Welcome to the Catholic Newbie blog. My name is Lyn Mettler and I hope to share with you how I came from being a 30+ year non-believer to a Catholic convert. I was opposed to any sort of organized religion for most of my adult life but in 2011 had a dramatic change of heart. I became Catholic on Easter 2013, and I hope to daily share my thoughts, worries and hopes with you and others on the same journey.

Praise First: Why You Should Start Your Daily Prayers With Praise

Daily Prayer Praise

Did you know you should start your prayer with praise to God? This was news to me after a friend shared this insight during a recent RCIA class in which I was assisting. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we acknowledge who God is and thus who we are in relation before we start rattling off our list of requests in our daily prayers?

Where does this idea come from? Let me share what I’ve learned, because it has already made a huge difference in my prayer, and thus, my life.

Please note this post contains some affiliate links to books for which I may earn a small commission — at no cost to you — to support A Catholic Newbie if you make a purchase after clicking through. I really appreciate you using my links!

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is how Jesus taught us to pray. It is the “perfect” prayer. And while we should definitely pray it word for word, it also offers us a model of HOW to pray. Guess what the Lord’s Prayer starts with? You got it: praise!

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, HALLOWED be they name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

THEN… we get to our petitions, as well as asking forgiveness for our sins.

The Praise Perspective

Putting praise first puts us in proper perspective in relation to God. God is God; we are not. In fact, the original sin of Adam and Eve and even the people at the tower of Babel was the desire to be like God.

Let’s recall how great is our Creator and recount the amazing deeds he has performed from building Creation from nothing and leading the people out of slavery in Egypt to raising up great kings like David and, of course, sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. Makes you feel small and humbled, doesn’t it?

And that’s the position we should place ourselves before petitioning God. As Mary says in the Magnificat, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” Let us find our lowliness before God. After all, this is why we kneel and prostrate ourselves before Him, as well.

Plus, doesn’t praise put you in an attitude of gratitude, as well? It helps you turn a negative countenance around into appreciating what you have and realizing the insignificance of your problems in comparison with God and his might. It might even help you find the good in your suffering — even if it’s just knowing there IS good even if you can’t see it.

As I have incorporated praise into my prayers, I have enjoyed recounting all the things God has done in my life. Too often, I forget these and don’t call them to mind. While anytime is a good time to praise God for his works in your life, it is especially helpful when you are facing difficulty. Just remembering that God has worked miracles in your life before increases your trust, faith and dependence on Him.

The Difference Between Praise and Thanksgiving

As soon as I learned about the practice of “praise first,” I asked, “Wait, how is that different than giving thanks?” Well, the two are very closely related, but you may consider giving thanks AFTER praising God.

In Jeff Cavin’s book, “Praise God and Thank Him: Biblical Keys for a Joyful Life,” he says that praise is focusing on God and his attributes, while thanksgiving is focusing on the “works” of God. So praise might be focusing on God’s power, magnificence, holiness, justice, love, mercy and might, while thanksgiving might be more aligned to thanking God for the good things you have in your life and even the difficult situations you are facing, knowing that they are part of His plan.

Putting It Into Practice

Catholic prayer

So how exactly do you praise God? It sounds simple, but if you’ve never done it, it can certainly feel awkward :).

At first, it may be easiest to start by reading a Bible verse that is praising God to give you the feel for what proper praise should be. You might also bring to mind different parts of the Mass — which is FULL of praise if you listen — that you can pray, like the Gloria, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and, of course, the Psalms. Eventually, you will be able to form your own words of praise with a little practice.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • The Psalms were written as praises to God; start by reading a Psalm and then interpret it afterward in your own way as praise to God.
  • Praise Jesus in his many titles: King of Kings, The Christ, Holy One of God, Savior of the World, Divine Mercy, etc.
  • Praise God for what he has done for his people over all time: Creating Adam and Eve; forgiving us; raising up prophets, judges and kings to guide us; sending his only Son to save us; leading the people out of slavery in Egypt; leading the Israelites out of exile again and again. If you don’t know much about the Old Testament, now might be a great time to learn! I highly recommend “Bible Basics for Catholics” and “New Testament Basics for Catholics” both by John Bergsma as unintimidating and easy reads about the Bible. Read my post on why I think every Catholic should read “New Testament Basics for Catholics.”
  • Pray a “rosary of gratitude” (give praise for something on each bead of the rosary; read more in Patti Armstrong’s article on “The Power of Gratitude to Transform Suffering“)
  • Praise God for Creation and the beauty of nature you see around you — or have seen when traveling.
  • Praise Him for his many great saints who he has raised up to show us how to live as holy human beings.
  • Praise Him for the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
  • Praise Him for the Bible.
  • Praise Him for His Church.
  • Praise Him for his Mother Mary.
  • Praise Him for our difficult situations and the graces they will bring.
  • Pray the Magnificat; it is a wonderful prayer of joyous praise to God as spoken by Mary, the Mother of God.
  • Pray Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel: 2).
  • Sing the Gloria!

What Should We Do After Praise?

So you’ve praised God — good for you! Now, you are ready to progress through the rest of your daily prayers. What I like to do next is spend time thanking God for all the good things he has done in my life and for the bad, as well.

According to Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., in his booklet, “Appointment With God,” after praise, we should spend time in the Bible reading the Word of God. Perhaps you can read the Catholic Church’s Daily Readings, read a Psalm or follow a Bible reading plan. But whatever you do, read the passage several times and pray to God to ask what He wants you to understand from the reading. Sit with it for a bit. Put yourself in the scene, imagine your reaction, pay attention to the words and phrases that stand out to you and ask how they relate to your life.

Next, he says to spend some time in repentance. Lay out for God what you have done wrong and what you could have done better. Ask for help in the areas where you are struggling. Of course, going to Reconciliation regularly, as well, should be a part of your prayer life.

Then, it’s time to get to your petitions, but Scanlan recommends praying for others first, especially those whom you are having trouble forgiving. He suggests praying: “Holy Father, may you pour out your Holy Spirit out upon [NAME]. Please make them as holy and happy as possible even if they are holier and happier than I am.” Then, you can get to your requests. But, again, sit in quiet for a bit to see if God plants an idea in your mind or speaks to you in some way.

Finally, if you’ve determined an action or two God wants you to take, make haste like Mary when she headed to the hill country to her cousin Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel spoke to her. Don’t waste time. Get to it, my friend!

Making Time for Praise in Your Daily Prayers

According to Scanlan, we need to “book” a time with God to pray every day. We all know that, don’t we? But we don’t really do it. Do you want to be more at peace? Do you want to see the power of God working in your life? Do you want God to guide you? Then put God on your calendar FIRST. I know you can do it!

I recently incorporated a daily morning walk into my routine to improve my health and decided this was an ideal time to praise God. I now call it my “praise walk” :). As often as I can, I attend daily mass and have decided to spend 10-15 minutes in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the presence of Jesus in prayer. I often pray for others first (ask God WHO you should pray for and HOW you should pray for them; he’ll tell you if you listen!), then lay before God a question on my heart and listen for the answer.

Then at different times throughout the day, such as when taking the dog for a walk or in the shower, I try to pray the rosary along with several other prayers that are important to see. Read my post on “11 Ways to Work the Rosary Into Your Busy Day.”

Praising God is truly what we were designed to do. He made Man on the sixth day of Creation, always pointing toward the Sabbath — and the worship and praise of God — on the seventh day. If we but fall in line with our Creator’s design for us, we can live an infinitely more fulfilling life by growing closer to God and becoming better equipped to become the saints he desires for us to be.

Do you put praise first in your prayer? How has it impacted your prayer life?

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Spiritual Warfare: 12 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Evil

How to Protect Yourself Against Spiritual Warfare via @ACatholicNewbie

There was a period where I felt strongly that my family — especially my youngest son and I — were experiencing spiritual warfare. Essentially, this means we felt attacked by evil with sudden, unexplained phenomena with evil components entering our lives.

As a new Catholic, I knew some basics like praying to St. Michael, spraying the house with holy water and blessing my child with the sign of the cross, but I was unsure what else to do besides ask my friends for prayers. When I made that ask, my friends responded so generously in all their wisdom of Catholicism with some amazing tips. And they are tips EVERYONE needs to know.

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12 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Spiritual Warfare

Here are some steps you can take to protect your family from evil spirits if you are feeling spiritually attacked courtesy of my wonderful Catholic friends:

  • St. Michael Prayer and Chaplet – In addition to praying the St. Michael prayer (which I have learned by heart 🙂 and pray with my middle school son nightly), there is also a St. Michael chaplet that you can pray with a special set of beads or on the free Laudate app for smartphones (just touch the “virtual” beads with your fingers as you pray). You can also ask a priest to pray the St. Michael prayer over you or your family.
  • Guardian Angels – For parents who feel their children are undergoing spiritual warfare, you can ask your guardian angel to work with their guardian angel to protect them.
  • Fasting – Fasting combined with prayer, as said in the Bible and by many saints, is one of the most effective ways to ensure your prayers are heard — and hopefully answered. I know this has worked miracles for me in the past.
  • Blessed Salt – Have a priest, deacon or exorcist bless a container of salt. In addition to cooking with it, sprinkle it around your house as a shield.
  • Bless Your Home – Have a priest bless your home at least yearly.
  • Crucifix – Have a crucifix in every room of your home, especially your children’s rooms and by the front door.
  • Rosary – Pray it daily, as a family — even a decade — if you can!
  • Blessings – Bless your children with the sign of the cross with holy water (you can get it at the baptismal font in your church) before bed and before they leave the house.
  • Backpacks – For kids, place a blessed rosary and Miraculous Medal in their backpack, so it will always be close to them. You can also use a St. Benedict medal with an exorcism blessing.
  • Adoration – Spend time in adoration or in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Miraculous Medal – Place a Miraculous Medal underneath the mattress of every person in your house. As soon as I placed the Medal under the mattress of my son’s bed, the problems STOPPED. It was amazing!
  • Prayer – Suggested Prayers
    • Heavenly Father, if there are demons prowling around looking for the souls of my family, I ask in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, that you cast them out and protect us from the evil one.  Amen.”
    • Ask the blood of Jesus to cover the person and protect them. It was the blood that Christ shed that washed away evil.
    • With the cross of Jesus I come against and I pull down all demonic strongholds in PERSON’S NAME’s mind and body in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit.

      With the cross of Jesus I come against and I break all demonic strongholds in PERSON’S NAME’s mind and body in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit.

      With the cross of Jesus I come against and I demolish all demonic strongholds in PERSON’S NAME’s mind and body in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit.

      I seal PERSON’S NAME’s mind and body  with the blood of Jesus and reclaim all of its territories for Christ in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit

      I asked The blessed Virgin Mary to bind and cast out all demonic influences from PERSON’S NAME bringing them to the foot of the cross of her son Jesus where they are defeated forever never to return. AMEN

Have you ever felt spiritual warfare or attacks of evil? How did you protect yourself and your family? I would love to hear more suggestions!

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Catholic Travel Guide to Santa Barbara in Honor of St. Barbara’s Feast Day

Catholic Travel Guide to Santa Barbara via @ACatholicNewbie

Today is St. Barbara’s feast day. She is a 3rd Century saint, who refused to marry despite her father’s insistence. The legend goes that when she told him she was a Christian, he had her tortured and then beheaded her himself. Many miracles were said to have occurred during her tortures.

California’s Santa Barbara is named after this miraculous saint and the city is a beautiful honor to such a glorious martyr. In 2015, my husband and I visited this gorgeous Southern California city by the sea and I thought I’d share some of our favorite moments in honor of St. Barbara’s feast day, Dec. 4.

We spent about three days in Santa Barbara, which was nowhere near enough! I hope to go back soon! Here were my favorite activities and some photos to go with them:

1) The Old Mission Santa Barbara

This is a Catholic must-see when visiting Santa Barbara. The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded on the Feast of St. Barbara in 1786 to convert the local peoples and is still functioning today as a community of Franciscan friars, retreat center and full parish. You can take a self-guided tour through the cemetery, mausoleum, garden and museum. Catholics will want to stop and pray in the church or even attend daily mass in the chapel. Also, be sure to stop in their fantastic store full of Catholic items.

 

Mission Santa Barbara

2) The Harbor

We happened upon Santa Barbara Harbor right at sunset, which was truly one of the most beautiful displays I’ve ever seen. The sun, painting the sky pink, purple, orange and blue, contrasted by the Santa Ynez mountains and the vast Pacific with the silhouette of the Channel Islands in the distance, was breathtaking. How can you not believe in God when you see such natural beauty?!

Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset

3) The Architecture

The Spanish architecture in Santa Barbara is amazing. Everywhere you turn is a beautiful building and red tiles galore. A great way to get a good overview is the Red Tile Walking Tour, which includes 17 stops downtown, including the famous County Courthouse. Head to the top of the courthouse for a fantastic view! I also adored the many “paseos” as you walk down the State Street, the main thoroughfare. The paseos are beautifully-landscaped outdoor plazas that wind, twist and turn and are full of shops and restaurants. Turn off the street into one of these and you’ll be surprised what there is to find hidden beyond the surface.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Credits: Jay Sinclair

4) Hiking

There’s plenty of hiking around Santa Barbara, but we choose a short one-mile hike to Knapp’s Castle, the ruins of an estate that burned down 70 years ago. It offers fantastic views of the Santa Ynez River Canyon. Be sure to step over the old bathtub lying on the ground ;-).

Santa Barbara hiking

5) The Simpson House Inn

We stayed at the most lovely little inn located right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, but it felt like it was off in a country estate. The Simpson House Inn has a main house and several cottages for guests. We stayed upstairs in one of the cottages, which was absolutely charming. They brought breakfast to us every morning for no additional charge, setting up a lovely table with beautiful tableware. We loved the sitting room, overhead beams and farmhouse feel.

Simpson House Inn Santa Barbara

6) Urban Wine Trail Wine Tasting

I thoroughly enjoy wine but don’t really know much about it besides what I like :). We enjoyed a wine tasting at Cottonwood Canyon along Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail, a series of wineries in the downtown district. Our host was super nice and great about explaining the intricacies of wine tasting to us wine tasting newbies. My favorite? The Pinot Noir! Magnifique!

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

Credit Jay Sinclair

7) The Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal I wear around my neck inevitably results in conversations about Catholicism, which I love. So I was so pleased that one of the staff members at the Simpson House Inn complimented my medal and wanted to know more about it. She was not Catholic, but was participating with a Catholic Marian group of some sort. I was able to direct her where to get a medal of her own. Trip bonus!

To read more of my travel adventures, head over to my travel blog at www.gototravelgal.com. Here is another post on our California trip highlights.

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How to Make an Advent Wreath in 4 Steps

 How to Make an Advent Wreath via @ACatholicNewbie

If you’re a Catholic newbie like me, you may not have an Advent wreath. In fact, I’ve run across plenty of longtime Catholics who’ve never had an Advent wreath! Problem solved! Just follow these simple steps that even a non-crafty person like me can do easily, and you’ve got a new tradition to hand down through your family. Thanks to St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church for this idea.

Materials (total cost about $10-$15):

  • Green floral wire
  • Garland
  • Decorative items, such as pine cones, ornaments and other wreath stick-in type items
  • Ribbon
  • Advent wreath metal frame – Two options you can order online: www.theCatholicGiftShop.com or www.CatholicSupply.com
  • Advent taper candles (3 purple, 1 rose/pink)

Instructions:

You should be able to find most of the items at your local craft store. The metal frame for the wreath and Advent candles can usually be found at your local Catholic bookstore or online as noted above.

1) Take your metal frame and lay your garland on top. Use the green floral wire to attach the garland to the frame. Make sure your garland is arranged so that the wreath will sit flat on a table.

2) Add the decorative items you selected, such as pine cones or ornaments, to the garland and attach with floral wire to secure.

3) Wrap your ribbon around the garland loosely. Tie a pretty bow on one side. It’s usually easier if you create the bow separately and then tie it on with the ribbon you used to wrap around the garland.

4) Add your candles!

Remember to light your candles each Sunday of Advent. Use a prayer such as this Blessing of an Advent Wreath while lighting each candle. Check your local parish for free Advent materials with prayers, as well.

What is an Advent wreath? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says the four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. They say, “The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead.”

Happy Advent!

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