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It’s First Saturday tomorrow — Make it a Morning with Mom! #5FirstSat4Mary

It’s First Saturday tomorrow — Make it a Morning with Mom! #5FirstSat4Mary

Tomorrow is a First Saturday. I hope you’ll join in beginning this 5-month devotion or continue along with me. This is my #5FirstSat4Mary4th of 5 first Saturdays. Earlier posts are here: the beginning, the second, and third. The first post outlines the “how-to’s” for the First Saturday devotion.

I’ve learned a few things as I’ve invited people to join me in this devotion.

Not all parishes have a Saturday morning or midday Mass. Of course, there’s a showstopper right there. However, if you can, check out surrounding parishes or shrines. I often go to a shrine church, several towns away, that is affiliated with a religious order. Their Mass schedule and confession schedule is different from my local parish, and often more in line with my work schedule. All I’m saying is that if you have the desire, ask Mary to give you a way to complete this devotion. I also know good friends and family who live in rural areas and this is simply not a viable option — having a Mass within an hour’s drive on Saturday. Might I suggest, then, the First Friday devotion?

Mentioning your desire to complete this devotion to a friend or two helps keep you accountable. It’s been years since I’ve made the First Saturdays when I was encouraged to make them again, (from a priest in confession, and no, it was not my penance, just a pious suggestion). I admit, it took me a while to actually commit based on my calendar, but once I did, the days opened up. Funny, right? It helps to join with a friend to do this together. But if you can’t you can always share it in person, try sharing it “long distance” like I did — with my Facebook and Twitter friends.

Monthly confession is truly a holy goal. The 5 First Saturdays require going to confession. It’s a good thing in terms of the practice and, of course, the graces. But what I’ve noticed is that when I’m committed to monthly confession (even if I’m not participating in the First Saturdays), I have a tendency to do an examen all month long. That is, I begin to make notes of what I want to bring to my next confession. And I do it in a relaxed way, as the Lord brings things to mind in the course of the month. It’s really made confession less stressful, or rather, the process of examining my conscience. I’m a journaling person, so I just keep notes there. And then when I get to go to confession, I’m able to summarize my sins and my needs. This is very helpful for the priest who hears my confession, too. I can be direct and succinct and really own up to sins without a lot of meandering or hemming and hawing. He can zone in on giving me good direction and a penance. Plus this is useful if there is a long line for confession before Mass and you want to be courteous to your neighbors waiting in line behind you.

So, join me, won’t you? Give yourself the gift of a morning with Mom. (Mary is your spiritual mother!)

Do it for Mary. Do it for Jesus who loves when we honor his Mother. Do it for Advent.

Maybe ask a friend?

Share #5First Sat4Mary.

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Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

We interrupt all the post-Pope coverage for this reminder… Tomorrow is a first Saturday.

Over the summer I was convicted to attempt to make the Five First Saturdays devotion. Let me just say that, like in most families, Saturdays can be pretty hectic. And on reflection, that’s probably why I need this all the more. It’s a taming of my chaotic heart. This devotions send me to monthly confession — always a good practice. It sends me to Mass to meet the lover of my soul in Holy Communion. And it asks me to pray the Rosary to be in touch with Momma Mary, and the intentions of the day.

In this post I share the precepts of making this devotion, so my purpose here is just to encourage you to join me. You can start your five Saturdays tomorrow. (Or if you are reading this down the line, on the next first Saturday.)

After I posted the invitation to join me in the First Saturdays, a little campaign developed on Twitter and Facebook that asked others to join in, as a kind of encouragement and solidarity with one another. What a blessing that is, so if you want, use the #hashtag  and let’s invite others.

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A few notes about this from last month’s experience…

For me, it’s all about conquering the calendar: To make these five mornings a priority. Last month I was going to out of town on the first Saturday, so I had to look up and find a church in the area where I was staying. It also meant I had to restructure my Friday to find a confession time, since I could not rely on that as part of the travel. It afforded me a lovely respite visit to St Joseph the Worker Shrine, one of my favorite haunts over the years. A priest I had never met there before heard my confession and blessed my socks off.

After driving that night to New York, on the next morning, the church my husband and I found for Saturday morning Mass turned out to be a lovely classically hewed-stone church with a “first Saturday” group praying the rosary after Mass, and — bonus! — discovered an eucharistic adoration chapel before we left!

So try it. Ask Momma Mary to help you get this scheduled… to open your calendar and your heart to these prayers and reparation and love of Jesus and Mary. 

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My photo from inside the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PA.

This makes me think… Jesus is the friend who always has the time…

“There is always a way open to each of the faithful: the way of prayer. Whoever sincerely believes the words “Ask and you shall receive” is given consolation and courage to persevere in every need. Even if it is not the immediate help which, to some extent, the person conceives of and desires, help does come.

For every Catholic there lies ready an immeasurable treasure: the proximity of the Lord in the holy sacrifice and in the most holy sacrament of the altar. Whoever is imbued with a lively faith in Christ present in the tabernacle, whoever knows that a friend awaits here constantly – always with the time, patience, and sympathy to listen to complaints, petitions, and problems, with counsel and help in all things – this person cannot remain desolate and forsaken even under the greatest difficulties. He always has a refuge where quietude and peace can again be found.”

Edith Stein, Edith Stein, Collected Works II, Essays on Women

(Later known as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

A few years later, I’m still tripping up on the Mass responses

Ok, I admit it, some days, especially when I’m tired, I forget and revert unconsciously to the “old” Mass parts.

Even though I’ve written articles on the subject of the new Roman Missal and helped explain the changes and their theological meanings to others, I still get tongue-tied. I still trip up and sometimes just fall into the old patterns of the Gloria and the Creed. I’m trying to be gentle with my midlife self — it took me years to learn all those prayers; I’ve been praying them since childhood. So now I’m finding its taking me a few years to learn the modifications to the prayers. I still cannot, off the top of my head, pray all three different Memorial Acclamations. If I were a Jeopardy contestant, I’d fail this category.

So what to do?

I’m just having to be more intentional, and actively keep using the missal. It certainly keeps me more focused on the words I pray, rather than rattling them off.

It is also keeping me humble. I thought this would be easier. Much of it is coming together for me, but then I skip a line in the Creed, or forget to say “Lord of hosts” in the Sanctus.

I ever so relate to the centurion’s claim to Jesus: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Lord, heal me of my frustration toward my slow adjustment… only say the word so that I may say the words I need to pray in union with your good people who seem to have adapted better than I have! Lord let me never forget you, even if I’m forgetting the changes to these prayers now and again. Amen.

Alleluia, Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Alleluia, Alleluia! Happy Easter!

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud the might King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

— from The Easter Proclamation–

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

It’s been a difficult winter season here. No getting around that. And I’m not just talking about the cold and the snowfall. In some ways, that has added some beauty to the landscape, and frankly, the excuse to cocoon a bit. Just a bit, because I’ve been out straight as they say. To compensate I’ve have to let go of a few things in order to embrace whatever fire is burning in front of me. To that end, I’ve missed writing and working consistently, I’ve missed getting together with friends or experiencing restful downtimes, I’ve missed podcasting, I’ve missed walking, and I’ve missed what I call balance-in-my-life. Even my prayer life — the anchor of each day — has been getting shifted into new times and forms, though that’s not always a bad thing.

My heart has been broken over sadnesses within my family, my friends’ lives, and mounting pressures — some unavoidable and some self-inflicted. Thank God for the menopausal crying jags… they cleanse me when I least expect them! If you know me, you can laugh at that last thing. Being a woman is still a wonderful thing — and it’s a wonder that I can recognize this new me on some days! Haha!

I’m not griping or ranting as if I’m looking for pity or for sympathies. I’m just a beggar who knows where her bread comes from, and I’ve written about in my latest over at Patheos. I had one of those Jesus moments that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

Here’s some of that…

All I wanted was a minute’s peace.

No, that’s not accurate. All I wanted was world peace, or something akin in my own little corner of it. At the very least, I wanted the noise in the church to go away. I wanted peace and quiet and escape from all that burdened me.

The Christmas season was ebbing away. I closed my eyes to pray after communion at Mass, to adore the Presence of Jesus in that moment. I attempted to pour out my heart, to break free from my troubles, to lean in and let him restore me with his holy food.

Instead I was remarkably distracted.

Normally, in prayer, I can tune out what’s around me. This day my concentration proved inadequate to the distractions.

The church seemed chaotic. I could not escape the scratchy shuffling of communicants in line to receive. After a New England snowfall, the “snowmelt”—salt and sand that sticks to the bottom of shoes—makes a scraping, gritty contact with the floor tiles in our church.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Even the music distracted me; the cantor, Lord have mercy,was out of sync with the hymn.

Oh geez, I know I am pitiful as I nitpick others—after communion, no less! Lord have mercy… on me.

There’s the distinctive cry of a newborn baby, and a new momma trying all she can to console, to no avail. She’ll figure it out soon enough. She needs to be here as much as we need her to be here with her little one. And their small chaos jolts me back to where I am.

I refocus, this time on the other baby within my line of sight—the Babe in the manger—in all his poverty and humility; Jesus born into our chaos.

 Read it all. 

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Advent Journal Entry: Mt 11: 4… “what you hear and see”

Here I am with another Advent journal entry. You can read my earlier entries from week one here, and week two here.

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John the Baptist offers one of my most favorite lines in reference to Christ from the New Testament: “He must increase, and I must decrease. (Jn 3:30)”  I think it is an accurate summary of the Christian life. I’m thinking of him, as he made an appearance in last Sunday’s gospel. But I digress.

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In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, we hear some of the final words of John the Baptist from his imprisonment before his death. He is the forerunner, the one who is making ready the path for the Savior who is to come. John sends word to Jesus, and asks forthrightly, “Are you the one….?”

Jesus does not answer with a simple yes to John’s question. He describes the powerful miracles he works as an affirmative and unmistakeable reply.

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Mt 11:2-6)

I’ve mentioned here before that this Advent I’m asking the Lord for what in particular he wants to show me each week. This week, it’s a way to evangelize… how to share the truth about Jesus: “Go and tell… what you hear and see…”

Yes, I am internalizing the words of this particular gospel for myself, asking what do these words of Jesus say to me? I am already convinced: I already believe he is The One. So what must I do? Give evidence of this faith.

How should I share this truth of the saving love of Jesus with another person? For starters, by sharing what I hear and see about Jesus.

How does Jesus work in my life? What do I hear and see?

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I’m so very grateful that I heard the gospel proclaimed boldly when I was a teen. On a retreat in my parish, given by several Spirit-filled adults and teens, I gave my heart to Jesus. Decades later, my commitment to Jesus must continually be renewed, at Mass and through the sacraments, and through my daily prayer and actions. Part of that is giving witness to what I hear and see.

My adult life has been punctuated with many physical maladies, so its really no surprise that I pay attention to Jesus’ words of healing in this gospel. It’s also no surprise when I find there is more going on besides.

After a year of recurring chalazion cysts in my eyes, one day in prayer I felt Jesus nudging me to find another eye doctor, to get a second opinion. It was the right move: I’ve recently been diagnosed with ocular rosacea. (I never heard of that before! I don’t have skin rosacea either!) Yet Jesus is helping me heal slowly from it, with medication and diet. Some days this is slowing down my work and my pace of life, but I’m getting by, and grateful for a solid diagnosis. Blindness in my life need not be related to physical sight, it can be spiritual too… I can be blind to the needs of others due to my own selfishness and pride, or blind to my own laziness at times. Jesus has been trying to cure me of that too, in his direct, yet gentle ways.

In one chapter my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, I wrote about a kind of lameness that I’ve experienced for many years. A congenital deformity — bi-lateral hip dyplasia — has led to one hip replacement in my 40s, and another one to come in the future. What a gift to finally be able to walk straight after my hip got repaired in 2008. Before that point, I often used a cane and limped. I thanked God for using medical science to bring me relief from that lameness and pain. Recently, there are more signs that the other hip, similarly afflicted, is deteriorating. There are days when the pain gets the best of me. Jesus is even using this somehow — especially when I remember to offer it up for the needs of others. He’s reminding me that lameness of spirit is a more deforming and detrimental condition than my hip. So he is calling me to daily disciplines that are designed to build up spiritual muscle in the meantime.Acer Image

I’ve never met a leper, though I know the disease still exists — but I know what it is to have a disease nobody wants. My breast cancer diagnosis in my 30’s left me pretty scared and beat up. Yet here I am, still chugging with double digit years of survivorship. Jesus saw me through that painful time too. I write about some of that in my book too. Cancer is the club that nobody wants to join. Just this month my husband was diagnosed with melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer. Yet despite the shock I felt that morning when he got the call, we were both already on our way to Mass that morning — the very best place we could be. Jesus gave us strength that day. We are grateful that Bob has an early stage of the disease. It was caught very early and is treatable by surgery.

Some people might look at my life and not see a single miracle in any of this stuff I’ve shared. And you’d be right… there were no miraculous restorations to my former health, just ways of keeping me alive, and dealing with illness and disability… both physical and spiritual. Yet, the depth of my gratitude, my blessings, and my joys are innumerable. Jesus has seen me through. He guides my steps. He re-aligns my faltering ones. My life is on his timetable, not mine. I belong to him. He’s the One who is the source of all my good.

If I’m looking for miracle, I can tell you where I find one.

The real miracle is Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist at every Mass, or in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. No matter what shape you’re in, no matter the highs and lows in your own life… go to Him. Spend time with Him there.

Then tell me what you hear and see.

Then tell someone else.

The powerful light of the family table — a place of belonging and the sign of the domestic church

The powerful light of the family table — a place of belonging and the sign of the domestic church

This article is currently posted at CatholicMom.com. Go there for great content for families!

I grew up with an old saying: “The family that prays together stays together.” And that’s a maxim that I believe in and it’s something my husband Bob and I tried to encourage in every stage of our parenting life. For us, as Catholics, that translated into Sunday Mass, grace at meals, prayers before bedtime, and spontaneous prayers during the day. Not to mention devotions outside of that, like the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or observances in keeping with the Liturgical Year.

Yet, equally important was the family dinner table. Dinner has always been a point of connection, of conversation, of visiting with one another, checking in and talking about the highs and lows of the day. Often what was on the menu was never as important as what was shared around the table. What a gift it is to have someone care enough about you to ask, “how was your day?”  It’s such a simple notion of belonging, but it builds connections and grounds intimacy. And now that Bob and I are quasi-empty nesters, and the daily table is smaller, we still need to offer that gift to one another, and find ways to invite others to join us.

Recently, The Onion posted a social commentary that I feel was right on the mark called, “Lonely Nation Gathers Outside Window of Happy Family Eating Dinner Together.” It was a touching spoof  but I found it achingly painful to think that so many people have gone without this humble social connection, this domesticity, this rootedness. The light from within the home shined out of the windows illuminating the crowd gathered outside in the dark to observe the dinner hour.

There is a small little ritual at our home table for dinner. The person who usually sets the table lights a candle. This is not to dim the lights or to be romantic. It is to remind us of the Light of Christ — as in Jesus is the unseen guest, the One who is present with us. He sees us, hears us, is with us. There is a sanctuary light always on in a Catholic church to remind visitors there of the Holy Guest — Jesus — in the tabernacle. We light our little candle on our table in all seasons to be mindful that He is ever-present.

When each of my children left for college, I told them we would remember them around this table every night… we would see them in this light. For, thanks to the Body of Christ, they are with us, even still. This little candle reminds my mother’s heart that there is a connection, unseen and unheard, and Someone’s eyes and ears are present to my children wherever they are in the world. I feel the same way about our parents, siblings, relatives, and loved ones near and far. They are with us in Christ.

In a larger way, the importance of the Christ connection in our Church is what can and should draw us to Mass on Sundays. The table is set, the candles lit, and the meal is prepared. It’s something we need and truly long for, even when we have to fight the calendar and the current cultural norms to commit to it. At Mass we listen and we converse with Jesus. We tell him about our day, our week, and what’s on our mind and heart. He is present to us, truly present in the Word and in the Eucharist, and He keeps us close at heart after we depart.

I’ve just learned that Pope Francis is calling for a Synod on families. Speculations are varied as to the themes of marriage and family, of divorce and remarriage, that may be discussed there in October 2014. With this announcement, as with The Onion’s “news”, I heard a call for every Catholic home to deepen the bonds of its domestic church, or to begin anew, to organize itself around the table more. This, truly, is one way we can evangelize and spread the good news to one another, in the simple call to be in relationship around the table. On the global scale, I’m glad the Universal Church will be taking up the bigger questions that affect the family. Many of our sisters and brothers are missing at our Sunday table at Mass. Our family that is the Church needs to do more to invite them inside.

Let us pray for how we ought to respond in our homes and in our churches…

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How do you share the light of faith around your table?

 

Take 10 minutes and think about this before you go to Sunday Mass

Fr Robert Barron continues to be one of my favorite preachers. Here he gives an excellent explanation of  The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

Pope Quotes: My Favorites from World Youth Day Homilies

Pope Quotes: My Favorites from World Youth Day Homilies

With the hoopla that the mainstream media is making, and the Catholic blogosphere, in the last two days about the post-Rio press conference Pope Francis held aboard his flight home, you might have missed that there were a whole bunch of great quotes that the Pope gave to the world — catechetically speaking — and to the world’s youth. Here are a few highlights from me from three homilies he gave along the way.

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From the Homily from the Mass at Our Lady of Aparecida

When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.

I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.

[On Hopefulness:]  I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! [E]vil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!

[On being open to being surprised by God:] Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. The history of this Shrine is a good example: three fishermen, after a day of catching no fish, found something unexpected in the waters of the Parnaíba River: an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother? God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.

[On living in joy:  [W]e cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.

BTW, here’s a cool website showing interactive views of the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.

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From the Homily at Eucharistic prayer vigil:

…in silence, let us all look into our hearts and each one of us tell Jesus that we want to receive the seed of his Word.  Say to him: Jesus, look upon the stones, the thorns, and the weeds that I have, but look also upon this small piece of ground that I offer to you so that the seed may enter my heart.  In silence, let us allow the seed of Jesus to enter our hearts.  Remember this moment.  Everyone knows the seed that has been received.  Allow it to grow, and God will nurture it.

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From the Homily from the closing Mass at WYD:

“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.

[On “Go”:]  Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

[On “do not be afraid”:] Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!

“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.
And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community.

[On serve:] The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.

A great re-cap with Flickr account photos over at News.VA as well as text and video.

For coverage with a local flair, look at the Rio photos and comments on the Archdiocese of Boston Facebook page.