Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lent: A Time of Fasting and Feasting

a repost from lent '06

Yes, it's true. We can fast and feast this Lent. I have seen this on a few journals and I really like it. I liked it enough to pass it along in fact.

+Fast from judging others ... feast on the Christ indwelling in them.
It is easy to judge others and not ourselves. Let us purify ourselves of this today and share in the piece of Christ that is in each person we meet.

+Fast from emphasis on differences ... feast on the unity of life.
We are called to unite our sufferings especially during this Lenten season. Let us gather together and bear our crosses as one people in the name of Christ.

+Fast from apparent darkness ... feast on the reality of light.
It is easy to be burdened by troubles of this world but let us not forget the ever radiant light which is God's love for us.

+Fast from thoughts of illness ... feast on the healing power of God.
Let us shift our focus from our physical pains and realize more deeply the spiritual healing God makes available to us, especially in the sacrament of reconciliation.

+Fast from words that pollute ... feast on phrases that purify.
Especially during this season let us question ourselves on everything we think, do, or say: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

+Fast from discontent ... feast on gratitude.
Praise God and give thanks for His abundant blessings. Let us rejoice in our dry periods and hold fast to the grace and mercy of God.

+Fast from anger ... feast on patience.
It is easy to be angry and more challenging to be patient. During this season, let us work more than ever on the virtue of patience (and charity).

+Fast from pessimism ... feast on optimism.
When things aren't going our way we hiss and pout. Let us instead find the lessons in each thing we do, whether they happen according to our preference or not.

+Fast from worry ... feast on divine order.
When things get us down it is difficult to remember the bright side of this. Let us pray for confidence in Him and ask for our hearts to be molded to His Divine Will.

+Fast from complaining ... feast on appreciation.
God has blessed each of us abundantly. Let us be appreciative of each hidden blessing and not allow our sour attitudes ruin a chance for grace and growth.

+Fast from negatives ... feast on affirmatives.
This Lent, instead of criticizing or fingering each wrong decision, let us provide those whom we love with affirmations of their purposeful strides to overcome sin and attain sainthood.

+Fast from unrelenting pressures ... feast on unceasing prayer.
If we live each moment as a prayer we should more appropriately and successfully accomplish those things which are in line with His Divine Will.

+Fast from hostility ... feast on resistance.
Let us this Lent resist the temptation to foster hostility. Let us shine forth at all times the light of Christ's love.

+Fast from bitterness ... feast on forgiveness.
Let go of trivial emotions which hinder forgiveness. God who is all loving and all good forgives each of those who seek reconciliation. Let us not deny our brothers and sisters in Christ.

+Fast from self-concern ... feast on compassion for others.
So many times we are self-centered and self-loving. Let us this Lent turn from our own needs and offer our attention to the needs of the lowliest of these.

+Fast from personal anxiety ... feast on eternal truth.
It is easy to be consumed in this world by the trials of daily life. Let us seek out His promises and hold fast to them always.

+Fast from discouragement ... feast on hope.
Do not dispair. God has a plan and in it there is much hope. Believe that He knows better than even ourselves what is best. Trust Him and He will see you through.

+Fast from facts that depress ... feast on truths that uplift.
Instead of dwelling on the negatives of our surroundings, we should seek out the truths that inspire and uplift us. Let us not seek our own depression but do everything in our power to remain hopeful.

+Fast from lethargy ... feast on enthusiasm.
Productiveness in faith is the most important in all of our lives. Let us enthusiastically learn about our faith and grow closer to our God.

+Fast from suspicion ... feast on truth.
Speculation and assumption should be left to the lawyers of the world. Instead of harboring ill thoughts due to suspicion, rejoice in what you know.

+Fast from thoughts that weaken ... feast on promises that inspire.
The devil will tempt us and lead us to feel and think we are alone and abandoned. Turn from the evil one and remember what God has promised us.

+Fast from shadows of sorrow ... feast on sunlight of renity.
Sorrowful distractions are from the evil one and prevent us from focusing on the healing power and the overwhelming mercy of our God. Let us turn from these and focus on Christ in the Eucharist. He who saves us will comfort us.

+Fast from idle gossip ... feast on purposeful silence.
Let us refrain from anything that is not kind, true, and necessary. Let us spend this time quietly in the everlasting presence of God.

If we can do these things I believe our Lenten season will be truly blessed. Think about it. Use it. ENJOY IT. [All of the italicized text are my own words. I despair at their inadequacy but recognize a chance to grow in humility. I pray my efforts are not in vain but rather prove to be a grace from God.]

St. Thomas Aquinas, the dumb ox, pray for us! St. Maria Goretti, pray for us! St. John of the Cross, pray for us!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Request - Condsider It Penance

Peace be with you as we enter this Lenten season!

Please keep in your prayers my friend, C*, who will be traveling to visit the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal sometime in the coming weeks. With my memory (which is that of an 87-yr-old woman with dimensia) I cannot remember (despite having asked at least three times) when exactly she is going. She will be with them for several days and in that time witness a profession of vows! (Yes, I AM jealous.) Please pray for her openness (she is already very open) and also for her patience in this journey (she is already very patient). Please ask the Lord to bless her "yes" and to help her follow His perfect will.

Thank you in advance. Here's wishing you and yours a most blessed Lenten season...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mine stings. Does yours?

There is a famous quotation from Dr. Samuel Johnson, author of the first English dictionary, that goes “I hate Lent.” Advent has always been my season, so I have to admit that I kind of join Sam Johnson in his evaluation of Lent—or at least I don’t like it as much as Advent.

Lent was actually a time of fasting and abstinence under the Roman pagans. The church co-opted it in the very early ages to get people to do penance before the observance of Passiontide and the commemoration of the Last Supper, our Lord’s death on the cross, and His glorious Resurrection. Throughout Christian history, people have observed Lent and found out that the better they observed it, the more enthusiastic was there observance of Easter. This was particularly true in the Eastern Church where Lent was a black fast, meaning not only no meat or fish, but no dairy products.

Unfortunately Lent has come by bad times. Some people hardly know it is Lent and don’t manage even to do the very minor fasting that the Church requires on Fridays and a few other days. May I suggest to you that you pick out something to do for Lent? I’m going to pick out some secret little penance that I don’t like and do it.

A wonderful Carmelite sister of Alhambra, California, Sister Mary Anastasia, was a great person for marvelous quotations. She had a superb sense of humor and when she died at 94, her community put out a little book of her wise sayings. One of them is, “if it doesn’t sting, it’s not a sacrifice.” So in Lent, if you give up meat on certain evenings, don’t move to Lobster Thermidor! A penance must sting, and the more it stings the more beautiful your Easter will be and the better you will be prepared for the big Easter at the end of time.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who are you anyway?

I received an email recently from a fellow blogger curious about who I was. She knew bits and pieces but nothing substantial. I guess that's because aside from a few minor life updates, I've never really said a lot about who I am. I've always figured those that want to know will ask and those who don't won't have to filter their reading. However, I think it may be time to just throw out a little about this author. I've been getting quite a few new visitors each week (it's all relative, really) and it seems like a good time to do this. We'll start with something easy and fun... quiz results!

You Are Red Orange

You are a very genuine person, although it takes a while for you to show the true you.

A bit introverted, you desire respect and affection from those close to you.

You are quite empathetic, and you have a true concern for the well being of others.

Many people have warm, heartfelt memories of you - even if you don't remember them well.

Okay... now for the details:
My name is Laura and I'm 20 yrs old. I live in the heart of Texas -- which any Texan will tell you is the best country in the world -- in my parents' home with my two younger siblings. I'm not currently enrolled in school though I do plan on going back in the fall. I'll continue to pursue my degree in nursing and will (hopefully) one day end up at either Baylor or TWU (Texas Woman's University).

I work full time at a hotel not too far from my home and though I often complain, it's been a blessing. I've learned a great deal about patience and humility while working at the front desk.. and now I can do six things at once! That's right.. SIX. (I know, I've got mad skills.)

I'm a member of a local apostolate called Remnant Catholic Apostolate. The group has been together for about a year now and is the creation of Matt Gill and his wife Angela. Of course they had lots of outside support but it was their vision that was the very beginnings of our group. I've posted a few times about the group and some of our activities and programs but for more info see this site. The apostolate is doing very well and has been booked, if I remember correctly, all the way through the end of April. (Yes, God has truly blessed us!) I look forward to my future with this group. They are amazing.

At my parish I'm working with the St. Frances de Sales choir and the Cantors Guild. Both ministries have been a great blessing to me. Not only do I LOVE the people I work with, I love music. Our practices are always fun and I always crack up at least once. On Sundays I sing at least twice, once in the morning and once in the evening at the youth Mass.

Once a month I join with a few other ladies from the parish for a book club. I love books and I love sharing time with beautiful Catholic women -- which is why this is perfect for me. Most of the ladies there are older than me but I learn so much from them.

Most of my friends my age don't live anywhere near me which if often times a problem. 'Easily cured' say some but to me, it's difficult. I don't relate well to a lot of people my age. I tend to find good company in people 'more experienced' than myself and find them to be more genuine. They don't stay out until six in the morning and they don't get so smashed they can't walk straight. This is not to say I think all young people are this way, just that most of the ones I know are. And that's not to say that I would object staying out until the early morning with someone whose company I truly enjoy.. just not on a weeknight. You see... I have the attitude of a 35 yr old woman with children. (Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is not.)

One of my absolute favorite things to is sing though I'm not very good at it. I've taken voice lessons for a number of years and have seen improvement but I'm still waiting for my voice to really take off. It may never happen but from what I'm told, your voice continues to mature into your late twenties. In other words: I have some time. It's not only choral music that I enjoy, either. I do love it very much but I also love rock. Growing up my dad used to play his CDs for us all the time and so I grew up with music from Journey, Dave Matthews Band, Kansas, Chicago, the Eagles, and the like. I still love them today.

My first cassette tape was Phil Collins and my favorite song was "Another Day in Paradise". Some people feel sorry for me when I tell them that... I still like it. It may be a sentimental thing now, though.

I'm not really sure how well I'm doing at this. I'm not used to telling people about me and my life....

I give out directions all day long at work (from other states even) but can't seem to go outside of Dallas without getting lost. Every time I'm in my car I fear for my life - at times to the point that I decide to take up bike-riding again instead. Obviously I haven't done that or I would be thin again... but whatever. My friends from the other side of the Metroplex give me a hard time about it every time they see me and laugh when they spot me pulled over in a parking lot carefully studying my map and directions. At least I can read a map, right? (I also know at almost all times if I'm headed North, South, East or West.)

I like to think I'm pretty crafty but most of my projects are total flops. I enjoy making cards for people I care about anyway. It's not always the cheapest thing but it's the most fun for me and I get to put all of my love into it. I also like to build things - which may have come from my father. He's a carpenter and though he sometimes does not take pride in what he does, I do. I love that he can build me anything and will let me help. He takes time to show me how to do things and I love that. I love working with power tools (however clumsily) and to that end, I guess I'm a bit of a tomboy.

I like putting on my make-up and doing my hair, slipping into my favorite outfit and enjoying a night on the town with the girls. I love my friends very much and I never grow tired of their company. Most of my friends could be professional comedians so it's not surprising that we always have a good time.

I see God in everything and get great pleasure out of the small treasures in life. I stare in awe at water, both falling from the sky and gently rolling in the lakes. My favorite flower is the daisy and I pretty much freak out when I receive them from someone I love. I love raking the leaves in our backyard and gardening with my family. We have a birdbath in the backyard that we plant flowers around every spring and it's becoming one of my favorite things about our yard.

I've done only a little bit of traveling but hope to do lots more in my adult years. To date, the only time I've left the country for any real length of time was when I went to World Youth Day in Canada. I loved it and want to go back very soon. I've also been to Mexico, though I hardly consider a few hours much of a trip.

I guess that's really all I can think of right now.. and probably more than she EVER wanted to know! Hah!

Until next time... be holy!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Art of David Meyers

David Meyers is Catholic and incredibly talented! I believe I have featured his work before but it's time to feature it again. He has prints for purchase now, both in 8x10s and in the form of holy cards. Below are two of his recent postings. To truly appreciate his work, visit his blog.


Entering Canaan

'From the Friars' Daily eLetter: February 17, 2007

Last weekend I was privileged to witness an extraordinary healing of several women. This work of God didn’t happen at a popular Marian shrine or charismatic prayer meeting, but rather in an elegant retreat house almost hidden in a hilly and wooded suburb of Stanford, Connecticut. Despite the wide range of ages, personalities, and cultural backgrounds, the women were one—bonded like blood sisters because they all shared a common affliction. However, the pain they brought with them on Friday evening was replaced with a deep peace by Sunday morning.

The weekend retreat was conceived by Theresa Bonopartis and the Sisters of Life, a religious community dedicated to support the dignity of human life. Theresa was inspired to name the retreat “Entering Canaan,” which refers to the forty year journey of the children of Abraham through the desert and into the Promised Land. Who, you may ask, does this retreat serve? Who is it who journeys so long, and what is the desert they wander through? The answer simply stated is this: The retreat is for women who have suffered the loss of a child through abortion.

Theresa began the Entering Canaan retreat weekend because she knew that women need a quiet, safe, and non-judgmental environment in which to face a fact which follows them like a very dark shadow: one day they decided to take the life of the child within their womb. While some have experienced a certain sadness and anxiety from “day one,” others did not feel any of the symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome until many years later. For those who suffer from this syndrome, the list is long, yet very familiar: guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, nightmares, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Yes, the desert is dry and deep, and the journey very lonely and painful.

Those who participate in the Entering Canaan weekend don’t have to wait long to discover why Theresa Bonopartis believes post-abortive women need healing. She, in fact, is one; she has “been there and back.” It is her own healing which validates her words and the reason why she now spends all of her time in this wonderful work. Theresa will be the first to admit that the retreat weekend is not terribly creative, yet it is re-creative. Avoiding anything which might be dramatic or over emotional, she and the sisters simply use the tools recommended by the Church, namely, silence, prayer, adoration, confession, communion, and fellowship. The Entering Canaan retreat cleanses both mind and soul more like a warm bath than an invigorating shower.

Theresa has told her story on radio and television, and before an almost countless number of audiences. The Catholic Bishops Conference highlighted her testimony in a nationally distributed mailing on pro-life. Little would she know that the secret tragedy of her abortion would one day be known by so many. Yet, it would not be the shame and guilt of the abortion which would send her out on her mission, but rather her dramatic healing. In short, she tells us, “I was healed by the Divine Mercy of God.”

Theresa Bonopartis is no visionary or mystic, yet I believe that she is an apostle on the edge of a work which may one day be akin to Alcoholics Anonymous. She is convinced that we are rapidly developing a post-abortive culture where literally millions of people bear the negative effects of the evil act of abortion. She has proven that not only is the woman deeply wounded, but also the father and the extended family. When Theresa decided one day to tell her grown sons about the abortion she had when she was young, one of her sons said, “Now it all makes sense. I never knew what went wrong—it now all makes sense.”

Entering Canaan isn’t about the politics or the controversy which often surrounds abortion; it’s about healing and hope. Yet this message of healing is not only for women. For this reason, Theresa is also working with the friars to provide retreat days for men affected by abortion. How is it possible one simple retreat can bring years of wandering in a painful desert to an end? The answer is mercy—Divine Mercy. How do I know? I was there.

Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary, Newark, NJ

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Let's Clear A Few Things Up

There have been a number of things on my mind in the last few days that have kept me from posting much of anything. I struggle to determine how to articulate what it is I wish to say about things and with the hours at work, I just decided it better nto to say anything at all. But for my peace of mind, here it is:

1. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs) are to be used in extraordinary circumstances. Many churches abuse this position in the liturgy. I am personally of the opinion that we should be instituting acolytes. (I was so thrilled to see Matt's attitude about receiving this ministry! I wish I saw it more often...)

2. EMHCs, though used quite often unnecessarily, are not the sole reason for the lack of belief in the Real Presence. The lack of faith and the decline in true believers is, in my opinion, due to many things, among which would be poor catechesis.

3. The laity are allowed to help with the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

4. The solemn blessing that happens on Ash Wednesday is the blessing of the ashes, not the people. The people are certainly blessed by the reception of this sacramental, however, the words that the priest or other person says in the applying of the ashes is not a blessing in and of itself. (I can explain further if anyone is curious.)

5. As SFO Mom mentioned, every Friday is penetential. It is not longer required that you abstain from meat on Fridays, however it is an old custom and certainly (at least in my opinion) a beautiful one.

Enough with the list, eh?

There is one more thing I want to touch on before I wrap this post and settle into a peaceful rest and that is this:
But anyway, the issue at hand really is: if they really LIKE shrimp marinara over linguine, or Spanish Garlic Shrimp, or sauteed tilapia, or even pizza, where's the sacrifice?
This was posted by SFO Mom in the same post as was mentioned previously. I suggested in the comments box what I want to suggest here: If you struggle with penetential food selections, I would suggest another act of penance during mealtime that would make it penetential without wasting food. (Her worry was that she would make food that they wouldn't eat if she tried to make the food selection penetential.)

There are a number of things I can think of that would be penetential, though not every family would be comfortable with it I'm sure.

When we go on retreat we always indulge in what is called a Desert Day. On these days of silence, meal times are spent listening to a spiritual reading. One person (often times our retreat leader) will sit at the head of the table (or in a central location) and read as everyone eats. It is a time of reflection and solitude, even amongst so many other people.

When I was in New York, we listened to a reading from the Life of St. Francis every day before dinner. The table would be set when we approached and, standing behind our chairs, we would say our blessing. Then we would all sit quietly except for one who would read to us from the book. After the reading had been finished, she would sit and we would begin the distribution of food.

These are similar customs and certainly both could be seen as penetential acts, especially if you come from a rambunctious family!

I have some more ideas and will most likely be compiling them for a post later this week.

Final note: I'm currently working on three blog templates and have a number of other activites happening this week. If you don't see me around, throw up a prayer for me, would ya? I have a feeling I'm going to crash before this is all over.

Papal Message for Lent 2007

"They Shall Look on Him Whom They Have Pierced"

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

"They shall look on Him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37). This is the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent is a favourable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to Him who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of His life (cf. Jn 19:25). With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical Deus caritas est, I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two fundamental forms: agape and eros.

God's love: agape and eros

The term agape, which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other. The word eros, on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly agape. Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything. But God's love is also eros. In the Old Testament, the Creator of the universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman (cf. 3:1-3). For his part, Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is not afraid to use strong and passionate language (cf. 16:1-22). These biblical texts indicate that eros is part of God's very heart: the Almighty awaits the "yes" of His creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3:1-7). Turning in on himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God Himself, and became the first of "those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage" (Heb 2:15). God, however, did not give up. On the contrary, man's "no" was the decisive impulse that moved Him to manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.

The Cross reveals the fullness of God's love

It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the heavenly Father's mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam. One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus the Confessor, that Christ "died, if one could say so, divinely, because He died freely" (Ambigua, 91, 1956). On the Cross, God's eros for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed -- as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it -- that force "that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved" (De divinis nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more "mad eros" (N. Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offences?

"Him whom they have pierced"

Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other. On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas recognized Jesus as "Lord and God" when he put his hand into the wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One could rightly say that the revelation of God's eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of His agape. In all truth, only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens. Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ "draws me to Himself" in order to unite Himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.

Blood and water

"They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." Let us look with trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow "blood and water" (Jn 19:34)! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom, Catecheses, 3,14ff). Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd, flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation … we enter into the very dynamic of His self-giving" (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 13). Let us live Lent then, as a "Eucharistic" time in which, welcoming the love of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed. Contemplating "Him whom they have pierced" moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must "regive" to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2006.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To you, dear friends, on Valentine's Day...

Sarah, thank you for sharing your stories from the farm. You warm my heart with your genuine love of God and all of His creation. All of your stories show this great love and really force me to think about my lack of love. You make me want to love everyone and everything more deeply. You learn through everything you do and challenge me in new and unexpected ways every week. Keep it up, girl. You're doing well.

Thank you, DSJ, for writing only when the Spirit compels you. It may not be the best way to gain readership or popularity but your genuine lack of concern with your status in the blogsphere is something I admire. It is way too easy to get caught up in stats out here. I never have to worry about going to your blog and finding nonsense. I know that, when I go, what I will find will be personal, meaningful things - things that help me to know more about you, dear friend. I learn so much from your writing - the wisdom is truly abounding. I hope you always keep it up...

A big thanks to you, Barb, for all of your heart-warming homemaking tales. You are the super mom it seems and you do it all with a smile. Your family brings me smiles and laughs on a daily basis and I know you are a great blessing to all who know you. You have come and captured a piece of my heart and I pray for you daily. Thank you for dedicating your life so fully to the Lord and your family. You are a model for women of our time. Way to go.

Thank you, Mikala, for your reflections, even few and far between. I may not be a wife or mother but I can learn a lot about being a woman from you. You let Jesus live and reign in your heart and it is obvious. I pray the Lord rewards your faithfulness.

Margaret, thank you for your love of everyone and everything. Like Sarah, you make me want to love more deeply. I see Christ in you and in your writing. Your genuine concern for everyone and the way that you love is the way Jesus taught us to love. It is the way I strive to love but often do not. You have been a great blessing to me in such a short time and I will forever thank God for you.

Thank you, reader, for coming here today and taking a look around. I may not be the best at this whole blogging thing but I put all of my love into it.

These last two are my biggest 'thank you's. These two women are the ones that stand out in my mind whenever I think of Catholic bloggers and of women who have touched my heart. They are similar in some ways and quite different in others. Still, each of them holds a special place in my heart and deserves to be thanked.

The first is Penni. Thank you for being so down to earth and not afraid to share your struggles. You always say it like it is without regret. You strive earnestly to seek God and your courage is amazing. I absolutely love your stories from the hospital about the people you meet and the struggles you witness. You always seem to handle them with grace - something I could use more of from time to time. You hardly care to be politically correct and I admire that. You truly have a winning personality. There is something about your blog that just draws me in. I visit you all the time, though I do not always comment. Even when you are having a hard time I feel peaceful there with you. Perhaps it is because you are one of the few places out there that never sugar-coats struggles and hardships. You don't dance around problems you're facing or pretend that you're perfect. No, dear penni, you are real. And that is why I love you.

The second is Julie. I'm sure it's no surprise that she is the second one here. But what some may not know is that I don't just like her because she's famous. I like her because she's funny and kind and caring and generous and down to earth. She's fun to be with and easy to talk to. I've known of her for a while (I went to school with her kids) but I'm only just now getting to know her for the beautiful Catholic woman she is. I am quite blessed to know her in person and not just through the blogsphere, though I wouldn't be upset if I only had her writing. She has a way of sharing that makes you feel a part of the family, even 20,000 miles away. From inspirational stories to tv recaps to our daily basics, Julie gets most of my daily blog-reading time. It's great material and it has become a staple in my day. There's always something new to be read but even so, it always feels familiar and comfortable there. I'm sure it has to do with the winning personality traits I mentioned earlier. Indeed, Julie, you have been a great blessing to me in this past year. I never would have guessed that I'd stand in your kitchen and rant about books or lounge in your arm chairs discussing the lives of the saints... but I love it. I love that I always have a friend here in the sphere as well as out there in the big bad world. You never fail to lift my spirits when I'm feeling blue and encourage me when I feel like giving up (on this thing). I could go on for days about what a blessing you are to me (and to the Church) but I'll stop there. I'm sure you know. Thank you, Julie, for everything. I love ya!

And with that... I bid you farewell... at least until tomorrow. Happy Valentine's Day, dear friends. I hope it's been blessed.

Remembering the Unborn

+Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, in You we adore the eternal origin of all life. Born of God the Father before all time, You were born of the Virgin Mary in time. In Your humanity and Person You sanctified motherhood from the first instant of conception through all stages, for our salvation. Recall all people to these divine blessings to appreciate the unborn as person and to enlighten every human being coming into this world. In Your mercy avert Your just anger from the enemies of life, to allow God's infants to give Him glory and to be crowned with the heavenly life of grace. From the cross You called, "Behold your Mother." Amen.

Thanks to SFO Mom displaying and FaithMouse for creating this important message today.

...and if not... turns 1!

I sat down to write this post for tomorrow when I realized... it's tomorrow! And tomorrow.. today.. the ...and if not... blog turns 1! Yes, just one year ago today I sat down at my computer and created this silly little thing. I didn't know what I was doing then and as you can see, not much has changed. I accidently deleted this once already and I'm sure it'll happen again before it's all said and done.

In the past year I have published over 300 posts and drafted upwards of 350. With close to 9500 views under my belt, you'd think I'd have gotten somewhere by now. But it's still a baby. It's still growing and maturing.

There are a couple of things I wanted to do with this post. The first thing has been done. I wanted to post a picture of something mouth-watering. Doesn't that cake look absolutely delicious and totally like something you would get at Cafe Brazil? (Mmm... Cafe Brazil....) The second was to recap the year. After having deleted my first attempt at this post, I know that there's not really much to say for this year. Nothing too thrilling. The highlights weren't all too spectacular and I woudln't expect them to be. I guess there was a bit of something for everyone; from novenas and litanies to music reviews and DIY projects, I've done it all this year.

My next task is to thank you, the reader, for continuing to stop by. Whether or not you comment (none of you comment) I appreciate your readership. I appreciate that someone out there thinks I'm doing something right. Above all else I want to bring Christ to the internet and I believe I can do that with my blog. I believe I can help spread knowledge of the faith, spread knowledge of different Catholic customs and devotions, and occassionally force some to look deeper than they'd like. I enjoy being an instrument for the Holy Spirit - though sometimes His visits are few and far between.

Before this gets too long and I start to make little to no sense (I'm already there, aren't I?), let me throw out my big 'thank you's.

My first goes to Micah for helping me name the blog so appropriately. I have only once questioned if this was the right name for this blog and I'm not sure why I did. It's perfect. My second thank you goes to Jaime for being the first to comment. That's never going to be a first again. It's something I'll always remember. Third goes to my friend Julie D (over at happy catholic) for supporting me and encouraging me this whole time. You've been outstanding.

Later today (after I get some sleep) I've got another something I want to post. It's a post about those who have really inspired me in the blogging world - the ones I have come to love from afar. It's fitting as I enter a new year of blogging and even more fitting that it falls on Valentine's day. Look for that later.

Thanks again to all of you and let's make this a great new year at ...and if not...! If you have suggestions for improvement (and I mean ANYTHING), please do not hesitate to let me know in the comments box. I'm the first to admit I can use all the help I can get!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Catholic Blog Awards

Well the blog awards are operating a bit differently this year. The categories have been refined and voting as been limited! One vote per person this year and EVERY blog nominated was pushed through to be voted on.

I'm looking forward to the new linkage. I can see now just how many great blogs I've been missing out on! (And yes, it has occurred to me before that I know so few in the blogging sphere.. but there's so little time!) I've already found a couple that I'll be adding to my sidebar soon.

I've submitted my votes already and am now waiting patiently for Sunday to come and the winners to be announced! What fun.

Thanks to anyone who happened to nominate my blog. I was going through the lists trying to decide who to vote for (tough choices!) when I saw my blog... and not just once, but FIVE times. Wow. Y'all are WAY too nice. But thank you.

Now... get to the voting booth! It's only a click away. (Click here for the complete list of nominees.)


Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel

from the EWTN site:
The Chaplet of St. Michael is a wonderful way to honor this great Archangel along with the other nine Choirs of Angels.

What do we mean by Choirs? It seems that God has created various orders of Angels. Sacred Scripture distinguishes nine such groupings: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels and Angels (Isa. 6:2; Gen. 3:24; Col. 1:6; Eph. 1:21; Rom. 8:38). There may be more groupings but these are the only ones that have been revealed to us. The Seraphim is believed to be the highest Choir, the most intimately united to God, while the Angelic Choir is the lowest.

The history of this Chaplet goes back to a devout Servant of God, Antonia d'Astonac, who had a vision of St. Michael. He told Antonia to honor him by nine salutations to the nine Choirs of Angels. St. Michael promised that whoever would practice this devotion in his honor would have, when approaching Holy Communion, an escort of nine angels chosen from each of the nine Choirs. In addition, for those who would recite the Chaplet daily, he promised his continual assistance and that of all the holy angels during life.

The Chaplet of St. Michael

On the St. Michael medallion:
O God, come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, etc.

On the 4 next beads:
Say one Our Father in honor of each of the following leading Angels:
St. Michael
St. Gabriel
St. Raphael
our Guardian Angel.

The rest of the Chaplet:
[Say one Our Father and three Hail Marys after each of the following nine salutations in honor of the nine Choirs of Angels]

1. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity.

2. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection.

3. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility.

4. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions.

5. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil.

6. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.

7. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

8. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven.

9. By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven.

Concluding prayers:

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, you who shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to you with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael Prince of Your Church, make us worthy, we ask You, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into Your Presence.This we ask through the merits of
Jesus Christ Our Lord.


photo credit: a beautiful chaplet made by Kimberlee of Beads of Mercy - and it's available for purchase!

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As Valentine's Approaches...

Be sure to check out the Loveliness of Romance Fair going on over at Margaret's. It's lovely!

I have another post coming up about love but am waiting on some photos from a friend before I post it. Stay tuned...

Friday, February 09, 2007

For these, we pray.

For Ava, the four-year-old who passed away Monday...
For Matt, who recently received the ministry of acolyte...
For miseremi, who gave birth to a baby girl (Lucia Picar) on Tuesday...
For Angela, whose birthday has just passed, in this new year of life...
For Sebastian and Pilar, who are struggling with terrible twos...
For M, in her search for a new job (and all who are seeking work)...

Lord, you made the heavens and the earth. You aligned the stars and gave light to the world. You are the Almighty. Look kindly on your children and hear us in our time of need. In your mercy, Lord, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted and give faith to the doubter.

In Christ's name we pray... amen.

If you would like your intentions to be offered in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. I include intentions as time permits here.

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Hug Your Children

Every time you hug your children, remember that now is not eternity. Cherish your time with them here on earth for soon you will be asked to part.
This is the darling angel daughter of a fellow photographer I met through Jinky's workshop. She passed away on Monday...after being trapped in her parents car for a half hour in Australia...she was unable to get out...please, check first to make sure that the horn on your car works even without the engine running, and then teach your young children how to honk the horn if they're ever trapped in a vehicle. Please pray for Ava's family, laureen
The above was posted to Two Peas In A Bucket by chumsmum. How horrible it is for this beautiful little girl to have died that way. I pray the family is comforted in this time. May her soul forever rest in the peace of Christ's eternal kingdom.

Saint Spidey?

We've all known that the creator of Spiderman was Catholic for a while.. but what you didn't catch were all of the Catholic references in the Spiderman movies! (Or maybe you did...) If you are a Spiderman fan, I'm sure you know there are tons of connections between Spiderman and Jesus. Interested? ...

Remnant has prepared a two page scene by scene list of the connections for you along with a discussion. All you need is a DVD player, both Spiderman I and II and the two page guide. This was intended for use in youth groups but who says you can't use it at home or with friends? I knew there were some connections but I never would have caught the St. Therese prayer card on the school bus! (Yes, really!)

Get the details here.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Worship Faux Pas

I blame Ironic Catholic for my aching abdomen and throbbing head. Laughing that hard should not be allowed! Check out (his? her?) "Worship Faux Pas and How to Avoid Them". I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed!

My favorite?
5. If you are able-bodied, the reverential bow at the reception of the Eucharist shouldn't be confused for a body twitch.

Another reason to love the communion rail at my church!

This has spread like wildfire so be sure to check IC's comments boxes for other good additions, as well as her links at the end of the post to other bloggers who have taken up the list. (Credits: Julie D @ Happy Catholic)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Featuring: the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity

I've recently been made aware of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. Although they are not a community which directly appeals to me, I am not so naive as to think that they aren't beautiful and right for someone else. So.. I will feature them gladly. You may form your own opinions from there.

Navigating their website is easy and fun! The colors are well coordinated and the pictures are just lovely - they look so happy! As a Congregation of apostolic women religious in the Church, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity respond to
God's call through a public life of professed evangelical counsels. They embrace the Franciscan heritage: to live the Gospel as Francis did in fraternity, total self-emptying, joy and peace. The cornerstones of which their congregation is built are:

Simplicity, firmly built on faith in a loving God
Joyful acceptance of poverty
Love for the church
Selfless dedication to the service of others

You can learn more about them by visiting their website. You can see what they do and where they do it. You can view their blog, check out the podcast, and read their monthly meditations in the 'Franciscanized World' section.

Oh.. and before I forget: I should also mention their upcoming Lenten retreat! You can get the details on that here. You may also contact the Sisters directly:

Phone: 920-682-7728
E-mail: Sister Mary Ann Spanjers

Until next time.. God bless and be holy!

Discernment as an act of love...

I was cleaning out my closet just a few moments ago (blame it on the crazy Texas weather - spring cleaning is hitting here early) when I stumbled across a small notebook - an unexpected surprise in a pile of shoes! Upon opening it I found the beginnings of a small talk I prepared for the Girls Retreat back in July. As I was reading it was thinking "Yes!.. Exactly.. Mhmm" and started to wonder where I had found this stuff. Silly me.. I wrote it!
Discernment is an act of love in faith. Out of love for God we respond to His call in faith - faith that says: if we allow Him, He will lead us to Himself in the most perfect way and in the most perfect time - perfect because it is in His way and in His time.

Our lives have no meaning outside of Christ. Indeed, all purpose flows forth from Him. In His love for us, He will, with our dedication, reveal to us our purpose.

We all (each one of us) are called to Him and to follow Him. Therefore, our purpose (and the discovering of that purpose) is made clear through our union with Him. This is why prayer and the Sacraments play such a vital role in discernment, and simply, in our lives as Catholics. For truly, the Sacraments allow for so many graces to be poured out on us! They provide us opportunities we might not otherwise have and through His goodness, they allow us to grow closer, more intimate, with Him who loves us beyond our ability to understand.

In His great mercy He calls us, His sinful children - children who abandon and crucify Him - to Himself to love Him as He loves us. We are all called to love and to serve, of that you can be sure, but each of us is called to do that in different ways.
I carry on in my notes about the "8 Steps for Discernment" and recommended reading. The very last thing is probably my favorite:
"Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything from you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength." --St. Phillip Neri
How awesome is our God that He does this for us. We need not worry or stress over these things. We need simply trust that God is preparing us for the big 'yes'.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

and if not?

I thought that with some new readers on hand I should dive a little into why my blog is titled the way it is. For those of you that have been here since the beginning (humor me, people) you might remember my posting about this. And for those of you that have done extensive looking around, you may have found the explanation(s). But for those of you who already read 245 other blogs, I will repost below.
"...And if not..."

I'm told that the only time those three words occur together in Scripture is when the men who are about to be killed for their faith say it to the means, "God will save us from death...and if not, we will praise Him still."

As my blog description states, I intend to dedicate this blog to living Catholicism and fighting for life in a very anti-Catholic, pro-death culture. I am new at this so please give it some time - still figuring everything out. In the mean time, sit back and watch some EWTN. I'll text you when I'm ready.
Original post can be viewed here. Posted February 14, 2006.
That was my first post. I followed it not too much later that day with this:
I must give credit where credit is due. The name for the blog was given me by a good friend, Micah. Just a few moments ago he also passed along this tidbit of information.
"I'm also told that it was what the British told their soldiers on the eve of D-Day. The British soldiers (who back in those days knew their Scripture) radioed the mainland and asked what they should do if they were overwhelmed. The reply was "and if not" and that was all. The story goes that the soldiers understood immediately and knew that they would have to press on even if overwhelmed."
I feel all this very fitting for these times in our lives -- living Catholicism in the world today. I will expound upon this whole idea in later posts but for now, let it suffice to say that we, the Catholic youth of the world, are making the commitment everyday to press on, crosses on our shoulders and a sword in our hand, to fight the good fight in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Original post can be viewed here.
And that's how it's been ever since...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

As we approach nomination time...

the litany of humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

ETA: Also check out the Litany of Blog Humility by the Curt Jester, posted by Julie D. at Happy Catholic.

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Don't Miss This!

Two things you can't miss:

Seven Sundays of Saint Joseph over at Happy Catholic! This is Sunday numero uno so jump in now. You DON'T want to miss this!

World Nutella Day!! Brought to my attention by Julie D at "Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen". I'm excited and you should be too! Definitely another event you DON'T want to miss!

Have fun and be holy!

p.s. Don't forget the Catholic Blog Award nominations begin Sunday and are open through Friday. I have a couple I'll be putting up. This is a great way to recognize your favorite blogs! :) The categories can be seen here.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

On A Journey Towards Christ

There is no doubt in my mind: my ultimate goal is union with Christ in Heaven. But like with everything else, I need steps leading there.

I'm struggling again with how to word what it is I wish to say. I'll say it as plainly and clearly as I can but please do excuse me if I still seem vague or unclear. Things are cloudy in my mind, too. In fact, thinking about beginning this post brings me back to a conversation I had a month or so ago with a new friend of mine. He said to me during our convesation something along the lines of "our whole lives are spent in discernment". And it's true. They are. We seek every day to discern the will of the Father in our lives. Every day we have little discernments. But the one I often speak of is the big one.. vocational discernment. I talk about it because it does consume my life. Many of the little discernments in my life - the ones that happen on a daily basis - are made in such a way that should not hinder my bigger discernment. And I guess that's where we jump off..

I am discerning a call to the religious life. Or I was. I am? I'm not really sure how to say this in a way which makes sense. Basically, I'm open to any vocation at this point. I did for a long time feel a huge pull towards the convent. I was 'sure' I wanted to enter religious life. I knew I would be a sister and was only seeking the right community. And perhaps I still know this. But I feel so much pressure from so many places that I need to step back again and reevaluate where I am.

I know that in many senses I was the one who allowed this 'pressure' to build up around me. I was the one who made the announcement and certainly I have not shied away from talking about it. I do love religious life. I appreciate what it is to those who are served by the sisters and brothers and priests and I appreciate what it is to the Church and the souls that belong to Christ. However, choosing this vocation is not choosing it because I want it or because my fellow parishoners want it for me. Choosing this vocation is simply accepting what Christ has chosen for me.

Has Christ chosen religious life for me? Is this how He calls me to serve Him?

I wish I could answer these questions with a resounding "yes!" I wish I could tell you that I knew for sure. But frankly, that's the point of discernment. I'm still wading through everything in my head, trying my hardest to come to the right answer - the answer that comes from Christ.

I enjoyed my visit with the Sisters very, very much. I love every aspect of their life and service. Certainly if I am to enter religious life, they would be an order I would like to revisit. But to say today or tomorrow that I know for certain that this is the place where Christ calls me.. well, I just couldn't do it. Not honestly.

When I was leaving I was able to talk to the vocations director for the order. She drove me to the airport and with the traffic in the city, we had a good lot of time to discuss things. She advised me to really take time after I returned home to just be still and listen. And I did take some time - but not nearly enough. A couple of days is not nearly what I needed after my visit, though it is hard in the world (especially when you live with others) to really retreat from daily life to sit and examine and listen. Perhaps it is only hard for me. I am able, at times, to really work with a contemplative spirit. But at other times, often the worst times, I cannot. I am much too distracted.

And perhaps that is my problem now. Perhaps I am just distracted. Perhaps I have lost sight of my focus point.

Whatever it is, I must look it in the face and overcome it. But what I need to be known is that my overcoming it isn't my moving into the convent necessarily. Certainly it could be and I would be more than thrilled (and humbled) if this were the case, but it is not wise to say that it is that just yet. Overcoming this could lead me to a wonderfully faithful Catholic man. I could be called to be a wife and mother - also a thrilling and humbling thought.

So you see, there is a lot to be prayed about.

Many years ago I felt as though others were thrusting me into the convent. Today I feel as though I may be pushing myself there. This is exactly the reason I decided to not be so worried about it. I've decided to take that step back and really just allow myself to take care of the here and now. I need to work on saving up money for my own place. I need to worry about the apostolate and my contributions there. I need to set aside time to be with our Lord - that He may show me the way to Himself through my own heart.

I have a lot of growing to do before I can know where the Lord calls me. Certainly the Lord could at any time reveal this to me, but unless He appears before me and tells me plainly, this is what needs to be done. And it is what I will do... happily. I know that all of these 'little' things I am doing to take care of myself and grow in faith will be looked upon kindly by our Lord if I do them in hopes of serving Him.

Right now this is where I am being called and these are the things I am being called to do.

I do not deny that something wonderful happened that day at Mass. I know that I was blessed in a very special way. But looking back, I wonder if I was not blessed by a softening of my heart. Perhaps the Lord granted me in that moment the grace to be open to anything He called me to. Perhaps I saw clearly for the first time that my wishes did not matter and that as long as I was pretending to serve Him while serving myself, I was doing nothing but harm.

I followed without regret. I continue to follow without regret.

So for now, nothing is certain. I am simply a humble servant in my own ways outside of marriage or religious life. I serve in my workplace, in the apostolate, and in my family. I serve in my parish and in all other places that the Lord calls me. And I do this happily, knowing that right now, this is where the Lord would have me.