Fasting as an act of love

FoF1cHaving just read a post about food, fasting, and mean abstinence over at Catholic Sensibility, I was reminded of this post. In fact I quoted a portion of it in a comment over there. This essay was posted on this blog in October 2012, but it was originally published early in Lent in 2008,  at The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor. How I wish that I could tell you that I wrote this essay, but I did not. A friend wrote it, and he wished to remain anonymous when it was first published. I honor that anonymity once again as I repost the thought provoking essay here today.

images-1One thing that is on my mind is this… Many of us fast from meat and eat fish on Fridays during Lent. But is eating fish really eating simply these days? Honestly, I must admit to having eaten ahi tuna this past Friday; it was hardly a sacrifice. How can we approach the Lenten fast with a sense of solidarity with the poor? What about Lent with an inclination to reveal our own inner poverty? This post continues to give us a lot to think and pray about. Fasting does not have to mean food alone, although it helps to connect eating small simple meals and sharing what we don’t eat or spend with others in some way. But there are many ways to open space for God.  Ultimately we must discern, what is God asking of us through our sacrifice and our fast? Read our guest post today, our guest re-post, I should say and see what touches you. 

10_15_Teresa_of_ÁvilaHow can the simple, everyday task of eating become an act of compassion?
One of my favorite saints is Teresa of Avila. She was a typical teenager – she loved boys, clothes, flirting and rebelling. When she was 16, her father sent her to a convent because he thought she was out of control. At first she hated it but she grew to like it due to her growing love of God and the fact that the convent was less strict than her father.

When the time came for her to make a decision between marriage or the convent, Teresa had a difficult time choosing one over the other. She had watched a difficult marriage destroy her mother. On the other hand, being a nun didn’t seem like much fun. Religious life won out, according to Teresa, because it seemed the better place for one “so prone to sin.”

What I appreciate about Teresa is her sense of humor and how her religious sensibilities helped her find peace and meaning as she focused on and became reliant on God’s tender and merciful love. She had the ability to seize the moment and live it to the full. Never one to allow sin, gloom and despair to Continue reading

Ask, seek, knock – and get a stone

seek_knock_askToday’s Gospel from Matthew offers this wisdom from Jesus:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread…”

My work as a parish secretary has changed me. Not that I was not welcoming before, but I don’t think I opened doors in the same way, literally and figuratively, that I do now. One of my passions about my work reflects this from The Rule of Benedict that says, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me.” (Matt. 25:35). One thing that I try to do is to never, ever, ever say to someone who has a request, “are you a member here?” Those are the worst words in the Christian language if you ask me!

20130313nw544-300Today is also the one year anniversary of Pope Francis, who Continue reading

Lent thus far

We may be one week into Lent, but this submission from Shannon O’Donnell, written originally for the start of Lent, still holds true. How is your Lenten journey thus far?

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

For the first time or the twelfth or the sixty-third, we stand at the borderland of Lent. The bright promise of Easter and its celebrations of light, water, oil, and Eucharist Continue reading

Did we see Jesus? Where? When?

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban's with "Homeless Jesus"

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s with “Homeless Jesus”

He’s right in front of us. All the time. There’s no denying it. We see him everywhere and in everything.

If – and it is a big if – we choose to see him. And how often we choose quite the opposite… We either willingly, or unwillingly look away.

That’s the Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, in Davidson, North Carolina. Father Buck and his parish community, through a donation, installed a replica of the controversial “Homeless Jesus” statue originally created by sculptor Tim Schmaltz. In full disclosure, I know David Buck and have been to St. Alban’s; I was present when he and a dear friend of mine were married a few years back.

Today’s Gospel is the one that inspired the statue, Matthew 25. This famous chapter can be Continue reading

Lead us not into temptation

mediumTemptation. What does this word mean? For many of us it means things like avoiding the temptation to look at our phones compulsively, or to stay away from snacks. It might mean the feeling of wanting to buy something new, when we have a perfectly good whatever-it-is at home, but we want a new one. There are many sentences that begin with “I was so tempted to…” and end with something that does not seem very harmful. We pray, “lead us not into temptation,” but what do we mean when we say those words?

A long time ago, I was speaking to someone who was practicing the 12 Steps of AA. He said that rationalizing the dismantling of small boundaries was the road to ruin for him. Often he would be tempted to put himself in a situation that might not seem to be so bad, but one that he knew might be a trigger. And he might even do OK in that situation, not yielding to the magnetic force of his addiction. Then he would Continue reading

The discomfort of 40

Not the age, I haven’t been 40 for 16 years… No, the video.

At first I thought this was a little too whimsical, but then I realized my discomfort about was my problem. As usual!The simplicity of the images really started to permeate my heart and helped me to refocus on who it is I follow and why.

May your Friday and your weekend be blessed.

If I give too much to God…

6a00e5537b38b6883301538e107310970b-500wiToday’s Gospel from Luke shows us Jesus saying:

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Which made me think of Thomas Merton wrote:

If we do not pray, it is because we sometimes hold superstitions, one form being this: if I give myself up too much to God, God will give me something hard which I cannot do.  

God very clearly gives us something hard to do. Jesus Continue reading

Ash Wednesday and Hard Hearts – The Trouble With Change

(Please note, I am going to start using the “more” feature, so click to keep reading. It will not direct you to another page or site, as it did in the past. Thank you!)
heart_stoneHere we are, another Ash Wednesday. This one comes so late, too. By this time last year Easter was clearly on the horizon, at the end of March. This year, we are just about to begin Lent.

Somehow, all I can think about is the dark of winter and Lent, and how light it will be starting next week. No, no, no… Something feels off about that.

It’s me that is off if I am honest; I don’t like change as much as I pretend to like it. Why can’t Lent always start in early or mid-February? My pretty, shiny stone heart likes it better that way! Insert pouting face here.

Oh Ash Wednesday, you are upon us.  Today work was full of the usual “Ashes will be distributed at masses at 9, 12, and 6:30pm.” My goal is to avoid the church secretary’s tongue twister that offers the potential for mixing up ASHES and MASSES.  If the “sh” ends up with the m, then the double s goes Continue reading

The Work of Your Hands – Part Two

macalintal-work-of-your-handsWelcome to part two of my interview with Diana Macalintal, author of The Work of Your Hands. Part one, which includes a review of the book can be found here.  Today we finish up the interview, learning a bit more about Diana and about her work as a professional liturgist and author of many prayers and more than one book… with more books to follow!

At the end of this post you will find a video that Diana refers to in her reply to the first question for today. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it; the video left me quite teary eyed. The video, which includes a spoken version of one of her prayers, is truly moving.

I’m grateful to Diana for her generosity in replying to these questions with such joy and candor! Now, on to our interview…

Q. Did any prayers or blessings end up “on the cutting room floor?” And will there be more books to follow?

There were a lot! The editors at LitPress really wanted a collection that could be used for personal, individual prayer. Therefore, many of the prayers that were more focused on parish life or on more specific historical events didn’t make the cut. One of my favorite prayers, “Prayer after the Earthquake in Haiti,” is perhaps my most popular prayer. I was moved to write it almost immediately after the news broke on January 12, 2010, and I posted it on the Diocese of San Jose liturgy blog. Soon, I started seeing it everywhere on websites, parish bulletins, homilies, and other media (a young adult group in New Zealand made a video prayer montage of the text, and Louis Cantor, a music minister and composer in the United States set the prayer to music). It’s even been translated into Spanish and French. A year later, when an earthquake devastated Christchurch in New Zealand, the prayer found life again and was adapted by Christians in New Zealand. I was sad to not have it chosen for this collection—the title, The Work of Your Hands, comes from one of the lines in the Haiti prayer, but I’m hoping LitPress will invite me to provide another collection of prayers. I guess it all depends on how well this first collection does!

Q. What was the best part of publishing this volume? And the worst?

The best part was searching through all my files and putting all my prayers together. It was the first time I had them all collected in one place. There were prayers not just from the magazine but also from my own work throughout the years when I needed a special prayer for a particular liturgy or blessing as well as from some dabbling in poetry and poetic reflection. It was really encouraging to see so much of the original work I had done over the years and to feel proud of it. I think the next best thing was reading through the final proof before it went to print. I was so struck at how much Scripture flowed throughout the text and has influenced how I personally pray myself. I don’t think of myself as someone very adept with Scripture, but I can see how the liturgy has certainly imbued me with a scriptural spirit.

I’m not sure there’s a worst part to this adventure. I feel so blessed to have been invited to do this and to receive so much support and encouragement from friends and people I have admired for so long—great pray-ers whom I have tried to follow! I guess the worst part will be trying to follow it with another collection and wondering if I can provide something new and inspiring. For a procrastinator, it will certainly be a challenge!

Q. Your book is dedicated to your grandmother Irene, now of blessed memory. +Irene died the day that the book was published. Although your forward speaks beautifully about her, and her influence on your own life of prayer, would you be able to tell us something else about her?

The book officially reached the warehouse at LitPress at the end of January, and I think the first copy shipped the first Monday of February. My grandmother died early in the morning on Thursday, February 6. I think I was so close to her, even though I didn’t really get to spend much time with her as an adult, because she, with my aunts, raised me for the first two years of my life. When I was born in the Philippines, my parents only had a few months before their visas would expire that would allow them to immigrate to the United States. They would be the first of our family to make the move to the U.S. So about two months after I was born, my parents handed me to my grandmother and my mom’s sisters to raise me for the next two years in Manila while they began a new life in California. My Lola (Tagalog for “grandmother”) and my aunts, in many ways, were my first family. But I am so grateful for my parents who made that very difficult decision to leave their first-born because it gave our entire family over the next several decades the opportunity to live in the U.S. and become citizens of this amazing country.

Q. What’s the next big thing for you?

Locally, the Rite of Election is always a big and joyful event here in the Diocese of San Jose, and I’m getting the liturgies ready for that. After that, I’ll be travelling in mid-March (along with about 30,000 other Catholics!) to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim. This year, I’ll be doing several things there: I’ve been commissioned to write the opening proclamation that will take place during the Friday opening prayer. Then I’ll be presiding and preaching at the Saturday Evening Prayer. Finally, I’ll lead a workshop on Sunday on prayer and will be using a lot of examples from my book.

Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal

Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal

In terms of publishing, Liturgical Press is currently editing a manuscript my husband, Nick Wagner, and I wrote late last year. The plan is to call it Joined by the Church, Sealed by a Blessing: Couples and Communities Called to Conversion Together. It’s a resource book for parishes to help them model their wedding preparation process after the principles of adult formation found the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In it, we try to help parishes take seriously the church’s statement that the baptismal catechumenate is the model for all catechesis. Basically, we show parishes how to stop preparing couples for marriage and start preparing them for lifelong discipleship as married persons. Now that one was really, really difficult to write because my husband is so not a procrastinator! But God helped us get through the writing process, nonetheless. We’re looking forward to seeing it in print hopefully later this year or early 2015.

Thank you again to Diana Macalintal. Remember that you can order this book from Liturgical Press, getting either the ebook, the paperback, or the bundle which includes both. Or – order a subscription to Give Us This Day for yourself or as a gift, and receive a free copy of the book!

Here is the video of her prayer for the earthquake in Haiti, but this is made in response to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Work of Your Hands – A Review and Interview, Part 1

8998c3abdc34dd462fc47e74a589d9d1My first conscious knowledge of the work of Diana Macalintal was a few years ago. Fr. Austin Fleming posted a prayer to his blog that Diana had written regarding a tragedy at that time. Earthquake? Hurricane? I don’t recall. I do recall loving the prayer, and wanting to share it widely. After that, I started to “see” Diana online in various places, and eventually came to know her on Facebook.

 

Diana Macalintal

Diana Macalintal

Diana is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose – and so much more. (See that link for details.) She is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic Roman Catholics, a person full of joy for the work of all of our hands as the people of God.

Her most recent book is, The Work of Your Hands, Prayers for Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments of Grace, from Liturgical Press.  Today I present a review of the book, along with offering the first part of an interview with the author. (Part two of that interview will be posted tomorrow.)

Every now and then a book comes along that you know will become a dog-eared and well-worn companion. Although my copy is brand new, still redolent with “new book smell” I can see it becoming beat up due to frequent use.

Many of us who work in any form of ministry often need to have a prayer or blessing at hand. If you are someone in this situation, I am guessing that you may use various resources, beyond the internet, such as a the Book of Blessings, or Prayers for the Domestic Church.

Whether or not you use these resources, please add this resource to your list – The Work of Your Hands is a slim volume that overflows with prayers for all kinds of situations. Some of you may recall that I recently posted Diana’s Valentine Prayer When Your Heart Is Broken.

There are many other unique and heartfelt offerings. One of my favorites is the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of Saint Expeditus. There are prayers for all kinds of things, from when our animal companions are dying, to blessing for brains, and for when the experience of being at mass and feeling empty.

Even for those who are not ministers, this book is full of comforting, wise, and useful words, that will console and enliven you, and to help you do the same for others. As Christians, we are called to be Christ, and this book will be a wonderful companion along the way.

Feb2014CoverSmall enough to fit in your pocket or purse, this book is diminutive in size, but large sized in blessings and grace. It has a great price point, of $7.95, or $5.99 for the ebook. You can also take advantage of the bundle to get both editions for only $9.49. That is a great deal! You can also get this book, as long as the offer lasts, when you subscribe to Give Us This Day.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this… Make it longer please! I want more prayers and blessings. Perhaps there will be a second volume?

And to find out if there will be more prayers – plus a lot more, let us turn to our interview. Here is part one, with part two posted on Tuesday.

Q. Diana, how did you end up as a liturgist and liturgical minister?

You can see a bit on how I got started in liturgical ministry here. This was an intro video that the Midatlantic Congress had asked me, as a keynote speaker, to prepare for last year’s conference. So that’s how I began in ministry.

But all through my childhood and high school days, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, and I participated in music ministry because it was a way to play music and sing in front of people. But when I got to college and participated in the Newman Center liturgies at UCLA with the Paulist Fathers, I discovered how liturgy, well-prepared, changed people and changed their lives. It gave them hope and courage and a bigger sense of mission in the world. That’s when I began to be interested in knowing how to be more than just a musician; I wanted to know how the liturgy worked and how to get people participating more in it. Because the more they felt engaged in the liturgy, the more they would engage in doing the work of Christ in the world. My boss at that time, Fr. Tom Jones, CSP, told me that if I wanted to know anything about the liturgy—and even more so, if I wanted to do any serious work in the church around the liturgy and have the respect of those I work with—I had to read and know the liturgical documents of the church. He gave me my first copy of the Vatican II documents, and he sent me to local liturgy workshops and national conferences and institutes to make sure I got the training I needed. Once I left the Newman Center seven years later, I knew being a liturgist was absolutely what I wanted to be.

Q. You have packed a remarkable breadth and depth of prayers and blessings into 72 pages, was this difficult to do?

Actually, it was easy for me because I had been writing those prayers over the span of several years. For many years, I was a freelance writer for a magazine called “Today’s Parish.” Originally, I wrote short articles on liturgy. But after a while, the editor asked me if I could write prayers that didn’t exist in any official ritual book but were needed in today’s world. So I began writing at least two original prayers for each issue. So when Liturgical Press asked if I would consider putting a collection of prayers together, I already had almost 100 prayers to share. I think the editors at LitPress had the harder task of deciding which prayers to include and which to leave out.

Q. Some of your prayers and blessings concern unique, yet widely lived circumstances, such as Prayer for When Mass Feels Empty, or the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of St. Expeditus, or the Blessing of Brains; what drew you to create these and other unusual prayers and blessings?

When the editor of “Today’s Parish” asked me to write original prayers for the magazine, he asked me to write prayers that didn’t already exist. At first, I thought of basic church events, like First Communion preparation. (I think my first original published prayer was a blessing of First Communion candidates.) So even though I was given a pretty broad mandate, I still stuck close to the usual themes for prayers. But after a while, it started getting harder to come up with ideas…until I started looking at my own life and the concerns I had from day to day and those of my friends. What needs did they (and I) have when it came to prayer? Once I made it more personal, I found so many ordinary, daily life things that called for prayer.

For example, I love collecting interesting images, icons, and retablos of saints. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress one year, I found a retablo of Saint Expeditus, the patron of procrastinators. I did a web search on him and actually found a novena in his honor! But I am such an excellent procrastinator, and the words of the novena didn’t quite speak to me. I knew my procrastination was a troublesome habit, but I also knew that it didn’t make me a “bad” person. I just worked differently than others, but there are certainly parts of my work style that could use a lot of improvement too. Yet, I trusted that God uses all of us, our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his work on earth. So I thought of some of the stories in the Bible. Who were the great procrastinators there? I thought immediately of Jonah who did everything to put off doing the thing he didn’t want to, and the workers who arrived late in the day but got paid the same as the early comers. So that “Prayer for Procrastinators” is really a prayer I wrote for myself.

So my own experience gave me lots of themes to play with. So did the liturgical year. “Prayer with the Woman at the Well” is one such prayer that came out of my Lenten reflection one year and the question of what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that woman.

But most of all, I got my ideas from paying attention to what was happening in the news or in my friends’ lives. I had and still have friends dealing with cancer. What prayer could be theirs in that struggle? I know people who feel inadequate to be a godparent, but said yes anyway. What words could encourage them? Thankfully, I’ve never had to do it, but many of my friends have lost beloved pets. I saw how devastating it was for them, and thought surely the church has a prayer for that. But all I could find was a blessing of animals, and even that blessing didn’t capture the unique and intimate relationship humans can have with their pets. So I wrote a prayer to try to help soothe my friends’ heartache in that moment of saying goodbye to their animal companion. I still get notes and emails from complete strangers who tell me they prayed that prayer the same morning they put their pet to sleep and how it brought their family such comfort in a difficult time.

I think if we just look around us and pay close attention to what people really need in their lives to have hope and trust that God indeed cares for them, we can find many things for which to pray and lift up in prayer.

To be continued tomorrow…