(c) Josephine Lombardi 2023
Bishop Scott McCaig, CC, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Canada, has prepared a catechetical resource titled, Clothed with Power from On High. A Short Catechesis on Charisms in the Life and Mission of the Church. In this insightful reflection on the Church’s teaching about charisms, he assists Christians with the very important task of discerning charisms.
What is a charism?
The Sacred Scriptures inform our understanding of charisms. Bishop McCaig reminds us that the word charism has its origin in the Greek word charisma, meaning “gratuitous gift.” This means charisms “have a divine origin” because they are inspired by God’s grace and are “manifestation(s) of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Essentially, they are spiritual gifts that the Spirit gives to individuals to exercise for the greater glory of God. Moreover, these gifts are freely given by God. This means, according to Bishop McCaig, that we cannot merit them or demand them and they are not dependant on our spiritual state. The following Scriptures give us an insight into these special gifts:
1 Corinthians 12:1
1 Corinthians 12:10
1 Peter 4:10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Romans 12:3 and 4-8
1 Corinthians 12:28
2 Timothy 1:6
Charisms are meant to serve God’s will and to magnify God. In his First Letter to the Corinthians (12:4-11), St. Paul mentions some of these special charisms: “the utterance of wisdom,…the utterance of knowledge,…faith,…gifts of healing,…working of miracles,…prophecy,…discernment of spirits,…various kinds of tongues,…the interpretation of tongues.” Essentially, the same Spirit inspires all charisms.
How do we discern if we have a charism?
Bishop McCaig provides a very helpful checklist to help us know which charisms the Holy Spirit has given to us. He concludes that there are “three essential signs that indicate that a charism has been given to someone:”
- We are energized when we exercise a certain charism. Furthermore, feeling energized, we experience the fruit of the Spirit, joy. The use of our gift, writes Bishop McCaig, leads to our feeling fulfilled. These are interior indications that a charism has been given to us.
- An external indication includes an increase in requests for the exercise of our charisms. There is a demand for the charism with which we have been gifted. Bishop McCaig gives the example of someone with the gift of counsel being sought out for their for their wise guidance.
- Another external indication involves the presence and the experience of the fruit of the exercise of the charism. In other words, according to Bishop McCaig, we can “see and experience the effects” of the charism. Teaching, for example, writes Bishop McCaig, that leads to the transformation of the recipients and their greater intimacy with the Holy Spirit, signals the presence of a teaching charism. The effect of the teaching is not limited to the “transfer of knowledge,” he writes.
Although we are strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism and sealed in Confirmation, namely, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, Bishop McCaig reminds us that these are gifts “that we are given to keep,” especially to help us with our interior life. Charisms, on the other hand, are “given to give away.”
Bishop McCaig’s book is published by The Word Among Us Press. The book can be purchased through Amazon.ca.
In light of the month of the Rosary, Dr. Josephine Lombardi, offers an overview, history and tips for praying the rosary, with some excerpts from her book, Living with the Rosary.
(c) Josephine Lombardi 2023
“The Rosary is my favourite prayer.” —St. John Paul II
What is the Rosary?
Rooted in the Gospel message, the Rosary is a Christ-centred prayer. Although the prayer is directed to Mary, it is meant to lead us through a meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, including some key moments in the life of Mary. The Rosary walks us through the redemptive work of Jesus, beginning with Mary’s “yes” to God and our Lord’s conception in Mary’s womb – what we call the Incarnation. St. John Paul II tells us that “to recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, no. 3).
The Rosary is meant to encourage us to relate our own joys and struggles to those of Jesus and those of his mother, Mary. This prayer is meant to be a “compendium of the Gospel.”
What are the origins of this prayer?
The original form of the Rosary had 150 beads. This prayer was based on the psalter, as monks prayed the 150 psalms each week as part of the Liturgy of the Hours. As some lay people and lay monastics were illiterate, they prayed 150 Our Fathers to substitute for the psalms they could not read, using beads to keep count. Eventually, the Hail Mary was included in the prayer and prayed on many of the beads.
By the year 1130 we see the recitation of Marian psalters (150 rhymed stanzas, each beginning with the word Ave, meaning “Hail”) honouring Mary and paraphrasing a thought from the corresponding psalm. One story of the Rosary describes an encounter between St. Dominic (d. 1221) and Mary. An account of St. Dominic tells how he was given the Rosary in 1214 and used it to convert the Cathars, a breakaway religious movement.
The Rosary as we know it evolved over centuries. The prayer known as the rosarium, or “rose garden,” that began to take shape included introductory prayers and repetition of the Our Father and Hail Mary.
The structure of the Rosary continued to develop between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, and by the sixteenth century, the five-decade Rosary was used in devotions. Half of the Hail Mary is based on Scripture. By 1160 there were accounts of the beginnings of the full scriptural half of the Hail Mary (Luke 1:28, 42) in some parts of Europe. By this time, the Rosary included the greeting of the angel Gabriel: “Hail (Mary), full of grace, the Lord is with you,” followed by the Our Father, or Lord’s Prayer. Later, the words of St. Elizabeth were added to the Hail Mary: “blessed are you among women.” Around the time of the Council of Trent (sixteenth century), the words “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death” were added.
In 1569, official devotion to the Rosary was established by Pope Pius V. October 7 was established as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory; it later changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary went on to be recommended to faithful Christians; many popes throughout history have supported this devotion. The Rosary had become divided into fifteen brackets, or decades, consisting of ten Hail Marys, and mysteries of faith were assigned to each decade. Somewhere between 1600 and 1700, the Gloria and the Apostles’ Creed were added to the recitation of the Rosary. During the Year of the Rosary (2002-2003), St. John Paul II added five new mysteries that are part of a grouping that marks the events in the public life and public ministry of Jesus Christ, the Luminous Mysteries. The four sets of mysteries are: the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries.
How Can I Stay Focused While I Pray the Rosary?
Consider alternating Hail Marys by including a petition:
For example: While praying a decade of the Rosary, alternate between praying one Hail Mary in its current form and one Hail Mary with a new petition:
full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Mother of God,
pray for people experiencing homelessness (poverty, addiction, mental health issues, sickness, etc.).
Consider connecting the mystery of the Rosary with a current issue. For example: While praying the sorrowful mysteries, connect the mystery to people around the world who are experiencing a similar struggle.
· Agony in the Garden: Pray for people experiencing despair or discouragement; people who are afraid; people who are dying.
· Scourging at the Pillar: Pray for victims of torture/abuse.
· Crowning with Thorns: Pray from people suffering due to mental health issues, migraines, strokes, or other neurological disorders.
· Carrying of the Cross: Pray for people carrying heavy burdens.
· Crucifixion: Pray for victims of murder; pray for people who are dying without proper pain control; pray for the souls of the deceased; pray for the bereaved.
Living with the Rosary is available on Dr. Lombardi’s website, www.josephinelombardi.com. For a small donation, the book is available in PDF format, including steps on how to pray the rosary and reflections on each of the mysteries. The link to the donation button is found at the bottom of the home page.
Self-awareness is the foundation of personal growth and development. To help you cultivate self-awareness, here’s a checklist of questions and activities to consider regularly:
- Reflect on Your Emotions:
- Can you identify your current emotions?
- Are there any recurring emotional patterns in your life?
- How do you typically react to strong emotions, both positive and negative?
- Explore Your Values and Beliefs:
- What values are most important to you?
- Do your actions align with your values?
- Are there any beliefs that limit your potential or well-being?
- Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses:
- What are your strengths, skills, and talents?
- What areas of your life could benefit from improvement?
- Are there any recurring weaknesses or challenges you face?
- Consider Your Goals and Aspirations:
- What are your short-term and long-term goals?
- Are these goals aligned with your values and priorities?
- How are you progressing toward your goal
- Analyze Your Relationships:
- How do your relationships impact your well-being?
- Are there any patterns or dynamics in your relationships that you should address?
- Are you maintaining healthy boundaries in your interactions?
- Review Your Habits and Routines:
- What are your daily habits, both positive and negative?
- How do these habits contribute to your overall well-being?
- Are there any habits you need to change or cultivate?
- Practice Mindfulness and Self-Reflection:
- Do you set aside time for mindfulness, prayer, and meditation?
- Are you aware of your thoughts and thought patterns?
- How do you respond to stress and challenging situations?
- Seek Feedback from Others:
- Are you open to constructive feedback from friends, family, and colleagues?
- Do you actively seek input on your strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you respond to criticism or praise?
- Track Your Progress:
- Do you keep a journal or record of your thoughts and experiences?
- Are you monitoring your progress toward personal, spiritual, and professional goals?
- How have you evolved or transformed over time?
- Set Intentions for Growth:
- What areas of your life do you want to improve?
- What steps are you taking to foster personal growth and self-awareness?
- Are you open to seeking support through therapy, coaching, spiritual direction, or self-help resources?
- Practice Gratitude:
- What are you grateful for in your life?
- How does practicing gratitude affect your outlook and well-being?
- Can you find moments of joy and contentment in everyday life?
- Embrace Change and Adaptability:
- How do you handle change and uncertainty?
- Are you open to new experiences and challenges?
- Do you resist change out of fear or comfort?
- Assess Your Health and Well-Being:
- Are you taking care of your physical and mental health?
- Do you have any unhealthy habits or lifestyle choices?
- Are you getting enough rest, exercise, and nourishment?
- Review Your Time Management:
- How do you allocate your time and energy
- Are you prioritizing tasks that align with your goals and values?
- Do you find time for relaxation and self-care?
- Evaluate Your Communication Skills:
- How do you communicate with others?Are you an active listener?
- Are there communication habits you can improve?
Remember that self-awareness is an ongoing journey, and this checklist is meant to guide your exploration and self-reflection. Regularly revisiting these questions and activities can help you deepen your understanding of yourself and make positive changes in your life.
If you found this helpful, consider joining the Experts in Humanity Project(R), now available for a minimum donation of $25.00. Click here for details.
August 24, 2023
Visit Dr. Lombardi’s video page to watch nine novena reflections on the symbols included in the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Click here to watch the videos.
The devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help holds a special place in the hearts of many Catholics around the world. Also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, she is revered as a powerful intercessor, offering guidance, comfort, and assistance to those in need.
Origins and Iconography
The iconic image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help features Mary holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The image showcases the Virgin Mary’s deep sorrow as she gazes at her Son, foreshadowing His future sacrifice for humanity’s salvation.
The Greek initials on either side of Mary and Jesus, ΜΡ and ΘΥ, are abbreviations for “Mother of God” and “Christ.” These elements serve as a constant reminder of their contribution to salvation history. The image also includes archangels Michael and Gabriel, who hold symbols of the Passion, further emphasizing Christ’s impending sacrifice.
Devotion and Feast Day
Our Lady of Perpetual Help has become one of the most popular Marian devotions worldwide. Countless miracles and answered prayers have been attributed to her intercession. Faithful believers turn to her in times of distress, seeking solace and assistance with their deepest concerns.
The feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is celebrated on June 27th, honoring the significance of her intercession and the hope she brings to the faithful. Many churches organize special masses and processions on this day, inviting devotees to come together in prayer and thanksgiving.
Symbol of Hope and Compassion
Our Lady of Perpetual Help serves as a symbol of hope and compassion in the face of adversity. Her unwavering love for humanity and her willingness to intercede on our behalf offer solace and strength to those facing challenges. Through her example, we are reminded to seek her guidance and entrust our concerns to her maternal care.
Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon to the care of the Redemptorist order, making them its guardians and promoters. Today, Redemptorist communities around the world organize novenas and other devotional practices centred around the icon.
The devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help has touched the lives of countless individuals throughout the centuries. As we turn to her in prayer, we find comfort in her intercession and a renewed sense of hope. She remains a constant source of guidance and compassion, guiding us towards her Son, Jesus Christ, with unyielding love.
Adapted from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (available on Shop page)
April 8, 2023
Holy Saturday: Light that Overcomes Darkness
The early Church celebrated the night before Easter by illuminating the churches and even entire cities. Liturgies started around three in the afternoon and ended with the Mass of the Resurrection on Easter morning. At the Easter Vigil we celebrate this ancient rite. On this day, we reflect on the time Christ remained in the tomb, his descent to the realm of the dead, and his resurrection. The Easter Vigil fills us with hope and expectation as it inspires us to stop and reflect on the great gift of the paschal mystery. We die and rise with Christ in the past, present, and future as we wait at the empty tomb with wonder and awe. We are reminded that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Holy Saturday is a good time to reflect on how well we wait on the Lord. Holy Saturday challenges us to be like Martha’s sister, Mary, who chose the better part (Luke 10:42). Waiting for prayers to be answered, and for lives and relationships to be restored, requires trust and rest in the Lord. Jesus waited for the resurrection. God’s timing is the best timing. Are we mindful of those times we are called to be still and wait?
Easter Sunday is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. It is, writes, St. Athanasius, the Great Sunday. Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday and ends with Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost. The Church teaches that “the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful emulation as on a feast day, or better as on ‘Great Sunday.'” (General Norms for the Liturgical Year, #22). Through his death, Jesus conquers the power of sin over our lives, reminding us that with his grace we will not be overcome. Through his resurrection, Jesus conquers the power of death, reminding us love and life endure forever.
How is the Date of Easter Set?
Church rules govern setting the date of Easter. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (The vernal equinox is fixed as March 21). Easter can fall as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. That is why the date of Ash Wednesday and Pentecost move as well.
Easter is the reason for the liturgical season and for the spiritual journey. It is the season of restoration, healing, and reconciliation. Easter is a reminder that
-the resurrection of Jesus really happened,
-we, too, will be resurrected and received a glorified body
-death, darkness and sin have been conquered once and for all,
-we can be made new, despite our pain and loss,
-brokenness is healed,
-creation is restored, and
-eternal life with God is possible.
Our baptism reminds us of this mystery. We die and rise with Christ, signalling a new life in Christ. The darkness has been overcome by the light of Christ. Moreover, St. Paul reminds us that the same power that brought about the resurrection will make us a new creation (Ephesians 1: 18-23). Do you believe this?
April 7, 2023
Adapted from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (Available for purchase on Shop page).
Good Friday: Spiritual Drought
Good Friday is a painful day as we meditate on the events leading up to the death of our Lord. It is not unusual for Christians to place themselves at the scene. Do we relate to the crowd? To the women? To Mary, Jesus’ mother? To his apostles? To Jesus himself?
Many who have experienced the loss of a loved one find themselves relating to Mary and to the many others who loved Jesus. Grief can be lonely and isolating. The waves of grief come and go and can leave us emotionally paralyzed from time to time. The good news, however, is that Jesus conquered death: the loss of our loved ones is temporary. When Martha is grieving the passing of Lazarus, Jesus says: “Your brother will rise again…Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:23-26). Similarly, St. Paul discourages us from grieving, as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The separation we experience is not forever. Our pain can be healed; our hope restored.
While we honour Good Friday in the present, we live it within the reality of the paschal mystery: Jesus died, Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and Jesus will come again. This mystery consoles us in times of grief and reminds us that God can and will redeem our losses. By virtue of our baptism, we participate in the fullness of the paschal mystery, dying and rising with Christ. The grace we receive with this sacrament and others sustains us in times of struggle.
Good Friday reminds us that Jesus died for us, loving us with a sacrificial love. Through his death, Jesus conquers darkness and sin. Sometimes God can use what we perceive as a setback or a disappointment to bring about a greater good. God can redeem our suffering and disappointments with renewed strength, insights, and emotional healing. The key is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and his promise of eternal life. Love endures forever.
April 6, 2023
Excerpt from Josephine Lombardi, Living with the Liturgical Year (available for purchase on the shop page).
The term “Paschal Triduum” means “the three days of Passover.” Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery. These days are the heart of the liturgical year.
Holy Thursday: The Call to Serve
Holy Thursday is a special day when we recall
-the institution of the Holy Eucharist (the Last Supper)
-Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and
-the institution of the priesthood.
Holy Thursday establishes us as a eucharistic people and as people of service. Jesus came as one who serves. His humility was overflowing. After he washes the feet of his disciples, he says, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). Just as he did at his baptism, Jesus shows us how it’s done. God honours humility. God blesses humility. This is a radical idea! If everyone lived with humility, family life would change, the workplace would change, school would change, marriage would change, society would change. Those who are called to leadership or supervisory roles are called to acts of humble service and love of neighbour.
Like Passion (Palm) Sunday, however, Holy Thursday presents us with another bittersweet revelation: on the night that Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his friends, one of them betrays him.
Many of us can relate to this scenario:
-The day we get a new job, we hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer.
-Two years into a marriage, a spouse passes away.
-Three months into a pregnancy, a miscarriage occurs.
-Fifteen years into a marriage, a spouse decides to leave.
-Just weeks after graduation, a beloved child dies in a car accident.
The list can go on and on. We may be living the paschal mystery in our daily lives without making the connections. As Jesus relates to our bittersweet seasons, we relate to his.
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
Self-knowledge informs servant leadership and opens us up to a lifetime of learning and spiritual growth. Steven Covey, author of the bestselling program and book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “The private victory always precedes the public victory.” Covey calls this the “inside-out approach…We experience the private victory when we learn self-mastery and self-discipline. We reap the public victory when we build deep, lasting, highly effective relationships with other people.” If we apply this approach to the spiritual life, this means working to discipline our thoughts and internal struggles. This is spiritual victory. When we are not dominated by negative thoughts or character flaws, we will be victorious in public life. An internal victory leads to a public victory. When we are in a state of non-contradiction between our thoughts, emotions and actions, we experience freedom and balance. (Excerpt from Josephine Lombardi, Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing, p. 11).
I designed The Experts in Humanity ProjectTM to promote authentic freedom and self-reflection. The first cohort of the Experts in Humanity ProjectTM completed the course in June 2022. Over sixty participants journeyed together, learning and praying for one another over twelve sessions. We explored the need for self-knowledge and self-awareness, family of origin issues, generational trauma, forgiveness and healing, and much, much more. A new cohort will begin in September 2022. Visit the course page to read testimonials and to watch the newly updated promotional video, including some of the participants of the first cohort. An updated flyer is now available for download. Registration details will be updated in a few weeks.
My award winning book, Experts in Humanity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing, is a companion piece to the course. It can be purchased on Amazon.ca. It is a joy to accompany fellow pilgrims on a journey of self-discovery. Consider joining the next cohort! Live and recorded sessions will be made available. Let’s encourage one another, knowing God is with us.
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
John’s Gospel includes a moving moment, another mystery, between Jesus on the cross and his mother, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and John, the beloved disciple: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27a).
This mystery takes our breath away. How could this happen? Who is responsible? How do Jesus’ friends feel? How does his mother manage such pain? Do those who shouted, “Crucify him!” feel any regret? Even though the centurion remarked, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47), those who were supposed to defend him abandoned him. When someone is taken from us prematurely, or due to the sins of others, such as through an act of violence, we find ourselves in shock, disillusioned and traumatized.
Crucifixion is a brutal form of corporal punishment and was used only on non-Roman citizens, because it was such a dishonourable kind of execution. Jesus’ loved ones must have wailed at the sight of his pain, reduced to thoughts of despair and confusion. Mary is left in the land of the living with her own emotional crucifixion. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too, ” Simeon had said to her at the beginning. Jesus is crucified and Mary’s heart is crushed.
Grief is an emotional response that we must work through. We feel it in our bodies and spirits. The raw moments that follow a death are paralyzing. Death separates us from our loved ones, leaving us with the challenge to trust and believe that the separation is temporary. Thankfully, our faith reminds us that we will see our loved ones again. St. Paul writes: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died,” (1 Thess. 4: 13-14). This passage gives hope to the bereaved. The challenge becomes managing the intense waves of grief as they overcome us with thoughts of discouragement. No doubt, the love of friends and family, together with God’s grace, accompanies us as we work through our pain.
For every person who suffers the brutality of an agonizing death, there is another person who suffers the agony of a pierced heart–the ripple effect of trauma and pain.
Let us pray for all people dying in great pain, in need of proper pain control and consolation. Let us pray for their loved ones that they be strengthened with God’s grace, consoled by the hope of the resurrection.
(c) 2022 Josephine Lombardi
The Carrying of the Cross
The scourging leaves open wounds on Jesus’ back. No doubt, the wood of the cross presses into these sores. The Gospel writers tell us that Simon of Cyrene is asked to help Jesus and carries the cross part of the way. Simon is an example of how we can join our own pain and losses to those of Jesus. Simon’s assistance gave Jesus some relief during this excruciating ordeal.
Our loved ones walk with us whenever we face a life-threatening journey. Their comfort alleviates the pain we feel when a new cross comes soon after another, making the pain feel unbearable. Our crosses involve them, too. We suffer in ways unique to us, and those who love us suffer in ways that may be unknown to us.
Has a loving act of kindness given you relief in times of distress? Can we discern those crosses we are not to carry? Sometimes our good intentions, our desire to protect our loved ones, to cover up for their mistakes or to carry their crosses may lead to a delay in their own conversion process. It takes prayer and discernment to know what type of help is needed. What is certain, however, is our baptismal identity and how it informs our understanding of service and acts of charity.
By virtue of our baptism, we participate in the three fold office of Christ: prophet, priest, and king. Like Jesus, we can offer up our own sacrifices for the sake of others. Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us there is redemptive power in suffering that is joined to the suffering of Jesus. We are an extension of His body. St. Paul was very much aware of this mystery when he, too, offered up his own suffering.
Let us pray for all people who have experienced or witnessed trauma, abuse, and torture. Let us pray for all people who feel overwhelmed with grief, suffering due to the tragic and sudden death of loved ones.