By Manolito S. Jaldon Jr.,
Director of Evangelization & Faith Formation, St. Brendan Parish
As part of our message series, Mass Communication, each week we will summarize the part of the Mass preached about in the previous Sunday’s homily. This week, the spotlight is on the Gathering Rite.
When we think deeply about the Mass, we realize that the greatest gift God has given us is the Sabbath. We have rest, so that we may come together as the People of God and worship the Lord around his altar.
It is God who gathers us, and the first thing he does is move us to sing. Our communal sound resonates in the sacred space, with our own unique timbre and qualities uttering an expression of unity in the mystery of song. Air moving through the throat and filling the lungs produces an expressive emotion of beauty, which leads us to give thanks to the Father.
As we sing, a procession forms to the altar, led by incense (on some occasions), the crucifix, lit candles, the Book of the Gospels, and ministers, followed by Christ in his priest who shepherds us to the altar.
Standing at the presider’s chair, which signifies our communion with the Chair of Peter in Rome, the priest leads us in making the sign of the cross. It is a reminder of our Baptism and our lives grafted in the mystery of God. We next engage in a dialogue that occurs several times in the Mass: “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.” We are addressing the “spirit” of the priest in the deepest interior part of his being where he has been ordained precisely to lead the people in worship. In other words, we are saying, in effect: Be the priest for us now, be attuned to Christ who uses you to preside over this sacred action.
Gathered around the altar, we confess our sins, which reminds us that we have offended God and need his mercy and the mercy of those in our midst. We also sometimes use the Greek word, Kyrie, or “Lord,” which has been preserved as a sign of our unity and through which we still pray that we all will be one. During the Easter Season, the Penitential Rite is replaced with the blessing and sprinkling of water to remind us of our adoption in Christ through Baptism.
After confessing our sins, we enter into the Christmas event and join the multitude of angels in singing the most ancient and venerable hymn in the Church. The Gloria is sung by the entire people, as we are wrapped up into the mystery of God, making his dwelling with us.
At the conclusion of the Glory to God, the priest gathers our deepest longings, personal intentions, struggles, and pleas in the introductory prayer. Called the Collect, the priest collects and gives utterance to our inner prayers, making us one people, as we address almighty God.
After the opening prayer, we are then ready to listen to the voice of God, who speaks to the people he has gathered at the altar.
By Lisa Rosenlund,
Saint Brendan Parish Manager
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about prayer in the Augustinian tradition.
The Augustinian prayer tradition was born out of the teachings of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354 to 391 in North Africa. His family was of mixed religions, but his mother, Monica, had the greatest influence. She modeled Psalm 34’s directive to “bless the Lord at all times,” by praying to God twice a day, in the morning and evening, often for her son’s salvation.
Monica’s prayers were answered and, after having a son with his concubine of fifteen years, Augustine was ordained a priest at age 37, and ultimately became a bishop. He is known mainly through his writings, in particular, his Confessions, which detailed the earlier part of his life, and his Rule of Life, which was composed for the members of Augustine’s religious community.
Although small groups of people followed Saint Augustine’s teachings after his death, especially his Rule of Life, the Order of Saint Augustine was not established in the Catholic Church until the mid-1200s, when Pope Innocent IV called for the unification of groups of Tuscan hermits who were living by the Rule. The Augustinian Order can now be found in over fifty countries.
Several notable saints and martyrs have come out of the Order, including Rita of Cascia, Clare of Montefalco, Thomas of Villanova, and John Stone of England. However, the influence of Saint Augustine’s teachings reaches far beyond the Order and includes other contemplative religious communities, as well as groups of lay people who follow the Rule as their guide.
In the Rule, Saint Augustine advises his followers to be diligent about praying at the appointed time, to create a sacred space for prayer, and to make sure that the words spoken or sung are at the same time contemplated in the heart. According to Augustine, “[f]ormal prayer can never be separated from ordinary daily occupations,” but rather should reflect the twofold commandment to love God and neighbor, “the tongue confessing, the hands at work” (283, 292). In his view, the happy life is a balanced life, a peaceful medium between excess and want, not “so leisured as to take no thought . . . for the interest of his neighbor, nor so active as to feel no need for the contemplation of God” (285).
Prayer in the Augustinian tradition seeks detachment from external objects and things that, though beautiful and good, distract us from this peaceful center of repose, “the peace that knows no evening” (284). Augustinian prayer is an inward spiritual journey to the core that remains, which is God. In Augustine’s own beautiful and memorable words after his empty search for outward success, happiness, contentment, fame and fortune, “Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you” (286). This Lent, imitate Saint Augustine and seek the Lord within.
By Lisa Rosenlund,
Saint Brendan Parish Manager
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about prayer in the Ignatian tradition.
My first encounter with the Ignatian tradition of prayer occurred when my older daughter attended high school at St. Ignatius. Every Friday when I volunteered in the library, a voice came over the P.A. system and everyone stopped what they were doing to pray the Ignatian Examen. That experience led me to join a group of mothers who were following the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
The Examen (short for “Examination of Conscience”), is part of the Spiritual Exercises created by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque nobleman and soldier born in 1491. While recovering from a battle injury, Ignatius had a profound conversion experience that led him to ultimately found the Jesuit Order (the “Society of Jesus”). The Spiritual Exercises can be summed up by posing three questions: “Because of what Christ has done for me, what have I done? What am I doing? And what will I do?” (304)
The key to practicing the Examen is to take time out for a moment of quiet in the midst of your daily activities. You begin by pausing to recall that wherever you are, you are in the presence of God and God’s creation. You become aware that, as Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins put it: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Once you have centered yourself, you thank God for the good things that have come your way during the course of your day. Next you ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to look upon yourself honestly, yet without condemnation, as you examine how you have been living that day.
Specifically, you look for Christ in the people, circumstances and events you have encountered throughout your day and compare your actions and attitudes to those of Christ. Essentially, you ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” You
identify areas you could change to become more like Christ. Finally, you express sorrow and ask God’s forgiveness for the failings you discovered during your reflection. You resolve to do better when the next opportunity arises.
To follow the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, you imaginatively place yourself in the biblical scenes found in the Scriptures as if you were actually present. Rather than a distant, impersonal figure, Jesus becomes a person you know and love who suffers and is crucified.
Prayer in the Ignatian tradition is a form of spirituality that is easily adapted to everyday life. It is popular with lay people because it is practical and accessible. It is also the perfect type of prayer for Lent, a time of spiritual housecleaning. In fact, my Lenten resolution is to recreate my experience at St. Ignatius by setting an alarm on my phone to pray the Examen every day. Walking with Christ by following the Spiritual Exercises would be an excellent Lenten practice as well.
By Manolito S. Jaldon Jr.,
Director of Evangelization & Faith Formation, St. Brendan Parish
We are now beginning a series of homilies in the Lenten season through which we will delve more deeply into the mysteries of what we celebrate every Sunday in the Mass. Indeed, Lent invites the whole faith community to the theological and liturgical center of our lives, and we can never exhaust the knowledge of the Lord’s hour of glory, in which we lift up our hearts to the Father (Sursum corda).
During Lent, the rubrics of the Mass include special rites, in which the Church prays for those preparing for baptism on the night before Easter Sunday, known as the Easter Vigil. Indeed, Lent anticipates the joy of Easter marked by the baptisms of what the Church calls “catechumens,” those who are seeking new life in Christ.
After their participation in the Rite of Election at the Cathedral on the First Sunday of Lent, they are known as “the elect,” because they have been chosen by God to become his sons and daughters at the Easter Vigil. While they will be joined by other baptized Christians who seek to enter the Catholic Church, the elect are treated with special care.
In the ancient tradition of the Church, the elect were examined regularly. According to a third-century Christian treatise called the Apostolic Tradition, the local bishop would lay hands on the elect daily, followed by exorcisms performed to prove the fruits of these rituals.
As infant baptisms increased, these rites were curtailed into brief ceremonies just before baptism. By the twelfth century, the elect participated in a single exorcism on Saturday morning before the Easter Vigil. By the seventeenth century, this ritual was placed at the beginning of the baptismal rite itself, which is still practiced during infant baptisms today.
The purpose of these rites, known as the “scrutinies,” is to uncover and heal all that is weak due to sin and at the same time strengthen all that is good within the elect. At its root, the scrutinies focus on the abundant and inexhaustible grace of God in Christ, delivering the elect from the power of Satan and building them up in Christ.
The exorcisms are not boxing matches with the devil, but grace-filled encounters with the healing power of the Holy Spirit. These beautiful rites, which are celebrated during Mass on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent, invite the elect to reflect and be open to Christ.
Let us accompany the elect this Lent with our fasting and prayers, so that at the Easter Vigil we can stand together holding torches lit from the fire of the Paschal candle, gaze over the living waters of baptisms, and rejoice as the elect become new creations clothed in radiant white. Though they may be different from us in many ways, at that moment we will know them as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Then we will process to the Eucharistic altar and together cry out: “Sursum corda.”
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about prayer in the Salesian tradition.
Similar to Saint Francis and Saint Clare in the Franciscan tradition, Saint Frances de Sales and his spiritual friend, Saint Jane de Chantal, were cofounders of the Visitation of Holy Mary, the community which began the Salesian tradition. Francis and Jane viewed the universe as an interconnected world of hearts: human hearts and the heart of God joined together through the heart of Jesus. What a happy coincidence that we are focusing on them during the week of Valentine’s Day!
The Salesians challenged the long-held conviction of many in the Catholic Church (including, some would argue, St. Paul himself) that lay people are less spiritually capable than vowed religious. In the Salesian view, all Christians are called to the devout life. De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life was written for ordinary men and women and, until the mid-1950s, was the most frequently read spiritual guide in the Catholic world. Even now, it is often reprinted and adapted for modern-day readers.
Much of the Devout Life is still relevant and expressed in captivating imagery. In the book, Francis gives the reader advice on how to pray. He says that while praying, if a particular reflection elicits a response, the reader should pause – just as bees don’t leave a flower until they have gathered all its honey. Moreover, to ensure that the fruit of prayer does not fade from memory, the reader is advised to choose four or five favorite “flowers” from the “garden” of meditation and gather them into a “spiritual bouquet” so that their “spiritual scent” will linger for the rest of the day.
According to Salesian spirituality, the deepest yearning of all human beings is to achieve an intimate, loving union, an exchange of hearts with the divine lover. Jane de Chantal quoted Francis in her deposition for his canonization: “We must cleave to him alone, long for him ardently and always” (271). The exchange of the heart of the Savior for one’s own heart is what characterizes Salesian prayer.
True love expects nothing in return. It seeks only the good of the other. If our love for God is true, we will pray whether or not we feel that we are receiving “spiritual flowers” back from him. According to Jane, Francis continued to pray “whether it brought comfort or desolation” (271).
Repeated so often that it’s almost a cliché is the conventional wisdom that we must love ourselves before we can love others. Yet, it’s true if “loving ourselves” means loving the God within our souls. As is conveyed to us so beautifully in the Salesian tradition, we must join our hearts first to God, then to each other. This Valentine’s Day, join your heart with God, then “find another soul to love” (from Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”).
As part of our message series, It’s Better in Here, each week a parishioner will describe what Saint Brendan means to him or her personally. This week’s article is by kindergarten parent, Shareen Harvey.
I was raised with the privilege of a Catholic education. I appreciated the Church and God in my own personal way, but it wasn’t until later in life that I realized how much I actually value my upbringing. I strayed from my Catholic roots in early adult life. However, once married with children, I felt a strong desire and need to ensure that God and the Catholic Church and its teachings were a huge part of our lives again.
I remember the first time I saw Saint Brendan Church and School. I thought, “what a majestic, serene and beautiful place.” I was pregnant with my first daughter and wanted my children to attend school and Mass here. I had no idea at the time how wonderfully impactful this journey would be, not only for my children, but also for myself. Being an absent parishioner, this revelation felt a bit off, but, as I would come to find, it was God telling me, through Saint Brendan, to get back to what is truly important in life.
So, what does Saint Brendan’s mean to me?
Unconditional Support. I joined Saint Brendan in 2012, several years before my first daughter entered kindergarten. It wasn’t long before Sister Angela found me. I am forever thankful, because she started my journey back to bringing God to the front row of my life. Her desire for me to become more involved with the parish has been invaluable, as it has granted me unconditional support when I have needed it the most.
Stability. Father Pete has said this several times during the homily, and it rings true every time I start beating up on myself about missing Mass and feeling detached from God and the Church: God loves us unconditionally and forgives us no matter what. I have three children now and stay at home, managing them and the household. I can’t imagine working a full-time job now, as I did for eighteen years. Like God, I know that my community and parish at Saint Brendan’s will always be there for me.
Guidance. While this may sound corny or ridiculous to some, I believe that, through Saint Brendan and the people I have met in this parish, God is guiding me. Whether it is something as subtle as being asked to take on a ministry for the school or church, it’s really God helping to guide me on my journey in life. Even writing this article is an example to me of God’s guidance. He is giving me the opportunity to rethink my purpose with Saint Brendan and the Catholic Church.
For all these reasons and more, It’s (definitely) Better in Here. I credit the Saint Brendan community for always showing God’s plan for me and acceptance of me and am more grateful everyday for the support and guidance I receive here.
By Lisa Rosenlund,
Saint Brendan Parish Manager
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about prayer in the Benedictine tradition.
I grew up among German Catholics in the Midwest. Germany was evangelized by the Benedictines, and it was the Benedictines who first came to serve German American immigrants. My teachers were Benedictine nuns, and my impression of the Benedictines has been that they are very strict. Therefore, I was not surprised to read that the Order began when St. Benedict left his hermitage to reform monasteries that he viewed as insufficiently disciplined.
St. Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica, were born in a small Umbrian town in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy. Scholastica founded the first Benedictine convent and was also made a saint. The siblings only saw each other once a year, when Scholastica went to visit her brother at a place near his abbey.
Benedict based his small group of monasteries on the early monastic traditions of the desert fathers. His Rule of Benedict, which evolved over time, guided the lives of his monks. Benedictine communities have been governed by this Rule for hundreds of years. The Benedictine umbrella includes nuns and monks of the Benedictine, Cistercian, Camaldolese, and Trappist traditions (253-54).
Although Benedict did not write specifically about prayer, he advocated a contemplative way of life. The first word in the Rule of Benedict is “Listen!” Benedict’s monasteries incorporated times and places of silence into the daily lives of the monks so that they would be able to hear God’s voice (253-54).
The Liturgy of the Hours also provided a structure for the monks’ prayer life. Indeed, twelve chapters of the Rule are devoted to it (258). The Liturgy of the Hours is comprised of the psalms of the Old Testament and the canticles of both the Old and the New Testaments (258). When chanting the Liturgy of the Hours, Benedict encouraged his monks to “stand to sing in such a way that our mind is in harmony with our voice” (260).
The practice of lectio devina also formed a significant part of the monks’ prayer life. As with the times devoted to silence, Benedict set up structures in his monastery to ensure that his monks’ commitment to lectio divina would be protected. (261)
Lectio divina has four stages: lectio, meditation, oratio, and contempaltio. In the first stage, lectio, the disciple reads a word or phrase from scripture. Then, in meditation, he goes away to ponder the word or phrase. In the next phase, oratio, the disciple returns to a spiritual elder for “holy conversation” (we now call this “spiritual direction”). In the final stage, contemplatio, the disciple incorporates the discussion with the spiritual elder into his understanding of the word or phrase.
St. Benedict challenges us to disconnect and be with God and our inner selves (255). We can follow his example by establishing and protecting times and places of silence in our homes and in our lives.
As part of our message series, It’s Better in Here, each week a parishioner will describe what Saint Brendan means to him or her personally. This week’s article is by new mom, Ashley Coakley.
“I don’t know if you’ll like it, but I guarantee, you are not having these kinds of conversations anywhere else in your life.” And with that, my brother Alex made a simple, yet effective pitch to get me to come check out the Alpha group at St Brendan’s.
For those, like me, who may not know about Alpha, the concept is simple. One night a week a small group gathers to watch a video talk on some aspect of faith- for example “Who is Jesus?” or “How and why do I pray?” Afterwards, there’s an open-ended discussion, accompanied by a little food and wine.
If I’m being honest, I went to Alpha that first night for a few reasons, none of which had much to do with my desire to examine my faith. In reality, the driving force was my guilt. I hadn’t been going to Church as regularly as I should. To me, Alpha felt like an opportunity to check a box (hey, it’s a church thing!) that could help offset some of that guilt. Second, older brothers are annoyingly convincing. And third, wine!
Thankfully, God has a way of motivating and speaking to each of us in exactly the way we need Him to. The most important thing was that He led me to Alpha, and the experience really has changed my life.
It’s hard to describe, but after the first night, it felt like I had scratched some itch that had unknowingly been bothering me for years. In a small back room of St. Brendan’s rectory, I found a group of incredible people – so different from me – who were willing to share their ideas and genuinely wanted to listen to mine. To me, the beauty of Alpha is that it’s given me space to ask the questions I’ve always wanted to ask, but never did either because I was too nervous, too embarrassed, or felt like after 16 years of Catholic school education I should already know the answers.
With Alpha in my life, I find myself thinking more often and more deeply about things that were not at the forefront of my mind just three months ago: How can my faith have a bigger impact on my everyday life? How I can better express gratitude for everything I’ve been given? Am I giving enough back to people who need it? How can I give our one-year-old son the best path to find God in his own life?
At times, these questions have felt overwhelming. But this past Sunday, I had a clarifying moment during the Children’s Mass. Listening to Father Roger interact with St. Brendan’s first grade class during the homily, it all became obvious. I don’t have to find these answers all on my own, because after 35 years I’ve finally found something even more powerful than answers. I’ve found a community that understands, accepts, and most importantly encourages all of my many questions.
It really, truly is Better in Here.
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