Devotions


Greetings! I started a new blog called The Ever Blessed this past Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Check out its latest post. I will no longer be blogging @ Shmuelson. Godspeed and Ave Maria!

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I pray the Divine Office every now and again–though I wish I would more often–and at Matins today, this Psalm stood out to me as having a very eucharistic flavor. In Catholicism and various other Christian traditions, Thursday is set aside in a special way for Eucharistic devotions—since Christ instituted the Eucharist on a Thursday (On the night before He was given up to death…). Here is the Psalm with my comments in red:

Psalm 116:12-19

How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?

I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. The “cup of salvation” is an obvious allusion to the Blood of Christ of which He said would be poured out unto the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:27-28). To “call on the name of the LORD” is also anticipatory of the part of the rite of the Eucharist when the celebrant extends his hands over the bread and the cup and calls on God to “send [His] spirit to come upon these gifts and make them Holy so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. The Blessed Sacrament, like all Sacraments, is a covenantal and communal oath (or vow). And since we Catholics believe that Heaven and Earth are wedded at the table of the Eucharist, we truly do participate in the “presence of ALL his people”.

Too costly in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful. The Psalmist here is speaking of how it grieves God when His saints are given over to death. In the Eucharist, we give thanks for the triumph over death God brings us through the re-presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the child of your maidservant; you have loosed my bonds. Obviously for Catholics, whenever the scriptures refer to the Lord’s “maidservant” or “handmaiden” we believe they are speaking of Mary, the mother of God and our mother. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in the Eucharist, Mary is especially present. Since Christ received 100% of His human nature from His mother, and since He gives us 100% of Himself in His Body and Blood as well as His Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, its obvious that our communion with Mary grows as our bonds are loosed through the Sacrifice of Christ.

I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. As most well know, the word Eucharist derives from the Greek for “thanksgiving”. The Psalmist here is of course speaking of the todah (which also translates “to give thanks”) sacrifice of ancient Judaism. The Eucharist is essentially the todah sacrifice fulfilled—as well as all other sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant.

I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! Again, the Eucharist is our Communion with Christ and with the courts of the new Jerusalem—on Earth as it is in Heaven. Hallelujah indeed!

Today, on the Liturgical calendar for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the memory of Saint Bernardine of Sienna. Saint Bernardine was an Italian Franciscan missionary priest during the early 1400’s. He was best known for his ministry in spreading devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus throughout most of Italy. I have just recently stumbled upon this saint, and I am very excited about his patronage….being that I am an asthmatic graphic designer.

So, how does one become the Patron Saint of breathing problems and advertising? This takes many forms. In brief, Saints are chosen to be patrons when an interest, talent, or event in their lives overlaps with a special area. For a Catholic, a saint’s patronage is about three things, or rather three devotional qualifiers: example, empathy, and intercession. Let’s consider for instance today’s Saint and look at each of the three qualifiers to patronage.

As stated above, Saint Bernardine is the patron saint of breathing problems and advertising. How he became the patron of breathing problems was through a personal miracle. Unfortunately, Bernardine was born with a pulmonary defect in his lungs which prevented his voice from being heard by large groups. Since Bernardine was a preacher by nature, this was cause for some personal conflict. After a considerable amount of prayer for the Blessed Virgin’s intercession, Bernardine was healed of his defect and his voice grew more powerful with every sermon. For an asthmatic like myself, St. Bernardine’s patronage is important to me. I make his patronage practical in my spiritual life by looking to him for an example of trust in God’s healing power over breathing ailments that ultimately have no power in controlling me or what God has planned for me. I then trust in his intercessions because of his empathy. He’s walked in my shoes too, so to speak. He knows my pain. And he can only know my pain because ultimately Christ knows my pain. St. Bernardine’s life testimony ministers to me an example of how I too can ” overcome the world” (John 16:33). So, I am excited to imitate his example and seek his prayers. For more about why Catholics pray to saints read my post here. And to read a sermon quote by St. Augustine that further elaborates saintly patronage and veneration click here.

Saint Bernardine is the patron of advertising because of his main preaching ministry, which was to spread devotion to the Holy Name. St. Bernardine manufactured and distributed beautifully designed sacred images with the name of Jesus in the ancient monogram “I.H.S.”. What the monogram actually stands for has been lost in translation but most think it displays the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek (Latinized: Iota Eta Sigma). It is used as a symbol through which we can venerate Jesus’s name. Simply, what St. Bernardine did was create a “sacred advertising campaign”. Through it, he was able to successfully encourage greater devotion to Christ. As a Graphic Designer, I am reminded by Bernardine’s example that the ultimate goal and gain of my Advertising talents is to encourage devotion to the good news of Jesus – whose very name is good news enough (Matthew 1:21). So, I make an effort, in a variety ways, to include God in my design processes and to keep myself open to the possibility of facilitating the Church’s ministry through them. And, when my work stresses me out and makes me reach for my inhaler, I call on my brother for help…

Saint Bernardine of Siena of the Holy Name of Jesus, pray for us!

Leaving this life is a profound part of our existence. Having everything as you know it dynamically changed, in so many breaths, seems scary to most of us – especially to those that we will leave behind. But what if you knew exactly when this change of dynamic would come? What if you knew exactly where you were going while you drew your last dying breaths? What if you knew exactly what your loved ones would live through once you had gone? What if you possessed the words of eternal life? What would you then say to all who could hear you?

When my grandfather passed away around 8 years ago, I regrettably could not be physically present to see him off. The rest of my family was there at his bedside though, with my grandmother, while I was up in Seattle on a school-related trip. I went on the trip selfishly, knowing that my grandfather would pass soon. I suppose it was a way for me to try escaping having to experience the grief of his death–which of course did not work as planned. When I got back home and heard about him passing, some of the first things out of my father’s mouth to me were what my grandfather said and did in his last moments… Like how when everybody went into his room individually to say goodbye, he gave a herald as they entered–as if he was introducing them to an old friend. “This is Shannon, my beautiful granddaughter,” “And this is Michael, my son”. Dad also told me about how one day when my grandfather was at his weakest, my dad walked into my grandfather’s room and saw him sitting at the foot of his bed. My dad asked him what he was doing and my grandfather replied, “I’m trying to get out of this body.” Another time, when my grandfather returned home from his last round of chemotherapy, and needing to eat, my dad made him a hamburger via the household George Forman grill. Since he was inherently nauseated from the chemo, my grandfather took one look at the burger and gagged. Dad then turned away to clean up and after he turned back towards my grandfather, he saw that his plate was clean. My grandfather knew that my dad saw him gag, so he ate the entire hamburger as if he enjoyed it. He did this so that my dad wouldn’t feel discouraged thinking he had made my grandfather nauseous. These were some of the beautiful things that my family was given to experience during my grandfather’s death while I was away, so that they could keep his memory alive in its truest form. And that memory was one at peace with his old friend the Creator, one that reaffirmed death as the soul’s mere departure from the body, and one that put his children’s feelings before his own physical infirmities. The last words of a dying friend or loved one are treasured things, even if you weren’t within ear’s reach of them.

In Catholic spirituality one of my favorite devotions is the devotion to the seven last words of Christ. On the cross, our Lord said seven things that spoke to or referenced the people that witnessed his death. These seven words, or sayings, have very significant meanings. After all, they came from the Word made flesh who knew exactly when and how he was going to die (John 13:1), where he was going once he died (John 14:3), and what his loved ones would endure after he died (Matthew 10:16-18). All of this combined with the fact that he possesses the words of eternal life (John 6:68), has led Christians for centuries to meditate on the profound importance of his last words. And like all persons of good will, aware of their impending death, his last words projected the truest form of who He was (and is and is to come). The devotion is especially powerful when you consider the implications of being crucified. When one was crucified, they ultimately died from suffocation. This made it obviously difficult to say anything, so anything said would have to be of great importance since it would be such a strain to muster the breaths to say it.

Let’s now take a look at Christ’s seven last words and what they mean to us as Catholics. The devotion may be spread over an entire week, meditating on one of the seven each day, or all seven may be meditated on in their entirety during a single day. I won’t post the entire devotion here, only his sayings and what the Church teaches about their meanings–which can be realized in the specific prayers following each word.

The First Word

Luke 23:33-34

When the soldiers came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, in your compassion you forgave your mortal enemies who sentenced you and nailed you to the cross. By your gracious example, help us to forgive our enemies from the heart and make friends even with the sinful. Blest be your forgiving heart, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Second Word

Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, you heard the repentant plea of the criminal on your right hand and promised him paradise for his faith. As we are dying in the midst of our sins, let us hear this same word from your lips in response to our prayer of faith and the life-giving power of your holy sacraments. Blest be your undying mercy, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Third Word

John 19:25-27

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, on Golgatha you pitied your martyred mother and bequeathed her to your beloved disciple. By her tears and prayers, break our proud hearts as we worship your cross and passion and let us take her into our hearts and homes, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Fourth Word

Mark 15:33-34

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, as darkness came over the whole land you cried out in agony to your Father. By this cry of dereliction, rescue us from the torments of despair, and entrust us to your sacrificial death. You live and reign with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Fifth Word

John 19:28-29

When Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, as your life drew near its end, you cried out in thirst, a thirst for souls. By this dreadful and abiding thirst, draw our hearts and minds to your great love for us, and especially at the hour of our death. Blest be your merciful love, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Sixth Word

John 19:30

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, as darkness closed in on you, you gave a loud cry, bowed your head, and died. By your perfect surrender to the Father, make us worthy disciples of the cross and defend us from our spiritual enemies, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

The Seventh Word

Luke 23:44-46

Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Prayer:

Merciful Savior, and friend of the human race, in a final act of surrender you breathed forth your spirit into your Father’s hands. By this ultimate commitment to the Father’s loving care, deliver us from despair in our dying hour and help us die in hope and full confidence in your precious blood poured out for us. Blest be your gracious caring, now and forever. Amen.

May the bitter passion of our Lord Jesus Christ † bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.

* The “†” is supposed to prompt the sign of the cross at different points during the devotion