Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I chopped it off...

I still don't know if I like it...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Triduum & Easter Celebrations: A Recap

The bloggers at my parish have been blogging away about the services for the past week and I've said nothing! It is not, I assure you, because I did not appreciate those services but is, rather, a matter of not having internet at home. So, I thought that I'd recap my holy week and comment a little on the beautiful Masses/services my parish had this week.

Monday of Holy Week: Morning Mass - beautiful I'm sure but I didn't make it!

Tuesday of Holy Week: Mass and Confession with Father S. Simple and beautiful.

Wednesday of Holy Week: Took my grandmother to confession. When we walked in, I realized that Mass was being said. I always kick myself a little for not realizing when extra Masses are said that I can actually attend. Oh well... maybe next year. The lines after Mass for confession were LONG. Thank goodness we had been there for some time and made it in with Father L first!

Later that evening I went back to the church to pray. I didn't end up staying, however, because they were practicing for Mass the next day. Too noisy, too much commotion.

Holy Thursday: I arrived at the church a couple of hours before Mass began. I wanted and needed to prepare my mind and heart for what was going to happen. I'm glad I did. Shortly before the sea of people flooded in the door, I was approached about a situation which, otherwise, would have sent me packing -- and yelling all the way. Yes, I was annoyed. But I also knew that the Lord was celebrating the Passover and would soon be in Gethsemane. I calmed myself down and returned to my pew.

Mass this year was just as beautiful as last year but much different. Last year our St Francis de Sales choir sang for this Mass and the St Thomas Aquinas choir sang for Good Friday. This year it was reversed. We had the Schola along for Holy Thursday Mass which was nice but meant that participation by the congregation was minimal. That was slightly frustrating. I supposed, however, that we should not be offended or frustrated by it but rather encouraged to learn some new music and perhaps step outside of our comfort zone -- which for many is the Haagen/Haas zone, very much unlike sacred chant.

As is always the case, there was an abundance of all things Catholic and this Mass was pleasing to the senses. All of the candles on the altar were lit (love it!), there were priests and deacons galore, seminarians, altar servers, incense... wow! What pleased me more, however, was the homily Father L gave. He spoke of the royal priesthood and our personal calling to be a part of it; to be a people set apart, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. All week he stressed that we are called just as our ancestors were called. He made a point to drive home the fact that what we read in Mass and what we hear in the liturgy is meant for us, today, here, now. On Holy Thursday he spoke of his life of service and then of ours. He urged us to live that life, to serve others always. He said much more than I can write here and far more eloquently than ever I could repeat. However, "The Practicing Catholic" (a fellow parishoner) jotted down some notes on this beautiful homily and has provided them for you to read, if you'd like.

I was pleased also to see this: women carrying the sacred oils to Fr L, who waited for them at the entrance to the sanctuary. As TPC mentioned, the annointing with oils was/is associated with women in the New Testament. I always enjoy seeing women take on traditionally "feminine" roles, especially ones like this. The women did not enter the sanctuary, they simply approached it. They handed over their gifts, were thanked, and returned to their seats. Shortly after was the washing of the feet. I sat in disbelief (but a happy disbelief) as twelve males approached the altar to have their feet tenderly washed by Father. In years past we have seen men, women and children. There were still some tots (the youngest probably no less than five years old) but it filled me with a great sense of peace to see twelve males there. It was not merely that they were male but that the whole scene allowed me a certain amount of reflection that I had not been able to obtain with women. Although I did physically see Father washing the feet of twelve of his "flock", I saw, in spirit, Christ washing the feet of his apostles. That moved me.

The clearing of the altar is always very moving for me but this year it hit me hard. Seeing the santuary so bare just really hit home that Jesus was being taken away. All of the linens were removed, all of the candles too. Nothing remained save for the pews on either side (secured to the floor) and a few chairs of similar style, simple and bare.

How much I longed to move then to the side of the Church where Jesus was. I wanted to be close to him. I wanted to be nearer those candles and that tabernacle. After Mass I remained where I was to pray for a short time. I left for a while but returned about an hour before He would be taken away. When I returned I returned to see only a handful of people waiting there with Jesus. How sad it made me to see so few. Walking into such emptiness (and especially so late in the evening) you cannot help but to remember the garden and the sleeping apostles. Sadly, I fell asleep myself just moments before Father came to take Jesus. I wept a little knowing that I too was weak. I too had fallen asleep. I was awoken by the sound of the door opening and closing. I looked up to see my Jesus being carried away and again I wept. My most beloved Jesus, gone. The tabernacle would remain empty for three days...

Good Friday: I had to work on Friday but made sure I was out of there by 2:30 pm so that I could reflect adequately. And yes, that does mean that I floored it down 75 in a mad dash to my apartment to change before stations at 3pm. Thankfully I made it back to the church with a few moments to spare. I managed to find a seat (it was packed this time!) and went to retrieve a program. Julie ("Happy Catholic"), sweet thing that she is, saw me and went to hand me one. (My guess is they were out of them. Again, the crowd was big for this one!) Instead of getting a program, I got a seat right next to her dear husband. What a treat to participate in stations with such a lovely family. Stations were beautiful (as always) and my heart began to sink. The three o'clock hour. My Lord had died. My Lord, who loves me with an infinite love, was crucified for my sins, to save my soul.

After stations I returned home to clean up. I arrived again a couple of hours prior to the start of the night's service. I meditated on my daily office and on the readings for the day. I walked through the stations again. I really prepared myself. Of course, in my preparations I listened to the choir rehearse. At various points I was moved to tears by the music. (They sang so beautifully and my meditation on the Passion accompanied by the words "O my people, O my church, what more could I have done for you that I have not done? Answer me" left me in fits of tears.)

The Passion service itself was very beautiful. Everything was chanted. EVERYTHING. Talk about melting my heart! And as Julie D mentioned, the young man who chanted the first reading and the responsorial was a real looker with a killer voice. I'm pretty sure every woman in the church, young and old alike, squirmed in her seat a little as he approached the lecturn. He sang the passages with a real tenderness and conveyed the message beautifully. During the responsorial he cried out the words, "eli, eli, lama sabachthani!" Those words, sung with such passion and with such impeccable pronunciation, left me with chills running down my spine. I could almost close my eyes and feel myself in the garden, at the foot of the Cross, listening to Jesus cry out to His Father in heaven. Amazing.

For the second year in a row we had the pleasure of listening to three men from the church chant the Gospel. They did an outstanding job once again. I felt sorry for them, though, because it *is* a long passage and that's a lot of singing! I hoped, for their sake, they had water in the sacristy to refresh themselves.

Once again, Father L delivered a very touching homily that called us to action and not to passiveness. He opened with the story of a small child whom he had visited early that morning (around 1am) who was in poor health. This baby, so tiny, was seizing and had not been given a good prognosis. Father L spoke to the father of the child and, in his homily, reflected on powerlessness. He emphasized the fact that, though we are powerless to stop death, we are not powerless in the face of death. Death was the turning point in salvation history and through Christ's death, we have been saved. Through death, Christ overcame death -- not only for himself, but for us also.

During the veneration of the cross the choir sang again the song that had moved me only a few hours before. Every time they would sing those words (O my people, O my church...) I was moved to tears. I couldn't stop them. Every. single. time. "Jesus, I love you" was all I could say. My words were not deep but they were meaningful. I wept out of love for Him. I wept because of his sincere, unadultered love for me - love so strong that he humbled himself to become man and accecpt even death, death on a cross.

Another touching part for me each year is the litany of prayers. I remember last year I called my friend Heather after Mass to tell her all about those prayers. Heather is Jewish and a very good friend of mine. I could not help but be moved by the Church praying for Heather and her people, the Jews, the chosen ones of God. But even more than that, we as a church pray for everyone in the world in every situatoin and circumstance. We pray for those who do not yet know God's love. We pray for those who have not yet entered the church. No one is left unprayed for. That, I think, is beautiful. It's one of those prayers I really *feel*.

Holy Saturday: After a long day at work and a short nap, I arrived again at the church about an hour and a half before the vigil was to begin. I did spend some time outside talking to a friend (who's kids I watch), wishing her a happy Easter and catching up a bit. It was a refreshing conversation and eased some of the heaviness of heart. When I returned to my pew, I prayed again over my office and meditated on the Passion. I was troubled by the amount of noise in the church but did my best to focus on my prayers.

It is always interesting to see the difference in number and type of people that show up for the first two days of the Triduum and then for the vigil. I probably could have read the office aloud and not have anyone notice. A flickering of the lights (I think it was accidental) quieted the church some and then a bit later the music of the harp began. It was around that time that everyone started to hush. The harp was beautiful (of course) and I felt so peaceful listening to it.

Once the vigil began, the whole church became still. It was amazing. The whole thing was so richly Catholic and so deeply profound. I had a stupid grin on my face during much of the liturgy, especially during the reception of the candidates into the church through the waters of baptism and the chrism of confirmation. My heart quite literally lept for joy at the sight of the candidates. There was one candidate in particular that sticks out in my mind. He is a young man, around my age I would guess, and had a beautiful smile. That smile was worn through the whole Mass, I think, because every time I saw him he was beaming. How wonderful it was to see him so happy, so radiant! He touched my heart. He looked like he might burst into fits of laughter and tears and shouting at any moment. "Thank you, Lord!" I shouted inside myself. I felt like *I* might burst.

Once again, the music at this Mass was beautiful. Mark and Chris, two very talented members of the St. Thomas Aquinas Choir, were our cantors for the evening and they did, as they always do, a phenominal job. They were accompanied by Michael Lindner on the organ and two other musicians, one on the harp and one on the trumpet. Mark sang what was probably *the* most beautiful rendition of Panis Angelicus I have ever heard during communion and I quite literally believed for a moment that Heaven really was on earth. Yes, heaven and earth absolutely join together at every Mass to celebrate the Eucharist but this music made it REAL for me. Yesterday I experienced physically what I always know mentally! We are truly blessed with musical talent at my parish. (Thank you Michael and Mike for your time and talent! Tell Fr. L you need a raise! ;) Haha.)

Easter Sunday: I attended morning Mass today as I have every year. I knew I was not obligated to go as my obligation was filled in the vigil but Mass this morning is different than the vigil. And because I could go to both, I did. I'm not going to lie, I also went for the music. Easter morning brings tympanies, french horns, trumpets, and more! We have been blessed for as long as I can remember to have the festival brass perform at our Masses for Easter and Christmas. It's a great group of guys with amazing talent. The hooplah creates an amazing energy unlike any other. I wanted to be there for it.

The church was PACKED this morning. I arrived at the church about fourty-five minutes before Mass and was lucky to find a parking spot right away. For whatever reason, the first Mass of the day was relatively empty (considering that it's easter and all). By the time the first Mass let out, however, the vestibule was literally crammed with people waiting to get in and claim a spot. I fought the crowd and escape to the side of the church where I was able to slip in without much trouble. I sat in my pew and was undisturbed for a short period of time. Then one of the ushers stood at the front of the nave and shouted out over the crowd, "Okay, everyone! It's time to do the St. Thomas shuffle!" This is code for "get cozy". Deacon K used to have us do the 10 o'clock shuffle when it was crowded and people were standing. He would have everyone in the pews move in towards the center aisle to make room for those without a seat. It was always a little bit exciting to have to do the shuffle. It forced people out of their shells and afforded them an opportunity to, perhaps, meet someone new.

Sitting next to me was a precious little girl. Blonde hair, blue eyes, with a petite set of pearls that worked well to dress her up for our Lord. Her mom leaned over after the shuffle to ask if I had been saving a seat for someone. I told her I hadn't but had simply been trying to avoid hitting the gentleman in front of me with my LOTH. (The man in front of me wouldn't have minded... he's a friend!) She asked if it was the daily office. I told her it was. She looked pleased. After this break in "stranger mode", the little girl seemed quite comfortable sitting next to someone she didn't know and looked over at me quite often. I was delighted by it. The whole church seemed so warm and cozy and family-like. People were forced to loosen up or stand up.

At one point in the Mass the little girl was kneeling on the floor, her hands clasped and her head bowed. When the congregation sat to begin singing, her mom nudged her on the shoulder to sit back in the pew. The little girl turned around and had a small exchange with her mom, pointing to her the pew in front of us and eventually returning to her position... of prayer. The little one knelt there for about two minutes in deep prayer before signing herself, kissing the cross formed by her thumb and pointer fingers, and sitting back, joining her mother in singing the song. Absolutely precious! I love little kids.

I love them for their sincerity of heart and the absolute candor with which they conduct themselves. For instance, kneeling in the pew after communion, I saw "Veronica" and her family to my left. I said hello to Kiddo and then to Fefe. Kiddo looked pleased to see me, her little face lit up with that smile of hers and I could just hear her laugh in my mind. Such a sweetie. When I lifted my arm to say hi to Fefe, gently patting her arm with my hand, she gave me a look I will not soon forget! Haha. She is such a sweetheart, such a cutie, but she did NOT want me touching her! And she let me know. In one look. Haha. Kids are great.

Fefe, with that stern look, left me smiling for some time. And when the moment had passed, I was swept up again in the glorigious celebration of Christ's resurrection. What a beautiful day it is today!

(Side note: Father L caught me off guard today with his homily. He is a great speaker and always does a fantastic job with his pitch, tone, and volume. He uses those things to his advantage at every possible moment and I am always pleased to hear him preach. Usually, he ends his homily with a strong point, but a soft one - a strong message softly spoken. Today, though, he was loud. Very loud. He very sternly told us what to do and how to do it. It wasn't mean. It wasn't even slightly upsetting. It was just passionate. And loud. It was good!)

This post has gotten quite lengthy and for that I apologize. There is so much more I could say about this holy week; it was truly blessed. Here's hoping each of you had a beautiful, richly rewarding holy week. Here's hoping each of you has a beauitful, richly rewarding Easter season.

Christ is risen! alleluia, alleluia!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Downloading the Stations

It seems as though some of you are having trouble downloading the Stations from my podcast site. I don't really understand the trouble since the episode is already in a downloadable format. Perhaps someone else out there with a podcast understands this issue and could help give some advice to my lovely readers?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lent: A Time of Fasting and Feasting

a repost from lent '06... my apologies for having not posted this sooner! holy week is upon us, however, and there is no time like the present...

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!

Friday, March 14, 2008

More on the Stations...

When I get a chance, I'll write a short write up on the origin of the stations and the graces we obtain in their recitation. For now, though, check out this super amazing article from (of course) New Advent:

The Stations of the Cross (also known as The Via Dolorosa)

From the article:
In conclusion it may be safely asserted that there is no devotion more richly endowed with indulgences than the Way of the Cross, and none which enables us more literally to obey Christ's injunction to take up our cross and follow Him. A perusal of the prayers usually given for this devotion in any manual will show what abundant spiritual graces, apart from the indulgences, may be obtained through a right use of them, and the fact that the Stations may be made either publicly or privately in any church renders the devotion specially suitable for all. One of the most popularly attended Ways of the Cross at the present day is that in the Colosseum at Rome, where every Friday the devotion of the Stations is conducted publicly by a Franciscan Father.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

...and if not... gets vocal

I decided some time ago that I wanted to record and publish a recitation of the Stations of the Cross. As I get older, this practice becomes increasingly important to me and it is my desire to share with the world the beauty of Christ's passion. What better way to share with people that beauty than in the Stations? At least for now...

It's only my first attempt at a podcast and it could use much improvement, but I wanted this to be available to you (and to me) for holy week which is steadily approaching. I did not sing verses of the Stabat Mater in between the stations though it may be an addition I decide to pursue later. For now, simplicity is my style.

I do hope you find this helpful. If you have any feedback you'd like to share, feel free to comment below or shoot me an email. (My email address is listed on the sidebar.)

The Stations of the Cross, recited by Laura H.

May God bless you richly in the coming week...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our Lady and the Tilma

Posted on phatmass:

Our Lady's Response to Legalized Abortion in Mexico

We know that on April 24th, very sadly the Municipal Council of Mexico
legalized abortion. Mexico was one of the few remaining countries where
abortion was still illegal up to now. Something extraordinary then

In the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, the "Tilma" of Juan
Diego is on display for all to see. It serves as a reminder of how the
Blessed Mother miraculously converted thousands of Aztec Indians in the
16th Century through her image imprinted on the Tilma. Today, through
the same Tilma, it seems that the Blessed Mother wants to speak to us
again, quietly expressing her reaction to abortion.

The same day abortion was legalized in Mexico, after a mass offered for
unborn children, a very intense light appeared suddenly on the Tilma.
At the level of the womb, the light appeared like a shiny halo, in the
shape of an embryo. Experts have testified that it is not a reflection
or something added, rather it comes from the Tilma and is in the exact
location of a woman's womb. Witnesses were able to take photographs and
even to film the phenomenon that went on for a full hour.

Father Luis Matos (from the Beatitudes Community) tells us:

"The engineer Luis Girault who studied one of the pictures that was
taken of the light, has confirmed the authenticity of the proof and was
able to specify that the proof had not been modified, nor altered with
the superposition of another picture for example. He has discovered that
the image is not the result of a reflection, but literally comes from
the inside of the image of Our Lady. The resulting light is very white,
pure and intense, different from the glow coming from the flash of a
camera. This light is surrounded by a halo and seems to be floating
inside the abdomen of Our Lady. This halo has the shape and proportion
of an embryo. If one is to examine this picture even more closely by
turning it on a sagittal plane, it is then possible to distinguish
inside the halo certain shadowy areas with the characteristics of a
human embryo inside the maternal womb."

It is beautiful to see the delicate manner Our Mother from Heaven uses
to express herself: in front of this new law that hurts thousands of her
children and that would certainly not be a source of blessings for
Mexico, she remains silent in her suffering, she does not partake in
vain debates. No, she helps us re-center our eyes on the One she
carries, the Light of the world, the Savior, the One who came in the
world small, vulnerable defenseless, like all children before being
born. By showing us the Child-Jesus alive like a unborn child inside
her, she gives us an answer without words that reflects the Gospel:
"What you do to the least of these little ones of mine, you do to me".
(Matthew 25:40)

Here are the pictures:"]

It's likely I missed the talk about this if there has been talk before. If anyone knows anything more (true, not true, etc) please let me know!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Our Lady of Perpetual Help -- Financial Aid

A prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for financial assitance...

Realizing, dearest Mother of Perpetual Help, that thou art our perpetual help not only in spiritual but also in temporal necessities, we approach thee with submissive and humble hearts because we have a child-like and affectionate trust in thy power and goodness, beseeching thee to assist us in our present financial worry. Owing to untoward circumstances which have arisen in our lives, we are in dire want and pecuniary embarrassment, being unable to meet our honest debts.

We are not asking, dearest Mother, for wealth, if the possession of it is not in accordance with the holy will of God. We merely beg of thee that assistance which will enable us to satisfy our most pressing obligations. We believe, dear Mother of God, that thou art the Queen of Heaven and Earth, and as such, the instrument and special dispenser of thy divine Son's graces; that thou hast acquired by virtue of thy wonderful dignity, a sweet jurisdiction over all creation. We believe that thou art not only rich and bountiful, but extremely kind and generous to all thy loving and devoted children. We plead with thee, therefore, dear Mother, to obtain for us the help we so urgently need in our present financial difficulty. We thank thee, glories of thy miraculous picture. Amen.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

On the commemoration of Sts Perpetua and Felicity

From the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours:

From the story of the death of the holy martyrs of Carthage

(Cap. 18, 20-21: edit. van Beek, Noviomagi, 1936, pp. 42. 46-52)

The day of the martyrs' victory dawned. They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing. If they trembled it was foro joy and not for fear.

Perpetua was the first to be thrown down, and she fell prostrate. She got up and, seeing that Felicity was prostrate, went over and reached out her hand to her and the crowd was appeased, and they were ordered to the gate called Sanavivaria. There Perpetua was welcomed by a catechumen named Rusticus. Rousing herself as if she began to look around. To everyone's amazement she said: "When are we going to be led to the beast?" When she heard that it had already happened she did not at first believe it until she saw the marks of violence on her body and her clothing. Then she beckoned to her brother and the catechumen, and addressed them in these words: "Stand firm in faith, love one another and do not be tempted to do anything wrong because of our sufferings."


The others stood motionless and received the deathblow in silence, especially Saturus, who had gone up first and was first to die; he was helping Perpetua. But Perpetua, that she might experience the pain more deeply, rejoiced over her broken body and guided the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman - one before rwhom the unclean spirit trembled - could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it.

Bravest and happiest martyrs! You were called and chosen for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


your love gave the Saints Perpetua and Felicity
courage to suffer a cruel martyrdom.
By their prayers, help us to grow ini love of you.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

So I need to brush up...

...on my geography! Oops!

(The only thing that helps me is that I can see maps in my head and mentally "scan" them for country names.)


The first time it was only 55! EEK!

How many can YOU name?


pinch me.

it's snowing. in dallas. in march.

is this REALLY happening? ... spring break starts today! woo! classes were cancelled for tonight so its officially "relax" time for me... except for my 40-50 hours of work at the hotel. whatevs.

be safe, everyone.


Little White Caskets: A Lesson in Love

(A blog post from December became the basis for a paper for my writing class. This was the paper I handed in, though I have a sneaking suspicion it's not seen its last edit. The timeline and events are skewed. I think being so young, I tried to block a lot of it out. It wasn't until later that I stopped to think about the impact of the events mentioned. My mother corrected a few points but nothing was skewed enough to change the paper.)

I found myself in a graveyard this week about an hour and a half outside the city. Carefully observing gravestone after gravestone, I took a moment to thank God for the life of each person buried there. As I walked and read the names, subtracting one year from another to figure the age they lived to be, I wondered what each was like. I wondered about their smile and their laugh. I wondered if they enjoyed music or nature or church. Some had "beloved daughter/son" or "mother/father". It was sweet to see the care taken of the majority of the graves. There was even a grave there with a poem in the headstone. It spoke of the beloved dead's smile and her sweet laugh. It spoke of her charming personality lighting up the small town where she lived and died. She sounded like a very sweet young girl, dead at thirty-two. I remember walking carefully along the paths between graves and noticing how many servicemen were laid to rest there. Vietnam. Korea. Both world wars. "Thank you," I would whisper as I ended my prayer. "Thank you for the gift of your life." As I finished my thoughts at one marker I noticed a small stone in the ground where I thought I might take my next step. There I read only a name and two dates. There was no special message describing service or smiles. Only a plain-font stone rested there and below it lied the body of a child, lost the day of his birth. I remember taking a small step back, the image of a little white casket frozen in my mind. "Sweet baby! You were loved." I knew that love - the love of someone so small, so innocent, so unprepared for what was to come, not that anyone was or could be.

It was December 1, 1997, that Joseph Adam was born into the Hughey family. A light six pounds, five ounces, blue and purple all over but with a healthy scream. I was at school that day, as I had been when my sister was born only a year before, and received the news over the intercom system in my fifth grade classroom. Lots of pride, lots of joy, lots of excitement that morning. The afternoon, though, would bring heartache and anxiety.

Later, when I saw my dad, his eyes brimming with tears, I knew something was terribly wrong. He pulled a handful of small Polaroids from his jacket pocket, smiling through the tears, proudly showing off my new brother and Mom who had been so brave that morning. This time my friends weren't allowed to see them. Only I stood looking at them with Dad before we rushed to the car. We were both quiet on the drive to the hospital. "He probably won't make it to see his first birthday." He couldn't tell me anymore and I couldn't ask. I sat there, staring ahead, tears filling my ten-year-old eyes. For the first time in my life I was experiencing death and hurting because I loved the life death was claiming, even so new, so unknown, so inexperienced.

Joseph was a fighter from day one. He moved from the NICU into the nursery in less than a week and was home within two weeks after that. For that first year of his life he was in and out of Children's Hospital enduring test after test and surgery after surgery. The doctors didn't know what was wrong. No answers, only questions. Except for one question: "How is this kid still alive?" They asked it right up to his first birthday. And on his first birthday, we celebrated. We laughed a lot and we cried a lot. We did the same on his second. Each year Joseph taught us something new about living in love. To love Joseph was to know pain. To be attached to him was to know heartache. He was going to die.

Joseph was prodded and poked more than I would have been able to stand and still he laughed... a lot. He only rarely cried and hardly ever whined. He brought joy to lives that did not know joy while he himself suffered greatly. No matter his condition, Joseph loved with his whole self in the best - and sometimes, only - way he knew how. Even confined to a hospital bed he hugged and cuddled. He blew kisses despite the limited movement of his hands and arms which were strapped with tubes and needles and patches. With Joseph in my life, my daily thoughts were plagued by conscious thoughts of death - of his death - and still it was richer, more fulfilling, more worthwhile than ever it had been. I hadn't lived long but I knew, even then, that Joseph had changed me and would continue to change me forever.

Joseph had a feeding tube that pierced his tender, sickly little body and most people stared. His head was a little larger than normal and he was emaciated looking. To strangers, especially adults, looking at Joseph was frightening. But to those who knew him, looking at him was to look at Love. Looking at Joseph, I'm sure some people wondered why Mom didn't abort him when she first found out. Truth be told, she didn't want any more children. But she knew the value of life and happily prepared a space for him in her heart and in our home. She was told shortly after his birth that he would not live to one but she didn't give up on him. At one, she was told he would not live to two. At two he would not live to five. Now we dare to hope to see his eighteenth birthday.

Standing there in the graveyard ten years after my brother's birth, again thanking God for the gift of life, I remembered all of the little white caskets I've known - caskets which held children not as "lucky" as Joseph but who still possessed a great purpose, a great lesson to teach. How greatly those caskets - like Joseph's life - have changed each of our lives. Each casket represents a person who didn't move in next door, someone who didn't bake a winning pie for the local fair, someone who didn't partake in the sign of peace at Mass on Sunday. Each white casket is someone we have loved and lost. And lives we have loved and lost, if we let them, change us for the better.

So today I wonder this: if we gave a casket to every child not allowed even that one hour of life, how many little white caskets would we have buried by now? How many lives have been loved, if only by God, and lost due not to natural causes or freak accidents but to a lack of care or concern by those closest to them? How many caskets would we fill with the bodies of our brethren who were not given the chance to change our lives - in one hour, one day, one year?

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