Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Catholicism

#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
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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. 

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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
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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 

 

The forgotten demographic: Catholic Single Women

CatholicismEmily DeArdo11 Comments

(And no, it's not just because I am one.) 

There has always been a fundamental difference between the experience of single men and single women. Single men--"Bachelors." Single women--"old maids." 

Which would you rather be called? 

But the biggest problem, at least where I sit, is when the church gives us the Smug Marrieds from the Bridget Jones novels and turns it into an area of completing overlooking/forgetting/not attending to the single women in their midst. 

 Really, don't need to feel like an idiot because I'm not married at church, when I already feel that way from society at large....

Really, don't need to feel like an idiot because I'm not married at church, when I already feel that way from society at large....

This isn't just a parish problem. It's a whole church problem. 

If you are a Catholic single woman who is relatively young (I'm 35, am I relatively young?) , I challenge you to find a ministry that cares about your needs. Most of them say "oh, we cater to all women!" No, you don't. 

  • You don't if at women's conferences, it's all about married women and women with kids (Or it's like, a 90/10 split in favor of the marrieds.) 
  • You don't if there are groups for moms of preschoolers, married couples, older women, men, and youth--but nothing for women or men who are unmarried and older than 21 in your parish, or that top out in the 30s. Because, of course single people who are in their mid to late 30s just don't exist....
  • You don't if the big social events in your parish are dances or things that otherwise require a partner--even if you say they don't. Seriously, who goes to a dance stag once they're out of high school?!  

Now, I can understand that married Catholic women need something that's for them. That's fine. I can see the need there. There's a lot of pressure for married Catholic couples in this society. I can see that they need time alone (as in, sans kids) and to re-charge. Totally. That's a legitimate need. 

But it's getting old, because there is nothing for single Catholic women that aren't discerning a religious vocation. Seriously. NOTHING. Big. Fat. ZERO. And not only is there nothing specifically for us, but the things that are supposed to be for women in general are almost always totally geared to women who are wives and mothers--and it's not advertised that way. 

When I go on retreats, there's almost always a lot of mentions of husbands and kids. Why can't we just focus on being Catholic women?   I just sit there and smile and doodle in my notebook. 

When I read Catholic women's devotionals, there is such an undertone of being geared to wives and mothers. Why?  (And for the record, the Protestant books and devotionals I've read don't seem to do this. Why is that? [And yes, I read them because most of the Catholic ones do not speak to me. At all.] When I read Made to Crave, Uninvited, or 1,000 Gifts, it's not all about the authors being moms. It's about being women. And yes, these women write about being a mom, but it's not the end all and be all of what they write.)  

When I go to my diocese's Catholic Women's conference, a lot of the time, all the speakers are married women. As a single woman, I often sit through talks that have absolutely no bearing on my experience. But that never happens the other way around--a talk about single women, with married women in the audience.  

You can be a wife and mother, and yet talk about things that are applicable to all women

Believe me, I'd love to be a wife and mother. It would make me incredibly happy. But I'm not. I can't wish a husband and children into being a la Cinderella's ball gown.  A lot of Catholic women's organizations do not realize, or meet, the need that single Catholic women have for fellowship (which is a word I hate, but it works here), understanding, and the desire to live out our vocation as a Catholic woman authentically, no matter what our family situation. 

Does this happen to men? At the Catholic men's breakfast or lunch or the men's retreats, is it all about being a husband and a father? I dunno. But I would sort of think not--and hope not, because then they're in the same boat that we single women are. 

And no, I don't think that being single is "my vocation." 

(And also--what about married couples who have no kids? I sort of get the sense that they're in a weird place, too. Because, no kids. )

I'm just saying, throw us a bone once in awhile. Or at least, don't be a Smug Married. Please, please, please, Catholic parishes and Catholic women's groups, focus on all women. Not just the married ones. Not just the moms. All women

How do we do this? I think it's pretty simple, myself: Focus on creating groups that help everyone live out their faith, together. Things like parish-wide Bible studies. Faith sharing groups. Even coffee groups that meet once a month in the evening or whatever, for everyone to get together and talk and pray. Have a book club that's open to all adults. Don't have meetings at 10 AM on a week day that are the only meeting of the women's group! That's great for retirees, but not so much for working young people. 

And in the social media realm--focus on all women. Ensure that if you say you're for all women, that you really are in your representation. 

Now, the obvious response to all this is, "Well, start one! Duh, Emily. Get off your duff!" 

I don't mind running things. My personality is actually really good at running things (I'm an ESTJ, for you Myers-Briggs people) . And maybe, eventually, I'll get there. But this isn't a problem just for me. It's a much larger problem, outside the realm of my parish. And I am, actually, talking with friends of mine about getting things going at my own parish. 

But that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing this to bring attention to the larger issue that a lot of us face. 

I love you, married women. A lot of you--you know who you are--are great friends and mentors to me. But

Lara Casey said something really good at MTH: All stories matter. 

And yes, that includes the stories of the singletons. 

 

Easter notes

Catholicism, books, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Happy Easter Octave! Yup, that's right--Easter, like Christmas, has an octave. We are going to celebrate intensely for at least eight days. So get out the party hats. Eat the chocolate. He is Risen!

So just a few notes from around here, vis-a-vis Holy Week and other things that Happened on My Week Off: 

  • There is something about Holy Hour that is just so calming. No matter how I go into it, once I've spent any amount of time in front of the monstrance/tabernacle, I just feel soothed. This Holy Week was a little crazier than usual, due to getting spots removed from my skin, and my basement flooding over the weekend, so workmen in and out to fix that....but I did get my Holy Week adoration period on Wednesday. Whew. I needed it. Felt a lot better after that. :) 
     
  • Claire in Outlander talks about this: when she's before the Blessed Sacrament in the first book, praying for Jamie, she goes to leave, and a monk is coming in (you can't leave the Sacrament alone during perpetual adoration). She says that she was alone, and the monk said, were you? Claire thought about it. No, she wasn't alone. It's like that. (It's at the end of the first book--don't have it to hand for the references at the moment.)
     
  • (And yes, I will be doing a post about Outlander and Catholicism later this month!)
     
  • Holy Thursday is probably my favorite Mass of the year. It's just gorgeous, we get to chant the Pange Lingua, which I've always loved, and which was written by a Dominican (St. Thomas Aquinas). If you haven't heard it, "educate yourself!" Really. Sublimity. 
  • There's a solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, and then silent adoration until midnight. This year, you could've heard a pin drop during adoration. Seriously, when I put my rosary back in its plastic case, it sounded loud (and I was being careful!). It's indescribable, really, but just so heavy with solemnity and prayer. Love it. 
     
  • My favorite part of Good Friday is the veneration of the cross. I know some people think it's weird. But getting to kiss the cross (or bow/genuflect to it, whatever you choose to do) is such a small thing, but it feels so significant. Here's some more about it, if you're curious.
     
  • The Vigil, on Saturday night, is always happy, because we welcome new members into the church. But it's also sort of nerve-wracking because: CANDLES. FIRE. Small children! This year the woman in front of me had a Big Issue--the paper wax-catcher thing around the candle actually caught fire! Yikes! Fortunately she was able to put it out before the pew caught on fire. :) 

How was your Holy Week and Easter? Do you or your family do anything special? 

 

Daybook No. 120: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Catholicism, DaybookEmily DeArdo1 Comment
 The Our Lady of Guadalupe mural at the National Basilica 

The Our Lady of Guadalupe mural at the National Basilica 

Outside my window::

It's raining. It was snowing earlier and my car was covered this morning.  It's also been pretty cold but at the moment it's warm enough to rain and not ice, which is a blessing. Really. 

I'm wearing::

leggings and a blue t-shirt

In the CD player::

the Christmas playlist. 

Listening to::

Outlander Season two, episode one. Watching the series again. :) 

Reading::

Fire Within (more on that below),  O Jerusalem (A Russel-Holmes book--it's book 5 in the series); The Best Yes by Lysa Tekurst, for bible study, and I Believe In Love, which is the Well Read Mom book pick this month. (No, I'm not a mom, but I love this group.) 

Living the Liturgy::

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which I've talked about here. Here's a little bit from that piece: 

Mary appeared to Juan Diego four times, beginning December 9, 1531, at Tepeyac. She spoke in Juan Diego's native language and asked that a church be built on that site in her honor. When he went to the local bishop, he (like most bishops and priests in these accounts) asked for a sign. On December 12, Juan Diego saw Castellian roses at the foot of Tepeyac, which weren't indigenous to the region. He filled his cloak (ilma) with the roses, and presented them to the bishop. However, the roses weren't the only miraculous thing--the interior of the tilma was imprinted with a picture of the Lady as she appeared to Juan Diego. (For technical information about the image on the tilma, see this Wikipedia article.) 

She is also the patroness of Mexico, the Americas, the Philippines, and the unborn. 

So if you want to eat Mexican food today in honor of Our Lady, I won't stop you. ;-) Or Mexican Hot Chocolate! :) 

Tuesday: St. Lucy. Who doesn't love St. Lucy/ St. Lucia? Have some St. Lucia buns! If you're a woman of a certain age (ahem, my compatriots), dig out your old copy of Kristen's Surprise and find your Kirsten doll. (I may or may not have a Kirsten doll. I may or may not have her St. Lucia outfit. I ADMIT NOTHING. :-P)

On Wednesday, it's the feast of St. John of the Cross, who wrote the "Dark Night of the Soul", and many other spiritual classics. He was a contemporary of St. Teresa of Avila, and at one point was her confessor and spiritual director. I'm reading Fire Within right now, about both of them, so my spiritual reading is timely! (It's a great book. You need to read it slowly. It's long. But it's great.) Since I've given you food recommendations for every other day, I'd go with something appropriately Spanish here. Or, you know. Tacos again. 

And then on Saturday, it's time to get excited, people. It's the beginning of the O Antiphons, and it's a week until Christmas Eve! 

Around the house::

Getting ready for Christmas with the rest of the housekeeping. Wheeee, right? :) And my dishwasher is broken, so I'm hoping the guy will be out to fix it today. 

Fitness and Creativity::

I've been trying to do a sketch every day this month, and I've been keeping up with it pretty well. My goal is to finish my current sketchbook by the end of the month. I've got about 13 pages to go, so it's definitely doable. 

Fun Links:: 

A Christmas song for you!

 

(Or, as it was fondly renamed in high school choir, "Do you know what I hear".....yes, it's very easy to mix up all the "hears" and "sees" and "says".....) 

 

Three Things I Learned on Retreat

Catholicism, essaysEmily DeArdoComment

This past weekend, I went on a silent retreat offered by the Catholic Laywomen's Retreat League in my diocese. So, after a day or two to let my thoughts coalesce, I bring you the fruits of my contemplation!

Three things I learned on Retreat: 

Go Deep Into the Word

I'm afraid that regular Bible reading has never been on my list of things I do. I do lots of other spiritual reading. And of course, as I say the Office every day, I'm reading/praying scripture, particularly the psalms. But a regular habit of Bible reading has always eluded me. In retreat, I pondered this. I read so much otherwise, why in the world wasn't I reading the Bible regularly?

I think part of it was I allowed myself to say, "Oh, I'm not good at lectio." And I'm not, really. But at the same time, do I have to do lectio? No. I can just read the Bible and ponder what I've read without making a whole big production out of it. 

So I am going to get Deep into the Word. The retreat began on the feast of St. Jerome, who gave us the Latin Vulgate, and who famously said "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." No more ignorance. I'm daily diving into the Word and seeing what fruit it reaps. 

My patron saint, St. Thérèse, had this to say about the Gospels: 

But above all, it's the Gospels that occupy my mind when I'm at prayer; my poor soul has so many needs and yet this is the only thing needful. I'm always finding fresh lights there, hidden and enthralling meanings. 

 

Daily Mass Must Be a Priority

I "try" to make it to Daily Mass--not every day, but at least once a week. I put "try" in quotation marks because I don't really try. I don't put it in my schedule at the beginning of the week. That changes. Now when I do my weekly schedule, I'm going to ensure that once a week, Mass is written in.

Mass is the "source and summit of Christian life"  . If I believe that, I need to be getting myself to Mass ore than just on Sunday. 

Seek to be Eucharistic souls! Hunger and thirst to eat this living miracle; nourish yourselves with it! ... Let your Mass be the center of your day. Everything must flow for you from your daily Mass, and everything must culminate in it. Your day, because you have willed it, must be a thanksgiving for the Mass you attended that day and a preparation for the Mass you will attend the next day...Do everything possible to facilitate daily Communion. ...

You will not live this life of holiness, confidence, abandonment, and peace which I have preached to you so far, except in the measure to which you drink at the fountain of living water, the fountain which flows unto eternal life, the fountain of the altar.

--Fr. Jean C. J. D'Elbée, I Believe In Love: A personal retreat based on the teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux

 

Confidence, Abandonment, Trust

These three things are all interconnected. And it's sort of hard to explain. But I'm gonna try!

St. Thérèse knew that Jesus calls us just as we are. If you remember Bridget Jones' Diary, think of the scene when Mark Darcy tells Bridget, "No, I like you very much. Just as you are." Same principle at work here. Jesus knows that we are small and frail humans. But if we count on Him to help us, to make up for what we do badly, then we are well on our way to confident trust. "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me," as St. Paul says. (Phil. 4:13) We have to be confident and trust that Jesus will help us. "Never be discouraged by your faults," Fr. D'Elbée writes. As long as we are trying, advancing, then we're growing in holiness. It's when we think we're done, or we back slide, that there's a problem. 

We have to abandon ourselves to Christ. "We open our arms to him," Fr. D'Elbée continues, "yet we close the doors of our intelligence, of our will, of our heart, but not living in this abandonment. We bid Him come, but we do not permit Him to enter...'What shall I do? How shall I do it?' listen to Him saying to you, 'Let me do it.'" 

This doesn't mean that I don't plan, that I don't try my best! "Yes, do everything as if it all depended on you, and leave the result to the Divine Master, on whom everything really depends." (I Believe in Love 91) 

Mother Angelica talked a lot about the present moment, and that's involved here, too. What is happening to us in each moment is God's will for us. 

So in reading these chapters and bringing them to prayer, I realized that event hough I'm working on these things, I need to work on abandonment and real love--loving Jesus every moment, in every action, knowing that Jesus sees my heart and knows me better than I'll ever know myself. 

In Romeo and Juliet, the apothecary that sells Romeo the forbidden poison does so because he's under financial strain. "My poverty, but not my will, consents," he tells Romeo. "I pay thy poverty, and not thy will," is Romeo's reply as he receives the deadly draught. It's the same way here. Our nature might rebel against something. We might have thoughts or feelings that come and that we don't like. But if we don't will them, if we work against them, then we're making progress. 

It is confidence and nothing but confidence which will lead us to love.

--St. Thérèse 

Seven Quick Takes 125: Why Y'all Should Silent Retreat (Or retreat, at all)

7 Quick Takes, CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 

OK, before we get down to Quick Taking, here's this week's writing: 

You Get What You Get

Hail Mary

And, since I'm going to be on retreat tomorrow--aka St. Therese's Feast Day--I give you: 

This post about her as my Confirmation Saint

II. 

OK, so anyway, this weekend, I'm going on a silent retreat. I go on a lot of these; I try to go on at least one a year. If I'm lucky, I get in two. But one a year is absolutely vital, and I think everyone should try to go on one, because they are awesome

But why are they awesome, Emily? Because they don't sound awesome to me. And I'm busy. I have Stuff. I have Life. I can't just go retreat!

OK, maybe you can't. But if you can, at all, you NEED TO!

III. 

Reason Number 1: SILENCE

OK, I know that this will make a lot of you run screaming for the hills. Silence? For a whole weekend? I can't do that. I have to talk! 

No, you don't. Trust me. Trust God. You really don't need to talk. You need to talk LESS (take it from a girl who used to get "refrains from unnecessary talking" marked as a need to improve area on every report card between grades 1-8. That's thirty two report cards, guys. )

God cannot talk to you if you're too busy yapping and watching Netflix and listening to Adelle and Facebooking and Face Timing and Messaging and Snapchatting and whatever else. I mean, he'll try

But if we take away all those distractions, all the talking, and we just sit and are quiet? It's a lot easier to hear God talking to you. 

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.

---1 Kings 19:11-13

Yeah, sometimes God speaks in the thunder. But sometimes he's speaking in the quiet, and he's easy to miss. Make it quiet so you can hear him!

IV. 

Second: TOTAL focus on God

You have nothing to do in this retreat but be with God. That's it. You have nothing else to worry about. You are fed. You have a room that you don't have to clean. You have ample places to walk, to pray, and books to read, if you didn't bring your own. All you have to do is have quiet time with the Person Who Loves You The Most. (Yeah, that would be God.) You can do that however you want, as long as you don't break the silence. You can say the rosary. You can sit in the chapel and just stare at the tabernacle. You can go to confession. You can journal. You can read. WHATEVER. But the whole point is to grow in your spiritual relationship with God. 

Nothing stays stagnant. If you are staying stagnant, you're not growing. You're decaying. Think of flowers that don't blossom, or an apple tree that doesn't give apples. Something's wrong. You need to continually grow in the spiritual life. Retreats are a great way to do that. 

V. 

Third: New perspectives

Every retreat I've been on, there's been something new I've learned. Sometimes it's from the retreat master's talk. Sometimes it's from prayer in the chapel. Sometimes it's from a book I'm reading. But I always learn something new. 

VI.

Fourth: Refreshment

There is refreshment in retreat. Since life is stripped to the bare essentials, you don't feel like you have to be Chatty Cathy at the lunch table. You don't have to worry about laundry and cooking and all the other mundane things. You can just be. A retreat is fantastic self-care. You have to refresh yourself in order to continue growing. You need water just like a plant. A retreat is a great way to get that refreshment. 

VII.

Now, you don't need to do a silent retreat. They're my preferred retreats, because I find that I can really hear God best that way. But you can do retreats that let you talk. :) But some degree of quiet is important when it comes to retreat. They're meant to be introspective. You're meant to spend a fair amount of time on your soul and God and prayer. 

That being said, I also love Catholic Conferences, like the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference. Holy hours are also a great way to refresh yourself in the middle of life, if you can't get away for a weekend. 

But if you can, at all, I'd suggest trying  a weekend retreat. It might bear more fruit than you ever thought!