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How to pray with your spouse

How to Pray with Your Spouse

How to Pray with Your Spouse (by Chris Stravitsch)

Step 1 – Reconcile & Rejoice

  • Together in a comfortable place / walk
  • Sign of Cross
  • Express any hurts & offer forgiveness
  • Thank God

Step 2 – Discover God Together

  • Read a Scripture passage together & discuss
  • Talk about life – What are experiencing & learning? What might God be saying?

Step 3 – Share Your Love

  • Kiss, embrace, resting in each other’s arms
  • Words of affirmation

Step 4 – Serve Each Other

  • Continue through the day / week…
  • Cooking, cleaning, listening, etc.

Creating a Prayer Space

Do you know the benefits of creating a prayer space in your home? Invite God into your home formally by creating a simple prayer space. You only need a few items, and you can always make it personal by adding items that are special to you.

Set up your prayer space at a place in your home that you see everyday if you tend to forget to pray. Even the top of your dresser can be a great place for you to stop and pray before you begin your day.

  • Bible
  • Crucifix
  • Candle (battery operated works, too)
  • Holy Water
  • Rosary

It’s helpful to have a chair or place to sit or kneel here. If you have small children, even a special blanket on the floor with faith-related books or toys that stay in this area can be a way to welcome them to pray here with the family.

Making It Personal

  • Other items: Prayer Cards, Saint Statues, angel statue, icon images or other sacred art, etc.
  • For couples: Items related to your wedding/marriage
  • For families: Baptismal candles or other reminders of your reception of the sacraments

Perhaps each member of the family has a favorite saint? Find an image of that saint & make a place where you can all together ask for their prayers. For example: At Pilgrim Center of Hope, each of our staff members has a saint that journeys with us through the year. At the end of our Chaplet of Divine Mercy, each of us says, “St. (Name)” and we all respond, “Pray for us.”

Let us know if you have any questions about setting up a prayer space or send us a picture of your space to share ideas with others! You can email it to us at media@pilgrimcenterofhope.org or post it to us on Facebook @PilgrimCenter.

A Message that Resonates Radically

By Angela Sealana

How often does anyone approach a woman and simply thank her?

Consider how our society can, at times, seem obsessed with protecting ‘women’s rights’ (however those may be defined), yet at the same time women are used left and right: used as a’platform’ to obtain political prestige, used by advertisers to sell stuff, used by television producers to spike ratings, used by factories for cheap labor, used by sports fans as eye candy, not to mention all the unspeakable abuses happening in the homes next door, or down the street.

I’m a member of Generation Y (born from the early ’80s through early ’00s), a characteristically optimistic and idealistic generation. However, despite my parents’ best attempts, I’ve been exposed to a steady stream of abusive language from media, strangers, community members and peers since my early schooling that shaped my understanding of my femininity.

Exhibit A: One of my earliest pre-teen memories was a commonplace visit to the dermatologist’s office. He suggested that I begin taking taking birth control as a ‘two-for-one’ solution. “Oh no,” he insisted to my mother, “I’m not suggesting anything about her, but… you never know what can happen these days!” Turning to me, he asked, “Don’t you want nice, clear skin – like when you go to the beach and wear a bikini?”

That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge about being a girl: that my body was different from a boy’s, that someday I could get pregnant, and that everyone expected me to care about my appearance and look ‘attractive.’

The fact is: I never thought about being a girl was anything special. My self-image was never integrally joined with my femininity – until I attended San Antonio’s Catholic Women’s Conference in my first year of college. There I sat, amid hundreds of women, next to my mother, who had invited me. I felt awkward; never before had I encountered so much estrogen! That weekend, I would hear – for the very first time – what the Catholic Church teaches about womanhood and femininity.

That weekend changed my life.

I went home and opened the free copy of “Letter to Women” written by Pope John Paul II, that I’d received in my conference packet. It was the most loving, enriching, positive portrait of womanhood I had ever encountered. The pope’s words jumped out from the page: “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman!” Wow. This was a radically new message.

I began plowing through the Internet looking for more from my church about this strange concept: that my womanhood was a gift to the world.

The more I read, the more I understood that God made me a woman for a reason, and that the Catholic Church has the most respect for women of any organization in the world. Of these things I am unshakably convinced.

Today, I relish the ways I’m able to share this profound truth with other women. For over four years, I’ve worked behind-the-scenes from San Antonio’s Catholic Women’s Conference, and last year, I served it’s nearly 2,000 participants as a speaker. Being a CWC steering committee member has been an extraordinary blessing. We pass along this message – a message that radically resonates with women to the core of their beautiful being. The church’s message about womanhood as  a gift opens their eyes to their glorious dignity, their magnificent abilities and their tremendous influence. The church’s message about womanhood empowers women to transform the world through their ‘feminine genius.’

And it all starts by saying, “Thank you for being a woman.”

“My word of thanks to women thus becomes a heartfelt appeal that everyone, and in a special way states and international institutions, should make every effort to ensure that women regain full respect for their dignity and role.” – Pope Saint John Paul II, in “Letter to Women,” 6.

Angela Sealana is ministry coordinator at the Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Originally published in April 2014. “Living the Gift of Womanhood” is a column by the Catholic Women’s Conference that appeared monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper (Archdiocese of San Antonio). Learn more about the Conference at CWCSanAntonio.com.

Meet St. Eustochia

Pilgrim Center of Hope welcomed ladies of all ages to Afternoon Tea with St. Eustochia on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 2pm. We enjoyed tea, sweets – including King Cake – and learned about a little-known saint, Eustochia Calafato. After reading about her, we discussed how her story impacted us. Discussion included: the importance of Scripture, determination, focus, fruitfulness in obedience, and knowing who we are in Christ. The event concluded with praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Gethsemane Chapel at 3pm.

In compiling the pamphlet for this Tea, I had to search far and wide. (Thank the Lord for the Internet!) Most information on St. Eustochia is in Italian – I even had a priest friend from the Netherlands assist in translating Eustochia’s “Prayer Before a Crucifix” from Italian into English! Because Saint Eustochia is difficult for English-speakers to ‘meet’, I’d like to share her story with you:

St. Eustochia modeling in “Virgin of the Annunciation” by Antonello da Messina

Saint Eustochia Smeralda Calafato

Born March 25, 1434 in Santissima Annuziata, Italy
Died January 20, 1485 in Montevergine, Italy
Feast Day: January 20
Patron of: Messina, Sicily, Italy

In the fifteenth century, the Sicilian city of Messina, Italy was stricken with the plague. A young woman, pregnant with her fourth child, fled with her family to a nearby small town named after the Annunciation, Santissima Annuziata. She was blessed with the birth of a daughter on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1434 – also Good Friday that year. She named her Smeralda, meaning emerald.

Smeralda’s mother was a fervent Christian and enthusiastic admirer of the Franciscan religious order, particularly of the Franciscans who were reforming the order by closely following the life of St. Francis, embracing poverty. These reformed Franciscans’ first monastery was established by Blessed Matthew of Agrigento in Messina. He inspired a renewal of faith in the people of Messina by his ardent preaching and way of life.

Smeralda’s mother had attended one of Blessed Matthew’s sermons as an eighteen-year-old bride. It had such a profound impact on her that she devoted her life to prayer, penance and helping those in need. Thus, little Smeralda was raised from childhood to exercise Christian piety and virtue, eventually exceeding her mother’s greatest hopes and expectations. Smeralda was beautiful both inside and out; she is thought to be the model for the painting The Virgin of the Annunciation by Antonello da Messina (seen here).

One day in church, Smeralda had a powerful vision of Jesus Crucified. The experience compelled her to devote herself completely to the Lord. When Smeralda was fourteen years old, she wanted to become a Poor Clare nun.

However, the young girl’s desire to follow Christ would be tested. Her father had already arranged marriage for her to an older, wealthy widower. Smeralda kept her hope in religious life, and the widower died before the wedding. Her father again arranged a marriage for his daughter, but that man also died. With each new proposal, Smeralda remained firm about her desire to enter religious life. Then, on a usual business trip to Sardinia, Smeralda’s father died suddenly.

After this tragic death, Smeralda requested entrance to the convent of Santa Maria di Basico. But her brothers threatened to burn it down if she entered, so the frightened sisters could not accept her request. After several months, Smeralda’s brothers experienced a change of heart since they witnessed her intense desire to dedicate her life to Christ. She finally entered and took her vows at fifteen-and-a-half years old. She took the name Eustochia, meaning ‘fruitful.’

Unfortunately, Sister Eustochia came to discover that the convent had drifted away from the poverty lived by their foundress, St. Clare of Assisi. For more than a decade, Eustochia struggled to be an authentic Franciscan in the materialistic atmosphere. Eventually, she requested permission from Pope Calistus III to establish a new convent, and it was granted! The Holy Father worked with several nobles who bought a former hospital building to become the new convent.

But a sister does not so easily leave her community to establish a new one. Eustochia received resistance from many of her fellow nuns. Some friars refused to say Mass at the new convent, believing that the sisters’ lifestyle was too strict. Feeling abandoned by so many, Eustochia appealed directly to Church authorities in Rome. They approved of her desire to renew Franciscan asceticism and poverty, and gave their support. The friars who had refused to assist at the convent were threatened with excommunication if they continued to resist.

There are many testimonials to the heroic nature of the virtues practiced by Eustochia, and numerous miracles are recorded concerning the multiplication of food. It is said that on many occasions when the treasury of the convent was insufficient to buy provisions, Eustochia made the Sign of the Cross over two or three little pieces of bread, and there was miraculously enough to satisfy the appetites of the ten sisters who comprised the community.

Eustochia’s holiness drew many more to her community – so many that it soon outgrew the building and moved to Montevergine, near Messina, where their convent still stands. The local people considered Mother Eustochia their patron and protector, and the cloister was a place of refuge—especially during the earthquakes that rocked the area.

Mother Eustochia demonstrated to her nuns the fruits of asceticism, and lovingly infused into their hearts the virtues which she herself practiced with admirable constancy and heroism. She taught them to permeate their whole lives with a simple and generous Franciscan spirituality, focusing on their Beloved Suffering Christ, to devote themselves to the Eucharist, and to draw all necessary strength and nourishment for daily meditation from an intense, liturgical life. She often led the sisters in two-hour Scripture study sessions.

Eustochia’s love of Jesus in poverty and penance was outstanding. In fact, she bore for many years the stigmata – the wounds of Christ miraculously reproduced on her own body. She wrote a treatise on the Passion, which, unfortunately, is now lost. Though she never visited the Holy Land, Eustochia had a devotion to the holy places as did Saint Bridget of Sweden. In fact, Eustochia had one of the first sets of the Stations of the Cross (as we know them today) constructed within her convent.

Saint Eustochia's incorrupt body

Her incorrupt body, darkened by time

As she lay on her deathbed, Eustochia spoke to her daughters, who had gathered around her, about the Passion of Christ. On January 20, 1485, she spoke for an hour and, before closing her eyes, said, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” Then, she passed away. There left behind a community that had grown to 50 sisters.

Eustochia’s tomb and body manifested extraordinary phenomena, and many people received powerful graces through her intercession. The sisters wrote a biography of their revered mother and founder. She was beatified on June 22, 1987 and canonized on June 11, 1988 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Her incorrupt body rests in the Sanctuary of Montevergine in Messina, the monastery which she established, and can be visited twice a week.

John Paul II said of her: “Learning assiduously in the school of Christ Crucified, she grew in knowledge of him and, meditating on the splendid mysteries of grace, she conceived a faithful love for him. For our saint, the cloistered life was not a mere flight from the world in order to take refuge in God. Through the severe criticism which she imposed upon herself, she certainly wanted to be united to Christ, gradually eliminating whatever in her, as in every human person, was fallen; at the same time, she felt united to all. From her cell in the monastery of Montevergine she extended her prayer and the value of her penances to the whole world. In such a way she wanted to be near to each brother and sister, alleviate every suffering, ask pardon for the sins of all.”

Perhaps her most dramatic intercession happened in 1615 when earthquakes were rocking Messina night & day. Eustochia’s sisters were asked by the city senate to request her intercession. They set her body upright in her old choir stall, and asked for her prayers. Suddenly, her lips opened and her voice was heard chanting the first verse of the Night Prayer Psalm! Her terrified sisters nevertheless joined her in prayer and bowed their heads as usual during the Gloria. At that moment, the earthquake was reported to have ceased.

Sources include the Vatican, “The Incorruptibles” by Joan Carroll Cruz, and “I Santi de Giovanni Paolo II” by Andreas Resch.

PRAYER TO JESUS CRUCIFIED, BY ST. EUSTOCHIA: Oh my sweetest Lord, I would like to die for your holy love like you died for me! Pierce my heart with the lance and with the nails of your most bitter Passion; the sores you had on your holy body, may I have them in my heart. I ask you for sores, because it is my great shame and shortcoming to see you, my Lord, wounded, when I am not wounded with You. Amen. (Translated by Fr. Roderick Vonhögen)

Lectio Divina Guide

Lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) is a simple method of praying with Scripture. It was already known by the Church Fathers in the early days of the Church. Lectio divina was recommended by Saint Cyprian (a third-century bishop and martyr). It has been part of the prayer of Christians throughout the history of the Church. Monasteries kept the practice alive. Saint Benedict (480–547 A.D.) taught his monks to pray in this way 1500 years ago, and it is still a wonderful way to pray today.

Getting ready for Lectio Divina

FIND THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE. Set aside a few minutes (aim for ten to fifteen minutes a day if you can manage it) in a quiet, comfortable place where you can be relatively free of distractions. Have your Bible available.
PRAY FOR HELP. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. You are about to have a conversation with God Himself; invite Him to take the lead in the conversation!

PICK A SCRIPTURE PASSAGE. Choose a Scripture passage as the subject of your prayer time. It should not be too long, perhaps a short Psalm (or a section of a longer one), a story from one of the Gospels, etc. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND using the Mass Readings of the Day. You can find them listed at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ . There are other ways to choose:

You might choose a book of the Bible that appeals to you, and read and pray with a little bit of it each day. The Psalms are great; they were Jesus’ prayer book, so they should be good enough for us! Or you might choose one of the Gospels or one of Paul’s letters.

QUIET YOUR MIND FOR A FEW MINUTES. Now you’re really ready to get started!
“If we delight in the law of God or the Word and mediate on it day and night, we will be blessed and prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

The four stages of Lectio Divina
Lectio divina has four stages, or parts, each with its Latin name:

Lectio (reading)
Meditatio (meditation)
Oratio (prayer)
Contemplatio (contemplation)

1) Lectio (reading)
Read the passage.
Reread it again s-l-o-w-l-y, line by line, pausing from time to time. Notice any words or phrases that appeal to you or attract your attention.
You’re not reading just to get the gist of the story; every word or phrase can have meaning.

2) Meditatio (meditation)
Mull over the passage you have just read. Remember, this is God speaking to you. The words or phrases that caught your attention may contain God’s special message for you. (He speaks to each one of us in a unique and individual way. No two people will get the exact same thing out of the passage. And if you were to read it again a year from now, you might hear something different.)

Spend extra time thinking about the meaning of the words that “jumped out” at you. Ask yourself,
• What is God saying to my heart?
• How can I relate this passage to my daily life?
• What is God asking of me at this moment?

3) Oratio (prayer)
Now it’s your turn to speak. Respond to God’s word in silent prayer. What do you want to say back to God? The passage you just read may inspire you to …
• Thank God.
• Praise Him.
• Tell Him you are sorry about something.
• Give yourself to Him in complete trust.
• Ask Him for something you need. Has the passage brought to mind any personal needs you might have? Or the needs of others?
• Make a resolution. Has the passage prompted you to take some action in your life? To overcome a bad or sinful habit? To reach out to someone in need?

If you would like, you can go back to the Scripture passage and repeat the meditatio and oratio stages with another phrase or two. It’s up to you. Let the Holy Spirit lead you.

4) Contemplatio (contemplation)
When you are finished reading, listening, and talking to God, it’s time to just rest in His loving presence for a few minutes.
No words are needed. Be at peace and rest in silence before the Lord.
Just love Him, and let Him love you. (Kind of like a couple falling in love — sometimes it’s enough just to be in the same room together.)

Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts and inspirations received during your prayer time. In JOURNALING – you can include your insights, prayer in writing.


COPYRIGHT (c) Pilgrim Center of Hope, Inc.

You may request copies of this guide from us by calling our office: 210-521-3377. For bulk copies, we ask for a donation toward our ministry to help cover costs.

Christ and the Beloved Disciple icon

Icons

Icons are holy images; paintings or mosaics representing the saints, the Lord Jesus, or images of the Lord’s life. They are the “official art” of the Church as it developed in the early centuries. Over time, those of us in the western tradition of the Church opened up to other forms of religious art, but our art also continues to be based upon the original style of icons.

Icons are sometimes called “theology in color” because they are not simply artwork, but the result of intense prayer and a rich spiritual life. Those who make icons are called iconographers. They live a lifestyle of simplicity, modeled after monastic life, praying and fasting as preparation for creating the icons. In fact, sometimes instead of ‘painting’ an icon, an iconographer is said to ‘write’ an icon. This is because icons are like theology or prayer. As someone might write a prayer using words on a page, an iconographer writes an icon to be their own prayer, with color and lines, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

When icons are blessed, they are sacramentals. Other sacramentals you may be familiar with are rosaries, crucifixes and holy water. All these things prepare us more readily to receive God’s grace in our lives.

We at Pilgrim Center of Hope have many icons at the Center, and certainly invite you to come and pray with them. You can also find icons at your local Catholic bookstore, or even in books at the library.

One of our Speaker Team presenters also offers a talk on icons for parishes, schools, or other groups.