In honor of the Feast of the Archangels (Sept. 29) and the Feast of the Guardian Angels (Oct. 2), I thought I’d post my recent OSV story on angels and their role in our spiritual lives. I’ll start you off here and send you there.
The photos at left and below were taken last year when I was crossing Ponte Sant’Angelo in Rome on my way to St. Peter’s Basilica.
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Human beings over the centuries and across cultures have long been fascinated with and captivated by angels. We seek their protection and pray for their guidance. We both fear and crave their presence. We put them on necklaces, coffee mugs, mouse pads and more. When it comes to angels, our expressions of love run from the ridiculous to the sublime, inspiring everything from the wildly inappropriate Victoria’s Secret ad campaign to the strikingly beautiful film Wings of Desire.
Although Catholics often begin their prayer connection to angels in childhood, with the sing-song words of the Angel of God prayer — “Ever this night, be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide” – angels are by no means child’s play. They are complex spiritual beings, often misunderstood by us humans who try to give them features and attributes that are more akin to existence on earth than heaven. Chubby little baby-like cherubs sporting wings and harps cannot begin to do justice to the reality of angels in our midst.
So what exactly are we dealing with here, and what role do angels play in our personal prayer lives?….Continue reading HERE.
If you’re looking for something to guide you or your parishioners through the new translation of the Mass, be sure to check out my latest book, “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” which has an imprimatur and has been endorsed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan:
“We Catholics believe in the power of prayer to change lives and the world. In her engaging new book, Mary DeTurris Poust lovingly walks us through many of the Church’s rich and diverse traditions of prayer, breathing new life into ancient, beloved devotions, and pointing the way toward more modern methods of prayer as well.
Perhaps most valuable of all, Mary breaks down the parts of the Mass – the ultimate prayer – to enhance the reader’s understanding and appreciation of this Sunday banquet at which we are all called to gather regularly as a family, united with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As Saint Paul confessed, ‘none of us know how to pray as we ought.’ This book is sure a help.”
+Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
For more information on my books, visit my website.
I thought I’d share my latest Life Lines column. Life Lines has appeared monthly in Catholic New York for the past 10 years.
By Mary DeTurris Poust
When I began this column 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. My plan to write about the intersection of faith and everyday life was propelled into high gear by 9/11 and all that played out in the days that followed, both in our country and in our home. Suddenly my young children had questions that had no real answers. I had questions that had no real answers. I think we all did.
There was nothing we could do but move forward, slowly, shakily at first, but with more strength and confidence as the days went by. Now, looking back, I realize that as much as the outside world has changed in the past decade, so has my internal world, the landscape of my soul. Much of it has been explored and expressed in the 650-word jolts I put on paper each month; more has been poured out on the pages of my books and the posts of my blog.
It has been a challenging journey, filled with desperate lows – like the one we all experienced on that clear September morning – and joyous highs – like the birth of my third child, the publication of my four books, and the ongoing interior pilgrimage that is my spiritual journey. Someone recently asked me if I had any breakthroughs to share. At first I laughed at the prospect, but the comment caused me to pause and reflect on the changes that have taken place without my even realizing it.
I think most of us imagine we’re standing still, whether it’s in our professional lives or personal lives or spiritual lives. We look at the big picture and can feel as though we’re simply not making progress. I know I often look at my cluttered desk, cluttered kitchen counters, and equally cluttered prayer life and think: “Nothing’s happening here.” But, when I go back to September 2001 and mentally walk the path from there to here in my mind, I realize I’ve come a lot farther than it appears on the surface.
You’ve heard me talk (whine?) in this space about my struggles with prayer, struggles with motherhood, struggles with multi-tasking, struggles with everything from laundry to oatmeal. I tend to be more open about my struggles than about my strides because I never want to get too comfortable, never want to sit back and think, “I’ve arrived.” Perhaps because we never really arrive. We may have breakthroughs, we may find ourselves stepping out into the unknown with total faith, but the truth is, there’s always more work to be done, always another step to be taken.
Today my prayer life is far different than it was 10 years ago, as is my spiritual focus. Where before I was simply happy to get something out of Sunday Mass while a fussy baby clawed at my hair, today my spiritual routine includes praying parts of the Divine Office daily, slices of silence sprinkled throughout my days, regular spiritual reading and sporadic spiritual blogging, an annual retreat, and the desire for ongoing pilgrimage – whether to Rome or Auriesville or simply to the farthest reaches of my heart.
Where have you been this past decade and where do you want to go next? Chances are, if you take some quiet time to reflect on your life, you, too, will realize you’ve moved much farther toward your goal – whatever that might be.
“God is in the details,” but sometimes we don’t take the time to notice the details. We want progress to come with a thunderclap, an “aha moment” that will change us all at once. But sometimes, most times, progress comes in the still small voice, in the tiny but brilliant flashes of light that change us bit by bit and forever.
To read previous Life Lines columns, visit www.marydeturrispoust.com
Well, I’ve reached that moment in September when I am officially overwhelmed by what I see on the calendar — a total absence of white space. Just one event after another, many of them simultaneous.
September is my favorite month, because of the weather, because of birthdays, because it feels like the start of a new year, but it’s quickly losing points for becoming one of the most-feared months in our family’s rotation. There’s no time to appreciate the beauty of September. Or to breathe.
That’s a good introduction for this week’s Manic Monday post because it will explain a lot, like the fact that there are no new photos to share (but some really nice old ones). Not that I haven’t seen plenty worth sharing this past week — soccer games, dance classes, and more. I just haven’t had time to snap photos of anything.
Soundtrack: Devil Went Down to Georgia. Yes, by the Charlie Daniels Band. Noah loves this song and was demonstrating for us how he knows all the words, well, with a substitution for the one bad word. You gotta admit, that’s some good fiddle playing there.
Bookshelf: I’m well into The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and I will say this: Lewis was a GENIUS, which I already knew from some of his other works but this book just floored me. Originally published in 1941, it could have been written yesterday. It’s that relevant to our times and our Church. Wow, what a powerful book. And a fast read. How had I not read this before now?
Viewfinder: Okay, this wasn’t in my viewfinder this week, but it was just about one year ago. And, oh, how I wish I was there right now. At least once a day, every single day, I wish I could be back in Rome. I left a little piece of my heart in St. Peter’s Square, I think.
One of my favorite spots: Ponte Sant’Angelo
I was so struck by the Coliseum’s presence right there
in front of me as I walked down the street.
Piazza Navona, which felt like home by the end of 11 days.
I walked it every day on my way to and from Santa Croce University.
The view of St. Peter’s from a bridge crossing the Tiber on the way to
Trastavere, my favorite neighborhood in Rome.
Thought for the week:
“You must never grow weary of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13
One of my favorite parts of silent retreat is the opportunity to take the quiet of the retreat house or abbey and extend it out into the natural world. When I’m not busy worrying about work or listening to my iPod or talking to neighbors I pass along the way, walking becomes something entirely different. Not exercise, not a way to get from Point A to Point B, but a moving meditation.
I’m always amazed by what I see when I take the time to look and listen to the world around me, rather than rushing ahead with my ears buds in and my eyes focused a few feet ahead of me. Walk with me now down the Genesee Greenway and see some of what I saw through the silence of walking meditation.
This was my view (below) as I began the long walk down a nearby farm road toward the Genesee Greenway. I kept thinking of the road to Emmaus, probably because the prior brought up that topic during our conference the night before. As I walked down the hot, dusty road, not sure where I was going or what I would find at the end, I kept wondering if I’d recognize Jesus if I met him along the way. Do I recognize Jesus in my daily life? In the people I love or the strangers I meet or the people who annoy me?
I turned onto the Greenway path in total solitude. The only other person around was a farmer way off in the distance tending to his crops, and once I got deeper onto the path, even he disappeared from view. There was total silence, save for the sounds of nature — the occasional rustling in the leaves and bushes, the bees flying by, the mosquitoes buzzing near my ears. With every step, I entered more deeply into the silence. And suddenly the little things came into view.
Like the berries hanging from this bush, waiting for birds and little creatures to come by for a snack. What beauty is hidden in places we usually don’t bother to look?
Or this stand of white birch trees in the middle of the dark green woods. Typically I wouldn’t have blinked at a birch tree, so common are they in my own suburban neighborhood. But there, set against the deep colors of the forest, they seemed magical.
This little wounded butterfly stopped for a moment on a stalk of corn. He didn’t flinch as I edged closer to snap a photo. His woundedness made him more special to me, not less.
Corn as far as the eye could see. Everywhere I turned there was corn and more corn. Walking a path with cornfields on both sides made me so happy. I’m not completely sure why. And, yes, the corn was as high as an elephant’s eye.
This little lovely was nothing more than a pretty weed. I grabbed a slim stalk and another of Queen Anne’s Lace to add to my sacred space back at the retreat guest house. Sometimes we can find exactly what we need in the most unlikely places, like a patch of weeds.
As I walked another dirt road back toward the abbey, I saw this little chipmunk in the middle of the road, clearly injured and unable to move. Channeling my inner St. Francis, I talked to the little guy, and used a stick to coax him into the high grass at the edge of the road where I’m hoping he was hidden from the circling hawks and crows, not to mention the tires of the local farm truck.
Finally, back near the abbey, the pathway was lined with so many lovely wildflowers, including this sparse but striking specimen. As I wandered from cornfield to woods to river to garden to sunset, one thing kept playing in my mind: My God is an awesome God. How great thou art!