Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Catholicism

Re-set for Advent

Catholicism, essays, journalEmily DeArdoComment

Does this week seem weird to anyone else? Like, there’s all this extra time? I’m so used to going right from Thanksgiving into December that this week has been throwing me off. Don’t get me wrong, I like the extra time, but it means that everything is being done early chez moi. For example, I usually send out my Christmas cards after Thanksgiving—I actually mail them on Thanksgiving, usually—so having them arrive at places before December 1 hits is just weird this year.

 Decorations at my  parents’ house—this is the front hall.

Decorations at my parents’ house—this is the front hall.

My shopping is done. I’m mailing out the gifts that need mailed and the things that need wrapped need wrapped. I’m not a great wrapper so I tend to delay it for as long as possible. :)

Thanksgiving was quiet, which was nice, because Christmas is nuts in my family. We have our big family reunion two days after Christmas, and then I’ve got friends coming home for the holidays so I want to spend time with them, and it’s just a big joyful crazy time, which I love.

With the “extra'“ time this week, I’ve been doing a bit of a reset. I read about reset days here (yes, it’s a guys’ website, but it’s good info!), and on Monday, I decided to do this. Being knocked out for two weeks because of Crazy Med made me lose a lot of time in November and I’m still not completely caught up on things like housekeeping and my NaNo novel but it’s all good.

So I used the “reset” day to reset before Advent (I like how that rhymes, too). Cleaning the house is part of it, but also getting ready for Advent—decorating the house, putting out the wreath, things like that. Making a big to-do list was really helpful.

 An ornament I made in 8th grade art class.

An ornament I made in 8th grade art class.

I love Advent. I love the sense of preparation, and December is really the only time of the year that I like snow. Every other time it’s sort of meh. (That’s putting it mildly)

But I like the New Year aspect of Advent, too, because it is the new year for us, and I like the freshness, the starting over, the hope that comes in Advent.

So if you need a reset day too, you’re not alone. Let’s get ready for a new year, a fresh start, and the coming of the Baby Jesus!





On My Soapbox: When people say they want "healthy" kids

Catholicism, CF, essays, health, life issues, transplantEmily DeArdo3 Comments

and some theology

I know that when most people say they want a “healthy baby”, they’re not being rude or mean. They’re probably trying to be nice.

But guys, I wasn’t a “healthy baby.” I looked healthy, initially, but I wasn’t. I had seizures. I had (and still have) thalessemia minor (I think it’s called type b now? Not sure). I got the CF diagnosis when I was 11.

So, should my parents have just pitched me back? “Nah, sorry, we wanted a non-defective model.”

And I know that people do that now. People kill their babies in the name of the kids “avoid suffering” in their lives. Bull crap. “Yes, let’s kill you, so you never get to have a life.”

That ties into part two: saying “God is Good” only when things go the way you want them to go.

Guys. God is good all the time. He is Good. It is in His very nature to be good. But that doesn’t mean that God’s Goodness=what you want.

Because it doesn’t work that way.

God created me with my “defective” genetic code and my blue eyes and my blonde hair and my fair skin and my wonky teeth and an ankle that cracks oddly. I have a really good memory and I love children and I do a pretty good Sebastian the Crab imitation. I have The Phantom of the Opera libretto memorized. (And Les Miz. And Miss Saigon. And Ragtime. And Parade…)

And yeah, I also have CF. I had a transplant. I’ve got scars. And I do talk about it, because it has become clear to me that it has to be talked about, because people see illness as scary and something to be avoided and pain as awful, to the point that Canada is allowing pediatric euthenasia.

God is always good. And God made me the way I am for a purpose. Is it always fun? No. It is not. There are times when I’ve been really peeved about it, to put it mildly.

But at the same time, it has made me who I am, and in general, I like who I am. I wouldn’t want to change that for the world.

God is not being “mean” to me. He created me the way he wants me to be.

And health doesn’t always stay health. Health is a transient thing, guys. Everyone will get sick. Everyone will die. It seems that in our society now we are idolizing life and health to the point that it is fully unhealthy. We’ve forgotten that we will die, that life is fleeting, that our home isn’t here.

Children are a gift from God, no matter how they come.

And God is always good. And He always loves me.

He always loves you, too. No matter what.

As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

John 9: 1-3, NABRE

A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican

Catholicism, Dominicans, prayerEmily DeArdo4 Comments
 St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s  The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

Lots of people, when they hear I’m a Lay Dominican, want to know what that means—and I realized I’d never written a blog post about it! So I’m way overdue to write one about what this vocation actually means. :)

(It’s going to be sort of long. Sorry. But thorough!)

When St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers (that’s what Dominicans are also called—and it's abbreviated OP, so if you ever wanted to know what that means, now you know!)

The “First order” is the friars and brothers—they are priests, or “cooperator brothers”.

The “second order” is the cloistered nuns, who live in monasteries. Yes. Monasteries for nuns.

The “third order” is the laity and the sisters (the sisters live in convents. Nuns are cloistered, which means they don’t go out of their monastery without a good reason and permission. Sisters aren’t enclosed.). Dominican sisters in the U.S. are involved in many ministries.

Now, third order laity members don’t look different than anyone else. We don’t wear a habit or any sort of insignia regularly. (Alas!) We can wear a medal of St. Dominic or another Dominican saint if we want, or a pin that has the shield of the order. But we don’t look any different than anyone else.

We make promises, not vows. They’re not binding under pain of sin, but we do take them seriously.

A “day in the life” of a lay Dominican actually depends on the person! It can look radically different for everyone. The rule of life for Dominicans is very flexible and allows for a lot of adaptation, which is one of its strengths.

However, in that day, the four pillars of Dominican life are probably represented. These are:

  • Prayer

  • Study

  • Community

  • Apostolate

 El Greco,  St. Dominic In Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic In Prayer

Prayer is—well, prayer. A lay Dominican prays lauds and vespers from the liturgy of the hours and says a daily rosary. She attends Mass as often as she can, and attends confession frequently. A yearly retreat is a good idea. You’re taught how to pray the liturgy of the hours in your chapter meetings (at least I was), and you can use either the books of the breviary, or an app—whatever works better for you.

Since Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic, of course we are devoted to it! :) We try to say one set of mysteries—five decades—a day. If you can do more, great!

 Bernardo Cavallino,  St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin

Bernardo Cavallino, St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin


So, how does that look in my day?

I say lauds, generally, right when I get up. I go downstairs, start the coffee, and start lauds. When I was working I said lauds at my desk before the workday began.

I say vespers around 5:00—if I’m going out to eat, or have evening activities, it’ll be later, whenever I get home. The rosary I try to say right after vespers, but if that’s not possible, then I say it before I go to bed. My love of the rosary was an early sign of a Dominican vocation. It’s long been my favorite way to pray!


Study

 Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.

Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.


In the above statue, you see St. Dominic holding a book. Study is key to the life of all Dominicans—St. Dominic wanted his family to preach the faith fearlessly. But to do that, they had to know the faith! That meant study. Even today you will find many friars assigned to universities around the world, where they interact with students and teach theology classes. Preaching is at the heart of the Dominican life—the holy preaching of the truth (“Veritas”) of Christ.

St. Albert the Great, a Dominican, gave us the scientific method. The “angelic doctor” of the Church, one of its mightiest theologians, is St. Thomas Aquinas, also a Dominican. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be a genius to be a Dominican. Blessed Margaret of Costello was blind and abandoned by her parents.

What you have to have is a love of study and sacred truth. This can mean daily bible reading, reading spiritual works, taking theology classes—whatever suits your interest. Sometimes chapters will study something together. But to be a Dominican, you have to love to read.

How do I do this? I’m generally always reading at least one spiritual book. I’m working on building the habit of daily bible reading (lectio divina). I love to read spiritual books and look forward to talking about them with my friends or writing about them here. You don’t have to read St. Thomas’ Summa. You can read “popular” theologians, like Scott Hahn or Bishop Barron’s writings. If you want, you can read the Summa! You can dive as deeply as you want. But you should always be learning more about the faith.

Community

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Community doesn’t really always play a part in daily life—there are monthly/regular chapter meetings (every chapter varies, I think most meet once a month), but in daily life, there’s not a whole lot of contact. Certainly I have Dominican friends, including the friars that I personally know, but this isn’t an area where I have consistent daily contact. Some people probably do. For the friars, sisters, and nuns, of course, community is daily; it’s how they live.


Apostolate






 Fra Angelico,  Coronation of the Virgin  (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)

Fra Angelico, Coronation of the Virgin (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)



Apostolate is “contemplating and sharing the fruits of contemplation”—a twist on St. Thomas’s saying (one of the mottoes of the order: “to contemplate and share with others the fruit of our contemplation.”) My blog is one of my apostolates; I write about the things I discover in prayer and study. The Catholic 101 series and the resulting book are fruits of my study, prayer, and Dominican vocation!

Some Dominicans I know are hospital chaplains; others are CCD teachers, work in homeless shelters, or make rosaries. There are as many apostolates as there are Dominicans. Mine tends to be more on the writing end, so it’s pretty daily for me. I write blog posts, or essays for Take Up & Read, or work on manuscripts that have to do with Christ and the Church. That’s my apostolate.

To sum up: A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican is drastically different for every one of us, but it’s always rooted in prayer and study, finds support in community, and brings forth fruit in the apostolate of each member.

Here are links to the Lay Dominican provinces in the U.S.

Eastern (that’s me)

Central

South

West

Do you have any questions? Send them to me in the comments!









#21 The Garden (retreat notes III)

Catholicism, journalEmily DeArdoComment
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It was really too hot to spend much time in the garden, but I did manage to get out after breakfast on Saturday and take photos of the roses, and spend some time in the little replica Lourdes Grotto. Isn’t the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes gorgeous? There’s a tiny bench in there, so you can sit and pray, and a little water feature to represent the spring at Lourdes, so there’s the peaceful bubbling sound of water as well. It’s so pretty, and I just wanted to share it with you.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Flourish, the new Take Up & Read study on the book of Romans!

#20 St. Therese chapel (retreat notes II)

Catholicism, journal, prayer, Take Up and ReadEmily DeArdoComment
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I’ve been making retreats since….gosh. 2009, maybe? 2008? One of those two. So that’s 10 years of silent retreats, which is sort of amazing when I think about.

I always go on silent retreats. I find that’s the best way to really listen to God, for me, and I sort of crave that silence. This retreat I went into with out “resolutions” (as Msgr. Knox calls them), but just with the desire to fill my cup, so to speak, with God, His presence, His voice, and His quiet.

The chapel is really well suited to these things.

It’s a gorgeous stone chapel, built in the 40s, I think. The floor has the patina of age. It’s always cool in there, and quiet. The decades of prayer are obvious. The art is gorgeous, too, and leads you to contemplation pretty easily, and prayer.

There is a small side chapel, which holds the reliquary (we’ll talk about that in a later post), and has a painting of the Annunciation on the wall. It’s a supremely comfortable spot, because there’s a nice big chair in there, so you can sit and look at the tabernacle and pray, hidden and secluded. That’s where I had one of my holy hours this time, and it really was delightful.

This retreat was different in that there were only three conferences (talks on the retreat theme, which was Mary), so there was ample time for silence and doing your own thing. Usually I also spend time in my room, but since it was so hot, I spent all of my time in the chapel or the lounge. I had brought extra books to read since I knew I’d have spare time (only spiritual books, and my Bible; I don’t bring Outlander on retreat with me.). So a lot of reading, and then note taking, pondering in my journal, Bible reading (lectio), and prayer. It was great.

 The chapel spire from the garden

The chapel spire from the garden


Also, don’t forget: Our new Take Up & Read Study starts on Sunday, all about the book of Romans! Please join us! You can purchase your copy
here.



#19 A Fan (and some retreat notes)

Catholicism, give aways, journalEmily DeArdoComment

(Don’t forget the Flourish giveaway, which ends at midnight!)


I went on retreat last weekend, and usually I write up my retreat notes here, so I think I’ll do that over the next few days. But also continuing with the journal entries, I was SUPER grateful for a desk fan in my room.

The retreat center was built in the 1950s, and in the “old” part, there is no A/C. In the “new” wing, there is air conditioning. Now, normally this isn’t an issue, because all the rooms have windows that open, so I figured I wouldn’t specifically request a room with A/C, because, it’s October.

I should’ve remembered that October in Ohio can be punishingly warm—as in, summer temps—or we can have snow on the first weekend.

We have been in a heat wave that should break later this week. But in the meantime, I had been assigned to a small room, on the second floor of the old retreat house, that had no A/C.

As I trudged up the stairs with my bags I kept thinking, if it gets too bad, I can just go home.

(As a reminder: High temps and CF do not mix. The way we sweat means that we’re much more susceptible to high temperatures as opposed to regular people. Also, the skin graft I have? Doesn’t sweat. So my body doesn’t regulate temperature very well, anyway, in part. So A/C isn’t just “I’m a first world softie.” It’s, “Emily’s body doesn’t work that well on its own.”)

When I got into the room, I saw that there was a small desk fan on the table.

I was very, very grateful.

I was also grateful that the rest of the house—the lounge, the dining room, the chapel—were all abundantly air conditioned, and the doors to these spaces were left open so the A/C could sort of spill out all over the house.

So, desk fans. Don’t leave home without ‘em when it’s hot.

 The chapel, Friday night.

The chapel, Friday night.



#7 Fajitas with Mel (and Ember Days start tomorrow!)

Catholicism, family, journalEmily DeArdoComment

My sister lives in Colorado, so I don’t get to see her that much, which is sad. She’s an RN at Colorado Children’s, the only children’s hospital in the entire state. She’s also getting married in June!

Tonight she called me and we cooked together. I love FaceTime. She was making a cake while I made fajitas for dinner, and we talked about wedding plans and our brother and what we like to cook and how she was eating all the cake batter. :-P And I got to say hi to Bella, her cat. We also decided that I’d look up a place for the rehearsal dinner, because I really do love reading Yelp reviews and I want to help her out. :)

Sadly I didn’t take a shot of her on the phone—she was having an AMAZING hair day. She has thick blonde hair I envy. Mine is not thick.

But I did take a photo of the fajitas.

 Homemade salsa in there, too!

Homemade salsa in there, too!


And—a few dioceses around the country, and many individuals, are re-instating the practice of Ember Days in their spiritual lives. What are ember days? They’re days that the Church used to use for prayers—blessings on the natural world, on crops, on the people who live in the area, etc. They happen four times a year, and the Michaelmas (fall) ones are tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday. They’re days for fasting and more prayer.

If you want to know more, check out this great article. I am terrible at fasting. But I will abstain from meat. Here’s a specific link on the fall Embertide. (The other ones fall after Pentecost, St. Lucy’s Day [Dec. 13] and after Ash Wednesday.)

(If you’re a blog subscriber, you’re getting this W morning….but you can still fast or do things on the Friday and Saturday! Not too late!)

The source of life

Catholicism, prayerEmily DeArdo2 Comments
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Adoration is an immense force of reparation; by it you will obtain healing for the sick, peace for the tormented, light for those plunged into darkness, and joy for those crushed by sorrows.
It is not by preaching, nor by teaching, nor by any outward works that you will do good to souls, but only by the humility of a hidden life of adoration and reparation. To others I have given other gifts and I am glorified in their works, but from you I ask only this: that you become hidden even as I am hidden in the Host, and that you become a victim of adoration and reparation with Me. This is the great work of Eucharistic Love that, at every moment, is Mine in all the tabernacles of the world.

(From In Sinu Jesu; read the rest of the excerpt here

 

Lately, when there's been a tragedy, people have derided the idea of "thoughts and prayers." They don't change anything, they're useless, prayers don't change things, action does!

They're so wrong. 

Prayer changes thing. But the problem is, we need to become fervent in prayer. Our relationship with God needs to take first place. If we really devoted ourselves to prayer, to Christian living, our world would change. Full stop. 

As Catholics, we have some pretty powerful weapons in our arsenal. The Mass. The rosary. The sacraments. 

And we have another: Eucharistic Adoration. 

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Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, here on Earth. We can be in the presence of Jesus--His actual presence!--every single day. We can receive Him every single day, by going to Mass. But I know that Mass schedules aren't often amenable for people who have jobs. 

But we can also go to him in prayer before the tabernacle or the monstrance. 

Holy Hours--or even holy half hours, holy fifteen minutes--is truly sacred time. Spending time in the very presence of Jesus is such a gift, and one that is so overlooked! So often churches are locked, and we can't visit Him. But many churches today are bringing back periods of adoration, or even perpetual adoration chapels, where Jesus is always available for us!

When we come before Him in this way, we are pouring out our time. We are giving it back to Him, and nothing can be a better way to spend our time. We worry about all that we have to do--but if we give time to God, He gives it back to us. Trust me on this. (Or, if you don't trust me, trust Mother Teresa--she said that her sisters had the time to do everything they did because they prayed so much during the day.)

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If we're serious about change--then we need to come back to Jesus in His Eucharistic form. He is here among us, and so often we forget Him. 

You don't need to start by doing it every day. Maybe try it once a month. Maybe come to Mass 15 minutes early to spend time in prayer before Him. Then once you're into that pattern, try coming 30 minutes early. Build slowly. But I will say that my best prayer time has always been before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. 

You don't have to "do" anything. There's the famous story about St. Jean Vianney and the parishioner who came to the church every day, and just sat there; he told the saint that he looked at Jesus, and Jesus looked at him. You can say the rosary. You can read the bible, or a spiritual book. You can just talk to Jesus (because that's all prayer is, talking to God). He knows what you need, but tell Him! Pour it out before Him. Sometimes you can't even do that. Then just sit with him. 

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton said: "How sweet the presence of Jesus to the longing, harassed soul! It is instant peace, and balm to every wound." And it is

The practice of adoration is not difficult. It is a gentle abiding in My presence, a resting in the radiance of My Eucharistic Face, a closeness to My Eucharistic Heart. Words, though sometimes helpful, are not necessary, nor are thoughts. What I seek from one who would adore Me in spirit and in truth is a heart aflame with love, a heart content to abide in My presence, silent and still, engaged only in the act of loving Me and of receiving My love. Though this is not difficult, it is, all the same, My own gift to the soul who asks for it. Ask, then, for the gift of adoration.
--In Sinu Jesu

Eucharistic Adoration is truly powerful. Please, try to work it into your schedule, either by coming to Mass a little earlier, stopping by a chapel on your way to or from work, or trying a holy hour once a month at a local parish with an adoration chapel. 

Prayer isn't magic. But prayer works. Let's rev up our prayer lives, starting with a return to Eucharistic Adoration. 

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
 Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 

Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 

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Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Here is the Dominican saints series I wrote awhile back, and here is the specific post on St. Dominic, if you'd like to acquaint yourself better with the "preacher of grace." 

One of the mottoes of the Dominican order is veritas--truth--and I think we can all agree that we need truth today (maybe more than ever?). So if you're not already friends with St. Dominic, introduce yourself!

I am blessed to know so many sons of St. Dominic, his friars, and some of his daughters, the nuns and sisters (and of course the laity, of which I am a part). 

If you want to be especially Dominican today--pray the rosary! Yes, the rosary was given to the Dominican order, and spread throughout the Church. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

 

Introducing Ponder!

Catholicism, Take Up and Read, writingEmily DeArdoComment
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I have always loved the rosary. My family introduced me to it very young--I remember praying the rosary with my dad and siblings on the way to school in the mornings, and we said the family rosary sporadically. All of us had multiple rosaries hanging from our bedposts. The rosary is my go-to prayer; it's what I asked my family to pray when I was in transplant surgery. My father has a special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, so that could be why we're all rosary nuts. There are rosaries in our cars, in our purses, in our pockets. 

So when I heard that Take Up & Read was doing a rosary study, I totally did a happy dance. 

A lot of people are confused by the rosary. What is it? Isn't it just mindless repetition? And why are you praying to Mary? There are lots of misconceptions about it. That's why I'm so glad this beautiful book exists--to show how Scripturally based, and Christocentric, the rosary really is. 

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Enter: Ponder

This book is beautiful. I mean, it really is. You can see that here. Katrina Harrington, of Rose Harrington, did the cover art and all the beautiful interior illustrations. Our calligrapher, Rakhi McCormick (of Rakstar Designs), did all the glorious interior lettering, and our design chief, Kristin Foss, made it all elegant and readable with her imitable design. 

But oh my goodness, the essays. And I'm not talking about mine (although I have two, and I am crazy blessed and excited to be in this book!)--really, guys, you will love them. They are perfection. 

So this book is really close to my heart. It's about a devotion I love, put together by lovely people, just in time for Mother's Day! In fact, we start the study on Mother's Day. 

There will also be a group guide and a kids' version! 

Every week includes: 

  • Scripture study Monday through Friday, with verses, lectio pages, and a devotional essay about that day's mystery.
  • Saturday "Selah" days, where we invite you to pause, reflect on the week's pages, go back and read more, or just sit with your journal and ponder what you've written and read. 
  • Sunday Scripture memory verses which channel the flavor of each set of mysteries and invite you to memorize Scripture so you can ponder it in your heart, just like Mary did, at any time. 
  • Floral coloring pages of flowers with Marian symbolism
  • A "how to say the rosary" graph
  • An essay on lectio divinia--the heart of our studies!

I heartily invite you to come and join us as we spend May and June looking at the rosary, this beautiful devotion that is the favorite of so many saints, and that St. Padre Pio called "the weapon." 

You can get your copy here! 

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Lenten Suggestions

books, Catholicism, Catholic 101, LentEmily DeArdoComment
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Can you believe Lent starts next week? On Valentine's Day, no less? "Yes, hon, we'll celebrate Valentine's Day! But, you know, with macaroni and cheese and...no chocolate." 

(I'm kidding. We can do it, guys! Just celebrate the day before and do Mardi Gras up big this year.) 

Per usual, I have a few suggestions for how to prepare for Lent this year! 

You can read previous posts I've written. And you can also read about it more extensively in my book, Catholic 101, where I talk a lot about Lent, as well as Holy Week! (Remember, if you're a blog subscriber, you have a code for 15% off! Lost the code? Email me and I'll shoot you a new one.) 

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Another one of my favorite Lent books is A Time for Renewal: Daily Reflections on the Lenten Season, by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.  She's such an incredible speaker and writer, so able to cut right to the heart of the matter, that I highly recommend all her books. I pick this up every Lent. 

And finally, there is Above All! 

You all know how much I love this book. The price has been reduced on Amazon, so go get, if you haven't already! Profits are going to Adore Ministries in Houston to help with Hurricane Harvey relief. 

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This book is gorgeous, guys. We put so much heart and soul and dedication into it. And if you're giving up Facebook for Lent, we have a gorgeous website that will have the daily readings and questions to ponder, so you can join our community there! 

Also, I'm going to have some Lenten recipes up on the blog to help with those meatless Fridays that are coming. Look for the first one this week!

What are your favorite Lenten resources? 

 

Poems for St. Cecilia's Day

CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments
 Guido Reni,  St. Cecilia

Guido Reni, St. Cecilia

Today is St. Cecilia's Day: she's an early Church martyr who is also the patroness of musicians. (Singers also have Pope St. Gregory the Great--the guy who invented Gregorian chant.) She's the patron saint of music and musicians because, as she walked toward her groom on her wedding day, she heard heavenly music playing, reminding her of her vow to be the Bride of Christ. (She was marrying against her will--and she managed to convince her husband to live in a celibate marriage. So she must've been a pretty gifted speaker, as well!) 

She inspires a lot of poetry, so I thought I'd share some of them here today. 

The first one is by WH Auden, and can be found here

Alexander Pope wrote a very long poem called "Ode for Music on St. Cecilia's Day". I won't quote the whole thing, but the last stanza is very nice: 

  Music the fiercest grief can charm,

  And Fate’s severest rage disarm:

  Music can soften pain to ease,        

  And make despair and madness please:

    Our joys below it can improve,

    And antedate the bliss above.

  This the divine Cecilia found,

And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.        

When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,

  Th’ immortal Powers incline their ear;

Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,

While solemn airs improve the sacred fire,

  And Angels lean from Heav’n to hear.        

Of Orpheus now no more let poets tell;

To bright Cecilia greater power is giv’n:

  His numbers rais’d a shade from Hell,

    Hers lift the soul to Heav’n.

 

 Detail of John William Waterhouse's  St. Cecilia

Detail of John William Waterhouse's St. Cecilia

And finally, Dryden's "Song for St. Cecilia's Day", in its entirety: 

 

A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687

by John Dryden 

Stanza 1 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began. 

       When Nature underneath a heap 

               Of jarring atoms lay, 

       And could not heave her head, 

The tuneful voice was heard from high, 

               Arise ye more than dead. 

Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry, 

       In order to their stations leap, 

               And music's pow'r obey. 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began: 

               From harmony to harmony 

Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 

       The diapason closing full in man. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

                When Jubal struck the corded shell, 

         His list'ning brethren stood around 

         And wond'ring, on their faces fell 

         To worship that celestial sound: 

Less than a god they thought there could not dwell 

                Within the hollow of that shell 

                That spoke so sweetly and so well. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

         The trumpet's loud clangor 

                Excites us to arms 

         With shrill notes of anger 

                        And mortal alarms. 

         The double double double beat 

                Of the thund'ring drum 

         Cries, hark the foes come; 

Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat. 

         The soft complaining flute 

         In dying notes discovers 

         The woes of hopeless lovers, 

Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute. 

         Sharp violins proclaim 

Their jealous pangs, and desperation, 

Fury, frantic indignation, 

Depth of pains and height of passion, 

         For the fair, disdainful dame. 

But oh! what art can teach 

         What human voice can reach 

The sacred organ's praise? 

Notes inspiring holy love, 

Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways 

         To mend the choirs above. 

Orpheus could lead the savage race; 

And trees unrooted left their place; 

                Sequacious of the lyre: 

But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r; 

         When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n, 

An angel heard, and straight appear'd 

                Mistaking earth for Heav'n. 

GRAND CHORUS 

As from the pow'r of sacred lays 

         The spheres began to move, 

And sung the great Creator's praise 

         To all the bless'd above; 

So when the last and dreadful hour 

   This crumbling pageant shall devour, 

The trumpet shall be heard on high, 

         The dead shall live, the living die, 

         And music shall untune the sky.

 

 

Catholic 101: FAQs and Gift Giving!

books, Catholic 101, Catholicism, writingEmily DeArdoComment
Catholic 101 (1).jpg

I've been getting some questions about Catholic 101--mostly about downloading it--so I thought I'd devote a blog post to it! 

1) Why are there two different products to download? What does that mean?!

There are two different choices for downloading Catholic 101, and I did that on purpose. 

Once you've bought the product, two options are available to you for download: one is a PDF, and one is an ePub file. 

The PDF works anywhere, but is best for reading on a laptop/desktop, or if you want to print it out. It will download to your device. You can read a PDF on an iPad. It's just not the best format for it, because....

The ePub  file is especially designed for all e-readers EXCEPT KINDLE. (Kindle is weird.) With the ePub file, you get access to the embedded web links, as well as the interactive table of contents, where you can click on a chapter to read it. The footnotes are also linked, too. Basically it's a much easier reading experience than on the PDF if you like links and things like that. 

If you have an iPad, this is how you get it to open in iBooks: 

*On your device, go to the Gumroad website in your web browser of choice. Log in to your account, and select Catholic 101. 

*Select the ePub format. When this downloads, it'll ask you what you want to open it in. Select iBooks.

*Open iBooks. It should be right there. Select it, and there you go! 

If this still doesn't work for you, there is Gumroad help, or I can help you. :) 

2) But there's no difference in content, right?

Right. The content is exactly the same in each format. It's just a matter of preference, and if you don't have an e-reader, then obviously you'll want the PDF, or if you want to print it out. 

Now, gifting the book! If you've already bought Catholic 101, but you want to give it to people as a gift, this is how you do it. 

* Click the Catholic 101 bar at the top of my site (or log into Gumroad. If you do that, click "Buy it again!)

*You will be at the Gumroad purchase page. Click, "I want this!" 

*On the next page, you'll see payment information. 

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 10.40.18 AM.png

See that little gift box? Click that! Then you can enter the recipient's email information and pay! Yay!!!! 


So that's it for today's FAQ installment. As always, I greatly appreciate all of my customers! :) Thank you for supporting my little book! If you have more questions, drop them in the comments!

 

The release of Catholic 101

behind the scenes, books, Catholic 101, Catholicism, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Catholic 101 (1).jpg

So, I'm sure you've noticed that I've been talking up the release of my first ebook, Catholic 101, which has been in the works for well over a year now. I can't believe it's going to be going live! I'm really excited to share this with you. Today's post is going to walk you through the book and answer any questions you might have. 

Catholic 101, as long time blog readers know, started as a series here on the blog. Every Monday, I wrote a post about Catholicism based on the first grade CCD text I used in class (I was a CCD teacher at the time).  The reason? I'd noticed a lot of adult Catholics had big holes in their religious education--even cradle Catholics, and Catholics that had gone to parochial schools. As a Dominican, it's my job to spread the truth of the Gospel, and what better way to do it that to write a blog series? 

As the series progressed, my dad suggested that I compile the entries into an ebook, which would also give me the opportunity to expand on some topics, add new entries, and add resources in a comprehensive, tidy way that you can't really do on a blog. That's what Catholic 101, the ebook, is all about. 

Here are the details: 

*Over 80 pages of content, divided into four sections: The Basics, The Liturgical Year, Beliefs and Practices, and Prayers and Resources. 

*Six new or expanded entries in additional the original series content! New posts on Mary, Christmastide, the Ten Commandments, Angels, Papal Elections, and Papal Infallibility. (If you want to see what was covered in the original series, click over here.) 

*A list of recommended books

*A compendium of basic Catholic prayers

That sounds good, right? I think it does, anyway. We hit all the sacraments, Jesus' life, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, all the liturgical seasons, including a special look at Advent, Lent, and the Triduum. We talk about Mary and the rosary, and why the Eucharist is so vital to Catholic life. There are even Outlander, Pride and Prejudice, and Princess Bride references!

So, with all that goodness, here are the FAQs: 

1) How much is it? 

The book is $9.50. 

2) What the heck is Gumroad? 

Gumroad is the platform I've chosen to use for this release. I really like how they work on the business end (read: taxes are easy when it comes time for that) and the app is total simplicity. Just download it and bazinga! You can read your Gumroad products. 

3) I don't want to download Gumroad. Can I read it on other devices? 

You sure can! You can read it on Gumroad's website (which works on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices), and it will be available in formats for iBooks and Kindles. Wooo!

4) How do I know everything in it is right? I mean, you aren't a theologian. 

No, I'm not. I don't even play one on TV. But everything in the book has been copiously documented, with most of it coming right from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I've cited papal documents, websites, and lots of other resources, so you know you are getting correct information. I certainly don't want anyone to get bad information! That being said, despite the best efforts of myself and my editors, there's the possibility that there might be typos or things that aren't clear. In that case, drop me a line and we'll check it out!

5) When is the book actually available? 

November 2--the feast of All Souls. 

6) Why pre-order? 

Because you get it immediately! Those who have pre-ordered the book get it as soon as it's "live" on the Gumroad site. 

7) But I can still get it even if I don't pre-order, right? 

Right. Same price, same everything. 

I have a question you didn't answer

OK! Drop it in the comment box or use the contact form to drop me a line and I'll help you! 

You can pre-order here: 

 

 

 

What We Think It Means

Catholicism, essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Most of us are probably familiar with the line from The Princess Bride : "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." 

There's a lot of that going on in our country today. 

Let's take a really common word: Sinner. What does this word mean? 

If you google the definition, this is what you get: 

a person who transgresses against divine law by committing an immoral act or acts.

If you're Christian, we could take this to mean--breaking the 10 commandments, for a start. But you can break that down into lots of other things. 

But the whole point of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to Earth and died to save sinners, which is everyone. No one is perfect. Every single person is a sinner. 

So when I see signs that say "sinners welcome" on church billboards, I wonder, where are the churches where sinners aren't welcome? Because that's the whole reason the churches exist

Now: that being said. There is a difference between a repentant sinner and a sinner who persists in sinning. When you go to confession, one of the key things in order to receive absolution is that you must be sorry for your sins, but you also must say that you're going to try to avoid it in the near future. So, if you go into the confessional, and you say you gossip, and you're really going to try to stop, but you don't mean it--you have no intention of stopping, you just want the "rubber stamp", so to speak, of forgiveness--then it's not true contrition. You have to have the contrition. 

But if you go in and say you're going to stop gossiping, and then you go out to dinner the next day with your friends and you gossip, and then your next thought is Oh dang it! , then you're trying to stop. You're not perfect. You haven't conquered that sin yet. But you are attempting to quit. That makes a difference. It's like a person who's trying to lose weight. Sometimes you gain some back, but the key is--are you still trying? If you are, then you're on the way toward success. If you're not, then....

Now, this is all wholly different than saying "we welcome sinners, and you can just keep right on sinning and that's just fine with us." NO. Nuh-uh. 

Every person, in every pew across the world, every weekend, is a sinner. But there's a difference between a church who says, "we love you, but this thing you're doing? It's not good. It's sinful. It needs to stop," and a church who says, "oh, we love you and your sin. You don't need to change. That's OK. Because it's not really sin anyway. It's just you!" 

What did Jesus say to the adulteress? Go and sin no more. Not, oh, it's OK lady, keep doing what you're doing. 

Sin is terrible. It had terrible consequences. We all sin. But that doesn't mean that we should keep doing it because it's our default, so to speak. We have to work against it, and try to become the people God created us to be. Everyone has a particular fault--or several--that they struggle with. I sure do. I'm sure you do. Everyone does. 

God applauds effort. The church applauds effort. Effort actually counts! But saying that a person's decisions are not sinful, that we just love them as they are--that's a lie. That's what GW used to call the soft bigotry of low expectations. 

Christians are required to love everyone. What's that line from The Incredibles? "The law requires that I answer no!" But as a wise Dominican once told me, "people don't have to like you. They have to love you." 

Love is hard  and love is tough. A parent that doesn't discipline his kids ends up with spoiled brats. A church that doesn't try to guide her people toward salvation, our highest possible God, and eternal life and happiness with God, isn't doing its job. The Church isn't loving you if it's not telling you the truth in charity. It's doing you an eternal disservice. 

 

 

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Dominicans, dominican saints series, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast of St. Dominic! Today is a big day for me since I'm a Lay Dominican, and I intend to make it a good Feast Day!

If you're asking, St. Dominic who? Go here

For more on some of my favorite Dominican saints, go here

And today would be a great day to pray the rosary, since St. Dominic was the one who got it from Mary, and all that. :) From my St. Dominic piece: 

Besides the Dominican order, St. Dominic gave the church another treasure: the rosary. The rosary was given to St. Dominic at Prouilhe in 1214. Bl. Alain de la Rouche, a Dominican priest, spread devotion of the rosary in the 15th century. The habit of Dominican friars, nuns, and sisters includes a rosary worn on the left side of the body, where knights use to wear their swords, since St. Dominic said that the power of the rosary was more powerful than any other weapon. Pope Pius XI said that, "The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." 

 

 

Independence Day Meditation: True Independence

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

One of the most memorable aspects of my pastoral visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America's historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart o every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation's founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a comittment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature's God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly oppossed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposed unchanging moral truths by proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, either constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power of majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitable comes impoverished and falls prey, as the late [St.] Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.  

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truths. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane, and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church's defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that the law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future. 

The Church's witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation. 

In light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic Community in the United States come to realize the grave threats tot he Church's public moral witness presented by radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres...

No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church's presence and witness in American society. The hope which these "signs of the times" gives us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of a civilization of love. 

--Pope Benedict XVI