Refulgence

January 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Here’s a little secret about me:

I have never felt a strong connection to the feast of Christmas.  I understand the significance of it in my faith, of course, but it’s never given me the same kind of spiritual lift that Holy Week and the Easter feast do.  Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a baby?  Maybe it’s because I’m just so incredibly familiar with the story, it’s hard to make it new again every year?  Or because the older I get, the busier the holiday season becomes, even when I try to keep it simple?  (Everyone’s in town, everyone wants to hang out.  I want to hang out with everyone!  I want to bake cookies, to wrap presents and play all the Christmas carols!)  I don’t know.  Regardless of the reason, the birth of our Lord is a feast I struggle to make holy.  That sounds terrible but it’s true.  Really the only part of Christmas Mass that means something more to me than any other Mass is the second reading.  I was lucky enough to lector at Christmas morning Mass this year, which meant I got to say those words out loud to the congregation.  Hebrews 1:1-4 (emphasis mine):

“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,
who is the refulgence of his glory, 
the very imprint of his being, 
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.  
When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels, as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

Refulgence is defined as “shining brightly, radiant”.  And I love that word.  It’s rich, it’s lavish, it resonates.  I love the idea of the Son shining the glory of God the Father over the earth by His birth.  “The very imprint of his being” is another beautiful phrase, all full of power and emphasis.  Especially for me as a Catholic who believes Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist at each and every Mass, it’s a weighty and phenomenal statement.  The imprint of God’s Being is at Mass, for me to take into myself.

Those are beautiful words, phrases, powerful sentences, and I love them all year round, but they don’t speak “Christmas” to me in a special way.  I just love the beauty and truth of them, the way I love all beautiful true words, the way the prayer “Look not upon our sins, but on the faith of your church” hits me in the gut every single Mass, and I always, always think of those I love who have fallen away from their faith, yet who still have that indelible mark of Baptism upon their soul.  Look not upon their sins, I pray every Mass, but see my faith, here it is, as small and weak and fragile as it is, it’s here.  Let my faith protect them.  What are we but oblations, after all?  Sacrificial love made real in our daily lives.  An offering in spirit and truth.

I’m getting off-topic.  I began re-reading Caryll Houselander’s spiritual classic “The Reed of God” again to try to get a little more in tune with the Christmas season.  It contains such moving reflections on Mary, it’s a perfect Advent read.

“He was completely her own, utterly dependent upon her: she was His food and warmth and rest, His shelter from the world, His shade in the Sun. She was the shrine of the Sacrament, the four walls and the roof of His home.”

In regards to Mary and Joseph losing the young child Jesus for three days:

“Christ suffered the sense of the loss of God, of being left, forsaken by God.

Our Lady, therefore, suffered the same thing: the sense of the loss of God.  And of all the sufferings of human nature, this is the most universal and the most purifying.

Therefore she lived through this strange, baffling thing for the love of God and for the love of us; she suffered it in Christ because Christ suffers it in human nature.

We have seen that her “Be it done unto me according to thy word” is uttered again in His “Not my will, but thine be done.”  Just so is her “Son, why hast thou done so to us?” repeated in His “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Everyone experiences this sense of the loss of the Divine Child.”

She talks of Mary’s sacrificial life, of idols, grace, emptiness and faith.  She says in regards to speaking with people caught in sin:

“We should never come to a sinner without the reverence that we would take to the Holy Sepulchre. Pilgrims have travelled on foot for years to kiss the Holy Sepulchre, which is empty. In sinners we can kneel at the tomb in which the dead Christ lies.”

And in regards to the times in our life when we are seeking God and cannot find Him:

“He goes away that we may seek Him.  The sense of loss, the awareness of insufficiency, makes us long for Him as He is; it makes us willing to go out from ourselves and find Him where He is.

He wants us to seek, because he wants to give Himself to us.  It is an experience like the experience of emptiness: the emptiness must be there that He may fill it; and we must be aware of it in order that we may want Him to fill it.”

I love Caryll Houselander for the same reason I love Emily Dickinson: because they both possess a strikingly paradoxical way of writing about the loveliness and drudgery of life.  Mysticism and the matter-of-fact combined.  Her words paint a picture of the toil of daily life limned with the grace of Christ, refulgent with His presence.  And so perhaps Christmas is real to me after all, because these words bring Christ fully into my world, enfleshed in the souls around me.  I see Him not just in the faces I love, but in all I encounter: in the utterly familiar faces of my family, the faces of all my friends near and far, in a dear face now lost to me, in the homeless men on the Square, the drunken girl at the bar, the irritable couple at table 43, the refugees in the news, in all the faces of humanity, I see His face. His humanity.  Every time I stop seeing someone as merely an object, and instead view Christ in them, He is born to me again in the flesh.  In this way, I receive the gift of Christmas every day.

 

“The gift of Christ’s Body makes everyone a priest; because everyone can offer the Body of Christ on the altar of their own life.

But the offering must be the offering of a human being who is intensely alive, a potent humanness, great sorrow and great joy, a life lit up with the flame of Love, fierce fasts and thirsts and feasts of sheer joy. […]

It is not in making our flesh unfeeling that we hallow God’s name on earth but in offering it to God burning with the flame of life.  Everything can be put into the fire that Christ came to kindle; and whether it be the bitter wood of sorrow or the substance of joy, it will burn upwards with the same splendor of light.”

 

The Reed of God

 

Here’s To You, Girls

March 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

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.

2014: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

December 31, 2014 § 2 Comments

The lessons of this past year were many, and most of them were a struggle.  It’s been a year of upheaval and sorrow and loneliness.  Changes, so many changes both good and bad, like that of a bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fierce east wind that blew through my life with reckless disregard for my love of the familiar.  Two close relatives, my cousin Christin and my niece Cecilia, passed away within a span of a year.  I ended my six-year relationship in February.  I couldn’t pray.  I cried in a lot of different people’s arms, in an embarrassing amount of public places, very much at the drop of a hat.  But I also picked myself back up.  I remembered how to pray through daily Mass.  I healed, I laughed again, I took road trips, I dated a little bit.  I can’t say it was a good year, but here at the end I find myself in a place familiar after all: waiting for God, desiring to love Him, trying to make sense of these lessons.

Kindness
If there is anything this past year has taught me, it’s the intrinsic value of kindness.  My post about baby Cecilia’s death was the second most-read post on my blog ever, and so many people came up to me and said they read it and told me how sorry they were and that they were praying for my family.  Those kind and simple statements meant so much to me.  I can think of no better encomium than to be described as a kind person.  I went back to the foundation of who I am during 2014: the girl who reads, the girl who bakes, the girl who prays, writes, dances by herself, makes awful puns.  These are things that will never change about me.  In 2015, I just want to work on being kind.  At the end of next year, I want to be able to say that kindness is a quality that will never change about me.  Not my wit, it’s a fast & fleeting thing. Not my mind, which may one day fail me, nor my body, which will one day definitely fail me, but my heart.  And I want my heart to be kind.

Loneliness
The things I want are good things, strong and true things: love that lasts, marriage, children.  Wanting to know the future is a human trait, and although we know we can’t, we still yearn for it. I just want to know that my future holds more than this struggle, more than the selfishness of wanting what I do not have, the regrets of the past. I see my friends writing living epistles, reading their futures in the faces of their children, and my heart is lonely.

Bitterness & Regret
Yes, 2014 was the year I learned the truth about these things.  I never knew how bitterness and regret could grow so entwined inside me, slowly and insidiously.  It’s the memories, you see.  The sense of what was unfairly lost to me.  The simple joy of Red Barn.  Family.  Old and new friends.  Certain songs.  A future I’d imagined for years.  But how do you regret the past without feeling like you’re wishing it away?  Even if I wanted to, I can’t wish it had never happened, that I didn’t have these memories.  How could I, when they and the people in them made me who I am today?  Salt and earth.  Regret and bitterness.  At times they have seemed to me like a snake eating its own tail, coiled around my heart.  Where did it begin?  Where does it end?

Forgiveness & Strength
It ends at forgiveness, that mighty sword.  It ends when the woman crushes the head of the snake with her heel, and what is her heel?  Her Fiat.  Her Yes, her humility, her obedience to the will of God.  Mary is our shining example, our beautiful strong mother, and where does she get her strength?  From all the things the world says we should despise.  Meekness is not weakness, it’s strength in the form of sacrifice.  To follow Jesus, I have to love others more than myself, and to love them, I need to forgive them, and to forgive them, I need to be strong, and to be strong, I need to be humble, because humility comes from stripping down to the essentials and strength is impossible without this foundation.  Such is the paradox of faith.

Love 
People have told me a lot of good things about myself over the course of 2014, trying to be kind and to help me figure myself out, but the one that keeps coming back to me right now was something my brother’s girlfriend said to me after the guy I was dating in October and November broke it off.  Christina was on the phone with me as I drove home from Phoenixville, and she said, “Rose, I know it hurts, because you have so much love within you and you want someone to see that.  Give it to your family and friends right now.  It’s not wasted.”  It seems like a simple enough statement but it really hit me then.  Nothing we do in love is wasted.  It might not seem like it is doing much, just the day-to-day routine of being a good sister, a loving daughter, a firm friend, but love is like grace: invisible, intangible in itself, but made clear by actions.  If I can, by the suffering and trials and roller coaster ride of this past year, figure out a little bit more about love, how to selflessly give it, and how to gratefully receive it, and how to grow in it, then 2014 will have proved itself beautiful.

What hold you, 2015?  A bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fresh west wind, alive with hope.  And my pet rats, of course.

Bl. John Paul II’s Prayer for Life

January 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

I thought it would be fitting, on this 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade law, to post the prayer written by Pope John Paul II, at the end of his Evangelium Vitae encyclical.  This prayer has been hanging on a wall in my family’s home for as long as I can remember.  I think I have it memorized without ever taking the time to actually memorize it.  Let’s all pray it together and end abortion in our time.

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,

Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life.

Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers

of babies not allowed to be born,

of the poor whose lives are made difficult,

of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,

of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son

may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love

to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel

as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude

throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it

resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will,

the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God,

the Creator and lover of life.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of John Paul II’s Pontificate.

Evangelium Vitae

Our Duty and Our Salvation

October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Back around the end of August, I subscribed to the Magnificat.  For those unaware, the Magnificat is a prayer guide that has morning prayers, Mass prayers, and evening prayers in it.  From their site:

“Magnificat is a lavishly printed, easy-to-read pocket-sized worship aid, of more than 400 pages.  Magnificat can be used to follow the daily Mass and can also be read at home for personal or family prayer.  This monthly liturgical prayer book provides a fitting way to enter fully into the Church’s liturgical rhythms and spiritual legacy.” 

Because I had placed my order as September was beginning, the first one I received was for October, so I’ve been patiently waiting for this month to roll around for more reasons than just my love of autumn.  Well, I am pleased to say that it’s only 9 days into the month and I already love my Magnificat.  One of my favorite things so far is reading the Canticle of Zechariah each morning, especially these lines:

 There’s just something inspiring about reading a line about “the dawn from on high” just as the sun is breaking over the hills outside my apartment.  I can’t really explain the feeling, except to say it’s the sychronicity, the tradition, that is one of my most loved attributes of our Church: the knowledge of continuation, the ability to be unchanging, steadfast as dawn rises and comes and departs, for time immemorial.  There’s a simple poetry to the knowledge that even as I am, men and women all over the world are welcoming the dawn with the same words, spoken in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Whether they are kneeling in the solitude and dimness of a convent or monastery morning, or, like my mother, waiting for their children to wake up and begin the school day, or like me, sitting on my bed before work with one or two pet rats bouncing around my feet, the people of the Church are praying together.

Another reason I’m loving the Magnificat is that I feel like it’s drawing me closer to Mary, the Blessed Mother.  To the left of this text is the beautiful Marian antiphon that I say every night as the closing prayer.  (And I’m not just partial to it because it has my name in it!)  I call Danny before I recite the evening prayers, which means that these are usually the last words I speak aloud before I fall asleep.  What a wonderful way of praising the Mother of Christ!  In the evening prayer, instead of the Canticle of Zechariah, we pray the Magnificat, the prayer after which this book was named.  Mary’s Magnificat, found in Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 1, Verse 46), is one of my favorite prayers in the Bible.

I suppose I should put in a disclaimer that there are days when I am human and don’t feel like saying the prayers (GASP!).  However, I’ve been buoyed up in faith over the past few weeks due to a couple occurrences, some of which are private and I will only say this: if you are doubting that there is any goodness remaining in the heart of man, have faith!  You never know when kindness will manifest itself to you in the most unexpected and delightful ways.  I can tell you about one of the reasons though.  My ratties are all healthy again!  I was really worried about them for a few weeks because they seemed lackluster and not their usual bouncy selves.  After an expensive trip to the vet, where he said they were bug-free and not sick, I was still worried.  My ratties just didn’t seem ‘right’.  Before spending more money I didn’t have at the vet, I decided to take my rats to the annual pet blessing at our church, and to pray a novena to St. Francis in honor of his feast day on October 4th and because he is the patron saint of animals.  Just a few days into the novena, the worrisome red spots on their skin disappeared and they are acting 100% healthy again!  I’ve had my four little guys for over a year now (and they were with Danny for almost a year before that) and so I know them well.  They seem so much better than just a few weeks ago.  And although my weak words can’t describe what faith my heart holds, I know St. Francis blessed them and is smiling down on them.

Pray novenas for your special intentions, people!!

“Being A Catholic Today”

July 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday, July 18th, my parish of St. Faustina’s held a day of mission and praise: Rejoice, Revive, Reunite.  We celebrated Mass, had Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, praise and worship music by Full Armor Band, prayer with people, witness talks, and a bunch of other stuff.  It was an amazing day.  So many people in my church worked together to make it happen and the Holy Spirit was definitely at work throughout the events.  I had the privilege of giving one of the witness talks, about being a Catholic in today’s culture.  At first, I was a little daunted because that’s a large topic and I only had 10 minutes, but in the end my homeschool writing experience kicked in and I narrowed it down to what I felt was really important to my experience as a Catholic.  Some people asked me to post on it on my blog afterwards, so here you go!  I’ve tried to make it as close to what I actually said last night as possible.  Of course, I rambled on a few tangents, but I think it’s about 99% accurate.  I hope you all enjoy it because it comes straight from my heart.

              “Being a Catholic today is the best part of me, the solid foundation underneath my feet.  But it could also remind me of that line by Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Our culture today is not an easy one to live your faith in, by any means.  Authentic Catholicism does not happen without sacrifice.  But you can find joy in the sacrifice.  That’s what I’ve realized over the past few years.  The joy and the suffering, the sacrifices and the answered prayers, they all balance out into a fulfilling, authentic faith.  Balance is what I want to focus on in my short time up here.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that being a Catholic in today’s world requires a careful balance between what I’d like to abbreviate as: contemplation and education.  By contemplation, I mean having a personal relationship with Jesus.  Prayer.  The sacraments.  You need that.  That’s what faith is.  And by education, I mean knowing what your faith requires of you, and why.  I don’t think you can have one without the other.  So that, to me, is a big issue of ‘being Catholic today’.  Obviously, I can’t cover everything now, but here’s my best shot:

                To begin, in the interest of full disclosure, my relationship with Jesus was not always as in-depth as I strive for now.  For years, my faith was a basic one.  I went to church, read my Bible, and believed what I was taught. I knew Jesus was real- I experienced Him and the Holy Spirit through prayers and the sacraments- but there was not the, as Pope Benedict calls it, “full, active, and conscious participation” that should have been.  It was more of a faith based on emotions.  I felt Christ when my friends and I were on retreats and singing praise & worship songs at the top of our lungs, but a week later on a Tuesday morning when I didn’t want to do math homework, nope, didn’t feel as Christ-like then.   

                But gradually, as I matured, left school, and interacted more and more with the secular world, through my jobs and people who became my friends, I realized, I needed to know more.  I wasn’t just spending time with members of a Catholic community any more, I was out in the world.  To me, it felt like I was suddenly in the front lines of a battle without even realizing it.  And I needed to know enough to defend my faith.  That’s when my relationship with Jesus began to grow.  At first it was a search for truth, more than anything.  I found several amazing Catholic websites and blogs that I started following online, and I participated more in the wonderful events we have here at our parish.  And, of course, I read.  I read GK Chesterton, I read St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy, I read the Pope’s homilies and speeches online, and of course I read my Bible.  I wanted to be able to stand up for the Church I loved when people confronted me on topics such as abortion, the sex abuse scandals, gay marriage, and all those other media hot-button issues that people just love to throw at you and expect a ‘sound bite’ answer.  They seem to have the idea that to be a practicing Catholic means you have every tenet of the faith memorized and understood.  Far from it, though!  At 21 years old, when I really started this journey, I had barely tapped the surface of even the most basic Catholic teachings.  A church that has been around for over 2000 years garners a lot of study material.  Before I get too distracted with that, though, it was this search for knowledge that caused me to deepen my own, personal relationship with Jesus.  Again, this is the point I want to make with my witness: that being a Catholic today calls for both a personal relationship with Christ, and a deeper knowledge of the faith you profess at Mass.  This is what is happening to me.  When I read about Jesus, and I defend Him, and I believe in Him, it makes me love Him even more because I see the truth that He proclaims, the Truth that He IS.  “The way, the truth, and the life”.   Recently beatified Cardinal John Newman said, “Heart speaks unto heart”, and that is what is happening to me.   I learn more about my faith in Christ and Christ deepens his call to my heart.  I’ve started going to Mass on my lunch break at work when I can, I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy frequently, and I try to read my Bible and pray every night before bed.  I especially enjoy Eucharistic Adoration.  I have found the Sacraments contain such graces for my spiritual life.  Mass is a gift and I try to approach it every single time like a new gift.  I’ve even ‘tried’ to appreciate Confession, instead of being embarrassed and thinking, man I can’t wait for this to be over!  I go in humble and seeking not only forgiveness, but counsel. 

                The funny thing about “being a Catholic today”, is that my search for knowledge of Christ through his Church seems contradictory.  This feeling of contradiction comes from the realization that the more I know about my faith and the better equipped I am to share it, the more I realize that some parts of faith just cannot be explained.  There are no words to describe them.  There is a reason why we call it the ‘mystery of faith’.  I could stand here and talk about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for days on end, but what could my feeble human words ever do to actually describe them?  I can be able to discuss and defend the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist and Baptism, on Jesus fully human and yet fully God, and Mary, Virgin yet Mother of God.  I can memorize encyclicals and teachings, the catechism, the words of the saints.  But at the end of the day, when I kneel there at Mass and see Christ made present on the altar, I can’t describe that to another person.  There are no words.  Again, I am reminded of Cardinal Newman’s words: Heart speaks unto heart.  Some things you can’t evangelize.  For some things, you just have to pray.  That’s one of the reasons I realized that prayer is so incredibly important to keep your balance in being Catholic.  I’ve tried to develop the habit of keeping a conversation going with God in my heart quite frequently.  When I’m driving in my car, or at work eating my lunch, or any time when I find myself silent, I try to speak to God about simple things, just in a way to bring Him more fully into my day.  That way, when I’m out at a bar with friends, or at a hockey game, or some other noisy activity, I’ll have that conversation in my heart for when I get quiet.  It’s my little way of bringing God into everything that I do.  And I do believe you can pray in a bar!  It’s not the place I’d pick for deep contemplation, obviously, but let me tell you, you’d be surprised at the number of deep theological discussions me and my friends here have had down at Tommyboys, or at my house over a cold beer.  It’s all about that balance.

             Pope St. Pius the 10th said: “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.”  That quote sums up what my point in this witness is.  We need prayer and the sacraments, like Mass, in our life to build our relationship with Christ.  And we should educate ourselves about our church in order to better understand prayer and the sacraments.  You can’t have one without the other.  This, to me, is what being Catholic today is all about: Living our vocations, defending our Church, and growing closer to God through our every action.” 

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. 
Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea.” 
Psalm 46

“I say I will not mention him; I will no longer speak in his name. 
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”
Jeremiah 20:9

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!

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