Category Archives: Tools for Catechesis

The Crucifix: Inspiration for Repentance and Love

Growing up, the crucifix always struck me as–well, gross, graphic, and unnecessary. It simply didn’t make any sense. Why did Catholics insist on displaying such gruesomeness? Wasn’t it better to look at the clean and less offensive empty cross, and remember that Christ rose from the dead?

estatua_de_la_crucifixion-_cristo_crucificado

However, upon my conversion, I quickly gained a deep appreciation for the crucifix. There is “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends,”  and Christ loved me so much that he died for me in this terrible and incredibly painful way. To see it so clearly depicted before me served as a constant reminder of just how great his love was for me, a sinner, and for all sinners.

When I read and understood Numbers 21:4-9 for the first time, my love for the crucifix grew as the beauty of scripture filled me with awe. Once again, we see how the New Testament is contained in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. The Israelites complained against God, even as they should have thanked him for  freeing them from slavery in Egypt. God sent serpents among them, and many Israelites perished. Moses prayed for the people, and, upon God’s instruction, made a bronze serpent and mounted it upon a pole.  Whoever was bitten by a snake had only to gaze upon that serpent atop that pole, to receive healing.

Likewise, we who experience the bite of sin can look upon the likeness of Christ, mounted upon the cross, to begin the process of healing. That image, which calls to mind his death and love for us, will drive us to true contrition and sorrow for our sins, and a desire to be worthy of such sacrifice. It will lead us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are blessed to hear those most beautiful words of absolution.

words-of-absolution

Thus cleansed of our sin, we find ourselves gazing more lovingly upon our Lord, emptied and broken, longing to love him as he loves us. The desire to be close to him, to be concealed within his wounds, leads us to ever closer union with him as we seek to love him through loving our fellow man.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, may the crucifix and its reminder of Christ’s sacrifice serve as our strength, inspiration, and reassurance of Christ’s love for us.and-just-as-moses-lifted-up-the-serpent-in-the-desertso-must-the-son-of-man-be-lifted-up-so-that-everyone-who-believes-in-him-may-have-eternal-life-john-3_14-15

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

Answering God’s Call, Even When It Doesn’t “Make Sense”

The Unexpected Blessing of Being Open to Life

A Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

The Unexpected Blessing of Being Open to Life

This little guy turns one today, so it seems fitting that I write a post I’ve been meaning to Evan in swingwrite for a very long time.

I’d like to reflect on the fact that, about one year and eight months ago, when Ray and I shared our news with friends and family, the overwhelming response was, “Are you serious?” or, “How could you let this happen?” or, “Raymond, you should have had that taken care of a long time ago!” or even, “You’re killing me!”

Thank God, we were serious. Thank God, we did let this happen. Thank God, Raymond hadn’t had “that” taken care of.

Because, first of all, our family was not complete without Little Man. We had one more seat in the car, a little more space in a bedroom, and tons more room in our hearts. From the moment he came into this world — smiling, I swear! —he has been a blessing to us. He has brought joy, laughter, and endless snuggles into our lives. Everyone who meets him remarks at what a happy child he is. Anyone who sees him agrees he’s one of the most beautiful babies they’ve ever seen. Each person who holds him is instantly wrapped around his little finger, and happier for having had a cuddle.

Evan standing at tableI’ve always thought this was God’s way of showing us how he will bless us when we are open to his will for us. When people would argue with me that Ray should get “snipped,” that surely we couldn’t have more children, I would point to Little Man and say, “But if we had followed your advice, we wouldn’t have him!” 

To me, Little Man was a living, breathing testament to the importance of always remaining open to life.

But then God took it one step further. Because bringing light and laughter and one more person to love into our lives wasn’t enough. If Ray and I hadn’t been open to life, to this life in particular, there would have been no baby to wake up and begin to cry on the morning of November 19th, when Ray got out of bed. There would have been no child to carry out to the family room to nurse at three in the morning. No baby to set down on the floor while I called 911. No baby to remain sitting quietly by as his mommy performed CPR on his daddy.

Evan sitting on floorNope. If we’d followed the way of the world, and the advice of most of our family and friends, there would have been no baby. I would have remained peacefully asleep that morning, and Ray’s body would have grown cold long before I awoke three hours later to find him.

Does every “surprise” baby save his daddy’s life?

No.

But this baby is a reminder that God has a plan for each and every one of us. And that we’ll never know what blessings we’ve kept from the world in the babies whose existence we’ve prevented.


 

If you’d like to see more posts like this, you might check out:

At This Most Difficult Hour, 7 Things I’m Grateful For

A Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

and one of my all time favorites:

Ugly, Squeaky, Humbling: 7 Things I Love About Our Little House

 

Jeremiah’s Dirty Loincloth and Christian Obedience

In Jeremiah 13, God told the prophet Jeremiah to go and buy himself a linen loincloth, wear it, but don’t wash it.  So Jeremiah did.

Click!
Michelangelo’s Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, image courtesy Web Gallery of Art, www.wga.hu

Next, God told him to go to the Parath and bury the loincloth.  So Jeremiah did.

Finally, after some lengthy period of time, God told him to go retrieve the buried loincloth.  And so Jeremiah did.

Most of us would have responded to God’ first command with, “But, why?  Why do you want me to buy this loincloth?  Does it have to be linen?  I prefer silk.  And why can’t I wash it?  That’s gross.  How about if I wear it for a few days – I’ll even spring for three.  Then I’ll just put it in a bag, carefully sealed, so the stink doesn’t escape.”

To the second command, we might have responded, “The Parath is a long ways away.  I’ll go, but only if I have a horse and chariot to carry me there.  And food for the journey.  And a place to stay overnight, so I can be well rested.  As a matter of fact, isn’t it silly to go all that way, just to bury a piece of dirty cloth?  How about if I bury it in the desert, just outside the city, or – better yet – in my back yard?  Surely, that would work, Lord, right?  You don’t really want me to have to go all that way, I’m sure of it!”

And to the third, we’d likely have said, “Oh, come on!  Enough of this already!  I did what you wanted the first two times – or near enough.  Now you want me to go unearth the thing?  It’ll probably have bugs on it, it’ll be even dirtier than it was before, and I doubt I can even find it in the first place!  And if you want me to wear it afterward, you’d better believe I’m going to wash it first!”

God asks our obedience in all matters.  Obedience to God is never blind, but rather trusting, trusting that He will never lead us astray, but lead us to sanctification.  Even when we do not understand why we must do this thing or that thing, or not do this thing or that thing, we must trust that our obedience will never lead us away from God, but toward him.

In what matters do you find obedience difficult?  For many of us, it might be the Church’s teaching on contraception, marriage between a man and a woman, drunkenness, intimacy outside of marriage, divorce, or to attend Mass regularly and go to confession.

Or, perhaps, it’s obedience to that nudge of the Spirit to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, or to forgive willingly.

Obedience is never easy, nor is it meant to be.  It is through the trials of obedience that we draw closer to Christ, clinging to him as the Israelites failed to do in Jeremiah’s time, and as many (most?) of us fail to do in our time as well.

When Jeremiah unearthed the loincloth, he found that it had rotted.  The Lord spoke to him, saying, “So also I will allow the pride of Judah to rot… This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods… shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.” (Jer. 13:9-10)

Does that sound to you like it could easily be an indictment of the people of our age?  In some matters, is it an indictment of you and of me?

The Lord also said to Jeremiah, “For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me… to be my people, my beauty.  But they did not listen.” (Jer. 13:11)

We were made to cling to God – to Christ.  We were made to be His people, His beauty.

May we listen.

 

This post was added to July’s Catholic Blogger Blitz.  For more great Catholic blogs, click the link below!

2014 Catholic Bloggers Link-Up Blitz

 

 

 

Litany of Humility in Song

Last year, a friend shared the Litany of Humility with me.  I bookmarked it on my phone and pray it often.  Two nights ago, @wearethesalt1 shared this video on Twitter, featuring Danielle Rose’s musical version of the Litany – something I hadn’t known existed.  I’m enthralled and had to share.

I know that I greatly benefit from the Litany’s reminder as to what’s most important, and whose approval and love I should seek.  I can’t imagine there are many souls alive who wouldn’t benefit from praying this prayer on a regular basis.  Having it in song, on my iTunes playlist, makes it much easier to pray these beautiful words daily – or more than daily, as I have for the past two days!

Here are the words to the prayer, courtesy of EWTN.com:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

The Covenants Fulfilled and Christ is Born! Reflections for Christmas Eve and Day

Let’s face it, no matter how much you did to prepare, the next two days promise to be crazy.  So, the reflections are short, in recognition of the realities of life.  I pray that we will ponder these words of the Gospel throughout our busy days today, tomorrow, and every day to come!

Dec. 24 (Person – Jesus, Symbol – Manger)

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Read Luke 2:1-20

Reflection:  We started our Jesse Tree 24 days ago.  We read about how God created the world, Adam and Eve’s first sin, and God’s covenant promises to Abraham.  Those promises were land, a kingdom, and worldwide blessing.  This whole story that we’ve been reading for the past few weeks leads up to this point.  God has given us an everlasting kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven – and he has given us worldwide blessing, through Jesus Christ!

Just as Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart,” let us always remember in our hearts that God gave us Jesus Christ to save the world.

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Please help us to keep all these things in our hearts, so that they may guide our every thought, word, and action.

Bramantino - De aanbidding der herders
Bramantino – De aanbidding der herders, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 

Dec. 25 (Person – Christ, Symbol – Chi Rho Symbol)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  John 3:16

John 1:1-18, 3:16

Reflection: Christ is born!  Hallelujah!

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, we thank you again for the greatest gift of all – your Son, Jesus Christ.  Sweet Jesus, we thank you for coming to us and for providing your great light in our darkness.  Please help us to always know, love, and serve you, so that, through your love, we may be a light shining in the darkness.  Christ is born!  Hallellujah!

Paying Christ Homage – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 23

Wow!  Hard to believe Christmas is only two days away!  Our Advent season has truly been a wonderful time of preparation, and I am really looking forward to Christmas day.  This is especially wonderful since last year I was so stressed out and overwhelmed that I just wanted the season to be OVER.

We’ve done lots of wonderful things to celebrate Advent.  Things like putting up the tree on the first day of Advent and adding purple fabric swaths for the season’s liturgical color, but holding off on ornaments until Christmas Eve.  Or listening to beautiful Advent (not Christmas!) music – I’ll post a few later.  We’ve really enjoyed the Jesse tree, though I confess that I never did finish making all of the ornaments for that, so we are “a few ornaments short of a Jesse tree.”  We’ve done all of the reflections, though, even if we did fall behind and have to play makeup a time or two, and it’s been wonderful to have the time to sit and snuggle with the kids while setting the stage for Christ’s coming.

I hope you have had a wonderful Advent as well, and that you will be able to slow down from all the craziness and enjoy these last two days of preparing our hearts for Christ!

Dec. 23 (Person – Magi, Symbol – Star or Candle)

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Read Matt 2:1-20

Reflection:  These three wise men from afar saw this young child, with his mother, in a humble home.  They laid down flat on the floor, and “did him homage,” which means “to publicly show honor and respect.”  Even though these men were much older and came from rich lands, they were wise… and so they recognized the greatness of this tiny little baby.  What can we do today to show Jesus honor and respect – to pay him homage?

There are so many things we can do!  Going to Mass and being quiet and respectful, spending time in adoration, praying – especially praying the Rosary…  Let’s be sure that we give Jesus all honor and respect every day, and especially in these last few days leading up to our celebration of his birth!

Let’s pray:  Dear sweet Jesus, we are so excited that Christmas is only two days away!  Please help us to remember to always honor and respect you, and to remember that Christmas is all about Christ.

Clinging to God the Father – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 22

Well, friends, Jesus was right and the Mayans were wrong.  Surprise, surprise.

I awoke today – the first day of the rest of my life – with two wonderful epiphanies.  The first was, perhaps, not life-changing.  I was struck with an idea of how I could transform a gift that I’ve purchased for our dear family friends, taking it from “just another game that I hope they will play” to “a wonderful way to continue a great family tradition.”   I hope that they will be as excited as I am.  The second epiphany was an end to the writer’s block I was experiencing in regards to today’s reflection.  The first I hadn’t prayed about.  The second I had.  Thank you, God.

I knew there was a reason why I spent time in the blogosphere last night, and it turns out that it was to go to Little Catholic Bubble and see Fr. Barron’s thoughts on the Newtown tragedy, which you can watch here.  This provided the inspiration for today’s reflection:

Dec. 22 (Person – Joseph, Symbol – Carpenter’s square or hammer)

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt 1:21

Read Matt 1:18-25

Reflection:   God made the Holy Family complete by assigning Joseph as the adopted father of Jesus, and as protector of both Jesus and His mother, Mary.

Just as God gave the Holy Family a father and protector, he also gave his family on earth a father and protector – Himself, as God the Father.  God the Father will always look out for you and always love you.  You are his precious child.

Bad things will happen in life, just as they happened in the Bible.  We’ve read about the Joseph of the Old Testament being sold into slavery, about the Israelites spending four hundred years in miserable slavery in Egypt, where Pharaoh was killing each of their newborn sons.  We know that, later, the Israelites were forced from their promised land, and their cities destroyed.  The Bible does not pretend that bad things don’t happen.  But it teaches that, if we cling to God as our Rock, and to Jesus as our Savior, we will get through those difficult times.  Not on our own strength, but on the strength of God, our Father.

(Parents, if your children have experienced a loss, or if they are worried about the Newtown tragedy, you may choose to discuss these things in greater detail.)

Let us pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, you are my rock and my salvation, and your love endures forever.  When bad things happen – things that make me sad or worried – please help me to cling to you, my Father, and to Jesus, my Savior.  I know that, with you and Jesus, I will have peace, comfort, and joy.

Servants of God – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 21

Dec. 21 (Person – Mary, Symbol – White Lily)

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Read Luke 1:26-38

Reflection:  Of all the people who ever lived – with the exception of Jesus, of course, who was both God and man – the Blessed Mother, Mary, is the one that we should look to for our example of how to live life.  Mary was created without sin. This means that she did not have the mark of sin that the rest of us were all born with, due to Adam and Eve’s first sin.  All her life, Mary loved God with all her heart, and never made a choice that wasn’t guided by this love.

So it makes sense to remember everything Mary said in the Bible, and to live by her words.  In today’s reading, she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Do you know what it means to be a handmaid?  (pause for answers)  A handmaid is a female servant, who will do whatever job is asked of her.   Mary is God’s servant, willing to do whatever He asks her to do.  That’s exactly what each of us is called to do!  To be a servant of God, willing to do anything he asks.   What are some things that God might ask you to do?  (to love each other, to help around the house, to give to people who have less, to be kind, pray, read the Bible, etc)  Yes!  All of these are wonderful answers, and, as servants of God, we should always try to do these things!

Do you know when you are happiest in life?  It’s when you are doing what God asked you to do!  As you get older, God will also call you to be either single, married or a priest or religious sister.  It will be very important for you to listen to that call and follow it.  Not only will you serve God and the world as God wants you to serve, you will also be happy, because you’ve answered God’s call!

Let’s pray: Dear God, I know that I am happiest when I am serving you; please help me to always be your servant.  Help me to hear your call for my life, whether it be married or single life, the priesthood or religious life.  I am your servant.  May it be done to me according to your word.

Repentance and Reconciliation – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 20

Dec. 20 (Person – John the Baptist, Symbol – Scallop Shell)

“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Read: Luke 1:57-80; Matt 3:1-12

Baciccio, “The Preaching of St. John the Baptist” Courtesy of Web Gallery of Art

Reflection: John the Baptist told the people to “repent” in order to prepare for Christ’s coming.  Do you know what it means to repent?  To “repent” means to recognize our sins (our wrong choices), to tell God that we are sorry, and to ask Him to forgive us.

Remember when we talked about Adam and Eve?  We talked about how our sins separate us from God and prevent us from having a close relationship with Him.   We want to have the closest relationship with Him that we possibly can, right?   In fact, we want Jesus to be our best friend!   Our friendship with Him will always be strongest when we try not to sin.  When we do sin, it is important that we tell God we are sorry, ask Him to forgive us, and ask for His help to avoid sinning again.

As Catholics, we know that the season of Advent is an important time to do exactly as John the Baptist taught – to repent and make our hearts ready for Christ’s coming.   For those of us who are old enough, this is a very important time to participate in Reconciliation.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we speak to a priest, who is “in persona Christi,” which means that, in that moment, he becomes Christ for us, so that the priest can do for us what only Christ can do – forgive our sins.  This is such a wonderful sacrament!  Sometimes it is a little scary to tell our sins to another person, but then the priest says the words of absolution, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”   With those words, we are restored to our close friendship with Jesus, and it feels fantastic!  (Parents, share your own feelings after receiving Reconciliation.  Mine go something like this: “My heart soars with joy, and I feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders!”  Invite older children to share their experiences as well.)

You may not be old enough to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but all of us can repent.  Let’s think quietly for a moment about things we might have done that made God unhappy and hurt our friendship with Jesus.

Let’s pray: My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.  In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things.  I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid the things which lead me to sin.  Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.  In His name, my God, have mercy.

Now, we promised to do penance, right?  That means to perform a prayer or good act to show that we are sorry for our sins.   Let’s pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary for our penance…

Christ in Us – Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Reflection for Dec. 19

December 19 (Person – Elizabeth, Symbol – Mother and Child)

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:42, 45

Read Luke 1:39-56

Reflection:  When she heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She knew that Mary was the Mother of God, and that Mary’s child was the long-awaited Son of God.  She greeted Mary with the love and welcome that are fitting to someone who has God within her.

Through our baptism, each of us has the Holy Spirit within us.  When we let it, the Holy Spirit will guide us to love others and to always do what God wants us to do.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit that comes from the love of God and Christ, so when we received the Holy Spirit in baptism, we also received God and Christ.  This means that each of us has Christ inside of us!  But sometimes we forget that Christ is inside of us, and that He’s inside every baptized person around us.

Today, every time you look at a person, try to think, “He has Jesus inside of him.  I want to love him like I love Jesus.”  Of course, change that to she’s and her’s for a girl!  Let’s start by saying it for each person in the family: “Daddy has Jesus inside of him.  I want to love him like I love Jesus. Help me, Holy Spirit!” (Continue through each family member.  Larger families may choose to group two members at a time!)

Let’s pray:  Dear Holy Spirit, I know that you live inside of me and inside every baptized person.  Please help me to remember that Christ is inside every person, and to love them like I love Jesus, and like Jesus loves me.