The End of All Things

April 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ok, so it’s not really the end of ALL things.  It’s just that my Lenten fasts were officially over as of Easter Sunday.  I can listen to music once again!  For those not familiar, I routinely give up listening to music at home, in my car, and at my desk at work for Lent.  It’s terrible.  It’s honestly torturous at times and that’s why I do it every year.  I try to use the quiet time in my car to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the Rosary, and at work, I just try to work harder to keep my mind occupied and off the ‘dead air’.  Every year is just as much of a sacrifice as the last time.  And it doesn’t get easier as the weeks go by because I can’t avoid music entirely.  I still hear it in almost all public settings.  Which means I’m more likely to have a song I hate stuck in my head rather than one I like and have been listening to.  Aghh, even just thinking about it now is frustrating!

Breathe, Rose… Breathe and listen to the beautiful strains of Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings soundtrack wafting into my ears.  Because, yes that’s right, when I haven’t listened to music for 40 days, the absolute first CD I shove into my computer is the soundtrack to a fantasy epic.  (For those of you keeping score at home, my favorite is The Fellowship of the Ring, but I have all three.)  I wasn’t sure why I was craving this type of music so much as my fast drew to a close, but you know, I think I may have figured it out.  And it doesn’t have anything to do with me being a nerd. 

(Just stay with me here; I’m about to ramble before I get to my point.)  I love Holy Week music.  From the Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday night to the stunning Exsultet at the Easter Vigil Mass and the bells ringing throughout the entire Gloria of Easter Mass, Holy Week has the best music ever.  At the Cathedral Mass for Palm Sunday, we sing:

O sacred Head, surrounded by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding Head, so wounded, reviled and put to scorn!
Death’s pallid hue comes over Thee, the glow of life decays,
yet angel hosts adore Thee and tremble as they gaze.

On Holy Thursday, we sing Pange Lingua Gloriosi as the tabernacle is left empty, the altar stripped.  As we sing of His glory, we prepare for His death.   Pange Lingua is translated into:

Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King…



Good Friday draws near to us and we behold the Mother of Christ at the foot of the Cross.  Her fidelity to her Son is a gift to us and we sing her sorrow in the Stabat Mater:

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, the whole church waits in hushed darkness until the shimmering glow of a hundred candles, grasped by the hands of the faithful who await light and redemption, spreads and overtakes the night.  While flame-lit shadows flicker and blur, we listen to the proclamation of our joy, our Savior’s Resurrection, in the Exsultet:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

…O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

 

This music is beautiful in the extreme.  I am not a musically talented person in the least, but this music moves me.  It sings words of truth and therefore words of power.  It is solemn, sorrowing, hushed, and then it is joyous, jubilant, it resounds with its knowledge of redemption.  There is strength and glory after the death and desolation.  I hear it and I am lifted up, I resonate.  I don’t want pop starlets auto-tuning themselves into robots; I don’t want violence and drugs in rapped verses or screaming guitar solos, I don’t want trite cliches and first kisses and high school romances.  During Holy Week, I have been fed the musical power of truth, and what is insipid tastes weak and flavorless.

And that’s why, after six weeks of no personal music, I reach for what inspires me, not what merely entertains me.  I listen to The Lord of the Rings music and let the magic of the story enchant me again.  I am with Frodo as he reaches out in anguish for a fallen Gandalf; I am wide-eyed and silenced as the allure of Lothlorien steals into my being.  I feel the breath of the Black Riders on my neck as I panic and flee with Merry, Pip, Frodo, and Sam.  I leap with the Fellowship across the sky-high tumbling towers of stone in Khazad-Dum.  I rejoice in the simplicity and goodness of Hobbiton, the fertile fields and humble workers.  I hear Aragorn’s voice in my head, calling me before the Black Gate to stand up, to fight for “all that you hold dear on this good earth”.  These songs ring through with a call to courage and truth. They mean something.  After giving it up all Lent, I want my music to mean something to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like my entertainment.  I’m sure in a few days, I’ll be queuing up my much-loved Dashboard Confessional and Brand New playlists, or maybe my favorite country hits.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Right now, though, I’m not ready to sink back down to earth.  I’m still elevated from Holy Week, a plane above the norm.  I think that’s why I want The Lord of the Rings music.  It reminds me of Holy Week: Epic and amazing.  Uplifting.  Harrowing.

 

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Palm Sunday, Philly, Food, Features

April 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

 For Palm Sunday (a poem I have deeply loved ever since I had to read it for my Seton home-schooling program):

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

G.K. Chesterton

Recap of Philly weekend!  I must say that my favorite part of visiting a big city is always the food.  I love to eat and I usually don’t hesitate to try new dishes.  This weekend in Philly absolutely lived up to my high food expectations.  On Saturday night, we opted for a frugal Vietnamese meal at Pho Ha.  Jaci wanted to introduce us to pho

It is a dish of broth with rice noodles, meat (usually beef)  and different herbs.  It was very good!  Danny spiced his pho up by adding some sriracha and I added some Thai basil and bean sprouts.  The broth was delicious and cured my sore throat as if by magic.  (Funny side story: the Vietnamese restaurant was in a little shopping plaza, right next to a pharmacy.  When we got out of Jaci’s car, I looked up at what I assumed was the restaurant window and saw a sign saying “Doctor on Premises”!  For a few seconds, I panicked.  Then I saw the pharmacy sign and realized I was looking at the wrong window.  Thank goodness.)

On Sunday morning, Danny and I went to Mass at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, right in the heart of Philadelphia.  It’s a breathtaking basilica.  I could’ve kicked myself though, because I left my cell phone at Jaci’s apartment. (I try not to bring it to church with me ever because I have this irrational fear that even if I silence it or even turn the power off, somehow, some way it’s still going to ring right in the middle of the Consecration!)  I then realized I had no way of taking pictures.  So I have no pictures of the Cathedral, but if you ever get the chance to go there, do it.  Cardinal Rigali said the Palm Sunday Mass.  We started outside for the opening Rite and then processed inside, singing All Glory, Laud, and Honor (one of my favorites).  When it came time for the Gospel narrative of the Passion, three priests stood and chanted the entire thing!  I have never been to a Mass where the Passion narrative was chanted.  I’ll be honest and admit at the beginning I was a little daunted, thinking “whoa they aren’t going to chant this whole thing, are they?”  And they did.  And it was really beautiful.  (Full disclosure:  I love chant, so most of my original dismay stemmed from the knowledge that I was wearing three and a half inch heels!  I will always be found wearing dressy clothes to Mass and for me, that means high heels.)  The recessional hymn was O Sacred Head, Surrounded.  As the Cardinal walked by, he was smiling and blessing all the pews.  I couldn’t help it, I just started grinning uncontrollably.  I don’t really know how to explain what I was feeling.  I always wish I could tell priests after Mass how happy and grateful I am for them.  They bring Christ to me.  But it was more than that.  I read all the time about persecution of the Church and religion in general, and I know how tirelessly our good priests work for Jesus.  I just wanted to show him how much I appreciated his blessing.  I don’t even know if that makes sense.  Anyway, then we went to brunch!

Brunch was at a little place called Sabrina’s Cafe.  The food was fantastic!  I got a special of pancakes with apple-ginger crumbles on top and a dried fig and apricot syrup.  They fairly melted in my mouth.  Danny and Jaci got French toast and Dave had Eggs Benedict.  I had multiple bites of Danny’s (pictured) bananas and cream cheese French toast.  (Stole a banana too, when he wasn’t looking!)  Okay now I have to stop talking about the food because I’m starving.

Here is a linkfest extravaganza for your browsing delight:

Two things from Father Z’s blog:  He posted a note to priests by Fulton Sheen.   “Blessed is he who in spite of inner questionings and frustrations, still sees no hope for the future except in getting closer to Christ.”    He also led me to this historical website, the Civil War Daily Gazette, which I think is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in awhile!  The Civil War is at its 150th year anniversary and the website brings you news of what happened in the Civil war every day on that day.  Check it out!  I’m a big fan of history and have been to Gettysburg several times.

Here is a link to a post by The Anchoress, another one of my favorite Catholic blogs.  In it, she speaks eloquently of the Blessed Mother in her role as the Church’s day-to-day Mother. “She is here, now, the approachable Mother to whom countless parents and children turn when –- exasperated or undone by human relations –- they need a wise mother in whom to confide. But her answer is always the same, “Do whatever HE tells you . . .” ” This is only a small sample, please do go read the rest.  It’s really amazing.

3 links from Zenit, because I can’t ever get enough of Papa Benedict’s wisdom!  Here, speaking about how “Annoyance With Religion Doesn’t Justify Abuse“.  He says: “The fact that in some realms there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor, even annoying, does not justify trying to marginalize it, at times through denigration, ridicule, discrimination and even indifference in face of incidents of clear profanation, which violate the fundamental right of religious liberty inherent to the dignity of the human person,” he said.  In recent weeks in Spain, chapels on university campuses have been the site of profanation or anti-religious demonstrations…”

Here our Holy Father talks about St. Therese of the Child JesusStory of a Soul,” in fact, is a marvelous history of Love, recounted with such authenticity, simplicity and freshness, before which the reader cannot but be fascinated! But, what was this Love that filled Thérèse’s whole life, from her childhood to her death? Dear friends, this Love has a Face, it has a Name, it is Jesus!”

Pope Benedict speaks of another great saint, and a Doctor of the Church: St. Alphonsus Liguori: “…St. Alphonsus proposes a balanced and convincing synthesis between the demands of God’s law, sculpted in our hearts, revealed fully by Christ and interpreted authoritatively by the Church, and the dynamics of man’s conscience and his liberty, which precisely by adherence to truth and goodness allow for the maturation and fulfillment of the person.”

Have I mentioned it’s playoff hockey time and I’m crazy super excited??  Some bullet points about hockey:

  • Pittsburgh is currently up 2-1 in their series and Chris Kunitz has been suspended for 1 game due to elbowing Simon Gagne in the head.  Game 4 is tonight.
  • Game 4 of the WBS Pens series, which is at 2-1 Norfolk, is also tonight.  We need some offense in Norfolk tonight!
  • I’m interested to see how the Kings/Sharks series plays out, if only because I’ve always had a soft spot for scrappy young goaltenders and LA’s Jonathan Quick certainly fits the bill.
  • I intensely dislike Flyers fans.  Seriously, get out of my Facebook feed.  You’re never around in the regular season and then the playoffs start and suddenly everyone’s a Flyers devotee.  Urghh.
  • And I miss Sidney Crosby.  That’s about all on the hockey front.

I’m desperately searching for new books to read.  Fiction, that is.  I have plenty of non-fiction books lined up.  I’ve been really into fantasy lately, like  with dragons and wars and magic, etc.  That’s why I’m reading The Kingkiller Chronicles.  Extremely well-written and totally cool fantasy world.   I just like to read.  Too much.  Any recommendations for new fiction are welcome!

I have a post with pictures still in the works.  Soon, my friends!

A New Name and Look

April 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

I hope you guys all enjoy the new blog title and format!  I am trying to work out any kinks in the new formatting, such as some pictures being cut off.  I should have it all squared away soon.  Not too soon though, because I’m leaving for Philly tonight!  Danny and I are going down for a weekend visit to see Jaci.  I’m very excited, becasue I haven’t seen my Frac since before Christmas.  Truly, terrible.  In the midst of the weekend, I will also be attending my cousin Erica’s bridal shower!  She’ll be a June bride and I couldn’t be happier for her and Brian, her awesome fiancé.      

I had a recommendation from Billy, the chef at the Café, about Monk’s Café in Philly.  Apparently, they have very good Belgian beer (for Danny) and great food (for me!).  I checked out their menu and was particularly interested in the smoked trout appetizer and the grilled rack of lamb entrée.  We’ve done smoked trout at the Café before and it was extremely delicious.  And I’ve loved lamb for as long as I can remember.  The lamb at Monk’s Café says it’s done with an Old Ale shallot sauce.  Mmmm…  We’ll probably try to get sushi somewhere as well, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Philly without a stop at the Reading Terminal Market.  On Sunday morning, Danny and I are going to Mass at the Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul.  If we can get up in time, we’ll go to the 9:30 regular Mass, but if one of us (him) is lazy, we might end up at the 11 AM Latin Mass!!  Oh my.  I love me some Latin in the Mass.  Now that I have a smartphone with a great camera, expect lots of pictures from the weekend and definitely some of the Basilica! 

In non-related news, Pittsburgh won the opening game of their first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury got the shutout and looked sensational doing it.  If you have an interest, check out the blind leg save he made on Ryan Malone in the first period.  Amazing.  The second game’s tonight.  I couldn’t be more excited.  Playoff hockey is the reason I love this sport.  I don’t get a boulder in my stomach during regular season games.  Some people complain about the length of hockey playoffs, with the 7 game series setup, but I love it.  Playoff hockey is everything that’s right about the sport, simplified and incredibly intense.  I want to watch as much of it as possible.   

Final news item of note, the rats are staying at my house for the weekend.  Danny isn’t going to be around to feed them, so the duty falls to my siblings.  I have full confidence that Greg and Pete will not allow the cats to eat the rats.  Some may say I am going against nature here, but I figure this is good penance for the cats.  I haven’t noticed them giving up naptime in the sunlight for Lent or Fancy Feast Kitty treats either!  They can just ignore the temptation of three juicy, glossy pet rats in their home for a few days.  I’m calling it: “Three Days of Fasting and Abstinence: Feline Edition”.  Enjoy this video of Mervy Rat getting a little too close to the edge of the cage!

Ps- I have a new post with pictures in the works.  It’s turning out to be harder to write than I anticipated.  I want to make it good.  Therefore, patience, friends.

A Sign of Contradiction

April 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

When I stumbled upon this great blog post by Julie Robison (courtesy of this post at Catholic Vote), I immediately sympathized with her.  You see, Julie’s post is about picking a saint for your patron for 2011.  Jennifer Fulweiler at the Conversion Diary coded a program that randomly generates a saint for you!  Julie blogged about her generated saint, St. Hyacinth, and how she’d… well, never heard of him.  Yet after a little research, she realized there was a rather awesome connection between her and this seemingly obscure saint. 

I know exactly how she feels.  You see, a month or so ago (back in the beginning of February, I believe) I also saw Jennifer’s saint generator and decided “why not?”  I said a prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance and then clicked.  The generator spun and…

St. Wenceslaus. 

Huh?

Oh yeah.   The Christmas song guy.  St. Wenceslaus.  I immediately Googled him because what else did I know besides the opening line of a Christmas carol that barely anyone sung?  Nothing.  I glossed over some of the profiles of him and felt slightly discouraged (although I’m ashamed to admit it).  I really didn’t see what connection I could make to feel like St. Wenceslaus was a fitting patron saint.  And isn’t that a keen observation of my silly human thinking?  This man was a martyr.  A saint and a martyr!  What else did I really need to know he was a good patron?  Alas, my need for a deeper connection blinded me and I gave a sigh and went back to work.  St. Wenceslaus was shoved in the back of my mind.  A few days later, I was browsing through my RSS feeds and getting angrier by the minute.  I scrolled through some headlines on CatholicVote.org and was so frustrated by the state of politics in America.  The godlessness, the hypocrisy, it was making my skin crawl.  And that’s when it hit me.

St. Wenceslaus lived during a time of great political upheaval.  St. Wenceslaus was martyred for his refusal to give up his faith in politics. 

That was it.  That was all I needed to understand.  St. Wenceslaus has more in common with me than my feeble human mind could have ever imagined.  He had to stand for his beliefs in a time of treachery and betrayal.  Deceit, terror, murder, they were all part of the battles he had to endure.  Over one thousand years later, has anything changed?  My faith is under attack daily, spurned by those who claim to preach ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’ for all, yet deride and mock my own beliefs in the most acrimonious and disgusting terms.  No one may be out to murder me, but what about the countless unborn children that are killed through abortion every year?  Who is standing against the politicians of my time who claim religion is to be hidden, to be kept secret in one’s innermost being?  Wenceslaus was a ruler who proclaimed his faith boldly despite great opposition.  He did not keep it secret, in the “dim recesses of his heart”.  This is an example to be upheld.  The faith in our hearts is to be proclaimed, to be granted dignity and respect, not hidden away.  St. Wenceslaus knew the truth of this.  He was taught his religion by those whom my society scorns: the elderly.   Who are they in today’s world, so many centuries later?  We do not seek their wisdom; we spurn their experience.  We ask only for perfect bodies, youthful faces.  Make my wrinkles disappear, give me firm skin, make me fit into my daughter’s jeans, give me a second adolescence.  Age and frailty are demeaned, termed a life no longer worth living.  Who decides the merits of a life?  Who dares to cast judgment on who lives and who dies?  St. Wenceslaus stood for his Church, his God even unto a martyr’s death.  I will stand for Her too, for the truth She proclaims in the midst of relativism, in the midst of foul slander and deafening silence.  There is truth and St. Wenceslaus knew it.  Men do not offer their lives for things they know are lies.  Real men.  That is what this saint is and that is what I seek.  Men who believe and who are not afraid to believe.  I look to my leaders and I see lies and distortions, men who play games and hide behind rhetoric, not a ruler willing to declare his faith in every act he made, even if it led him to his end, losing his life on a bloody field of snow for his God.  Give me real men.  Give me truth and courage over this mindless morass of greed and arrogance.  Give me a sign of contradiction, a knowledge built on reason and mystery together.  Give me a solid rock, a effervescent grace, a tangible God, an unearthly majesty.  Give me an omnipotent Creator in the heavens and a humble Savior in the palm of my hand.      

St. Wenceslaus is my patron saint for 2011 for a good reason.  I intend to make his intercession count.

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