Into Your Hands, Father

Christ-Crucified“Father, into your Hands,” we hear Jesus pray from the Cross, “I commend my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

We pray these words every night as part of our compline prayer. How appropriate as we prepare for the ‘little death’ that comes in our night’s rest to commend our very breath – our spirit – back to God until morning comes.

During our retreat in the Summer, we prayed compline with 70 of our Lay Canossian Associates. And I ask you the same questions I asked them:

– what is it that the Lord is asking of you on this retreat (or, for your life)?
– what does He want you to let go of?
– what does He want from your relationships (with God; family; friends; Church)?
– what does He want to Heal in you?
– what does He want to forgive in you?

The Church in her wisdom invites us to enter into the sacred silence of the night, by first putting our hearts before God, and giving an account of our day. While the prayer is penitential in nature, like all prayer, it is also a prayer of praise. It allows us to relive our day with the Lord, first by glorifying Him where we can see His loving hand caring for us, helping us in our successes.

It also helps us to see where in our day we misread God’s voice, and learn from the experience, so to be better prepared next time. It is penitential in the fact it also leads us to understand where we chose not to follow God’s voice, and opens us to ‘turn to God with our whole heart” (RSV, Joel 2:12), for “…a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (RSV, Psalm 51:17)  It is just because of this penitential tone, we find the opportunity to strengthen our resolve for the next time we feel tempted to stray from His voice.

Compline, then,  is a discipline not only for opening up that dialog with God; but just as much it is a way of understanding oneself through examining the why  we do what we do. In the examine, God speaks to the heart, and thus teaches us how to live more fully for Him and, to strengthen us in the face of temptation. A regular review of our conscience will increase our awareness of where we need to grow. With practice, we become more sensitive to  God’s voice, and we find in us a greater desire to please Him and to love Him with our whole heart, placing our lives into His loving hands.

Cross-posted at Ignitum Today

Remembering Our Mother Foundress

On April 10th, we remember Our Mother Foundress, Saint Magdalene of Canossa, in a special way. It was today, in the year 1835, she was laid to rest. Remembering the death of Magdalene is a moment of grace for us. The end of her earthly life gives us an idea of the “passion” that guided her life and work. For her, death meant surrendering the energies she spent to make the “Greatest Love” – Jesus Crucified – known and loved. Surrendering these energies is the fulfillment of her existence, a witness of her faith and love, a gift of self that continues to bear fruit, even in us.

The Chapel at the Mother House, Verona Italy. Magdalene's remains are kept underneath the altar.
Looking into Magdalene's cell, where she died.

Let us sit at the feet of our Saint and listen to her words:

“Love contains the fullness and the fulfillment of the Law: the imitation of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and of all his teachings…”

“Let us consider the commandment of love at the moment that Jesus Christ recommended it and the way he did so.”

“On the Cross Jesus Crucified was stripped of everything except his love…”

“The divine mercy wants to form the Daughter of Charity according to those virtues of which Jesus Christ Crucified gave us a luminous example on the cross.”

“It means animating all our actions and activities with the Spirit of Jesus Christ: the spirit of charity, sweetness, meekness, humility, the spirit of zeal and fortitude, a spirit most amiable, most generous, most patient, in imitation of those virtues which our great Model practiced, especially on the Cross.”

Let us pray:

O God of immense love, be merciful to us. Teach us to ask for what is really useful to life. Comfort us in our present necessities. May Magdalene, who out of love for Christ Crucified and Mary most sorrowful, left the comforts of her father’s house in order to humbly serve you in the poor and suffering members of his mystical body, intercede for us. Amen.


One of My Favorite Prayers

Sister Lisa Marie wrote about the prayer that led her to become a Canossian. Maybe you will like it too:

Yes. I am a Canossian Sister, and have found my home in this beautiful Canossian religious family. How is it that I am here was settled by one prayer that our Sisters around the world pray each morning, asking for the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows:

Father, you willed that Mary
be at the Foot of the Cross
sharing in the sacrifice of your Son….

To continue reading, go here now.

Fasting and Abstinence

A gentle reminder to all of us, as we enter into the sacred time of Lent, a review of the practices of fasting and abstinence. Let us continue to lift up each other in prayer.

Our Lady of Sorrows at the Foot of the Cross, pray for us.

(Reference: EWTN):

Fast and Abstinence.

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez.  18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38). Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of God for man.

The Church has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that the Catholic will do something, as required by divine law, while making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics [Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by theCode of Canons for the Eastern Churches].

Canon 1250  All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252  All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Can. 1253  It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

The Church, therefore, has two forms of official penitential practices – three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.

Abstinence  The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.).

Fasting The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment,  manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church’s law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys – candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. When considering stricter practices than the norm, it is prudent to discuss the matter with one’s confessor or director. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.

—-   Colin B. Donovan, STL

Please also view our related posts:

–  Lent helps us help others, by Lay Canossians Patrick and Chris

–  Lenten Preparation

Lenten Preparation

As Lent quickly approaches (February 22!), the topic has come up in our February round of Lay Canossian meetings: 

‘What spiritual practices should we take on during the season of Lent?’

Many voices have agreed, it’s not enough to ‘give up’ something, like we did as kids denying ourselves the pleasure of our favorite candy bar. As we grow in our spiritual life, we are called to take to heart the words in 1 Corinthians 13:11:

“When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.”

So then, what is appropriate spiritual practice for a mature Catholic during the weeks of Lent? I will start our discussion here with a few suggestions, and I encourage all of you to add to the discussion below in the comments section.

So let’s get started!

1. Prayer

  • Set up a regular time of prayer each day, and a place where you will not be distracted by TV, computer, or phone. Set an amount of time for your prayer, and stay faithful.
  • Take part in the Friday Stations of the Cross at your parish. Use the time driving to the parish as a time asking God to prepare your heart to meet Him on the way to Calvary.
  • Pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary (I will link the Seven Sorrows this week)
  • Other Recommendations?

2. Sacraments

Use the time of Lent to grow closer to Jesus in the Sacraments.

  • Spend time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, meditating on His True Presence.
  • Go more often to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, remembering this too is an encounter with Christ.
  • Receive Holy Communion more often.
  • Other Ideas?

3.  Service – how to share your time with those in need.

  • visit the sick, feed the hungry, encourage the downhearted. Review the Church’s spiritual and corporal works of mercy and practice one a week.
  • call to mind often the many ways that you can daily serve the Lord in your family. Grow daily in your intention to do so.
  • is there a ministry you’ve been thinking about getting involved in? look into it this Lent.

One other practice we discussed in a couple of the groups was, to think about a vice – or bad habit – you might have that you would like to change, and put into practice the corresponding virtue.

Here are the seven “deadly” sins (vices) paired with their corresponding “heavenly” virtue. All other vices will fall somewhere under one of these seven. For example, anger (wrath) calls us to practice patience. For more information on these, you can click the links below, or go here for virtues and vice.

Vice Latin Virtue Latin
Lust Luxuria Chastity Castitas
Gluttony Gula Temperance Temperantia
Greed Avaritia Charity Caritas
Sloth Socordia Diligence Industria
Wrath Ira Patience Patientia
Envy Invidia Kindness Humanitas
Pride Superbia Humility Humilitas

AND, lastly, don’t forget about our Lenten Retreat with Rev. Father Jeremy Leatherby! Find out more here!

Remember, all of the above are only suggestions!  It is not expected that someone try and do ALL of these (that would be too much!). It is best to take one or two things – perhaps that you know will help you grow spiritually – and focus on them.

Our Foundress, Saint Magdalene would tell you, ‘there is enough penance in living our life well that we don’t have to take on harsh penances‘. Each of us is different, and so our Lenten practice must reflect where we know we need to grow the most.

Now, I’ll turn it over to YOU!  What above are you going to try? And/or, what other things do you have planned to make your Lent a meaningful one?

United in Prayer,

Sr Lisa Marie : )