statue of Blessed Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus

A Simpler Approach to Marian Consecration

Do you want to grow closer to the Blessed Mother, but find yourself intimidated by the lengthy devotions and lofty language of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary?  Fr. Edward Looney, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay and vice president of the Mariological Society of America, has put together a new book to help you prepare for a 33-day consecration to Jesus through Mary.

 

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord

 

Behold the Handmaid of the Lord: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary simplifies de Montfort’s approach without watering down its wisdom. The book, new from Ave Maria Press, is a do-it-yourself retreat that helps readers learn more about Marian consecration.

God is at work through Marian consecration; it is powerful, and it changes lives. (xv)

Fr. Edward dedicates each of the ten days of the retreat to a different title of Mary, consolidating teachings from True Devotion to Mary to clarify the rich writings and deepen devotion to the Blessed Mother. His writing style is clear and approachable, and both his scholarship and dedication to Mary are evident throughout the book.

Each day’s chapter is 10 pages or less (in a small-format book; it measures just under 5×7 inches) and begins with a teaching on that day’s title of Mary, a prayer for the day, and a traditional Marian prayer or hymn. I was surprised to find that Serdeczna Matko (“Stainless the Maiden”), a traditional Polish Marian hymn I recently sang at a funeral at my parish, was one of the hymns included in the book. Its English translation, which I had never read, is beautiful. Other prayers and hymns include the Memorare, Regina Caeli, and “Ave Maris Stella.”

During this retreat, readers will learn about these Marian titles and devotions:

  • Queen of All Saints
  • Our Lady of the Holy Trinity
  • The New Eve
  • Mother of the Interior Life
  • Mother of Disciples
  • Star of the Sea
  • Queen of All Hearts
  • Mediatrix of Grace
  • The Mold of God
  • My Mother and My Queen

I recommend that you keep a pen and journal close at hand as you read Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. I was highlighting this book all over the place as I read!

Bonus material in this book includes a chart of dates to begin Marian consecrations to end on feasts of Mary. The next three start dates are November 5, November 9, and November 29. Another very useful section is a list of 17 devotional practices found in the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. Many of these are practices you can begin with your family, such as praying the Rosary, carrying a Rosary in your pocket, praying or singing prayers and hymns in Mary’s honor, and placing an image of Mary in a place of honor in your home.

Fr. Edward Looney has written several books about Mary and frequently posts on social media about his visits to Marian shrines throughout the United States. Listen to his How They Love Mary podcast on Spotify or your favorite podcast app.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil
This article contains Amazon affiliate links, which provide a small compensation to the author of this piece when purchases are made through the links, at no cost to you.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

statue of angel

New from Magnificat: Nine Days with Saint Michael

We celebrate the Feast of Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael on September 29. This is the perfect time to begin a novena to the original prayer warrior, St. Michael the Archangel. Magnificat has just released Nine Days with Saint Michael, a beautiful novena of prayers for spiritual protection.

It takes a spiritual battle to be good, a battle we fight with Heaven’s help. (4)

 

Nine Days with Saint Michael

The prayers and meditations for each of the nine days focus on one aspect of St. Michael the Archangel, from his name meaning “Who is like God?” to his dignity as an archangel and Prince of the Heavenly Host, to his rebuke of the devil and affirmation of his own promise to serve God always, to his heavenly worship and the battle against the dragon (as detailed in Revelation), to his service of God at the time of our judgment.

Each day’s novena entry is structured as follows:

  • Sacred art
  • Introduction
  • Hymn
  • Scripture (the reading is included in full, so you won’t need to juggle your prayer book and Bible)
  • Meditation
  • Intercession: entrust St. Michael to bring your special intention to God at this time
  • Our Father
  • Intercession of Mary, Queen of Angels
  • Closing Prayer
  • St. Michael Prayer

Bonus content in this book includes the Litany of St. Michael and the Chaplet of St. Michael, so this book will be handy to keep around long after you finish praying the novena.

The print edition of Nine Days with Saint Michael is a lovely little book, with heavy, glossy paper that complements the sacred art (a different artist’s depiction of St. Michael, in worship and in battle, accompanies the meditation for each day). It’s a good value for the $5.99 cover price. An interior view is pictured below.

 

interior spread from Nine Days with Saint Michael

 

Nine Days with Saint Michael is available at Magnificat.com. Bulk pricing is available. A Kindle version is available on Amazon.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva; Magnificat.com, all rights reserved.
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author.

Back-to-School Special: Amy Cattapan’s New Book for Teachers

Just in time for the beginning of the school year, Ave Maria Press has released Amy J. Cattapan’s first nonfiction book, Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? 10 Ways the Gospels Can Help You Combat Teacher Burnout and Rediscover Your Passion for TeachingWritten for new and veteran teachers alike, this book is the perfect read at the beginning of the school year, offering Bible-based strategies teachers can use to battle discouragement, stress, and burnout.

 

As a fellow member and volunteer for the Catholic Writers Guild, I’ve known Amy for several years. She’s a middle-school teacher and author of two novels for middle- and high-school students, a Dame of Malta, an avid runner, and (in her free time?) recently completed an Ed.D. This summer, Amy organized the Catholic Writers Guild conference, a hybrid event with in-person and online speakers and attendees. Amy also hosts a YouTube channel featuring the “Cath-Lit Live!” video series, in which she interviews Catholic authors about their newly released books. Amy is energetic (as you can see from this list of accomplishments) and always ready to share what she’s learned with others. You can learn more about her work at AJCattapan.com

 

 

It was my pleasure to interview Amy about her newest book.

Is Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? for Catholic school teachers only?

The initial audience for the book was Catholic school teachers, but I’ve found that DREs and catechists are also relating to it, as well as other Christians who work in education. Basically, anyone who reads the Bible and does some kind of teaching can appreciate the connections between the Gospel stories and the work that they do.

 

How can homeschooling moms (or dads) benefit from this book?

Homeschooling parents can benefit in much the same ways that classroom teachers and catechists do. It can help them to focus on why they decided to homeschool in the first place, as well as find guidance for how Jesus can be a role model for them as educators as well.

 

What’s your advice for teachers who feel that admitting feelings of teacher burnout means that they’re not good teachers?

Even people who love their jobs and are very successful often go through periods of burnout. This is why we need to take breaks from our work and then come back refreshed. Feeling burned out is a normal reaction to caring about the job you do. If we are feeling burned out, it’s an indication that we’ve been pouring out heart and soul into the job. While it’s great that so many teachers care so much about doing a great job, we also need to remember that it’s necessary to step back and “fill our own cups” whenever we feeling like we are running on empty. Don’t forget how many times Jesus had to go away to a quiet place! If He needed rest and quiet, then so do we!

 

In one of my favorite chapters, “Jesus Knew When (and How Far) to Bend the Rules,” you mention the destructive power of negative attitudes. When I was teaching, I stopped eating lunch in the teachers’ lounge because of the negative attitudes among some other teachers. While I cut myself off from the cynicism, I also missed opportunities for sharing ideas and getting help. Is there a better way to handle that kind of situation?

Excellent question! I know many teachers who avoid the lounge; sometimes it is necessary to do that. However, that shouldn’t mean we isolate ourselves entirely. Try to find the coworkers with whom you can have constructive conversations. Seek out times that you are free, and make a point of connecting with that person(s) regularly — perhaps during a mutual planning period or even a few minutes before or after school. Also find ways to connect with teachers outside of your own school. For example, go to teacher conferences, talk to friends who are teachers at other schools, and participate in informal professional development opportunities, like the #CatholicEdChat discussions that happen on Twitter the first and third Saturdays of each month.

 

It’s providential that your book has been released just as teachers are beginning a second full school year with the challenges of pandemic restrictions. Which chapter would you recommend to teachers who are feeling anxious about this?

I would recommend chapters 8 and 10. Chapter 8 is called “Jesus Took Challenges in Stride.” We’ve had a lot of challenges over the last 18 months. Jesus can teach us how to handle them with grace. Chapter 10 is called “Jesus Knew When to Stop and Just Let It Be.” There is so much we can’t control during a pandemic. Jesus can show us how to let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on what we can do.

This book makes a great teacher gift!

Sweet Jesus, Is It June Yet? is available from the publisher, Ave Maria Press, on Amazon, and wherever you purchase Catholic books. If you’re interested in ordering multiple books for all your kids’ teachers, contact Amy about a discount code for bulk orders! (Don’t wait until Christmas to share this book with the teachers you know. They need it now.)


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Author photo courtesy of Amy J. Cattapan
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

bookshelf with Catholic fiction titles

On My Bookshelf: Adoration for Beginners (and everyone else)

Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is much more than a guidebook about a particular type of devotion. This new book by Merridith Frediani, published by Our Sunday Visitor, begins with an explanation about Adoration that is definitely not for beginners only. Not every parish or Adoration Chapel offers advice or instruction on customary prayer practices associated with this devotion, so you’ll find that this book fills in those gaps in a helpful way.

Draw Close to Jesus cover

Merridith explains in the Introduction to this book why it’s addressed specifically to women:

In adoration we approach God as women and pause in these tasks to acknowledge that God calls us in the deep core of our hearts. He wants us to come to him and rest. We do not need to bring anything. He knows the world is pulling at us and can be overwhelming. He knows we make mistakes, and he keeps inviting. When we come to him, we open ourselves to the one who loves us most deeply. (12)

I like to bring a journal to Adoration with me, and the short reflections in the middle of this book are perfect jumping-off places for spiritual journaling. Each reflection is brief (about two pages in length) and most are based on Scripture. At the end of the reflection, there is a “to do” item — not one that’s going to stress you out by adding more to an already overflowing list, but a spiritual action — and an invitation “to go deeper,” which notes a Scripture passage and offers a prayer prompt for contemplation and journaling. You don’t have to go through these start to finish; the book is made for readers to pick and choose the theme for their prayer.

At the end of Draw Close to Jesus, you’ll find what Merridith calls “a Catholic toolbox to rescue you when prayer just won’t seem to come” (128). There are instructions on praying the Rosary (which I find to be a good way to ease into Adoration, as the repetition of the prayers helps clear my mind of the to-do lists that distract me); the Memorare, the Litany of Trust and Litany of Humility, novenas, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Of course, any of these prayers can be prayed at any time (not just during Adoration) but it’s handy to have them right there if you’d like to make them part of your prayer routine.

monstrance in Adoration chapel

After keeping a weekly holy hour for more than five years, I can say that no two adorers approach this devotion the same way. In fact, I don’t approach all my holy hours the same way. But there’s useful material in Draw Close to Jesus, whether you begin your Adoration time with a Rosary or end it by reading the Bible. This book has earned its place beside my journal, pen, and holy cards in my Adoration tote bag.

Draw Close to Jesus is available for preorder now and releases Friday, August 13.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Photo copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

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.

3 Handy Little Tips for Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

The Liturgy of the Hours follows a daily rhythm of prayer throughout the liturgical year. If Scripture is inspiring to you and structure is helpful when you pray, this type of prayer is a perfect fit. I’ve prayed the Liturgy of the Hours since my college days, and it’s not a practice you pick up overnight. It takes time to get used to following the format of this prayer, and it’s easier when you learn it in a group rather than on your own.

Are you interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours? Try this advice from Daria Sockey, author of The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. I asked Daria what beginners to this form of prayer need to know.

What 3 tips would you share with someone who’s just beginning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours?

  1. Start small. Choose one or at the most two liturgical hours and stick with that until you are comfortable. My choice for a beginner would be Night Prayer, a.k.a. compline. It’s the easiest to follow, since it’s a seven-day repeating cycle with no fancy variations for the liturgical seasons. No ribbon flipping required.
  2. Use a breviary app before investing in a four-volume breviary. Everything is all laid out for you, no guessing or worrying that you are on the wrong page. Also, you can experiment with adding the other hours until you’ve figured out what works best for you.
  3. Join a Facebook group of Liturgy of the Hours fans. There are several good ones with lots of members who were once rank beginners and are now eager to help other newcomers. (Or buy my book to learn the how-tos and the why-tos.)

How would you encourage someone who finds the Liturgy of the Hours too complicated?

If you try the fairly uncomplicated Night prayer for two weeks running and still don’t like it, then maybe this is not for you. That’s okay — there are many other ways to pray! But if those lovely night time psalms grab your heart like they did mine so many years ago, then find someone to help you get over the complicated parts. It’s like learning to ride a bike. Awkward at first, but once you’ve got it down you’ll never forget.

What do you love about praying the Liturgy of the Hours?

For me it’s the best way to do those two things that we all say we want to do and know we need to do: to pray often, and to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. I don’t have to separate my spiritual schedule into separate chunks of “now I’m going to pray” and “now I’m going to read Scripture.” Instead, I pray Scripture!

Daria Sockey writes at Coffee and Canticles, a blog about all things Breviary, and is the author of The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

#MorningCommutePrayer: A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Bonnie Rodgers

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

When it comes to intercessory prayer, I like to think that God’s motto is “No job too small.” We teach our children to go to God with big things and little things, but as we grow up, we sometimes pray as if only the big things are worthy of God’s attention.

I began paying extra attention to the way people talk about prayer when I started writing The Handy Little Guide to Prayer for Our Sunday Visitor. As I wrote this booklet during the pandemic, when I wasn’t seeing too many people who didn’t live with me, I turned my focus to the ways prayer was mentioned on social media. I’d already been following Catholic TV producer Bonnie Rodgers on Twitter, and her daily custom of a #morningcommuteprayer was a fascinating call to prayer for big and small intentions alike.

Intercessory prayer is a type of prayer in which we ask God to bless others in specific ways. In my booklet, I mention using moments or transitions in your day as prayer cues. Bonnie’s Morning Commute Prayers are the perfect example of this practice.

I interviewed Bonnie, the producer of CatholicTV’s signature talk show, This Is the Day (Bonnie also works in Business Development and Expansion for the station) about this prayer practice and why she shares it on social media.

When did you start posting your Morning Commute Prayer intentions on Twitter? 

My Catholic experiences included making the sign of the cross at cemeteries, ambulances and all emergency vehicles, accident scenes, passing a church (obvi!) so being aware of everyday situations that required Divine Intervention was almost rote for me. But almost two years ago now when I was driving into work with the car windows open on an amazingly beautiful New England spring day I saw an early-teen boy being taunted at a bus stop. He was carrying something and kids seemed to be teasing him about it. I am a super busybody and really wanted to jump out of the car to intervene but realized that it could potentially cause more problems for the teen (can you imagine the kids’ reactions?) but I felt compelled to do something without exacerbating the situation and then it came to me that I could pray for him and even for the kiddos taunting him.  

Why do you share these on social media? 

I made the decision to put my commute prayer on Twitter because teasing and taunting take place everywhere and quite frankly amplifying my prayer for that teen seemed necessary. I kept thinking of how it was such a beautiful day and his day was off to a horrendous start. 

Do you choose these intentions ahead of time or do you pray as you go? 

Normally I pray as I go, but there have been times when someone has DM’d asking for a prayer intention or when an anniversary of some kind comes up. During COVID I did a lot of neighborhood walking and was seeing Marian statues, so for the month of May I started #ISpyMary. I really love how these public displays of devotion break into our lives when we least expect it. 

Is there a particular intention that has ever gone viral or attracted a great deal of attention?

This winter, a very pragmatic prayer for cleared accessible walkways (frozen snow piles and melted slush in the Northeast are a hazard) for those in wheelchairs, garnered the attention of an accessibility rights organization and some replies included personal experiences with slush. 

How does the Morning Commute Prayer connect you to others who pray? 

Oddly enough, I am a fairly private person but sharing my observations and requests for prayer has bolstered my awareness that our intercessory prayers – whether during the workday or the Liturgy – are our way of expanding our community. The “who is your neighbor?” question is played out daily in the digital landscape in so many wonderful ways.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s available on Amazon and OSVCatholicBooks.com.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Kate Taliaferro

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Would you like to try lectio divina prayer? Try this!

Kate Taliaferro blogs at DailyGraces.net. Find her on Instagram @dailygraces3.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Pat Gohn

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Are you unable to attend Mass or Adoration in person due to the pandemic or other circumstances? Try this!

Pat adds: My two favorite online chapels are found at Savior.org in Philadelphia, and the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lithuania that houses the original Divine Mercy portrait.

Pat Gohn hosts the Among Women podcast. Learn more at PatGohn.net.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Way for Couples to Pray from Deanna Bartalini

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Are you looking for a simple way to pray with your spouse? Try this!

Deanna Bartalini is the author of Invite the Holy Spirit into your Life and hosts the Not Lukewarm Podcast. Learn more at DeannaBartalini.com.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Lisa M. Hendey

Welcome to this series celebrating the launch of my booklet from Our Sunday Visitor, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer! I’ve asked some friends and colleagues to share prayers and tips to supplement the information in this booklet.

Are you struggling to say “yes” to God in difficult circumstances? Try this!

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com and author of many books, including I’m a Saint in the Making!


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion.com, and OSVCatholicBooks.com!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Support Franciscanmom.com by purchasing books mentioned here through my Amazon affiliate links.