Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  What a blessing she is for our Church and our lives.  Guadalupe is my favorite apparition of the Blessed Mother because the image she gave us is not made of human hands and is miraculous in and of itself.  A nice history of OL Guadalupe and a short article about how the image is miraculous can be found at the website.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #12

For my last Christmas gift idea (that is unless I think of something else really cool) I think you should take a look at something from the monks.  In this case the wildly popular Mystic Monk Coffee.  Now, I have to admit it.  I really don't drink coffee - but I think these Carmelite monks are great and they are building a phenomenal gothic monastery in Wyoming, where the proceeds from this coffee go to.

Not to be outdone are also the monks of Our Lady of Spring Bank Cistercian Abbey and their LaserMonks website.  I have been a customer of theirs and they are fantastic.  You can get ink and toner at a significant discount and help support the monks.  Any money left over goes to charity.  Now, ink and toner are not really "gifty" ideas but they also have other things to buy (like dog biscuits and chocolates) that could make the list.

So support the monks and make someone really happy this Christmas.  Oh, and Happy Advent!

Live Advent Fully

Advent begins today, the wonderful time we spend preparing spiritually for Christmas.  Let me give you some resources to help you celebrate Advent this year.

Advent would not be complete without EWTN's Advent Meditation page.  They not only provide meditations and an action for each day, but give you a little run-down of each popular Advent activity.  This year EWTN and Our Sunday Visitor Publishing are also providing a free download of Bishop Robert Baker's eBook Reasons for Hope - Meditations for the Advent Season.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishop's has an Advent & Christmas Website again this year and they also are providing a free download of their book Advent & Christmas With Pope Benedict XVI.  I like this book because it is simple, just using the day's readings and quotes from the Pope for meditation.

The Catholic Culture Advent Workshop is a real practical site with help in how to celebrate Advent in the home, the history of Advent, and a great calendar that shows the saints of the day with a biography, recipes for the season and lots more.

Finally, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio has a page for Advent and Christmas dedicated to downloads of articles for each day, from himself, or saints, or early Church Fathers, such as this gem from St. Gregory of  Nazienzen for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #11

The Catholic Bible Concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE)

Another great gift idea is a companion to the Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) Bible, the translation that most serious Catholic bible scholars use.  The Catholic Bible Concordance would be an excellent reference for Bible study.  A concordance is a verbal  index to the bible.  If you want to look up a specific word in the Bible to find passages, or see where that word occurs throughout, this is the reference for you.  It really makes things easier.  This is the first concordance for the RSV-CE that I know of, and I would love to have one myself.  So, pick one up for your budding bible scholar this Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

I originally wrote this in August of 2009, but I'm just as thankful.  I hope you all have a blessed, safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you Lord for a blessed life. Thank you for my family and good friends. Thank you for faith in times of confusion and troubles, sorrow and pain. Thank you for my home, the strong roof over our heads, the abundance of clothes our family has, and shoes. So many children walk over dusty roads, rusty garbage and sewage, but my children have shoes to protect their feet.

Thank you for our family's health, our doctors and a hospital 10 minutes away. Many have to travel hours or days to get to a hospital. We have a rescue squad 3 blocks away and an excellent hospital, in fact several. Thank you for medicine, both cheap and expensive - so, so many don't even have an aspirin.

Thank you for my education so that my intellect is fostered and broadened, my curiosity fed, and my family enriched. Thank you for the ability to send my children to school. So many sit in the dust with a tiny blackboard and chalk to learn their letters. Many children don't even have that. Girls all over the world are denied even a rudimentary education, but I went to college. I can teach my children at home if I would so choose. Many countries deny this. I can take my children to museums, aquariums, parks and zoos, others don't even know these things exist.

Thank you Lord for books! Oh, Lord what would I do with out books? Today, I can learn to make bread or fix a faucet, learn about quarks or black holes, enjoy a novel or enrich my soul. Thank you Lord. I can take my children to the library. Many in the world cannot even comprehend that such a thing exists - and for free!

Oh, Lord - thank you for my computer where I can learn anything in the touch of a fingertip, in microseconds. I can talk to others with the same interests across the world and know that we are not alone - when we thought we were before. Thanks for the TV too, where the whole world is opened in front of our eyes. Good and bad, just like people, but a blessing nonetheless.

Thank you Lord for my husband, wise and strong, yet gentle and loving. So many women have been abused, abandoned or ignored. Thank you Lord for loving, kind in-laws, too.

Thank you for air conditioning and indoor plumbing! Thank you for washing machines! I don't have to beat my clothes on a rock in the river, or get my hand caught in a wringer. I don't have to do more than sort, load and throw in the dryer. Thank you God for dryers! I can do my laundry at midnight or if it is raining. I don't have to haul loads of clothes in the car and wait for hours at the laundromat since my washer & dryer are steps away.

Speaking of cars, thank you Lord for cars. We can transport our whole family across town or across the country with nary a thought. Many people have to walk miles to go to church, each way. I can jump in the car and be there in 6 minutes. Many people never leave their village or town. Many never go farther away than 10 miles from their homes. We may go more than 10 miles to visit a friend or go to work. Thank you for airplanes too, so we can even see the world.

Thank you Lord for employment, for every paycheck, for we can eat and eat well. Too, too, many places in the world families have only a bit of bread and beans, if that. In some places Lord, people eat cakes made of dirt to fill their bellies. They have to watch their children starve to death, women carrying dead babies to their graves. We have an abundance, and whine if our particular brand is out of stock. Thank you for refrigerators for the food we have will not spoil and make us sick. Thank you that my family does not know what real hunger means.

Thank you Lord for the garden my family grows. For sprouting seeds and luscious produce. Thank you for inventing the beautiful, red bursting strawberries, the incredibly fast beans, and the prolific indescribable tomato. Yes, thank you for tomatoes, they are truly a gift. And garlic. And onions too! You had a good day Lord when you invented tomatoes, onions and garlic. Thank you too for the fruit trees, bursting with nutrition and flavor, to fill our stomachs.

Thank you for the rain and the sun to drench the soil with the good things it needs. I even thank you for the hurricanes and the earthquakes, for they are part of your plan for Earth. They are minor inconveniences compared to the grandeur of the building of mountains, and the workings of the oceans. Ah, the deep, deep oceans, Lord. How wondrous are your creations, your waves, your sea creatures, the saltiness of the sea, the bounty of the sea, the sound of the sea.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the delicate child in the womb, floating in a sea, drifting to sleep by the rocking of its mothers voice and steps. Thank you for the kicks of life I was privileged to feel. The groans of childbirth and the sweet, sweet breath of a child on my cheek. The glorious privilege of watching my child nuzzle and nurse at my breast, his hand delicately placed upon it.

I thank you so much for being born at this time, in this wonderful country. Where there is freedom. Where I can speak my mind and not worry about a knock at the door in the middle of the night. Where we are safe. Yes, bad things do happen here, but nothing like other countries. War is not here. Machine guns carried by thugs do not roam my streets. Bombs do not explode in my supermarket. I thank you. We have laws and courts that, while not perfect, are the envy of millions.

We are truly blessed. Blessed to have this Earth. Blessed that you gave us your son. Blessed for his sacrifice. Blessed to have your Church guide us. Blessed for your overflowing, never-ending love. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #10

Catholic Bible Dictionary

In my last post I told you about study Bibles, today I want to tell you about a couple of great new books from one of the best Catholic Bible scholars in the world, Scott Hahn.  If your gift recipient likes Dr. Hahn, one of these would really fit the bill.  First is the Catholic Bible Dictionary.  This is a tremendous resource that will really help the owner delve deeply into the Bible.  It's a dictionary, so you get the idea, but a fantastic one they will use constantly.

Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots

Next is Signs of Life:  40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots.  If you ever wanted to know where we get the Sign of the Cross, or the Sacraments, or why we pray with the saints, or have sacred images or relics, this book is for you - or in this case your giftee.  This book really explores why we Catholics do what we do.  It would be welcome in any faithful Catholic's library.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #9

The Navarre Bible - New Testament Expanded Edition

How about getting your loved one a study bible for Christmas?  Here are some great choices:  First the Navarre Bible New Testament, Expanded Edition.  This is an extensive bible commentary using the fantastic, and highly accurate, Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE).  It is excellent.  I have many volumes of the Navarre bible and I find them invaluable.  They are highly readable and give excellent trustworthy commentary using quotes from the Church Fathers, John Paul II, great saints and many more.  This volume is the whole New Testament.  It is worth every penny.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament RSV 2nd Edition

Here is another choice.  The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - New Testament, also RSV-CE but the 2nd Catholic Edition which updates some language and has different fonts and typesettings.  This is from world renowned, and very popular, Catholic bible scholar Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch.  This is just an excellent study bible and I would love to have one myself (hint, hint.)

Our next choice is hot off the presses.  The Catholic Scripture Study Bible.  If you know anything about the Catholic Scripture Study program, you know it is excellent and this Bible aims at helping you really study the faith.  It's got "extensive study materials and reference guides, Holy Land maps, extensive biblical apologetics and topical indexes, all beautifully bound in our Classic Black Bonded Leather with multiple ribbon markers, gold edges and beautiful foil stamped cover."  There you have it.  This bible is complete, with Old and New Testaments and also uses the RSV-CE translation.  You can even have someone's name embossed on it to make it more personal and precious.

The New Catholic Answer Bible - Librosario

Finally, we have the Catholic Answer Bible - Librosario version.  This is a complete bible (Old and New Testaments) with great, easy to understand color inserts throughout that explain the Catholic faith.  It uses the ever popular New American Version translation and is really fantastic.  This is the Bible we gave our son for his Confirmation.  It is a quality Bible, bound in leather (which is the Librosario part.)  You can buy this Bible in paperback, but the leather is so luscious, and even has an embossed rosary on the back that you can use for prayer.  This is one you will want to use for years of come.  I really love it and sneak it off the shelf to use myself.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #8

Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words

Here is another book for your viewing pleasure.  Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words.  This fantastic book lets you read the writings of four great saints of the early Church: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons.  Ignatius of Antioch was a student of St. John the Apostle himself and was the first to use the term "Catholic," which means universal.

It is fascinating to learn about what the Early Christians thought, and how they worshiped.  This is a really wonderful book and an easy read.  What were the thoughts of the earliest Christians about the Eucharist? Were these people uneducated peasants or highly educated scholars?  How did they live and how did they die?  Get this book for someone special and then borrow it because it will really do something for your faith.

Christmas Gift Idea #7

Every year I try to buy one or two really nice Christmas ornaments.  I prefer porcelain, crystal or silver and not glass because they really don't last well.  My mother collected lots of those really large Polish glass painted ornaments.  They were beautiful in their day, but they all broke or lost all their paint, and we wound up having to throw them away.  Heartbreaking.

After years of collecting we have a fairly nice collection that we can pass onto our sons and their families some day.  The last few years I have bought some White House Christmas Ornaments and while they are nice and are affordable, I really would like more ornaments that have religious significance.

So, here is my next gift idea. It is from Monastery Greetings and include 3 different beautiful jeweled and cloisonne Orthodox icon Madonna ornaments.  I would love to really have the set, but I will probably just buy one.  I love icons and these are just lovely.

And while you are there, be sure to check out the selection of international beers from monasteries.  There are probably a few people you know who would like to receive that as a gift, and you can support the hard working monks as well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #6

So you looked at my last Christmas gift idea, making a rosary (or jewelry) from parts from Gardens of Grace, but you perhaps are not crafty, or want a more inexpensive gift that you can make that would foster the faith.  Making your own knotted rosary would fit the bill. 

I first discovered this when a bible study friend gave our group these knotted rosaries.  We loved them.  I use mine every day.  It is soft and silent.  I can tuck it into my pocket or purse without fear of breakage.  A few years ago, I - who am the least crafty person in my state - decided I would like to make a few for friends and family for Christmas.  And I did it!  It was easy.  I just followed the directions at the Rosary Army website.  Even a kid could do it.  I only needed to buy the cord and some crucifixes to affix to the end.  Once you get the hang of it, which is pretty much when you do the first one, it should take about an hour each rosary.  You can make them while watching TV or commuting on the train or bus.

This is actually a pretty popular idea in some Catholic circles.  You can even buy them. For example, here is a Facebook page for Handmade Cord Knotted Rosary which sells rosaries like the one above.

So where do you get the supplies for this?  First check out the list of suppliers at Rosary Army or look online where you will find places like the RosaryCord website.  You can also find crucifixes at perhaps your local Catholic supply store.  A quick search on the internet for Rosary supplies yielded Rosary Workshop and Rosary Shop.  So look around.  You can make the cord rosaries to the last part and put crucifixes on the lot of them at the end.

You may even want to enclose with the rosary a sheet on How to Pray the Rosary.  This one is English but there is also a Spanish version.

This is a beautiful gift and everyone I have given it to has been very happy to receive it.  I have even been asked to make more.  So try it.  Even if it is not for Christmas, these would make good year round gifts for any occasion.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #5

Here is one gift idea that would take a little work on your part.  Gardens of Grace has - hands down - the most beautiful rosaries I have ever seen.  One is more beautiful and elegant than the next.  I don't think they make many rosaries anymore, BUT they have all the parts to make these beautiful works of art.  These rosary parts and beads can be used for jewelry too, of course.

Any rosary, chaplet, paternoster or piece of jewelry you would make from these pieces would be treasured as family heirlooms for decades to come.

Christmas Gift Idea #4

This is definitely something on my wish list for this Christmas - just in case you were wondering what to get me.  The Truth & Life Audio Bible - New Testament is just amazing.  Using the wonderful Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) of the Bible, it has 70 fantastic actors like Michael York and Blair Underwood performing the complete audio of the New Testament.  You can listen to excerpts and see behind the scenes here.

I really thought this would be much more expensive that it is.  Retail is around $50 for 18 CD's (yes, you read that right) but I have seen it going for about $35.  Such a deal!  Wouldn't it be great to listen to in the car with the kids?  It really brings the Bible to life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #3

Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within

Here is another great Christmas gift idea, one of several books I want to tell you about.   Fr. Thomas Dubay's Prayer Primer.

As you have heard many times, I am a big fan of Fr. Dubay who passed away in September.  This great little book presupposes no knowledge of prayer but will help even those experienced in it.  Do you want to learn how to start or about different types of prayer?  What about Eastern forms of prayer, are they compatible with Christian prayer?  How do you teach children to pray?  How do you assess your progress or deepen your prayer?  This is the book for you.

I've linked to The Catholic Company, another (obviously) Catholic business you may want to support.

Disclaimer: The Catholic Company or Ignatius Press do not pay me for this recommendation.  I just really love this book!  Go to both of their sites and buy stuff!

Christmas Gift Idea #2

Christmas gift idea #2 is Magnificat magazine.  I can't tell you how fantastic the Magnificat is.  It is a beautiful companion on your faith journey, with morning and evening prayer, meditations, daily Mass readings, general prayers and a lot more.  It's convenient size fits right into your pocket or purse and is printed on lovely paper that feels wonderful in your hand.

I'm linking you to the Aquinas and More Catholic store for the Magnificat because they have significant discounts on what is a fairly pricey yearly subscription.  The Magnificat also comes in Spanish and they have individual companion volumes for purchase on the Rosary and Lent.

What is really neat is the MagnifiKid! Magazine for the 6-12 set.  This is fantastic.  We really liked the explanations of the Sunday readings, jokes and games plus helps in learning to pray.

I highly recommend the Magnificat magazine and it would make a fantastic gift for someone who is trying to further their spiritual life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea #1

Do you need some Christmas gift ideas?  I thought I would feature some gifts from Catholic companies that I liked that I thought you might too, so today's post will be about a website I discovered recently, Agnus Giftshop.  They have the coolest T-shirts.  My favorite is the one that says "What Part of This is My Body Don't You Understand?"  They have tons of traditional, modern and tasteful designs. Some are really beautiful.  Like this shirt...

There is something for everyone Catholic, even maternity wear. 

They have buttons and magnets of all kinds:


iPhone cases,

and cool decals for the car,

They have beer steins, calendars, journals...lets just say lots of nice stuff.  Check them out.  You can use their stuff for fundraisers too!

Disclaimer:  Agnus Giftshop has no idea of who I am, I get nada for recommending them.  I just thought they were cool.  Go forth and shop!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM May He Rest in Peace

I'm deeply saddened to learn about the death of Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM.  I have been a fan of his books and TV series for a long time.  There was no better teacher on contemplative prayer.  While so many modern "teachers" were teaching what they they called contemplative prayer, but what was really mixed with "New Age" and "Eastern" techniques like "Centering Prayer", he was teaching deep, deep prayer truly faithful to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, the masters of Christian contemplation.  You don't "empty your mind" with mantras and all that nonsense, you allow God to fill you with Himself.  You don't have control, God does.  You don't put yourself into an altered state of consciousness, you allow God to lead you to places unknown.  Which only comes after a long, faithful prayer life.  And a life of truly living His will.

I know Fr. Dubay is looking down at us and praying for us that we take the time to learn to truly pray. Here are some resources I would suggest:

Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within
Great for beginners but helpful to everyone.

Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer
A deep book but one that will truly teach you about St. Teresa of Avila & St. John of the Cross and the stages of prayer that you should aspire to.  It is a kind of road map to show you were you are and what to expect on your prayer journey to God.  You can't progress well if you don't know where you are going and how to get there.  You can use this as a companion book when reading the actual works of these great saints.  This is a masterpiece for the spiritual life.

Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within
This fantastic book shows you what to look for in a spiritual director and what to expect in spiritual direction.  Since it is so hard to find a good director, this book is excellent in guiding you in the spiritual life.  Written in a dialog format it is not hard to understand and really challenges you do better in your walk with Christ.  

Here is a list of other books available that he has written. 

If you go to EWTN's Audio Library  and type in "Thomas Dubay" in the series search box, you'll find 6 different TV series he did for the network.  Choose one that interests you.  I would suggest the series on Contemplation.  Then either listen on your computer, or if you have an iPod, or other mp3 player, save them on your computer and transfer them to your player.  These shows go really in depth and if you want to learn what Contemplation is all about this will give you the nitty-gritty.

Take this holy man's death as an invitation to read or listen to his works and learn how to advance in your walk with God.  Now that he is with Him, I'm sure that if we say a quick prayer to ask Fr. Dubay to pray for us we will advance even further.  Thank you Fr. Dubay for all your work.