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The Sorrow and Glory of Holy Week

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The interesting thing to ponder about Holy Week is that, in the moment, only Jesus knew what was going to happen. The apostles and disciples did not. They were coming into Jerusalem to observe the Passover as they did every year throughout their whole lives. Nothing different. Same old, same old. The only difference is that they were unsure of where they were going to celebrate it, but Jesus had that covered. The second difference is that they were greeted with a parade, and Jesus was the star! Imagine what that had to have been like. They proceed to go about their business in the city as usual to prepare for the feast during the early days of the week. You would think that they would have noticed how Jesus is on edge, and he isn’t exactly explaining why. His responses are cryptic at best. The Jewish leaders are really poking at him, which is making everyone a bit agitated. To be there in the moment had to be frustrating. I am sure the hope was that once everyone could settle into the Passover festivities, all would be well. The prayers are said. The songs are sung. Then the meal begins, but Jesus starts to do “it” different. He talks about the bread being his body and the wine being his blood. Then he tells Judas to go off and do what he needs to do. He tells Peter that he is going to deny him. It is all so strange. To be there, one couldn’t help but think that something was about to go wrong. In fact, unbeknownst to everyone, everything was about to go right.

The beauty of hindsight. Jesus had led everyone to it so that he could lead them through it. Looking at the events of Holy Week and then at Easter and the Ascension from the perspective of placing yourself “live” in the story, makes it the most sorrowful and yet the most glorious of experiences. This is why I LOVE my faith. Jesus is awesome! To experience the worst of humanity to bring about the best of humanity is more  than my feeble words can relay. God is so good! Thank you God!

Divine Mercy Chaplet

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I was teaching fourth grade in 2009, when I became familiar with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I had heard the Chaplet being said on Relevant Radio. Upon hearing how the Chaplet was discussed and shared, I did my own research to learn more. By this time, Pope John Paul II had already entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy on the day of St. Faustina's canonization in 2002,and declared the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was the nun associated with the message and image of the Divine Mercy. You most likely have seen it. It is a rendering of the image of Christ with his hand over his heart revealing a stream of red and blue light with the words "Jesus, I trust in you" emblazoned below it. The significance of the image is relayed in this manner from the Diary of St. Faustina:

Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary, 47, 48). I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You (327). I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world (47). 

At the request of her spiritual director, St. Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the image.  

The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299). By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works (742). 

These words indicate that the Image represents the graces of Divine Mercy poured out upon the world, especially through Baptism and the Eucharist. 

​The message of the Divine Mercy is simple: God loves us - all of us. His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. When praying with the Divine Mercy, we are to follow the ABCs. 

       A - ask for His mercy
       B - be merciful
       C - completely trust in Jesus

The first time I put this into practice back in 2009, I was struggling in communicating concerns to a parent of one of my students. Despite my best efforts, our conversations would typically end up contentious and the situation unresolved. I was left feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and angry.  At times, hurtful and unkind things were said by the parent which didn't contribute anything positive to the situation. Without knowing what else to do, I called upon the Divine Mercy. I held this parent in my mind asking for mercy on our situation. I asked for forgiveness upon the hurts I felt as well as those I may have imparted. I asked the Lord for clarity in the situation. I then began to pray, very intentionally, keeping the image of that parent's face in my mind with each "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." By the time I completed the chaplet, I was at peace. As testimony to its power, the parent contacted me within hours, deeply remorseful for how our conversation transpired.  

After experiencing the power of the chaplet, I decided to teach my students how to pray it with the same practical approach that I had used. As a class, we did this every Friday. The chaplet is one of many prayers in my arsenal, but serves me well when I can't get past my own inadequacies and difficulties in relationships. It's healing grace soothes the worst hurts. Admittedly, I have to pray it more than once in certain situations over a longer period of time, but it brings the forgiveness and mercy it promises. 

I submit my witness. If the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is not part of your prayer routine, I would encourage you to give it a try. It can be said with a rosary or your fingers. It takes less than 15 minutes. It is tremendously powerful . Jesus, I trust in you!

Posted by Jill Fischer
in Prayer

Praying Through Music

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I was sitting in a hotel ballroom, staring up at a myriad of fancy stage lighting and three projector screens, the center displaying a fake cathedral type image, and I thought to myself, “what did I get myself into?” This worry and dread grew when the band started up and people all around me started to sing along and raise their hands in the air. I thought, “shoot, what sort of non-denominational Praise and Worship (P&W) music fest did I get myself into?” Then I turned to the person who had invited me on this retreat/training conference, the Life Teen Catholic Youth Ministry Convention, looking puzzled, and realizing how perturbed I was, he mouthed, “Just have an open mind.”

I had a bias against P&W music, because when I was a teen, a friend invited me to her youth group, where there was a projector screen, neon up-lights, and a not very talented band playing songs about a God I wasn’t yet sure I believed in. When I became Catholic, I loved the reverence for God, the focus on the cross, the prayerfulness with which we approach the Eucharist and communion. I thought P&W music couldn’t possibly fit into that. I was wrong. Through the 4-day conference, God opened my heart to this type of prayer in a variety of ways I never thought possible. Even if you are a skeptic, here are some reasons this type of prayer is so powerful for me, and some ways to make it powerful in your own life.

One of the reasons P&W music has been powerful for me is that when we take the words to heart they can transform us. With lyrics like, “You are a good, good father, it’s who you are, and I am loved by you,” the song “Good, Good Father” pushed me to ponder the perfect fatherhood of God. Through singing out loud and wrestling with the words, it pushed me to internalize and believe a truth which my head knew, but my heart struggled to believe. Songs, just like prayer books and written devotions, are vehicles for our relationship with God when we internally experience the words. Lyrics are there to help guide you, challenge you, help you remember God’s goodness, seek out His mercy, or sing His praises.

Another way P&W music transformed my prayer was by adding an emotional energy.  It may be hard to think of prayer as having energy, but I think St. Therese of Lisieux illuminates this need when she says, “Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” I don’t know about you, but music has always made my heart soar and my voice cry out. P&W music is a vehicle for our hearts to surge towards God. Finding songs that hit you, in the genre you like (Praise music comes in all genres!) can be a way to link the surge of emotions that we all experience through music to God.

If this is still foreign to you, because you like the traditional music sung at Mass, or you don’t like to sing along at all, I still suggest giving it a try with an open mind. Listen to P&W music on your own through the radio station KLove, or find a worship playlist on YouTube or Spotify to avoid the pressure of being with others. Focus on it like you would prayer, start with the sign of the cross, and be focused on a crucifix as this will help you direct the words and your praise to God. Maybe attend a Teen Mass, Surrender, XLT, or Arise Saturday night to experience P&W music in person in a Catholic setting. 

Say you give all that a try and it still doesn’t “hit you.” That’s ok. Different people like different prayer. However, I would still challenge you to continue to encounter P&W with an open mind. Try a different prayer posture, hold your hands out in praise, or leave them open at your sides to receive and embrace the discomfort. Some of the most worthwhile experiences in our lives are uncomfortable, and usually it’s because the Holy Spirit is transforming us for His Glory.

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