Preparing for a Catholic Marriage: 6 Tips from a Soon-to-Be Bride

 

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It’s easy to go off the deep end with wedding planning.

A few months after my February engagement, I patted myself on the back, a little proud that I had not succumbed to what I consider an over-the-top wedding culture. I just couldn’t understand how couples let the glossy, sales-pitchy bridal magazines suck them into thinking that their wedding day is all about stuff.

My back pat came too soon.

One night, after meeting with some very sweet vendors, I found myself in tears over my iPhone calculator, trying to figure out how to nearly double my wedding budget. Exclusively for reception décor. I could eat rice and beans for six months…

At dinner that night, I unloaded my anxiety on my fiancé and both my parents. We have a major problem, because we certainly can’t get married without multiple heated tents, and apparently we need a dance floor large enough to land a helicopter, and rental lighting is worth more than my car, and THE GUESTS ARE GOING TO STARVE!

Simultaneously, my dad and fiancé laughed, pulling me out of crisis mode. “We’re not trying to host a three ring circus.” (…so only two tents then?) Just like that, it hit me that I had slipped down the materialistic slippery slope.

Thank God for reality checks. I ended the night laughing, too.

It would be a great wedding. Not only because a beautiful wedding actually can be affordable, but mainly because it is a holy sacrament, because all our loved ones would be there with us, and because at the end of the day, the two of us would be a new family.

Too often, the reception is all we think of when we think ‘wedding.’

While attending a good friend’s wedding recently, it struck me that, while their reception was fabulous, the ceremony itself was stand-out lovely. It was a pleasant reminder of what mattered most.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with elaborate wedding receptions. In fact, I think they highlight just how special weddings are. But it’s a shame when the reception details become more important than the sacrament of marriage itself.

So how do you keep the right perspective in preparing for your Catholic wedding? Our engagement has been full of joy and, aside from a few of my own little melt-downs like the one above, pretty low on stress. Although I can’t claim the benefit of hindsight yet, here are some things that have helped us so far:

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1. Pray together.

Spiritual preparation is important for starting out your marriage on the right foot. It’s nothing totally new; we’ve always prayed together. But prayer gets deeper when you are praying with and for the person you are going to become one with. We’ve noticed how much closer we have become since our engagement began – it’s tangible. Plus, your joint prayer life now will set the tone for your spiritual life in marriage.

2. Don’t forget your future spouse.

This seems obvious. However, as funny as it sounds, it can be easy to lose sight of each other in the midst of wedding planning. Remember that your engagement period isn’t just to give you enough time to book vendors and order a dress. It’s meant to prepare you for the sacrament of marriage and for life together. It’s a unique and lovely stage in your relationship. Don’t rush through it or wish that it was over already. Continue to find ways to show your love, and take time to appreciate the other.

3. Talk it ALL out.

Although you probably have a very good idea of where your significant other stands on most matters, don’t leave anything unsaid or unasked before the wedding. It is much easier (emotionally and practically) if you understand each other’s specific expectations for marriage before the wedding.

Our diocese’s Engaged Encounter and the meetings we’ve had with our celebrant have brought up topics that we had of course discussed before, just not always in such detail. Talking at length about everything from family history to our own future family expectations turned out to be really enjoyable.

Answering basic questions about ourselves felt sort of fun and novel, like a first date conversation. And hearing each other’s answers to harder questions gave us a very detailed idea of what the other hopes for in our marriage.  It made us more aware of each other’s needs and more appreciative of each other’s strengths. Despite having dated for years and knowing almost everything about each other, we still learned things.

4. Enjoy the planning.

While a wedding involves a solemn vow, it should also involve plenty of lighthearted moments and fun. If possible, avoid burnout by spreading the planning over the course of months. Then you’ll have time to mull over ideas and to decide what is important to each of you. Feel free to laugh at the differences in each other’s taste, but do concede to the other when you can tell that he or she would really like something a certain way…be mutually flexible and gracious.

5. Put special thought into the ceremony.

Be deliberate in choosing the readings, hymns and other aspects of the wedding ceremony. Again, the sacrament is what matters most on your wedding day. What I did not realize until recently is that it is the bride and groom, not the priest, who are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage. You are not just participants, but the actual ministers of the sacrament. How incredible! It makes sense to put thought and effort into showing how special the ceremony is to you.

6. Pray, hope and don’t worry.

Offer up any glitch in your plans, and let it go. If you run out of time to craft those 197 handmade favors, don’t sweat it. Your guests will still love you, and frankly, probably won’t even notice. And if the organist doesn’t show up? That kind of glitch is a little harder to swallow. But a good marriage takes an enormous amount of trust in God, so the wedding prep period is the perfect time to practice.

Someone told me recently that seeing couples full of life and dedicated to having holy marriages gives them a lot of hope. Maintaining a spirit of joy throughout your engagement and into your marriage is a gift not only to your future spouse, but also to your families and those around you.

Just remember that you’ll need God’s grace to do it!

Holy Matrimony

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A Quick Guide to the Symbols of Irish – Celtic Jewelry

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A Guide to the Symbols of

Irish – Celtic Jewelry

and their Christian Meaning

Ireland is home to some of the most intricate and interesting art known in human history.  Attributed to the ancient Celtic people, it is mysterious and rich in meaning with sign, symbol, and metaphor.

Due to Ireland’s embrace of Christianity and Catholicism centuries ago, it is not surprising that many of these symbols were given new and deeper religious significance, used by the missionary saints as handy catechesis tools to illustrate Christian doctrine for the pagan inhabitants of the island.

In modern times, much of this interesting symbolism is commonly found in Irish jewelry. Just as Christianity gave new meaning to these ancient and formerly pagan symbols, many of these still represent elements of Christian faith to those who wear them. As a result, today Irish jewelry is internationally popular and is worn by more than just people of Irish or Celtic decent.

So, just what are these various symbols of Celtic jewelery, and what do they mean?

Here is a quick guide to the meaning behind some of the most popular Irish/Celtic symbols commonly used in jewelry that evokes the essence of Ireland: the Trinity knot, the Celtic knot, the Celtic spiral, St. Brigid’s Cross, the Celtic cross, the Tree of Life, and the Claddagh.

Find the Irish jewelry featured in this post and more here.

Trinity Knot

The Trinity Knot (also known as the triquetra) is an ancient Celtic symbol comprised of one interconnected line with three distinct ends. Once having pagan meaning, the symbol was adopted by Christians as a good illustration of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

The symbol received its common name, the Trinity Knot, and came to demonstrate the three-ness in one-ness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Sometimes the Trinity Knot is also circumscribed by a circle symbolizing eternity. This symbol often was used as an architectural adornment in ancient monasteries and is today commonly found in necklaces, rings, bracelets, and other Catholic jewelry pieces.3003409

Celtic Knot

The Trinity Knot is one of the many varieties of Celtic knotwork -  stylized and woven lines and knots used extensively for artistic decoration.  These lines and knots symbolized the interconnectedness of all life and is often found with depictions of animals, plants, or humans.  Celtic knots were adapted by Christians and used in monuments, such as stone high crosses, and the beautiful ornamentation of illuminated manuscripts (Sacred Scripture) painted by the Irish monks.  Taken from its pagan earth-centric meaning, they served a new purpose in the illustration of the eternal, Christian God as the author of all creation.3013497

Celtic Spiral

Similar to the Celtic knot, the Celtic spiral stands for continuous growth and unity and oneness of spirit.  The gaps between the spirals stand for the gaps between life, death and rebirth.  More specifically, the symbol also stands for eternal life.  The roots of this symbol are ancient. The spiral may be formed from single, double, triple or quadruple swirls. When Christianity came to the land, the spiral was adopted by the island’s Christian monks as a decorative motif in their distinctive Celtic-inspired illuminated manuscripts and also symbolized eternal life or the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. 3013860

St. Brigid’s Cross

St. Brigid is the patroness of Ireland and as such her cross is a symbol of Irish Christian heritage.  It comprises a woven square in the center and four radials tied at the ends. The legend behind this popular cross is that St. Brigid was making the shape of a cross from a bunch of rushes. Her chieftain father, who in some accounts lay dying, saw her making the cross and was miraculously converted to the Christian faith.  The St. Brigid Cross has remained special for Irish Christians through the centuries, especially around the saint’s feast day when it is displayed in her honor.

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Celtic Cross

In Ireland it is a popular legend that the Christian Cross was introduced by Saint Patrick.  The distinctive Celtic Cross is unusually mounted on a circle, a symbol of the sun and the circle of life, and often featuring Celtic knotwork or other symbolism.  It has often been claimed that Saint Patrick combined this symbol of Christianity with a circle to give the pagans an idea of the importance of the Cross of Christ by linking it with the idea of the life-giving properties of the sun.  Other interpretations claim that placing the cross on top of the circle represents Christ’s supremacy over the pagan sun, symbolizing the God-man’s death and resurrection, therefore His power over creation. These Celtic symbols received new meaning when Christianity spread through the island. The Celtic Cross is now the main symbol of Irish Christianity.

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 Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is another common Celtic motif used in ancient Ireland that illustrates the interconnectedness of all forms of creation.  The tree was a source of basic sustenance, it provided food, shelter, and fuel.  Because of this it was also believed that trees had other spiritual mystical properties. However the tree is also an important symbol of Christianity. The Tree of Life is a Christian symbol representing eternal life through Christ.  In the biblical story of creation, God planted the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, from which humans were banned after the Fall.  The Book of Revelation recounts how the sacrifice of Christ, made on the wood of a tree, restored access to the Tree of Life.

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 Shamrock

One of the most well-known legends of Irish Christianity is how St. Patrick used the shamrock during his missionary work to illustrate the Three-Divine-Persons-yet-One-God doctrine of the Holy Trinity. While other symbols already existed and were “baptized” by the saints and given new meaning that pointed to the Christian God, the shamrock became famous because of Saint Patrick.

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Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh is one of the most popular ring designs today.  Although not an ancient design, it is still old enough to be an Irish tradition, dating to the 17th century. The Claddagh is a traditional Irish symbol of two hands clasping a heart, with the heart wearing a crown. Together the hands, heart, and crown represent love, friendship, and loyalty.  You can find the claddagh symbol on all kinds of jewelry and many other gift items, but it has become an especially popular ring design to be exchanged between friends, the affianced, and spouses.

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Irish jewelry is not only beautiful but also rich in meaning.  It is a wonderful way to illustrate how man, unaided by Divine Revelation, picks up on, or can sense and know only dimly, the eternal and mysterious aspects of life and creation. So that when Divine Revelation is taught, such as by the Irish missionary saints, what is incomplete and imperfect is given new, deeper, and more perfect meaning.  For Christians, Irish symbolism illustrates the Light of Christ and the truth of Christianity.

A Quick Guide to the Symbols of Irish – Celtic Jewelry

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8 Ways to use Holy Water

 
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“From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation.”

– St. Teresa of Avila

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When we read this quote from St. Teresa of Avila, we should be reminded of the importance of holy water. As a recalling of our baptism and our baptismal promises, Catholics dip their fingers in the holy water and make the Sign of the Cross when entering the church.

Our baptismal promises included renouncing Satan and disdaining sin. However, we probably rarely bring this to mind and take holy water for granted most of the time.  Because we use it so regularly, it’s any easy thing to do.

We must remember that this water is blessed by God in virtue of Christ’s baptism.  The  Catholic  Church  possesses  enormous  power  of  imparting sacramental grace, and holy water as a sacramental receives its power through the prayer and authority of the Church.

The rite of blessing said over water by the priest to make it holy contains prayers of exorcism.  It can banish demons, heal the sick, and send unwarranted grace upon us, and yet most of the time we cross ourselves with this water without even thinking about how holy it really is.

Read the priest’s profound prayers of blessing over holy water here and find a downloadable PDF here.

The fact of the matter is that holy water is a powerful sacramental and we ought to use it daily.  To prevent us from using it without thinking, we should consciously find ways to use it more.  Holy water can be used to bless people, places, and things that are used by humans in their goal of glorifying God with their lives.

Here is a list of eight ways to use holy water in your everyday life:

 

 

1. Bless yourself –  This suggestion is obvious, but if we are only blessing ourselves with holy water on Sunday, then aren’t we missing out on the rest of the week?  You can never have too much grace or blessing in your life.  Use holy water daily.  Keeping a holy water font in the home is a great idea so that you, your family, and guests can be blessed in the comings and goings from your home.  Keep the font right by the front door to ensure you never leave home without it.

2. Bless your house –  If you haven’t taken the time to bless your house with holy water, then no time is better than the present.  Your home is the domestic Church and is in need of spiritual protection.  You can sprinkle holy water in your home yourself, or have a priest formally bless your home using holy water as part of the blessing ceremony.

3. Bless your family – Use holy water to pray and make the Sign of the Cross over your spouse and children before they go to sleep at night. Bonding the family to each other and to God in this way is a great family tradition to adopt. Keep a holy water bottle by the bedside for this purpose.

4. Bless your work space – If you work outside of the home, sprinkling your work space with holy water is a great idea, not only for spiritual protection on the work front, but also as to sanctify your daily work for the glory of God.

5. Bless your car – The car is probably the most dangerous place where you spend a significant amount of time daily. Never underestimate the power of holy water applied to your vehicle to keep you safe from harm’s way, when used in faith and trust in God.

6. Bless your vegetable garden – It was a common practice in the Middle Ages for people to sprinkle their vegetable gardens with holy water.  In times when people were very dependent on crops for their livelihood, lack of rain or early frosts could be devastating. Using holy water to bless and sanctify the plants that would be used for the family’s sustenance showed their reliance on God’s grace.

7. Bless the sick –  If you know of any sick friends or family, then blessing them with holy water probably counts as a corporeal and a spiritual work of mercy.  If you visit the sick in a hospital or nursing home, bless their living space with holy water as well and leave a holy water bottle with them as a comfort in their time of need.

8. Bless your pets – Many parishes on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi have a rite of blessing for pets. Pets are loved companions for individuals and families and often provide a great service to them, and even these can be blessed with holy water because all creation has the end of giving glory to God. This also applies to livestock and farm animals that provide labor, livelihood, and nourishment to humans.

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Find our selection of holy water bottles and holy water fonts here.

 

Here is a simple prayer to say when using holy water:

“By this holy water and by Your Precious Blood, wash away all my sins, O Lord. Amen.”

There is no specific prayer to pray when using holy water, other than the Sign of the Cross, “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” You can also pray an Our Father or even the St. Michael the Archangel prayer when using holy water. Keep in mind that the holy water has already been blessed by the prayers of the priest.

 

How do you use holy water?

Holy water is one of those beautiful gifts (and weapons) from God to keep us sanctified and holy in our daily lives, and to keep the things we regularly use sanctified and holy. Hopefully if we stop and think of what a generous gift holy water is for us, we will use it more frequently, thoughtfully, and gratefully! Some parents even use holy water to bless things their children regularly use, such as bicycles and school books.  If you have other creative and faithful ways you use holy water to sanctify your everyday life, please comment below.

 

 

 

 

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A Tourist’s View of St. Mary Major Roman Basilica

August 5th is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome (Santa Maria Maggiore), also known as Our Lady of the Snows.  It is one of four major (papal) basilicas, and Rome’s largest and most important church dedicated to Saint Mary.

It is already a major tourist destination, but now even more so as Pope Francis has on quite a few occasions prayed there before an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most important and precious image of Mary for the people or Rome, just as he did following his election and before his trip to the Holy Land.

This icon of Mary is said to have been painted by St. Luke himself.

Pope Francis St Mary Major

This church also carries another precious treasure—a relic of the crib or manger of the Nativity of the Baby Jesus. Tradition holds that the wood on which the Son of God slept was brought to the church in the 7th century.

Since I visited Rome earlier this summer and got a few snapshots and video with my smart phone, I thought I’d share!

 

 Saint Mary Major

 

St. Mary Major is one of the first churches built in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was was built in the 5th century following the Council of Ephesus which dogmatically proclaimed Mary the Mother of God.  This project was a restoration of a previous church built on the site, Rome’s Esquiline Hill.

The first church here was founded in the 350′s by Pope Liberius and financed by a Roman patrician and his wife. Legend has it they were a childless couple that decided to leave their fortune to the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady appeared to them in a dream and told them to build a church in her honor on this hill.

Legend has it that the plan of the church was outlined by a miraculous snowfall in the scorching summer heat of August  (possibly in the year 358 A.D.). The legend is commemorated every year on August 5th, the feast day of the dedication of the basilica, when white rose petals are dropped from the dome of the church during the Mass.

Pope Sixtus III had the church restored/rebuilt to commemorate the declaration of St Mary’s Divine Motherhood by the Council of Ephesus in 431.

 

Here is how the ancient church looks from the outside [this photo Wikimedia commons]

Santa Maria Maggiore

 

The view when you walk in.

 

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The main altar up close. You can see the apse in the background and the main altar in the foreground. Underneath is the relic of Jesus’ crib behind a lower altar.

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Close up view underneath the main altar where the relic of the Christ’s crib is located.

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Here is video to give you a sense of the space:

 

To the left of the main altar you can see the side chapel where Pope Francis often prays, as shown in the first photo above.

 

To the right of the high altar is the domed Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The tabernacle dates from 1599. It is enormous and held aloft by four bronze angels.

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Here is video of the beautiful Tabernacle:

 

St. Mary Major is one of the most important churches of the Catholic Church and a jewel of our faith heritage. To see more, the Vatican has a great virtual tour which you can see here.

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Pope Francis’ Top 10 Secrets to Happiness

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In latest interview, Pope Francis Reveals Top 10 Secrets to Happiness

 VATICAN CITY (CNS) By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service: Slowing down, being generous and fighting for peace are part of Pope Francis’ secret recipe for happiness.

 

In an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva” July 27, the pope listed his top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life:

 

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

 

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

 

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

“He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river; and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool” of water, the pope said. He said he likes this latter image of a pool of water — to have “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”

 

4. “A healthy sense of leisure.” The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said. “Consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress, causing people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” Their time is “swallowed up” so people can’t share it with anyone. Even though many parents work long hours, they must set aside time to play with their children; work schedules make it “complicated, but you must do it,” he said. Families must also turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime “doesn’t let you communicate” with each other, the pope said.

 

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

 

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.  “It’s not enough to give them food,” he said. “Dignity is given to you when you can bring food home” from one’s own labor.

 

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”

 

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

 

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing,” the pope said.

 

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

 

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5 Tips for Staying Catholic in College

 

Going to college is a bit of an adventure. It is a time to discern what God is calling you to do with the young years of your life, and a time to embrace life wholeheartedly. It is a huge change, an occasionally difficult journey, and for many people, it brings the most fun, joy, and new friendships they have ever experienced.

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There are plenty of opportunities for spiritual growth in college. But you have to take them, even search for them. They won’t always be dished out to you. College is a time to actively pursue Catholicism.

In the midst of transitioning to this stage of life, it is easy to let your faith get lost in the flurry of newness, stress and excitement. Fortunately for me, I went to school with some great friends who taught me by example that yes, you can pursue holiness in college (and still have a great time).

Here are some factors that helped strengthen my faith:

 

Get Involved

Take on at least one weekly activity or commitment that is faith centered.

Take part in service projects, or volunteer to lector at Mass. Especially if you are not at a Catholic school, find a faith support group, people who will hold you to the standards you set for yourself.  Many colleges have a Catholic organization or campus ministry, but if not, look to local parishes and Catholic charities.

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Pray 

Don’t wait ’til the night before a gut-wrenching physics exam to call on God. (Although St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer for Students is a great one to say while studying for a big test.  I’m convinced it is solely responsible for my passing grades in chemistry.) Your schedule and lifestyle are likely to change a lot when college begins, and prayer can easily get pushed to the back burner. Schedule time. For prayer,  for Mass, for confession.

Especially confession.prayer-vigil-at-belmont-abbey-college-on-saturday-afternoon-photo-by-mike-hensdill

Put it in your planner.

Eucharistic Adoration was also vital to my spiritual life in college. I went to a small Catholic school in NC (Belmont Abbey College) and was blessed to have access to a 24/7 Adoration chapel next to the dorms. Most of my personal mini ‘crises’ were resolved here. Even when the Eucharist is not exposed, sitting in a quiet chapel with Christ in the Tabernacle is centering, and brings peace and clarity to your situation. It is a place where you can listen and find out what God is calling you to do, or just adore Christ in silence.

 

Express Your Faith

Be yourself when it comes to living like a Catholic. If you hide your faith, not only will it be weakened, but your friends won’t know the real you.

Being Catholic is a huge part of your identity.

Do you pray before meals at home? Don’t let eating in the cafeteria stop you from making the Sign of the Cross over your pizza. If you have a Crucifix by your bed at home, display it in your dorm. Go to Mass at the beach on spring break. Be proud of your Scapular tan.

You’ll be comfortable from the start, you will attract friends with similar values, and you will create an atmosphere for yourself that reminds you of what you believe.

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Make Good Friends

Surround yourself with some people who can provide moral support and who will have a good influence on you.

You will have many acquaintances with whom you don’t see eye to eye on everything, and that is fine. You can appreciate everyone who crosses your path, even when they are fundamentally different. You will even have a chance to share your faith if they ask about it, which often leads to great soul-searching conversations. (I used to wear a tiny Miraculous Medal that became a conversation starter with a non-Catholic friend more than once.)

But your very closest friends should be people who you want to be like spiritually, who are uplifting and who have strong values.

Along the same lines, make sure that if you date someone, their influence is positive for your soul. (And don’t wait until you have been dating for months to ask yourself if they help you grow spiritually…this is a quality that you should look for right off the bat.)

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Enjoy Life

Live responsibly but with great joy!

Take many opportunities.

College was one of my greatest learning periods, not only in academics, but also in learning about human nature, my own strengths and weaknesses, and life in general.

If you commit to living with purpose, you will come away with a deeper and more secure relationship with God and a greater appreciation of others.

Don’t let that chance go to waste.

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A Catholic Wedding Gift Guide

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Although gift giving is a common practice when celebrating any Sacrament, is it especially true of the Sacrament of Marriage. We love to shower new couples with love as they start a life together. Besides frying pans and bath towels, what are some unique gifts to give a Catholic couple? Here are some suggestions:

Blessings & Heirlooms

Help fill the new couple’s home with faith-based heirlooms to brighten their marriage. Great choices include couple’s rosaries, a beautiful marriage blessing, or a gift piece such as a serving platter, frame or a set of toasting flutes. Since the bride will likely have a new last initial, anything personalized or monogrammed would be thoughtful, too.

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If you really know the couple’s decorative style, a piece of religious art makes a great gift. It’s not always something that a young couple can afford to buy for themselves, and it adds a touch of faith and personality to the home.

Books

A Bible will be the most important book on their shelf – check out The Catholic Company’s selection of gift Bibles, many of which can be personalized with the couple’s name or initials. Among others, some great books for newlyweds include Three to Get Married by Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, or The Jeweler’s Shop, a play about love and marriage by Pope St. John Paul II.

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Traditions

Many cultural wedding traditions have been passed down through the generations. Even if these are not a part of your family heritage, you may wish to adopt a new tradition.

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In South American cultures, wedding rosary lassos are a popular tradition. During the wedding ceremony, the large rosary is looped around the shoulders of the bride and groom to symbolize their unity.  The rosary may have two loops or a single long loop.

 

In Irish tradition, an Infant of Prague statue is considered a special wedding infant-prague-heavenly-protector-statue-2007714gift to the newly married couple.

Another Irish custom is the gift of a small wedding bell. The idea is that the couple will keep the bell in their home and ring it when they face a disagreement to remind themselves of their vows and their love.

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The claddagh (CLOD – uh) seen on this white wedding bell is also an Irish tradition, signifying loyalty, love and friendship. Whether it adorns a unity candle, a ring or champagne flutes, a claddagh symbol can be a meaningful addition to the wedding day.

 

 

 

UntitledFor more Catholic wedding gifts and ideas, check out our Catholic Wedding Pinterest board.

 

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Giving God Your Firstfruits

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Have you ever experienced those moments at Mass when something said in the homily just hits you between the eyes?

I had that experience recently. I don’t remember anything else about the homily except for the phrase “Give God the firstfruits.”

In the space of just a moment, I thought about how I delay saying my evening prayers until after I’ve done everything else that needs to get done around the house before calling it a night: folding the laundry, loading the dishwasher, taking the dogs out, showering, and a hundred other little tasks before turning the light out and crashing on my pillow.

Often my prayers are the very last thing I do at the end of the day. But by then I’m so tired that I’m just going through the motions, rushing through, reading the words on the page without really praying from my heart.

And forget the time of silent prayer or meditation after saying my vocal prayers . . . it’s past my bedtime and I’m exhausted.

I also thought about all the times when I have the good intentions of getting to Mass early to spend time in quiet prayer, only to let lots of distractions get in the way of walking out the door, with the result of arriving to Mass in the nick of time or even five minutes late.

I thought about all the times I’ve had the idea of making small sacrifices throughout the day, only to forget about them or make up some excuse to neglect following through.

So when my priest mentioned “give God the firstfruits” in passing while going on to make another point —I knew that that passing comment was intended to get at the root of my sloth.

Basically, in that moment I understood clearly that I’ve been putting God off. Delaying to the point of neglect the good and holy inspirations I’ve been given throughout my day. I may follow through eventually, but in a compromised, half-hearted way that is not giving God my best.

It doesn’t really matter that I make an effort to pray daily, in the sense of marking it off my list, if I’m just reciting with a wandering heart and not really praying. That is not giving God my best.

To change things around, when I arrive home for the evening the first thing I should do is say my vocal prayers: the liturgy of the hours, the rosary, the novena I happen to be praying that week, etc. This is how I can give God the firstfruits of my time, and not wait until the last thing when my every bit of my time and energy is used up. Then the other tasks that need doing can have their time until I’m too tired to finish them, rather than being too tired for prayer.

This also applies in other ways, such as my professional life. What if I saw my job as giving God my firstfruits? What would I do differently?

And I’ve begun to think of other ways I can give God my firstfruits. Like waking up 15 minutes early to pray. Making it to Mass an extra day each week. Or spending a half hour in Adoration each week. What if doing this became my first priority, and everything else came next?

Undoubtedly, giving God my firstfruits will be an acceptable sacrifice. Like the sacrifice of Abel the Just, Abel gave his very best to God while Cain’s sacrifice was less than his best.

 

teresa

 

 

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Saint Camillus and the Red Cross

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Saint Camillus de Lellis is an example how God often plants the seeds of your life’s mission among the ordinary, even sinful, circumstances in which you find yourself. In the end, by the grace of God, all things truly will work together for your good and His glory, and it is never too late to amend your life and endeavor to become a saint.

Saint Camillus and the Red Cross

St. Camillus de Lellis (1550 – 1614) was a true ruffian; a wild, undisciplined youth grown up into a battle-hardened soldier, complete with a violent temper and a gambling addiction.  His foul behavior and bad habits, combined with a persistent war wound in his leg, left him in utter poverty.

He eventually found work doing odd jobs at a Capuchin friary, yet while still clinging to his wayward ways. Gradually the good influence that the friars provided inspired him to a better life. Camillus eventually experienced a true religious conversion.saints7-8

He sought to enter the Franciscan Order, but was unable to be accepted due to his leg wound, which refused to heal and caused him much suffering. Yet this “thorn in his side” that kept him from joining the Capuchins was a stepping stone to God’s greater plans for this rough and gruff man.

After leaving the Capuchins, Camillus moved to Rome and worked for a hospital that took care of patients with incurable illnesses, just as he experienced personally with his leg wound.  He became a caregiver at the hospital and later its Director, while himself living a reformed life of penance and virtue.

Camillus discovered that his patients often received poor attention from the hospital staff. He sought to rectify this, devoting the rest of his life to providing excellent care for the sick, in whom he saw the face of Christ.

He felt called by God to establish a religious order of men committed to helping the most ill, even at the risk of one’s own well-being. With the advice of his friend and spiritual director, St. Philip Neri, Camillus established the Order of Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Sick (M.I.), better known as the Order of St. Camillus, or simply the Camillians. For this task he studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the late age of 34.

The fundamental charism of his Order was to bring medical care to anyone in need of treatment. It is said that he taught his followers that the “hospital was a house of God, a garden where the voices of the sick were music from heaven.”

In addition to serving in hospitals, his Order was also known for the special task of aiding the sick and injured on the battlefield, making a full circle back to the early life of this soldier-turned-saint who was himself wounded on the battlefield.

The Order of St. Camillus developed into a worldwide relief effort of like-minded medical workers who seek to follow Christ through ministering to the sick.

01-Giovani-Camill-a-BucchiaThe sign or habit St. Camillus chose for his Order is a large, simple red cross on the front of the priest’s black cassock, “a symbol universally recognized today as the sign of charity and service. This was the original Red Cross, hundreds of years before the International Red Cross Organization was formed.” To this day, the Red Cross is the international symbol of medical care.

St. Camillus de Lellis’ legacy continues today. He has been named, along with St. John of God, patron of the sick, hospitals, nurses, and physicians. His feast day is July 18th.

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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s Brown Scapular: What You Need to Know

 

The brown scapular is a sacramental sign of special devotion to Our Lady. Do you wear a scapular? Should you? Read more below!

The History of the Brown Scapular

The scapular originated hundreds of years ago as two large pieces of cloth, attached at the shoulders with narrow strips, that covered the front and back of a monk’s habit. The word ‘scapular’ is derived from the Latin word ‘scapula’, or shoulder blade. It was originally worn for the practical purpose of preserving the habit from dirt and wear, but over the centuries became associated with specific devotions, and is now worn in smaller form as a sacramental of the Church.

There are more than a dozen types of scapulars approved by the Church: white scapulars, green scapulars and many others, each associated with a different devotion to Our Lady, Our Lord, a saint, a Religious Order, etc., and worn as a sign of special consecration to that devotion.

The first, and still the most popular scapular, is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

The Carmelites

According to tradition, in the year 1251 a Carmelite superior general by the name of St. Simon Stock lived in Cambridge, England. St. Simon was praying during this time for heavenly intercession for his Order, as the Carmelites were facing trials and oppression.

On July 16th, 1251, he received an apparition from Our Lady. She handed him a Brown Scapular, saying,

“Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

Since then, the Brown Scapular has been recognized as a source of great graces for those who, living holy lives, wear the Scapular with devotion during life and at the time of death. The Brown Scapular is now generally made of two small pieces of brown wool connected by cords.

Wearing the Brown Scapular

Because the scapular is a sign of faith and devotion, it should be accompanied by the effort to live a life of faith and devotion, in cooperation with the grace of God. Be sure to have your scapular blessed and have yourself enrolled in the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel:

To receive the benefits of the Scapular, the wearer should be enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular.  Members of the Confraternity should devoutly wear the Scapular as a visible sign of devotion to Our Lady, with a commitment to regular prayer, frequent reception of Holy Communion, and daily recitation of one of the Hours of the Divine Office, or the Psalms, or the rosary, or other equivalent prayers. For more information, read A Catechesis on the Brown Scapular prepared by the Carmelites in celebration of the 750th anniversary of the Brown Scapular.

 

Fun Fact: It is believed that St. Simon was dubbed ‘Simon Stock’ after having lived as a hermit in a hollow tree trunk (in Old English, a ‘stock’) before joining the Carmelites.

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A Prayer of Consecration to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands.

Since you look with special kindness on those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen my weakness with your power, to enlighten the darkness of my mind with your wisdom, and to increase in me faith, hope and charity that I may repay each day my debt of humble homage to you.

May your Scapular bring me your special protection in my daily struggle to be faithful to your divine son and to you. May it separate me from all that is sinful in life and remind me constantly of my duty to imitate your virtues. From now on, I shall strive to live in God’s presence, and offer all to Jesus through you.

Dearest Mother, support me by your never-failing love and lead me to paradise through the merits of Christ and your own intercession.

Amen.

Join the devotion!

Any priest may bless your Scapular and enroll you in the Brown Scapular Confraternity with the following words:

Priest: Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.

Respondent: And grant us Thy salvation.

P: Lord, hear my prayer.

R: And let my cry come unto Thee.

P: The Lord be with you.

R: And also with you.

P: Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, sanctify by Thy power these Scapulars,
which for love of Thee and for love of Our lady of Mount Carmel, Thy servants will wear devoutly, so that through the intercession of the same Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and protected against the evil spirit, they persevere until death in Thy grace. Thou who lives and reigns world without end.  Amen.

(Sprinkling Holy Water) Receive this blessed Scapular and beseech the Blessed Virgin that through her merits, you may wear it without stain. May it defend you against all adversity and accompany you to eternal life. Amen.

I, by the power vested in me, admit you to participate in all the spiritual benefits obtained through the mercy of Jesus Christ by the Religious Order of Mount Carmel.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth, bless you, He who has deigned to join you to the confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Of Mount Carmel; we beseech Her to crush the head of the ancient serpent so that you my enter into possession of your eternal heritage, through Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

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To shop The Catholic Company’s full collection of scapulars, click here.

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