Emily M. DeArdo


Catholic 101

Seven Quick Takes--The First Draft Exists!

7 Quick Takes, Catholic 101, current projects, hearing loss, Seven Quick Takes, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
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Linking up with Kelly!





When I first got the contract information, the fact that Ave Maria wanted a first draft by June 1 was daunting to some people I talked to. “Can you do it in two months?”



Why was I so confident?

Because I have journalism training. And political training.

And when you have both of those, you learn to write quickly, on ridiculous deadlines.


So, thank you to Professor Kelly Messinger in college for all the Chimes Wednesday nights where we ate Chipotle and wrote into the wee hours! And edited! And wrote! And edited!


Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy, because sometimes….

But then I apply my Maxim: You cannot edit a blank page.

Get anything on the page. Anything. Let it sit there and then come back later and edit it. You never know what can happen.

Chapter 10, for example? WENT OFF THE RAILS. I had no idea where I was going with that one, and we went somewhere I had not anticipated. But there it is!

(It might not stay the way it is. LOL.)


Speaking of writing—my ebook, Catholic 101, is now $5!

That’s it. Five bucks, y’all.

Go get it!


I also promise to have the Denver travel posts up next week. This week was just nuts, with getting the first draft done….oh, and getting a new CI processor!!!!!!!


So, if you want more on the CI, you can visit my series here. Basically I was glad to have hearing, but the processor I had had shortcomings. I couldn’t use the phone.

Now….I might be able to use the phone! I mean, what?!

I can listen to my voicemails and understand them!

So far, this new processor is a game changer.


Oh, one more thing about the draft—a question I’ve been getting a lot is, “Well, didn’t you have to write the book before you submitted it?”

Short answer: No. Most places, for non-fiction, want a proposal, with a chapter sample, but not the whole book. I’ll talk more about the parts of the process later (especially in my newsletter!). But, no. I had to write the book to the proposal specs.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday/ Small Business Saturday....oh whatever, it's a sale!

Catholic 101, writingEmily DeArdoComment

It’s that time again!

I put Catholic 101 on sale twice a year (If you’re a blog subscriber, you have a code for 15% off that you get when you subscribe, and that’s good anytime): on my transplant anniversary, and during Black Friday/ Cyber Monday/ Small Business Saturday, whatever it’s called. :) And that sale starts today!

So, from right now until midnight next Tuesday (December 27), Catholic 101 is $7, which is more than 25% off the retail price of $9.50. You can buy it for yourself, or give it as a gift! It’s available for all formats except Kindle, because Kindle formatting is…special. However, you can download it as a PDF and read it on your computer, if you only have a kindle.

You don’t need a special code or anything—the price is already reduced. Every purchase makes me really happy. So if you’re looking to shop small this year, I’d appreciate any support! :)

The book is 147 pages divided into four sections. It’s great for any Catholics in your life, or anyone who is interested in learning about Catholicism. It’s based on the series I wrote here on the blog, but there is also lots of new content that’s only available in the book.


(And, additionally—if you’re looking for a good Advent devotional, may I recommend Rooted in Hope?)

A new project and Catholic 101 SALE!

Catholic 101, current projects, writingEmily DeArdoComment

I've got a new project going on: 

Opening the Roof. 

This is a blog that talks about accessibility and churches--specifically, Catholic churches, because I'm Catholic. I know that we're not the only ones with this issue--I asked on Facebook, and my friends of all denominations said that their churches aren't great, overall, with this issue--but I'm Catholic, so I talk about what I know. 

The blog presents not only problems and food for thought, but resource and solutions. So it's not just a Blog of Complaint. We're not just airing grievances! 


You can sign up to follow the blog at the bottom of the blog's homepage--just keep scrolling! 

The other thing is that my transplant anniversary is almost here! So in celebration, Catholic 101 is going to be five bucks. Yup. That's right. Five bucks, guys! It's normal $9.50, but for the anniversary, it's $5.00. This kicks off tomorrow (June 26) and will go through July 13 (two days after the anniversary proper). The only other time the book is discounted is Black Friday Weekend! So get it now or wait until November. :) 

So, starting tomorrow, head to Gumroad and pick it up! I will have another post tomorrow so you can't miss it. :) (It's also always available through the sidebar button and the Hello bar at the top of the page, but the new pricing won't hit until tomorrow.) 


Lenten Suggestions

books, Catholicism, Catholic 101, LentEmily DeArdoComment

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. 


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? 


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!


Release Day Report

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

It was incredibly busy, unnerving, nerve-wracking, and awesome, in the week leading up to releasing Catholic 101. There was so much to do--I spent Halloween night doing 20 PDF versions and I kept finding flaws in each one, but finally, on All Saints' Day, uploaded the FINAL version of the book to Gumroad. I was sort of terrified. What if no one buys it? (Other than the pre-orders, and I especially love you guys.) What if it's terrible and people buy it and hate it?

But I was so happy on release day--thank you all for your support and encouragement, and an especial thanks to everyone who has bought the book so far. I appreciate it so much. Really, I could just write thank you posts for the next five years and I don't think it would feel like enough, but...that would get boring for you guys to read. 

On release day, I popped confetti, I did a Facebook live, and I took a very relaxing bubble bath. 

My computer after the confetti pop. It was special confetti and I LOVE IT. 

My computer after the confetti pop. It was special confetti and I LOVE IT. 

On Saturday, I had Chuy's with my intrepid editor, Mary, and fabulous pal, Alissa (who is also like my unofficial publicist). 

Alissa and I even DRESS the same! 

Alissa and I even DRESS the same! 

And then I had the luxury of a movie (Thor: Ragnarok) with Tiff and Bill. It was a great Day of Jubilee, and just what I needed after the last month!

I am going to keep promoting the book on my social media channels, but I do other things there, too. I can write about new things here on the blog again! I can bring back Yarn Along! I'm doing NaNo this month too--at first the idea of staring at a screen and writing words was repellant, but I'm really enjoying this novel so far and I have very low expectations on myself fir this particular piece. And of course Thanksgiving and Christmas are rapidly approaching--my favorite time of year--so that'll bring fun things to talk about. And my parents went to Universal Studios and visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so I have all that stuff to talk about. 


But, for today, I'm really thankful for all of you who have read, commented, encouraged, and supported my writing. It means so much to me. Thank you!


(If you want to order, you can do it on the side bar--there's the image of Catholic 101--and there's also the bar at the top of the page. Those are going to remain there for awhile!)

It is here! Catholic 101 RELEASE DAY!!!

behind the scenes, books, Catholic 101, writingEmily DeArdoComment

Cue the confetti! 

It's the release day for Catholic 101!


This project has been years in the making. I'm so proud of it, and I'm so grateful for all the people who have already pre-ordered and have offered support and encouragement. 

If you haven't pre-ordered, you can grab it here

Have questions? Check out the answers here

I've been doing a lot of social media videos, so it's a good time to follow me on Instagram or Facebook to get all the goodness!

Thanks again for all the support. I really appreciate it! I hope you enjoy the book! 

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: 




Catholic 101 is available for PRE-ORDER!!!!!

Catholic 101, current projects, writingEmily DeArdoComment
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Guys! I'm so excited to let you know that my eBook, Catholic 101, is finally available for pre-order on Gumroad! Yayyy! 

It works just like regular pre-orders; you'll be the first to get it when it's officially released next month. You will need to download the Gumroad app on your tablet or phone, which is super easy to do--you can just search for it in the app store--and voila, access to the book! It'll also be available on desktops, you just don't need an app for that. It works right off the Gumroad website. How easy is that, right? 

It's $9.50 for 80 pages of content, with several pieces that are new and exclusive only to the ebook--you won't find them on the blog or anywhere else. I wrote special pieces on the ten commandments, Mary, angels, Christmastide, Papal elections, and the Trinity--six new ebook exclusives! 

I've been working on this project for over a year now and I'm so excited to finally present it to you. I hope that you all love it! If you have any questions, please let me know! 

Creative Burst

behind the scenes, Catholic 101, current projects, knitting, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

The last week has been so exciting! I've been making progress on some big goals, including one thing I never thought I'd do, so I thought I'd share this with you today. 

First, as I said last week, I've got a cover for my ebook!

This was a big hurdle for me, because graphic design is elusive in my world. But I'm really pleased with how this came out. I took the photo during my last trip to D.C., when I visited the Franciscan monastery

Now I have to finish writing and editing a few pieces, then it gets sent to a few beta readers for testing, so to speak--and then it's almost ready for the rest of you! If you use an e-reader, what format do you use the most? Kindle? iBooks? Doesn't matter? Let me know!

The ebook is based on my Catholic 101 series, but there are also brand-new pieces, to make it worth your while. I'm hoping to have it on offer later in the fall! 

The second big thing--I've decided to start selling some of my knitted pieces. 


Whenever I post photos of my variegated basketweave scarves, people always say how much they love them. And that got me thinking--would people buy them? Turns out, YES. I have three orders already! I'm really excited about this. 

I'm not planning on making this a huge thing, but I'm excited to be offering these scarves, and some other projects, in various styles and colorways. Right now I'm posting most of the information about them on Instagram and Facebook. So keep your eyes out--I might also cross-post some things here, too, when the pieces are available. Right now I'm sort of behind the gun because I had to order yarn for the projects, but soon I will have some available! 

And in between all this, I'm still working on proposals for my memoir. Whew! There's a lot going on. But I'm using pockets of time to work on these things in a somewhat organized fashion. For example, the yarn for the next project isn't here yet, so I can use today to write and work on the proposal and the ebook. (And give my shoulder muscles a break--knitting so much really does cause them to work!) 

Thanks for all your kind comments and support with my projects! I really appreciate it and I can't wait to share these with you in the near future. 


Catholic 101: Answering some questions!

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

So, today--in what's probably the last entry in this series (maybe I'll do Catholic 202 someday!)--I'm answering some questions that I've been asked!

(And also: Advent has started!!!!) 

What are relics?

This is a good question. They are something that perplex non-Catholics, probably. :) 

Relics have to do with saints. Essentially, relics are the bones, ashes, and/or clothing of a saint. 

A sign directing you to St. Therese's reliquary, St. Therese retreat house, Columbus, OH. 

A sign directing you to St. Therese's reliquary, St. Therese retreat house, Columbus, OH. 

A statue of St. Therese. The three items in the foreground are relics from St. Therese. 

A statue of St. Therese. The three items in the foreground are relics from St. Therese. 

The relics are divided into classes: first, second, and third.  Here's wikipedia: 

  • First-Class Relics: items directly associated with the events of Christ's life (manger, cross, etc.) or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, skull, a limb, etc.). Traditionally, a martyr's relics are often more prized than the relics of other saints. Parts of the saint that were significant to that saint's life are more prized relics. For instance, King St. Stephen of Hungary's right forearm is especially important because of his status as a ruler. A famous theologian's head may be his most important relic. (The head of St. Thomas Aquinas was removed by the monks at the Cistercian abbey at Fossanova where he died.) If a saint did a lot of traveling, then the bones of his feet may be prized. Catholic teaching prohibits relics to be divided up into small, unrecognizable parts if they are to be used in liturgy (i.e., as in an altar; see the rubrics listed in Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar).
  • Second-Class Relics: items that the saint owned or frequently used, for example, a crucifix, rosary, book, etc. Again, an item more important in the saint's life is thus a more important relic. Sometimes a second-class relic is a part of an item that the saint wore (a shirt, a glove, etc.) and is known as ex indumentis("from the clothing").
  • Third-Class Relics: any object that is touched to a first- or second-class relic.[38] Most third-class relics are small pieces of cloth, though in the first millennium oil was popular; the Monza ampullae contained oil collected from lamps burning before the major sites of Christ's life, and some reliquaries had holes for oil to be poured in and out again. Many people call the cloth touched to the bones of saints "ex brandea". But ex brandea strictly refers to pieces of clothing that were touched to the body or tombs of the apostles. It is a term that is used only for such; it is not a synonym for a third-class relic. 

So basically, relics are either from Jesus or the saints. There are relics of the True Cross, found by St. Helena. Nowadays you'll normally find documentation attached to relics. At the reliquary I visited (above), there were proofs of authenticity framed on the wall next to the relics. 

Basically, relics help put us in touch with the divine. Miracles have been attributed to them. But we don't worship them, just like we don't worship saints. But they are holy objects and thus are to be treated with respect. 

Does a child have to be baptized before she receives First Communion? 

Yes. Baptism is the "entry" sacrament, the sacrament that makes someone a member of the Christian family. All the sacraments build on that one. 
A child can go through a child's version of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults--the conversion process for people who either are Christian, but not Catholic, or not Christian at all), or a child can be baptized  the way babies are, with additional instruction, since the child is older. 

Does the Catholic Church ever allow abortion?

No. That's the short answer. 
The long answer, from the Catechism, is here--and I'm posting the whole thing. It's sort of long. 

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."73

"My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth."74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."80

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence."82

2275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival."83

"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material."84

"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity"85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

So, no. To have an abortion, to help someone have an abortion, or to in any way support abortion, is a mortal sin. 


That's all from the mail bag. If you have a question, let me know, and I'll answer it here! 

Catholic 101: The Four Last Things

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

So, since it's Halloween, we're gonna talk about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. 

Because seriously, why not discuss this today? 

(If you need something to get you in the mood, try this....)

But really, what you need is this bit from Pollyanna, which is not embeddable, so go here. :) 


(Gosh, I loved that part as a kid....) 

Anyway, that's what the four last things are about. 

Everyone dies. You will. I will. It happens. So we should think about that on a pretty regular basis, and then ponder--what happens after? 

When I taught this, I didn't go all Death Comes Unexpectedly to the kids. I didn't want to induce trauma. But I did note that this world, great as it is, is not our home. Heaven is our home. That's our final goal. And to get there....we have to die. 

So, we die. That's the first thing. 

Second thing: judgment. The church believes there is a particular judgment, and then the Big, Final Judgment at the End of Time.

Particular Judgment is you--your soul is judged at the end of time. Based on what you did/believed/etc. on earth, that determines where you go: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. 

Yes, we believe in Hell. We do not know who is in Hell, because that's "above our pay grade." But it DOES exit. People CAN and DO go there. Committing Mortal Sin, and then not confessing it, sends you right to Hell. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200. 

Here's what the CCC says about Hell: 

IV. Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.612Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"613 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"614

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."616

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."617

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us your peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those you have chosen.620


Jesus talks about Hell, guys. It's in the Gospel. He came to save us all, but not everyone will accept that invitation. 

So, at your particular judgment, you go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. 

(We didn't really cover the Last Judgment with the Kids. If you want to read the CCC bit about it, go here.) 

Purgatory is what it sounds like--purgation for our sins. Jesus says that nothing imperfect will be in Heaven. So if we die with even a smidge of sin on our souls, we go to Purgatory. Souls in purgatory eventually get to Heaven. So they are assured they will see God and be happy with Him forever. But first--the bath. 

CS Lewis has a great bit on Purgatory: 

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.” “It may hurt, you know” — “Even so, sir.”
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. . . .
My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am “coming round,” a voice will say, “Rinse your mouth out with this.” This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure.

So yeah, purgatory isn't fun, but it's certainly better than Hell! 

The Church believes there are three "parts" of the Church: The Church Militant (us on Earth), the Church Triumphant (the people in Heaven) and the Church Suffering. That's the people in Purgatory. So we need to pray for them!

At the end of each rosary, I like to say the St. Gertrude Prayer: 

"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

All Saints' Day--November 1--Is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church. (That means we treat it like a Sunday, and we have to go to Mass.) This celebrates all the deceased who are in Heaven (remember, everyone in Heaven is a saint!)  All Souls' Day is November 2, when we pray for all those who have died. Many Catholic Churches offer special Masses and novenas for the deceased, so people can write the names of their beloved dead (I love that phrase) on cards or envelopes, and they will be prayed for throughout the entire month of November. 

So there you have it--the Four Last Things. Happy Halloween! :-D 

Botticelli, the 8th circle of Hell (based on Dante's Inferno) 

Botticelli, the 8th circle of Hell (based on Dante's Inferno) 

Catholic 101: Becoming a saint

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

While we're all called o be saint, what exactly is a saint, and how do we do it? And how do people like Mother Teresa et al. get those cool ceremonies and get added to the church calendar? 

First off, a saint is anyone who is in Heaven. If your grandma died, and is in Heaven, she's a saint. (YOU ARE NOT AN ANGEL WHEN YOU DIE.) Everyone in Heaven is a saint. 

However, we don't know if your grandma is in Heaven. Canonized saints, on the other hand, because of lots of evidence, are people that the Church is sure are in Heaven. They go on the official list of saints, called the "canon." Thus: Canonized saints. 

(A little note here: the Church doesn't "make" saints. God makes saints. We just recognize 'em.) 

The canonization process is a long one, and there are several levels in it. The process was updated in 1983 by Pope St. John Paul II, so it's not the same as it was back in the Middle Ages, etc. I'm describing the new process here. 

How to be a saint--in four steps: 

The process of canonization begins in the deceased own diocese. So, for example, if someone died in Columbus, OH, then the Diocese of Columbus is the place where the process would start. The bishop gives permission to open the investigation into the virtue of the deceased individual. Usually this happens no sooner than five years after the person's death. In the cases of St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, this process was expedited. (At Pope St. John Paul II's funeral, there were signs that read Santo Subito--sainthood now!) (This period was also waved in the instance of Sister Lucia Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, who died in 2005--a little less than two months before the death of Pope St. John Paul II). 

A guild/organization of people who want the individual canonized is created, and an exhaustive search for the person's writings, speeches, etc. is done. A detailed biography is also written. 

When sufficient documents and evidence are gathered, the material is presented to the Roman Curia, specifically the Congregation for Causes of Saints. Here, the deceased is assigned a postulator, who gathers more information about the person's life. At this point, the person is called a servant of God. Relics are taken at this point. (More on relics next week!)

 When enough information has been gathered, the Congregation will make a recommendation to the pope that he declare the deceased possessed "heroic virtue" (What does that mean? Here's wikipedia: 

that is, that the servant exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, to a heroic degree

Once the declaration is made, the person is officially Venerable. He doesn't have a feast day, no churches can be built in his honor, and the Church isn't declaring for sure that this person is in Heaven. However, prayer cards may be printed, and people may ask for this person's intercession. 

This is where miracles start to come in. People can pray to venerable/blessed for him to intercede before God for their petition. A miracle is a sign that the person is in Heaven. However, it has to be through that particular person's intercession. (An example can be found here.) 

The last step before sainthood is beatification. This is a statement by the church that proclaims it is "worthy of belief" that the deceased is in Heaven. The person is either a martyr or a "confessor" (no, that doesn't mean a person that heard confessions. Perfectly reasonable assumption, though!). 

A martyr is a person who died voluntarily for his faith or in an act of heroic charity for others (St. Maximilian Kolbe is an example of the latter. If you don't know his story, read that link right now. He's awesome.) 

A confessor is someone who "confessed" his faith by how he lived his life. So if you're not a martyr, you're a confessor. If you're in this category, then at least one miracle attributed to your intercession has to happen. (For example, in Mother Teresa's case, there had to be a miracle, which you can read about in this article.)  Usually today these are miraculous cures, which are verified via a lot of medical testing, inquiry, etc. You can't just say it was a miracle; it has to be proven, as far as possible, via a lot of science. 

A Blessed gets a feast day, which is usually only celebrated in the blessed's home diocese or religious order. 

Finally, sainthood is announced when at least two miracles have been attributed to the person's intercession (if the person wasn't a martyr. If you're a martyr, just one suffices.) Canonization means the church is certain that this person is in Heaven and enjoys the Beatific Vision. (I love that phrase) 

The crowd at the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. 

The crowd at the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. 

The saint gets a feast day, churches may be built in the person's honor, and the faithful may freely celebrate this saint. 

The canonization ceremony involves a Mass. A tapestry is made of the saint and is displayed during the Mass itself. 

John Paul II's tapestry at the canonization in Vatican City. 

John Paul II's tapestry at the canonization in Vatican City. 

Mother Teresa's tapestry. 

Mother Teresa's tapestry. 

As you can see, it's a long process, and obviously, not everyone in Heaven is a canonized saint. But as Mother Angelica used to say, "Where most men work for letters after their name, we work for ones before our name: St." 

We are called to be great saints. Don't miss the opportunity!

--Mother Angelica

Who's your favorite saint? 


Catholic 101: The Rosary

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

The rosary is one of those stereotypical Catholic things: if someone is a Catholic on TV, chances are that at some point, either a rosary or a medal will be pulled out to indicate the person's Catholicism. Sometimes you see them dangling from rearview mirrors (which makes me cringe). There's really no doubt that the rosary is a Big Thing in Catholicism. 

But what the heck is it? 

The rosary is a series of prayers. The rosary itself--the physical object--is what's called a chaplet, because there's not a bead for every decade (known as a 15 or 20 decade rosary). The "normal" rosary you see is a five decade chaplet. Many religious orders wear the complete rosary as part of their habit. 

The rosary is made up of four main prayers: The Our Father, The Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, and the Glory Be. The bulk of the rosary is Hail Marys. There are 20 decades--sets of 10 beads--divided into four categories, arranged around the life of Jesus. These are the "mysteries of the rosary." 

The mysteries are: (with Biblical citations in parentheses; I haven't listed all the appropriate scriptures, in some cases)

The Joyful Mysteries

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation

1. The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and she agrees to be the Mother of the Savior (Lk. 1: 26-8)
2. The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with St. John the Baptist. (Lk 1: 39-56)
3. The Nativity: Jesus is born in Bethlehem (Lk. 2:1-20)
4. The Presentation in the Temple: Mary and Jesus dedicate Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Lk. 2:22-38)
5. Finding the Child Jesus: Joseph and Mary find Jesus, after three days of being lost, in the Temple, teaching to the elders, scribes, etc. . (Lk 2: 41-51) 


The Luminous Mysteries (introduced by St. John Paul II in 2002)

Raphael, The Transfiguration 

Raphael, The Transfiguration 

1. The Baptism in the Jordan: John baptizes Jesus (Mk 1:9-11)
2. The Wedding Feast at Cana: Jesus turns water into wine--his first miracle (Jn 2: 1-11)
3. The Preaching of the Kingdom: This mystery contains all of Jesus' public works: preaching, miracles, etc. (Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn) 
4. The Transfiguration: Jesus' divinity is revealed before three of his Apostles, along with visions of Elijah and Moses. (Mt 17:1-9) 
5. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist: Jesus gives the apostles His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, under the appearance of bread and wine. (Lk. 22:14-20, Mt. 26: 26-29, Mk 14: 22-25)


The Sorrowful Mysteries

Michelangelo, Pieta 

Michelangelo, Pieta 

1. The Agony in the Garden: Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. (Mk. 32-42)
2. The Scourging at the Pillar: Jesus is beaten by the Roman soldiers (Jn. 19:1)
3. The Crowning of Thorns: Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers; a crown of thorns is made and pushed onto His head. (Jn 19:2) 
4. The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus carries His cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha (Mt 27:32-34; Mk 15:20-33; Lk 23:26-31; Jn 19: 16-18
5. The Crucifixion: Jesus is crucified and dies. (Mk 15:33-40; Lk 23:32-56, Jn 19: 19-42)


The Glorious Mysteries

1. The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead (Mt 28: 1-10; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24: 1-12; Jn 20:1-23)
2. The Ascension: Jesus bodily returns to His Father in Heaven (Mt. 28:16-20; Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11)
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-43)
4. The Assumption: Mary is assumed, body and soul, into Heaven
5. Mary is Crowned Queen of Heaven: Mary enters into Heaven and receives the rewards of the Just. 

Did you notice a few things about this? Even though the "Hail Mary" is what's said on the 10 beads of each decade, most of these mysteries are Christocentric--meaning, Christ is at the center of them. Yes, we're using the Hail Mary, but we're meditating on the mysteries in the life of Christ and His mother. Every mystery that appear "Mary-centric" always involves Jesus! And almost all of the mysteries are Biblically based, taken directly from the Gospels, as are the prayers; the "Our Father" is the prayer that Jesus taught us, and the Hail Mary is from the Gospel of Luke. 

OK, so how do you pray it? 

First, you select a set of mysteries to pray (this assumes you're not going to go through all 20--you can do that, though!). If it's a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday, it's traditionally the Joyful Mysteries. Tuesdays and Fridays, Sorrowful. Wednesday and Sunday, Glorious. Thursday, Luminous. But you can pick whatever you want. Then, meditating on one mystery per decade, you just pray it. 

It can sound repetitive and boring. But it really isn't. Each mystery brings you deeper into the lives of Mary and Jesus, and even the apostles, in some of them. This is Christian meditation at its best. The Hail Mary provides a sort of "background music" to your meditation. Many times I've gotten to the end of a decade and been surprised! (The "Our Father" beads are usually bigger than the rest of the beads, so you have a tactile reminder that the decade's over.) And sometimes I don't go that deeply into meditation. I'm tired, I'm sick, whatever. I just pray, and think about the mysteries, or the person I'm praying for. When I say I'm praying for you, it usually means you're getting a decade of my daily rosary. 

The rosary is a powerful, powerful prayer.  (note about that link: don't go clicking around on that site if you're not already a solid Catholic. It's....weird. But this list is legit.) It's stopped wars . (This link explains why we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7!) It's, by far, my favorite way to pray. It's completely portable--you don't even need beads, you can use your fingers. It's extremely calming. 

The rosary is actually one of the things that led me to know my Dominican vocation. The Dominicans invented the rosary. Well, OK, not invented. Mary gave it to St. Dominic. So he didn't invent it. But they have such a strong dedication to the rosary! That's why it's part of the Dominican habit. It's worn where a sword used to be worn--indicating its powerful status!

Now, that being said, it's not a vending machine. It's not a chain letter: pray the rosary and GET WHATEVER YOU DESIRE! No. Not gonna work like that. But it is an immensely powerful prayer, and one that I would love to encourage you to try. 

There are lots of good books about the rosary, and with great meditations. I like this one, this one, and this one.  And this one

There are few prayers better than the rosary. Give it a try!



Catholic 101: Hail Mary

Catholic 101Emily DeArdo1 Comment

No, not the football play. The woman. 

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

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

So let's get to it. 

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

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

And Jesus came into the world. 

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

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

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

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

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

Raphael, the "Sistine Madonna" 

Raphael, the "Sistine Madonna" 

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

Catholics also believe two additional things about Mary: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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: Holy Orders

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

A continuation of the Catholic 101 series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Catholic 101: Anointing of the Sick

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

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

"Extreme Unction," Rogier van der Weyden 

"Extreme Unction," Rogier van der Weyden 

The Sacrament can be used in a variety of applications: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic 101: Confession

Catholic 101Emily DeArdo1 Comment

It's time for the BIG SCARY SACRAMENT!


OK, it's not really that scary. 

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

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

Can the priest ever tell anyone what you said? 



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

So, no. 

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

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

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

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

Because God knows us. 

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

That's humbling. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The form and matter for confession is as follows: 

Form: The prayer of absolution. 

Matter: the verbal confession of sins. 

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


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

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


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

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

--C.S. Lewis 


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

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