Develop a love for the Holy Souls

Happy Feast of the Holy Souls!

If you do not know this about me already, I have a real love and devotion for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I have had this love since I was young – cemeteries held no fear for me but fascination. Who were all these folks whose bones were hidden under the earth? What lives did they live? What regrets did they have? What joys? And most importantly, where were they now?

This love I have is reflected in our Church’s teaching. Did you know there are over 30 Masses for the dead? And numerous saints and writers talk about developing a devotion to them as well.

St. Thomas Aquinas is said to have written that prayers for dead are the most meritorious and most acceptable to God as they encompass both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Our prayers for the dead are given without expectation as they can give us nothing in return on this earth. No invites for dinner or birthday cards. Just their love and prayers for our salvation! Pretty good deal.

St. John Chrysostum tells us, “Why should we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers to them.”

But how? Here’s some easy ideas to develop a devotion towards souls in your home:

-As you pass any cemetery pray aloud:

“May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.”

My family adds the following: “Especially those who have no one to pray for them and those that have been forgotten.”

-As you pass a Catholic cemetery:

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord and perpetual light upon their souls and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace. Amen.”

St. Gertrude the Great gave us the prayer that is said to release 1000 souls from purgatory every time it is said:

Eternal Father I offer you the most precious blood of your divine son Jesus in union with the masses said throughout the world today for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, sinners in the universal church those in my own home and within my family. Amen. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

I’ve seen this prayer posted on the bathroom mirror and dashboard of the car of many a Catholic family. As you brush your teeth (in the bathroom) or wait for a red light (in your car) you can say this prayer a few times and gain some new friends. Real friends who will never forget your prayers.

Fr. Martin Jugie who wrote Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It (1949) tells us:

“Here is an easy means of surrounding ourselves in eternity with many grateful friends, whose gratitude will augment our glory in paradise: for we can make all the friends we wish in purgatory.”

How about that? “All the friends we wish….” The number of friends you have on Facebook or ‘likes’ you get from a post or selfie cannot compare to the numbers of souls who will forever remember you and your family with love and prayers if you pray for them!

How about a ghost story?

Happy Feast of All Saints and Eve of All Souls! My love for Halloween comes only from the fact is is my sister’s birthday and my love for these special days comes from my devotion to the saint and the souls in Purgatory.

So with Halloween over for this year, can you handle a Catholic ghost story? No worries about the source as it comes directly from Ascension Press and Fr. Mike Schmidt.

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts

 

Have you ever felt a bit like Job?

job-cover

I know I have. More than once in my adult life I have complained about what I was enduring, shaken my fist at God and said, “I don’t remember applying for the job as the new Job!” What I was enduring was unnecessary and awful.

Thoughout these struggles, I have read and re-read the book of Job trying to get a better of understanding of the whole concept of how to handle “when bad things happen to good people”. I’m the good person and have endured the bad situations of unemployment (2x), miscarriage (multiple times) and my MS disability (on-going). I’ve gotten the lousy late at night phone call informing me of the passing of my Dad and arrived at Matt’s Dad’s bedside just a few minutes too late.

But I would always walk away from my reading and praying without any real clarity. I just couldn’t make sense of it at all. It just seemed to me God was being mean and punishing me. I was much like Job – I didn’t think I had done anything ‘wrong’ but still I was enduring such pain.

You know what I mean because I know you (all of us) have had those moments when we know, just know, God is asking more of us than we can possibly handle! It is all too much.

Author Regina Doman, well-known Catholic writer and head of Chesterton Press knows this all too well. And in response to her own pain, she didn’t whine and complain as I am prone to do. Rather she put pen to paper and gave all of us an amazing gift in her retelling of The Story of Job.

I picked up my own copy this past summer when I saw Regina at a conference. It spent several weeks on the bookshelf before I picked it up to read. It is not a long book, less than 50 pages! It even has great illustrations by Ben Hatke (of Zita the Spacegirl fame).

Immediately (and I mean immediately) after finishing this book I felt as if a weight was being lifted from my shoulders and my soul. In those short few pages, Regina told the familiar story of Job in such a way that my own struggles began to make a little more sense to me. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone in my family about it and it was now required reading (and re-reading) in the Watkins’ house.

For my older children, they also had lightbulb moments and a better understanding of just who and how God is. My younger kids read it and loved the illustrations more than the message. But in the end, my whole family knows the important message Job wants us to know…..which I don’t want to give away. But as a hint, I’ll quote the book:

“And God came.”

And so He did.

If you are looking for a wonderful Christmas present to give, I highly recommend this little gift of a book or really any of the other great books available at:

Chesterton Press

A little bit goes such a long way….

Such is the way of a seed or yeast (today’s Gospel, Luke 13:18-21).

It is so easy to talk ourselves out of doing something, anything isn’t it?

We can so easily talk ourselves out of turning off the TV, walking away from our computer, setting down our phone or anything else that is keeping us from spending more time with our children or spouse away from technology.

And we can just as easily talk ourselves into one more cookie, one more level of our current on-line game or falling asleep without saying ‘Good Night’ to God.

I know I struggle with those same lousy habits. I can easily tell myself, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s only one ____________ (fill in the blank). I’m going good enough’ as I continue on letting my emotions or feelings or current attitude decide my course of action rather than God’s will and my vocation as wife and mother.

Not that any of those single items are bad, but they aren’t always the best and I’ve been trying to challenge myself to choose ‘the better path’ rather than the easiest one for a few weeks now.

So, every morning I ask God to help me a little more – add a little more yeast to my day or plant another mustard seed in my heart. That little bit may turn into a decade of the rosary as I’m driving kids to and from. Or holding Matt’s hand for an small prayer of thanksgiving for our marriage and family before falling asleep. Even talking to one of my kids without either of us looking at a computer screen! Nothing huge, but a small choice of better rather than being content with good enough.

Little stuff that I know God will make into something as big as a mustard plant or as delicious as warm bread. I can do my little bit knowing God (who is so much bigger, stronger and loving than me) will make it yield one-hundred fold.

 

33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC

Matt and I just finished this powerful book last night and I happily recommend it to anyone looking to both have a new introduction to the St. Therese’s spirituality and to reminded of just how much, how much God loves them and wants to help them become saints.

Seriously – it is a fantastic book.

We did each reading just before going to bed by ourselves (without our children). It was a great bedtime prayer routine as the Fr. Gaitley’s writing is clear, understandable and often a bit humorous.

If you are familiar with Fr. Gaitley’s other book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, I found this book much more approachable. It was easy to remember his points the next day and both Matt and I found ourselves renewed and refreshed in our faith and, as a nice bonus, our marriage!

While we did the Morning Glory as a family, we found that to be a bit heavier for the younger kids to grasp. However, by the end of the first week of Merciful Love, Matt and I realized we could easily have done this book with our kids (ages 21 – 9, at home). However, we kept doing it as a couple project and it led to some really amazing conversations.

While we could do the Consecration right away, we wanted to pick a ‘powerful feast’ in which to remember what we have done so we will be doing the consecration together on the Feast of Christ the King.

We would love to think that some of you might be doing it as well.

If you have read the book already and loved it as much as I did, please let everyone know!

33 Days to Merciful Love

 

 

Are you ready to discover something new?

Happy Columbus Day!

Gone are the days of huge Columbus parades and big celebrations of the day of our nation’s discovery. Christopher Columbus has a rich history in the Catholic Church we may not realize. EWTN on Christopher Columbus

Many schools no longer have this day off and many historians temper any discussion of Christopher Columbus’ journey across the Atlantic with an effort to recognize the harm early settlers caused to native populations.

Getting the history straight is important, especially in regard to remembering those who died at the hands of those who came to North America only for the purpose of selfish gain. However, those realities often then overtake the heroics and bravery of those who came only to discover.

Such was Christopher Columbus. At the time he sailed, despite what we may have been taught, many scientists actually knew the world was round. But it is unlikely anyone in Europe knew there was a great big continent sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean waiting to be found! Columbus’ voyage changed the world as they knew it.

I heard about discovery and exploration this morning at Mass. Father talked of the reality that we may think there is nothing left to discover. Maybe we think all the good stuff is gone, he wondered.

Then came his challenge – discover your faith! Discover Jesus! The undiscovered country is your very soul.

This was echoed in the meditation offered in The Magnificat. Fr. Bede Jarrett, +1934, says as much.

“The Kingdom of God, therefore, is something that the individual from the age of reason to the end of life has to be continually realizing for himself. He has to be continually hammering away at the truths of faith, endeavoring to get more meaning out of them, to find in them the help and guidance that daily life continually demands.”

Keep challenging yourself and learn a bit more – every day – about your faith, Jesus and just how much He loves you. Find out more about angels or miracles or a new saint. Challenge yourself to a rosary, a novena or Daily Mass.

Fr. Jarrett continues, “I must make it personal to myself – chew it, digest it, form out of it the sinews of my spiritual being.”

Since you were here last…..Feast Days and Family Fun!

Our dear St. Therese had her own feast day on October 1, my confirmation saint St. Francis of Assisi has his own feast day today (cake and ice cream has been planned for dessert!), and Our Lady of the Rosary is on Friday. I am sorry I didn’t post on the Little Flower’s feast day as I had planned but I was having fun with my family – it was a feast day in our house after all!

It can be hard to remember all these feast days but I encourage you to try. Let’s admit it, being a Catholic can sometimes be seen as boring and difficult. What with all those “Thou Shalt Not…”, Mass on Sunday, Confession (!), no meat on Fridays and watching what we say, watch and do – who wants to be a Catholic?

I do – and you as well. Putting aside my sarcasm, being a Catholic can be perceived as boring and difficult to those outside of our homes, our churches and our culture (yes, there is such a thing as Catholic culture). But, from inside my happy home and looking out from the pew through beautiful stained glass windows I am reminded that the world desperately needs the color, joy and celebrations that being Catholic can bring.

So, pull out your planner or calendar and pick your favorite saints and feast days to celebrate with good fun, a family excursion or game night. Start with the patron saint names of the members of the family or maybe remember baptismal days. You don’t need a meal that is worthy of pinterest but maybe just a shout out at dinner to that saint to keep their watchful, prayerful eye on your family. Do something a bit ‘extra’ as a reminder to yourself that our faith is full of reasons to celebrate.

If your spouse or kids ask why the extra dessert or special meal or walk in a park tell them that being a Catholic makes you happy and when you are happy you want those around you to be happy as well!

Praying with St. Therese of Lisieux! Her novena starts today!

Pray More Novenas

They have everything you need to join with other LF’s around the world as we intercede with our patroness, St. Therese. You will see the daily prayers, sign up for email reminders, even get it as a podcast, see it on youtube or video at iTunes!

St. Therese is the Head Gardener as it were of our small efforts. Christ, of course, is the Master Gardener – He is the vine and we are the branches!

Our Lady of Sorrows

Her feast is tomorrow, Sept. 15, perhaps you might find a way to honor our Blessed Mother under this title.

From St. John Paul II we have:

“As we contemplate this Mother, whose heart a sword has pierced (cf. Luke 2:35), our thoughts go to all the suffering women in the world, suffering either physically or morally. In this suffering a woman’s sensitivity plays a role, even though she often succeeds in resisting suffering better than a man.
It is difficult to enumerate these sufferings; it is difficult to call them all by name. We may recall her maternal care for her children, especially when they fall sick or fall into bad ways; the death of those most dear to her; the loneliness of mothers forgotten by their grown-up children; the loneliness of widows; the sufferings of women who struggle alone to make a living; and women who have been wronged or exploited. Then there are the sufferings of consciences as a result of sin, which has wounded the woman’s human or maternal dignity: the wounds of consciences which do not heal easily. With these sufferings too we must place ourselves at the foot of the Cross.”

Pope John Paul II
(Mulieris Dignitatem, 21)

JPII gives us several ideas of how we could remember Mary in a special way tomorrow – a letter to a widow, a rosary said for children in hospitals, or perhaps a donation to a pregnancy center.

For my family, this feast is when we remember those children who were a part of our family for only a short period of time – those children we’ve lost due to miscarriage. Having enduring that special sorrow more than once, it is a real burden for me especially, both spiritually and psychologically, to remember them on the days we lost them, or on the day of their expected arrival.

So, we take time to remember them all on tomorrow’s feast. Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, knows even better than I ever could the sadness of losing a child. Each Sept. 14th, I know she is holding me and all mothers like me closely in her mantle.

Be assured of my prayers for all of you whose hearts have been pierced by the sword of miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of a child during Mass tomorrow morning.