The Essence of Love

Today, April 28th, is the feast day of St. Gianna Molla: doctor, wife, mother, skier, and all-around awesome woman.  She’s also my Confirmation saint and one of my biggest heroes.

Read her inspiring story here:

On the morning of April 21, 1962, which was Good Friday that year, her daughter Gianna Emanuela, named for her mother, was born after a hard labor via C-section. She told her doctors, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it.  Save her.”  Seven days later Gianna died with much suffering on April 28, 1962. She was only 39 years old. Among her last words were,“Jesus, I love you.”

Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family. She was canonized a saint on May 16, 2004.  She is the patron saint of physicians, pregnant mothers, unborn children, and against abortion.

I could write on and on about being pro-life, about science and reason and inalienable rights, but I won’t.

I was brought down to the foundation of my life during my time of suffering and silent learning.  All I know now, all I have understood is that we are here to love. And love is sacrifice. We lay down our lives for those we love, and we are called to love all.  Gianna died that her child “might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  She embodied Jesus with her whole heart and soul.  She gave herself up.  That is the essence of love.

As I write this, there are two women especially on my heart: my sister Juliana and my aunt Sue, because they both lost a child within the last year and a half.  Because they weren’t able, or asked, to make the same kind of sacrifice that Gianna was… they were asked to make a much harder one as a mother. To be the one still here, to have to continue, to pick up the cross and walk on.  But though the outward sacrifice is different, the essence of love remains the same.

Saint Gianna, pray for us!

Let the Green Leaves Unfurl

Let the green leaves unfurl from my soul. Let the rain pound down from the sky.

This is what we are: gardeners, working with our hands in damp soil and sun. Cultivating the earthy, necessary shoots of love, the flamboyant flowers of joy, and the tall climbing vines of hope. Those vines, they twist and wind tenaciously around the fences guarding our hearts; they’re an everyday miracle of waking up and invisibly growing by inches.

We build fences to keep our gardens neat and tidy. We plant in rows and stake evenly. Because we need the idea that our seeds will come up orderly.  We know we have to start planting now and it’s less scary to do it with some sort of map in our heads. Then the plants break through the soil and we water the love and inhale the perfume of joy and we watch those trembling hopeful vines curl themselves up and around our fences, and we wonder at their future.

Sometimes they die. We watch them wither. And maybe we water them and try to save them and maybe we don’t. We untangle the dead tendrils from our fences, lifting and separating, and throw them in the burn barrel with the rest of the pruning.  And that’s okay, because here’s the thing about hope: it pops back up out of the dirt faster than any weed. Give it another chance to blossom; it’ll be morning glories, it’ll be sweet peas and wisteria. It’ll be a riotous explosion of color and sun and delight.

Holy Week and the Good Friday Meditations from Rome

Over the past few years, one of the spiritual practices I’ve used during Holy Week has been to read the meditations written on the Stations of the Cross by the Pope’s chosen person.  For 2015, Pope Francis asked Bishop Renato Corti to write the meditations, and they were posted in advance of Good Friday on the Vatican’s site a few days ago.  Here’s the link to them and I highly recommend reading them.  My usual habit is to read two or three Stations a day and contemplate their resonance in my own life.  This is an excerpt from the meditation on the Fifth Station, Simon the Cyrenean Helps Carry the Cross:

Who doesn’t need a Cyrenean?

Lord Jesus, you told us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.[28] Make us ready to be “Cyreneans” to others. May those who see our way of life find encouragement, as they watch us striving to cultivate all that is beautiful, just, true and essential. May the frail see us as humble, for we too are frail in so many ways. Those who receive tokens of our generosity will realize that we too have a thousand reasons to be thankful. Even those who cannot run can simply stand and wait, for they are dear to us. They will find us ready to slow our pace: we do not want to leave them behind.

Bishop Corti has said that he wrote with a theme of “protecting” in the meditations this year, and that he was inspired by the role of Saint Joseph as protector of the Holy Family.  In this article on Catholic News Agency, he says:

Protecting will be discussed in three key topics: the Word of God, the Eucharist, and forgiveness. The meditations will be also filled with a prayer for the coming synod, so that “the works of synod will be accompanied by mercy and truth.”

“I also recalled some grave facts which exist, and which are negations of protecting; for example, the evil done to youth, the abandonment of the poor, and the already-forgotten pillars of peace as recalled by Pope John XXIII: truth, justice, liberty, love.”

Holy Week is the most spiritually profound week of our Christian faith. Even if you’re still working your 9-5 or doing whatever duties your state in life calls you to, even if you can’t make it to a Holy Thursday Mass or a Good Friday service (like Tenebrae!), we still have access to all these wonderful resources online that can help make Holy Week meaningful.  Keep a little quieter this week, pray and fast a little more, try to keep the Easter Triduum in your thoughts.  The Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus are approaching.  Solemnly, quietly, let us open our hearts to our coming salvation.

Here’s To You, Girls

Here’s to you, girls. Here’s to your tender hearts and your hidden dreams. Here’s to you girls who don’t want to be bitches, who are gentle and kind and strong in your own way. Here’s to you when people say you won’t accomplish anything unless you’re fierce. Here’s to you fiercely sweet girls, you heart-warmers and quiet readers and humble lovers. Here’s to your meekness, your dignity and grace. Here’s to you girls, and your strength in the face of vanity. There’s so many ways to be a woman, and Beyoncé does not epitomize them all.  But here’s to you strong girls too, you vibrant and motivated girls, you run & gunners and breadwinners and passionate, independent fighters.

Here’s to you Christ-like girls, you saints in the making, beloved and loving and believing in what the Lord has promised to you. Here’s to your temple, to the Holy Spirit within you, to the heart of Jesus you treasure. Here’s to the midnight Adoration visitors, the daily Mass troopers, the Magnificat readers.  And here’s to the girls who struggle to pray, who wonder what’s true, who are born to ask why and how.  Here’s to you girls with your patron saints and your pure ideals and your high standards. Here’s to you girls with respect for your mothers and the sacrifices they’ve made.  Here’s to you girls who know it is a terrible thing not to become a woman when one ceases to be a girl. Here’s to you girls who build each other up and run the race together and who recognize backstabbing and gossip for the poison they truly are. Here’s to you girls who’ve fallen and picked yourself back up, to your mistakes and your regrets and your shame.  Here’s to learning and growing and knowing your own worth. Here’s to healing and hard-won happiness and heartfelt honesty.

Here’s to you for the pints of ice cream, for a for-realz hair braiding sesh, for laughing with your girlfriends until you cry, for the inside jokes and the buffalo dip and the dance moves that rattle the walls. Here’s to your hips, they don’t lie; here’s to your peanut butter vibes. Cheers to you, here’s to you, keep on dancing.

Hey girls, here’s to you for the hard times, the heartbreak days, the sleepless nights and the tears that burn. For that awful “oh no please no” feeling in the pit of your stomach. For cold water on red eyes and wanting to be anywhere else in the entire world. For the period cramps and the salty fries cravings and the diets and the gyms and the commercials and the unending unrealistic unrelenting expectations. More curves, less curves, taller, thinner, too friendly (“she’s a slut!”), not friendly enough (“she’s a bitch!”), less fierce, more fierce.

And here’s to you for the stab of pain when your arms are empty and everyone around you is rocking their baby, here’s to you for being the Best Aunt Ever. For the babysitting and the clean kitchens and the extra set of hands.  Here’s to you girls, for loving and trusting and holding true.

Steady on, girls.

Little Heart Stealers

These are the things I remember and love about my pet rats who have passed away:

Bob was a skulker, always lurking around the edges of the room and under the corners of the bed.  He always had a bit of a head tilt, and it gave him a comical, inquisitive look.  He was a strong rat, the first rat, he cowered in a lonely little corner of the cage for the first few nights alone until I brought home Merv.  That was an instant rattie friendship.

Mervy Rat was the sweetheart rat, a snifflebug, a dark brown darling of a pet.  He was small and fast and he loved to be cuddled.  He sneezed a lot and I called him Sneezles Rat because of it.  Merv was the ambassador: everyone loved him once they saw his sweet little brown eyes and how happy he was when you gave him a treat.  He made you understand that rats are just soft, cuddly, sweet pancakes sometimes. He had the biggest heart too. When I brought Willie Rat home, Bob tried to bully him, but Mervy literally stood in between them and protected Willie.

William Rat was the only albino I had.  His eyesight was pretty poor but he made up for it in intelligence and energy.  He was the escape rat, the one who squeezed right through the bars of the cage late one night and scampered under the bed.  He lived the longest of all my rats.

Freddy Rat was so handsome.  He was a hooded rat, which means he had a dark hood over his face and a white body.  Freddy was so tiny when we first got him, and then I fattened him up to a plump and roly-poly chunkster.  He was pretty lazy, Freddy was.  He didn’t scamper around as much, he preferred to curl up in a nook and watch his brothers bounce around the room.  He loved grapes, blueberries, and strawberries.  Really, he just loved food in general.

Charles and Fred

Fred on top, Charlie on the bottom.

Charlie Rat just passed away, and that’s what prompted this post.  I had to make the decision to put him down on Wednesday, and it killed me inside.  Charles was the cuddliest, snuggliest rattie I ever owned.  Everyone knows I love to read, and one of my favorite things to do was to take Charlie and Henry out of the cage and let them run around while I laid on my bed and read books.  Charlie would do a little sniffing around the room and then jump up on the bed and curl up on my shoulder.  He would groom himself or just lie quietly there while I read my books and occasionally rubbed his ears.  He was not a handsome rat, looking more like the sewer type, but his heart was all in his eyes when he looked at me.  Mervy let anyone pet him, he was a sweet little attention hog.  Charlie was my rat.  He loved me so much.  Maybe it was because I rescued him from a stupid pet store where they kept him in a terrible aquarium cage.  I’ll never forget the look of gratitude in his eyes when I picked him up from that cage and took him with me.  When I brought him home and let him run around my room for the first few times, he was weak and couldn’t jump very high at all.  Rats are great jumpers, like cats, but he had been cooped up in a tiny little cage for so long, his leg muscles were poorly developed.  But after enough of a good diet and steady love and time in my room to stretch his legs, he caught up to the other rats.  He had a poor first few months of life, my Charlie bear did, and then I brought him home and he lived the best life a rattie could want.  When I held him at the vet’s office on Wednesday, after they gave him the shot, I rubbed his ears and he looked up at me and bruxed one last time for me.  I think he did it to give me one last piece of his heart.

I love you, Charlie.  I miss you every day.

I miss all my ratties.

Fredster tedster

Handsome Fred

william

Willie snacks

Mervy

My Mervy

the little trio!

William, white-bellied Merv, and Bob: the original 3!

bobberton

Bob is silly

Bobbers

Bobbers

 

Hey Happy Birthday

Remember that time when I, in a move of unparalleled prescience, stated that I had the best friends in the entire world?  (Channing is rolling her eyes SOHARD right now at ‘prescience’, I can see it.)  Well, less than six hours after I made that statement here on my blog, my friends proved me right.

They threw me a surprise birthday party!!!!  I love birthdays, and parties, and people gathering to eat and drink and compliment me, so this was basically the best thing they could’ve done.  29 was a birthday I was not looking forward to celebrating, and now when I look back, I’ll have this touching, sweet, kind memory of how they all came together to be there for me.

Poor Channing.  Girl deserves a medal after putting up with my attempts to plan my own party.  In my defense, I am a planning type of person!  And even though she told me repeatedly to let her handle inviting people and etc., I didn’t want to make her do all the work for what I assumed was a simple birthday dinner.  I’m sorry, Channing!!!! *humble apologies, so many humble apologies*

My roommates get a medal too, while we’re handing them out, for keeping my always-early personality a few minutes behind.  As we came into the casino, we were about 10 minutes late and I was power-walking, and Jill and Erica had to slow me down so everyone could get into place.  When I walked in, the first people I saw were my brother and sister, and I had a split second of total confusion before everyone yelled surprise.  I couldn’t stop smiling all night long. And I led everyone in grace before the meal!

I think the reason this party touched me so much is because people took time out of their busy schedules to come and be there for me.  We’re all busy, and we all don’t have a lot of extra money, and we’ve all got so many different things going on in our lives, and my friends came, and brought me presents, and cake, and made me feel so loved and special.  Thanks, guys.  I love you all!

Here’s a few pictures from the party:

birthday    birthday4 birthday5birthday6 birthday3

 

29

I was going to write a blog post about turning twenty-nine today.  About becoming a stronger, tougher person over the last year, and how proud I am to know that I am not weak, not a coward… about how much it hurt to have my first birthday since age 22 that I didn’t wake up to a 12:01 AM happy birthday/inside joke/sweet nickname text from Danny and how much it frustrates and, yes, embarrasses me that it still (STILL) hurts me…  I might still write that post. I’m not sure. It depends on how much I need to just write the emotions out of me.

But for now, this is what I want to say, and it’s important, so pay attention: I’ve got the best friends in the entire world. I have sought and found the truth in faith, hope, and love. I’ve seen the sun rise over exotic shores and strange lands; I have realized my home is where my heart is.  I’ve cried tears of joy at weddings and sobbed my guts out at a funeral.

I have learned that you can desire something with your heart and soul and the very weight of your bones and still lose it, and when you do, the loss of it will not kill you.

I’ve felt that peculiar ache that comes from yearning: I’ve felt it when I was outside in bitter cold winter air and heard the wild cries of Canadian geese flying far away above me, felt it when I rocked babies to sleep and wouldn’t put them down even though my arms were shaking, felt it in the living silence of Eucharistic Adoration as I knelt in the dim light before my God.  I’ve dreamed too small, drank too much, written midnight poetry, called my mom crying over boys, held my girlfriends as they cried, made dinner for the homeless, talked desperate people off terrible ledges, given money to gas-station strangers and car rides to meth addicts.  I’ve looked for the beauty in commonplace scenes and discovered it in human souls.  I’ve got hockey, hipster glasses, and a future in books and beautiful words.

Listen: I’m 29.  I’m eating a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing for lunch.  And I’m not going to gain an ounce from it.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: