Sunday, June 30, 2013

Not Alone: Prayer

Week Three's topic in the "Not Alone" series concerned prayer: "How do you pray? Tips to staying disciplined? Give us anything you've got!".

Prayer is something I have blogged about before.  I wrote these tips on ways to make devotion easier for everyone.  The important thing to remember is that the Church provides many different forms of prayer and worship, and though some may be more popular than others, many of them are optional.  Since you all know how much I love lists, here's my top five favorite forms of prayer:

  1. Starting with Structure and then working from there.  I like to begin my prayer time by either reading a Bible passage, reciting a written prayer, or thinking about an inspiring quote, and then using it to help me form the rest of my prayers.  I think it is important to make sure that all of the prayers you recite are pre-written.  Going "free-style" and coming up with words yourself that best communicate what you need, how you feel, and the depth of your gratitude and love is important.  But, when you notice that you're just rambling on, then it's time to turn to one of the many wonderful prayer books that Catholic companies are publishing.
  2. Quiet MeditationIt is very important to make sure that you do not forget to add this regularly into your life (something that I need to remember).  I've written about how to meditate like a Catholic- and must caution everyone against the many resources out there that talk about centering prayer- which is harmful and not correct.  St. Francis de Sales's book An Introduction to the Devout Life is the absolute best Catholic meditation guide that I've found so far, but I would love to hear from you all about other resources you've found helpful.  Taking time to quiet your heart and just listen is essential; if you spend all your time asking God for guidance but never stop talking long enough to hear His answers, then you'll have a much harder time discerning His will.
  3. Hymns.  Some parishes use the annual Breaking Bread hymnals, and throw out the old ones each year upon receiving the new ones.  If you can somehow save one of those for your own personal use- do it!  I have an old hymnal that I love to use; I'll sit quietly, find a hymn, and quietly sing it, really taking time to reflect on the words.  For those of you who are not used to doing this, I would suggest "The Summons" as the perfect starting point.
  4. Novenas with different reflections for each day of prayer.  Aquinas Press has some absolutely gorgeous novena books that have a new reflection and picture for each day of the novena.  Novenas help one carve out time for God each day, grow in devotion to the saint of the novena, and are often very helpful in discerning how to best handle a situation.
  5. The Rosary is a devotion I am working on embracing more fully.  It is the perfect way to combine the above four into one prayer.  It is very structured, but allows for many different personal twists.  You can stop and really take time to meditation on each mystery, you could sing the Ave Marias if desired, or you could simply end the Rosary by singing the Salve Regina instead of speaking the "Hail Holy Queen".  And you can do Rosary novenas for different intentions, or add your particular novena prayer to the end of the Rosary.  This devotion has been highly recommended by the Church, many Popes have devoted entire encyclicals to promoting its use, and the amount of people who have found peace and clarity as a result of praying it regularly speaks for itself.
In order to stay disciplined, the trick is to start small.  Start with maybe the Morning Prayer in the Magnificat, or a hymn like "City of God" when you wake up, and a quiet meditation on your day, ending with an Act of Contrition at night.  Expecting too much right away is only going to cause you to burn out quickly, and thus not stick to any plan.  Start small, give yourself a schedule, and change it up regularly.  Also, make it enjoyable- something you look forward to doing.  If you love drinking tea or coffee, start your day with your favorite brew and a chapter of the New Testament.  If you love exercising, go for a run and as you warm up say a prayer for strength physically and mentally, and as you cool down ask God for the discipline to stay strong throughout the day.  Say a Rosary in the car, pray the novena together at dinner time.  Allow God to permeate every aspect of your life, and soon praying regularly will not be something you have to think about, it will be a habit.

How do you like to pray?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Not Alone Series

While reading through my blogroll this morning, I stumbled upon this series being hosted by Morgan and Jen over at "Follow and Believe".  This series started the first week of June, and there has been a new topic every week covering singleness, discernment, and dating.  After skimming the discussions, it's wonderful to see the great conversation that the series has generated.

Though I'm a bit behind here, I'm going to copy Lauren by jumping right in here and participating as well.  I'd like to briefly cover the previous topics in two posts, and then address the topic for this week in a third post.  I hope all of you, including those who are no longer single but would like to share their past experiences, to join in the conversation, offering advice and words of wisdom to those Christians out there trying to follow their proper vocations in the light of God's will.

Week One's Topic: Introductions

As you all know, my name is Abigail C. Reimel, and I am a single Catholic who will be starting college this Fall.  After many years of discernment and prayer (I highly recommend this nine-week novena to St. Joseph), I have come to understand that God is calling me to marriage.  Though I will admit that there are still times when the religious life appeals to me, something always happens to erase my doubts and draw me back to my original conclusion.  That being said, I am open to dating or courting, but have yet to have a boyfriend.  When I was younger, I dreaded the thought of not dating in high school, but as I began my senior year, I suddenly found myself at peace with the idea of not dating anyone until college.  As I've written in the past,  it is very important to me to only pursue relationships with Catholic guys who are serious about their faith, because I want my future husband and I to be able to have a strong, faith-centered family that will help us both come closer to Heaven, and that will result in children who will also want to live their lives for Christ and His Church.  You can read more about me in my "About Me" section, or by viewing my complete profile on the right.  Through my blog, many of you have gotten to know enough about myself, my opinions, and my beliefs, to have enough to go on, but I wanted to give a snapshot of my personal journey for the sake of the topics to come.

Week Two's Topic: Discernment

The discernment process is a very important part of any young Catholic's life.  It is necessary for one to take the proper time to consider the three different paths ahead of him, and to seek to know what God's will is, as opposed to his own.  As I began my teenage years, I found myself suddenly realizing that marriage was not a given, but was something I had to consider in the light of the Church and God's will.  The other two paths- the religious life and the consecrated single life- both appealed to me at different times.  There was actually a long period of time during which I was convinced that God was calling me to the life of a nun.  But something never felt entirely right about it, I would mentally tell myself that I had figured it out, but the idea never brought peace.  Occasionally it would bring jolts of excitement or happiness, but never peace.  This led me to reconsider and begin the discernment process again.  I went to a retreat where I listened to two different nuns in very different congregations talk about their lifestyles.  I read books about finding one's spouse and about choosing the right path. But most of all I prayed.  I prayed for clarity, for direction, and for guidance.  This greatly increased my devotion to Mary as I asked her for purity and implored her to make her Son's will clear to me.  I prayed Rosaries, novenas, and Masses all for the same intention of finding God's will for me.  I talked to my parents, to priests, and to others whom I trusted for good advice.  Throughout the process I came to conclusions slowly.  I knew in the beginning that my calling to write and be a public activist meant I would never be a cloistered nun.  As time went on I came to understand that certain desires of my heart, certain longings and feelings which I experienced regularly, were indications of what I had been created for.  I realized that God would not have placed such strong feelings within me for the sole purpose of having me deny them.  And then I prayed a nine-week novena to St. Joseph.  This novena highlighted different aspects of St. Joseph's life and purpose in a way that made my appreciation and devotion to him increase quickly.  Even though it had been recommended as a prayer guide for one's future husband, as I prayed it I asked God that through these prayers He would show me which path I was meant to follow.  And as each week went on, I found myself becoming more accustomed to thinking of a future husband, to dreaming of the day when I would have a house and kids of my own, and when the nine weeks ended with my mind- which had been open before- full of such a clear and beautiful dream, I knew God was confirming the little hints He had provided me along the way. 

All right, this post is certainly long enough now, so I'll tackle "Prayer" tomorrow and the current topic "What I Love About Being Single" on Sunday.  Be sure to check out the previous posts at "Follow and Believe", and to stay posted for more to come!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Superman is the next hero whose story is being redone for the big screen.  Man of Steel is an intense, loud, and action-packed retelling of the story of Clark Kent, a seemingly ordinary guy who has never quite fit in, and who has a great secret he's hiding.  This movies focuses on what it was like growing up so different from everyone else, how he has had to carry on his life, jumping from job to job after heroic rescue efforts making moving necessary to remaining unknown.  Superman's character is well-developed, but after his story is set straight, the remaining half of the movie is explosion after explosion after the evils from Krypton come to reclaim the member of their race who was saved.  Except this time, they're not interested in saving him, they're only interested in using him to obtain what is necessary to bring back the culture of Krypton, using Earth as the foundation on which to build it.  Will Superman surrender for the sake of the people, or will he resist- endangering the race which he is very much a part of in an attempt to protect them?  This roaring superhero flick had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

What I Liked:

On the radio I have heard that there are several very Christian themes present in the Superman story.  He's a man whose origin in unknown, who has a father who is "somewhere else", and who comes and saves the world.  The actual Superman character is a very likeable guy.  I enjoyed his character development, seeing the more "human" side of him, how he struggled, but how he put himself last for the sake of others.  His mom was a good character as well, and the movie's slower, more developmental moments were nice.

Possible Concerns:

Despite enjoying the storyline, the constant blowing up and falling down of buildings in a highly populated city was extremely hard to watch, especially since this was all that was happening for about an hour of the film.  There are a couple of poorly placed, crass remarks which the movie really would have been better without.  As far as the other characters were concerned, Lois Lane was okay, the death scene of Clark's earthly Dad was a bit lame- I wish they had come up with either a more heroic or less dramatic way for him to die.

Overall, I wanted to see it badly, and am happy that I did.  But I will not be purchasing it when it comes out on DVD, because I do not think I would be able to watch the constant, destructive violence often enough to make it worth it.  I would recommend it only to those who are not bothered by constant violence, and would not pay any extra for 3-D or IMAX.  In this case, I just don't think it's worth it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Currently Digging....

"Demons"-Imagine Dragons and "I Won't Give Up"-Jason Mraz
Switchfoot and Relient K- perfect summer music
The Great Gatsby
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis and Gifted Hands by Ben Carson
Being in, on, or around the ocean!!!
My car, Blue Streak

Shrimp and Doughnuts (but not together!)
IgnitumToday (so happy it's back) and the Catholic Answers Blog

The new Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer!!!!
Being done with High School!
Enjoy the hot weather and all the fun that comes with it!!!
Serious posts and summer reading lists to come...

Images from National Geographic, The One, Amazon, and Legendary

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Poor Man's Psalter

The Rosary has become one of the most recognizably Catholic things in society today.  It is the one thing which other religions do not (officially) use or have their own version of, and is still highly popular in Catholic circles.  But since it is such a commonplace devotional, and since it has been a part of the Church's customs for many years, its humble beginnings and proper use have been forgotten by most.  In lieu of the "Q&A" yesterday, I'd like to present this brief history of the "poor man's psalter" and offer tips for how to use it most effectively in the question-and-answer format:

Q: How did the Rosary originate?

A:  While examining the life of St. Dominic (died 1221) we can find the first definite reference to this form of prayer.  The Saint taught and promoted the Rosary in France in response to a heresy which was endangering the people's faith.  This method of prayer was adopted by the Dominicans and they are still its most constant supporters.  But, it is highly probable (and often taught) that it originated earlier than that, as a way for the lay people to participate with the Divine Office, through which the monks recited the 150 Psalms throughout the course of the day.  Since the majority of people could not read at the time, they would instead say anywhere from 50 to 150 Ave Marias (Or "Hail Mary's").  Some began using ropes with knots to keep track of the number of prayers said.

Q: What does "Rosary" mean?

A:  Rosary literally means "crown of roses", in that it is a spiritual bouquet which is presented to Our Lady.

Q: Why should Catholics pray the Rosary, and is it required?

A:  The Rosary has been promoted and highly encouraged by countless Saints and Popes.  Our Lady herself repeatedly counsels the faithful to use this form of prayer during her apparitions, particularly at Fatima.  Many indulgences and spiritual promises are attached to it, and it is often prescribed as a form of penance after Confession.  It is a wonderful way in which to meditate upon Scripture while contemplating Christ's life and great virtues, and learning how to apply His example to your own life.  It is also a comforting way to offer up a particular intention to Mary, who is always at Christ's side.  That being said, the Rosary is only required if assigned by a priest as penance.  Otherwise, Catholics are not required to say the Rosary, and it is okay if they prefer a different form of prayer.

Q: How should the Rosary be said?

A:  To be technical, the Rosary is not "said", but "prayed".  Though praying it aloud in groups is fine, it is recommended that it be said slowly and quietly, so that one might meditate upon the mysteries, and to avoid the repetitious prayers from becoming words without meaning.  Pope Pius VI said this about how to pray the Rosary:
There has also been felt with greater urgency the need to point out once more the importance of a further essential element in the rosary, in addition to the value of the elements of praise and petition, namely the element of contemplation. Without this the rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded. (Marialis Cultus 47). 
Each day has a set of mysteries which are recommended, but not required.  When praying it privately, there is room for one to customize it as necessary, as long as the aim is still to spend time prayerfully reflecting upon Christ, asking Mary's assistance in doing so, and asking for Heaven's assistance regarding your personal intentions.

I'll leave you with a quote from Bishop Hugh Doyle, which sums up why the Rosary could greatly increase and aid your spiritual journey:

"No one can live continually in sin and continue to pray the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary."

May God bless you all today!

Information found at EWTN and Catholic Answers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A New Feature

Hello Readers!

Hope everyone is finishing up school strong, or enjoying their summer break beginnings!

I have several topics I'm planning on posting about in the coming weeks, but I would also like to add a new blog "feature"- which requires your help.

Every Friday is going to be "Q&A" Day, where I'll answer one or more questions submitted by readers.  You can submit these questions as comments- just makes sure you note that they are for "Q&A Fridays" so that I do not publish them as regular comments, but save them for official posting.

The questions can range from religion and politics to movies and music: I'm ready to answer anything.  Please, if you aren't Catholic, feel free to use this opportunity to ask about the aspects of Catholicism which bother you, or which you've never understood.  Important questions will always come first.

Hope you all will participate!  If I don't have any questions to answer from you all, I'll tackle some common misconceptions about Catholics in the world today instead.

Happy Thursday, and God bless!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

50 Ways to Heal a Heartbreak

As Summer begins, many people find themselves depressed because they're not having as much care-free fun as all the movies, commercials, magazine ads, and hit songs that come out during this time of year say they should be.  First of all, it is important to note that we, as fallen people living in a fallen world, are not going to be deliriously happy all of the time.  But, there are certainly things we can do to boost our spirits when we're feeling low.

So here's a list for all those out there who are heartbroken, and just wishing they could leave sorrow behind and enjoy the longer days.  I hope that something on this list helps bring a smile to your face, and lift a load off of your shoulders.

  1. Go to Adoration and give all your worries to God, and make sure that when you leave, you don't try to take them back...
  2. Watch your favorite comedy film
  3. Listen to your favorite music while going for a ride on a sunny day, and keep those windows down!
  4. Eat ice cream with sprinkles
  5. Call a friend and catch-up with each other
  6. Go get wet!  Go surfing, do the slip-n-slide, run through the sprinklers, swim in the pool- anything!
  7. Get all dressed up, just because
  8. Exercise- preferably outside
  9. Take in a play
  10. Finish that project you've been working on since Christmas Break
  11. Buy a new board game and play it with your family or friends
  12. Revisit that instrument you played as a little kid, and teach yourself how to play it again
  13. Pray the Rosary while sitting outside
  14. "Do something for somebody quick!"
  15. Visit a frozen yogurt bar and load up on colorful toppings
  16. Try a new hair style
  17. Spend the afternoon in the library, enjoying the quiet and the smell of books
  18. Read a good mystery- Sherlock Holmes preferably
  19. Or try a thriller- may I suggest Ted Dekker's Three?
  20. Watch a BBC film and smile at all the British accents and proper manners
  21. Listen to Michael Bublé's "Haven't Met You Yet"
  22. Watch a Blimey Cow video ("Making Time for God", "Playing the God Card", and "Why I Hate Going to the Movies" are good places to start)
  23. Go to a weekday Mass, pay close attention to the readings, and ask God to speak to you through them
  24. Go to a fair and do not leave until you've done the Scrambler ride and had a funnel cake
  25. Take in a blow-up movie in the park, and make sure you bring lawn chairs and cards
  26. Learn a new card game or trick
  27. Blow bubbles and play with chalk (this is especially fun if you do it with little kids)
  28. Spend an hour outside looking at the world as if you were going to lose your sight the next day; it's amazing the things you will notice, and learn to appreciate
  29. While doing the above, read some Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, particularly "Pied Beauty", "May Magnificat", or "God's Grandeur"
  30. Play "HORSE" with your siblings
  31. Pick a windy day and go fly a kite in an open field or on the beach
  32. Check out a local trail
  33. Bake sugar cookies
  34. Brew sweet tea
  35. Enjoy the previous two things together while sitting on the front porch, waving at everyone who walks by.  Northerners, basically pretend your Southern! :)
  36. Read St. Therese's A Story of a Soul, even if you've read it before- and especially if you haven't.  Guys- this is NOT just a girl book
  37. Have a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars marathon
  38. Pray in front of an abortion clinic and thank God for your life as you pray for the lives of others
  39. Sign up as a volunteer at your parish, there are all sorts of things to do, from altar serving to reading, landscaping, or singing
  40. Buy a colorful piece of clothing and wear it as often as possible
  41. Journal about what's bothering you- writing things out often helps to sort it out as well
  42. Go to Barnes and Noble and grab a Wreck this Journal.  Even if you don't buy and do all the suggested things, just reading them will be entertaining
  43. Pretend to be a photographer for a day, and take as many amazing, crazy, unique, and beautiful pictures as possible
  44. Make a scrapbook of your favorites from the day before
  45. Take time to tell your family how much you love them
  46. Forgive someone who you've held a grudge against for a while- and ask God's help in order to do so, and go to Confession, to forgive yourself and ask God's forgiveness as well
  47. Learn about a different form of prayer (a type of chaplet, meditation, a novena, etc.) and experiment with it
  48. Go to the movie theater and treat yourself to the expensive popcorn- just this once
  49. Study constellations and look for them in the sky
  50. Pray EVERY day, and trust that God will never abandon you, keeping in mind that He always loves you.