A Few Good Books

book loveBooks are the best! I rarely regret buying the book or reading the book. I do regret have given away books, especially those I can’t replace. I’m sharing a few of my past favorites today, books I pick up again just to read what I underlined or the notes I jotted down. It’s like seeing your old friends.

In no particular order, let me introduce you to my friends!

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, a satire in a series of letters from Screwtape to Wormwood. Wormwood is a demon in training; learning the ropes from senior demon Screwtape on how to get people on his side rather than God’s side. Originally published in 1942, the ways in which we succumb to evil is quite similar now.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl tells the author’s story of imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. He talks about how even in the midst of the harshest crimes against humanity and horrible suffering, people were able to find meaning in the suffering and choose their reaction. It is an amazing book that teaches us that we can rise above our experiences and expected responses.

The Holy Longing and Sacred Fire are both by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser. The third book in the series is Wrestling with God which I have not yet read. These two volumes talk about how we express our spirituality and answer the call of Jesus on our lives. If you are searching for a deeper relationship with God and wondering where he is leading you, pick up these books. You will not be disappointed.

Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley is a do it yourself weekend retreat that you can take as long as you want to do! Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Fr. Gaitley leads you through the exercises in a weekend, instead of a month in solitude. He gives practical tips on how to manage your time and energy and asks the questions that get to the heart of the topic presented. Even if you do go through the book in one weekend, you will find yourself going back it to again and again. Truly life-changing for me!

Hairspray, Holy Water and the Healing Hand of God by Debbie Eckert is one woman’s story of her lifelong conversion to a deeper and closer walk with the Lord. Debbie writes in a down to earth style; it’s like having a cup of coffee and chatting. If you ever wonder if God is working in your own life, reading this book will help you see an example and is sure to help you see him in your own life.

If you are looking for a great book for moms who don’t have lots of time to sit and read a devotional every day, look no more. try the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion from Ave Maria Press, written by over 50 authors. Each day includes a quote, reflection, prayer and question to ponder. Short, sweet and to the point. And, if you leave a comment in the comment box, you will be entered to win a copy! So leave a comment by Dec. 15, I’ll pick a winner on Dec 16 and get in touch with you then. So be sure to leave a comment (and your email), which no one will see but me, promise.

the not lukewarm challenge

 

This week, why not read a book? Leave a comment and you can win the Prayer Companion!

 

Praying with ACTS

It is all well and good to tell people to pray. But sometimes, because of lack of experience, tiredness, or maybe even a spiritual dryness, you don’t know what to say. That’s where ACTS comes in; it is a way to pray, a little formula you can use to get on track and stay focused.

How to pray

right-click on the image to save and then print if you’d like

ACTS stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Let’s look briefly at each of these.

A: we adore God, praising his holy name and letting him know that we know that he is God.

C: we say we are sorry and ask forgiveness for the wrongs we have done. Not to beat ourselves up but to be honest. And yes, of course, God knows what we have done but with humility, it’s good to admit it to him. This way we can get it out in the open and takes steps to correct our behavior.

T: God has given us everything! So we thank him for the problem resolved easily, the quick trip to work, our children’s success, our health, whatever comes to mind. Thank him for whatever comes to mind.

S: and now we get to the asking for what we need. Just as it’s a bit rude or presumptuous to start a conversation with a friend without asking them if they have time to talk and are well, it’s really the same with God. Wait to ask for your needs and the needs of those you love and those for whom you’ve promised to pray.

As I say in my audio, I didn’t make this up and could not find the origin of it. A priest taught it to me years ago and I pass it on to you.  I hope this process is helpful to you!

the not lukewarm challenge

 

 

And for our Not Lukewarm Challenge this week, go ahead and use ACTS to pray. You can download the image above as a reminder if you like.

Praying to the One who loves us

St. Therese on prayerPrayer helps us stay grounded, reminding us that we need God and that he is there, waiting to listen.

A few quotes on prayer

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Phil 4:6

For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. St. Therese of Lisieux

What a gift prayer is! It is the real treasure of our soul, our being able to give to God the worship of perfect adoration. St. Frances Cabrini

My secret is simple–I pray. St. Teresa of Calcutta

Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.  Padre Pio

How to Pray

There are many ways to different ways to pray and each has a benefit. Common ways include praying rote prayers; praying with your faith community at Mass or a service; using scripture or music; praying in silence. Often we pray because we are restless or have a problem that needs solving. Many times, when you have many burdens, the best prayer is sitting in silence. God knows our needs before we say them. He does not want us to live in worry, confusion or discouragement. When you are overwhelmed and on input and noise overload, find a quiet spot, ask God to enter into it and sit, hands open, doing nothing. I say, “Come, Holy Spirit” and let all my thoughts go up to him. Even 5 minutes will give you peace and rest.

Pause during the day as well, whenever a decision needs to be made, and ask God what’s next. The more we approach God, the more peace we will have. As  Soren Kierkegaard said, “prayer does  not change God,  but changes him who prays.”  And what else can the point of prayer be, but to change and become more like the person God created us to be, living a life of abundance and sharing it with others.

the not lukewarm challengeOur challenge this week is to learn a new prayer. Or at least choose a new one to use regularly. I have a few links to prayer sites as well as a “Prayer” playlist on Spotify for you. I’d love to hear what new prayer you’ve used this week so leave a comment!

Prayer Sites

23 Powerful Prayers 
Catholic Prayers

 

 

An Interview with Bonnie L. Engstrom, author of 61 Minutes to a Miracle

Do you believe in miracles?

If you have read the Bible, Old Testament or New, you see miracles everywhere. God comes to his people in a burning bush, an ark, water, mud, fire, wind, rain and quiet. Jesus feeds five thousand people; heals the blind, the lame, those processed by demons and raises the dead. His apostles do the same. And here we sit, some two thousand years later and wonder, why not us? Why are there no miracles today? Do we lack faith? Are our needs to small? Has God stopped noticing us? NO!

There are miracles around us all the time, small, quiet ones and big, dramatic ones. There are miracles that change the course of people’s lives.

I was privileged to speak with Bonnie Engstrom, author of 61 Minutes to a Miracle: Fulton Sheen and a True Story of the Impossible, about the miracle that occurred in her life. In 2010 her son, James Fulton, was born stillborn. For 61 minutes, the family prayed while medical personnel worked on James. They asked for the intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen and God granted them the miracle of life fully restored to James.

The book is a testimony to faith and to God who loves us more than we can believe or imagine. In talking to Bonnie, she said a few things that really struck me about what she learned through this miracle.

  1. She was reminded that miracles of biblical proportions still take place today.
  2. That the Body of Christ is amazing. So many people came forward to pray and help in so many ways after James’ birth.
  3. That as James hit milestone after milestone at the appropriate age, she realized that not only was James brought back to life, but he was restored in the fullest way, so that his body could heal and become how it was meant to be.
  4. Miracles approved by the Vatican go through very rigorous testing and validation.

The book not only tells the story of James but also explains, in context, the details of how a person becomes a canonized saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Bonnie explains the process in a way that can be understood even if you are not familiar with saints or the Catholic Church.

I hope you enjoy our interview and know you will appreciate the book. It is a brilliant story of hope and restoration.

Prayer to Obtain a Favor through the Intercession of Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit. If it be according to your will, glorify your servant, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession, (state your intention). I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.  (from 61 Minutes to a Miracle)

You can follow Bonnie on her blog or on Instagram. 

The book, 61 Minutes to a Miracle: Fulton Sheen and True Story of the Impossible, is available from Our Sunday Visitor.

the not lukewarm challengeThis week look for the miracles. Search out the good news of healing, restoration, kindness and caring. Post those in the comment section and share them on social media.

The Communion of Saints

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Hebrews 12:1

What is the communion of saints?

It is made up of all the people who are part of the Church, whether in heaven, waiting to enter heaven or on earth. It is a communion of people, meant to remind us that:

-God wants us to share in his divine life,

-we are called to pursue a common goal, holiness,

-mutual love is the bond; we are made one through the gift of Jesus’ life,

-our unity gives us strength, helps us grow in our faith, hope and love,

-we cannot obtain heaven isolated from each other,

-if one suffers, we all suffer; if one gains, we all benefit,

-The Holy Spirit leads us to share spiritual goods and material goods to a sacrificial degree.

The communion of saints is God’s holy human family. Death does not break this bond of love and sharing. The communion of saints connects us all as one body. The Church of this world is joined to the Church of the next in one Body of Christ.  We are never alone; we are united with each other in the mystical body of Christ. One way to act on that unity is to pray for we, the living, to pray for the dead, especially those who are in purgatory. We can also ask for prayer from those in heaven. This includes not only named or canonized saints, but our family and friends who are no longer with us. These souls are much closer to God, they are with him in heaven. Ask for them to intercede for you.

It is no different than asking a friend to pray for you.

Who are Saints?

In the broadest way, a saint is someone who is in a state of grace and united to God. There are also those who have led lives of exemplary example who have been declared saints by the Church. Those are canonized saints. These men and women show us that God can use each of us to point to His glory.

All have us have the potential to one day be saints. That is the goal of the Christian life, to be in heaven with God, at the eternal banquet, united with all those who love him.

the not lukewarm challenge

 

Find a saint to intercede for you. It can be someone you know and love who has died or a canonized saint. Look for a saint you can relate to You can use this site to find a saint based your name, a special date, a special interest or need, even your profession! Leave a comment and tell us who you found.

 

Faith, a gift from God

Hans von Balthasar says that “Faith is the fundamental response to the love that has offered itself up for me.”  That love is God giving up his Son so that we might have eternal life. That love is Christ crucified.  I believe that God offered up his love for me, just as he did for you.   In thinking about that love intellectually, it is beyond our grasp.  Most of us have experienced love in our lives, both given and received, but even those who profess to love us unconditionally and want nothing but our happiness let us down.  God never lets us down.  He never takes away the visible and real reminder of his love, which is Jesus, broken and poured out in the Eucharist for us.  Matthew 8:26

God does not demand we have faith, he offers it to us as a gift, we choose to accept it or not. People who profess no faith usually fall into two categories:  they do not need faith or they are afraid to accept it. Others want faith; seeing in people of faith something that they do not have in their own lives.  But they know that by accepting the gift, there are responsibilities that come with the gift of faith.  Changes would have to be made and possibly difficult choices, so instead of accepting faith they are adrift, constantly trying to fill the emptiness.  As St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless, Lord until they rest in thee.”

In Hebrews 11:1 we read that “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” None of us can see the future, but we can trust and rely on God to guide us in our lives, no matter what happens.  Too often, we use our faith to get us through the bad times, not remembering that God wants to be with us in the good times as well.  Jesus died for us, that is TRUTH.  But he also rose for us.  It is in that rising from the dead that faith of the Apostles grew and changed, eventually, the Holy Spirit came down and gave them the power to move in that faith.  His resurrection is what we have faith in because in that action he gives us new life.  The cross tells us that we must die to self, but once we do we are raised to a new life of faith far greater than the one we gave up on our cross.

Faith gives us strength and the ability to grow into the persons God meant for us to be.  Each of us has a purpose, we are told, that “No one lights a candle and hides it under a bushel basket.” Faith is not meant only for your good, but for the good of others. To thank him for that gift I accept I do what I can to not only grow my faith but to share it with others.

Faith is the ability to see God at work in this world; to believe in a power much bigger than you.  With faith the impossible becomes possible.  It is faith that gives us the courage to bring children into this world. The desire to walk with another on their life’s journey is part of faith.  It is the strength in our soul to say yes when every other part of us is screaming no.  Sometimes faith means trusting just enough to get out of bed believing that God will clear a path, knowing that when I fall, he will lift me up.  Faith also gives us the ability to question the nuts and bolts of our religious beliefs and practices, knowing that God is there in those details and wants us to come to him using our intellect as much as our soul.

Scripture Verses quoted:

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30

‘He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.” Matthew 8:26

 

the not lukewarm challengeOur challenge this week is to write down each day, one thing to give to God for Him to take care of instead of worrying about it.

God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.  He is made known to us from the beginning of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:2, “and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters” that wind is the Holy Spirit. Then we see again, in Exodus, God is with the Israelites as they flee from Egypt, “The LORD preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and at night by means of a column of fire to give them light. Thus they could travel both day and night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people (Ex: 13:21-22). God was with them and he is with us as well.

In the New Testament, we see the action of the Holy Spirit when Mary conceives Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and again, when Jesus is baptized, the Spirit, in the form of a dove rests above Jesus as he comes up out of the water (Luke 3:22).

The Holy Spirit completes the Father’s plan; he sent Jesus to save us and Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will come and be with us always. The Holy Spirit was poured out onto the apostles at Pentecost and enabled them to go out and preach the Good News. The Spirit guides,  protects and sanctifies (makes holy) the Church.

He calls all people to Christ and completes his saving mission. The Holy Spirit is with us always, drawing us closer to Christ, both consoling and convicting us of our sin. He is the source of our hope.

In Baptism we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (Is 11:1-2). They are sealed in us at Confirmation. As we live and grow as Christians, we grow in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5: 22-23).

The Holy Spirit as many titles, which give an idea of how he acts in our lives: consoler, creator spirit, giver of life, paraclete, source of goodness, and spirit of truth.

The Holy Spirit is the fullness of love between the Father and the Son, reminding us that something always comes from love.

the not lukewarm challenge

 

This week, pray St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit and see what happens when you invite him into your life.

You can right-click on the image of the prayer to “save image as” and then print it if you’d like.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

 

 

Jesus, the Son of God

Do you ever wonder where we would be without Jesus? I know I would not be a tenth of the person I am today without him and my faith in him So who is Jesus, well, he is the second person of the Trinity, God the Son. He is incarnate, which means he took on human flesh, became a person like us in all things but sin and came to this world to save us.

The incarnation is JJesus, Second person of the Trinityesus taking on our humanity. But the Incarnation also gives us a share in his divinity. Jesus’ birth and death gives us a renewed hope and belief that we too, will one day be in heaven. The Incarnation is a foundational belief.  It is the basis for believing and understanding Jesus’ mission, which is to save us, the purpose of his church and his eventual second coming.

For thousands of years, God called his people to himself, but they often turned away. So, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption” (Gal 4:4-5).

Jesus is our redeemer.  He took on our sins, all the consequences of them and paid our debt to the Father. His Passion and Death, his ultimate sacrifice – saved us from our sins, reconciled us to the Father and opened the gates of heaven

One way in which Jesus was different than us is that He lived a life of total and complete obedience to his Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane when he knew his death was imminent, he prayed for God’s will to be done, not his. His suffering on the cross was real and true and painful. He suffered in his humanity; that suffering was possible because of his divinity.

Jesus rose from the dead and bodily ascended into heaven. He promised his Father would send the Holy Spirit to us to help us, guide us, and empower us. The Spirit forms us in the likeness of Jesus. We live in continual conversion toward God and away from sin.

Jesus reveals the Father to us, for he is visible. His desire is for us to enter into a relationship with him based on our free love for him. Just as God the Father does not force us to love him, neither does Jesus.

Jesus intends for us to become holy and partake of his divine nature. The more we go to Him in prayer and ask for what we need, the more we will receive. We can look at his life as an example, he shows us the way to holiness.

the not lukewarm challenge This our challenge is to pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

For more information about the Jesus prayer, take a look here. 

 

 

The Origin of All: God the Father

Origin of AllGod the Father is the first person of the Most Holy Trinity. God the Son, Jesus and God the Holy Spirit are the second and third persons of the Trinity. He is the origin of all life. Life begins with the Father. He created us out of and because of love.

God loves us so much that he reveals himself to us in all of creation, in scripture, and of course, in his Son, Jesus. St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We all long for God and a way to express our love to him for all that he has given us.

God the Father is almighty, all-powerful, all-loving and merciful. He desires us to be in relationship with him. He has given us faith and if we think we are lacking or desire more, we can ask him. God wants our good because we are his adopted sons and daughters. He wants us to participate in his life and will never leave us

However, we have free will. This means that what we return to God, to be authentic, must be freely given. We can choose to turn to him or away from him. Sometimes, we do what we are told out of a sense of obligation or fear, that is not what God wants from us. He wants us to love him as freely as he loves us.

I think of God the Father as my father. He is always ready to listen to me, he is patient, forgiving and present. I picture myself crawling up into his lap, head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat.

Some scripture verses to ponder:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Thus says the LORD who made the earth, giving it shape and stability, LORD is his name: Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge. Jeremiah 33:2-3

Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” John 17:25-26

the not lukewarm challenge

 End each day thanking God for all that he has done for you today.

Not Lukewarm, a new podcast with Deanna Bartalini

Not Lukewarm, a new podcast with Deanna Bartalini – There are many voices asking to be heard in this world today. Some are the voices of those we know and love – family and friends, those we serve in ministry, those we care about. There are other voices as well – cultural icons, sports figures, politicians, clergy, authors – all asking us for our time so that they can tell us their point of view and possibly sway us to what they believe.

I am not here to sway anyone into what I believe. I am here to tell you what the Church teaches and how I live it out in my daily life. I live it out as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, aunt, friend, teacher, seeker of truth, beauty and goodness, sometimes saint and sometimes sinner; but always focusing my eyes on Jesus. Except when I can’t face him because I’ve fallen into that last category. Then I ask forgiveness and remember God’s mercy and know that keeping my eyes on Jesus is the most important thing.

For many years, I have served in both paid and volunteer ministry in the Church, mostly in Florida where I moved to after college graduation. My faith is not something that has sustained me only recently, it has been my rock and my fortress for as long as I can remember. As a child, my two favorite places were my local Catholic church and the library. In truth, just add a great coffee shop to the list and you’ve got my top three places today.

Has my faith been tested? Yes and no. You see, my father was always fond of reminding us that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time, clergy included. So, when scandals hit, I was sad and angry. But I knew that it was not God’s fault. I was able to help hurt and confused parents when the bishop was forced to leave the diocese right after he had confirmed their children and then again when the same thing happened after my son’s confirmation.

When my friends have died too soon, leaving husbands without wife and children without mothers, I have mourned but stood fast and helped them embrace their cross as I did mine and move from life into eternal life.

There have been more trials but those are not the only things that have formed me. I was formed by Franciscan priests and brothers, countless orders of sisters, and a few Jesuits. I have learned through books and life experiences; in classrooms giving and receiving instruction; through bible studies and discussion groups.

I cannot count or name all those who I have helped come into the Catholic Church. And I know, that while I may have supplied information, it was the Spirit that led each person. Did every parent keep bringing their child to Mass after First Communion or every youth or adult continue in the faith after their Baptism or Confirmation? I don’t think so.

My goal in this podcast is to give you a glimpse of what it means to be Catholic. Maybe you are seeking answers or clarity. Maybe you want to re-learn the lessons you have forgotten. Maybe you are from the generations who learned little in the aftermath of Vatican II and now you want to know what you didn’t learn. Whatever your reason, join me on the journey.

 

This week your challenge is to pray a morning offering when you wake up. It can be as simple as, “God, I offer you all that I think, do and say today. Please be with me always.”

Here are some other options:
from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops
from Our Catholic Prayers