Week in Review and What I’m Doing for Lent

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Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve really written about what’s happening in my life, so I thought I’d give you a brief synopsis:

In case you missed it living under your rock, I’m currently in my first year (of four) studying theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, IL. It’s the theological school and major seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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It’s a nice place, yeah?

Fast forward a little bit. Had a very successful fall semester here and am knee deep in the new spring semester with a full load of classes:

  • Christology and Soteriology (study of who Christ is and how He saves us)
  • Doctrine of God (taught by Father Robert Barron; aptly nicknamed “Doctrine of Bob”)
  • American Church History
  • Medical Ethics and Suffering (a neat, neat class)
  • Ecclesiastical Latin (yay…)
  • Principles of Sacred Liturgy
  • Liturgical Chant
  • Theological Reflection
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Now you know why the Theology Classroom building looks like a haunted house

This week, we just finished up our “spring” break. It was a great opportunity to get away and rest awhile, but as usual I ignored the opportunity and stayed pretty busy.

On Sunday, I gave my favorite talk of the year to the high school teens and their leaders and my awesome home parish of St. Anne’s in Oswego. I talked a little bit about what Oswego means to me and how it was the stage for my meeting God.

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But first…

Then, on Wednesday I served at all five Ash Wednesday Masses. Totally pooped by the end of it but it was certainly worth the work! There are two forms that are allowed to be used when applying the ashes:

  • Repent and believe in the Gospel
  • Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return

I always go with the latter option. I can remember having someone say that to me when I was in the RE program. The phrase and its implications have always stuck with me. It was really something to have a line of people all coming forward to receive ashes. You can learn a lot about a person by their forehead, you know. The young people had smooth, worry-less brows while the older people had mostly furrowed brows, wrinkly and worn out foreheads, foreheads that had seen the wear and tear of a life well lived.

There was a woman who came up, walking slowly and cautiously, accompanied by her daughter, and was using an oxygen tank. She looked to be in her 80’s. When I put the ash cross on her forehead and said those words, she sighed a bit as if to say “yes, I know, and I am ready.” She glanced up at the crucifix and continued on her way. I was so moved by that. Later on in the same line, a young mother came down the aisle holding her smiley newborn in her arms. I put the ashes on each of them with the same line as before, but ever more cognizant of the beauty of life and the importance to live well the one we’ve been given…we only get one chance.

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Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.

Then Friday I spent the day at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox speaking to the seniors about vocations and the Church. It was so much fun! The students were awesome and very receptive. These visits always serve as a good reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, there are a lot of young people who love the Lord and want to do his will in their lives. So much fun.

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Not to mention the awesome swag!

Later Friday night, I went back to St. Anne’s to serve the Lenten Stations of the Cross service which included adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction. Three charcoals in that thurible!! Talk about Holy Smoke! One of my favorite things to do. There was no cantor, so I had to lead all of the singing as well which was really cool. It was humbling when people came up afterwards and thanked me for helping to make the service beautiful. A very moving evening.

Saturday, I went with my brother to visit my dad at his house in Stevensville, Michigan. My family has been vacationing in this part of Michigan since my mom was 5 years old; the area means so much to my brother and me. It was neat to see our favorite town, St. Joseph, covered in snow and ice instead of sandy beaches and tourists!

This morning we had Mass at the seminary and then I went to St. James parish in Highwood, IL to teach 8th grade confirmation prep as I do each Sunday. Love it!

And now here we are on Sunday evening. I’m back in Mundyville ready for the next leg of the semester. I have a big presentation on Thursday and will be speaking to the confirmation students at St. James in Glen Ellyn on Saturday. The Joliet Vocations director, Fr. Burke Masters, will be at Mundelein on Wednesday to lead our Morning of Prayer. Busy, busy around here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And now, some small things I’m doing for Lent. If you’re still in the market for some ideas, maybe try a few of these?

  • Turn off LTE on my phone, only use 4G
  • Heroic minute: no snooze button…up and outta bed in under a minute!
  • Only one episode of Blue Bloods on Netflix per day, no binge watching!
  • No soda during the week
  • Delete Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone
  • No checking texts, Instagram, or Snapchat before saying Morning Prayer
  • No checking my phone once in bed (sadly, this includes Temple Run :[ )
  • Eating healthier; less carbs, more fruits and veggies.

These are all very little things, but they can add up to a lot! They save time, center me, and help to focus on what’s important in life (and don’t steal all of my time away from homework!). Hopefully something on that list will help you, too!

Know of my prayers for a blessed Lent!!!!!!!!! Please pray for me.

Over and out,

RA

The Cross on the Doorknob

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When he was working with architects to design and build his dream seminary, Cardinal George Mundelein, the archbishop of Chicago and first cardinal west of the Appalachians, had to make a lot of tough decisions. Where should we build? What should the buildings look like? Will there be enough room to park both my boat and my car? (Just kidding…well….)

As anyone who has taken on the task of any great design project knows, once the big details are set sometimes an even bigger challenge still lies ahead: what will be that perfect finishing touch that really “ties the whole shebang together”? For Mundelein’s St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, some might argue it was the subtle placement of the golden bees on the ceiling of the library, a little extra height at the top of the Immaculate Conception column, or maybe even those nice, matching table clothes in the refectory (definitely kidding this time). I disagree. It seems that Mundelein and his team decided to make (of all things) a doorknob that central, finishing touch by installing the same knob on nearly every door on campus. The residence rooms, closets, offices, and, yes, even the bathrooms have the same knob.

So what?

Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. (Mt 16:24) Anytime anyone wants to enter or leave a room on this campus, he has to look at, and then wrap his hands around the cross of Christ. A constant reminder to us, the future priests, and to everyone else who comes here to work, pray, study, or play that no matter whether you’re coming or going the cross around which your hand is grasped must be your guide, your crutch, your inspiration for, indeed, it is already your salvation.

Some people get weird about Christianity, especially Catholicism, and our obsession with the cross. “Isn’t that just a Roman torture tool?” they’ll often ask. Indeed (well, sort of). Before Christ blessed that torture instrument with his Precious Blood that wipes away the sins of the world, it was just another means of torture used by Rome. But precisely because the King of kings and the Lord of lords was hung up on that tree, it is for those who believe no longer a primitive torture device but a sign of victory; the victory of Christ and his Church over the darkness of sin and death.

St. Paul, in his zeal, constantly preached “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) but you’ll notice there is no corpse on those doorknobs. Every time I open the door, the empty cross there tells me how the man who once hung upon it has opened the most important door all: he has opened for me the narrow gate, the way from the sorrows and plights of earth to the magnificent joy of heaven and of intimate and unceasing union with God made possible by a humble obedience to his commands and by a constant, often difficult, denial of self, picking up of my cross, and setting out to follow him.

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Sometimes, when things get old, they fall apart or fall off and get put back on upside down. American Catholicism’s Enchanted Forest is no exception. “Aha!” you’re thinking, “an upside down cross at a Catholic seminary! I knew it! Diabolic Catholics!!” (#LOL)

Since the earliest days of Christianity, really since the martyrdom of St. Peter in the 1st century, the upside down cross has been a symbol of Peter and the Petrine Ministry aka the Papacy and not a symbol of the demonic as the new-agey people would have us believe. A few of the rooms have upside-down doorknobs which brings to mind, usually, two things:

First, it reminds about what I mentioned earlier: there a lot of people who do not understand the Church or what she teaches. What did the Ven. Fulton Sheen say?

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

or something like that.

It’s our job, Church, to press on with love and with truth so that all the world might come to know the Church that Christ founded for the forgiveness of sins and salvation of souls. It’s our job, Church, to represent with accuracy and with charity and with JOY what the signs and symbols of our faith are really all about so that this world which increasingly moves away from Christ might have some taste of what it’s missing.

Second, it reminds of you, Church. It reminds of the Petrine Ministry and to pray for the pope, for the bishops, the priests, and all the clergy. But most of all, it reminds to pray for you! To pray in thanksgiving for your prayers and support of all kinds (but seriously stop sending me cookies…I need a new belt), and to pray in humble petition for you and your needs. The Church is principally a community and, through prayer for one another, we will only get stronger.

Alright.

So the next time you come to visit Mundelein Seminary, take a look at the buildings and the grounds and the main chapel and the lake and the boathouse and the cardinal’s villa and the gym with the pool and Principal Avenue and the Lourdes grotto and, for the sake of Fr. Barron’s sanity, please “ooh” and “ahh” at the newly completed John Paul II chapel.

But if it’s the spirit of the place and of its men, if it’s the stories of those who’ve come and gone from here, if it’s the message of the Christian life, or if it’s some inspiration that you seek….remember that a simple glance at the humble knob will tell you everything you need to know.

Walking through open doors,
RA

1/22/14: 650k will March on Washington but You Won’t Hear Anything About it

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Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 21 through Friday, January 23 I have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life which is a pro-life rally and peaceful protest occurring each year to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Year after year, it is consistently one of the largest rallies in the United States and it’s only getting bigger. In 2003, the event drew 250,000 people to the capitol. By 2011, the number was up to 400,000 and in 2013 the number was 650,000. Interestingly, the turnout is not by a bunch of old religious fuddy duddies. In 2010, the Washington Post estimated that more than half of the marchers were under the age of 30, and that number continues to grow.

But this post is not really about abortion.

My question is this: In two days, there will be over 650,000 young people marching on our nation’s capitol, shutting down streets, holding banners, and taking part in this pro-life, pro-women display and the national news media will be almost silent about it….why is that?

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Why did the riots in Ferguson captivate hours of air time on nearly every news channel, despite being much smaller than the March for Life? Why did the Eric Garner protests likewise receive live coverage and interviews? Last year, ABC and NBC gave the March for Life a combined 46 seconds of air time, donating nearly 5 times that much to BaoBao, a new panda cub at the National Zoo. CBS didn’t even mention the March. The year before, networks gave 521 times more coverage to Manti Te’o and his fictional girlfriend than they gave to a rally that effectively shuts down Capitol Hill. Whatever your stance on abortion, certainly we can agree that the issue is more important that the birth of a baby panda or some football player’s love life!

And even when we do gain some attention, we are labeled as merely “antiabortion activists”, clearly intending to cast a negative light on our position.

Watch the news this week and you’ll probably be able to count the embarrassingly low number of seconds of air time this important event receives on the news. But enjoy your 10 minutes of Kim Kardishian’s big, ugly butt.

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A comment on Homosexuality and the Catholic Church and the Cardinal Burke ordeal

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Nota bene: please give me the benefit of the doubt and read this message in its entirety.

Cardinal Burke did not say that gay “people” are intrinsically evil as is being spouted all over the media. He said, along with every other bishop, cardinal, pope, priest, and lay person who knows what the Church teaches and is faithful to that teaching, that homosexual “acts” are intrinsically evil; the same stance, of course, of Pope Francis and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Scroll to paragraph 2357-9)

The trouble is that our society has equated people with their actions. People say “I am gay” when really that’s not true. Your sexuality is not your identity; your sexuality (and all that entails, which is more than orientation) is a part of your identity, but our society wants to reduce the person to his or her sexual orientation. The Church has always spoken against this reduction because it is a reduction of your human dignity. To identify ourselves as people with what we do is a degradation of us as persons. It is as if I were to say “I am financial strain.” This is why the Church describes homosexuality as “same sex attraction”; “I am attracted to the same-sex”; “I experience same-sex attraction”; “This person experiences homosexual tendencies.” When someone says an act, an idea, a proposal, etc is evil, is wrong, is false, they are not talking about YOU. You are more than your ideas. You are more than your actions. You are more. You are made for greatness. 

Do you have same sex attraction? Cool. In the eyes of the Church, you’re a human being. In the eyes of God, you’re a beloved son or daughter. In the eyes of any faithful Catholic who knows what the Church teaches, you’re a beautiful human being who is broken by sin, just like the rest of us. Original sin and the brokenness of humanity might look different on the outside from one person to the next, but we are all sinners bogged down by sin. That’s all there is to it. The Church teaches what she does because she wants you to be led to Jesus and to experience his healing love for you; not so that you “won’t be gay anymore” or so that you’ll be “fixed” and “all better”; BUT SO YOU CAN TURN AWAY FROM SIN! So that you can live and love and laugh and cry and jump and run and be fully alive! Sin is darkness; sin is death; sin is pain; sin is shame; sin is weakness; sin is debilitating; sin is crippling. Christ, and his Church, and me, and all the members of the body of Christ want you to be the beautiful person you are created to be, meant to be, without the heavy weight of sin and darkness and shame. Christ, and, in turn, the Church, wants to set you FREE! “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the FULL.” (John 10:10)

Look at the face of the other. Discover that he has a soul, a history, and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person. -Pope Benedict XVI

If you don’t believe in what the Church believes, also cool; my goal here is not conversion but comprehension. The Church isn’t asking you to believe what it teaches; but if you’re outside the Church and have no idea what the Church is saying or what she means when she says it, well, then, to use the words of Pope Francis, “Who [are you] to judge?” When the Church makes a judgment about homosexuality, or any other issue for that matter, she is not judging you; she is judging an action. Hate the sin but love the sinner. The Catholic Church to which I belong and for which I am preparing to lay down my life as a priest is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. We are all in this together, but it takes a radical laying down of one’s life, and a picking up of one’s cross, and a committed following of the Lord. Even Peter took his eyes off Christ and began to sink (Matthew 14:22-33); no one is expected to turn to Christ and never sin again. But the faithful follower of Christ is expected to no longer be content with turning away and falling into sin but, like St. Peter, must be prepared to give up his very life for the glory of the God, the Messiah, who saved him.

“…They feel like the Church has condemned them. But the Church does not want to do this…Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free.” -Pope Francis

That is the context from which the Church is operating. This is not an issue of social justice, but an issue of the dignity and nature of who man (humankind) is, was, and is created to be.

Please let me say this with utmost sincerity:

To anyone who has been hurt by someone in the Church because of their words or rejection, please accept my apology to you on behalf of them. Let us learn from Pope Francis the message of God’s MERCY and unconditional LOVE, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor. But we are called not just to accept this love and keep on living the way we lived before; we are called to LOVE GOD IN RETURN and give ourselves over to him, even to the deepest fiber of our very being, even our sexuality.

I love you. God loves you. Pope Francis loves you. Yes, even Cardinal Burke loves you.

What Rob Thomas and St. John XXIIII can teach us about life

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I have this tendency to get ahead of myself. You know…to get too excited too fast about something and then before I know it I’ve created an entirely new universe in my head. It’s one of those annoyingly human problems that I have. When I started studying for the priesthood I thought that I was supposed to live like that; thinking lofty thoughts and dreaming impressive dreams; somewhat ashamedly, that’s what I thought prayer was. But of course I’ve now come to see that prayer, that contemplation, that union with God does not come primarily from within, but from without; I’ve said it a hundred times (so what’s one more?): prayer is a response to God who seeks man first.

Spending my days lately with my nose stuck inside of theology textbooks and the works of the great Christian spiritual writers, sometimes I forget where and who I am; sometimes I even have to stop and remind myself who I am and what I’m doing. Usually, it goes like this: “I amRyan Adorjan and I am sitting in a room on a campus most people have never heard of in a town that most people have heard of but couldn’t find on a map; and that busy street out there? Those people whizzing by in their cars are doing exactly what you’re doing: living their life. You, friend, are just one among on this great big earth.” And all of a sudden, my complicated reality begins to seem so…..obscure.

I think our culture has taught us to fear obscurity. Every person is a big deal at every moment of the day! The whole world is connected and with the advent of the “selfie” and Instagram and Snapchat we can share our *EXCITING* lives with everyone always. Gone are the days of the mundane. In high school, I remember deciding that I was going to document every moment of my life so that everyone would know how cool and wonderful my life was. In fairness, I think it was about 10% my actually believing my life was so exciting and about 90% my desire for attention.

If that strikes a chord with you (maybe you live a 100% exciting life or seem to be fueled by the attention of others like me), I think we can learn from St. John XXIII and his description of the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, before his public ministry, growing up in Nazareth. There, so says Thomas a Kempis in his spiritual classic Imitation of Christ, Jesus learned a “love to be unknown.” Let that sink in for a sec.

St. John XXIII relates this to the achievement of perfect humility. He says:

I seem to learn only a semblance of humility.; its real spirit, Jesus Christ in Nazareth’s ‘love to be unknown’ is known only to me by name. To think that our blessed Savior spent thirty years of his life in obscurity, and yet he was God, he was the splendor of the substance of the Father, he had come to save the world; …he did all this only to show us how necessary humility is and how it must be practiced.” Journal of a Soul, 132

Another way of understanding this whole concept is explained to us by singer/songwriter Rob Thomas in his song “Little Wonders”. In that song, some of the most helpful lyrics in my life are found:

“Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate. Time falls away, but these small hours, these small hours, still remain…..all of our regret will wash away somehow. But I cannot forget the way I feel right now.”

I have loved this song for a long time. Our lives are not made by the rare moments in the spotlight. But who we are is determined in the crucible, the testing ground, of life; in a word, our lives are made in these small hours.

Because of the transformative power of God’s grace alive within me, I have changed my course; the eyes of my heart have been opened to a new course! This new course is not that so much seeks “to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love” (from the Prayer of St. Francis). And what is it that I seek to love? I seek to “love to be unknown”, not so that I can simply disappear into obscurity, but so that I might join Jesus in the little wonders and small hours of life as he teaches me to grow more deeply into perfect humility and so that I might eventually enter into a perfect intimate and unceasing union with the Lord.

So, friends, if your lives sometimes seem obscure, that’s ok! Jesus lived and learned and “grew in age and wisdom before God and men” (Luke 2:52) in the context of the unknown life of Nazareth…and he’s God!

Let us embrace “the little way” of perfect love and allow God to do the rest; draw near to him and we will be richly blessed. AND let’s pray for one another!

God’s blessings,
RA

Pope St. John XXIII, Pray for Us!

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Excerpt from the Opening Speech of Pope St. John XXIII on the occasion of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, October 11, 1962. 

The Church is the most loving mother of all

Today, Venerable Brethren, is a day of joy for Mother Church: through God’s most kindly providence the longed-for day has dawned for the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, here at St. Peter’s shrine. And Mary, God’s Virgin Mother, on this feast day of her noble motherhood, gives it her gracious protection.

Certain it is that the critical issues, the thorny problems that wait upon man’s solution, have remained the same for almost twenty centuries. And why? Because the whole of history and of life hinges on the person of Jesus Christ. Either men anchor themselves on Him and His Church, and thus enjoy the blessings of light and joy, right order and peace; or they live their lives apart from Him; many positively oppose Him, and deliberately exclude themselves from the Church. The result can only be confusion in their lives, bitterness in their relations with one another, and the savage threat of war.

In these days, which mark the beginning of this Second Vatican Council, it is more obvious than ever before that the Lord’s truth is indeed eternal. Human ideologies change. Successive generations give rise to varying errors, and these often vanish as quickly as they came, like mist before the sun.

The Church has always opposed these errors, and often condemned them with the utmost severity. Today, however, Christ’s Bride prefers the balm of mercy to the arm of severity. She believes that, present needs are best served by explaining more fully the purport of her doctrines, rather than by publishing condemnations. Not that the need to repudiate and guard against erroneous teaching and dangerous ideologies is less today than formerly. But all such error is so manifestly contrary to rightness and goodness, and produces such fatal results, that our contemporaries show every inclination to condemn it of their own accord—especially that way of life which repudiates God and His law, and which places excessive confidence in technical progress and an exclusively material prosperity. It is more and more widely understood that personal dignity and true self-realization are of vital importance and worth every effort to achieve. More important still, experience has at long last taught men that physical violence, armed might, and political domination are no help at all in providing a happy solution to the serious problems which affect them.

The great desire, therefore, of the Catholic Church in raising aloft at this Council the torch of truth, is to show herself to the world as the loving mother of all mankind; gentle, patient, and full of tenderness and sympathy for her separated children. To the human race oppressed by so many difficulties, she says what Peter once said to the poor man who begged an alms: “Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, that I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk.” (Acts 3:6) In other words it is not corruptible wealth, nor the promise of earthly happiness, that the Church offers the world today, but the gifts of divine grace which, since they raise men up to the dignity of being sons of God, are powerful assistance and support for the living of a more fully human life. She unseals the fountains of her life-giving doctrine, so that men, illumined by the light of Christ, will understand their true nature and dignity and purpose. Everywhere, through her children, she extends the frontiers of Christian love, the most powerful means of eradicating the seeds of discord, the most effective means of promoting concord, peace with justice, and universal brotherhood.

Prayer

O almighty and eternal God,
who throughout all the world made ​​in blessed Pope John
a living radiant example of Christ the Good Shepherd,
grant us, we ask, that through his intercession,
we may be enabled to pour out an abundance of Christian charity.
(Through our Lord Jesus Christ…)
(Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Original Latin: Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui per orbem terrárum in beáto Ioánne, papa, Christi boni pastóris vivum effulgére fecísti exémplum, concéde nobis, quaésumus, ut, eius intercessióne, abundántiam christiánae caritátis laetánter effúndere valeámus. Per Christum.

Prayer of Protection

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Here’s a great, little prayer I came across today for when you’re feeling down and in need of strength. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

“Prayer of Protection”

Armor of God: O God, bless and protect me as I place the belt of truth around my waist; the breastplate of righteousness upon my chest; the shoes of zeal upon my feet so as to spread the word of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith on my left arm to quench the burring arrows of the evil one; the helmet of salvation upon my head so as to have the mind of Christ; and I place the sword of the Spirit in my right hand which is the Word of God (cf. Eph 6:14-17). I also wrap myself in the mantle of enthusiasm so as to be passionate only for your works Lord Jesus (cf. Is. 5:9-17).

Protection of Jesus’ Blood: I now ask you, Jesus, that I be placed under the protection of your most precious blood that you shed on the Cross for us to free us from sin and the temptations of Satan and his cohorts (Rev. 12:10-11; 1 Jn 5:6-12; Col. 1:19-20, 2:13-15; Eph. 1:7).

Mary’s help and Intercession with St. Michael and Angels: Mary, our Mother, I seek your protection and intercession with the Sacred Heart of Jesus for me and my family, and surround me with your mantle of love to discourage the enemy.
St. Michael, and my Guardian Angel, come defend me and my family in battle against all the evil ones that roam the land.

Amen.