Tag Archives: spirituality

Prayers of the People

I try to keep a positive attitude at mass, and I’m pretty much able to do that.  The only exception, at least in my current parish, is the petitions or “prayers of the people”.

Too often they turn into either little exhortations on the issue of the day, or a kind of substitute announcement.  An example of both of these rolled into one petition(!) would be:  “For all those suffering due to abusive practices of mining companies, who pollute the ground waters in [country x] with illegal dumping of [chemical y], for which there will be a meeting of the parish’s development and peace group on Monday at 7 pm, we pray to the Lord.”


First of all, the Lord knows when the meeting is.  We don’t need to include it in the prayer.  And the Lord knows about company x and chemical y.  Can we not just pray for the suffering of the world?

George Weigel has an excellent column in the Denver Catholic Register, suggesting that at least at some masses, the petitions be routinized.  His formula goes like this:

For the holy Church of God throughout the world, let us pray to the Lord.

For Benedict, Bishop of Rome, and the bishops in communion with him, let us pray to the Lord.

For this local Church of [name of diocese], for [name of bishop], its chief shepherd, and for the priests and deacons of [name of diocese], let us pray to the Lord.

For this parish of [patron of other name], its pastors and its people, let us pray to the Lord.

For an abundance of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, let us pray to the Lord.

For the unity of all Christians, for the relief of those suffering persecution for their Christian faith, and for the conversion of their persecutors, let us pray to the Lord.

For the civil authorities, that we may be governed in justice and truth, let us pray to the Lord.

For those who are sick, and for all those with special needs, let us pray to the Lord.

For our beloved dead, let us pray to the Lord.

That, I suggest, covers the most important bases. Such a scheme also locates the local parish within the broader Christian community of the diocese, and locates the diocese within the ambit of the universal Church: facts about which Catholics in America often need reminding. And such a formulaic schema avoids politics while making clear that we should pray regularly that the politicos recognize both the responsibilities and limits of their power.

We pray to the Lord.

Jesus wept….

…and it wasn’t about climate change.

Unbelievable tripe in the National Post today.  I’m embarrassed to say that I attended the United Church for a few years.

Mardi Tindal, the newly elected moderator of the United Church of Canada, returned from last month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen with a deep malaise. Not a true clinical depression, but an anxious despair that reduced her to weeping.

“The difference between depression and what I was experiencing is that I wasn’t suppressing or finding myself in a place of isolation,” she said in an interview about her “lament,” and how it helped her to see “the truth about the condition of my own soul.”

She was so disappointed by the meeting’s failure to reach a binding deal that she broke down in the car one day as her husband drove toward their home church in Brantford, Ont.

“I simply wept. My tears were quiet, but I spoke through them, and I was being listened to. My husband said, ‘There is great power in what you have just said, and it is a powerful message that makes clear why you are weeping.’”

“And I said, ‘Doug, I’m weeping for the millions of lives that have been lost as a result of what did and did not happen in Copenhagen,” Ms. Tindal said. “My experience was that I had a place to go with my tears and my lament…. It’s an expression of pain for the world’s suffering.”

Don’t bother reading the rest.

A secular Jew attends the Christmas Vigil Mass.

Robin of Berkeley, a self-professed “wandering Jew”, discovers the beauty of the Catholic Church.  On her first visit to a Berkeley church.  On Christmas Eve.

And in a heartbeat, I understood why leaders from Marx to Mao try to keep people away from God, and why they will always fail. I flashed to an image of those mothers who somehow find the superhuman strength to lift up a car and free their children.

Go read the whole piece.  

My mother-in-law and the Immaculate Conception

My mother-in-law, Josephine (“Mama”), arrived from Stockholm on Monday to spend a month with us here in Toronto.  I blogged about her previously, about her wisdom and all that she has taught me in the 26 years I’ve been married to her fourth child, even though we’ve been separated by an ocean most of the time.  She hasn’t visited with us for over three years, although she saw Z when he first moved to Toronto from Atlanta, before the boys and I moved up.

I am refreshing my French, as that is our common language.  She loves to tell stories about the past, and I am enjoying hearing some old ones as well as some new ones.  She is a very devout Catholic, and has experienced the hand of God throughout her life, bringing her safely through many hardships and heartbreaks.


Her parents were born in Mardin, Turkey (left) in the early part of the last century.  They were part of the forced exodus of Armenians and other Christians from Turkey between 1915 and 1917.  Her mother, Marine, was four years old when her family was expelled from the city and marched south.  Her grandmother was pregnant with her uncle at the time, and gave birth on the road.

Yesterday morning, realizing that it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I asked Mama whether she’d like to go to mass.  We’d already missed the one mass at our parish, so I had found one at another parish close by yesterday evening.  She looked at me and told me that it was very important that she go to mass, not only for the Immaculate Conception but because her mother had been born on that day in 1912, as the bells were ringing for church.  It was for that reason that she was named Marine.  Even more importantly, she died on the same feast day 86 years later.  She said that she had a lot of prayers to say, and that she very much wanted to go to church.  Z had to stay late at work, so we went together, just the two of us.

We arrived a little bit early, and she took out her handful of prayer cards, mostly in Arabic, and began her prayers.  There were 40 or 50 people at mass, mostly women.  The priest began mass with the hymn Ave Maria, and I was overjoyed to hear my mother-in-law join in on the chorus.  She has been to Lourdes a number of times, and told me that it is the song sung during processions there, with everyone singing in their own language.  .  The chorus is Latin, and she sang along with the congregation.  I wish she could have understood the homily, because the priest talked about the gifts that we are all given to assist us with our vocation, just as Mary was given the gift of sinlessness.  Mass ended with Salve Regina, and we headed back home at the beginning of the snow storm that hit us overnight.

This morning, she reported that had prayed another hour and a half at home before bed, and had slept very well, unlike her first night here.  I hope to recount some of the stories she tells me over the next month.  She is a model of holiness, a prayer warrior, a very courageous and funny woman, who has found comfort in her faith throughout her 78 years.


From left to right:  Josephine’s brother Joseph, Josephine, her paternal grandmother Meme Marro, her mother Marine, her sister Antoinette.

Lupina Lecture: Professor Sidney Callahan

For my Toronto-area readers…

The Lupina Centre for Spirituality, Healthcare and Ethics at Regis College are pleased to host a lecture on November 4, 2009.  Professor Sidney Callahan, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University will present a lecture entitled “Considering Suffering and Caregiving:  A Theological and Psychological Inquiry”.  This free public lecture will be held at Regis College in St Joseph Chapel at 100 Wellesley Street West, Toronto at 7:30pm.

Further information and Prof. Callahan’s bio are here.

Good Friday

Another quiet and moving liturgy today.  Entering the church to the empty tabernacle never ceases to take me aback, and this afternoon was no different.  The silent procession and the prostration of the priest and deacon are also very emotional moments.

St John’s Passion Narrative was read and the choir sang the crowd responses.  An unaccompanied soloist sang the spiritual Were You There while the offering was collected.  This was followed by congregational singing of O Sacred Head, Surrounded, one of my favourite hymns that regularly brings me to tears.

During communion, the choir sang When David Heard by Thomas Tomkins, an achingly beautiful piece that was somewhat under-rehearsed (and showed it).  Check out this YouTube version. Warning:  there are some heartbreaking images as you get in to the video.  The text of the piece is roughly 

When David heard that Absalom was slain, 
He went up to his chamber over the gate and wept; and thus he said:  
Oh my son, Absalom my son.  
Would God I had died for thee.

The liturgy ended with veneration of the cross while the choir sang The Old Rugged Cross.

Sunday Choral Report

First Sunday of Lent

Processional: Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days (CBW 367)
Offertory:  Lass Dich Nur Nichts Nicht Dauren (Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled) Brahms (pdf)

Communion:  Ave Verum (Elgar) (pdf)

Recessional:  Lift High the Cross (CBW 435)

In rehearsal:

Audivi, Media Nocte (Tallis)
The Saint Dominic Choir – Audivi media nocte (Thomas Tallis)
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Ave Maria (N. Dett)

How Lovely is they Dwelling Place (Brahms) (pdf – choir parts only)

Head coverings

A very thoughtful (and thought-provoking) piece at Amazing Grace today on her expeience donning the hijab while in the Middle East.


A little snippet:

…the experience was an enlightening one in many ways.  I did not find it ‘oppressive’, but liberating, and, in some ways, quite seductive.  Dressed in this manner I became, in the eyes of my hosts, something I am, namely a respectable woman who is not interested in sex with strangers.  Dressed in my ordinary clothes, which are, I can assure you, in no way outrageous by the standards of twenty-first century London, I would’ve been a whore on the make.

I have read a lot about women’s dress, modesty, head covering, and deportment of women in my foray through homeschooling, as well as in reading some Catholic authors, including bloggers.   I am, frankly, annoyed and upset by the private school girls down the street with their skirts rolled up and long white legs exposed, feet tucked into Uggs, in the middle of winter.  I want to shake them and ask “Why?”.  I also want to shake their parents, the media, and ask why we let girls think that the attention they garner in this manner is attention they need.  And why they want it.  

A nearby neighborhood is home to a large population of orthodox Jews.  Really orthodox.  Odd shaped hats, fringes dangling below jackets, payot, hair coverings on women, and long black skirts.  For a while, I was a member of a women-only fitness club and there were a number of woment there who wore leggings under a skirt to work out, and kept their hair covered.  There is something oddly attractive about this visible display of modesty and holiness.  Alex mentioned once how much he admired them for displaying their faith so openly.  

I’m not sure what it all means for me, but it is certainly food for thought.

Lenten Practice

June Cleaver After a Six-Pack has a great post today about Lent and her childrens’ ponderings about potential Lenten sacrifices.  A snippet:

Aaron is not as strong willed as Hope. He gives things up like, looking at his baseball cards (that he can’t find) or not wearing his favorite pair of black socks (that he left down at the creek when he took them off). He is also very good at “forgetting” or “changing his mind” midstream into Lent. If he gives up video games this week (because he is grounded from them due to his tackle/pushing of one or all of his sisters) he will change his mind next week when the ban on the Wii is lifted and he just can’t take the temptation. He is a week-to-week kind of guy.

We’ve had a number of discussions of late around the dinner table about Lent.  Alex (17) will be giving up ice cream and arguing with his brother (14).  The first is the sacrifice.  The second the spiritual practice.  I told him not to tell his brother what he’s doing, to just do it.  He is sure that he will mess up frequently, but I told him that it’s okay… and that it’s a great thing to try.  He made it 25 minutes this morning after they were both awake.  He complained that Michael left his toothbrush on the powder room sink.  Michael replied that at least HE brushes his teeth before school in the morning…yakety-yakety-yak….and they were off.  Gah!

Michael, the self-proclaimed non-Catholic in the house is not giving up anything, but he will make casseroles for the Good Shepherd Centre each weekend with his father because it counts toward his community service required at school.  So that’s almsgiving.  See? We tricked him into a Catholic practice.

Z is going whole hog.  No sweets, no TV (this is HUGE), and no alcohol.  I reminded him that we will be in Mexico for a week in the middle of Lent but he insisted.  He’s so holy.  Just giving up his blessed TV5 (France) in the morning while he shaves is huge.

I am going, well, modest.  No fast food (sacrifice).  Daily meditation from Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings


 by Henri Nouwen (spiritual practice).   On the former, I confess to planning my errands midday so that I am **forced** to stop for lunch and eat a burger, or poutine, or sushi lest my blood sugar plummet, I crash the car, and my children are left motherless.  I am such a fraud.  It’s over.  It’s over for the next six weeks, at least.  

Easter Dinner at New York Fries, anyone?