Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Catholicism

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!












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.

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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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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

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


Apostolate






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

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



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

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

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

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

Eastern (that’s me)

Central

South

West

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









The source of life

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

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

 

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

They're so wrong. 

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

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

And we have another: Eucharistic Adoration. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

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

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

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Happy St. Dominic's Day!

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

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

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

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

 

Introducing Ponder!

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

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

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

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Enter: Ponder

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

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

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

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

Every week includes: 

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

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

You can get your copy here! 

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Lenten Suggestions

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, there is Above All! 

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

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

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

What are your favorite Lenten resources? 

 

Poems for St. Cecilia's Day

CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments
Guido Reni,  St. Cecilia

Guido Reni, St. Cecilia

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

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

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

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

  Music the fiercest grief can charm,

  And Fate’s severest rage disarm:

  Music can soften pain to ease,        

  And make despair and madness please:

    Our joys below it can improve,

    And antedate the bliss above.

  This the divine Cecilia found,

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

When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,

  Th’ immortal Powers incline their ear;

Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,

While solemn airs improve the sacred fire,

  And Angels lean from Heav’n to hear.        

Of Orpheus now no more let poets tell;

To bright Cecilia greater power is giv’n:

  His numbers rais’d a shade from Hell,

    Hers lift the soul to Heav’n.

 

Detail of John William Waterhouse's  St. Cecilia

Detail of John William Waterhouse's St. Cecilia

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

 

A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687

by John Dryden 

Stanza 1 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began. 

       When Nature underneath a heap 

               Of jarring atoms lay, 

       And could not heave her head, 

The tuneful voice was heard from high, 

               Arise ye more than dead. 

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

       In order to their stations leap, 

               And music's pow'r obey. 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began: 

               From harmony to harmony 

Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 

       The diapason closing full in man. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

                When Jubal struck the corded shell, 

         His list'ning brethren stood around 

         And wond'ring, on their faces fell 

         To worship that celestial sound: 

Less than a god they thought there could not dwell 

                Within the hollow of that shell 

                That spoke so sweetly and so well. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

         The trumpet's loud clangor 

                Excites us to arms 

         With shrill notes of anger 

                        And mortal alarms. 

         The double double double beat 

                Of the thund'ring drum 

         Cries, hark the foes come; 

Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat. 

         The soft complaining flute 

         In dying notes discovers 

         The woes of hopeless lovers, 

Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute. 

         Sharp violins proclaim 

Their jealous pangs, and desperation, 

Fury, frantic indignation, 

Depth of pains and height of passion, 

         For the fair, disdainful dame. 

But oh! what art can teach 

         What human voice can reach 

The sacred organ's praise? 

Notes inspiring holy love, 

Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways 

         To mend the choirs above. 

Orpheus could lead the savage race; 

And trees unrooted left their place; 

                Sequacious of the lyre: 

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

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

An angel heard, and straight appear'd 

                Mistaking earth for Heav'n. 

GRAND CHORUS 

As from the pow'r of sacred lays 

         The spheres began to move, 

And sung the great Creator's praise 

         To all the bless'd above; 

So when the last and dreadful hour 

   This crumbling pageant shall devour, 

The trumpet shall be heard on high, 

         The dead shall live, the living die, 

         And music shall untune the sky.

 

 

Independence Day Meditation: True Independence

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Pope Benedict XVI 

 

The forgotten demographic: Catholic Single Women

CatholicismEmily DeArdo12 Comments

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

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

Which would you rather be called? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yes, that includes the stories of the singletons. 

 

Easter notes

Catholicism, books, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments

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

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

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

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

 

Circle of Life

life issuesEmily DeArdoComment
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.
— Benedict XVI

Friday the annual March for Life was held in Washington, D.C. 

It was also Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

And the day that President Trump signed an executive order lowering the number of refugees that can enter the United States, as well as denying entry to certain refugees for 90 days, and a host of other things pertaining to refugees around the world. 

What do these things have in common? 

They're all about life issues. 

We in the pro-life movement are often accused of only caring about people "before they're born", and that if we really cared about people, we'd make contraception more widely available, so we wouldn't "need" abortions. We'd also support social programs that help people instead of cutting them. 

There's a lot to untangle there. And I wasn't even going to write about this, because people know how I feel (I don't really sugarcoat it). But I feel like there needs to be some sort of response to all this, even if it's my inadequate one. So here we go. 

First, there is no barrier to getting birth control. I really don't know why people think this. Condoms are available at any corner drug store or grocery. There was a basket of them in the entryway of my campus health center in college, free for the taking. Birth control pills can be prescribed by any OB-GYN in the nation. Yes, you have to pay for them. Shock. I'm of the opinion that things like birth control and Viagra should not be free, especially when people have to pay thousands of dollars for drugs that keep them alive. If you want to have sex, and you don't want to get pregnant, take the proper precautions. Be responsible. If you do get pregnant, abortion is not "health care." It is not birth control. It is killing a human being. Full stop. So, in order to avoid pregnancy, either don't have sex, or be responsible. And don't tell me that you can't afford a condom. And if the guy won't wear it, then, as a self-respecting woman, you need to dump him fast, because he is not a responsible dude who cares about you and the potential consequences of actions. Don't be dumb, ladies. Please. *

We care about unborn children because they need someone to care about them. They have no voice. They can't make cool YouTube videos or get covered by CNN as they hold a rally. They only have us. And if the most fundamental right--the right to exist--is denied, then how can we say we're for peace anywhere else? Is the logical failure apparent yet? It should be. We have to start at the bottom, at the bedrock. All life is worthy of being protected. 

Supporting social programs does not mean that you support government programs. Most of the pro-life people I know (If not all of them) also support pro-life charities that help pregnant women. They're just not government-run programs. They're private charities/organizations. Some examples are: 

Sisters of Life

Mary's Shelter VA

Pregnancy Decisions Health Centers

These are just a very, very few places. But there are so many more, that exist all over the country, and are spreading. Don't say that the pro-life movement doesn't care about these children and these women. Because we do. Small government conservatives generally don't want government doing a bunch of things. We want communities to do them--and they are. 

Now, does that mean that there shouldn't be a basic floor that people don't fall beneath? Sure. But that's sort of outside the scope of this discussion, and good-hearted and good-intentioned people can disagree on how best that should occur. 

Now, if we are to be pro-life in the best sense that does mean respecting all life--realizing that all life has value. That does mean that the death penalty has extremely limited applications (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, here). That means we don't kill people who are old, or terminally ill. It does mean that we should help refugees. The vetting process is intense.  Now, does that mean that nations should let in whoever wants to come to their country? Well, probably not. States are sovereign and they are allowed to make decisions that they feel are necessary to protect their people (and immigration laws exist for a reason. But we're talking about refugees, here, not "regular" immigration.) But the Church says in the catechism that: 

2237 Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged.
The political rights attached to citizenship can and should be granted according to the requirements of the common good. They cannot be suspended by public authorities without legitimate and proportionate reasons. Political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community.

Refugees are certainly among the disadvantaged. We shouldn't act out of fear, but out of logic, out of consideration for all sides. And this extends to administrations on both the left and the right. 

And Holocaust Remembrance Day? 

Jews tried to flee Europe in order to escape Hitler and the rise of Nazism. And the U.S. did not respond well. The book Alex's Wake tells the story of Jewish refugees who were coming to Havana, but were denied entry there and in the United States and Canada, and forced back to Europe and the Holocaust. 

Anne Frank's father tried to arrange immigration to the U.S., but was denied. And we know how that story ended.

We look back on these stories and ask, how could the government have made those decisions? Probably because of fear. How could the U.S. government incarcerate thousands of Japanese-Americans

I think we have to learn from history. And we have to support life. I can't imagine being one of the people in the airport, thinking they're going to be a place of safety, and being told that they can't leave--that they're doomed to stay in a war zone. Think about that for a second. 

We have to protect life in all its stages. We cannot allow people to become "other" because we are all children of God. No one is other

We cannot look away. We can't turn aside. 

We might disagree on policy decisions--how best to educate children, how best to provide health care to people, what the tax rate should be. But we cannot disagree on the fact that all of us are human beings, and all of us are God's. We are responsible for each other at a basic level. 

Babies. Jews. Refugees. 

People

 

 

 

 

 

 

________

* That being said, I'm Catholic, and I don't believe sex outside of marriage is moral, nor is the use of artificial birth control inside of marriage. I know not everyone feels that way. :) I'm talking from a policy perspective here, not a religious one. 

 

 

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!) 

Anyway!

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. 

Addendum: 

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. "

 

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

7 Quick Takes, Catholicism, family, foodEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 

The weekly recap: 

Intro to the Sacraments

Seeking Motivation

II. 

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

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

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

 

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

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

23 Rules for Sane Eating. 

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

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

III. 

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

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

Some musical inspiration, as well: 

IV. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V.

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

VI. 

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

VII. 

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

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

Triduum Notes: Holy Saturday, Washcloths, and Sin

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Triduum notes: Good Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Triduum notes: Holy Thursday

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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