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

July 30, 2010

The Trouble with Things

I'm very lucky to have a sizable closet. There is enough space to walk in it and store everything from old notebooks from graduate school to my down blanket for winter to shoes, bags, and clothes in an organized way. However, as I have been walking by my closet recently, and in my room in general, I've been repeatedly struck by the feeling that I have too many things.

Certainly this is all relative. Within a mile radius of my apartment, there are half-million dollar houses as well as government housing. I'm sure to one side of town I have very little, and to another I have a lot. But for me, in my own discernment, I feel I have too much. I have been asking myself recently, "What can you live without?" The answers to that question as I look around my apartment are more numerous than I'd like to admit. With back-to-school ads and flyers taunting me in my mailbox, I want to have my head on straight.

Three years ago I went on a mission trip to a rural village in Guatemala where there was no clean water, no plumbing, and only enough electricity for about two hours a day in the village. I stood firm in the fact that I wanted to live simply in America, and for awhile after I did. But then I took a teaching job at a prestigious school where, though people do not admit it, what you wear and how you look is assessed on a daily basis. I live in a city where women are not only put together, but donning remarkably expensive garb and spending upwards of $100-150 on haircuts (forget color or highlights). Now, I live within my budget, and for good reason, cannot and do not spend outside of my means. But the slippery slope of convincing myself that something I want is really something that I need is a treacherous road I regularly walk down here.

So, I've been wondering. What is it that I can live without? Just because I like a song on the radio doesn't mean I need to purchase it. Just because a book is recommended to me doesn't mean I can't walk one block to the library and check it out. Just because those shoes are so darn cute doesn't mean I need to buy them (although I did...yikes). But I've also been thinking, what is it that I do need? I do need to look professional (and really, I would argue stylish) in my job. I do like to look put together and ladylike equally when I'm going out with friends or going to Mass. But what are "essentials" and what are not? How does cooking, food shopping, and eating out factor into living more simply? How do you discern the difference?

Jesus, teach us that we depend on you.

July 29, 2010

Jane Austen Fight Club

Feast of St. Martha

Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world.

We Magdalene sisters love our patronesses, and while Mary Magdalene gets most of our attention, today we honor the feast of her sister (and ours), St. Martha. Martha is considered the sister of Mary and Lazarus as depicted in the Gospels. Perhaps we are most familiar with her from Luke 10 when she (perhaps with a little exasperation in her tone?) asks Our Lord to admonish her sister Mary for leaving all the serving to herself. In the end, he chastises her!

From this description, we know her as the exemplar saint of the active life, as opposed to her sister Mary, the contemplative, "the better part." But I've always really identified with Martha, which I know I've mentioned before on this blog. She is the patron saint of housewives, servants of all kinds, cooks, and (Get This!) SINGLE LAYWOMEN. She is indeed our patroness!! But I identify with her more because of her willingness to serve the Lord, to wait upon His physical need for food and comfort. And by this means, she knew Him for who He was, as she proclaims in the Gospel of John (chapter 11) "Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world." She said this just before Our Lord raised her brother, Lazarus from the dead. But she did not utter these words so that Christ would do this; she had faith in the words spoken by Christ to her and in the Word, Christ Himself. She knew that no matter what happens in life, even the death of a loved one, at the end of every day, Christ is.

I think we modern ladies have so much to learn from her. She is, after all, through the wisdom of Holy Mother Church, given to us single laywoman as a particular patroness. But she teaches us to persevere in faith, to trust the Lord, and to serve Him in our daily lives. I know that many of us sit wondering when we'll meet that special man God has ordained for us (if our vocation is marriage) or wait in discernment to see if God is calling us to Himself as a Bride, or perhaps we just wonder what might be next in the chapter of our lives. St. Martha teaches us to have faith, to trust in the Lord and to live our lives joyfully as we listen for answers to all of our questions. And when we do this, He performs miracles for us beyond our own understanding. He will transform our lives to bring about more graces than we can imagine, if only we will allow Him to. So let us ask St. Martha for faith like hers as we await Him.

And dear readers, Happy Feast today.

Image found here.

July 28, 2010

Yes, Humility IS a Virtue

"Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall." From Proverbs, chapter 16 verse 18. Pride is a funny little vice. It's one we all struggle with, even when we don't realize it. Just recently, I have realized that I was not realizing how prideful I have been! (Does that make sense...?) Or, to put it simply, I have been praying for an increase in humility, and God has answered by showing to me just how prideful I have been since I have been wallowing in myself pity.

So what can I do to remedy this situation? I think I need to remind myself to love all those who are around, starting with the closest ones. I try to remember just to smile, sincerely smile at people and say hello to them. A girl in high school once said in front of many student that my smile could make anyone's bad day melt. (I say this NOT to be prideful!! All beauty, well everything is a gift from God.) Whenever I have a down moment, I remember those words, because they encourage me to be more loving. I would like to start volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity again. I used to do so when I lived in the South, and I just fell in love with those sisters. I also had the privilege of venerating Mother Teresa's relics a couple weeks ago when they came to a local parish that houses her sisters. While there, I of course didn't feel anything, but I did ask her to pray for me as I touched my rosary made of Job's Tears to the one made of the same material that she used to pray every day. I think her intercession has opened up an avenue of light, peace, and grace to reach me.

So for now, I'll ask her to help me overcome my weaknesses and help me continue to become more humble. In the meantime, I'll reflect on her advice to me and to all of us: "Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness." Bl. Mother Teresa

July 27, 2010

For the Girl With a Guy on Her Mind's iPod: Madeleine Peyroux

I don't know if you love jazz as much as we sisters do, but if you have a man on your mind, whether real, ideal, or nowhere near, cozy up and have a listen:

July 26, 2010

One of the Best Marriages on TV

Stop what you are doing now and go rent (or watch online) every season of Friday Night Lights that you can get your hands on. I have not watched such a tremendous show in a long time (okay, since Lost finished). I started watching the show this summer after my brother had been recommending it for a few years, and I'm so glad that I did start watching. I love football, and I appreciate (to a certain extent), what it's like to live and breathe the experience of the team as my older brother, who I idolized (and still do) played for four years at our competitive regional high school. The performances of nearly every cast member are convincing and emotionally-charged with subtlety in glances, pauses, and delivery that make you invest in their well-being and good. My heart is tugged by every episode.

Now, in full disclosure, the show chronicles very wounded men, women, and teenagers, who are not always able to live out the Christian morality they hear preached in their southern Texas churches on Sunday. However, I am prepared to stand behind the statement that the marriage of the characters Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami is one of the best marriages that I've ever seen portrayed on the small or the large screen. The show films all aspects of a marriage that is (at least) 15 or so years in....what solid, daily communication looks like, what issues are important and not so important, what it's like to put the other person's good ahead of your own in real situations and decision-making, how difficult but vital it is to keep the fires burning, what it looks like to walk with someone in joy and sorrow, what it's like to parent (and to parent well) a teenager, etc. I really can't stress how impressed I am with the writing, acting, and overall portrayal of two people still very much in love and who work with all of their might to stay that way. It's really the most beautiful witness I've seen in awhile, and one that I haven't seen written about in Christian circles.

If you watch it, let me know if you agree. Sometimes it's just nice to have and to celebrate little glimmers of light in the media that model in a realistic fashion the culture of life and the practical application of the theology of the body.

July 23, 2010

Back to Back Feasts: St. Bridget of Sweden

From my Magnificat today:

Again the same religious appeared on his rung as before and said: "O Judge, I ask you:"...

"Why did you not cause all your words to be heard in a single moment? Then it would not have been necessary for them to be preached through the intervals of time."...

"As to why I did not speak all my words in one hour, I answer you: Just as, materially, it goes against the body for it to take in one hour as much food as might content it for many years, so it is against the divine arrangment that my words, which are the food of the soul, would all have been spoken in one hour. But just as bodily food is taken in little by little, to be chewed and, when chewed, to be carried to the interior, so my words were not to be spoken in one hour, but rather through the intervals of time, in accord with the intelligence of those who were making progress, in order that the hungry might have something by which to be satisfied and that when satisfied, they might be excited to higher things."... -- St. Bridget

I find this comforting this morning, as several matters of the heart weigh on me, and questions about vocation, purposefulness, fulfillment, work, and the nature of God all swirl around my head. I was just discussing with my best friend last night how sitting in the mystery of our lives and in the mystery of God is so very much a part of the human experience, and one that is necessary, frustrating, enlightening, and delightful all at once. Having questions and knowing that all of the answers cannot be given to us in advance or at once and living in the paradox of knowing the Lord but not ever knowing Him fully is just so very much our reality. And there's not a damn thing to do about it. And according to St. Bridget's dialogue with the Lord, that's just as it should be, because it would not be fitting (or part of our good) for it to be any other way. I guess the unfolding of our lives and the often dim way of navigating through them is the way that the Lord can continue to stir up in us a greater desire for Him. Today I pray in thanskgiving for the thirst, and for the reminder from St. Bridget of Sweden for the appropriateness and gentleness of our caring heavenly Father.

July 22, 2010

Happy Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

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.


Wishing you, our dear readers, all the best this feast! We thank you for your prayers and support, and for being a part of this community!


Did you know our patron, who's feast is today, has a cake named after her. "Magdalenas" are golden spanish tea cakes. By all accounts they are rich and yet light and fluffy. They are thought to have originated in Aragon, and they are eaten with coffee at breakfast. And are surprisingly easy to make:

4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 4 oz. stick unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
zest from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Centigrade). Measure 1/4 cup sugar into small bowl and set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat the eggs with 3/4 cup sugar. Beat until the mixture is light.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on medium on the stove top. Or, melt it in the microwave. Make sure that the butter cools slightly and is not bubbling. As you continue to beat the egg mixture, slowly pour in the melted butter, making sure to mix thoroughly. Stir in the lemon zest and milk.

Measure out the flour into a separate bowl. Add the baking powder to the flour and mix thoroughly.

While stirring the egg mixture, add in the flour mixture. Continue to stir until all ingredients are mixed well. The batter will be very thick.

Place paper liners in to cupcake pan. Use a large serving spoon to spoon batter into pan, filling each one half full. Batter will more than double in size when baked. Use a teaspoon to sprinkle each magdalena with a bit of the reserved sugar.

Place pans on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until magdalenas have turned a golden color. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before taking out of the pan to cool further.

(HT: Recipe and Photo.)

July 21, 2010

Have You Found Your Ideal....

Not, I don’t mean the ideal man. But of course, there’s that too. What I mean is the ideal woman’s magazine. I’ve been reading lots of magazines lately when I want a study break, and I just find myself having to read lots of different ones (which is not so bad, after all) to get what I crave: a mixture of faith, fashion, cooking, and all things feminine genius. Let me give you a rundown: I love Real Simple - great recipes, has fashion, beauty, home décor, all the stuff we ladies love. But what does it lack? Serious intellectual discourse. For that I turn to First Things, an intellectual journal - not a woman’s magazine. Then there’s Oprah’s magazine, which I admit, I did look through for her amazing give-aways - I mean, who does not want to enter a chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree to Ann Taylor or a nine day all expenses paid tour of Israel? Yes, those are actual give-aways. But the magazine always includes some snide remark about the Catholic Church - whether it be on the Church’s “outdated” stance on birth control or some story about “Pope Joan” and that alone is enough to repel me.

Then I found Martha Stewart’s magazine called Whole Living (it used to be called Body+Soul) and I really like it - it depicts all kinds of creative ways for green living, natural eating, and health lifestyles. However, it absolutely touts a New Age approach, complete with marking the Dali Lama’s birthday and depicting which yoga moves will put you in touch with the divine goddess in you. Ugh. And who does not love InStyle? All about style - no tips on sex tricks like almost all other fashion magazines. However, even InStyle includes ads that depict over sexualized, scantily clad models for a designer selling jeans or handbags. Or how about those ads for sterility drugs and birth control? I am so sick of seeing glossy ads that depict young, happy, healthy women for birth control ads, giving out the message that “if-you-use-our-drug-you-will-happy-and-free-and-all-your-dreams-will-come-true-you-can-even-be-a-princess!” Yes, unfortunately, those ads are in ALL women’s magazines.

Then I saw one on the market for Protestant women that includes daily Scripture verses, recipes, home décor, beauty, and lots of fluffy sermons from prominent Protestant ministers. That got me thinking: What we need is a Catholic woman’s magazine: one that shows true beauty, modestly, includes recipes, home decorating tips, beauty tips, but had no birth control or sterility drug ads, no New Age - no trash. It would include articles on theology and perhaps some essays on contemporary issues from our perspective. Why don’t we have such a magazine? And moreover, would you read it if I started such a thing - cause I am pretty tempted!!!

July 20, 2010

Male Friendship

Last weekend I had a fascinating discussion about male friendship, spurred by this article describing the modern misconception of the relationship between Cardinal Newman and his dear friend Fr. Ambrose St. John:
[Newman] was not afraid to be very close indeed to a few people. "The best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely," he wrote in a letter, "is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection for those who are immediately about." Hence his deep friendships with those "immediately about" him: John Bowden as a student, Richard Hurrell Froude and Frederic Rogers while a don at Oxford, and Ambrose St John as a Catholic priest.

St John had been in Oxford with Newman; they became Catholics together, and were ordained priests in Rome at the same time. When Newman founded the Oratory in 1848, St John was one of the first members. Being 15 years Newman's junior, when he died suddenly aged 60, Newman was devastated. "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's," he wrote, "but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine." Some 15 centuries earlier, St Augustine in his Confessions wrote in the same way about the death not of his mistress, but of his best friend. "My eyes sought him everywhere, but they did not see him; and I hated all places because he was not in them, because they could not say to me, 'Look, he is coming,' as they did when he was alive and absent."

The article concludes with a eye towards the failing of modern culture with regards to understanding male friendship:
Do we – can we – today applaud such friendship? Do we – can we – make room, now, for such "evidences of sweet brotherly love"? Men and women often have intense friendships with members of their own sex, friendships that have no sexual component; yet we are losing the vocabulary to speak about them, or we are embarrassed to do so.
(If you have a strong constitution, you need only look at the comments to discover the veracity of his complaint.)

A favorite professor, Anthony Esolen, has written extensively on this topic. His most developed expression is found in Touchstone Magazine, and is available to read online. Here's a snippet. Do read it all, and let us know your thoughts, friends!
Shakespeare, or his narrative persona, expressed in his sonnets a passionate love for an unnamed and not too loyal young man, so Shakespeare must have been homosexual—despite the absence of evidence, and despite his persona’s explicit statement in sonnet 20 that the young man’s sexual accoutrements are of no interest (or use) to him whatever.

The bachelor Abe Lincoln long shared a bed with his closest friend, Joshua Speed, and later wrote letters expressing, with what seems a touch of self-deprecating irony, his fear that he would be lonely once Speed had taken a wife. Lincoln therefore must be homosexual. No matter that men (and women too) commonly shared beds, and also commonly spoke of their friendship in strong, earthy language that now embarrasses. The poet Edmund Spenser, celebrator of his own wedding in one of the most brilliant poems in English, used to share a bed with his friend and fellow scholar at Cambridge, Gabriel Harvey. There you go.

“Your love to me was finer than the love of women,” laments David in a public song, when he learns of the death of his friend Jonathan. We know why. The godlike hero Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu walk hand in hand into the dark forest of Humbaba. No wonder then that at Enkidu’s death Gilgamesh will weep inconsolably, letting his hair grow long, flinging away his royal robes, and leaving the city to wander in the wilderness.

July 19, 2010

Recommended Read or Re-Read

Yesterday I had the pleasure of discussing C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces at my monthly book club, and it was perhaps the most inspiring conversation that I've had in a long time. I cannot recommend enough how important this book is for the feminine heart as well as the Christian heart.

The first time I read the book, I was frustrated and confused by the plot and the point, but my second read was an incredible experience, and I was able to mine the book for these great and small treasures that apply to my life and my journey to God. I have learned anew about the nature of love -- the ugliness of love which is possessive, the purity of obedience, the prudence in waiting to speak about one's love for another if it will not help that person, the nature of charity, the feminine tendency to veil and mask her real self, and so much more. I was listening to Peter Kreeft's lecture on the book, and he says that even in his sixth reading of the book (!) he was still uncovering deeper meaning in the tale.

I cannot recommend this enough. Stop what you're doing now and go get it.

July 17, 2010

I love God.

I have been in need of serious, honest, direct, candid prayer with the Lord. And He inspired me to go do a Holy Hour. And I picked up some literature for direction in prayer. And I prayed. And then He answered, with His own words, nonetheless. Really, I love God.

Here are the instructions I received about making a Holy Hour. Perhaps they will be of some help to you, readers, in your prayer:

Jesus speaks to your heart: "Come to me..and I will refresh you. How I have longed to see you and spend some quiet time with you, communing with you 'heart to hear' as best friends do. I know you are tired and weary from life's travails, toils, and troubles and those of the world. Dear One, I want you to tell Me all about them -- everything. All that concerns you concerns Me. I am a good listener and have all the time in the world. Stay with me and rest awhile. Let me fill you with love, joy, and peace. I alone can give true peace, a peace that the word cannot give. Tell me about your needs and your desires. Tell Me about your loved ones, how they are doing and their needs. They are my loved ones, too."

I needed serious, fast, clear assurance in discernment of something very close to my heart. It involves timing, reading signals, prudence, and whether or not (and how) to act. And here is how He answered me.

A patient man needs to stand quiet for a time, and then joy will burst forth from him. For a while he holds back his words, then the lips of many herald him. Accept whatever befalls you; in changes that humble you be patient. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord."

Sirach 1:20-21; 2:4; 3:18

When I humble myself enough to ask, He answers.

July 16, 2010

A Reply

I've been mulling over Agatha's post on the destructiveness of porn in our culture. This is a tough one. I have experienced people in my life who definitely had a problem with addiction to pornography, and it is beyond destructive. I can even remember some of the boys in high school bragging about their porn collections. At the time, I did not speak, fearing to seem 'uncool.' Oh, to be who I am now back in those days!

I struggled with commentator Aaron's objectives - because addiction to pornography is something that men relapse into (and women too, I am sure - not that I endorse her, but Oprah did a recent show on how the porn industry is more and more marketing 'soft' porn to women, a topic for another post, perhaps.) It is really difficult for women to be a crutch to the men in their lives struggling with addiction. Aaron suggests to us ladies that we should help and encourage fulfilling relationships in those we know with porn addiction. And this is really hard to do, as porn destroys a person's ability to have a fulfilling relationship. I don't have the answer to this, all I know is that porn is seriously evil. And Aaron's advice is good advice, but it is not easy. Let's pray fervently for an end to this epidemic!

July 15, 2010

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure Enters the Franciscan Order
painted by Francisco de Herrera, the Elder, 1628

Today is the feast of the "Seraphic Doctor", St. Bonaventure. His work, "Journey of the Mind into God" was one of my favorite texts when I studied the medivals, though I hardly remember it now. Still, I often pray the payer, below, after I recieve Communion. It's incredibly difficult to pray, because what he wants, and what I should want, are so hard to ask for. But I hope reciting it will get me a few bonus points. Happy feast, everyone!


Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the
most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true,
calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever
languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee,
may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be
dissolved and to be with Thee. Grant that my soul may
hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of
holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having
all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste. May my
heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels
desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with
the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee,
the fountain of life, the fountain of widsom and knowledge,
the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the
fulness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek
Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on
Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of
Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and
delight, with ease and affection, with perseverence to the
end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence,
my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and
tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my
refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my
possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart
be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

July 14, 2010

Like a Prayer

Agatha, I now know what a wedding is that is not Christ-centered. Last week I went to my cousin's wedding. It was outside at an old mansion and was "officiated" by a women who had received certification on the internet to marry couples.

Now, I say, if you're going to have a secular wedding, have a secular wedding. Get married in the great outdoors, on the beach, in a boat. Your union is civil, and that's a-okay if that's your thing. But if you're going to say you're certified by a "Christian" organization, which she did, you darn well had better mention Christ in the ceremony. And that she did not.

My cousin's wedding was not Christ-centered, nor I am certain his marriage will be. So I was upset when this lady read from some sort of "Magdalene Manuscript" (sorry, patroness!), and went on and on about about how the word for "holy" as in a "holy union" comes from the word "wholly"; therefore, my cousin and his bride were making something sacred by joining themselves 1+ 1 apparently = sacred union. Um, I've never taken linguistics OR logic, but that doesn't fly by a long shot.

I think the officiant and my cousin could have taken a page from these Protestant weddings (of course Catholic ones, too!) and hear what it means to put the Lord at the center and forefront of one's marriage. Beauty will save the world. I am sure of it. If Christians have the courage to speak openly about Christ's work in their lives in a beautiful manner, I have no doubt people will be drawn into the mystery that offers so much joy. Some people think there is a fine line between being "spiritual" and being "religious." I say there is a great chasm. The very language we use to speak about the reality we know as Catholic Christians could draw others into the depth of happiness we are granted!

"Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." 1 Peter 3:15

July 13, 2010

The Christ Centered Wedding

You are going to think that I only have Catholic friends, and I suppose you're not far off from the truth, when I tell you that I have only been to two non-Catholic weddings. Both were very traditional Protestant weddings, one Presbyterian and one Anglican.

As I was writing the card for this most recent, I found myself unsure about what to say. Typically I wish them to have a long and happy life together, with the Blessed Mother watching over them and Christ at its center. And also many children. (Say that with a little-old-lady-from-the-old-country accent.) Obviously, I couldn't call on the Blessed Mother, but could I ask that Christ be the center of their marriage and their family? Or was I stuck wishing them "all the best"? I decided to write the card at the reception.

I'm glad I waited because their wedding ceremony, and their reception, was truly Christ centered--and it was so inspiring. As Catholics, we have the Eucharist--Christ fully present and received into our hearts. But I think, unfortunately, we forget to talk about Christ. Christ, Christ's love, Christ's providence--everyone talked about this with regards to the couple. We were clearly there because in God's mercy and love, He brought this couple together. And they too were described not as the funniest people or the best people to have on a hiking trip (though they are those things too), they were described by their Christian character: humble, generous, loving.

Obviously I have been to tons of Catholic weddings, and Christ is at the heart of them all--and even with the couples who didn't care all that much, he was present in the Eucharist, our Lord, who died and suffered for us, but rose again and gave us that, the greatest of gifts--but this week I found myself wishing we hadn't lost the language and the courage to speak openly about our love for Him, and our desire for the riches of a fully realized Christian life, for ourselves, and, most of all, for the couple.

(Icon by Monastery Icons)

July 12, 2010

Eggplant Goodness!

This is MUST TRY recipe for eggplant lovers! I made it on my grill on a cookie sheet this past week - and it is creamy and delicious! Try it. You'll never go back...

July 9, 2010

A Few Random Notes

I wanted to thank Aaron and Joe for their comments in response to my post about the destructiveness of pornography. I think this is such an important and powerful topic and I was grateful for their insight.

It is interesting and a little scary to begin thinking about this subject. It is both prevalent in our culture, and likely a problem with someone we know and are close to. I was grateful then, especially, to Aaron's three concrete points about what women can and should do:
1) Never cut a guy slack on this issue
2) Yet, be supportive and patient, not "irate"--since this is a lingering addiction
3) Strive for full, loving, fulfilled relationships to battle deep temptations

As a side note: I've always really loved JPII's formulation of the phrases "Culture of Death" and "Contraceptive Mentality". I want to think about this a bit more, but there is surely a connection between contraception and pornography and their widespread acceptance in our culture. I don't suppose we'd have the one without the other (and, lets face it, though the pill is only 60 years old, they are both as old as sin).

Elsewhere, there has been some really interesting discussion about Kagan and her Clinton-era brief about partial birth abortion making her ineligible for the job as Supreme Court Justice. Check out Will Saletan's article in Slate, and Ross Douthat's addendum in the New York Times. Saletan begins:
Fourteen years ago, to protect President Clinton's position on partial-birth abortions, Elena Kagan doctored a statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Conservatives think this should disqualify her from the Supreme Court. They understate the scandal. It isn't Kagan we should worry about. It's the whole judiciary.

Kagan, who was then an associate White House counsel, was doing her job: advancing the president's interests. The real culprit was ACOG, which adopted Kagan's spin without acknowledgment. But the larger problem is the credence subsequently given to ACOG's statement by courts, including the Supreme Court. Judges have put too much faith in statements from scientific organizations. This credulity must stop.

On a lighter note: Have you see this? It's grand.

(HT: The Anchoress)

July 8, 2010

Brief Book Review: Bees

I just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I realize I'm several years behind the book craze and a few years behind the release of the movie, but I tend to stick with classic literature unless something in the bookstore really draws my attention. My students read it during one of their earlier high school years for summer reading, so I thought I'd check out "what the kids are into." It was 50 cents at a booksale, too. Okay, I'm done.

The book was entertaining enough, and certainly easy to read on the train, where I tackled the first half, and on the beach, where I rounded it out this week. However, I have mixed feelings about what the author did with the Blessed Virgin, who plays a significant role in the narrative. She does make it clear that the characters were raised Catholic but definitely practice their own brand of religion. However, Our Lady becomes a Christ-like figure at one point in the novel, making me mroe than a little uncomfortable. Again, the author makes it clear that this is NOT a Catholic practice, but I couldn't help but wonder if Protestants or non-Catholics who were reading the book had their stereotypes of us confirmed or exaggerated.

Has anyone else read it and had similar fears?

July 7, 2010

Woman in Iran Condemned to Stoning

CNN posted this news story a couple days ago about a 42-year-old mother of two who has been condemned to death of an alleged adultery. Five years ago, she received a punishment of 99 lashes for this 'crime.' It is unclear that she is guilty, but as far as Iranian officials are concerned, she has been re-arrested, jailed, and condemned to death by stoning. She will buried to to her waist and stoned with rocks big enough to cause pain, but not large enough to kill her immediately.

If you want a very raw look at this punishment, check out the film The Stoning of Soraya M, based on a true story from the 1980's. Soraya was a mother of 4 and her husband decided he wanted to divorce to marry a 14-year-old girl with a rich family. Soraya refuses the divorce and her husband successfully convinces the men of the town (through blackmail) to find her 'guilty' of adultery and stones her. After the stoning, the husband decides he does not want to marry the young girl anymore. The film is based on a book written by journalist Freidoune Sahebajm. Yes ladies, this still happens and it WILL continue to happen. Let's all get on our knees in intercession for this woman and so that the scales will fall from their eyes to the evil of death by stoning.

July 6, 2010

A Shout Out

A huge thanks to my confirmation saint for all of the graces she gave me through her intercession for me today. St. Maria Goretti, continue to pray for us!

Vacation...All I Ever Wanted

I'm blogging from the great state of New Jersey where I am technically "on vacation" for the week visiting my family and some of our extended family who all converged in the area for a wedding. All I can say is that I need a vacation after this vacation. I've already scheduled confession for 4:30 on Saturday at my parents' parish. This is not an excuse to let my mouth go free with all of the things I'm frustrated with, but rather a pre-emptive strike to remind myself that with God's grace I can start over at every moment trying to love the people that God has put right in front of me.

I remember in a graduate course on St. Augustine my professor, an Augustinian priest, said that in a little known sermon, St. Augustine speculated that God ordains our particular family members for us to take care of, since we can't take care of Christ in every person throughout the world, and this small community of family who we don't choose, is entrusted to us to be the Christ who we care for.

Okay, Lord. I get it. :)

July 5, 2010

On the iPod

I love Imogen Heap and the band Frou Frou. I have been loving the song, Hear Me Out, from Frou Frou's Details album. It's not a workout song, but it is more of a posh dinner or cocktail party song. Here's the recording of the song from youtube and lyrics - enjoy!

I join the queue on your answer phone
And all I am is holding breath
Just pick up I know you're there
Can't you hear?
I'm not myself

Go ahead, enlighten me
You could say anything
Small talk will be just fine
Your voice is everything
We owe it to love
And it all depends on you

So listen up
The sun hasn't set
(I refuse to believe that it's only me feeling)
Just hear me out
I'm not over you yet
(It’s love on the line, can you handle it?)

So how do I do normal?
A smile I fake
the permenant wave of
cue-cards and fix-it kits
Can't you tell?
I'm not myself

I'm a slow motion accident
Lost in coffee rings and fingerprints
I don't wanna feel anything but I do
And it all comes back to you

So listen up
"This" sun hasn't set
(I refuse to believe that it's only me feeling)
Just hear me out
I'm not over you yet
(It’s love on the line, can you handle it?)

So listen up
Look at me straight
Just hear me out
Don't make me wait
I'm not myself
I can't take this
Love's on the line
Is that your final answer?

I join the queue on your answer phone
And all I am is holding breath
Just pick up, I know you're there...

So listen up
"This" sun hasn't set
(I refuse to believe that it's only me feeling)
Just hear me out
I'm not over you yet
(It’s love on the line, can you handle it?)

July 3, 2010

Basil Pesto

Having an Independence Day party? Want to try a new recipe? One of my favorite summer recipes is basil pesto. Well, truth be told, it just a favorite recipe any time of year. This creamy sauce goes well on salads, poultry, pasta, caprese salad, veggies - just about anything as far as I am concerned! Here's the recipe for you to enjoy!!

First, you need a food processor. I have tried with a mortar and pestle, and it is very laborious and your results are not as good. Ingredients and directions: a good amount of fresh, fragrant basil anywhere from 2 to 3 cups - from your own garden or farmers market I have found is best. But store bought is okay too. Remove the stems - you only want the basil leaves. Place in the processor. Then add cut up parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan) cheese and cut up romano-peccorino cheese. I usually purchase a wedge of each and cut them up to add in the processor. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of pine nuts. Cut up one or two cloves of garlic and add to food processor. (Cutting up the cheese and garlic makes it blend nicer than just putting in one large hunk of each). Add a pinch of sea salt and extra virgin olive oil to get desired consistency - more oil means more liquidy, less chunky. You can also add less cheese and pine nuts to make it more liquid-like. Blend in the processor. After blending, taste and decide if it needs anything else. You can always add more of each ingredient to get it to the desired taste.

To serve this luscious treat, you can cut up a nice home-made bread and serve with cold cuts, cheese, and olives as a primo piatto (first course). Or make a bruschetta with tomatoes and fresh mozarella. You can toss in a pasta or serve on a poultry dish. The sauce goes really well with a nice crisp, chilled chardonnay (my favorite is Kendall Jackson - great quality for a good price) or a sweet Riesling or sauvignon blanc. Enjoy and watch all of your guests do the same!

July 2, 2010

The Destructivenes of Porn

This is a subject I've been wary to approach on The Magdalene Sisters, but I think it needs to be broached anyway. Porn is, alas, incredibly pervasive in our culture. We'd be naive to think that the "destructiveness" of porn does not affect our own lives as single catholic women, but it certainly does, and if we are spared this temptation, then we will almost surely have to confront this issue in someone we love at some point in our lives.

For some reading on the topic I highly recommend Mary Eberstadt's amazing article in the June/July issue of First Things: The Weight of Smut
...No one reasonable would doubt that there is a connection between watching sex acts and trying out what one sees—especially for adolescents, who rather famously and instantly ape the other influences on their lives, from fashion to drug use and more, as has also been copiously studied.

And this list is just one possible way of starting a conversation about the consequences of today’s novel sexual obesity. There is also the question of what the same material does to adults—about which another empirical record is also being amassed, and about which more will be said later in this essay. Pornography today, in short, is much like obesity was yesterday—a social problem increasing over time, with especially worrisome results among its youngest consumers, and one whose harms are only beginning to be studied with the seriousness they clearly deserve.

Other sources:
+ Barbara Hollingworth in the Washington Examiner
+ The Witherspoon Insitute's The Social Cost of Pornography

July 1, 2010

Woman Warrior of the Month: Montserrat Grases

I discovered this month's woman warrior, Montserrat Grases, while at a womens' prayer reflection at an Opus Dei center in Chicago. A friend of mine mentioned that she really liked her, so I endeavored to learn more about her. She died young - only 17, from cancer. She was born in Spain on July 10, 1941, which makes her a fitting feature for the month. She did nothing extraordinary in the eyes of the world, but she suffered with heroic virtue and sought to live her life so that she did "everything for Love. In that way there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in the little things for Love is heroism." (from St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way . This reminded me immediately of Mother Theresa's famous quote of doing small things with great love. It also rang the bells of St. Therese's "Little Way" that I find so beautiful (and difficult!)

One of the things I really like about Montserrat is the description of her temperament as "strong and out-going" which caused her to be quick tempered and argue frequently. Who cannot relate to that? However, "little by little, through daily struggle, she developed a tranquil and serene character." She is described as being interiorly oriented to the Lord so much that she developed a "generous docility to whatever our Lord asked of her." I don't know about you, dear readers, but I have had a very difficult time being generous and docile to what the Lord has handed me. I think in my own way, I cope with it. But I still ask God why, and sometimes I spiritually sulk a little - like an angry adolescent. So, I really need this little lady's intercession!

However, her true courage developed when she was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1958. When her parents told her, she simply accepted this fact with more peace and serenity than her family and friends. When she was told her reply was, "I just thought I had to be strong. I kissed my crucifix and said serviam.... I am not afraid of pain because I think that if I'm faithful to God each day in what He asks of me, He will help me when the hard part comes." Montserrat practiced humility, acts of faith, hope and love and constant prayer throughout her life and especially during her last days as the cancer took her life. She kept little notebooks with her spiritual thoughts, and during the last days of her life she wrote, "I've complained enough, but I've fought. Some disheartening moments; but in spite of everything--joy." Perhaps that needs to be my new motto. "In spite of everything--joy"!

Montserrat Grases died on Holy Thursday in 1959, with her last words uttered as she looked a picture of Our Lady, "How much I love you. When are you coming to take me?" Hers is a courage that was manifested that reminds us that "sanctity is not something removed from ordinary life, but that it is the serene, cheerful, simple, and at the same time heroic, correspondence to the will of God."

*All quotes taken from Mercedes Eguibar's booklet, Montserrat Grases: Christian Heroism in Everyday Life, published by Scepter Booklets, NY 1980.
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