Erin-Thérèse was baptised in March 2010 and joined the Totus2us team at Easter in 2011 (a real Easter blessing :o)
Erin-Thérèse - The Divine Mercy Team is aimed at spreading the message and beauty of God's mercy to those most in need - which is all of us! Divine Mercy prayer cards can be ordered cheaply and shipped globally, to be left at the front of your church, or distributed in homeless shelters, hospitals, military chapels, suicide prevention centers, etc. The goal of this non-profit, volunteer group is quite simple - it's about getting everyone to pray, to hope, and to believe they are loved.
Week of 3rd June - highly recommend 'Loving the Church' by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn. The book is based on spiritual exercises Schonborn preached in the presence of Blessed John Paul II, and while it covers a lot of theological ground, the chapters are concise and it's not at all a hard read. It's a great book for the Year of Faith, for converts or for those wanting to explore more deeply not only what the Church is, but who the Church is. As I finish each chapter, I find myself breathing a contented sigh and thinking, "THIS is why I'm Catholic!" Originally recommended to me by the excellent Fr. Francis Selman.
Week of 20th May - My Pentecost reco would be a few words of wisdom I just read from Julian of Norwich:
"Though the three Persons in the Trinity (Might, Wisdom, Love) be all equal in Itself, the soul took most understanding in Love...and He willeth that in all things we have our beholding and enjoying in Love. And of this knowing are we most blind. For some of us believe that God is Almighty and may do all, and that He is All-Wisdom and can do all; but that He is All-Love and will do all, there we stop short."
I really wanted to share these words because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love, and so much in this world could be changed for the better if we as human beings truly believed we were loved and let our hearts be filled with that Spirit of Love. So, Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful!
Week of 8th April - If in the London area between 17 April-18 May, I recommend stopping by the Rectory at St. James' parish church, Spanish Place, which will be hosting an exhibition of Catholic art by expressionist painter Stephen B. Whatley. His art is a beautiful medium for meditation, plus the church itself is worth a visit, its altar and statuary are particularly lovely and there are so many quiet spots to light a candle or pray a chaplet.
Week of 18th March - I recommend everyone pick up a copy of the March issue of Novena magazine, which features an article on Totus2us and the Something About Mary podcast! The magazine is available in parishes and Catholic bookstores throughout the UK.
I'm also excited to find out what the Holy Spirit has in store for us through the ministry of Pope Francis, thanking God for this new Jesuit Holy Father and commending him into Mary's hands.
Week of 11 February - I recommend Aquinas 101 by Fr Francis Selman. This book is a good first introduction to the thought of St Thomas Aquinas, which addresses the larger questions of God's existence and the human experience as well as Christian theology. Believer and non-believer alike should not neglect St. Thomas's contribution to the quest for Truth - and Fr. Selman is the perfect tour guide to have in Aquinas-land!
Week of 19th November - I highly recommend 'Loving the Church' by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn. The book is based on spiritual exercises Schonborn preached in the presence of Blessed John Paul II, and while it covers a lot of theological ground, the chapters are concise and it's not at all a hard read. It's a great book for the Year of Faith, for converts or for those wanting to explore more deeply not only what the Church is, but who the Church is. As I finish each chapter, I find myself breathing a contented sigh and thinking, "THIS is why I'm Catholic!" Originally recommended to me by the excellent Fr. Francis Selman.
Week of 25th June - The Irish Jesuits have turned their brilliant website into an even better book, Sacred Space: The Prayer Book. There's a reading for each day of the year, and weekly meditations. Gospel passages and inspirations for introspection lead us into mental prayer and the peace that comes 'dropping slow' out of Ireland! I picked up my copy at St. Paul's bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral, but the books are available online, too.
Week of 14th June - Giving thanks for the baptism of our daughter, Marianna Grace, which we celebrated on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary together with awesome godmother Ruth! We're offering our child's life back to You, O Lord, and to you, dear sweet Mother Mary. (This picture of the Immaculate Heart is by Stephen B Whatley, who's Marianna's godfather.)
4th June - This one especially goes out to burnt-out families who struggle to find time for God in their lives. As parents of a new baby, my husband and I often feel depleted, especially spiritually, and yet it's our job to provide a home that makes the sacred real for our child. I was once given this advice by my spiritual director: 'Go to the Lord through baby.' There's so many ways to do this and it's the best advice new parents could be given. Pray with your baby, but make it fun for her by adding hand motions to accompany the words. Read a spiritual book out loud while you watch her play, it's great for her language skills too. Choose books with fascinating illustrations that also tell a religious story, like this one that my little girl particularly enjoyed: The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe Empress of the Americas. You'll find that your connection with God grows as you go to Him in loving simplicity, through baby.
Week of 7th May - There's a CTS book we've really been enjoying...I know I always recommend CTS booklets but they are such incrediblly good resources for growing in our faith.. This week I want to recommend 'Reflections on Mary by Pope Benedict XVI'. This book can definitely help you to be "guided by Mary to learn Jesus!"
Week of 16th April - With a new baby, simplification is what's on my mind. That's why I love Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection's 'Practise of the Presence of God' and I really recommend this excellent little booklet from CTS, Practising the Presence of God with Br. Lawrence. It's a good introduction to a sublime yet simple form of spirituality.
Week of 2nd April - For my reco, I'd like to share these inspiring words from Archbishop Oscar Romero:
"Christ became a man of his people and of his time:
He lived as a Jew,
He worked as a labourer of Nazareth,
and since then He continues to become incarnate in everyone.
If many have distanced themselves from the church,
it is precisely because the church has somewhat
estranged itself from humanity.
But a church that can feel as its own all that is human
and wants to incarnate the pain,
the affliction of all who suffer and feel joy;
such a church will be loved and awaited,
And that depends on us."
Week of 19th March - This week I've been enjoying Lenten homilies & addresses by Pope Benedict XVI, contained in this handy CTS book, 'Lent: Walking Towards Resurrection'. 'Handy' because it's pocket-sized, and easy to read aloud while nursing our newborn baby girl...it's never too soon to start sharing the journey of faith!
Week of 5th March - I wanted to recommend "There Be Dragons," the film inspired by the life of St. Josemaria Escriva...was a good introduction for me to the amazing witness to Christ given by the founder of Opus Dei... and the film had some great performances by Charlie Cox and Derek Jacobi. My only complaint was that the film didn't cover St. Josemaria's whole life story, and left me wanting to know more --- which is no bad thing!
Week of 13th February - Something that's been on my heart (& round my neck) lately is my Miraculous Medal, which will be coming with us to the birth of our baby, this week! The Miraculous Medal is such a simple, humble, but powerful way of practicing your faith and sharing it with others. Wearing the medal is a sign that we believe in a God who shares Himself completely with us, who has made His mother our mother, too. Medals can be obtained free in the USA and Canada from the Miraculous Medal Association. If you're in Britain or Europe, consider making a trip to 140 Rue du Bac, the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal, in Paris, France.. from personal experience I can say it's a transformative pilgrimage!
Week of 6th February - This week, for me, is all about celebrating Our beautiful Lady of Lourdes (her feast is Saturday!). So I'd like to recommend watching 'The Song of Bernadette' ~ as a newcomer to the story of Lourdes, I absolutely loved this movie and have enjoyed watching and rewatching it many times since. It's beautifully made, and begins with this brilliant introduction:
"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible."
Week of 30th January - I was recently asked to contribute to a website called Faith-Filled Photographers. It's a new venture started by two Catholic women, with daily explorations of how faith and creativity meet and inspire one another. This site isn't just for photographers or for those who are 'faith-filled'...it's for anyone willing to do a bit more looking, listening, and prayerful observation in their daily lives. You can find my own contribution here.
I'd like to recommend the blog, Catholic Cuisine. As a homemaker and mother-to-be, I find this blog such an excellent resource for recipes and tools that help us to incorporate our Catholic faith into the daily rhythm of home life, which of course is the 'Domestic Church.' Our mission of ministry begins in the home, it's where we plant the seeds of faith, and this blog offers fun ways to help us do that...I think it's also great that it offers ways of making our Catholic feasts and liturgical seasons so exciting and joyful for kids, that we can stand up to the pressure to give into the secularisation of holidays like Christmas and All Hallows.
Suggestions for November: I'm going to be making Scottish shortbread to celebrate the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland (Nov 16) and this crown cake in celebration of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (Nov 17) looks super yummy!
Week of 24th October - My reco this week is totally fun and british and self-indulgent. The best TV show EVER is back in full swing and my husband and I are hooked! 'Merlin' airs every Saturday at 8.10 PM on BBC One (or BBC iPlayer). It's produced by BBC Cymru and I love seeing the beautiful native landscapes used in the retelling of these traditional Welsh legends.
Week of 17th October - My reco this week is simply: the rosary. I've always been attracted to this devotion but feel like I never really 'got it' until now. I'm currently in the throes of some major anxieties that have been disturbing my sleep----it was actually my Methodist mom who said, 'How about some rosary prayer before bed?' Who knew my mom actually knew what was best for me?! I keep discovering that the Hail Mary is such a peace-giving, healing and transformative prayer. Call her what you will...Blessed Virgin, Our Lady, Holy Mary...I'm learning that 'mother' is the most sanctified epithet of all, and it's the one that naturally leaves my lips when I'm in a moment of real humanity and smallness. Then Mother Mary is the one I call on...she held Jesus, and through the rosary she holds me too!
Week of 10th October - I've got a book I've been loving, Fr. Tony suggested I read it and of course he was spot on with his reco: 'God of Surprises' is a great spiritual book that has a strong ecumenical appeal (although authored by a Jesuit priest) and focuses on the examination of our inner life and how we can encounter God there. I find it illuminating---it's a journey of spiritual discovery. What's really fantastic are the optional exercises at the end of each chapter which help you to further analyse the personal revelations you may experience as you progress through the book.
Week of 26th September - This is really a heads up for next week - I recommend participating in 'Little Way Week', which begins this Saturday, on the feast of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and will continue through to October 7th. The basic premise is to follow St Thérèse's 'Little Way' for a week, doing 1 small act of service or kindness for each of 7 days. It's such a fantastic idea, and as you may know, very close to my heart as a devotee of St Thérèse! May her upcoming feast bless us with new, small ways to love and offer ourselves for others. You can find out more here.
Week of 19th September - Many of the churches near us do not have a space for lighting prayer candles...but you can light a candle in prayer from anywhere in the world with this lovely online prayer chapel, set up by a monk in a Benedictine abbey in Alabama, USA. If you light a candle in prayer for someone else, you can also 'send' the prayer candle to them via email! I think it's a great idea and a great way to let people know you are thinking of them in their time of need.
And please don't forget, it's Our Lady of Walsingham's day this Saturday! A lovely way to celebrate would be to pray a rosary or a say a little prayer for England.
Week of 12th September - Catch them while you can - wildflower meadows are still blooming at the Buckingham Palace end of St James's Park. I love the inclusion of a natural landscape in an otherwise very manicured royal park. Reminds me that the designs of God are always better and more beautiful than the best-laid plans of man.
Week of 5th September - I recommend taking advantage of the wonderful gift of the sacrament of reconciliation...I just had confession with the same priest who baptised my husband and I last year, and it's always an experience that leaves a big smile on my face and peace in my heart!
If you're in the London area between now and October, I also recommend a visit to the British Museum's 'Treasures from Heaven' exhibition - it takes you through the history of the Christian journey through sacred relics and artefacts. Really enjoyed it, and it was also beautiful to reflect on one of the most important elements of our faith - the hermeneutic of continuity. [Entry is £12]
Week of 29th August - my recommendation for this week is to follow along with Totus2us's beautiful novena to Our Lady, leading up to the feast of Our Lady's birthday on September 8th, which will also be Totus2us' second anniversary! I'm really blessed to be apart of this wonderful ministry called Totus2us.
Week of 22nd August - My reco this week is to check out the WYD 2011 set on Totus2us' Flickr page! So far we have 2 contributors from Madrid and some amazing pictures coming.... and if anyone out there would like to share your pictures of this event with the world, please feel free to get in touch with me and we'll be happy to feature yours too! Thank you to Pope Benedict who's shared such wisdom and love with all of us, around the world, during this event!
Week of 15th August - 2 recos from me this week:
1. I found this interview from Vatican Radio so inspiring - it's about how conversion can emerge from suffering and be a witness for all. It's only 8½ minutes long, have a listen.
2. I dare you to have a look at Stephen B. Whatley's website and not be amazed/inspired by his art. He's a Catholic artist and a onvert to the faith, he'll also be featured in the September issue of Catholic life - check him out!
Week of 8th August - 'The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross' by Fr. Iain Matthew. Ruth gave me this book, and my spiritual horizons have been opening up since turning the first page. It's not just a good spiritual read, it's a book that can truly change you in the shift towards authentic holiness, which is union with God. Plus, the author, Father Iain, has also been featured several times on Totus2us, check it out.
Week of 25th July - My reco for this week: Sacred Space. It's a lovely site run by the Irish Jesuits. They've really done a beautiful job with it. It's available in a plethora of different languages and is basically a 'sacred space' online where you can spend ten minutes in prayer with guided reflections. There are new prayers and accompanying Scripture readings each day - it's wonderful, please have a look.
Week of 11th July - I recommend 'Celtic Connections' radio show, broadcasting from Cork, Ireland! I'm Celtic and it definitely makes me feel connected! :P It's hosted by Kathy Sinnott and deals with what's happening in the UK, Ireland, and Europe from a Catholic point of view. There's been some fantastic programmes lately, including one with Fr. Andrew Pinsent (of the Sunday Evangelium), speaking about the 'New Atheism.' You can listen here.
Week of 4th July - I'd like to recommend Clareshare, a weekly email service from the Clareshare Prayerline. It's run by the nuns at Ty Mam Duw (who've contributed their beautiful music to Totus2us podcasts & gave their somethings about Mary during the novena to the Holy Spirit) and it's a way for individuals from around the world to join in praying for another. Anyone in need of prayer can ask to be included in the Clareshare newsletter, so while you're praying for others, others will be praying for you! I love receiving this prayer list from Clareshare because it's a way of putting my own life and my own suffering in perspective. Everyone has suffering in their lives, but suffering only really becomes transformative when we offer it up for others - suffering can be a POSITIVE way of uniting ourselves with others, as well as an inspiration to lessen the burden that others carry through our empathy, love and prayers. You can sign up for Clareshare here.
Week of 20th June - As a convert myself, I really enjoy EWTN's series "The Journey Home", hosted by Marcus Grodi. It explores the stories of converts to the Catholic faith, including fallen away Catholics, former atheists, Jews, and Christians from other denominations. As well as the many personal witnesses to the love of Christ and His Church, what I really love about this programme is that it gets into the theology behind each personal conversion. If you want to know about Eastern Orthodoxy, Mormonism, Calvinism, or Southern Baptists, "The Journey Home" is a great place to start because people from these religious backgrounds actually talk about the theological as well as personal reasons for their conversion. You can listen to any episode of "The Journey Home" here or check out selected videos of the programme here.
Week of 13th June - A free Father's Day gift for your favourite priest!
In Britain and America (maybe elsewhere too?), we're celebrating Father's Day on this coming Sunday, June 19th. I think it's significant we also mark the Feast of the Holy Trinity on this same day - a perfect day to remember the priests who reveal God's Fatherly Love to us. As a part of the 'Free Rosaries!' apostolate my husband and I run, we'd like to offer anyone and everyone a FREE ROSARY to give to their priest as a small Father's Day gift. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, and your rosary will be sent at no cost to you!
We also like to give our special priest a Father's Day card on Father's Day... I think that at this time, when vocations are suffering, we need to do whatever we can to make our priests feel loved and appreciated! Let's remember that our priests give their whole lives to us, for the love of God. We truly are their children - the only children they will ever have. And they often have pretty big, dysfunctional parish families to take care of! Please let them know they are loved and needed.
And free rosaries are available for anyone, anytime! Please see my Contemplative Calendar.
Week of 6th June - If in the Chicago area, I recommend a visit to St. John Cantius Roman Catholic church! This is an absolutely amazing parish, saved a few years ago from ruin by the main parish priest there. Now he has gathered an order of young priests around him, who live on the grounds of the church and are absolutely dedicated to both forms of the mass---Extraordinary and Ordinary form---Latin and English masses, opening the church all day, having rosary every day, and confessions all day, every day (I had a wonderful confession experience here!). This church is working to be the model of a Catholic parish, pulling in a community that is youthful and diverse, to a church that offers the sacraments to the people all the time. So many churches in America are keeping confessions to 30 minutes a week and locking the church outside of mass times. This church is full of young people who are alive to the Catholic faith, who WANT the sacraments, the traditions and the Latin mass. Makes you feel excited to be Catholic. You can watch the inspiring story of St. John Cantius church here.
Week of 30th May - I would recommend anything from Catholic Truth Society, but this week I especially want to recommend this book, 'The Eucharist with the Saints'. Having been Catholic for just over a year now, I'm only beginning to discover the immense spiritual treasure that is Eucharistic Adoration. Adoration is the perfect companion to the Mass, and this book is the perfect companion to Adoration.
Also I heard a priest on EWTN yesterday recommend that, with Pentecost Sunday coming up on June 12th, it would be a great idea to pray a novena to the Holy Spirit, beginning on 5th of June (this coming Friday) - alone, in our homes, or in parish prayer groups. I'm excited about this, especially in regards to the message Fr. Andrew Pinsent gave us in his Evangelium yesterday: why is the Holy Spirit so little known and understood? Because this special knowledge is about divinely inspired action, and that requires self-surrender. Knowing the Holy Spirit is about abandonment. I would especially like to recommend the prayer that Fr. Andrew gave us yesterday:
"May God help us to cease to resist Him, so that we do only what is pleasing to God, for the love of God."
Week of 23rd May - My recommendation is to walk/pray the Stations of the Cross with a Christian friend or family member from a different denomination. The monastery near our house has a very simple Via Crucis in a woodland setting, and my Methodist mom and I love making these Stations of the Cross together! This is not about trying to convert someone, but about focusing on the common ground we share and celebrating it. The Stations of the Cross can be very appealing to Protestants, especially when they're simply done and in an outdoor setting (so you're in a place that simply belongs to God and to you both equally, rather than being in the 'homecourt' of a Catholic church). It's also a chance to introduce them to a basic Catholic devotion, and to let them see how Christological Catholic prayer and devotion really is. It's a small step we can take towards healing disunity of Christians, which must offend Christ so much.
Week of 16th May - Okay my recommendation for this week is Where God Weeps, a website and weekly TV & Radio show run by Aid to the Church in Need. It brings into focus the challenges faced by faithful Christians and the Church community in the Middle East and (former) Communist countries, the plight of Christians in majority Muslim countries like Pakistan and Lebanon, and what it's like to try to run a Carmelite monastery in Albania, an officially atheist state. The website features great videos to watch that give insight into what it really means to follow Jesus and also teaches us about how better to dialogue with those of others religions... for instance, on one episode I recently watched about Lebanon, there was a Lebanese Jesuit priest who also happened to be a professor in Islam at a university in Beirut! His knowledge of Islam gave him a starting point for dialogue with Muslims in a country where people are torn apart by idealogies...and he made the great point that while Muslims and Christians can agree that God is All-Mighty and All-Powerful, what divides them is the essential truth about Love. It is possible for a powerful God to die on a cross, because it's on the Cross where Love is at its most powerful. This is a clue as to why Muslims reject the idea of Christ's death through crucifixion. More great talks, videos, articles and statistics here.
Of course, my other recommendation would be Totus2us's new Flickr page!
Week of 9th May - Everything for me at the moment seems to be converging on Julian of Norwich's 'Revelations of Divine Love.' I owned this book for years without opening it up, but then heard passages from it on Totus2us's beautiful 'Stations of the Cross' and at the same time, during a recent session of spiritual direction, was recommended to read it. It is progressively pulling me into a very intimate and prayerful communion with God---and that's why I recommend reading it in a place where you can really feel quiet and intimate with your Maker, just as you would with a Lover or Friend. For me, that's outside on our deck here in Georgia, under the morning skies.
Week of 2nd May - I want to recommend the thing that led me into Carmelite spirituality, the place where I first learned about St. Therese. It's Meditations from Carmel, a podcast done by the community at the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri. It's the voices of the sea, the saints and seagulls, as meditations from various Carmelite saints and blesseds are read aloud. The selections really take you deep into prayer and into the heart of God. We actually visited the Carmel the podcast comes from this past summer, here's the picture.
Week of 25th April - on Vatican Radio I've been listening to Fr. Paul Murray's series of talks on contemplation in the Christian spiritual tradition. It was actually filmed by Sky Television and it's the first time a Dominican priest has ever addressed the House of Lords! The talks are incredible and are entitled, 'What is it like to come close to the presence of God?' - here are the links for Part 2 and Part 3.