Urbi et Orbi: An Extraordinary Blessing

I’ve never watched a papal blessing or weekly Angelus before, but the extraordinary blessing Pope Francis offered Friday was not one I wanted to miss.

After all, I’m missing Mass. I’m missing Adoration. The suspension of all public activity is a bitter consequence of the novel coronavirus — and I pray that it minimizes the spread of the disease.

I have seen pictures of past papal events, though. There is always a crowd, even on a rainy day.

On Friday, there was no crowd in St. Peter’s Square. There was a pope. There was a priest. There was a crucifix.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

The square was so empty, with only raindrops filling the space where people would gather to pray.

The Gospel told of another storm: a storm through which Jesus was sleeping until his distressed disciples woke him up and begged him to help them. And the wind and the sea obeyed (Mark 4:35-41).

As we struggle through the storm of fear, anger, isolation, uncertainty, and loss, we were reminded Friday that we do not struggle alone.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

More eloquent than the Pope’s words: the silent moments of prayer.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

The moments of reverence.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

The Adoration Chapel at my church is temporarily closed. Being present — thanks to an internet connection — at Adoration and Benediction with the Pope was a reminder that I shouldn’t take my ability to attend Mass and Adoration for granted.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

It is a gift to the faithful to be invited to a moment of private prayer made public.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

It is a gift to know that our Pope, our bishops, our priests, pray for us and with us. That, too, is something we take for granted.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

The scene of Pope Francis holding the monstrance and offering the triple blessing over an empty square was an unforgettable moment.

His words that day were a comfort (and you should read them all) but his actions were even more so.

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies. (from Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message, March 27, 2020)

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Screen shot of Urbi et Orbi blessing, March 27, 2020.

Read more about the miraculous crucifix venerated by Pope Francis during that moment.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Pray Fully”

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CatholicMom.com contributors Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet are known for their encouraging spiritual books for women, Divine Mercy for Moms and The Friendship Project (both from Ave Maria Press) and Our Friend Faustina (from Marian Press). They have teamed up once again to write Pray Fully, a practical guide to deepening your prayer life.

Pray Fully: Simple Steps for Becoming a Woman of Prayer (Ave Maria Press) is written from that friend-to-friend point of view that Michele and Emily do so well. Taking turns chapter by chapter, they share their own stories of struggles and victories in prayer, offering advice based on what they’ve learned the hard way.

pray fully

The authors back up their own advice with saintly examples; each chapter has a section titled “Meet your Heavenly Friend,” in which readers learn about the prayer lives and practices of Sts. Gemma Galgani, Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa), Gianna Beretta Molla, Louis and Zélie Martin, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Margaret Mery Alacoque. Each chapter also includes a reflection by one of the authors, a “Let’s Pray” section that explains a particular prayer practice, inspiring quotes from the saints, and a prayer prompt.

Because prayer is not a one-size-fits-all experience, and our own prayer needs, opportunities, and preferences change, Michele and Emily outline several different approaches to prayer, along with providing the opportunity to explore each of them. These approaches include resting in Jesus’ presence, lectio divina, making an examen, and creating a legacy of faith. They address the tough questions associated with unanswered prayers, and also discuss personal devotions such as dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The final chapter offers meditations, reflections, and journaling space for readers to explore the various prayer approaches discussed in Pray Fully. You’re not expected to do it all — there’s not enough time in the day to do it all — but encouraged to find a way to add or deepen a prayer practice.

Pray Fully would make an excellent Lenten spiritual read.

CH 2 PF


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Living in the (Prayer) Moment

This Lent I decided to give up a prayer app. I’d been using the Divine Office app to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for several years, and I saw someone post on Twitter about using only the breviary books during the season.

I made an exception for a few days while I was traveling for work, but otherwise I went the whole season with the books I’d barely opened since I found the app all those years ago.

The person who originally posted the idea (I can’t remember whose idea it was just now) said he wanted to combat laziness. I’m plenty lazy, which originally attracted me to try this practice during Lent, but I discovered something else this season that I need to combat even more.

I don’t live in the moment.

During my twice-daily Lenten ribbon-flipping with the big breviary, I found myself looking ahead to the next time I’d be using the book – and setting the ribbon in the right place before I moved on. I’m not meditating on the psalms during Lauds if I’m flipping two pages ahead to mark the ones for Vespers.

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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.

But that’s what I’m doing. It’s not even like I’m saving any time or doing something I can’t do at the start of prayers the next time.

It’s a way I can indulge my tendency to always worry about what comes next. Whether it’s meals or clothing or having gas in the car, I want to be prepared for whatever’s coming – and that comes at the cost of savoring the here and now.

While this tendency is definitely an asset in my editorial work (it’s April, and I’m currently collecting magazine articles for the fall issue and assigning articles for winter), it’s not necessarily a good thing in other areas of my life.

During the second half of Lent, I actively concentrated on not moving those ribbons to the next section during (or even immediately after) prayer. It just about drove me nuts, but I managed it.

Switching from app to book didn’t turn out to be too penitential, but leaving those ribbons alone definitely was.

Will I go back to the app, starting tonight? I don’t think so. I like using the book, actually. And it’s good for me to have the twice-daily reminder that I don’t always need to be looking ahead.

Except the part where I’m looking ahead for the sake of my eternal soul.

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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

New from Lisa Hendey: A Prayer Calendar for Catholic Moms

Lisa Hendey's Prayer Calendar for Catholic Moms -f

Space on my desk is precious real estate, only to be granted to the things that really need to be there: computer, planner, Post-It notes, a box of tissues, a mini-storage unit for clips and stickers, and a mug of pencils, pens and markers. I’m trying to keep my office neat. But I’ve added a perpetual calendar next to the Our Lady of Fatima figurine who stands by: Lisa Hendey’s new Catholic Mom’s Desk Calendar.

Flipping to the correct date, I found my very favorite psalm waiting for me, along with a beautiful prayer by Lisa.

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

As you can see from the photo above, the color scheme is a calming blue, tone-on-tone. I’ve chosen almost that exact shade for more than one room in my home. The serene colors invite the reader to slow down, quiet down, and enter into a moment of prayer.

You don’t have to have a desk to display this prayer calendar. You could keep it on your nightstand, bureau, or even the kitchen counter (though I fear that if I tried that in my tiny kitchen, it would be splattered with marinara sauce in short order).

I have plenty of calendars in my office. I display two months of the calendar at a time, because I need to see that much for work. I have a Google calendar on my computer. And I have a planner on my desk. But this calendar is different. It’s not part of yet another to-do list for my family, my household, or my job. This calendar reminds me that “only one thing is necessary,” as Jesus told St. Martha, and I need to embrace that.

Here’s a sneak peek at January’s calendar entries! Note that this is a spiral-bound perpetual calendar, not a book as pictured below, but you can get a good look at what the beautiful pages look like.

Each day begins with a quote from Scripture, a saint, a pope, or the Catechism, followed by a brief prayer related to that reading.

Place this calendar where you’ll be sure to see it each day, and enter into a quiet moment of prayer in the midst of your busy life.

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Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Tech Talk: Prayer and Social Media

I’ve been a regular at Eucharistic Adoration for just over two years, and it’s taken me this long to find a way to use the time as a prayer intercessor for others.

For too long, I’d gone to the Adoration Chapel with an agenda and a tote bag: a spiritual book (or three) to read, a rosary, a journal, and my iPad so I could pray Liturgy of the Hours. It was getting to the point where Adoration was another task to check off my list, a quiet hour to read a book I’d promised to review. Check, check, check.

Checking off tasks is not what Adoration is supposed to be about.

I’d been noticing for a while that my friend Allison Gingras would share on Facebook that she was heading to Adoration, and offer to pray for any special intentions people posted. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I adopted her idea, so I created a graphic with a photo from our Adoration Chapel and shared it on Facebook for the first time in late February.

adoration-today

The response was tremendous. Over 40 likes. Over 35 comments. And a whole host of messages with private intentions. And I wasn’t just hearing from Catholics. I filled 2 index cards, both sides, with intentions posted in under 3 hours.

People are hungry for that intercessory prayer. People carry secret burdens and don’t always know how to ask for help, or even prayer over their situation. It’s a comfort to know that someone else is holding them up in prayer.

I took those two index cards and my rosary to the chapel. I always pray the Franciscan Crown rosary, and it’s a good thing it has 7 decades, because at one bead per intention I needed all those prayers to cover my list, plus my family and one general prayer for any late-breaking intentions (I wasn’t checking Facebook in the chapel.)

Later that day I got an email from one of the deacons at our parish, who’s my friend on Facebook. He wanted to let me know that he and his wife were going to begin inviting their Facebook friends to share intentions, to be prayed for during their Adoration hour.

He also said that this is a great way to evangelize. I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. Originally I’d hesitated to mention on Facebook that I was going to Adoration–but this has shown me that it’s something needed and appreciated.

I created a rosary prayer intentions printable to use each week to list intentions: my own, as well as those of my friends on Facebook. It’s also a Franciscan Crown Rosary tutorial. Download this printable and set it up for your “intentional rosary.”

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Of Prayer, Twitter and Red Minivans

Yesterday I was tagged in a tweet with an emergency prayer request.

twitter-prayer-request

After promising to pray that Emergency Novena for Christine’s friend, I messaged her to ask what color car her friend drives.

That may seem like a weird question, but I use visual prayer cues for special intentions. When I see a car that resembles one belonging to someone I know and love, that’s a reminder to me to pray for that person.

Christine told me that her friend drives a red minivan.

This morning at Mass, I remembered her friend in prayer, then resolved to turn off the radio on my way home and pray that day’s Emergency Novena.

After Mass, I got into my car, turned off the radio, and prepared to leave my parking space. The car in front of me moved away, revealing that the car parked in front of it was a red minivan.

A couple of miles later, I saw another one.

In your kindness, when you see a red minivan, say a special prayer for Christine’s friend. If you commit to doing this, I’m quite sure that God will make sure you see plenty of those cars.

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Photo copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey. Title added by author. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

#WorthRevisit: Chapel Rosary

Wrapping up the Month of the Rosary with a look back at May of this year, when I borrowed a rosary at the Adoration Chapel.

I was running a minute or two late for my Holy Hour yesterday, and as I approached the church driveway I realized I’d left my pocket rosary behind when I changed my clothes.

Worse, I’d tossed my wallet into my “Adoration tote” along with my journal, earbuds and a spiritual book or three–so I didn’t have the rosary I keep in my handbag.

I can count on my fingers in a pinch; after all, God gave me ten of them, but our Adoration chapel has a few rosaries on a hook near the entrance. I decided to use one of those to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Red rosary breviary C
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Using a chapel rosary (or any rosary belonging to someone else) brings to mind a unique connection that is made through prayer.

What other hands had held that rosary, fingering the beads, counting off prayer intentions, wiping away tears?

What other hearts had prayed the prayers, there in the chapel, laying bare their most secret and fervent desires of the soul?

Was the last person to lift this rosary off that hook a stranger? A friend? A neighbor? My husband?

So many prayers have been prayed on this rosary, in this chapel.

I prayed one extra Memorare for those who have prayed here before me, for those who pray here with me, and for those who will pray here after me.

We are all connected, united, brought together by our prayers on a single string of beads.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Avoidance, Elections and a Call to Prayer

It’s getting to be that time of year again. I’d really like autumn, if it weren’t for the fact that November’s approach means Election Day is coming.

This season brings out the worst in everyone, and it’s complicated this year by the clear evidence that there’s just no one I can support, in good conscience, for the presidential election.

There is no political debate anymore; it’s just a bunch of people shouting their opinons on the airwaves and social media, like I’m doing right now. Everyone shouts. Nobody listens.

More and more, I’m coming to appreciate and admire Lisa Hendey’s stance at CatholicMom.com. We’re not covering the elections there. It gets too ugly too fast, and that’s not what we’re about.

I’ve dipped my toe into discussions on Facebook and immediately wished I’d kept my mouth shut (or sat on my fingers). Not because I regret what I said, but because I don’t want to be pulled into an online political debate that’s anything but a real debate.

I have friends who’ve sworn off social media until mid-November. That’s not an option for me, but I’m hiding certain posts in the hope that Facebook will get the idea that I just don’t want to see this stuff.

I’m done retweeting political stuff. I’m done “liking” and interacting in any way with Facebook posts about the election–even the ones that say, like I am right now, just how much they hate the whole process and the fact that decisions have to be made between alternatives that are awful in equal but different ways.

That’s going to take some self-control on my part. But I am hoping I can stick to this, because my own peace is at stake. I shouldn’t be getting on Facebook or Twitter and then feeling like my next stop should be the confessional.

No one’s vote is going to be changed by anything anyone says on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m going to try praying instead. Prayer can change hearts. Prayer can do things that retweeting and “liking” and spouting off on social media can’t do.

Right about now, I think it’s time to call upon St. Michael the Archangel and the Holy Spirit to protect our nation and to guide us in wise choices when Election Day comes along in 4 short weeks.

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Via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

 

 

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

For the One in this Room Who Needs It Most

I learned the Morning Offering my sophomore year in high school. (It was only my 5th year in a Catholic school, so I still had a long way to go to catch up on things like that.)

The room was quiet. Heads were bowed, eyes were closed and hands were folded as we sat at our desks for morning prayers before beginning class.

My homeroom teacher, Sr. Lucille Marie, would add at the end of the prayer, “And for the one in this room who needs it most today.”

Sometimes, the silence would be broken as a student (or several) whispered, “Me.”

All these years later, I still remember those whispers.

I remember those girls who projected all the confidence in the world every other minute of the day, but who let down their shields for that one moment when they could anonymously admit that they were in need of prayer.

You don’t have to be in a classroom to pray this prayer. You can pray it for the people in your home. You can pray it for the people standing in line with you at the supermarket. You can pray it for people driving ahead of you and behind you on the highway.

Where two or three are gathered, you can pray this prayer:

For the one in this room who needs it most, I pray.

God knows what they need. He can take it from there.

"For the one in this room who needs it most" at Franciscanmom.com
Image via Pixabay (2016), CCO Public Domain. Text added in PicMonkey.

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

"Write 31 Days" logo from write31days.com. (@franciscanmom)
Logo via Write31Days.com. All rights reserved.

The Chapel Rosary

I was running a minute or two late for my Holy Hour yesterday, and as I approached the church driveway I realized I’d left my pocket rosary behind when I changed my clothes.

Worse, I’d tossed my wallet into my “Adoration tote” along with my journal, earbuds and a spiritual book or three–so I didn’t have the rosary I keep in my handbag.

I can count on my fingers in a pinch; after all, God gave me ten of them, but our Adoration chapel has a few rosaries on a hook near the entrance. I decided to use one of those to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Using a chapel rosary (or any rosary belonging to someone else) brings to mind a unique connection that is made through prayer.

What other hands had held that rosary, fingering the beads, counting off prayer intentions, wiping away tears?

What other hearts had prayed the prayers, there in the chapel, laying bare their most secret and fervent desires of the soul?

Was the last person to lift this rosary off that hook a stranger? A friend? A neighbor? My husband?

So many prayers have been prayed on this rosary, in this chapel.

I prayed one extra Memorare for those who have prayed here before me, for those who pray here with me, and for those who will pray here after me.

We are all connected, united, brought together by our prayers on a single string of beads.

Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.