On Barb’s (Prayer) Book Shelf: 3 Books of Prayers for All Seasons

I love to read books about prayer, but sometimes what you really need is a book of prayer: a collection of prayers for various situations. So far this year, Ave Maria Press has published three prayer collections designed to help you, your family, and your parish find just the right prayer for just about any occasion. All of these books are excellent prayer resources for liturgical living.

Bless Us, O Lord: A Family Treasure of Mealtime Prayers by Robert M. Hamma is a wonderful collection of prayers before meals. For many families, grace before meals and bedtime are the prime times for family prayer — but I’d venture to guess that most of us don’t venture too far beyond the familiar “Bless us, O Lord …” that became the title of this book. If you and your family would like to incorporate the liturgical year into your mealtime prayers, this is a wonderful resource.

Inside this book, you’ll find a robust selection of prayers based on the liturgical year: days of the week, liturgical seasons, and feasts throughout the year. The author has included not only meal blessings particular to those days and seasons, but introductory material to help your family understand why these saints and seasons we celebrate are important.

There are many ways to use this book: I suggest keeping it handy at mealtimes and letting school-age children take turns checking whether there’s a saint to celebrate today, or selecting one of the many traditional options and prayers for special occasions. Bless Us, O Lord has special mealtime prayers for birthdays, Baptisms, school milestones, visitors, and even “when we’ve had a bad day.”

Justin McClain’s Alleluia to Amen: The Prayer Book for Catholic Parishes is probably not the kind of book you’d expect a family to want to use. While it was designed for parishes, many of the prayers in this book are appropriate for family use as well as use by small church groups such as prayer circles or book clubs.

Alleluia to Amen includes morning, noontime, and evening prayers for each day of the week (perfect for students and working adults). You’ll also find a section dedicated to the liturgical year, connecting prayers for the parish and those who serve in it to various feast days and seasons. If you feel insecure with the idea of spontaneous prayer to begin a meeting, this book contains many options. A handy index will help you find the right prayer for just about any special intention you can think of, including these:

  • for an end to gossip within the community
  • for the return of loved ones to the Church
  • for a couple before a wedding
  • for healing and recovery after a natural disaster
  • for parents transitioning their child to college
  • for students before exams
  • for parishioners battling addiction
  • for people within a wide range of occupations and ministries in the parish

Alleluia to Amen is a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool to find the perfect prayers for various occasions within parish life, ministry work, and even family life.

Prayers are beautiful in any language, but if you have an interest in exploring the beauty and poetry of the Latin prayers that have been part of the fabric of the prayer life of the Church for many centuries, Oremus: A Treasury of Latin Prayers brings it all together in a small-format book that’s easy to carry to Mass or Adoration or keep on a side table.

All the prayers and litanies in this book are presented with the English translation side by side with the Latin, on facing pages. This will help you follow along with the prayers as you learn them. The index includes both English and Latin titles for the prayers so you can find exactly the ones you want. Sections of this book include:

  • Morning Prayers
  • Prayers at Meals
  • Evening Prayers
  • Prayers for Adoration and Holy Communion
  • The Rosary
  • Consecration to Mary
  • Stations of the Cross
  • Divine Mercy Chaplet
  • Marian Prayers
  • other prayers, Gospel sequences, and a selection of psalms

In the Introduction, the book’s editors explain that “when you pray in Latin, you are making the unity of the Church more visible” and “praying in Latin also gives us a way of separating our everyday speech from the words we use to speak to God.” A pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book provides clues about how to say (or sing) the words of the prayers in Latin. Oremus is a lovely book; the word “treasury” in its title is absolutely accurate: these prayers of the Church are indeed historical and spiritual treasures.


Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
I received review copies of Oremus and Bless Us, O Lord from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Prompt Me to Pray

Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Luke opens with Jesus telling His disciples a parable about “the necessity of praying always without becoming weary.”

Constant prayer doesn’t come easy. Maybe we think we’re too busy to pray like that. Maybe we know we’re too distracted. Maybe we just don’t know where to start.

Monica McConkey has compiled practical tips for prayer in a new combination guidebook/journal/prayer resource, Prompt Me to PrayThis 115-page book encourages the reader to create “reminders and cues to acknowledge God’s Presence and to prompt us to pray more often, throughout daily life” (4). Inspired by the spiritual classic The Practice of the Presence of God, Monica has spent years seeking ways to reinforce her prayer life, and she shares what she’s learned in this new book.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Here are some of the many prayer helps you’ll find inside Prompt Me to Pray:

  • Short, simple prayers for guidance in learning to pray
  • Tips on praying a daily Rosary
  • Encouragement to use visual cues as prayer reminders (I do this: it definitely works!)
  • Journal pages to help you set up a prayer plan that works with your schedule and life circumstances
  • Worksheets to guide you through praying in times of temptation, annoyance, suffering, and impatience
  • Advice on making personal prayer a sustainable habit
  • Reproducible Pocket Prayer cards to carry with you, keep in the car, hang on the fridge, or even use as bookmarks so you can pray anywhere and everywhere
  • Reproducible prayer intention page
  • Reproducible prayer starters

This book is sprinkled with Monica’s artistic touches, which add to its accessible, friendly feel. That same artistic touch adorned the envelope in which my copy of the book was mailed! Check out the stamp pictured here: “St Anthony, guide my mail.” Find this stamp and more at Monica’s Arma Dei Prayer Impressions Shop.

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

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.

“He Said the Name.”

One recent weekday, the Mass intention was for the repose of the soul of a parishioner who passed away earlier this summer.

The daily Mass crew is pretty consistent (and had been, even before the pandemic), so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the group of ladies sitting together in a pew that’s normally unoccupied were family members or friends of the deceased. I found that out because, after Mass, I couldn’t get out the door while they were standing around in the vestibule – probably looking for Father.

“Nice Mass,” one of them commented.

Another agreed. “He said the name.”

Maybe it’s not standard procedure to announce the names of those for whom Masses are offered. At our parish, it is done during the general intercessions.

At first, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I remembered back about 10 years when, during Lent and Advent, the pastor at the time required the choirs to chant the general intercessions, and people complained that they couldn’t hear their loved one’s name mentioned. (We tried. Really, we did. But it was extraordinarily difficult to chant those intentions and include the names. Fortunately that practice died in the water pretty quickly.) At the time, I thought it was shallow that people were making a big deal about the mention of a name.

But it is a big deal, to be prayed for by name. It’s a comfort. We want to be seen, and we want our loved ones to be seen – and that mention of a name in prayer is the Church’s way to express that someone has not been forgotten, that we do remember them and pray for them.

It is never shallow to want to have a loved one remembered in prayer. And it’s not shallow to need to hear that it’s happening.

Next time you’re at Mass, listen for the name. Pray for the deceased for whom that Mass is offered – that’s not just the priest’s job. And pray for the family that person left behind.

Pexels (2017)

Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Pexels (2017)

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”

Pray Fully-h

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.

CMdeskcalendar
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.

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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!