Here are some suggestions for a more meaningful virtual participation of the liturgy created by a Paulist priest:

As we consider what it might mean to celebrate the Eucharist virtually, it is important also to reflect deeply on what being present to one another in virtual spaces actually means. Just as it’s possible to be in close physical proximity with others while simultaneously being absent mentally or spiritually, it’s also possible to be virtually present to one another in profound, meaningful, and real ways even when we’re physically distant. The following suggestions are ways to help us celebrate in this new paradigm in our “home” sanctuaries:

  • Read the scripture for the upcoming celebrations beforehand. You can easily access all readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. www.usccb.org/bible. You can also access the readings on apps such as Laudate and MyParish App. Readings are also listed in the bulletin each week.
  • Create a setting for the celebration. For example, use your dining table as the place from which you participate. Light a candle. Have a cross, crucifix, or religious icon on hand. If you are fortunate to be with others, have a loaf of bread that can be broken at the time of communion.
  • Observe familiar postures. Standing and sitting at appropriate times throughout the celebration can enhance our prayer. (See Catholic Apologist Gus Lloyd’s explanation of “Catholic Calesthenics” HERE.)
  • Remove distractions. Turn off cell phones (unless of course that is your source of participating) and refrain from snacking.
  • Dress up. Sleepwear *probably* isn’t the most appropriate attire for church!

Soon we will come back together to celebrate the Eucharist at the Lord’s table at Assumption!

So, do I *have* to watch Mass since I can’t go?

A post by Aleteia, Thursday, March 13, 2020

There’s no requirement to watch Mass when the obligation has been dispensed, but yes, the 3rd Commandment still applies!

In light of the suspension of public worship in many places, some Catholics have found themselves asking, “Am I required to watch Mass”? In other words, since it is impossible to get to Mass, is it a sin to not try to attend virtually?

No, it is not required to watch Holy Mass online or on television (or to listen on the radio for that matter). To those who have already expressed their frustration at slow or over-crowded streaming services or inadequately announced worship schedules, you’re in the clear.

Even though many bishops have dispensed us from our Sunday obligation (dispensation is the legal term for the relaxing of our normal practice), we should still, to the best of our ability, keep Sunday holy.

To that end, I recommend the following practices:

DO NOT WORK ON SUNDAY
The temptation, while working from home, will be very great to allow Sunday to be like other days. Fight this with your whole heart. Sunday belongs to the Lord. Do not allow yourself on Sunday to slip into the rhythm of other days.

DO WATCH OR LISTEN TO MASS
No, you do not have to, but it is praiseworthy. If you cannot watch it at the “live” time, watch it later in the day. Many places have made archived video available. If that’s the case, you could watch the Mass after it happens; no need to worry that it’s not a “live” celebration.

READ THE SUNDAY READINGS
It may be the case that in your house, watching Mass is too much like other activities (movies, video games, etc.). I could understand children participating better in a family prayer service. To that end, read the Sunday readings aloud. Perhaps listen to a recorded homily or have a family member give a reflection. Share prayer intentions.

PRAY THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS
The Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, is the Church’s rhythm of biblical and monastic prayer. Grounded in the traditions of the first Christians who gathered to recite Psalms and the Our Father, this method of prayer continues unabated. See this article for more on the Liturgy of the Hours.

CHANGE YOUR ROUTINE
Maybe on Sunday you could make a “no TV” rule or have a game night. Go for a walk as a family. Take up another Lenten devotion together, such as praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.

Keeping Sunday holy means claiming time for God. This is done principally in the formal, official worship of the Church, the Mass. The priest stands in for Christ and offers back to the Father every prayer and heavenly blessing. We can still unite our hearts to the sacrifice of the Mass. We are still called to keep Sunday holy.

This is a time of difficulty, deprivation, and sorrow. It is part of our Lent: heading to the desert to sacrifice and pray as Christ did. Let us ask God to make these days fruitful. His grace will be at work in many quiet and surprising ways! Let us beg the Lord that we don’t miss it!

What is Good Friday and why do Catholics NORMALLY (sans COVID-19 stay at home orders) go to church on this day? Watch this short, 3-minute video from Catholic Online for a thorough explanation:

 

Understanding Holy Week in 4 Minutes!

Understanding Holy Week in just 4 minutes? It’s a great start! Holy Week is quickly approaching, the most sacred week in our Church’s year. Do you know why it’s so holy and sacred? Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink, sit back and take 4 minutes to watch this enlightening video. Enter into Holy Week with a whole new understanding of why this week is “Holy”!

Don’t Stop Understanding Holy Week!

This video took just 4 minutes. Obviously, there’s so much more to know and understand about Holy Week. 4 minutes simply can’t do it justice. Why not take some time to visit a Catholic website to learn more (simply Google “Catholic Information Websites” to find excellent sources)? Or when the pandemic is over and the stay at home order is lifted, take some time to visit a Catholic store such as The Angelus (located on Diamond across the street from St. Isidore Church in Grand Rapids). Another great source is Michigan Church Supply located on the first floor at Cathedral Square downtown on the corner of Wealthy and Division Streets in Grand Rapids. Not sure what you’re looking for? Someone is always there to help and make suggestions for you.

No matter our age, there is so much to continually learn about the Catholic Faith. Don’t ever stop learning as it takes more than a life-time to know all there is to know about our beliefs!

The Blessed Virgin Mary promised to Saint Dominic and to all who follow that “Whatever you ask in the Rosary will be granted.” She left for all Christians Fifteen Promises to those who recite the Holy Rosary.

Imparted to Saint Dominic and Blessed Alan:

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. The Rosary will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire for eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenititude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are my sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of my only Son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion of my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Basically every situation we face in life has a heavenly intercessor specifically linked to it.

Public Domain | Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P./Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 | Public Domain

Public Domain | Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P./Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 | Public Domain

We Catholics have a lot of patron saints, such that basically every facet of life experience is covered by some saint who has a connection to it.Even if a situation looks plain impossible, we can always turn to St. Jude, the patron of Impossible.

The reasons that saints are connected to their patronages can be obvious and direct, or sometimes quite humorous. But it’s consoling to know that a heavenly intercessor is always at the ready to present our needs to the Lord.

 It’s not surprising, then, that we have a handful of saints to call on in pandemics. Since coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, here are a few saints with whom we can strike up a conversation about our present needs.

Let us start with the Four Holy Marshals. Of the four, we are only including two: St. Quirinus of Neuss, a patron saint for fighting smallpox, and St. Anthony the Great, a patron saint for combating the plague.

St. Quirinus of Neuss – Patron for those affected by bubonic plague and smallpox

Quirinus was born in the first century and died in the year 116 A.D.  Legend has it that he was a Roman tribune and was ordered to execute Alexander, Eventius, and Theodolus. These men had been arrested on orders of the emperor. Their crime: being Christian.

But Quirinus witnessed miracles performed by the three men and was baptized into the faith along with his daughter, Balbina. He and Balbina were decapitated for becoming Christian and buried in the catacomb on the Via Appia.

Move ahead 1,500 years. Documents from Cologne, dated 1485, say Quirinus’ body was donated in 1050 by Pope Leo IX to his sister, the abbess of Neuss. Soon after, Charles the Bold of Burgundy laid siege to Neuss with his army spreading from western Germany, the Netherlands, and as far south as Italy. The citizens of Neuss invoked Quirinus for help, and the siege ended. Wellsprings popped up and were dedicated to him. He was then called on to fight against bubonic plague and smallpox.

This saying by farmers is associated with Quirinus’ feast day of March 30, a similar tradition to Groundhog Day. It reads, “As St. Quirinus Day goes, so will the summer.”  

St. Anthony the Great – Patron of those affected by infectious diseases

One of the greatest saints of the early Church, Anthony was one of the first monks and is considered the founder and father of organized Christian monasticism.

He organized disciples into a community and these communities eventually spread throughout Egypt. Anthony is known as Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony of the Desert, and Anthony of Thebes.  He is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on January 17.

St. Anthony the Great is also invoked as a patron against infectious diseases.

Edwin the Martyr (St. Edmund) — Patron for victims of pandemics

Edmund is an acknowledged patron against pandemics. Much is written about this saint from the 9th century who died in 869. Interestingly though, hardly anything is known for certain about him. Yet there are churches all over England dedicated to him. The Danes murdered him when they conquered his army in 869.

Edmund the Martyr, in addition to being the patron saint invoked against pandemics, is also the patron of torture victims and protection from the plague.

We might mention a few more saints who are patrons for those who struggle with familiar illnesses and afflictions:

    • St. Damien of Molokai: Patron saint of those with leprosy (Hansen’s disease)
    • St. Dymphna: The 15-year-old Irish girl who is patroness of emotional disorders
    • The Fourteen Holy Helpers: Epidemics, especially the bubonic plague (the Black Death)
    • StMatthias: Patron saint of alcoholics and those with smallpox
    • St. Tryphon:  Patron to aid us in fighting off bed bugs, rodents, and locusts

The list is endless. What’s certain is that the saints are waiting for your call.

Looking for something to do with the kids while they’re off during this crazy Corona time? Look no further than your kitchen! These treats can be made any time of the year so watch, enjoy and have fun making these cute snacks and desserts. Food? $20 Electricity? $2 Time spent with kids? PRICELESS.

Enjoy Paczki Before Observing Lent

If you’re not familiar with paczki (plural, pronounced ‘POONCH-kee’), here’s some interesting facts. The singular is paczek (pronounced ‘POON-check’). Don’t order just one “paczki” as that’s the plural. Order one paczek. If you happen to make a mistake, don’t worry. How are you to know if you’re not Polish? Indeed, one thing’s for sure: if you don’t enjoy a paczek or two before Lent, you’re missing out!

In any event, whether it’s one or many, paczki are Polish pastries that are inextricably linked with Fat Tuesday celebrations. People not of Polish heritage compare it to a jelly-filled donut. But it’s not comparable at all. And I’m Polish so I know! Why is it not close? Because authentic Polish paczki are made with extremely rich dough, literally made of everything rich found in the Polish pantry. Catholic religious law forbade the consumption of lard, sugar and eggs during the Lenten fasting season. Paczki is the result of cleaning out the Polish pantry and indulging before Lent which generally begins the Thursday before Lent.

Enjoy Paczki from a Bakery

Before you stop just anywhere to buy paczki, make sure you know if the bakery uses an authentic paczki recipe or if they simply use their donut recipe for the dough. Last year I excitedly made a stop at a new bakery and was not happy to find a “donut” paczki. It makes a difference! A true, authentic paczki is super rich and delicious. Eating one brings a body joy. Eating more than one at a time makes you sick! That’s why Polish people start the Thursday before Ash Wednesday so they have a few days to eat more than one!

If you can’t find authentic paczki, why not try making your own?

Authentic Recipe

My Polish Busia made wonderful paczki. Most recipes are similar and this one is very close to my Busia’s. Any way you look at it, paczki are good, and all that is good comes from God. Whip up this recipe, try a homemade paczek, start a new family tradition and have a blessed Lent!

 Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 2 pkgs. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2-3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted and cooled slightly (Busia used 1/2 butter, 1/2 lard)
  • oil for frying (preferably lard but canola works if lard isn’t available)
  • any fruit jam (optional for filling)
Directions

Scald milk and allow to cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast into lukewarm milk. Dissolve yeast in milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed and let stand for about 30 minutes or until bubbles form.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy. Add sugar, salt, vanilla and nutmeg and continue to whisk to combine well.

Grease a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Add the sugar/egg mixture to the dough mixture and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon. Add melted butter and continue to stir. Gradually combine remaining flour until a slightly sticky but soft dough comes together. Flour your hands, knead the dough a few times and form into a ball.

Place dough in prepared mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour).

Punch down dough. Roll to a 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out dough rounds using a round cutter. Or you can use an upside down drinking glass. Just dip the rim in flour after each cut if it sticks. Place onto a wax-paper (or parchment) lined cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes in a warm place.

Heat a deep skillet with 1 1/2-inches of oil to about 350 degrees F. Place 3-4 paczki in the skillet at a time and fry until dark, golden brown on each side. Use tongs to flip only once! It’s important to let them get dark in color to make sure they cook all the way through. Gently place on paper towel-lined plate to drain the oil. Repeat the process for remaining paczki.

Sweetening the Paczki

After they drain on paper towel, dip into granulated or powdered sugar. My Busia would put the sugar in a brown paper bag. Then she’d add the paczki a couple at a time and shake until well coated. This way they get sugar on all sides equally. Using a piping bag, fill paczki from the side with fruit jam of choice, if using. Stewed prunes are the traditional filling, but raspberry, blueberry, cherry and more taste great, too. Enjoy!

Polish Hints

Frying hints:

Test the temperature of the fat by dropping in a cube of bread, about one inch in size. If it browns in one minute, the fat is hot enough. This is a good general rule to remember when frying any uncooked food. Be sure, above all, that the fat does not smoke. That means it’s too hot.

Prior to cooking:

Add a tablespoon of cold water to the cold fat . This keeps it from burning easily and insures a nice browning of the food. Fat may be used over and over again, if clarified after each use and stored properly.

To clarify oil:

Let the fat cool and add a few slices of raw potato. Heat slowly until the potato is well browned. Strain through several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Store in a tightly closed container in a cool, dark place. When re-using, fry a quartered apple in the fat to remove any flavor prior to use.

THE HOLY FATHER’S PRAYER INTENTIONS
ENTRUSTED TO HIS WORLDWIDE PRAYER NETWORK FOR THE YEAR 2020

February

Universal prayer intention – Listen to the Migrants’ Cries
We pray that the cries of our migrant brothers and sisters, victims of criminal trafficking, may be heard and considered.

March

Prayer intention for evangelisation – Catholics in China
We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.

April

Universal prayer intention – Freedom from Addiction
We pray that those suffering from addiction may be helped and accompanied.

May

Prayer intention for evangelisation – For Deacons
We pray that deacons, faithful in their service to the Word and the poor, may be an invigorating symbol for the entire Church.

June

Prayer intention for evangelisation – The Way of the Heart
We pray that all those who suffer may find their way in life, allowing themselves to be touched by the Heart of Jesus.

July

Universal prayer intention – Our Families
We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.

August

Universal prayer intention – The Maritime World
We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families.

September

Universal prayer intention – Respect for the Planet’s Resources
We pray that the planet’s resources will not be plundered, but shared in a just and respectful manner.

October

Prayer intention for evangelisation – The Laity’s Mission in the Church
We pray that by the virtue of baptism, the laity, especially women, may participate more in areas of responsibility in the Church.

November

Universal prayer intention – Artificial Intelligence
We pray that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind.

December

Prayer intention for evangelisation – For a life of prayer
We pray that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ be nourished by the Word of God and a life of prayer.

When we’re depressed or feeling blue, this prayer from Padre Pio is a way to reach out

PADRE PIO STATUE

Aletia: Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB | Jan 10, 2018

If you find yourself in a state of darkness, the key is “to reach.”

The small framed unsigned print reads “Reach up as high as you can today, and God will reach down the rest of the way.” It’s my go-to quote for those times when I feel an emotional darkness—depression—coming on. For many of us this darkness is a familiar not-so-good old friend, the Black Dog mentioned by Sir Winston Churchill—or seasonal affective disorder.The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has clinical definitions for depression, and there is as well the spiritual darkness that St. John of the Cross writes about in Dark Night of the Soul. However you’ve come to a depressive state, and for whatever history brought you there, the key in both of those dark times is to reach.

The state of darkness and depression is not a void. It is a space filled with insights that we are momentarily blinded to. When we try to go it alone, we are often too wearied to keep from going under, instead succumbing to the waves of hopelessness.

To reach is not an intuitive movement when psychologically and/or spiritually sinking into depression. Even though we’ve been taught that to despair is to turn our backs to God—which is a sin—there is another element to despairing that is sometimes overlooked. It comes from the Rule of St. Benedict, “In all things may God be glorified.”

The Prayer from Padre Pio

In a recent confession, when I was in a season of depression, the priest gave me a very specific penance. I was to read about Jesus walking on stormy seas, and Peter’s fear in Matthew 14:30-31. Then reflect, specifically, on that moment when Peter is desperately reaching out to Our Lord—that second just before Jesus takes his hand.

It was a dark and doubt-filled moment for Peter, whose faith had faltered. It was also an intuitive response to a person physically drowning — reaching out, trying to grasp at anything to save his life.

Assured that the Lord had taken my hand so I will not drown, I often read this prayer, sometimes three times through!

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have you present so that I do not forget you. You know how easily I abandon you.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need your strength, so that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my life, and without you, I am without fervor.
Stay with me, Lord, for you are my light, and without you, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear your voice and follow you.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love you very much, and always be in your company.
Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to you.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for you, a nest of love. Amen.
~St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Prayer After Communion

Depression is a battle, and for some of us a lifelong cross to bear. In bearing it as best we can while reaching up and out for help, we are led in to a deeper maturity of faith—which like most virtues, is not easily won.