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

July 28, 2009

The Fairy Tale Ending

"I never knew of any interference on the part of the wicked fairy that did not turn out a good thing in the end. What a good thing, for instance, it was that one princess should sleep for a hundred years! Was she not saved from all the plague of young men who were not worthy of her? And did she not come awake exactly at the right moment when the right prince kissed her? For my part, I cannot help wishing a good many girls would sleep till just the same fate overtook them. It would be happier for them, and more agreeable to their friends." --George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind

July 25, 2009

Sermon on Mary Magdalene

In our continued celebration of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalane (July 22nd), I want to share with you the full Sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great, read ont eh feast of St. Mary Magdalene, in the Divine Office:
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.

We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.

At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.

Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.

Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

(Image Source)

July 24, 2009

Another Hymn to Mary Magdalene

Magdalene Repente by Antonio Canova, 1810

Here is another hymn/poem to Mary Magdalene, this time from Fr. Frederick Faber the author of so many important religious texts such as Growth in Holiness and Precious Blood:

They Sweet Fragrance of thine ointment
All the earth is filling now;
And thy tears are turned to jewels
For a crown upon thy brow:
There are thousands in all ages
Come to Christ because of thee,
Oh then, Mary, with thy converts
In thy kindness number me!

(Find the whole hymn here.)

July 23, 2009

Dating in the Dark

So, as Agatha can attest to, I have become completely addicted to the show Lost on ABC (more on the explicit and implicit Catholic themes in the show later), and thanks to online streaming, I can watch the show for free (well, for the monthly internet fee that I pay) on ABC's website.  In exchange for the free viewing, I have to put up with a few thirty-second advertisements, usually for cleaning products or other shows on the network.  One such show that is running this summer is called Dating in the Dark in which, you guessed it, contestants go on dates with each other with the lights off.  (N.B. The show looks like a completely ludicrous attempt at showing that there is more to attraction than physical attraction.)  

However, for all of its absurdity, the title got me thinking...when it comes to dating these days, aren't we all in the dark? 

Someone recently asked me about my move to a new city and how my success with dating in the past year had been.  "How many dates have you been on, Julian?"  "Well," I answered, "that depends."  Do I count the men I've gone to events with alone but who have not paid for the meal or the ticket?  Do I count it if I asked the guy to go somewhere?  What if he paid for the whole evening or afternoon but himself qualified it as "hanging out"?  What qualifies as a date anymore, anyway?!?!?!  Does anyone else feel completely lost?  Do we always have to know if we are on a date or is there room for a little grey?  

Maybe I'm just a little frustrated that I just split a $10 bill after a guy just asked me to coffee.  This probably proves a guy's point that if you pay, she will assume it's a date... 

The Hymn To Mary Magdalene

Penance of Magdalene by El Greco

Aha! There is a Hymn for the memorial of Mary Magdalene:

Who can now presume to fear?
Who despair his Lord to see?
Jesus, wilt Thou not appear,
Show Thyself alive to me?
Yea, my God, I dare not doubt,
Thou shalt all my sins remove;
Thou hast cast a legion out,
Thou wilt perfect me in love.

Surely Thou hast called me now!
Now I hear the voice divine,
At Thy wounded feet I bow,
Wounded for whose sins but mine!
I have nailed Him to the tree,
I have sent Him to the grave:
But the Lord is ris’n for me,
Hold of Him by faith I have.

Here for ever I would lie,
Didst Thou not Thy servant raise,
Send me forth to testify
All the wonders of Thy grace.
Lo! I at Thy bidding go,
Gladly to Thy followers tell
They their rising God may know,
They the life of Christ may feel.

July 22, 2009

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, our dear and beloved patron. There is so much I planned to say on this day, but now that it is here, I am overwhelmed, and can't manage much. So, instead, I'll share with you this beautiful series of paintings by Georges de La Tour or the repenting and repentent Mary Magdalene. They are in chronological oder, and I would love to know which you love most. Someday soon I hope to let you know a bit more about all of them.

The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame

Magdalen of Night Light

The Penitent Magdalen

The Repentant Magdalen

(The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Magdalen of Night Light is at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Penitent Magdalen is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Repentant Magdalen is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.)

July 17, 2009

I (don't) Do

It is a fact universally acknowledged that every girl on the face of the earth has already planned their wedding.

Now, I've been in a lot of weddings, and had more friends get married than I can keep track of. So not only do I have a list of things I want (my mother's roses, tulle, little jars of homemade jam as favors, sparklers), I also have a list of things I absolutely forbid. And they all revolve around one thing: The Bridesmaid Dress.

This is the single most argued about and hated element of a wedding. It's too expensive, too ugly, too dated, too fancy, too everything to be just right. I've been in 4 weddings, and been lucky enough to only have one dress I hated. But of the other three there was only one that I loved--the others were just beautiful, but they were the Bride's style, not mine.

Here are the rules:
1) Don't pick a satin wedding dress, unless you're willing to pay for good satin. You know, really good satin

2) Unless you're a princess, and your wedding might be confused with the opening gala of the Metropolitan opera, don't make us wear full length dresses. Even if they're as beautiful as this.

3) Pastels will always look like prom. Especially if the dresses are long (see rule #2) or made of cheap fabric (see rule #1).

4) You chose us for US. If at all possible let us style our hair as we like, and choose our own shoes. Seriously.

5) And speaking of accessories, women no longer wear gloves. It's a shame, I know. I frequently wish we did. But if you're going to bring them back for your wedding, then here's what you should know: they should be white, and made of cotton, linen, silk, kid-leather or very fine crocheted lace--only natural fibers! They should not be colored. They should not be satin. They should not be stretchy polyester. And most of all they should not be fuschia fingerless satin with applique and ruching

6) You might as well know, no matter how much we like the dress, honestly, we won't wear it again. All but the most beautiful and expensive bridesmiad dresses still look like bridesmaid dresses.

What's the good news? It's one of the big mysteries of life, but, even if you do choose a cheap-satin full-length pastel-green dress with polyester ruched gloves, and matching shoes--we'll probably look beautiful anyway. Because, let's face it, we're the frame, and you're the masterpiece. And we're glad to be there for you.

(Just don't be offended when we give it away afterward.)

July 14, 2009

A Thought

Just thought some of you might need some comfort! 

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

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow.The same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

-a prayer of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) 

July 13, 2009

Summer Reading List

I'd like to recommend an addition to any single lady's summer reading list (well, to anyone's, really!) by the name of Now and Not Yet:  Making Sense of the Single Life in the Twenty-First Century by Jennifer A. Marshall of The Heritage Foundation.  I saw her book on the shelf at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and bought it on impulse.  (Sidenote: there was an incredibly good-looking clerk working that day, so I was praying he wasn't reading the title, but I think he got a glance).

From the introduction: 

As increasing numbers of women and men spend more of their lives unmarried, the topic of singleness demands greater theological and sociological attention.  A complex set of cultural and economic factors has contributed to the trend of marrying later and to the disappearance of well-marked routes that once led clearly to marriage...The central focus of this book is the part of the puzzle that we as single women are responsible for: tending to the spiritual and practical aspects of our own day-today lives.  Single women must live in the world as it meets them today, and many are simply trying to figure out how to seek contentment now as well as pursue dreams not yet realized.  This book is by, about, and for women who find themselves in that unexpected place. 

Why I like the book:  With chapters and sub-chapters titled: "Crocker Versus Friedan: When Neither Betty Will Do," Me: Intimdating?" and "Men: Co-Heirs of the Kingdom, Co-Victims of the Chaos," what's not to love?  Marshall is able to address address deep, theological questions about vocations as well as practical concerns such as how buying our own real estate, pursuing career opportunities, and furthering our education can feel like we're waving a white flag of surrender to the prospect of marriage.   In the end, I still do not know if and when I will arrive at "Destination Marriage," as she calls it, nor do I know what lies beyond that train stop should I pass through it.  However, I do feel comforted that my questions are being asked by others, and that someone cared enough to acknowledge them.  Sisters, I hope you take comfort in this book, too.   And who knows...maybe the handsome clerk is asking the same questions, too!   

Humble Hope

“To God who has so abundantly blessed the church through the Dominican Order; may the Order of Preachers, under the mantle of the Mother of God, continue to flourish in fraternal love purified in obedience to the truth.”
--Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, O.P.

(HT: Whispers)

July 9, 2009

lady boss

I love the JPII says woman can influence the workplace in a positive, feminine way. But I really don't know how to do it. The only time I feel really feminine is when I start crying at my desk. Which happens more often than I'd like. So maybe we can learn from the movies:

(then again...maybe not.)

July 7, 2009

Courage in Art

Yesterday was the feast of St. Maria Goretti, and you should check out Julian's thoughts about this amazing saint, posted yesterday. Meanwhile I wanted to share with you a quick thought and a link.

When I realized it was her feast day yesterday morning, I went immediately to do a Google Image Search of her name to find an icon that we could put up on the blog. Aside from a grainy image of her incoroupt body, the only images I could find were in the sappy wide-eyed innocent holy card style. I grew up with those images, and I love them in a way, but they never do her, or any saint justice.

Of course I also grew up hearing the story of St. Maria Goretti repeated, as it is often done to catholic school girls, to me and my friends. But it wasn't until college, when a feisty Dominican professor told us on the verge of tears the story of her martyrdom that I really was moved by her life and death. He told a story of bold, almost rash, courage which defied the world and its false promises, and then, when victorious, turned gentle and gracious. I didn't look around when he finished the story, but I was certain there wasn't a dry eye.

So when I look at those sickly/innocent drawings of a little girl, I see none of her strength. St. Maria Goretti is all the more remarkable for having been a young girl when she died. But she was no child--she was more adult, and yet more innocent, than I will ever be, and to think of her as a sweet little school girl is to miss the point.

Then, stumbling through Google Images, I came across this stunning painting, by Noah Buchanan for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Maria Goretti stands, facing us, engaging our eyes, in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But most striking of all is Allessandro Serenelli, her murderer, bound on the floor, reaching up to the lily Maria is giving him. This painting, to me, tells the whole story, with its pain, its grace, its strength, and its love.

July 6, 2009

St. Maria Goretti

My apologies to my confirmation saint, Maria Goretti, for a quick, late night post on her feast day.  

The traditional "snippet" of her life: 

Born in Corinaldo, Ancona, Italy, on October 16 1890; her farmworker father moved his family to Ferrier di Conca, near Anzio. Her father died of malaria and her mother had to struggle to feed her children.

In 1902 an eighteen-year-old neighbor, Alexander, grabbed her from her steps and tried to rape her. When Maria said that she would rather died than submit, Alexander began stabbing her with a knife.

As she lay in the hospital, she forgave Alexander before she died. Her death didn't end her forgivness, however.

Alexander was captured and sentenced to thirty years. He was unrepentant until he had a dream that he was in a garden. Maria was there and gave him flowers. When he woke, he was a changed man, repenting of his crime and living a reformed life. When he was released after 27 years he went directly to Maria's mother to beg her forgiveness, which she gave. "If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withold forgiveness," she said.

When Maria was declared a saint in 1950, Alexander was there in the St. Peter's crowd to celebrate her canonization. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950 for her purity as model for youth.

She is called a martyr because she fought against Alexander's attempts at sexual assault. However, the most important aspect of her story is her forgiveness of her attacker -- her concern for her enemy extending even beyond death. Her feast day is July 6. St. Maria Goretti is the patroness of youth and for the victims of rape.

I originally chose Maria Goretti for her namesake, as I had many female, Italian role models by her name in my own family after whom I wanted to model my life.  In all honesty, I did not give much thought to her in the beginning stages of my adult faith life, although I was conscientiously growing in my religious practices and devotions.  However, a few years ago in prayer, I suddenly *knew* out of the clear blue, that it was St. Maria Goretti who had been interceding for me for a decade to maintain my virginity for the decade or so after my confirmation.  It was as if she let me know, in a moment of prayer about my life and my purity or heart, that it had been she who had been responsible for me.  Since that time, I have begun to appreciate her role in my life even more, and I am drawn to ask for her prayers for victims of sexual assault in my circle of family and friends.  She has so much to offer those who will draw near to her, and she is definitely a kindred spirit of the Magdalene Sisters in heaven! 

July 5, 2009

The New Encyclical...

...will be available on Tuesday.  It's the first social encyclical written in about twenty years.  Go Papa B!  Once I get my paws on it, I'll be sure to post my thoughts.  

July 4, 2009


Well, I've been skipping around the country the last two weeks, and I'm finally able to sit and post.  I had a wonderful week rebuilding homes with teenagers through an amazing program run through my diocese.  It was seriously such an inspiring week, being among the less fortunate with teenagers who really have their heads and hearts fixed on Christ.  I was originally angered by the poverty that I encountered, and while I'm still uneasy about it, the time we spent talking to our resident and his granddaughter took away my anger and helped me to connect with two individuals who had the same questions about life that I had.  I have a real sense of a human family right now, and as cheesy as that sounds, in the week that followed, I found myself becoming aware of the need to really talk with people, to look them in the eye, and to hear their stories.  I pray this attitude continues for a lifetime.  It's so much easier to see Christ during the day if we slow down and talk to Him in the people we are often too busy to meet. 

The conference I went to at Notre Dame was okay in itself.  I found myself a little frustrated at other educators who were disgruntled at younger colleagues (like myself) who had different concerns than they did about the Church, insofar as someone my age would be considered a "post-Vatican II" Catholic educator.  But differences and motivations aside, we all sat listening to two pretty amazing speakers: Sr. Helen Prejean, who's life story was the backstory of the movie Dead Man Walking, and Imaculee Ilibagiza, who we've mentioned numerous times here on the blog.  And the greatest blessing of all?  I got to meet Imaculee!!! I truly believe that I was standing in the presence of a saint.  Her story of the power of the rosary, the power of forgiveness, the people of Rwanda, and the very real human fear of facing death moved me beyond words.  When she was speaking, the song "Gentle Woman" kept playing over and over in my head.  I can't wait to read more about Our Lady of Kibeho.  While Imaculee is still speaking about her experience during the genocide, she feels truly called to spread the message about Our Lady who appeared in Rwanda before the genocide.  All in all, I have been blessed with ample opportunity for God to profoundly remind me that this whole faith thing, this whole Catholic thing, is real.   
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