Why Celebrating the Mass is Like Returning Home in 2020

The death of Kobe Bryant ushered in the new year. It shocked the world. Suddenly the coronarovirus circled the globed. Lockdowns and quarantines ensued. Our lives have been upended. You may have joked about this year being the beginning of an apocalypse— honestly, it feels Pandora’s box of evil was opened and there is no end in sight.

time traveler 2020 meme

Recreational outlets for stress such as sporting events, music concerts, and festivals have either been cancelled for postponed indefinitely.  Local libraries, zoo, and museums closed. How the heck are you supposed to live? I contracted COVID19 in April and those were among the most miserable weeks for my family. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Church suspended public Masses.

I understand why the bishops temporarily removed the Sunday obligation. Viewing the Mass via the Internet was a gift. It was a grace to hear my diocese’s newly ordained bishop preach (my family ordinarily don’t attend the Cathedral for Mass so we wouldn’t have heard Bishop DeGrood otherwise).

In May several dioceses across the United States started allowing public liturgies with safety precautions. I was recently graced with the ability to receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in months. It felt like a homecoming.

Home is Where the Sacred Heart is

Saint Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ” This year was a journey in the wilderness (I mean that literally and figuratively). Lent ended on April 11th however my spiritual dryness and suffering continued well into the Easter Season. Streaming the Mass on TV felt like viewing an oasis far off in a desert. Some weeks it appeared real and other times as a mirage.

sacred heart of Jesus is our home

The tangibility of going to Mass physically reminds me of the Incarnation—  God becoming man. Without that direct connection of hearing and seeing the priest in person it remained a great Cross to bear.

Saint Pope Pius X said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” This life is not our true home. It is a pilgrimage toward our destination.

Home is about love. The truest form of love is found in the heart of Jesus.

Community of Love

Another term for the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion. I love this name for the Eucharist. Under the section What is this Sacrament Called?  the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1331,  (It is called)  “Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” Love can only happen in the presence of another.

Jesus told his Apostles in Matthew 18:20,  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the reality of the Church. People united together with each other through the power of God’s love.

Returning to Mass reminded me of this communion with God AND man. The priest stands in Personi Christ (the Person of Christ). While only a validly ordained priest, Eucharistic prayer, wheat bread, and grape wine are officially needed for the Sacrament to occur, it is a fuller sign of God’s love when the laity are present. Hearing the faithful sing the various hymns helped me to greater enter into the mystery of the Mass.

An Invisible (But Still Real Communion)

Mass is not boring

The community of the laity are a visible sign of communion. Yet, there is an invisible assembly present in the Mass— the angelic hosts and communion of saints. I felt closer to the holy ones during the Eucharist than when I was watching it in my own home on the television.  Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:29 hit home last Sunday, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” This world is not our true home. A world beyond the senses exist.

According to the Catechism, “The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints (CCC 1352). St. Augustine echoes this truth,  “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” Understanding this reality helped deepen my appreciate for the Mass. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Ask God to Give You Strength

God won't leave you

This year continues to send us new and unimaginable trials. Our hearts ache for love. The inability to receive the Eucharist made those challenges exponentially tougher. Some of you may still be in “exile” and wondering how long you have to wander aimlessly in the desert of 2020. God never totally abandons us even though it feels like it sometimes. Read the Bible daily or the writings of saints for comfort. Praying the Rosary or chaplet of Divine Mercy help ward off distress. I offer my sufferings to God in hopes that you may receive spiritual consolation to soothe you during your trials!

Related Links

10 Things You Should Do Until Public Masses Return

Why Priestly Ordinations Give Me Hope in an Age of Pandemic

7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration


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Cardboard Boxes, Zoo Animals, and Creative Joy!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 22, 2017.


One of the more interesting and exciting days of the month for my children is the day our monthly Amazon prime orders of diapers arrive. There is an inherent excitement in their eyes at the knock of the FedEx delivery on our front door. What truly enlivens my children is not the package of diapers themselves. Rather, the cardboard delivery box itself invokes joy. I can only use mine and my wife’s experience to draw on. Nevertheless, I will contend that one of the only thing a person is certain on in this life [along with taxes and death] is that children love cardboard boxes!

baby in cardboard box

Today, I want to share my observations about the creative joy that my children found, and continue, to find in the seemingly mundane realities of cardboard boxes and McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.

Note: For more fun ideas with cardboard boxes check out the links under the Resources section of this post!

Animals Assemble!

The first step towards my children’s goal of transforming our home into a furry zoo was to acquire a cadre of little stuffed animals. One of the blessing my son has with his autism is the ability to hyper-focus on certain subject and quickly learn about the topic.

Passing by the golden arches on a Saturday morning errand drive, my children’s stomachs started to take control. As a result, my wife and I decided to get them Happy Meals. Immediately seeing his stuffed lion, my son knew he wanted more animals for his collection. Koalas, elephants, bulls, seals, moose, and a jaguar eventually picked up residence with the lion at our home. I think we almost have the entire animal collection. Our furry zoo assembled!

pet avengers

Researching Residences

Stage second began when my son took a cardboard box and started putting grass, rocks and rhubarb leaves into it. That coupled with his keen interest in animals and daily watching of an educational animal show on PBS and bringing his zoo-themed books to bed allowed my children to learn more about animal habitats. While this stage is technically never over, my kids gather enough information where the single cardboard box was not enough for their animals. Now they want separate zoo habitats for each kind of stuffed animal.

research.png

Burgeoning Biomes

Earlier this week I noticed a careened cardboard box at the bottom of our basement stairway. My OCD tendencies involve making sure all recycled materials go into our recycling bin as soon as possible. As I was bringing the cardboard box out the door to our recycling bin, my wife stopped me in my tracks. This box was for our kids’ animal biomes. My actions almost proved fatal to our furry friends’ way of life!

Thank God for my wife’s quick thinking. We acquired two additional smaller cardboard boxes from another online order yesterday. As soon as my kids saw the boxes they immediately gathered their entire miniature stuffed animal collection. Imagination ensued as I heard lots of laughter and animal sounds coming from their room. We hope to decorate the boxed biomes with crayons, pictures, and other art supplies to create greater habitat diversity.

cardboard boxes.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is truly the simple things in life that elicit authentic joy. Seeing the enthusiasm in my children at the arrival of mere cardboard boxes reinvigorates my outlook on life. I need to be reminded sometimes that life is too fleeting for me to take things so seriously. Joy may be encountered in simple, daily, and normal activities. I am grateful to view joy through the lens of my children. I hope you stop and examine the world around you and experience the joy among you!

Resources:

31 Things You Can Make With A Cardboard Box That Will Blow Your Kids’ Minds

20 GENIUS IDEAS TO PLAY WITH CARDBOARD BOXES

Thinking About the Box (of Creativity)

3 Reasons Why Containing Creativity is Impossible

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Memorial Day 2020— Gratitude and Honor

Memorial Day

Hope you have a Happy Memorial Day! I am grateful for the incredible men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to keep my country safe.

“Dear Lord Jesus and Mary, Mother of God, Hold all these brave souls in the palm of your hand, comfort them and their families. … On Memorial Day we not only remember those who have died, but also those who continue to serve and the families they have waiting for them

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3 Simple Ways to Find Joy


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 11, 2019.


According to the American author Mark Twain, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” His words definitely rang true this morning. As I rushed to get my kids’ backpacks and lunches ready, my 5 year-old daughter tugged on my jacket and asked, “Daddy! Can I take this [to school] for sharing day?!” Looking down I noticed a leather-bound book adorned with gold leafed pages—it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit!

Normally, I would be hesitant to allow my precious books to leave the bookshelf without under my protection, especially a classic. Something, a feeling, an inkling, beyond my own power provoked me to let her keep the book for the day.

Letting go of control is not easy for me. This is particularly true when it comes to items dear to me. Releasing control led to a sudden deluge of joy. Excitement brimmed up inside me. Seeing the twinkle in my daughter eyes as she hugged The Hobbit tight simply was amazing. It was also quite unexpected—much like the Unexpected Journey of Bilbo in Middle Earth!

The first requirement for discovering joy is to be among others. After dropping the kids off at school, I wondered, “How else can I find joy? I love this experience and want to share it others.” Joy became my focus for the remainder of the day. While not an exhaustive list, I found three incredibly SIMPLE ways to find joy in your life!

Thanksgiving

Thank you taken meme

A natural fruit of thankfulness is joy. Harboring a thankful mindset provides stability amid life’s storms, but also gives blossom to delight. I recently came across a post on social media that lamented the “forced gratitude” of Teacher Appreciation Week.

As a Catholic my sentiment towards gratitude is that it is our central mission, the thing we value more than anything else. In fact, the source and summit of the Christian life—the Eucharist literally translates to mean “thanksgiving.” Just because you are not “compelled” or have to thank a teacher this week does not mean that you shouldn’t. More thanksgiving, freely done, only brings joy!

St. Paul recognizes this truth in Galatians 5:22-23. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the ordering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have joy preceded by love. Where do we most show God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) love? By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—the prime event of thanksgiving!

Be on the Lookout

G.K. Chesterton captured the essence of joy best as he wrote, “Surprise is the secret of joy”. Joy is not something we can produce from our own willpower. The example I mentioned earlier occurred unexpectedly. Normally, sudden events do not sit well with me. I like to be in control! Being prepared for things helps lead to peace—it decreases angst. While peace is a good goal, joy is an even greater good! Actively looking for joy does not work. I have tried and failed. Every. Single. Time.

Joy and Holy Spirit

As a gift of the Holy Spirit, joy cannot be produced by our active works. I often struggle with a restlessness—a strong urge to keep moving, never sitting still, or slowing my mind. Since Good Friday, my family and I have sung the Chaplet of Divine Mercy nightly. The first fruit of this prayer I noticed was peace. Only recently did I also begin to notice moments of joy breaking into my life. According to St. John Paul II,

Christ remains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart. Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, and no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.

Prayer helped stabilize me. On my own I cannot run fast even to capture joy. Slowly down allows joyous moments to catch me. You too can wait for joy—be on the lookout, instead of rushing to and fro frantically!

Recognizing Your Place in Creation

Along with thanksgiving and waiting patiently for joy, recognizing my place in the universe, not only humbles me, but fosters me foster joyful moments. Every week Catholics profess our core beliefs at Mass with the Nicene Creed. In the first tenet, we remind ourselves: I believe in one God, the Father almightymaker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. We are creatures, NOT THE CREATOR.

This takes humility to recognize what you are not. I am not the composer of my story. The Divine Author formed me uniquely—and you uniquely too! Reminding myself of my place in creation helps foster a proper attitude to receive joy.

Be open to the unexpected. Let the Holy Spirit into your life. Ask for the gift of joy, give thanks always, and remember God is your Creator. If you practice these three simple things do not be surprised to discover joy—it might be sooner than you realize!

Related Links

How to Develop a Thankful and Joyful Mentality— Be Grateful for Everything!

Finding Little Joys Amid Autism’s Challenges

The Difference Between Joy and Happiness

Catholic Joy?


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How to Be Productive in the Tumult of 2020

Productivity quote

Unproductive.

It’s a word often on my mind lately.

I know we live in frustrating times.

Staying at home indefinitely.

Zoos, libraries, parks, and big public events closed.

We miss the fellowship of others.

Heck, I look forward to waving at our mail carrier.

Lately, I have been feeling unproductive. Know it’s due to a variety of things. This week it is mostly to poor sleeping— my youngest daughter is teething. Three hours of sleep some nights.

But hope is never gone.

Things that helped me stay sane (somewhat):

🏈 Playing catch with my oldest son and teaching him plays.

📚 Reading— it is the food for mental health. Our brain not only needs information, but craves good information. Visit your residential library in your dens or basements.

🙌 Celebrate success— tagging connections and promoting their content with no strings attached helps reorient my mindset.

Joy blossoms. We need as much light now.

Step outside. Enjoy the outdoors, feed your brain with nutritious content, and help others.

That’s one antidote to being unproductive

What has helped you be productive during the past few months?

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Comparing Superman’s Return and the Resurrection of Jesus

Rejoice He is Risen! The Easter Season is a time of joy. Jesus defeated death and promises us the hope of resurrection. During the current pandemic we need as much hope as possible.

Jesus Resurrection

Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Hope is confidence in the uncertain. Uncertainty definitely has prevailed over the past several months. Or at least that is the appearance. Despair, confusion, and doubt are the weapons of our Enemy.

Jesus is a model for the perfect human. God became man. He shows us the way to free us from sins. Literature is filled with heroic figures. But nearly all contain a fatal character flaw. Hubris. Greed. Anger. Lust. Or envy. While  no characters, especially comic book characters, can be matched perfectly with Jesus there is one superhero most commonly associated Christ— Superman.

The Man of Steel embodies everything you want in a hero: strength, a great origin story, and virtuous character. Some may argue Kal-El is too perfect.  Unrelatable even. But I think most can agree that Superman is a symbol of hope for Metropolis and Earth.

Nearly 30 years ago, DC featured a game-changing storyline—The Death of Superman. In an epic fight against Doomsday, Superman fought this villain to the death. This shocked the comic book world when it first debuted. The Man of Tomorrow died. What happened next in The Return of Superman Volume was mysterious. Reading it reminded me of the mystery surrounding the identity of Jesus after his Resurrection.

Who Do You Say that I am?

Before Superman returned several claimants to his mantle appeared.  In the Reign of Supermen, four “heroes” arrive on the scene: The Man of Steel (Steel), The Man of Tomorrow (later referred to as Cyborg Superman), Metropolis Kid (Superboy), and The Last Son of Krypton (later revealed as the Eradicator). All four wear the symbol of Superman, but it quickly becomes clear to the reader that neither Steel nor Superboy are actually a version of Superman.

cyborg superman

Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator initially convince some people in Metropolis that they are the “resurrected” Superman. In Born Again,  Lois Lane encounters the new visored Superman and thinks, “He looks like Clark but he sounds so cold, hollow.” The following exchange between the Last Son of Kypton (Eradicator) and Lois foreshadows the false claim to Superman:

Eradicator: “I am Superman… I am not playing any game.”

Lois: “Superman never hid his face! and he didn’t wear black like an executioner!”

Eradicator: “No, not before, but I have been through so much…I have changed.”

He provided specific facts about Lois’ life to convince her, at first, that he was Superman. But facts alone don’t prove that a person rises from the dead.

Likewise, Cyborg Superman addresses Lois in similar fashion in the issue Alive.  Lois questions the Cyborg, but he claims that most of his memory is lost. To the reader, the story gets more complicated as to the identity of the real Superman when Cyborg has his DNA tested against a sample from Kal-El. It was revealed that the DNA matched perfectly. Professor Hamilton tells Lois, “I’m telling you that all my tests and data have me thoroughly convinced. I would say say with great probability–that this man is Superman come back to life!

Actions Speak Louder than Words

While mystery pervades the majority of The Return of Superman volume, over time the actions of the claimants to Superman’s name show more sinister motives. Lies cannot last forever. The actions of Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator did not line up with the ideals of the true Last Son of Krypton.

superman symbol

In the issue Lies and Revelations, a cult of followers worship Cyborg Superman. A cult member exclaimed, “Look not upon our Savior’s face with fear! For though he bears the marks of his righteous battle against the terrible beast Doomsday–by his deeds you shall know the truth! And his noble and merciful deeds reveal in him the one true Superman!” He goes on to tell the crowd that the “visored Superman” (the Eradicator) is the false one because of his tortuous and violent acts.

At this point in the story arc, the reader knows fairly certain that the Eradicator is not the real Superman. However, the verdict is still out for Cyborg Superman. Later in the issue it is revealed that Cyborg Superman has enlisted the villain Mongul.

In the episode Return of Superman, Cyborg Superman’s plot to destroy Metropolis is revealed in addition to the fact that he is actually the consciousness of Hank Henshaw transferred into a cyborg body with the DNA splicing of Superman. At the end of the issue the true Superman returns in a black Kryptonian armor suit. “Don’t let the outfit fool you. I’m Superman and I’m back.”

Connections with Christ

Superman’s return has a few connections with the true Resurrection of Jesus. First of all, both Superman and Jesus were initially unrecognizable. According to John 20:15, Mary Magdalene did not realize the man speaking to her was Jesus.

Another similarity between Kal-El and Christ involves the battle over evil. Jesus defeated sin with his Death on the Cross. Superman killed Doomsday, a horrific foe, who represents

pure brutality and rage. In a sense—sin incarnate. Now a compelling reason why Cyborg Superman was at first convincing was that he bore the wounds of death and battle. Jesus’ resurrected body also bore the marks of the Crucifixion. The major difference between the two is that Cyborg Superman was part machine. Artificial. Christ’s resurrected body was true flesh. Still fully human while being fully divine.

A final connection I found between Jesus and Superman’s resurrections is that love led to their closest friends recognizing the truth. The Apostle’s recalled Jesus’ teachings and through the power of the Holy Spirit had faith that their teacher and friend truly returned from the dead. Analogously, Superman’s encounter with Lois displayed the power of love too. He appealed to Lois’ marriage with Clark Kent, his alter ego. Superman told his wife that Clark’s favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird. This intimate detail proved his claim. Lois recognized the dark clad man as the true Superman/Clark Kent. Love and truth always go together.

Rejoice He is Risen! Truly this is Good News. More accurately it is Great News!  We live in stressful times. Satan is always on the prowl. God loves us and wants us to enjoy his presence. Reading is proven way to relax. The Return of Superman  was an enjoyable, page-turning story. Add the fact it had resurrection and new life themes and it makes an excellent read (or re-read) anytime.

 

 

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Why the Rosary is the Best Spiritual Vaccine for the Pandemic

By: Megan Naumovski

If you look up synonyms for PANDEMIC, you find at least 40 different words of which only a small handful seem at all connotative of something as negative as the Coronavirus.  Most eml of the synonyms listed seem to invoke a description rdmore relatable to what many films of us have found as an antidote to our current situation of fear and outbreak

—the rosary.

Catholic (but catholic, with a little “c”)

One of the first words I saw was “catholic”; not to be confused with Catholic, which is a proper noun describing a kind of Christian.  The adjective catholic also means universal, and when we say the Nicene Creed at each Sunday liturgy, we are proclaiming belief in the four pillars of the church; one, holy, catholic (not Catholic) and apostolic.  We are stating our belief in the one church of Jesus Christ that is his universal church.

Rosary

There are few times I feel more catholic (and Catholic) than when I say the rosary because it is the total and the whole of intercessory prayer (by the way, ALL synonyms for pandemic as well.) I feel I can–in a steady and comprehensive way–capture the totality of all prayers in my heart, as well as those for the  suffering around the world, and give them all to Jesus in faith through the capable hands of his mother.

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”

-Saint Maximillan Kolbe

Empyrean

 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. —Revelation 12:1

Empyrean means heavenly or celestial.  The divine transcends through prayer of the rosary because of the four sets of mysteries we consider, Glorious, Sorrowful, Joyful or Luminous are scriptural.  Each guide us through five “decades” which begin with an Our Father, then ten Hail Mary prayers, and finally a Glory Be.

Birth of Jesus

Each decade is based on a moment in the life and legacy of Christ, including that which began in the womb of his Blessed Mother, and ending with her reuniting with him in Heaven. We meditate through these divine moments with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, which can take us to great depths of these great mysteries. Where would we be without the divine help of the Holy Spirit?

“The celestial b0odies are the cause of all that takes place in the sublunar world.” –Saint Thomas Aquinas

The repetitive prayer of the “Hail Mary”, most of which is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, starting around verse 42 “Hail Mary, full of grace…” ends with a simple a petition to ask Our Lady for her prayers, “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.” I think it is a good idea to ask her to pray for us at this defining moment, when we enter the empyrean realm.

Terrestrial (physical)

We do not usually think of the physical when considering prayer, but the rosary involves the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—as we account for each prayer while walking with the Blessed Virgin Mary through her son’s life. Because my own ‘terrestrial” mother has been devoted to the rosary for years, having made many a pilgrimage, she has a wide variety of rosaries.

Taking an extra suitcase when she goes on her “holy travels”, my mom buys up all the rosaries she can fit and brings them home to hand out to everyone she meets all year long.  On several occasions she purchased one for every child in my kids’ school (about 350 students.)

JPII rosary quote

The rosaries range from simple plastic rosaries, to six-feet-long rosaries that include every decade—all 20—on one long strand. Some rosaries are themed, such one I have with icons of the great basilicas as the Our Father beads; there are also “peace rosaries”, and “stations of the cross” rosaries. Some rosaries have special beads that smell like rose petals because many have reported the smell of roses when fervently praying the rosary in holy places.  Others are made from small rocks from the land where visions of Our Lady took place (I have one of these too!)

In any case, if you ask someone who has a great devotion to the rosary to tell you about their favorite rosary you will get a fast answer.  Devotees hold fast to their favorite. Some prefer the smooth wood or the gripping texture of rope. Consequently, if we get too attached to our favorite rosary, sometimes we will be asked to give it up to someone else.

Unique Tool for Spiritual Growth

I have heard many stories of someone who adores a certain rosary (for sentimental reasons or the feel of it, etc.) they will hear the Holy Spirit nudge them to give it away.  Always reluctant, they hear it loud and clear within their spirit and feel the unmistakable nudge to hand it over. Always to a recipient that seems to be on the verge of discovering the devotion for themselves and sure enough pass the special sacramental on to bless another.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit wants us to keep the spirit of the prayer in the forefront, which is trust in the intercessory prayer of Jesus’ favorite lady, his mom.

Rosary medicine

Many of the faithful have turned to this prayer over centuries of pandemic disease, wars, starvation and natural disasters.  With burdened fingers grasping the smooth beads in search of refuge, tender souls find themselves universally affected.  Perhaps the fifteen promises that accompany the rosary make it appealing to some. I believe the rosary is pandemic because we receive consolation from our spiritual mother.

“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” —Saint Padre Pio

“The Rosary is a prayer both so humble and simple and theologically rich in bible content. I beg you to pray it.” –Saint John Paul The Great

“There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult is it, that we cannot resolve by the power of the Holy Rosary.” Sister Lucia (visionary of Fatima)

“Give me an army saying the rosary, and I will conquer the world.” –Blessed Pope Pius IX


Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog.


Related Links

The Holy Rosary according to the Method of St. Louis de Montfort

5 Whimsical and Witty Things I Learned about the Rosary

 

 

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