Category Archives: Prayer

The Work of Your Hands – A Review and Interview, Part 1

8998c3abdc34dd462fc47e74a589d9d1My first conscious knowledge of the work of Diana Macalintal was a few years ago. Fr. Austin Fleming posted a prayer to his blog that Diana had written regarding a tragedy at that time. Earthquake? Hurricane? I don’t recall. I do recall loving the prayer, and wanting to share it widely. After that, I started to “see” Diana online in various places, and eventually came to know her on Facebook.

Diana Macalintal

Diana Macalintal

Diana is the Director of Worship for the Diocese of San Jose – and so much more. (See that link for details.) She is one of the most engaging and enthusiastic Roman Catholics, a person full of joy for the work of all of our hands as the people of God.

Her most recent book is, The Work of Your Hands, Prayers for Ordinary and Extraordinary Moments of Grace, from Liturgical Press. Today I present a review of the book, along with offering the first part of an interview with the author. (Part two of that interview will be posted tomorrow.)

Every now and then a book comes along that you know will become a dog-eared and well-worn companion. Although my copy is brand new, still redolent with “new book smell” I can see it becoming beat up due to frequent use.

Many of us who work in any form of ministry often need to have a prayer or blessing at hand. If you are someone in this situation, I am guessing that you may use various resources, beyond the internet, such as a the Book of Blessings, or Prayers for the Domestic Church.

Whether or not you use these resources, please add this resource to your list – The Work of Your Hands is a slim volume that overflows with prayers for all kinds of situations. Some of you may recall that I recently posted Diana’s Valentine Prayer When Your Heart Is Broken.

There are many other unique and heartfelt offerings. One of my favorites is the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of Saint Expeditus. There are prayers for all kinds of things, from when our animal companions are dying, to blessing for brains, and for when the experience of being at mass and feeling empty.

Even for those who are not ministers, this book is full of comforting, wise, and useful words, that will console and enliven you, and to help you do the same for others. As Christians, we are called to be Christ, and this book will be a wonderful companion along the way.

Feb2014CoverSmall enough to fit in your pocket or purse, this book is diminutive in size, but large sized in blessings and grace. It has a great price point, of $7.95, or $5.99 for the ebook. You can also take advantage of the bundle to get both editions for only $9.49. That is a great deal! You can also get this book, as long as the offer lasts, when you subscribe to Give Us This Day.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this… Make it longer please! I want more prayers and blessings. Perhaps there will be a second volume?

And to find out if there will be more prayers – plus a lot more, let us turn to our interview. Here is part one, with part two posted on Tuesday.

Q. Diana, how did you end up as a liturgist and liturgical minister?

You can see a bit on how I got started in liturgical ministry here. This was an intro video that the Midatlantic Congress had asked me, as a keynote speaker, to prepare for last year’s conference. So that’s how I began in ministry.

But all through my childhood and high school days, I thought I wanted to be a rock star, and I participated in music ministry because it was a way to play music and sing in front of people. But when I got to college and participated in the Newman Center liturgies at UCLA with the Paulist Fathers, I discovered how liturgy, well-prepared, changed people and changed their lives. It gave them hope and courage and a bigger sense of mission in the world. That’s when I began to be interested in knowing how to be more than just a musician; I wanted to know how the liturgy worked and how to get people participating more in it. Because the more they felt engaged in the liturgy, the more they would engage in doing the work of Christ in the world. My boss at that time, Fr. Tom Jones, CSP, told me that if I wanted to know anything about the liturgy—and even more so, if I wanted to do any serious work in the church around the liturgy and have the respect of those I work with—I had to read and know the liturgical documents of the church. He gave me my first copy of the Vatican II documents, and he sent me to local liturgy workshops and national conferences and institutes to make sure I got the training I needed. Once I left the Newman Center seven years later, I knew being a liturgist was absolutely what I wanted to be.

Q. You have packed a remarkable breadth and depth of prayers and blessings into 72 pages, was this difficult to do?

Actually, it was easy for me because I had been writing those prayers over the span of several years. For many years, I was a freelance writer for a magazine called “Today’s Parish.” Originally, I wrote short articles on liturgy. But after a while, the editor asked me if I could write prayers that didn’t exist in any official ritual book but were needed in today’s world. So I began writing at least two original prayers for each issue. So when Liturgical Press asked if I would consider putting a collection of prayers together, I already had almost 100 prayers to share. I think the editors at LitPress had the harder task of deciding which prayers to include and which to leave out.

Q. Some of your prayers and blessings concern unique, yet widely lived circumstances, such as Prayer for When Mass Feels Empty, or the Prayer for Procrastinators on the Feast of St. Expeditus, or the Blessing of Brains; what drew you to create these and other unusual prayers and blessings?

When the editor of “Today’s Parish” asked me to write original prayers for the magazine, he asked me to write prayers that didn’t already exist. At first, I thought of basic church events, like First Communion preparation. (I think my first original published prayer was a blessing of First Communion candidates.) So even though I was given a pretty broad mandate, I still stuck close to the usual themes for prayers. But after a while, it started getting harder to come up with ideas…until I started looking at my own life and the concerns I had from day to day and those of my friends. What needs did they (and I) have when it came to prayer? Once I made it more personal, I found so many ordinary, daily life things that called for prayer.

For example, I love collecting interesting images, icons, and retablos of saints. At the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress one year, I found a retablo of Saint Expeditus, the patron of procrastinators. I did a web search on him and actually found a novena in his honor! But I am such an excellent procrastinator, and the words of the novena didn’t quite speak to me. I knew my procrastination was a troublesome habit, but I also knew that it didn’t make me a “bad” person. I just worked differently than others, but there are certainly parts of my work style that could use a lot of improvement too. Yet, I trusted that God uses all of us, our strengths and weaknesses to accomplish his work on earth. So I thought of some of the stories in the Bible. Who were the great procrastinators there? I thought immediately of Jonah who did everything to put off doing the thing he didn’t want to, and the workers who arrived late in the day but got paid the same as the early comers. So that “Prayer for Procrastinators” is really a prayer I wrote for myself.

So my own experience gave me lots of themes to play with. So did the liturgical year. “Prayer with the Woman at the Well” is one such prayer that came out of my Lenten reflection one year and the question of what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t stopped to talk to that woman.

But most of all, I got my ideas from paying attention to what was happening in the news or in my friends’ lives. I had and still have friends dealing with cancer. What prayer could be theirs in that struggle? I know people who feel inadequate to be a godparent, but said yes anyway. What words could encourage them? Thankfully, I’ve never had to do it, but many of my friends have lost beloved pets. I saw how devastating it was for them, and thought surely the church has a prayer for that. But all I could find was a blessing of animals, and even that blessing didn’t capture the unique and intimate relationship humans can have with their pets. So I wrote a prayer to try to help soothe my friends’ heartache in that moment of saying goodbye to their animal companion. I still get notes and emails from complete strangers who tell me they prayed that prayer the same morning they put their pet to sleep and how it brought their family such comfort in a difficult time.

I think if we just look around us and pay close attention to what people really need in their lives to have hope and trust that God indeed cares for them, we can find many things for which to pray and lift up in prayer.

To be continued tomorrow…

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Advent Reflections – Tuesday, December 6 Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

From today’s first reading, which is what we heard on Sunday…

Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God. Isaiah 40:1

Molly is having her surgery today. If you read yesterday’s post, you know about her; if not, go have a look now. Or you can go straight to Molly’s Caring Bridge page to learn more.

Nora, Molly’s mother, shared a story with me the other day and gave me her permission to write about it. This is a story about hope and light and waiting – all elements of Advent.

On Saturday Molly and Nora were at the 4pm mass for the Second Sunday of Advent. Molly was in a fine fleece hoody, so bright and colorful. After mass, Fr. Pat anointed Molly with the Sacrament of the Sick. Just thinking about the beauty of anointing, I once more think of the opening line of the Isaiah reading and giving comfort to God’s people.

Apparently after being anointed, Molly felt like she had been bestowed with super powers! And indeed she had been; the hand of the Lord had been upon her in a new way.  Prayer and sacrament are not magic – so let us be very clear about that. No, her anointing, in church, with her mom and others around her is a visible sign of Christ in our community. The power of prayer and love is amazing.

And it is not lost on me that today’s psalm response is, “The Lord our God comes with power.” Something that delighted me about this story is the “super power” of Molly’s imagination and her childlike faith; how she, as a 6 year old, understands what happened through a connection with God. Not only did she feel like she now had “super powers,” not a bad thing for a 6 year old who is facing surgery to experience, but she liked that Fr. Pat had used his “salad dressing oil.”

Now some might shake their head and find that irreverent, but I don’t think so. Molly is 6 and to her, oil has a particular meaning… Salad! That is our catholicity and our sacramental life – to find God present in signs and symbols of our daily lives.  And for Molly, the Oil of the Sick, was like salad dressing oil. God is with and among us everywhere.

Today Molly will have brain surgery. I am praying for her and I know that you are too. At 6, what can she understand about this? I am just thinking that the whole thing must be kind of scary at some level. And what about Nora, her mom? Her grandparents Ann and Ron? As well as other family members… I’m sure that this is scary for them. I can’t imagine what any of them feel like.

Yet they have hope, even if it is just a speck of light. And they can have comfort, from God, in the form of our prayers and good wishes.

In closing, I look at the today’s Gospel from Matthew – its very last line at that… ” it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”

Amen and amen and amen.

Today is about hope and about light and about waiting – in our Scriptures, in our lives and in a most particular way, for Molly and her family. Please pray for Molly and her family today. If you are willing, leave a comment and I will make sure that her family sees whatever you send in prayer!

Molly and Nora enjoying a picnic on a summer day.


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Advent Reflections – Monday, December 5, 2011 Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.

This is from today’s first reading. It made me think of little Molly. A link to her Caring Bridge page is here. Please keep Molly, her family and medical personnel in your prayers.

I send this thought out to her mom in particular, also from Isaiah today.  That’s little Molly up there – I put this photo on the blog with the permission of her mother, Nora.  Every prayer for her is gratefully appreciated!

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!


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The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – 50 Reasons to Pray the Rosary

Do you pray the Rosary? Whether you do or not, here are 50 reasons to do so!

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The Call to Prophecy

Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
You will free me from the snare they set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
Psalm 31

The life of a Biblical prophet was never an easy one. Called to speak truth to power, they met with all kinds of resistance, from ridicule to murder, and their messages were hardly ever heeded. So why did they persist? It can be hard to imagine.

And yet there are prophets among us today too, speaking truth to power, seeking to turn God’s wrath away from the people, seeking to get us back on the path to peace. Those who reveal corruption in business dealings, those who blow the whistle on the practice of torture, those who speak for persecuted immigrants – all of these are prophets too. And they, too, meet with scorn, ridicule, and sometimes murder, as did Sister Dorothy Stang, who spoke out against the oppression of the indigenous people of Brazil.

So why do they persist? It can be hard to imagine, especially when there are so many alternatives, so many great distractions to occupy us. Just do your job, keep your head down, don’t attract attention. Just don’t worry about it. Go watch TV instead.

And how often do we choose that easier path? How often do we use those distractions to drown out the cries of the people of God? How can we ever repent of our inattention to that call?

I think the answer lies in trusting God enough to know that we are free to act without concern for our own self-preservation. Our preservation is assured, and has been since the first Easter. Our God is kind. We will not be lost. We are redeemed. And that redemption is what frees us from worry about how we will be perceived or treated if we speak out against the things that are not right.

There are many things that are not right. Hold them in your prayer, and God will lead you to right action. Of that I have no doubt.

Baya Clare, CSJ

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Ascension to Pentecost Novena – Day 8

These days have dragged Lord, how slow they go.

Did you really leave us? Yes you did and yet – not really.

I know that the Spirit will come – to enlighten, to console and to bring wisdom and understanding.

How can we have courage? How can we know one another? How can we walk in community? How can we pray in one voice?

Come Holy Spirit, Come!

Veni Sancte Spiri

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Ascension to Pentecost Novena – Day 5

For what shall we pray on this fifth day?

Lord, we pray for the shelter of the upper room and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to lead us out of that room. As we make our way these days, we know you have left, we know that the Advocate is coming, but when? How?

These are the trapeze days as we let go of one thing and cast ourselves in pure faith as we await the other trapeze. There is no proof that our reach will encounter a new bar to grab, yet we fly through the air, arms extended and heart beating madly.

So accompany us O God of mystery and light.

We await your spirit.

You ascended the other day and we were dumbstruck by this. You would think that with all we have seen and come to know to know through you Jesus, that this would not be the case. How will we ever be transformed?

That is what Pentecost gives us the hope of, as does every other day… The hope of transformation. And that then we go and transform in Your name.

Come Holy Spirit.

Veni Sanctus Spiritus.

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