The Sara and Justin Kraft Collection

Have a Meaningful Lent with these Practical Tips

Filed Under: Lent, Spiritual Development

Ash Wednesday commences the holy season of Lent in the church. Lent is a 40 day period in which we the faithful prepare for Easter and during which the “…Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540) During this time, Catholics are specifically asked to practice three spiritual activities: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

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How To Teach Children the True Meaning of Christmas

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith

In today’s culture, especially as a parent, it is easy to concentrate on the commercial aspect of the Christmas season instead of the spiritual reason for the season.  For the past three months, our four year old has been asking how soon it will be Christmas (and how soon he can open his gifts!) Here are eight ways you can focus on the true reason for the season. 

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What is the Amazing True Story of Santa Claus?

Filed Under: Saints

St. Nicholas was born during the third century.  His parents were wealthy, and raised him to be a Christian.  He used his entire inheritance to assist those as Christ would – the needy, the sick, and the suffering.  St. Nicholas became Bishop of Myra while a young man and was known for his generosity to those in need and his love for children. There are numerous legends surrounding St. Nicholas’ generosity.  In the most famous, St. Nicholas heard that a person falling into poverty intended to abandon his daughters to a life of sin.  Under the cloak of darkness, St. Nicholas flung a bag of gold into the house, saving the daughters' from their father's plan.  The bags of gold are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This is why children hang stockings or put out shoes to await gifts from Saint Nicholas.

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The 10 Greatest Pope John Paul II Quotes on Youth

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

Among Jesus’ last words were "I thirst." We all thirst. We spend our lives seeking fulfillment. We seek fame, power, money, security, pleasure. The list goes on and on. When these fail; we seek distraction. Our culture excels at distraction. In these 10 quotes, Saint Pope John Paul II reminds us that the only one who fulfills us is Jesus. In his time, he inspired the youth to reject the modern culture of selfishness, objectification, and apathy, and instead to seek what truly satisfies, in accordance with the profound desires of the divinely-made human heart. His words continue to enlighten us today.

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10 Mother Teresa Quotes on Service to Make you Think

Filed Under: Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

One cannot be fully alive without relationships with others. We are made for love, to be unified in a giving and receiving with others and ultimately with God. If we close ourselves off to service, we will never create the space within ourselves to be filled with the love of God. He can transform the most difficult tasks into meaningful experiences, but we have to be aware of His presence. Do we take advantage of this? Do we see God in each and every human being?

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10 Inspiring St. John Paul II Quotes on the Value of Life

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Spiritual Development

Mankind is unique among all the creatures of the world. We have been endowed with reason—and made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). And among mankind, each of us is a unique person. St. John Paul II is a model of wisdom for us in his emphasis and extensive writings on the supreme dignity of personhood, from conception to natural death.  Do we treat our elders with respect? Do we value and support mothers? Are we understanding and loving toward those with disabilities? We should take care to give encouragement and joy to all we encounter in each of our daily actions.

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10 Most Beautiful and Inspiring St. Faustina Quotes about Mercy

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Spiritual Development

At the canonization of St. Faustina in 2000, Pope John Paul II reflected that the message of mercy Sister Faustina imparted stood like a “bridge” between the 20th century (one of the most violent in human history) and the third millennium.  St. Faustina, a polish nun, was gifted with mystical visions of our Lord Jesus. Here are ten quotes from St. Faustina and Our Lord's words to her that reveal the boundlessness of the Divine Mercy—it is inexhaustible; we need "have fear of nothing" if we seek refuge in the Lord's compassionate heart.

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How These Martyrs for the Faith Can Get You Really Inspired

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

 “Martyr” is a Greek word meaning witness.  St. Peter himself uses the word in the Acts of the Apostles referring to all the apostles as “martyrs” to Jesus’ resurrection.  In later years, the word came to mean a person who gave up his life rather than deny Jesus. One of the greatest gifts of the martyrs is their example of courage which we can look to when we face ridicule or pressure to make our faith only a private matter with little influence on the way we live our public life. Here are 10 martyrs and groups of martyrs that will inspire you and set your heart on fire with love of God.

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How is the Beauty of Holy Week Celebrated Across the World?

Filed Under: Lent, Living the Faith, Spiritual Development

While Holy Week is devoutly and spiritually observed all around the world, there are some places where it is a time of elaborate ritual, participated in by entire cultures and cities. Sacred traditions that date back centuries become the center of public life for a resplendent seven days. Read on to learn about all-night processions, living Stations of the Cross in which the Pope portrays Christ, floats weighing several thousand pounds, and the making of intricate and colorful sawdust carpets to pave the way of the funeral procession for the body of Christ—among other fascinating traditions.

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10 Really Important Lessons in Love for Men

Filed Under: Living the Faith, Prayer, Saints, Spiritual Development

In a few short days we will honor Saint Joseph by celebrating his Solemnity on March 19th. Relatively little is known about Saint Joseph. The bible is uniquely silent. Joseph is never quoted nor are any words attributed to him. Despite the absence of information, he has always been held in esteem, serving as a great example especially for men. Read on to discover 10 insights that men can gain from the life of St. Joseph.

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Here are 10 of the Most Unexpected Catholic Conversion Stories

Filed Under: Conversion Stories, Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

The Duke

God works in mysterious ways. He comes in search of each one of us and calls us each by name. Here are 10 unexpected Catholic conversion stories to inspire us all toward deeper conversion to our Lord. 

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The Way of the Cross—A Lenten Reflection

Filed Under: Lent, Prayer

Christ Carries His Cross, El Greco

The Church offers a great number of suggestions for spiritual progress during Lent. One common devotion is the Way of the Cross, which is more commonly referred to as the Stations of the Cross. This reflection will offer a brief review of the history of this devotion, provide a few practical tips for practicing the devotion during Lent, and leave you with a few words from Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI. 

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The Ultimate List of The Catholic Shrines in the United States

Filed Under: Living the Faith, Prayer, Saints, Spiritual Development

What is a shrine?  A shrine is a church or other sacred place which has the approval of the local bishop and which is visited by the faithful as pilgrims (Canon 1230).  While sometimes it can be a burial place of a saint or Marian apparition, more commonly it is erected as a center for specific devotion. You can find a full listing of all shrines within the United States here, but we've selected the most prominent shrines in each state for you here. For most, we have provided just the name, location, and focus of spiritual devotion. However, a slightly longer description provided for a few of sites to give the reader a sense of the historical importance and the interesting stories that are typical of the Catholic Shrines.

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8 Wonderful International Ways to Celebrate the Epiphany

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith

The Adoration of the Magi

Epiphany is the celebration of the manifestation (or materialization) of Christ, the son of God and his divinity to the world. In the United States, we celebrate the epiphany the second Sunday following Christmas.  In other countries, the more traditional date of January 6 is observed. Here are 8 wonderful international ways to celebrate the Epiphany.

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Do You Know What this Classic Christmas Carol Really Means?

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Development

To our ears, the familiar Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” seems to be a merry carol we sing (and in our home we use it to help our three year old learn to count).  However, its origin is something more out of a spy movie than a child’s imagination. The song was composed in England during a time of great persecution for Catholics. Do you know what this classic Christmas carol really means?

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Why Do Catholics Believe in the Immaculate Conception?

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

Oh Mary, Conceived without Sin, Pray for Us

We celebrate a beautiful and important feastday this week, in the middle of advent. December 8 marks the “Feast of the Immaculate Conception” in the Catholic Church. The Church uses the word “Feast” to describe a day of commemoration in which we remember and ponder events of particular significance in salvation history. The teaching of the Immaculate Conception is so fundamental that the Feast has been raised to a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning the truth is so important that we are directed to call it to mind.  Unfortunately, few people (even Catholics) seem to know or remember what the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates. It would be of great benefit to examine this teaching a little further in order to answer the following questions: (1) What is the Immaculate Conception? (2) Why is it a necessary event in salvation history? (3) What is the evidence and why do we believe in it?

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14 Of The Most Inspiring Quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Saints, Spiritual Development

Jesus We Trust in You

St. Faustina was born in 1905.  Through her and her diary, Jesus communicates to the world the message of His Mercy.  Here are the 14 most inspiring quotes from St. Faustina's Diary.

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How to Pray to Saints: Here Are Some Tips

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Prayer, Saints, Spiritual Development

All God's Angels and Saints, Pray for Us (Durer)

The Catholic teaching regarding the saints is often incorrectly interpreted as a stumbling block to friendship with Christ. Many view the saints as intruders. It is believed that the saints somehow stand between Christ and the believer. The real question at issue is whether one can come to know Christ more perfectly through the saints or without them. The resounding answer is that the saints play a pivotal role in our coming to know Christ because they always stand beside Him showing us how to love Him more perfectly. You may say, "That's fine. It's natural to run into the friends of Christ, but that doesn't mean we should pray for them. So, why do Catholics pray to the saints?" The answer is that Catholics don’t so much pray to the saints as ask them to pray for us. 

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Is Purgatory full of Tragic Suffering or Great Joy?

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Spiritual Development

The Last Judgement (Memling)

The doctrine of purgatory is one of the most misunderstood teachings within the Catholic Church. It is misunderstood by both lifelong Catholics and non-Catholics. So what is purgatory? Why does the church believe in it? What purpose does it serve? Where do we find it in the bible?

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Who Can Receive the Sacrament of Baptism?

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Prayer, Spiritual Development

Saint John Baptizing (Poussin)

What defines a Christian? There are no other words which so simply summarize the meaning of Christianity as the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is through baptism that we enter into a restored relationship with God. But what is baptism? Here is our answer to this question.

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The Meaning Behind the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Prayer, Saints, Spiritual Development

For the Sake of His Most Sorrowful Passion

The term chaplet refers to a string of beads or the beads comprising the 5 decades of a rosary. In this manner chaplets have long served to aid Christians in the counting of prayers and the practice of devotions. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a popular devotion which was promoted by Saint Maria Faustina Kowolska, a polish nun who lived from 1905-1938. The words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy were given to Saint Faustina in a vision which occurred in September of 1935. 

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3 Lessons We Can Learn From the Life of St. Peter

Filed Under: Saints

On this rock I will build my Church (Perugino)

Today, June 29, the Church honors Saints Peter and Paul. A feast day celebrates the life and actions of a saint that we might draw spiritual lessons from their good example. This week our posts will be a two part tribute to these great foundational saints, starting with today's reflection on three lessons we can learn from the life of St. Peter. 

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3 Things to Learn from St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Filed Under: Learning the Faith, Living the Faith, Prayer, Saints, Spiritual Development

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (Giovanni Battista Piazzetta)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga is honored in the Church on his feast day June 21. The Church celebrates the feast days of the saints in order to help us call to mind the examples they have left for us in word and deed that we might learn from their example. Therefore let us examine three facts about St. Aloysius which provide spiritual wisdom for us today.

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The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Filed Under: Prayer

The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Restout)

My favorite image of the Holy Spirit is the tongues of fire. I love this image because the properties of fire so perfectly capture the capacities of the Holy Spirit. After all, fire illuminates, purifies and perfects, and its warmth gives comfort and animates. These are the effects of the Holy Spirit in our life. The catechism teaches that it does so in 12 ways which we will now examine.  “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.” (CCC 1832) 

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The Month of May: Our Mother’s Month

Filed Under: Prayer, Saints

Mary, Our Mother

Here in the United States, the celebration of Mother's Day has taken on a bit of a consumeristic character, as we rush out to buy flowers for our wives and mothers. However, even the secular showering of gifts on mothers points to our innate understanding that motherhood is a precious gift to be appreciated and honored. Although the Mother's Day holiday has passed, there's not need to stop the celebration. In fact, in the church, May is also the month of motherhood. It is the month in which we celebrate the motherhood of Mary. 

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Celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy: Jesus We Trust in You

Filed Under: Prayer, Saints

The Image of Divine Mercy

This coming Sunday, we celebrate “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Divine Mercy is a new feast within the church (officially instituted by John Paul II the year 2000) and the fruitful work of a modern saint. In the words of John Paul II, it is a feast “that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely”

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The Feast of the Annunciation: What “Fiat” Means for Us

Filed Under: Lent, Prayer, Saints

The Annunciation (Fra Angelico)

Today, March 25 (exactly nine months before Christmas), our liturgical calendar celebrates the Annunciation, the day an angel visited Mary and Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus.  Annunciation literally means to announce. We celebrate this day not only for its significance all those years ago, but also to renew (make present all over again) its impact today. In this reflection let’s take a moment to review what happened and then reflect on what it means. 

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Watch and Pray: Return to Me With Your Whole Heart

Filed Under: Lent, Prayer

Return to Me

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2: 12-13). These are the inaugural words of scripture for Ash Wednesday Mass and are the first words the church offers us this Lent. As such, they are the foundation for the message God wishes to communicate to us this Lent. Today marks exactly one week from the start of Lent this year. Let us take this week to reflect on how we might seek deeper conversion this Lent.

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Fishers of Men: Our Calling

Filed Under: Prayer, Saints

Jesus’ calling of the apostles is his call to us.  Pope Francis reiterates this call today. For he challenges us, “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, in our parish or diocesan institutions, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel,”  (World Youth Day Homily at Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, July 27, 2013).   “To go out as ones sent—it is not enough simply to open the door in welcome because they come, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people.”

In today’s culture, how do we do meet Christ's and our Pope's challenge?  First, how do we go about meeting the people?  Secondly, after we meet people, how do we authentically show the Good News of the Gospel to those we encounter?  Here are some reflections on this call and our response. 

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Private Revelation in the Catholic Church

Filed Under: Prayer, Saints

The need for revelation is sometimes questioned. After all, Saint Paul teaches us that God’s “invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made” (Romans 1:20).

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