Ways to Pray with Prayer Cards

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I’ve mentioned my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath often. After one of his retreats I come away with a renewed sense of peace in myself and my faith as well as a renewed energy to expand my creativity. You often see that depicted on these pages with my photography and artistic attempts, some of which are quite good, and others….well, I tried.

One of his new products is a card set called Prayer Starters. Below the cut, you will be able to click on the picture to be taken to his website to purchase them if you are interested in that. Simply, they are a set of about thirty cards with an easel under the theme of Wise and Holy Women featuring the words of the four women Doctors of the Church, Sts. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Theresa of Avila, and Therese Lisieux plus Dorothy Day and Sister Thea Bowman combined with Brother Mickey’s beautiful art.

I’ve been using them as a daily devotional although I haven’t swapped out the cards every morning. Sometimes I leave them up for a few days and let them speak to me as long as I can feel it. This usually lasts two days. 

I mention this because two cards ago I came across a quotation from St. Hildegard of Bingen:

“Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.”

I did not understand its meaning. I read it again, and then went about my work. Whenever I passed by my dining room table, I read it again, paused a moment, thought to myself, again, that I do not understand this; what does this mean?

Some of you may read it the first time and think, of course, this is not hard, what is she not seeing?

Honestly, I didn’t know.

I began to read it a bit more slowly. I’d sit with it and read it out normally, then a bit slower, and then I’d emphasize the punctuation, adding in my own commas, like you would with a poem, each line paused for absorption. I think I did this for two full days. I still did not get it.

Simple words, but they simply weren’t reaching me.

I don’t know how many days passed, each day I’d read the card at least once, more likely twice. I stared at the card on the easel. I held the card between two fingertips. I read it over and over and over again.

One morning, probably about very nearly a week ago, I read it, each word on my tongue, my inserted comma giving pause, and as I reached the period at the end, my eyes opened wide.

It was there!

Right there the whole time.

And now that I’d seen it, I couldn’t unseen it; I couldn’t not understand the meaning, and the most significant part was how much it related to my life, to my cravings of things and thoughts and symbols and signs. Little things and big things, and there in all of it wasn’t misery but the idea that misery could be brought on with too much of the cravings or the opposite that if I think of the cravings as misery perhaps I’d crave less and therefore be satisfied with less. And maybe that’s not it at all, but that was what it was for me.

Because that’s what has happened in my life. I can feel it and I’m living it in some ways. I am not a pious, ascetic, silence seeker, but I also do not crave everything the way I once did. Not only do I prioritize secular, monetary and time things, but I am also prioritizing my faith in relation to my secular life as well as the items of faith that I want to follow and adopt into my lifestyle. That’s not to suggest a change in doctrine, but in a feeling of where I want my faith to bring me, and for me to bring to others.

Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.

Card from Prayer Starters Wise and Holy Women Card Pack, Brother Mickey McGrath, All Rights Reserved. Photo mine. (c)2019

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A Litany of Holy Women

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A Litany of Women for the Church

from Joan Chittister, OSB

Adapted from Benetvision – Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA

We call on the holy women

who went before us,

channels of Your Word

in testaments old and new,

to intercede for us

so that we might be given the grace

to become what they have been

for the honor and glory of God.


Saint Esther, who pleaded against power for the liberation of the people, pray for us.

Saint Judith, who routed the plans of men and save the community, pray for us.

Saint Deborah, laywoman and judge, who led the people of God, pray for us.

Saint Elizabeth of Judea, who recognized the value of another woman, pray for us.

Saint Mary Magdalene, minister of Jesus, first evangelist of the Christ, pray for us.

Saint Scholastica, who taught her brother Benedict to honor the spirit above the system, pray for us.

Sister Thea Bowman, A Ministry of Joy

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Sister Thea Bowman addressing the USCCB:

Sr. Thea Bowman was born in 1937 on December 29th. This was in Mississippi and her parents named her Bertha. She was the granddaughter of slaves; her parents were a doctor and a teacher. She was raised Methodist, but when she was nine years old, she converted to Roman Catholicism. At 15, she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Over the years, she received a B.A., a M.A., and a PhD in English and then went on to teach. She also received an honorary doctorate in theology from Boston College. She was a poet, a preacher, and a teacher, and she used all of those embodiments to bring a light to her calling that couldn’t help but be infectious to her contemporaries and those of us who have come after and continue to read of her works.

“When we understand our history and culture, then we can develop the ritual, the music and the devotional expression that satisfy us in the Church.”

She said this and it illustrates her impact on the development of a particular worship dedicated to and for Black Catholics. She was invaluable in the 1987 publication of the Catholic Hymnal, Lead Me, Guide Me: The Arican-American Catholic Hymnal.

Her essay, The Gift of African-American Sacred Song can be downloaded by clicking on the title.

Her “ministry of joy” led the Diocese of Mississippi to bring her on as a consultant for intercultural awareness. In reading up on Sr. Thea, I really preferred this descriptor of intercultural rather than multi-cultural. It feels more natural to me. A person who knew her called her “the springtime in everyone’s life,” a visual that leaps out in color and light and blue sky.

Imagine what more she could have done and influenced in the past twenty-nine years had she not died at the young age of 52, on today’s date in 1990 of bone cancer.

There are at least twelve institutions named for her from Boston in the east to as far west as Illinois.

The Diocese (of Mississippi) has begun the research into Sr. Thea’s “heroic virtues” after which a cause for canonization can be opened in Rome if warranted.

Two of her written works you could look into for more from Sr. Thea are:

Families, Black and Catholic, Catholic and Black. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference. Commission on Marriage and Family Life, 1985.

Thea Bowman: In My Own Words. Liguori, Mo.: Liguori Publications, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7648-1782-3. index of Bowman’s speeches, writings, and interviews, with a brief biographical sketch and epilogue (with Maurice J. Nutt)

I will leave you with her own words that spoke to me prayerfully earlier this week:

“Maybe I’m not making big changes in the world, but if I have somehow helped or encouraged somebody along the journey, then I’ve done what I’m called to do.

Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis

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Click to visit an article on Pope Francis’ coat of arms and motto. He kept both coat of arms and motto from his time as Cardinal with the addition of papal symbols. MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO translates to “he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him” from a writing of St. Bede. All Rights Reserved, Vatican and Pope Francis. (c)2019

Jorge Mario Bergolio was chosen as the 266th Pope after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his position of Pope in 2013. Jorge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936 to Mario and Maria Bergolio. He had four siblings: two brothers, and two sisters. 
Cardinal Bergolio chose Francis as his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, indicating his concern for and his commitment to the poor. His focus is towards the poor, and the church meeting its people where they are as well as encouraging mercy by and for Catholics worldwide.

Pope Francis is also a pope of many firsts: he is the first Pope who is a Jesuit; he is the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century.

You can find Pope Francis on Twitter and on the Vatican website, where you can read all of his writings (as well as other Popes) and homilies. I’m currently in the middle of reading Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad; an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness.) The website is a fascinating virtual pilgrimage of its own.

He was inaugurated as Pope in 2013, on March 19. That was nearly exactly one year since I had been visiting and praying at my church.

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The Forty Day Journey Begins. Ash Wednesday.

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​Giving up something is hard to choose, and giving up something for Lent can be a daunting task. Sometimes what I choose feels arbitrary and superficial. Some are good ideas, but not meaningful enough. Will giving it up bring me closer to G-d? Or just make me miserable for forty days? My feeling on giving something up is that it should be sacrificial – you should definitely notice that it’s absent. I won’t be giving up brussel sprouts or beets. I don’t eat them anyway. That would lack sincerity and significance. However, it should also not be something that is impossible to give up like driving or any number of things that you find indispensible.

I asked for help from my friends on Facebook, and I received some very good suggestions. In spite of their excellent responses, some of those very valid suggestions don’t (or won’t) work for me:

  • TV? Then I’d miss family time. We watch most things all together and enjoy that time. I’d be abandoning them for forty days.
  • Cable news? I don’t watch it 24/7 anymore, but I do need to keep informed, especially in this era of misinformation.
  • Internet? Besides keeping in touch with my family, it is essentially my livelihood.
  • Chocolate? Soda? Bread? Been there, done that. I’m not sure it holds the same meaning as the first time; at least not yet.
  • Caffeine? And go through withdrawal? Too physically taxing.
  • Ice cream? Maybe. My doctor would certainly like that.
  • Bacon? Hmm. Possible. Very possible.

I do always add a spiritual component to my forty days in the desert:

  • Prayer time.
  • Reflection.
  • Rosary.
  • Reading.

I already read two devotional books throughout the year on a daily basis: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2019 by The Irish Jesuits and A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His journals. I’ll be adding two more: My parish gives out a small book, Not by Bread Alone 2019: Daily Reflections for Lent by Mary DeTurris Poust. This takes about five minutes to read each day and provides a reflection and a suggested meditation to reflect on. We’ve used this book for a number of years and it really is a good way to meet G-d everyday. The second book is Lenten Gospel Reflections by Bishop Robert Barron, which was given to my by the person who will be sponsoring me on my Cursillo journey (more on that in a later post). This one looks to be short readings also and it has space for notes or journaling.

Daily Lenten Reading, 2019. (c)2019


i’ve also decided to set aside $1 every time my family eats out or buys a non-grocery food item like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, etc and on Easter money donate all those dollars to my parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
I’m currently getting ready to attend Ash Wednesday Mass followed by a parish soup lunch. It is a really lovely way to begin Lent with other like-minded people, all on different paths but the same journey. It reinforces the community of the church.

 In addition to my own commitments during Lent, Lent has three pillars of prayer, fasting (and abstinence), and almsgiving. Fasting and abstinence sound similar, but are very different in practice, and for me, Catholic fasting is much different than my decades of Yom Kippur fasting (which I still observe). Fasting during Lent is only required of those 18 through 59, and may include one regular meal as well as two smaller meals. Fast days in Lent are today, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, Fridays in Lent require abstinence from meat as well as other enjoyable sources, freeing us to grow closer to G-d.

My church also included a forty day calendar offering suggestions on ways to make Lent moe meaningful. It is provided from Take Five for Faith and I sill share it with you this weekend.

I will keep you updated on my progress and I hope you will comment with your own reflections and suggestions this Lenten season.

St. Brigid of Ireland

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St. Brigid in stained glass from the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia. Image in the public domain. (c)2019

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

St. Brigid’s Cross. My collection. (c)2017-2019