Emily M. DeArdo

Celebrating Ordinary Joy

Catholic 101: Hail Mary

Catholic 101Emily DeArdo1 Comment

No, not the football play. The woman. 

Some people think Catholics pay too much attention to Mary. But when you understand Mary from a Catholic perspective, you'll see that she deserves it! (I hope....)

We're going to break this up into two parts: One, Mary in our theology, and two, one of the great Catholic prayers--the rosary, which is a devotion to Mary and her Son. Really. I promise. And since October is the month of the rosary, talking about this during the first week of October is fitting. 

So let's get to it. 

At the most basic level: Mary is the mother of Jesus. When she said "Yes" to being God's mother (Lk. 1: 26-38), she became the most special woman in the world! How many other mothers does God have?

She also reversed Eve's disobedience, by being entirely obedient to the plan God had for her. Could Mary have said no? Yes. She had free will, like we all do. But she didn't. She said Yes.

And Jesus came into the world. 

Keep in mind that Jesus is both God and man. He gets his humanity from Mary. That's pretty awesome, right? 

Catholic doctrine holds that Mary was forever a virgin. So Jesus was her only child. We don't know much about her day to day life--the Bible is pretty silent about it. We can guess that she spent her life like most other wives and mothers in Nazareth--taking care of Jesus, taking care of the home, etc. It was a typical life of the people of her era. Of course, Jewish prayer and cultural traditions were vitally important in the home, including Jesus being presented to God in the temple (Lk 2:22-38). The Bible tells us that she and Joseph made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover at least once, when Jesus was twelve. (Lk 2: 41-52)

Tradition holds that Joseph died before Jesus reached manhood, so Mary was a widow when Jesus went to perform his public works for the last three years of his life. But she was present at His Death, where Jesus commended her into the care of the "beloved Apostle", St. John. (John 19:25-30) 

(Incidentally, this is another piece of evidence that Mary didn't have other children; if she had, then it would've been their job to take care of Mary, not John's.) 

Mary was also present on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2) Tradition, again, tells us that she died in Ephesus, in modern day Turkey, and that "Mary's House" can still be found there. 

Raphael, the "Sistine Madonna" 

Raphael, the "Sistine Madonna" 

So these are the basics of Mary's life, as the Bible and Sacred Tradition tell us. And based on all of that, the mother of God's son is a pretty important person, right? 

Catholics also believe two additional things about Mary: 

1) That she was born without original sin--The Immaculate Conception, celebrated Dec. 8 

2) That was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven--The Assumption, celebrated August 15

The first means that, before she was born, when she was conceived in her mother Ann's womb, God preserved her from original sin. That does not mean that she didn't need a savior. Mary was human, and like all humans, needed a savior! It means that God specially created her and prepared her for the role she would play in Salvation History. 

(That doesn't negate the fact that she has free will.)

This doctrine was accepted as far back as the fifth century, according to the documents we have, but was only defined infallibly in 1854. When something is defined as a dogma, it means that Catholics are obliged to believe it. So, since 1854, this has been the case. The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are part of a very small collection of instances of papal infallibility. 

(Side note: A lot of non-Catholics think that we think the pope infallible every time he opens his mouth. Not true.

No, the Immaculate Conception cannot be proven. But last time I checked, we can't prove the Trinity, either. So...

The Assumption refers to the fact that Mary, being sinless at her conception and sinless her entire life, was assumed body and soul into heaven after her death. The idea of the Assumption has been around since the fourth century; the fact that no one has found, or ever noted, where Mary was buried, is another point in the doctrine's favor. If people knew that, there would definitely be a church there, and relics galore. But there's never been any evidence of the grave site. 

The dogmatic declaration of the Assumption only occurred in 1950,  so it's pretty "new" in that sense. But there is evidence that people believed in the Assumption, as I noted, in the early church. 

It's important to note here that Mary is not God.  Mary is very, very special. We do not worship Mary. To Catholics, worship is the Mass. The only person that Mass is offered to is...God. We don't say "Oh, Mary, accept our offering of bread and wine and change them into the body of your son" etc. etc. etc. 

Catholics have worship, but we also have reverence and devotion. We are devoted to Mary because she is the Mother of God. She was human, like us, and she lived through many difficult things: the death of her husband, the death of her son, fleeing her country because a crazy king wanted to kill her son, not to mention having to explain a miraculous conception to her husband. To Catholics, Mary is our mother, and we come to her like we would come to our moms here on Earth. 

Yes, our churches, more often than not, have statues of Mary, and pictures of her. She's one of the most common subjects in the history of art. Yes, we light candles before statues of her and statues of saints. But this isn't worship, to a Catholic. This is piety. This is prayer. We have pictures of her, and Jesus, and Joseph, and the saints, the same way people keep pictures of loved ones in their homes. We love them, and they're our examples and our helpers. When we ask for their prayers, we ask it the same way I would ask you blog readers to pray for me. Just because someone is dead doesn't mean they still don't exist

Mary is God's most brilliant creation. (Jesus doesn't count, because....he's GOD.) But she's also the humble, believing girl from Nazareth. And she loves us all, because we are brothers and sisters of her Son. So Catholics ask us to pray for her, and we honor her with hymns and paintings and feast days. But we don't worship her. She wouldn't want us to! Mary always, always points us to her Son. If we've forgotten about her Son, we're doing it wrong. But Jesus also wants us to remember his mother. It's a two-way thing. She wasn't just the body that bore him and took care of his physical needs. She was his Blessed Mother. 

The Fourth Commandment is "Honor thy father and mother." You can be sure that Jesus fulfilled this perfectly in His life. If we are to follow His example, then we are to honor His father and mother, as well. Being devoted to Mary doesn't mean being less devoted to Jesus. If anything, she brings us always closer to him. 

Next week, when we talk about the rosary, we'll see this practice in action. 



Seven Quick Takes No. 124: Describing Myself in 7 Fictional Characters

7 Quick TakesEmily DeArdo3 Comments

There was a meme on Instagram/Facebook this week, asking you to describe yourself in THREE fictional characters. I found that really difficult, but I did it! But I thought seven might be a more well-rounded image. So, here we go. The first three are obviously the ones I used for the meme. :) 


First up: Rapunzel, from Tangled

Besides the blonde hair (mine was NEVER as epic as hers, however), Rapunzel and I do have a lot in common. We both like to draw, paint, knit, read, and cook. We both love cast-iron skillets. But other than that, we both spent a lot of our lives waiting for something; in my case, waiting for transplant/better health. After my transplant, my life opened up in broad, broad strokes. It's been amazing the things I've done in the last 11 years that I couldn't have imagined in the first twenty-three. Rapunzel's life changes drastically once she gets out of the tower.  We both hesitate over leaving what is safe and known for the unknown (which could be a lot better, or a lot worse). 

We're also obedient. Both of us tend to believe that people want the best for us. We think that people always have good hearts. That's not always true--which we also find out. 

And I'd also like a chameleon as a sidekick. 


Second: Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables

No, I'm not an orphan. But Anne and I are both bubbly, somewhat intense personalities that you either like or you don't.  We both have big imaginations, are fiercely loyal friends, want to be writers, and generally want to make the world a better place. We have tempers! We also don't mind standing up for what we think is right. And we both may be a little bit dramatic. ;-) 

Third: Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

It was actually hard for me to pick one Austen Heroine. You'll see why in a bit. But I'm probably the most like Lizzy. We "take pleasure in many things", we like to laugh (especially about our neighbors' foibles). Wit, common sense, good conversation, and intelligence are important to us (and are to be cultivated in ourselves). We have a somewhat critical view of humanity. We both think that people should be more like us--to the exasperation of others.

 "There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconstancy of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense."
"My dear Lizzy, [said Jane] do not give way to such feelings as these...you do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and temper." 

We are both somewhat quick to judgment, and often have our judgments reversed on closer acquaintance. We also, though, both know what we want, and don't want to settle for anything less than that. 

Fourth: Lady Mary Crawley, Downton Abbey

OK, I realize that Lady Mary is not universally loved. And I will say I would not have made all of her choices (namely, screwing around at the hotel before getting married; Mister Pamuk.....). But that being said, I identify a lot with Mary.

We're both oldest children. We both want to be seen as women of substance, and not just pretty things. We are extremely stubborn and strong-willed. We have definite views of Right and Wrong. We can be a bit blunt. When the chips are down, we step up and do what we have to do to make sure everything comes out right--or at least, that the best possible outcome is achieved. Our softer side can be hard to find. We don't take any nonsense/whining. But sometimes, yeah, we have a little pity party and go up to our rooms. But then we bounce back and proceed to Set Things Right and Move On With Life. 

And sometimes our tempers/feelings get the better of us, and we have Very Bad Moments at the Breakfast Table.

Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor Dashwood

Marianne, Margaret, and Elinor Dashwood

Fifth: Elinor Dashwood, (right) Sense and Sensibility


I'm like Elinor in that I have a practical, logical side. I have an imagination and I like to daydream, but eventually, facts be facts, and we have to deal with them (same as with Lady Mary). Some things I tend to keep bottled up inside me, and I'm good at being in charge, even when I don't want to be. We can both be considered cold, when we're really just being practical/logical, or trying to protect ourselves, in a situation where love might be involved. (Also like Lady Mary. So really, Elinor, Lady Mary, and I could have a party.)   


Sixth: Eowyn, Lord of the Rings

Oh, Eowyn.  A lot of the time I feel like Eowyn is my spirit animal, in a sense. Both of us have been shaped by circumstances we wouldn't have selected. Both of us are brave (but we don't see bravery the same way--she desires great deeds, and I never really had that desire). We both want to prove ourselves to other people, and make people see us. And we will defend our family to the death! (Although I haven't had to prove this yet. Hopefully no Nazguls are waiting outside my door.....) 

Seven: Belle, Beauty and the Beast

Obviously, the book thing. Devotion to family, and a willingness to help them out of tough spots (are you seeing a pattern here?). A craving for adventure and a big life. Temper when roused, and a mind of our own. A willingness to change our minds and opinions if the situation warrants it. A bit of curiosity killed the cat, as a flaw. But knowing what's the right thing to do, and doing it, even when we might not want to do it. 


So those are my seven. Who are yours? 

(honorable mentions: Marianne, Sense and Sensibility; Esther Summerson, Bleak House)

"Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance": Jane Austen and Married Soulmates

Uncategorized, Jane AustenEmily DeArdo2 Comments

"'Well,' said Charlotte, 'I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness, as if she were to be studying his character for a twelve-month. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.'"

--Pride and Prejudice

The idea of "soulmates" is definitely a modern one. For the majority of human history, people viewed marriage under a much less romantic lens. 

This is sort of addendum to a post I wrote yesterday about marriage in the Church; but it's also something I've been thinking about for awhile, ever since I had a conversation with a friend about Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins. 

My friend's position was that Charlotte marrying Mr. Collins was a failing of the book; Why would Charlotte marry a man that she doesn't really like? That's just ridiculous! Jane messed up. 

But what Pride and Prejudice--and to extent, almost all of Jane's books--illustrates is that women didn't, generally, marry for love. It was nice if you could do it. But single women were really limited in what they could do, without a husband. They couldn't own property. They had really no say in a court of law. If they weren't married, their fathers were in charge. If their fathers were dead, then their brothers were in charge. If you did marry for love, you were Super Special--and possibly, super odd. 

Jane knew, very vividly, what this was like. She made the decision not to marry for anything other than love, but that meant that she was at the mercy of her brothers, after her father died. Fortunately, the Austen men were good sorts of men, and took good care of Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother.  They were lucky, and Jane knew it; you can see it in her fiction. The Dashwoods' brother is not nearly as kind to his sisters. 

 Charlotte Lucas is older than Lizzie (who is almost 21), which plays a part in her deciding to marry Mr. Collins. She's probably feeling the need to get married soon, before all the guys are taken. With a husband, she's off her father and brothers' hands. She's provided for; she has some station in the world. Even though she's the daughter of a knight, she won't inherit anything at Lucas Lodge. It will all go to her brothers. Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice both show what happens when an estate is "entailed away from the female line." The reason Mrs. Bennet wants Lizzie to marry Mr. Collins is so the house can stay in the family--when Mr. Bennet dies, as he says, Mr. Collins could "throw [them] all out, if he chooses." Yes, that's right--Mrs. Bennet, and all of her unmarried daughters, would be out of their house, if the new owner so chose to do that. 

Marianne, Elinor, and Margaret Dashwood are essentially being helped by another male relative, Sir John Middleton. The money their father left them and their mother is quite a small sum, and they lost their home, Norland. They weren't poor, but without Sir John's help, they very well might have been. And keep in mind that women couldn't really "earn" a living. Look at Miss Bates in Emma. She and her mother aren't Dickensian, but they're also not really genteel, either. They're poor enough that Emma takes them food and clothes and things like that. 

Fanny Price's family could be Dickensian. They are very clearly poor. Her father wastes any money he gets, and it's only because Mrs. Price begs her sister, Lady Bertram, to take Fanny, that Fanny has any chance. Mrs. Price "married for love", and it's not a recommendation she makes to her daughter. She would like to see Fanny marry Henry Crawford. 

In Jane Austen's England, love was a secondary question.  It's lucky that all of Jane's heroines do end happily--but the risk of that not happening is very close, all the time. None of them, except Emma, is independently wealthy. Emma is the only one who could really choose to stay single. Marianne, Margaret, Elinor, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, Fanny, Harriet, and Anne all have to either get married, or be dependent on the whims of their male relations. 

Emma and Sir John Knightley

Emma and Sir John Knightley

It's important, when reading Jane, or the Brontes,  Dickens, or even Outlander, to remember that their world is not our world. There was a very different code that governed lives and society.  In Outlander, Jamie says that a good husband is one who doesn't beat or starve his wife. That's what's a "good" husband in 18th century Scotland is. Jane Eyre's pluck is sort of risky--she could very easily have alienated, instead of entranced, Mr. Rochester. And if Lizzy and Darcy's feelings for each other hadn't changed, Lizzy would've been in a pickle, as she says, somewhat laughingly, to Jane: "I may in time meet with another Mr. Collins!" 

There's also the question of class, which is raised in P&P. "He is a gentleman, I am a gentleman's daughter, thus far we are equal," Lizzy says to Lady Catherine near the end of P&P. "But who is your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts?" Lady C shoots back. Lizzie's father may be a gentleman, but the fact that her one uncle is a lawyer, and one is in trade, doesn't bode well for Lizzie's social standing. 

In an "ideal" marriage, everything would match--fortune, social standing, breeding, etc. That doesn't mean that they'll be happy together; look at Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. But the important thing to remember is that the idea of "soulmates" isn't something that was common for most of human history, as we can see in the history of the period, as well as in the fiction. 

Edmund and Fanny 

Edmund and Fanny 




Catholic 101: Matrimony

Catholic 101, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Here we are, the last entry in the sacraments series! Yay! (OK, that's probably what y'all are saying.....:-P)

Matrimony is, after baptism, probably the most "secular" sacrament. What do I mean by that? 

People will have their babies baptized/dedicated/christened, even if they're not religious people. When I saw the latest Bridge Jones movie, I noticed that all the characters had their babies christened (Bridget remarks that she has tons of godchildren), even if the characters, themselves, were not extremely churchgoing, pious folk. It's like the thing you do. You have a baby, you christen it. That's that. 

Marriage is very similar to this. I've been to weddings where people church-shopped beforehand, looking for a "pretty" place to get married--not because they, themselves, were extremely devout, but, you know, one gets married in a church. (And, needless to say, a PRETTY church.) 

On the face of it, marriage is easy to explain. Man, woman. Vows. Rings. Consummation. Marriage!

Um....well, sort of. 

In the Catholic church, marriage is for life. Meaning, you don't get divorced because of "irreconcilable differences." That does not mean, however, that if you're married to an addict, or an abuser, that you need to stay in the marriage. We aren't idiots and we're not ridiculous. But anything short of serious issues isn't grounds for annulment. I'm not a canonist, and I don't play one on TV, so I don't know all the ins and outs of annulment. However, there are appropriate reasons to get one. And that isn't the same as divorce. An annulment means that there was some impediment that existed, which kept the marriage from becoming sacramentally valid. (I think. If I'm wrong, I'm sure one of my clergy readers will tell me.and indeed, one has! See note at the end!) 


So, marriage. Man, woman. Priest. MARRIAGE PREP. 

Since marriage is for life, the church does its utmost best to ensure that he couple is aware of issues that could arise, and that they know how they want to deal with said issues. The infamous "survey" that you have to fill out--it's hundreds of questions--during marriage prep is meant to do that. The Church doesn't want to marry couples where the parties involved have no idea how the other feels on raising the kids, finances, how to resolve arguments, etc. The Church wants to prepare you. This is done in two ways--one, by meeting several times with the priest who will marry the couple, and two, by Pre-Cana.

I have been in nine weddings, and attended almost 20. I'm sort of a wedding pro. My brother, who has stats to rival my own (his might be even better....he's been in a LOT of weddings) and I should just open a wedding consultancy. BUT.....

however much the wedding prep is fun ("Beige roses, or ivory roses?  Do we want Bach or Purcell for the processional? WHAT COLOR WILL THE TABLECLOTHS BE?!"), it's not the point. You don't get married to throw a big party. You get married because you want to spend your life with this person, you love this person, and you are going to grow in holiness with this person. 

The Anglican rite actually does a good job talking about this, as illustrated in the ONLY Pride and Prejudice

"Reverently, soberly...." etc. 

A  lot of people today aren't doing this reverently and soberly. 

So in the Church, we try to keep it that way. 

An interesting bit about the sacrament is that the priest doesn't, technically, marry the people. Remember how we've been talking about matter and form? In matrimony, the form is the exchange of vows. The matter is the people--the man and the woman--and for a marriage to be valid, it needs to be consummated. Yes, that's right. 

SEX, people.

If you're an Outlander fan, you remember that Dougal said he wanted "this marriage consummated with no doubt whatsoever." Hence, Claire and Jamie's rather awkward start to their wedding night:

I barely know you, so....why don't we talk first. And have a drink. Or five. 

I barely know you, so....why don't we talk first. And have a drink. Or five. 

(You will remember, true fans, that Jamie is marrying Claire to save her from being abused at the hands of the Evil Redcoat Captain. Let us remember that, for most of human history, marriage wasn't about "twue wuv." It was about lots of other things.) 

So the marriage is man and woman, and it must be consummated. 

People say that the church doesn't like to talk about sex, but really, the church has such great respect for it that we do talk about it. Quite a bit. Pope John Paul II devoted a good chunk of his papacy to it.  Yes, that's right. A Pope talked for more than 100 weeks about sex

Think about that for a second. (It wasn't just sex. It was marriage and personhood in general.) 100 weeks is almost two full years. 

This is the main reason the church doesn't allow artificial birth control. In marriage, the couple participates in God's creative life. Seriously. They work with God to bring new life into the world. That's pretty cool, right? 

One of the points of marriage  (as said in the P&P video above) is the procreation of kids. It always has been. It always will be. Now, that does not mean that if you are infertile, that you can't get married. But it does mean that in general, that's one of the points of marriage--to have kids. 

No, that doesn't mean that the church sees women as brood mares or rabbits. You can limit the number of children you have. But it should be done prudently and using Natural Family Planning. 

There are 5,000,000,000 resources out there about NFP and the Catholic view of marriage. You can google it. I'm trying to go into a bit here, but really, it's just so rich that its scope is beyond a mere blog post. 

The big takeaway here is that God sees human love as good, and even sacred. That's right. It's holy, people. That's why we take it so seriously, because to treat holy things as if they're not holy is sacrilege. Which is a sin. (Which is also why we object to pre and extra marital sex. Sex can only legally occur between the married partners--Wife, Husband. Not Wife A with Husband B, or girlfriend/boyfriend.) 

So, while the party, and the dress, and the cake ( we can't forget about the cake), are all nice things, they're not the point of marriage. 

One of the reasons the Church has marriage as a sacrament is because marriage is hardThe Church recognizes that. That's why the couple needs the sacramental grace that is received! Grace is helpful. (Understatement of the year, right there....) Grace isn't a magic wand, but it does make something that's humanly really hard somewhat easier. 

Essentially: Be like Lizzie and Darcy and Jane and Bingley. Don't be like Lydia and Wickham. Don't be like Humperdinck! (Especially not like that!) Do that, and you'll be on the road to a fairly successful marriage. 


As I thought, one of my clergy readers chimed in on annulments: 

"Annulments are given when one or both spouses didn't consent to the marriage (that's why Buttercup was never married to Humperdinck!), or, as you mentioned, there was an impediment. "


The magic of books

booksEmily DeArdoComment

I've loved reading my entire life. My mom says that the only things that could keep me quiet were books and The Wizard of Oz. Some of my favorite memories revolve around curling up in the elementary school library and reading books by the window for what seemed like hours, but it couldn't have been that long. I would've gotten in trouble. :) Instead of bringing toys to school, I smuggled my latest book, and read it under my desk when I should've been paying attention to what the teacher was saying. But really, my book was so much better. 

I read Little House in the Big Woods in first grade, and from then on, I never really stopped reading. Little Women in third grade, the rest of the Little House Books, Anne of Green Gables, Number the Stars, Marguerite Henry's horse novels (which my friend Anne brought me as a gift after my CF diagnosis. We were horse crazy when we were 11 and had gone to horse day camp the summer before.). I was perfectly happy to read Misty of Chincoteague while I did breathing treatments. 

The Giver, The Diary of Anne Frank...those were what we read in eight grade during our Holocaust unit, and we read Night, too. I didn't like diagramming sentences, but I loved analyzing words and characters and form. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe opened me up to the universe of C.S. Lewis. 

In high school I continued reading just about everything. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les MiserablesBeowulf, Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare, Animal Farm....the books continued rolling out in front of me. Most of my allowance money went to buying books. I read Memoirs of a Geisha when I was fourteen, down in my grandmother's basement, on the sly, because she didn't think it was appropriate for me to read. 

I didn't discover Jane until after high school--sadly, we didn't have to read her. But once I did, I was hooked. I began reading and underlining. I collected all the Oxford University Press editions. I read Mansfield Park for the first time in the hospital, writing notes in the margins with my unibal pen. In fact, every hospitalization involved brining lots of books. I discussed The Poisonwood Bible with one of my doctors, once. Nurses would come in and ask me if Jane Eyre was really good hospital reading. To me it was. 

Whenever I go on vacation, I bring tons of books. I've read Possession at Disney World by the Yacht Club pool, as well as A Dance of Dragons.  I read Agnes Gray during tech week for Ragtime, and House Like a Lotus during Hello, Dolly! 

Some books, like the Outlander series, I've read so many times I've had to replace certain copies. The same thing happened with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Books are never-ending sources of entertainment and enjoyment. I've read every single book I own at least twice. Books correspond to my mood, the seasons, and certain places. Every book has a memory in it, not just of the characters and plot, but of the first time I met them. 

For me, there really is nothing better than a new book, or a new copy of a beloved one. ( I have at least five copies of Pride and Prejudice.) 

I love to give books to kids, hoping that one book will spark the magic of reading in them. Few things are better than sharing beloved books with my friends, and comparing notes on them. 

If you aren't a reader, I encourage you to keep looking for that book that will inspire you to read. Even if it isn't my beloved Jane. :) 

Why "powering through" illness is a bad idea

health, transplant, essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Not a good idea when you're sick 

Not a good idea when you're sick 

Hillary Clinton is in the news, not because of her presidential campaign, but because she has pneumonia. Apparently, she's been sick for awhile, but the official diagnosis came from her doctors/her campaign yesterday. 

There was a lot of talk on Twitter (and I presume elsewhere on social media) about how women just "power through" illness. "We do lots of things when we're sick!" women were saying. "We're awesome like that!" 

Well, actually, no, ladies. It's not awesome. Trust me. 

I did a fair amount of "powering through" for the first 23 years of my life. And no, I wasn't running for president. I was trying to be as "normal" as possible. That meant school, extracurriculars, summer jobs. I went to school when I had a noncontagious form of TB and was falling asleep in my first period class because I was so tired. I had a summer job the summer after I almost died and spent two weeks in the ICU. I was so desperate to sing in my college choir's big Christmas Festival that I went from the hospital, to class, and then back to the hospital because I finally realized that, yes, I was way too sick to be in class, much less perform in a three-hour concert. 

There were times my college boyfriends had to almost hold me down to keep me from going to sorority meetings, or Student Government events. 

Some of this pigheaded Irish determination was a good thing. It kept me involved, it kept me active, and I had a great time in college. But some of it was really bad. I didn't know when to stop. I worked up until the weekend before my transplant. Seriously. I had to drag myself out of bed every single day, but I was there at my office. The only time I wasn't was when I was in the hospital. I might have come in a little later in the morning, but I was there

After my transplant, this all changed. Partially because I was much more susceptible to illness, including getting illnesses from other people. I had to learn to say No to going to things when sick people were there. I told my friends that if someone was at a party and that person was sick, I wasn't going to go. 

I had to make sure I got enough sleep. This is huge for me. I realized that I needed 8-9 hours of sleep every night. I definitely had not been getting that. And when I was sick, I needed to be sick--and not "power through." Because powering through only made it worse

I had pneumonia this past winter. I was in the hospital for almost a week, and it took me more than a month to recover when I was back home. Pneumonia kills millions of people a year. It's a nasty, nasty bug. And yes, I'm more susceptible to it, and always have been. But people over 65 are in the high-risk group, too--and Hillary Clinton is 68.  

Pneumonia isn't something that you can "power through." There is "walking" pneumonia--a milder case of it. But it's something that requires rest, and lots of it. You feel like you've been run over by a truck. It's Not Fun at all. And if you don't rest appropriately, then guess what? It lasts longer

Ladies, we have to stop "powering through." The world isn't going to end if we're sick. (OK, this might be different if you're the President. Or, even, Secretary of State.) But that's two people in the world. Listen to your body, and give it what it needs! Let yourself heal! Don't put yourself--and others--at risk for being sick. Do the counter-cultural thing, and take care of yourself. 

It's not easy. I know that. I spent 23 years resisting this entire idea. "I can rest when I'm dead!" 

Well, if you don't take care of yourself, you're going to be doing that sooner rather than later. 



Catholic 101: Holy Orders

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

A continuation of the Catholic 101 series

We're down to the penultimate sacrament: Holy Orders. Next week we end the Sacraments mini-series with Matrimony. 

So these last two sacraments are called the sacraments of vocation. Holy Orders, obviously, is the vocation to the priesthood; Matrimony is to the vocation of married life. 

Holy Orders and Matrimony are both fairly simple to explain. What's harder is the theology that undergirds it, but we're not going to get too deep in that, here. We're sticking with the basics. (Maybe I'll offer Catholic 202 at some point. I kill me.:-P ) (And, please do not litter the comment box with attacks on priests, etc.) 

Holy Orders can only be given once, and it's done by a bishop (or higher--some priests are ordained by the pope!). The form  is the laying on of hands; the matter is the prayer said by the bishop. 

The sacrament is open only to men in the Catholic Church--and single men, at that. We stick with this because that's what Jesus did; the 12 apostles were all men. All priests vow to remain celibate for their entire lives. 

There are two types of priests: a diocesan priest, or a religious order priest. A diocesan priest is what you're probably most familiar with--he's a priest who serves within a diocese, a specific geographic area. A priest of a religious order, on the other hand, like the Dominicans, can serve anywhere the order sends them. I know Dominican priests who are stationed abroad, who are sent to study in various parts of the world, who are assigned to universities, or who are assigned as chaplains to monasteries of nuns. There's a lot of variety there. Diocesan priests can also be teachers, etc. but they will stay within a certain geographic area. 

Diocesan priests do not make vows, technically. Vows are made by members of religious orders. They do promise to obey their bishop and to live in chastity. 

Priests of religious orders also take different vows, depending on said order. Dominicans, for example, only verbally take the vow of obedience, when they are professed. Everything is included in that vow, including poverty and chastity. Benedictines take four vows; Franciscans take a special vow of poverty; etc. Religious orders also have their specific habits. 

As we know, priests are the only people who can consecrate the Eucharist, hear confessions, perform several of the sacraments, among other things. The course of study is quite long; an undergraduate degree, followed by four years of seminary, for diocesan priests. For religious, it can be even longer--Jesuit formation, for example, takes ten to eleven years, and Dominican formation is at least seven. Why does it take longer? Because the men aren't just becoming priests, but they're also joining an order with a specific charism, way of life, etc.  

It's not something a man undertakes lightly. Priesthood is for life (unless you're laicized--that's the term, not "defrocked"). As a priest, he is in charge of al the souls in his parish. That's a big responsibility. A priest can be called to serve at any time, day or night. A Mass cannot be said without a priest, because only a priest can perform the consecration that transforms bread and wine into the Eucharist

One of the things Catholics should do is pray that God will give us many holy priests, because without them, we're in bad shape. 

Priests aren't perfect. Duh. They're human. The sacrament doesn't magically transform you into a different person. Grace has to be cooperated with; it's not a magic wand. So yes, there are priests who aren't great at administrative things, who don't give good homilies, who can't sing, who are gruff in the confessional, etc. They're not perfect. But they have a very important job.  So pray for them! 

The Dominican friars in formation for the U.S. Eastern Provence. 

The Dominican friars in formation for the U.S. Eastern Provence. 

Side note: All men who enter the Dominican order don't have to become priests. They can also become cooperator brothers. 




Go Read!: International Literacy Day

booksEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Or, where I give you a list of Books To Read. 

This isn't a list of Favorite Books; it's more like what I would call a list of books you need to read to be a Well-Rounded Reader. As in, read these books before you die. Use your ability to read!!!!! 

27% of American Adults didn't read a single book last year. 

Seriously, guys? 


Read books!

(OK, it's not World Book Day today, but this works anyway.) 

(OK, it's not World Book Day today, but this works anyway.) 

I would prefer you read good books, and not trash. But.....

So, without further ado: the list. In no particular order. 

  1. All of Jane. This is non-negotiable. Do it now. NOOOOOOWWWW!
  2. The Odyssey and the Iliad, Homer
  3. The Canterbury Tales (or at least a few of the tales), Chaucer
  4. Beowulf
  5. Dante's Divine Comedy. The whole thing, not just Inferno
  6. Paradise Lost, Milton
  7. A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and either David Copperfield or Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. 
  8. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  9. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  10. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck 
  11. Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth. Then I'd add As You Like It and King Lear. And Midsummer Night's Dream. And....oh, Henry III for the histories representation. Everyone knows the first line. Or should. 
  12. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy. Much more accessible than War and Peace
  13. The Brothers Karamazov, Doestoevsky
  14. The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson (one of my favorite modern novels)
  15. Either My Antonia or O, Pioneers!, Willa Cather
  16. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  17. The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  18. The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde
  19. Mrs. Dalloway, The Voyage Out or To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf 
  20. The Narnia books, CS Lewis
  21. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, JRR Tolkien
  22. The Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
  23. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte 
  24. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  25. Dracula, Bram Stoker 
  26. The Diary of Anne Frank 
  27. Emily Dickinson's poetry
  28. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (even if the ending drives me nuts) 
  29. Number the Stars and The Giver, Lois Lowry 
  30. Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  31. The Confessions, St. Augustine
  32. The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum. (Just the first one, at least.) 
  33. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. 
  34. Night, Eli Wiesel

Now, I know some of you are going to have Questions. So here are some answers: 

* I tried to be as diverse as possible here, but I realize this list is really Euro-centric. Sorry. My specialty in college was British Literature, so that's what I know best, and Western Lit, in general, really does play into a lot of our cultural references and touch points. I am working on reading more Asian lit--I have read The Pillow Book, and I'd love to read Tale of Genji, but that's an Expensive Book. :) So....eventually. 

African Literature wasn't offered when I was in college, I don't think, so I'm falling down here too. I apologize. 

*No French authors? I don't really like French authors. I did like The Plague, by Camus, but....I don't think it's a book people MUST read. I've read Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris (better known as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), but, again....Notre-Dame has some great descriptions, but it sort of drags. Les Miz also has excellent parts, but again, DRAGS IN OTHERS. (Waterloo section, I'm looking at you.) However, if you wanted to read French authors, I'd suggest Les Miserables and Madame Bovary. Get an UNABRIDGED copy of Les Miserables, please!

*No Spanish authors? Sorry. They aren't my thing. I tried, and failed, to read Don Quixote


Summer Reading: August

booksEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Here's the last installment of the 2016 Summer Reading Wrap--but I'll keep doing these. I'll just need to come up with a new image. :) 

(I generally only include new books in this, unless I re-read a book that I really liked and want to recommend.) 

  • The Winthrop Woman, by Anya Seton: Historical fiction. This one started off well: Elizabeth Winthrop is the troublesome niece of John Winthrop, one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the state of Massachusetts). Elizabeth isn't really "troublesome" in a 21st century sense, but certainly, for her time, she was, and especially when considered in the light of her Puritan uncle, who insisted on proper behavior at all times from anyone connected with his family.
    The novel starts when Elizabeth is a child in England, and I really enjoyed this section. Once she arrived in the New World, though, it lost momentum and became pretty tedious. The story essentially became, Elizabeth gets married; Elizabeth has children; Elizabeth does Something Shameful--Or Is Seen as Shameful by her Dour Neighbors--; Elizabeth Flees; Elizabeth's husband dies/goes crazy; cycle starts again. I had to force myself to finish this, and there was a lot of skimming as I neared the end. 
  • Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequest: I didn't realize, at first, that this was a series of essays. I thought it would be a little more cohesive. So that colored my first reading of the book. I'm re-reading it now, though, and knowing that it's essays, and not just one big manuscript, is helpful. The title sums up the premise: Niequest says that we don't need to be perfect people; we need to be present to the people in our lives, and stop worrying so much about making sure everything is....perfect. It's a good premise and she writes about it well. 
  • Cannery Row, John Steinbeck: Since flying over Steinbeck Country (Salinas, CA) in April on the way to Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to read this. Salinas is gorgeous (at least, what I saw of it was). Cannery Row focuses on the people in Monterey, California, during the Great Depressions. It's a series of stories, essentially--there's no overarching theme. But the people of Cannery Row are funny, very human, and sometimes heartbreakingly earnest. One of his better works, I think. 
  • The Sign of Jonah, Thomas Merton: I'd read The Seven Storey Mountain, but that's all the Merton I've read, probably because I'd heard he was a bit "odd"--his Asian visits and dabbling in Asian spiritual practices, etc.--and more political than religious. But this was a big change. The Sign of Jonah  details five years in his early life at Gethsemani Abbey, and in it, his love of prayer, of saying the Mass, and of solitude is tremendously evident. It's full of rich insights and it's great spiritual reading. This is a side of Merton I'd never really heard about, and it was great to discover it by accident. (Thanks, Goodreads Recommendations!)
  • On the Other Side of Fear, Hallie Lord: Full disclosure: I love Hallie. I really do. I was lucky enough to meet her, and be interviewed by her, at the 2015 Edel Gathering, and she is a sweet, sweet lady. So I was already pre-disposed to love her book. 
    But it's good on its own merits. Hallie writes about learning to trust in God, and how that's harder than it actually sounds--and how fear keeps us from peace. We have to learn to trust and rest in God. It's a short book, but a really good one, and reading it is just like having a cup of coffee with Hallie. It's a keeper!




Uninvited, Lysa Terkeurst:  (Wow, I did a lot of spiritual/religious reading this month....) Uninvited discusses one of the things all women deal with: Rejection. Starting at a very young age, we know if we're in the "cool" crowd or not--who plays with us at recess? Who invited us to her birthday party? As we grow up, this doesn't change, it just takes different forms. Rejection happens to us all the time. So, how do we deal with it? 

Terkeurst does a great job writing about this incredibly painful phenomenon, and the tendency to take rejection as a personal statement on your worth.  She also talks about something that I've noticed is pretty true, but very few women discuss, because it's not pretty: desperately wanting something other women have. "We all desperately want something that we see the Lord giving to other women. We see Him blessing them in the very areas He's withholding from us," she writes. "We look at them, and we feel set aside." Man, is that ever true. I've felt that way, on and off, since I was about seventeen. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine and her sister about this very topic. "Why," I said, "has God given me talents and desires if He doesn't want me to use them, or have these good things?" 

I underlined a lot of this book. There are sticky notes poking out of it like porcupine quills. I actually finished this book right before a week in my life that was pretty hard, and I'm convinced that reading this, and having these truths in mind, helped soften that week, in the ways it could be softened. I highly recommend this. 

  • Beach Music, Pat Conroy: I'm a big Pat Conroy fan. Since reading The Great Santini last summer (I picked it up when I was in Charleston), I've read almost all of his books, and I'm sort of sad about that, since he died earlier this year, and that means no more new Pat Conroy books. 
    Beach Music is typical Conroy, in that autobiographical elements form a large part of the story's base; in this case, it's the death of his mother from leukemia, which, in Beach Music, is the catalyst that gets the protagonist Jack McCall to come back to South Carolina, from his refuge in Italy. Jack took his daughter, Lila, to Italy after his wife, Shyla, committed suicide, and he's sworn that he wants nothing to do with anything in South Carolina. 

    Like all of his novels, the dark side of it is balanced with a huge helping of humor, here provided by Jack's brothers and some of his mother's more amusing antics. If you're new to Conroy, I highly recommend him--time with his novels is always time well spent. Do NOT base your opinion of his novels on the movies. Prince of Tides, for example, is a much, much, much richer book than the movie would lead you to believe. 

Catholic 101: Anointing of the Sick

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

The second of the Sacraments of Healing (Confession being the other), Anointing of the Sick used to be called "Extreme Unction", or, more commonly in TV/movie world, "last rites." But recently its applications have been expanded beyond those who are in immediate danger of death. 

"Extreme Unction," Rogier van der Weyden 

"Extreme Unction," Rogier van der Weyden 

The Sacrament can be used in a variety of applications: 

  1. For people who, indeed, are in danger of death. 
  2.  Before major surgery (major being the operative word.) 
  3. People who are older/infirm/have chronic illnesses that put them in danger of death  (for example, I used to get anointed a lot, due to epilespy/CF...my parents were big on me receiving the sacrament whenever it was offered. I wasn't quite so big on it. But I digress.) 

Anointing, like Confession, is used a lot in the media because it's a rather dramatic sacrament. Or, at least, it tends to happen in dramatic circumstances. For example, Outlander used it in season 2, after Claire miscarried Baby Faith. 

A scene from Outlander, Season 2, "Faith", right before Claire (Caitrione Balfe) receives anointing. 

A scene from Outlander, Season 2, "Faith", right before Claire (Caitrione Balfe) receives anointing. 

The benefits of anointing, according to the Catechism, are: 

1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. the first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. Furthermore, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."

1521 Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

1522 An ecclesial grace. the sick who receive this sacrament, "by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ," "contribute to the good of the People of God." By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, though the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.

1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing).The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house. 

It's sort of a Grand Slam of Sacraments: Confession, Anointing, and, if possible, the Eucharist is given. I received anointing before my transplant surgery, but I couldn't receive the Eucharist because I wasn't allowed to eat anything. (I was sort of irritated by this.) The person is anointed with the Oil of the Sick while the priest says certain prayers. The oil is the matter of the sacrament, and the prayer is the form. 

Biblical support for this sacrament can be found in the book of James, chapter 5, verse 14: "Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord." 

This is one of the reasons it's important to put your religious affiliation on any hospital admission forms; that way, if worst comes to worst, medical people know who to call. Every hospital I've been in has had a Catholic chaplain around to give the sacraments and provide spiritual counsel , etc. 

In my experience it's a rather peaceful sacrament. Many churches offer Anointing at least once a year for people with chronic illness, for older members of the congregation, etc. 

Interview with Tiffany Part Three

funEmily DeArdoComment

21. Best. Movie. Ever: The Wizard of Oz.  Closely followed by Pride and Prejudice. (And if you have to ask me which version, then You Don't Know Me.) 

22. Favorite thing about my family: We have a wacky sense of humor, especially when we're all together. 

23. Least favorite thing about your family: The inability to plan things. I like a plan.  

24. Favorite color: Blue. It's Tiffany's, too. (As seen in the photo above)

25. What TV show would you like to act on: If Downton was still on, that would be my answer. Since it's not: Outlander! And actually, Outlander might beat Downton by a smidge. 

26. How do you define success: Getting to Heaven. That's success. Loving well, doing good, and growing in faith. 
At the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore calls Cedric a "fierce, fierce friend." I've always liked that line an that's another definition of success to me, in the friendship realm, anyway. 

27. What is your dream job? Well, it's to be a writer. So, really, I just have to get published, and then I'll have the dream job. :) But one that's not entirely practical? Acting. 

28. Would you want to win the lottery, and what would you do with the money?: I probably wouldn't want to win the lottery, because most of those folks don't seem to end well/ be happy. But if I did win, I'd buy a house, then travel all around the world to all the places I want to see. And I'd buy every good book in creation. 

And then I'd probably give it to monasteries and churches and hospitals. And my parents would get some of it, of course. 


Interview with Tiffany Part Two

funEmily DeArdo2 Comments

And we roll on....

11. What dead person would you like to meet if they were alive now? JANE, OBVIOUSLY. Other than Jane: My paternal grandfather, who died before I was born, and St. Pope John Paul II. 

12. Do you like licorice?: Not black licorice. Red. But is red really licorice? 

13. If you could have one superpower what would it be?: Telepathy.

14. Team Captain America or Iron Man?: Captain America, but I love Iron Man's sarcasm. 

15. Do you have a Fairy Godmother?: Well, I have a real godmother, who is cool. 

16. Do you wish you could fly?: YES. Oh my gosh.....

17. Favorite subject in school: English. History/ Social Studies (whatever it was called) is a close second. 

18. Least favorite subject in school: MATH MATH MATH MATH MATH

19. What's the funniest thing a kid has said to you?: From CCD, when I asked what a kid was drawing: 


20. What's the funniest thing you remember saying as a kid?: I don't actually remember saying this, but my parents say that when I was two or so, I was waiting for a blood draw, where I dramatically announced that I smelled blood. So, you know. 


Interview with Tiffany, Part One

funEmily DeArdoComment

I have decided that we need some levity here. We need something fun. 

Enter Tiffany. 

Tiffany is one of my bestest friends. We have been friends since 1996, if you can believe it, so, holy cow--20 years. Like, today, really, since we met on the first day of Freshman year of high school. 

So, in order to have fun and in order to mark 20 years of Awesome, Tiffany asked me a whole bunch of questions. So many, in fact, that I have to break them into installments. So we're going to have fun for the next few days. 

1. Grapefruit vs. cantaloupe: Neither. I can't eat grapefruit because it messes with immunosuppression dugs, and I don't like cantaloupe.

2. Which Bond film is the best: Skyfall. 

3. Which James Bond is the best: Daniel Craig. (Sage loved Bond, and I don't think she agreed with me on this, when we discussed this. But full disclosure, I haven't seen ALL the Bond movies, so....)

4. What I miss most about high school: Lunch period. I loved having that time with my friends and just getting to mess around. And choir. 

5. What I miss most about college: Student Government and choir. 

6. Cats vs. dogs: Well, we never had pets when I was growing up, with the one year randomness of Snowball The Guinea Pig notwithstanding. Generally, I would probably say dogs at this point, because I can be around them. Cats are a little trickier. However, I love my sister's cat, Bella. She's a very nice cat. 

7. What will you ask God first when you get to heaven: Why wasn't "thou shalt not be stupid" the 11th commandment? 

8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Generally, dark. 

9.  Best Disney quote: Good Heaven, we'll be here all day....and she knows that. So here's some fun ones: "Just keep swimming!" 

"It looks awful."
"That's because it's on you, dear."

"Fold? Oh well."

"I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell./ And for once it might be grand/ to have someone understand /I want so much more than they've got planned."

"Have you got anything new?"
"Not since yesterday!"
"That's all right. I'll borrow this one."
"That one? But you've read it twice?"

"You were my new dream."

"Look at this stuff? Isn't it neat?" (the whole song then continues.....)

"The tank is clean! THE TANK IS CLEAN!"


10. How do you get rid of hiccups: Holding my breath. 



Catholic 101: Confession

Catholic 101Emily DeArdo1 Comment

It's time for the BIG SCARY SACRAMENT!


OK, it's not really that scary. 

But everyone seems to be afraid of it. So, let's demystify it, shall we? 

First: the question I always get from people who aren't Catholic: 

Can the priest ever tell anyone what you said? 



Huge, big, fat, NO. Never ever ever ever--at least, not if he wants to keep being a priest. Violating the seal of the confessional means BIG TROUBLE. 

So, no. 

Don't worry about that. He can't tell. Ever. Not even if you said you killed someone and the police are currently doing a 50 state-wide hunt for you. 

So, that's out of the way. Let's talk about what the sacrament is and what it does and all that stuff. 

Confession is basically what it sounds like--you confess your sins. The priest is acting in persona Christi--in the person of Christ--at that moment. You're not actually confessing to a priest in a sense that you're telling another fallible human what you've done wrong. You're confessing to God and the priest is the human mediator, as it were.

Now--why confess to him when we can talk directly to God? Why do you Catholics make things so complicated?!

Because God knows us. 

God knows what there's a big difference between telling God you're sorry for something--and actually hearing someone say "Your sins are forgiven." Confessing to another person requires guts. It really does. You're going in and admitting all the things that you've done wrong, all those mistakes you've made. You are vocalizing all these things to another person, and you know that person is right there, listening to what you're saying. 

That's humbling. 

It's very easy, in the Penitential Rite of the Mass, to sort of skim over the prayer. 

"Oh my God, I am sorry for my sins....did I turn off the coffeemaker? ....through my fault, through my fault....what is the woman in front of me WEARING?......I ask blessed Mary eve-virgin.....I'm really hungry right now."

See what I mean? Sure, you're saying that you mess up and you're sinful and blah blah. But it's not really personal

Confession is entirely personal. It's your list of sins, your mess-ups. It's all the ways that I, personally, have offended God. 

So before you actually get in the confessional (Or "reconciliation room", or whatever parishes call it these days), you have to do some prep work. You have to do....an examination of conscience. 

The examination allows you to do a deep-cleaning, as it were, and see where you've sinned. There are things you might not even have thought were sins, that are. But there are also a  lot of things that people think are sins, that aren't. Feelings, for example, aren't sins. They're not willed actions. If a guy cuts me off in traffic and my immediate, unwilled reaction is anger, that's OK. The problem would be if I made my anger CLEAR to said driver. (You know what I mean.) Does that make sense? So you don't need to go in and tell the poor priest every single thought you've ever had. 

Catholics believe in two types of sins: venial and mortal. Venial sins wound your relationship with God; mortal sin kills it. Basically, if you die with mortal sin on your soul and un-repented, then you're in Big Trouble. (Meaning, you did something Bad, and you're not sorry you did it.) Only Mortal sins need to be confessed. You can't receive communion in a state of mortal sin. So when you have mortal sins, you need to confess them in kind (as in, what you did) and number (how many times you did it.). "I committed adultery with my neighbor's wife eight times in the last month."  "I had an abortion." "I stole $5,000 from my company." Etc. 

(brief detour: There are conditions for mortal sin. If you've seen the movie Chocolat, you know what they are, but if you haven't: Grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. Therefore, if someone forces you to have an abortion, it's not a mortal sin for you. If someone rapes you, again, that's not a sin for you. If you're forced to steal the money at gunpoint, same deal. 

Likewise, if you didn't know it was a serious thing--like, missing Mass without good reason--same deal. The Church excuses ignorance to a point.)

So anyway, you've examined your conscience. If you've committed mortal sins, you've written down the number of times and what it was. You're ready to go in. 

My church offers confession every single day. That's right. EVERY DAY! And before all the weekend Masses. If your parish is not quite that.....awesome, check the schedule. Or you can call and make an appointment with a priest. Sometimes you have options--face to face, or behind the screen. Sometimes you don't. 

Here is a guide to confession.  Even more quickly:  you go in, you confess. The priest may ask questions or talk to you a bit, after which he will give you a penance. You always get a penance. You have to do said penance. Then you say your act of contrition, the priest absolves you, and you're done. Voila! 

It is suggested that Catholics confess once a month. It is required that Catholics confess at least once a year, during the Easter season. I know that St. Pope John Paul the Great went to Confession every week. Personally, I try to go once a month.  

The form and matter for confession is as follows: 

Form: The prayer of absolution. 

Matter: the verbal confession of sins. 

And you have to be sorry. That's right. You can't go in and NOT be repentant. That sort of....is nuts. And invalidates the whole thing. You have to be sorry, otherwise, why are you there? 


Peter Jones: C.S. Lewis on Confessing Our Sins

In the quote below C.S. Lewis is commenting on this phrase from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer, “But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.” At my church, we say this confession, but replace “offenders” with “sinners.” The quote is one of the best I have ever read on how to confess our sins and the results of confession. Almost every line, especially of the last paragraph, is worth your careful time.


“It is essential [when confessing our sins] to use the plain, simple, old-fashioned words that you would use about anyone else.  I mean words like theft, or fornication, or hatred, instead of  ‘I did not mean to be dishonest’ or ‘I was only a boy then’ or ‘I lost my temper. I think that this steady facing of what one does know and bringing it before God, without excuses, and seriously asking for Forgiveness and Grace, and resolving as far as in one lies to do better, is the only way in which we can ever begin to know the fatal thing which is always there, and preventing us from becoming perfectly just to our wife or husband, or being a better employer or employee.  If this process is gone through, I do not doubt that most of us will come to understand and to share these old words like ‘contrite,’miserable’ and intolerable.’

Does that sound very gloomy? Does Christianity encourage morbid introspection? The alternative is much more morbid. Those who do not think about their own sins make up for it by thinking incessantly about the sins of others.  It is healthier to think of one’s own. It is the reverse of morbid. It is not even, in the long run, very gloomy.  A serious attempt to repent and to really know one’s own sin is in the long run a lightening and relieving process. Of course, there is bound to be a first dismay and often terror and later great pain, yet that is much less in the long run than the anguish of a mass of unrepented and unexamined sins, lurking in the background of our minds. It is the difference between the pain of a tooth about which you should go to the dentist, and the simple straight-forward pain which you know is getting less and less every moment when you have had the tooth out.”

--C.S. Lewis 


Some Protestant churches offer the opportunity for confession. It's not seen as a sacrament, I don't think, the way Catholics see it. C.S. Lewis went to confession. I know a Lutheran pastor who offers it to his parishioners. 

Confession is good for the soul, if not for the ego. And that's the way it's supposed to be. 





For Sage

essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I lost a friend yesterday. 

Sage was waiting for a double lung transplant. Like me, she had CF, and like me, she was 34. She had a wonderful husband and three hilarious dogs. We talked almost every day, about Outlander and Pocket Jamie and Mascara brands and even eyelash curlers, and what I should wear on a first date. (And then, helping when the date didn't call back.....) 

She was such a funny person, sometimes sarcastically so, and we had the same sense of humor. She was the only person who really understood CF life, so we could bitch to each other about Stupid Doctor Things. (And stupid other things.....) She loved the color purple. She worked for the U.S. Senate and so we could talk about Crazy Things Constituents Did. She adored scary movies, which terrify me, but she loved them. She would watch them with her nephew. She was a huge Bachelor/ Bachelorette fan. She had fantastically curly hair that she dyed auburn; her niece Lizzie had the same corkscrew curls. I was jealous of her hair.

She would've liked this--purple confetti. 

She would've liked this--purple confetti. 

(And GOSH I hate using the past tense.)  

She lived in Oklahoma and Wisconsin, so we'd never met in person. A mutual friend introduced us over the interwebs, so this is one case where a Facebook friendship became as real as any of my "IRL" ones. 

She was admitted to the hospital last week; her last text message to me told me she was doing a direct admit from the ER. I sent her texts and messages variously; I knew she was in the ICU so I knew she probably wasn't reading her messages, but I hoped Jerry (her husband) would tell her.  I didn't want to bombard her phone with notification noises, but I felt like I needed to let her know I was thinking about her. 

Yesterday I felt this keen desire to send her a message: like, do it NOW, Emily. So I did. I told her that I was thinking about her and I missed her and I loved her. It was a little sappy for me. But you know. I thought she'd know what I meant. 

And then, a few hours later, she died. 

Right before she died, I bought a new eyelash curler. We had talked about this a few weeks ago--which ones were the best. She was a Girly Girl and I knew she'd have opinions. So I bought the one she suggested, and it was purple, to boot. I thought, Sage would love that I just bought this. I wanted to send her a picture of it. 

I wish we would've gotten to meet in person. I wish I'd have met her husband and her Awesome Dogs George, Piper, and Sadie. I wish we could've played Monopoly together. 

Guys, CF sucks. It really does. And so does people dying while they wait for organs. She was such a light. And now she's gone. 

Rest in peace, dear heart. I'll see you when I get there. 

"Grief is the price we pay for love." --Queen Elizabeth II

(A note about this video: Sage and I were connected through music. She was a friend of Emily, who was the twin of one of my best friends, Amilia. Amilia and I were in All-State choir our senior year of high school, and this was one of the pieces on our program. It was written in honor of a young lady who died too soon. So not only is it appropriate for Sage, but it's appropriate because music is how I met Amilia and Emily, and thus, Sage.

It is also one of the most beautiful and most moving pieces of music ever written.) 



Hospital Hair Salons, Part II: Troubleshooting Superbugs!

healthEmily DeArdo1 Comment

You may recall last week's post about Hospital Hair Salons. I got a lot of positive feedback on Facebook and in the comments here about this, so I think it's safe to say that this is an idea whose time has come!

That being said, it's also an idea that requires a wee bit of troubleshooting. Even if it's a great idea (which we all think it is!), there are things that need to be worked out in order for it to be really feasible in a hospital setting.

One of the things we need to consider is the ever present threat of germs. If you're in the hospital, you're....sick. So we have to make sure that people who are sick don't get other people sick, and that people with similar illnesses are separated from each other, if needed (i.e., CF patients. We're not allowed to be within six feet of each other. I'm not kidding. I'm not sure how this works in homes where there is more than one person with CF, but....) 

So, inspired by Piper, I began to dig around on the Internet and found....

portable shampoo bowls!!

Is this not awesome? Adjustable height, so everyone can use it! You have to supply your own water source, but just about every hospital room has a sink, so there you go. Fill up a bucket for the water, drains into the sink. Bazinga! The bowl is tilt-able, so you can use just about any chair with it. Grab one from the nurse's station, or even the ones that are in the room, and there you go (My hospital has chairs that recline in the rooms. I realize this might not be the case in every hospital.). 

This model is $300, but on Amazon, it's $74. That's right. SEVENTY FOUR DOLLARS. 

Add a spray so you can wet and rinse the hair--$5 more. 

Another option: This guy, which is for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. I'm not sure if this would be my first choice, but hey, this would work for those in wheelchairs and it's better than nothing. 

To protect the patient and keep water from getting on those areas that can't get wet, add a salon cape: $9.18

So, for the bowl, the sprayer, the cape--$88.18. That's for one "set". Two of them? Less than $180. 

With the portable set up, you eliminate worries about infection spreading among patient populations. Someone can go into the patient's room and wash the hair--or even a parent or friend can do it, if one's available. I wouldn't want my brother to wash my hair NOW, but with a setup like this? I could totally teach him how to wash girl hair. :) Patient privacy is preserved, and everything you need is right there, able to be brought into the room and easily connected. (I'm hoping it's easy. If it's not, then we'd need another system. But it looks pretty simple.)

A patient could request this the same way she requests the Nintendo cart (yes, my hospital used to have a Nintendo cart), or a massage therapist, or the child life people, or whatever. You just ask the nurse to call for it, and someone brings it up.  Easy peasy. 

The hospital doesn't have to build a room or install any equipment, like with the previous idea. This is totally portable, easy to take apart and sterilize, when necessary, and can go anywhere. 

What do you guys think? 





Friendship and Guinness Cake

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I've always loved to bake, even when I was a little kid and I didn't quite grasp that if you bake, you must clean up. And I've made a lot of cakes in my life, including a three layer Peanut Butter monstrosity for a friend's Christmas party one year. 

But this cake....this is really the only cake I make anymore. 

This is a Guinness Cake. Do you see the resemblance to a pint of Guinness with the foamy head? (No?) And this cake is really the only cake recipe you ever need. 

I have made this cake for parties, birthdays, dessert after a dinner party--you name it, this cake has been there. It's a cake that men adore, probably because it's not too sweet. This is a damp, rich cake that is also good for breakfast. (No judgment, right?) 

I almost never make it unless it's for a friend get-together, so when I make it, it brings back a lot of good memories. Try it, and make some memories of your own. 

But once you start making it, you'll never be able to stop making it. People will ask for it forever. It's a hard-knock life. But this cake is worth it.

Guinness Cake

from Nigella Lawson's Feast 

Notes: Before you start, make sure the butter, eggs, and cream cheese (for the frosting) are room temperature. You will have a much better cake! * I set the pot over medium heat--the recipe doesn't specify a temperature, but medium's always worked for me. * I usually bake the cake the day before the party, and then frost it the day of. The cake is so damp that it will hold very well. 


1 c. Guinness (I use extra stout) 

1 stick + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c. sugar

3/4 c. sour cream 

2 eggs

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the icing: (optional)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

1/2 c. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. 

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan (I use my Dutch oven, actually), add the butter in slices, and heat until butter's melted. Whisk in cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together and then add them to the beer mixture. Finally, whisk in flour and baking soda. Whisk until well-combined.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. It's a very damp cake. 

When it's completely cool, make the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar, and then beat together. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the cake. (This makes a lot of frosting. You want to frost this cake thickly, so try to use all of it, if possible.) 



Catholic 101: Confirmation

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

Confirmation is a hard sacrament to explain. 

It's NOT a coming of age thing--although most people think it is. 

It can be given at a variety of ages; in some places, it's given before First Holy Communion; in some places, it's not given until sixteen years of age. Parishes within the same diocese vary greatly: at my current parish, it's given in sixth grade; at my parochial school, it was eighth grade; at the parish in my parents' town, it's 10th grade. 

What is going on?! 

Let's try to get down to basics. 

In Confirmation, the confirmand (person to be confirmed) receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

We've talked about form and matter previously. So here, the form is the bishop (or designated priest, if the bishop can't perform the sacrament for some reason) saying, "be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." The matter is the holy chrism (Which is also used in baptism), which is placed on the confirmand's forehead in the sign of the cross. 

The Scriptural basis for Confirmation is from the Acts of the Apostles: 

Now when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.For he was not as yet come upon any of them; but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost.-- Acts, 8:14-17. 

In Confirmation, the Confirmand also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are seven of them. Confirmation gives the confirmand strength to live out their Christian vocation and their specific calling. 

The confirmand also chooses a patron saint. The Church asks that a baby be baptized with the name of at least one saint (my name is two--there's a St. Emily, and Michele is the feminine form of Michael--St. Michael the Archangel.). However....that doesn't always happen. In Confirmation, the confirmand selects a saint that is meaningful to them. I chose St. Therese of Lisieux. 

Confirmation completes the sacraments of initiation. At this point, you are an "adult" in the sense that you are fully "initiated" into the church, having had all three sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation). 



Seven Quick Takes No. 122

7 Quick Takes, food, books, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments


Happy Friday, everybody!!!!

Here's what I wrote about this week, ICYMI: 

Hospital Hair Salons (With a follow up next week!) 

Catholic 101: The Eucharist


We FINALLY had rain! Lots and lots of rain! My plant doesn't look like it's going to die now! Yay!!!!! (Even when you water a plant copiously, when it's 90+ degrees for many days in a row, the plant will look very sad.) Just in time for school starting, the weather has become less hot and more normal--70s and low 80s. I can handle this. In fact, this is sort of my perfect type of weather. I am ready for my sweaters!  


This was this week's Kitchen Adventure: 

This is the Guinness Cake. The Cake of My Heart. And next week, it'll get its own Food Stories post!  (It's been awhile since I've done one of those!) 


I'm falling down on the reading this month, but I do have the new Mother Teresa book, A Call To Mercy on my iPad, as well as Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect.


In my own writing: I'm working on some submissions and still editing the memoir. Always, right? And NaNoWriMo 2016 is over the horizon, so I need to come up with a novel idea to write this year!


After a long hiatus, I'm back to the knitting, because my new yarn bowl arrived. So back to those knits and purls. I'm using up some odds and ends of yarn so this is definitely a project for me, and not a gift. And I need to start thinking about Christmas gifts too, yikes! And birthday gifts for my fall people!


Has school started where you are? I remember when it started at the end of August. The beginning/middle of August feels so odd for school start dates. Course they also get out a lot earlier than I did, too.But starting on August 16 (when a lot of schools here started) seems wayyyy too early for me.