Emily M. DeArdo



Living the Church Year: Assumption Party!

Catholicism, food, hospitalityEmily DeArdoComment

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


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?


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!

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.

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.

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

#21 The Garden (retreat notes III)

Catholicism, journalEmily DeArdoComment

It was really too hot to spend much time in the garden, but I did manage to get out after breakfast on Saturday and take photos of the roses, and spend some time in the little replica Lourdes Grotto. Isn’t the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes gorgeous? There’s a tiny bench in there, so you can sit and pray, and a little water feature to represent the spring at Lourdes, so there’s the peaceful bubbling sound of water as well. It’s so pretty, and I just wanted to share it with you.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Flourish, the new Take Up & Read study on the book of Romans!

#7 Fajitas with Mel (and Ember Days start tomorrow!)

Catholicism, family, journalEmily DeArdoComment

My sister lives in Colorado, so I don’t get to see her that much, which is sad. She’s an RN at Colorado Children’s, the only children’s hospital in the entire state. She’s also getting married in June!

Tonight she called me and we cooked together. I love FaceTime. She was making a cake while I made fajitas for dinner, and we talked about wedding plans and our brother and what we like to cook and how she was eating all the cake batter. :-P And I got to say hi to Bella, her cat. We also decided that I’d look up a place for the rehearsal dinner, because I really do love reading Yelp reviews and I want to help her out. :)

Sadly I didn’t take a shot of her on the phone—she was having an AMAZING hair day. She has thick blonde hair I envy. Mine is not thick.

But I did take a photo of the fajitas.

Homemade salsa in there, too!

Homemade salsa in there, too!

And—a few dioceses around the country, and many individuals, are re-instating the practice of Ember Days in their spiritual lives. What are ember days? They’re days that the Church used to use for prayers—blessings on the natural world, on crops, on the people who live in the area, etc. They happen four times a year, and the Michaelmas (fall) ones are tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday. They’re days for fasting and more prayer.

If you want to know more, check out this great article. I am terrible at fasting. But I will abstain from meat. Here’s a specific link on the fall Embertide. (The other ones fall after Pentecost, St. Lucy’s Day [Dec. 13] and after Ash Wednesday.)

(If you’re a blog subscriber, you’re getting this W morning….but you can still fast or do things on the Friday and Saturday! Not too late!)

What We Think It Means

Catholicism, essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Most of us are probably familiar with the line from The Princess Bride : "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." 

There's a lot of that going on in our country today. 

Let's take a really common word: Sinner. What does this word mean? 

If you google the definition, this is what you get: 

a person who transgresses against divine law by committing an immoral act or acts.

If you're Christian, we could take this to mean--breaking the 10 commandments, for a start. But you can break that down into lots of other things. 

But the whole point of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to Earth and died to save sinners, which is everyone. No one is perfect. Every single person is a sinner. 

So when I see signs that say "sinners welcome" on church billboards, I wonder, where are the churches where sinners aren't welcome? Because that's the whole reason the churches exist

Now: that being said. There is a difference between a repentant sinner and a sinner who persists in sinning. When you go to confession, one of the key things in order to receive absolution is that you must be sorry for your sins, but you also must say that you're going to try to avoid it in the near future. So, if you go into the confessional, and you say you gossip, and you're really going to try to stop, but you don't mean it--you have no intention of stopping, you just want the "rubber stamp", so to speak, of forgiveness--then it's not true contrition. You have to have the contrition. 

But if you go in and say you're going to stop gossiping, and then you go out to dinner the next day with your friends and you gossip, and then your next thought is Oh dang it! , then you're trying to stop. You're not perfect. You haven't conquered that sin yet. But you are attempting to quit. That makes a difference. It's like a person who's trying to lose weight. Sometimes you gain some back, but the key is--are you still trying? If you are, then you're on the way toward success. If you're not, then....

Now, this is all wholly different than saying "we welcome sinners, and you can just keep right on sinning and that's just fine with us." NO. Nuh-uh. 

Every person, in every pew across the world, every weekend, is a sinner. But there's a difference between a church who says, "we love you, but this thing you're doing? It's not good. It's sinful. It needs to stop," and a church who says, "oh, we love you and your sin. You don't need to change. That's OK. Because it's not really sin anyway. It's just you!" 

What did Jesus say to the adulteress? Go and sin no more. Not, oh, it's OK lady, keep doing what you're doing. 

Sin is terrible. It had terrible consequences. We all sin. But that doesn't mean that we should keep doing it because it's our default, so to speak. We have to work against it, and try to become the people God created us to be. Everyone has a particular fault--or several--that they struggle with. I sure do. I'm sure you do. Everyone does. 

God applauds effort. The church applauds effort. Effort actually counts! But saying that a person's decisions are not sinful, that we just love them as they are--that's a lie. That's what GW used to call the soft bigotry of low expectations. 

Christians are required to love everyone. What's that line from The Incredibles? "The law requires that I answer no!" But as a wise Dominican once told me, "people don't have to like you. They have to love you." 

Love is hard  and love is tough. A parent that doesn't discipline his kids ends up with spoiled brats. A church that doesn't try to guide her people toward salvation, our highest possible God, and eternal life and happiness with God, isn't doing its job. The Church isn't loving you if it's not telling you the truth in charity. It's doing you an eternal disservice. 



Seven Quick Takes No. 117

7 Quick Takes, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

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

My Country 'Tis of Thee

When In the Course of Human Events

Summer Reading: What I Read in June

I'd Like Your Vote


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Have a great weekend!

Happy New Year! And a New Series

Catholicism, Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

Happy new year, guys!

No, I don't have my months wrong. First Sunday of Advent=Church New Year. 


Advent is here-Jesus is coming. That's a good reason to be happy, right? (And Stuffing Leftovers.)

Since it's a new Church Year, I'm going to kick off a new series, starting next Monday. 

As regular readers know, I teach first grade CCD. You would think that most adult Catholics would know the stuff I teach at that level. But I'm surprised to hear, when I talk about the stuff I teach, that a lot of Catholics have no idea. They can't define "grace", or what a virtue is. (They can name virtues, but they aren't really sure what a virtue is.) They don't know how the 12 apostles died. (That's actually pretty cool.) The big things, yeah, they know that. But the things that really make Catholicism beautiful? Sometimes they're missing that. 

So I've decided to, every Monday, go through my class lesson plan, and do a post about what we teach the kids about a certain topic. We cover a lot in first grade--all the sacraments, the life of Jesus, the liturgical year, the 12 apostles, the 10 commandments, the beatitudes, saints, some Old Testament, etc. I'll go a little out of order at first and start with Advent and the Liturgical Year next week, because that's where we are. 

I know I'm continually amazed by what the kids ask, and what I learn teaching them. I hope you enjoy it, too! 


St. Hyacinth of Poland: The Apostle of the North

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdoComment

St. Hyacinth is a pretty cool saint, and I'd never heard of him until I started my formation with the Dominicans. He's called the "apostle of the north" because of his work spreading the Dominican order to the northern parts of Europe. 

He also carries around statues. But more on that in a second.

St. Hyacinth was a contemporary of St. Dominic's, being born around 1185 to a noble Polish family. He studied in Krakow and Bologna and received his Doctor of Law and Divinity. When in Rome with his uncle, the Bishop of Krakow, he witnessed a miracle performed by St. Dominic. He immediately entered the Dominican order with two companions and received the habit from St. Dominic himself in 1220. After an abbreviated novitiate, he and his companions were sent back to Poland to establish the order there. 

St. Hyacinth established new monasteries as he and his companions traveled north. He alone continued to Krakow and went through northern Europe spreading the faith. Tradition holds that he went as far as Scotland, Greece, Turkey, Russian, Sweden, Lithuania, Norway, and Denmark. 

It was in Kiev that his most famous miracle occurred. The Mongols were attacking the city, and the friars were preparing to flee the invading forces. Hyacinth went to the chapel to take the ciborium (the container that holds Consecrated Hosts--which means they have become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ) with him. As he opened the tabernacle, he heard the voice of Mary asking him to take her, as well. A large stone statue of Mary was in the chapel. Taking both the statue and the ciborium, Hyacinth kept them safely with the friars and safe from desecration by the Mongols. 

St. Hyacinth died in 1257, and was canonized by Pope Clement VIII on April 17, 1594

His feast day is August 17 (what a coincidence!), and he is the patron of Lithuania and those in danger of drowning. He is also, in some places, the "patron" of pirogies. He is also called the "Polish St. Dominic" for his evangelistic zeal. He was the seventh Dominican to be canonized, and he is pictured among the saints in the Bernini Colonnade outside St. Peter's Basilica.  

St. Pope Pius V: Rosary Warrior

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment


Pope St. Pius V basically saved Christendom in Europe--not to mention Europe, period. That's right.

Well, OK. He didn't. The rosary did. But you'll understand more in a second. 

Pope St. Pius V is the only Dominican saint who was also a pope. (In the photo above, you can see his habit peeking out from under the surplice.) Born Antonio Ghislieri on January 17, 1504, he entered the Dominican order at the age of fourteen and took the name Michael (or Michele, in French and Italian) as his name in religion. 

(Side note: This is why you call Dominican priests/friars "Fr./Br. First name." They chose that name as their name in religion, and they're proud of it! So you can call them Fr. Michael, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Paul.) 

Michele was ordained in 1528 and was sent to the Italian town of Pavia, where he served as a priest for sixteen years. While there, he wrote many pieces against the Protestant Reformation. As prior of several Dominican priories, he insisted on discipline, overcoming the lax standards that had been the rule in these priories. He was elected pope on January 8, 1556, right before his fifty-fourth birthday. 

He was very important in ensuring the formality of the Mass, and asserted the importance of ceremonials in the life of the church. He also promulgated the 1570 version of the Roman Missal, which we know today as the "Latin Mass", "The Tridentine Mass", or "The Extraordinary form". (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI allowed this form of the Mass to be more widely celebrated following a molto proprio (meaning "on his own inititative"--it's a type of Apostolic Letter) promulgated in May, 2007.) 

He also declared Thomas Aquinas the fifth Doctor of the Church, and supported Mary, Queen of Scots, against Elizabeth I in England. (He's the pope who excommunicated Elizabeth.) He is also credited with the formation of the pope's signature white garments, since the Dominican habit is white. 

Like Rose of Lima, Pius V had to deal with a hostile navy--this time, the Turkish navy, in order to prevent Italy from being added to the Ottoman empire, and its Christians being forced to convert to Islam, or become slaves. Pius V had asked the Holy League countries to fight against this invasion. The Pope also asked all of Christendom to pray the Rosary for the success of the fleet.  On October 7, 1571, the pope and the Rosary Confraternity of Rome met to pray the rosary for the success of the Holy League ships against the invaders. Don Juan of Austria led the Holy League ships against the Turkish fleet, and routed the enemy near Lepanto, off the Greek coast. 

The Battle of Lepanto,  by an unknown artist. 

The Battle of Lepanto, by an unknown artist. 

Pius V attributed the victory to Mary's intercession. In the Church year, October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was originally the feast of Our Lady of Victory, but Pope John XXIII changed it to the current title. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 

Pius V died on May 1, 1572, of cancer. He was canonized on May 22, 1712, by Pope Clement XI. His feast day is April 30 (right after St. Catherine of Siena!)

St. Rose of Lima: Saint of Peru

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

St. Rose is an excellent saint for our times. 

Recently, I was reading a magazine article that talked about scar removal and the various ways to do it. I laughed a bit and then sighed, because I've got a third-degree burn on my right arm. Well, I did. But it's one huge scar, and no amount of dermatological intervention is going to make it go away. I live with it, and I don't mind it--but I know to some people, it would be a huge problem. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to be beautiful. I wear make-up, y'all. I'm saying that St. Rose teaches us that physical perfection isn't all we should be focusing on--in fact, she saw it as a hindrance to what her real calling was. 

St. Rose was born on April 20, 1586, the seventh of eleven children born to Gaspar and Maria Flores. Her parents had little money, but some social prestige. Her baptismal name was Isabel, but she was nicknamed Rose after an incident in her childhood--a servant claimed to have seen her face transform into a rose. When she was confirmed in 1597, she formally took Rose as her name. 

As a young girl, she read about St. Catherine of Siena, and began to emulate her, especially with intense fasting. She was a beautiful girl, and was often praised and admired for her beauty. In what may be a bit of extreme measures, she cut off her hair and smeared peppers on her face.(The hair, OK. The peppers? I'm not going to try that anytime soon.) This, you can imagine, did not please her parents, who wanted her married. Her mother, especially, loved and praised her daughter's beauty. 

Rose spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament, and received communion frequently. She undertook severe, secret penances, and abstained entirely from meat. Finally, in frustration, her father gave her a private room in the family house for her use, and her parents gave up trying to marry her off. 

She helped the sick and hungry of Lima, bringing them to her room and caring for them, and selling her exquisite needlework and embroidery to help support the poor and her family. She was especially devoted to the indigenous Peruvians, and prayed intensely for their conversion. 

During this time, Dutch pirates invaded Lima's harbor and defeated the Peruvian fleet. They intended not only to loot the city, but to desecrate Lima's churches. The women, children, and religious of Lima took refuge in the churches, and in the church of Santo Domingo, Rose stirred all of them to prayer. The pirates burst into the church, but saw St. Rose ablaze in light, holding the monstrance which contained the Blessed Sacrament. They fled and returned to their ships, leaving the churches in tact. 

Rose had wanted to become a Dominican nun, but her father forbade it, so she became a member of the third order instead. She took a vow of perpetual virginity when she was twenty, and only allowed herself to sleep two hours a night, so she'd have more time for prayer.

The Spanish oppression of the indigenous Peruvians greatly distressed her, and she was diagnosed with arthritis and asthma. Her only human support was St. Martin des Porres, himself a Dominican, who offered her spiritual counsel. 

She died at the age of 31, after being joined to Christ in a mystical marriage, like her great role model, St. Catherine of Siena. She was canonized on April 12, 1671, by Pope Clement X, and was the first Catholic in the Americas to be declared a saint. 

Her feast day is August 22, and she is the patron of embroiderers, gardeners, florists, India, Latin America, the resolution of family quarrels, Peru, the Philippines, against vanity, and the city of Lima. She's often seen wearing or holding wreaths of roses--her mother liked to place these on her daughter's head to accentuate her beauty, but Rose saw them as her own "crown of thorns" 

The Patron Saint of Butter: St. Brigid of Kildare

Catholicism, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

OK, she's not the patron saint of butter. I mean, she should be--if anyone in the Vatican is reading this, we could use a patron saint of butter. She is, however, the patroness of milkmaids, and one story about her tells us about her powers over butter: young Brigid once gave a poor man her  mother's entire stock of butter, but the butter was miraculously replaced before Brigid's mother found out (I don't know about you, but I'd definitely notice if all my butter was missing).



St. Brigid is one of the patrons of Ireland, along with St. Patrick and St. Columba, and she an exciting life story. Most of the stories agree that she was born into slavery, because her mother was a slave (her father was a chieftain, and his wife forced him to sell Brigid and her mother after Brigid's birth).  As a baby, she refused to be fed by a Druid because he was "unpure"--instead, she suckled from a red and white cow. From a young age, she showed special care for the poor , as seen in the butter story, and many miracles are attributed to her, even during her life. 

She became a nun and founded a monastery at Kildare in 480. She also founded a school of art and a scriptorium. 

Her feast day is February 1 and besides being a patron of Ireland, she is also the patron of poultry farmers, babies, blacksmith, dairy maids, dairy workers, fugitives, and midwives.