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From Eagle’s Wings to Agnus Dei

When we got into our, um, conversation last week about good vs. bad liturgy, people from both sides of the spectrum chimed in with what they thought would be the remedy, and I appreciate that, I really do, but I’m not looking to go to any “extreme.” In fact, I’m actually quite happy b0uncing back and forth between contemporary and classic, progressive and traditional. It was never a matter of needing one type of perfect liturgy or a perfect liturgical element but rather a matter of just wanting to participate in Mass and feel like I was getting what I need to deepen my relationship with God. I happen to be one of those people who can get that equally well from the often-dreaded “On Eagle’s Wings” or the old-school Latin “Agnus Dei.” In fact, I prefer a blend, which is precisely my problem. Again. I don’t fit into anyone’s “camp.” Read more

Mass like it was in the early Church

Sun room chapel

Last weekend we were lucky enough to have Mass celebrated at our home by Chiara’s godfather, who was up for a visit. (He’s vicar general of the Metuchen Diocese in N.J.) Olivia, Noah, and Noah’s friend were the readers, and Chiara was the altar server.

Footlocker altar

If you ever have the chance to experience Mass in such a way, grab it. The closeness of the altar and the intimacy of the liturgy really make for a powerful experience, just like it must have been for those early Christians who gathered in homes to pray and break bread.

Godchild and Godfather

Happy Anniversary to me, to us, to NSS

Happy Feast of St. Francis de Sales and Happy Anniversary to Not Strictly Spiritual. It was four years ago today that I decided to launch this blog, choosing the feast of the patron saint of journalists and one of my personal favorites as the perfect day to jump into the wild and wacky world of blogging.

Back in the early days, my blog was housed on my website, which you can see by clicking HERE. Then I moved it over to blogspot. It has ebbed and flowed with my life. When I’m writing books, as I am right now (two of them, in fact), NSS suffers a bit. When I have a little more time, I’m back at the NSS keys. Truth be told, writing on this blog is really one of my favorite “jobs.” I love talking to you and sharing my faith journey — and my recipes and photos.

This anniversary caused me to go back and look at some of my earliest posts, which gave me a good laugh at where I’ve been and a sobering reminder of the places where I haven’t made any progress. We had THIS photo of Chiara at work while I blogged, and THIS post about trying to get through Mass with a cranky toddler (how quickly we forget those days). And then there was THIS post about being “politically homeless,” especially during a presidential election year. It’s deja vu all over again.

Who knows what the next four years will bring? I can guarantee that in the coming months you’ll be hearing about my new books, one from Ave Maria Press and one from Penguin. And I know you’ll get regular updates on my kids, my cooking, my gardening, my travels, and, of course, my spiritual journey, which twists and bends and changes with each passing year. I’m always amazed at where it takes me, where God takes me.

So thank you for joining me here whenever you can. I truly appreciate your friendship and loyalty to this blog, even when I don’t show up for days at a time. And now I thought I’d end this post the same way I ended my very first blog post, with a favorite prayer written by St. Francis de Sales (one I have hanging on my bathroom mirror):

Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.


Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

— St. Francis de Sales

Four tips for adapting to the “new” Mass

We’re going on a field trip again today, over to the Huffington Post. Do you have your signed slip permission slip? I’m over there trying to help people adapt to the new language of the Mass. I’ll start you here and link you there:

By Mary DeTurris Poust
Having come of age in the years after Vatican II, I never knew the Catholic Mass in Latin. In fact, the only version I know is the one that’s been celebrated for the past 40 years. So I didn’t take too kindly to the idea that the words and responses of the Mass would be changing, and I’d have to look at a written guide to get me through the prayers that have rolled off my tongue since childhood.

The impending changes to the English translation of the universal Roman Missal have sparked controversy among Catholics, to be sure. Some wonder why we need a new translation when the old one seemed to be working just fine. They see the new language–which brings the English more closely in line with the original Latin–as a return to a harsher time, a past that no longer fits our modern way of thinking. Others see the changes as a long time coming, a correction of a translation that was always slightly “off.” Whatever side of the fence you’re on, the changes are less than one month away. It’s time to adapt and move forward. The new translation of the Roman Missal will go into effect on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, which is the beginning of the Church year for Catholics.

So what will these changes mean for you? They will probably feel somewhat strange at first, and no doubt there will be some things that may never feel right. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that referring to Jesus as “consubstantial with the Father” in the Nicene Creed where we once had the almost-lilting “one in being with the Father” is ever going to feel normal, let alone be an improvement. But, if we approach the changes with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart, we just might find our connection to the Mass reinvigorated for the first time in years, something Catholics in this country could sorely use.

Here are four basic guidelines for making the new Mass your own:

Get to know the Scriptural references behind some of the changes. When I first heard that the short prayer said before Communion was changing, I balked. Continue reading HERE.

Archbishop Dolan endorses my book on the Mass


If you’re looking for something to guide you or your parishioners through the new translation of the Mass, be sure to check out my latest book, “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” which has an imprimatur and has been endorsed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan:

“We Catholics believe in the power of prayer to change lives and the world. In her engaging new book, Mary DeTurris Poust lovingly walks us through many of the Church’s rich and diverse traditions of prayer, breathing new life into ancient, beloved devotions, and pointing the way toward more modern methods of prayer as well.

Perhaps most valuable of all, Mary breaks down the parts of the Mass – the ultimate prayer – to enhance the reader’s understanding and appreciation of this Sunday banquet at which we are all called to gather regularly as a family, united with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As Saint Paul confessed, ‘none of us know how to pray as we ought.’ This book is sure a help.”

+Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

For more information on my books, visit my website.

Mass as it must have been in the beginning


My friend Bill (aka Msgr. William Benwell, vicar general of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J.) was up for a visit and asked if he could celebrate Mass at our house. I was only too happy to oblige. While he’s celebrated Mass at a vacation rental for us in North Wildwood, N.J., we’ve yet to have Mass in our own home.

As we were sitting and praying together, gathered so close to the altar, I couldn’t help but imagine how our experience must have been very similar to what it was like to worship together in the early days of Christianity, when disciples gathered in homes to share a meal and celebrate their new faith.

So here are some shots of our home-grown liturgy. That’s our living room coffee table altar above.

Celebrant and congregation.

An interactive homily on St. Martha, whose feast day we were celebrating.

Noah was the lector. Olivia and Chiara were altar servers. A first for Chiara. And I was minister of the cup, another first.

Holy Thursday: Anything But Normal

Today I’m guest blogging over at Sarah Reinhard’s blog, SnoringScholar.com. I’ll start you here…

By Mary DeTurris Poust


My teenage son came home from school last week and reported that he took his younger Catholic school “buddy” across the street to our parish church to walk him through the Stations of the Cross. After they were done and were getting ready to leave the church, Noah had a strong desire to stay – and not just because he likes missing class. It was something he had never felt before, he said, something comforting that made him want to kneel down in the midday silence.

I know that feeling. I’ve been in our church when it’s semi-dark and completely empty. It feels deeply spiritual and powerfully peaceful. It feels like home.

It’s really not surprising that it would feel that way. After all, ours is a faith that centers on a shared meal, a spiritual version of the kitchen table, a sense of home even among strangers, even in a foreign land, wherever Jesus is present in the tabernacle.

Holy Thursday drives that point home for me. I can easily allow myself to slip back in time and imagine Jesus and the Apostles gathered in the home of a friend…Continue reading HERE.

A book that became a spiritual journey

Here’s my latest Life Lines column from the April 7 issue of Catholic New York:

Growing up in a traditional Catholic household — one where my mother strictly adhered to Church teaching and even added a few rules of her own (Thanksgiving was a holy day of obligation at our house) — I entered adulthood with a fairly substantial repertoire of Catholic devotions under my belt.

Grace Before Meals. Check. Monday night novena. Check. Stations of the Cross. Check. Rosary, litanies, Triduum services. Check, check, check. Ours was a life marked by the rhythm of the Church year, and I grew to love the passing spiritual seasons in much the same way I looked forward to autumn and spring.

So when I decided to write my latest book, “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” I had the basics down. But as I explored and researched, I realized how much more there was to learn and love in the beautiful treasury of Catholic prayers and devotions. Chapter by chapter, as I plumbed the depths of prayer methods that were often hauntingly familiar and sometimes refreshingly new, I found myself awed by the many and varied ways Catholics try to connect with God. Whether we like to pray out loud or in silence, with music or in motion, alone or in a crowd, there truly is something for everyone.

It’s a blessing to do a job that rotates around worship. Spiritual exercise is built into my day. Even when I am not actually praying, I am often writing a prayer or writing about prayer. This latest book, however, allowed me to enter into that world full time for several months, sitting before my computer with the words of the saints and the poetry of prayer filling my ears and my heart almost around the clock. From the desert-style prayer of silence and fasting to the fullness of the Rosary and popular novenas, I basked in the glow of Divine conversation.

Perhaps the best part of this particular writing job, which ultimately became a spiritual journey, was the time I spent writing about the Mass, including the new translation of the Roman Missal that will become the norm for Catholics in just a few months. I went from my initial aversion to changes that seemed foreign to my ears to a real appreciation for some of the changes that will take us back to our scriptural roots. Although the official translation will not be in place until Advent, I already hear the words of the new translation echoing silently in my head as I pray at Mass each Sunday.

In some ways, writing this book on prayer was like going on a pilgrimage. I traveled from one sacred place to another—the Novena to the Sacred Heart one day, the Jesus Prayer the day after, contemplation the next. And just like any pilgrim, there were days when the journey wore me out, when I wondered if I wanted to go on. Then I would reach my destination and feel renewed by a prayer practice that calmed my frazzled nerves and made my weary spirit soar.

My pilgrim heart struggled with some prayer methods while others felt as natural as breathing, but every prayer took me one step further down my spiritual path and left me hungry for more. My hope is that my book will do the same for every reader, from the most devoted Catholic to those who may have only a passing familiarity with our prayers and devotions.

Our faith is rich in ancient traditions that can be adapted to modern lives, giving deeper meaning and spiritual rhythm to even the most mundane moments of our days. When we lace our lives with prayer, whether it’s private or communal, recited from memory, spoken spontaneously, or perhaps not spoken at all, we experience transformation—in our hearts, in our homes, in our world.

Tune in to Archbishop Dolan’s show today

I’ll be talking about my newest book, “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and Mass,” with Archbishop Timothy Dolan on his weekly radio show, A Conversation with the Archbishop, today, April 7, at 1 p.m. EST. Tune in to The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159/XM 117.

The show will be repeated on Saturday at 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. and again on Sunday at 6 p.m. and midnight ET.

This was my third time on the archbishop’s show, which manages to be funny, informative, uplifting and spiritually nourishing all at once. To give you a clue, I get to talk about everything from the Liturgy of the Hours and the Last Supper to the New York Yankees- Boston Red Sox rivalry. Where else can you find that on Catholic radio?

Of course, there’s lots more to the show than just my segment, so be sure to stay for the whole thing.