All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle

Catholicism isn’t just about going to mass every Sunday and on holy days, it’s a lifelong journey of self improvement and growth. It’s more than something we do – it should become part of who we are and embody our constant self-awareness.

This process is called mystagogy, which means to lead through the mysteries. We celebrate and proclaim the mysteries of faith, first and foremost that of the Trinity. It helps us to understand the mysteries of our religion on an ever-deepening level as we reflect upon and live the teachings of the historical Church, while exploring the spiritual treasures of the sacraments.

Mystagogy was how the early Church Fathers trained new Christians in the practices and beliefs of the faith. Perhaps the best known teacher of mystagogy was St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who delivered a famous series of sermons, known as “mystagogic catecheses,” during the time of Lent through the Easter Octave.

But mystagogy isn’t just for the newly baptised, it is the path every Catholic can follow to continually deepen their relationship with Christ by contemplating the history of the Church, the teachings of the Saints, and the sacraments.

It’s not a way of aimless wandering but a deliberate and sincere journey towards a destination. By travelling this path we seek to reach a state of holiness, a state of goodness in which a person – with the help of God's grace, the action of the Holy Spirit, and a life of prayer – is freed from sin and evil.

It’s important to take your time and do what you can as you can. Sometimes people in their zeal try to do too much too soon, and may get burned out. The spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to begin with important things we can do and build on that foundation.

Here are some steps we can take – and there are many others for those who seek to find them. If you haven't already, it might not hurt to take a quick look at the fundamentals section too.

Please click on a link below to find out more about an aspect of spiritual development.

Daily Living

An excellent source for morning and evening prayers is the 1962 Roman Missal.

Growing in the Virtues, Defeating the Vices

In times past people would have been very familiar with the list of virtues and vices, and would have understood how to cultivate the virtues and reject the vices. This is a habit which every Catholic would do well to renew in our lives. The list of virtues and vices can be found here and there are methods to improve in each virtue.

One of the most important books in this area is The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, but many other resources exist to help us build our familiarity with the virtues. Reading the lives of the Saints can also be instructive when struggling with particularly difficult attachments to vice.

We can learn a lot from earlier and medieval attitudes to sin, for example you may have seen medieval paintings of knights slaying dragons which seem rather small and weak. This was intended to teach people that vices and sin, represented by the dragon, seem very fierce and powerful at first, but when we stand up to them they become feeble, weak and powerless.

You are that knight.

Just as a long distance runner will try to cultivate certain muscles and endurance to develop their ability to win long distance races, and a swimmer will work on different techniques and muscles to excel in their sport, each virtue has its own steps and methods to improve our affinity with them.

But above and throughout all else, remember charity, that is the love and respect we must have for the human dignity of all of our fellow human beings.

The Sacraments

Going to Mass as regularly as is practicable is an excellent idea – increasing our participation in the Eucharist and hearing the daily readings helps to fortify us and straighten our way towards holiness. All of the sacraments will help us in the same way.

Spiritual Reading

As Catholics we are required to learn and educate ourselves about the Faith and what it implies for our lives. We can do so by reading the tremendous treasury of the Church, going back two thousand years and more. This shouldn’t be regarded as a challenge or a burden, but seen in the light of mysteries unveiled and secrets revealed. There’s certainly little in the lives of most Saints that could be called tedious!

Other books include “Of the Imitation of Christ” by Thomas á Kempis, the many works of St Thomas Aquinas, in particular the Catena Aurea, which is Bible study with the Fathers of the Church, The City of God by Saint Augustine, the full Catechism, and a great many more.

The best approach to this perhaps intimidatingly large library is perhaps to select a book and start reading. If you find it appeals to you, well and good, if not, choose another. You may find yourself feeling drawn more towards one approach to Christianity than another, and that’s fine too. Of course daily mass readings should also be a staple.

Earlier works are just as valuable as contemporary studies, or perhaps even more so, since they underline the continuous unbroken Apostolic nature of the Church through the many ages She has lived in. The writings of celebrated Catholics like GK Chesterton shouldn’t be discounted either, who while not regarded as a Saint did bring many people home to the Church through his sense of humour and earthy wisdom.

Scripture is an excellent source of spiritual reading but it must be accompanied by a correct interpretation and preferably scholarly research to support this interpretation. A good study Bible and the Catena Aurea books make excellent companions for understanding sacred scripture.

Even books such as the Lord of the Rings, which was expressly written as a Catholic work, can be used as a form of spiritual reading. In his writing, Tolkien sought to capture the joy and mystery of Catholicism, and some might say that to a certain extent, he succeeded.

Read and enjoy the works of the mystics, Saints, scholars, sages, priests, leaders and visionaries who have enriched the Church from the beginning!

Eucharistic Adoration

This is an underappreciated and perhaps less well known part of Catholic practices that we can all benefit from. Churches will usually “expose the Eucharist” which means to place the Body of Christ in a monstrance or container and allow people to pray before it, communing with the living presence of the creator of all.

By attending Eucharistic adoration we can immerse ourselves in God’s love and appeal for His help with our difficulties, keeping in mind that we might not get the help we ask for but rather the help we need.

So take a half an hour each week and be in the presence of God, it will produce bountiful fruit!

Exploring Prayer – The Psalms

Prayer is an extraordinary practice, it is applied theology in the same way that engineering is applied physics. Through prayer we can communicate with God and learn about ourselves and what He wants from and for us.

When the first Christians started to spread and evangelise the Word, they found a ready-made prayer book in the one hundred and fifty psalms of the Old Testament. These were prayed by Jesus and the Apostles, by David and other predecessors, and are still prayed today throughout Catholicism. In earlier times the psalms had entire books devoted to them, called psalters, which also contained litanies and Church calendars.

The psalms are timeless and messianic songs as well as prayers, meant to be used and lived, like instruction manuals as much as spiritual exercises. They can of course be read but they take on a new dimension when put to song. They make a strong foundation for daily prayer and are also good for difficult situations.

In them can be found joy and despair, praise and complaint, certainty and doubt, defeat and success, suffering and liberation. When we’re familiar with them, we can go to the psalm that best fits our need. Choosing the right translation is important too, since the psalms are more properly poetry than prose. The Douay Rheims version is a good version to use.

The Psalms are divided into five books, each ending with a psalm of pure praise (41, 72, 89, 106, 150). They can also be divided into psalms for each of the four main purposes of prayer: (1) adoration, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, and (4) petition. Or they can be further divided as follows:

1. psalms of praise (e.g., 18, 100, 103);
2. liturgical psalms (e.g., 120, 135);
3. psalms for pilgrimage, sung by pilgrims traveling up to Jerusalem (120-134 inclusive);
4. royal psalms, for the reign of the King of Kings (2, 20, 21, 28, 45, 72, 89, 101, 132, 144);
5. psalms of repentance (e.g., 32, 51, 130);
6. didactic, or moral teaching psalms (e.g., 1, 37, 119);
7. psalms for personal use (e.g., 23, 27, 34);
8. cursing psalms (7, 35, 40, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109); and
9. messianic psalms (e.g., 2, 22, 45, 110).

The cursing passages cannot, of course, be used by Christians unless we interpret them spiritually and remember that "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). We must hate sin, as these psalms and psalmists do; but we must not hate sinners, even if the psalmists did, failing to distinguish the two.

Everything in Scripture is for our instruction, but not everything is for our imitation.

Many passages in the Psalms, as well as whole psalms, are messianic. If we had none of the rest of the Old Testament but only the Psalms, we would still be able to check that Christ fulfilled the Old Testament patterns and predictions. For instance, compare:

1. Psalm 2:7 with Matthew 3:17;
2. Psalm 8:6 with Hebrews 2:8;
3. Psalm 16:10 with Mark 16:6-7;
4. Psalm 22:1 with Matthew 27:46;
5. Psalm 22:7-8 with Luke 23:35;
6. Psalm 22:16 with John 20:25, 27;
7. Psalm 22:18 with Matthew 27:35-36;
8. Psalm 34:20 with John 19:32-36;
9. Psalm 35:11 with Mark 14:57;
10. Psalm 35:19 with John 15:25;
11. Psalm 40:7-8 with Hebrews 10:7;
12. Psalm 41:9 with Luke 22:47;
13. Psalm 45:6 with Hebrews 1:8;
14. Psalm 68:18 with Mark 16:19;
15. Psalm 69:9 with John 2:17;
16. Psalm 69:21 with Matthew 27:34;
17. Psalm 109:4 with Luke 23:34;
18. Psalm 109:8 with Acts 1:20;
19. Psalm 110:I with Matthew 22:44;
20. Psalm 110:4 with Hebrews 5:6;
21. Psalm 118:22 with Matthew 21:42; and
22. Psalm 118:26 with Matthew 21:9.

This list was compiled by Dr. Kenneth D. Boa.

The Psalms are like an ocean fed by many rivers, many writers. They are for wading in, bathing in, swimming in, surfing in, boating on, and even drowning in, for the mystics have loved and used them too.

Their authors include David, Moses, Solomon, Asaph, and many others. They were written during a period of perhaps a thousand years, from the time of Moses, about 1400 BC, to the return from exile about 430 BC. They will last forever.

The Rosary

Early in Christianity, the monastic orders had developed the practice of praying the psalms alongside offering Mass for their brethren who had passed away. They divided the one hundred and fifty psalms into three books of fifty, after the fashion of the Irish penitentials, and this quickly spread throughout the Christian world.

As time went on the monastic conversi, or lay brothers, who were often uneducated and thus unable to participate fully in the Latin Divine Office, became a group apart from the choir monks. They were allowed to offer prayers for the deceased using a simpler form of prayer, the Paternoster, or Our Father that we still use today.

So the psalms were often replaced by the Our Father among the laity and certain orders, such as the Knights Templar who permitted commutation of the Divine Office to Pater Nosters as follows: Thirteen for Matins (Vigils) Nine for Vespers, and Seven for the other hours. The Franciscans had a similar rule.

Before long, strings of beads were used to keep track of the number of times the Lord's Prayer had been repeated. By the thirteenth century the makers of these strings of beads used in prayer became known as “paternosterers”, and throughout Europe they formed a recognized craft guild of considerable importance.

The “Livre des métiers” of Stephen Boyleau, for example, supplies full information regarding the four guilds of patenôstriers in Paris in the year 1268, while Paternoster Row in London still preserves the memory of the street in which their English craft-fellows congregated.

Thus it is clear that an appliance which was persistently called a “Paternoster”, or in Latin fila de paternoster, numeralia de paternoster, and so on, had, originally, been designed for counting Our Fathers.

However over the course of the twelfth century, and before the birth of St. Dominic, the practice of reciting 50 or 150 Ave Marias had become equally common. It its earliest form the Ave Maria probably consisted only of the salutation, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

By the middle of the twelfth century Elizabeth's greeting was frequently added to the angelic salutation. Thus St. Albert is described by his contemporary biographer, “A hundred times a day he bent his knees, and fifty times he prostrated himself raising his body again by his fingers and toes, while he repeated at every genuflexion: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

It was not until the sixteenth century that it became common to conclude the Ave Maria with the prayer – Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Similarly the Ancren Riwle. written before 1200, gives directions how fifty Aves are to be said divided into sets of ten, with prostrations and other marks of reverence.

The tradition of meditating on particular mysteries probably dates from the preaching of the Dominican Alan de Rupe around 1470-75. He claimed to have inherited from ancient authorities the practice of meditating on particular mysteries. His claims seem to have no basis in fact. His preaching, however, as well as the Rosary Confraternities organised by him and his colleagues at Douai, Cologne, and elsewhere were very successful, and led to the widespread availability of texts that popularised Alan’s teaching.

In its earliest form the rosary had much in common with the Jesus Prayer. It was clearly a brief form of monologistic prayer – Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with You – no longer than the Jesus Prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. The practices attributed above to St. Albert are very similar to those of the early hesychasts.

However, the growing emphasis on using the rosary as a means of meditating on mysteries of the faith differs sharply from the non-discursive, anti-iconic approach emphasized by the hesychasts.

With thanks for this information to Father Luke Dysinger and Catholic Education.

And so we can see how the modern rosary developed from the psalms, particularly due to the influence of Irish monastics! You can of course pray the psalms, the Paternoster, or the rosary as you see fit.

There are different variations on the rosary which are also in common use today.

The Franciscan Crown Rosary, or Seraphic Rosary consists of seven decades in commemoration of the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin. the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of our Lord, Adoration of the Magi, Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the Resurrection of Our Lord, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and her Coronation in heaven. It is in use among the members of the three orders of St. Francis.

The Franciscans recite their rosary as follows: The Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, and three Hail Marys having been said, the mystery to be meditated upon is introduced after the word Jesus of the first Hail Mary of each decade, thus: "Jesus, whom thou didst joyfully conceive", "Jesus, whom thou didst joyfully carry to Elizabeth", and so on for the remaining five decades, which are given in most manuals of Franciscan devotion.

At the end of the seventh decade two Hail Marys are added to complete the number of years, 72 that the Blessed Virgin is said to have lived on earth.

The Servite Rosary or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is especially connected to the Servite Order, also called Servants of Mary. Rather than decades, it consists of seven sets of seven beads. The sets of seven beads are called ‘weeks’.

Where the Franciscan Crown is focused on the seven joys of Mary, the Servite chaplet is focused specifically on the seven sorrows, or dolors, of Mary. These are the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, Jesus being taken down from the cross, and the laying of Jesus’s body in the tomb.

The intent behind the Servite rosary is a devotion to Mary and the real pain she suffered in watching and sharing in Jesus’s pain, as we are called to share in Jesus’s suffering as well.

The clausacular method of praying the rosary is similar to the Franciscan rosary as it adds a small note to each Hail Mary to help remind us of the mystery we meditate upon. Both Blessed Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus and St. John Paul II in Rosarium Virginis Mariae reference this custom of praying the rosary, in which a person inserts a phrase after the name of Jesus in the Hail Mary prayer, with reference to the mystery being contemplated.

So for example, we can pray the first sorrowful mystery as follows

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus – with whom you suffered at His torment in the garden. – Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

St. Louis de Montfort wrote a book called The Secret of the Rosary wherein he details appropriate phrases to be inserted, but there are many variations which can be used.

With thanks to various authors.

The Stations of the Cross

Most Catholic churches have a series of fourteen pictures, statues or icons prominently arrayed along their walls. These are the Stations of the Cross, and they are an important prayer meditation. They focus on specific events of the last day of Jesus, beginning with His condemnation.

The Stations are then used as a mini pilgrimage as the individual moves from Station to Station. At each Station, the individual recalls and meditates on a specific event from Christ's last day. Specific prayers are recited, then the individual or group moves to the next station until all fourteen are complete.

They are most commonly prayed during Lent on Wednesdays and Fridays, and especially on Good Friday, the day of the year upon which the events actually occurred. They can and should be prayed at other times as well of course!

The Stations of the Cross which follow the path of Christ from Pontius Pilate’s praetorium to Christ’s tomb have been a popular devotion in parishes, especially during Lent and the preparation for Easter. In the 16th century, this pathway was officially entitled the Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way), or simply the Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross.

This devotion has evolved over time. Tradition holds that our Blessed Mother visited daily the scenes of our Lord’s passion. After Constantine legalised Christianity in the year AD 313, this pathway was marked with its important stations. St. Jerome (342-420), living in Bethlehem during the latter part of his life, attested to the crowds of pilgrims from various countries who visited these holy places and followed the Way of the Cross.

Over time the devotion changed and it became more difficult to visit Jerusalem, so the Church allowed the creation of Stations within individual churches.

The following prayers for the Way of the Cross were composed by St Alphonsus Liguori and can be recited individually or in groups.

Opening Prayer:

ALL: My Lord, Jesus Christ,

You have made this journey to die for me with unspeakable love;

and I have so many times ungratefully abandoned You. | But now I love You with all my heart;

and, because I love You, I am sincerely sorry for ever having offended You.

Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany You on this journey.

You go to die for love of me;

I want, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of You.

My Jesus, I will live and die always united to You.

At the cross her station keeping

Stood the mournful Mother weeping

Close to Jesus to the last

The First Station: Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Jesus Christ, after being scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the cross. (Kneel)

R: My adorable Jesus,

it was not Pilate;

no, it was my sins that condemned You to die.

I beseech You, by the merits of this sorrowful journey,

to assist my soul on its journey to eternity.

I love You, beloved Jesus;

I love You more than I love myself.

With all my heart I repent of ever having offended You.

Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)


Through her heart, His sorrow sharing

All His bitter anguish bearing

Now at length the sword has passed

The Second Station: Jesus Accepts His Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider Jesus as He walked this road with the cross on His shoulders, thinking of us, and offering to His Father in our behalf, the death He was about to suffer. (Kneel)

R: My most beloved Jesus,

I embrace all the sufferings You have destined for me until death.

I beg You, by all You suffered in carrying Your cross,

to help me carry mine with Your perfect peace and resignation.

I love You, Jesus, my love;

I repent of ever having offended You.

Never let me separate myself from You again.

Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

O, how sad and sore distressed

Was that Mother highly blessed

Of the sole Begotten One

The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider the first fall of Jesus. Loss of blood from the scourging and crowing with thorns had so weakened Him that He could hardly walk; and yet He had to carry that great load upon His shoulders. As the soldiers struck Him cruelly, He fell several times under the heavy cross. (Kneel)

R: My beloved Jesus, / it was not the weight of the cross / but the weight of my sins which made You suffer so much. / By the merits of this first fall, / save me from falling into mortal sin. / I love You, O my Jesus, with all my heart; / I am sorry that I have offended You. / May I never offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Christ above in torment hangs

She beneath beholds the pangs

Of her dying, glorious Son

The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how the Son met his Mother on His way to Calvary. Jesus and Mary gazed at each other and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly (Kneel)

R: My most loving Jesus, / by the pain You suffered in this meeting / grant me the grace of being truly devoted to Your most holy Mother. / And You, my Queen, who was overwhelmed with sorrow, / obtain for me by Your prayers / a tender and a lasting remembrance of the passion of Your divine Son. / I love You, Jesus, my Love, above all things. / I repent of ever having offended You. / Never allow me to offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Is there one who would not weep,

‘whelmed in miseries so deep

Christ’s dear Mother to behold.

The Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how weak and weary Jesus was. At each step He was at the point of expiring. Fearing that He would die on the way when they wished Him to die the infamous death of the cross, they forced Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross after Our Lord. (Kneel)

R: My beloved Jesus / I will not refuse the cross as Simon did: / I accept it and embrace it. / I accept in particular the death that is destined for me / with all the pains that may accompany it. / I unite it to Your death / and I offer it to You. / You have died for love of me; / I will die for love of You and to please You. / Help me by Your grace. / I love You, Jesus, my Love; / I repent of ever having offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Can the human heart refrain

From partaking in her pain

In that Mother’s pain untold?

The Sixth Station: Veronica Offers Her Veil to Jesus

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider the compassion of the holy woman, Veronica. Seeing Jesus in such distress, His face bathed in sweat and blood, she presented Him with her veil. Jesus wiped His face, and left upon the cloth the image of his sacred countenance. (Kneel)

R: My beloved Jesus, / Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; / but, now, it no longer appears beautiful / and is disfigured with wounds and blood. / Alas, my soul also was once beautiful / when it received Your grace in Baptism; / but I have since disfigured it with my sins. / You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. / Do this by the merits of Your passion; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled

She beheld her tender Child

All with bloody scourges rent.

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how the second fall of Jesus under His cross renews the pain in all the wounds of the head and members of our afflicted Lord. (Kneel)

R: My most gentle Jesus, / how many times You have forgiven me; / and how many times I have fallen again and begun again to offend You! / By the merits of this second fall, / give me the grace to persevere in Your love until death. / Grant, that in all my temptations, I may always have recourse to You. / I love You, Jesus, my Love with all my heart; / I am sorry that I have offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

For the sins of His own nation

Saw Him hang in desolation

Till His spirit forth He sent.

The Eighth Station: Jesus Speaks to the Women

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how the women wept with compassion seeing Jesus so distressed and dripping with blood as he walked along. Jesus said to them, “Weep not so much for me, but rather for Your children.” (Kneel)

R: My Jesus, laden with sorrows, / I weep for the sins which I have committed against You / because of the punishment I deserve for them; / and, still more, because of the displeasure they have caused You / who have loved me with an infinite love. / It is Your love, more than the fear of hell, / which makes me weep for my sins. / My Jesus, I love You more than myself; / I am sorry that I have offended You. / Never allow me to offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

O sweet Mother! Fount of Love,

Touch my spirit from above

Make my heart with yours accord.

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Jesus Christ fell for the third time. He was extremely weak and the cruelty of His executioners was excessive; they tried to hasten His steps though He hardly had strength to move. (Kneel)

R: My outraged Jesus, / by the weakness You suffered in going to Calvary, / give me enough strength to overcome all human respect / and all my evil passions which have led me to despise Your friendship. / I love You, Jesus my Love, with all my heart; / I am sorry for ever having offended You. / Never permit me to offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Make me feel as Thou have felt

Make my soul to glow and melt

With the love of Christ, my Lord.

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Jesus was violently stripped of His clothes by His executioners. The inner garments adhered to his lacerated flesh and the soldiers tore them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Have pity for your Saviour so cruelly treated and tell Him: (Kneel)

R: My innocent Jesus, / by the torment You suffered in being stripped of Your garments, / help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things of earth / that I may place all my love in You who are so worthy of my love. / I love You, O Jesus, with all my heart; / I am sorry for ever having offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Holy Mother, pierce me through

In my heart each wound renew

Of my Saviour crucified.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider Jesus, thrown down upon the cross, He stretched out His arms and offered to His eternal Father the sacrifice of His life for our salvation. They nailed His hands and feet, and then, raising the cross, left Him to die in anguish. (Kneel)

R: My despised Jesus, / nail my heart to the cross / that it may always remain there to love You and never leave You again. / I love You more than myself; / I am sorry for ever having offended You. / Never permit me to offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Let me share with you His pain,

Who for all our sins was slain,

Who for me in torments died.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies Upon the Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how Your Jesus, after three hours of agony on the cross, is finally overwhelmed with suffering and, abandoning Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head and dies. (Kneel)

R: My dying Jesus, / I devoutly kiss the cross on which You would die for love of me. / I deserve, because of my sins, to die a terrible death; / but Your death is my hope. / By the merits of Your death, / give me the grace to die embracing Your feet and burning with love of You. / I yield my soul into Your hands. / I love You with my whole heart. / I am sorry that I have offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Let me mingle tears with thee

Mourning Him who mourned for me,

All the days that I may live.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how, after Our Lord had died, He was taken down from the cross by two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, and placed in the arms of His afflicted Mother. She received Him with unutterable tenderness and pressed Him close to her bosom. (Kneel)

R: O Mother of Sorrows, / for the love of Your Son, / accept me as Your servant and pray to Him for me, / And You, my Redeemer, since you have died for me, / allow me to love You, / for I desire only You and nothing more. / I love You, Jesus my Love, / and I am sorry that I have offended You. / Never let me offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

By the cross with you to stay

There with you to weep and pray

Is all I ask of you to give.

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Placed in the Sepulchre

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)

V: Consider how the disciples carried the body of Jesus to its burial, while His holy Mother went with them and arranged it in the sepulchre with her own hands. They then closed the tomb and all departed. (Kneel)

R: Oh, my buried Jesus, / I kiss the stone that closes You in. / But You gloriously did rise again on the third day. / I beg You by Your resurrection that I may be raised gloriously on the last day, / to be united with You in heaven, to praise You and love You forever. / I love You, Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended You. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Virgin of all virgins blest!

Listen to my fond request:

Let me share your grief divine.

Prayer to Jesus Christ Crucified

My good and dear Jesus,

I kneel before You,

asking You most earnestly

to engrave upon my heart

a deep and lively faith, hope, and charity,

with true repentance for my sins,

and a firm resolve to make amends.

As I reflect upon Your five wounds,

and dwell upon them

with deep compassion and grief,

I recall, good Jesus,

the words the Prophet David spoke

long ago concerning Yourself:

“They pierced My hands and My feet;

they have numbered all My bones.”


Litanies are a very affecting and beautiful form of Catholic prayer which can be prayed individually but are best recited communally in groups. They are simple, ancient forms of prayer which use repeated statements in response to petitions, praise, intercessions or blessings.

In the Catholic Church, six litanies are approved for public recitation:

Public in this case meaning in a church, by a priest. There are many other litanies which are acceptable for private recitation. The reason that the number of approved public litanies is so low is because composers of litanies in earlier times were too fulsome in their praise of various figures, “in poor taste and the result of a dimly-lit piety” and sometimes wandered into blasphemy as a result!

They originated in fourth century Antioch and were later incorporated into the Mass. This form of prayer finds its model in Psalm 136: ‘Praise the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Praise ye the God of gods... the Lord of lords... Who alone doth great wonders... Who made the heavens’, etc., with the concluding words in each verse, ‘for his mercy endureth forever.’

Today, they’re used in the liturgy of the Church and other forms of public worship, although their use is not reserved to priests and deacons. One of the most beautiful features of a litany is the combination of invocations alternating with petitions in a rhythmic, repetitive pattern.


A novena is a nine-day period of private or public prayer to obtain special graces, to implore special favours, or make special petitions.

In our liturgical usage, the novena differs from an octave which has a more festive character, and either precedes or follows an important feast. For example, in our Church calendar we celebrate the Octave before Christmas, where the recitation of the “O” Antiphons helps us prepare for the birth of our Saviour. We also celebrate the Octaves of Christmas and Easter, which include the feast days themselves and the seven days that follow, to highlight the joy of these mysteries.

The origin of the novena in our Church’s spiritual treasury is hard to pinpoint. The New Testament at the Ascension our Lord gives the Apostles the Great Commission and then tells them to return to Jerusalem and to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Nine days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. Perhaps this “nine-day period of prayer” of the Apostles is the basis for the novena.

Early Christians did have a nine-day mourning period upon the death of a loved one. Eventually, a novena of Masses for the repose of the soul was offered. To this day, there is the novendialia or Pope’s Novena, observed upon the death of the Holy Father.

In the Middle Ages, particularly in Spain and France, novenas of prayers were offered nine days before Christmas, signifying the nine months our Lord spent in the womb of our blessed Mother. These special novenas helped the faithful prepare for the festive, yet solemn, celebration of the birth of our Lord. Eventually, various novenas were composed to help the faithful prepare for a special feast or to invoke the aid of a saint for a particular reason. Some of the popular novenas still widely used in our Church include those of the Miraculous Medal, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Joseph and St. Jude.

Many saints and other holy people have had novenas revealed to them by Christ or the Virgin Mary. For example, Christ revealed the Surrender Novena to Father Dolindo Ruotolo (1882 – 1970), now a candidate for beatification, to guide us in growing our trust in God — to surrender to Him. Mary revealed the 54 Day Novena to a young girl suffering from an illness thought to be incurable; this 54-day prayer is actually comprised of 6 novenas.

Other novenas have been prayed for centuries with no author attributed to them, such as the Holy Spirit Novena. This Novena is traditionally prayed for the nine days before Pentecost, praying for the descent of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: holy fear, piety, fortitude, knowledge, understanding, counsel, wisdom, and the Fruits of the Spirit.

Types of novenas


We pray novenas in anticipation before or after a funeral, praying for the soul of the person who has passed away and asking God to be close to those who mourn them. This could be a saint’s novena that they were close to or a novena to Christ, such as the Sacred Heart Novena.


We hope to prepare ourselves for the nine days leading up to a sacrament or another important day with these novenas. For example, some couples might pray a novena before their wedding day, or you might pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena leading up to the Birth of Jesus.


Novenas in petition ask God to answer a prayer or ask a specific saint for their intercession. First, identify your petition or intention for prayer. Then, select a saint associated with the subject matter. For example, you might pray the St. Joseph the Worker Novena if you’re praying about employment.


These novenas are prayed as an act of penitence; we pray for nine days asking God for His mercy. They are often given as a penance after the sacrament of confession.

Why pray a novena?

We pray for novenas for a specific intention or grace, such as for a loved one, healing, forgiveness, clarity with a big decision, etc. However, they aren’t magic. We cannot assume that our prayers will be answered immediately. And, sometimes, what we pray for isn’t exactly what we need. Rather, we pray novenas to grow in patience and place our trust in God, just as the Apostles prayed in anticipation of the Holy Spirit coming to them.

We pray novenas to become disciples, growing in discipline and opening our hearts to God’s will. Whether our intention is answered or not, we finish the nine days in gratitude for God’s presence in our lives.

When do you pray a novena?

Some novenas are prayed during specific times. Traditionally, many people choose to pray novenas asking for a saint’s intercession on the nine days leading up to that saint’s feast day. If you’re praying before a sacrament or event, you’ll pray the novena for nine days before or after it. In truth, you really can pray a novena at any time. Novenas guide us to grow our trust in God — and that’s something we need in all seasons of life.

How to pray a novena

Identify your intention.

Before you commit to praying for nine days, take some time to consider what your intention is for prayer. Are you looking to prepare yourself for an event spiritually? Or pray for a loved one that is struggling? Maybe you’re simply looking for encouragement to develop a strong prayer habit. Remember: asking the Holy Spirit for guidance is never a bad idea!

Choose a novena.

After you’ve taken some time to prepare yourself for prayer, select a novena that matches your intention. This might be a prayer for that specific intention, or it might be a novena to a saint who is known and loved in the subject you’re struggling with or feeling gratitude for in this season of your life. Know that it doesn’t have to be a “perfect” fit; by taking time each day to pray for a special intention will hopefully bring you clarity, peace and guide you to put your trust in God.

Dedicate nine days.

Once you start a novena, dedicate time each day to being present with God and pray it with Him. Sometimes staying on track is difficult. We recommend setting aside a specific time and setting a reminder on your phone or adding it to your calendar for the nine days. You might also consider asking someone to pray the novena with you to hold each other accountable.

Embrace the novena.

When you set out on this prayer journey, try to embrace it each day fully. Each day might look a little different for you, but try to accompany your time in prayer with other acts of faith. This might be fasting from social media or gossip, or it could be doing a kind thing for someone else each day. Let these nine days of prayer transform you in more ways than just devoting the time to pray each day.

Remember, novenas aren’t magic. If you come to the end of your novena and your prayers appear to be unanswered, know that God hears your prayers and loves you. And often, our prayers are not answered in the way we hoped. Ask for God’s help in trusting in Him and in desiring that His will be done.

With thanks to and Catholic Exchange.

Chant, Music and Artistic Expression

There are many wonderful ways you can develop your Christianity through the medium of song, chant and other forms of artistic expression. The preferred form of music in the Church is Gregorian Chant. It is the Church's own music, born in the Church's liturgy. Its texts are almost entirely scriptural, coming for the most part from the Psalter. For centuries it was sung as pure melody, in unison, and without accompaniment, and this is still the best way to sing chant if possible.

Here is an antiphonal adaptation of Psalm 27 sung in Gregorian chant.

“Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality.

It must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who execute it.

It must be true art, for otherwise it will be impossible for it to exercise on the minds of those who listen to it that efficacy which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her liturgy the art of musical sounds.

But it must, at the same time, be universal in the sense that while every nation is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinated in such a manner to the general characteristics of sacred music that nobody of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them.

These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian Chant, which is, consequently the Chant proper to the Catholic Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.”

Tra le Sollecitudini: Instruction on Sacred Music
Motu Proprio, St. Pope Pius X, Nov. 12, 1903

You can also try your hand at making icons, stained glass, learning Latin, sacred art, or a wide variety of other activities.


Fasting is one form of mortification of the flesh which most Catholics are aware of through the Lenten fast, but there are many others, such as taking a cold shower.

The root word for “mortification” comes from the Latin, mors and mortis, and it translates as “death.” In the spiritual life, therefore, mortification refers to voluntary actions by which we gradually “put to death” all of our vices, sinful habits, and the self-centered tendencies that lurk beneath them. Spiritual writers use terms like abnegation, sacrifice, self-sacrifice, and self-denial to refer to the same thing.

Jesus spoke about mortification as an absolute necessity for growth into Christian maturity.

A secular culture by definition seeks heaven on earth. According to that mindset, suffering of any kind is valueless and to be avoided – a far cry from the Christian pattern of death to sin (through voluntary self-denial) as a path to true life.

In one of Pope Benedict’s messages for Lent, he explained the reason behind this pillar of Christian spirituality: “Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person.”

Spiritual writers have used many images to explain the value of mortification. Picture a jar full of very sour vinegar. You want to fill it up with sweet honey. First, you have to empty out the vinegar, and then scrub the inside of the jar, and only then can you put in the honey. Just so, to receive the many gifts of grace God wants to give us, we have to empty out and scrub clean every corner of our heart and mind otherwise the grace can’t get in.

Think of a garden as in Jesus’ parable of the sower. The soil is our fallen human nature, riddled and overgrown with poisonous weeds (vices, selfish tendencies, psychological and emotional wounds…).

God comes and plants the seed of grace, the seeds of all the Christian virtues. We water those seeds through prayer and the sacraments. But we also need to pull up the weeds (and some of them have very deep roots) otherwise they will choke the growth of grace.

Whenever a person wants to achieve excellence, sacrifice is necessary. Whether striving for holiness or for excellence at work or on the sports field, it requires denying oneself, making extraordinary efforts. It is not acting against oneself, but striving to perfect oneself.

With thanks to Spiritual Direction.


Your family can be a wonderful place to experience spiritual growth. We are created by God to be and live in communion with each other. The family is the micra ekklesia or “little church”, a place that St. John Paul II described as “a living reflection of and a real sharing of God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.” (Familiaris Consortio)

Your domestic church isn't something that happens by itself. Rather, it must be prepared, requested and desired with an open heart.

Parents are the guides of their children’s lives. In every home, children grow and immerse themselves in what they are taught. This shapes each child as they grow into adults.

The modern family is subject to many pressures and often unwelcome outside influences. Parents and guardians are responsible for much more than the care and education of their children and can sometimes feel disoriented, stressed by socioeconomic factors or may little emotional or spiritual support.

Practical Tips for Praying Together as a Family

Connect with a welcoming community

Families aren’t meant to be disengaged from the community. As Catholics, we are part of the larger “Family of Families” rooted in Christ. We stay connected to the larger family of faith by involving ourselves in the local parish. Ideally, you want to find a parish close enough to where you live to participate in activities during the week and not just on Sundays. Attending a parish in your own neighbourhood is also a wonderful way to connect locally, to give back, to feel the heartbeat of your local community, and build friendships with people outside your normal social circles.

Here are some suggestions for keeping Scripture front and center in your home:

If our homes are true “domestic churches”, why would we not set aside special “sacred spaces” for prayer and meditation? Whether you call it a sacred space, a home altar or shrine, or “little oratory”, the space becomes a physical reminder of God’s presence in your home as well as your intention as a family to create “space” for God in your life.

Some objects that you be included in your home’s sacred space include Sacred Scripture, icons or paintings of Jesus, Mary, the Holy Family, or the saints, candles, a tablecloth or prayer shawl, holy water, and flowers.

Social and Community Development

It is important for Catholics to participate in the social, community and political life of their locality. By helping a charity, giving to the homeless, organising activities for schools, sports clubs and other community hubs as well as being good neighbours, we can allow God’s love to shine through us, which will help to draw others to the Faith. To find God, go among the poor.

Pro life groups, Catholic prayer groups, retreats, political parties, sports clubs and organisations like the Mens’ Sheds are good places to start building your local community in the image of Christ.

It is important to exercise discretion when choosing an organisation to help – unfortunately there are not a few which claim solidarity with Christianity but work towards dubious ends in defiance of the teachings of the Church.

This caution was emphasised in a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the Bishops of the Church in 1986, regarding the use of Church facilities:

All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, and it is misleading and often scandalous [¶17].

Notes of caution may be heard around organisations which talk at length and with great heat about capitalism – not because there’s anything particularly meritorious about capitalism but because it’s a popular theme among those who have historically been quite comfortable with burning churches –  those which use phrases like “Christianity forbids choosing between people and the planet”, those which are involved to any degree and at any remove in supporting the abortion industry, and those which champion causes popular in media outlets which routinely denigrate the Church.

It should go without saying that their ultimate goals are not in keeping with those of the Church.

If you’re unable to find a suitable organisation in your area, think about starting your own! You may be surprised how many people will recognise your efforts and join you.

How to Evangelise

Spreading the word and light of God are two of the most important activities a Catholic can undertake. We are instructed to make disciples of all the nations, that is to convert everyone we possibly can, to Catholicism. This isn’t an optional extra, it is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The key thing that you need to know in regard to evangelizing others is that you cannot give what you do not have. If you do not know Jesus, pray daily, and live virtuously, then you cannot spread the Gospel effectively. This does not mean you have to be perfect, but who will take you seriously if you are telling people to convert and follow Jesus Christ while getting drunk at parties, gossiping, stealing, not practising chastity and so on?

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy everyone that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.”

You need to have a good basic understanding of the typical questions about the Faith that get asked of Catholics so you can respond to them or at least know where to look for the answers. You need to be able to answer the question, “why are you a Catholic?”

People relate less to ideas than to people. We connect with people. Evangelisation is about introducing others to the person of Jesus Christ with whom you have a relationship who changed your life.

Another of the first and most important steps you can take, especially in Ireland, is to educate yourself on Catholic apologetics. This doesn’t mean making apologies for things, it means knowing the objections and negative comments people might make, and preparing a response in advance. A good understanding of Catholic history, both in Ireland and abroad, is a core element of apologetics.

In this day and age the internet is an important part of the way people communicate. Many of us get most of our daily news through our phones, and interact with others through the same medium. If you see someone spreading falsehoods about the Church online, please do take the time to correct them in all charity. Remember you aren’t just talking to them, but the hundreds or thousands of others who might also be reading your words.

Bringing others to Christ is not about you. It is about fostering a relationship.  In this regard, you are not the one who converts anyone.  You are simply dropping seeds along a person’s journey through life in hopes that it will blossom and bear fruit.

 You can water these seeds with prayer and fasting, but it can only take root if the person is willing to cooperate with God’s grace, whether they know what grace is or not. So it is good to pray before, during and after you evangelise.

Learning how to ask questions and listen is also very helpful. Everyone wants to be heard and questions related to life and meaning cut to the core of most of us.  We all have a strong desire to discuss topics of depth, but it can be hard to find congenial and thoughtful people to have those discussion with.

 You can be that person for someone, but it is not easy. It requires keeping your comments to yourself, asking questions, and doing a lot of listening. It requires you being a good friend to someone and the ability to not constantly correct people. It’s hard when you hear someone say something wrong and not say something. But you need to listen and not respond when using this long game strategy.

This helps to build trust and affirm that what they think is important to you.

After you build trust and a closer friendship with the person you care about, you should invite them to a Catholic event. The obvious one is Holy Mass. Take them to the most reverent and beautiful Mass you can find. If there is one nearby, the High Traditional Latin Mass is particularly intriguing to non-Catholics and lapsed-Catholics alike. Any reverent Catholic Mass will do though.

Do something that is very Catholic and don’t be afraid to be yourself!  Our faith is amazing and attractive. The most joy filled people are those who are the most grateful for everything that they have been given by God. When you are grateful, you complain less, and think of God and others more.

With thanks to Reverent Catholic Mass.

Sacramentals, Relics, Incense and More

The Church has provided us with many different ways to help our spiritual growth and strongly encourages the use of things like holy water and candles in our private and group prayer lives. If lighting candles blessed by a priest, putting blessed frankincense on charcoal or pondering a memento mori helps you along the path, please use them!

Holy oils, relics, symbols like the St Benedict medal, rosary beads, icons, blessed salt and many other sacramentals can be brought to bear in our search for holiness.

The End of the Beginning

The ideas explored on this page are only the beginning of the possibilities for the development of our spiritual well being. Entire libraries have been written on each subject here, and on many more besides. It’s up to you to seek further and follow your own path to Christ.

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them---every day begin the task anew.

- St. Francis de Sales

Explore Saints and Scholars


THE PRESUMPTUOUS MAN is convinced that he has acquired a distrust of himself and confidence in God, but his mistake is never more apparent than when some fault is committed. For, if he yields to anger and despairs of advancing in the way of virtue, it is evident that he has placed his confidence in himself and not in God. The greater the anxiety and despondence, the greater is the certainty of his guilt.

The man who has a deep distrust of himself and places great confidence in God is not at all surprised if he commits a fault. He does not abandon himself to confused despair; he correctly attributes what has happened to his own weakness and lack of confidence in God. Thus he learns to distrust himself more, and he places all his hopes in the assistance of the Almighty. He detests beyond all things the sin into which he has fallen; he condemns the passion or criminal habit that occasioned his fall; he conceives a deep sorrow for his offense against God. But his sorrow, accompanied by peace of mind, does not interrupt the method he has laid down, nor does it prevent the pursuit of his enemies to their final destruction.

I sincerely wish that what has been proposed here would be attentively considered by many who think they are very devout. Yet from the moment they commit a fault they will not be pacified, but hurry away to their director, more to rid themselves of the distress arising from self-love than from any other motive. Their principal care should be to wash away the guilt of sin in the Sacrament of Penance and to fortify themselves with the Eucharist against a relapse.

The Spiritual Combat

Dom Lorenzo Scupoli


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