A Roadmap for Prayer

One of the beauties of Catholicism is the embrace of rhythm.

The Church boasts a robust liturgical year filled with silence, celebration, mourning, and remembrance. The Liturgy of the Hours marks the days with the reading of Psalms and the calm punctuation of prayer. The Rosary reminds us to be still for twenty-ish minutes at a time, while the Angelus beckons us to remember the Incarnation of Christ at 6 AM and Noon. Rhythm is everywhere, the order of time surrounds Catholics in an ever-present embrace.

Still, though, our lives outside of Mass are often disordered, or distorted, by time. We struggle to find time to pray (and forget trying to find time to read the daily Mass readings). Often, it just doesn’t seem possible to be as devout as many of us would like. This probably applies to you, as it very much applies to me.

Before moving to New York City, my life was fairly leisurely. I usually didn’t leave for work until 8:00 AM and returned around 3:30 PM. Now, I leave for work at 5:30 AM and return around the same time in the evening. The morning Rosary I once treasured has taken a back seat in favor of more sleep and the Mass readings have slipped to a place before bed. My devotional life has been in a tizzy, and frankly, I just don’t like it.

While I am adverse to New Year’s resolutions, I am not adverse to new beginnings that just happen to take place in the first weeks of a new month. This month (and for the rest of the year), I want to commit to a more ordered devotional life. For example, when I first converted to Catholicism, I wanted to do all the the devotions: prayers, rosaries, novenas, journaling. You name it, I wanted in. Yet, I found myself easily overwhelmed and giving up. Almost two years into my life as a Catholic, I discovered the value of order (and not doing all the things all the time) – much like the liturgical year that orders our own devotional lives.

To make things easier, I decided to pursue one devotion per day of the week and retain some devotions on a daily basis. For example, everyday I want to pray two entries in the Liturgy of the Hours (typically the 6AM and 6PM hours), read the daily Mass readings, and pray the Angelus. For me, this is manageable and can be done almost anywhere, including the subway or as I walk down the streets of New York. For other days, I have selected various prayers and litanies to order, and not overwhelm, my life as a praying Catholic.

A Roadmap for Prayer in 2019

Sunday: Recitation of Holy Rosary

Monday: Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Tuesday: Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Wednesday: Litany of Humility

Thursday: Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

Friday: Divine Mercy Chaplet 

Saturday: Prayer for the Intercession of the Chinese Martyr Saints

As I am merely human, I will not fulfill my desires everyday of the week. But, I believe this is a great start to more ordered devotional life in 2019. Do you have certain days that you say certain prayers? Which are your favorite? Feel free to let me know in the comments, as I always love to hear suggestions. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Love for Beginners: Recognizing the Dignity in Everyone

“For, by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.”

– Vatican II

I don’t know if you can remember the first time you struggled with or recognized sin in your own life, but I know I can. Even as a young child, I was often filled with undue pride and arrogance at my self-perceived properness and heightened dignity. Simply, I thought I was better than almost everyone else.

See, I was born into a life that so many would literally kill for. I was raised in home with married parents who were nurturing and supportive. My brother and I get along splendidly and have never one time had an argument or disagreement. By the time I was 18, I traveled to all 50 states with my parents and to the Holy Land with my mother. The little town I grew up in, though insulated, was perfect for raising up children who retained their innocence a little longer than most. In most ways, I lived a healthy, idyllic life.

The Dangers of Privilege 

Unfortunately, an idyllic childhood does come with drawbacks, though it’s few and far between. For me, that drawback was the failure to recognize the dignity in every person I came into contact with. For example, if I scored higher on a test than most of my classmates (which was often), I pondered my own outstanding intellect. If someone participated in hobbies that I found banal (watching and playing sports, not reading voraciously), I determined that person was uncouth and in need of culture. Oh, and people who went to the beach every year for vacation? Get up on my level and go somewhere educational and exotic.

For years, I harbored this belief that I was somehow better than everyone else by the virtue of my family, my behaviors, and my hobbies. I prided myself as someone who would have followed Jesus had I lived during His time on Earth. In reality, I probably would have turned up my nose at the sight of the Holy Family. 

Love One Another

One of the most commonly quoted bits of Holy Scripture is from Jesus when He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). What is originally a profound and deeply influential command is often twisted by our society. It’s turned into a kitschy saying that we decorate our homes with and quip on social media.

But, have you thought to ponder what it means to truly love one another? Jesus does not instruct us to only love those whom it is easy to love. While we are to love those who are the closest to us, it’s also an imperative that we love those who cause our hearts to clamp up in dread. After all, Jesus said that even the pagans love those who are lovable (Matthew 5:47). The simple, yet sacrificial act, of loving those we struggle to see the dignity in is what can change the world.

Love for Beginners

I am convinced that none of us will ever become experts in loving our neighbors, at least on this side of eternity. We have all sorts of hangups: baggage, presumptions, and the scourge of original sin. All of these things distort how we view and love our neighbor. Sin causes us to discard the lowly and to place a preference on our own selves. We fail to see the inherent God-given dignity of those, especially those we don’t like, around us.

Since my conversion to Catholicism, I have grappled more with my own sin of arrogance and judging others. I think this is primarily because, once I converted, my faith became my own and was no longer something I doing just to avoid hell. Often, I thought about Church teachings on the dignity of the human person . Through my journey, I discovered little ways we can learn to value those around us.

Recognizing the Dignity in Others

A few ways to do this are:

  1. Realize that God created each and every person, and knows them intimately (Psalm 139).
  2. Know that Jesus wildly loves each person you encounter. According to Church teaching, every person is assigned a guardian angel. Just think: God loved you and everyone else enough to appoint a supernatural being to protect and watch over you. Knowing that each person has a guardian angel has greatly influenced how I view those around me.
  3. Pray for those you don’t like. This is tough: Easily said but not easily done. Whether you start out with a simple Our Father or Hail Mary for that person, it’s a start. As you progress, watch how God will slowly chip away the barriers in your heart.
  4. Give of yourself. Volunteer for those who are less-fortunate. It’s easy to pity the poor, but the real change is found in working to improve the conditions of those who are the most vulnerable. This very act takes you outside of yourself, and while humbling, it can help you recognize the dignity in others.

Seeing the dignity in others is hard and arduous. It often requires that we step down from our own high places and come face-to-face with the reality of our littleness. Let me know below if there are other ways you recognize the dignity of others. I always love to hear from my readers. May God bless you, always.

 

 

 

New York Faves

New York City has no shortage of things to do and places to see. I’ve lived in the heart of Manhattan for a little over 2 months and I still have yet to do everything that I want to do. However, I’ve experienced the privilege of going to many wonderful places during my time here. Here’s just a few of my favorite NYC places (in no particular order):

  1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  2. John’s of Bleecker Street Pizza
  3. Green Bo Deluxe Shanghainese Restaurant
  4. Holy Innocents Catholic Church and Shrine to the Unborn
  5. Central Park Zoo
  6. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  7. Ferrara’s Bakery
  8. Little Italy
  9. Koreatown
  10. Chinatown
  11. Central Park
  12. Greenwich Village
  13. Chelsea Market
  14. Fifth Avenue
  15. Tiffany & Co. Flagship Store
  16. Ichiran Ramen (Brooklyn or Manhattan)
  17. Spa Castle
  18. 9/11 Memorial
  19. Broadway / Herald Square
  20. Flushing, Queens
  21. New York Public Library – Bryant Park

What are your favorite NYC sites? Where should I go next? Comment below and let me know!

GUEST POST – On Choosing a Nun’s Life: The Road Less Taken by Christina M. Sorrentino

Welcome to the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I pray your time of reflection and sacrifice is bringing you closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we progress through the weeks, I pray that you have found my Lenten series of guest posts to be a blessing in your spiritual walk. Today, it is my pleasure to host Christina M. Sorrentino, a digital friend and fellow blogger. Christina is an aspiring nun and she’s sharing her vocation story today. May you be blessed by Christina’s witness to the faithfulness of Christ.

“And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

-Luke 1:38

Growing up I had never been around religious sisters as my entire education was in the public schools, and it was not until I was an undergraduate in college that one day while walking to class I happened to turn around and there behind me was a Daughter of St. Paul. I remember how seeing that sister in her blue habit bought a smile to my face that day while I thought to myself, “What are the odds on a public college campus there would be a religious sister”? That is the first time that I remember ever encountering a religious sister.

The thought of becoming a nun never entered into my mind until I was in my early twenties and met a young seminarian who was joyful and zealous about his vocation to the priesthood. I recall sitting with one of my friends at dinner one evening and admitting to her that seeing this seminarian preparing for his upcoming ordination inspired me to begin thinking about my own vocation, and I said, “I think I want to be a nun”. I was terrified at such a thought and pushed it right out of my mind almost immediately after I made the statement. Where would such a thought come from, me a nun? How could I give up my dream of becoming a teacher, a dream I had worked so hard to attain my entire life and instead enter into the convent? I was only a year away from a bachelor’s degree and having a career, and I was not ready to be open to the will of God at that time in my life.

Fast forward after several years of teaching, and having the experience of a lifetime in my dream career I started to think about becoming a religious sister again, and a gentle nudge to consider the convent came back to me. Now in my mid-twenties I finally felt that I had reached a point in my life that I could be open to God’s plan for my life. I loved my job, and I knew that I could go about living the rest of my life working and living a normal life like majority of everyone else, but I felt I wanted more in my life. I had this burning desire to not only be happy in my life, but to have this deep feeling of being content, and ultimately living a life of complete and total satisfaction and fulfillment. There was a moment for me kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament after mass one Sunday when God confirmed for me that I need to be open to His will, and I felt content with such a feeling, although scared of what this meant for me, and how others would respond to this choice.  But I was overcome with this strong desire to want a more intimate relationship with Christ in a way that could only be between a religious sister and her divine spouse. I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me and found such a deep sense of peace in having a call to religious life. I am also blessed to have received support and encouragement from the priests in my life, and through their vocation I have been continuously inspired to fulfill my own vocation.

I will be entering Marycrest Convent with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, a contemplative-missionary religious community, on September 8th, the Feast of the Birth of Mary. How beautiful to receive a date on a Marian feast day! I first learned about the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate from the Council Superior of Women Religious website and the magazine of the Sisters, The Parish Visitor, given to me by one of the

Religious Sisters
Imagine Sisters

priests at my parish, which further confirmed for me I needed to visit this community. The Sisters help fallen away Catholics to have a deeper relationship with Christ and to find their way back home to the Church. Such a charism of imitating the Good Shepherd and striving to bring the lost sheep home truly has touched my heart. They have a devotion to Our Lady and pray the Rosary daily as a community, and each day also have holy mass, Eucharistic adoration, meditation, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours together. Their life of prayer being centered on Jesus that expands out into to their apostolate missions makes them contemplative-missionaries, and searching for a community that is both contemplative and active was an important part of my discernment journey. I hope as a religious sister to be able to help others to come back to the Church and to know the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Christina M. Sorrentino is a millennial, cradle Catholic who is an aspiring religious sister, and a blogger and writer in Staten Island, New York. She is the author of Called to Love A Listening Heart – A Book of Catholic Poetry. She has contributed to Blessed is She, Pursued by Truth, Pilgrim – A Journal of Catholic Experience, Leonie’s Longing, Catholic New York, and the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals. She blogs about faith and discernment at “Called to Love a Listening Heart”. You can also find Christina on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

GUEST POST: The Captain and the Cross by J.D. Bentley

Welcome to the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Week-by-week and day-by-day, we are inching towards the glorious morning of Easter. As we make our way through the wilderness, may we always focus on the light and triumph of the Passion of Our Lord. Today, I am happy to share another guest post from fellow Southerner and writer, J.D. Bentley. You can find more of J.D.’s writings at the link below. I pray that you, especially my male readers, will find the wisdom in today’s post applicable to your relationships.

The Captain and the Cross

Marriage has taught me not to care about my marriage. From the masculine perspective, caring about the marriage itself is a self-obsession that obscures the absence of substance. If I care about the marriage itself, it means I haven’t directed us towards any mission. I haven’t laid out a vision and pursued it with brute force. Which means I haven’t inspired my wife or myself to see anything beyond ourselves, anything to which we aspire.

What marriage has taught me to care about is the Cross—both Christ’s and my own–and the adventure. My wife and I are companions in a shipwreck, as Tolkien so eloquently wrote, and Paul lays it out even further:

“Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (EPH 5:22-23, RSVCE)

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” (EPH 5:25, RSVCE)

Pairing these verses with Tolkien’s description of a shipwreck better illuminates our roles in marriage. I am the Captain of a shattered vessel and she is my First Mate. This means, for all things, the responsibility supremely falls on me, and that is the most important lesson for a man to learn in marriage.

Growing up as a boy at the time I did indoctrinated me (and many of us) with the feminine imperative. It seeks to be inclusive and free of conflict and it does so by encouraging fairness and equality. The feminine imperative is valuable and has its place, but not among men. But this feminine imperative is so engrained in men that it is ruining marriages.

It’s a mindset of “I fixed the sink, why didn’t she clean up the kitchen?” It seeks to assign jobs—equally—and divide responsibilities—equally. Ironically, seeking harmony in such a way sows the seeds of disharmony. This isn’t the kind of thing men were made for and it’s not the kind of thing women want.

They want the Captain. The Captain sets the course, he provides the vision and steers the ship. More importantly, if anything goes wrong he’s the one who answers for it. If the ship is being thrown about in turbulent waters, he’s not thinking about what he can do to make his First Mate more comfortable and more happy. He’s thinking about the boat, the mission, the present situation and how to overcome it.

Which, of course, is what ultimately makes the First Mate more comfortable and more happy.

If the Captain sees something crucially wrong, he fixes it. He doesn’t whine and complain that the First Mate should have done it or was supposed to do it or agreed to do it. After all, it’s not the First Mate’s ship, it’s his.

In the running of the house as with the running of a ship, the husband should seek to put order to everything, to tame the chaos, to make it run efficiently. Dishes in the sink, wash them. Trash needs taken out, take it. Faucet is leaking, fix it. Sink is backed up, go outside and dig up the drain pipe.

The Captain doesn’t wait for anyone to do what they should, he cares only for his mission and overcoming whatever gets in the way of it. That is why his First Mate, his wife, is called to submit to him. Sub and mit. “Mit” from the Latin mittere, which means sending out, which refers to the mission. “Sub” meaning under. The wife is under the mission of her husband.

That means he better have a damn good mission. Submitting to anything is a voluntary act. It doesn’t mean you’re coerced into it, it means you’re sold on it.

Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. You remember Christ, suffocating on wooden beams, mocked and maimed, bloody and bruised, impaled with a spear. That’s our calling.

Did Jesus create a covert contract with us to divide up the work of salvation so we could all “do our fair share” in the crucifixion? Was He thinking, “Oh, wow. I did all those miracles and they still wouldn’t get up on this Cross? Do I have to do everything around here?”

Of course not. Jesus knew his mission. And he showed us his mission. And through his definitive sacrifice we believed and we followed and we submitted to His mission. We took his mission on for ourselves, not because we were coerced into doing so but because it was the least we could do for the God who loved us.

And that’s the work of a husband, the Captain.

J.D. Bentley writes at Blood & Bourbon on the study and practice of masculine tradition.