Saint Damien de Veuster

Also known as Saint Damien of Molokai, Saint Damien is a missionary priest who spent years caring for people with leprosy.

Image by William Brigham (1889) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain (Photo taken shortly before his death)

His Life

Saint Damien (Jozef de Veuster) was born in Belgium in January 1840 as the youngest of seven children. At the age of 13, he was taken out of school to help out on the family farms. His heart, however, was set on religious life and eventually he was able to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Although considered uneducated, he was ordained a priest in 1864 – two months after arriving at Hawaii. Saint Damien spent the rest of his life serving, caring, and ministering to the people in the leprosy colony of Hawaii. At that time, leprosy was still considered incurable and very contagious so people with leprosy were often ostracized and quarantined off by themselves.

After 11 years or so, Damien discovered that he, himself, had contracted leprosy. He died in April 1889 at the age of 49. He was beatified in 1995 by St. John Paul II and canonized by Pope Emmertis Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is today, May 10.

What We can Learn from Saint Damien

One of the things that is  most notable about Saint Damien is that he does not shy away from the marginalized. Whereas most people avoided the “lepers,” Saint Damien embraced them, loved them, and selflessly took care of them. Thus, his life becomes a challenge to us :

Do I (can I) embrace those who others push away or ignore? This can be something as simple as visiting the homebound or elderly. However, it can mean standing up for the unborn by joining a pro-life organization or other type of ministry. Still, it can also just mean being present to our family and taking the time to ministering for their needs!

Another thing about Saint Damien that stands out is his perseverance. Saint Damien suffered much in his life and had to deal with a lot of obstacles and difficulties. However, he never let those difficulties make him lose sight of God’s purpose for his life and he never gave up. He pushed through, trusted in God, and was able to do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii. In this too, Saint Damien’s example is a challenge to us:

Do I let myself get discouraged when I face difficulties or do I trust in God and work through them? It is not a matter of if we will have troubles and problems. It is a matter of when we will have troubles and problems. The important thing is how we respond to those problems. Unfortunately, I don’t always handle problems very graciously. If I am being honest, I don’t handle problems very graciously most of the time. Anyone else or is it just me?! Still, Saint Damien’s example encourages me. I am a work in progress and that’s okay. 🙂

So, let us pray to Saint Damien that he will intercede for us and help us have a great love for every person and to persevere in all of our struggles. Saint Damien, pray for us!

Other Resources

To learn more about Saint Damien, visit these sites:

Catholic.org

EWTN

Wikipedia

 

31 Days of Prayer – Saint John Paul II

Today is the optional memorial of our beloved Saint John Paul II!

Image by LoveToTakePhotos (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Image by LoveToTakePhotos (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Here is a lovely prayer I found on EWTN:

O Holy Trinity, we thank you for having given to the Church Pope John Paul II, and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness, the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd and has pointed out to us holiness as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

Grant us, through his intercession, according to your will, the grace that we implore, in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints.
Amen.”

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

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Tweetable: 31 Days of Prayer – Saint John Paul II

31 Days Writing Challenge

31 Days of Prayer – St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Today is the memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus (The Little Flower). It is fitting that I am starting the 31 Days of Prayer on her feast day because St. Therese had a great love of prayer.

Image by LoveToTakePhotos (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Image by LoveToTakePhotos (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

I have to be honest, while growing up and during my young adult life, I didn’t really understand St. Therese. I thought her spirituality was too sentimental and “flighty” for me. Then, in 2002, I read a book called The Trial of Faith of St. Therese. It completely changed my view of St. Therese!

Was St. Therese a “girly, girl?” Yes, in some ways she was; however, she was also a brave, strong, and determined woman. She was a headstrong child. She threw her fair share of temper tantrums. And, yet, as she let God mold her and lead her according to His ways, she became a great saint. She suffered through terrible sufferings: mental, spiritual, and physical. The difference for her was that she suffered patiently. She trusted in the Lord. Even when she was tempted to despair, she choose to trust in God.

Believe me, her “Little Way” may be been simple but it was very difficult to live!

That book gave me a new appreciation and respect for Saint Therese. She is an amazing model of faith and trust and I pray that she will intercede for all of us during the Write 31 Days Challenge.

Now for the prayer. I found this lovely prayer on EWTN. I hope it will bless you and give you the courage to leave all your deepest needs in God’s hands. She put her life in God’s hands like a child does to a parent and we must do the same. 🙂

A Prayer to St. Therese

O little St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who during your short life on earth became a mirror of angelic purity, of love strong as death, and of wholehearted abandonment to God, now that you rejoice in the reward of your virtues, cast a glance of pity on me as I leave all things in your hands. Make my troubles your own – speak a word for me to our Lady Immaculate, whose flower of special love you were – to that Queen of heaven “who smiled on you at the dawn of life.” Beg her as the Queen of the heart of Jesus to obtain for me by her powerful intercession, the grace I yearn for so ardently at this moment, and that she join with it a blessing that may strengthen me during life. Defend me at the hour of death, and lead me straight on to a happy eternity. Amen

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Tweetable: 31 Days of Prayer: St. Therese

I found the prayer here.

31 Days Writing Challenge

Corpus Christi: The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

(repost)

Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

Image by Icb (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

I will never forget watching an episode of Women of Grace  on EWTN a while back where the guest speaker said that only 30% of Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This statistic shocked me. Belief in the Real Presence is a central and essential doctrine of our Catholic faith. Truly, the Real Presence is part of the foundation of our Catholic faith. In fact, it is a non-negotiable article of faith; to be Catholic one must believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. However, the doctrine of the Eucharist remains a source of confusion and misunderstanding among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

There are many passages in the Bible that deal with the Eucharist. Most of us are aware of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-30 and in all the gospels) and the “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6:22-69). The Catechism of the Catholic Church has whole sections that deal with the Eucharist (See Part 2, Section 2). Additionally, the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has been spoken about by many saints. I highly recommend that you take a look at these references for yourself and pray about them. For now, I just want to do is give you, in a nutshell, is what it means to believe in the Real Presence:

Believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist means that at the consecration at Mass the bread and wine is transformed into the very real body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Although the physical appearance of the bread and wine do not change, they are no longer bread and wine but Jesus Himself.

This is hard for many people to accept. That is why so many walked away from Jesus (see John 6:66-67) when He said those words and why many are still walking away from Him in our own time. How is it possible that Jesus can be contained in the Eucharist? How can this happen? Those are valid questions. However, it is a sublime mystery and we trust Jesus at His word. The mystery of the Eucharist is a miracle. It is a gift from God Himself out of love for us. With God, all things are possible – including Jesus making Himself present in the Eucharist!

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Tweetables:

Corpus Christi: The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

What  Catholics believe about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

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

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

Book Review: The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant

The Paleo Manifesto
From Book Description:

“The Paleo Manifesto takes readers on a thrilling ride to the Paleolithic Age and beyond, unlocking the health secrets of our ancient ancestors. What do obese gorillas teach us about weight loss? how can Paleolithic skulls contain beautiful sets of teeth? Why is the Bible so obsessed with hygiene? What do NASA astronauts teach us about getting a good  night’s sleep?  And how are Silicon Valley techies hacking the human body? Blending science and culture, anthropology and philosophy, John Durant distills the lessons from his adventures and shows how to apply them to day-to-day life, teaching people how to construct their own personal ‘habitat’ that will enable them to thrive.”

My Comments:

I first heard of the paleo diet a long while ago when I was learning about intermittent fasting. Then I discovered that I have a gluten intolerance, and while researching about that, I found even more information about the paleo diet. From what I have been reading, a lot of people who start out gluten free often progress their diets into a paleo-like diet. I can see why. After a few false starts, I have been fully gluten free for almost two months and I feel so much better. Now I am almost ready to take my diet one step further and try to eliminate sugar and processed foods, which the paleo diet promotes. Thus, when I had the opportunity to read and review The Paleo Manifesto, I jumped at the chance.

There are many things about this book that I liked, but there is one thing I want to address that gave me pause: his theory of evolution. Although Durant incorporates information from the Bible and various religious traditions, his history of the development of man is secular in nature. This sent me on a search to find out what the Catholic Church teaches about evolution. The church does not have an official stance on biological evolution, but it does have an official stance on human evolution. According to Catholic Answers, “It [ the Church] allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul.” In other words, it is okay to believe that the human evolved over time, but it must be coupled with the truth that God created and endowed every human being with a soul. For me, a lot of what Durant writes makes a lot of sense, but I also took some of what he wrote about the history of man with a grain of salt. I encourage you to do your own research on evolution, compare it with what is written in The Paleo Manifesto, and draw your own conclusions.

In the first part of the book, Durant gives a history lesson on the diet and lifestyle of man from 530 million years ago up to today. Each chapter is sprinkled with his personal experience, coupled with science and research.

One of the interesting things about this book is the discovery that the paleo diet is more than just a diet or eating like a caveman. It is a lifestyle. According to Durant, Paleo is about how a person eats, moves, sleeps, interacts with others and even body regulation. And that is what part two of the book deals with. In this section Durant gives detailed “instruction” in what (and what not) to eat, how to move and exercise in a paleo way. He also writes about thermoregulation, specifically about how we relate to heat and cold, and the importance of sleep and re-aligning our balance with the sun. This is my favorite section of the book. It is practical and insightful. I am not sure how much of the paleo lifestyle, besides the diet, I will incorporate, but I have already started experimenting. For example, Durant writes a lot about allowing oneself to wake up naturally, without the grating sound of an alarm clock. Well, I haven’t used an alarm clock in years since I am an early riser, so I took the next step and just got rid of my clock altogether. He also writes about why it is important to stand or walk as much as possible, and the dangers of sitting for long periods. So, I have started to stand or walk as much as possible, within the limits of my cerebral palsy.

In the final section of the book, Durant writes about the challenges of living as a hunter and gatherer. He also “takes on” those who oppose the paleo principles, particularly vegetarians and vegans.  Actually, he also talks about the vegetarian diet earlier in the book, debunking their health claims, and  in this section he specifically discusses their concern about the treatment of animals by the meat industry. He also gives suggestions on how to have (and teach our children to have) a healthy relationship with food.

Over all, the book is well-written, informative, and I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the paleo diet or lifestyle. I give the book four (4) stars.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books <http://blogging for books.org> book review  program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

To learn more about the Catholic Church teaching on evolution go to:

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

http://www.cuf.org/2004/04/gods-big-bang-the-church-and-evolution/

http://www.ewtn.com/library/HUMANITY/EVOLUTN.TXT

 

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is one of my favorite feast days: the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We know that the heart represents love and so this feast is yet another reminder of God’s great love for us, of the love that Jesus has for all of us; a love which compelled Him to become man, to spend 33 years on earth, to suffer horribly and die for us and to rise for us!

So for this week’s 7 Quick Takes I’d like to share some links about the Sacred Heart for you to pray over and think about:

1. EWTN devotionals.

2. SacredHeart.com.

3. SacredHeartDevotion.com.

4. Women for Faith and Family. (Page about the Sacred Heart.)

5. New Advent. (Doctrinal explanation of the feast.)

6. About.com. (History of the feast.)

7. Wikipedia. (Not a terrible explanation of the feast. 🙂 )

A blessed Solemnity, everyone!

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Tweetables:

What do you know about the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Some links…

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

7QT: Devotion to the Sacred Heart

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