Friday, December 02, 2016

7 Quick Takes: Christmas Movies and Books


1. Believe is one Christmas movie I am looking forward to viewing this year. It opens in theaters on Dec. 2. Here is a review from Variety, Here is a brief synopsis from the website. For years, the small town of Grundy, Va. has relied on the Peyton family to provide the highlight of the year—the annual Christmas pageant. When Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) inherits the family business, the responsibility of the Christmas pageant also falls on his shoulders. But as financial hardships fall on the town, Matthew finds himself overwhelmed. As his business profits plummet and his workers begin to strike, Matthew is forced to make a decision between selling the family business and cancelling the beloved pageant or sticking out hardships despite his rapidly declining popularity in the community. Through chance events, Matthew meets Clarence (Issac Ryan Brown), a boy who believes in miracles, and his mother Sharon (Danielle Nicolet). His newfound friends impact Matthew’s life in a way he never thought possible and teach him to believe and give faith a chance.



2. A few years ago, I put together a post on my favorite Christmas movies HERE.

3. I am adding these to my favorite list of Advent and CHRISTMAS books:  









4.  Speaking of Advent, here are Twelve Tips to a Holy Advent Season.

4. My new website continues to be a work in progress, but you can check it out HERE.

5.  Here is a children's book that I have been reading for Advent that is very good: 

Light for the World: A Catholic Kid's Guide to Advent and Christmas

6.  If you are looking for a great novena to pray this Christmas, try this one.

7. Here are  some books that you may want to give as gifts to the adults on your list this year. I highly recommend them!

Have a happy and holy Advent! 
Jean


For more Quick Takes, please visit Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum. 



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ten Fascinating Facts about Advent



1. The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming" or "arrival."

2. The Advent Season always begins four Sundays before Christmas; so it is rarely four full weeks long, but only between three and four weeks, depending on what weekday Dec. 25 happens to be in a certain year.

3. The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called "Gaudete Sunday" (from Latin, meaning "Rejoice!), because the "Entrance Antiphon" of this Sunday's Mass is taken from Paul's letter to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near." (Phil 4:4+5b)

4. In the Roman Catholic Church, the official liturgical color for most of the Season of Advent is violet. Only on the Third Sunday of Advent is a rose (pink) colored candle lit, as a symbol of joy; the priest may also wear rose vestments on this Sunday.

5. Advent wreaths have their origins in the folk traditions of northern Europe, where in the deep of winter people lit candles on wheel-shaped bundles of evergreen. Both the evergreen and the circular shape symbolized ongoing life. The candlelight gave comfort at this darkest time of the year, as people looked forward to the longer days of spring.

6. Advent wreaths traditionally include three purple/violet candles and one pink/rose-colored candle, which are arranged evenly around the wreath.

7. Sometimes a fifth candle is placed inside the Advent wreath. This candle is lit on Christmas Day. It is white, the color associated with angels and the birth of Jesus.

8. An advent calendar is a card or poster with twenty-four small doors, one to be opened each day from December 1 until Christmas Eve. Each door conceals a picture. This popular tradition arose in Germany in the late 1800s and soon spread throughout Europe and North America.

9.  Advent is not part of the Christmas season itself, but a preparation for it. Thus, Catholics do not sing Christmas hymns, or use Christmas readings, in Mass until December 25th, the first day of the Christmas season.

10. The readings and the liturgies during Advent prepare us for both the birth of Jesus and His Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the world.

~ Image Copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016.

Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle



Today is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. He is the patron of fishermen, singers, unmarried women, and women who wish to become mothers.

St. Andrew, son of Jonah, was the brother of the Apostle Peter, and like his brother, was born at Bethsaida in Galilee. He was a disciple of John the Baptist and became the first to follow Jesus. A fisherman like St. Peter, Saint Andrew first introduced Saint Peter to Christ. Both occupied the same house at Capharnaum.

At first the two brothers continued to carry on their fishing trade and family affairs, but later, the Lord called them to stay with Him all the time. He promised to make them fishers of men, and this time, they left their nets for good.

As one of the Twelve Apostles, Andrew was very close to Our Lord during His public life; he was present at the Last Supper; beheld the risen Lord; witnessed the Ascension; shared in the graces and gifts of the first Pentecost, and helped, amid threats and persecution, to establish the Faith in Palestine. After Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Andrew went to Greece to preach the gospel.

He was crucified by order of the Roman Governor at Patras in southern Greece on a cross to which he was tied, not nailed. Tradition states that he requested to be crucified on a saltire or "x"-shaped cross, as he considered himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. This type of cross has long been known as "St. Andrew's cross." He was martyred during the reign of Nero, on November 30, 60 A.D.

St. Andrew's relics were transferred from Patras to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about 357 A.D. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain.

Although little is mentioned in the Book of Acts regarding the life of St. Andrew, much can be learned through St. Andrew's life. He and Saint Peter gave up their lifelong careers and lifestyles, leaving everything behind, to follow Jesus. Their undying faith in a difficult world is an inspiration to all Christians.

Beginning today, Novena 30, the Christmas Anticipatory Prayer, also known as "St. Andrew's Christmas Novena" (Hail and Blessed be the hour...) is prayed every day until Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2016

St. Cecilia: Patron of Poets and Musicians




On November 22, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr. St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians, is one of the most famous and most venerated of Roman martyrs.

It is believed that St. Cecilia was born in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., although the dates of her birth and martyrdom are unknown.

Tradition tells us that Cecilia was a Roman girl of a patrician family who had been brought up as a Christian. She fasted often and wore a coarse garment beneath her rich clothing. Although she had consecrated her virginity to God, her father betrothed her to a young pagan named Valerian.

When the wedding day arrived, Cecilia sat apart from her guests, repeating psalms and praying. After the ceremony, when the guests had departed and she was alone with her husband, Cecilia made known her great desire to remain a virgin, saying that she already had a lover, an angel of God who was very jealous. Valerian, shaken by fear, anger, and suspicion, said to her: “Show me this angel. If he is of God, I shall refrain, as you wish, but if he is a human lover, you both must die.” Cecilia answered, “If you believe in the one true and living God and receive the water of baptism, then you shall see the angel.” Valerian assented and following his wife’s directions sought out a bishop named Urban, who was in hiding among the tombs of the martyrs, for this was a time for persecutions. Valerian made his profession of faith and the bishop baptized him.

When the young husband returned, he found an angel with flaming wings standing beside Cecilia. The angel placed chaplets of roses and lilies on their heads. The brother of Valerian, Tiburtius, was also converted, and after being baptized he too experienced many marvels.

Valerian and Tiburtius devoted themselves to good works on behalf of the Christian community, and they made it their special duty to give proper burial to those who were put to death. The two brothers were themselves soon sentenced to death for refusing to sacrifice to Jupiter. Maximus, a Roman officer charged with their execution, was converted by a vision that he saw in the hour of their death. After professing Christianity, he, too, was martyred.

The three were buried by the grieving Cecilia. Soon after, she was sentenced to death. The prefect tried to reason with her, but she remained strong in her faith. Consequently, he gave an order that she was to be suffocated in her own bathroom. Surviving this attempt on her life, a soldier was sent to behead her. He struck her neck three times, then left her lying, still alive, for it was against the law to strike a fourth time. She lingered on for three days, during which the Christians who remained in Rome flocked to her house. In dying she bequeathed all her goods to the poor, and her house to the bishop for a place of Christian worship. She was buried in the crypt of the Caecilii at the Catacomb of St. Callistus. St. Cecilia's body was found to be incorrupt in the Catacombs of Saint Callistus. Her body was later moved to St Cecilia in Trastevere.

She is praised as the most perfect model of the Christian woman because of her virginity and the martyrdom which she suffered for love of Christ.

At her wedding banquet, while the pipes were playing, St. Cecilia sang to the Lord, asking that her heart might remain immaculate, that she not be put to shame. This inspired early composers to write elaborate music for the antiphon used on her feast day, and St. Cecilia became the special patron of musicians. For this reason, she is usually shown at the organ, although a harp or lute may be used. Sometimes she wears a wreath of white and red roses.



The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Today, November 21, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates the fact that the parents of Our Lady brought her to the Temple and handed her over to live there for a long period as a virgin consecrated to the Temple, contemplating God exclusively.  Also known as the Dedication of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the feast originated in the East, where it is called the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos Into the Temple.

The story of the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary captures the essential gospel portrayal of Mary totally committed to living out the will of God in her life. Her own willing, steadfast obedience lies at the heart of her life of self-sacrifice offered in love.


History of the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Protoevangelium of James (7-8), and the writing entitled "De nativit. Mariae" (7-8), state that Joachim and Anna, faithful to a vow they had made, presented the child Mary in the Temple when she was three years old; that the child herself mounted the Temple steps, and that she made her vow of virginity on this occasion. St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Germanus of Constantinople adopt this report; it is also followed by pseudo-Gregory of Nazianzus in his "Christus patiens". Moreover, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation, though it does not specify at what age the child Mary was presented in the Temple, when she made her vow of virginity, and what were the special natural and supernatural gifts with which God endowed her. The feast is mentioned for the first time in a document of Manuel Commenus, in 1166; from Constantinople the feast must have been introduced into the western Church, where we find it at the papal court at Avignon in 1371; about a century later, Pope Sixtus IV introduced the Office of the Presentation, and in 1585 Pope Sixtus V extended the Feast of the Presentation to the whole Church.

~ Catholic Encyclopedia

Saint Quote for the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"There never was, and never will be, an offering on the part of a creature greater or more perfect than that which Mary made to God when, at the age of three, she presented herself in the Temple. She offered him not aromatic spices, nor calves, nor gold, but her entire self, consecrating herself as a perpetual victim in his honor."

~ St. Alphonsus Liguori

Prayer

As we venerate the glorious memory of the most holy Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, O Lord, through her intercession, that we, too, may merit to receive from the fullness of your grace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations



The word Advent comes from the Latin word advenio, which means "to come to," and denotes the coming of Christ. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and souls for the Savior’s three comings: (1) the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love at Christmas, (2) Christ’s coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and (3) His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

In her inspirational book, Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, author Heidi Hess Saxton presents twenty-eight daily meditations based on the wisdom of St. Teresa of Calcutta as it relates to each day’s Scripture readings. With an Introduction written by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle and a Foreword by Bishop Robert Barron, this beautiful devotional assists us in entering into the peace, joy, and love of this liturgical season. The book is divided into six sections: each of the four weeks of Advent, the Christmas week through Epiphany, and the feasts days and other special days during Advent and Christmas. Each daily meditation contains: a list of the Mass readings for the day, a Scripture excerpt, a meditation which incorporates Mother Teresa’s spiritual ideas, virtues, and advice, questions for reflection, and a prayer.

Saxton’s meditations include interesting anecdotes and astute insights that teach us how to love more deeply, drawing us into a more intimate relationship with Our Savior. As I read each meditation, I felt as if I were having an intimate conversation with a close friend, who was encouraging me to enter into a deeper level of sanctity and to surrender my heart to the Lord, in order for him to fill it with the gifts that He desires to give me this Christmas. Advent with St. Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations is a book that you will treasure for many Advent and Christmas seasons to come, as it can used year after year.


Heidi Hess Saxton is a Catholic editor, wife, and mother, and is author of several books. A convert to the Catholic faith since 1995, Saxton holds a master’s in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. As part of her undergraduate studies at Bethany College of Missions in Minneapolis, she spent an internship in Senegal that sparked a lifelong interest in missions—an interest that connected her in a very personal way with the life and work of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Heidi is now editorial director of Servant, an imprint of Franciscan Media. She writes for adoptive, foster, and special-needs families at her blog, A Mother on the Road Less Traveled.


Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a bestselling author whose friendship with Mother Teresa has been the subject of several books including Mother Teresa and Me and Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Winners of the Magnificat Advent Companion Giveaway


The winners of the electronic Magnificat Advent Companion Giveaway are: Amy and Deacon John Giglio Jr. Please contact me at jean.heimann@gmail.com to claim your prize. If you do not contact me within one week, your prize will be forfeited.

Miraculous Medal Novena begins



This novena begins on November 19 and continues through November 27.

(Recite this prayer for nine consecutive days.)

O Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Mother of Our Lord Jesus and our Mother,
penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal,
we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this novena,
if they be beneficial to our immortal souls,
and the souls for whom we pray.

(Here mention your petition)

You know, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son who hates iniquity.
Obtain for us then a deep hatred of sin and that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone so that our every thought, word and deed may tend to His greater glory.

Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of angels and of men.
Amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Princess and Bride of Christ



We are frequently entertained and fascinated by the lifestyles of royalty and their romantic adventures in books and movies. However, St. Elizabeth was a real-life princess, who served as an exemplary model of the heroic virtues of charity and humility. Her life is not a fairy tale, but is a true story of authentic love.

Born in Bratislava, Hungary in 1207, Princess Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew of Hungary and his wife Gertrude. Her aunt was St. Hedwig and her great niece was St. Elizabeth of Portugal.

Elizabeth was betrothed at the age of four to Prince Herman of Thuringia (in central Germany) and grew up in his father's court. In 1216, Hermann, who Elizabeth was to marry, died. After this, she then became engaged to Ludwig, the second son. The couple married when she was fourteen and he was twenty-one.  She loved him and bore him three children. They were very happy together and deeply devoted to one another. Ludwig was protective of his wife and the couple often prayed together, holding hands while kneeling in prayer.

In the real world, unlike the fairy tale world, this princess was not content with living a life of luxury, but dedicated herself to caring for the poor, the sick, and the elderly. She was so moved by the plight of the poor that she sought to become one with them. Instead of wearing luxurious gowns, she dressed in simple clothing to display her solidarity with them.

In 1226, when floods, famine, and disease created chaos in Germany, and Princess Ludwig was attending to business in Italy, Elizabeth came to the rescue. Not only did she distribute food (bread) and clothing to hundreds of the needy, but she built a hospital with twenty-eight beds and personally cared for the patients. When Prince Ludwig returned from his business trip to Italy, he assured Elizabeth that she had done the right thing and was pleased with all that she had done.

A strong and courageous man, Ludwig joined the Crusades, but died within the year. Elizabeth, who received the news just after giving birth to her third child, cried out: “The world with all its joys is now dead to me.” She was twenty years old.

Elizabeth chose to leave the castle which had been her home for sixteen years. Her royal uncle made a castle available to her and began making plans for a second marriage for her. However, she had taken a vow never to remarry, but to become the bride of Christ.

On Good Friday 1228, Elizabeth became a Third Order Franciscan, sold all that she had, and worked to support her children. She settled into a small house and spent the few remaining years of her life serving the sick, the poor, and the elderly. Elizabeth’s strength was expended by her charitable work, and in 1231, she passed away at the tender age of twenty-four. She was canonized in 1235 by Pope Gregory IX and is known as the “greatest woman of the German Middle Ages.”

 St. Elizabeth is the patron saint of bakers, the homeless, nursing services, Catholic charities, widows, and young brides. She is also the patroness of secular Franciscans.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2017.



Today's Saints: St. Gertrude the Great and St. Margaret of Scotland


St. Gertrude the Great


St. Gertrude was born in Eisleben, Germany in 1256. As a five-year-old, she was received into the monastery of the Cistercian nuns in Helfta. She was an intellectually gifted student with a gentle disposition who applied herself to her studies, concentrating on literature and philosophy.

At the age of twenty-six, Gertrude had the first of many visions of Jesus which brought about a deep interior conversion, drawing her into the innermost recesses of His Sacred Heart. Her heart symbolically united in a vision to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she was a precursor of the later devotion to the Sacred Heart. She also advocated frequent reception of the Eucharist and devotion to St Joseph.

Similar to other mystics, such as St. Teresa of Avila, the Passion of Christ was her favorite devotion and when she meditated on it, or on the blessed Eucharist, she was often unable to control the torrents of tears which flowed from her eyes. She frequently went into ecstasy when she meditated or focused on the great love of Christ and united her heart with His.

On one occasion, Jesus, appeared to Gertrude in a vision and pointed out to her the wound in his side, out of which flowed a stream of crystal-clear water. The heart of Christ seemed to her to be suspended like a lamp in her own heart. She heard it throbbing with His unconditional, redemptive love for both saint and sinner.

In her short book of "Divine Insinuations", or "Communications and Sentiments of Love," she proposed exercises for the renewal of baptismal vows, by which the soul completely renounces the world and herself, consecrates herself to the pure love of God, abandoning herself entirely to His holy will.

When in a vision the Lord asked Gertrude whether she would prefer health or sickness, she responded, "Divine Lord, give me whatever pleases You. Do not consider my wishes at all. I know that what You choose to send is the best for me."

Gertrude was an extraordinarily charitable person toward all those she encountered and her love for others manifested itself in tender sympathy towards the souls in purgatory. An extremely humble person, she prayed that her many spiritual gifts not be manifested outwardly to others and her request was granted. Gertrude was blessed with the gift of prophecy as well as the gift of miracles. A prolific writer, she authored five books on spirituality. However, only three of them are still in existence.

Gertrude died on November 17th, 1301 or 1302 of natural causes. She is the patron saint of nuns, travelers, and the West Indies.

Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Savior, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions. Amen.

~ Saint Gertrude the Great

Prayer of Saint Gertrude the Great

Dictated by Our Lord, to release 1000 souls from purgatory each time it is said.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus Christ, in union with the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, said throughout the world today, for all the holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home, and within my family.


St. Margaret of Scotland, Patron of Mothers



St. Margaret of Scotland was not a Scot, but was born about 1045 in Hungary of Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian parents. Her family was in exile at that time due to the Danish invasion of England. Margaret's grandfather was King Edmund Ironside of England and her father was Edward the Exile, the heir to the throne of Scotland.

Margaret was the oldest of three children born to Edward and Agatha. She was educated by her mother and was well grounded in the scriptures and liturgy. She was about 12 when the family returned to England and was educated under the influence of the Benedictines. She learned French, ecclesiastical embroidery, and began to read works of theology: St. Augustine and St. John Cassian greatly influenced her spiritual development.

While fleeing the invading army of William the Conqueror in 1066, her family's ship wrecked on the Scottish coast. They were assisted by King Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland, whom Margaret married in 1070.

The King was deeply devoted to his beautiful, intelligent, and devout wife: she introduced him to a new way of life and a new spirituality. Although he was unable to read, he would handle her books and examine them. If she was fond of a particular book, he would look at it with interest and kiss the pages. While she did not succeed in teaching him to read or stop making war, she did teach him to pray sincerely and frequently.

Margaret prayed often for her husband and added fasting and almsgiving to her prayers, that they might "easily ascend to heaven". Once when he followed her into the garden, he found her praying for him and "her loving spirit set him on fire".

She was very generous in giving alms to the poor, who flocked around her whenever she appeared in public. When she gave away all that she had, the courtiers would give what they had, even their own cloaks. She would sometimes even give away the King's gold.

The couple had a loving and fruitful marriage. Margaret bore the King eight children, six sons and two daughters. She loved them dearly and raised them well, supervising their education herself. The youngest boy became St. David. Both her husband and her son, Edward, were killed in battle. Yet she prayed: "I thank You, Almighty God, for sending me so great a sorrow to purify me from my sins."

Margaret died in Edinburgh on November 16, 1093. She is remembered for the happiness of her marriage, for her devotion to prayer and learning, and especially for her generosity to the poor. In 1250, Margaret was canonized by Pope Innocent IV.

She is the patron saint of mothers, large families, learning, queens, Scotland, the death of children, and widows.

Monday, November 14, 2016

St. Albert the Great




By Jean M. Heimann

On November 15, the Church celebrates St. Albert the Great, "the light of Germany", uniquely named the “Universal Doctor” because of his vast knowledge and writings. He was the greatest German philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. A Dominican priest and the Bishop of Regensburg, Germany, he was the first of the medieval academics to apply Aristotle’s philosophy to Christian thought.

Albert was born in Lauingen on the Danube, near Ulm, Germany in 1206 to a knight from a noble family. As a young man, he studied at the University of Padua and there he met Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the Dominican who made the rounds of the universities of Europe, attracting the best young men of the universities into the Dominicans.

At age 16, Albert entered the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest in 1228. He was then sent to teach in Cologne, where he was renown for his lectures on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. After several teaching assignments in his order, he came in 1241 to the University of Paris, where he lectured in theology. While teaching in Paris, he was assigned by his order in 1248 to set up a new house of studies for the order in Cologne.

In Paris, he had gathered around him a small band of budding theologians, which included Thomas Aquinas, who became his greatest pupil. Aquinas, exceptionally proficient in theological studies, was silent and reflective, to the point of being christened by his fellow students “the Mute Ox of Sicily.” But Albert quieted them, saying, “The bellowings of this ox will resound throughout the entire world.”

Later he was sent back to Germany to serve as Provincial of his Order.  In this position, he traveled with no money, always on foot, visiting the many monasteries under his jurisdiction, throughout a vast territory which included: Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, and Holland.

He was no longer young when he had to submit to the formal order of the Pope to serve as the Bishop of Regensburg. There his zeal was rewarded only by harsh trials, while his virtue was perfected. When he asked to be relieved of his responsibilities, Pope Urban IV permitted him to return to the peace of the monastery.

Albert brought Greek, Arabic science, and philosophy to medieval Europe. He was well-known for his broad interest in the natural sciences and wrote and illustrated guides to his observations. His written works on the natural sciences, on philosophy and theology, form from twenty-one to thirty-eight volumes, depending on the edition.

He died, apparently of fatigue, at the age of seventy-three, on November 15, 1280, and his body was buried in Cologne in the Dominican church. He was canonized on December 16, 1931. Proclaiming his holiness, Pope Pius XI added the title of Doctor of the Church. He is known as Albert the Great.

St. Albert is the patron of: medical technicians, natural sciences, philosophers, scientists, students, students of theology, and World Youth Day.

Quote: "The greater and more persistent your confidence in God, the more abundantly you will receive all that you ask." -- St. Albert the Great

Prayer to St. Albert the Great

Dear Scientist and Doctor of the Church, natural science always led you to the higher science of God. Though you had an encyclopedic knowledge, it never made you proud, for you regarded it as a gift of God. Inspire scientists to use their gifts well in studying the wonders of creation, thus bettering the lot of the human race and rendering greater glory to God. Amen.

St. Lawrence O'Toole, Benedictine Peacemaker




The saint of the day for November 14 is St. Lawrence (also spelled Laurence) O'Toole, a Benedictine abbot and archbishop of Dublin.

St. Lawrence O'Toole was born around 1128 in County Kildare, Ireland.  His father was the chief of Hy Murray, and his mother one of the Clan O'Byrne.

At the age of 10, Lawrence was taken hostage by King Mac Murehad of Leinster, who treated him with such cruelty that his father convinced the King to turn him over to the Bishop of Glendalough.

In 1140, Lawrence obtained permission to enter the monastic school of Glendalough; he studied there for thirteen years and became known for his piety and learning. So great was his reputation in the eyes of the community that on the death of Abbot Dunlaing, at the young age of 25, he was unanimously chosen to supervise the Abbey of St. Kevin.

In 1161, Lawrence was chosen as Archbishop of Dublin. In his new position, he reformed much of the administration and clerical life in his diocese, worked to restore and rebuild Christ Church cathedral, and accepted the English form of liturgy in 1172.

Known for his personal self-denial, he wore a hair shirt under his clerical robes, made an annual 40 day retreat in Saint Kevin's cave, never ate meat, fasted every Friday, and never drank wine - although he would color his water to make it look like wine to avoid attracting attention to himself during meals. Throughout the second siege of Dublin in 1170, he acted as a peacemaker and mediator.

In 1171, he travelled to Canterbury, England on diocesan business. While preparing for Mass there he was attacked by a lunatic who wanted to turn Lawrence into another Saint Thomas Beckett. Everyone in the church thought Lawrence had been killed by the severe blow to the head. Instead he asked for water, blessed it, and washed the wound; the bleeding stopped, and the archbishop celebrated Mass.

In 1175, King Henry II of England became upset with Roderic, the monarch of Ireland, and St. Lawrence once again journeyed to England to negotiate a compromise between them. Henry was so moved by his piety, charity, and prudence that he cooperated totally with Lawrence.

Lawrence participated in the Lateran Council in 1179, and returned as legate for Ireland. While on yet another mission to King Henry II of England, Lawrence died at Eu, Normandy, France. He was canonized in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.

St. Lawrence is the patron saint of the archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ornamental Graces: Book Review





Today is Day 1 of the Virtual Book Tour for Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk.

Brief Summary

After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend.

Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her.

Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

My Review

Carolyn Astfalk is a gifted writer who had me hooked from page one in Ornamental Graces. This is not just a good love story, but it is a great one! It is hard for me to believe that this is only Carolyn’s second novel! While her first book, Stay with Me was intriguing and is one of my favorite inspirational Christian love stories, this one was even better. Similar to Stay with Me, Ornamental Graces  contains all the ingredients of a great story -- romance, suspense, action, and humor. However, there is more character development and even more mystery involved in this plot. The characters are more complex, which makes them true to life and very easy to relate to.

In Ornamental Graces, Dan Malone, who is basically a decent, handsome Catholic man, has recently been jilted by a physically beautiful, but completely selfish and spoiled woman who has contributed to his emotional, physical, and spiritual destruction. Like all of us, he is flawed. Dan is weak and is prideful, but he has the potential to be humble, holy, and pure. He begins to recover from the pain, but meets the sweet, innocent Emily, who is completely the opposite of his first girlfriend. He falls for her, but is unable to commit, for many reasons. Emily is kind and loving and sees the good in Dan, but is perplexed by his mysterious behavior and his lack of commitment. He runs hot and cold, but she has no idea why and things only grow more complex as the plot progresses. Continual interference in his life from the previous woman as well as other temptations and situations only add to the confusion. Emily is a smart, attractive woman, strong-willed woman who is determined to live her own life and to move on.

Ornamental Graces is remarkable because it is an extraordinary story of faith, redemption, healing, forgiveness, and the true meaning of love. It is a beautiful, inspirational pro-life account of the miracles that can occur when we honestly face the consequences of our actions and when authentic love exists in our relationships. If you’re like me, this is a book that you will treasure and want to share with those you love. It is a great Christmas love story that would make an excellent Christmas gift! However, Ornamental Graces is a great read any time of year.



About The Author



Carolyn Astfalk lives with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the wind carries either the scent of chocolate or cow manure. She is a CatholicMom.com contributor and author of the contemporary inspirational romances Stay With Me (Full Quiver Publishing) and Ornamental Graces.

Read an excerpt from Ornamental Graces HERE. 

Carolyn's Website

Ornamental Graces page on her website.

Ornamental Graces on Goodreads.

Carolyn's Pinterest Board