Category Archives: Worship

10 Ways to Celebrate Holy Week

This week, Christians celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a special way. Above all holidays, this week is the most central to Christian life. Here are 10 ways you can observe and celebrate Holy Week!

  1. Serve someone in need.
    Pope Francis has declared this the Year of Mercy so that all may “grow stronger and more effective” in mercy. Like the Good Samaritan in the gospel, we show mercy when we decide not to walk past someone in need. This exemplifies the life of Jesus.
    Example: Help serve a community meal at First Presbyterian Church in Leavenworth or in Kansas City Kansas with USM students. Meet at 4pm on Tuesday or 9:30am on Saturday respectively in the Office of Campus Ministry. Contact S. Rejane Cytacki (
  2. Read the Gospel.
    This is a great practice for Holy Week and a great way to revisit stories and words with which you might be familiar and others with which you might not be familiar.
    Example: Take an hour and read the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end reflecting on this question: how are the followers of Jesus continually challenged in the Gospel? OR Spend twenty minutes each night reading the Gospel of Luke reflecting on this question: who are the poor in the Gospel of Luke and how does Jesus serve them?
  3. Celebrate with a worshiping community.
    Many Christian churches come together to celebrate on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (Saturday night), and Easter Sunday. This is a great way to experience the richness of these holy days and share them with others.
    Example: The Sisters of Charity are celebrating Holy Week in 2016 with the following services in Ross Chapel (Mother house) open to any in the USM community: Holy Thursday 7:00pm, Good Friday 3:00pm, Easter Vigil 7:30pm Saturday, Easter Sunday 10:00am.
  4. Visit someone who needs a visitor.
    Show love and appreciation to someone who needs it. This could be a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while, someone who is sick, or perhaps someone in prison.
    Example: Visit Sisters of Charity in Ross Hall with students from Rotoract Club. Meeting in the office of campus ministry at 3:15pm on Thursday March 24th.
  5. Plant a seed.
    Planting a tree, flower, or other plant is a beautiful symbol of resurrection used by Jesus in the gospel. The seed “dies” to become something new-a beautiful work of God’s creation. This beauty reminds us of the need to care for our common home.
    Example: Plant a tree in your yard at home OR go to a local park and find a tree or flower-spend some time appreciating it and the gifts it brings to our world.
  6. Fast (and “slow”!)
    Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something (food, smoking, etc.) in order to set the mind toward something else. That is why fasting should always be accompanied by “slowing”- taking some time to refocus on what is important.
    Example: On Good Friday, give up eating between meals. When you find yourself wanting to grab a snack, think about something good in your life and express thanks for it.
  7. Enjoy sacred art, music, film or literature.
    The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been explored in many and varied ways through the arts. Experiencing these works of art opens our minds and hearts to new meaning of age old themes.
    Example: Go with a friend to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art to contemplate and discuss sacred art and other art as well.
  8. Give to a charity.
    We often think about giving to a charity or cause we support, but we often forget to do so unless the opportunity is right in front of us. Take some time during holy week to take that initiative and give to an important cause.
    Example: Grab a CRS rice bowl from campus ministry to put in your home or office for loose change. Proceeds will be sent from campus ministry to Catholic Relief Services.
  9. Pray.
    The gospels are filled with moments where Jesus goes off alone to pray or prays with the disciples. There are many ways to pray. Reserve some time in the morning, noon, afternoon, or night just for prayer. Discover how you pray best and how to make prayer a part of your life.
    Example: Set a chair or location in your home where you will go for ten minutes when you get up and before you go to sleep. Speak a prayer aloud or quietly, read a sacred text, write in a journal, or simply rest in silence.
  10. Spend some time with family and friends.
    The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story of life in its fullness. Do something fun with family or friends over this holy week to share good memories and reconnect.
    Example: Invite friends or family to dinner. Find a moment to express to each person something about him/her that you appreciate and for which you are grateful.

Going Home

Bob Dylan sings “I was young when I left home… I never wrote a letter to my home… I can’t go home this way.”  Lent is a time of returning home; a time of going back.

Like the lost man in Dylan’s song, we often look back to something wonderful we’ve lost in our lives, but we think we’re too far gone to go back, saying “I can’t go home this way.”

If there is something during this Lenten season to which you feel you need to return… reconciling with an old friend, casting off a bad habit, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in a long time… take this opportunity to do it.  Take comfort in the words of the Prophet Joel, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.”

We may feel unable to go home, but these words suggest that it is never too late.  So take this opportunity during Lent to turn around and revisit a piece of home you’ve left behind.

Attitude of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!  When we express gratitude, we become more aware of the need to preserve the good things in our world and bring joy to others. Members of our community at USM have written down some things for which they are thankful…

* My life. I am thankful for Jesus dying for me. My Family. Love and I am thankful that I can get a good education!

* My Faith

* My Family

* Faith and the fullness of my Catholic faith. I am thankful for the opportunity to practice and to receive the Eucharist daily, openly, and freely. I am thankful for my parents and family, the many freedoms we have. The many workers who preserve them and to live in our great country. God has blessed us I am thankful for the gift of our heavenly mother.

* The helpful people in the ARC

* Dr Krusemark, Music Teacher Yeah!

* For good health, mobility and life

* That my daughter is doing well, after being discharged from the hospital

* My family and the love and support they give me.

* My family and friends

* My wonderful husband of 32 years and 2 daughters

* My health, my family & friends as well as my Saint Mary family. Most importantly, my faith.

* My friends and family supporting me with all things I do and being able to make memories with them.

* Family and community

* Friends and fam, bam

* The school community

* My friends

* Parents

* My squad

* For my feet and my hair

* The breath of life

* My friends, family and classmates

Thanks to Sharon Clay and the Office of Development for collecting notes of thankfulness.

Humble and Contrite Hearts

Lord, as we begin our Lenten journey with you,
we recall what you desire: a humble and contrite heart.

You don’t desire our bank accounts;
you don’t quantify our popularity;
you don’t hope for our job titles;
you don’t seek out our righteous ideologies;
you don’t long to see how pretty or handsome we are.

You desire only where our hearts are; and the rest will follow.

And you do not desire a perfect heart, but a heart broken and wounded.
A heart of hope and a heart of sorrow.
Give us these hearts, O God.
Give us hearts that are unafraid.
Give us hearts that lead us where others fear to go.
Give us hearts that listen humbly and burn with a passion for justice.
Give us humble and contrite hearts.

Attitude of Gratitude


This prayer was given to me by one of the sisters I live with, Sister Susan Chase, after she returned from a trip to Scotland earlier this year.  As I was tidying up my room recently, I found it again.  I believe it is very fitting during this Advent season and the ending of a semester as well. This prayer reminds us of what is important in our lives and how gratitude needs a place in our day to day living.     Sister Rejane Cytacki

You keep us waiting.

You the God of all time,

Want us to wait for the right time in which to discover who we are,

Where we must go,

Who will be with us, and what we must do.

So thank you . . . for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.

You, the God of all space,

Want us to look in the right and wrong places for signs of hope,

For people who are hopeless,

For visions of a better world that will appear

Among the disappointments of the world we know.

So thank you . . . for the looking time.

You keep us loving.

You, the God whose name is love,

Want us to be like you –

To love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable;

To love without jealousy or design or threat;

And most difficult of all, to love ourselves.

So thank you . . . for the loving time.

And in all this, you keep us,

Through hard questions with no easy answers;

Through failing where we hoped to succeed

And making an impact when we felt we were useless;

Through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;

And through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,

You keep us.

So thank you . . . for the keeping time,

And for now, and forever.  Amen

Written by the Iona Community, Scotland

The Advent Versions of “OMG!”

For the seven days before Christmas eve, beginning December 17th, the daily prayers of the Church include seven different exclamations to the Messiah.  These are called the “O Antiphons.”

The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Praying the O Antiphons connects us with an important aspect of the Messiah’s coming.

Lets look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiahs related prophecies. (Many of these passages from Isaiah are found in the beautiful movements of George Frideric Handel’s great oratorio, Messiah.  Above is a link to the most famous of these movements: the Hallelujah Chorus).

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. Isaiah had prophesied, The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (11:2-3), and Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom. (28:29).

O Adonai: O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Isaiah had prophesied, But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (11:4-5); and Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us. (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: O Flower of Jesses stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. Isaiah had prophesied, But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (11:1), and on that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in Davids city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open. (22:22), and His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from Davids throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. (9:6).

O Oriens: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Isaiah had prophesied, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. Isaiah had prophesied, For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (9:5), and He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. Isaiah had prophesied, The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Reflection by Susan Rieke, SCL, McGilley Chair for Liberal Studies

A Little Advent Levity

Comedian Steven Colbert makes a living out of laughter.  Though we’re usually quieter in our liturgy and prayer during Advent, we shouldn’t forget the joy of the gospel!  Here is a link to one of my favorites: Steven Colbert’s song and dance rendition of an Advent classic, “The King of Glory”.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”  – Pope Francis I, Evangelii Gaudium 1