God. Revelation 4:8 says “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Another example of repetition that is pleasing to God is Psalm 135, “for his mercy endureth for ever” is repeated in every verse. (Douay-Rheims)

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).” – Saint Louis de Montfort

The Rosary is centered around the Hail Mary. The Hail Mary prayer is all about Jesus. Even though the prayer is addressed to Mary it’s still about Jesus. The Hail Mary is also Biblical. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28); “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). The first half of the Hail Mary is about praising God.

In the second half of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death,” we ask Mary to pray for us and to bring us closer to Christ.

In the middle of the Hail Mary prayer we say the Holy name of Jesus (i.e. “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”). St. Pope John Paul II called this the “center of gravity of the Rosary” or the “hinge of the Rosary.” Sometimes we can pray the Rosary so fast that we lose sight of the Holy name of Jesus in the middle of the Hail Mary prayer. Instead it should be the focal point. Praying the Rosary with devotion helps us grow closer to Christ.

St. Pope John Paul II also said we should “view the repetition of the Rosary in the context of a relationship of love.” It’s as if you’re repeating “I love you, Jesus” over and over.

As we pray the Rosary we meditate and contemplate the life of Jesus. We enter a deeper and closer relationship with Jesus as we pray these prayers, especially the Hail Mary. We’re getting to know Jesus on a more personal level by doing this.

Spending time with Mary in the Rosary can and will help you develop a more personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist, and in your daily life too. This can lead to daily Scripture reading, Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, and a deeper prayer life. It will strengthen you as a Catholic, help you avoid the near occasion of sin, and give you the graces you need. It starts by getting to know our Blessed Mother.

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin…If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” – Pope Pius XI

by John Connor