For Those Who Go Down to the Sea In Ships

Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream

Today (July 13th) is Sea Sunday. The Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, the Apostleship of the Sea, and Stella Maris Centers  are asking Catholics today to pray for all of those who make their living on the waters. They catch our food, bring us goods, and protect us, often staying away from their homes and families for long months at a time. It’s dangerous work, and they deserve our thanks and prayers.

Some went down to the sea in ships,
Doing business on the great waters
They saw the deeds of the Lord,
His wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded, and raised the stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
Their courage melted away in their evil plight;
They reeled and staggered like drunken men,
And were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And he delivered them from their distress;
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
And he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
For his wonderful works to the sons of men!

Lord, give all those who make their living on the waters calm seas, fruitful labor, and a safe harbor. St. Brendan, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Nicholas, Stella Maris, pray for us.

RelatedChaplains on the Waters: Apostleship of the Sea Fills a Critical Need

Photos From My Visit With the Dominican Nuns of Summit

I spent Saturday with the lovely, incredible, joyous, and Spirit-filled nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. It was a rare gift not only being able to speak with Srs. Mary Catharine and Judith Miryam and meet many of the Sisters, but also getting a tour of the Monastery. I’m writing the story up for Our Sunday Visitor, but I wanted to share some of the pictures of this remarkable place.

The nuns are experiencing such a vocation boom that they’re bursting at the seams and have to build a new structure, and they need your help. They are sustaining us with a life of prayer, and more young women keep flocking to their order to discern a vocation. The least we can do is help them in their vital mission.

The Eucharist is at the center of life in the Monastery

My tour guides, Srs. Mary Catharine and Judith Miryam. I think Sr. Mary Catharine was showing me how to catch a football.

The nuns are cloistered, and they remain with their sisters even after death.

They are Dominicans, so they have an incredible library.

Study is part of life in the monastery

The library is so big it extends into the hallway and other rooms.

Sr. Mary Catharine told me a story about this art deco triptych, but I didn’t write it down. I is a reporter!

Where the magic happens: the nuns make soaps and other things here.

Ready for shipping.

I’ll link to my OSV story when it’s ready.

Many people misunderstand the essential role of cloistered nuns in the life of the church. (When I told someone about them, I was asked, “Why aren’t they out teaching?!”)

Sr. Mary Catharine sent me this quote from St. John Paul II as a partial reply to that question:

Moreover, in the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized, according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord; it was presented as a symbolic synthesis of Christianity.

When God’s call is total, as it is in the monastic life, then the person can reach the highest point that sensitivity, culture and spirituality are able to express. This is even more true for the Eastern Churches, for which monasticism was an essential experience and still today is seen to flourish in them, once persecution is over and hearts can be freely raised to heaven. The monastery is the prophetic place where creation becomes praise of God and the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence; it is where the human being seeks God without limitation or impediment, becoming a reference point for all people, bearing them in his heart and helping them to seek God.

I would also like to mention the splendid witness of nuns in the Christian East. This witness has offered an example of giving full value in the Church to what is specifically feminine, even breaking through the mentality of the time. During recent persecutions, especially in Eastern European countries, when many male monasteries were forcibly closed, female monasticism kept the torch of the monastic life burning. The nun’s charism, with its own specific characteristics, is a visible sign of that motherhood of God to which Sacred Scripture often refers.

Our Lady of La Salette


Electronic Resources for Lent

I’m rediscovering today just how incredible a single piece of wheat toast can taste when you’re fasting. This effect is not incidental to the practice. 

In the meantime, I just want to point you to a few electronic resources for making your Lent more holy:


iPieta [App o the Mornin’]

iPieta (iOS/Android: $3) is  huge app, both in scope and size. At 181 MB, it demands a hefty chunk of real-estate. (By comparison, Cut the Rope only takes up 22 MB.) But it earns its space by placing a staggering library of documents and prayers at your fingertips.

The documents are divided into four sections: Bible, Calendar, Prayers, and Veritas.

The Bible tab includes the full text of both the Douay-Rheims and the Latin Vulgate. You can access these separately or as an interlinear page, alternating English and Latin line-by-line. Each chapter displays in a single scrolling page, and it’s fairly easy to scroll through the entire bible, individual books, and verse-by-verse.

The Calendar section offers both Ordinary and Extraordinary calenders, with the ability to switch between the two by shaking the device. Date, feast, readings, and liturgical color are all indicated, with each day linked to the text of the readings.

The selections included under Payers is vast, with separate sections for Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Passion, Mass, Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, Devotions to Jesus, Holy Spirit, and vast selections of Marian prayers, novenas, saints prayers, common prayers, and more. These can be bookmarked for quick retrieval, or accessed through keyword searches. In addition, many of these prayers come with optional audio files which can be downloaded from and added to your device. This adds another 664 MB to the install, however.

Finally, there is the Veritas tab, which is just … well, look at what’s included:

  • Works of St. Augustine and St. John Crysostom
  • The complete Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers
  • Council documents from Nicea to Vatican II
  • The last 200 years of Papal Encyclicals, up to Caritas in Veritate
  • The Summa Theologica, Catena Aurea, and The Catechetical Instructions by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Haydock’s Biblical Commentary
  • Baltimore Catechisms #1, #2, and #3
  • Catechism of Christian Doctrine (Promulgated by Pope St. Pius X)
  • Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis De Sales
  • The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas Kempis
  • True Devotion to Mary, Love of Eternal Wisdom, Friends of the Cross, and The Secret of Mary, by St. Louis Marie de Montfort
  • The Dialogue, by St. Catherine of Siena
  • The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfection, and the Interior Castle, by St. Teresa of Jesus
  • Treatise on Purgatory, by St. Catherine of Genoa
  • Instructions on the Catechism, Selected Explanations and Exhortations, Excerpts of Sermons, by St. Jean-Marie Vianney
  • Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and Living Flame of Love, by St. John of the Cross
  • The Roman Catechism (also knows as The Catechism of The Council of Trent or The Catechism of Pope St. Pius V)
  • The Dolorous Passion, by Ven. Catherine Emmerich
  • Fathers of the Church (Eerdman’s version)
  • Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • The Sinner’s Guide by Ven. Louis of Granada
  • The Rule of St. Benedict
  • Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
  • Confession of St. Patrick
  • Abandonment to Divine Providence
  • The Cloud of Unknowing

So, yeah. Do I really need to say much more than that?

All of it is searchable. And all of it costs … $3. I mean, seriously people: THREE BUCKS!

Universalis [App o’ the Mornin’]

Universalis (Universalis Publishing, iOS/Android: $14) may be my most used app. A lot of people have different tools to pray their hours or get their mass readings. I bought a Universalis PC codeyears ago and have used the offline, app version ever since. Before I had a tablet and a smartphone, I’d turn the months into epubs and send them to my Kindle. Now, everything is in one place on both phone and pad.


I prefer it to other options, for reasons partly functional and partly aesthetic. I like the way it looks and works: the text and page options, page turning, and selection features.

The Hour are all in the app with no need for a connection, and you can go as far back or forward as you like. It puts every page of the Hours on your device with a total overhead of 13 MB, and allows you access them with a discrete pair of menus: one for day, another for hour/reading.

The text includes both the NAB and the Jerusalem Bible (the one I use) with an option for the Grail psalms (ditto). It has all 7 hours: Morning (Lauds), Terce, Sext, None, Evening (Vespers), and Night  (Compline). It also has the Office of Readings, Mass readings, and text of the mass, with optional prayers for priests. There are notes on the saints of the day, and liturgical calendars for US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and more. There’s also an option to set up an email service to send particular pages every day.

I know many just use free apps for this, and that’s fine. Since I bought a code from Universalis, my app was free, but I still think I’d get it if I had to pay the $14. They issue regular updates, maintain a clean text, and do a lot of work to get this material out there free on the web. I don’t mind kicking back a little to pay them for their efforts.

Just Beautiful: Medieval Calendar Pages

If you haven’t already added The British Library Medieval Manuscript page to your must-visit list, you really should. They routinely offer beautiful and fascinating treasures from their collection.

This year, they’re running pages from The Huth Hours, a manuscript noted for its spectacular illuminations:

The Hours include double page monthly calender spreads noting the feasts and saints of the day, and the border illuminations are sublime:

Visit the site for even more art and fascinating details about the book and the illuminations, and check back each month for a new page spread from this fascinating book.

Kindling the Flame Of Advent

Each year, I try make a break with Ordinary Time, set up any new patterns of devotion I intend to observe, break out the Advent wreath, and get on with the work of active waiting in contemplation.

This year, it didn’t happen. Recovering and weary from pneumonia, distracted by health problems all around me, and completing the final week of a two and half year long odyssey to earn an advanced degree in theology, I was unable to focus. I blessed and lit the advent wreath only at my daughter’s prompting, since I’d forgotten and my wife was away on business. I dutifully loaded the 2013 Magnificat Advent app on my iPad, but only poked at it grudgingly. I even fell off on my regular prayer observations.

Rather than going forward into a new season of devotion, I actually was backsliding.

That’s never a good way to begin, but it’s a human enough response, and rather than getting annoyed or feeling ashamed, I brought it with me to a basic set of devotions and decided to build from there. I simplified. I found a focus in the simple, core image of Advent. It’s this:


I know: it’s obvious: so obvious we tend to overlook it. Advent is about light coming into a dark world. It’s a light the stretches to the very ends of the universe, yet concentrates itself into a single flickering candle flame lit by a child on a tabletop advent wreath.

It’s about this:

From the Magnificat Advent Companion 2013

Light. I spent so much of my life in darkness, and still it tries to draw me back. The darkness is always there, either roaming the world or in the depths of the mind, trying to consume us. We are people of a promise, however. We have seen a great light, and that light is a light for all the nations.

Catholics light candles for a reason. They are a reminder that the flame of the Holy Spirit illuminates every dark place. This light came into the world with Christ, and in Advent we remember its coming. That’s why the season is preceded by readings from the book of Maccabees that are at the heart of the Hanukkah celebration. We remember the light that saves: a miraculous light that shines not only for 8 days, but eternity.

If, like me, you’re having trouble finding Advent, bring it right down to the basics. Light a candle. Focus on the flame. Remember that it is a sign of the Holy Spirit and the light of Christ coming into the world. Bring in into your heart. Let it find the dark places there and cast out the shadows.

Start with a simple flame, and let the Spirit kindle it into a mighty blaze.

Prayer Is Not a Monologue

Few people are every really satisfied with the way they pray: there’s a feeling that it should be “more” or “better.” It’s a sense we have that we’re not doing it quite right.

Getting past the idea of right or wrong is hard to do. There are as many types of prayer as there are pray-ers. It’s as diverse as love. It’s a simple as contemplating the wonder of a falling leaf, or as mystically shattering as the transverberation of St. Teresa.

Maybe we could come at a better understanding of prayer by what it is not. It’s not a monologue: it’s not talking to yourself.

Even an actor giving a monologue on a stage is not talking to himself. He’s talking to an audience that has made a conscious choice to be there and listen to those words. Their emotional and mental response to that actor’s monologue is their reply. Even if the actor is alone, he’s not just talking into nothingness: he’s conversing with himself, his peers, his audience, his predecessors, and the author through intellect, will, memory, and imagination.

Communication is not a solitary activity: it’s very nature assumes an I and a Thou. The “Thou” may be right in front of you with ears to hear, a thousand years away in time, a million miles away in space, or beyond the material world entirely, but this “Thou” exists, and thus there are two in the conversation.

We may be fine with the idea that we initiate a conversation with God and he listens, but does not reply directly (unless we are gifted with a mystical experience).

Let’s turn that completely around. In fact, we’re not the initiator of the conversation in prayer: God has spoken, and we are responding. Our prayer is not mere homage to the King, or a litany of things we need, or declarations of love or gratitude. These are, to be sure, part of prayer, but they are not its essence.

Its essence is our response to a conversation initiated by the Triune God. We cannot even be drawn to prayer unless prompted by grace, so an action has already occurred in the soul. The dialog is begun by God before we even open our mouths, minds, or hearts.

And more than grace is involved in this conversation. The very nature of each soul is such that it yearns to answer the call of its Creator. That same Creator has etched His message in every cloud and stone, every heart that beats and every touch of love. He gave us sacraments as channels of grace, and art as the expression of His glory; the word of the scripture, and the incarnate Word.

The entire world sings out with the conversation of God, and we think we’re the ones initiating a one-sided conversation? Pure hubris.

God talks to us every day. The practice of silence and contemplation is the way we hear Him.

Prayer is the way we reply.

My naturally tendency is to pray as though I’ve called a friend and am leaving a long phone message filled with thanks and praise, hopes and dreams, sorrows and worries.

I try, instead, to imagine the opposite. A Friend has already left a long and detailed message for me, and continues to leave new ones each day. My practice of contemplation involves listening to those messages in scripture, life, art, and the voice and silence of the soul. My prayer then becomes a reply in an ongoing conversation that never ends.

UPDATE: Will Duquette had similar thoughts last week.

Oddly enough, I had not read Will’s post till after I wrote this, but we say very similar things, which in itself I think shows a unity among those who practice contemplation. For my part, this was inspired by Von Balthasar’s Prayer.

Dr. Johnson’s “Prayer Before Any New Study”

Samuel Johnson’s “Prayers and Meditations” are not well known, but the new Delphi Complete Works of Samuel Johnson (Illustrated) includes a clean text, along with all of his other works and writings about Johnson by Hawthorne, Lovecraft, Chesterton, and others.

Your cost? $3.

I’ve written before about how much I love the Delphi editions for their good formatting, organization, illustrations, and supplemental materials. Check out the whole series.

Here is a prayer “Before Any New Study,” found in Johson’s prayer journal after his death:

ALMIGHTY God, in whose hands are all the powers of man, who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and enquiries. Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me. Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

If that didn’t work, there was always his prayer “After Time Negligently and Unprofitably Spent,” otherwise known as “Something I Have To Say Every Day”:

O LORD, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour to accomplish thy will, or to promote my own salvation. Make me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought to be used according to thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent performance of thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The 54-Day Rosary Novena

If you just want the text of the devotion without my commentary, go here.

I have little patience for “never-fail” devotions. In fact, I think they’re superstitious and presumptuous, and thus deeply offensive. God is not a gumball machine and prayer is not the coin you turn in the slot to make your desire come true. Prayer doesn’t work that way.

Madonna in Prayer by Sassoferrato, c.1640

On the other hand, a deep and consistent devotion is a pleasure to God, because the practice means you have made a commitment and are using many of His gifts–faith, hope, charity, patience, temperance, etc–to fight off many temptations in order to complete the devotion. A novena, for example, is a spiritual exercise regime in which you commit to doing something every day for a set number of days. That commitment requires grace, and grace is its fruit as well.

A little over a year ago we were up against the wall and it looked like our financial world was going to collapse. I stumbled upon a devotion called “The 54-Day Rosary Novena.” There were all kinds of miraculous promises attached to it, and it was couched in the kind of cloying language and imagery that developed in the 19th century and clings to the faith like a dank funk. I prayed it anyway.

Was my intention fulfilled in a miraculous way? I would say so, yes. Quite amazingly and suddenly, actually.

Does that mean this is a “never-fail novena”?

No! But it is a powerful devotion, and for people who are in dire straits and need to reach for the big guns, 54 days straight of a rosary offered for a single intention–27 days in petition, 27 in thanksgiving–is good medicine.

The problem is that the original novena that’s floating around out there appears to have been written by a teenage girl a hundred years ago in the sickly sweet manner of Marian devotions from days gone by. It includes lines like, “At thy feet I kneel to offer thee a — Crown of Roses! — snow-white buds to remind the of thy joys” &c &c, you get the gist.

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time believing the Blessed Mother–the Queen of Heaven, the Theotokos, the New Eve–demands that we speak to her in the voice of Madeline Bassett. A lot of this is just twee French piety that seeped into the culture a couple hundred years ago and rendered the bold and vigorous lines of the faith as limp and fuzzy as a Precious Moments figure.

To heck with that. I’ve decided to start saying a new 54 Day Rosary Novena for a new intention, but can’t bring myself to use the standard text.

There’s nothing “magical” about the traditional text. It’s not inspired or revealed. The devotion itself derives from the Marian vision known as Our Lady of Pompeii. A young girl, Fortuna Agrelli, had a vision of the Virgin in which the Blessed Mother said “Whoever desires to obtain favors from Me should make three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary, and three novenas in thanksgiving.”

That was it. No mention of, “And make sure you add a lot of sugary text as well as every prayer you know.”

So, I’ve retained the form and simplified the text for those who like a guideline. Honestly, though: create your own 54-Day Rosary Novena if you like. Devotions aren’t doctrinal or dogmatic: they arise from the faithful.

The 54-Day Rosary Novena

The 54-Day Rosary Novena was developed before the addition of the Luminous Mysteries, but you can do it either with or without them.

Whatever the case, ignore the normal schedule of mysteries and start with the Joyful Mysteries, then proceed through Luminous, Sorrowful, Glorious, and repeat for 27 days of Petition and 27 days of Thanksgiving. Say a Rosary the way you normally say a Rosary, with any addition prayers or meditations you like: just add the Petition and Thanksgiving prayers.

It does not matter if your petition has not been granted within the first 27 days: proceed to the Thanksgiving cycle anyway.

How to pray:

Sign of the Cross

Apostles Creed

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen

Our Father 

Hail Mary (x3)

Announce the First Mystery





Our Father

Hail Mary (x10)

Glory Be

Continue to Mysteries 2-5

Hail Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Fatima Prayer

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Petition Prayer (27 Days): Blessed Mother, hear my plea and bring it before the throne of your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. Please look with favor on this devotion, and grant me [say your intention here.] I ask these things of you, my Mother, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanksgiving Prayer (27 Days): Blessed Mother, thank you for hearing my prayer and interceding on my behalf. Mary, Mother of my Soul, be with me all my days, and accept my humble thanks for your many gifts, which I accept in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.