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.

At SimplyCatholic.com: Prayer as Blessing

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

A few highlights:

Blessing, as prayer, most fully exemplifies how prayer is a two-way street.

Praying in blessing and adoration is our deepest communication with God. We’re not asking for anything, confessing anything, or even thanking him.

By praying in this way, we put our spiritual priorities in order.

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

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

Monstrance


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

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.

The Simple Mercy of Intercessory Prayer

I was privileged this week to help my friend, Catholic Mom contributing author Lara Patangan, introduce her beautiful new book, Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment, coming next week from Our Sunday Visitor!

I’ll be sharing more about this book soon. It’s not a long book, and it’s not at all a difficult read, but there’s just so much in there to ponder! Lara makes it easy to live the works of mercy – and shows us how we already do live those works of mercy in our everyday lives.

Simple Mercies book cover

When Lara asked me to write about intercessory prayer as a work of mercy, I immediately agreed and asked about my deadline for the piece, which turned out to be two weeks. She had it back in two hours, because it turned out that I couldn’t get anything else done until I’d written down my thoughts about this.

During a crisis, many people find that they have a hard time praying. They know they need the prayers, but they feel like God is far away or not listening – or maybe they haven’t connected with God in a while. When someone comes to you and asks for prayer, that is an act of great trust both in you and in God. This is a work of mercy that costs you very little but means so very much to others. By praying for someone in need, you are shouldering their burden right along with them.

Read the rest over at Mercy Me!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 61 Minutes to a Miracle

Most people who pick up 61 Minutes to a Miracle already know how the story turns out. But the spoiler in the book’s title won’t ruin the experience of reading Bonnie Engstrom’s riveting story of the miracle that opened the door not only to life for her child but also to the beatification of Fulton J. Sheen.

61 Minutes

Sheen’s intercession is credited with not only baby James’ survival after he spent more than an hour without breathing or a heartbeat immediately following his birth – but also the child’s development without the ill effects medical professionals expect after extended time without oxygen at birth.

Bonnie Engstrom confides, at the beginning of the book, that she did not have a lifelong devotion to the storied archbishop from her home diocese, whose TV appearances were must-see Catholic TV in the mid-20th century. I found the story of her growing devotion to Sheen to be approachable and inspiring, underscoring the fact that first impressions don’t always tell the full story.

Much of this book centers on James Fulton Engstrom’s birth story, and Engstrom doesn’t hold back on the details there. If you’re the squeamish type, like I am, you’ll want to know that right up front. But even with that sensitivity issue, I was never discouraged from reading the rest of the book, and I’m glad I powered through that difficult, intense section.

61 Minutes to a Miracle is an inside look at the details of a miracle as well as the canonization process.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2019 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.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Detached”

detached review
Image created using Stencil.com.

I’m fighting my way through T.J. Burdick’s Detached, which is a good sign that I really needed this book.

Detached: Put Your Phone in Its Place (OSV) challenges readers to rethink how they use their phones. Awareness is key to the whole process, and I’m becoming painfully aware of my own lack of self-discipline when it comes to using my phone.

  • Waiting in line at the supermarket? Check email.
  • Before putting my car key in the ignition? Take a quick peek at Twitter or Facebook.
  • Waiting for the water to boil for tea in the morning? Cue up Instagram.

All those times, there are other, better things I could be doing. I’m not going to say that email and social media are bad things. Facebook and Instagram allow me to keep in touch with my cousins, many of whom live far away, as well as friends old and new. Social media is also job-related for me.

It’s really easy to give in to the temptation to use my phone unnecessarily. I pick up my phone a lot. And I do not intend to get rid of my phone or stop carrying it around with me. Here’s why:

  • My husband and kids text me during the day about changes in plans, or with questions about plans.
  • I like being able to check the weather.
  • If I miss a call on our home phone, voicemail forwards to my phone as a text message, so urgent calls can be answered immediately.
  • I enjoy listening to podcasts while I fold laundry, wash the floors, or drive.
  • One of my sons has type 1 diabetes, and we use an app to monitor his blood sugar. While he’s a quite independent teenager, we keep in touch frequently (by text, usually) regarding adjustments he needs to make (insulin dosing or snacks).

I’ve been keeping a journal as I go through Detached. I will admit that I did not (and will not) sign on for a full-on 21-day technology retreat. (Again, social media is job-related.) Also, I’m not yet done reading the book. But this process is definitely making me think twice about how, where, when, and why I use my phone.

For several months already, I’ve had an email boundary in place. A change in mail servers meant that email for one of my jobs was not longer accessible on my phone, and I decided to turn off phone access for email for my other job as well. This means that I can only use my work email when I’m on my laptop, and I have not missed the ability to reply to work emails from the checkout line in the supermarket (yes, I have been guilty of doing that). So the boundary has been good for me.

While the author recommends a total 21-day social media fast (involving deleting the apps from the phone), I didn’t go there, as I said above. I did, however, find out how to use the Screen Time feature in iOS to keep me accountable for the time I use on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There was a bit of a bump in the road with that, because I use Skype to communicate with my coworkers, and that was counting as social media time. But thanks to some helpful replies to an SOS I sent out (on Twitter — oh, the irony) I got it figured out, and that little popup reminder telling me that I have 5 minutes left for the day is a good indicator for me that I do need that extra help setting boundaries.

I like having a tiny but mighty computer in my pocket. I like that I can keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers easily — no matter where I am. I like that I can help my son stay healthy. I like knowing when that predicted thunderstorm will roll through. I like listening to podcasts that edify, entertain, and educate me while I do repetitive chores. In Detached, T.J. Burdick isn’t asking me to give up any of those good things. He’s challenging me to be more intentional about whether I am efficiently consuming and producing content (11), or just wasting time.

Detached.jpg


Copyright 2019 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.