Review and GIVEAWAY: Sacred Art Series Rosary Book

Welcome everyone coming over from Truth and Charity! For the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

One of the most difficult parts of praying the rosary is keeping focused on the mysteries. Most of the time, I name the mystery and immediately get distracted. However, I have found that praying with beautiful images of the mysteries is a good way to focus. My cousin-in-law, Will Bloomfield, was inspired by a beautiful painting that he saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to put together a prayer book for individuals to use to pray the rosary.

I asked him several questions about the book, and will let him do the explaining.


Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?

Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I’m Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.

In the midst of editing The Holy Gospels and discussing the project with printers, I happened to take a trip to New York City for a conference for work. While there with my wife and baby, we seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was thrilled to see some of the very paintings that I had already included in my early manuscript for The Holy Gospels. But while there, I also stumbled across The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary by Goswijn van der Weyden. The painting was created for devotional use for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I immediately thought that this beautiful public domain image, which was designed for royalty, would make an excellent devotional aid for families and individuals. And since I was already in the midst of a publishing project, it was quite easy to add another product to the Sacred Art Series. It was also about this time that I joined the Confraternity of the Rosary, and thus had been praying the rosary more both individually and with my family. And I had recently read St. Louis De Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary, and was impressed by St. Dominic’s promotion of the rosary, described by De Montfort, as the most effective means of converting sinners. So the Rosary Book is really the convergence of many things that all came together at the right time. You might say that it was a perfect storm of grace.

What remains strange to me is that something like this did not already exist. But to my knowledge, the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book is the first of its kind. So your readers are on the cutting edge!

S: Would you tell me about the painting used? Are rosary panels common in sacred art?

W: The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributes the painting to Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden (c. 1515). I like the painting because it includes an image of each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary, and each image is the same size, includes figures that fill each scene, and thus provides a complete set of rosary images. I also like the image of Mary in the bottom panel because it shows her crowned with 55 roses, recalling that when we pray five decades of the rosary, we offer Mary a beautiful rose for each Hail Mary and for each Our Father.

In my searches, I have not found any other similar rosary paintings. It’s, of course, easy to find beautiful images for individual mysteries, but I have yet to find any other complete sets of a similar quality. This is also strange to me, because one would think that rosary images would be readily available. Also, from my own personal experience, I know that the stained glass windows in many Catholic churches include the mysteries of the rosary; but for whatever reason, complete sets of rosary paintings seem to be rare. (And I will gladly be proven wrong if anyone can tell me otherwise.)

S: We usually pray our family rosary in the car (the children cannot get up and run around); do you have any tips for a peaceful family rosary with little ones?

W: Pray the rosary with a Sacred Art Series Rosary Book! Your children will enjoy the ability to have a picture to look at and to take turns flipping the page for the next mystery. Apart from that, I have also found the car to be a decent place to pray the rosary with the family. Every Sunday morning, during the 15 minute drive to Mass, we pray one decade of the rosary, followed by the Angelus. Our kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6) are so used to this routine that it never occurs to them to question it. The three older ones participate quite well. (Although getting the pacing of the words right has sometimes been a challenge for them–and consequently, for their parents!) So I think that consistency is important. Also, it’s probably better to focus on one decade prayed well, than five decades prayed poorly. Once the kids have mastered one decade, it’s easy to add more decades. And for families that are just beginning the rosary, it may help to begin the devotion during an appropriate liturgical season, such as Advent, or Lent, or during the Month of May for Mary, or during October, which includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) and is the month of the rosary.


This book comes with a metal spiral binding on top and has a fold out cardboard easel. It is available in two sizes, 4×5 inches and 8×10 inches. We have the 4×5. The front page has the entirety of the panel while the inside pages feature each of the panels of the painting close up, showing the individual original 15 mysteries of the rosary.

As for the paintings themselves, just looking at them outside of praying the rosary leads to meditation on the mysteries. In each painting there are tiny details of the scene that give an opportunity for deeper meditation. As Will mentioned, all of the panels are the same size and the people are all to scale with each other. This being the case, the artist had to be very creative in fitting all the characters into the scenes. You can especially see this in the painting of the Ascension, where Our Lady and the apostles are painted in their entirety, but we only see the feet of the ascending Christ.

We have had the rosary book on the family altar for about a week now, and while I think the bigger size would be better for seeing detail, our family altar is pretty packed as it is. The children have been paging through it from time to time, and they seem to enjoy the images. My (almost) four year and I looked through it the other day, talking about each mystery, and while she was familiar with the events, she could not match the picture to them. That is perhaps one of the failings of the family car rosary, but I now see ways that our children’s catechesis can be improved.

I highly recommend the rosary book as something to display in the home or on a desk, and to pray with. You can purchase it through this website, and receive a discount of $3 off each book when you use the coupon code ROSARYBK through October 30.

Further, you can enter the below giveaway of a new 4×5 rosary book which ends Tuesday, October 28 at 12am CT.
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Dust if you Must, Because you Must

In the craziness of last Thursday, and my fatigue of the first trimester, I neglected to link to my newest article for Truth and Charity. I think it fits well with my house cleaning checklist, that Nell linked last week in her quick takes. I suppose the article is a spiritual defense of what motivates my cleaning…


I recently came across this poem:

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear, and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come round again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go – and go you must –
You, yourself, will make more dust.

by Rose Milligan (The Lady, 1998)

While I appreciate the sentiment of realizing there are more important things than housework, and I even realize the futility of it (since things always get dirty again), I also think that there is something wrong about this attitude. I was affirmed in this by a homily at Mass the Sunday after I came across the poem, when Father talked about examining our consciences, and specifically mentioned not being thorough in the housework.

As Christians, we are called to become virtuous, and part of becoming virtuous is becoming moderate. We are to be moderate in our recreation, and moderate in our housework. Both are important to live a fully human life. To prove my point, one only has to look at monasteries of sisters or monks. I doubt that there has ever been an unkempt monastery. The manual labor of tending the garden, sweeping the hallway, straightening one’s cell, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, scrubbing the floor, is all part of the vocation. It is part of human existence, and it is dull and tedious. However, for the contemplative, it is meant to be a place of prayer. And for us lay people, the tedious housework, when done with the right heart, can also be as fruitful in giving us a full human existence as swimming in rivers and climbing mountains. The tedium of scrubbing a floor and be united with a prayer for someone in need. The twenty minutes it takes me to dust my house, I can spend uniting my heart to God and His presence.

The fact is that by taking care of one’s home, one is following God’s commands. We are called to be good stewards of the Earth and of our possessions. Taking care of the regular maintenance of a home is simply being a good steward. When we first bought our house with its lovely wood floors, I did some research in how to best care for them. I discovered that the best thing for finished wood floors in good condition is to keep them free of dust and grime. The gathering of dust and dirt wears away at the finish. By cleaning my floors regularly, I am being a good steward of my house, for myself, my children, and for whoever owns this house after us.

When we maintain our possessions well, then fewer things are wasted. So, really, by cleaning my floors, I am saving the world’s resources by not needed to refinish them as often or replace them with other new materials. Taking care of our things keeps trash out of landfills.

And by cleaning my floors I am teaching my children to be good stewards of their possessions.
I have read another poem about how “babies do not keep” and heard things that proclaim that my children will not notice if the house is clean or not. But the truth is that they will. If my house is always in disarray, my children will notice and not learn to be good stewards of their own things. And taking time to do chores does not necessarily exclude the possibility of me being with my children. My children do many chores along side me, and when they are older I trust that we will get them done faster and have more time for painting pictures and writing letters. By each having our own duties we are closer to living a life of a family monastery, and hopefully learning to pray in our work.

I am not saying that we should be continually cleaning our homes so that they are spotless, but I am saying that we need to find a balance between being good stewards of our homes, having our leisure time, and having our work time. Doing these things will help us to live more fully human lives. So, dust because you must, and don’t forget to rest on the Sabbath.

Originally published in full at Truth and Charity…

Doing Works of Mercy Everyday

My family and I were running just on time for the early Mass last Sunday. Well, actually, we were on track to be about 2 minutes late. We were going along, stuck behind some slow-going cars. Just as we were coming to an intersection ,we witnessed an SUV drift into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist from behind. He went flying forward and landed sprawled on the ground, legs tangled in his bike. The driver of the SUV stopped her car, and jumped out to see if he was okay. My husband pulled over, parked the car, and ran out dialing 911. I sat in the car in a bit of a shock as I explained to the children that we needed to pray for the man. I prayed out loud with the kids until the emotion of it all reduced me to sobbing and internal prayer.

Within seconds, people noticed the emergency situation and came over to lend a hand. One man led the group around the bicyclist in praying the Hail Mary. A nurse came over and did basic first aid for him while they waited for the ambulance. Another lady attempted to calm the woman who had hit the cyclist. A man brought a blanket out of his house to cover the injured man. An Episcopalian minister, on his way to church, stopped at the scene to see what he could do.

All around us, early on a Sunday morning, people were coming to help this injured man, and I could not help but feel that we were apart of a community of good people. The ambulance came and took the still-conscious bicyclist to the hospital, and only then did the crowd disperse. I went over to the police to give my account of the accident, and then we continued on to church to hang out until the next Mass and to pray for the cyclist. We never found out the extent of his injuries, but we are still praying daily for his recovery.

As I reflect on the incident, I see how we and all the people who stopped immediately acted out the works of mercy for this man and for the woman who struck him. I can think of at least seven of the fourteen that were exercised by all of those involved in that one incident. I give a complete list of both the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Corporeal Works of Mercy:

  • to feed the hungry
  • to give drink to the thirsty
  • to clothe the naked
  • to shelter the homeless
  • to visit the sick
  • to visit the imprisoned
  • to bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • to instruct the ignorant
  • to counsel the doubtful
  • to admonish sinners
  • to bear wrongs patiently
  • to forgive offenses willingly
  • to comfort the afflicted
  • to pray for the living and the dead

In extreme situations it is easy to see how we are to exercise the works of mercy, but the reality is that we are called to exercise them in small ways as well. (Two years ago Andrew Sciba wrote about a very sweet event that took place between his then two year old and then crawling baby, where the two year old was giving of his own food to the hungry baby. He realized that his son was doing one of the works of mercy.)

If I think about my own children, I see them doing the works of mercy for each other daily. When my one year old visits a sister who is being punished, she is visiting the imprisoned. When my eldest helps me put socks and shoes on the baby, she is clothing the naked. They help each other with food and drink. They are each others’ comfort when we are confined at home due to illness. They are only vaguely aware of what the works of mercy are, but they are already learning to show mercy. And they do so according to their own capacity.

Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.

We are all called to do the works of mercy according to our state in life. And while it may seem like we need great moments to do works of mercy, in reality we are called to do them everyday. We show mercy in the daily dressing, feeding, and care of children. We show mercy as teachers. We show mercy as doctors and nurses. We show mercy when we are kind to the customer having a rough day. We show mercy when we take time to listen to the problems of our coworkers. We show mercy when we share some our lunch with the man holding the cardboard sign on the street. We show mercy when we make sacrifices so that we can afford our home and food. We show mercy by giving of our money to a family in need. We show mercy when we give of our excess and unneeded clothes to a society that gives to the poor. We are called to show mercy everyday.
And when we do these things, we do them for Christ.

Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40

Originally posted at Truth and Charity…

What We Can Learn from the Family of the Little Flower

A slide depicting the Martin family at home.

For the Feast of St. Therésè of Liseux I was thinking about making a dish that called for “a little flour.” However, since when I use flour I like to use a lot of flour, I am going to just go ahead and link over to an article that I wrote in April about St. Therésè and her family life, comparing it to that of the Bennett family in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

St. Therésè, Jane Austen, and Raising Saints

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 26

1. Well, we are four weeks into the school year here at The Awesome School, and I think I am getting a good rhythm. We have found a good balance of a little bit of schooling on the most basic kindergarten level material, followed by play, chores, and or errands. Even with a few random schedule interruptions we have kept our rhythm.

2. Today we had our first session of our new (to us) co-op. It was really nice. Since I am new, I had no responsibilities today, and it was the strangest thing to drop G off in her class, L in her’s, and discover that F did not really care whether or not I was in the nursery.  So, I spent 2.5 hours sitting at a large table with other moms doing “Mom’s time.” I spent a whole morning not worrying about children. That was not quite the truth, I worried about F a little bit, but knew someone would tell me if she was having trouble. It was relaxing. After co-op, we ate our sandwiches on our 20 minute drive home and had some fruit, nap time story, and now it is quiet time. I think I am going to like this co-op.

Two bushels.

3. End of September means apple sauce canning time for us. This year, I opted for market apples, which I ordered from the farmer by email, and picked up at the market 2 minutes from our house this morning. It was nice. It was real nice. Also, doable. We plan on making lots of sauce, and I am going to try my hand at apple jelly. I was slightly disappointed when I discovered that I could have been making peach jelly from our peach peals and pits, so I am determined to do apple jelly. I am thinking about pie filling maybe as well, but then that will also be determined by how excited M is about all of these things. He is, after all, the master canner in our home. I think we will head out to an orchard in early October, but not for lots of picking, more for the experience.

Tomatoes, meet Victorio Strainer.

4. We did our first tomato canning last weekend. We decided to do 1/2 bushel just to give it a try, and it took 3 hours to cook down the tomatoes, which was a long time! We ended up with 6.5 quarts of crushed, cooked down tomatoes that still have to be turned into sauce. So, I guess we are going to see if we like our home canned tomatoes better than store, and decide if it is worth it to do this every year. We think it is the case with peaches, apples, and jams, so we will see…

The final product.

5. I started an Instagram account this week, but am probably just going to post food pictures there, because, well, food is good, and it is an easy way to share what I cook. Also, I have to post from the iPad, and it is a bit of an effort to get quality photos onto the iPad. I am still resisting the iPhone. I even added an Instagram button on my page (see upper left corner). I feel slightly techy… but I am not… I got a friend to give me a link to a Youtube tutorial which made it easy…

6. M and I watched Schindler’s List for the first time this week. That is a tough movie to watch. Everyone has told me this, but seriously, it kind of leaves one heartbroken, shocked, and speechless. I don’t really have anything I can say about it at this point, except to beware of evil and love others the best we can. I have further thoughts on evil in my last two T&C posts (here and here), which I wrote before I saw the movie, but were influenced in part by the atrocities that people committed during the Holocaust.

7. On a lighter note, the kids and I had a cold for most of this week, so we cut back on our normal social life (you know, play dates, play dates, etc). I confess, sometimes I like a week where we just sit tight and I don’t have to socialize too much. When I do too much, I get more introverted and just want to stay at home. So, this was a week off for me, well until today with co-op and another commitment tonight. And another thing that wiped me our socially, was that little radio interview on the Son Rise morning show I did last Friday. If you missed it and really want to hear me, the podcast is here and I am on right at 1:45:00. It has taken me a full week to recover and hearing the first 2 seconds of myself to find the right spot for you, freaked me out a little….

Linking up once again with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Are a Movies, Television, and Books Making us a Numb to Evil?

In my latest piece for Truth and Charity, I explained that we Christians need to be on guard against the banality of evil, where evil acts becomes so everyday that we do not even notice them as evil. We simply accept them as part of life, and are not rightly shocked at the evils being committed in our world. This idea is not new to Christianity. In fact St. Paul also warns against conforming our minds to secular standards:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good, what is acceptable, what is perfect. (Romans 12:2)

We have all heard this verse before, this command to guard against the world and renew our minds. One area in which we need to do this is in our recreational time, in our watching, listening, and reading.
The Church warns against becoming numb to evil in the media in the Catechism:

The means of social communication (especially the mass media) can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown. Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences the more easily to resist unwholesome influences (CCC 2496).

When it is the end of the day and we are tired, just wanting to relax, how do we go about not becoming passive in our watching or reading? How can we be vigilant in our consumption of media? How do we, in a society that does not value virtue and moral lifestyles, find worthwhile entertainment? There is so much available that can pollute our hearts and lead us to become passive in the face of evil. If we become passive to the evil present in the entertainment we choose, we are on the path to becoming numb to evil in the world, and as I argued here, we should not become numb to any evils, great or small.

To live fully Christian lives, we must live purposefully, so as to form virtuous habits. Most of us know that we need to do this to have healthy relationships, to have a regular prayer life, and to accomplish our tasks at work and at home. But we must also be purposeful in what we watch, listen to, and read, or we will accept mediocre content that eats away at our souls. Despite the difficulty of being purposeful in our recreation, we need to do so in order to be able to understand which entertainments are worthwhile. At the very least we should seek to find entertainments that do not devalue humanity.

Many movies, shows, and books do devalue humanity, and  we are worse off after partaking of them. These works of “art” eat away at our awareness of evil, slowly numbing us to the evil acts and attitudes depicted on the screen, in the book, in the lyrics. These are the things we need to avoid, and we need to seek more worthwhile entertainment. Just to be clear, I am not advocating the consumption of moralistic works of art that are created for the sake of presenting a moral or just to be “Christian” but that do not represent humanity realistically. These too can inhibit the formation of our consciences.

Worthwhile artistic entertainments are reflective; in producing them, the artists reflect on humanity, their lives, hardships, sufferings, joys, illnesses, and God. They lead us to reflect on these things as well. While this is clearly present in good works of fiction, it is also present in sports, which allow us to reflect upon great human achievements, and in instructional shows, such as cooking shows that teach viewers skills. These good things do not numb us to evil, but help us live full, examined lives.

Reflection on oneself and the world is something the Christian can never cease in doing, and while at times it is tiresome to always be examining ourselves, it is necessary if we ever want to live a life of virtue. If we look to the examples of the Saints, we see lives of complete self reflection. In our lives too, even in our entertainment choices, we must never cease to examine ourselves and the things that we allow to affect our minds.

Originally at Truth and Charity

The Islamic State and the Banality of Evil

On the Streets of Auschwitz. Photo by Mark Spencer. Used with permission.

Lately, I have found myself lacking motivation to do my daily activities. It all seems somewhat pointless when I compare my life of relative ease to the lives of the Christians who are dying for their faith in Iraq and in other countries at the hands of Islamic extremists. I go about caring for my children and the house, and wondering why I am here, safe, with all my needs met while others are hungry, thirsty, fleeing for their lives, and dying at the hands of merciless persecutors. Then part of me rejoices for them, because they, as martyrs for their faith, have earned a Heavenly reward that I daily lose sight of.

They have what so many saints have aspired to: martyrdom. More often than not, I quake at the thought of it. I quake because when I used to desire martyrdom, I was a child with no one dependent on me, and now I have a full life before me with so many dependent on me. And I look at my life of attachment to creatures, and realize how far I have to go in the spiritual life. It especially hit home one afternoon when I came across a photograph of a mother and her children in a refugee camp outside of Iraq. They had escaped from those who wanted to harm them, but they had suffered so much already. But they are freer than I am, because they have left everything behind for the sake of Jesus.

Christians in Iraq are fleeing their homes and dying because of their faith, and their children are being beheaded, while people in American are planning “sex sleepovers” for their teenagers and, even worse, killing their own unborn children. The great evils in the past century–the Holocaust, the atomic bombs in Japan, genocide in Sudan, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and so on–have taught us to be numb to smaller evils. The slaughter of human beings continues. Abortion has become an accepted choice in many circles, and yet we are shocked at the slaughter of children by the Islamic extremists.

We should be shocked by the slaughter of these children. We should be shocked by the slaughter of any child, of any person. We should be shocked when we hear of parents promoting fornication between their teenagers. It is hard to recognize the gravity of every evil, of every sin, when the extreme evils of our time have made us numb to smaller evils.

We live in a society which accepts sexual immorality as perfectly normal, which accepts the murder of unwanted unborn children, which is not leaving legal room for well formed consciences, which glorifies vanity, which glorifies materialism, and so on. We cannot get away from it. Smaller evils slip in our thoughts as okay, and soon our actions and our hearts are immune to recognizing evil things as evil.

When we let evil become normal, then we are all susceptible to what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.” She wrote about the banality of evil after she witnessed the trial of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. She saw that he was not a particularly villainous individual, but simply an average man doing his job. He happened to be employed by the Nazis, who gave him orders to send innocent people to be slaughtered. Evil had become so everyday for him that he did not think to question them. And that is the risk we take now. We must be aware of the tendency of evil to slip into the acceptance of society, and to become just another part of the everyday, boring existence of mankind.

The more society is accepting of evil, the more Christians must be on guard against it. St. Catherine of Sienna pursued the worst of sinners in prayer and in person to bring them back to God, begging them to repent, but one sinner she could not stand to be around was the mistress of a priest. This sinner had become so complacent in her sin that she thought she could approach and speak casually to a saintly bride of Christ. Sigrid Unset, in her biography Catherine of Siena, described the encounter in this way:

Catherine had the gift (which some other saints have had) of recognizing a soul which was living in mortal sin through the physical sensation of a smell of decay. Once a distinguished lady came to visit her; she seemed full of respect and godliness, but Catherine would not look at her and turned her face away each time the lady came near. Raimondo [her spiritual director] reprimanded her for being so impolite, but Catherine said to him : ‘If you had smelled the stink of her sins you would have done the same.’ A little later Raimondo learned that this ‘lady’ was a whore and living in concubinage with a priest.

I wonder now, in my life of ease, what my soul would smell like to St. Catherine of Sienna or another saint who can recognize sin. Have I become complacent in my sins? I realize that my tendency to want to give up on my duties in response to hearing of the martyrs of Iraq is disordered. I should take their beautiful witness into my heart, and pray that I can live a life of heroic virtue amidst the banality of evil.

Originally at Truth and Charity.

Ask Not What You Can Get Out of Mass, But Whether Due Worship is Given to God

One of the problems with contemporary Christianity is that too often Christians focus on what they “get out of Church.” I am thinking specifically of the plight parents find themselves in when their sweet newborn grows out of sleeping at Mass and becomes the loud and active baby. Their experience of Mass changes from one of focused prayer with very involved participation to distracted prayer and focus on keeping a child quiet in church. And while negative comments to parents about their children are rare, those are the comments that stick in parents’ minds, much more so than positive comments and encouraging smiles.

One cranky fellow parishioner can take away a parent’s comfort with bringing their little baptized Christian to Sunday Mass. So the parents start going to separate Masses or take the baby to the back, fearing that their child is disrupting the personal prayer of those around them. It seems to the parent that as long as they bring little ones to church they will not be able to pray. This is not the case. They just need to learn to pray differently and realize that Mass is not about personal prayer but it is a place of public prayer.

Here is the thing: the liturgy is about the Body of Christ as a whole giving due worship to God. It is about the Sacrifice of the Mass being made, which requires only that the priest make the actions of the liturgy in a fitting manner and that the baptized members of the parish be present. It does not matter for the due worship of God whether that I am pacing in back with a child or parenting my 21 month old into quietness in the pew. My inability to focus and my not “getting anything out of Mass” is not taking away from the due worship of God. But my child not being there, my child being sent to children’s church or a nursery, takes away from the fullness of the Body of Christ being present at our obligatory Sunday liturgy. Children as baptized members of the community should be at the Mass, as Canon 1247 states, not excluding people by age, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.”

Tuesday Night Mass by Ben SmidtPhoto by Ben Smidt. In the Creative Commons.

I discovered as a young parent that while personal private focus on the liturgy is important and good, it is not the purpose of the liturgy. The liturgy is the public worship of God, and while private consolations at Mass are a good thing, that is not the purpose of Mass. The Mass will go on. Personal, private worship of God is just that: something we can do personally and privately outside of the context of the liturgy. My husband and I have found that when we are able to set aside time for private prayer when our children are asleep and when we take time to go to a chapel alone, we have a deeper more personal relationship with God than when we worry about “getting something out of Mass” in addition to teaching them how to behave.

And as for everyone else, who is not the parent of the active and loud or fussy child, please be patient with families. For all Christians, the liturgy is not primarily meant for private prayer, but for all baptized Christians to pray together (even the non-baptized who are present worship God at the liturgy). It is an awful thing for Christians to criticize parents who have loud children. None of us know what it is like to parent each individual child; all people are different. We do not know if a child is teething and impossible to soothe or a child has allergies or any of those things, but we do know that children are meant to be in Church just as much as adults should be. Children are our hope for the future, and we should welcome them, with their non-adult behavior and all.  Since the liturgy is a place of public worship, all attending need to remember this and not be upset if they lose their personal focus on prayer. If we need quiet for prayer, then we should take time to pray in in addition to our attendance at Mass.

I am not advocating that children run wild in Church, I am trying to explain that the distractedness that even disciplined children cause it Church is okay, because they do not take away from the due worship given to God. I try my best to keep my children from distracting others, ask other parents to do the same, and ask the whole community to be welcoming of children and encouraging to parents. And cry rooms, nurseries, and children’s church (during the Liturgy) do not make children and parents feel welcome. When someone tells a parent pacing in back where the cry room is or to take their child behind the glass window in the back of Church, a parent feel ashamed to have children there and feels exiled from the body of the church.

If everyone were to realize that it is not about what one personally gets out of Mass, but giving due worship to God, then everyone would not feel like they need to create a space to for parents and children but would welcome them into the main body of the church. And parents can learn how to focus on the public worship in the liturgy, modeling it to their children, and stop fretting about what they “get out of Mass” and think more about what they bring to God.

How the Charismatic Renewal Led Me to a Traditional Life of Prayer

Praying by John Simoudis. In the Creative Commons.

Recently a friend from church asked me about why I started a new household when I was a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. At Franciscan, households are groups of men or women who share a common spiritual devotion and way of praying. Usually students join an already existing one, but sometimes a group of three or more students will start a new one. My friend wanted to know if I found all of the other households to be too “charismatic,” but the thing is, my household was extremely charismatic. A lot of our prayer together came from what some of the other founders learned as they grew up in the Charismatic Renewal. During my time in college, I transitioned to a more traditional understanding of prayer and liturgy, but I never gave up entirely what I learned from a charismatic life of prayer.

My charismatic story begins with my parents meeting at a prayer gathering back in the late 70s in the basement of a church in St. Louis. Then there is the story of them getting married, having four children, and raising us all Catholic. They became less and less active in their charismatic community as my childhood advanced, but I still was prayed over every night, with my father laying hands on me. When I had nightmares about evil spirits, my parents taught me how to command them to leave me in Jesus’ name.

In high school I attended Life Teen Masses on Sunday evening, and started participating in praise and worshipstyle prayer. I went to the Steubenville Youth Conference in St. Louis and had powerful experiences in Eucharistic Adoration. At the youth conferences and Masses, I learned the emotional aspect of praising God in a setting of modern Christian music. It was not until college that I learned about the “charismatic gifts” of the Holy Spirit.

In my first month at Franciscan University of Steubenville for college, I met a group of kids, many of them raised in the charismatic communities in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We held prayer meetings outside all over campus, and when the weather turned cold we found off campus houses to pray in (we were very loud and did not want to disrupt the dorms). It was from them that I learned about the receptive yielding one must have to the Holy Spirit to receive what St. Paul calls the “spiritual gifts.” These are called by the Charismatic Renewal “charismatic gifts,” by St. Thomas Aquinas “graces,” and by those who commented on St. Thomas “graces freely given.” The gifts are identified in First Corinthians:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:4-12

In the Charismatic Renewal there has been an emphasis on receiving these particular gifts for the good of the Church and the community. It seemed to be a renewal of the receiving of these gifts in the Church. When you read about the lives of the Saints, you can see how they received graces from the Holy Spirit, some of them being those specified in First Corinthians and others not specific to this list. But it does seem that St. Paul is saying that all Christians can be and are meant to be given these spiritual gifts: “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We are all called to holiness, and we should seek to receive graces from the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments and through other forms of prayer.

Back in college, while I spent a lot of time in praise and worship settings, it was really in my experiences of praying over and for others that I received some of the listed spiritual gifts. When my friends and I started our household, based out of our praying with each other, our main focus was healing prayer ministry. The Holy Spirit used our prayer ministry to bring healing to all of the ladies of the household, and to any person who asked us for prayer. It was all very beautiful and all very emotional. I believe that the spiritual gifts I received were authentic, as they expanded my life of prayer and increased my love of God.  But I could not have had this experience had I not had a habitual, disciplined life of prayer in which I sought spiritual union with God and submitted myself to the graces being offered to me by the Holy Spirit.

I have written before about how my study of theology and my habitual prayer life led me to desire more from the Church. Through prayer and reason, I became convinced that I should start covering my head in Church, and became drawn to attending the Extraordinary Form liturgy of the Latin Rite. I was led to these through the charismatic prayer that had formed the foundation for my relationship with God as an adult. From my youthful emotional relationship with God I was lead to a deeper, more rational relationship with God, which I was able to express in the solemnity of the Old Mass.
While I was starting to attend the EF Mass as much as possible, I was still active in my household prayer ministry. In my intercession for those whom I was praying over, I offered them words of wisdom or other prayers. When I would attend traditional liturgies, I would yield to the Holy Spirit during the times of beautiful chant or intense quiet, and I would find myself united to God in a prayerful praise. I found that my charismatic experiences were not specific to the prayer that takes place in the Charismatic Renewal, but I that by participating in charismatic prayer that I learned better how to pray in all circumstances.

I have been formed by the charismatic way of praying, and while I no longer attend prayer meetings, I do pray over my husband when he asks, and ask him to do so in return. I listen to and pray with contemporary Christian music as I cook my family dinner or run errands. I take the advice of St. Francis de Sales and remember the presence of God throughout my day. The more saints I read about and the more I seek to pray better, the more I realize that the fruits in my life of prayer from my involvement in the Charismatic Renewal are similar to, although much lesser than, the fruits of the lives of prayer of the most mystical of the Church’s saints. I know that my life of prayer will always be significantly less than that of the saints, but a greater prayer life is something for which I should continually strive.

So many of the saints had a rich prayer life, and yielded to the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Many of the Church Fathers, when giving guidance on how to pray, explain how to submit oneself to God in prayer, and to remember God at every moment. The phenomena of healings, prophecy, locutions, and consolations have long been a part of the life of the Church, and when one has a habitual and devoted life of prayer, they are a part of the individual’s prayer as well.

These spiritual gifts were present in the time of St. Paul, were present in the lives of saints throughout the Church, were possibly present in the life of the simplest devoted lay person, and are present now. They bring the individual closer to God, and they build up the whole of the Church. I am blessed to have experienced these spiritual gifts and am glad that I can seek them still for the building up of my domestic Church and the universal Church.

Originally published in full at Truth and Charity…