Empty, Open Hands

Well it sure has been a while! I’ll admit, this break was not necessarily planned or intended. It just sort of happened. I try to make this blog as close to God speaking through me as possible. So if I’m inspired to write, I write. If I’m not, I try not to force the issue. I’ve been inspired off and on during this impromptu hiatus, but haven’t found the motivation to write about it.

Until today. And I hope it sticks. Because I have some exciting news to share at the end.

This morning, Ben and I got the kids up early for daily Mass. You may recall that we moved back in January. Our new parish is a very active, welcoming community. There is a school attached to the parish and the students attend Mass throughout the week. Each grade/groups of grades go once a week. On Wednesdays, as today happens to be, the youngest students attend Mass.

When the older kids go, they are the ones who lector and serve. The little ones, however, are not old enough yet. Therefore, the homeschooling families traditionally handle these duties on Wednesdays. I love this inclusion of the homeschool families. Of course, we signed up to participate.

On this particular morning, Rosie (age 9) and John (age 10), had prepared to lector and served respectively. However when we arrived we were told by the custodian that Father was away, something had come up, and there wouldn’t be Mass. The kids were disappointed and understandably so.

The lights were off in the church. Only the tabernacle candle and the prayer intention candles at a few statues along the walls were lit. It’s October and we were still early enough in the morning for light to be faint and mysterious. Instead of going home, I suggested we go into the darkened church.

We went in and sat down. After a few minutes of not silence, I started a Rosary. Conveniently, I noticed that we have 4 main statues surrounding the pews – The Blessed Mother, Joseph holding the Child Jesus, a version of the Infant of Prague, and Jesus’ Sacred Heart. We did our first decade in the pews facing the tabernacle. We then began a traveling Rosary, stopping at each statue for a decade.

Our final stop was with Joseph. I was leading again, but standing behind the kids. Clare (age 7), was in front of me, using her hands to keep track of the Hail Mary’s. As she got to the 5th, instead of closing that had and moving on to the next, or just starting over, she kept it open. Then, when she reached the 10th, she kept both hands open and extended for the duration of the prayer.

I was so struck by the simplicity of her posture, yet it’s profound message. I wish I could have taken a picture. Here was a young girl, praying, with hands open and empty, ready to receive the graces bestowed upon her. She did not feel the need to work for the grace, she wasn’t proving she was good enough or worthy enough. It was a very St. Terese of Lisieux moment.

After we finished, Clare came up to me. “I liked that Mommy,” was all she said. I hope she keeps this attitude of prayer. The emptiness, the openness. What a witness to me and my own feeble attempts at proving my worth or being concerned over my accomplishments. God doesn’t need those. He just needs my hands to be ready to receive His gifts.

Speaking of gifts, I’m excited to share that Advent Journals are back and nearly finished! This year we are shaking things up with a brand new format I was inspired to create (truly inspired – I heard this phrase on a knitting podcast of all places and it became a fully fledged Advent journal. Only God can do that!). Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from when you were a kid? This is going to be similar. The key phrase is “Embrace Your Own Pace.” I’ll be sharing more as I get closer to pushing publish. These will continue to be completely and totally free, as usual. So get excited and please share the good news with your friends, family and parish!

Ode to Joy

There are some songs everyone knows. They are more than classics, they are somehow part of the fundamental human experience. One of those songs is Ode to Joy, by Beethoven. It has so many different lyric sets, is sung in nearly every key and language. When you hear this song, you know the rhythm, the next notes, even if you aren’t a musician. 

This morning, a new pianist was sitting at the piano before Mass began. She was playing Ode to Joy. However, the tempo was a bit off. Not all the chords resolved exactly on point. Some parts were a bit faster than necessary, others slower. As a musician, I found myself judging the music. “It’s not bad,” I told myself, “but it sure isn’t great either. Is this what we are in for all of Mass?” Can you hear my sigh of relief when the regular pianist walked over for the entrance hymn?

What a way to start the Eucharist. While I consider myself a musician, piano is not my instrument of choice. There is no way I could play Ode to Joy, or any other piece of music for that matter, with as much competency as the young woman did before Mass began. There I was, judging her mistakes and inconsistent melody, while my own life’s song was full of discord. 

I enjoy analogies to life being a grand song, or a large tapestry – that life is some great work of art that we all participate in but are unable to see or hear the whole of, that is God’s job. But how often do we find ourselves trying to assume the role of the master, while we are but students? 

At the conclusion of Mass, my sigh of relief turned to a sigh of doubt. The young woman was back and at the piano. Ode to Joy was the final song. She had been practicing before Mass. “Oh man, I hope this goes ok.” I thought to myself. 

What a doubter I was! The cantor announced the song, everyone raised their books and voices. It was beautiful. Were there wrong notes, maybe. Did I hear them? No. I was too busy being embraced by the swell of music coming from my whole community. Together, we made this music in praise to God. Together, we became one voice. Was every voice on pitch, probably not. Was my own perfect? For sure not! 

God intended us for community. To work together, to sing together, to praise together. Not one of us is perfect and it is not our place to judge one another’s lack of perfection. I hope that at some point today, you feel the embrace of your community as you work together, whoever and wherever your community is. Together, we are striving to get to the Kingdom of God. 

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Advent Journals are Here!

I’m so pleased to share with you all these Advent Journals. As you may have noticed, Advent is quickly approaching and there are so many wonderful resources available to help deepen and enrich your Advent experience.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed a need for Advent journals that cover a few bases. 1. They are Scripturally based 2. They are simple 3. They are not time consuming but still powerful 4. They are free. I have 2 different journals this year so be sure to read to the bottom to hear about both. One is based on lectio divina, the other is a deeper look at the 4 Sundays of Advent.

Lectio Divina Journal

In the journal I’ve highlighted one or two verses from the daily readings for reflection. There is space to prepare yourself for lectio and think about what’s going on in your life that day. What’s joyful, stressful, exciting or bothering you? Your lectio experience is colored by what’s happening in your life and it is good to take a moment to acknowledge what you are bringing to the table. There is also a place for your Word or phrase that has been highlighted during your reading as well as your prayerful response to God’s movements in your heart. Finally, there is room to think creatively about what God is calling you to do or change as inspired by the day’s prayer. 

The journal includes an overview of what lectio divina is, how to pray it and why it’s such a rich experience of prayer. As I said, I have chosen one or two verses for your reflection. However, maybe you already have a habit of reading the daily readings. Maybe a different verse stood out to you. At the very end of the journal is a blank page. It has all the formatting and different writing spaces, but the Scripture portion is blank. You can use this page to write your own verses in. 

Remember, this is completely free and is a pdf. So you can print the whole thing if you are going to use the verses I chose. Or you can print that last page 30 times and fill in your own verse every day. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed and already have a daily Advent devotional but want to give lectio divina a try – just print a week and see how it goes. Maybe every Sunday would work better. This is completely customizable to you. 

4 Sundays of Advent Journal

This is the brand new journal and I’m so excited about. I was inspired by a few things. First by my long-term writing project on the Philippians 2 Christ hymn. In that project, I am doing a deep study of the hymn, looking at the historical, theological, ecclesial, and liturgical significance and why it is a piece of Scripture that we all should know inside and out. I was also inspired by Every Sacred Sunday and how their Mass journals encourage Catholics to spend quality time preparing for Mass. If you are looking for something long term to help you dig deeper into the Sunday readings all year long, I cannot recommend their journals enough.

My new Advent Journal works like this. The first and super important thing you need to know is that it starts on Nov. 26. Yes, that’s before Advent actually begins. But, if you are going to be preparing for the 4 Sundays of Advent, you’ve got to start before the first Sunday, right?

Ok, got that cleared up. Mondays we spend time with the First Reading. Tuesdays the Psalm. Wednesdays the Second Reading. Thursdays the Gospel. Each page has the reading as well as space for any notes, questions or insights you might have while reading. There is also space for a brief prayer or reflection on what you’ve read. Think of this as lectio divina lite. 

Friday’s I offer a theological reflection on the readings. These include any historical information that is relevant, how the readings fit together, and what they can say to us today. It concludes with a quote from a saint that illuminates the overall theme of the Sunday.

Saturday encompasses how we can take what we’ve learned and grow in the week to come. I include another brief reflection, followed by questions or ideas meant to inspire you to apply the readings to your daily life and enhance your Advent experience. 

Sunday is a simple page for homily notes or other reflections you have on these readings. Perhaps you have another Advent devotional you are doing side by side and want to write down a special quote or work through a new idea. Here is space to do it, especially in light of the Sunday readings. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

I’m so excited for your Advent journey. It would be great to hear from you which journal you chose and why. I love feedback and want to keep developing these into quality, useful tools for you to deepen your relationship with God. Do please share with anyone you think would benefit from these journals. 

God bless

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com