The “Golden Nights” have arrived! As an Advent gift to you, click the photo below for access to free prints of each of the O Antiphons that the Church will be praying with until Christmas Eve. I made these back in 2017 and since then have really loved sharing these beautiful prayers for reflection, for further preparation in these final days leading to Christmas.
Today I’ll be hanging each of these in our home oratory so that during Evening Prayer, we can reflect on these words in a way that stands out a little more. Feel free to print them out and use these however you wish.
The seven “O Antiphons” (also called the “Greater Antiphons” or “Major Antiphons”) are prayers that come from the Breviary’s Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the “Golden Nights.”
Each Antiphon begins with “O” and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come.” Those titles for Christ are:
Sapientia Adonai Radix Jesse Clavis David Oriens Rex Gentium Emmanuel
Here are also ideas of activities families can do together.
Yesterday while deep cleaning, I put on an old Michael Bublé concert from the mid 2000s as background noise. A little Fatima history lesson: I was a huge fan many years ago—so a big a fan I not only had a poster on my wall, but to take it further, when I saw him live in 2008 I ran to the front of the stage, making my way through the crowd in attempt to reach out for his hand during the final song. I did, twice.
After the concert finished, I waited near the back exit with many other fans hoping to get a glimpse or even an autograph. He didn’t end up coming by the time I had to leave, but I didn’t quite leave empty handed as I basically put to my cheek a face towel with Michael Bublé’s dried sweat (yes, you guys…you read that right). A fan who had caught this face towel during the concert was exuberantly sharing this with other fans nearby, myself included.
In retrospect, how unsanitary (it was definitely not 2020) and seemingly silly of me. I would be remiss not to say that at the time this little moment did mean a lot if I’m being perfectly honest. He was a star I really admired and his music made me happy. That night was a memory I carried with me for days to come.
So why do I even share this embarrassing story?
I recently learned from a Fr. Ripperger video about a cloth added to the communion rail of churches. Before 1965 in the Western Church, there was a white cloth draped on the communion rail of churches. In a church I visited over the summer, I followed suit and experienced this for the first time during a Traditional Latin Mass, though I didn’t know what it meant until I happened upon this video last week.
When kneeling at the rail to receive the King of kings in the Most Holy Eucharist, one would put their hands underneath this cloth as if they are touching the hem of our Lord’s garment – just like in the gospel where a woman suffering from hemorrhages said “if only I could touch his garment, I shall be healed.” She did touch his garment and of course, was healed.
This woman who had suffered for years sought help from many physicians for healing, but to no avail. She spent all that she said and received nothing for the better, but rather, worse. So when she heard about Jesus, it was by her faith that moved her to make way through the crowd to reach for a touch of our Lord in passing. She barely did as she was only able to just reach for the fringe of his robe, but He knew she was reaching out even in such a busy, bustling crowd. It was by her faith that Jesus made her well and said to go in peace, completely healed in her illness.
Whether bodily or spiritual diseases, we have the opportunity at each Mass to reach out to the Lord and be healed. In our heart we are physically receiving the Savior, the King of the Universe who gives us a gush of His powers. This is a touch that no celebrity, politician, sovereign ruler on earth, or any other person has the power to do. Only a King who is not of this earth can, and its impacts are far greater and more significant than we can ever imagine.
So at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, even if we don’t have a cloth or communion rail now, may we imagine touching the garment of the blessed Lord and let allow our heart be opened. Each of us has our own baggage of hurts, history of ailments, and fears of the unknown that continue to bog us down from our pursuit of perfect holiness, preventing us from keeping our eyes on the King of the Universe. Don’t let them.
With the same faith of the woman, may we resolutely make our way through a crowd and reach out to Christ the King—our Savior and Healer—throwing everything upon Him, casting upon Him all our cares, so we can be healed and move forward in our earthly pilgrimage in peace and trust.
If you’ve visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, perhaps you’ve noticed a large, bronze statue a hundred yards away, facing the façade of the church. The person with arms outstretched in the statue pictured above is St. Francis of Assisi.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Rome a handful of times, but it wasn’t until this summer that I looked into the story behind this statue. In the past I had likely thought his arms were outstretched in praise of God. Thanks to my ever-curious mind, I dug into this one night and found myself emboldened in my call as a Christian witness to our world in chaos, and our church in crisis.
The Reality of Evil
There is evil running rampant almost everywhere we turn. There is spiritual warfare that is constantly causing division, anger and hatred among strangers, neighbors, and even family—a warfare that is far beyond what our human intellect is able to grasp. There are challenges within our own personal lives unbeknownst to others. There’s incessant chatter on the inescapable subjects of 2020—the coronavirus, politics, and scandals in the church. The divisions among the Body of Christ have been especially painful.
There have been cries among the laity for courageous shepherds to speak up against the timidity of other seemingly lukewarm shepherds, and more recently there has also been ambiguous messages that have left many confused due to the lack of clarity from the Holy Father’s words, regardless if it was an opinion and not ex cathedra. Unfortunately this instance is not the first time this has happened. The confusion among laity mirrors the confusion among church leaders.
Souls are being led astray and swept up by societal culture. What certainly isn’t helping is that when physical access to the sacraments is taken away, there may be many that won’t come back at all. Perhaps there will be dioceses that won’t lift dispensations any time soon. Perhaps some of the younger, healthier people have grown too comfortable with this new normal of TV Mass. I honestly pray that I am so wrong on each of these.
There are many who’ve lapsed in their faith, who have succumbed to accepting the modern day adage “my truth is not your truth”. Moral relativism—another great tragedy for the church. Many lose their way and find themselves living a secular lifestyle, leaving a life of faith for a life immersed in the ever-changing beliefs of earthly life, rather than the unchanging teachings which aid us in our pursuit for eternal life.
In the political climate we are in, saint statues and churches are continually vandalized, the Blessed Sacrament desecrated, and people of faith ridiculed for their piety and their standing up against abuse & injustices. Many Christians are killed yearly simply because of the faith they profess. Red martyrdom happens more overseas than here in America, but who’s to say definitively that won’t come for us at some point; white martyrdom definitely is here.
So as you can imagine, the reality of churches still being closed in many places is horrific because the sacraments are not just some Sunday thing we do. It shouldn’t be reduced to something people do to simply feel good, check off the list. Rather, the celebration of the Eucharist and the graces outpoured at every single Mass are what the faithful are in most need of during such a tumultuous time.
The Eucharist is our lifeblood. Reconciliation heals us and brings us back to a life of sanctifying grace. We need the sacraments just as we need air for our lungs, food for our bodies. Without the reception of the sacraments, it’s much easier to fall into despair and commit mortal sins. And I said it’s horrific because it is committing mortal sins that damage our relationship with God. It separates us from His sanctifying grace and if not repented, our sins can separate us from God forever.
Weeds & Wheat
Behind the reality of evil is Satan’s doing, plans contrived for a long time. He’s been hard at work pitting God’s children against each other. Daily we are reminded via news headlines and social media feeds of these evils, plus misleading journalism, censorship, and the like have caused even further divide and misunderstanding. Everyone has their own opinions, and exchanges are seldom done with charity nor understanding, but instead with anger, scorn, and the proclivity to be right. Often I have to step away from social media altogether when I’m tempted to fall into sin or growing in hopelessness and anxiety. It’s too easy of a trap to get stuck in. I know this all too well.
As strange as this may sound after all of this said, I am growing more peaceful as I’ve accepted that this is necessary. In my recent prayer, I recalled the Parable of the Weeds (Mt 13:24-43). Jesus shared with His disciples a parable likening the Kingdom of Heaven to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. When the men were asleep, the enemy came and sowed cockle among the good wheat and went his way. Cockle, as detailed in the Douay Rheims Bible translation, refers to a type of poisonous weed. When the wheat had grown and produced fruit, there then also appeared the weeds. Confused, the servants asked the man: “Did you not sow good seeds in the field? Where did the weeds come from?” The man then replied saying that the weeds were sown deceitfully by the enemy by night. They responded back, asking, “Should we gather the weeds?”
Jesus finished the parable saying: “No—if they gather up the cockle, you uproot the good wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: ‘Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn; but the wheat—gather into my barn.’“
Striving to live faithfully alongside weeds, watching evils take place before our eyes is agonizing. Sometimes it’s drawn out longer than we’d like and there’s no guaranteeing when the end is in sight. But this is what must happen until Christ comes again, to free us from this life on earth, from our fallen nature, from our inclination to sin. But thanks be to God, we have the gift of the sacraments to sustain us through all of this. This is why we need them. No matter what is happening in the world around us, yes, even regardless of this pandemic.
A Church Falling Down
Many times I come to prayer feeling completely depleted. While at times I come to prayer with great faith, other times I offer what’s left of my feeble faith asking God, “What on earth can Ido?”
Well, learning about the story of the statue of St. Francis, as I said, emboldened me.
It commemorates a link between St. Francis and his friars to Pope Innocent III, and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome—where the chair of the Bishop of Rome is. Today is the Feast of the Dedication of Basilica of St. John Lateran.
St. Francis’ story begins with asking God what to do, to which he heard Him respond: “rebuild my church, which as you see is falling down.” Not just physically, as Francis thought initially when he repaired San Damiano, but what God was referencing was the reform at the time that the church was in need of spiritually.
Years later, Francis and his friars traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Innocent III, to discuss reform. The night before, the pope had dreamt about a man that resembled Francis, holding up the collapsing Basilica of St. John Lateran. It was as if Pope Innocent III had a vision that Francis would be the one to hold up the Church at the time that was falling down, which he did, and again, not physically, but spiritually.
So now I see this bronze statue and I don’t just see Francis giving praise, but holding up with his outstretched arms a church that is falling down, and with his eyes fixed on the crucified Christ.
Our Call to Hold Her Up
Just as there was need for rebuilding then, so, too is there again a need for rebuilding. 800 years later, as the Church continues to fall (not because the Bride of Christ isn’t perfect, because she is, but it’s because the humans who make up the church aren’t), each of us has the mission by the virtue of our baptism is to hold the Church up in 2020 and beyond.
Christ beckons us daily to become saints who hold up the falling church of our time, to fight once more against the enemies outside of the church and even stand up against those within.
So where does that leave us?
This looks different for everyone as there are those in a different state of life and others who have adopted certain saints’ spiritualities, charisms, and so forth.
For some this may mean vocally fighting against the scandals plaguing our church today, whether it’s the sexual abuse, clericalism, or heresies, demanding for transparency, accountability, and justice; for others this may mean investing in stronger catechesis, faith formation programs for youth and young adults.
For some this may mean educating others in upholding natural law; for others this may mean raising children up deeply rooted in the faith, in the privacy of their homes.
For some this may mean mentoring a young man imprisoned at a local jail; for others this may mean physically taking care of the poor in a tiny village thousands of miles away from home.
For some this may mean volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, providing support materially and emotionally to women, men, and their unexpected blessing; for some this may mean becoming active in the life of the parish and being a witness to how the Holy Spirit is actively working in your life to other parishioners.
For some this may mean choosing a life of quiet, contemplative prayer, away from the clamor of the world; for others this may mean evangelizing through their talent, their art, their words.
All of these and much more, in their own unique ways, are parts to holding up with our outstretched hands the church that is falling down as each is an extension of Christ’s truth, love, and mercy.
But the connecting link between each of these is a faithful “yes” in what God is asking of us—just like the yes that Our Blessed Mother gave when the Angel Gabriel came to her. It was a “yes” to a call that she didn’t have planned prior and yet with great faith, emptied herself entirely to a life filled with more constant yeses as she was solely devoted to doing the will of the Father.
Surely there is much evil, but we must also understand that any discouragement we experience is not of God, but a trick Satan uses to entangle us in his web of lies to paralyze us from setting the world on fire with the Gospel Truth. We combat this by believing that the heart of the living Christ is encountered on the Cross. It’s expected that as His disciples, we will suffer, but we must clench tightly to our Sovereign King, in Whom we put our complete dependence on. Upon this realization we can then fight evil fearlessly and hold the church up as she has been in the past by countless other saints who are now enjoying the eternal splendors of Heaven.
With the Most Holy Eucharist as our antidote to death, even the saints who choose to live heroic lives today can be antidotes for our poisoned world.
Stay Awake & Be Ready
Finally, even though we don’t know what the future holds, we must trust in God’s providence and remain vigilant; to fight as His army here on earth against the powers of darkness.
Because we do not know the hour or day of when Christ will come, may we not be like the five foolish virgins who were unprepared for the Bridegroom (Mt 25:1-13)—for it would be the ultimate tragedy to hear Him say, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”
It’s time to wake up and give our entire lives to Christ—to truly know, love and serve Him in this world to be happy with Him forever in Heaven. It is for this very reason that we were created, and for a place far greater than this poisoned world we for now call home.
This summer, unlike our past ones together, was very low-key. No big cruise vacation to the Caribbean in June and no weekend trips to different destinations other than the one time we stayed at my in-laws for 4 nights down in the Virginia Beach area. It also rained almost the entire time we were there so there wasn’t even a beach visit, but thankfully the kids got plenty of pool time in their backyard.
Our two biggest news of the summer was Jon getting hired at a local print & design shop at the end of July. His commute is 20 minutes each way and it’s basically the dream commute (apart from working from home) considering his commutes to Arlington from our house previously were unbearable.
The other piece of big news was deciding to go the homeschooling route. We did a homeschooling novena to St. Ignatius of Loyola in late July to offer up this decision to the Lord, and during and afterwards we just felt a tide of peace in the decision to homeschool. I received the green light from my studio directors on shifting my work hours to 2pm-10pm so I’m able to focus my time with the kids for all of our activities and lessons; this works better given that Jon’s work schedule isn’t flexible, so with this shift I only have 3.5 hrs or so of wrangling the kids as I work until Jon gets home to relieve me.
Despite the indefinite long days and nights ahead for both my husband and I, the reminders to take everything a day at a time, establishing/sticking to strict routines, setting up personal time (with hobbies & prayer), and getting ample rest—I pray these will keep our heads above water. I also don’t take for granted the support from work and my team, and the resources the company has been providing to help parents navigating these uncharted waters.
In spite of not being able to go to many places, we’ve recommitted to creating more intentional spaces within our home to maximize rest, productivity, and play—for us both and the kids. Jon relocated his PC/gamer stuff to another side of the basement rec room, while the opposite end has become our homeschooling space, adjacent to the sliding door so we can get sufficient natural daylight. My office upstairs is also a work in progress. Since I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, we agreed that it makes sense to invest more deliberate thought and money behind the design and space planning of it. After years, I finally purchased a file cabinet and purged through paperwork and sorted all of our important files. It felt good. The concealed paperwork makes a world of a difference—who would’ve thunk…
On the social front, we’ve been fortunate to meet up with our regular group of friends and their kids. A handful of times we’ve done backyard bonfires + dinners together; it’s been really therapeutic to maintain this time together considering how lonely we get, despite being a family of four cooped up in a house. We’ve also had some outdoor time with my side of the family at my parents’ backyard. While each visit has been so wonderful, it makes me long more and more for the day when we can embrace them tightly and have the kids stay there.
Since the end of May, we’ve also been able to attend Holy Mass as family each Sunday. This by far has been the greatest consolation during these troubling, uncertain times. Our parish has been doing a great job in following safety protocols while more importantly maintaining reverence of the sacred liturgy, for which I am very grateful. We have finally broken our bad habit of getting to Mass late before Covid hit. Sometimes it was inevitable (because kids and their last minute needs), but other times it was admittedly due to poor time management on our end. Needless to say, Mass being closed to the public for months deeply changes you. Plus if you don’t get there early enough, they might have to turn you away due to meeting capacity requirements.
To wrap up our summer and gear us up for all that’s to come, my husband and I got to attend a convocation at our parish on spiritual warfare. Doing this together for a day and a half, without the kids, really helped recenter us a married couple in really understanding once again our vocation as spouses and parents.
One poignant thing I wanted to share was when we arrived back home after the convocation ended. His recently retired parents babysat the kids, and when we returned home, our former mountain of dirty clothes were all laundered & folded and all the clutter in our garage was organized. There was also multiple cooked dishes or prepped ones in the fridge, giving us a little break from cooking. Naturally I was slightly embarrassed at these acts of service, but as I was thanking them, my mother-in-law brought up a story around the time when Jon was just baptized as a baby; she was sick and could barely move from her bed. When her sickness subsided, she learned that in addition to the help she got with them tending to baby Jon, her father-in-law did all their mountain of laundry, a memory she never forgot. This also reminds me of the times since March when my parents stopped by with home-cooked meals.
Experiencing again and again these acts of service are tremendous blessings and good moments to exercise humility as they are certainly extensions of God’s great generosity.
On a final note, tonight we did an End of the Summer Family Awards Ceremony at home. Even in just the past three months they’ve grown so much more in size, and even more so, personality. Faith + Family Collective sent us this awesome kit a few weeks ago, and so I’ve been looking forward to doing this with them. There was very little effort on my part, which you know, is a huge help to have such great tools all ready to go! The kids enjoyed the little ceremony we did recalling all the new memories made this summer (including Lucy now potty trained!!!), and also for them to be recognized on their wonderful qualities and virtues.
Tomorrow we officially begin our homeschooling adventure! We’ve been slowly rolling into the routine these past few weeks so I’m excited to actually dive in now, and the kids are so ready. At this point with all that we juggle it’s all really just a complete surrender of our lessons and plans to the Holy Spirit. And taking it all one day at a time, of course. Prayers are certainly welcome; let us know, too, if you have any prayer intentions!
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the Ultimate Catholic Bundle (August) in return for my honest review in this post.
Happy August, friends! Here we are nearing the end of August and I’m trying to figure out where summer has gone. As we begin the farewell tour of summer 2020 and greet a new school year just around the corner, organization and staying rooted in prayer are what keep me from losing my mind as a full-time WFH mom who will also be donning the “teacher hat” this year as we homeschool for the first time. (Pray for us, please!)
Since the beginning of this month I began using The Ultimate Catholic Bundle from Kathy at iamHis365.com. Like many liturgical-structured, organizational planners, what I value most in this particular arena is that it makes it so simple to center my day, week, and month on our faith, specifically aligned with the liturgical calendar. The Ultimate Catholic Bundle serves to that capacity extremely well. Because no family is the same in their faith & family journey, ample tools are provided in this Bundle and there is the flexibility within it to accommodate each family as they see fit. I haven’t had a chance to do a Lectio Divina for each Sunday’s Mass readings, but I am able to do the St. Monica Novena, which is still wonderful. If anything, this resource is a good invitation for me to consider Lectio Divina (and other reflections) more and more because of the fact that it is readily available for me to use. These and much more are simply provided as resources for families to select with the goal to remain rooted in prayer all year long.
Here are graphics of how the Bundle is broken up (click to enlarge):
As you can can see, it is broken up is by 5 P’s – this was August’s, specifically:
Short Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Marian Prayer Journal Pages
Art Prints: Hail Mary Prayer, St. Augustine Quote, To Jesus Through Mary
3 Coloring Pages
It follows the 1962 Traditional calendar and each month incorporates the dedication of the month (August – Immaculate Heart of Mary).
It is designed to support our practice of our Catholic faith thus the Bundle takes off any effort I would otherwise need to make for incorporating the liturgical aspect to our planning and already has available the corresponding novenas and prayers of the month.
My kids enjoy the coloring pages, and it is super helpful that I can print multiples of one print since I basically have twins and they need the same of everything. :)
The Art Prints are also what we will regularly rotate in our homeschool room as they learn more formal / ejaculatory prayers.
One practical thing I like is that it’s not a bulky notebook that I have to carry with me. I like how it’s just a print out of the month ahead that I can hole-punch and add to my slim folder with fasteners along with other homeschooling plans. It’s great for consolidating planning needs together.
Because they are print outs, I also have the option to display pages on our fridge or in our homeschool room/office as well, if not in my folder.
If you’re interested in taking the next step, each new Bundle is released on the 20th of every month. As mentioned earlier, the Bundle provides flexibility in how you plan for yourself and your family, so it’s released at least two weeks before the following month so that you have time to review the Bundle and decide on & print what and how you see fit. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a big fan of the flexibility!
As part of this review I’m offering readers a 50% off discount code for the first two months of the subscription. Click here for the link for that code or simply enter “BLOG50” in the check out. The September bundle will incorporate the Seven Dolors (Sorrows) of Mary.
Thanks for your time, and know of my prayers for each of you as you gear up for the year. Over here in our household we are depending on the Holy Spirit to take the lead as this year continues to be a year of many firsts.