Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Catholicism

Going on Retreat Part Three: Sunday Morning

essays, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
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Part One is here

Part Two is here

My alarm went off at seven the next morning, and I sort of hustled, because breakfast on this day is continental, served in the lounge; it’s mostly cinnamon rolls and bakery things, and if you’re slow, the good stuff is gone. :) (Good stuff meaning danish, in my world). So I hurried, dressed in my Sunday Mass clothes and got a cherry danish (win!).

After that, I went to the chapel to pray lauds before the closing of adoration at 8:15 by Fr. Stephen. (Even if you can’t make a retreat, consider going to adoration? Even if it’s five minutes! Go stop by and say hello to Jesus! Get to Mass five minutes early, if there’s no adoration chapel where you live.)

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After the close of exposition and benediction, we had the last conference of the retreat, on Confirmation. This was followed by a bit of Q&A, and then the last Mass of the retreat.

After Mass was over, we could talk—silence was lifted. So brunch was a noisy, happy affair of everyone chatting over quiche and apple pie bars. I enjoyed talking to the women at my table (especially Olivia) and getting to know them better.

When you spend a weekend in silence praying with people, a closeness forms, but it’s a weird closeness, because you feel close to people you don’t know anything about! So it’s nice to learn a little more about them.

After brunch we cleaned out our rooms and left. “Cleaning out your room” means putting the trash bag outside your door, stripping the bed and stuffing the sheets and towels inside the pillowcases to be picked up, and making sure you didn’t leave anything behind.

I was home a little before noon, and I spent the rest of the day taking a nap, unwinding, and getting mad at the Ravens during the Ravens-Steelers game.

(Me to my mom: I hate the Ravens.
Mom: You just got back from retreat, you can’t hate anybody!)

So, that’s what I did on my retreat.

There are things I could share—how I pack, what I bring, etc.—I could share notes with you….or I could answer your questions! If you have any questions about retreats, let me know in the comment box and I’ll answer them!

Going on Retreat Part Two: Saturday Afternoon

essays, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
Brilliant Saturday afternoon under the oak trees

Brilliant Saturday afternoon under the oak trees

Part one is here


So after lunch we had free time until 3:00, when the Divine Mercy Chaplet would be said in the chapel. Priests were available for confession, but other than that, there were no talks planned and you could do whatever you wanted.

Since it was a gorgeous fall day, I went outside to spend some time enjoying the weather while I read my books. I read more of I Believe In Love and wrote a few thoughts in my journal. Some people were making the stations of the cross at the outdoor set that’s been erected, which I would have done, but we were saying stations communally at 5, and I was going to do that.

I took a really brief nap—10 minutes!— then went to the chapel, prayed a bit, and read some more. There’s a small side chapel where I like to sit:

The view from the side chapel

The view from the side chapel



Interior of the side chapel

Interior of the side chapel


The reliquary of St. Therese and St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart) is also in here.

St. Margaret Mary’s relic is on the left, and the other two are St. Therese. The documents are certificates that the relics are authentic.

St. Margaret Mary’s relic is on the left, and the other two are St. Therese. The documents are certificates that the relics are authentic.

This is the hardest part of retreat to describe, because it’s so interior, but to me it’s also the best part. Yes, I pray, yes, I read, but I also just talk to God, and listen to His replies. What is He saying to me? What is He asking me?

It’s also a good time to take stock of where I am in my religious life. Is it going well, or not? Am I more fervent than I was a year ago, or not? Does my schedule need adjusted so I have more time for prayer? What is stopping me or hindering my prayer? Distractions? Laziness? (Meaning, I just don’t make time for prayer, when I know I could and should be praying?) Venerable Fulton Sheen said that the spiritual life is meant to grow, not stay stagnant. It’s like our bodies—they have to continually grow. If our bodies stopped growing, we’d be in trouble! So the spiritual life is like that, which is one of the reasons retreat is so important. We have to check in, and it’s a lot easier to do when there aren’t any distractions and it’s quiet!

So I write, and I read, and I ponder, and I listen.

Statue of St. Therese in the main conference room.

Statue of St. Therese in the main conference room.


After the quiet period, we had the second conference, this time on Baptism, its roots in the Bible and Jewish tradition, and some other points.

Some of the quotes from Fr. Stephen:

“Genesis is like algebra—it’s about relationships.”

“We have a duty to participate in God’s life, with even deeper communion and even deeper fellowship.”

“God’s commitment to us began at our own baptism. Our mission is revealed—we are bound to Christ.”

“We read Scripture in its totality!”

And one of my favorite things I took away from the conference—anxiety and fear push us into a moment that doesn’t exist yet, and it might never exist! In those moments, call upon God who loves you and ask Him for help and what I should do.

St. Therese in the chapel—this statue isn’t normally there, so I’m not sure if they moved it here for her feast day celebration or if it’s a new addition. Either way, I loved it!

St. Therese in the chapel—this statue isn’t normally there, so I’m not sure if they moved it here for her feast day celebration or if it’s a new addition. Either way, I loved it!

At 5:00, we said stations of the cross in the chapel, followed by Vespers and then dinner. The third conference, on the Eucharist, was at 6:45, and as always, in between things you had your own time and space to pray or read or rest or whatever you wanted to do.

(After dinner I actually went on a walk with a friend—Olivia—that I “knew” on Twitter—it was so nice to meet her in person!)

The Eucharist talk was extremely enlightening because it connected our celebration of th Eucharist with the Jewish tradition and really drew strong parallels, as well as illustrating how Jesus was in no way speaking metaphorically in the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). Fr. Stephen mentioned Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup, which I haven’t read yet (but will!), but I have read (and am currently re-reading) Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, which is a full, book-length treatise on Fr. Stephen’s topic and is a wonderful explanation fo the Eucharist. It’s sort of mind-blowing, actually.

(This is where retreat is a vacation, yes, but it also causes you to learn, if it’s a good retreat. Yay learning! Yay knowing more about our faith!)

(In fact, one of the most mind-blowing things Fr. Stephen shared was this: the Passover lambs, used for sacrifice at Passover in the Temple, were specially raised, because they had to slaughter more than two hundred thousand of them every year. So there were whole flocks just of these pascal lambs.

These lambs were raised in Bethlehem.

The flocks that the shepherds were guarding on Christmas were…..lambs of sacrifice.

The paschal lambs were at the birth of the Paschal Lamb!)

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the chapel.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the chapel.

We had one of my favorite things—Eucharistic Exposition—at 8:00. This means that the Eucharist is displayed in the monstrance, and we have all-night vigil, because you can’t leave the Exposed Host alone. So all night, women came and went from the chapel to spend time with Jesus in prayer.

My hour was from 10 to 11. Before then, I had changed into my pajamas and slippers —yes I went to the chapel in my Corgi pants and slippers!—and took my meds so that when I got back I could just go to bed.

Adoration is really a beautiful thing, and holy hours are my favorite way to pray. If you don’t make them, I highly highly highly recommend it, and so do the saints!

After holy hour, I went to bed, because the alarm would go off at 7 again, for the last part of the retreat….

Going on Retreat: Vacation With God

essays, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
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Vacation with God?

Seriously, Emily?

Yes. Because to me, retreat is definitely part-vacation.

Think about it:

You don’t have to do any laundry or cleaning.

The food is provided for you.

There’s constant tea and coffee available, so you don’t even have to make your daily cuppa.

You can sleep whenever you want, in a private room. No one comes in and bothers you!


I mean, this sounds pretty good, right? At the least it’s a vacation from laundry, phone calls, and cooking!

A retreat is really as detached as you want to make it. You can choose to bring your laptop and check the news every hour. You can scroll on your phone. You can call your kids. But really, the best retreats—and by best, I mean most fruitful, in my opinion—are the ones when you are, as the Carthusians say, “alone with the Alone.”


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Every retreat I’ve ever been on has been silent. I started going on them when I was in my mid-twenties, and they’ve always been in the same place—St. Therese’s Retreat House, here in town, about ten minutes from where I live. Silence has an appeal to me on a few levels—one, ever since my hearing went south, I like having a few days when I don’t have to listen to people, and try to understand what they’re saying, and two, because I also like to talk, it’s good for me to not talk. It’s good to just be quiet.

I realize that not everyone likes silence as much as I do, but I do think it’s important to shut up and listen to God every once in awhile, and that’s really what retreat is—that time to sit down, shut up, and focus on God for a few days.

Spiritually, we need retreat. We need it the same way we need vacation. (When I don’t take a vacation, I can tell. My body can tell. When I don’t go on retreat, it’s the same deal.)

I highly recommend everyone look into taking one, even if it’s a “quiet day” offered by a local parish, where it’s a few hours of silence, or a day of recollection. They’re important for our spiritual lives.

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So I’ve talked a lot about retreat on my blog before, but this time I thought I’d walk you through what happens. This is going to be a multi-parter, so here I’ll take you through Saturday morning.

A look at the “old” residential part of the retreat house.

A look at the “old” residential part of the retreat house.

These retreats run from around 5:00 on Friday to around noon on Sunday. They are usually “preached”, meaning that there’s a priest who will give talks around a certain theme. I’ve heard them preached on the seven deadly sins, Mary, St. Therese, and this one was about the Sacraments of Initiation and their Biblical roots. Every one I’ve gone to has been preached by a priest (which I prefer, because then you have access to the sacraments in an easier way than if, say, a sister/nun or a layperson preaches the retreat, and a priest has to be brought in). I try to go to one a year, but they’re offered twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring.

The amount of talks vary—anywhere from three to five—this one had four. There is daily Mass and the opportunity for confession, as well as other devotional practices.

The important thing to remember is that you do not have to do any of these things. I mean, obviously, you went on retreat to pray, and you probably should go to Mass. :) But if you want to sleep in and miss morning prayer, that’s fine. If you don’t want to go to every conference, that’s fine. Etc. No one is taking attendance and no one will make you go or do anything. It’s your retreat.

Some retreat guides tell you not to bring books. I laugh at this. To me, books—spiritual reading only—are fabulous springboards into prayer or examination. I generally bring a few. I don’t read them all, and I’m not speed reading, but I do find them really useful, and I always have. If you don’t, then don’t bring them. Most retreat houses have books/a library/materials around for you to read if you want to, and they always have Bibles. (Bring your Bible, for sure.)

The retreat house/organizers will tell you what you need to bring. Towels, linens for the bed, etc. are provided, but if they don’t tell you, contact them and ask. (My first retreat I didn’t know linens and pillows were provided so I brought them! Ha!) You’ll need comfortable clothes. Generally, in my experience people tend to bring something a little nicer for the Sunday Mass, but it’s not a fashion show. You might want to bring a few snacks of the non-perishable variety. (I always do, because I have to take my evening meds with food. We get good meals at the retreat house, but no snacks.)

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The Lourdes Grotto on the property

The Lourdes Grotto on the property



I try to arrive early, as in before five, and check in. Once you check in your get your room assignment, so you can go unpack and settle in before the retreat begins. There are sign-up forms for volunteering to help with devotions and the Masses throughout the retreat—I always sign up to do one of the readings, because I really love being a lector at Mass and I rarely get the chance to do it!

I generally go to my room, unpack, set up my alarm clock (very important, since I won’t hear the bell that the retreat league uses to wake us up!), then go to the grotto (above), to pray a bit, usually a rosary. If the weather’s bad, I go to the chapel. This serves as a way to bring my mind into retreat and to slooooooooow down. It helps me forget about traffic, anything that’s been bugging me, any extraneous things—it’s just me and the prayers.

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The retreat starts in the main conference room around 6:00, when one of the women from the retreat league welcomes us, talks us through the layout of the retreat and the house, and gives any housekeeping notices. Dinner is after this in the dining room, and we can talk at dinner. The food is always great.

After dinner, silence begins. This year, we didn’t have a conference on Friday night. We went right from dinner to Mass and vespers. Mass was at 7:45. (Dinner doesn’t take an hour to eat—so we were OK with the fast before Mass!) After Mass there was abbreviated Vespers (I said that plus my own Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours [LOH]), and then after that, there were confessions with two priests. I went to confession, said my penance, and then went to my room to get ready for bed and go to sleep.

On retreat, confessions can be a little longer—people tend to confess more, in my experience, and priests also tend to offer a bit more counsel. So if you’re in line, be prepared to wait a bit, and remember that if you have questions or want counsel, the priest will give it to you too (usually. Some don’t.).

There is no “lights out”. You can stay in the chapel if you want. You can read in the main lounge. As long as you’re quiet, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

After confession I went back to my room with a cup of hot cocoa, took my meds, read a bit, and then went to bed. My alarm was set for 7, and hopefully it wouldn’t be so loud that it would terrify everyone else into awakeness. :)


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Saturday morning

Saturday morning


My alarm did not wake everyone, yay, but it got me up at seven. The bell rang at 7:30 but I like to give myself a little leeway to get ready—I don’t like to be rushed in the morning if at all possible. At 8:15 there was lauds in the chapel, and then we had breakfast. I had gotten to the chapel early so I said the LOH and had some mental prayer before we prayed in common.

Morning prayer

Morning prayer

After breakfast at 8:30, we had the first conference of the retreat, setting out the general overview and talking about the use of light and dark in Scripture, echoes between Genesis and revelation, how water and light are used, and things like that—providing an overview to the Sacraments we were going to study. “Christ provides absolute concrete stability,” Fr. Stephen said. Which is true!

After the conference, we said the rosary in the chapel (joyful mysteries, since it was Saturday—I prayed for all of you!), and then had Mass, followed by lunch.

I was reading The Story of a Soul, which I hadn’t read in a long time, and I was also reading I Believe In Love, which is one of my favorite books ever, and is based on the teachings of St. Therese. So both those books complemented each other and provided a lot of material for prayer and pondering.

Meals in silence aren’t really that hard—you just have to be aware of what people want. Since I use my eyes more than the normal bear anyway (because I can’t hear as well as y’all can, so I have to use my eyes to survey the surroundings and get information), it’s easier for me to see when someone might want the bread basket or the water pitcher. There’s quiet instrumental music playing in the background, so it’s not silent silent.

In the next post I’ll talk about the rest of Saturday!

It's the Feast of St. Therese!

books, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast Day!

St. Therese is my (accidental) patron saint, and the older I get, the happier I am that I picked her—or she picked me, either way. :)

The St. Therese reliquary at the local retreat house.

The St. Therese reliquary at the local retreat house.



A French girl who died at the age of twenty-four from TB, what can she possibly teach us? SO MUCH. So much that St. John Paul II made her a doctor of the church. That’s right. She’s one of four women to have that title.

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Don’t be deceived by her sometimes flowery (period appropriate) prose, or the saccharine images. St. Therese is a wonderful friend to have.

If you’re new to her, let me recommend a few things:

1) Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul *. (My friend Elizabeth wrote the introduction to this edition!)

2) I Believe In Love, *which is one of my all-time favorite, desert island books.

3) The Film Therese. *

4) If you want to go a bit deeper, then 33 Days to Merciful Love is what you want. This is a daily meditation book, leading up to the Consecration to Merciful Love (which I made on New Year’s Day this year). It’s powerful!

There have been so many books written about her that it would take a long time to read them all (believe me, I’ve tried!) but these four resources are excellent starting points.

So, let’s get on the Little Way….

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*=Amazon affiliate links

Seven Quick Takes--the 60th of September

7 Quick Takes, Catholicism, CF, health, Seven Quick Takes, the book, transplant, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
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Linking up with Kelly!

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In case you missed it, here’s what’s been going down around these parts this week:

Simplicity Series #1—Reset Day!

Stitch Fix Box #8!


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The reason this post is entitled the 60th of September is because this month has seemed insanely long. Isn’t there a song called “Wake Me Up When September Ends?” That’s how I feel right now. It’s just been so long. And sort of crazy.

One of the big crazy-making things is that I’m in the middle of Doctor Roulette, which I really haven’t written about here, so I probably need to catch you up.


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(If you’re not interested in medical stuff, skip this and go to point four, where I talk about BOOK THINGS!)

So, being post-transplant, and being fourteen years out, is….interesting. Obviously, I am INSANELY GRATEFUL to be at that marker. I am. Never think I’m not. But at the same time, it’s a Brave New World of Medical Stuff, because it’s rare. So when things happen, there’s not a lot of research to go on. There’s just…..talking. And guessing. And seeing what works.

Essentially, all summer we have been messing with insulin, because my blood glucose levels have been off. (I”m trying to keep this as medical jargon free, but when I say this, what I mean is my A1c, not my BGLs. If you’re confused, I can explain in another post, so let me know if you want that much detail into my life!)

So my team decided to put me on some long-acting insulin.

But……that didn’t work. First, it didn’t lower my BGLs, which I was testing twice a day, and second, insulin is a hormone. That means it can affect lots of parts of your body.

For me, that meant—headaches. Not sleeping. Weight gain (DAMN IT), and insanely inappropriate mood reactions. If Big Ben threw an interception I wanted to break things. If someone parked next to me at the supermarket, I became incandescently angry.

This is not appropriate.

And the scariest part for me? Forgetting things. Words. Ideas. What I was doing. This is not good. I rely on my brain, and words are my trade. I can’t be forgetting them! I need to be mentally sharp.

(But you’re never mentally sharp, Emily, says the peanut gallery….)

I did some digging and found out that when you have too much insulin—as in, you have WAY too much, and your body doesn’t need it—this is what happens.

And this is the problem. My body is weird. Not just the transplant weird, but weird for a CF person. I’m what’s called “pancreatically sufficient”, which is rare. It means my pancreas works like a normal person’s, not like a CF person’s. I don’t need to take enzymes to help digest my food, because my pancreas does it. I never had CF related diabetes.

And my A1c starting rising once I hit menopause—so there’s probably a connection there as well.

So, long story short, my team is sort of confused, and I’m seeing an endocrinologist the day before Halloween. That’s one reason I haven’t been writing as much this month, because things have just been crazy, but also my body has been through a lot, and I’m trying to be nice to it. Which means, chilling out, after all the non chilling out. :-P

There are some other issues, too, mainly that I don’t have a great track record when seeing endos, because they look at me and go, you’re really messed up, what do you want me to do about it?

But anyway, that’s at the end of October. Yay.


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in the meantime!

BOOK THINGS!

People are starting to ask for interviews, which is….weird. I mean, good, but weird.

The cover is 99% done. I’ve seen it. I can’t show you yet. If you want to be the first to see it, subscribe to the blog!

It’s really pretty, I like it. :)


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Hockey season starts soon and this makes me very happy!


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I am going on retreat next week, so if you have prayer requests, I am honored to take them with me! Drop them in the combox, or use the contact page.


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If you haven’t seen the Word on Fire team’s newest entries in their Pivotal Players series—Fulton Sheen and Flannery O’Connor—I highly recommend them! They’re great! Flannery is a really important influence for me, in how to live as a Catholic and a writer, and I write this quote from her at the beginning of all my journals:


I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even enjoy anything. I am a born Catholic, went to Catholic school in my early years, and have never left or wanted to leave the Church. I have never had the sense that being a Catholic is a limit to the freedom of the writer, but just the reverse. … I feel myself that being a Catholic has saved me a couple of thousand years in learning to write. (The Habit of Being *)


So I love the Flannery film. It was also nice to learn more about soon to be Blessed Fulton Sheen—I had read some of his books, and I knew of him, but the film does a great job fleshing out what I knew.

(Also, in a nice twist, a college friend of mine composed the music for both films. Go Sean!)

And I really don’t think we can improve on Fulton and Flannery, do you? :) Have a great weekend!

*==Amazon Affiliate Link



Living the Church Year: Assumption Party!

Catholicism, food, hospitalityEmily DeArdoComment

So we’re gonna start with the real-ness, here:

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Realness, people. It’s even blurry because I was tired, sorry bout that. :)

But also the sign of a good party, if there are lots of dishes and plates and cutlery and cups in the sink…..it means people ate and drank and made merry!

So, when I wrote about Feasting last week, I didn’t mean multiple courses and all sorts of fancy dinner accoutrements and fancy things like that.

No. What I meant was a dinner in your home with other people!

It doesn’t have to be complicated! You don’t have to have everything perfect!

Let me tell you what I did.

First: Invite the people

My table only seats four adults (unless I put the leaf in, which is at my parents’ house). So inviting three people was the max I could do for a sit down dinner. I checked with my friends, we picked a day that worked, which was also the day before the Assumption, so, Assumption Party!

Otherwise it would’ve been a late St. Dominic’s Day Party. :) OR a something something feast day party. :) We’re good at naming things around here.

Second: Figure out the menu

I didn’t want to make anything terribly elaborate. I always make Guinness Cake for dessert….

The cake, in mom’s cake stand, which she lent me! Thanks, mom!

The cake, in mom’s cake stand, which she lent me! Thanks, mom!

For dinner, I made Rachael Ray’s Drunken Tuscan Pasta, which is really yummy, and easy to serve to people. I don’t always like making pasta for a dinner party because you can’t really make it ahead. But then as I was making this, I remembered why I like it—it’s just so dang good. (I”ll give you the recipe.)

Third: Delegate

I didn’t do all of this myself. One of the guests brought sparkling water and a bottle of wine, and another brought the makings of an appetizer and a big, lovely salad, which she made at my place. It was so fun having someone to cook with in my kitchen! It’s so much more convenient here than it was at the old place, because I have an island instead of a “peninsula” sort of thing, so people can cook in multiple places!

Fourth: Make a plan

I wrote out my list of ingredients and went grocery shopping a week before (and then two days before, for the things I had to get sort of fresh, like the portobello tops) . The cake can be—indeed should be—made the day before, so I did that. That way all I had to do was cook the pasta when people were here. A few hours before everyone’s arrival I chopped rosemary, sliced mushrooms, and portioned out red pepper flakes into my little prep bowls. This just makes everything easier when people get there.

Fifth: Try to make it pretty

“try” being the key word here….

I used my pasta serving bowls, which I got at Crate and Barrel eons ago, but are perfect for this. I even dug out place mats and real napkins, because, hey, why not?



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And finally….

It doesn’t have to be perfect!

I didn’t have wine glasses. People drank wine out of mugs! It was FINE! We used the same forks for salad and pasta! It was fine! (We did have different forks for the cake, though, because I had enough for that!)

The house was spic and span because it was the first party in the new hours, and we had house blessing (one of the guests was a priest) and the guests hadn’t seen Orchard House before so I wanted it to look nice. But really, I still didn’t go nuts. I didn’t polish all the fixtures until they sparkled. I didn’t freak out about water spots on the windows from a rain storm.

The point of a party is to get together and have fun and celebrate!

So, yes, make sure your house isn’t, you know, unsafe! :) Make sure it’s hygenic! :)

Make sure it’s comfortable, that people have places to sit, but really, don’t worry about everything looking like House Beautiful because it’s not going to happen!

And even if I didn’t make dinner and we just had Chipotle take out, it would’ve been fun. If the food doesn’t turn out, or you burn it, get a pizza and just chill. It’ll be fine.

I’ve found that having people over to share food and conversation (and prayer!) is a great way to build community, to bolster your feelings, to feel that you’re not alone, and that living the Christian life is a pretty great thing to do. We need community!

So go out there and plan a party!

St. Dominic, the Innkeeper, and Twenty-First Century Preaching

Catholicism, essays, politics, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
El Greco,  St. Dominic in Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic in Prayer

There’s a story about St. Dominic that’s familiar to every Dominican, and I think it has important implications for us today.

Here’s how the Nashville Dominicans tell the story on their website:

Two years later a diplomatic trip brought Dominic into the Albi region of Southern France. A strong zeal for the salvation of souls was enkindled when the young canon encountered an innkeeper who was steeped in the errors of the Catharists, a heresy which threatened the region. Although other religious had been commissioned to preach in the region, little progress had been made. After a long night of intense discussion, the light of truth prevailed and the innkeeper returned to the practice of the faith.


So let’s break this down. Think of a hotel. Imagine you’re in the lobby, getting something to drink before you go to bed, and you start making small talk with the desk clerk. You discover that he’s an agnostic.

You have a few options:

Don’t say anything. Just smile and say good night, but mentally pray for him.

Share that you’re Catholic. Don’t go any father.

Tell him that he’s going to Hell.

Say that you’re Catholic and spend the rest of the night trying to browbeat him into submission!


What did St. Dominic do? He talked to the innkeeper. All night. You can imagine that it wasn’t full of highly charged statements (like, hey, you’re going to Hell! Good night!) or polemics. It was probably logical—because we Dominicans love study—and it was probably methodical. And it was also probably gentle. I doubt the innkeeper would’ve stayed up all night if St. Dominic was banging him over the head with proofs!

There’s nothing wrong with a good discussion, including one that gets a little exciting.

My siblings and I are all half-Italian. When we have discussions, we get loud. We get boisterous. We use our hands! For people new to way we converse, you can think we’re arguing. (Growing up, our mother, who is not Italian, often told us to stop arguing. “We’re not arguing! We’re talking!”) St. Dominic was Spanish, so I wonder if he used his hands, too. Maybe!

But there’s a distinction between passionate arguing and getting personal. And on St. Dominic’s Feast Day, that’s what I want to talk about.

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico


One of the mottos of the Dominican order is “Veritas”—truth. We love truth. We live to spread the truth of the Gospel all over the world! And that’s part of the reason we study, so that we can know what the truth is. Truth isn’t about what you think is true, or a “personal truth". (for example, children believe that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny exist. We could call that their “personal truths.” )

Truth is verifiable. Truth can be known. Sometimes, yes, there is mystery! We will never understand everything—and we’re not meant to. Some things are just beyond our reach on this earth. But we know the truth of faith because it’s able to be studied. It’s able to be seen. We believe in the truth of Jesus Christ. At Mass every week, we say the “credo”—”I believe”. This isn’t what just I believe, or what you believe, or what the pope beliefs, or what Fr. Patrick up on the altar believes. It’s what we have always believed, as a people, a family of faith.

If you are Catholic, you have to know what you believe, and why you believe it—and you have to assent to it. You can’t just say, well, that’s fine for you, but I don’t believe in Transubstantiation. (You would be….wrong!) I don’t believe in the Church’s definition of marriage. I don’t believe in Hell. Etc.

Truth is truth whether you believe in it or not. People believed the earth was flat—but it wasn’t. People believed that slaves weren’t people—but they were. People believe that unborn babies aren’t people—but they are. See how this goes?

It goes without saying that the truth needs to be spread far and wide. That’s part of what Dominicans do.

But, the question is “how to do it.” As the Wicked Witch of the West said, “These things must be handled delicately.” We can’t be too nice that we deny people the truth—because the truth sets them free, and truth is the best thing you can give someone! But we also can’t be so awful and hard-core that we turn people away from hearing the truth and listening to it.

Let’s take a story from the Bible. It’s one that’s familiar to everyone—the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’m going to quote it here, so we can all have it freshly before us:

John 8:3-11

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”


Do not sin again. That’s the crux, really. We are all sinners. Every single one of us. I am, you are, everyone. None of us is without sin. But Jesus doesn’t say to the woman, “Oh, what you did is fine. Go ahead, go home, it’s all good.” He said, I don’t condemn you. But don’t sin again. That’s what happens when we go to confession—we have to promise to try not to sin again. We can’t just think, oh, I can do what I want, because confession!

Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And because he does, he doesn’t want us to keep messing up. It makes him sad! Do parents like it when their kids make bad choices? No! But are they angry? Maybe. Are they disappointed and sad? I think this is probably more likely. (I mean, they might be angry at first. But I think then it becomes more sad/disappointed.)

When we discuss heated issues in the twenty-first century, we are not good about being gentle about it, like Jesus is here. Now, yes, Jesus also turned over tables in the temple. Sometimes we can be righteously angry. I get righteously angry whenever I talk about disabilities or abortion. That’s my thing. But if I slip and start calling people names, or want to incite violence against them, I am sinning.

We can be preachers of the word. We have to be, both preachers of the word and doers of it. We have to live the life of Christ. Sometimes that means standing up for people. Sometimes that means living a quiet life of witness. Sometimes it means both!

If you want to make your point, if you want to convert people, you aren’t going to do it, usually, by violence or hatred or name calling. We need to stop doing that. We need to do it like St. Dominic did it—gently, with facts, with truth, and then….step back. See how it goes. Conversions aren’t instantaneously. St. Dominic famously cried, “Oh Lord, what will become of sinners?” He cared about them. He didn’t just want to score a point like in a college debate match. He didn’t want to just win. He wanted the other person to see the truth because it would save them.

Politics in America has always been nasty (see the Election of 1800!). But we must stop seeing each other as enemies across a divide. We have to state our position, but also realize that we can be friends with people who don’t vote the way we do. In fact, we are required to love them.

I know things get heated in the public realm. I worked in politics for 10 years. I saw it, up close and personal. We cannot want to kill our opponents, guys. We can’t approve the shooting of congressmen and women because the victim disagreed with us! What kind of people will we be then?

A story was told to me by the first legislative aide I worked with, who had been in the senate a long time. She said that senators used to argue like crazy on the floor, and then go out to dinner together. They were friends with each other. That was becoming rarer and rarer

Christianity isn’t a religion for wimps. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be a doormat. He asks us—and St. Dominic shows us how—to preach the truth, to live the truth with our lives, to pray for our enemies. We can have discussions—even loud Italian ones! We can be passionate! I’ve always been passionate when talking about the Church.

But there’s a fine line between being passionate, and being so whipped up into a frenzy that you can’t see the human being on the other side.

St. Dominic saw the humanity in the people he met. That’s what drove him to preach—his concern for them and his love for Christ.

Does the same thing compel us?




Feast, Feast, Feast!

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Guys, it’s AUGUST!

And that means that it’s time to FEAST!

The Church calendar is just jam packed with feasts in August! This week we had…

Dedication of St. Mary Major (yesterday)

The Transfiguration (today)

Thursday is the feast of St. Dominic! (A feast for me, because, DOMINICAN POWER!)

And then we have the feast day of St. Edith Stein, and Maximilian Kolbe, and the Assumption is next week…..

It’s all happening!

Part of living the Catholic life is living liturgically, which means to fast when the Church fasts….and to FEAST when the Church feasts!

Remember to do that! It’s not just about the penance and the fasting! It’s about joy, too!

So be sure to celebrate!

Raphael, The Transfiguration

Raphael, The Transfiguration


I’m having an Assumption Party next week, so I’ll share all those details with you, to give you an idea of a feast you can have at home with pals.

But really, be sure you celebrate the days that are important to you. Celebrate your confirmation saint’s day! Celebrate the Holy Days and the Feasts! Join the Church in her party!



Trust, Courage, Faith, and Transplants

Catholicism, essays, transplantEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you. --Matthew 9_22.png

I had a holy hour last week before Mass, and as I was paging through my Magnificat, I noticed a few things.

Do you see them, too?


Matthew 9:1-8

The Healing of a Paralytic. He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.


And here….

Matthew 9:18-26

The Official’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage. While he was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.  A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.  She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”  Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured.

 When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion,  he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose.  And news of this spread throughout all that land.


Do you see it?

Before Jesus heals these people, he tells them to have courage.

A lot of people tell me I am brave.

I am not brave.

Doing what you have to do to keep on breathing is not brave. It’s necessary. Now, granted, I had to make the choice to go for transplant. If I hadn’t done that, then I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this, precisely fourteen years later. In fact, as I write this (at 10:47 a.m.), fourteen years ago, I was in the OR. My surgery began around 6:45 in the morning (at least that’s when the epidural started, I think). So, yes, I made the decision to go for transplant. Was that brave? I don’t know. I don’t personally think so.

Really, though, a lot of the time, I did not feel brave. I did not have the courage Jesus is telling these people to have.

But as I looked at these verses, I thought, this is right. They need courage for what’s about to happen. Because it’s scary, to be suddenly plunged into a world you didn’t think was possible, something you had hoped for, but didn’t think would actually happen. It’s sort of terrifying.

These people had faith that Jesus could cure them. And I had faith, too. I’ve always had it. I’ve never doubted my faith. But did I have courage? Did I trust Jesus?

Ah. That’s the slow growing bloom of faith. Faith is the seed. But courage and trust? That’s later. That’s a result. It’s the result of a lot of dark nights and lots of tears and feelings of this is never going to happen.

And I can say that even if I hadn’t been transplanted. Remember, God is always good. I would’ve been cured, either in heaven, or here on earth. And I was lucky that I got my miracle here. Some people aren’t as lucky as I was. That’s the sobering fact.

Throughout, though, Jesus tells us to have courage, because something is happening. And it might be something great. But in the moment, there is fear. There is death, as we see with the little girl. But then…

life.

Even if it’s life on the other side of death. We know how this story ends. We know that death is not the winner.

Trust in Jesus sounds great, and it is great, but until you’ve really had to surrender your will, to say I have no control over this—that’s when you need the courage. It takes courage to trust in God.

Jesus knew that. And I think that’s why he tells these people to have it, to grasp it, to be strong in the moment. Because in the moment when the miracle happens, you might feel like you’re going to drown—save me, Lord, I’m perishing!

If I look brave, it’s really because Jesus gives me the courage to take the steps forward. It’s not my courage at all. It’s his.

My Dominican saint is Bl. Lucy of Narni—and yes, she’s the one C.S. Lewis used as inspiration for both the name “Narnia” and Lucy Pevensie. I’ve always loved Lucy. But remember, Aslan tells Lucy, “Courage, dear heart.”

We need to be reminded to have courage, to keep trusting.


Thomas More.png





A Little Book and Movie Talk

books, Catholicism, moviesEmily DeArdoComment

I know, I hardly ever write on Saturday, but, I wanted to share some things with you, and there wasn’t an “official” Seven Quick Takes yesterday, which is good because I was editing the last bit of the manuscript! So the manuscript is edited! My editor will read it again, and then send it to the copy editor at Ave Maria Press in early July.

I should also be getting cover design shortly….and pre-orders should open soon!

Can you feel the excitement? I can!!!!

(Sign up for updates to get the news FIRST on all the book stuff!)

Anyway, speaking of books that aren’t mine….

The Feast of St. Thomas More was on the 22nd (which is also my mom’s birthday).

The Fourth of July is this coming week

So, in the spirt of both those things, let me offer you some good reading and film suggestions!

(These are Amazon affiliate links, FYI!)

St. Thomas More

Thomas More.png


If you aren’t familiar with this awesome saint, become so!

For movies, of course it’s A Man For All Seasons.

For books: The King’s Good Servant, But God’s First, by James Monti

For a look at the relationship with his daughter, Meg (which was a great one), read A Daughter’s Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg, by John Guy


American History

The Battle of Gettysburg raged from July 1-July 3. I highly recommend reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels and watching the film Gettysburg (which is based on Shaara’s book).

If you want to go back to the Revolutionary War, I suggest HBO’s series John Adams (Fabulous, based on the equally great book by David McCullough), the musical 1776 (great music, but also a great story), and the book 1776, also by David McCullough. Reading 1776 is an eye-opener. There was really no way the US was supposed to win the war, and that comes through with incredibly clarity in McCullough’s writing.

But we did win.

In terms of kid-friendliness—they can totally watch 1776. It’s very family-friendly. John Adams isn’t not family friendly but it’s sort of long, so I don’t know if it would hold kids’ attention, but older kids and teens? Definitely. Gettysburg is also long, and while it’s not incredibly graphic, it is about war. (Obviously) But I think kids could watch some of it. Teens, definitely.


The Annunciation

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
Jean Hay ,  The Annunciation ,  1490/95., oil on panel.

Jean Hay, The Annunciation, 1490/95., oil on panel.

Happy solemnity of the Annunciation!

(If you’re a Tolkien fan, you know today was the day the Ring was destroyed….so go watch Return of the King today.)

I thought I’d share some poetry with you today. I don’t generally do this, but there’s a lot of good stuff about the Annunciation, so, to the poets!

John Donne, Divine Poems, 2. Annunciation


 Salvation to all that will is nigh;

That All, which always is all everywhere,

Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,

Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,

Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie       

 In prison, in thy womb; and though He there

Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,

Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.

Ere by the spheres time was created thou

Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;        

Whom thou conceivest, conceived; yea, thou art now

Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother.

Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room

Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb.

And some Rilke. In this one, the angel Gabriel is the speaker.

Annunciation
The Angel speaks


You are not closer to God than we
We’re all from Him so far

Yet with such sweet wonder

Your hands blessed are.

So do they ripen, so they shimmer

from the sleeves as by no woman before.

I am the day, I am the dew,

But Thou,

Thou art the Tree.


I'm weary, for the way was long

Forgive me, I forgot

What He, who sits in gold array as in the sun sent me to say,

You thoughtful one

(great space bewilders me)

You see: I am the beginning

But Thou,

Thou art the Tree.


Wide I spread the arc of my flight

I found myself so strange and far

And now your little house is drowned

in the folds of my great, bright dress.

And yet you’re alone as never before

You don’t see me at all

As if: I’m a breath of wind in the wood

But Thou

Thou art the Tree.


All the angels fear like this

Let one another go:

Never had we such desire

Uncertain yet so great

Perhaps that something happens soon

You only know in dreams

Hail, for thus my soul now sees:

You ready and so ripe.

You, Lady, are the great, high door

that soon shall open wide.

You, most beloved ear to my song

Now I feel: my word is lost

in you as in a wood.


So I came and I fulfilled

A thousand and one dreams

God looked at me; bedazzled me…

But Thou

Thou art the Tree.

Got $20? You can feed a child for an entire YEAR!

Catholicism, essays, LentEmily DeArdoComment

I am a BIG fan of Mary’s Meals, and you should be, too! Let me tell you why.

(Also, SUPER cute video at the bottom!)

One of the Mary’s Meals t-shirts I picked up at the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference last weekend.

One of the Mary’s Meals t-shirts I picked up at the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference last weekend.

As we approach Lent, people start to think about Lenten penances, and the pillars of Lent: Almsgiving, Fasting, and Prayer. We should think about these things all year, of course, but especially during Lent, when we prepare for Christ’s Death and we imitate His 40 days in the desert.

It’s sobering to think about people who do not have enough to eat, who are truly starving. Not just “food insecure”, but really, truly, starving. People who will not eat on a daily basis. According to World Vision, one in eight people in the developing world do not have enough to eat.

Mary’s Meals has a simple idea: One nutritious meal every day for a child in a place of education.

Children who are hungry can’t learn. That seems obvious, right? You can’t think if you’re starving.

64 MILLION children around the world who are hungry can’t attend school—they have to beg for their food instead.

Mary’s Meals wants to stop that—they want to help children LEARN and be fed.

So, in 18 country around the world, they set up food serving stations at schools, run by local volunteers, who feed the children a nutritious meal every school day. In some places, it’s an actual school. In others, like in India, it’s “non-formal education centers”, like railway platforms, where kids learn and eat. In Madagascar, they actually feed children in prison, because in the prisons, the food service isn’t consistent. The kids learn and get fed.

Feeding one child for an entire school year costs $19.50.

That’s it! $20 feeds a child who otherwise wouldn’t eat. And when they eat, they are better equipped to learn, and as they learn, they can get out of poverty, get a job, and help themselves and their families break the cycle of crushing poverty.

Currently, Mary’s Meals is feeding more than one million children around the world! Which is amazing, but there is still more work to be done.

Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, the founder and CEO of Mary’s Meals, spoke at the conference last weekend, and he is passionate about feeing these children, about making a difference, and it’s so simple to do. This isn’t a hard thing. They will do anything to get these kids food; in Haiti, they deliver food to the foot of a mountain and carry the food up to the school settlement! Even though Mary’s Meals is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, and Magnus is Catholic, the schools serves everyone, not just religious schools.

This Lent, I think it’s a great idea to support Mary’s Meals however you can. Maybe you eat a simple meal and save the money you would’ve spent on going out—do that once a week, and at the end, give the money to Mary’s Meals. Maybe you can hold a bake sale or a fundraiser at your school. There are lots of ways to help!

Donate right here. Think about it. $20—a movie ticket and a soda, or an entree at a nice restaurant—that can feed a kid for an entire year. That makes a huge difference in a child’s life.

To find out more, watch Child 31, the documentary about Mary’s Meals:

And the follow-up, Generation Hope:




And if you like the actor Gerard Butler, like I do (he was in The Phantom of the Opera!), then you’ll love this video of him directing kids in Haiti at a Mary’s Meals school!












Seven Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes, Catholicism, Take Up and Read, writing, LentEmily DeArdo2 Comments
seven quick takes.jpg

Linking up with Kelly!

—1—

Lent is coming soon! (It’s in a little over a month, if you can believe it.) Take Up & Read has a beautiful new book for Lent, focusing on the Gospel of Matthew, called Hosanna.

hosanna cover.jpg


We have new writers, some new design and prayer pages, and all sorts of other goodies that you can read about here.

Making it EVEN BETTER is that right now the book is ON SALE! That’s right—price drop! We don’t know how long this will last, so go grab your copy!

I love the gospel of Matthew, so I was thrilled to contribute an essay to this book. I’m sure you’ll love it!

—2—

Did January feel like it lasted FOREVER to anyone else? Whew. I’m glad that month is over. February always feels like it moves pretty quickly, but it’s also the last full month before my move, so it feels like time moves even faster.

—3—

I’m still Kon Mari-ing the house. I’ve done clothes, books, papers, and I’m in “komono” (AKA EVERYTHING ELSE), but even that is moving well so I should have that done in the next week or so. Yay!!!!

—4—

A brief bit of policy wonkery (if you’re new here, I worked for the state government for ten years, so in a past life I lived, ate, and breathed policy wonkery). This really isn’t about policy, per se, as it is about common sense:

If you are contacting a representative about a policy proposal that you support or do not support, please remember to be respectful, to be brief, and to contact your representative. Please don’t call a representative that doesn’t represent you (as in, you live in Ohio, but you’re calling a senator from Colorado or Hawaii). This irritates the staffers and does not make them happy. They want to know what their constituents think. Not what everyone in the country thinks.

And if you call your elected representative for any reason, please be nice to the person on the phone. It is not that person’s fault that you are having issues with whatever you’re having issues with. If you are mean, that does not make them want to help you! Do not make the person answering the phone cry with streams of curse words! STOP IT!

—5—

Do you re-read books? Please tell me you do. To me, half the fun is in re-reading. I read so quickly that if I didn’t re-read, I’d be really bored. Re-reading is good!

—6—

My friend Richelle asked me if I’d read all of Dickens’ novels. I haven’t'; I’ve read 10 of his 15 novels (A Christmas Carol is considered a novella, and I have read that as well). The last five I have to read are Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, Our Mutual Friend, and his unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

If you’re looking to start reading Dickens (he’s not my favorite, but he is an important writer), I’d suggest starting with A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist (because just about everyone knows the basic story), and A Tale of Two Cities, which is one of my favorites. These are all pretty short, too, which is a plus, given that some of his novels are the size of bricks.

—7—

I’m also watching Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat on Netflix. The series is good, but he book is even better (same title), because it EXPLAINS THINGS, like why you should boil potatoes in salt water before you roast them! I had always wondered about this and now I know. (It’s because you get the salt in to the potatoes—if you just roast them, then you toss salt on top of them and that doesn’t really penetrate said potato).

Bible Study for the New Year!

Catholicism, current projects, Take Up and ReadEmily DeArdoComment

I’m so glad to present to you Call Me Blessed, Take Up & Read’s first book with Word Among Us Press!

Since this book is published by WAU, you can get it LOTS of places, not just Amazon! For example, Barnes and Noble has it! So you can use their coupons and your membership card to get a reduced price! Yay! Or you can get it 20% off the WAU site!

This is a really lovely journal, tying together the stories of women in the Bible with St. John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). So it’s a twofer; a beautiful work from John Paul II, and the Bible all in one!

There are also touches of color in this study, which we’ve never had before!

49896063_633501417066134_5911604217553879040_o.jpg
49378866_633501377066138_321420813968343040_o.jpg
CMB 1.jpg

I do hope you’ll join us. The kickoff is on Monday, but if you are a few days behind, that’s fine. We don’t believe in “Behind”. :) I don’t have an essay in this one but I did edit it and got to read all these beautiful essays ahead of time!

If you have any questions, just let me know! I do hope you’ll join us in this lovely starting and in kicking off 2019 with the Word, thinking about our role as women, and Christian/Catholic women, in society. How are we to live out our vocations? Let’s pray and ponder together!

Advent pondering: At the service of His plan

Catholicism, inspirationEmily DeArdoComment

I was reading my Advent devotional this morning and came across an essay that I dearly love to re-read every year. It’s so rich in pondering that I thought I’d share some of it with you, in the hope that we can bring this mindset into our Christmas and new year.

IMG_8235.JPG

The Service of His Plan

Those who place their lives at the service of [God’s] plan never have any reason to be afraid…Every day [Mary] placed her life at the service of his plan.

When we are really placing our life at the service of his plan at the general work, then, yes, by our manner of behavior there, by the sweetness that we bring, the patience, the humility, we could rightly say, “This is the Word of the Lord.” These virtues are his ‘words”, and he is being made manifest by them….

Things were always better where [Mary] was. Things we always sweeter and calmer at the well when she was standing in line…She was the one who said, “Yes, I’ll wait. I will not add another irritable word. I will bring the loving, calming word. I will be the one who sees something extra to do, not wondering why someone takes so long at her turn, but seeing if I can help her.” She was no less placing her life at the service of the Divine plan when she waited her turn at the well, than at any other time. …

We should make the word a little less unutterable, a little more recognizable by the way we live and serve and love. …

God has a great plan also in what we call the unexpected. It isn’t unexpected to God. He planned it from eternity…There is nothing unexpected in all of creation…nothing should ever take us by surprise, except the wonder of God’s plan…

God..is saying exactly this to us…”I don’t reveal all the details of those plans because I cannot deprive you of faith. I cannot deprive you of hope. I cannot deprive you of the glory of trusting in me. I cannot deprive you of the wonder of seeing my plan as it unfolds.”…

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We want to be come very intimate with him as the great mystics were in very simple, humble ways, saying, “Dear God, I don’t get this at all, but I’m so glad that you do. And I know that you have a plan and I only want to be at the service of your plan.”…

In our personal lives there is a wonder unfolding. It is wonderful to keep going forward. Even our Lady did not know the last page…let us determine in all the events of each day to place our lives at the service of his plan. This is the happiest way that a person can live.

—Mother Mary Francis, PCC, Come Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting

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Re-set for Advent

Catholicism, essays, journalEmily DeArdoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ornament I made in 8th grade art class.

An ornament I made in 8th grade art class.

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

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

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





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

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

and some theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it doesn’t work that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He always loves you, too. No matter what.

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

John 9: 1-3, NABRE

A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican

Catholicism, Dominicans, prayerEmily DeArdo6 Comments
St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s  The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Prayer

  • Study

  • Community

  • Apostolate

El Greco,  St. Dominic In Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic In Prayer

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

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

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

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


So, how does that look in my day?

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

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


Study

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

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


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

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

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

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

Community

St. Dominic.jpg


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


Apostolate






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

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



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

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

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

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

Eastern (that’s me)

Central

South

West

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