Emily M. DeArdo



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 DeArdo12 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. :) 


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


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


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!


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!


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. 


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. 


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. 


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! 

Catholic 101: Matrimony

Catholic 101, CatholicismEmily DeArdo1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

Um....well, sort of. 

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Reverently, soberly...." etc. 

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

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

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

SEX, people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Catholic 101: The Eucharist

Catholic 101, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

OK, everyone. Buckle up. 

I mean it. 

I love the Eucharist. I could write a whole tome on it, here. I realize the Eucharist is one of the more misunderstood Catholic doctrines. So we're talking about first communion, but we're also going to talk about the Eucharist more generally. OK? 


OK, so first off, what is the Eucharist?

Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus ChristIt's not a symbol. After the bread and wine have been consecrated by the priest, it IS Jesus Christ, here, present, fully, in the host. 

As Flannery O'Connor said: 

We take Jesus at His word when he said "this is my body." We take John 6 seriously. 

If it's just a symbol, then, so what? Why do it? Why have it? 

But to us, it's not a symbol. It is JESUS CHRIST. That's why we have Eucharistic adoration, why we reserve the sacrament in the tabernacle, and why we treat it (or should treat it!) with reverence. It's why we genuflect when we go into the pews--because Jesus Christ is actually present in our churches, in the Eucharist. 

Since we treat the Eucharist so reverently, not just anyone can receive it. That's why First Communion is such an important sacrament to Catholics--it's the day when you can receive Jesus in Communion for the first time. This is huge! 

For Catholics, you have to be at the "age of reason", which is seven years old. You have to be able to understand Who you are receiving. That doesn't mean that you have to understand the Ins and Outs of Transubstantiation, but you do have to know it's not just bread the priest is giving you. 

In some places, First Confession precedes first communion. But for our purposes, we'll talk about that later. 

I always told my CCD kids that I never, ever wanted to see them go up to communion sloppily. The number of people I've seen just shuffling up to communion, like they're going to receive a hot dog at a baseball game! NOOOOOO! STOP IT! You should be totally aware to what you're doing and Who you are about to receive. 

Going back to our discussion of matter and form: The matter is the unleavened bread and wine. No, you cannot use grape juice, or Pepsi, or water. It must be wine. And no, you can't use bread from Kroger, or Doritos, or pita bread, or crackers. It must be unleavened bread. I was absolutely shocked the first time I went to a Protestant service (it was orientation at college--I couldn't get to Mass, but then did offer Catholic communion from an extraordinary minister of communion). The pastor got out a loaf of Kroger bread, and Kroger grape juice. 

You don't have to receive both species (that's what it's technically called--the species). At my parish, we never offer the wine to the communicants. It's only ever the Host. But that's OK. 

The form is the words of consecration, said by the priest, as part of the Eucharistic Prayer: 

Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.  

After the priest--and ONLY the priest--says the words of consecration, the bread and the wine have BECOME the Body and Blood of Christ. 

Since the Church believes that when we receive communion, we are taking Jesus into our very selves, there are a few rules: 

  1. You should have fasted for one hour before receiving (water and medicine don't count. And if you have to take food with the medicine, you can.)  
  2. You must not receive if you are in a state of mortal sin. If you are in a state of mortal sin and you receive communion, then you're committing sacrilege, on top of already being in a state of mortal sin. You're just making things worse! (This is one reason that my parish offers confession before every Mass.) 


Now, many of my Protestant friends have expressed disdain that they cannot receive communion at a Catholic Mass. A few points on that: 

  1. You could receive, if you really wanted to. There's not a Secret Catholic handshake before you receive. However: 
  2. You don't believe what you believe about it, so why would you say you do? That's what the "amen" after "The Body of Christ" means. Why would you do something that's basically a lie? Bad form!
  3. Communion isn't like a hand stamp that indicates you participated at Mass. Plenty of people go to Mass and do not receive communion (all the kids under 7, for example). You can participate fully in the Mass without receiving. I know, your head is spinning here, but it's possible! Receiving communion isn't like getting a heavenly check mark. "OK, Mr. Jones is here....." It is perfectly permissible to attend Mass and not receive Communion. In fact, if you're not properly disposed to receive, it's the better option! 

Here are the USCCB's guidelines for receiving communion. 


Like I said above, I love the Eucharist. I get very upset when I see people not treating the sacrament with the reverence it deserves. That means churches where the tabernacle is basically in another room, away from the sanctuary; where people just go up to receive like, la-di-dah; etc. 

Catholics! You are receiving God! Jesus is physically present in every Catholic church. If that doesn't fill you with awe, you need your awe-meter checked. 

As JRR Tolkien said: 

Catholics, please remember what a supreme gift we have in the Eucharist. Treat it accordingly! 



Seven Quick Takes No. 119: 23 Rules for Sane Eating, and Dragons!

7 Quick Takes, Catholicism, family, foodEmily DeArdo2 Comments


The weekly recap: 

Intro to the Sacraments

Seeking Motivation


Last weekend, I visited my grandma with my parents. My grandma is 86 years old, and she's my last remaining grandparent--and I love her to bits. She raised eight kids on a music teacher's salary, and all 8 kids are married (STILL married! Not divorced!--several of them in the 30+ years category of marriage), and all have had children. There are 25 of us grandkids, and 9 great-grandchildren. Grandma gave me my lifelong love of piano. (And listened to me play even when it was more like....random noise.....than music.) 

Me and my grandma, celebrating her 85th birthday last year. 

Me and my grandma, celebrating her 85th birthday last year. 


Anyway, Grandma's house always has good reading. I was reading her back issues of Catholic Digest, and found some food columns written by Emily Stimpson, whom I love to read. And then I remembered that Emily had a blog about Catholic food and friendship and entertaining called The Catholic Table

So I went home and read through her archives, where I found this gem: 

23 Rules for Sane Eating. 

Really, don't we need these? Eating, one of our most basic tasks, has become so complicated, hasn't it? It was so refreshing to find Emily's level-headed advice, here. 

And I am definitely going to start entertaining people again. I love dinner parties, and though my place is small, I love having people over to eat. 


Today is the Feast of St. Martha. DRAGONS, people. DRAGONS. (Click the link for Dragons!) 

Seriously, I love St. Martha. She gets such a bad wrap for the "Martha, Martha" story. But geez. She is really a pretty awesome lady. 

Some musical inspiration, as well: 


This week I've been crazy into my painting and sketching. I'm working on adding some SoCal trip pages to my "big" sketchbook . Here's some of this week's work: 

Charcoal movement sketches as part of a SBS assignment. The idea was to catch people doing things, or in poses. So it was mostly line drawings, but I'm glad with what I caught here. The goal wasn't to be realistic. 

Charcoal movement sketches as part of a SBS assignment. The idea was to catch people doing things, or in poses. So it was mostly line drawings, but I'm glad with what I caught here. The goal wasn't to be realistic. 

A page in my big watercolor sketchbook detailing the SoCal trip with two maps--a larger (and wonkier) one with the general area, and then a more detailed one of LA and environs proper. I do have a travel sketchbook, but sometimes I want the larger pages. 

A page in my big watercolor sketchbook detailing the SoCal trip with two maps--a larger (and wonkier) one with the general area, and then a more detailed one of LA and environs proper. I do have a travel sketchbook, but sometimes I want the larger pages. 

This is a watercolor version of my grandma's flower bed. I put the paint blocks in first and then drew in some flowers in ink once the paint had dried. The flowers are sort of successful, but I wonder if it would've worked with just the paint blocks. I think it might have. And obviously, my green got away from me. Too much green! 

This is a watercolor version of my grandma's flower bed. I put the paint blocks in first and then drew in some flowers in ink once the paint had dried. The flowers are sort of successful, but I wonder if it would've worked with just the paint blocks. I think it might have. And obviously, my green got away from me. Too much green! 

I'm trying to work with my watercolors and brushes, to get to know them a little better, and see what they can do. But I really had fun with the charcoal pencils. 


I'm on snapchat now as emdeardo, if you're in to Snapchat. I think I have the hang of it. Maybe? Not sure. But I do see how it can be fun. I haven't used any of the silly filters yet. :-p 


One of my favorite Columbus Summer things is next weekend--the Dublin Irish Festival! And thank goodness, it looks like decent temps for the day I want to go. I love going and hearing the Irish bands, eating the good food, and it's a great time for sketching. I brought my sketchbook for the first time last year and I had a lot of fun with it. I can't wait to sketch some more this year! One of my favorite bands is Cassie and Maggie, sisters from Nova Scotia. They don't just sing and play; they dance, too. Seriously. They are fantastic!


Does anyone else really like the month of August? I like June because it's like the unfolding of spring and summer. It's full of possibility. July, I don't really like. I don't know why. And this has even been a particularly good July, with all sorts of fun things happening. 

But August just seems like such a lovely month. A slow month, a month to sort of enjoy the summer and prepare for fall. I remember when I was going back to school and I was always ready for school to start come August. August is like that slow transition from summer to the demands of fall. (But I do love fall.) 

Seven Quick Takes No. 117

7 Quick Takes, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Per usual....if you missed them (posts from the long weekend are here, too!)

My Country 'Tis of Thee

When In the Course of Human Events

Summer Reading: What I Read in June

I'd Like Your Vote


In the area of Catholic news this week, here is an article about Cardinal Sarah asking for ad orientem worship everywhere, starting in Advent. 

For those of you who aren't into technical liturgical details, "ad orientem" means "toward the east"--basically, in this style of worship, during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest is turned toward the east, or, with his back to the congregation. Everyone is facing the same way, as it were. 

Ad orientem does not mean "in Latin". You can offer ad orientem worship within the confines of the "normal" English Mass. The only difference would be the direction the priest is facing. 

I'm not a huge fan of the Mass in Latin, I gotta be honest. I feel like I'm just sitting around watching the priest do things. However, I realize it might take time to get acclimated to it. 

But ad orientem worship seems like something we should try. So many Catholic churches don't even look Catholic these days. Yes, some moving the altar work might be involved, if you don't have an older church, like mine, which still has the high altar. But I think making the Mass more reverent isn't a bad thing, and it's probably sorely needed. 


The 11 year transplant anniversary is on Monday. I will have my annual retrospective post up that day. Just some FYI. ;-) 


And also in the FYI category: Jeopardy! July 18th. Watch it. It'll be more fun than the convention that starts that day....eyeroll. 


I found this on the SITS girls facebook page this week, and I just adore it: 


I mean, right? Isn't that the way it works? 

Me and Tiffany--randomly doing stuff together since 1996. (holy cow, that's TWENTY YEARS.....) 

Me and Tiffany--randomly doing stuff together since 1996. (holy cow, that's TWENTY YEARS.....) 


What's the longest friendship you've ever had? I gotta say I'm impressed with twenty years. That's more than half our lives at this point. 

Tiffany and I met in a theater class in high school--alphabetical seating is our friend. Amilia and Sue I met in freshman choir. My friend Tom I met in Freshman French....and I've known my friend Branden since we were three years old. No kidding. 

That's sort of amazing, if you think about it. 


And since I have nothing else, I'll leave you with an Ann Voskamp image. :) 

Have a great weekend!

Triduum Notes: Holy Saturday, Washcloths, and Sin

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

On Holy Saturday, I had a revelation in the bath tub.

Well, not actually in the tub. Getting out of it. 

My parents and I were going to the Vigil Mass that night, so I was washing my hair in preparation for that. I got out of the tub and began to comb my hair. 

I finished combing my hair, put it up into a wet, drippy bun, and noticed that the tub had some standing water in it. Why isn't it draining? 

I went over to look, and saw that one of my knitted washcloths had fallen from its perch, and was suctioned to the drain, stopping the water from flowing. 

And as I took the washcloth away and the water began to drain, I thought, That's what sin is. Sin is that washcloth

The washcloth was permeable--some water was getting through, but not enough to keep the water flowing freely. Sin is that washcloth. Venial sin doesn't stop us from having grace, or receiving grace--but it's hard for it to get through, the more sin is piled up. Mortal sin is like the drain being completely closed--nothing is getting through. 

Removing the washcloth allowed the tub to drain quickly. Going to confession opens the channel up again, and grace flows freely. 

OK, it's probably a bit of a labored metaphor. But that's what hit me, as I was drying myself off on Holy Saturday. 

We normally didn't go to the Vigil, but this year we decided to break tradition. 

The Vigil is in four parts, and it starts with the Service of Light, when the Paschal candle is carved and lit. For maximum impact, obviously, we start when it's dark. But also for liturgical reasons--we're anticipating Christ's resurrection, which happened before dawn on Easter Sunday. So the Mass can only begin after sunset. 

There are nine readings, telling us the history, which tell us the whole history of salvation, and the gorgeous Exsultet is sung: "O happy fault, o necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!" 

This is also the night that the Church gains new members. At the Mass we attended, 18 people joined the Catholic Church, which is definitely something to celebrate! 

The Mass takes a few hours, so I didn't get to bed until after midnight. It was such a clear, beautiful night--so many constellations were visible. It was a great way to ring in the Easter season (which is 50 days of celebration, until Pentecost.)


The great week of singing, the Octave of Easter with its incessant "Alleluias," begins...and then we're off and rolling, into {fifty} days of Easter. --Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk



Triduum notes: Good Friday

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
I have finally come to Good Friday on its own terms. It is the morning after, the coming-to. Last night we feasted with our dearest friends and now we wake to find that for the dearest of them, Jesus himself, death is imminent. We gather in the harsh light of morning, the harsh light of grief.
— Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

Good Friday is the only day of the year in which there is no Mass.  On the day of the ultimate sacrifice, we don't recreate that sacrifice in our liturgy. Instead, the service for Good Friday (which used to be called MOPS--Mass of the Pre-Sanctified) is divided into three parts. As Richard John Neuhaus wrote in Death on a Friday Afternoon, things in this story happen in threes. 

I adore the first reading--Isaiah's Suffering Servant. I wrote out the entire first reading here. I was born on Good Friday, so maybe that's why I'm so attached to this reading, and this liturgy as a whole. 

The veneration of the cross is my favorite part. If you've never seen it done, essentially the priest takes a crucifix (or a cross, depending on what the church has) and the people come up to kiss, bow, prostrate themselves before it, or otherwise honor the cross. It's a BIG cross--don't think any sort of wall-sized crucifixes here. Ours is about five or six feet and it's beautiful. Everyone can come up and individually venerate the cross as he or she wants. Watching the kids do it--kiss Jesus' pierced feet, or his knees, which are right about at eye level with them--is always a touching part of this. During this the choir sings the reproaches and some hymnody. All music is unaccompanied today.  The church itself is very stark: no altar cloths, no candles, no statues on the altar. It's all removed. 

At St. Pat's, we do the tre ore--the three hour reflection on the Seven Last Words of Jesus. It's three hours (not continuous) of meditations on Jesus' death, and what His last words to us were. The priests take turns giving the meditations, because they're also hearing confessions from noon to 2:45. 

I'm very solemn on Good Friday. I come home and watch The Passion of the Christ, and I have a small dinner, but generally I don't do anything other than read, pray, and attend service. 





Triduum notes: Holy Thursday

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Holy Thursday is sometimes called Maundy Thursday, from the word mandatum, "mandate", referencing the order Jesus gave His disciples after washing their feet.

At my parish, the feet of 12 men are washed, and it's usually the Dominican community (we currently have four priests and one cooperator brother in residence, but we usually get one or two extra with us for the triduum), the altar boys (we only have altar boys), and, if that's not enough, the lector or another man from the congregation. The pastor then washes one foot of each man, while the choir sings. It's done reverently and relatively quickly (meaning it's not a slog to go through--everyone's got this down to a science, by now). 

Of course, this Mass also celebrates the Institution of the Eucharist, which is the focus of Mass (which is the "source and summit" of our Catholic lives). Our Eucharistic beliefs are really one of the richest parts of Catholicism for me. 

My freshman year in college, I was a member of the debate team. And my debate partner (there were two people on a "team", so our team had a few different teams) and I would debate a lot more than just our assigned debate topics, like famine in the Horn of Africa. He wasn't Catholic, and he had questions about Catholicism. 

One night after practice, we went to the campus library and headed to the second floor, where the Bibles were kept. We laid them out on one of the tables and went at it for a few hours, until the library closed. (This is the sort of thing I like doing, by the way.) 

Proofs for Transubstantiation aren't hard to find; John 6 immediately springs to mind. I brought that up with my partner. "It's just a metaphor!"

"Jesus knew when to use metaphor and simile. He does it all the time. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. Or a fine pearl. But he doesn't do that here. He's pretty explicit. And wouldn't He have had to clarify his remarks, since, to the Jews he was talking to, He's suggesting something crazy radical? Jews don't have anything to do with flesh and blood together. They're freaking out here. But Jesus doesn't say, 'wait, you guys, you're wrong! It's a metaphor!'"

"But that's what it is. It's just bread and wine!" 

If it's just a symbol, than to hell with it (as Flannery O'Connor said).  To Catholics, the entire Mass is built around the Eucharistic sacrifice--the moment of transubstantiation. (This means, by the way, that when the bread and wine are consecrated ["This is my Body", "This is my Blood"] they become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, even though they look like plain old wafers and wine. 

I love the Eucharist, so I generally love Holy Thursday Mass, because we're celebrating the institution of that Sacrament. Not only is it theologically rich, but we also get to sing one of my Favorite Catholic Songs, the Pange Lingua. (Written by a Dominican, incidentally--Go Thomas Aquinas!) 

In the triduum, Mass doesn't "end" the way it normally does--the Triduum Masses/services are all one big liturgy. So after the Prayer After Communion, the Sacrament is taken, in procession, to an altar of repose, usually decorated to resemble a garden (like Gethsemane). The Eucharist isn't reserved in the Tabernacle--the Tabernacle is empty, and the sanctuary lamp (the red candle) that is usually lit, indicating the presence of Christ in the Tabernacle, is extinguished. 

At the Altar of Repose, you can pray in silence until midnight, when no more solemn adoration is allowed, until after Easter. I usually stay for about a half hour, reading the Bible and a few other things. This year I read John 14-17, the Great and Final Discourse of Jesus at the Last Supper, and I was overwhelmed with the way certain things spoke to me; so much so that I decided it would be my lectio for the coming days, and it has been. It's so theologically rich. I'll be sharing those notes with you later.  

(The Adoration is us staying awake with Christ in His agony--doing with the disciples couldn't do, that first Holy Thursday night.) 


The Gift of the Eucharist is one of the supreme gifts of Catholic life. I love this Mass that celebrates it, and kicks off the triduum. 

The Eucharist, as Christ's saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history.

--St. Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, April 17, 2003


Holy Week 2016

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

All's pretty quiet over here, for Holy Week and the Triduum. Time is being spent contemplating so, in the Dominican fashion, I can "share the fruits of contemplation." 

In a special way, let's pray for Belgium, another country added to the sad role of those affected by terrorist acts. Let us pray that terrorism will cease, and that the Prince of Peace can bring us peace. 

See, my servant shall prosper, 

he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. / Even as many were amazed at him--/so marred was his look beyond human semblance/ and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man--/so shall he startle many nations, / because of him kings shall stand speechless; / for those who have not been told shall see,/ those who have not heard shall ponder it. 

Who would believe what we have heard? / To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?/ He grew up like a sapling before him, / like a shoot from the parched earth; / there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,/ nor appearance that would attract us to him./ He was spurned and avoided by the people,/ a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,/ one of those from whom people hide their faces,/ spurned, and we held him in no esteem. 

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,/ our sufferings that he endured,/ while we thought of him as stricken/ as one smitten by God and afflicted./ But he was pierced for our offenses,/ crushed for our sins;/ upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,/ by his stripes we were healed./ We had alone gone astray like sheep,/ each following his own way;/ but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted/ and opened not his mouth;/ like a lamb led to the slaughter/ or a sheep before the shearers,/ he was silent and opened not his mouth./ Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,/ and who would have thought anymore of his destiny?/ When he was cut off from the land of the living,/ and smitten for the sin of his people,/ a burial place was assigned him among the wicked/ and a burial place with evildoers,/ though he had done no wrong/ nor spoken and falsehood./ But the Lord was pleased/ to crush him in infirmity. 

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,/ he shall see his descendants in a long life,/ and the will of the Lord will be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction/ he shall see the light in fullness of days;/ through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,/ and their guilt he shall bear./ Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,/ and he shall divide the spoils with the might,/ because he surrendered himself to death/ and was counted among the wicked;/ and he shall take away the sins of many,/ and win pardon for their offenses. 

Isaiah 52:13-53:12


Catholic 101: Lent

Catholic 101, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Yes, it's that time again--Lent! Time to think about what to give up, what you're going to eat on Fridays, and things like that. 

I did a weeklong series on Lent a few years ago, and you can read it here. I cover fasting, prayer, alms giving, stations of the cross, and more. Think of it as a basic Lent primer in seven parts. 

Here is Pope Francis' Lenten message for 2016. Since it's the Year of Mercy, going to confession at least once before Easter should be on our list of Lenten musts.  

And of course, Restore! If you haven't registered yet, there's still time to do so. All the details are here.  

Later this week I'll have my Lenten book post up, if you're looking for reading suggestions.