detail of stained glass window with heart and line from Prayer of St Francis

At Simply Catholic: Prayer as Petition

My latest article on prayer, Prayer as Petition, is available at SimplyCatholic.com.

A few highlights:

Prayer of petition, quite simply, is asking for God’s help. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus encourages us to place our needs before God in prayer.

In all humility, we reach out to God, knowing that he is the source of all good things, including forgiveness.

Prayers of petition are often very spontaneous: “God, help me!” Even if we feel far from God, we are able, in our supplication, to turn to him for help.

Read it all at SimplyCatholic.com.

This is the eighth and final article in a series on prayer.

detail of stained glass window with heart and line from Prayer of St Francis


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

At Simply Catholic: Prayer as Intercession

My latest article on prayer, Prayer as Intercession, is available at SimplyCatholic.com.

A few highlights:

Intercessory prayer is a powerful way to support others spiritually.

We are always encouraged to pray for others, ultimately entrusting their needs to God’s will.

Just as we might pray for someone in need, whether a loved one, friend, or stranger, we can also call upon the saints in heaven to pray for them as well — or for our own needs.

Read it all at SimplyCatholic.com.

This is the seventh in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.


stained glass window in church

 


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

Our Lady of Fatima statue

At Simply Catholic: Prayer to Mary and the Saints

My latest article on prayer, Prayer to Mary and the Saints, is available at SimplyCatholic.com.

A few highlights:

The saints and Mary cannot answer our prayers; only God can do that. But they can, and we believe they do, hear our prayers and pray for us, acting as intercessors on our behalf with God.

Our holy helpers, the saints, are the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews who surround us, helping us “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2).

By uniting our prayers with those of Mary and the saints and learning more about their lives and their example, we can draw closer to God.

Read it all at SimplyCatholic.com.

This is the sixth in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.

Our Lady of Fatima

Miraculous Medal holy card

At SimplyCatholic.com: Devotional Prayer

My latest article on prayer, Devotional Prayer, is available at SimplyCatholic.com.

A few highlights:

Rosaries, chaplets, novenas, the Stations of the Cross, the Angelus, grace before meals, the veneration of relics, and sacramentals: all of these are related to devotional prayer.

Our physical human nature benefits from the use of objects and actions that increase our focus on prayer.

Through devotional prayer, Catholics sanctify time (time of day, days of the week, and months of the year) as well as observe holy days and liturgical seasons.

 

 

 

Read it all at SimplyCatholic.com: Devotional Prayer.

This is the fifth in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

St. Casimir Church Riverside NJ detail of Brother Sun stained glass window

At SimplyCatholic.com: Prayer as Thanksgiving

My latest article on prayer, Prayer as Thanksgiving, is available at SimplyCatholic.com.

A few highlights:

Expressing our gratitude to God reinforces our relationship to him, in the same way expressing our thanks to someone for giving us a gift or helping us can strengthen our friendship or family bond.

Prayer of thanksgiving can be a spontaneous “Thank God!” after hearing good news after a difficult time, or a formal prayer such as Grace before Meals.

We need to look for, and be grateful for, God’s gifts even in difficult times or when we’re dealing with something unexpected.

Read it all at SimplyCatholic.com: Prayer as Thanksgiving.

This is the fourth in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.

St. Casimir Church Riverside NJ detail of Brother Sun stained glass window

On my bookshelf with shelf of Catholic fiction

For Your Advent Reading Pleasure: Grace in Tension

Advent is a busy time for moms. Advent is a time when we can definitely give in to that temptation to be “anxious and worried about many things” — after all, we’re usually the ones who take care of all those details that make our family’s Advent and Christmas celebrations meaningful and special. That means we’re often taking on too much, and midway through Advent finding ourselves nowhere near that ideal of peaceful, intentional preparation.
It’s good, during Advent, to take a little time for ourselves and use the techniques Claire McGarry shares in Grace in Tension to acknowledge our feelings, make an effort to view the situation through God’s eyes, and take action to scale back, even in small ways, so this holy season doesn’t become an unholy frenzy.
Grace in Tension

Why I love this book:

For Catholic women who, like me, deeply identify with Martha in her worry and distraction, Claire’s balanced discussion of how busy women can learn to sit at the feet of Jesus is both a challenge and a gift. Learn to find the grace amid your daily cares and burdens.

When we think about the story of Mary and Martha, it’s very easy to fall into the “Martha bad, Mary good” trap. Claire does not do that in Grace in Tension (and that’s why I’m reading the book for a second time).

When Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’ feet while Martha chooses to serve, I think initially Jesus approves. He knows both decisions are made with the sisters’ hearts. Each sister is living out her “better part” by drawing closer to God with her choice. It’s clear that sitting and listening to all that Jesus has to say definitely brings Mary closer to God. After all, Jesus affirms her choice by calling it “the better part.” Yet choosing to serve Jesus as Martha does can bring her closer to God too. There’s a sacrifice that comes from serving and a beauty in putting others’ needs before our own. Both paths lead straight to God. Martha’s problem isn’t that she chooses to serve. It’s that she eventually compares her choice with her sister’s. (67)

 

It’s not highly likely that I’ll be able to change my natural Martha tendencies. Cooking for my family and our guests is a big part of how I show my love. And over the years, I am happy to report that I have mellowed, so my family doesn’t have to live with Screaming Meemie Party Mom (yes, I’ve been called that and yes, I’m 100% guilty) every time company is expected.

I probably can’t change my tendencies, but as Claire encourages readers of Grace in Tension, I can — and should — derail the anxiety and worry that I often allow to carry me away from the joy of the moment. By taking steps like choosing a new response, drawing healthy boundaries, asking for help (and accepting it without judging), and adjusting expectations, in addition to the 10 other steps Claire outlines in this book, I can find the gifts God has for me in the moments where He has placed me.

Advent is a time to sit at God’s feet. And it’s usually a time when we wrap gifts. This Advent, unwrap God’s gift to you: the grace within your tension and the transformation of your heart and mind.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This article contains Amazon links. Your purchase using these links provides a small bonus to me at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.

Holy Cross Cathedral Boston 2019

At Simply Catholic: Prayer as Liturgy

I have a new article up at Our Sunday Visitor’s SimplyCatholic.com: Prayer as Liturgy.

A few highlights:

Liturgy, which includes but is not limited to the Holy Mass, is considered “formal” prayer because it follows a certain pattern, or rubric. Liturgical prayer is also “common” prayer, meant to be prayed by the community as a group.

The liturgy of the Church includes the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the celebrations of the sacraments.

Liturgical prayer invites us to engage in praise, blessing and adoration, thanksgiving, petition and intercession as a community.

Read the whole thing: Prayer as Liturgy.

This is the second in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.

 

Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral, copyright 2019
Boston’s Holy Cross Cathedral

 


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photo copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.

woman raising hands in prayer, silhouetted against a sunset

At Simply Catholic: Prayer as Praise

I have a new article up at Our Sunday Visitor’s SimplyCatholic.com: Prayer as Praise.

A few highlights:

Prayer of praise is focused entirely on the expression of wonder and awe at who God is and what God has done.

The Bible shows that praising God involves not only our spiritual efforts, but our physical muscles as well.

If praising God in front of others might be outside your comfort zone, there are ways to work around this.

Just as Blessed Solanus Casey advised us to “thank God ahead of time,” we don’t have to wait until the mood strikes us to praise God.

Also: find out how we praise God at Mass.

Read the whole thing: Prayer as Praise

This is the first in a series of eight articles on prayer. A new one will be published each Tuesday at SimplyCatholic.com.

 

woman raising hands in prayer, silhouetted against a sunset

 

 

 


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil Pro

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.

Living the Works of Mercy

Lara Patangan’s new book, Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment, provides practical, do-able ways to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in your family and community.

We have the tendency to think too small when we think about the Works of Mercy – or maybe we’re thinking too big? We look at some of them and think we can’t possibly do things like Visiting the Imprisoned, and that the 42,578th sippy cup of water we’ve just handed to our toddler doesn’t count as Giving Drink to the Thirsty.

The thing is: we don’t have to make a big splash when we do a Work of Mercy. Filling yet another sippy cup, sharing your child’s outgrown but gently-used clothes with a family for their younger children, bringing a plate of cookies to a new neighbor, and praying for the repose of the soul of a friend’s parent might seem like small things to us (the doer) but they have big meaning for the receiver.

A couple of years ago, two close family members had medical crises, one on top of the other. I was spending part of the week helping my parents handle the situation there, more than 100 miles from my own family, where another situation was unfolding. My husband let me know that friends had started just showing up with hot dinners in their hands. That pan of lasagna fed us for a couple of meals so we didn’t have to think about shopping and cooking — and I know that our friends were happy to do this and would say, “Oh, it was nothing.” Truly, it was not nothing. It was a big thing. 

Corporal Works of Mercy

Corporal Works of Mercy are very concrete ways of being a living sign of God’s love in the world, but concrete doesn’t have to be complicated. Consider these ideas to try with your family:

  • If your children are old enough, designate someone to be the server each night, and give them the special task of waiting on others. (Feed the Hungry)
  • Raise money for an organization that provides clean drinking water. (Give Drink to the Thirsty)
  • Encourage your children to get involved by adopting a family at Christmas or donating backpacks at the beginning of a school year. (Clothe the Naked)
  • Collect socks, underwear, and toiletries to help with [the] basic needs [of the homeless]. (Shelter the Homeless)
  • Have [children] make a homemade card, take over the chores of those who don’t feel well, and ask sick family members how they can best comfort them. (Visit the Sick)
  • Visit the homebound, those in nursing homes, and the lonely. (Visit the Imprisoned)
  • Teach your children to attend funerals, send sympathy cards, and make meals for the bereaved. (Bury the Dead)

Spiritual Works of Mercy

Similarly, Lara’s breakdowns of the Spiritual Works of Mercy demonstrate how we can involve our families in living these Works of Mercy in creative ways:

  • Encourage your children to speak up for those who can’t advocate for themselves. (Admonish the Sinner)
  • Do a family Bible study, saint of the week, or watch a religious movie together and discuss it. (Instruct the Ignorant)
  • Demonstrate how you turn to God during difficult times and seek friends who listen with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. (Counsel the Doubtful)
  • Help (family members) facilitate a random act of kindness for someone else that will spread joy to their own heart. (Comfort the Sorrowful)
  • Point out times when (your children) are being patient or someone is being patient with them. (Bear Wrongs Patiently)
  • Teach your children how to make a good apology. (Forgive Injuries)
  • Keep a prayer list for family members’ special intentions. (Pray for the Living and the Dead)

In each chapter of Simple Mercies, Lara begins with a quote that sets the tone for the chapter, then discusses the kinds of opportunities for experiencing a particular Work of Mercy in our own lives, families, work, church and communities. God is never left out of the equation, as Lara frequently references the graces God gives us to carry out works of mercy in His name, with love. Later in each chapter, you’ll find a section titled “Mercy Works: Try It” which lists ideas for applying each Work of Mercy in your family, community, and personal relationship with God. Chapters conclude with reflection questions (perfect for journaling on your own, or for discussion at your book club or parish faith-sharing group), and a concluding prayer.

Lara observes, 

The works of mercy aren’t just another gimmick. They are game-changers. When I tried these works of mercy as an alternative to the creed of the secular world, I found less striving, less busying, less dissatisfaction, less emptiness, and more time for my relationship with God, my family, and the people I love. I found more meaning, more compassion, and more clarity than I’d ever found in anything the world offered. (196-97)

If you want to know how to make small changes in your life that have a big impact on others, read this book.

Simple Mercies is available from Our Sunday Visitor. Download the free study guide with discussion questions you can use on your own or with friends to explore the Works of Mercy in more depth.


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil

This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links benefits my work. Thanks!