In oratione, et jejunio {the Ember Days are upon us}

 

Christ in the desert

“And when He was come into the house, His disciples secretly asked Him: Why could we not cast him {the demon} out? And He said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”
-Gospel of today

I just wanted to put out a reminder about the Michaelmas Ember Days (today, Friday, and Saturday). If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Ember Days, they are three days (always a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) which occur in the traditional calendar of the Church four times a year, roughly at the start of every season. They are days of fasting and abstinence (partial on Wednesday and Saturday, meaning you can have meat at your main meal; full on Friday) as well as additional prayers and lessons in the liturgy. They are intended to thank God for the fruits of the earth and pray for the continued blessing of them, and also, since ordinations used to happen typically on Ember Days, to pray for priests.

If you’d like to read more about Ember Days, Mary gathered some excellent resource material last year on the subject here. (Thanks Mary!)

I don’t think it’s necessary to say that the practice of this beautiful penitential tradition of the Church, directly especially towards the sanctity of priests, is more needed today than ever before. If we desire (as we certainly should) to rid our Church of the evils afflicting Her today, our Lord clearly dictates that the only way this can happen is through the avenue of prayer and fasting. So let us not delay in embracing this wonderful opportunity!

“We beseech Thee, O Lord, that our weakness may be upheld by Thy healing mercy, so that what of itself is falling into ruin may be restored by Thy clemency. Through our Lord.”

Paul_Oglesby

Image from Wikipedia

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Novena to St. Eustace begins {a day late. . .there’s a good explanation!}

Ave Maria

Happy feast of the most Holy Name of Mary!

“Your name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of Divine Grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls.”
-St. Ambrose

Just wanted to drop in and announce the beginning of the novena to dear St. Eustace. . .which I really should’ve done yesterday. But ’twas not to be, as, between 7:45 in the morning and after 10 in the evening, I was only at home for about one short hour (forty minutes of which I spent in a totally necessary nap). It was a wonderful day; the morning half (about five hours) I spent with seven of the most precious kids in the world, from nine years old down to infant, trying to help out their mom and at the same time gain a little useful experience. What a ball that was! I hope to post more about it soon, but let it suffice to say I can’t wait to do it again! The afternoon half of the day I spent chaperoning, and didn’t alight back home until late. Too late to post. 😦

But. . .prayer is outside of time, right? Right!

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Plus, I really love St. Eustace, and I wasn’t about to skip his novena here just because of an extremely full, busy day!

I hope to share more about him on (or around!) his feast day, but you can read what I wrote last year here, if you like! He is the patron of hunters, those dealing with family troubles and adversity in general.

I thought I would include this time the opening and closing prayers that Fr. Hammer provides for each Holy Helper novena, in addition to those particular prayers to St. Eustace. They are really beautiful!

Opening Prayer

Almighty and eternal God! With lively faith and reverently worshiping Thy divine Majesty, I prostrate myself before Thee and invoke with filial trust Thy supreme bounty and mercy. Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love, that I may contemplate the great virtues and merits of the saint in whose honor I make this novena, and following his example imitate, like him, the life of Thy divine Son.
Moreover, I beseech Thee to grant graciously, through the merits and intercession of this powerful Helper, the petition which through him I humbly place before Thee, devoutly saying, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Vouchsafe graciously to hear it, if it redounds to Thy greater glory and to the salvation of my soul. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of St. Eustace

O God, who didst lead Thy holy martyr Eustachius safely through many trials and dangers to the glorious crown of martyrdom; enlighten and strengthen us through his intercession, that we persevere in Thy love amid the trials of this life, and by resignation to Thy holy will come forth from the darkness of this earth into the light of Thy eternal glory. Amen.

Invocation of St. Eustace

Heroic servant of God, St. Eustachius, cast from the height of earthly glory and power into the deepest misery, thou wast engaged for a long time in the labor of a menial servant, eating the bitter bread of destitution; but never didst thou murmur against the severe probation to which God subjected thee. I implore thee to aid me with thy powerful intercession, that in all conditions I may resign myself to the holy will of God, and particularly that I may bear poverty and its consequences with patience, trusting in God’s providence, completely resigned to the decrees of Him who humbles and exalts, chastises and heals, sends trials and consolations, and who has promised to those who follow Him in the spirit of poverty His beatific vision throughout all eternity. Amen.

Concluding Prayer

My Lord and my God! I offer up to Thee my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever virgin, and of all the saints, particularly with those of the holy Helper in whose honor I make this novena.

Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Thy grace and Thy love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.

May our Lord bless you and St. Eustace intercede for you and your family!
In the Name of our Loving Lady,
Lena

Still and small, He comes to me {my vocational discernment thus far, pt. 4}

Find previous installments here, here, and here 🙂

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Not a very rare sight around our house 😉 I don’t think I was expecting whoever had my camera to start snapping photos of me!

You know, I am very happy this morning (and it’s not just because I spent almost all of yesterday afternoon watching Laramie because I was home alone with a cold…though that might have a little to do with it!)

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It really wasn’t all that bad an afternoon…coffee, amazing cookies baked by my younger sis, and a near four-hour ‘date’ with Jess Harper (Slim chaperoned!) It’s pretty rare when I watch that much TV, but with no one else in the house to drive crazy with Laramie, a head cold, and nothing else to do…time well spent!

It’s always amazing how our Lord comes to us when we least expect Him, in the smallest and most ordinary moments, when we crack our door open.

As a matter of fact, just this morning, while saying my morning prayers, I had this quote of Our Lord’s from St. Faustina’s diary pop into my head: “You can come to Me at any moment, at any time. I want to speak to you and desire to grant you grace.”

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When I snatched Mary in the kitchen this morning before she went upstairs with her customary stack of books under her arm, I’m not even sure why I blurted out the concerns and questions I did, and why I did it then. Of course, Mary is the most understanding and approachable older sister ever and I’m quite used to taking the things that weigh on my mind, spiritual or otherwise, to her for counsel; but these questions and concerns weren’t particularly weighing on my mind. They were just growing somewhat stagnant at the back of my mind; still a weight, but not a particularly suffocating one.

But out they came. You know, I really think I need more counsel in my vocational discernment. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m afraid there’s something I haven’t done that I should have. I want to clearly and accurately discern my vocation–I have the responsibility to–so is there something I really should be doing that I’m not?

The simple, brief (for us, anyway!) conversation that ensued was one of the most comforting, clarifying, and enlightening conversations I’ve had along my whole course of vocational discernment thus far. After affirming that the source of my concerns wasn’t (for once!) impatience to just know what my vocation is, but rather a more valid desire to not omit some essential step of discernment, Mary took me along the simple, reasonable line of clear thought that has brought me so much peace and joy.

Is there something you’re worried would make you seriously lacking as a wife and mother?

No.

You went to discern with the Little Sisters of the Poor (an active religious order) and did not find peace there. You went to discern at Ephesus (far more on the contemplative side of religious life) and did not find peace– you were distraught there. You were pen pals with a religious sister for all of your childhood and spent a lot of time thinking about the religious life. You have given God everything you can give Him of a first choice, haven’t you?

As I’ve mentioned here before, in many ways I am still dissecting and discerning my trip to Ephesus, and even my trip to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor as a sixteen-year-old. One thing that has become clearer with time is that, at both places, I felt very, for lack of a better word, spiritually outranked. These beautiful Sisters, both Little Sisters and Benedictines, were way ahead of me. The life of sacrifice they led seemed way above my head. It was undeniably beautiful, but it frightened me, made me grapple very hard interiorly just to get my will to the point that I could tell our Lord I would say ‘yes’ if this was His will. I didn’t want to stay there. Of course there were many beautiful moments throughout both trips–graces I will always remember. I would love to go back and visit the Little Sisters and their Residents. I would love to go visit the Benedictines and see their finished church. But I don’t want to stay there.

During both these trips, I was pitifully tired, I was homesick, I was anxious. I acknowledge that. And it greatly affected what I could absorb and how things impacted me. But both of these trips were long-awaited, prepared for with much prayer, and opportunities I could hardly get every day. They were God things. I know now that our Lord allowed, for a good reason, that exhaustion, that homesickness and anxiety, those feelings of longing to be just about anywhere else on earth. He was not toying with me. He was showing me that, at least in those places and at this time of my life, I would hardly make a healthy nun.

As I recall the words of the dear subprioress at Ephesus, Sr. Scholastica, “It’s so sad to see girls come here and find it so difficult and miserable but tell themselves stubbornly, ‘I’m going to offer it to Jesus’. They’re missing the point, and they don’t last long. Yes, there is sacrifice and it can be very hard, but they should have happiness in the life. Happiness and peace are an indicator of God’s will.” 

So my answer to Mary–yes, I believe so, however imperfectly. I’ve followed His finger to the Little Sisters, followed Him to Ephesus, to that desert where I really had almost nothing but Him to rely on. I have discerned where He has led, both an active community and a contemplative one. Both answers have been a similar not here, even if it’s taken me years to discern them.

Then you don’t need to worry about failing to have done something. You need the patience to wait for God to lead you to the next step.

And I have to have the confidence in Him that He will show me, just as He has done in the past, the way I need to go; He will take care of the heavy lifting. Whether the moment where my vocation is uncovered to me beyond a doubt happens tomorrow, next year, or in five years, I only have what He has given to me in the past and the present to work with. From what He has given me so far, discerned to the best of my ability, I do not see Him leading me towards the religious life. If that changes I will follow. But for now I take what I have, what I know from those trips, what I’ve learned of myself, and the desires for marriage and family that are undeniably growing in me, and continue to offer myself to Him. Continue to pray for direction and for His will to unfold in my life. Continue to strive for sanctity and patience and virtue, for closeness to Him in all things. And let Him do everything else.

As a young priest told me in Confession sometime last year, I think a good piece of advice for any scrupulous soul is to let God perfect you.

I add this in the context of my own tendency to stress out and scrupulize over getting things right, getting discernment just right, not missing something, not slipping up. How easy it is for me to fall into a pattern of stressing over discernment of my vocation in anxiety rather than discerning and praying in the peace of love and humility that comes from realizing that only God can lead me to my vocation and perfect me in it. So often I fail in the trust that He will do just that, even in spite of my many failings and slip-ups and blindness, as long as I leave that door open.

But as Mary pointed out, the door open doesn’t really seem to be my problem. It’s the trust that He will assuredly come knocking on it one day with either a spouse for me, or as my only Spouse Himself. And in the meantime, I need to try to get out of microscope-mode, obsessing over every little step of my way, and just let go and let God. Let Him lead me. Let Him come to me in those little moments, those little conversations, with His still, small voice that is all I need to hear and discern anyway. And, together, He and I will climb the straight and narrow path to the end of every vocation: Heaven.

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This morning, I am very happy. And I thank Him for that, for coming to me in a simple conversation with my older sister and reminding me that He is never far away.

A blessed feast of St. Lawrence Justinian to you!

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“By the practice of prayer we can construct an impregnable citadel, in which we shall be securely protected against all the snares of the enemy.”
-St. Lawrence Justinian

And also of St. Teresa of Calcutta!  (This photo was taken right before she left home to join the order of Loreto. I would guess she was close to my age! How cool!)

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“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only love.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Roses, ramblings, reflections {what happens when I get a head cold}

Happy feast of Ss. Rose of Viterbo and Rosalia of Palermo! What a liturgically perfect day to bring your wife or special girl roses (hint hint, guys)!

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So you may have noticed (if you’re not reading this through email or WordPress Reader) that my blog has a new look. If you’ve been around Ut Cum Electis for a while, you may also have noticed that it’s really an old look that I had sometime around last fall (as far as I can remember).

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Just like most other human beings, I need a change once in a while (which should be evident enough from the number of times I’ve fiddled with the graphics and changed my WordPress username thingy). Mainly, though, I wanted to go back to a header more specifically oriented towards the name and idea of this blog, which really exists in honor of Our Lady and the Saints and in order to glorify God for His countless blessings along my journey heavenward. I also seem to have come down with a mild head cold (fortunately it waited to settle in until after High Mass on Sunday, so I was able to sing!)and didn’t really feel like writing much of anything yesterday, so I turned to something that took a little less creative energy…

And as we’re creeping along towards an Autumn I absolutely cannot wait for, I wanted a warmer, golden, more Autumny feel about the blog.

Okay, I don’t really have a favorite season…but Autumn makes me feel like a child. (That sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? Isn’t Spring supposed to make you feel young, and Autumn old? Oh well.) A crispness in the air, new color everywhere, the long sleeves coming out, the unique smell of the heat turned on in the house, scented candles, soups and stews (which my dad only allows in cool weather!), Harvest Home (a suite of music we discovered on the radio years ago and listen to every Fall without fail…and which I’m listening to right now, even though I’m aware that Fall is still, like, twenty days away), Advent and Christmas on the not-too-distant horizon…I could go on and on. I guess I already have!

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Speaking of seasons, it won’t be too long before the Ember Days are upon us (Sept. 19th, 21st, and 22nd this year). Traditionally these three days of fasting and at least partial abstinence are particular times of prayer for priests. It seems obvious that this is exactly what we as the laity need to be doing for our Holy Church and for all our priests, and in reparation to Our dear Lord. I fear that I often forget, in my own pain and frustration resulting from this scandal, that He undoubtedly suffers it more than anyone, suffers it infinitely. Let us pray, let us fast, and let us console His Sacred Heart, so outraged and offended.

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While I am here with random thoughts and reflections, I thought I might remark how amazing it is how one changes with time, without noticing it until you look back.

Yesterday afternoon, Mary and I took the Dash on a tour of the private blog we used to have together, begun when I was fifteen and she seventeen-going-on-eighteen. Back then that didn’t seem so very young, but looking back four years at myself, at what I wrote about, my opinions, interests, and what occupied my mind, I was almost astonished at how I’ve changed and grown; really, at how much life God has given me over these past four years of my life, between fifteen and nineteen.

Looking at this contrast in my old and current self makes me wonder what I would be like now without the friendships that have helped so much to draw me out of my timid self; without the Traditional Liturgy that has drawn me so much closer to God; without all the experiences of my vocational discernment that have helped me grow in humility and self-knowledge and patience and gratitude (or at least shown me I need to grow in these virtues!); without spiritual direction and a healthy outgrowing of my scrupulosity; without the stories I have written; without the books I’ve read; without learning to dance; without each suffering and growing pain, and the growing pains of my siblings and whole family at times; without the love I’ve given and received.

Four years; roughly 1460 days. It’s difficult to notice in the monotony; but in hindsight, it’s easy for me to see that if one of those days were missing, I would not be quite the same person as I am today. It seems to me that, by the baby steps of each of those days, my life has become so much fuller, more rounded, deeper; that I’ve become a young woman that my girlhood did not quite expect. Yet what caterpillar ever knows what color its wings will be when it emerges from a chrysalis?

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I’m reminded of a quote from Fr. Leo Kinsella’s excellent book, The Wife Desired (which I finished recently and would immensely recommend!):

“When a girl is born into this life, her personality and character might be likened to a solid piece of gold of goblet shape and size. Thus, as a baby, the solid goblet cannot hold a single drop of the joy of living…As the child begins to contribute consciously to the happiness of her parents by being affectionate and helpful, she begins to grind out her own goblet. As she learns of God and her own purpose in existing, as she grows in the virtues and subdues the selfish instincts of childhood, real progress is apparent in the goblet. It now approaches the appearance of a hollow cup. During adolescence and full-blown womanhood the capacity of the goblet increases in direct relation to the development of her personality. Because she has grown in personality, her capacity for living has increased. Her golden goblet has become so delicate that it is almost translucent. Her cup is full to overflowing with the joy of life.”

I know that I have a long way to go, much to grind away at, many faults to overcome and many areas to grow (otherwise I’d probably be in Heaven instead of sitting here with a head cold and writing a blog post!) But this morning I am particularly grateful for the miles God has led me along so far, the grinding already done these past few years that has opened me up to hold so much more of the joy of life than I used to know. And reflecting back on those miles and years, which have really been blessed in spite of my many failings and falls, gives me great hope in God’s purpose behind the present and whatever my future will hold. His Will be done!

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God bless you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

No pleasure but to please Thee {my vocational discernment thus far, part 3}

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Happy Feast of St. Rose of Lima!

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And also of Sts. Felix and Adauctus, martyrs! (They are two of my favorite martyrs. Click here to read the short story I wrote about them years ago.)

On my mind. . .

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This is me the other day cuddling the most precious newborn baby girl, the Dash’s newest niece, named for one of my very favorite titles of our Lady (I’ll leave you to speculate at that!). This is definitely one of the perks of chaperoning. . .you get to tag along to some of the most special things ever. In fact, as a chaperone, I’ve gotten to welcome two very new, perfectly beautiful babies in the hospital, something I’ve barely experienced since the birth of my youngest sister (thirteen years ago!). I’ve been able to cradle them in my arms, get lost in the details of their little faces, and share in the brimming joy and gratitude of their family. There’s nothing quite like being in that place where familial love is multiplying before your eyes.

As a young lady somewhere between girlhood and womanhood, it’s just so natural to hold that newborn and imagine it is your very own child; that this is your hospital room, that your own (imaginary) husband is on his way back from a coffee run to the cafeteria, and will come through the door any minute (with soft steps in case you’re asleep) bearing the particular five-o-clock shadow and tired but shining eyes of a new father.

Even though my dreams weren’t quite this detailed while I was loving on this precious baby girl, the wistfulness of them was still very much there. How long. . .how long before this might be me, Lord? What do You think? (It’s funny, but I often find myself asking Him what He thinks, especially when I find my heart filling up with desires like these. I haven’t had any lightening bolts yet, but maybe He likes to be asked!)

It’s so easy for me (and probably most girls my age) to slip into that spirit of wistful wondering, especially in opportune settings like someone else’s wedding, hospital room, baptism, etc. And while I realize it is perfectly natural to have those thoughts and feelings, they can quite easily run away with me, snatch me from the present and leave me suspended somewhere alone in my mind,  so focused on a future I can’t enjoy yet that I become blind to the enjoyment of the present.

This is something I feel Our dear Lord drawing my attention to more and more; something to work on, to pray for grace to do, to make room for a peace much deeper than the excitement of getting lost in my fantasies. It is a relaxation; a stillness; a quiet; ultimately, a letting go. What a silly creature I am, to hold so tightly to things that are out of my reach that I often fail to grasp the treasures at my fingertips. What a shame it would have been to miss out on the full joy and privilege of holding that precious baby girl, there and then, as I was, because I couldn’t get my head out of the clouds of my own future, yearning for something it isn’t time for yet. What a loss it would be to miss out on the happiness and fulfillment of being a single, unattached, nineteen-year-old girl, to take for granted my amazing family and friendships, to ignore the multitude of colorful and delightful blessings and graces God is showering me with today, all because I am too impatient and ungrateful to enjoy what I have because of what I don’t have.

One has to admit, an attitude of discontent and impatience isn’t something that’s going to leave me alone once I get whatever the next thing is I might want (e.g., the sudden appearance and pursuit of some amazing young man in my life, a clear and joyful direction towards a religious community, etc.). Say I were to meet someone and he pursues me through friendship into the most amazing courtship ever. Will I be so eager to progress into engagement that I can hardly enjoy our courtship, and even more importantly, fail to grow through it in the organic way that only patience and time make possible? Say we get to engagement and betrothal. Will I be so consumed with readiness for our wedding day that betrothal itself will feel like a period of pointless waiting? Say we get married. When will we have kids?

I’ll spare you from my going on into infinity with this example, because I’m sure you’re smart enough to get the point! But it’s really a staggering pride that demands to have what I desire now–a pride that feels as though I am entitled to, and assumes I am ready for, (name it). What do I really deserve in and of myself? And what if I have barely detected flaws and immaturities in myself that might cause me to quickly ruin or squander such a blessing for God, others, and myself? Who am I to say that I have no need to grow here and now? Who am I to say that I really know what will make me happy and fulfilled in time and eternity? These are things only God can know.

I can just hear Our Lord saying in my ear, probably in response to my What do You think?, “By taking thought, do you think you can add to your stature one cubit?”

This is one fact that the rejection of leads to such frustration in my soul, but the embrace of fills me with peace: I cannot make myself grow faster. I can only grow and develop into a woman along God’s timeline, with His perfectly-timed helps and graces, as He sees best. Yes, it takes a little humility to realize that I am still very much a girl with, I imagine, many areas in need of growth before I am vocation-ready; to admit that my desires are, though quite natural, still premature. I am still learning the lessons I began to learn at Ephesus earlier this year. I am still trying, with many ups and downs, to embrace this stage of life, as an unattached young woman transitioning from girlhood to what lies beyond. Thank goodness God is ever so much more patient than I!

 The older we get, the more we become accustomed to the truth that waiting is not something one can escape in life. The older we grow in the life of grace the better we understand that waiting is not even something to be escaped, counterintuitive as that sounds in our impatient world. Waiting with willingness (in a word, patience), can easily purify and strengthen our detachment from creatures; it points us straight towards God, Who waits endlessly for our love yet never makes us wait for Him. It is our one and only road to peace in this life.

What peace we can have at every stage of life, if we can only learn to embrace patience with happiness and contentment. Of course, to do that we must let go of our discontentment and attachment to our own will. But, in a wonderful paradox, letting go of impatience is truly freeing ourselves from the misery and drudgery of waiting. When we leave ourselves behind, waiting becomes an act of love, which brings with it peace and the ability to be really grateful for all we have now, as well as whatever God wants to give us in the future.

In this detachment that only comes from patience, we can enjoy all God gives us as He meant it to be enjoyed, with the savor of love, free of the gluttony of selfishness and impatience. We are happy where we are because God is happy to be with us here; we are happy with what we have because God has given it to us in love; we are happy with waiting because God is pleased by it. Our prayer becomes the prayer of St. Alphonsus Liguori: “Let me no more desire nor seek for any other pleasure than to please Thee!”

They say that you finally find the right person when you stop looking (and “they” include many people I respect very much, by the way!). I think that is a succinct way of putting what I mean: I know that I simply cannot be open to what God wants to give me in the future until I can be open to all His plan holds for me right here and now–until that is quite enough for me.

And so, here I am to say IT IS ENOUGH! I am done with the discontentment, the impatience, and the ingratitude that all go hand-in-hand with seeking myself instead of God, and which only serve to blind me to His Presence in the present. I am tired of exasperating His generosity towards me, of acting like He is not enough somehow.

I know I will stumble and have to get up and start again many times. But, once again, and with more union of mind and heart than ever before, I am ready to choose to live in patience and content and gratitude–really, to choose the happiness right here at my fingertips. I entrust to dear St. Raphael any pangs of loneliness, any dreams of babies and five o’ clock shadows, knowing that he doesn’t mind my girlish dreams, that he holds my hand, that he will take care of the details.

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What a wonderful thing it is, really, to be where I am. What a wonderful thing, to be nineteen! To be a young woman! To be alive today! To know that God wants me here and nowhere else! That God wants me, and God is with me here. What a wonderful place this must be!

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A blueberry pie, homemade (I really need to make a post about things I’ve been baking!

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A corner of my desk, with the Child Jesus watching over my work.

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My corner of the room I share with two awesome sisters, my pillow guarded by many patron saints.

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My beloved Warrington, where I spiritually assist at Mass each day.

May God bless you with peace and contentment, wherever you are!
In our loving Lady,
Lena

Happy Feast of St. Augustine!

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I just wanted to drop in and share the end of a homily given by one of the priests at Warrington on LiveMass today. These priests (especially the one who offered Mass today, who is elderly) are so very special to me and often I want to transcribe their whole homilies and never find the time to do it. . .but I managed a bit of this morning’s, which was so beautiful, and thought I’d post it here.

‘Two cities were built by two loves: the earthly city by the love of self to the contempt of God, and the heavenly city by the love of God to the contempt of self.’ (St. Augustine)
“My dear faithful, I wish to state that in this earthly city we are living today: built by the love of self to the contempt of God. . .We see this in the domain of philosophy, theology, liturgy, politics, morality and all the arts. It is a construct of madness. . . And yet we belong to the heavenly city, built by the love of God to the contempt of self. . . The one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, the immaculate bride of Christ, militant here on earth and triumphant in Heaven. To this city we belong and we are proud to belong. For this city we must live, militant against evil both outside us, and above all within us; so that at the end, like the great St. Augustine, we may stand before God in all humility, clothed only in a profound faith and ardent love; and as (St. Augustine) says in another place, gather together our entire being, spread out as it has been over the course of our life, and offer it in its entirety to Him.’

Once more, happy feast day, and may St. Augustine intercede for us and all our Holy Church. God bless!

Novena to St. Giles begins!

Happy feast of St. Philip Benizi, Confessor!

320px-Hans_Memling_005Today marks the first day of the novena to St. Giles, Abbot! I think dear St. Giles (also known as St. Aegidius) must be an especially holy and glorious soul, because he is the only non-martyr to rest in the ranks of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His was the white martyrdom, among so many red, for he truly spent his whole life in death to self, hiding from the fame that tried to follow him everywhere and all the attentions and comforts of the world, in order to preserve his humility and his solitude with God.

St. Giles is (among other things, I’m sure) patron of those who suffer disabilities, the poor, cripples, cancer patients (especially breast cancer), those who suffer mental illness, depression, convulsions, sterility, difficulty breastfeeding, and childhood fears (especially fear of the dark, I believe). How I love the idea of tucking (God-willing!) future children in bed and reminding them that St. Giles is near at hand to keep them safe in the dark!

I like to ask St. Giles for an increase in modesty, and the true love of and desire for modesty in every aspect of my life; that I may ever seek to draw others’ attention to God rather than to the nothingness of my self. St. Giles was absolutely assiduous in practicing this virtue, in order to keep his soul from being contaminated by the least bit of pride or vanity, and in doing so went to extents that the world might view as extreme, extents which I’m certain our Lord viewed with great pleasure.  If, as The Imitation of Christ tells us, temptations discover what we are, then manifold opportunities to embrace vanity and the love of human respect only availed to prove St. Giles a champion of the virtue of modesty.

Here are the novena prayers (from Fr. Bonaventure Hammer’s book) if you’d like to join me!

Prayer in Honor of St. Giles

O God, we beseech Thee to grant us, through the merits and intercession of St. Giles, to flee from the vanity and praise of this world, to avoid carefully all occasions of sin, to cleanse our hearts from all wickedness by a sincere Confession, to leave this world in Thy love and rich in good works, and to find Thee gracious on the day of judgment. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Giles

Zealous follower of Christ, St. Giles; from early youth thou didst take to heart the words of our Savior: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” Therefore thou didst flee from the praise and honors of the world, and wast rewarded with the grace to preserve thy heart from all sin and to persevere in a holy life to a ripe old age. I, on my part, through pride, self-confidence, and negligence, yielded to my evil inclinations, and thereby sinned grievously and often, offending my God and Lord, my Creator and Redeemer, my most loving Father. Therefore I implore thee to help me through thy mighty intercession to be enlightened by the Holy Ghost, that I may know the malice, grievousness, and multitude of my sins, confess them humbly, fully, and contritely, and receive pardon, tranquility of heart, and peace of conscience from God. Amen.

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St. Giles offering Mass

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

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A most joyful and blessed feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to you! Let us come with confidence to this our sweet Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and may find grace in seasonable aid!

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“The Heart of Mary is so tender towards us, that those of all the mothers in the world put together are like a piece of ice in comparison to hers.”
St. John Vianney

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“Jesus Christ, after having given us all He could give,
that is to say, the merit of his toils, His sufferings, and His bitter death;
after having given us His Adorable Body and Blood to be the Food of our souls,
willed also to give us the most precious thing He had left,
which was His holy Mother.”
St. John Vianney

For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things

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Happy belated Feast of the Fourteen Holy Helpers! I had hoped to make a post yesterday in their honor, but I’ve been (happily) very busy, busy with blessings as my mom would say, between a great and rather rare visit with extended family, First Saturday choir practice after Mass offered by a wonderful FSSP priest (we’ve been delighted to have him around our parish the past few weeks), finally getting to welcome home (at least for a short time) one of my best friends (now a Marine!) from Parris Island, having the nearly-undivided attention of one of the most wonderful married couples I know for an evening (a balm for me!), getting to see Br. Simeon and his wonderful community and attend the solemn profession of three of his fellow Benedictine monks (amazing!)…and yesterday, a wonderful morning of being a mother’s helper and an evening of celebrating the aforementioned Marine with lots of friends. It was a wonderful day; no time for blogging, though…so here I am now!

How simply and sweetly our heavenly Father has been reminding me lately of His providence, which enfolds the whole universe and encompasses all of time but is never indifferent to or oblivious of my tiny self, my tiny life and all its tiny needs and problems.

On a small scale, He knows that as much as I love my home, I have a real need to get out and do every so often in order to ward off cabin fever and keep my phlegmatic tendency towards inertia from making my life stagnant. I need to be a little more adventurous for the sake of my own sanity, to not be so afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone or even embarrassing myself a bit. And what delightful opportunities He’s provided for me, as well as supplying me with the drive to actually make spontaneous, last-minute decisions against my first impulse of I’d really rather stay home! or But I wasn’t mentally prepared to do this today! or Not another thing to do! And He’s always strewing little surprises, graces, joys, along my path “there and back again”, that I would simply have missed if I’d refused to stand up, put on my shoes, and go out the door.

Maybe this struggle is part of growing up for everybody, maybe it’s a temperamental thing, or maybe it’s just me. But I’m very grateful that our ever-patient Lord, in His loving care and knowledge of me, is helping me work through it!

And then there are the bigger-scale needs and concerns, like my increasing longing and loneliness for my own Prince Albert (yes, I have never been so completely swept away by a love story as I was watching The Young Victoria for the first time a few nights ago. I was literally crying when he proposed…we skipped over a few parts, just so you know, but overall what I saw of the movie, especially of Prince Albert, has redefined what I’m pestering St. Raphael for!)

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Sometimes it really seems like he’ll just never turn up, time won’t go by fast enough, there must be something I ought to be doing differently, my dreams will never come true, it’s not worth hoping day after day that today might be the day. . . and so on so forth. The great struggle for patience, for peace, for trust, for contentment in the present…I get the feeling this will be the struggle of my whole life. When you throw in the emotions and elements of the life of a nineteen-year-old young woman, it can be very difficult to distinguish what exactly you’re going through, going towards, and going against. What is surrender, and what is prudent action? What is pure longing, and what is patience? What is natural anxiety and what is trust? There tend to be (at least for me) plenty of tears, lonely moments in crowds, anxieties, and a general wistfulness about life right now.

After receiving the grace of making a prayer of surrender and patience at Mass on Sunday morning…and later having a good emotional breakdown on my parents and sister because there was just so much inside I needed to let out (yep, the melancholic life!)…and a lot of busyness following to keep me happy, it came time for night prayers a couple nights ago, and I finally came to a place of making another thrust at a true act of patience. Lord, I am choosing to be patient and embrace Thy timing for my vocation. This is not my life, it is Thine. I know it is all under Thy control. Thy will be done in me, in Thy time. Something along those lines, and I went to bed with a peaceful heart.

The day before yesterday, I watched the recording of Mass from Warrington on LiveMass; it was the feast of St. Cajetan. (Get ready for a God thing!)

So there are, in my missal at least, a million different pages to mark for his Mass propers (okay, it could have been worse…) and it just so happened that the Gospel was one of them, all the way over in the post-Pentecost Sundays (number fourteen, to be exact).

“Behold the birds of the air; for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not of much more value than they? And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment what are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labor not, neither do they spin: but I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. Now if God so clothe the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, how much more you, O ye of little faith! Be not solicitous therefore saying: What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? for after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

How gentle He is! How loving! Let me provide for you, little bird! Be not solicitous for your life, for I have care of you! Let me raise and beautify you, little lily! Be not solicitous, for I have created you and am helping you to grow at just the right pace! O child of little faith! Be not anxious for your needs as the heathens! Your Father knoweth that you need them. Seek ye Him, and all shall be added to you!

Be not solicitous. He knoweth, and all shall be added to you.

As I was looking back over the Gospel again in the making of this post, I noticed that the Offertory beneath it just happened to be:

“The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him,
and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!”

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Okay, dear St. Raphael…I think I can hear you! I know I also owe this peace to the Holy Helpers, one of the many things I asked them for in my novena leading up to yesterday. I think our Lord has shared the care of this little bird with a lot of Helpers up there! And am I ever grateful!

A blessed vigil of St. Lawrence and feast of St. Romanus to you!

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“Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that as we in this life are gladdened by the festival which we keep in memory of blessed Lawrence Thy Martyr, so we may enjoy his presence forever. Through our Lord.”

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

I am come to send fire {listen to this amazing homily on the feast of St. Ignatius!}

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It’s no secret that I love the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), and that their LiveMass ministry, on which they stream live and later upload recordings of their daily EF Masses from four different locations, has been a great blessing to me and my family.

Although I have a great affection for the parish Christ the King in Sarasota, which Mass we first started to watch, St. Mary’s in Warrington has come to be my favorite of all, particularly because the priests there tend to offer homilies daily. I need this instruction and inspiration!

Today, Father’s homily on St. Ignatius of Loyola and the spirit of apostolic zeal was just so powerful I had to share it here. You can watch the rerun of Mass, and even just skip to the homily if desired, by going to the LiveMass site (click here) and selecting Mass of the Day under Warrington. This is really worth watching! If you can take a little time, I know Our Lord will bless you through it as He did me!

Happy feast of St. Ignatius!

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I can’t carry it for you {when those you love suffer}

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It seems that the older I get, suffering makes its appearances in my life, steadily deeper and starker. They say that’s part of growing up, of leaving childhood behind.

Don’t get me wrong. My life is a very happy and rich one. I have more blessings than I can count. And I know my life would be deeply incomplete without suffering in some form; as Agnes puts it to David Copperfield (at least in my favorite movie adaptation), it would be “effortless, thoughtless, flawed through and through because (it was) never hardened properly. The best steel must go through the fire.”

As Catholics who embrace the hope of Heaven and sainthood, we should equally embrace the crosses that are going to be our ladder up. As a little girl reading stories of the saints and the heroic tortures of the martyrs, I wished I could suffer great and dramatic things to gain that same crown. Over the years I’ve gotten to practice some of that coveted suffering in various little ways (usually the most valuable fruit that comes of it, though, is learning more about my own weakness!)

But when a great cross is laid, not upon you, but on one of the people you love dearly, you start to understand suffering in a different way. Because if you really love, then you’re going to hurt more for the pain of others than you would for yourself. It’s a much more selfless ache.

I guess this year more than ever before, I’ve had my first tastes of the grown-up version of suffering through the crosses of those I love who are further ahead of me in life, whether family members or friends. And I can’t fix them, or even say I understand, because I just haven’t been through such trials yet myself. Their problems and pains aren’t necessarily something I can take away with a novena, a Band-Aid, a hug, or a cookie. I can make them smile for a second, serve their little needs, pray for the graces that will keep them going. But that’s about it. After a while, the efforts to help when things just can’t be fixed start to seem pretty futile.

But maybe the efforts are enough, because in the end, the rest is down to God. I can’t be the savior of the people I love. I can only be Simon, or Veronica, or Our Lady, and suffer with them, helpless most of the time to do anything more to help. But that is enough, because only God is Enough.

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It would have been infinitely easier for Our Lady to take the Cross from Jesus and carry it herself than to watch Him suffer; but her place was to suffer at His side and keep Him from being alone until victory was His. And that was enough.

It was watching the end of The Return of the King with my family last night that made me dwell a little more on this. It struck me that Sam is what I must strive to be right now.

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Sam was never able to understand what Frodo went through, because he never came under the torturous burden of the Ring. All he had to offer was to be with Frodo, to serve Frodo’s little needs, to try to help in any way possible: eventually, to carry Frodo though he couldn’t carry the Ring himself. Sam couldn’t take the Ring, and he couldn’t be Frodo. But he didn’t need to be.

St. Pantaleon Novena begins!

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I know that St. Pantaleon isn’t among the most well-known of the Fourteen Holy Helpers like St. George or St. Christopher (though if you’re a doctor, he should be one of your particular patrons!) but I think he ought to be! He is especially dear to me (for one thing, one of his other traditional feast days happens to be my birthday, February 18th), and his story is one of my favorites. I think perhaps he might be one of the most humble and grateful souls of all the Fourteen, because of his apostasy.

He was already a Christian when he served the Emperor Maximin as his physician, but the bad example of his peers in the court led him to abandon the Faith. When a zealous priest, Hermolaus, exhorted his conscience, Pantaleon reverted with, I’m sure, a much greater zeal and love and faith than he’d possessed before.

The Faith became a part of him in every respect; in his family life (Pantaleon converted his heathen father before his death), in his work as a physician, in charity to the poor, in miracles for the sick in the name of Christ. As Fr. Hammer puts it beautifully,

“His presence was everywhere fraught with blessings and consolation.”

Fr. Hammer also describes Pantaleon, after his conversion, as yearning to prove his fidelity to the Faith by shedding his blood for it. His holy desire was granted when his heathen fellow doctors denounced him to the emperor, and he was called before the tribunal and ordered to sacrifice to idols. Pantaleon replied:

“The God whom I adore is Jesus Christ. He created heaven and earth; He raised the dead to life, made the blind see and healed the sick, all through the power of His word. Your idols are dead; they can not do anything. Order a sick person to be brought here, one declared incurable. Your priests shall invoke their idols for him and I shall call on the only true God, and we shall see who is able to help him.”

A regular Elijah-on-Mount-Carmel showdown ensued. Want to guess who won? Many of the onlookers were converted, but the emperor and his priests were only enraged. Maximin set in on Pantaleon with promises and temptations, but Pantaleon already knew the emptiness of the apostate world’s promises. Threats did not touch him. Then, as Fr. Hammer says, this “brave confessor of the Faith was tortured in every conceivable manner. Finally he was nailed to a tree, and then beheaded. The priest Hermolaus and the brothers Hermippos and Hermocrates suffered death with him, in the year 308.” Before he was beheaded, he implored forgiveness for his executioners, for which he has received also the name Panteleimon, meaning “mercy for everyone” or “all-compassionate”.

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St. Pantaleon’s amendment of life after his conversion was no joke. How earnestly he atoned for his past sins with zeal and love in good works and a tremendous martyrdom. How seriously he lived out the words of Our Lord, “I was sick and you cared for me.” What mercy and compassion he was able to give to others because of his constant mindfulness of his own weakness and God’s mercy towards him. How brilliantly he utilized his talents and the profession in which he found himself for the glory of God and the good of others.

St. Pantaleon is the patron of doctors, physicians, midwives, torture victims, bachelors (hmm. . .all the single lasses are praying to St. Anne; all the single lads should be praying to St. Christopher and St. Pantaleon. . .), and he is also invoked against consumption/tuberculosis. According to Wikipedia (the ever-reliable. . .) he is also patron of livestock, lottery (really?), a helper for crying children (I’ll remember that if I become a mother), and is invoked against headaches, locusts, witchcraft, accidents, and loneliness. I guess they don’t get that title of Holy Helper for nothing!

Whatever you decide to ask St. Pantaleon for, please slip in a prayer for my friend on Parris Island whose Crucible begins today! God reward you!

Prayer in Honor of St. Pantaleon

O God, who didst give to St. Pantaleon the grace of exercising charity toward his fellow-men by distributing his goods to the poor, and hast made him a special patron of the sick, grant that we, too, show our charity by works of mercy; and through the intercession of this Thy servant preserve us from sickness. But if it be Thy will that illness should afflict us, give us the grace to bear it patiently, and let it promote our soul’s salvation. Amen.

Invocation of St. Pantaleon

St. Pantaleon, who during life didst have great pity for the sick and with the help of God didst often relieve and cure them; I invoke thy intercession with God, that I may obtain the grace to serve Him in good health by cheerfully fulfilling the duties of my state of life. But if it be His holy will to visit me with illness, pain, and suffering, do thou aid me with thy powerful prayer to submit humbly to His chastisements, to accept sickness in the spirit of penance and to bear it patiently according to His holy will. Amen.

St. Pantaleon, miraculous exemplar of charity, ora pro nobis!

God bless, and happy feast of St. Camillus de Lellis, another patron of the sick!

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“Think well. Speak well. Do well. These three things, through the mercy of God, will make a man go to Heaven.”
-St. Camillus

Novena to St. Christopher begins!

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“Christ is He whom I seek, for He is the strongest and the mightiest.
Tell me where I can find Him.”

Saint Christopher is certainly one of the best-known out of the Holy Helpers, with many beautiful legends that surround his life in order to illustrate his mighty conversion and virtues of humility, zeal, charity, and eventually his heroic martyrdom. One of my favorite things about St. Christopher is how, when he was still Reprobus before his conversion and baptism, he looked at himself, his powerful gigantic self, and understood that he was supposed to serve the mightiest master he could find with that strength. Even as a heathen with the name reprobate, he understood the fundamental truth of our existence, that we are not here to serve ourselves, but the One whom Reprobus sought out and eventually found: our Creator. What a joy must have filled his soul when he finally found that One in Christ!

St. Christopher’s traditional feast is July 25th. He is invoked as the patron of travelers, motorists in particular, children, soldiers, bachelors, and against storms, lightning, and epilepsy.

Prayer in Honor of St. Christopher

O God, who didst make St. Christopher a true Christ-bearer who converted multitudes to the Christian faith, and who didst give him the grace to suffer for Thy sake the most cruel torments; through the intercession of this saint we implore Thee to protect us from sin, the only real evil. Preserve us, also, against harmful elementary forces, such as earthquake, lightning, fire, and flood. Amen.

Invocation of St. Christopher

Great St. Christopher, seeking the strongest and mightiest master thou didst find him in Jesus Christ, the almighty God of heaven and earth, and didst faithfully serve Him with all thy power to the end of thy life, gaining for Him countless souls and finally shedding thy blood for Him; obtain for me the grace to bear Christ always in my heart, as thou didst once bear Him on thy shoulder, so that I thereby may be strengthened to overcome victoriously all temptations and resist all enticements of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and that the powers of darkness may not prevail against me. Amen.

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Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Novena to St. Margaret of Antioch begins today!

img-Saint-Margaret-of-Antioch1Here we are again at the beginning of Holy Helper Novena marathon month! Buckle your seat belts!

With the respective feasts of St. Margaret of Antioch on the 20th, St. Christopher on the 25th, St. Pantaleon on the 27th, and then the old feast day of all fourteen Holy Helpers on August 8th (which is also the particular feast of St. Cyriacus), any followers of mine aren’t going to be able to get away from novenas for the foreseeable future (and then there’s the St. Anne novena and the St. Alphonsus Liguori novena coming up this month!) Of course I don’t desire to be annoying or obsessive, but encouraging the novenas in their honor is something I’ve pledged to do in honor of my fourteen patrons in Heaven, and I know without doubt there are great graces in the practice of devotion to any or all of them.

St. Margaret of Antioch, one of the three female saints numbered among the Holy Helpers, is also one of the three saints who appeared to St. Joan of Arc (along with St. Catherine, another Holy Helper, and St. Michael). She is a special patroness of mothers in a variety of ways (against sterility as well as loss of milk for nursing mothers, as well as being a special protector of expecting mothers, safe childbirth, nurses, women in general, and women in labor), of people who are falsely accused, people in exile, and the dying. She is also invoked against backache, kidney disease and demonic activity. In short, she packs a mean punch! (See how she’s got the dragon by the throat!)

She is also an especially glorious model of virginal chastity as well as a defender of the Faith. She rejected the proposal of the prefect of her city, saying to his messenger, “I can not be espoused to your master, because I am the spouse of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am promised to Him, and to Him I wish to belong.”

When the enraged prefect later interrogated her and told her she ought to abandon the worship of a crucified God, Margaret asked him, “How do you know that we worship a crucified God?” He replied that he had read it in the books of the Christians.

“Why did you not read further on?” Margaret asked. “The books of the Christians would have told you that the Crucified rose on the third day, and that He ascended into heaven. Is it love of truth to believe in the abasement of Christ and to reject His glorification, when both are related in the selfsame book?”

Let us ask, among our other intentions, for a share in St. Margaret’s single-hearted devotion to Christ, her tender love for and conformity to the Crucified, and her adoration of Him Risen.

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Prayer in Honor of St. Margaret

O God, grant us through the intercession of Thy holy virgin and martyr Margaret, undauntedly to confess the Faith, carefully to observe the chastity of our state of life, and to overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and thereby escape the punishments of eternal damnation. Amen.

Invocation of St. Margaret

St. Margaret, holy virgin and martyr, thou didst faithfully preserve the robe of holy innocence and purity, valiantly resisting all the blandishments and allurements of the world for the love of thy divine Spouse, Jesus Christ; help me to overcome all temptations against the choicest of all virtues, holy purity, and to remain steadfast in the love of Christ, in order to preserve this great gift of God. Implore for me the grace of perseverance in prayer, distrust of myself, and flight from the occasions of sin, and finally the grace of a good death, so that in heaven I may “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” Amen.

(Prayers taken from The Fourteen Holy Helpers by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer)

In closing, I would like to ask you to remember in your prayers (whether they include this novena or not!) a good friend of mine who is about to go through the Crucible next week as the last stage of his formation into a Marine. Thank you!

God bless you and St. Margaret watch over you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Twelve months, two amazing cops, and long, melancholic looks {my sister finished her novel!}

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Can you believe that there could be two more amazing police partners than Reed and Malloy? Well, you’d better. I’ve just spent the last year getting to know David Walton and Ben Atkins. . .reading them as they took shape from my younger sis’ keyboard and imagination. . .falling completely in love with them (actually, Ben is basically my ideal husband, and I’m still extremely put out that he’s not a real person). . .and having the honor of editing their story (okay, it’s really David’s story, but you just can’t underestimate how important Ben is. . .)

Sometimes, my younger sis makes me feel really dumb, because when I think of the stuff I was writing when I was twelve/thirteen years old. . .we’re not going to go there. My mom tells me it’s because she has two amazing writers for older sisters as good examples. I don’t know. . .I think younger siblings just get all the good stuff 🙂

There’s really nothing like having siblings who also loved to write, and being heavily involved in one another’s stories from start to finish. Us three girls all love to write, and all have radically different writing personalities to boot. As it happens, I’m the Melancholic and younger sis is the Choleric. While these two temperaments certainly have their clashing points (wow, I could go into volumes about those things!), I’m very grateful and glad that writing seems to be one place where it’s (most of the time) pretty smooth and easy to connect.

And, as cholerics do, she’s led me into new ways of thinking about writing. Of course, I’ll never be able to organize my writing as meticulously as she does (it drives me crazy!), but the way she gathers inspiration is really an innovation to me. Without being too specific, it includes pictures and music and holding onto me and exchanging long, meaningful looks (which she says I’m good at and really help her feel more deeply about her stories. Happy to help! I guess melancholic editors are good for something!)

So I’m here (with her at my side) today to celebrate the completion of her second novel (really, I’m seven years ahead and a book behind her. . .this isn’t good!), which actually took place about two months ago. . .I’m a terrible procrastinator!. . .but since we’ve finally finished editing it together, finally printed it up to read aloud to the whole family, and finally (with Mary’s invaluable graphical assistance) sent it off to Lulu for publication, it just seems like time for a celebration of Fugitive, don’t you think?

It’s been so amazing to be the biggest fan of this story from the get-go. This time, I’m actually the only one of my siblings who’s read it all, who knows all that happens (as well as all the backstory, all the characters’ middle names, and all the songs that apply to each respective character/scene/theme). What a great privilege! And although we’ve had our rough patches (like when I get way too happy editing because, hey, I’m getting to write about Ben and it’s just so much fun and I start writing paragraphs and she has to jerk back on the editing reins), it’s been an awesome journey from that first scene written around this time last year (July 10th, to be exact).

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David watched, almost dazed, the crowds flowing through the Charleston airport, and he wondered what was motivating those people to fly. Life, he supposed. But David hardly knew what that word meant anymore. He was alive yet had never felt so dead. The thought of his own life gnawed at him inside. He sighed deeply, but the more he breathed, the more he felt the weight in his chest.

There’s nothing like creating an ideal character for your favorite actor; and really, David Walton would be (in my humble opinion) Chris Evans’ ultimate role.

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Dave, do you need anything? Like some water. . .or a book?” Ben asked, the last part meant as a joke. David just shook his head.

Okay, man,” Ben continued easily, raising his voice to be heard over the engine racket. “But don’t be down, because whatever you are, I am. And I really don’t feel like being sad right now.”

Even as takeoff began and his stomach started churning, David had to smile.

I won’t even get started about Ben Atkins. . .and then you have some other truly amazing characters as well. I could go on and on but I’ll restrain myself.

The book is a little longer than Paint Everything Blue (no, I’m not jealous), twenty-eight chapters, a little over 50,000 words, and will be about 350 pages once Lulu gets around to printing it. And it’s just amazing; gut-wrenching; inspiring; heart-melting (especially Ben!). It’s one of my favorite stories ever.

And what a sweet surprise when I saw that my sometimes-embarrassed-by-emotion dear choleric sister had dedicated the story to me right before sending it off to be published! Shucks. . .what to do but smother her in a hug and embarrass her with emotion!

So now, as I mentioned earlier, she has me reading it aloud to our whole clan, which is really fun (except for the really depressing parts). Apparently I’m pretty good at reading aloud, but I need to slow down when I get nervous and try harder on the characters’ voices. Look, how am I, a young Southern girl, supposed to sound like Chris Evans when I talk? Oh well. One can only try. But it is so awesome, because I love the story (almost more than she does!) and know it so well, and getting to read it aloud with that knowledge and love is really special. And our family loves it. . .big surprise.

So here’s a big congrats and cheers to you, B.B.! I’m so very proud of you and so grateful for this journey together over this last year. Here’s to many more!