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“‘In the beginner’s mind there is no thought ‘I have attained something.’ All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.’ Shunryu Suzuki
I like these words. Also very important for Advent. Open, free, flexible, receptive. That is the attitude that makes us ready. I realize that in Zen you are not expecting anything or anyone. Still, it seems that all the things Shunryu Suzuki tells his students are important for Christians to hear and realize. Isn’t a beginner’s mind, a mind without the thought “I have attained something,” a mind opened for grace? Isn’t that the mind of children who marvel at all they see? Isn’t that the mind not filled with worries for tomorrow but alert and awake in the present moment?” – Henri Nouwen
I read this reflection twice… then I sat and just meditated on Henri’s “Advent words”…. open, free, flexible, receptive….” Show me Lord where in my life, in my thinking, in my prayer, do I “think” I am open, free, flexible, and receptive to Your Love and Will but You know that I am not.
And, Jesus, please help me to have the spiritual courage to give You, not a hesitant restrained “maybe”, but a total, free, faithful, and fruitful… enthusiastic YES.
Jesus, I trust in You… help me trust more… help me to grow in the Truth that You are Love and all that You will for me is Love. Thank you, my Beloved Jesus… I love You.
Written by Laura Ercolino
Luke 2: 29-32 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
This line in the Gospel of Luke takes place at Jesus’ presentation in the Temple. Simeon, a righteous and devout man, was spared from death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. Once Simeon had seen the Lord, he was prepared to die.
How can you embrace a life like Simeon? How can you open your heart to the work God wants to do in you and through you before your last day on earth?
Written by Charlie Soule Mitton
As I drew this image below, I contemplated the “Promise” that Our Lady bore within her very being… her womb… her body. I come undone… again and again….
I drew through tear-blinded eyes overcome by Love… the immensity of His Love and Light… the purity of her love… love of God that caused her to unhesitatingly say “Yes”… love of her precious only Son… love of us, of all of humanity, that caused her to bear, to birth, to care for and suffer with our Savior… my little heart cannot even hold these thoughts without pain… how did she bear this Promise and not just burst into brilliant fractals of sheer Light?
I tried to draw His Light seeping out into the darkness but as I tried I realized that would not be accurate for the meaning I was attempting to make visual. Only Mary knew she was bearing the Light of the World. The world was still waiting in darkness for her to give birth to the Light she bore. The light shining in the darkness that first Advent was radiating from Our Lady… from her pure heart beating for God alone…. Purity and Love shone from her face….. Christ, The Light, remained hidden in her womb.
To ponder: As we journey through Advent with Mary, it is good to reflect on the hiddenness of our Lord, The Light of the World, within her most holy womb. And it is good for us to remember that He has already come into our darkness and is no longer hidden. In what ways do you keep the Light hidden within you? How can you shine the Light of the Infant Christ into the darkness of this world?
“In my time of trial I called out to the Lord:
he listened, and led me to freedom.
The Lord is with me,
I will fear nothing that man can do.
The Lord, my help, is with me,
and I shall look down upon my enemies.” Psalm 117
Lord Jesus, You desire to lead us ever deeper into the freedom You have in store for us. As we enter into the second week of this Advent season, may we be reminded of your great love and faithfulness and be filled with holy boldness and zeal, even in the face of difficulties. We await your coming with great expectation, Lord, please hurry!
In what area of your life is Jesus leading you to deeper freedom this Advent?
Written by Megan Gettinger
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Luke 10:21 & 22
In today’s Gospel reading we are given a glimpse into the mind of God the Father, which operates in ways that seem so illogical to those of us who are all “grown up.” Why reveal the promises of the kingdom to little ones instead of the wise who would seemingly understand them better? What qualities do the childlike possess that so endear them to the heart of God? Children are receptive and imaginative- they aren’t bound to what is rational or possible- just like God. Children are small- their smallness leaves room for God’s bigness and gives Him the freedom to work in big ways.
How will you strive to keep your heart childlike this Advent?
Luke 1:42-43 “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
In the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit as Mary approaches her. Oh, that we might approach Jesus in the Eucharist like Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit!
What practice(s) this Advent will help you prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with joy and great reverence?
Jenn is a member of the Unbound team with Heart of the Father Ministries (www.heartofthefather.com). She coordinates all the local conferences and acts as a liaison for those hosting Unbound events around the world. Along with oversight of the administrative team, Jenn helps with strategic planning for Heart of the Father. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a Human Resource Management concentration at James Madison University. Although mostly serving on the home front, you might occasionally meet Jenn on the road when she travels and speaks at conferences with her husband, Matt Lozano. They have been married for 16 years and live outside of Philadelphia with their 5 amazing children.
Megan Murphy is a dynamic Catholic speaker, teacher, and evangelist engaging audiences of all ages in the New Evangelization. She is featured at conferences, retreats, seminars, universities, and youth and young adult events. She serves her home parish as Youth Minister and an Instructor for their parish-wide Family Catechesis Program. Throughout three dioceses, Megan teaches Theology of the Body, and has been instructing couples in St. John Paul II’s teaching since 2006. Megan is currently a presenter for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s “Remain in My Love” initiative and is the newest member of the speakers guild for Integrity Restored (integrityrestored.com). She has been a certified Natural Family Planning instructor for the past twenty years. She hails from Dunmore, Pa where she lives with her husband Neal and their four beautiful daughters. You can find her at meganmurphyministries.com.
De Yarrison is a Professional Coach, Speaker, and Women’s Retreat Facilitator. In 2009, after coaching leaders and their teams within the business community for several years, the Lord called her to work more exclusively with women within the Church. In addition to speaking and coaching, De facilitates retreats for women healing from betrayal trauma, abuse and emotional wounding. It is her great privilege to come alongside God’s beloved daughters in their time of need and support them in (re)discovering the healing love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
De graduated from Immaculata University with a degree in Psychology. She holds post-graduate certifications in Coaching and Gestalt Therapy and is trained in Unbound Ministry.
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I am becoming aware of the hurtful way I speak to myself. I hear me uttering judgments, negativity, and demeaning words to myself and I come to You seeking forgiveness and help.
It is a new idea for me to consider myself as Your beloved daughter, and as such I sense that my self-criticism is offensive to You. For offending You Lord, I am sorry and I ask Your forgiveness.
Lord, I desire peace in my interior life, peace in my relationship with myself. Please show me the way. Thank you for guiding me to speak words to myself that are kind and supportive. Thank you for helping me to grow in self-acceptance and self-compassion. Thank you for raising my awareness to the thoughts I think and the beliefs I hold about myself that are not of You, so I may cast them aside by the power of Your name.
I yearn for an interior existence that is settled, not stirred up; at peace, no longer rife with conflict. Father grant me this grace! Give me the grace to lift my eyes from myself, and to see You looking upon me with great love and kindness. Teach me to let in, to truly receive, the life-giving riches You offer to me as Your beloved one, that You may be glorified in all I think, say and do.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
This is one of my favorites! I find myself repeating the “chorus” many times a week, outside of the novena itself: O Jesus, I surrender myself to you,
take care of everything! The daily prayers of this novena were given to Father Don Dolindo Ruotolo in a private revelation from Jesus.
Mark Griswold plays piano for the band FireHill Worship. He is the Director of Religious Education for St. Norbert parish in Paoli, PA where he has been directing teens & adults, leading worship, and organizing events and trips for over twelve years. Mark married his beautiful college sweetheart and together they have four children.
FireHill Worship played on the main stage at the 2015 World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia, PA. Mark is a founder of The Abbey Faith & Music Festival, “AbbeyFest,” an annual experience of faith-filled music, inspiring prayer, communal worship and the joyful celebration of our faith. We are thrilled to have Mark be a part of Made New Retreats, leading us in praise and worship to the Lord!
We all have some “knots” in our lives… and Mary can untie them!
The devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots has become more popular ever since Pope Francis encouraged the devotion in Argentina, and then spoke about it during his first year as pontiff.
The theology of the devotion actually goes back to the second century. Saint Irenaeus wrote that, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”
Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin!
The Feast of Christ the King is a moveable feast that occurs on the last Sunday of the Liturgical year. Pope Pius XI created this feast to help the faithful to remember that allegiance to Christ is above any allegiance to government of a nation.
The novena in honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas since it was first made at the direction of Our Lord Himself when He sent His apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. Addressed to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, it is a powerful plea for the light and strength and love so sorely needed by every Christian.
“He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12).
The litany of humility is a moving prayer that can bring us closer to Christ. I first found it in one of those little prayer booklets that showed up on the bookshelf, but I had no idea when it got there or from whom. Know what I mean? Let’s just say Jesus put it there for a reason. In the case of the Litany of Humility, it was time for me to release to Him all those nagging doubts and fears about myself, as well as my misguided search for others’ approval and recognition. The harder I sought to have these needs met by people around me, the less fulfilled I felt. The litany of humility is a powerful way to claim the Lord’s freedom from all that is not of Him!
Use the link below to download the Litany of Humility.
There are many, many consecration prayers to Mary. Below is one that I (De) feel particularly drawn towards.
O Exalted Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, I consecrate myself to you this day and humbly ask that you take me into your constant care and protection as your devoted child.
O tender Mother of our Redeemer, fill me with your love for your beloved Son and make me into a likeness of Him. Fashion my heart after your heart. Make it tender, pure, gentle, and kind. Give me great reverence for life and devotion to duty.
O Spouse of the Holy Spirit, fill me with your virtues that by the power of the Holy Spirit I may become a true spouse of Jesus Christ.
O Star of the Sea, guiding light, ever guide me into a deeper union with Jesus that I may glorify Him in time and eternity for the greater glory of the Most Holy Trinity, now and forever. Amen.
– Adapted from “Consecration to the Mother of God,” The Apostolate of Holy Motherhood, page 122.
The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole People of God. In it, Christ himself “continues his priestly work through his Church.” His members participate according to their own place in the Church and the circumstances of their lives. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office either with the priests, among themselves, or individually.
The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours demands not only harmonizing the voice with the praying heart, but also a deeper “understanding of the liturgy and of the Bible, especially of the Psalms.”
The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour with the subsequent responses or troparia and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal the deeper meanings of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the psalms, and help one prepare for silent prayer. The lectio divina, where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus rooted in the liturgical celebration.
The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather (in a complementary way) calls forth the various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.
The worship “in Spirit and in truth” of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.” The Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water emanates. Incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”
Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Two, Section One, Chapter Two.
Good morning Jesus! Thank you for bringing me to the light of this new day. Thank you for all the blessings and graces you have in store for me today. Thank you for _____________[what are you grateful for today?]
Send Your Holy Spirit to open my heart and enlighten my mind so I may receive everything that You will offer me today. Help me to be ready for all, and to accept all. I wish only Your will be done in and through me this day. Jesus, with you by my side, enough has been given. I trust that however much sleep I had last night, it is enough. I trust that however much time I have for each activity of the day, it is enough. I trust that Your grace is always enough for me.
Jesus, I love you. I trust you. I am grateful to be journeying through this day with You by my side. I pray in Your most Holy Name, Amen!
Lord Jesus, I pray your protection today upon me, my family, ____________ [name of others]. Mary, my Mother, I seek your protection and intercession especially for _____________ [specific intention]. St. Michael the Archangel and our guardian angels, come defend us in battle this day. Guard our hearts and minds, delivering us from all thoughts and beliefs that are not of the Lord.
In the name of Jesus, I command each and every spirit that is not of the Holy Spirit, to depart right now from me, my family members, and __________ [name of others].
I thank you and praise you, Lord Jesus, for your boundless Mercy, Love, and Protection! Amen.
Megan first discovered her passion for ministering to girls and women in high school, while serving as a youth leader for annual girls’ retreats. While studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Megan had the opportunity to serve as a founding core team member of the campus Women’s Ministry and later as the ministry’s Student Coordinator. Through this ministry she was introduced to the writings of St. Edith Stein and Pope Saint John Paul the Great on women and the feminine genius. Exploring these writings, and studying about the influence of female saints throughout the history of Christianity, deepened her desire to share these truths and, by doing so, empower women to embrace their gifts and vocations.
After graduating with a degree in Theology and Classics in 2012 Megan continued to serve college-aged women as a Residence Hall Director at a small Catholic college for 4 years, where she assisted in the formation of a campus women’s ministry group and faith based learning-living community. She has presented papers at The Edith Stein Conference (The University of Notre Dame, 2015) and The Labor and Leisure Conference (Holy Cross College, 2017); and has been invited to speak at youth and women’s events in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Attending the GIVEN Young Catholic Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. in June of 2016 confirmed for Megan her call to serve in women’s formation. Megan loves writing and speaking on women’s role in the Church and the World, living out our vocation in the day-to-day of marriage and motherhood, growth towards a fully integrated life, and really anything to do with our faith.
Megan first began speaking in 2009. Since then she has been featured as a speaker for Youth Defense at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, on EWTN’s Life On the Rock, at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, and for retreats, assemblies, and rallies all over the country. Megan has also been a speaker for the Steubenville Youth Conferences for 6 years and will continue.
After graduating from Franciscan University in 2009, she has been in full-time ministry; she spent three fulfilling and wonderful years at Mount de Sales Academy serving as their Campus Minister. Her hopes were to create a culture of authentic beauty, femininity, freedom and identity in Christ; that is her driving force when speaking to women of all ages. Since then, Megan has become the Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She will continue to take what she has learned through her experiences and apply it to her new role. Her desire is to ignite the people of Philadelphia, to remind them the truth of who they are, and that they are infinitely loved by God. She is passionate about her work, and she is grateful that God calls the weak to lead the strong!
After getting a Master of Art in Sacred Theology and a Master of Divinity from St. Charles Seminary, Father Steve was Ordained to the priesthood in 2004. He served as parochial vicar of SS Peter & Paul Parish and as school minister (chaplain) for Archbishop Carroll and Pope John Paul II High Schools before being named to his current position as Director of the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Vocation Office.
Father Steve is a gifted retreat leader and speaker and is very alive in the Spirit! During his first parish assignment Father was able to reinvigorate the parish’s youth ministry from seven to seventy participants! He also ran the Alpha Course and started Door to Door evangelization. During this time he became active with Rachel Vineyard’s post abortive healing retreats as well as retreats offered by the Malvern Retreat House, including Women Afire and Spirit Power. Father Steve has run the Kairos Retreat Program for high school seniors and has become a popular speaker for Theology on Tap. He was honored to be the Chair of the Youth Track for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015.