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Finding Joy in the Season of Lent, Part 2

by Marianne Buzzelli, OFS

Jesus at Gethsemene

The second area of focus during lent is sacrifice in the form of fasting. And, fasting is not limited to reducing the amount of food we eat. But, rather it refers to getting rid of our attachments to earthly things and sinfulness. In action it means giving up something for myself so that I can offer it for someone else. The things we give up can be money, time, or activities.

The significance in this sacrifice or fasting is the motivation of giving to others and thinking of others first, rather than oneself. As we give up time spent with a play activity we can spend that time volunteering in service to the poor, homeless, sick, aged. As we give up the purchase of a meal or item for ourselves, we can donate the money to the poor or homeless. And, finally, as we give up time spent in worldly endeavors, like television, we can spend more time in prayer. In each action of giving up something or some time that we would usually focus on ourselves, we learn to focus time, attention, and goods in charity for others. In essence, we are thus, acting as Jesus taught. And, we become more like Jesus.

Reflection: Let us practice fasting during lent by performing some act of charity each day and spending more time in prayer. The rosary is one of the greatest prayers we have in which we pray the scriptures, the life of Christ. As we recite each of the mysteries of the rosary we are asked to focus on Jesus as he lived and suffered for us. Begin today in prayer to Jesus and Mary with this lovely Sacred Heart of Jesus Rosary.

 

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Finding Joy in the Season of Lent -Part 1

By Marianne Buzzelli

Prayer in LentWhen we think of lent we often look only at the challenge of the sacrifices we’re asked to make. For it is a time when we focus on increasing the time we spend in prayer and fasting. But, it is more appropriate to look not at what we give up during lent, but, to recognize what we gain, and see the joy in the season of lent. How then do we find the true joy that God intends for us to have during this time of prayer and fasting?

First, as we spend more time in prayer, we come closer to God on our journey to becoming one with God. As we spend more and more time with God in prayer, we lose the attachment to self and become more like Christ. In prayer and conversation with God we place our attention on God, rather than on self. Thus, our sacrifice of time, and refraining from other activities as we devote time to prayer, allows us to find greater joy in our relationship with God.

Reflection: Let us begin today to focus on God as we devote more time to our conversation with God in prayer. Conversing with God in Lent teaches the spiritual practice of praying the Sunday Mass Reading with lectio divina. It is surely the perfect resource for Lenten devotion to assist you in your spiritual development and your relationship with God.

 

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Ash Wednesday – Lenten Preparation

by Marianne Buzzelli

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. The season of Lent is 46 days before Easter Sunday. In the Catholic Church the day is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and penance. It is on Ash Wednesday that we begin our preparation for the great celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We recognize the significance of 40 days of fasting in preparation for Easter in imitation of the life of Jesus. We hear in the Gospels how Jesus prepared for each significant event in his ministry during his life by going away in private to fast and pray. He went into the desert to fast and pray before he began his public ministry. It was through this act of fasting and prayer that Jesus sought and received the understanding of God’s will for his life. Jesus gives us this example of the significance of solitude in our conversation with God, as well as the discipline of fasting in gaining control of our bodies as we allow ourselves to hear God’s will.

On Ash Wednesday Catholics and other Christians (Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians) receive the sign of the cross made with ashes on their foreheads. Ashes were used in ancient times as was noted in the books of the Old Testament as a sign of mourning and repentance.

Reflection: Let us begin our 40 days of preparation for the resurrection of Our Lord by offering Jesus our little sacrifices of time, service, fasting, alms, and prayer. And, offer up our sacrifices for the conversion of souls and our own holiness. The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent provides an excellent resource for spiritual growth and development during your lenten preparation for Christ.

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What is Redemptive Suffering?

by Marianne Buzzelli

Redemptive suffering is our participation in and union with the passion of Christ through our physical or mental suffering. It is a participation in the cross of Christ. As we carry our cross of suffering we are united to the cross of Christ. And, it is, of course, the cross of Christ that brought us redemption, through His suffering, and salvation from original sin which provided the means for us to join God in his heavenly kingdom.  As the Catechism of The Catholic Church (par 1521) states, “suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.”

What a wonderful privilege we are given to participate in the saving work of Jesus. It is not, of course, that our redemption was not accomplished by the death of Jesus. But, we can unite ourselves to Jesus on the cross during our suffering. And, as we participate in the suffering of Jesus, we offer God our suffering to be united to the suffering of His beloved Son.

The apostle, St. Paul reaffirms the power of redemptive suffering, when he says, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col 1:24). Pope John Paul II wrote extensively on redemptive suffering in Apostolic Letter, “Salvifici Doloris”. He reminds us that that the Gospel speaks in multiple places of “suffering for the sake of Christ”. And, it is just as Jesus shared in that aspect of our humanity when He experienced suffering, we are blessed to be able to share in the most wonderful redemptive value gained by His suffering as we carry our crosses.

During His life Christ endured suffering, pain, and death. And, his ministry focused on helping and healing those suffering from pain, illness, and disease. Another aspect identified in the redemptive value of suffering is the result of suffering on those around the suffering individual. For it is when we witness a loved one in pain are we not called to express our love in trying to comfort and assist him in both words and actions. And, is it not during the time of the illness of a friend, loved one, or even a stranger, that we turn to God in our prayer of petition to Him. And, we are brought closer to God in our response to the suffering of another. This is, thus, an example of redemptive suffering.

Reflection: Pain, illness, disease, and suffering are a part of our lives. Whether we experience suffering ourselves or as we witness a friend or loved one in pain we nonetheless endure the cross of suffering throughout our lives on earth. It is God’s Will that we unite our suffering to His suffering of His cross. Let us pray for the strength to endure whatever cross we have been given and offer the suffering for the salvation of souls as we “suffer for the sake of Christ”. And, we can then join St. Paul in saying, “ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. (Gal 2:20).  As we pray to Jesus we can show our devotion and love for His cross as we display and wear a cross necklace crucifix.

Bio: Marianne Buzzelli is a Catholic writer and owner of Holy Cross Necklaces which sells fine cross necklaces, saint medals, rosaries, religious statuary, Catholic books, and more.

 

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The Cross of Christ and The Meaning of Suffering

One of the most frequent questions people have in times of difficulty in their lives deals with suffering. The question is: “Why is there suffering? Why do good people suffer? If God loves me why does He allow my loved one to suffer?” The simple answer is that God does not give us suffering but, allows it if it accomplishes a better good. And, what could possibly be a better good than to experience good health? The answer is clear when one considers the greatest value of an individual’s life. It is not one’s physical body but one’s soul.

What do most of us do when we fear being helpless? And, what is the most common response when we fear physical disability, mental disability, or death? Where do we go when the condition of our lives or our bodies are not within are control? Is it not then that we acknowledge our own limitations and weakness, and realize that we need God?

So it is that as we experience pain or suffering that we turn away from ourselves and look to God, seek a closer relationship with God, and turn to God for His help. It is at this time when we recognize our vulnerability that we realize that we are nothing without God, and that without God we have no life – physical or spiritual. We realize that the things we valued in our lives: money, title, power, and occupation mean nothing when we are facing the possibility of death. And, this death can be mortal death of the body or spiritual death of the soul.

So what good is accomplished when we turn to God in our suffering? As we spend more time seeking God, praying for his help, and listening to His voice within us, we slowly improve our relationship with Him. Our act of going to God in our time of desperation is in essence our response to His call to us. Our heart becomes open to the voice of God that had been calling us since our baptism when we were first united to Him. With each moment we spend in conversation with God we come to know Him better. And, as we begin to know God better we also gain a better understanding of ourselves. We begin to see our own soul as God sees it. And, we have a greater desire to spend even more time in prayer to God. With each encounter with God we come to know Him more and love Him more. And, with ongoing devotion to our prayer with God, we find ourselves with a great desire to serve others. We begin to pray for others, not just ourselves. And, our prayers extend beyond petition to thanksgiving and adoration.

In our quest to find relief in our suffering by turning to God in prayer we inevitably improve the state of our soul. With each prayer of petition for a loved one or stranger, prayer of thanksgiving, prayer of adoration, or act of charity, we have become more united with God.

And, so how is suffering a good thing? If suffering brings us closer to God so that we spend more time with Him, develop a relationship with Him, know Him and love Him, and even choose to serve Him, what have we accomplished? Isn’t that exactly why God created us? It is indeed so that we may know Him, love, and serve Him here on earth, and be happy with Him forever in heaven.

Let us not, therefore complain in time of suffering. But, rejoice in the opportunity to share in The Cross of Christ, carry the cross He gave us, and prepare our souls for eternal happiness with Him now and in eternity. What a wonderful way to express your love and devotion to Christ and His cross as you wear a beautiful gold cross crucifix.

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The Baptism of Our Lord

Solemnity today – January 9, 2011

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River. On this occasion we again see the manifestation of Jesus in His humanity and divinity. We hear The Father’s voice from heaven announce Jesus as His Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit above Jesus in the form of a dove, as we hear in today’s Gospel of Mark 1: 9-11,  “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove;  and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

 It is at this scene of the baptism of Jesus that we are witness to the Blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, at the moment of His baptism by water His mission as The Messiah (anointed one) was revealed. We hear in Acts 10:38, “ God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”.  God the Father did the anointing of Jesus, the Son, with the Holy Spirit.

Reflection: On this day in which we commemorate the baptism of Our Lord we also reflect on the significance of our own baptism. It is in the sacrament of baptism that we are reborn into the life of Christ and His Church and we are forgiven of original sin, we receive sanctifying grace, and we become temples of the Holy Spirit. What a glorious event to recall the date on which we became united with Christ. And, as we journey here on earth we strive to remain united with Christ in a state of sanctifying grace, to know Him in prayer, to develop a deeper relationship with Him, and to radiate Christ to the world. We can pray to the Blessed Trinity and commemorate the life of Jesus as we pray the life of Christ on this beautiful Gold Amethyst Swarovski Crystal Rosary.

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The Epiphany of The Lord – The 3 Magi Visit The Infant Jesus in Bethlehem

Feast day January 6

Today we commemorate and celebrate the day on which the 3 magi or 3 kings traveled from the Orient, following a star to Bethlehem to give homage to the newborn king. Sacred Scripture tells us that the 3 kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor Our Lord.

Church Fathers tell us that these gifts have symbolic meaning in addition to the expression of honor. The gold symbolized Our Lord’s earthly rule as a king. The frankincense symbolized His divinity as the incense would rise to heaven in prayer, acknowledging Him as God. The myrrh symbolized that one day he would die. Myrrh was used for the anointing of Jesus’ body after His death.

The observance of the feast of the Epiphany was first recorded by Ammianus Marcellinus, a fourth-century Roman historian. It was also the significance of this feast day is God being manifested as a human child, that is, the mystery of the incarnation.

Reflection: We commemorate the event in history in which Our Lord Jesus was acknowledged as king and God and first presented with precious gifts. Thus, it is a day in which we all contemplate that we also are to give our gifts to Our Lord. Christ has given us the most precious gifts of life, grace, and eternal salvation. What gifts will we give Him? He asks us to give him our lives, our families, our relationships, our fear, our joy, our trust, our acceptance of His Will, and most of all our love. What a wonderful way to honor the Infant Jesus in prayer before a beautiful Infant of Prague statue.

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St. Andrew Christmas Novena to Obtain Favors

Infant Jesus

The St. Andrew Christmas Novena is named for the date on which it begins every year –  the Feast of St. Andrew the apostle, November 30. It is a petition to God in honor of the birth of His Son, Jesus, Our Savior. It is piously believed that whoever faithfully recites this novena 15 times per day from November 30 until Christmas Day will obtain a request that is asked.

This novena was given the Imprimatur by Michael Augustine, Archbishop of New York, 1897

 

St. Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer to Obtain Favors:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment

In which the Son of God was born

Of the most pure Virgin Mary,

At midnight, in Bethlehem,

In the piercing cold.

In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God

To hear my prayer and grant my desires,

Through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,

And of His Blessed Mother.

Amen.

 

For Reflection: Advent is the season to prepare for the coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is very fitting that we praise and bless the moment of the birth of Jesus – the most holy of all moments in the history of mankind, with this special prayer every day of Advent until Christmas. And, as we commemorate this special moment of the birth of Jesus in prayer daily, we humbly hope that God will answer our petition. As you pray this Christmas Novena in petition and as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus how wonderful to look upon a beautiful Infant Jesus figurine.

 

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Advent – Preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ, Our Savior, and The Holy Family

Advent is the time in the liturgical season when we are given the opportunity once again to prepare our hearts and our souls to receive Jesus Christ, Our Savior. It is a time to open our hearts to the great potential of love that we were given when we were baptized into the Catholic faith, and joined the body of The Church and communion of the saints. We prepare for the rebirth and renewal of Jesus into our hearts as we commemorate and celebrate that first Nativity over 2000 years ago. The infant Jesus calls us now to give our hearts in love and humility as the shepherds did when they came to adore their King and Savior. We experience this love in humility as servants when we give to the poor, visit the sick and elderly, contribute our time in service to the church, and spend more time with our family and friends. It is common to hear this loving action described during this time as “the spirit of Christmas”.  But, as Christians we know that this loving action of service is “the spirit of God living in us –  The Holy Spirit”. And, The Holy Spirit is within us every day of our lives as long as we are free from mortal sin, not just during the Christmas season.

For Reflection: How have we grown in our love for Jesus during this year? What will we do to prepare to greet the infant Jesus again this Christmas morning? Have we been more generous with the gifts that He has given us? Have we spent time in prayer – giving praise and thanksgiving to God, and listening to Him as He speaks to us during our day? Advent is a wonderful time to prepare ourselves by doing good works and spending more time in prayer. We honor Jesus and The Holy Family as we celebrate the first Nativity in praise and thanksgiving each year. You can express your honor and devotion to Jesus and The Holy Family as you display a beautiful Holy Family figurine and invoke their intercession in prayer.

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Prayer to The Holy Trinity

 

By Marianne Buzzelli, (Sr. Mary Joseph, SFO)

Sterling silver four-way medal

 

Dear Holy Trinity, open my eyes, my ears, my mind, and my heart

to recognize God’s Holy Will for my life;

to recognize the face of Christ in everyone,

and to be the heart, the hands, and the feet of Christ to everyone.

Give me the wisdom, courage, strength, patience, and humility

to love and serve God and all The Church

with my whole heart, whole mind, and whole strength

in all my daily prayers, words, and actions.

Continue to form me in Christ’s image

so that I may be a worthy servant

and saint of His Holy Church and His heavenly Kingdom.   Amen

 

I offered this prayer request to The Holy Trinity during my profession to The Secular Franciscan Order. You may express your love and devotion to The Holy Trinity in prayer as you wear this beautiful sterling silver four-way medal pendant with The Holy Spirit.

 

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