Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

October 31, 2009

Magdalene Novena: Day 1

The Repentant Magdalene, by Georges de la Tour, 1640

Meditation: Song of Solomon: 1: 1-7

Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth!
More delightful is your love than wine!

Your name spoken is a spreading perfume-
that is why the maidens love you.

Draw me!-
We will follow you eagerly!
Bring me, O king, to your chambers.
With you we rejoice and exult,
we extol your love; it is beyond wine:
how rightly you are loved!

I am as dark-but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem-
As the tents of Kedar,
as the curtains of Salma.

Do not stare at me because I am swarthy,
because the sun has burned me.
My brothers have been angry with me;
they charged me with the care of the vineyards:
my own vineyard I have not cared for.

Tell me, you whom my heart loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you give them rest at midday,
Lest I be found wandering
after the flocks of your companions.

Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

Our Father.
Hail Mary.
Glory Be.

---- ---- ----
View the full itinerary of the Relic of Mary Magdalene here.

To find out more about this relic, please click here.

To find out more about our reasons for saying this novena, or to submit prayer requests and follow the progress of the novena click here

October 30, 2009

Novena to St. Mary Magdalene

Noli Me Tangere, by Fra Angelico, Convent of San Marco, Florence (1425-1430).

Dear Friends, Family, Readers, Sisters:

As Edith mentioned earlier this month, a relic of St. Mary Magdalene arrived on North American soil, for the first time ever, escorted by a French Dominican. The relic is Magdalene's tibia, a bone of the leg, which knelt before the Risen Lord, as the first witness to the Resurrection.

The national press release traces the history of this relic:
A letter of authentication from Bishop Rey reports that the relics were hidden at the time of the Saracen invasions and rediscovered in 1279, and have been venerated without interruption ever since...For centuries the relics were missing - disappearing from about 710 A.D. when the Saracens pillaged the South of France and the Church hid sacred objects to safeguard them. Then in 1279, they were discovered by Charles II of Anjou in a crypt of a chapel in the town of St. Maximin in a sarcophagus that did not have her name but that contained a piece of old parchment dated 710 A.D., that said, 'Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene.'

Upon discovering the bones, Charles II sealed the crypt and gathered all the Bishops for an official opening and inspection. All of the bones including the skull were found intact. The only missing bone was the lower jaw bone which was later found and identified by the Pope as the same jawbone that had been venerated, for centuries, as the jawbone of Mary Magdalene, at Saint John Lateran Church in Rome.

The relic is travelling around the South and the East Coast; tomorrow it will be in New Orleans, where Edith can visit her, and on November 8th it will be in Washington, DC, where Julian and Agatha will venerate her relics.

This is a joyous occasion for all of us, but we are especially moved by the Providence which unites us, the Magdalene Sisters, in honoring our patron. There are hundreds of cities she could visit, but, by the grace of God, she is coming to ours!

---- ---- ----
In honor of this, and to reaffirm our commitment to pursuing God's will in our lives, the Magdalene Sisters will be saying a novena over the course of the next nine days, to St. Mary Magdalene. Every day we will post one meditation of St. Mary Magdalene--be it a scripture verse, or writings from the Church Fathers, etc.--and conclude with the following prayer:
Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

Our Father.
Hail Mary.
Glory Be.

Please join us in this novena, as we pray for St. Mary Magdalene's courage, conviction, abandonment to the will of God, and overwhelming passion for Our Lord.

Please feel free to leave comments with your intentions, so that we may take them before St. Mary Magdalene, and present them to her, hoping for her intercession. You may remain anonymous in your request.

---- ---- ----
View the full itinerary here.

St. Anthony of Padua Church
4640 Canal St.
New Orleans, LA

Saturday Oct 31st: Veneration -- all day until 6 p.m.; Masses: 8:15 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Lectures: 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Sunday Nov 1st: Veneration -- all day until 6 p.m.; Masses: 7:30 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.; Lectures: 10:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Dominican House of Studies
487 Michigan Ave, N.E.
Washington, DC

Sunday, November 8th: Mass: 11:15 a.m.; Public Veneration: 12:30 - 5:20 p.m.; Rosary: 5:20 p.m.; Vespers: 5:40 p.m.

To find out more about this relic, please click here.

You can follow the progress of the novena by clicking here.

Protecting Marriage

Here is an article written by a friend of mine for Headline Bistro on how to protect marriage and "love thy neighbor". I think it's a great resource to hand to someone if they have questions about the Catholic Christian's beliefs on the matter or if you yourself have trouble thinking through or articulating the issues at hand.

I Was Wondering...

Well, I was catching up reading one my favorite blogs (well, clearly this blog is my absolute favorite!!) this week...Dar al-Masih, a blog for Catholics on evangelization particularly for our Muslim brothers and sisters. I was struck by this post on converts to Islam particularly from Christianity. One link on the post to this website called "Turn to Islam" (which I will not hyperlink here because I started getting weird emails about being a 'Son of Hamas' the moment I opened this site...probably gonna have the CIA on me), and it made me really sad!

The site features videos of people - especially women who convert to Islam. One of the sites 'must see' videos features a young Hispanic woman who was raised Catholic and loved her faith. After she married a Muslim man, she decided to raise her children Catholic behind his back -- and then her children started asking her why she prayed to saints instead of God, and why she always prayed to her Crucifix. The woman had no answers and decided to 'turn to Islam,' and now she feels closer to God than ever. One thing I noticed in these videos -- each conversion is usually based upon not knowing the answers and feelings.

And it got me many Catholics know NOTHING about their faith? How many Catholics do the ritual or just seek a feeling from faith? But faith is an intellectual virtue (See Summa Theological Second part of the Second part Question 4, article 2). It just got me wondering -- what can I do, oh Lord. What can I do? Give me the gifts to spread Your Word and tell Your people who You ARE!

October 29, 2009

The Priest, the Nun and the Playmate

It really does sound like the begining of a bad joke. But Ed Mechmann's recent post about an unusual encounter in an elevator is really a lovely meditation on the interesction of Theology of the Body and our daily life:
Last week, Sr. Lucy of the Sisters of Life and I were invited to appear on a radio show that is broadcast on the Catholic Channel of Sirius Satellite Radio. The show is called Word to Life, and it's hosted by Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P. ...When we arrived at the building where the radio station is located, Sr. Lucy and I were greeted by Fr. Aquinas, and while we were standing at the security checkpoint, we encountered a very glamorous, shapely young woman who looked like a model.

One couldn't help but notice that her health was in very grave risk, because her blouse was suffering from a serious shortage of fabric. That's putting it mildly. But she was dressed for the occasion, since she was a Playboy Playmate, on her way to appear on a radio show run by a "men's magazine". Being a normal male human being, I found this all very, very distracting. Every other man in the vicinity certainly did, too, because she was the center of attention, to say the least.

What happened next taught me the lesson.

We went to the elevator to go upstairs to the studio, and all got on the same car. Sr. Lucy and Fr. Aquinas were standing on either side of the young lady. So here we were: a priest, a sister, a Playboy Playmate, and a married man who was struggling to maintain custody of his eyes and thoughts, and who was thinking about what an odd collection of people he was with. The elevator stopped, and a man got on. He was taken aback by this scene, and immediately remarked, "You're not going to the same place".

Read the rest of the story here. Mechmman works in the Family/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Washington (HT)

October 28, 2009

That's What They Said

I'd like to draw our readers' attention to a blog recommended to me by one of our readers. The title is "He Said/She Said" and its authors describe it as "a Christian blog for men and women, single and/or married, who want to dialogue about everyday life experiences and issues concerning work, relationships, community, and the world." Based on the fact that they link to some of the same blogs we link to and refer to several saints, I believe they are Catholic. Regardless, the topics are relevant, the blog entries well-written, and the authors authetic. This Magdalene sister gives it two thumbs up!

October 26, 2009

Thou Shall Not Whine

I have a sign in my classroom that reads like the title of this post: Thou Shall Not Whine. I tell my students that it's the 11th commendment, and if the Passover Plague didn't work, God was prepared to smite the Israelites for their whining. Certainly sarcastic. But there is a little truth to my remarks, nonetheless.

I teach the products of Generation Whine. My students are bold with requests, find no problem complaining about assignments to my face, and find it perfectly acceptable to challenge the established classroom rules.

However, what I find to be most frustrating and most disturbing is that much of their behavior is not only not stopped, but encouraged, by their parents. Parents frequently email me providing far-fetched excuses for their child's tardiness with assignments or putting the blame on me when students fail to meet expectations. Students are even encouraged by guardians and people in authority to take "mental health days" when the weeks get too stressful.

Whatever happened to buckling down, doing your assignment, and having integrity if in the rare case you missed a deadline? Whatever happened to respecting your teacher so much that you feared having to explain yourself if you did something outside of the classroom norms? Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hard work and learning to take initiative?

Sorry for the rant, but I'm finding it hard to motivate students who have no motivation within themselves and no one pushing them at home. How are we to turn Generation Whine into Generation Fine?

Building with Boxes: How Agatha Stayed Inside All Weekend And Organized Her Life

I had intended to name this post something like "Setting Thing in Order" but that seemed too prosaic. Then I found this awesome book cover, and, hark, I had a title.

The truth is, since I moved to DC 15 months ago, I have been living out of boxes. In my old apartment (which I shared with Julian), I never had the space or furniture to entirely unpack my various possessions--including my beloved books. In this new apartment, my new roommate and I quickly made order in the common places. It took a couple weeks (ok! months) to get the art on the walls and the furniture in a floor plan we liked. But the living room, dining room, and kitchens were all serviceable, and even pleasant to look at within a week of moving in.

My bedroom, on the other hand...Well, 3 months in, and I still was living out of boxes. I mean, I unpacked my clothes, and my books (with new beautiful shelves)--but everything else was scattered in boxes around the room, vying for space with mid-season shoes, and several laundry baskets, plus a growing pile of birthday presents yet to be mailed. I only slept and dressed in my room, because I couldn't stand to stay there amid all the chaos.

That all changed this weekend, and I can't tell you how glad I am. Saturday morning, I woke up, made a cup of coffee, and immediately began rearranging my furniture. I used to be totally against putting beds in the corner opposite the door, but for some reason in this completely bonkers bedroom, it works. (I'll never say never again.) By simply switching the dresser and the bed, I totally transformed the nature of the room.

Then came the organizing, cleaning out the bottom of the closet, getting rid of boxes of junk, hiding boxes of old school papers, and throwing a few things in the hall closet (sorry roomie!) Slowly the room began to take shape. Sunday I was able to reorganize my CDs, sort through a huge pile of papers, and figure out what art I wanted to put on the wall. My good mood was only spoilt when my upstairs neighbor started pounding on the floor. I guess I had done a bit too much nailing for the day.

I can't tell you how much a difference this has made. I actually want to spend time in my room: whether it is to write or read, to craft something or talk on the phone. I still need quite a few things (matching bed linens would be nice, so would a table lamps), and I really should paint my bed table. Plus I still need to make my curtains. But, there is order, things are tidy, and attractive, and I can actually use the space.

I call that a good and fruitful weekend.

October 24, 2009


Yep, you guessed it. Natural Family Planning. I started classes with Peter. Wow -- it is beautiful and at all once. Let me inform you if you don't know about natural family planning (graphic details aside - no worries!) NFP follows a woman's natural monthly cycle using a whole series of symptoms in her body to determine when she is fertile or not fertile. The couple trying to conceive would know 99% of the time when they would be most fertile to try for a child. Coupled with nutrition and persistent tracking, NFP rarely fails. And it's 100% NATURAL - no pills, no latex, no plastic, no hormones -- and you get the picture. For more information, you could check out this site.

We started these classes in our diocese with the Couple to Couple League, which trains couples throughout the US to give classes and provide the materials. Even though we've only had one class, it was truly a grace. We could tell the strength that using NFP had given to our teaching couple. They had been on the pill for the first years of their marriage, and the wife was severely depressed. She heard about NFP classes through her church -- and just one class changed her life and her marriage. They now have five children that they were not open to having, but cannot imagine their lives without them. Peter and I are a little bit anxious about children right away - but we are open to God's gifts. I am slowly learning to appreciate the gifts He hands me and trying very diligently to say a resounding YES to each one.

One more thing before I sign off -- the materials we got included an awesome magazine for those who are both prepping for marriage and long married. I read an article that provided some great advice for Brides-to-Be. One such article included this blog called For Your Marriage, written by a young woman who started when she newly engaged and is now newly married. It gives faithful Catholics some great tips on how to have not only a beautiful and sacramental wedding -- but more importantly -- a strong, beautiful, Godly, sacramental marriage. And trust me, with today's $61 billion dollar wedding industry that makes the wedding day all about number 1 -- we all need some advice on keeping focused on the sacrament, vocation, and gift we are called to accept.

(PS: The photo on top I just thought was a pretty cute cake topper! Not too much to do with the post today, though :-) !)

October 23, 2009

"He Will Give a Crown of Beauty for Ashes"

From Isaiah 61:3. This past week, God has showed me the meaning of these words -- because trust me, I've needed it!! It's been a tough week. Let me give you an idea. A young man I know died in a very tragic and horrific accident this week. That makes 5 young people I know who have died tragically in the past couple months, one of whom I was quite close to. My fiancé's car was robbed this past weekend. And one of my best friends got into a car wreck. She's fine and Peter was lucky that the thief did not get much. And then Peter and I had to meet with the deacon of our Church to discuss some potentially serious road bumps in our diocesan 'FOCCUS' test for marriage prep. We'll be just fine - but wow, sometimes life can hand you some pretty big doses of well... life.

I found myself asking God - 'Are you serious, God... I mean, really?' 'Didn't you promise that you'd give us angels to watch over us...where were Your angels, God, when my friends got into those accidents? Why didn't You stop them from happening? How could You allow Your children to suffer like that? Didn't You say You love us?' From these questions came extreme anxiety (which I will probably have for sometime) about death. No bike riding without helmets, call as soon you get there, please drive safe! Seriously, I felt like Ivan Karamazov for a second.

But then I was given the tremendous grace to attend my Church's very first women's conference. Over 450 women attended. It featured two amazing women of God: Johnnette Benkovic of EWTN and Anne Trufant, a Catholic lay evangelist, song-writer, and missionary. WOW. These women told me exactly what I needed to hear. Johnnette gave a powerful witness about keeping your faith in the midst of tragedy and loss. She prayed her son out of danger in Iraq, only to have him come home and die tragically in a car accident. One year later, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and she lost him in 2007. But she kept the faith and God got her through it all. Anne elaborated the same theme -- but she was so powerful. She asked us to consider the "you reap what you sow" adage. When we sow in times of joy -- we should sow God's word in our hearts -- so that in times of tragedy and sorrow -- we reap it. That just struck me.

So through another friend, God gave me the word from Isaiah: "He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness for mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Sow it, sow it, sow it!

October 22, 2009


Just a quick post for me today. Here are some interesting links from around the web today:

--New Catholic Manliness by Todd M. Aglialoro on InsideCatholic:
Common experience nonetheless bears out the point: We may yet have a male-only clergy and hierarchy, but where the rubber meets the road -- in those mundane areas of church life where laity and institution most commonly interact -- the flavor is feminine. Whether you want to speak in terms of liturgy, ministry (lay and clerical), religious education, or sheer congregational numbers, official ecclesial power may not rest in the hands of women, but considerable unofficial influence clearly does, and has for some time. And we in the Church have been subject to its effects.

Not all these effects, as we shall see, have been bad. But one of the worst has been a subjugation of traditional masculine virtue: the concept of distinctly and properly manly Catholicism repressed, stigmatized, covered up, or otherwise forgotten for lack of practice.

--Wathcing Couples Go By by Herbert Stein on Slate:
look particularly at the women in those couples. They are not glamorous. There are no Marlene Dietrichs, Marilyn Monroes, or Vivien Leighs among them. (It is a sign of my age that I can't think of the name of a single living glamorous movie actress.) Some of them are pretty, but many would be considered plain. Since they are on their way to the Kennedy Center, presumably to attend a play, an opera, or a concert, one may assume that they are somewhat above average in cultural literacy. But in other respects one must assume that they are, like most people, average. But to the man whose hand or arm she is holding, she is not "average." She is the whole world to him.

--Also, The Love and Fidelity Network, which reaches out to college students to encourage a life of chastity and support for marriage, has a new blog. And it's great.

--Finally, check out this wonderful homily by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., on Genesis 2. It's all so good, I can't possibly quote it. Read it here.

October 21, 2009

Addendum to "So a Guy..."

I'm seeking advice. Mr. Theology on Tap has called and asked me out on a date -- all well and good. Unfortunately, I can't go because I'm in a wedding this weekend. I tried to reschedule, but we wind up playing phone tag. Then, he calls twice in one night, without me having returned any of his calls (as I was out with friends). The first message entailed trying to come up with a new plan. The second call...wondering why I hadn't returned his call yet about the first call. And he commented on a Facebook status of mine. Is this weird, or is it me? Am I being too critical?

So a Guy Walked into a Bar...

Attention: this is not a joke.

I literally felt like I was living in a dream two nights ago at Theology on Tap. I was listening to a great talk on traditional marriage and its sociological implications by someone from the Family Research Council, and I decided to stay afterwards with a few friends to socialize. A hansome guy who I had made eye contact with in the bar literally got up from his seat, walked over to me, introduced himself, carried on an interesting conversation with me, and asked if he could take me out. Doesn't this only happen in black and white films?

Now, I'm not banking on a love connection or anything, but it was really nice to be treated like a lady.

The punch line: maybe a talk on the sociological and theological theories behind protecting traditional marriage and sexuality can actually be put into practice!

October 20, 2009

A Week of Firsts

This past week was filled with several "firsts" for me, one of which was the blessing of witnessing a sister's final profession of vows. The semi-cloistered nuns who run the school that I teach at were gathered together to witness one in their community become a bride of Christ. I've spoken with this particular sister before, and her story is quite amazing. She is a widow, like her foundress St. Jane de Chantal, and her children were present at her final vows -- how cool is that? Anyway, I was struck over and over as she repeated, "I take Jesus Christ to be the sole object of my love." Sole object of my love. These words have stayed with me since I heard her say them. How I wish that I would make Jesus the only object of my adoration, attention, and love. How hard it is for the lay, modern woman to do this with so many duties and distractions. Maybe that is why the vocations to religious life and the laity are different. I can't help but ask how to transform that type of vow into my own daily mission.

I also prayed outside of an abortion clinic this weekend for the first time in my life. It was about 45 degrees, raining, and quite windy, but despite the weather it was a remarkable experience. I gathered with about 6 or 7 other young adults from a parish and we prayed to the Blessed Mother for an hour. Though there was no major traffic at the clinic (on a Saturday --- praise God), we did have one person in an SUV speed up to us, spray us a bit, and honk for a really long time). Everyone stayed really peaceful and focused in prayer. I was immediately aware of the fact that the culture of life will be ushered in with gentleness, not hostility. Perhaps these two "firsts" overlap in meaning: those who vow to remain hidden, those who are hidden -- the "little ones," the ones that the world sees no value in -- are wrapped in the gentle arms of Christ.

October 19, 2009

St. Jude Novena begins tomorrow

For as long as I can remember, my mother has had an old chipped plaster-of-paris statue of St. Jude sitting on her desk. She loved St. Jude, and encouraged all of us to love him and pray his novena. It is not a novena to be used lightly--St. Jude is the patron of hopeless causes and things despaired of, and his novena is a wonderful consolation for those dealing with extreme difficulties--disease, poverty, despair, etc.

I know all of us are going through difficult things right now, and have friends and family for who we are desperately praying for. So, I encourage you all to pray the St. Jude Novena, and foster in your hearts a love for this great and holy Saint.

Below is the main novena prayer. You can also find specific prayers here. One of the stipulations of the novena is to promulgate his name--so do pass this novena on to friends and family. Also, St. Jude is a very popular patron of parishes, so if you have a chance, visit one of the many St. Jude Shrines or St. Jude parishes on his feast day, October 28th.

Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of difficult cases, of things almost despaired of, Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone.
Intercede with God for me that He bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly -(make your request here)- and that I may praise God with you and all the saints forever. I promise, O Blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor granted me by God and to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you.

May the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, and loved in all the tabernacles until the end of time. Amen.
May the most Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised and glorified now and forever. Amen
St. Jude pray for us and hear our prayers. Amen.

Blessed be the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Blessed be the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Blessed be St. Jude Thaddeus, in all the world and for all Eternity.

(say this prayer, followed by the Our Father and the Hail Mary)

October 16, 2009

Thinking as a 'We'

I am trying to learn how to adjust to the idea of being married so that by the time I get married (see countdown in side bar - yay!), I will be that much ahead of the game. One of the biggest challenges I am coming across is the whole thinking of 'me' now as a 'we.' It's so difficult to get my mind wrapped around the fact that my life is not my own. For example, I realized that I am particularly attached to my last name. I never thought I would be. I never thought I'd be that woman who refused to change her last name. I mean, after all, what does it mean to become one flesh with the man as the head (and the woman as the neck, of course!)? I always thought only angry feminists refused to change their names.

But, as I am faced with this immanent reality, I realized my name is part of who I am. I've never been anyone other than Edith Magdalene for 26 years! When I told my fiancé that I wanted to hyphenate my last name, he did not approve one bit. I guess it's a 'man thing' to give your name to your wife and children, to immortalize and to perpetuate it. I am coming to accept that I will change my name - though we've comprised that my PhD can be hyphenated. That's good with me.

But name changing is not the only challenge. It's laughable the things we are going through right now. As my fiancé slowly moves his possessions into my apartment, which in a few months will be 'ours,' (gulp! I am learning that I am territorial creature!) there's been a battle about whose furniture is better and why and what needs to be sold. Our friends just laugh at us, and eventually we laugh too. But the transition to a 'we' is real world thing, and it sure isn't easy. It makes me grateful for the Lord, who redeems all things and walks the way of our lives with us.

October 15, 2009

But Not A Real Green Dress; That's Cruel

Last night I broke the shopping ban and bought a green dress. And a pair of yellow leather gloves. (The gloves were, technically, a gift, since I had a gift card.) I have to tell you all this because I should admit my faults to all of you, especially when I broadcasted that I was going on a shopping ban for Life, and because it is an excellent segue into a question Julian brought up last month.

Bills. Money. Taxes. These things really suck. And we might as well work on making them suck less by mastering them now. I don't have any good answers to this (I haven't saved a dime the entire 5 years I've been in the workforce), but I would like to offer a few suggestions that seem to make sense to me.

1) I never ever think of my paycheck as it's full amount. Let's say I make $1000 every two weeks. Every two week period I also have a set amount of bills--for example $500 rent, and $100 school loan payment and $50 in credit card bills--for a total of $650. That means, for the first half of the month, I don't get $1000 with my paycheck--I only get $350. The second half of the month is the same thing: $100 for my metro fares for the month, $150 for other credit card payments, $200 to savings, totalling $450, which means I only have $550 in left in my paycheck. Since all my regular bills are accounted for in this figure, that $350 and $550 is mine to do with as I find necessary: groceries, clothing, entertainment. When a dress is $40, and you only have $350 to spend on everything you need, suddenly the dress doesn't look like such a good deal. (Unless of course it is green and therefore perfect, in which case I buy it...)

2) Always tithe. It's awfully awfully hard to manage the full 10% when we're paying off college loans, and so forth. A priest in confession once told me that I shouldn't worry about the 10%, but that perhaps I could volunteer some time to a cause as well as tithing what's possible. This is a great idea, but I do think giving to the church is incredibly important. Rather than give a full 10% of my income, I try to give 15% of my spending amount. (Using the examples above, that's approximately $50 in the first half of the month and $80 in the second.) If I can give more in a given month, I always try to.

3) The most important thing about tithing is not giving money to God and his church, but the attitude it forms in you. Your job, your salary, your savings, are all there by the grace of God, and they are all a gift. So if you major attitude towards money is "the Lord will provide" (and attitude fostered by giving), then you'll manage, no matter how hard things may be. This also means that sometimes you can indulge, or do something that seems extravagant, for the sake of something more important than money in the bank. For example, it doesn't matter that I have plenty of things I could spend $300 on--I ought to, and want to visit my grandmother, and so I'm going to buy a plane ticket to go see her next time I get paid.

These are my three tips, then:
1) you have less that what your paycheck says. Know how much less, and plan accordingly.
2) always tithe.
3) the Lord will provide.

These aren't exhaustive, but they are a start. And when you're trying to balance so many other things, a start is about all I can do when it comes to my checkbook.

October 14, 2009

Our Patroness...

Is coming to our nation!! Well, her relics are. What great news! Father Thomas Michelet will be coming from France to bring the relics of St. Mary Magdalene for the first time to the United States. EWTN just issued a press release with the good news, as they will be featuring Fr. Michelet on October 27th on 'EWTN Live." No word yet on schedule places the relics will visit, but more news to come!

Update on Rifqa

Rifqa Bary has been sent back to Ohio. According to this FoxNews story, she will be in foster care and will undergo psychiatric help along with her family. Keep the prayers coming.

Respect for Life: Choosing Thomas

I came across this video while doing some reading on Catholic Exchange. It is absolutely stunning in every way possible. During this 40 Days for Life, let us be grateful for parents such as these and for the grace of the Cross that has been given to us who have been called.

October 13, 2009

Prayer Request!

Remember the post not too long ago about a young Muslim girl who converted to Christianity named Rifqa Bary? Please pray for the judge decides if she must return to her family, who, according to Rifqa, will kill her for being an apostate. Pray for the judge, pray for the girl, pray for the family. And pray for peace.

The Rosary of Seven Sorrows

We Magdalene Sisters love Immaculee Ilibagiza. She has inspired us through her writing and her life. I've recently begun praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows that Immaculee is promoting all over the globe, thanks to a suggestion from a dear friend. Though she broke into the public square by telling her story of surviving the Rwandan genocide and her experience of God through it all, Immaculee now believes it's her mission to spread the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Kibeho. In this apparition, the Blessed Virgin asked Marie Claire to spread the devotion of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows which she had given to St. Bridget of Sweden centuries before.

This rosary is incredibly powerful, and is certainly something that our world needs right now. It is something that I need right now. These are just a few of the promises Our Lady made to Marie Claire:

*With the recittation of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, the hardest hearts shall change, if you pray it for yourself and for others.
*By the recitation of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, you shall be freed from obsessions and addictions
*This rosary when said from the heart, it will win us true repentance of our sins and free our souls from guilt and remorse.

I hope that you pray with me: Most merciful Mother, remind us always about the Sorrows of your son, Jesus.

October 12, 2009

The Vocation of Motherhood: A Practical Take

Dear Readers,
My apologies for not posting this my future father-in-law this weekend for a big time national college football game kept me away from my computer. But we did have a nice time, even though our team did not win the game. Anyway, I wanted to post just a quick tidbit before I head off to meet a professor. I was watching EWTN's The World Over last week, and was delighted to meet this lovely lady: Rachel Campos-Duffy. Rachel is a mother of 5, was on MTV's The Real World in the 1990's (before it was super trashy), and she almost had Elizabeth Hasselback's job on The View (which by the way, I despise, so I'm glad she did not get on that show!)

Anyway, she recently published a book about being a stay-at-home mom, and now posts a blog about parenting in today's modern world. She was very dynamic, and you can watch the reel from the show on the website linked above. I know we are not all mom's yet, but many of us do feel that vocation, so this might be a good resource as we develop our vocations in life. I do believe that women are called to motherhood in one way or another - spiritual or physical -- and both!! Hope you find it helpful and have a blessed day!!

October 8, 2009

Wisdom From Miss Manners

Dear Miss Manners:

I'm a recent college graduate in my mid-20s. I make a modest but comfortable salary and have been supporting myself since I finished school.

As a fairly "new" adult, I have repeatedly found myself in situations where I feel I am in awkward limbo between young person and equal, uncertain how to behave.

For example, when dining out with people in my parents' generation (friends' parents, my superiors at work, etc.), I am never sure whether I should offer to pay or cover the tip. I don't want to act like a spoiled child, but I also don't want to offend anyone by presuming to be their equal when I've only just started out in my career and adult life. I certainly don't want to make anyone uncomfortable.

Could you please offer some advice on how a young adult such as myself should act in the company of older acquaintances and colleagues? I am at a loss.

Gentle Reader:

On the contrary. You have already accomplished the most difficult part of this transition: recognizing that you are an adult.

Many people never do, Miss Manners regrets to observe. There seem to be a lot of overaged spoiled children around, who feel forever exempt from reciprocating the generosity of their elders.

With your superiors at work, the key question is whether they are taking you out on an expense account to discuss work, in which case you owe only thanks. If not, you pay your own share.

Check-grabbing contests with your friends' parents and other social contacts are not graceful. What would be graceful would be to issue an occasional invitation to those who have entertained you. That it will not be in the same style is unimportant -- they will be immensely flattered at the sign that you enjoy their company, not just the meals they provide. Do it within your own price range -- perhaps for a drink, or tea, or brunch at your place.

If that is impossible, alternative forms of reciprocation could be occasionally bringing a small present, such as a book or DVD you think they might enjoy, or insisting on helping them with a problem they happen to mention (with a computer or new cellphone, or gardening or taxes -- whatever you can do that they admit is driving them crazy).
(From this week's column)

I love Miss Manner's answer here; it seems to strike exactly the right note. I have often found myself in a similar situation. It's hard enough to deal with the check when you're out to dinner with peers, let alone when you're out with friends parents, or colleagues, etc. I always make an effort to read the signs--do they grab the check and take care of it without a second glance? (Even bosses have done this, on numerous occasions, and I always wished I could reciprocate!) So then I am gracious and grateful.

But I especially love her final point. Even if you can't actually reciprocate, send a note of thanks, or a little gift. It never hurts to send something along saying "This reminded me of you." Graciousness ought to be at the top of a woman's virtues.

Jim and Pam: Flaws and All

Me: Hello, my name is Julian, and I love The Office.

All: Hello, Julian.

Like most other ladies my age, I have a crush on the character Jim Halpert of The Office. In his own words in tonight's epic episode, he confesses that he "waited for his wife." He embodies all that we want in a man: gentle pursual, patience in waiting for her to come around to love him on her own, and ultimately taking a risk in forever changing his relationship with his best friend by confessing his feelings. What young woman does not wish for this kind of knight in shining armor (or tie and suit)? Very few, I'm guessing.

But what I love most about the relationship between Jim and Pam is that we have been privy to their strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a couple. We, the viewers, have seen them slip up, choose to ignore harsh realities, deny their own feelings, unintentionally offend one another and take uncalculated, sometimes imprudent risks. But the two have offered us something that most television and movie couples have not: love that is real, love that is enduring, love that doesn't happen overnight. They are truly partners not only in the office but in life, and it's been such a blessing to have at least one example in pop culture that teaches us that something so beautiful is worth working at and waiting for.

October 7, 2009

Our Lady of the Rosary

St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Our Lady

In the most recent issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Fr. Basil Cole, O.P. writes about "saying" vs. "praying" the Rosary. As someone who's said the rosary her entire life, but probably only really prayed it a few times, his words really resonated with me:
It is up to the individual Christian to use his imagination and mind to ferret out the various meanings of the mysteries and learn to rest in them. When that happens, then the events of one's daily life become integrated with one's relationship with the Triune God through Jesus Christ and the heart of Mary. As one slowly remembers what the God-man accomplished, a deeper sense of gratitude emerges, making it difficult for someone to turn away from God by gravely or seriously sinning. Sins of weakness, however, are always with us.

Happy feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!

Fr. Basil Cole, O.P., is a Dominican friar of the Province of St. Joseph, and professor at Pontifical Faculty of Theology of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

October 6, 2009

Being Martha

Today's Gospel reading speaks to the modern, lay, Catholic woman loudly and clearly: we can all be Marthas. I hear Jesus on a regular basis calling me, "Julian, Julian, you are anxious about many things." Yep, Lord, that's true. Right now I have three friends who are immensely suffering, three family members who are justifiably depressed, a family friend who is dying, papers to grade, lessons to plan, seminars to attend, people to visit, students to meet with and counsel, emails to respond to, etc. Because these things all have to do with serving Christ in those who are in need of me, I tend to want to believe that what Martha was doing was actually right - serving Jesus' immediate needs with hospitality and attentiveness.

But even though these things need to get done and are truly ways that I need to serve Christ (since He has entrusted them to me), He still responds to me as He did to Martha: "There is only need of one thing." That one thing is to recollect myself in the presence of Christ in silence, if only for a few minutes. I'm sure that Mary didn't just sit put the whole time Jesus was visiting. No Jewish woman would have been able to refrain from cooking and cleaning when a guest was over. But she did pause to be in His presence. The list of things to do only gains meaning if it's done with our gaze fixed on Christ.

We modern, working women need to be conscientious about doing the same thing. That way our list does not become things to do, but instead, things to do with joy for the One we love.

October 5, 2009

Fall Fashion: The Skirt

(From Life Magazine)

It's fall. Have you noticed? It's not exactly cooler than it was two weeks ago, but 75 degrees feels different than it did 2 weeks ago. I'm glad too. Pretty soon tights and boots will be part of my regular rotation. Plus scarves, gloves, hats, and so forth. Layer after soft and structured layer. it's going to be great.

All the same, I'm having a hard time finding things this year. I don't mind that waists are a little higher (more feminine, and modest too--we can actually tuck shirts in, and not worry about showing skin whenever we bend down or sit down). But hemlines are higher too.

I don't mind skirts being above the knee--especially since I wear tights 90% of the time (and they are in, in, in!). Somehow short skirts are less short with opaque and colorful tights.

But I'm still having a real hard time finding good, sensible feminine clothes. Even with Michelle Obama setting the fashion scene, I'm having a hard time! Have you guys found any great, lovely, professional clothes this fall?

October 4, 2009

A Response to "Shacking Up"

A thoughtful post on the phenomenon of cohabitation, Edith. As someone with two cousins who have done this and one who is currently doing this, I have many opinions about the matter.

I think one thing to note is that no one couple does this for exactly the same reason as another. Sure, there is general sociological trend to live together outside of marriage, but just like every other trend, people participate in it for their own reasons. My three cousins illustrate this: 1) Cousin #1 and his girlfriend moved into together a few months before they got engaged. They had every intention of getting married (and they have a wonderful marriage), but it was "more economical" in their opinion to move in together; 2) Cousin #2 and his girlfriend moved in together without any intention of getting married because they supported the "Why do we need to get married if we're committed to each other" philosophy; 3) Cousin #3 and his girlfriend are living with another couple right now, which is some sort of glorified mixture between college and playing "house," but it seems they moved in together to test whether or not they would want to get married in the future - the "test drive" philosophy.

I think in a culture of immediate gratification and one in which there is a longing for intimacy in the midst of this sterile, virtual atmosphere (and a world where jobs take us further away from interaction with people), it's going to be hard to reason our way back to the goods of marriage for individuals, couples, and society as a whole. With the divorce rate where it is, even among Catholics, we need to take a serious look at our motivations for marriage. Is it any wonder that a generation who has spent it's twenties hopping from job to job or city to city is also unable to commit to a person? We have to LIVE this commitment in our personal and professional lives to demonstrate that the blessings of commitment are worth the demands it places on us. If marriage is truly a vocation, it means that the life of the individuals before they take their vows have led them to it, but it also requires the individual to stick it out with God and their spouse when the going gets tough. God never calls us to anything He doesn't want for us. Let's follow the direction of St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day is today, to "preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words."

October 3, 2009

The "We Do Love Each Other...So We Shack Up, and to Testify to Our Love -- We Have A Dog Together!" Phenomenon

So, as you already know, I have been reading Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's book on marriage. I like this book, but I have one critique so far. Genovese spends much of the book ripping into modern society's skewed understanding of marriage -- like the possibility of 'homosexual marriages,' and cohabitation as viable alternatives to this last-standout-of-slavery-institution-that-we-call-marriage. And she's right. And I agree with her. The arguments we frequently hear for these 'marriage alternatives' are so insidious, I just want to scream. BUT -- we can spend our time talking about how insidious they are, or we can do something about it. Which is the question I propose in this post.

Have you ever looked around you and noticed the "My-boyfriend-and-I-shack-up-and-have-dogs-together phenomenon? I think it's a serious problem. It's this totally wacky version of the desire to be united to someone else and to nurture that love together with a being outside of yourselves which, given the natural consequence of married love, aka, children, tends to happen in marriage. But more and more, young people who do not commit to marriage are just living together and not having children, but rather dogs, whom they treat as children. I have extended family members doing this, calling their dogs "the grand puppies" of their parents and sending photo updates and stories about their dogs in Christmas cards. What!!?? How, why *confusing head shake*??

This phenomenon in our culture is that young people think this is a sort of 'rite of passage' on the way to marriage, when in reality, it typically stifles any possibility of marriage. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some who do this and it might work out. But it also might not. And it usually does not. So what are we to do to those we see around us living in this situation? Do we just stand there, let it happen, and pray they figure it out? How do we become proactive facilitators in changing minds and hearts to recognize the necessity of having a culture that recognizes marriage as...well...the seed bed of culture itself!!!

October 2, 2009

Feast of the Guardian Angels

October is full of so many fabulous feast days!! Today is the feast of our Guardian Angels, and I am so particularly fond of this feast. I have always wanted to know the name of my Guardian poor angel has so much to put with! Just getting me out of bed each morning must be a challenge! I swear, it is only by the grace of God through my angel that I have woken up some days! Here's a few snippets from some articles on angels that give us an idea of their ever presence in our lives, and their desire to lead us always to Christ!

First, from an interview with Fr. Thomas Rosica:
The notion of angels is [to be] mysteriously in the presence of God on our behalf, and simultaneously with us on our behalf. What a tender gesture of our loving Creator! Guardian angels provide free, womb-to-tomb guidance—lighting and guarding, ruling and guiding ... all the days of our lives.

Angels move our imaginations with good thoughts and impulses, and impel us toward goodness ... through secret impulse, intuition, without the benefit of [our] actually seeing or hearing them. They pray with us and for us, and in transporting our prayers to God, they may alter them ever so slightly to make them more perfect. They protect us in times of danger, in the physical as well as in the spiritual life, because not all is sweetness and light here below. . . . If the angels teach us anything, they show us what it means to put on the mind of Christ. What a great privilege is theirs, to stand constantly in God's presence, to feast their eyes on Jesus, to know his face and even more, his mind. They look upon the world, and on each of us, with the mind of Christ.
From Fr. Gino Conceiti:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims that "from infancy to death human life is surrounded by their [angels'] watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God" (CCC, n. 336).

Such protection will benefit those who respond to the Holy Spirit's direction and for those who willingly collaborate. In her liturgy, the Church prays to the angels for herself and others, calling upon their protection and intercession: it is sufficient to follow the liturgy of the Mass to be convinced.
Finally: The Guardian Angel Prayer

Angel of God,
My Guardian Dear,
To whom God's love,
Commits me here.
Ever this day,
Be at my side,
To light, to guide,
To rule, to guard. Amen

Among Women Catholic Podcast

I was looking around on iTunes this summer for something new, and I stumbled across this podcast called Among Women. I've only now gotten around to listening to the podcast, which, according to their site, "celebrates the beauty and grace that women experience in their Catholic Faith and Life." and "Features conversations with contemporary women from all walks of life... from women with PhDs in theology, to our neighbor in the pew, from authors to bloggers to educators, from lay women to religious, from wives and mothers to singles and widows."

Overall, I've found it quite good. They feature the lives of female saints, bring in guests from all walks of life to focus specifically on the feminine vocation in the Church. Also, check out the blog, and notice that first post...quite similar to one of ours that ran not too long ago!!

October 1, 2009

"I Will Spend My Heaven Doing Good On Earth."

Thanks so much to Julian for her lovely post on St. Therese the Little Flower. This is my favorite picture of Therese as a child. Like Julian wrote, Therese's faith is so child-like, simple, and trusting, and I think this picture reveals that reality about her.

I find that Therese has come up so much in my life recently, that I am just so grateful for her powerful intercession!! Even today! Before I realized today was her feast (I forget what day it is all the time), I thought to myself that I should grab her autobiography for a girl who works at the coffee shop I frequent. In fact, I went back in just to get it. Therese is her confirmation saint, and one day I asked her if she had ever read Therese's autobiography, The Story of a Soul, and she said she had not. I literally read in one day in that coffee shop.

Anyway, true to her promise, Therese is spending her heaven doing good on earth. For one, her relics have been drawing large crowds in the very secular UK this month, even showing up at a Protestant Church there!! I know Therese was praying for me while I was gone this summer, I just knew it. She expressed her ardent hope to spread the Gospel to all peoples:
"I have the vocation of an apostle. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But oh, my beloved, one mission would not be enough for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages."
I am so grateful for her intercession, and I thank God for revealing His power through the work of His precious little ones. I hope that all of us strive to emulate her, and that she prays for us to rejoice together in heaven!

Just an addendum: Benedict XVI's words on Therese today:

Today the Church remembers St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Carmelite of the Lisieux convent. Her testimony shows that only the word of God, received and understood in its concrete demands, becomes a source of renewed life. To our society, often permeated by a rationalist culture and widespread practical materialism, little Thérèse of Lisieux points out, as the answer to the great questions of life, the "little way," which looks instead to the essential of things. It is the humble way of love, capable of enveloping and of giving meaning and value to every human circumstance. Dear friends, follow the example of this saint; the way followed by her is within everyone's reach, because it is the way of total confidence in God, who is Love and who never abandons us.

Woman Warrior of the Month: October

This month's woman warrior goes to a woman who lived during an era that I seem to just love studying -- the World War II era. Not that this was a bright time in human history, but I think it gave mankind an opportunity to be "the light shining in the darkness" for the very dark world. Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic woman who worked tirelessly to save about 2500 Jewish children from death in the Warsaw Ghetto. She was a health care worker, and was able to access the Warsaw Ghetto, and would smuggle children out in tool boxes and ambulances.

Gavriel Horan's testimony (linked above) describes her work:

In 1942, Mrs. Sendler, "Jolanta," was put in charge of the Children's Division of Zegota. She and her team of twenty-five organized to smuggle out as many children as possible from the Ghetto. Ten members were to smuggle children out, ten were in charge of finding families to take the children, and five were in charge of obtaining false documents.

The hardest part was convincing parents to part with their children. Even the many secular Jewish parents shrank from the thought of surrendering their children into Catholic homes or convents, where they might be baptized or taught Christian prayers. Many chose to die with their children instead. Irena, herself a young mother, found it almost impossibly painful to have to persuade parents to part with their children, entrusting them to a non-Jewish stranger. The only thing that gave her strength to withstand this pain was the knowledge that there was no other hope for survival. Sometimes, she would finally convince the parents, only to be met with the grandparents' adamant refusal. She would be forced to leave empty-handed, returning the next day to find that the entire family had been sent to Treblinka.

Many in the Ghetto thought that Treblinka was a relocation settlement. Actually, it was even worse than Auschwitz, which was a labor camp/death camp. Treblinka, on the other hand, contained little more than gas chambers and ovens. Fighting against time, "Jolanta," entered the Ghetto several times a day, wearing on her arm a yellow Star of David to show her solidarity, desperately trying to convince parents to let her take their children. Many parents would ask her why they should trust her. "You shouldn't trust me," she would agree. "But there's nothing else you can do."

Irena was caught by Nazis, tortured, and beaten for what she was doing. And she barely escaped death. But she persevered.

Those 2500 children Irena placed with non-Jewish families, and kept track of them until the end of the war. When the Holocaust ended, she reunited as many children as she could with their surviving family members, but most had perished in the camps.

Irena's work was recognized by the rest of the world in early 2000's, and she was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 (she lost to Al Gore for his work on "An Inconvenient Truth"....Yes, she really did). Irena died on May 12, 2008 -- on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima -- quite fitting to be brought home that day, since Our Lady foretold the great horrors of WWII that Irena bravely fought through. A group of university students in Kansas discovered her work in 1999, and have since produced a play about her life called Life in a Jar. Truly a woman warrior whose courage and love made her a glorious martyr (in the spiritual sense - she barely escaped martyrdom!) and witness for the faith! Thank the Lord for this woman's witness, and may she pray for us to grow in courage, love and respect for each other, and help us to bring peace to our hurting world.

The Little Things: The Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus

It's a big week in the church's calendar, folks. Feast day after feast day. I love the next few days or so because we have the opportunity to reflect on some real spiritual warriors who were most gentle in their respective battles. They remind us that our souls and the salvation of other souls are worth fighting for.

St. Therese is one of those spiritual warriors whose embrace of her cross would have looked like folly to the world. I think I have read her autobiography about three times or so at this point. St. Therese's story is one of paradox: she conforms herself to the will of God with childlike love, wonder, and simplicity, all while revealing a very rich theology of the value of purgative suffering.

You, Mother, let me make this offering of myself to God, and you know what flames - or rather what oceans of grace - flooded my soul...since that day I have been soaked and engulfed in love. There is not a second when this merciful love does not renew and cleanse me, sweeping every trace of sin from my heart. It's impossible for me to fear purgatory. I know too that Jesus does not want us to suffer uselessly, and that He would not inspire me with such desires unless He meant to fulfill them. And that, my beloved Mother, is all I can tell you of the life of your little Therese.

St. Therese, pray for us three "little flowers"!
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