Advent Reflections

green and brown christmas wreath

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” Somehow, the first half of December seems to have been completely swallowed up in an inexplicable end-of-year time warp and we’re already more than halfway through Advent! It’s such a restorative season, and this Advent in particular has been exactly what I needed at the end of a very, VERY long year. I love the quiet waiting and hopeful expectation that Advent brings, but I can’t wait for the unbounded joy of Christmas–and after all, what better reason is there to celebrate? I hope you all have had a restful, peaceful, joyful, and hopeful Advent as well!

What I’m Reading

Devotional

For my spiritual reading this Advent, I chose Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. In the past, I’ve used devotionals created specifically for Advent (like the ones from Blessed is She), but this year I wanted something more flexible, that I could read slowly and return to in future years. The book was slimmer than I expected, but it does not disappoint–in fact, it’s completely blown my mind. Simply put, it’s an exposition and interpretation of the Scripture passages relating to Christ’s conception, birth, and early childhood, and it’s fantastic. I highly recommend.

Advent Poetry

I follow the lovely Sarah Clarkson on Instagram for literary tidbits and musings on the intellectual life, and during Advent she has been reading a poem aloud every day and saving the recordings to IGTV. It’s a genius idea, since reading poetry is the perfect way to slow down and prepare a quiet space in our hearts for Christ’s coming. (Does anyone else find that they need to read poetry slowly–and more than once–to fully absorb it’s meaning?) Anyhow, one of the poems in particular struck me deeply and I wanted to share it here.

What I’m Listening To

Music

I’m not a huge music person, but of course I make an exception for Advent and Christmas music! My favorite Advent music of all time is the album Advent at Ephesus, by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. It’s a hauntingly beautiful collection of hymns (in English and Latin) that inevitably get stuck in my head–which means my poor family has to put up with listening to me hum ALL DAY LONG. At least it’s seasonally appropriate, I guess?

Podcasts

I’ve also been listening to the Abiding Together Podcast’s Advent series, focused on Our Blessed Mother’s roles as a model of holiness and as our spiritual mother, and loving it every bit as much as I always do. You can find the all podcast episodes for Advent here.

Well, that’s it for now, friends. I wish you all a prayerful rest of Advent, and a Christmas filled with joy!

The Beauty of a Universal Church

“I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” These words are from the Nicene Creed, which is recited by the faithful during Mass. The word “catholic” literally means universal, and universality is one of my favorite qualities of the Church. No matter where you are in the world, Mass is celebrated in the same way. Even if you don’t know the language, you will know what’s going on.

And there has never been a better time than the present to explore the universality of this beautiful Church of ours. Across the globe, Catholic churches are live-streaming Masses, which means we have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel around the world, visiting pilgrimage sites and stunningly beautiful churches, without ever leaving our living rooms.

This is not to say that live-stream Mass is a preferable alternative to in-person Mass, if you’re able to attend. There is no substitute for the Real Presence, for worshipping Christ incarnate in the form of bread and wine, or for the sense of community we gain from being surrounded by our brothers and sisters. But if you’re stuck at home and starting to grow weary of watching Mass instead of being there in person, then this might be the perfect time to virtually “visit” a church somewhere far from home.

Oxford Oratory – Oxford, U.K.

This church in Oxford, England is breathtakingly beautiful, with statues of the saints surrounding the altar, bringing to mind our many intercessors in Heaven. The liturgy is a very reverent and traditional Novus Ordo said ad orientem and the homilies are excellent (possibly just because of the accent, but I think not). You can find live-streams and recordings here.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, U.S.A.

You can virtually participate in Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and more at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I haven’t personally watched their live-streams yet, so I can’t give any details about the liturgy, but it’s on my list. You can find all the live-streams and recordings at St. Patrick’s YouTube channel here.

Knock Shrine – Knock, Ireland

In August 1879, Our Lady appeared in Knock, Ireland, along with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. The apparition was confirmed and Ireland’s National Marian Shrine was built at the site. It soon became a popular pilgrimage destination. You can watch live and recorded Mass from the Knock Parish Church here.

National Shrine of the Divine Mercy – Stockbridge, MA, U.S.A.

The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is a beautiful and architecturally interesting church. The Shrine is a ministry of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate conception, whose mission is to spread the Divine Mercy message. You can find daily Mass here, and they also live-stream a daily Rosary as well as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Shrine of Fatima – Fatima, Portugal

In 1917, Our Lady appeared to three young children in Fatima, Portugal. The site of the apparitions has become “one of most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world,” according to the World Youth Day website. The 2023 World Youth Day is now being planned, and will take place in Lisbon, not far from Fatima. You can find live-streams from the Shrine here.

Monday Miscellany: September Feast Days

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you are all safe, healthy, and finding joy in the little things today. September has been… an interesting month. It’s been really lovely to get back into the routine of the school year, and I can’t believe that 2020 is almost over. (Just a few more months to go!) The many weeks since March have passed in a flash, and yet while we were living them they seemed to drag on forever. The month of September is dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Mary on the liturgical calendar, and there are a few important feast days coming up, so I’m going to share some resources to help you celebrate those as well as a few other things I’ve been enjoying.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today, September 14, is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This feast day commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena, who was the mother of the Emperor Constantine. You can find the story of how St. Helena discovered the True Cross, as well as a breakdown of the historical evidence, here. Kendra at Catholic All Year has written a great blog post with ideas for celebrating the feast day.

New Season of the Abiding Together Podcast!

Season 8 of the Abiding Together Podcast goes live today! It’s probably my favorite podcast of all time and I recommend it to everyone. Yes, I really do mean EVERYONE. I’m not a huge podcast person, and this is the only one I listen to on a regular basis. They do amazing book study series too, which are all archived on this page, in case you want to go back and read along–I particularly recommend their studies of Gaudete et Exsultate, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but you really can’t go wrong.

Praying the Seven Sorrows Devotion

Tomorrow, September 15, is the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. They are: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in Jerusalem, Mary’s meeting with her Son on His way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the taking down of Christ’s body from the Cross, and the burial of Jesus. This devotion to the Seven Sorrows was entrusted by Our Lady to St. Bridget of Sweden. There are specific graces promised to those who pray through the Seven Sorrows every day, but a good, doable place to start would be praying the devotion on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows, on Fridays, or every day during the month of September.

Period Drama Fans, Rejoice!

I recently discovered the blog Willow and Thatch, devoted to all things period drama, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. There are a lot of great in-depth posts covering historical accuracy, the faithfulness of various film adaptations to the literary versions, and–my favorite–the authenticity of the costumes. I particularly liked this post about the costumes in the new Emma movie as well as this one covering every version of Pride & Prejudice (including some that I’ve never even heard of!).

Panis Angelicus: Why a Beautiful Liturgy is Important

I’ve heard this point made time and time again in homilies: “You shouldn’t be coming to Mass just because of the choir or the church architecture, because those things aren’t really important.” This statement isn’t necessarily untrue. The most important part of a Catholic Mass–the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ–occurs no matter where Mass takes place or what kind of music is playing in the background. A deficiency of beautiful churches and skilled choirs should not keep the faithful from participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. With that being said, the intent of this post is to make an argument for why Mass should be beautiful.

Continue reading “Panis Angelicus: Why a Beautiful Liturgy is Important”

Monday Miscellany: Unexpected Graces

HE IS RISEN!!! ALLELUIA!!!!! Easter is 50 DAYS LONG and I’m so happy to have a reason to celebrate. As we experience the joy of His Resurrection all over again, I’ve been reflecting on how many unexpected blessings have come out of this pandemic. Catholics everywhere are experiencing a renewed love and appreciation for the Sacraments. We’ve all been given a much-needed break from the busy-ness of our everyday lives. The Christian community as a whole has drawn closer together. Divisions have melted away, and people of all races, faiths, and political viewpoints are standing together in solidarity and lifting each other up instead of tearing one another down. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened during the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter. Things may be hard right now, but God is bringing new life to so many barren places.

Continue reading “Monday Miscellany: Unexpected Graces”

How the Story Ends

File:Cristo crucificado.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez

I’ve been meditating on the Passion of Christ this week and thinking a lot about the endings of stories. There are so many different kinds, and they evoke so many varied emotions. Endings can be happy, sad, satisfying, confusing, or they can leave you wanting more. As a certified bookworm, I’ve breathed many a sigh of regret as I turned the last page in a book, wishing I could rewrite the ending, or that there was a sequel, or that the story just wasn’t over yet.

Continue reading “How the Story Ends”

Monday Miscellany: Holy Week Edition!

Holy Week is here at last and my heart is rejoicing! It has been a long, long Lent, and I am so ready to enter into the mysteries of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Holy Week always reminds me that the story of our salvation is truly the world’s greatest love story. God’s love for us will overcome all things, no matter how dark or scary they seem. He has conquered sin and death, and if that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is!

This year, with so many people staying home, Holy Week is bound to look a bit different. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate! There are so many amazing (and free) resources being made available so that we can still experience the rich traditions of the Church at home, by ourselves or with our families. Today I want to share some of these resources in the hopes that they will help you have a prayerful, grace-filled, and blessed Holy Week.

Continue reading “Monday Miscellany: Holy Week Edition!”

Responding to the Coronavirus with Grace

The panic around COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the last few weeks as it suddenly got a lot closer to home. I think most people never expected the coronavirus to be more than a news story, never expected it to have much of an effect on their personal lives. It’s safe to say that at this point, nearly everyone in the world has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the pandemic.

Last Friday, March 13, we were notified that our diocese had canceled all public Masses until further notice. I was absolutely stunned. I was prepared for the closing of schools but not for this. The following Sunday, we watched a live-streamed Mass. While I’m very grateful for the modern technology that allowed us to watch the Mass that day, I missed being present in church, missed worshiping in community, and most of all, I desperately missed receiving the Eucharist.

Continue reading “Responding to the Coronavirus with Grace”