Monday, August 3, 2015

What does Eucharistic Adoration Look Like?



When you get your own adoration hour 

One of my all time favorite forms of prayer is Eucharistic adoration.  It's there that I first really heard Christ speaking to me during some rough times in senior year, and it's there that I have been able to work every hard problem that I've had out with Jesus.

So just what is Eucharistic adoration?  And what do you do during the hour?

There are many forms that adoration is present around the world.  Perpetual adoration chapels in some churches, nocturnal adoration on the eve of the first Saturday of the month, daily exposition and benediction at some parishes.  There are organizations around the world that promote a holy hour, and also availability of a 24/7 adoration chapel where you can stop in when you have time, even if it's less than an hour.

The history of adoration is beautiful though -  As early in Church history as the year 325, around the Council of Nicea, there is evidence that the Eucharist would be reserved in churches, monasteries, and convents.  This was mainly for the purpose of having it available for the anointing of the sick and dying.  Yet the place it was kept was considered holy.  As monasteries and community life were established, the Eucharist held a special place in even the architecture of the church building itself. The place was referred to by many names: Pastoforium, Diakonikon, Secetarium and Protehsis to name a few.  Yet it was a separate room from the Church, akin to the modern day Eucharistic adoration chapel.

But there still wasn't adoration hours or chapels for the community, so when did those come into play? In the late 1000s, there was a movement that stemmed fom Berengarius, a deacon in France, who said Christ wasn't present in the Eucharist at all.  The heresy became so wide spread that Pope Gregory VII told Berengarius to retract his statement.  Pope Gregory VII himself had a deep love for the Eucharist, which was influenced by his time spent with the Benedictines.  In his writings, he said

 "I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin and offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from His side."

Following this statement, and many others like it, the movement of Eucharistic reverence and appreciation began in the Church.  John Hardon, S.J., wrote about what this new found love of the Eucharist looked like.

"The churches in Europe began what can only be described as a Eucharistic Renascence.  Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were instituted; prescribed acts of adoration were legislated; visits to Christ...were encouraged; the cells of anchoressess had windows made into the church to allow the religious to view and adore before the tabernacle."  

So what does an adoration hour look like?  What are you supposed to do in one?  How do you start?  Here are five quick tips if you're new to the adoration scene.


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When you get your own adoration hour
1) Start off with silence.

The world we live in is crazy.  Noise comes at us from every corner - from our car radios to the constant alerts coming from our phone.  Eucharistic adoration is an amazing time to just go and sit in silence...with nothing to distract you...and just some alone time with Christ.

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My favorite quote on the Eucharist comes from a story that Saint John Vianney told.  He went into the chapel one day and and someone came up and asked him what he did all day in adoration.  "Nothing," he replied, "I just look at Him and He looks at me."  That's friendship - the time where it's silent and you don't need to say anything, but rather experience the joy of being with someone who you have a deep relationship with. 


2) Adoration
Well, it is called Eucharistic adoration, so this seems like an obvious one, but what does that word mean?  This is a time where you get to tell God how amazing He is.  A little while ago I wrote about the Psalms, and how they are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.  So take this time to praise Him for who He is.

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3) Contrition
We've all messed up, and what a better place to reconcile with the Lord (besides confession of course, which is also recommended) but Eucharistic adoration?  If a friend hurts you, what is the preferred apology - in a text or face to face? Face to face always wins out - there is something about the humility to say you are sorry to a person when you are standing in front of them.  


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4) Thanksgiving 

The word 'Eucharistario' means 'Thanksgiving.'  WHOA.  Can you think of a better time to give thanks to the Lord for what He has given you than when you are looking at Him in the gift of the Eucharist?  It doesn't just have to be for the big things in life - like a job interview or a great friendship.  It could be the small things (which I'm notorious for noticing): like how the pothole on your way to work today was filled, or how the wind was blowing while you were sitting outside.  Nothing small goes unnoticed by God - He keeps track of even the smallest of sparrows.  

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5) Supplication

God knows what is on our heart before we speak it, but there is something to be said for laying out your concerns and desires before the Lord in adoration.  Asking for advice on what to do, how to solve a problem, or what decision you should make is a fantastic thing to bring to His feet at adoration.  And after you bring your heart's desires before Him, pray that your will be conformed to His through prayer.

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"Jesus has made himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day.  He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to Adoration." Mother Teresa. 




Friday, July 31, 2015

Catholic Music Spotlight: Interior Castle




Two young women named Joanna Grennan and Emma Fradd started a band.  It's called Interior Castle.(Pause for Saint Teresa of Avila fan girl moment.) Jo and Emma mix the beauty of guitar and vocals into a beautiful combination of poetic lyrics and gorgeous music.  

They describe themselves as "One girl with a fringe, one without.  One from Australia, one from England.  One girl who sings and plays guitar, one girl who plays guitar and sings."

The band started when the two gals met in 2013.  So far, three singles have hit
the musical scene, the first called "Finished Dreaming," which came out in October
of 2014.  Then in January of 2015, "Listen & Talk" burst out onto the interwebs.
Finally, "Get Me Free" just hit playlists near you in April of this year.  

Currently they tour all over the United Kingdom and at the end of this year,
they'll release their full album. 

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You'll like them if you like: Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, and Passengers.

Fun fact, which will make you fall in love with these girls even more....Emma's
brother is Matt Fradd, the executive director of theporneffect.com and integrityrestored.com, a huge name in the Catholic world and advocate for the dignity of the human person.  


Their single 'Get Me Free' also has an official video, full of gorgeous sunset shots, frolics in the ocean with drums, amazing harmonies and Australian and English accents - can it get any better? 



So enjoy these beautiful songs and join me as I wait anxiously on the edge
of my seat for their new album to hit the market.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Value of a Soul

This morning I stopped by my favorite coffee shop for a vanilla latte, a quiet place to write, and the general peaceful atmosphere.  The atmosphere of this particular coffee shop is really neat - it's right off of campus and a general gathering place for some pretty intellectual conversation.  Poetry nights and political discussions are often hosted there and the conversations overheard tend to be interesting.

Today's conversation was between a young man and older gentlemen who were discussing the morality of determining how a person contributes to society.  The younger man said that ultimately we have to decide when to let someone go because, essentially, they are causing more problems than solving them.  Which, from the looks of the body language of the two, didn't set well with the older gentleman.  In all reality, it shouldn't sit well with anyone.

In light of the recent videos released concerning Planned Parenthood's selling of the dismembered parts of aborted children though, this topic seemed highly relevant.

While the news explodes over the death of Cecil the lion in a big game hunt, where is the media outrage over the fact that innocent children, made in the image of God, in possession of an eternal soul were not only brutally murdered in their mothers' womb, but were then dismembered and sold.  To what depths has society sunk in that an atrocity such as that is not greeted with unanimous uproar and demand for justice?

The reason there isn't such a response is because we live in a world where a the value of a human soul in the eyes of their fellow humans is determined by their 'value.'  Not the value of their inherent worth as a child of God, but their value to the societal whole.  What can they do? What are they worth? What is their contribution? Are they 'valuable'?

Yet in order to make these rationalizations, the values system used by society is based on man made notions and significance factors.  Which means that each persons' value placement will vary based on subjective beliefs and conscience formation of those assigning placement.  And in an instant gratification and result driven society, those whose contributions to the greater good is non apparent or whose affect is gradual are considered menial and unnecessary for the 'greater good.'

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You can't tell me that this gorgeous smiling girl is less valuable and wanted just because she has a disability.  Or that if someone is down on their luck, they don't deserve a second chance?  The person who is struggling deserves the least amount of attention, because the focus should only be on the success stories? If someone doesn't fit into your box of societal perfection and contribution, they aren't worth having here?  Pardon me, but that sounds a lot like the notions of a certain German dictator.

But in the end, those who place value and judgement based on their own morality are affected negativity as well.  Similar to Ronald Reagan's saying, "I have noticed that everyone who is pro-abortion has already been born," those who claim the authority to decide who is or isn't a contributing member of society primarily consider themselves the cream of the contribution crop and outside the evaluation of their peers for the greater good of society.

Ultimately, the point that I'm trying to vocalize, and tend to ramble on about, is that the value of a person and their eternal soul is something that can only be given through the objective moral compass prescribed by the maker and lover of the soul itself...God.  Who better than the originator?

Amazingly, we have the ability to see how God says each soul measures up.  In fact, He tells us Himself. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God says,  "The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Look at the example of Mother Teresa.  The people she spent her life around, in the eyes of the 'greater societal good' had no value.  The man dying from malnutrition and laying on the road was just seen as taking up space.  The child who had no one to care for him was a waste of effort.  Yet she poured her life out for them.  Why?  Why spend your days in the dredge of people who can never return the favor, and in reality, may not even make it back out of the hospital.

Because they deserve love.  Despite what they can or cannot give.  The beauty of the gift of giving though is that you can never give out of the love of your heart without receiving blessing in return.  "Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself.  Only in Heaven will we see how much we owe the poor for helping us to love God better because of them."  (Mother Teresa)

And even if you look at your relationship with God, you find that God loved you despite the fact that you can never repay Him.  If anything, we owe our lives to Him simply because He gave His while we were still sinners.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God's Love Song to Himself

Oh God come to my assistance.  Oh Lord make haste to help me.

These words have ended my evening every night for almost the past two months.  This summer I've been able to pray night prayer every night with priests, fellow college students, adults on fire for their faith, and high school kids who are eager to learn everything they can about being Catholic.

If you don't know about Liturgy of the Hours (which I didn't until I went to college...and I was homeschooled) you are in luck.   Let me introduce you to a beautiful prayer of the Church.  It's also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God and is the prayer used in the Catholic Church to pass the day around the foundation of prayer.  It is "The voice of the Bride herself [the Church] addressed to her Bridegroom [Christ] It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses the Father."  (SC 84) This is amazing!! Words can't describe how neat this is! (How neat is that?)  The prayers consist of the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.

Just the liturgy of the hours in themselves are amazing.  You get to pray the same prayer that Catholics are praying around the world at all times.  You join in with priests from Africa, sisters and nuns from Europe, your own bishop, and the Pope in Rome.  On top of that, the Psalms were what Christ Himself prayed with during His time on earth.

The Psalms are a book of the Bible that I have slowly but surely begin to fall deeply in love with.  I originally thought they were just David's song to the Lord, which made it a bit awkward to read, honestly. It was like seeing notes that my parents had written each other when they were dating.  Beautiful and awesome, yes, but I still felt like I was intruding on their love story, when I wanted my own.  I felt that the Psalms were a David-and-God thing, and Chloe was the third wheel, reading their love letters of their shoulder.

Then one of the priests with us at Prayer and Action said something one night while explaining night prayer that caught me off guard and made me want to delve into the Psalms with more excitement than I had ever felt about scripture.

The Psalms are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.

Whoa. Imagine your in a relationship and your significant other tells you exactly what to do to make them feel loved and appreciated.  They told you what they liked to do on a date, their favorite food, and anything you could possibly need to know about them.  They know what they like best, and then they're letting you in on it.  You could respond in two ways:

1) Take the information they gave you, treasure it, and then use it to bring about their good and happiness.

2) Ignore it, because you may know them better than they know themselves and want to give things a go with your own ideas and way.

You'd be crazy to not pick option one.  Your loved one has told you exactly what makes them content, and you get to contribute to that.  Welcome to the Psalms.

There is a Psalm for everything.  Psalms that praise God in times of thanksgiving, Psalms that petition for His help in dark nights of the soul.  Psalms for asking forgiveness.  These are some of my favorites from the Night Prayers that I've said this summer:

"In the morning let me know your love, for I put my trust in you.  Make me know the way I should walk; to you I lift up my soul."

"Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me.  For you are my rock, my stronghold. For your name's sake, lead me and guide me."

"My soul is waiting on the Lord, I count on His word. My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchmen for daybreak. Let watchmen count on daybreak, and Israel on the Lord."

If you haven't prayed any of the Liturgy of the Hours, I highly recommend them.  There is a website that lets you pray along with them, as well as an app (iBreviary is my favorite free one) that has the readings and Psalms in the order of the day.  Even more beautiful is that these love songs to God can be sang with someone - so join in community and praise Him in the way that He loves best.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Who are you?

I'm one of those people who can find happiness in the weird, small things.  Some people probably think I'm crazy - but this world is so full of amazing things to like.  I'm very easily excited by a house with a red door, a really great YouTube video, getting to spend time playing outside with a big dog, or my favorite book being in at the library when I hadn't requested it.

I'm a homeschool graduate through and through...I love reading.  Ever since high school, I've read like crazy.  I read the 'normal stuff,' like classics, modern literature, juvenile fiction.  But I also read 'not so normal stuff' too, backs of magazines, Kraft's message to me on the back of their Mac and Cheese boxes and weird non fiction books.  Example: Last summer, my project was a 900 page biography of Ted Williams, a Red Sox left fielder whose son had his remains cryonically frozen.  I couldn't tell you the reason why I picked that book.  I love watching baseball, but I love the game itself and not the teams, and I'm not even a huge Red Sox friend.  But even though I don't know why Ted Williams was my summer reading, I do know that random. weird subject topic reading is fascinating to me.

I love coffee.  I had my first cup at age ten and then after that, forget about it.  I easily drink through a pot a day, and it's probably one of my biggest expenses during the college year.  I've visited every cafe in town, have my favorites, and like to think they recognize me when I walk through the door.  Thanks to my sister's job as a barista, I am pretty well versed in the menu.  That's right, I know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino - be amazed.  I can even make my own espresso.   And I know it's cliche, to be the college girl who likes coffee, but it's me.

I know what I love.  My favorite band, my favorite movie, my favorite ice cream flavor.  I know my passions, my best friend saints, favorite Bible verses, and dog breed.

Do you?

Do you know who you are? Who is your identity?  What is your story?

Know who you are - your identity in God.  But know who you are, not for yourself or for your own benefit, but so that you can be a gift.  

Whitney Houston sang this song called Greatest Love of All.  And in it, she sings, "The greatest love of all is easy to achieve  - leaning to love yourself is the greatest love of all."

Sorry to break it to Whitney, but you were wrong.  It's not the love of yourself that will fill your heart to bursting and make you want to sing to the world about how great life is.  John 15:13 says, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."  Great love - no, the greatest love?  It's selfless.

Love is sacrifice - and that involves a sacrifice of yourself.  So don't know who you are so that you can keep it to yourself.  Know who you are so that you can connect with others and than bring them to Christ.  Know yourself so that you can form friendships that are Christ centered, but are also common-centered.  Being passionate about something opens your possibilities and your awareness that, frankly, this world is amazing.  And God-filled.  And awe-inspiring.

If there is something you do this summer...live.  Explore.  Fall in love with God and ask Him who He created you to be.

Pope Francis told the youth of a Roman college "You were made to live...not just exist."

Sounds like a good life motto to me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

There Be Dragons


One of the many amazing things about this summer is how much my friendship with the saints have grown.  I love getting to know these Heavenly brothers and sisters, and how much I am able to relate to their stories.

One of my summer reading projects has been The Interior Castle by Saint Teresa of Avila.  Ironically, while I've been gone, one of our parish priests has been using the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila as material for his morning mass homilies! Great minds think alike, I suppose.

If you don't know much about Saint Teresa, let me introduce you to her.  She's pretty amazing.

She was born in 1515 in Spain, and even from a very young age showed great devotion to a prayer life.  She would go on silent retreats as a child, and was always known for giving away her things to the poor.  When she was five years old, she told her little brother she wished to go fight the Moors and be a martyr.  Her mother and her grew very close, but her mother died when she was only a teenager.  At that point, she dedicated herself to Mama Mary as her mother, a relationship that continued throughout her life.

She went to a convent-run school at age 16, but later became very sick.  Yet she used her time as a patient to grow in spiritual reading, and favored medieval mystics - most of whom Ignatius based his spiritual exercises off of.

In 1535, she entered the Carmelite order, but quickly became aware of the worldliness that had seeped into the order.  High name society visited often, and luxury instead of poverty reigned.  So in the early 1560s, she founded new monasteries and convents that followed the original, stricter rule and embraced the vows of poverty.  Her reform movement sparked concern and she was then investigated during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, but charges were not followed through.

She wrote some amazing pieces on prayer and spirituality and is now a Doctor of the Church - one of only four women to be honored with that title.

It is her work, The Interior Castle that was my adoration hour companion this morning.  Although I am a pretty speedy reader, this book is something that is being very slowly consumed.  I had to share this passage in light of struggles I have had recently and the culture that surrounds us today.

"But we speak of the other souls, who finally enter the castle, because, though they are very much entangled with the world, they have good desires, and sometimes, though rarely, they commend themselves to the Lord, and consider what they are, though not very thoroughly.  Perhaps they pray several times a month, yet with many distractions, since their minds are almost always occupied with business, and because they are so attached to it, their heart is where their treasure is.  Sometimes however, they disentangle themselves, and self-knowledge shows them plainly that they are not in a good way to reach the gate.

Finally, they enter the first room on the lower floor, but many reptiles enter with them, and they do not permit them to either see the beauty of the castle, or to find repose in it; it is, indeed, much that they have entered at all."


- The Interior Castle, First Mansions

That passage hit me like a ton of bricks...mostly because I discovered that I was reading the description of my life.  How easy it to read about the Lord, talk about the Lord and never once have a legitimate conversation with Him? To let prayer became mundane, a duty that is often shirked for 'better things to do' and then simply counting actions as prayer instead of sitting and listening to God.

And I think the biggest culprit is the lack of knowledge on how to structure a prayer life.

And the second biggest culprit is the access that I give the world into my life.  And how much I enjoy it's presence there instead of being ok with the knowledge that this world is not my home, and Heaven is my end goal, not a fleeting sense of 'happiness.'


There be reptiles.  There be dragons.

How do we fight them?

For me, today, it was deleting a lot of social media apps off my phone, and then committing to not checking it nearly so often during the day.  Because the reptile of social media plays a pretty darn large role in the blocking of my view from the beauty of the castle inside my heart.  Maybe it's removing a deadly friendship that is in your life, or picking up the Bible at a set time each day and not letting that slip.

Mother Teresa once wrote, "Be careful of all that can block personal contact wit the living Jesus.  The Devil may try to use the hurts of your life, and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you.  This is a danger for all of us.  And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting to tell you..  Not only that He loves you, but even more.  He longs for you.  He Misses you when you don't come close.  He thirsts for you.  He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy.  When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes.  He is the one who accepts you.  My children, you don't have to be different for Jesus to love you.  Only believe - you are precious to Him.  Bring all you are suffering to His feet - only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are.  He will do the rest."

If the goal of this life is to know, love, sand serve God and be ultimately with Him in Heaven, then I think my life could use some simplifying.  I think the world could use some simplifying, in all honesty.

So, hopefully with a little help from my Saintly friends - especially Teresa of Avila, this journey into the interior castle can begin.