Tag Archives: Sacramentals

The Little Flower

On my pilgrimage in France: I find it funny that most people come to France primarily for the Paris attractions. Not for my group though — being in Paris was just an added benefit. Our main purpose was to visit Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette received apparitions of Mary in a small grotto next to a river in 1858. Such humble beginnings have transformed the site into a grand shrine devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes. This shrine has been a place of numerous miracles over many years, especially of healing. The water has become famous for its healing properties. Every single day people flock to this site with the hope of being healed by bathing in the water.

We started the day early to catch a flight from Paris to Lourdes. Anticipation filled the air with each one of us holding special intentions in our hearts, secret hopes that we desire Mary to answer. I confess my deepest desires were rather selfish. I intended to bring the desires I have had since I was a child: to find a loving husband and to start a family. Simple in nature but it is something I have felt is my true vocation. This is also a desire I have feared might never come to fruition. However, as I sat in the line awaiting my time to enter into the water, the more I drew closer, the more my mind, heart and soul began to shift. It felt wrong to place my prayer intentions only for myself. To be honest I already had the faith that Jesus would fulfill my deep desires with or without receiving the bath, and there might be more urgent prayer intentions to focus on.

Yesterday, we visited the Sanctuary of Lisieux where we devoted our time to learning about the life of Saint Thérèse and her family. It was also Consecration day for the Pilgrims who went through 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Gaitley. For those who don’t know, Marian Consecration is a way to give yourself entirely to Jesus through Mary. Through this Consecration, you surrender your entire self to Mary for her to use in whatever way she wishes to further glorify the kingdom of God. This can be difficult to do, especially for me; I naturally want to maintain control. Nevertheless, I sincerely felt called to France to do this. After my Consecration, I ended up in the gift shop filled with Saint Thérèse souvenirs. I was drawn to a simple key chain. A small pink rose, a symbol of Saint Thérèse. I heard a quiet voice tell me to buy it. I struggled with this at first. I knew it would be hard to give this key chain to the person it was meant for. She is a sweet and in some ways very innocent girl but she is a victim of this fallen world. While she appears as a girl herself, she has a daughter and is addicted to marijuana. Before leaving on this trip, she asked me to bring her back a French husband. She was serious about it too, listing off all the attributes this husband should have. I promised I would bring her back something even if it was not a husband. I have been working with her for some time but Mary was definitely working to strengthen our relationship during the weeks leading to this trip. Throughout this trip, Mary continued to place her on my heart. In that gift shop and after my Consecration I saw why.

Sitting waiting to go into the bath I released my selfish intentions and placed all my time and devotion on this girl. I truly believe that Mary will be able transform her and her life for good. When the time came to enter the bath I was asked to say my prayer intentions. I prayed for her and went down into the water. There are no coincidences and I believe that through the graces I have received, Mary wishes to reach this girl with the help of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Oh and by the way, this girl’s name is also Therese.

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Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: Saint Thérèse dressed as Saint Joan of Arc.

Memorials of faith under oppression in a Baltic state

Guest post by Dr. Chiara Bertoglio.

It is only very rarely that I have time for proper holidays, that is the idea of packing, flying and then enjoying a journey just for the sake of it. Much more frequently, I have to travel for my job, but – whenever possible – I try and make the most of these journeys, particularly attempting to know the places and people I’m visiting.

This happened in the past week, when I had to go to Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, for a conference. I was very curious, because I had never been to a Baltic country before. What will follow is just a kind of diary of what I saw, and, of course, I have no pretension to write as an expert of Lithuania or of its history. I’m merely a traveling musician who happened to spend a few days there.

The first thing I discovered was that Lithuania, along with its sister Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, is celebrating this year its 100th birthday. These countries declared their independence in 1918, though the following hundred years were marked by systematic violation of that independence and freedom. They experienced occupation and the deprivation of freedom and democracy, particularly during the long Soviet era.

Though the anniversary celebrations are stressing very strongly that the country’s independence is a hundred years old, and therefore that there is substantial continuity between Lithuania in 1918 and in 2018, they are also not hiding the country’s history and what it suffered in this century.

Just in front of the Academy of Music, where our conference took place, there is a building which immediately caught my eye. It is rather imposing, occupying one whole block; between the Academy and the building there is a small monument, in the shape of a little hill made of rocks, surmounted by a cross and with many flowers and candles spread around and above it. This tiny memorial invites attention, as does a block-long exhibition of drawings by children and teenagers – some of which are really beautiful – and which illustrate the history of Lithuania’s occupation. In fact, the large building a few steps away has had the debatable privilege of being the prison and operational centre of both the Gestapo (during the Nazi era) and of the KGB (during the longer Soviet occupation).

The building is covered in large square stones, on which the names and dates of birth and death of Lithuanian heroes are sculpted; many of them share the year 1945 as the second of the two. Inside the building is the Museum of the Genocide. I must admit that at first I had no intention to visit it. I can’t stand the sight of violence, I never watch horror movies, and I believe that one can learn enough about history without indulging in what I think are voyeuristic descriptions of torture and sadism.

In spite of this, in the end I convinced myself to enter, thinking that I would certainly not miss a visit to Auschwitz if I had the opportunity of going there, and so I had to take courage and enter here too. I was rewarded for this minor act of courage. The museum was by no means a chamber of horrors, even though it was more than a chamber of horrors. In the cellar, the KGB prison has been left as it was; and it is something one has really to see in order to believe it.

For example, you see what looks like a grim but not particularly terrible prison cell, about three by five meters, with three beds with no mattresses. The point is that up to a hundred prisoners were crammed into one of these cells. When you see it and think “well, this must be a cell for three people” and then you learn that a hundred people lived there… it makes you feel how inhuman their condition was. Then you see the showers, which are nothing to write home about, but when you learn that prisoners could take one shower a month you realize how terrible that was (and, incidentally, how the smell of a hundred unwashed people must have been).

There was, indeed, the display of some means of torture, of which I won’t write, but it was not like a splatter movie; rather, it made me deeply touched, sad and intensely moved. I was on the verge of tears when I descended into the execution room. I knew that thousands of people had died there; and while I felt the immense sacredness of a place like that, where heroes, martyrs and common people had been shot and had left this earth, I was also impressed by the “practical details” which made those killings so vivid in my eyes – such as the hosepipe used for washing the blood after the executions. It was like perceiving the reality and the truth of it all, not in the form of a tale, but as a true experience of life.

Similarly, I will never forget some small items which I saw in the museum in the upper floors, where tiny objects from the prisoners’ and the deportees’ lives were displayed. Many unsung heroes of the Lithuanian resistance were in fact sent to Siberia and other pleasant holiday places in the USSR, and, once more, the living truth conveyed by these objects was much more impressive for me than descriptions of tortures or other horrors which these people experienced.

There were handkerchiefs on which a married couple embroidered the portraits of their children: the parents had been sent to Siberia and this was a way for keeping the beloved features of their offspring with them. There were Christmas cards written on birch bark; small bags in which a handful of Lithuanian earth was kept by the deportees. But what most impressed me were the numerous examples of how faith kindled courage and hope in these prisoners.

A rosary made of bread, which belonged to the political prisoner Elena Kirlyte, Kazakh SSR, circa 1954.

There were rosary beads made of breadcrumbs (and one can only imagine how precious a breadcrumb could be for these people in forced labor at the end of the world); tiny holy vessels with which the priests celebrated Mass, sometimes even on the trains which brought them to Siberia, as witnessed in a “Mass diary” kept by a priest; minuscule crucifixes made from toothbrushes (!); portable altars carved in wood, or Lilliput prayer books written by hand. There were also some exquisite Christmas decorations which a deported bishop, from his internment at a kind of lunatic asylum, sent to his little niece; her picture was found in his own portable altar, so that he celebrated Mass for this little child.

I emerged from this visit with a full heart. I was impressed by some dates, telling me that some of these events happened during my own lifetime; in fact, I can distinctly remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, though I had forgotten about the human chain made by some two million inhabitants of the Baltic republics in 1989 (the “Baltic way”).

Outside the museum, I found a vibrant city, with a wonderful Old Town which is part of the Unesco World Heritage and modern shops like those I find in the major Western cities (though whether this homogenization is a positive aspect is debatable). But I also found an elderly man who sold simple bunches of homegrown flowers, tied with a shoelace – a touching reminder that freedom is not the same as well-being, and that consumerism is not the antidote to past abuses. The true antidote, I think, is in the deep faith and values of the Lithuanian people, some of whom I saw praying in the Cathedral church of Vilnius. I will not forget an old nun, who was so beautiful in her prayer that I couldn’t resist taking a picture of her.

The country, along with the other Baltic countries, will be receiving a visit by Pope Francis in a few days; possibly he will also go on pilgrimage to the Hill of the Crosses, a place I longed to see but which was too far from Vilnius to be compatible with my schedule. But I hope to be able to visit it in the future: it is yet another living witness of the power of faith and love to heal the deepest and most painful sorrows of humankind.

Dr. Chiara Bertoglio is a musician and theologian moonlighting as a journalist. She writes from Italy. Visit her website.

Originally published at MercatorNet.

Featured image: Hill of Crosses, Lithuania / PD-US
Photos: Chiara Bertoglio.

A Marian Encounter

When I came back to New York from Lourdes, France I had a new admiration for Saint Bernadette. It was wonderful learning about the different Apparitions she encountered with Mary, Our Lady. The Apparition which struck me the most was the time Saint Bernadette attempted to pray the Rosary with a Rosary that was not hers. The first thing Mary always asked Saint Bernadette to do when in Our Lady’s presence is to pray the Rosary. During this Apparition though, Saint Bernadette tried to use a Rosary from a seamstress from the village of Lourdes, Pauline Sans. Madame Sans had asked Bernadette if she would take her Rosary just once so that she could have it as a memento of the Apparition. Saint Bernadette agreed and that very morning she brought Madame Sans’ Rosary to the Grotto; however, when she tried to pray the Rosary, she found that she couldn’t. Mary asked her where Bernadette’s own Rosary was. Bernadette recalled that she was using Madame Sans’ and reached into her pocket for her own. When she did that Mary allowed her to carry on with the Rosary and told her to “use those.”

This Apparition was so important because it showed how attentive Mary is to every unique detail of our lives. Mary notices everything, even the difference in Rosaries we use when we pray. I believe I had a Marian encounter similar to this in Mass this weekend. It was during the time of the offertory; I always feel rushed during this time. I can never seem to find my wallet in time to place my contribution in the collection basket. When I am fortunate enough to find my wallet, I always hastily grab the change from the bottom to make sure I have something to contribute. This time I was actually successful in finding my wallet and was readily prepared for when the basket came to me. I saw the woman making her way down the isle of the church offering the collection basket to each person row by row. As she got to me she made direct eye contact and smiled. I smiled back and started to make the motion to reach out and place my money in the basket but the woman skipped me. I was sitting with a friend of mine and we both looked at each other with the same quizzical look. Did she not want our money?

It wasn’t until I was putting my money back in my purse that some of the coins felt a little weird. I looked at what I was actually holding and I realized the the coins were not coins at all — they were my saint medals. I have four saint medals that I wear around my neck every day: Saint Michael, Saint Francis, Saint Benedict, and the Miraculous Medal. Recently I had to stop wearing them because I had an allergic reaction to the chain they were on. I feel naked without those medals so had put them in my wallet for “safe keeping.” I thought that even if I can’t wear them, I could at least have them on my person. It occurred to me that if the woman had offered that collection basket to me, I would have given my medals away. These medals that have come to be almost a part of me. I was reminded of the story of Saint Bernadette and suddenly recognized Mary’s presence in that situation. I have never experienced anything like what I experienced in the that church. I have never been completely surpassed during the offertory, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was so grateful for Mary’s intervention though. I would have been heartbroken if I had lost those medals. Just like Mary knew Saint Bernadette was not using her own Rosary, she knew what I could have done with my medals and she made sure I did not get the opportunity to give them away. Needless to say I will be finding a new place to keep my medals until I can get a better chain for them.

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Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: PD-US

Lost and Found

One Saturday morning I reached for my watch, my saint bracelet, my ring and my necklace — only to realize that the necklace wasn’t there.

“I’ve lost my necklace!” I cried in dismay over the phone to my boyfriend.

“It’ll turn up, it’s there somewhere,” he said comfortingly, which only served to increase my annoyance.

“No it’s not!”

Indeed, after searching high and low through all the places I had visited the day before, I had to concede defeat. It was especially saddening because I had worn that silver chain with a Miraculous Medal for almost 10 years, and the medal was a turquoise hue which is no longer stocked in the cathedral bookshop here. I also lost a Jerusalem Cross given to me on pilgrimage last year by a kindly Orthodox gentleman at Jacob’s Well.

“I hope that Miraculous Medal changes someone’s life!” I quipped to the man behind the counter of St Vincent de Paul’s (Vinnies) charity shop.

My friend Heather at the Cathedral bookshop took pity on me. “Have this instead, it’s been sitting here for weeks with no-one claiming it!” she said, handing me a Seven Sorrows rosary.

“And you can have this too — your boyfriend can fix it,” she said, fishing out a broken rosary bracelet.

“Oh, and take this as well…”

I lost two precious sacramentals, but I gained three beautiful rosaries in return. I guess God wants me to pray more this Lent, and practice detachment from material things, even though they be sacramentals! Also, now I may not have a Jerusalem Cross to wear, but I’m finally wearing a crucifix. Have you experienced similar blessings in losing things?

Sacramentals: holy gifts

The lady on the bus

Since watching Touch, my boyfriend has had a habit of reading number plates and, now that he’s Catholic, relating them to the faith. One day he was riding a bus when he noticed “MAS” on a car, and chuckled to himself, seeing it as a reminder to go to Mass. His seatmate asked what he was chuckling about, and after he explained, a little old lady piped up.

“Are you Catholic?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“This is for you,” she smiled, handing him a laminated cruciform prayer card.


The Orthodox in the Holy Land

While I was on a Lenten pilgrimage in the Holy Land early this year, my parish group stayed at the Saint Gabriel Hotel in Bethlehem. It was my childhood dream to visit the lands where Jesus walked, but now that I was there, I was constantly troubled by a deep regret from the past; I couldn’t put it out of my head, even though it was really stupid and futile.

At breakfast, I was wearing my Annunciation leggings from a hipster store in Melbourne. An Eastern Orthodox priest (probably Serbian) came up and gave me two holy cards: one featured an icon of Christ, and the other, Mary. He couldn’t speak English, but through those holy images, he communicated a world of meaning to me: though things might seem bleak and disordered, Our Lord and Our Lady are with us always, and so are our brothers in Christ, including our separated brethren. It was a warm dose of heavenly joy amidst grotty modern-day Bethlehem.

Some days later, at Jacob’s Well, after venerating all the icons in the Orthodox church, I followed my tour group to the bus. I waved goodbye to the portly Arab gentleman manning the book store, and he beckoned me back.

“This is for you,” he said, handing me a jewelled Jerusalem cross, set with red and white stones.

“Shukran!” I gasped, giving him a bear hug, and sprinted up the courtyard stairs to my waiting group. I didn’t ask his name, but I wear that cross each day, and pray for him and his people.

Sacramentals: Binding us to Christ and one another

Jesus’ existence was a scandal: how could the transcendent, omnipotent God lower himself to become man, bound by the limits of earthly existence? Yes, the Incarnation is a mystery of love, and central to our faith. We are enfleshed souls, not Gnostics who spurn the body for the spirit; Christ has redeemed our flesh, and God touches us through our senses. That is why Catholics, the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox have always expressed our faith through physical objects. God created the world good, and everything can be sanctified and become a means of growing closer to Him.

As secular gifts are tokens of love and reminders of those who love us, so are sacramentals tokens of the heavenly love which binds those who live in Christ. What are some sacramentals which are important to you? And can you find people in your life who may appreciate a spiritual boost through a physical reminder of God’s grace?

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Kneeling at My First Mass

By guest writer Tasman Westbury.

In the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. – Philippians 2:10

I was raised in the Uniting Church, but never truly grasped any of its teachings, and spent several years as an atheist before a series of events and signs led me to conclude that there was a higher, spiritual power, which I eventually came to accept as God. This Easter Vigil, thanks to Divine Providence, I was received into the Catholic Church.

When I first walked into a Mass, what really struck me was when everyone knelt for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. What encouraged me to kneel when everyone else was kneeling was that it is written in the Bible, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:6)

When you feel something inside, you should be able to express that in a gesture, and that gesture should be a clear and concise representation of your belief. Humility is not expressed in big, loud gestures. Humility is quiet and small in physical appearance. It’s not seeking attention or approval, but rather the renouncement of yourself in a moment, for the sake of the good of another.

Kneeling is a gesture of making oneself quiet and small in the face of the presence of God, allowing ourselves to feel small in the presence of God, so that we recognize that we are like grass, which is here one day and gone the next (cf. Psalm 103:15-16; 1 Peter 1:24). Objectively, we can humbly say, without feeling that we are diminishing our worth, “we are absolutely nothing.” But at the same time, we are so special and of great value to God, Who has created us in His image and likeness, Who has suffered and died for each one of us, so that we may share in His divine life of Love.

Kneeling does not come from any culture — it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God. The central importance of kneeling in the Bible can be seen in a very concrete way. The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly Liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own Liturgy.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy

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Image: Joy-Sorrow

Tasman Westbury is a new Catholic who is currently exploring the Church’s treasure trove, which is found within prayer life.

Making a Prayer Fan: Sacramentals

prayer fan

On my onomastica or name day, the feast of my Confirmation patroness St. Elizabeth of Hungary, my friend Anne gave me a blank paper fan to decorate.

I mused aloud about possible designs. “Noah’s Ark? Our Lady of Guadalupe?”

“I know, I’ll make it a prayer fan! I’ll write all the names of people I’m praying for!”

“Jean, what a wonderful idea! We have to patent it,” Anne said, chuckling.

My nuclear family is scattered over three continents, with my brother in Egypt, my parents in Singapore, and me in Australia. Some days, I experience a guilty jolt when I realize that I haven’t consciously prayed for my parents, brother, and godchildren by name for awhile, though they are included in the catch-all clause of my Morning Offering.

As humans, we can only concentrate on a finite number of things. Sometimes even the most important things slip our minds, especially in the busyness of modern life.

As Catholics, knowing that the body and soul must work in unison, we rely on sacramentals as visible signs of our faith, physical reminders to live the Christian life.

Books too may act as sacramentals:

Even libraries and bookcases themselves become sensible signs of the truth and of the high vocation to caritas in veritate. St. Epiphanius, a Palestinian monk and later bishop of Cyprus, took the view that acquiring Christian books was not merely helpful but “necessary for those who can use them. For the mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin, and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.”
— Fr. Bernard & Abbot Michael Zielinski, OSB Oliv., “Book, Libraries, and the Church

albertstunitingchurchRecently, another friend and I wandered into a Protestant church. There in a corner were two wooden crosses, one criss-crossed with strings on which to peg prayer intentions, and one standing behind flickering candles.

albertstunitingchurchcross

“So much for chucking out man-made traditions!” I observed.

You see — we are enfleshed souls. We humans need physical, sensible objects to demonstrate our spiritual intentions. Incense, music, sacred art, architecture, bread and wine, gestures — all these are manifestations of God’s beauty and creative genius working through His entire creation, including our bodies. Jesus didn’t have to make a paste out of dirt and spittle in order to heal the blind man — He could have just willed it — but He chose to work a miracle through the lowliest bits of God’s creation. (Again, dirt and spittle. Not something I’d want on my eyes.)

So, God, I hope You understand when I get weary, and simply pray: “Please touch all the people whose names are on my fan!”

I’m talking about Sanctification – making things holy.  Or more accurately, turning things over to God, to be used for His purposes.  Catholics do this all the time – usually with the help of a priest. We do it to metals, strings of beads, necklaces – things that for non-Catholics are jewelry, we have blessed, made holy, sanctified, and voilà! They’re sacramentals now!
— “Sanctification, Stuff Catholics Like

It is superstition to put one’s hope in formalities; but it is pride to be unwilling to submit to them. The external must be joined to the internal to obtain anything from God, that is to say, we must kneel, pray with the lips, etc., in order that proud man, who would not submit himself to God, may be now subject to the creature. To expect help from these externals is superstition; to refuse to join them to the internal is pride.
— Blaise Pascal, Pensees, Section IV (Of the Means of Belief), #249-250

Your Vocation is Your Mission

On the First Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He astonished them with the reality of His Triumph over death, calmed them with His Peace, and directly informed them that they were going on a mission.

And this makes sense. They are the Apostles, they have a Church to build. Of course the Apostles have been sent on a mission. It’s in their name, apostolos, which is Greek for ‘one who is sent’.

The Apostles were sent to teach, make disciples, and baptize, bringing to all the life of grace regained by Jesus on the cross, that was lost with the Fall of Original Sin, in order to restore the relationship between God and man. They handed down this mission, and the grace to carry it out, through Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders, but you need not be a successor of the Apostles (Bishop) or priest in order to receive a mission from God.

Everyone has been sent on a mission by God. We all have particular missions specifically ordained for us by God, but we all also have that universal mission to love. In ecclesiastical terms, these missions are more popularly known as vocations, a calling. Yet, if we believe the words of Scripture in the first chapter of Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,” we can understand that God knew our vocations before we were born, created us for a specific purpose, and finally sent us on a mission to fulfill that purpose.

To help us participate in this mission with our free will, God allows us to freely choose. He never merely uses us against our will, but instead allows us to know his plan in some mysterious way so that we may choose it for ourselves and make His goals our own. This participation is enabled through discernment and is manifested by what many have deemed “answering one’s call”.

However, if God knows our purpose for our entire life and merely calls us to come to know it for ourselves, it would be equally correct to say that God is sending us to complete this purpose. He sent us on our missions, some specific mission for each of us, to somehow, as light, leaven, and salt of the earth, bring God to the world so that God may be known, praised, glorified, and loved in this life and in the next.

The idea of all of us being sent on a mission is a fitting description of what God has done and we see it beautifully exemplified and revealed by Jesus Himself. Many times in the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the One Who sent Him. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).

Jesus was sent by God to fulfill His mission. His mission was multifaceted, to teach us using words and deeds, to institute the Church and it’s sacramental mission, and to make atonement for the offense of sin. (All of this is beautifully encapsulated in the “Will” of the Father that Jesus must do). Christ came to show us how to complete our missions.

Christ’s life is an ocean of Truth, so I imagine many more lessons can be fished out, but by observing what He said and did, we can agree that to carry on our missions well, we need to remember certain things such as: We should (1) speak to the Father often, praying in solitude and in groups, (2) seek the Father’s Will in all things, and (3) keep the two greatest commandments, Love of God and Love of Neighbor.

The Church has articulated this last lesson of keeping the two greatest commandments as a vocation itself. In the fifth chapter of the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, we find the Universal Call to Holiness. This call to holiness can be seen as a call to love as holiness is the turning away from selfish sin and toward God and others for God’s sake.

Lumen Gentium explains, “For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law, rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means. It is charity which guides us to our final game at end.” In the language of the Church, ‘charity’, or caritas, is love. Love is the means of attaining holiness. Love is the Universal Vocation, which means, Love is everyone’s mission.

In fact, Love is everyone’s primary mission. Sometimes we get caught up with other things (like money, work, or school) and seem to love others on the side as we focus on these other things. First, Love God and your neighbor, and then do everything else.

Furthermore, this mission is more than just items we check off of a “to-do list”. It is a mode of being. It is not our mission to do holy, but to be holy.  To not just do loving things, but to be loving. We can form our wills to desire holy things by doing holy things, doing loving things can shape us to be loving, but only through God’s grace can we truly be loving and be holy.

We cannot earn holiness, because we cannot earn grace. However, we can put ourselves in the right place to receive the grace we need to carry out our missions. We can do this by 1) frequenting the Sacraments; 2) Prayer; and 3) Practicing devotions with sacramentals, which can include blessings, venerating relics, wearing a sacpular, visits to sanctuaries, and the stations of the cross. Sacramentals do not confer grace directly, but “they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (CCC 1674).

Through the Sacraments, Prayer, and Sacramentals we can put ourselves where God wants us. These tools will furthermore strengthen and nourish us as we continue with our missions. By seeking to love and be holy through these tools, we can best imitate Jesus, who is God’s Word, and thus not return back to Him empty, but full (Isaiah 55:11).