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

December 31, 2009


Hey Girls! Sorry for the late posting--I ended up having to help around the house all day in prep for a family lunch.

Tomorrow we'll be posting our new year's resolutions; today I'd like to keep in mind that Christmas is not over--indeed it is only about half-way through. We still have 3 days in the Octave of Christmas, and another 6 days till Epiphany. So, for your listening pleasure, here are some Christmas Carols, from many centuries and all over the world:

This last, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree seems fitting for us sisters:

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

(Also, aren't all those choir boys SOOOOO cute with their white frocks and ruffles!)

December 30, 2009

Movie Review: Up in the Air

This past weekend I went with my brother and sister-in-law to see Up in the Air. Although I'm usually skeptical of movies that are getting "awards buzz," usually because I rarely like the Oscar-winning movie, I figured that George Clooney was charming enough to watch for 109 minutes. As the preview indicates, there is a significant amount of jet-setting in the movie, and I have to admit, my emotions were also taken for a ride.

I won't give you the summary of the movie, as you can easily look that up. But I will tell you that I think it's a fantastic study of the human condition as the world of technology expands. Clooney and his new associate (played by Anna Kendrick), each learn what it means to inflict isolation upon others, upon themselves, and to also have it inflicted upon them without their consent. I think it's a great portrayal of the experience of solitude and the need for real connection. A lot of things promise this connection: hookups, technology, the idea of the perfect mate, but they all fall short of the human communion we are really looking for.

At the end of every encounter Clooney's character has with an employee that he is firing, they realize their their plans for their lives are now "up in the air." At the end of the movie, so does the protagonist. And if the audience has a shred of humility, they too will realize that some things are out of their control, but perhaps that is merely an avenue given to them to find what they were looking for in the first place.

December 29, 2009

Lessons from Mother Teresa

Day after day, hour after hour, He asks the same question: "Will thou refuse to do this for Me?" -- Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light

My spiritual book of the month is the now-famous book of the letters of Mother Teresa which were published in 2007. Though I bought it when it was first made available, I am not really getting around to it until now. I like to think that the Holy Spirit directs me to read certain books that I have on my shelf when I need them the most. (Maybe I'm just justifying the fact that I buy too many to read right away.) For some reason, I picked this off the shelf and am making my way through it and hopefully finishing before the new year begins. So far, three things have stood out to me:

1) I am so struck by the difficulty Mother Teresa faced in starting the Missionaries of Charity. It is incredible how many letters she wrote to get it off the ground with Rome. She was completely faithful to the process and to her superiors, but she refused to quit her pleading. I can see her digging her heels into the ground in Loreto, foregoing despair and holding onto her conviction. It's a beautiful image I have in my mind, and an example to us all. She had every confidence that Jesus would work through the process of obeying authority (a good reminder for me at work!).

2) She describes the imperative from Jesus to start the Missionaries of Charity as a "call within a call." I think this is perhaps the most important contribution to the theology of vocations that we've had in a long time. It's easy to break down the vocations into single, religious, or married, and to leave them at that. But every vocation, whether single, married, or religious, or the vocation to work or to serve...all have little "calls within the larger call." How many times does God shatter the image of our own vocation by introducing something new into it and calling us to something unexpected?

3) Mother Teresa's discussion of cheerfulness is one of the most beautiful that I've read. In fact, when asked why type of woman would be recruited for the M.C., she answered, "Girls from the age of16 and upwards. -- Strong in body and mind with splenty of common sense. -- They must be able to put their hands to any kind of work however repugnant to human nature. They must be of bright, cheerful disposition."

Earlier in the book, she describes what she means by cheerfulness. I think it's written for me!

"When I see someone sad," she would say, "I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus." It was in giving Jesus whatever He asked that she found her deepest and lasting joy; in giving Him joy she found her own joy. "Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please her God in all she does for souls. Cheerfulness is often a cloak which hides a life of sacrifice, continual union with God, fervor and generosity. A person who has this gift of cheerfulness very often reaches a great height of perfection. For God loves a cheerful giver and He takes close to His heart the religious He loves.

December 28, 2009

A Child in Winter, by Caryll Houselander

Only LOVE is incarnate. Goodness is natural because the Divine Child, who submitted himself to the law of his Father's love, has made it so. Christ subjected himself to the law of the seed in the earth, to the law of rest and growth. he was "one of the children of the year," growing through rest, secret in his mother's womb, receiving the warmth of the sun through her, living the life of dependence, helplessness, littleness, darkness, and silence which, by a mystery of the Eternal Law, is the life of natural growth.

Hi life in the womb was measured, like those of all the other children of the year, by a certain destined number of cycles of darkness and light, by the rising and setting of the sun so many times, by the rise and ebb of so many tides, by a certain counted number of beats of his mother's heart.

Who can think of the mystery of the snowflake, its loveliness, both secret and manifest, its gentleness, the moving lightness of its touch, the humility of its coming, and not think of the birth of the Infant Christ?
--From A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander

Do you ladies know of the great 20th century English mystic Caryll Houselander? You should. Her work is stunning, powerful, and I'd gladly say, some of the most important spiritual writing of the 20th century (yet few people know her). My mother always had a long line of her books, but I only recently cracked open A Child in Winter, a beautifully edited collection of meditations for Advent, Christmas, and the feasts within the octave of Christmas. Accessible yet profound, modern and timeless, I highly recommend her writings. (The meditation above was taken from her Christmas Morning meditation. Below is her meditation for todays feast of the Holy Innocents, one of my favorite of the year.)

Baptized in blood, those little children were among the first comers to heaven. Fittingly they, with their tinyKing, are the founders of the Kingdom of Children. We celebrate their feast with joy; it is the most lyrical in the year. They reach down their small hands of to comfort every father or mother bereaver of a child. They are the first who have proved that the Passion of Christ can be lived in a tiny span by little ones...The tears that dried on their faces two thousand years ago in Jerusalem had the redeeming power of Christ's tears today. Each one of those infants is the first Christ Child of the Incarnation, the first of the first generation to call the Mother of God blessed.

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
Luke 2: 10-11

Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence. There are people who describe themselves as "religiously tone deaf". The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today's world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us "tone deaf" towards him. And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear "tone deaf" and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself.... Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.
Pope's Christmas Homily 2009

From all of us at the Magdalene Sisters - Merry Christmas! May the Christ Child bring you all joy and peace of heart in this time.

December 23, 2009

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

...And He Appeared and the Soul Felt Its Worth...

My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. Well, maybe it's one of my favorites. I cannot wait to sing it on Christmas Eve. I think one of the most special times of every year is the 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We wait in silent anticipation of the birth of our Lord, meditating and centering ourselves in the fact that when he appears, we see our worth and our meaning, our goal and our end. A homily given by St. Josemaria Escriva called "Christ Triumphs Through Humility" encourages us to contemplate in silence the mystery of these moments. A mystery is not something to be solved, but rather, is something to be explored....

There is only one race in the world: the race of the children of God. We should all speak the same language, taught us by our Father in heaven -- the language Jesus spoke to his Father. It is the language of heart and mind, which you are using now, in your prayer -- the language of contemplation, used by men who are spiritual, because they realize they are children of God. This language is expressed in a thousand motions of our will, in the clear insights of our minds, in the affections of our heart, in our commitment to lead a virtuous life, in goodness, happiness, and peace.

You must look at the Child in the manger. He is our Love. Look at him, realizing that the whole thing is a mystery. We need to accept this mystery on faith and use our faith to explore it very deeply. To do this, we must have the humble attitude of a Christian soul. Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men's lives.

-- St. Josemaria Escriva, from Christ is Passing By

December 22, 2009

O King of the Gentiles

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

John Paul II and Pius XII

Saturday Pope Benedict XVI declared Popes John Paul II and Pius XII venerable, much to my joy! JPII is the pope of my childhood, and therefore very beloved (and I saw him twice!). Pius XII is, of course, a very controversial figure, though most of what is said of him is either unfair or outright false. It was a classic Pope Benedict move to bring forward their causes at the same time. John Paul II is, in so many ways, a Santo Subito, while Pius's legacy is much more murky.

All the same, I have loved Pius XII, and hope that this declaration will provide an opportunity to defend him against the claims that he aided the holocaust (when, in fact, he encouraged his priests to do the opposite). He was a man of courage, and the most recent pope who's legal duties as heaad of a nation were as important has his pastoral duty as head of the Church. I've always thought him a man of heroic virtue. I'm glad Papa B agrees. He said, on Saturday:
When one draws close to this noble Pope, free from ideological prejudices, in addition to being struck by his lofty spiritual and human character one is also captivated by the example of his life and the extraordinary richness of his teaching. One can also come to appreciate the human wisdom and pastoral intensity which guided him in his long years of ministry, especially in providing organized assistance to the Jewish people...Wherever possible he spared no effort in intervening in their favour either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church. [He made] many interventions, secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews.

This courageous and paternal dedication was recognized and appreciated during and after the terrible world conflict by Jewish communities and individuals who showed their gratitude for what the Pope had done for them. One need only recall Pius XII's meeting on the 29th of November 1945 with eighty delegates of German concentration camps who during a special Audience granted to them at the Vatican, wished to thank him personally for his generosity to them during the terrible period of Nazi-fascist persecution.

December 21, 2009

O Dayspring

O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

The Feminine Countdown

I am a sucker for end-of-the-year countdowns. Seriously, give me any list of things in countdown from the previous year, and I'm content. A major guilty pleasure!

This year, many people are not only thinking back over the year but over the past decade. Can you believe the first ten years of the 2000's are behind us? I thought it might be fun to think back over these years and to think about how my experience of my own femininity has changed.

When the decade began, I was halfway through my high school years. Ah, those were interesting times. I was really driven and putting a whole lot of pressure on myself. Beauty consisted in watching everything I ate so that I was rail thin, and I would have given anything for my crushes to think of me as more than the nice girl or the smart girl. Miraculously, I emerged from those years as a poised 18-year-old, confident that the next four years of my life would be life-changing. And were they ever.

My college experience is something that I will be thanking the Lord for for years to come. It was there that I first treasured my filial relationship with God as my Father, where I encountered lifelong friends who were also aware of their faith journeys, where I met several men who formed my heart, where I studied the deep truths of history and of my faith, and where I was surrounded by nurturing professors and peers. I entered a teenager and emerged a young woman. Before I entered college, my mother told me that the years between 18-22 are extremely formative for a woman's heart. She was right. But while her college experience ended with a marriage to my father, my heart was to be formed in many more ways in the years that followed.

In the next four years to round out the decade, I have learned vital lessons and been formed as a single twentysomething out in the "real world." The first two years after college I spent in graduate school. These years I met some of my favorite friends, including Agatha, but they were actually very lonely years. I went from an environment where I was thriving socially to an environment in which I was studying nearly all of the time. My best friends lived far away, my mother couldn't really understand what it was like for a woman to leave college and to be single, and my dearest friends of this time were all married. I think I went on a total of 3 or 4 dates in 2 years. It was me and God, all of the time, and boy, did I wrestle with Him. Oh man, it was a tough, although certainly rewarding and formative time.

And now, I'm learning what it means to be feminine as a teacher and a "spiritual mother" to teenagers in an all-girls high school. I am learning through dating escapades what it means to be treated like a woman. I'm continually developing an interest in feminine fashion. I'm embracing providing for myself financially and having to take responsibility for my present and my future. It's a good time in my life, a difficult time. But I'm really, for the first time in the whole decade, embracing my own particular femininity. And for that, I'm grateful for all of the experiences that have led me here.

Here's to the next ten years, God willing. I can't wait!

December 20, 2009

O Key of David

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

December 19, 2009

O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

What Do You Want?

What better way to spend a morning snowed in than to blog!

This morning I spoke with a very dear friend and his three-year-old daughter. Part of the conversation with her included the following:

M: "You can call me Cinderella."
Julian: "Okay, do you have everything you need? Are you in a pretty dress?"
M: "Yes. It's pretty."
Julian. "Do you have your Prince Charming?"
M: "No, not yet."
Julian: "Yeah, me neither. Hang in there, M! He's coming!"

This snippet of our conversation got me thinking about Edith's post on singleness from a fellow blogger. The post includes a reflection on how before Jesus responds to people or works a miracle, he asks them what it is that they want. In the post, Mary Rose indicates that she wrote a list of the qualities that she desired in a man, and that her husband fulfilled all of them.

It's been suggested to me by friends and a few others that I should bring such a list of the qualities that I desire in a man before the Lord -- after all, it doesn't hurt to be specific in the Lord with the desires on our heart. While I know this has worked for some people in that their significant other has fulfilled all or nearly all of the things they asked for, I don't feel called to make this list before the Lord for two related reasons:

1) I feel that if I make such demands upon the Lord, I am putting limits on His creative power and could fail to recognize someone who has qualities that would in fact complement me. After all, doesn't God know my heart better than I know it?

2) I am still not convinced that there is only one person that God has ordained from all time for me to make a life with. I do heartily believe in Providence, but I believe this guidance of our lives includes the very real importance of our cooperation with God's will and our own willing and choosing of the particulars in our life. We all have an eternal destiny that God knows from all time, but I do not believe He has our paths in the particular all worked out. We get where we need to be, but we get to participate in the forging of the path. If I limit the qualities of the man that will get me to that end, will I miss other opportunities to get to that end? Will I refuse to listen to my heart to fall in love with someone else who might also help me to get to that end? Isn't love a choice?

I'm not sure if this makes any sense at all, other than to say that I've been uneasy in my own life to specify what it is that I desire in a man. Maybe I pray to the Lord to choose for me because I don't trust myself. Maybe I pray that he opens my eyes to a good man and moves my heart to Him because I am afraid of asking for it. Agatha always reminds me that the single life includes being willingly open to the will of the Lord. I see this related to the desire for a man, too. Who knows. In the meantime, I'll continue to put on pretty dresses like Cinderella and go out meeting new people. You never know who might come forward before midnight!

December 18, 2009

O Adonai

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

A Reflection on Singleness

Hi Sisters!
Sorry for the brevity of my post today, but I wanted to share with you this post by a blogger Mary Rose on her experience of being single. She is a recent revert and her blog on coming back to her faith is wonderful! I'll just post a snippet here...but read the whole piece! It's hopeful and joyful! And I think we ALL relate to Mary Rose's experience!

Although I can be thick-headed at times, it didn't take me long to realize God was up to something, and it didn't look like He was going to be bringing my knight in shining armor anytime soon.

So I plunged myself into my faith and pursuing God with every iota of my being. This went on from the time I was 20 until I was 27. At 27, my younger brother married his long-time sweetheart. That was pivotal for me. I remember sinking into a depression as I realized that not only was I probably not going to get married anytime soon, I wasn't even sure if I'd date again. I was tired of being lonely and felt I had done my part for God long enough. Why couldn't He give me the greatest desire of my heart? To find a good man to love and be loved by him?

And so, in typical childish fashion, I pouted my way back into the world and started to date non-Christian men. They were paying attention to me and I kidded myself by thinking that I could be a witness to them. (A pitfall for many faithful women...) I dated a single father for almost a year. Even while dating, I knew it wasn't the way I should be going. I finally stopped my temper-tantrum, repented, and returned to God.

Soon after, I had a epiphany. I called in sick one day during the week because I was in such great anguish over my singleness. I said to God, "Alright, God. We're going to have it out. I'm ready to wrestle and if I get a hip out of joint, so be it. But I need peace in my heart and I have no idea how to get there."

All day I prayed, cried, and read the Bible. This went on for hours and hours. Finally, at the end of it, I prayed, "Lord, being single isn't my choice. But if it's your choice, then I know in my heart it is the best path for me. I know You love me and only want the best for me. So, I'm going to trust You even more with this area. If this is indeed Your choice, then it must be the very best choice, and for that I rejoice. It's going to be an adventure because I know life with You is never boring! I accept Your will, Lord. Give me the grace to accept it in ways I can't comprehend right now." In acceptance lieth peace. (A beautiful poem by the Scottish missionary, Amy Carmichael, who was a huge influence upon another missionary, Elisabeth Elliot.)

And immediately, I felt enveloped by a wonderful peace, the peace that passes all understanding. I knew I was in a good place right then and there.

Throughout the next 12 years, I was involved in church almost 24/7. Since I was single, I felt I was able to do much more for God and it was true. I led Bible studies for women's groups, I taught about prayer and was involved in both training and implementing intercessory prayer teams. I was involved in evangelism and even a little preaching. I eventually attended a ministry school where months later, I was hired on staff. All of it gave me great joy as the Lord shaved off more of the flesh and replaced it with His Divine Love.

Still, my heart secretly longed for a good Christian man.
I won't spoil it for you...hope you'll read it to see how God worked it out!

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

Julian and I went as saw The Messiah last night, and the aria "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" really struck me, as a Magdalene sister. It is always sung by a Soprano, so I suppose it could be Mary Magdalene singing it. Anyway, that's who I heard sing it. It was lovely.

Here it is, a version from 1956, that isn't nimble enough for my tastes, but it's the best I could find quickly:

December 17, 2009

O Wisdom

O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Antiphons

Remember my post on the Advent prayers entitled the 'O Antiphons?' Today is the official day they begin, so I'll be posting one each day until we welcome our King!

December 16, 2009


Friends, I have a slew of links for you today. Some wonderful, others...well...

First: You simply must read, in its entirety, Jeremy Lott's piece in the newest American Spectator about Pope Benedict, "The Great Consolidator." A snippet:
Less attention was focused on Benedict's first homily as pope, at a Mass of the College of Cardinals. He opened with the usual boilerplate. "Catholics cannot but feel encouraged to strive for the full unity for which Christ expressed so ardent a hope," he said. He promised to be "especially responsible" for promoting that unity. Benedict acknowledged that he had been "entrusted with the task" of strengthening his "brethren" -- a word that is fraught with meaning in ecumenical circles as Rome has taken to referring to non-Catholic Christians as "separated brethren."

Then he said something extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented: "With full the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor" -- that is, I, Pope Benedict XVI -- "takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty." These words were brought to my attention by Keith Fournier, an ordained Catholic deacon who enthused on Catholic Online that "What happened [in October] is just the beginning."

THE ONLY THING IS, it wasn't the beginning. Far from it. The present pope may not go down as the Great Unifier, exactly. He's likely what people today call "too divisive" to pull that off, and it's hard to see why he would want to. Benedict knows how to use divisions to great effect. He takes Christ's statement from the Gospel of Matthew, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword," quite seriously.

Read the whole article here. Seriously. Read it. It brings hope, and you'll need it after these next two items.

Second, a few life-issue related links, both HT: American Papist. A group in Milwaukee called "Catholic for Choice" has recently encouraged young Catholics to use contraception. Thankfully, the Archbishop-designate Jerome Listecki has issue a statement regarding this group, saying:
While people can call themselves whatever they want, it is my duty as a bishop to state clearly and unequivocally that by professing and disseminating views in grave contradiction to Catholic teaching, members of organizations like “Young Catholics for Choice” in fact disown their Catholic heritage, tragically distancing themselves from that communion with the Church to which they are called. We pray that they may reconcile their position which is contrary to the Catholic Faith they claim to profess.

In considerably more shocking news (also brought to my attention by AMP), at the climate summit in Copenhagen, a British group has been promoting a program to offset carbon emissions by working to eliminate the birth of African children. LifeSite news reports:
suggests that people in wealthy first-world countries should "offset" the carbon cost of their jet-setting lifestyles by paying to prevent the births of poor children in the developing world.

John Vidal, the Guardian's environment editor, wrote that the OPT's report suggesting a "radical" plan to cut carbon emissions was the "best bet" to reduce global warming trends. In August, the OPT issued a report claiming to have made a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to work out exactly how much "carbon emission" a child born in the developing world costs.

Vidal pointed to the claim in the OPT report that the 10 metric tons of carbon emitted by a single return flight from London to Sydney could be "offset" by "enabling the avoidance of one unwanted birth in a country such as Kenya."
This isn't planting trees people; this is KILLING BABIES for the sake of your ridiculous lifestyle. I just can't even begin to express my shock and anger over this.

Come Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

December 14, 2009

Simply Jesus.

Sisters and readers, 'Tis the season for hustle and bustle. It seems that December follows its own time continuum and that the earth rotates more quickly than any other month. Responsibilities at school seem to pile up in preparation for vacation. Advertisements on the subway remind me of how many shopping days that I have left. My head and heart are heavy these weeks, as I feel burdened with checklists, feelings of guilt about resolutions that I did not keep in 2009, and preparation for resolutions that I intend to keep in 2010.

Today I received a Christmas card in the mail from my grandmother. On the front was a tiny graphic of a manager with an even tinier graphic of a baby. Underneath was the phrase, "Simply Jesus."

As I was reflecting on Agatha's post on St. John of the Cross, I couldn't help but relate his mystical theology to this Christmas card. Though St. John's mystical theology speaks of the ascent of the soul up Mount Carmel and into the Dark Night, the soul's destination is the Triune God - most infinite, most mysterious, yet in everything so one, so perfect, and so simple. A dear friend of mine has reminded me time and time again about the simplicity of our Lord, and how we must return to this truth when we are heavily burdened and weary.

How gently and lovingly
you wake in my heart,
where in secret you dwell alone;
and in your sweet breathing,
filled with good and glory,
how tenderly you swell my heart
with love.

-- St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross is very perplexing to me. Very perplexing. But, today is his feast, and, since we do often speak of love, it seems like as good a time as any to post one of his poems, so that he may perplex (and inspire) us all:

Full of hope I climbed the day
while hunting the game of love,
and soared so high, high above
that I at last caught my prey.

In order to seize the game
-- the divine love in the sky --
I had to fly so high, high
I floated unseen and became
lost in that dangerous day;
and so my flight fell short of
height -- yet so high was my love
that I at last caught my prey.

Dazzled and stunned by light
as I rose nearer the sun,
my greatest conquest was won
in the very black of night.
Yet since love opened my way
I leapt dark, blindly above
and was so high, near my love,
that at last I caught my prey.

In this most exalted quest
the higher I began to soar
the lower I felt -- more sore
and broken and depressed.
I said: None can seize the prey!
and groveled so low, so low
that high, higher did I go,
and at last I caught my prey.

By strange reckoning I saw
a thousand flights in one flight;
for hope of heavenly light
is achieved by hoping now.
I hoped only for this way
and was right to wait for love,
and climbed so high, high above
that at last I caught my prey.

(Image Source)

December 12, 2009

On Preparing for Marriage

It's apropos that I write this post today. Today is the day Peter decided he wanted to become Catholic (he's half Mexican), and I am convinced that Our Lady of Guadalupe - whose feast it is today - (hence the picture) has had a hand in bringing us together. So for today, I'd like to meditate on commentator Aaron's holding me to promise to give more how-to-prepare-for-your-upcoming-nuptials thoughts.

Some people recommend the Theology of the Body study guides. But I have to admit, I've gotten so SICK of hearing about is all the Theology of the Body stuff with marriage prep. I start to hear 'blah, blah, blah...human dignity...blah, blah, blah...male and female He created them...blah, blah, blah...complementarity.' And you get my drift. I thought to myself 'I get it already!!! Why am I getting more lectures about this stuff?' Another thing I got so sick of hearing about in marriage prep was 1 Cor 13 - 'love is patient, love is kind...' Yep. Kinda started sounding kitschy.

But then I realized it. This is all fine and dandy stuff. And when you read about it, that's exactly what it sounds like. What we must do is LIVE it. Love does have to patient, especially when your future spouse leaves dirty dishes around. It has to be kind when you want to scream at him for leaving that dish. It cannot be boastful, it cannot be angry, it cannot keep a record of wrong doings to lord over your spouse to hurt them. And trust me, that's especially easy to do. It cannot be self seeking, even when sometimes you just want it to be all about yourself, especially when you are tired, sick, or frustrated with something at work or school. I've learned and will continue to learn the meaning of "love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,"

Some little things I do (and I am sure Peter will read this), is whenever Peter uses all the toilet paper and of course, never refills it, I take it upon myself to do it, as my little sacrifice (is it a sacrifice anymore now that I've told you?) Now, it does not even bother me anymore. I also try to take care of the dish washer - but Peter has started helping me with that too. Even though we still have two months to the day (hey, who's counting?), my house where we'll live after the wedding is more and more feeling like ours. I think we need to understand what it means that love is a choice. I choose to love Peter despite his flaws, and he chooses to love me despite mine. But I choose to love him as particular, unique, individual. Not just any man can by my spouse. We've chosen each other in all our particularity. That makes a difference, because how you and your spouse do things, communicate things, decide things will be totally different.

In terms of books....I've not gotten too many recommendations at the present moment, but I promise to be thinking about it. To be honest, I've taken to reading Jane Austen novels, which always include marriages and making matches. That's been not only funny, but makes me more and more look forward to the the marriage. Austen has such a way of portraying human character and the importance of virtue in marriage. My father did send me one that I've not yet read called Marriage: A Path to Sanctity.

One last thing. A great grace has been taking Natural Family Planning classes together. We are learning about how mostly mine, but both of our bodies work with respect to our reproduction, and it is even helping us with other things, like nutrition and exercise - both of which play a huge role in reproduction. I guess what I am trying to say, is that NFP is helping us to see how to be stewards to our own bodies, and to prepare them for whatever God may have in store. Hope this helps our readers and any other reading suggestions, advice, etc. is welcomed!!! God bless, and Happy Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe today!

December 10, 2009

Sex and Despair, by Josef Pieper

Wow. Read this. From Josef Pieper: An Anthology

*Update: This is the first time I've used GoogleBooks to embed a e-book into a blog post, so I notice that you can scroll through the entire anthology, which is amazing. But I meant simply to draw your attention to this brief essay "Sex and Despair." Also, I don't condone the use of e-books. Support Ignatius Press. Buy the book!

December 9, 2009

Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Every year, around the feast of the Immaculate Conception, I try to find 45 minutes to sit down and listen to the entire Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610(or "Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary") which he composed in 1610 for St. Mark's in Venice.

I haven't had time to listen to them yet this year, but I wanted to share with you this, "Dixit Dominus," which is one of my favorite psalms of the Vespers service. It is Psalm 110.

Also really amazing is the tenor aria, Nigra Sum, which is taken from the Song of Songs:

December 8, 2009

Ma'am-ed #2

I love Julian's post this morning about getting "ma'am-ed" but I want to set her mind at ease, because it is the only non-offensive word of respect permissible today.

When people used more formal forms of address (Miss, Mrs., Sir, Mr., etc.), any anonymous woman who looked under 30-ish was addressed as "Miss" regardless of marital state. So, if you went into a shop, you would be addressed as "Miss" by the clerk. If someone bumped into you on the bus, he'd say "Excuse me Miss."

But, with the rise of mainstream feminism in the 60's and 70's, "Miss"--once a complimentary term--was suddenly an insult, and all single women were addressed formally as "Ms." But saying "Ms." is dreadful (mzzzzzzzzzzz) and besides, if you're not careful, it sounds a lot like "Miss."

So we resorted to the next best thing: "ma'am." "Ma'am" has never had any marital connotations, and in certain geographical regions (the south) it has always been used as a sign of respect. So it was the natural choice.

All the same--I do wish "Miss" wasn't lost in the battle for equality (...). I completely agree with Julian--I'd like to be called "Miss" too. But, I'd rather be called "Ma'am" than nothing. Ma'am will do.

A funnier take on this phenomenon, via my favorite, Mary Tyler Moore:

Immaculate Conception Day

"You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is neither blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these? (St. Ephraim: Nisibene Hymns 27:8 [A. D. 361])

Happy Feast, my sisters!! This is one of my favorite feasts in the Church, perhaps because my middle name refers to it, perhaps because I think it is one of the most glorious of feast days. So often, people get this phrase 'Immaculate Conception' mixed up, thinking it refers to the fact that Christ was conceived with no earthly father. But really, it refers to Mary's conception without original sin. Yes, from the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anna, Christ has accomplished for Mary the gift of sinlessness. I think of it sort of like her baptism, but at the moment of conception. No sin could ever touch her. EWTN's website gives a beautiful little reflection on this point, part of which I'll quote here:
Mary, in her conception, was not only free from stain, but moreover was adorned with the most precious graces, so as to appear beautiful and glorious in the eyes of God. And the grace she then received was the seed of the great virtues which she exercised, and the higher graces to which, by the improvement of her first stock, she was afterwards raised, during the whole course of her mortal life. By the first graces she was free from all inclination to accursed pride and from all inordinate self-love, and remained always perfectly empty of herself. This disposition she expressed when honoured with the highest graces and exalted to the most sublime and wonderful spiritual dignity; under which, sinking lower in her own abyss of weakness and nothingness, she sincerely and purely gave all glory to him.
And the glory of it all for us? We share in that inheritance through our baptism and look forward to being perfected in heaven! It's such a glorious feast to have during Advent, because it demonstrates to us by tangible proof of what Christ came to earth to accomplish for us. So enjoy the day, and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever.

Getting Ma'am-ed

The past few days I've been really demanding on my senior students; their senioritis is kicking into high gear and we haven't even hit midterms. After a stern lecture to one of my students, she responded, "Yes, ma'am."

I've been getting "ma'am-ed" a lot lately, and certainly not just by my young students. Waiters, cashiers, people on the street -- all "ma'aming" me. Let me tell you, I'm not too happy about it! I mean, I know it's polite and all, but isn't a young woman in her mid-twenties too young to be addressed as "ma'am"? This makes me afraid that my gray hairs are showing (I'm SO bad and pull the few that I found out) or the puffiness under my eyes is really starting to become permanent from lack of sleep.

N.B. I'm not actually upset. I'd just like to be "Miss Julian" for a few years more!
Our Lady, on your feast day, teach me to be gracious!!!

December 7, 2009

I Love Jane Austen

I am re-reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice before I go to bed each night, and this passage reminded me of why I adore Jane Austen. This is from the part where the level-headed Elizabeth Bennet rejects the proposal of Mr. Collins, who is the man to inherit her family's estate - and though he is well-meaning - he really is an obsequious, silly, and nonsensical man.

Chapter 19

"Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."

"I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."

"You are uniformly charming!" cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; "and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable."

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be decisive, and whose behavior at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
I love it!! Elizabeth Bennet is indeed a rational creature, and Mr. Collins completely irrational. And isn't it funny how you see the male/female misunderstandings? How many of us know the girl who plays hard to get? The one that every guy wants to date because she is the one he simply cannot have? Yes, human nature is funny...and Jane Austen makes it so much fun to read about!!

December 4, 2009

Fun Gift: Kissing Checklist

I think this is just so sweet. It's a kissing checklist. According to the artist, Rachel Foster, couples are encouraged to check off the list. What a cute wedding gift idea, eh? Buy it here, from London's Keep Calm Gallery.

December 2, 2009

A Lovely Tale of Requited Love

This past weekend, in the New York Times, there was a piece entitled, "Would My Heart Outrun Its Pursuer?" which naturally jumped out at me. Though I was expecting something that was placed in the "modern love" section of the paper to be odd, what emerged was a beautiful story of unexpected, unhoped-for love between two persons. I like it for many reasons: it touches on the question of the male-female friendship that we sisters have enjoyed discussing; it speaks about following your heart instead of your head; most poignantly, it explores the fact that we can feel so undeserving of love but sometimes, just sometimes, love finally makes us stop pushing it back and let it in.

Go ahead and read it. It's beautiful.

Happy Birthday, Magdalene Sisters!

Hi Sisters and Readers, all. Today marks the one year anniversary of our very first blog post, and thus of our blog! We got off to a slow start, but, thanks to your feedback and our own comic/tragic adventures, we're ready for the second year of fellowship, discovery, growth in faith and sisterhood. (And, with Edith getting married, it will be a year of changes, too!)

In celebration of this day, we wanted to highlight a few of our personal favorite posts. Thank you all for reading (and praying) with us.


From Agatha:
-- I Don't Do is Agatha's rant on bridesmaid dresses. (And, in case you readers were curious, Edith took all her advice!)
-- Talithia Koum: Agatha asks, aren't we all just little girls?

From Edith:
-- The Goodness of God and His Mother reminds us all of the beauty and grace of humanity.
-- The entire Woman Warrior series, conceived and executed by Edith, is amazing, but I think we all agree, her post on Immaculée Ilibagiza was incredibly inspiring, and moved all of us to study her life more.

From Julian:
-- Can't Live With 'Em may have been a bit of a rant, but it touched on some of our deepest concerns, and sparked great debate.
-- Always a godmother, never a God was Julian's honest, pure thoughts on the grace of becoming a godmother for the first time.


-- Edith and Julian's thoughts on Catholic Feminism.

-- Can Men and Women Be Friends? Yes. No. Maybe So.


-- Pope Gregory the Great's Sermon on Mary Magdalene speaks powerfully to all.

-- Francis De Sales has eased many a heart.

-- Edith's patron Edith Stein helped us keep things in focus.

-- And, of course, we worked hard on the Mary Magdalene Novena and were so grateful your prayed along with us.

(Oh yeah, and let's not forget this.)

Happy Birthday, Magdalene Sisters! Here's to another great year!

December 1, 2009

Blinders + Joy

I loved Edith and Julian's early Advent reflections--and I have my own to offer, because the First Sunday of Advent is really one of my favorite days of the year. the Msgr. preached, as many do, about the over-commercialization of the Christmas season. "Decorations" he said "are on the shelves right after Halloween. Everyone has blinders on--forgetting the real meaning of the season."

That word--BLINDERS--really struck me, because I put blinders on myself, to block out all the premature Christmas celebrations. I ignore the red cups at Starbucks (they are ugly this year, so it wasn't hard), I intentionally don't listen to the radio, lest "Dominik the Christmas Donkey" come on. I ignore the lights, garlands, and garish ornaments in the shops. I am blind.

But then, magically, the new liturgical year begins, and the world is lit with joy and anticipation. Because, while Advent is a penitential season, it is also one of joy--because Christ has come!

I was glad then to hear from a friend who was in Rome for the Holy Father's Advent Vespers service last Saturday, that he said in his sermon:
"Advent is the time of the presence and waiting for eternity. For just this reason it is, in a special way, the time of joy, of interiorized joy, that no suffering can take away."
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