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

November 30, 2010

Immaculate Conception Novena Day 1

Ave Maria Stella Maris!

Today we honor the title of Mary as the Star of the Sea.

I think this title is one that we perhaps have a more difficult time understanding. But it might be helpful to recall that Mary's role in salvation as Christ's mother is to lead us to her son. And we know that Christ calms the storm on the sea: From Mt. 8:23-27
And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him: And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awakened him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus said to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?

Christ calms the storm, and Mary leads us through the storm. She is a guiding light for us through the storms of sin and shows us that sinfulness is healed through grace given to us in abundance. Let us pray in thanksgiving - Ave Maria Stella Maris!


Opening Prayer:

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son, we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain, so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession, to come unto You. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, world without end.


Prayer for Day One

O most Holy Virgin, who was pleasing to the Lord and became His mother, immaculate in body and spirit, in faith and in love, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession. O most Holy Mother, who by your blessed Immaculate Conception, from the first moment of your conception did crush the head of the enemy, receive our prayers as we implore you to present at the throne of God the favor we now request...

(State your intention here...)

O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will.


From EWTN:

Photo Credit


"The Cardinal has a particular bond with the virgin martyrs. They are a sterling example to him of how he is to love Christ and the Church, while, at the same time, they intercede powerfully for him, so that he may be a sign to the faithful of our Lord’s ceaseless and immeasurable love, ”to the end,” to the very outpouring of His life for us, on Calvary, His Sacrifice made ever present for us in the Holy Eucharist."

--His Excellency Raymond Cardinal Burke, in his homily at his Mass of Thanksgiving (HT).

Novena Prayer for the Immaculate Conception

Today marks the beginning of the Novena to the Immaculate Conception. Since I have the this title of Our Lady in my name, this is a major feast day for me. I am praying the novena through St. Mary of the Angels parish in Chicago, IL where they are offering daily Mass and a meditation on nine of Our Lady's titles. I invite you to pray this with me and I will be posting a little prayer reflection with Our Lady's title for that day at 12 noon (Central Time) each day of the novena. What a way to kick off our Advent celebration!

November 29, 2010

TV's Latest Low

I admit it...I was flipping through one of the various celebrity gossip magazines to get the scoop on the royal engagement between Prince William and Catherine Middleton (my chances of being a princess have now been severely diminished...shucks). Anyway, while flipping through, I saw an ad for a new reality TV show - Bridal Plasty - where brides to be compete with each other to get the grand prize - plastic surgery for the big day.

Not much about this world shocks me anymore...but this is TV's and the wedding industry's greatest low point to date, I'd say. Here's what I have to say to this: Dear World: Thank you for reminding me once again why as a Christian, I am in the world and not of it. Lord help us all. Amen.

A Prayer for Advent from the Holy Father

Domenico Beccafumi (1545)

This basically covers everything:

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you:

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of a mother's womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
make fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognise and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Gift creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realise and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children

Console married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Love,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

November 26, 2010

Being Contra-Contraception

Edith's post on the pope, the media, and condoms is so good, and one that I need to respond to at length. There has been so much discussion on this in and out of the Church. My students, colleagues, friends, and friends on Facebook (huge distinction...topic for another time) all have been buzzing about it. All that I can think to ask is, "Does anyone feel like they don't want to hear the word 'condom' anymore?"

However, the issue of contracpetion rang a little closer to home this holiday weekend, and kind of pierced my heart. I think it's a safe wager that I might be one of the the only members of my family, both immediate and extended, who supports the magisterial teaching on contraception. And it's a hard place to be in, as my friends begin to have children and as (though I'm not currently in a serious relationship), my family asks me things about how I would have children should I be in that position. There are comments passed because my friends are having their third or fourth child, or how it will probably be difficult for me to settle down with a man if I don't compromise on the birth control issue, which, though stated out of ignorance and out of love, still cuts to the heart of who I am as a Catholic woman, faithful to our beliefs out of joyful obedience and a rich understanding of why we believe what we do.

I know this issue was a huge issue to grapple with for my parents' generation, who was poorly catechized and who had to navigate their way through the sexual revolution, the implementation of Vatican II teachings, and of course, their own relationships and sexual experiences. And since the beauty of this teaching was not really made clear (in my theological opinion) in a way paralleled to the Theology of the Body at the end of the last century, moral confusion and cloudy judgments about assent of our mind and will abound. I try to be cheerful and joyful when explaining the why and the what of our beliefs, but it's not always met with understanding. Sometimes I wonder if my parents or my sibling or my cousins will ever fully understand who I am. Maybe that is the real question I'm asking: How much of a 'cause of division' is the Lord even within family members who all profess belief? How do I avoid the sin of pride or the passing of judgment on others close to me, who have a very deep faith and relationship with the Lord, too?

Dont' get me wrong; I don't walk around with a book charting who believes what in my family. I just feel a little bit of a sting when it's suggested that I'm too rigid or uncompromising when it comes to certain doctrines. I can't pull out theological discourse on the subject (this one has one of the best explanations of Humane vitae, in my opinion) at the dinner table. I suppose I can only witness it in my own life. And since I am not now in a position to be open to new life, I'd better find other ways to demonstrate what this looks like for the single woman.

November 24, 2010

The Pope, The Press, and Condoms

Ok, so if you are like me, you are so sick of hearing about the 'seismic' or 'cataclysmic' shift the Pope has magically taken on the use of condoms. 'Condoms are the moral solution to stop AIDS according to Pope!' cheerfully declares the press. The Pope's latest books Light of the World was released this week, and as you can see, the press has had a field day. With an article out every day since for nearly a week pretty much saying the Pope is changing the discourse on condom use, it's no wonder people are confused. I am.

Here is what I found out. First of all, the statement was made in regard to Pope Benedict's 2009 trip to Africa when he was lambasted by the press for the Church's "oppressive" stance on contraception. (Little does the world realize that contraception oppresses them, especially the women!) Anyway, the question was posed to Benedict by Peter Seewald as follows: On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism.Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Benedict went on to discuss his frustration that the press did not highlight the rest of his statement, wherein he announced the Church's continuing to commitment to being one of the only institutions that treats AIDS victims with continued support and dignity...think Mother Theresa, for example. While Benedict does indeed state that perhaps condoms can help stop the spread of AIDS, the use of condoms does not ask or answer the right question about human sexuality. According to Peter Seewald, the right question that Benedict challenges us to ask is "Does sexuality have something to do with love?" It seems quite simple, but in today's world, this is no longer a simple question to ask.

Janet Smith offers a great commentary on the statement which you can find here. And I'll post an excerpt:
What is Pope Benedict saying?

We must note that the example that Pope Benedict gives for the use of a condom is a male prostitute; thus, it is reasonable to assume that he is referring to a male prostitute engaged in homosexual acts. The Holy Father is simply observing that for some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices. He is not speaking to the morality of the use of a condom, but to something that may be true about the psychological state of those who use them. If such individuals are using condoms to avoid harming another, they may eventually realize that sexual acts between members of the same sex are inherently harmful since they are not in accord with human nature. The Holy Father does not in any way think the use of condoms is a part of the solution to reducing the risk of AIDs. As he explicitly states, the true solution involves “humanizing sexuality.”

Anyone having sex that threatens to transmit HIV needs to grow in moral discernment. This is why Benedict focused on a “first step” in moral growth. The Church is always going to be focused on moving people away from immoral acts towards love of Jesus, virtue, and holiness. We can say that the Holy Father clearly did not want to make a point about condoms, but wants to talk about growth in a moral sense, which should be a growth towards Jesus.
I am challenging myself to read this entire book and to get to know our beloved Pontiff better. He challenges us to be a light to the world and to ask those simple questions that have become so obscure in the vision of the world. Pray for him!


November 22, 2010

Where Have All the People Gone?

As I was walking to gym tonight, I glanced into the window of the pharmacy that stands next door. They had just recently finished some construction, and I peered inside to see what they did. I looked and saw five self-checkout registers. I thought to myself, "I want people back."

It started with automated prompts and computer-generated voices on the other end of the phone line. Speaking to an actual operator (mind you, already once-removed from real life) became great feat. Then the post office got machines that distribute stamps instead of people who you can chat about the different options with, how his day was going, and if he was going to do anything fun for the holiday break. The grocery store dropped its cashiers, too, although sometimes an annoyed checkout boy will help you when your self-checkout voice yells at you about your method of payment. The problem is, you can't talk back. And now, the pharmacy has gone the way of the world, too.

I have to ask: where have all of the people gone? Is anyone else noticing that our existence is becoming less and less imbued with real, live people? Human interaction is almost at a premium today, let alone meaningful human interaction. It's starting to feel really depressing.

As Christians who value incarnate relationships, I think we need to work doubly hard to make eye contact with people, even strangers, and to genuinely, thoroughly, and sincerely forge relationships. Otherwise, we're just checking ourselves out at the register, hoping for a little more than "Please remember to take your receipt" from our virtual friends.

November 18, 2010

Getting Me Through My Thursday

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season
we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men…”
--Galatians 6:2, 9-10 (via MM)

November 17, 2010

A Little Aspiration

Sometimes I'm in need of little aspirations to pray throughout the day. I also tape them to my podium at school to remind me of why I do what I do. This past Sunday, the last line of the Gospel might as well have been introduced by a loud clashing of cymbals or a bang of a gong:

"By your perseverance, you will save your lives." --Luke 21:19

I felt as if the Holy Spirit was saying directly to me, "Keep going in your work. Keep persevering in your waiting on your vocation. Give me the small details of the day, the mundane aspects of your routine, because they matter to me."

Monday's Mass was no less direct:

"When he [the blind man] came near, Jesus asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?'" --Luke 18:35-43

Could Jesus really be asking this of me, too? I felt comfort in approaching my Lord with petitions deepest on my heart (something I struggle with). I suppose my prayer is similar to that of the man -- "Lord, let me see."

I hope you, too, find your prayers to ask and the answers to them in the Word this very day.

November 15, 2010

A Mighty Fortress is our God, a Bulwark never Failing

A Mighty Fortress is Our God is one of my favorite German hymns, written by none other than my favorite German Protestant, Martin Luther. Well, I take that back. My favorite German Protestant is actually Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I don't actually like Luther too much, but I do like his hymns! So despite that fact that he created a serious rift in the Church and gave us some theology so poor that we are still divided over it, I am sure his fabulous hymns must have earned Luther some brownie points with God.

But this is not about Luther or Bonhoeffer for that matter; it is about God - who is a mighty fortress indeed. He showed that to me this week in several ways that I thought I'd just share with you all. First, I found out last week that a paper proposal that I submitted to a major national conference in my discipline got accepted! I have made proposals similar to this before, and each time they have been rejected. The only conference participation I have on my resume is one joint paper and discussion leader. Kind of sparse for someone who wants her job to be giving lectures and writing. So I dove in with wild abandon, because I have been dragging my feet on my academic life! But please keep me in your prayers!

Second, I also got a teaching opportunity at a local university for next spring! Just one class, so it's not too demanding but still gets me into the classroom! YAY!

Third, I have been feeling so...just my prayer life and as a result I have been going to confession every week just to get some spiritual direction (and to confess, of course) but I already kind of know the answers. But God has given me people in my life who are wonderful examples (like my Magdalene Sisters and my family!) who have been placed amongst my new and old acquaintances who have really expressed answers to my prayers in a powerful way this week.

One is my new friend Kelsea* She is a supernumerary at Opus Dei and is such a prayerful, lovely young woman who has re-revealed to me in a powerful the way God communicates with us through prayer and does so especially for those who trust in him. Kelsea comes to Him in prayer with everything in her life, and even though she struggles with worry and doubt sometimes (don't we all), she ultimately just lets go and lets God have control of her heart, mind, will, and life. I think it's awesome and I am so glad God hit me over the head this past week with the witness she (unknowingly) gave to me.

A second example is an old friend of mine from Louisiana - and we'll call him Mr. Boudreaux*. I met Mr. Boudreaux when I was helping out with RCIA at my old parish in Baton Rouge. I loved doing this, but soon kind of drifted away from that parish to a new one after I met Peter...the new parish was one that he liked better...just another way he sought to isolate me from those who really loved me. Mr. Boudreaux would call me just to say hi and I'd say it's been probably about a year or so since I have seen him or heard from him. Today, out of the blue I got a call from him. He said he was just thinking of me and wanted to know how I was doing. He also told me that the right man was waiting for me - and was coming very soon. He told me to start praying to St. Philomena for this intention and he felt God would answer me right away. What I have not told you is that just this afternoon, I was contemplating whether to pray a novena to jump start my prayer life. God answered me immediately after I left work.

So, see, God is a mighty fortress, always there for us and waiting to give us answers when we call. And even He is even waiting to give answers to people like me, who probably doesn't call on Him as often as she should.

*Names have been changed for privacy

November 12, 2010

I Love Fall.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Here are some reasons why:

*apple cider
*cozy sweaters
*cooler weather
*pumpkins in the grocery stores


November 11, 2010

The Climb (a dream)

Your name was my first thought this morning as I rose. I was filled with remembrance of my dream--so strong and tense, but not bad or unwelcome.

We had risen together, and wandered around the old city (which? I do not know. But it was familiar, grey, and old--like a tourist photograph of an untouched medieval town). You wanted to start the climb, but I held back.

Finally our number was called (we had a number, C9), and we joined our starting group. We were right up front, at the foot of the steep hill. The crowds in front of us began, like at a marathon. We waited, expectant, holding hands, I think (or is that a daylight wish embellishing my stark dream?).

I woke as we took our first step, my thoughts full of you.

But, upon reflection in the cold morning light, I realized that I was not I, and you were not you. I clenched my jaw, and rose for the day.

November 9, 2010

Feminists for Life

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture where Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life was speaking, and I then had the honor of speaking with her in a more intimate setting over dinner with some other university students. It was awesome! Her talk centered around the theme that feminist philosophy is simply incompatible with the practice of abortion. Sound crazy? Yes, it does, because contemporary feminists - those of the second and third waves of feminism fixated on 'reproductive' rights and 'control' over their 'destinies' by controlling their bodies.

Well, perhaps this is some truth to this. After all, no woman should be subjected to being a sexual object or to having her body used in inappropriate ways by a man - even if it is her husband. But also, she should not allow herself to treat her body inappropriately. Feminists for Life argue that abortion is the most tragically inappropriate treatment of a woman. They believe that it simply goes against what the first feminists sought to establish, viz. equality for all. After all, some of the first feminists, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were abolitionists who sought out justice for those enslaved because of their race and for those discriminated against because they were women. And both women (as well as many others) felt abortion was not the solution to the discrimination of women in society.

Susan B. Anthony in her publication entitled Revolution stated about abortion: “I deplore the horrible crime of child murder … We want prevention, not merely punishment." (taken from here) This quote encapsulates the philosophy behind Feminists for Life - to seek preventative measures so that women do not feel pressured to have an abortion. One of their major activities is to establish resources for pregnant women on college campuses. They even work together with pro-choice groups to attain these ends! Read their story about what they did at Georgetown University here. This group is doing what I want to do: giving women other choices, so they don't feel like abortion is their only option. Pray for me as I seek out a way of living out this vocation too! We all are called to help one another, especially because we all deserve better than abortion.

November 8, 2010

"Lord, Increase Our Faith"

Today's Gospel shows us the apostles asking the Lord to "increase their faith." I can just see them, imploring Jesus to work this miracle in their hearts. Perhaps it is because it the prayer, or aspiration, that is most on my lips these days. Lord, increase my faith. Increase my faith in this time of waiting. Increase my faith in the uncertainty surrounding my vocation, my state of life, my job, my relationships, and my trust in your faithfulness and fidelity to me.

I found the reflection by Catherine de Hueck Doherty in today's Magnificat particularly helpful:

"Faith is to believe without understanding, without seeing. God has blessed us with the gift of our intellect, and up to a point we understand many things about ourselves and the world around us. However, when you begin to move deeper into faith, something strange happens.

You have been walking in the sunshine of your intellect. God has helped you and encouraged you to use it. Then, just like in the tropics where there is no twilight and the day becomes night within minutes, so God plunges you into the night. He says, 'Put your head in your heart and believe! For now there is no answer. I am the answer. You won't see me in the dark. You will have to follow me in faith, without knowing. Arise and believe.'

There is a tremendous secret in God's ways of doing things if we do follow him across that dark night of the tropics, of the soul. There will be a moment, maybe just before death, or in the midst of life, or maybe when we are at a very tender age. At this moment he will appear. He will just be there. What you knew by your own intellect has blended together with what was added to you because you believed and walked in the darkness of night. You have entered into the fullness of the kingdom of God even before your death. The kingdom of God is in your midst now. "

November 6, 2010

Ten Minute Break

It is amazing to me how important ten minutes of silence in the presence of God can be. I used to be diligent about carving out 15 minutes of contemplative prayer in the morning and 15 minutes more in the afternoon to be centered in and with God. These three books were immensely helpful in learning the practice of Christian contemplation.

Years have gone by since I have been so diligent. And now, the Holy Spirit is impelling me to begin the practice again...even for ten minutes twice a day. Pray for me that I can commit to this practice.

November 5, 2010

Totally, Thoroughly, Unabashedly Girly Post

I just really like this dress :)

November 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

The more secular the place, the more powerful the manifestation of His presence becomes. When you seek God inside a church, you have a greater expectation of His response. But when you seek Him in what seem like unlikely places, His presence is all the more amazing. You begin to not just experience God's presence simply confined to a church, or in your 10 minutes of prayer time, but walking with you step-by-step, each street you cross, each smile you encounter, each tender word you hear, enveloping you with His spirit.

November 2, 2010

The Habit

"One cold January I was at our sister monastery in the Bronx and had accompanied another nun who had business in NYC. My first trip to the Big Apple! The prioress had insisted that we have a little treat so we stopped in a café, anxious to get warm with a cup of coffee.

Imagine the scene: a little café full of people, either bustling about or chatting at tables while warming their frozen hands around steaming cups of java. Two nuns walk through the door and it seems like all eyes turn their way. One patron calls out, 'Sisters, you have made a lot of people happy today!'

We smiled our biggest smiles, the words warming our frozen cheeks. But what does one say to that?

I felt so small, so human, and so humbled that I just wanted to drop down on the floor and say, 'I'll try harder, I promise!'"

--From a wonderful, lovely article about wearing the habit, by Sr. Mary Catherine of Jesus, a cloistered Dominican nun (in Summit New Jersey). By the way, you can purchase a lot of lovely gifts from these sisters for Christmas presents. (HT)

November 1, 2010

My Favorite Month of Prayer

I have NO idea why , but I love the doctrine of purgatory. I wrote a thesis on purgative suffering. And I love the month of November, because I get to meditate on it all month long. I mean really, who am I?

I hope you will join me, readers, in praying for the faithful departed, who await their eternal reward of seeing the Lord face to face. I have a few dear ones especially to remember this month. Let us know who of your loved ones we can remember.

Also, if you get a chance, pick up this book and pray the month-long novena. It's really so beautiful.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

All Saints!

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
Words: John A. L. Ri­ley
Music: Lasst Uns Er­freu­en, (Ger­ma­ny, 1623); har­mo­ny by Ralph Vaughan Wil­liams, 1906
Played by Healey Willan (1880-1968), on the organ of St Mary Magdalene, Toronto
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