Monday, November 12, 2012

First Saturday: The Real Presence

Our First Saturday gathering for November was beautiful. Father Joseph Mary, of the Community of St. John, spoke to us on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Locally, Father Joseph Mary is a well-loved speaker, as his talks are done with such great love for the Lord, the Truth, and the Church, yet gracefully balanced with gentleness and humor. We were so blessed to have him speak to our group! The following are my notes from his talk. I know his passion will not be done justice through my written summary, but I hope his message will stir within you a desire to learn more and spend time in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perpetual Adoration
In the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI has challenged bishops to have at least one perpetual adoration chapel in every diocese. There are 2500 chapels in the world, with over 1000 of those in the United States and another 500 in the Phillipines. (My note: aren't we blessed to have two perpetual adoration chapels right here in Peoria, less than two miles from each other! There's nowhere I'd rather be right now than in our great diocese, under the faithful and bold leadership of Bishop Jenky!)

The Real Presence
Our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist allows us to put God first. When we put God first, everything else falls into place. A story was told of a Buddhist man who prayed daily at a Catholic church. When asked why, he said, "If God is really here, shouldn't I be here too?" Another story related a Protestant's experience with the Eucharist, in which he felt a "Presence," as opposed to an "absence." St. John Vianney also had a strong love for the Eucharist, and when teaching his students would come to tears crying out, "He's really there! He's really there!" Truly, for those whose hearts are open to believing, the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is powerful and undeniable.

So why do we believe in the Real Presence, that the Eucharist truly IS the Body and Blood of Jesus, that he is truly present to us in the Blessed Sacrament? Because Jesus says He is. We believe that at the Last Supper, Jesus had the power to transform bread and wine into His own Body and Blood, and we believe that He continues to do so through the priesthood He then established. Though ascended into heaven, He remains present to us through love and will remain with us until He returns.

As Catholics, as believers in the Real Presence, we have the opportunity to interact with Jesus Himself in three ways: by adoring, by receiving, and by giving thanks.

We Adore Jesus in the Eucharist
Just as with human relationships, when you are in the presence of the one you love, you are filled with joy, and when you are away, you desire to be in their presence. So it is with Jesus - we want to be where He is. The more we believe in Him, the more we want to be with Him, to adore Him, and to receive Him. Fulton Sheen, when he was ordained, committed to making a Holy Hour every day. He continued this practice until his death, and he also encouraged all Catholics to make a daily Holy Hour.

As creatures, the created, it is a natural act to adore one's Creator. In John chapter 9 we read of the man born blind. In 9:35-37, Jesus elicits an act of faith and reveals Himself to the man. The man immediately worships Him. The man's instinctive reaction was to adore the Creator. To adore is an act of humility.

In contrast, the lack of adoration is rooted in pride. There is no adoration in Hell. While those in Hell are forced to intellectually realize the existence and power of God, their pride will not voluntarily acknowledge that God is first. The refusal to adore, to recognize God's authority and goodness, is the source of arrogance, sadness, anger, frustration, and death.

There are four aspects of adoration.
  1. We acknowledge intellectually that God is first and we are entirely dependent on Him.
  2. We lovingly and freely accept this dependence.
  3. We thank the Creator for the gift of our exisitence and all the gifts He has given us.
  4. We offer sacrifices of ourselves - time, material items, and our very being.
The spirit of adoration leads us to more fervently, frequently, and reverently receive. Adoration leads the way to Confession and the Eucharist because it allows us to humble ourselves, recognize that God is first, and desire to be with Him and to receive Him.

We Receive Jesus in the Eucharist

Why do we receive Jesus in the Eucharist? Jesus commanded us to take and eat in John 6:53-58.

In 1 Corinthians 11:27 we read, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord."  If we are consciously in a state of mortal sin, we should not receive the Eucharist.

We receive Jesus to become more like Him. Christ, who is Love, becomes Love Incarnate in the Eucharist. The Eucharist helps us to follow Jesus and live like Jesus; it is "food for the way" (viaticum).

We Give Thanks for Jesus in the Eucharist

Following the reception of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is not just appropriate or recommended to give thanks, it is again a natural act. As creatures we are naturally in thanksgiving for the gift of our Creator.

In addition to the time immediately following the Eucharist, it is good to make an act of thanksgiving for 5-10 minutes after Mass, not only in thanksgiving to God but as a sign to others and yourself of the Real Presence of Jesus. Just getting up and leaving after Mass like nothing happened is like inviting a special guest to your home and after 10 minutes saying "See ya, I've gotta get to a baseball game." St. Sharbel spent seven hours in preparation for Mass and seven hours in thanksgiving afterwards!

In Conclusion
Consider how much time you waste in a day or a week. Give some to Jesus. If you want to spend eternity with Jesus, start now! Fulton Sheen said that if you spend time with Jesus on earth, He will recognize you when you get to heaven.

Keep a spirit of adoration all day, humbling yourself as the creation, in adoration of the Creator. The Dominican father who founded the Community of St. John recommended seven acts of adoration each day. Pray wherever you are. Particularly when you are anxious or troubled, when your focus is more on yourself than on God, make an act of adoration and give yourself and your worries to God.

Recognize that God is first. Your degree of love and charity on earth determines your degree of joy and glory in heaven.

For those who were present, if you have additional notes or quotes from Fr. Joseph Mary's talk, please post them in the comments! To all who read this, I encourage each of you to spend an hour in Adoration of our Lord this week. If you've been away from the Church, Confession, or the Eucharist, Jesus is waiting to see you!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mass of Thanksgiving for Venerable Fulton Sheen

This morning the Diocese of Peoria celebrated Venerable Fulton Sheen with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral. Some of these photos are not very good, but I think they still capture some of the beauty of the day.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception

Coat of Arms of the Bishops of the Peoria Diocese

One of the many gorgeous stained glass windows

Our Lady's Chapel

Msgr. Deptula giving the homily

Bishop Jenky and Archbishop Myers preparing the gifts

Msgr. Deptula and Bishop Jenky in the recessional-
seconds later Bishop Jenky blessed Lucas and said he's
going to be a priest someday!

Our grand Cathedral
Really nice 56 page program

One more of the Cathedral

Lucas and I in our "fancy clothes" for "fancy church"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Saturday: Making Prayer Happen

Tonight was the first gathering of our First Saturday women's group for the 2012-2013 year. Our speaker, one of the members of our leadership team, presented on "Making Prayer Happen: Developing a Devotional Life in a Busy Life." Her talk was informative and engaging, filled with wisdom and humor from her own experiences.

The talk began with the reason why we all showed up: we know we should pray, and we know we want to pray, and we even know a little bit about how and why to pray, but what we really struggle with is when to pray!

We all have several excuses when it comes to why we give up on developing a stronger prayer life. One is that we compare ourselves with some "ideal" - either someone else's seemingly picture-perfect life (as written in a book or blog), or something we create in our own minds. No matter how hard you try, you can't make an ideal happen; you have to be okay with doing what works for you.

Another excuse is that it is hard (impossible) to be consistent with doing the exact same prayers every day, and when you miss a day, you can easily fall into missing it again and again. Once you fall off the wagon, you've failed, and it's hard to get back on.

A third excuse is that prayer can sometimes start to feel too ritualistic, too rote, and can become empty. We must embrace the rituals of these prayers and find the life in them! It is through the rituals of our faith that we have life. Don't stop if prayer feels empty; keep going and the life will come back.

It doesn't seem possible to "pray without ceasing," but we can find ways to incorporate it throughout our day. Every little bit counts, whether it's a quick prayer at a red light or while making scrambled eggs. Here are some ways you might want to try incorporating more prayer into your day:

  • Try attending daily Mass once a week, perhaps on a Saturday so you can go alone or attending a school Mass so that bringing little children seems less intimidating.
  • Stop in Adoration for 15 minutes; it doesn't have to be an hour. There are two local perpetual adoration chapels, and many parishes have a weekly or monthly day of adoration in the church.
  • Pray at red lights - for patience!
  • Pray when cooking, to better serve as Mary did.
  • Pray before and after appointments, especially to help with anxiety.
  • Pray before/during a confrontation or disagreement. Pray for the right words or for the ability to leave the conversation.
  • Pray short, simple prayers you make up with your family (to start your day, before meals, in the car, before bed).
  • Memorize prayers as a family; they will pick up on them quickly if you start saying them regularly.
  • Pray the St. Michael prayer when being attacked for our beliefs or need protection.
  • Repeat words or phrases, "mantras," that help calm and center you when longer prayers aren't an option. For example, "Prayer, patience, and perseverance," or simply, "Strength."
  • When you get a prayer request through email or Facebook, stop and pray right at that moment. It only takes a few seconds.
  • Gradually build up to a whole family rosary, or do a rosary with other families/children.
  • Don't forget that many spiritual songs are actually prayers. Sing at home, in the car, and during Mass. Don't worry about how good of a singer you are; it is an act of worship.
 There are also many tools that can help you remember to pray or aide in your prayer life.
  • Several iphone apps, such as Laudete, have the rosary, daily readings and reflections, and other prayers. Some offer reminders to pray a novena prayer daily.
  • Set the alarm clock on your cell phone for 3pm (or a time that works for you) and offer a quick prayer every day at that time.
  • Listen to podcasts or watch You Tube videos of prayers, readings, reflections, and songs.
  • Magnificat magazine has daily prayers and readings, and an app if you subscribe.
  • There are usually free booklets in the back of church during Advent and Lent. Use them!
  • Many books by and about saints have good material to reflect on in prayer.
  • Social media such as Facebook offers you instant access to asking for prayers, praying for others, and receiving feeds from Catholic sources that have daily prayers and reflections. "Like" various pages to receive their updates.
Here are some other thoughts on prayer to remember:
  • Don't let what someone else does dictate what you do.
  • Remember that prayer can (and should) take four forms at different times: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication (ACTS).
  • Be open to change and trying new things until you develop a prayer life that works for you.
  • Don't spend all of your time reading and learning about it - actually do it!
  • Prayer is conversation. Talking to God doesn't have to be formal.
  • There is a place for memorized prayer. Sometimes we don't know what to say in prayer, and the prayers we already know are exactly what we need to say.
  • Consider having a prayer buddy to help you be accountable in your prayer life.
  • Don't wait until bed to pray about the whole day. Put prayer into your day as it happens. Every little bit counts.

Thank you very much to our speaker and to the women who showed up for tonight's talk! We have a really great year planned with some special guest speakers and some presentations by members of our team. I'll be posting my notes after each talk, so if you can't make it or you're trying to remember something that caught your attention, hopefully I'll have it here for you. Our next talk will be on Saturday, October 6th on the topic of "Living the Year of Faith at Home."

All images on this post are my own. Please do not use without permission.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Little About Me

I suppose if you're going to read this, you'll want to know a tiny bit about me, right? I won't spill all the beans just yet, because then things might not seem so interesting later.

I'm a cradle Catholic, stay at home wife and mom of two little boys. Steve and I married in 2008, Lucas was born in 2009, and Tyler in 2011. Life with boys fills my day with sweet smiles, and lots of dirt. I've lived my entire life in Illinois, and I love the seasons of the midwest. I have my first small garden this year, and I ran my first 5k this summer since running cross country in high school. I like to cook and bake, and I like to organize, but not clean. My morning beverage of choice is black decaf coffee, I eat chocolate every day, and to feel rested I actually need ten hours of sleep. My favorite "alone time" thing to do is read a book in the sun. Yesterday was my 28th birthday, and I have a lot of goals for the next year. That's a-whole-nother post.

You probably know more about me than people in my own family now. What about you? Please introduce yourself in the comments!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Beginning

Today is the beginning of this blog, Help Them to Heaven. That, I believe, is the primary duty of my vocation as a wife and mother: to help my husband and our children on their journey to heaven. I'll be blogging about marriage, motherhood, and homemaking through the lens of my Catholic faith. These are the things that make me who I am - a daughter of God living out my vocation with love and joy, helping my husband, our children, and each person God has placed in my life, on their journeys to heaven. I hope you'll find this space warm and welcoming, and I hope together we can draw nearer to Christ through sharing the trials and triumphs of our beautiful vocation.

As I said, I'll be blogging about marriage, motherhood, and homemaking through the lens of my Catholif faith. I will probably even throw in a few recipes, crafts, and book reviews, but it will mostly be about my life as a Catholic wife and mother. At first it might seem my posts are a bit unrelated, a bit too far flung from each other, to be one cohesive blog. But in time, my hope is that this blog will be a place that encompasses the whole of our vocation as Catholic wives and mothers.

This is what I believe that vocation entails. We are caretakers, nurturing people and relationships. We are homemakers, providing for the physical needs of our families. And we are soulshapers, bringing our husbands and children closer to Christ through a strong spiritual life of our own and with our families. Through each aspect of our vocation, we have the ability and opportunity to bring glory to God and to bring souls to Him.
I'm beginning this blog on August 22nd, my birthday, and the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. This blog is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Queen of Heaven, and to Saint Monica, my patron saint and the patron saint of all wives and mothers, whose own feast comes in five days on August 27th.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us! Saint Monica, pray for us!