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The canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on April 27, 2014 will be an exciting time for Catholics around the world. Millions of people will be watching in person and on TV, an event similar in popularity to Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding or the Super Bowl. What makes this event so exciting is that Pope John Paul II is breaking the record for becoming the fastest saint in modern history. Normally, the process takes several decades–at least. Up until now, the saint with the fastest canonization on record is St. Josemaria Escriva. It took him 27 years to become a saint, while it only took Pope John Paul II nine years! So exactly what are the steps to becoming a saint? What are the qualifications? Who knows, maybe there are some future saints reading this! Let’s take a closer look.

Step 1: Getting the Ball Rolling

Four Kings in glassThe phrase, “he’s such a saint,” is used often when we’re talking about a really good person (“He’s such a saint for helping me move into my house.”) Many people are “like saints,” but not all people actually become saints. When someone stands out from the crowd as a person who lived a truly moral life (even you), it’s up to the local bishop of the diocese where the person lived and died to start the process.

The local bishop must wait five years after the person has died before being able to ask the Vatican permission to investigate the individual for sainthood. Pope Benedict XVI waived this five year requirement for Pope John Paul II. He was so loved that throughout his funeral, mourners chanted “santo subito” which means “sainthood now.”

Once permission is given by the Vatican, the process can continue.
At this stage, the candidate is given a new title, Servant of God. For example, Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

Step 2: Thorough background check

From personal diaries to official documents, everything that the individual wrote or published is studied. Their life is the proverbial “open book.” No secrets allowed!

Anything and everything written about the candidate is also reviewed.

The general public is also asked to share their opinion on the candidate. They are free to share any information they have about the candidate as well as personal experiences.

The goal of this lengthy background investigation is to prove the candidate lived a life of “heroic virtues,” meaning they strictly followed the virtues of faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Once this investigative phase is completed (which can take many years) the local bishop and a diocesan committee decide whether or not the candidate truly lived a life of heroic virtues. If they find the candidate did, all the collected data, or Acta (Acts), are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome. Now’s when things get serious.

Step 3: The Scrutiny Continues

Once in Rome, the Positio, an official bound book that includes all the documents, interviews, and witness testimonies collected over the years is created. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of information! This is basically a final argument as to why the candidate should become a saint.

The Positio is examined with a fine-toothed comb by a theological commission who give their vote on whether or not they believe the individual meets the necessary criteria.

If the majority of the theologians vote favorably, the case is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation. If they vote in favor of the case as well, the prefect (high-ranking official) of the Congregation gives the results to the pope.

The candidate isn’t made saint quite yet!

Once the pope declares the candidate led a virtuous and holy life, he or she is given the title, Venerable, e.g. Venerable Servant of God John Paul II or Venerable John Paul II.

Venerable means the individual led a life that is worthy of being imitated.

Step 4: Beatification

We’re getting close!

iStock_000021769392SmallThe next step in the canonization process is beatification. The required step for beatification is the pope’s approval of one miracle.

Most miracles in the beatification and canonization process are medically related.
Any reported miracles are reviewed by a theological panel. The miracle must be a result of praying directly to the candidate for sainthood for a cure. If the family and friends of a patient have been praying only to the candidate for a cure, then the miracle is validated. But, if they have been praying to St. Joseph, St. Jude and other saints, as well as the candidate for sainthood, then it’s not clear if the miracle came from the candidate or another saint.

Medical experts are also part of the beatification process. They’re asked to show that there is absolutely no medical explanation for the cure. Once the cure is proven to be a miracle, the decision is forwarded to the pope.

Once beatified by the pope, the Venerable Servant of God is given the new title of Blessed, e.g. Blessed John Paul II.

Step 5: Canonization

The final stretch! Stay with us.

After beatification, the church requires a second miracle as the final step to sainthood.
While a miracle is not required for a martyr to be beatified, a miracle is required for a martyr to be canonized.

Once a second miracle has been approved, the pope declares the person a saint.

Pope Francis waived the second miracle requirement for Pope John XXIII. He felt that he deserved the honor for having organized the Second Vatican Council (a meeting that created sweeping changes throughout the church).

Why Does The Church Require Miracles For Sainthood? Many people wonder why miracles are necessary to make a person a saint. They ask, “Isn’t living a holy and devout life enough?” The church believes miracles are necessary because they confirm that the candidate is in heaven and has the power to plead on our behalf to God for a miracle. That’s pretty impressive!

Pope John Paul’s miracles

Relic_Of_Blessed_Pope_Jphn_Paul_II_7119Pope John Paul’s first miracle happened in 2005, when a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was dying of Parkinson’s disease, was completely cured of the disease. She and other nuns prayed to Pope John Paul II to be cured.

Pope John Paul’s second miracle took place on May 1, 2011 the day of his beatification ceremony, when Floribeth Mora Diaz, a 50-year-old Costa Rican woman was cured of a non-treatable, life-threatening brain aneurysm.

Pope John’s miracle

JohnXXIII-sPope John XXIII was responsible for the miraculous healing of an Italian nun, who was dying after complications of stomach surgery.

So, after reading all the steps, are you starting off on the right path to sainthood? Let us know in the comments.


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Baptism Gift Ideas

You received an invitation to a baptism and you are wondering what to give as a baptism gift. We have great baptism gift ideas here a the Catholic Faith Store, come on over and take a look!

Whether you are a practicing Catholic or simply a friend of the family that isn’t particularly religious, there is no need to stress when it comes to selecting an appropriate baptism gift.

A baptism is a wonderful celebration of faith and family!   When we celebrate a baptism event either by attending the church ceremony or simply attending the reception we should keep in mind the meaning of the sacrament.  We are welcoming the infant (person) into the Church and into Christ.  We are reminded of Christ’s own baptism in the river Jordan by John the Baptist.  It is with these thoughts and teachings in mind that we make our selection for a baptism gift.

Catholic Baptism Gift Ideas

Baby Jewelry –
Jewelry can be expensive baptism gift option, especially if it is made from 14 karat gold or sterling silver.  Often these gifts are kept and worn throughout the child’s life, on their First Communion day, on their wedding day and even handed down to their own children.  But not all jewelry needs to be expensive to be cherished.   Look through the baby jewelry choices and pick a style and price point that’s right for you.

  • Cross Pendant or Crucifix Pendant

An infant or baby sized cross pendant is a piece of jewelry that can be worn over and over again throughout the child’s life.  When we wear a cross or crucifix pendant we show the world that we believe in the Lord, the crucifixion and the resurrection!

  • Scalloped Shell Pendant

Gifting the baptized baby a shell pendant, or any item that has a scalloped shell motif, is very apropos for the special occasion.   During a Catholic baptism ceremony the priest will use a shell shaped form to pour water on the child’s forehead.  The shell symbolizes the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist.  The three drops of water are a symbol of the Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.

  • Baby Bracelet with the Miraculous, a Cross, or a Patron Saint Dangle Charm.

A bracelet for the baby is not as popular as a pendant, but is a great baptism gift option as it can be worn often and stored as a keepsake.   Our favorite baptism bracelets are made with pearls and sterling silver beads and dangle cross or Miraculous charms.  These baby bracelets are so very elegant.

  • Earrings – Cross, Shell, Dove Shaped

A baptism gift for a girl can be as simple as a pair of delicate earrings.  Keep the religious aspect of the gift in mind by having the earrings in the shape of a cross, a scalloped shell, a dove or even a cute set of praying hands.

A Children’s Rosary – Although an infant will be far too young to use the rosary, it is kept as an important sacramental and keepsake.  A baby rosary can have very small beads made of glass with silver-tone centerpieces and crucifixes.  Or you can select a wooden children’s rosary with much larger beads.  When the child is old enough to learn about the rosary and begin the prayers of the Hail Mary and Our Father, they can use their own beads to pray with.    Please remember that a children’s rosary is not a toy and children should always be monitored when handling a rosary.  Baby-RosaryBaby-Girl-Rosary
A Children’s Bible – A children’s bible is typically a smaller version of the bible with small print and the New Testament only.  Some children’s bibles can be found in simple hardcover versions, others have lovely fabric and lace covers and some even still can be personalized.  Childrens-Bible
Picture Frames Specifically Designed For Baptism – There will be so many wonderful memories made on the baptism day and the child’s parents will want to remember them for a lifetime.  Giving a photo frame to display and keep special moments of the baptism is not only practical but a cherished keepsake.  Baptism-Photo-Frame
A Children’s Book of Saints – As the baptized child grows in age and in faith, a book of saints will be looked at and read many times.  Children will learn to appreciate the special nature of saints and their remarkable lives, seeking their intercession in times of need.  Childrens-Book-of-Saints
Inspirational Statues – A statue of a Guardian Angel, a statue of the Virgin Mother, a Jesus statue, or a Patron Saint statue can be placed in the child’s bedroom and once blessed by a priest becomes a life lasting sacramental providing a way to receive grace.  Mary-Statue
Children’s Wall Cross or Children’s Wall Crucifix – A children’s wall cross or crucifix is not only a lovely room décor accent; it is a constant reminder to our children of the importance of prayer and the Lord’s undying love for us.   Having the wall cross personalized with the child’s name and baptism date is also an option.  Baby-Wall-CrossPersonalized-Baptism-Wall-Cross
Prayer Plaque or Religious Wall Décor – There are so many adorable and inspirational wall décor ideas for a child’s room that are not only really sweet but incorporate the teachings of the Catholic Faith.  Look for popular prayers, such as a bedtime prayer with a guardian angel, an illustrated prayer of the Hail Mary or Our Father.  Footprints-Prayer-Plaque-ChildrenBaby-Room-Catholic-Blessing
Keepsake Box with Religious Symbolism – Where to keep special jewelry, rosaries and lifetime mementos?  In a keepsake box of course!  Choose a keepsake box that the child will be able to use for many years to come and has a religious meaning to it, such as a box top designed with a cross or the image of Mary or Jesus.  Personalized-Keepsake-BoxSalerni-Baby-Keepsake-Box
Monetary Gifts – Gifts of cash or savings bonds are considered by some to be a gift of last resort or downright bad etiquette, but that shouldn’t be the case.  Many parents are grateful for the monetary gifts as they are often set aside for the child’s future expenses such as a college education fund.  Always present your monetary gift in a pretty baptism card.

As a quick addition, not all baptism gifts are for infants or toddlers.  Adults get baptized too, often during an RCIA ceremony.  If you are looking for an RCIA or a more adult baptism gift, many of the ideas above will still apply although you will want to adult version.   An adult cross pendant of crucifix pendant, a wall cross or photo frame, or a rosary are all very suitable gifts for welcoming a person into the Church.

In lieu of browsing through a local Catholic gift shop, as they are unfortunately getting harder and harder to find, you can search the internet and find many wonderful baptism gifts.  If you really aren’t sure about your decision, don’t hesitate to call the online store and speak to a representative.  At the Catholic Faith Store we really enjoy helping people find a great baptism gift idea.  We can be reached online at or call toll free in the USA at 1-800-625-461. For local and international customers please call +1-919-249-7120.  We are also available on our Online Chat Line or the Contact Us form.

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Mothers-DayThere is just something unique and mysterious about mothers. But I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be unique and mysterious simply because I was a mom. In fact, it was just the opposite for me…

I was a Catholic Worker for several years as a young adult. While my college friends were getting pregnant, I was with a social justice movement marching for changes in society. As a group of young people, we fed and sheltered hundreds of homeless people. We performed the works of mercy on a daily basis, working from early in the morning until late at night.

So when I heard an elderly priest say, “The highest calling for a woman is to be a mother,” my ego stood up in protest. There I was, doing “big” things to make the world better.… “How dare he say, ‘the biggest thing is to be a mom,” I thought.

But that was before I became a mom. Now I know what that priest was trying to say. Motherhood is achingly hard and the only thing that lightens the load is a good husband and a regular prayer commitment.

To be a mom is so much more than going through nine months of uncomfortable pregnancy, and numerous hours of painful labor; being a mom is a “til death do us part” commitment. Moms watch over and protect. We guide and minister. We treat physical wounds and try to mend broken hearts. We attempt to answer the most bizarre questions. We pick up messes only to have them recreated again a few minutes later.

It’s the confusion that gets to me these days….I mean, moms are expected to know everything and sometimes…we just don’t. That’s hard. We want so much to help.

The truth is, when I helped the homeless I felt a deep sense of fullness. We were filled up by drinking from the chalice of “righteousness”; but moms are filled up by drinking from the chalice of “love.”

Our hope and strength as mothers comes from the Blessed Mother who understands our trials and tears.  Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana are especially helpful to me. She told Jesus the celebrants were out of wine, but Jesus had said, “What concern is that to me? It is not yet My time.” (When our kids become young adults we can’t just say, “I’m ordering you to do it.”)  But Mary trusts that the Good will be done, even though she can’t see into the future. She says to the servants five words that are filled with meaning: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Doubt, confusion, pain, fear, trust, confidence and wonderment—those are the ingredients in the Chalice of Love.  But we are to “do whatever the Lord (and His mother) tells us.” We seem to walk in darkness at times. But the light is always on up in Heaven.

Pray for me. I’ll pray for you. May the Blessed Mother shower us all with JOY this Mother’s Day! Hurrah for Moms everywhere!

—Judith Costello, OCDS,

Judith has written/compiled two books: “How to Pray Like the Saints” and “To Mary, Our Morning Star (10 Lessons in Mariology)”. They are available on Amazon or through

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St.-GeorgeThe feast of St. George is April 23

About that Dragon…

There was a historical figure named George, who lived from approximately 280 to 303. We know that he traded a military career for the role of “knight for Christ, defender of the faith.” In many of our holy card images of St. George he is portrayed as slaying a dragon….Here’s the story:

According to the old legends about George, an entire pagan village lived in fear of a large and terrifying creature. (Was it a crocodile perhaps?) It had taken up residence in the community spring—their only source of water—and the people wanted to placate it. In order to fill their buckets, the people tempted the creepy creature to leave the water by offering it a sheep. When the villagers didn’t have enough sheep to give up, they began to surrender their daughters as an offering to the croc. The girls were picked by lottery.

One day a beautiful maiden was chosen as the sacrifice. As she was being bound, a young man on a strong horse appears on the horizon. He prays fervently and then goes into battles against the crocodile. When he defeats the creature, the people of the village convert to Christianity and St. George rides off with the beautiful maiden.

This allegorical narrative reminds us that the world—our village–tells us we should compromise with evil. “Don’t try to resist its mighty power.…placate the devil in order to keep the peace.” But, what the villagers never realize, is that the price of “giving in” increases over time until we are giving away all that is most precious. We end up giving away life itself.

St. George reminds us to take up the armor of truth. Put on the shield of faith. Confront the devil and defeat his power over our lives!

As far as we know, the historical person named George was a man who defended the faith and made converts as a result of his virtue and the strength of his convictions. Although he was murdered for his faith, his soul triumphed by rising to heaven.

St. George’s feast is celebrated during the Easter season to remind us to take on the “new life in Christ” and be strengthened for battle through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During this Easter season we celebrate the gift of truth and faith that tells us life continues after death. For those who have been cleansed from sin and are clothed in love for Jesus, we will rise with Him to eternal life!

So today is a day to take courage and prepare to slay those nasty dragons!

By Judith Costello

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Ready to Walk, Come Rain or Shine

Tomorrow is a big day. My children and I will be joining dozens of other Catholic families in walking approximately 14 miles while reflecting on the Via Dolorosa. Fourteen miles to remember the 14 Stations of the Passion of Jesus.

For the kids the question on Thursday is: What is the weather going to be like? Last weekend we had freezing weather here in New Mexico and 60 mile an hour winds! There was no escape from the piercing daggers of the wind. But we know that tomorrow, that’s what it’s about…to offer up the discomfort, whatever it is.

We walk, pray silently, recite the rosary together, sing and stop after each mile to say the Stations. At about the 8 mile mark I am usually completely exhausted. It can be a real effort to keep going. It’s a powerful reminder that Jesus chose to “keep going”—to endure further torture—in order to completely offer expiation for our sins.

The sense of accomplishment our group feels at the end of our walk—we have windblown hair and shoes with new holes; there is usually someone with a twisted ankle; and a woman walks only the last few feet held up by teenagers and supported on her walker—it all makes us remember that Jesus accomplished His task as well. He conquered death itself!

Rejoicing comes a short time after this period of sorrow and pain.

What are you doing to honor Jesus this Good Friday? We will all experience suffering at some point in our lives; we are all called to be obedient to the Church and the commandments even when it isn’t easy; we can all offer little sacrifices…if we place these things before the cross of Christ we make this Friday into something “good.”

My mom sent out this message which I thought I would share:

Dear friends,

We have an Irish tradition which asks us to say a special prayer 33 times between the hours of noon and three p.m. on Good Friday. My Mom and Dad used to say it and my Mother’s folks in Chicago did too, that was at the end of the nineteenth century! I don’t know how much further back it goes…but more I imagine. Grandma Ashley came from Ireland, so she brought it from the Old Country. Here’s the prayer:

“O, my Lord Jesus, I humbly beg of you
by the merits of Thy precious blood,
by Thy Divine Heart and the
the intercession of Thy cruel death,
to assist me in my pressing necessities.”

God bless you all. On Sunday we will rejoice again! 

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Prayer to Saint Joseph

Oh Saint Joseph whose protection is so
great so strong, so prompt before the
throne of God.  I place in you all my
interests and desires.  Oh Saint Joseph
do assist me by your powerful
intercession, and obtain for me from
your divine son all spiritual blessings
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So that having engaged here below
your heavenly power I may offer my
thanksgiving and homage to the most
Loving of fathers.  Oh Saint Joseph I
never weary contemplating you and
Jesus asleep in your arms.  I dare not
approach while he reposes near your
heart press him in my name and kiss
His forehead for me and ask him to
return the kiss when I draw my dying
breath.  Saint Joseph Patron of
departing Souls Pray for me.

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My mom is 87 years old and she’s a “leprechaun!”

The story starts many years ago…

When she had six little kids at home, Mary Costello pulled out a “Wearin’ Green” box every year during this week preceding St. Patrick’s Day. Whether we liked it or not, each of her children wore wide green belts, green hats, green buttons and green necklaces to school. And St. Patrick’s Day had a certain kind of “magic” to it!

After all her wee ones grew up and left home, Mary and a neighbor, who also had six kids, would visit and swap their green items.

Then Mrs. Ryan got sick. Mom bought a big “cat in the hat” hat, stripped knee-hi’s, floppy felt shoes, and shamrock pins. She brought these items to Mrs. Ryan to cheer her up. When Mrs. Ryan died, Mom boxed up those thing and her Paddy days seemed to have ended.

Then last year she brought them out again to show her Jazzercise teacher. (Yes, not only is she an 87 year old leprechaun but she jumps around on a regular basis!) Pictures were taken. The local priest discovered the secret identity of his parishioner. And presto—treasures have been discovered. The rainbow has an end!

Here’s the conversation between the priest and the leprechaun. It happened just this week:

“Praised be to God, this is a mite beautiful place!” the leprechaun said looking around the Church. She seems to know just where to go. Before the tabernacle the one in green bows low. “Heavenly Day! There it tis!”

“Oh,I hear someone coming. I’ll act casual.”

Father has come out of the door near the sanctuary only to discover a creature in a tall green hat who looks a lot like Mary Costelly. “Ah, so you’re the leprechaun of Cork Hill! What are you doing there? I understand that leprechauns know all about treasure. Is that true?”

“Ayah!  I don’t share my treasure information with everyone. But I know y’er a special one—the pastor of the Cork Hill Parish himself. I fear I cannot hide from you any longer.”

The leprechaun looks furtively toward the tabernacle and then says slowly, “Well, treasure is always adorned in gold. Here, in that box, hidden inside, is the greatest treasure of all the world. It’s a wee house it is, but inside is the King of kings. He’s right there! Isn’t it a wonder?”

“A wonder indeed! Thank you for sharing. It is sad to me that this seems to be a secret from so many. Do you know why they don’t recognize the real treasure when it is right in front of them?”

“Oh don’t be sad, good Father. We’ll spread the word together. I happen to know this treasure will last forever and ever, so I won’t keep it a secret anymore! Good day to you now Father. And may the luck of the Irish be with you!”

–By Judith Costello

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In my Sunday School class there’s a little girl who doesn’t say much…ever. When I ran into her at the grocery store after Ash Wednesday, I asked what she was giving up for Lent. She whispered, “All sweets and all desserts.” That’s a tough commitment in the modern world—and she’s only eight years old! Then in class this last Sunday, my daughter handed out freshly baked, homemade cookies to the students. This girl shook her head to refuse, but those around her insisted. “They’re so good!” She left that cookie sitting on the napkin, sending out a sweet aroma, causing some of those around her to beg for it. At the end of the class period she gave it to her mother with a smile. Now that’s inspiring!

Here’s the second half of our Thoughts for 40 Days:

21. Fasting during Lent is quite different from writing a New Year’s resolution. We have only 40 days to get it “right.” It seems like both a LONG time and a SHORT time to put on “the new man.”

22. Padre Pio had the stigmata on his hands. That must have been a trial. Everyone sees your hands. Everyone gawked at his. But trials and blessings are intimately connected.

23. Does it seem to you that everything that could go wrong, does go wrong during these 40 days? It’s like an intense year all crammed in to a short time period.

24. Why 40? It seems to be the number necessary for testing, learning and purification before big changes occur. The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Moses was on the mountain for forty days. It rained for forty days and night when Noah was in his boat. Elijah went without food for 40 days, and so did Jesus.  All of these were times of preparation and change. Are you ready for change?

25. We will have a new pope by Easter! We pray that the Holy Spirit is, at this very moment, descending on the Conclave and working through the cardinals.

26. We pray for a strengthening of families in this time when the nature of “family” is being pushed and pulled.   Lord, protect and guide our nation that it will defend and support our families.

27. These last few weeks are a time of “pilgrimage.” We are journeying toward our true Home.  It’s time to run the good race and put extra effort into this discipline.

28. Stations of the Cross are one of the most powerful devotions available to us. We need to get our young people to participate so that this memorial doesn’t disappear. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, began in Jerusalem in 313 after Constantine assumed power. Before that, there had been 250 years in which Christians were actively persecuted.

29. Les Miserables is a good movie for the Lenten season. It is a story of misery and hope; sin and grace.

30. The rosary can be said as a “walking meditation.” Try it. It offers balm for both the body and the soul.

31. “Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives….So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy.” Words of wisdom from St. Peter Chrysologus, a doctor of the Church who lived from 400-450.

32. Here’s another quote from this 5th Century saint about the Real Presence; “He is the bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, placed in the churches, and set upon the altars, which daily supplies heavenly food to the faithful.”

33. Nowadays, love is defined by “how he/she makes me feel.” The goal of life is said to be “self-fulfillment.” But the truth is: we are filled up, only when we empty ourselves and give to the other without expecting anything in return. That’s one of those paradoxes we learn from Jesus.

34. St. Paul says we are to “boast in Christ.” God is the source of all goodness, all truth, all love, all success. It’s important to give the credit to Him.

35. There are great rewards that come to those who let go of worldly desires. It’s hard to see that truth when we are entrenched in the world. That is why Lent has so much to offer.

36. We peel back one attachment at a time. “I’m letting go of meat on Fridays. Now I’m letting go of eating between meals. Now I’m letting go of other attachments.” The peelings are gone. The essence is revealed: we belong to Christ.

37. “We are in a race and run to win,” says St. Paul. This competition is against the devil. Can we escape from his snares? Self-discipline is required, which all runners know is essential.

38. We hope and trust in our Lord. His generous mercy is boundless.

39. Jesus, my Lord and my God, have mercy on me a sinner.

40. By the paradox of surrender and death, Jesus conquered. We surrender to Him in order to receive new life. May this Easter be a special blessing!

By Judith Costello

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Part 1 of 2

My son will be confirmed in April. In writing a letter to the bishop to apply for this sacrament he wrote, “I’m proud to be Catholic because the Church speaks up for Truth. We Catholics know why we were made. God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him. It’s reassuring to understand this.” What he wrote reminded me that Lent is the season to re-align ourselves with Truth…we were made for a purpose…to love in the way Jesus loved.

Here are forty thoughts for the forty days when we contemplate the meaning of love. (Twenty thoughts for February and 20 more to come in March.)

  1. On Ash Wednesday, we are “marked for Christ.” We belong to Him. This is a wake-up call.
  2. Most of the year, we go “one step forward and two steps backward” in our spiritual growth. It takes constant attention to continue forward. Now is the time.
  3. What about making a special place for prayer? This can be a visual reminder of what we need to be doing.
  4. Sometimes Lent seems gloomy. It comes at a time when winter is hanging on. The beauty of Lent is in the challenge to “walk with Christ.” Forty days for Him…that’s the least we can offer!
  5. We all love the discipline and routine of going to a gym, an aerobics class or a regular exercise routine. We know it makes us feel better. Lent is a discipline, routine and “feel better” system for the soul!
  6. Lent is a good time to take back control of the tongue! It’s easy to spout off or share stories about others. But it’s better to hold back, wait and consider the consequences of any speech.
  7. We are called to be saints. There are no excuses for not putting in the effort.
  8. When our teenagers whine about “what am I gonna do with my life?” it’s good to remind them… “God made you for a purpose….you are called to be a saint.”
  9. Light comes only after darkness. In the difficulties of this time in our lives, there is hope. There is light. It shines most brightly at Easter.
  10. When I was a kid, I spent every evening during Lent drawing religious pictures. It’s time to return to the wisdom of childhood.
  11. All of history is hinged on the few days of Christ’s passion and death. That’s the point of this forty days. We return our hearts to that pivotal event.
  12. After Jesus spent his preparation time of forty days in the desert, the devil’s first temptation was food. “Eat. Eat!”  It may be a struggle to control what we eat but therein lies the reason for it. We need to “just say no” to the devil’s many temptations.
  13. Candles are significant during Lent. A candle lights a small area. God gives us enough light for this moment. For the moments ahead we are to trust Him.
  14. Jesus chose to suffer and die out of love for you, love for me. “I scarce can take it in” are the words in the song “How Great Thou Art.”
  15. Post pictures of Jesus around the house. We remember how He loves us.
  16. Offer up anything that’s difficult. Imagine it is united with the sufferings of Jesus. Maybe out small sacrifices go across the centuries and make the pain He suffered just a little bit easier to bear.
  17. We are going to have a new Pope soon. Lent is a time to offer up special prayers for the cardinals who will make this momentous decision.
  18. In all our communities there are people who are suffering from loneliness, divorce, illness, hunger and homelessness. Feel for a moment what those things are like. Feel the hurt. Pray for all of those who are suffering.
  19. Read the story of a modern day hero. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe was captured by the Nazis for hiding Jews and speaking out against oppression. In Auschwitz, another man was scheduled to be killed. St. Maximilian said, “I’ll take his place.” He offered up his life for a stranger.
  20.  Every day is a new opportunity to offer up our lives in love for Jesus.

By Judith Costello, MA, OCDS

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Lent and FastingThe Power Season
Lent is the Power Season. It’s the time to rein in all those straying practices…the “pig out” tendency, the munchies tendency, the “grouchy ‘til 4 cups of coffee” tendency, the “I’ll pray later” tendency. It’s our time to feel the power of true Love.

When my daughter was learning to ride horses, the first lesson from her teacher was “How to Stop: Use your Reins.” When you’re a little girl on a big, powerful animal, you’d better know how to get it to stop, or you could be in big trouble! Similarly, the Church in her infinite wisdom, gives us a season to Stop. It is lesson #1, the first and the best way to grow in faith.

I use that word, STOP, as an acronym for: Stillness, Training, Orderliness, Perseverance.
Lent means seeking the stillness of the desert. We join Jesus on his 40 days of pilgrimage.
Lent means training the body through self discipline. “Why?” my Sunday School students asked. “Why can’t we eat meat on Friday? I hate fish.” We practice fasting and abstinence, as voluntary sacrifices. We join our small offerings of sacrifice with Jesus’ great offering of Himself. What is the giving up of meat or candies, or the between-meal munching in comparison to the love of Jesus, who surrendered His life on our behalf? Our forms of training in self discipline and sacrifice, prepares us for greater giving. Jesus gave up life itself, in order to show us the way to New Life. Only in training our minds, hearts and bodies can we fully understand this great gift.

Lent means creating order in the chaos of our lives. First, and most important in all the demands of our lives, is our relationship with God. Nothing is more important. Love flows when we are filled up by He Who Loves. We order our priorities. We order our time.
Lent means we must be persevering. It’s never easy. But the more we STOP, during Lent, the more we will grow in love for the King of kings!

Claim the power that can come when you STOP this Lent to “Look at Him!”

–Judith Costello, MA, OCDS