Advent wreath

Advent Resources for You and your Family

Don’t think for one second that it’s too early to plan for Advent. With the current news of paper shortages and shipping delays, the time to purchase what you’ll need for Advent (and Christmas, really) is now. I had the opportunity to peek at two new Advent resources: one for adults, and one for the whole family.

For the Family

Catholic Mom contributor Emily Jaminet’s booklet, On the Way to Bethlehem: Advent Daily Devotions for Families, is great for families with preschoolers on up. A QR code on the back of the booklet takes you to a website where you can download coloring and activity pages. There is not a printable page for every day, but there are 21 in all, including a day-by-day tracker. Your children can color or add a sticker to each day’s square as your family prays together that day. There is also an Advent Wreath coloring page with instructions to color one candle each Sunday. This extra resource is a great value for families because it’s easy to print enough coloring or activity pages for each child to have one.

My favorite part about this booklet is the call to action. Each day, there is a themed call to action that individuals or families can do. These correspond to the four themes of Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Emily also includes suggestions for parents to talk with their children about topics such as Heaven, trusting in God, and loving others when that seems difficult. On the Way to Bethlehem is available for Kindle and in print from Creative Communications for the ParishPrint copies are only 99 cents when you purchase two or more, and bulk discounts are available.

For you

Ave Maria Press has published a beautiful new Advent prayer journal by Fr. John Burns and illustrated by Valerie Delgado. Adore: A Guided Advent Journal for Prayer and Meditation is such a beautiful book, I could hardly resist the temptation to grab my favorite pen and start using it right now.

Adore is organized into four weekly themes: watchfulness, preparation, nearness, and Emmanuel. Each day’s section contains four parts: a quotation from Scripture, a saint, or a great teacher; Fr. John Burns’ meditation, space to reflect along with journal prompts based on that meditation, and a closing prayer.

The book’s design is spare and uncluttered, with a different color palette for headings, quotations, and prayers each week. To begin the week, a beautiful painting by Valerie Delgado spans a two-page spread. You won’t want to stop looking at this lovely art!

There’s a free leader’s guide available from Ave Maria Press if you’d like to use Adore with your family, prayer group, or even your whole parish. Each week, you can get free access to the author’s video series. Adore is available in ebook and print format. The print version is priced at $10.95, with discounts available for purchases of 10 copies or more.

 


I previewed several other Advent resources this year which are Christian but not Catholic. Those haven’t been included in this article because they are set up on an “Advent has 24 days” model, and that’s not the way the Church works. For Catholics, Advent has four Sundays before Christmas. It can actually have as few as 22 days, in years when Christmas falls on a Monday – or as many as 29 days, as it will in 2022 when Christmas falls on a Sunday. For some materials, that doesn’t matter; it really depends on the individual resource, so check things like that carefully when you purchase such resources.

Advent resources are often evergreen, so if you’d like to check out some items I’ve reviewed in the past, last year I had a list of 10 books and booklets you can try. Visit Prepare the Way: Advent Prayer Resources to learn more.

Finally: it’s not too early to purchase your Advent candles! Visit your local Catholic shop or order them online now, and put them in a place where you won’t forget them come November 28. I suggest you store them inside your turkey roaster, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Image: Stencil
This article contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchases through these links benefit the author. 

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.

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

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.

A Handy Little Prayer Tip from Mr. Justin McClain, O.P.

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 ways to involve your children in family prayer? Try this!

Mr. Justin McClain, O.P., is a teacher and the author of Called to Pray: Daily Prayers for Catholic Schools.


Share The Handy Little Guide to Prayer with someone you know. It’s available for preorder on Amazon and OSVCatholicBooks.com and will be released on May 14!


Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz

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