As part of the Saint Brendan Small Bytes speaker series, internationally-acclaimed author and artist, David Clayton, spoke on December 13 about ways to create a beautiful space for prayer in our homes. During an interactive session, he explained the why’s and how’s of creating a home altar. To listen to Professor Clayton’s complete talk, click here. In the meantime, here are some really practical ways to get started on turning your home into a “domestic church” and a house of prayer.
Finding The Right Place
Like the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, finding the right place and orientation for your home altar is the first step. In her blog, Katie Warner suggests selecting a spot that is easily accessible to everyone, perhaps in the family room or another common area. You can use any surface, such as a table, book shelf, mantle, or other noticeable nook. In his talk, David Clayton, suggested that the altar should be oriented so that it is facing East, if possible, because facing East is a symbol of our hope in the risen Christ.
Adorning Your Home Altar
The next step is to decorate your prayer space, so that it will be attractive and call you to prayer each time you pass by the area. Use linens to dress up the surface of the altar. You can use a regular table cloth or even purchase special items in a dollar store to add some color during Advent, Lent, and special feasts. Professor Clayton suggested including at least three items: a crucifix; an image or icon of the Madonna (Mary holding the infant Jesus); and a picture of Jesus after he was resurrected from the dead. You can also include other sacred objects, such as the Bible, prayer cards and books, statues, a Rosary, candles, blessed salt, incense, and even Holy Water.
Praying At Your Home Altar
Now that you’ve found the right place for your prayer space and adorned it with linens and inspiring sacred objects, don’t just admire your creation as another form of home decoration. Spend some quality time praying there, both individually and as a family. If you have children, gather there after dinner to pray. Light some candles, read a story from a children’s Bible. Ask your children to pray for something they need and for something for which they are grateful. Do the same yourself. Professor Clayton also suggested singing a song or a chant around the altar. It can be as easy as praying the Our Father using a simple chant form like at Mass. Or just put on some sacred music and listen to it together. Even when you are not specifically praying in front of the altar, reverence your little prayer space throughout the day. Take little moments to look at the altar and bless yourself with the sign of the cross or a quick prayer as you pass by, turning your heart to Jesus and acknowledging Mary as the Queen of the Family.
A Few Examples
Below are a few examples of beautiful home altars from our own parishioners at Saint Brendan.
From an Email sent to Father Roger by a Former Parishioner now living in another part of the world.
As I’m enjoying the last of the Christmas “hygge” here at my dad’s, listening to the sounds of Christmas on the radio and mindfully enjoying the warmth and the peace and the colors (and the chocolate), I want to tell you about my metaphorical Christmas morning.
I got up before everyone, checked on the cookies we left out for Santa, and headed out the door for a walk. I saw the first hint of sunrise: a deep purple glow announcing that night was over. As I walked down the hill, it brightened to a stunningly vivid scarlet, awakening an unmistakable sense of joy. By the time I reached the water, the sky had faded to bluish lavender, and I found myself longing for something more.
Suddenly, intense rays of piercing gold appeared on the horizon, coalescing, growing stronger until a blinding golden ball began to rise. I could feel the warmth, but could no longer look at the brightness. On turning away, I found its warm reflection lighting up the walls and windows of the houses behind me. And even when I closed my eyes, bright images of the golden rays were there. I returned home, now in the light of day, ready to face whatever, whoever had awoken there.
So yes, Advent. It brings with it hope and the promise of joy, foretelling the dawn of glory, the coming of our Lord, who spreads the warmth and light of His love throughout the earth and gives us fortitude to move forward in our day, our year, our lifetime.
I’m sad now to leave here, but am thankful for the joy I’ve experienced, and the lessons I’ve learned for next Christmas season: hurry less, stress less, live and love more.
By Joanna Collins,
Written exclusively for St. Brendan Parishioners
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Advent is a time for remembering. The secular world would have us believe the reason for this is that past Christmases were just better, with more joy, more snow, more family time, that it really would be best to give up on the worry and stress of today, and just relive the past.
But there’s a different kind of remembering, a remembering that brings us peace, while allowing us to move forward with hope. A remembering that helps us prepare, and grow in right relationship with the Lord, because it reveals who we are and where we came from. How did we get to this place in our life? Is it where we want to be? Are we right with ourselves, and with God? Have we opened our hearts to Him?
Remembering takes time, and awareness, and if there’s anything this season lacks, it’s spare time. A few weeks ago, I found myself listening to Father Roger’s homily about the importance of slowing down. Ironically, it was while at the gym, running my fastest on a treadmill to squeeze in some exercise between the other jobs and errands befitting a mom of four this time of year. I felt as though a hand were tapping me on the shoulder, asking “What’s the hurry? Where are you going?” To avoid the questions, I switched to my running playlist, saving the homily for the car between errands and that necessary Starbucks stop.
Ironic, isn’t it, that year after year we listen to the story of the Nativity, with those “bad guy” inn keepers who can’t manage to find room in their crowded inns for one small baby to be born, one who will bring salvation to the world, yet too often we’re no better: crowding out what is most important for the sake of “doing it all.” What should be a season of great joy turns into a time of great stress, and guilt, and berating ourselves for not meeting all the expectations, for falling too far behind. Jesus tells us, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” If Christmastime brings us so far from peace, maybe we’re doing something wrong. Maybe we need to start remembering.
Life is a journey, not a race. How easy to miss the wonders around us, if we spend our time running through it, our only focus being to beat the person in front of us.
This Christmas, as we prepare to welcome Emmanuel, let us remember God’s promise to be with us always. Not in a better past, or in a distant future, but now. Is there room for Him in our hearts this Christmas?
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep: The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.”
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 using the Gospel of John as a basis for prayer.
The Gospel of John differs significantly from the other gospels with respect to prayer, in that he does not teach the Our Father or present parables on prayer. In fact, Jesus only prays three times in John. Yet, each prayer signifies a greater spiritual reality, namely, that we have to die in order to have life.
Indeed, Jesus embraces his death on the cross from the very start of the Gospel. Two examples of this foreshadowing are found in chapter 2: the Wedding at Cana and the cleansing of the Temple. The ancient Jews believed that there would be a great abundance of wine in heaven. By turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, Jesus is preparing for his own heavenly wedding feast, which will occur after he dies on the cross and ascends to the heavenly kingdom. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the “Synoptic Gospels”), the cleansing of the temple occurs right before the Passion and is part of the reason why Jesus was crucified. John, however, puts it at the start of his Gospel to show that Jesus was preparing for his death on the cross from the very beginning.
The first time Jesus prays in the Gospel of John, he looks up and asks God the Father to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. When Lazarus is raised, the Gospel of John refers to it as a “sign” of everlasting life. The second time, Jesus tells his disciples that his hour of glory has come. In John, the hour of glory is the cross. Jesus acknowledges that he is troubled by the knowledge of what is to come, yet does not ask his Father to save him from it. Rather he says “Father, glorify your name” and receives a response from the heavens: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
Jesus’ third prayer is the longest and most important prayer in the Gospel of John. This extended prayer concludes a long set of teachings known as the “Last Supper Discourses,” which run from chapters 14-17. In this extended prayer, Jesus asks the Father to protect his disciples from the evil designs of the world, as well as for unity among the disciples and mystical union with the Father through Jesus. The prayers comes on the eve of his crucifixion and is his last will and testament in the world.
When Jesus prays and teaches his disciples to pray, he is using words to make present his relationship with the Father and their relationship with us. When we pray, we enter into the relationship with Jesus and God the Father, and it becomes present for us as well. This unity, however, comes about only through the death of Christ and our own willingness to die to ourselves.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, nor have we gone crazy. However, several people have been asking about the fact that Christmas falls on a Monday this year, and they are wondering if they are still obliged to attend Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 23-24). The answer is “yes.” We have a wonderful opportunity this year to worship together twice on Sunday!
Each Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation, as is Christmas, so the duty to take part in Sunday Mass still is present. If you have young children, or if you have relatives visiting, or if you are hosting a big dinner on Christmas Eve (e.g., Sunday night, December 24), you might want to bring your family to the Saturday night Mass on December 23, and then come to Christmas Eve Mass the next day. Especially when we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord Jesus each year, the Vigil Mass on December 24 is much loved and very popular! Or you could separate the events by attending the solemn and beautiful Midnight Mass on Monday morning.
So, as you make your plans, here is our schedule for the last days of Advent, and the first days of the Christmas Season:
Communal Penance Service
(Wednesday, December 20 at 7 p.m.)
Join us for a beautiful penance service with readings, music, and an uplifting message about God’s mercy. This is a great chance to come to confession with your neighbors, enjoy music, Bible readings, a brief homily, an examination of conscience to help you focus, and then the opportunity to go to the priest of your choice for confession. We will have four priests available, three of whom are from outside Saint Brendan Parish.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
(Saturday, Dec. 23 – Sunday, Dec. 24)
The Fourth Sunday of Advent will have regular Mass times at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday evening and 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Don’t miss this comforting message about how to make room for others and bring them spiritual comfort this Christmas season.
(Sunday, Dec. 24 – Monday, Dec. 25)
Join us on Christmas for an uplifting message of hope for our world through the birth of Christ that inspires human beings to bring hope to others.
Our popular Vigil Mass will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 24. Be sure to arrive early for a comfortable seat. Children will perform in a special Christmas Pageant, as well as sing in the choir.
Our Midnight Mass begins at 12:00 a.m. and will feature our adult choirs. Arrive at 11:15 p.m. to hear and sing along with Christmas carols.
Our Christmas Masses on Monday morning, December 25 follow a regular Sunday schedule, with Masses at 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.
May the good Lord bless you and your loved ones as we approach one of the most important feasts of the year, the Birth of Jesus!
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 using the Gospel of Luke as a basis for prayer.
Dante described Luke as scriba mansuetudinis Christi which translates to the scribe of the gentle mercy of Christ. The Gospel of Luke instructs us to trust in God’s mercy by praying continuously and persistently.
Luke integrates much of the material that is unique to his Gospel into the long journey narrative of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. When Jesus pauses along the way to pray and the disciples ask how they should pray, he gives them a version of the Lord’s Prayer that is considerably shorter than that of Matthew and beautiful in its simplicity:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
The Lord’s Prayer was intended to be said every day to keep the disciples on track. We who are also his disciples can benefit from saying this abbreviated form of the Lord’s Prayer every day, in addition to the extended one on Sunday.
The Lord’s Prayer is followed by a short parable known as “The Friend at Midnight,” in which one friend goes to the house of another at midnight asking for food to feed an unexpected guest. Jesus says that even though the friendship is not a strong enough basis to induce the man to get out of bed, his friend’s persistence will ultimately win out and cause the sleeping man to give his friend “whatever he needs.” Similarly, if we knock at God’s door through continuous and persistent prayer, our requests will be heard and answered.
As noted by Wicks, among all the writings of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke stands out for its emphasis on prayer. Indeed only Luke contains the two parables of prayer: The Friend at Midnight discussed above and the Parable of the Widow and the Callous Judge.
In the Parable of the Widow and the Callous Judge, Jesus teaches the disciples about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. The widow, a symbol of powerlessness who has been denied her economic rights, appeals to a judge who, by his own admission, has no fear of God or respect for anyone. Yet, because of the widow’s persistence, he gives in and she ultimately receives justice. The parable teaches us that continual prayer is not simply passive waiting but an active quest for what we seek.
There are many ways to integrate the Gospel of Luke into your prayer life. One of them is a new movement of looking at and praying with art called visio divina, literally “divine watching.” Illuminating Luke is a series of books written by a biblical scholar in collaboration with an art historian with examples of artwork depicting the events written about in the Gospel of Luke. Using books like this or even art found on the internet, we can use the Gospel of Luke in a new way to enrich our prayer life. In January, Fr. Evlogios who is living in the Rectory will speak on praying with icons.
By Manolito S. Jaldon, Jr.
Dir. of Evangelization & Faith Formation, St. Brendan Church
Christmas in San Francisco is a charming thing to celebrate. Russ Lorenson sings of how San Francisco is “a lovely place to be, seeing the hills being all lit up like a diamond Christmas tree, hearing children singing carols. People come from everywhere to sing along with the children standing all around Union Square.” Indeed, we have the Macy’s Christmas Tree, Ice Skating, Handel’s Messiah at Davies, and the Nutcracker at the War Memorial, to name a few premiere events of the season.
At the heart of it all, however, is the gift of remembrance. Childhood memories often come flooding back at this time of year. We remember fondly our loved ones who have gone before us and special family celebrations. In particular, I remember the Saint Nicholas Day party at the seminary that Father Roger and I always attended and one of the faculty members’ popular eggnog (with a special kick) that was served during the social.
All of these memories come to mind because they are special ways of celebrating the joy we experience when we realize that God’s desire is nothing less than to come so near to our humanity that he sent his only Son to be born into the world and enter our human family.
The readings this season reflect on this sense of divine nearness in three ways: history; mystery; and majesty. God comes to us in history through the awe-filled act of becoming a finite human being, subject to time and dependent on a human family. Our Lord comes to us each Sunday in mystery, hidden in the humble gifts of bread and wine. This manner of looking into the history of the past in order to celebrate the mystery of the present also points us to the future and how he will return in majesty.
Advent seems to be that season that comes and goes in the blink of an eye. If we take a moment to be still, however, we can find hidden gems in our spiritual lives during this time by disconnecting in order to reconnect with the memory of the central event of Christmas and God’s closeness to us.
A great way to do that is to make your home into a little oratory, a little chapel, where you can be still as a family and remember Christ in Christmas. When you create a space for prayer in your home, you are reminded of God’s presence at all times, while also making a connection between church and home.
Join us on Wednesday evening, December 13, at 7 p.m., as the internationally-acclaimed author, David Clayton, presents his book, The Little Oratory, and teaches us how to make our homes into truly sacred spaces. Then try it at home, take a picture, and send it to me at email@example.com. We will include your special Advent prayer space in our Christmas Eve celebration.
As we put up the crèche and tree in our homes once again this holiday season, let’s remember that Advent is a time to remember.
By Ben Gerigk,
Saint Brendan Catechist &
Aspirant to the Priesthood
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 using the Gospel of Mark as a basis for prayer.
The Gospel of Mark can be challenging because it presents Jesus as a somewhat mysterious figure. The Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is portrayed as a mighty healer and exorcist who warns his disciples not to tell others about his power. Three times he warns them that he must suffer and die and then be raised from the dead, but they never seem to understand.
Despite this enigmatic element, the Gospel of Mark effectively presents Jesus both as a “pray-er” and a model of prayer. From his baptism (1:9-13) to his final words on the cross (15:34), we see this suggestion that Jesus’ fidelity to prayer helps him to discern God’s will and strengthens him to act upon it. In this depiction, Mark calls upon us to emulate Jesus and invites us as his disciples to become part of a “house of prayer.” In one of the stories told about him in the gospel, for instance, Jesus says that his family is “whoever does the will of God” (3:35).
In fact, it is in the act of doing the will of God that our prayers are answered. In Mark 11:24, Jesus assures his disciples that they will receive “all that [they] ask for in prayer.” Yet, this is easily misunderstood. Most of us, at one time or another, have prayed from our hearts but believed that our prayers were not answered. That’s because the essence of prayer is aligning ourselves with the will of God. When what we ask for in prayer is to do the will of God, then our prayers always will be answered.
First and foremost, prayer should be about listening to Jesus’ words and allowing them to penetrate into our very being in order to transform us. When we begin to listen rather than speak, we experience a kind of “transformation-unto-obedience.” It is a slow process and at times difficult, but when we begin to remove the spiritual blindness from our hearts, we will more readily be able to appreciate what we are called to do. Only then will we be able to pray with integrity the petition, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” because we will be able to know and enact God’s will in our lives.
Practicing prayer is a step in the right direction to deepen our identity as disciples of Christ. It enables us to be with Jesus, listen to him, and through a transformation-unto-obedience be drawn into a new family gathered around him. Through this family of faith that hears and obeys the will of God, a new temple is constructed, a true house of prayer, where faith can be lived out in love and mutual forgiveness.
The Saint Brendan community welcomed a new member at the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, November 12. Eva Martin entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, when Father Roger received her profession of faith and confirmed her in the presence of the assembly.
Baptized as an infant at Grace Presbyterian Church in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, Eva attended Catholic school run by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. “The sisters who administered and taught at my grade school and high school fully embodied Christ’s message to serve with love,” Eva said. “It is their example that drew me to the Catholic faith.”
One of the great gifts of the Second Vatican Council was a deeper understanding of how Christians of various denominations and traditions can find common ground in their baptisms. Indeed, “the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church” is rooted in the sacrament of baptism (CCC 1271). When Christians baptized in other denominations seek to enter the Catholic Church, there is a special rite to welcome them.
In addition, a program of preparation is specifically designed that acknowledges the formation the candidate already has received in his or her previous faith tradition. “Our sessions were grace-filled moments of prayer and discovery,” said Manolito Jaldon, Saint Brendan’s Director of Evangelization and Faith Formation. “I have been renewed in my own convictions of how the Holy Spirit plays on the strings of our hearts to find his stirring presence in the midst of our lives.” When reflecting on her own experience of learning more about the Catholic faith, Eva said, “Taking this time to explore some of the lesser-known aspects of the faith and to reflect on the meaning of the Church’s teachings has been a more fulfilling and inspirational experience than I had ever imagined.”
Standing at her side during the rite of reception were her husband, a friend, and Sister Angela, who served as a proxy in the absence of Eva’s delegated sponsor. Once again, a faithful religious accompanied Eva on her spiritual journey, but this time it was a moment of intimate union with Christ, from her Reception and Confirmation to the Altar of the Eucharist to receive the Lord for the first time. “What a beautiful welcome for Eva today,” remarked one of the parish catechists present for the festivities. “I had tears in my eyes. Such joy!”
The assembly at the 11:30 a.m. Mass on the same day also witnessed five adults enter the Church as Catechumens. They now undertake their formal instruction, as our community accompanies and supports them on their journey towards baptism and full initiation into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
“I was thrilled to welcome Eva into the Church and the five catechumens into the formal phase of preparation to become Catholic,” said Father Roger. “It seems that the Holy Spirit is stirring up much spiritual excitement here on our little hilltop.”
By Ben Gerigk,
Saint Brendan Catechist &
Aspirant to the Priesthood
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 the way Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to pray in the Gospel of Matthew.
Since the early days of the Church, Matthew’s Gospel has been considered to be a kind of “catechism,” or a summary of principles, for living the Christian life. In particular, the gospel writer emphasizes, perhaps more than others, both Jesus’ personal example of prayer and his instruction on how to pray.
Matthew provides a number of examples of Jesus in prayer. For example, he prayed on the mountain alone (Matthew 14:23), prayed in thanksgiving for the rations of bread and fish he multiplied for the crowds (Matthew 14:19; 15:36), and prayed a blessing over the children brought to him by the crowds (Matthew 19:13). We even see how Jesus prayed during the ordeal of his crucifixion. In the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, for example, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
As these stories demonstrate, Jesus in his humanity had a close bond with God the Father, which he strengthened through consistent prayer. He put his trust in God throughout his life as he performed miracles and good deeds and even in the rough times as he was nailed to the cross.
The Gospel of Matthew not only provides examples of Jesus praying, it also has his teaching on how to pray (Matthew 6:9-15). Compared to Luke’s Gospel, Matthew provides a more elaborate version of the Our Father. The prayer acclaims God through three “you” petitions (“hallowed be your name,” “your kingdom come,” and “your will be done”), and includes three “we” petitions asking for God’s help (“give us today our daily bread,” “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” and “do not subject us to the final test but deliver us from the evil one”).
These components of the Our Father form the basis of authentic Christian prayer. From it, we learn reverence for our Father “who is in heaven,” the inextricable link between prayer and action as we ask for God’s kingdom to come to earth by doing his will, and the need to reflect in our own lives what we ask of God by being ready to forgive as we ask God to forgive us. These lessons all are embodied in the model of prayer that is Jesus’s gift to us. It is a prayer that reaches deep into our Jewish heritage and that epitomizes the mission of Jesus himself.
If you would like to deepen your own prayer experience, consider joining one of the many small groups at Saint Brendan Church or take a few minutes to listen to one of our Small Bytes talks on prayer. Learn more on our website at www.stbrendanparish.org.