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Recommended Reading: Advent

A little late in the game, but here are a few titles that I recommend for Advent reading:

Reed of God by Caryll Houselander (Ave Maria Press, 2006) is the most classically "spiritual reading" of these Advent readings. Houselander uses the lens of Mary's life to talk about being drawn deeper into life in Christ, beginning with becoming empty, like a reed that will become shaped by God to become a flute that sings His glory.

Mary's Advent emptiness made straight the path that Christ might be conceived by the Holy Spirit in her; our emptiness makes way for Christ's indwelling of our hearts. Mary gives the gift of her flesh to the Son of God that he might become flesh; likewise we have become the Body of Christ. Several of the reflections on the Incarnation as being the gift of Mary's flesh affected my own love of Mary but of these the most arresting was Houselander's reflection that by receiving her flesh, Jesus also receives her death without which there is …
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Mystagogy Reading: Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread

Reading Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread is a continuation of my reading the Bibliography from Stratford Caldecott's The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God as personal mystagogy. 
Know Him in the Breaking of the Bread: A Guide to the Mass by Fr. Francis Randolph (Ignatius Press, 1998) is a very instructive description of the elements of the mass in the order they're celebrated, with a little prescriptive opinion thrown in to spice things up. The book is non-technical, free of theological or liturgical jargon, and easy to read. Fr Randolph is clear and concise in explaining the parts of the Mass, and several of his insights and explanations have altered the way I will be present to Mass and even the way I live out my every day participation in Christ's priestly office for the better. I recommend this to just about anyone who desires greater understanding and deeper participation of the Most Holy Sacrament. 
Years ago, I led a program called Religious Reflec…

Mystagogy Reading: Heretics by G.K. Chesterton

Reading Heretics by G.K. Chestserton is a continuation of my reading the Bibliography from Stratford Caldecott's The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God as personal mystagogy.

I am not new to Chesterton, and I'm sure to no one's surprise, his Heretics inspires much self-reflection on the reader's assumptions and acceptance of modern philosophies, ideas and notions while provoking smiles with his paradoxes and ever-present humor. The book is not a description or refutation of formal Christian heresies— such as Nestorianism or Docetism—but reveals and criticizes the fallacious dogmas and ideals of the modern age including the glorification of progress, scientism, wit & solemnity for their own sakes, technocracy, tourism, aestheticism, modern ritualism, and bad democracy. While the essays within take on specific "heretics" of note from Mr Chesterton's time, each individual addressed is merely a lens by which Chesterton focuses his insight and…

On Priests & the Universal Call to Sainthood: Their Cross to Bear

In Adrienne von Speyr's The Cross: Word and Sacrament, von Speyr links each of Christ's seven last words to one of the Seven Sacraments; positing that each "word" is a blessing from the Cross upon that sacrament, a commentary, and above all an intimate connection between the Paschal and Sacramental Mysteries. "If the Lord's words are all a piece of his life, and if he surrenders his life on the Cross for His Church, it follows that the Lord's words from the Cross are closely knit to, parallel to, the sacraments, those vessels of the life of the divine grace which overflows from the Cross into the Church." The links are as follows:

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do - PenanceYou will be with me this day in Paradise - Anointing of the SickBehold your son, Behold your mother - MarriageMy God, My God! Why have you forsaken me - Holy OrdersI thirst - EucharistIt is finished - BaptismInto your hands, Lord, I commend my Spirit - Confirmatio…

Mystagogy Reading: The Cross: Word and Sacrament

Reading The Cross: Word and Sacrament is a continuation of my reading the Bibliography from Stratford Caldecott's The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God as personal mystagogy.

Adrienne von Speyr's The Cross: Word and Sacrament (Ignatius Press 1983) is a profound reflection on Jesus’ Last Words after he is Crucified. She connects each saying from the depths of his suffering sacrifice to one of the Sevens Sacraments. These reflections connect the Paschal Mystery to the sacramental life and mission of the Church bringing new fruit to meditation on both.

The book is very short (63 pages) and could be read in a single sitting, but each chapter deserves at least a day of reflection and prayer each. I see myself returning to this time and time again in the week leading up to Good Friday, devoting each day to the sacramental fruits of these mysteries. With an RCIA group sufficiently Catechized, I would also consider using this as the primary guiding text for a Holy Saturda…

The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen, bringing the events and encounters of your day to prayer, is an ancient practice exhorted nigh universally among the Catholic spiritual writers I've read. Those who write about the Examen consider it an indispensable tool of growth in the spiritual life, and so all should strive to make it a part of their spiritual exercises. As such, it is one of the spiritual practices to be done by Servants of the Secret Fire.

The examen is sometimes also referred to as the Examination of Conscience, but I tend to avoid that term when talking about the Daily Examen, for the Examination of Conscience is a term I associate with preparation for Sacramental Reconciliation. One should make a thorough examination of one's conscience, especially with regard to one's sins before Reconciliation, and reflecting on one's sins is a part of the Daily Examen, but it is not limited to that, while the Examination of Conscience before Reconciliation would not include all that the …

Ah, Hell!

When Jesus is asked  “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answers “Strive to enter through the narrow door" nicely dodging the question for those who love precision about such things. (Lk 13:23 & 24) John in his vision strives to see how many have been saved while granted a glimpse of heaven, but is likewise thwarted a census when the number is that "which no one could count." (Rev 7:9) Was it a small fraction of the seething multitude of the total human population over time? Was it everybody? No straight answers are offered.

Stuck in our desire to be in the know about who and how many will be saved, we're often presented with two viewpoints well illustrated by two early theologians. Origen erred on the side of Universalism, that in the long run EVERYBODY gets saved (apokatastasis), even the fallen angels, including Satan. So powerful is God's mercy and the saving power of the Cross that no creature can resist it. This opinion was condemned by the Ch…