Liturgy and Rituals

The God who becomes dust

I made an early-morning holy hour a couple weeks ago. The stars were still out when I pulled into the Adoration chapel’s parking lot, but the first row was almost full; there was only one space left. When I walked into the entry hall I was deeply moved, as I always am, to see that the sign-in registry was full all through the night. The Lord is never left alone; weekends, weekdays, holidays, the middle of the night during a bad storm — someone is always there with him. Each hour has at least one committed “adorer” in addition... Read More

6 things I learned from living on a monastery prayer schedule

One of the old church bells at Mt. Angel Abbey One of the most transforming aspects of this trip to Mt. Angel Abbey has been living according to the monks’ schedule of prayer. They pray the Liturgy of the Hours and have Mass every day, so every few hours the grand church bells start ringing to announce prayer time. The weekday schedule is: 5:20 AM: Office of Readings 6:30 AM: Morning Prayer 7:00 AM: Breakfast 8:00 AM: Mass 12:00 PM: Midday Prayer 12:20 PM: Lunch 5:15 PM: Evening Prayer 5:45 PM: Dinner 7:30 PM: Night Prayer I admit that I haven’t... Read More

Received as Christ: Photos from a Benedictine monastery

I knew a little bit about the Order of St. Benedict before my husband and I arrived in Mt. Angel for our vacation this weekend. (If you’re not familiar with them, I highly recommend this brief explanation of the Order at Vivificat; I think it’s the most clear, concise summary of the Benedictines I’ve ever seen.) I knew the Order was about 1,500 years old. I knew that one of their vows was stability, and that they were big on learning and culture. One thing that I’d forgotten until we arrived was that they’re known for... Read More

When church isn’t fun

I can’t think of a time in recent memory that I have had less fun than I did on Easter Sunday. It was the day I found out that feeding four young children a breakfast of donuts and Easter basket candy results in the same behavior you’d expect to see if you gave crack to monkeys. It was the day that I learned that my husband and I are evidently descended entirely from warlike peoples, our genes leaving our offspring without a shred of proclivity towards civilized behavior or docility. It was a day that I was blessed with bountiful opportunities... Read More

Feeling taken care of

The other weekend my husband went out of town with the three older kids, and I stayed home with the baby. I decided to take the opportunity to tackle pretty much every household project I hadn’t gotten to in the past four years, and ended up staying up until 3:00 AM on Saturday night. When the baby woke up around 7:30 the next morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My muscles ached from moving furniture and hauling trash bags full of garbage and Goodwill items up and down the stairs all night, and my mind was foggy from so little... Read More

Breathing with the Body of Christ

As I mentioned the other day, until recently I didn’t understand what Advent was all about. Actually, I didn’t completely understand what Lent, Easter or Christmas were all about either. The significance of the different seasons of the liturgical year was one of the last things that I researched in my long road from atheism to Catholicism; I had so many other tough concepts to explore that figuring out why Catholics didn’t eat meat on Fridays was the least of my worries. But I went through the motions anyway. In 2006, before my... Read More

Undefeatable joy

One of the things I most looked forward to as part of the Christ Renews His Parish retreat the other weekend was simply the opportunity for a leisurely confession. There are always so many people in line at our parish’s confessional that the priests have little time for extra spiritual direction. For weeks I’d been eager to have the opportunity to chat with a priest at the retreat and get his insights on some things I’d been struggling with. But when the big moment finally came, I was wiped out. It had been a grueling past few... Read More

When God locks doors

On Saturday, my long-awaited break finally arrived. Regular readers know that for a couple weeks now I’ve been desperate for some time to get away from it all to recharge my batteries both spiritually and physically, and that my efforts in that department kept falling through. Just when I felt like I was getting close to some kind of breaking point, my husband arranged for me to get out of the house for a couple hours on Saturday. I was so excited I was giddy, and I knew exactly where I was going to go: our church’s Adoration chapel.... Read More

Lies and Confession: The case of the stolen pacifier

One day last year I was putting grocery bags in the car after an epic store trip, and after I grabbed the last bag something caught my eye in the back of the cart: a $3.75 package of pacifiers. I somehow missed them when I was handing items to the cashier, so we hadn’t paid for them. I had all three kids strapped into the car, they were all overtired and on the brink of major meltdowns, the store was crowded with 10+ minute waits to check out, it was already well past dinner time, and some rumbling thunder indicated that it was about to rain.... Read More

The liturgical year

I walked into the church for vigil Mass this weekend to see the Advent wreath at the front of the sanctuary. Seeing the four thick glass cylinders with one pink and three purple candles, the priest in his penitential purple robes, the low light in the church from the early winter sunset outside, I had an immediate visceral reaction of knowing where I was in time. It was one of the first times I’ve really felt the rhythm of the liturgical year. Growing up in an atheist family, the concept of a liturgical year couldn’t have been more foreign... Read More

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