5 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Advent is only a couple of weeks away so I thought I would get a head start and give you some ideas to think about before it officially begins.)

Do you ever take on too much during the Advent/Christmas season and then feel overburdened? If so, I can totally relate. I wanted to make Advent so special for my family that I would get completely overzealous about it. It was “go big or go home” for me! I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; however, instead of making Advent meaningful, they left me drained or guilty for not fitting in all the things I had planned. Indeed, these activities became ‘just one more thing to do’ before Christmas.

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Over the last few years, I started learning my lesson and I’ve scaled way back in how I celebrated Advent. It has become a time for revisiting the basics. Therefore, rather than  adding on tons of prayers or activities, I am only adding on a couple of things and doing them as well as possible. My goal is to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ. And I want that for you, too. If you are looking to making Advent meaningful this year, consider trying a tip or two from this list.

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Every year I say I am going to get everything done early so that I can focus on the spirit of the Season but I never actually follow through. This year, I am actually using the Christmas Planner I created last year and it is already making a difference.

Of course, you don’t have to use my Christmas planner. You probably know what you have/want to do. Why not start now and put a dent in your to-do list? Can you order your Christmas cards now? How about getting started with your Christmas shopping? Maybe you can create your cooking/baking shopping list now and start buying any needed ingredients?

The point is, do as much preplanning and doing now so that once Advent/Christmas really goes into high gear you will be ahead of the game.

2. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week (or more).

In years past, I would commit to going to daily mass and would fail every year. As much as I would love to make daily Mass, it just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, I have decided to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

Seriously, if you don’t do anything else for Advent, do your best to make it to Mass – even if it is only one extra day a week. I have said it before and I will say it again because, as Catholics, there is no greater thing we can do than to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the summit and center of our faith.

3. Go to Confession.

I won’t lie. I love going to Confession. 🙂 I know that sounds crazy but I feel for light and free after going to Confession. But, as much as I try to go regularly, life happens and I don’t make it as often as I could. Truly, Confession is good for the soul, so even if you don’t love it like I do, please try to make Confession at least once during the Advent season. I promise, you won’t regret it!

I am not sure about your area but there should be several Advent penance services going on during the Advent season. If you can, why not try to attend? The services are usually beautiful and knowing others are making Confession as well can be an incentive. If you can’t make a penance service, check your Church’s bulletin for their regular Confession  schedule. If that doesn’t work, most priest offer confession by special appointment. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas! (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

4. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

If you have young children, they usually love the Advent calendar because they get to eat a piece of candy every day! Believe it or not, though, they have Advent Calendars for adults too. What is nice about these calendars is that they usually include a little scripture verse to reflect on and they don’t take up a lot of time. A minute or two at most.

The same goes for the Advent Wreathe. It is only a matter of lighting a candle and maybe adding a little prayer. It is a no-brainer. it is a small thing but it can make a big difference in appreciating the reason for the season.

5. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy, like my love for Confession, but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. In fact, writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

That’s why I created an Advent journal a while back. Once can never have too many journals and I like having a separate journal for Advent. Unlike my regular prayer journal, which I use as a “regular” journal too, I use the Advent Prayer Journal strictly for prayer and reflections about the scripture readings throughout Advent. It helps me to go deeper into the mysteries we are celebrating during this holy season.

Whether you use my journal, or creat your own, or just use loose-leaf paper, journaling is a wonderful way to make Advent meaningful. There is something therapeutic and special about handwriting your thoughts and prayers out on physical paper. Who knows, maybe the habit of journaling will extend long after the Advent season and that would be wonderful, too!

Bonus Idea!

If you have some extra time to spare, why not join in on a virtual Advent retreat? I will be “conducting” the retreat via Facebook Live and doing weekly short meditations on one of the readings from the week. It may be from the Sunday readings or the daily readings, depending on where the Holy Spirit leads. I will also be including a complimentary copy of the pdf version of the Advent Prayer Journal (normally $10) and other guides and goodies. Best of all, it is free. The only “cost” is being a member of my Facebook Group where the retreat will be held. 🙂

I pray that this Advent/Christmas season is the most magical, beautiful, prayerful, and wonderful season you have ever had. May God bless you and bring you ever closer to His merciful heart. And may our dear Blessed Mother intercede for you and all your intentions!

“The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive”

“The glory of God is in man fully alive.”  — St. Irenaeus

That quote is from Saint Irenaeus whose obligatory memorial we celebrate today. It is a powerful reminder of what God wants for you.

God wants us (YOU) to be “fully alive!” He doesn’t want you to just get by or to live a reactive life. He wants you to live a life of joy, peace, and confidence. When you live a fulfilling, faith-filled, and joyful life, you give God glory! That doesn’t mean a life without difficulties or challenges, but it does mean that God is with us no matter what.

"The Glory of God is in Man Fully Alive"

Unfortunately, sin exists and robs us of living a life that is fully alive. When we sin or live a life of sin we rob ourselves of God and we rob God the opportunity to shower His grace on us.

Some people thing that the 10 Commandments and the precepts of the Church cramp their style or that they are “good people” so the rules that don’t apply to them. That is completely not true. God gives us the commandments and the precepts of the Church so that we can live in true freedom – not the “I can do whatever I want” kind of false freedom.

But guess what, God loves us so much that when we do sin, we can make things right with Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession the gift where we can confess our sins, receive forgiveness and grace and begin to life a life that is fully alive once more! You don’t have to wait for Advent or Lent to go to Confession either. You can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on any given Saturday (or by appointment).

I encourage you, if it has been a while since you have been to Confession (or have recently committed a mortal sin), to get to Confession. I promise you, you won’t regret it. 🙂

************

P.S. If you are looking to live a fuller, more intentional life, and can use some accountability, let’s chat to see how I can help you.

5 Ideas for Lent

Ash Wednesday is next week and I, for one, am excited for it! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Other people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. That’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated – or giving up – when you fail. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. There is an important place for sacrifice and denial, but Lent is WAY more than that.

5 Ideas for Lent

Lent is about renewal!

The beginning of a new year is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, to do “this” or don’t do “that.” August and September is the beginning of a new school year and a time when kids (and adults) resolve to make “this year better than last year.” Of course, technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, even more so than the Advent and Christmas Season. Lent is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what and WHO is important in life. And, it is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus and with the Blessed Trinity.

Therefore, the purpose of the “mandates” of Lent, prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, is to help us go deeper into the truths of our faith and our relationship with Christ, NOT to give us yet “one thing to do or not do” for the next six weeks. Thus, I’d like to invite you to rethink your strategy for Lent this year. If you have been in the habit of giving up something for Lent and it hasn’t worked for ya, how about instead of giving up something, give yourself something. Here are five ideas of things you can give yourself for Lent:

1. Give yourself the gift of Confession.

If you haven’t been to the Sacrament of reconciliation in a while, now would be a good time to go. The Church requires Catholic to go to Confession at least once a year for a reason. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a very special way.

There are a lot of people who are afraid of going to Confession or who think it is a waste of time. “Why go to confession to a priest when I can tell my sins right to God?” However, confession is a gift from God that gives us special graces, allows us to grow in grace and to come back to Him when we fail. I strongly encourage you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regards to confession. Do the research on why Confession is important. It is really a very important sacrament!

2. Give yourself the gift of the Eucharist.

If you aren’t in the habit of going to daily mass, now would be a great time to start – even if it just one or two days a week – or just on Saturdays. The readings for Lent are just as powerful during the week as they are on Sundays.

There is a lot of focus today about the community aspect of Mass which is important. However, we also must never lose sight of the purpose of the Mass. It is the center and source of our Christian Life! When we receive communion, we receive Jesus Himself. We take Him into our souls and our hearts. What an amazing and profound blessing and gift that is!

3. Give yourself the gift of prayer.

The rosary is a particularly powerful prayer and it is a wonderful way to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s Life, Death and Resurrection. It is even better if you can pray together as a family. Also, many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross each Friday which is a beautiful way to enter one’s self into Our Lord’s suffering. If you can’t do that, try to just spend a few minutes or so reading the Bible and Lectio Divina.

There are also a lot of retreats and devotional booklets that are published for the Lenten Season. If that helps, pick one of those up and use it to help guide your prayer. Better yet, scrap that and just talk to God as you would a friend. He is always ready to listen! It may seem strange at first but we can, and should, speak from our souls and pour out our heart.

4. Give yourself the gift of reflection.

Prayer isn’t all about talking! It is also about listening and reflecting on what God wants to tell us. One way to do this is by jounaling. When you journal, you can certainly write down your prayers. However, you can also write down notes, scriptures, and insights that you get during prayer. You can paste prayer cards and pictures, doodle, and make it your safe and private place of encountering God.

To help you do this, last year I created a Lenten Prayer Journal. It is an unguided prayer journal sprinkled with scripture verses from the Mass readings, blank pages, and a section for specific prayer intentions. It is my heart’s desire that the journal be a comforting and “magical” place for you to grow in your faith and love for God.

(P.S. From now until March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday – you can get the printable pdf. version of the journal for only $5, regularly $12. Go here to purchase and download instantly. Go here for a free sample of journal. Go here for the paperback version of the journal on Amazon.)

5. Give yourself the gift of intention.

Finally, above all – no matter what you do the Lent – let it be intentional and focused. Be fully present to your devotions, family or whatever it is you are doing or not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

So many of us, myself included, live life too reactionary. We don’t take the time to think things through because we are too busy rushing from activity to activity and responsibility to responsibility. This year, take a few minutes to look at your calendar. What can you delegate, reschedule or remove so that you can give yourself some breathing room and mental space?

Now, let’s support each other.

Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do or not do in order to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus and renew your spirit this season? By putting it out there, it will help you stay accountable and give me the opportunity to pray for you!

As for me, I am focusing on the Nineveh 90 challenge. We are only a week in and it is proving to be a challenging and yet powerful experience. It is definitely helping me to be more disciplined in certain areas, that’s for sure! I still may give up something specific on top of this but I haven’t decided yet. 🙂

—————

Was this post helpful? Please help me spread the word and share it with your contacts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or anywhere else you hang out online. Thanks!

Is God’s Love Enough?

Has God ever punched you in the face? Not in the literal sense, of course, but in the way that you hear something and it just changes everything for you?

Is God's Love Enough?

Image by brunoabdon (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Well, He “punched” me about a month ago. I went to confession and when I was done telling my sins the priest says (among other things), “When we sin we are, in effect, telling God that His love isn’t enough for us.”

BOOM!

For some reason, those words rocked me to the core. “Of course, God’s love is enough! I go to Mass, I pray, I go to Confession regularly. I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior and try to do right by him. Heck, I even have a blog to encourage other women with their walk with the Lord! Of course, His love is enough!”

BUT, is it? Really?

By definition, sin is a rejection of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125 (1850)

Thus, when I sin, I choose self-love, self-wants, and self-desires over God’s love. So, yes, when I sin I am telling God that His love isn’t enough. I am telling Him that my immediate self-gratification and my self-will is more important than His Holy and loving Will for me.

Thankfully, God’s love and mercy is bigger than my self-love. He knows my hearts, all of our hearts. He knows that we are small and petty and foolish and yet He loves anyway. He knows that we will reject Him – are sins nailed Jesus to the Cross! – and He continues to choose us anyway.

Since that confession, I’ve tried to remember those words. When I am tempted to impatience, anger or other sin, I try to remind myself that God’s love is enough. I don’t have to choose impatience or bitterness, or whatever. It hasn’t been perfect. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. But, guess what? That’s okay! His love is even enough for my failures!

God’s love is enough for you, too.

Whatever you are going through right now, try to think of those words. Are you suffering or in pain? God’s love is enough. Are you struggling with bitterness, anger or hatred? God’s love is enough. Are you lonely? God’s love is enough. Are you out of work or facing financial problems? God’s love is enough. I promise, no matter what you are going through, God’s love is enough.

***********

Tweetable: Is God’s Love Enough?

P.S. Know that I pray for my blog readers daily! If you have a specific intention you want me to pray for, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this Lent

Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this LentGo to confession. Truly.

Church teaching requires that Catholics go to confession at least once a year. However, to grow in the spiritual life, the Church encourages Catholics to go at least once a month (when I was young, we were encouraged to go every two weeks). But this post isn’t about the theology behind confession or Church teach.

You see, I love going to confession. Besides the Eucharist, Confession is my favorite sacrament. (Crazy, I know!) Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous sometimes when I go to confession. I sometimes think I don’t have anything to say. And yes, I often confess the same things over again. But that’s okay!

When we go to Confession, we don’t just have our sins forgiven. We gain grace and strength to live out our womanly vocation. Additionally, depending on the priest, we can get some really good insights and/or advice. Even if we don’t, we still encounter Christ in a very real and profound way in Confession.

Sure, just like the liturgy, it is great if get to confess to a priest who is on fire for his faith and truly a vessel of Christ. But, sadly, that just isn’t always going to happen unless we are blessed to be in a parish with priests who understand the value of the sacrament. We just need to remember that no matter what vessel Jesus decides to use, it is JESUS we confess to in the Sacrament. Years ago, I read in a book that when we go to confession we “whisper into the ear of Jesus.” That has made such an impact on me and to this day I try to remember that when I go to confession.

Over the years, I have gone to confession to some wonderful priests and there have been times when I left the confessional wondering if the sacrament was valid! One day I realized that I have a choice. I know the priests in the area that I like and I try to make a point of confessing to them. Of course, I realize that I am blessed to live in an area where there are several churches with at least two priests in the parish. If you live in an area where that is not possible, please don’t let that stop you from the Sacrament. The grace is still there!

So please, if you can, please take the opportunity to go to confession. Here is a little blurb on how to make a good confession, if you need it.

***************

Tweetable: Give Yourself the Gift of Confession

You Always Have a Choice

You Always Have a ChoiceI have a confession to make: I can be pretty impatient at times. I pride myself (therein lies the real problem!) as being very efficient, which can be a definite plus  until I take it too far. That’s why I call myself a recovering perfectionist. {wry smile} It’s very easy for me to get caught up in making everything “just so” that I sometimes forget the purpose behind what I am doing. This often leads me to becoming impatient when I have to wait for someone/something or if things don’t go the way I expect.

This impatience very often comes front and center in my relationship with my son. Every evening during night prayer, I have Andrew ask God for forgiveness for anything he may need forgiveness for during the day. Then we ask forgiveness of each other for anything we may have done or said that may have hurt the other person.

So, many times I have to apologize to Andrew for having been impatient with him during the day, especially when I over-react to his normal boyish behavior. One time during our nightly ritual he says to me, “You know, Peter Parker says you always have a choice (a reference to a line in the 3rd Spiderman movie), so you have choice to be nice or a choice not be patient.” (!)

Of course, I took the opportunity to remind him that he, too, always has a choice. He has a choice to be obedient, and do his chores and homeschooling cheerfully, etc.  We then proceeded to have an interesting (and cute!) conversation about what making choices are all about and how the choices we make can shape our lives.

Afterward, our conversation really got me thinking, and I still think about the conversation from time to time. We, as individuals, really do always have a choice – and not just about choosing to be patient or not being patient. We have  choices to make all throughout the day and, often,  NOT choosing is a choice. And I don’t know about you, but I frequently go through the day on autopilot and not always being conscious of the choices I am are making. That is why I have to make a point of being more intentional and focused.

Because each day I have the opportunity to consciously:

  • choose to live for and depend on God
  • choose to take time to pray and delve into The Word of God
  • choose to make my home a haven for my family
  • choose to reach out to a friend or family in need or just to make them smile
  • choose to live in integrity and love
  • choose to take a stand for what I believe in
  • choose to carry out my responsibilities cheerfully (and, yes, choose to be patient!)

Or, I can stay on autopilot:

  • choose to rely on my own self
  • choose to live in selfishness
  • choose to not respond in love toward others
  • choose to shirk my responsibilities
  • choose to not make a choice!

It’s up to me. I can take the steps to change by being more aware of my choices and actions AND when I get impatient to step back, assess the situation, and change my response. It won’t be easy but with God’s grace it is doable!

What about you? Do you struggle with living on autopilot or making conscious choices each day? Or am I alone in this?! 🙂 How do you counteract the autopilot tendency or impatience? Let’s pray for each other so that we all consciously choose what is most important: God and others (especially our families).

************

Tweetable: You Always Have a Choice

Ten Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Repost with revisions)

The other day, Colleen from Carpe Diem, Gorgeous!, asked me in the comments how I celebrate Advent and make it meaningful in our family. I answered her; but felt that my answer wasn’t enough, so I decided to do a blog post about it.

10 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

In the past, I was overzealous with my Advent plans. I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; but, instead of making Advent meaningful for me, they left me drained or guilty for not doing all the things I had planned to do. Indeed, these activities became just one more thing to be done before Christmas. Over the last few years, I’ve scaled way back and have used Advent as a time for revisiting the basics. Instead of adding on prayers and prayers or activity upon activity, I’ve tried to do just a few things, but do them well. I want to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ.

Now, a list of ten things for Advent may seem contradictory to what I just wrote above; but in reality, they are many of the things that many of us do as Catholics anyway. It’s a matter of focusing on what we already are doing, and doing them well, rather than going through the motions.  So, here are some suggestions that I pray will help make your preparations for Christmas more meaningful and fruitful:

1. Go to daily Mass.  If you can, try and get to Mass a few days during the week. The liturgy is so rich and beautiful during the Advent Season. If you can’t get to mass, watching it on EWTN is the next best thing.

2. Go to Confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation). There should be several Advent penance services within the next few weeks. If you can, why not try to attend? If not, check your Church’s bulletin for when their regular Confession  schedule. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas. (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

3. Spend time with Scripture. What better way to prepare for Christmas than to spend some time praying the Scriptures? The book of Isaiah is particularly relevant for Advent. Make it a family event. I am trying to read a few verses from the Bible each morning at breakfast with Andrew.

4. Pray the rosary. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of praying the rosary, Advent is a great time for picking it back up. The Joyful Mysteries are said on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays of Advent and Christmas. Don’t have time to say a whole rosary?  Even a decade of the rosary each day is better than nothing. 😉 Again, get the family involved and say the rosary together each evening.

5. Giving Tree. Most churches host a giving tree to help needy families. I’m sure that in this economy there are many families who may go without basic necessities, let alone Christmas presents. If you have the means, please consider picking up a tag. The gifts aren’t expensive and may bring joy to someone in need.

6. Advent Wreathe. I know lots of people who put the Advent Wreathe on their table and forget about it. What we do is light the candle(s) when we say our grace at supper and then use that as a starting point for talking about what Advent and Christmas is really all about. ( I tell ya, listening to Andrew’s take on the Annunciation, the Birth of Christ, the Angels, etc. is quite adorable! There is nothing better than the innocence of a child!)

7. Advent Calendar. You can buy several nice ones that are very simple or very elaborate. Our church actually passes out free ones for the children. We have it pasted at Andrew’s eye level and I have him read it and do the activity every day.

8. Fasting. As you may already know, Advent is a penitential season, albeit not as stringent as Lent, and fasting is a penitential act. In fact, I recently learned that in some Church traditions, many followed (and some still follow) the St. Philip’s Fast which would be from the day after the feast of St. Philip (Nov. 14)  until December 24th. If you can, try fasting once or twice a week and use that time you would be eating in prayer.

9. Lessons and Carols. Have you ever been to a Lessons and Carols service? I had the opportunity of participating once when I was living in Ohio. It is magnificent! It is vaguely reminiscent of the Easter Vigil readings in that there are nine scripture readings interspersed with songs; however, it is much more than that. If there’s a Lessons and Carols service near you, I highly recommend that you make the effort to attend. You won’t be disappointed! If you can’t, the USCCB has a podcast of the Lessons and Carols here.

10. Mental Prayer (or Contemplation). If you can spare five or ten minutes, try and spend them before the Lord in quietness. We are so busy and unfocused that when we pray, we talk at God rather than listening to Him. (I’m talking about myself here!) How can we hear Him speak to our hearts or be filled with His Spirit if we don’t listen? Maybe, instead of sitting in front of the television we can hold off for a few minutes to spend some quality time with the Lord, letting Him speak to our hearts. 🙂

One more thing: If you are feeling overwhelmed and overburdened  about all the things you need to do before Christmas, perhaps you need to re-evaluate things. Do you really have to accept every invitation you get? Can you delegate some of your responsibilities? Can you buy one less gift this year or not be so hung up on getting the biggest and/or the best gift? So often we want to control everything and/or make everything “just so” which puts extra stress and pressure on ourselves. Maybe the secret to finding meaning this Advent is letting go…

What are you doing or what suggestions do you have to making the rest of this Advent meaningful? Do share in the comments!

You can print a pdf version of this list (no opt-in required) here: 10 Way to Make Advent Meaningful

*************

(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and Works for me Wednesday.)

Why is There Purgatory?

Why is there purgatory?

Image by Hans (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the doctrine of Purgatory. Even worse, there are so many people, including Catholics who dismiss Purgatory and don’t even believe it exists. This is unfortunate because the doctrine of Purgatory is an important and even comforting tenet of our faith.

What is Purgatory?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states,

“1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would 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 for them.611″

As this quote indicates, the doctrine of Purgatory is based on scripture and was officially formulated by two councils, the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent.

Why does Purgatory exist?

The Catechism explains it beautifully. Basically, if a person dies in the state of grace, but is not completely purified, he or she “goes to  Purgatory” to be completely “cleansed” before going to Heaven. Of course, Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell, are not “places” but states of being.

Here is the thing. God is utterly perfect, loving, and beauty itself. Nothing that is impure can be in His presence. Humans, even those of us who live faithful lives dedicated to Christ, have souls that are easily blemished my sin. Purgatory is the state of being that cleanses the soul from those blemishes of sin.

Our Pastor at church explained it this way (paraphrased): “Suppose a person hammers a nail into a piece of wood. Then he regrets that decision and takes the nail out. Well, the nail may be gone but there is still a hole where the nail was. Thus, when a person sins and then goes to confession, the guilt of the sin is taken away; however, the effect of the sin is still there and needs to be cleansed. So, purgatory, in a way, is like sanding down and getting rid of the whole left by the nail.”

And that is why Purgatory exists. It gives us the opportunity to be truly ready to be in the presence of God.

Jesus

Yes, Jesus has suffered, died and rose for our sins. One drop of His blood is enough to save the world. Purgatory does not take away or lessen the value of Jesus’ work of salvation. It is because of Jesus that we have the gift of Purgatory.

Every person on earth whether they call themselves born-again Christians or not must make the daily decision to choose Jesus and to live according to His ways. Sadly, although our hearts may be in the right place, all of us fail. Many times we choose anger, judgement, impurity, and all other sins above God. Through confession we receive forgiveness and absolution. Through penance we make reparation and make the effort to change our hearts and be rid of the effects of our sins. If we do not do so during our life we have the opportunity to do so “in” Purgatory.*

I hope my feeble attempts at explaining Purgatory helps. I also hope it spurs you on to pray for the souls in purgatory and offer sacrifice for them. They cannot help themselves but we can help them! The month of November is a great time to pray for the souls in purgatory because the Church designates November for them. And know, when we help them and they get to heaven, they will pray for us.

************

Tweetable: Why is There Purgatory?

*Of course, God prefers we purify our hearts and souls during our life so that we can go straight to heaven and I will write about that in a future post!

Three Cheers for Lent!

Three Cheers for Lent!Ash Wednesday is this week and as you can tell from the title of this post, I’m excited about the arrival of Lent! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Some people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. And that’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated with oneself for failing to live up to one’s promises. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. I am giving up something, but Lent is more than that.

Lent is about renewal!

New Year’s is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, do this, don’t do that. August/September is the beginning of a new school year and a time when kids (and adults) resolve to make “this year better than last year.” And technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, almost even more so than the Advent/Christmas Season. It is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what is important in life. It is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus, with the Blessed Trinity.

The purpose of the “mandates” of Lent: prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving is to help us go deeper into the truths of our faith and our relationship with Christ, NOT to give us yet another thing to do or not do for the next six weeks. So, I’d like to invite you to rethink your strategy for Lent this year. If you have been in the habit of giving up something for Lent and it hasn’t worked for ya, how about instead of giving up something, give yourself something. Here are four things you can give yourself:

1. Give yourself the gift of Confession. If you haven’t been to the Sacrament of reconciliation in a while, now would be a good time to go. The Church requires Catholic to go to Confession at least once a year for a reason. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a very special way.

2. Give yourself the gift of the Eucharist. If you aren’t in the habit of going to daily mass, now would be a great time to start – even if it just one or two days a week – or just on Saturdays. The readings for Lent are just as powerful during the week as they are on Sundays.

3. Give yourself the gift of prayer. The rosary is a particularly powerful prayer and it is a wonderful way to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s Life, Death and Resurrection. It is even better if you can pray together as a family. Many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross each Friday which is a beautiful way to enter one’s self into Our Lord’s suffering. If you can’t do that, try to just spend five minutes or so reading the Bible and/or sitting quietly before the Lord.

4. Give yourself the gift of intention. Finally, above all, no matter what you do the Lent, let it be intentional and focused. Be fully present to your devotions, family or whatever it is you are doing/not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

Now, let’s support each other. Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do/not do in order to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus and renew your spirit this season? By putting it out there, it will help you stay accountable and give me the opportunity to pray for you!

—————

Was this post helpful? Please help me spread the word and share it with your contacts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or anywhere else you hang out online. Thanks!

Linked to Sunday Snippets

 

Coming to God’s Grace

Andrew & CCD teacher

Andrew with his second grade CCD teacher after the First Confession ceremony.

On Saturday, Andrew and his CCD classmates made their first Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for his First Holy Communion in April. Our Pastor, Sister Elizabeth and the second grade teachers did a nice job putting together a little ceremony. First there was a song, than the children were brought up to Father to be “received.” Then there was a reading from the Gospel, a very nice homily and an examination of conscious followed by the actual private confessions. Each child picked out a rock out of a basket that represented the heaviness and burden of sin which he or she handed to Father after confessing. Then after giving the absolution, Father gave each child a soft heart to represent having a clean or “new” heart now that they were reconciled with God. After coming out of the confessional, the child had his or her baptismal candle lit and walked up to the front of church were they pinned a lamb with their name on it. They were the lamb being returned to the Good Shepherd.

It is hard to describe in words, but the ceremony was quite touching and sweet. What struck me the most though, had nothing to do with the ceremony. It had to do with the children themselves. All of them were so full of joy and excitement to be going to their Fflowerirst Confession. And the smiles they had after coming out of the confessional was almost brighter than the sun!

Their joy really got me thinking, especially with Lent beginning next week. (Yes, next week!) I don’t know about you, but I don’t always go to confession with joy in my heart. Okay, to be real, I pretty much never go to confession with joy in my heart. I go pretty regularly because I know it’s what we should do as Catholics but if I could avoid it, I probably would. And I get frustrated with repeating the same sins over and over again. (When oh when will I get my patience under control!!) You, too, or is it just me?

Those children remind me and exhort me to look at the beauty of the sacrament, to rediscover the joy of be made right with God, to remember and accept His love and grace which is offered to me each time I make Confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an amazing gift from God.

With Lent coming next week, I think I am going to try and not only go to confession a little more often, but also to try and rediscover the joy of the Sacrament.

What about you? How do you experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Is going to confession a joy to you? How do you bring joy in celebrating this sacrament?

(Photo Credit)