Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hymns As Poetry

For quite some time I have been using the iBreviary app for my iPad and iPhone to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. While I do miss having my leather bound book in my hand, some of the things I like about it over using the standard book Christian Prayer is that I don't have to flip around to find where I'm supposed to be, or think about whether it is a feast day. I also don't have to fiddle with trying to figure out a hymn.

Now I'm pretty musically deficient because I have, unfortunately, very little musical education. I very rarely see the name of the tune when praying and think, "Oh, I know that one." So I wind up reading the hymn as poetry. But wow, what poetry. Several times recently I have read the hymn and have been so impressed by how these hymns, several hundred years old, encapsulate the faith and give Christian encouragement.

I have no idea how they decide which hymn to use for the day. I also have no idea if these are a proscribed hymns to use for the day or if the iBreviary people choose them, but they are fantastic.  Here is a sample from yesterday's daytime prayer:

HYMN

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.

Take up your cross, let not its weight
Fill your weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear your spirit up,
Shall brace your heart and nerve your arm.

Take up your cross then in his strength,
And ev’ry danger calmly brave,
To guide you to a better home,
And vict’ry over death and grave.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,
Nor think till death to lay it down;
For only he who bears the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.

To you, great Lord, the One in three,
All praise for evermore ascend;
O grant us here below to see
The heav’nly life that knows no end.

Tune: Breslau or Winchester New L.M.
Music: (Breslau) As Hymnodus Sacer, 1625, or (Winchester New) Musikalisches Handbuch, Hamburg, 1690
Text: Charles William Everest, 1814-1877, adapted by Anthony G. Petti

Or from yesterday's evening prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the cross of Christ my God,
The vain delights that charm me most:
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet
What grief and love flow mingling down;
Did e’er such Love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were all the realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Tune: Rockingham L.M.
Music: Adapted by Edward Miller, 1731-1807, from A. William’s A Second Supplement to Psalmody in Miniature, Oxford 1780
Text: Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, slightly adapted

And these are just from one day.  What a rich heritage of music we have!  I could complain about the pablum we get at Mass today, but I will refrain. I think what I will start doing is looking these up online and on YouTube to see if I can listen to them. It would be great to hear these wonderful pieces performed by a real serious choir.  Of course, I love them as poetry too.


Picture: The Convent Choir - Jehan Georges Vibert, 1865

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Contemplative Prayer - I Want to Do That!


"Contemplative prayer...I want to learn how to do that.....do any of you do contemplative prayer...what helps you focus? My mind seems to just wander off on this tangent or that and I can never seem to stay on track with my prayer."

A woman asked this in a Facebook group I belong to. I started to answer and realized it should really be a blog post. So here you go.
OK, first there are a couple of definitions of "Contemplative Prayer." There is the Ignatian Method. In that method you pick, for instance, a scene in the bible, like the Crucifixion and picture yourself as one of the characters in the scene. See what they see, what would you feel or do, etc. then let it lead to speaking with the Lord. It could only be a few minutes, that's ok. It is an active type of prayer. The best known of these is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Go to the Ignatian Contemplation webpage for more info.
The other type of Contemplation is "Infused Contemplation" and it is a gift from God to someone who has already an active prayer life in meditation. It is NOT something you achieve, it is a gift. You are basking in the Lord and only lasts a very short time. Do not allow people to tell you so called "Centering Prayer" is contemplation, or is ok. It is not. The problem, and I have researched this quite a bit, is there are many websites online that promote a faulty understanding of contemplation. If a website says to "empty your mind" or uses the term "mantra" or "recite a prayer word" that is not authentic Christian prayer. It has invaded parishes and retreats, and online, but the Vatican says this Eastern type of prayer is not kosher, as it were.  You are trying to build a relationship with God, not empty your mind. St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, and a master of Contemplative Prayer thought this ridiculous.
So, the lesson here is to start praying and don't let distractions get in the way. If you are distracted just let it fade away and continue praying. A picture of a scene from the bible or other good Christian book may help you focus. The rosary is an aid to prayer too.
Now, here are some resources to help you. First, read this, St. Teresa of Avila: Why You Can't Seem to Progress in the Spiritual Life. This is exactly what you need to read.
Next, become acquainted with a man who should become your favorite, Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. Fr. Dubay died in 2010. He was a retreat master for religious and laity for decades. He taught authentic prayer in an imminently practical and down-to-earth way. His books are treasures. Start with his Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within. It is easy to understand and follow.
Then, buy Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer. This book is a classic and you should own it and read it in small doses. Reading books by St. Teresa of Avila will be good too, but read this to get ready for that. If they seem a bit over the head for you, then slow down. You will be ready at some point.
Now, a Spiritual Director is very helpful. It is hard to find one. You can ask a very trusted priest, but it takes time to find a director that works for you. Next best is reading Fr. Dubay's Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within. Now, I found this book to be droll for the first half, because he explains what a spiritual director should be etc. and you wind up wondering where you might find such a rare, amazing person. The second half though is amazing because he uses this section to counsel you in your prayer life, like a spiritual director would. It is a treasure trove of questions you never even thought of and it is very helpful. It explains the steps one progresses in prayer, the downfalls and confusions; it is great.
Fr. Dubay did several series on EWTN (The Global Catholic Network) and one of them was about Contemplative Prayer. You can download the audio to your computer and listen to it on your iPod or listen at your computer. Go to EWTN, at the top choose Faith, then Libraries, then Audio Library. Where it says Series Search type in "Dubay." What will pop up is his six different TV series. Choose the one that says "Contemplation." Listen to them carefully. I like to listen to them in the car so I'm not distracted or interrupted. Read his other books too.
For something newer, you might be interested in two resources online and a great book. First, take a visit to the lovely Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles website. Read their blog and about their spirituality. I feel calm and peaceful just going there.
Also, make it a habit to visit the RC Spiritual Direction Website. Sign up for their newsletter and read their stuff. It was founded by Dan Burke, a convert from Judaism and the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register. I know him personally and he is excellent. He wrote the wonderful book you should read, Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. It talks about spiritual direction, but also about making a "Plan of Life," to further you along in prayer and your life with God. This book is a classic and was sorely needed. I'm so glad he wrote it.
Consider also reading St. Francis de Sales' classic book Introduction to the Devout Life.  You might want to learn about Lectio Divina too, which is an ancient simple prayer method of using the Scriptures. Read Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Tim Gray. It's very good and an easy read.
So, there you have it, just what you need to get started. Don't be overwhelmed, just start talking to God and let Him lead. And keep asking questions!
Update: Also check out this blog that came out today about the 3 Conversions of the Purgative Way.
 
 
 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Navarre Bible Contest


If you are a big fan of the Navarre Bible Commentary like I am, you might really like this contest. Timothy over at CatholicBiblesBlog.com is having a contest to win a volume of the Navarre Bible about the Minor Prophets. Tootle on over there and enter.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

4 Websites to Deepen Your Spiritual Life

John William Waterhouse
In my numerous travels online I have found some really great websites that are excellent in helping to further your spiritual life. I could not keep them to myself.

  1. Ascending Mount Carmel. This is a great site by writer and assistant editor of MonkRock, Jason Liske. He comes from the perspective of Eastern Christianity and I love all his profiles of different saints, many I have not heard of, or have forgotten about. His writings about the spiritual life is top notch.
  2. The Cloistered Heart. This is a gorgeous site. I could stare at the art for ages. The posts are simple and short, but deeply meaningful. It is geared toward finding Christ in the monastery of your heart. Author Nancy Shulman does an excellent job of displaying the quiet and solitude that brings us closer to the Lord. I look forward to her email with her latest post every day.
  3. The Catholic Young Woman.  Here is another beautiful site. Geared toward young women obviously, I find it so interesting to read. It shows quite well that there are young, intelligent women who seek Christ deeply and are in the world. Not all the young women in our society are looking for hook-ups or screaming for the right to kill their babies. Here are serious (yet fun) women who are taking to heart Christ's call to love others and respect themselves. They are searching for the best way to fulfill God's plan in their lives and explore how to live the virtues. I wish I had known some of them when I was in college and starting out. One seems so alone when you are trying to live for Christ, or at the very least not live by the standards of the times. It is a great site to pass along to the young ladies in your life.
  4. The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles have a lovely site that showcases their mission and a great blog answering people's questions. It could be a great help to you in your walk with Christ. I always want to stay and linger a little longer.
Update: Here is a bonus. I knew there was another one!  Check out Contemplative Homeschool. Yes, it IS about homeschooling, but also about so much more. Connie Rossini writes from a Carmelite perspective about your spiritual life and how to foster the spiritual life of your children. It's fantastic.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Join the Pope in Prayer & Make Church History!

For the first time in the Catholic Church's 2000 year history the pope has asked all parishes and their members around the world to join him in Eucharistic Adoration at the same day and time. As part of the Year of Faith, this Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 5pm Rome time (11am Eastern Time) - the Solemnity of Corpus Christi - all Catholics are called to join Pope Francis in prayer for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament. The cathedrals of the world will be synchronized in prayer with the Pope. Your parish may have organized a specific event for it, but may have had to move it to another time because of Mass schedules. Check your diocesan website.

I am excited as our Archbishop has planned a Eucharist procession, then a Mass to celebrate Corpus Christi and then the hour of Adoration at 11am. What an extremely powerful prayer to Christ. And what a wonderful Pope we have been blessed with. It was so impressive that directly after his election as Pope, Francis spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament before coming out to be presented to the crowds outside St. Peter's Square. He really values this form of prayer and so should we.

For more information, and for all the Pope's requested intentions, please read:
Pope To Lead Millions in Global Hour of Adoration
Vatican Organizes Worldwide Simultaneous Eucharistic Adoration 
Pope Francis to Lead Global Holy Hour
Adoration With Pope Energizing Catholics Worldwide

Update: A friend of mine (Thanks, Kim!) reminded me that for those who cannot attend Adoration at their parish or cathedral, you can, if you really have to, participate online with an online Adoration chapel like these:

Savior.Org Webcam
Chapel Webcam, St. Martin of Tours Church, Louisville, KY (just lovely!)

Update 2: Some parishes also post their Adoration times at: MassTimes.org

Also: Video - What is the Point of Eucharistic Adoration?