Category Archives: Prayer

Quaerere Deum: A look at the daily life of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia

The true Benedict option:

From the YouTube description: “In the Jubilee year 2000 the monks of Norcia breathed new life into the birthplace of St Benedict. Armed with only their faith and zeal they founded a monastic community which has been attracting men from all over the world to follow St. Benedict’s ancient Rule. Many of their friends have long wanted an insight into the inner workings of their life and so they have produced this high quality up to date film which shows the monks as they go through the daily ora et labora. The title of the film, ‘Quaerere Deum,’ means to Seek God. This is the true calling of all monks, the first and most essential quality of an authentic monastic vocation, as laid out in the Rule of our Holy Father St. Benedict.”

The Monks of Norcia website.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Christian Life, Curious, Liturgical Calendar, Liturgy, Prayer, Tradition, Video

The Divine Office explained

…by Fr Jeremy Driscoll, OSB of Mount Angel Abbey

A popular book these days is Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. The monks at Mount Angel Abbey are benedictine. If you find Dreher’s perspective meaningful, then these monks offer a picture of that option — not to say you should enter a monastery (though maybe you should), but you might consider doing the Divine Office every day. Some would argue this is not really what Dreher means, but I say it at least is part of the soil out of which any consideration of any kind of Benedict Option must grow, otherwise it’s something else, perhaps just marketing spin.

About Fr Jeremy Driscoll, OSB

About Mount Angel Abbey

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Filed under Beauty, Liturgy, Music, Prayer, Tradition, Video

Thecla & Tiepolo: The Making of an Altarpiece

I love this video. It speaks to many things I love (family, doing art with one’s kids, teaching about prayer and holiness, beauty, etc.), and things that I want more in my life.

You can find out more about the folks behind this video here: http://www.2spetrvs.com/

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Filed under Art, Beauty, Education, Family, Homeschooling, Liturgy, Martyrdom, Prayer, Saints, Tradition, Video

Pray for the World

A woman carrying flowers cries in front of the Carillon cafe and the Petit Cambodge restaurant in Paris Saturday Nov. 14, 2015, a day after more than 120 people were killed in a series of attacks in Paris. French President Francois Hollande said at least 127 people died that Friday night when at least eight attackers launched gun attacks at Paris cafes, detonated suicide bombs near France's national stadium and killed hostages inside a concert hall during a rock show. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

A woman with flowers cries in front of the Carillon cafe and the Petit Cambodge restaurant in Paris Saturday Nov. 14, 2015, a day after more than 120 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

What can we say about France? The image above says more than any words can.

What horrors, what unspeakable terror; these words seem to lack meaning.

And it’s not just France, it’s the world really. Tragedy everywhere. Broken hearts.

Even for the Christian, who claims a future hope, there is no escape from weeping.

Pray for Paris. Pray for France. Pray for the world.

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Filed under Death, Prayer

The Physicality of Faith

“Moses, Moses!”
“Here am I.”
“Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet,
for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
(Exodus, chapter 3)

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Recently I have been praying in the mornings. I created for myself a place to pray. I face east, light a candle or two, and kneel. I pray novenas and rosaries, move the beads in my fingers one by one, cross myself, bow my head. It’s not much, but praying this way a fairly new thing for me. I feel drawn to a more physical expression of prayer.

What is it about kneeling? Holding beads? Candles? What is it about these physical things? Some might say they are trappings, or hindrances, or worse.

Moses was asked to take off is shoes. Why? Did God need this? I doubt it. Did Moses? I’m sure he did.

During the Penitential Act of the Mass we strike our breast three times while saying this: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

We speak and we strike. It’s deep truth, it’s of the heart, it’s also physical. We confess physically, we worship physically. We bow. We kneel.

O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
(Psalm 95:6)

I am curious about the physicality of worship; the actual, physical nature of worship. Perhaps more than curious, because the emphasis on the physicality of faith is one of the characteristics that drew me towards the Catholic Church and away from my Protestant roots. I found a richness in Catholicism and a kind of poverty in evangelical Protestantism. I’m sure some would disagree with me.

I also find those verses in Holy Scripture that point towards, or mention, physical acts of worship more than merely interesting. We are physical beings. Christ is physical (fully man). He drank, he ate, he knelt in prayer, he climbed up the mountain, walked into the garden and out to the wilderness. He stood, strolled, sat, slept. He broke bread. He went to the temple. He was whipped, beaten, crucified. He is God become man — the “physical act” par excellence. He worshiped with his body. Our bodies are part of our worship.

Consider:

It is in the physical world that the intangible meets us. A kiss seals a courtship. The sexual act seals a marriage A ring betokens the marriage. A diploma crowns the years of schooling. A doctoral robe bespeaks intellectual achievement. A uniform and stripes announce a recruit’s training. A crown girds the brow that rules England. This symbolism bespeaks the sort of creature we are. To excise all of this from piety and worship is to suggest that the gospel beckons us aways from our humanity into a disembodied realm. It is to turn the Incarnation into a mere doctrine. (Thomas Howard, Evangelical is Not Enough)

Perhaps four bare walls and a pulpit is the symbol of a disembodied, even gnostic, faith. Perhaps the non-biblical, historically recent “doctrine” of the rapture speaks of that same desire to be free of the physical. Perhaps denying the Real Presence is just an example of fear — fear of our humanness, of our bodies, that God is actually one of us.

I can’t say. I wonder.

But I know the physicality of worship is everywhere in scripture, even in moments we might overlook.

And when our days there were ended,
we departed and went on our journey;
and they all, with wives and children,
brought us on our way till we were outside the city;
and kneeling down on the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell.
(Acts 21:5)

Kneeling on the beach. I would love to have a time machine. What is it about kneeling? Why not stand in a circle and hold hands? Or just stand around smiling with “Jesus in their hearts” or some such thing? No, they knelt — with Jesus in their hearts I’m sure, with love for each other, with the Spirit at work amongst them I’m sure, but they also knelt.

Is there a law at play here? I think so. Our human nature seems created for worship, and to do so with common, predictable, even specific kinds of actions. Why wouldn’t there be some similarity across humanity, across space and time? Scripture tells us this is true. Our nature, including heart, mind, and body, seem to cry out for a totality of worship — a combination of heart, mind, and body together in action.

We know that some situations just call for physical action, whether worship or supplication or awe…

Then Abram fell on his face…
(Genesis 17:3)

Then she fell on her face…
(Ruth 2:10)

And Jo′ab fell on his face…
(2 Samuel 14:22)

…and they fell upon their faces…
(Tobit 12:16)

…he fell on his face…
(Luke 5:12)

…falling on his face…
(1 Corinthians 14:25)

Across the ages, welling up from within their humanness, individuals act in similar ways. There is a physical connection, built into the human body, connected to mind and heart, to situations and contexts that call forth acts of worship, deference, and awe. Is this not a law of nature, of creation itself?

Does a law mean there is a right way and wrong way to worship? I think so — at least some ways seem better than others (I’m no expert).

Does a law mean one is shackled, suppressed, controlled? No. A law is the path to freedom — like the athlete at play, or the rules of the road making driving safely possible, or a structure of government laying the foundation for civil society. You don’t have to kneel, bow your head, and certainly not light a candle or face east. But if you do, you just might be doing something good for your soul — something fitted to your very being itself. It’s your choice. It’s a mystery.

Do we “make up” the law? No. We discover it, like a miner discovering the vein of gold, or an explorer finding new lands, or a scientist understanding a fundamental rule of nature. The law is like a gift — something good and precious, and for our benefit.

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Do we need to discover this law anew every day? No. We can listen and observe those who have come before us and have already discovered the law. But we can experience it fresh every day, for no day is the same, and life keeps moving.

We can look to the past.

And all the men and women of Israel,
and their children, living at Jerusalem,
prostrated themselves before the temple
and put ashes on their heads
and spread out their sackcloth before the Lord.
(Judith 4:11)

Why does God care that we act out our hearts and minds? Why prostrate? Why ashes? Why sackcloth? Today this is a curiosity, mere archaeology — see how strange they used to behave, clearly the actions of a simplistic people, right? Incomprehensible. Inconceivable. Perhaps we have become blind and incoherent in our sophistication. Perhaps we are the simplistic ones. We lost something precious, have we not?

Okay, ashes and sackcloth may be too strange for us, but how about some appropriate form of penance? Or some act of sacrifice? It might be good for us. How about kneeling in prayer?

We don’t act out our faith for God. I don’t think He needs any of that. But we need it, because God made us this way. He created our nature, gave us the gift of worship, bid us to worship rightly because in that we find life. It is for us, not for Him. Kneel because it is good for you. Face east because you know this is a tradition of the Church; facing towards the rising of the sun, pointing towards the new day and the harkening to the beauty of the risen Christ. Can you face in another direction? Sure. Which way is better? Discover the answer in your meditations.

Moses took off his shoes. He was standing on holy ground. Where is our holy ground?

And he took a cup,
and when he had given thanks
he gave it to them,
and they all drank of it.
(Mark 14:23)

There is no secular world, not ultimately. There, truly, is only the sacred. What we call secular is merely that which we grab for ourselves and call ours. But it is not ours. All belongs to God. Every one and every place is holy, sacred, belonging to God, made for His purpose. Sin corrupts much of this gift. We can fashion ugliness, do terrible things, turn from God in many ways, but God can make all things new and good, even our darkest actions, even our hardest hearts. All things are God’s, true, but there are some things which are called out, for our sake, to be seen clearly as holy — places and times that require worshipful action. These are great gifts of “holy ground” for us. The greatest is the Holy Eucharist — really, truly, and substantially Christ present with us.

The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break,
is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
(1 Corinthians 10:16)

We kneel, genuflect, bow, pray. We sing, chant, speak. We go, enter, stand, sit, be. We eat. We drink.

We worship.

Our bodies are made for worship.

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Filed under Christian Life, Curious, Liturgy, Prayer, Religion, Tradition

Hail Mary Prayer in Latin (Ave Maria)

This is a nice rendition, going through the first time slow, and then repeating at more normal speed.

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Filed under Language, Mary, Prayer

a tremendous effort

[A] thing which Catholics do not realize about converts is the tremendous, agonizing embarrassment and self-consciousness which they feel about praying publicly in a Catholic Church. The effort is takes to overcome all the strange imaginary fears that everyone is looking at you, and that they all think you are crazy or ridiculous, is something that costs a tremendous effort. ~ Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain

So true.

Perhaps it is my Baptist upbringing, and a West coast kind of sensibility as well, but kneeling to pray, even in a Church, even in a living room, can be difficult. Worried one’s family would stumble upon you praying the rosary can also be an embarrassment one wants to avoid. It’s strange, really. Why worry? I know I have felt that embarrassment, that sense of worry, being self-conscious about it.

It is agonizing, on various levels too. For to kneel and pray in a Catholic Church, before the Blessed Sacrament is one of the deep longings that many converts feel. To leave the world of the evangelical Protestant aesthetic and enter into a truly sacred place, perhaps lit by candles, perhaps filled with icons and statuary, and then to kneel before the Real Presence and pray without embarrassment or worry of self-consciousness, is one of the common reasons many converts are drawn to the Church. And one can agonize right at that crux of self-consciousness and desire.

I suppose many cradle Catholics merely wonder why this is an issue (if they are even aware). Why a tremendous effort? Why an effort at all?

It is.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Prayer