St. Joseph’s Advent

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We knew on the threshold of it all that this would be a busy, and potentially stressful, December. There would be a big downsizing move to make happen for my grandmother; there would be a big graduation to celebrate and a party to plan; there’d be a couple of birthdays, special Masses and lots of church obligations, a great many of which included singing. We knew we were really in need of good health at the very time of year when everyone–especially us–gets sick. Weather forecasts looked uncertain–not a great sign for the move–there was Christmas itself to prepare for individually and as a family. Throw in an orthodontist appointment here and school to wrap up there, and all in all it was promising to be the busiest month yet of a busy year.

And yet I think many of us entertained a determination, as we formed our Advent resolutions, that we would manage to find the space for the deep quiet, prayer, and contemplation that Advent ought to thrive in. Our family loves Advent. It’s like a brighter and easier Lent. As always, by the first Sunday, we had each chosen something to work on in ourselves, to really cleanse and prepare our souls for the coming of the Christ Child. As a family we made our typical resolution of not watching TV so much in the evenings. We kept our simplified gift-giving plan which worked so well last year.

We all knew what kind of Advent we wanted; we all were as determined as ever to keep the ridiculous secular “rush” of the “holiday season” firmly outside of our little domestic church so we could look forward, well-prepared and full of peace and serenity, to a delightful Christmas–probably the last family Christmas with all us kids at home.

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Fast forward to sometime amidst the first week of Advent. The first venture out to help my grandmother pack has been a less-than-encouraging taste of the amount of work to be done and left us all pretty tired and a little overwhelmed. We’ve managed to keep my mom’s birthday in our sacred tradition of family birthdays, but my brother had to go to the doctor to see about a cough he can’t shake from a month-old cold. We’re all holding our breath to see if he picked up some far worse germ in the sick waiting room of the pediatrician when my younger sister is struck down by the nastiest, tonsillitis-inducing, most miserable cold virus imaginable. Her head aches, her throat is blistered, she has a cough. Back to the pediatrician. Of course, it’s just a virus, and there’s nothing to really do but give her a symptom reliever and wait it out (and hope no one else catches it). And there’s nothing to do when you feel that way but lie on the couch and watch TV to get your mind off it.

Meanwhile, the weather forecast is only worsening, and planning the upcoming move becomes a constant frustration to my dad and mom, who try to keep their spirits up by walking around singing “If we make it through December” to each other. A completely forgotten dentist appointment springs up for my sister and I. Come to find out, I need my bonding replaced where I knocked half of one of my teeth of at a playground when I was eleven. But we manage to celebrate St. Nicholas day, complete with slippers and homemade St. Nicholas cookies, before more packing finishes the day.

My younger sister worsens, now fighting nausea because of the Mucinex. The weather is nasty outside. We split the family up between the vigil and morning Masses for the Immaculate Conception so someone can be home with her; instead of snow this year it is nasty, cold, drizzly rain all day. But at least we’ve gotten a date set for moving my grandmother, hired some movers to help with the furniture. That’s a load eased on Dad’s mind. The Dash is able to spend a lot of the weekend with us and we have a movie night Saturday. But by the time it’s done, the wind outside is so bad that Mary convinces him to spend the night again, for fear that he’ll be crushed by some tree falling trying to drive down off our mountain. We all get to sleep in spite of the howling wind (and any jitters left over from watching The Village), knowing we needed to be up and to church for choir practice the next morning.

I wake up on the second Sunday of Advent, glance over at my clock to see what time it is, and find it blank. “Oh,” I exclaimed with sleepy placidness, “the power’s out.”

Come to find out, it had been out since about midnight, waking most everyone up. Mary and my younger sis had also been up for a while that night because younger sis was feeling miserable. I’d slept straight through it all.

Okay, so now the house was freezing and we had to figure out a way to get ready for church in the cold dark without running water (we’re on a well so no power means no water as well). The power company hadn’t even sent a crew to locate the problem. My dad’s generators, which he invested in and kept ready for situations like this one, decided to fail on him. Everyone but me, it seemed, hadn’t slept half the night and was at least exhausted if not cranky. I wasn’t feeling too excited about life myself.

And then, as if on cue, the symptom relievers finally got the best of my sister and she got sick. That wasn’t the greatest morning ever. But eventually, Dad had got a fire going in our fireplace (the first of the season), my younger sis was snuggled on the couch near Mom, and the Dash whisked Mary, myself, and my brother off to choir and Mass.

Our pew felt sadly empty with just the four of us as we knelt there, drowsy and wrinkled, through the rosary and Mass. As I tried to keep my focus on the mysteries (and not on the manifold abundance of cute little kids everywhere), I wondered at the craziness of this Advent. I missed my sister and thought about how much I hurt when she suffered. I thought about my resolutions–to be strictly faithful to my daily prayer routine, which had, because of all the busyness, not changed too much from the norm. I heard the voices of my dad and mom and Mary all confiding in me how impossible it seemed to just settle into Advent this year, to be still long enough to draw in a breath and think about the meaning of the season.

And then, somewhere in those decades, it came to me that maybe we were looking at all this the wrong way.

I contemplated the fact that God was in control of everything happening, from the weather to the electricity to my younger sister. And it was all beyond our control. We weren’t filling up the quiet of Advent with the secular cacophony of parties and shopping extravaganzas and Elfs on Shelfs. We were literally trying to “make it through December”, to reach Christmas all alive and together and in one piece. That was all, and boy howdy, this year, there wasn’t room for anything else.

Last Advent, I was working through all the emotions of truly believing that I would be in a convent in Missouri next Christmas. Looking back, I now realize with gratitude and joy that God has perfected quite different plans for me this year.

But I also realize that, if I were at Ephesus now, I would be living that Advent that my family dreamed of at the beginning of this crazy December; a season of silence, deep prayer, sweet contemplation and undisturbed preparation for Christmas. In the monastic life, there is room for all of that; the monastic life revolves around that. I remember my spiritual director talking of how the ability to live the liturgical year so deeply is one of the great perks of the religious life.

And then I understood, as I toyed with my rosary beads and murmured Hail Marys. All this month had seemed senseless simply because we’d been expecting to be able to live the Advent of a religious, and instead was getting a good taste of the Advent of the laity, the faithful living in the world. We’d been God expected us to participate in the Advent of Our Lady when in reality, ours was the Advent of St. Joseph.

If one considers that first Advent and the Holy Family on their way to Bethlehem, this makes such sense. We see Our Lady, who trusted St. Joseph to guide their way and protect them, with God Incarnate within her womb, and was able to spend her Advent in holy silence, in the glories of her deep contemplation and prayer, her soul lost in the wonders of the Child within her.

And then we look at St. Joseph. He knew that he was with the Mother of God, and God Himself in her womb, every waking minute of that journey. And yet he didn’t have the option of simply sitting and focusing on the sublime joy and mysteries at his side. His soul probably ached to be able to do so. And yet, he had to focus on getting them safely from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to make sure they were headed in the right direction every day, to try to find the smoothest road. He needed to keep Mary warm and comfortable as he could, to find food when there wasn’t enough, to bear with his stubborn donkey and his aching feet, to cross rivers and rough landscapes, and eventually to shoulder the stress of trying to find a place for the birth of God when nothing but a stable was available. And we feel certain he never failed to brush down his donkey at the end of the day and make sure it was fed. We are confident that he never failed in his love and gentleness towards Our Lady in the most frustrating times, and that God knew what He was doing when he chose the foster-father of His Only-Begotten Son.

God needed St. Joseph to focus on the numberless cares and concerns he shouldered during that first Advent, and trust that Our Lady and our Lord were ever at his side and ever mindful of his efforts. That was, simply put, his state in life, the duties that made him one of the greatest and dearest Saints in Heaven. And, as the laity, we find that is also ours. Those called to the religious life are invited into the deep Advent of our Lady; but we who are called to serve God in the world are given a share in the Advent of St. Joseph.

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It seems that God knows what He’s about. Sunday, with the power still out, we ended up going to my grandmother’s house to get warm. After spending the night, we spent Monday morning helping with more packing–and realized that we really needed to be there to help get ready for the move the next day. Things continued to be, as they had been all month, a tapestry of little joys and little stresses. Younger sis was finally beginning to pick up a little bit, and the power came back on earlier than expected. And then we got home and had to throw out a refrigerator full of food because it hadn’t been running for over thirty hours.

But we got dinner, and slept well, and then tackled the move yesterday–all things considered, the day couldn’t have gone better. In spite of some worries over icy road conditions in the morning, the day grew beautiful and God worked the timing out just right.

And today, I find that Advent is half over; Christmas, less than two weeks away, the Golden Nights fast approaching. There’s still plenty to do, and probably some unexpected challenges ahead of us. But I can already see how my family has grown together in a beautiful way this first half of the season, and I’m really thrilled to be able to look forward to celebrating this Christmas with them, whatever the externals look like. I feel pretty confident that, with St. Joseph’s help, we’ll find a way to make it through December.

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So, a blessed Advent to you all…and happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

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Novena to St. Barbara

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Today marks the beginning of St. Barbara’s novena! I just wanted to share the prayers for now, and hope to post and catch up at length soon. God bless!

Prayer in Honor of St. Barbara

O GOD, Who didst adorn Thy holy Virgin and Martyr Barbara with extraordinary fortitude in the confession of the Faith, and didst console her in the most atrocious torments; grant us through her intercession perseverance in the fulfillment of Thy law and the grace of being fortified before our end with the holy Sacraments, and of a happy death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Barbara

INTREPID Virgin and Martyr, St. Barbara, through thy intercession come to my aid in all needs of my soul. Obtain for me the grace to be preserved from a sudden and unprovided death; assist me in my agony, when my senses are benumbed and I am in the throes of death. Then, O powerful patroness of the dying, come to my aid! Repel from me all the assaults and temptations of the evil one, and obtain for me the grace to receive before death the holy Sacraments, that I breathe forth my soul confirmed in faith, hope, and charity, and be worthy to enter eternal glory. Amen.

St. Barbara, at my last end
Obtain for me the Sacrament;
Assist one in that direst need
When I my God and Judge must meet:
That robed in sanctifying grace
My soul may stand before His face.

A Young Lady’s Daybook: November afternoon

Today…

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Image from Wikipedia

Friday, November 9th, 2018; the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. For St. Alphonsus Liguori fans, one might remember today also as the founding of the Redemptorist order…which, like everything else St. Alphonsus did in life, was hardly easy but very worthwhile.

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I always remember this day as such because it is also the day which begins my 33-day preparation to renew my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary (according to the method of St. Louis de Montfort) on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Oh, joyous breath of fresh Marian air which this renewal of consecration brings each year! I know that it is not necessary for one to repeat the preparation period after the initial consecration, but I find I need it very much to keep my devotion to our Lady fresh in my mind and heart.

Outside my window…

November! Perfect November! It is only at this time of year, when the trees reveal their true beauty that has lain dormant for so long and there is a comfortable nip in the air, can I really love gray weather, even drizzly weather. I don’t know why exactly that is; my best guess is that the autumn colors show up just as well, and perhaps even better, against a smoky gray sky as they do a clear blue one.

In any event, this November stands out as a particularly enjoyable one in my memory, not because the weather has been particularly nice but because the cold waited to come for so long this year that the leaves took their sweet time turning–and not into a blaze of glory after all, but a sweet and gentle warming of color and beauty that grows deeper the longer one gazes upon it. And so the sense of delight in looking outside that I usually experience mid-October is filling me now, in November, a month which is usually not among my favorites. It’s a little like suddenly finding you are in love with a friend you never thought you could care for in that way. Oh look, I just made a nice segue into…

Home around me…

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Why couldn’t there have been a movie based off Anne’s House of Dreams?!

Although I have hardly left home more than necessary over the past couple of weeks, having been in an extended battle with a rather nasty little seasonal cold which is only just opening its jaws to let me escape, I’ve been avoiding cabin fever by plunging into a really good read of some of my favorite books in the whole wide world; the Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery.

I first read the eight-book series when I was about eleven, and I remember loving them fondly then. But in my re-read of three of them in the course of this cold (I started quite un-chronologically with Anne’s House of Dreams because I wanted a cozy, romantic, comfort-food read, enjoyed it immensely, and then doubled back to Anne of the Island because I knew there was so much I was forgetting, and am now enjoying Anne of Windy Poplars) I have realized just how much more a book can mean when you’ve grown to be the main character’s age and can empathize with them and their experiences. Anne of the Island begins with Anne as a nineteen-year-old, and I can hardly express how much I love that book after having re-read it. It holds so much life in its pages; it’s really my favorite love story I’ve ever read.

But when I come back to home from my sojourns in Avonlea or Redmond or Summerside, home is a lovely place to find myself. It is quiet and cozy, especially in the afternoons; most of us are recovered or at least on the mend from the life-halting cold that brought all of us down. Things are not quite so messy as they were when everyone was sick; I’m still regaining my energy and am not back in full house-cleaning mode, but hope to be there soon and have been able to do some baking here and there this week. There’s certainly nothing like being sick to make you appreciate good health and energy, and give you a brightness about life upon your recovery. I think that is why I feel particularly cheerful today!

And there is so much to look forward to…two family birthdays are drawing closer on the calendar; I love birthdays. Then Thanksgiving–I love Thanksgiving and am entertaining hopes that we might be able to get ahold of a fresh pumpkin so that I can make a from-scratch pumpkin pie this year. I’ve made them before, but never with a homemade crust nor at Thanksgiving…we’ll see what this year brings! Though different years hold varying plans and locations for our family Thanksgiving dinner, this year we shall be hosting it at our own table, and I am so excited!

And after Thanksgiving, it will hardly be any time at all before the first Sunday of Advent; the new year. Wow.

Thoughts on money…

I’ve often been asked by friends or siblings, “If you could buy ANYTHING you wanted and you could ONLY spend the money on YOURSELF, what would you get?”

I used to enjoy frustrating people by coming up with cleverly selfless answers, but usually settled on something concrete. These days I find myself, unasked, coming up with lots of ideas for things I would like to get if I had money…but really don’t have the money for.

Of course, I try not to let the thought of material things consume me and make me avaricious or discontent with what I have, but in humility I have to admit that there are many things it would be nice to have. Like just about every dress on Jen Clothing because I really would love to have day dresses to wear all the time, as well as dresses for church and dances and social events that are beautiful and feminine. And it would be lovely to have so many of the saints I love from Portraits of Saints. And I could probably think of so many little kitchen accessories…new baking sheets…a cookie jar…biscuit and cookie cutters…a cake pedestal…I really could go on and on!

It’s probably easy for anyone to make a wish list of shameless, practical things they’d like to have. But there’s also much to be said for doing without having everything you would like. After all, who really wants to be a spoiled person? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a moderate desire, kept in check with gratitude; it can be transformed into virtue as it  provides an opportunity of embracing sacrifice, which is the key to joy. I think of the married life I hope and pray for, the large family I hope and pray for, and the inherent likelihood of most always “treading water” and “making ends meet” financially. But that image of the future makes me smile, in the spirit of Maria von Trapp; “We aren’t poor; we just don’t have any money.”

And really, I feel grateful that, in this time of life, I do not have significant financial means at my disposal that could easily get me any little thing I want on a whim–or a bigger thing, either. It is good to keep self-denial in healthy practice, especially when I already am far better provided for by my hard-working dad than most people in the world today.

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And, when all’s said and done, you can make some pretty nice cookies without cookie cutters!

From the bakery…

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The result of quickly-ripening, abundant bananas! I’ve been making this muffin recipe for years and we love it. This picture is from a different batch than the one I made this week, which contained variations such as walnuts sprinkled on top and mini muffins chock-full of mini chocolate chips (which only my sisters and I like and happily eat every one of!) I love muffins for their versatility and dainty irresistibleness.

At my desk…

This is really the most I’ve done in days, having spent larger quantities of time downstairs lately. I need to work on my book…and to answer a couple of letters from good friends which brightened up cold-weary days considerably!

Movies…

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So it’s not quite a movie, per se, but The Waltons has been playing a lot around here lately with the discovery that, in addition to the first two seasons (which we own), we have all nine seasons available on Amazon Prime. Binge watching!!!

In all seriousness, though, there is something very special about this show, especially the earlier seasons and some of the big episodes (like people getting married and stuff like that). The writing is so good; the family dynamic so natural; the life lessons so true and heartwarming. I’m a huge sucker for the time period and setting alike, in love with old-fashioned things and the simple country life as well as adoring the South, and being something of a Mountain girl myself. And who couldn’t love John-Boy?

Speaking of the South, we recently re-watched one of our favorites, Gods and Generals. That movie really ranks among my top ten favorites of all time.

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It just makes me depressed that we lost the war…

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Prayerfully…

I am praying especially right now for my grandmother, who recently lost her eldest sister as well as a brother-in-law and is now with her family at the funeral (none of us could make it due to sickness). She is such a generous, caring, and strong woman and I love her so much!

Also, of course, praying for the souls of the faithful departed, especially my own family members and friends. My dear mom always puts up pictures of our departed family members on the refrigerator throughout November as a reminder to pray for them, along with a calendar designating each day of the month to a particular soul. This is one of the wonderful domestic church traditions I hope to carry on in my own home one day.

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A parting thought…

The other day as I was doing some random research I stumbled across a collection of the most adorable pictures of actor Martin Milner (whom my siblings and I love from the old cop show Adam-12) with his wife (to whom he stayed married!) and beloved children, as well as a quote from him that, along with the pictures, positively warmed my heart.

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“Sure, stardom is swell, but so much depends on luck and timing, things like that. Love and marriage don’t depend on luck. Those you have to earn; but once earned, they’re yours for life!”
-Martin Milner

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

 

1P5 :: ‘Take Me to the Pigs’: Finding Hope in Dark Times — Benedic, Domine, Nos

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I just had to share this truly inspiring article with you that my wonderful sister Mary wrote and had published on OnePeterFive this week. I’m so very proud of and grateful for her! Enjoy!

OnePeterFive graciously published an article of mine yesterday; you can find it here 🙂 Have a blessed Monday!

via 1P5 :: ‘Take Me to the Pigs’: Finding Hope in Dark Times — Benedic, Domine, Nos

A Young Lady’s Daybook, October 26th, 2018

Today…

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Friday, October 26th, 2018. Commemoration of St. Evaristus, Pope and Martyr. From the Epistle for the common Si diligis me, of a Pope:

“But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will Himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.”

Outside my window…

It finally feels like October!!! Although the leaves have taken their time catching on to the fact that it’s Fall and they’re supposed to be changing colors, I think that glory of color is just around the corner. It will just be a little later than usual this year! But I’m really so happy it’s cool outside. We’ve been pulling out sweaters and all sorts of fun, warm clothes that haven’t been seen for a long time. Of course I managed to already pick up a touch of some kind of seasonal cold…but I think I’ve about kicked it.

Today is gray–but that kind of Autumnal gray that is somehow more beautiful than gray at any other time of year. Last night I fell asleep to the gentle sound of rain plunking down on the roof…there’s no cozier feeling! Except for that magical moment the first time Dad turns the heat on and it begins to steam through the vents with that unique smell that has thrilled me as long as I can remember (for us that happened just the other day).

Home around me…

Dad is working from home today…which always makes a day brighter…no plans to go out today as far as I know, especially for me as I’m trying to shake this cold and the weather could be more clement for my immune system. My younger sister and brother are, I’m sure, glad it’s Friday. I’m so proud of how hard they’ve been working this school year, as well as of all the effort and patience Mom has put into teaching them. Our homeschool really is very blessed, even on the challenging days.

Being at home and not in school anymore, it’s a walk down memory lane to watch them both doing what I was doing not too very long ago. I feel very blessed to have been given the education I was, to have the chance to learn and develop the skills I am acquiring now, and to have such a great example if it is God’s will that one day I have a homeschool of my own.

Thoughts on my career…

On the note of what I am learning now, as of late I’ve been mulling over the best way to respond to those scenarios that inevitably happen: you run into a friend at a party/dance/annual event that you only ever see at that party/dance/annual event. A conversation is struck up with the question: “Are you still in school?”
“No, I graduated a while ago.”
“Oh, that’s right. Are you in college then?”
“No. I’m still at home.”
“Oh. What do you do?”
And it never fails–although I know perfectly well what I do with myself during the day, that I spend my time productively (or at least strive to) and am quite affirmed in all the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing (and, by extension, not doing what I’m not)–I scramble for something to say. Maybe because I know that whatever answer I come up with probably won’t sound impressive to whoever it is, because it’s probably going to be a short conversation without the time or attention span required to delve deep enough into my convictions for them to fully resonate. Maybe because we’re dancing and it’s extremely difficult sometimes to speak intelligently when I’m dancing. Maybe because I spend my time not doing one very impressive, concrete thing, but rather a bunch of small things. Maybe most of all because this time of life boils down to a waiting for God to work, which requires a constant internal faceoff between trust and insecurity; and in the mindset of the world, “security” is the most important thing a young person can strive after.

I sometimes feel as I stammer through, “Um–I help around the house–and help my siblings with school–and do little things…”,  I can just hear the opposite mindset blaring in the back of my mind, making whatever I say sound somehow pathetic, insignificant, or insufficient.

Sometimes I weakly fall back at last on the most impressive-sounding thing I do, which is, “I do a lot of creative writing.” But that leads to… “Oh, that’s cool. Do you want to be a writer?”

Thinking back on the many conversations I’ve had like this–all with well-meaning and loving people, of course–I can see how that default of my vanity can lead in a direction I’m not trying to go. Because, sure I love writing, but no. I don’t want a career in writing. That is not the goal I have in mind in this time of my life. I want the career of getting married and raising kids that will be saints. I don’t want to be famous; I want a husband that will love me. I don’t want to spend my time chasing false security; I want to rest in God’s hands, to be a homemaker and stay-at-home mother with tons of kids who relies on my husband as provider, God willing, as it was meant to be. I want to make the sacrifices that requires. I want to be part of the solution to our broken culture and backwards line of thinking.

Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, I find great joy and meaning in writing. But how I could ever think that could be more meaningful or fulfilling–that any worldly career sought after for “security” could be more meaningful and fulfilling than a life of service and sacrifice, of love and learning, of holy joys and holy sorrows with a husband and children–that is beyond me. How empty anything less that I could seek for myself would be. How infinitely insecure.

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(This is from Unbroken: Path to Redemption…a movie that stole my heart and I personally found amazing. Maybe I should just carry this picture in my pocket to show people…”this is what I want!”)

One thing that I’ve identified in myself that has made those conversations so difficult for me at times is that I’ve let myself fall into the trap of feeling ashamed of my dreams. Shouldn’t I be proud that I am aiming for, praying for, waiting and preparing myself for the most noble and beautiful career any laywoman could achieve? If a given college student is happy to announce, “I’m in medical school,” “I want to be an interior designer,” “I’m aiming for a culinary degree,” “I’m studying to be a teacher,”, then shouldn’t I be insanely proud to announce that I’m hoping, when the time comes, to take on all of those things at once?

So, as of late, I’m thinking that the next time I get that question, “What are you doing?” or “What are your plans?”, I might playfully say, “I’m taking courses in medicine, interior deign, culinary arts, and teaching. What are you doing?” Or simply, with the glow of confidence with which an idealistic young lady should announce her hopes, “I hope to be a wife and mother one day, if that is God’s plan.” Because isn’t God’s plan the ultimate–the only–real security?

Wow. That was a ramble, wasn’t it?

From the bakery…

Lately it’s been oatmeal cookies every Wednesday for our local Fraternus chapter’s weekly meetings. I’ve been informed that they are a favorite for more than one fella there…the only thing that’s hard about them is keeping my own dad and brother out of them during the day!

Also, my younger sis and I made a Hershey’s chocolate cake last Friday when we had some friends over for desert and music. It turned out amazing because she was involved–she is so much better with cake than I am!

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This is actually a different cake, but the same recipe. It’s like my dad’s favorite thing in the world.

I’m reminded of a quote…

“Mr. Biddle is on a chocolate cake diet. He says it’s the perfect food, containing every essential element.”

(From The Happiest Millionaire)

At my desk…

Currently, my desk is, I will admit, a bit of a mess. But that’s okay. There is a rather precarious stack of notebooks near one elbow, a cooling cup of coffee near the other, and a couple of really quite amazing drawings of birds (one of hummingbirds, the other of a blue heron) on printer paper, waiting to be taped up as promised above my computer (they were done for me by the two oldest of the family of seven kids I’ve been so blessed to be able to spend some time helping out–but mostly learning from–over these past weeks. They are just the most adorable kids ever!) On Spotify, my soundtrack for my current novel (right now, the song Leaving the Compound from the soundtrack for Hostiles [which I’m never going to watch because I’ve confiscated the music for my story!]) is being slightly eclipsed by my younger sister practicing piano in our music room, directly below me.

Speaking of my current novel, I just realized that the last (and only, I fear) time I made one of these daybook posts, back in June, I was on Chapter Three. I’m about to start Chapter Eleven! Yesterday I realized this will probably mark the midpoint of the story–or at least, as far as someone who neither plots nor structures her novel can predict! It’s really going so well. Slower than Paint Everything Blue (I’ve already spent more time on West of Yesterday than it took to write the whole first draft of P.E.B.!), but that’s okay. To me it’s worth it. I didn’t think I would ever be as in-love with another novel as I was with my first. But here I am. I’ve never loved a story like I love West of Yesterday.

Alan's back

Yes, I’m kind of hoping that it won’t take as long to write the second half of the story as it has the first, mainly because of one friend who is quite ready to read it (and because I do want all my characters to be happy and fulfilled!). But really, this stage of being in the middle of a book is so much more fun than trying to get one started, trying to settle on an idea, or just having finished one (incredibly bittersweet!) that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Movies…

Last night I managed to get in a Laramie night because some of the family was out, but I was home with a cold, with Mom (who is my Laramie buddy) and my younger sister. We watched The Lost Dutchman. Poor Jess had another rough day. And another bullet in the arm. It’s really kind of ridiculous how much I love this show…but it makes me so happy (I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with Jess…My mom keeps telling me that I’m going to end up marrying a cowboy!)

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“Can I interrupt you long enough to ask one question? What in the foggy blue mornin’ are you talking about?”

Earlier this week Mom, my younger sis and I happened to catch the second half of Crimson Tide (the language-edited-for-TV version) on TV. None of us had ever seen it before but my sisters and I have been enjoying Hans Zimmer’s magnificent soundtrack for the film for years. It was amazing! So cool. Some truly awesome, noble men and tons of morality-testing, conscience-crunching situations that had me kneading the hand my younger sister generously gave me to hold onto (as melancholics need to do when watching emotionally pressing movies. I’d better limit the emotional movie intake beside my fella when I’m in a courtship!)

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At least in the portion of the movie we saw, Viggo Mortenson was a seriously awesome character!

We also watched one of our favorites, The Winter Soldier, not long ago. That film is by far my favorite super hero movie, and probably my favorite action film I’ve ever seen. It has some seriously well-done cinematographic moments.

I’ve been mentally concocting a long post comparing the underlying messages that make two classics, Little Women (which drives me insane) and Anne of Green Gables (which I will love forever!), fundamentally different. I’m pretty excited about it. Hopefully it won’t be long in the making!

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She should have been Jo Laurence!!!

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Thank goodness someone got it right!

Prayerfully…

As I look back on this week which contained both the feast of Blessed Karl of Austria (the 21st), and of St. Raphael the Archangel (24th), I pray in gratitude for the protection and aid of my patron Saints, and for their continual intercession. I pray to them for my future husband, for their guidance in my own vocational journey, for, if God wants me to marry, the man I am meant for to pursue me as soon as God’s will permits and it pleases Him. And then, it’s a matter of trusting Our Lord, our Lady, and these dear patrons of mine to take care of it all–and to be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing. A daily exercise, an ongoing battle; but a beautiful thing.

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I’m also just about to finish my novena to Blessed Chiara Badano, whose feast would be this coming Sunday…and before I know it, it will be All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, and the month of the Holy Souls. Inevitably, the older you grow, the more you experience the loss of people you know and love. As time goes on I realize more and more that prayer for the souls of those I’ve lost is the real and concrete way in which I can continue to love them. I’m looking forward to the special graces and special focus of November to help me to remember to pray more for the faithful departed.

Wow, it’s been nice to catch up here! I just realized I wrote enough words in this post to equal two average scenes in my story 😉 If only it were that easy to write fiction sometimes!

A parting thought…

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“I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.”
-C. S. Lewis

God bless, and St. Evaristus pray for, you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

Endlessly {a new devotion}

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Blessed Emperor Karl and his wife Empress Zita greeted by their children after a trip

It seemed ordinary enough–I was sitting with my sisters eating breakfast, relishing the fact that today is the first day of Fall to feel like Fall around here (in the forties, windy, bright and crisp…happy sigh…), chatting happily. Mary‘s phone signaled an email just received. “Ah, the Missive,” she said, and mentioned that it had something to do with the FSSP’s Mater Dei parish hosting a Symposium on Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria.

Later on, when checking my own email (which is of course also subscribed to the Minute Missive), I opened the same email and glanced over it. And then I felt a familiar, warm, gentle tug–that inexplicable, irresistible nudge that I’ve experienced every time a Saint, Blessed, Venerable, etc. was just about to make me fall in love with them.

I resisted for about half a second and then followed the provided link to a website dedicated to Blessed Karl. As I said, moments like that are just about irresistible, because I know by now that, for some reason known only to Heaven, that particular Saint is reaching down to me and hoping I will be their devotee and a child.

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Karl and Zita on their wedding day

So I poked around the site, reading bits and pieces of his bio and quotes, falling in love with photos (as I tend to do) of both Blessed Karl and his holy wife. What an amazing, inspiring couple; what a story! I still have much to read and learn about, but one doesn’t have to look far to see the beauty of their story.

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“Now we must help each other get to Heaven.” -Bl. Karl to Servant of God Zita, the day after their wedding

As I was reading and saving photos galore, the inspiration touched my heart to ask Blessed Karl to take my future husband (God willing that I get married) under his special protection and patronage, to ask Zita to take me under hers, to ask them both to lead us together and keep our marriage under their patronage all the days of our lives, guiding us together to Heaven and Sainthood.

Of course, my devotion to St. Raphael is unchanged (it’s not that I feel he’s not moving fast enough or something!); but I can’t help but feel that my future husband, whoever he is, and myself need the special patronage and protection of this holy couple who walked the walk and exemplified Catholic marriage and parenthood.

I wish I could accurately describe how encouraged and hope-filled I am by the new love I’ve found today for Karl and Zita. But it gets even better…

After a while of research and then getting off my computer to tend to other things, I remembered that I ought to look and see when Bl. Karl’s feast day is so that, whenever it next comes around, I can pray a novena.

Come to find out, his feast day (which is the date of his wedding to Zita), is October 21st. Exactly a novena’s worth of days away.

I suppose it goes without saying what I’ll be praying for the next nine days! And although I can just hear the half-joking voice of one of my best friends exclaiming, “Not everything in life is a sign from God!”, I don’t have much doubt about this one!

I thought I would share the prayers I found (kind of painstakingly) for Karl and Zita both; they appear to be the official prayers to me, but I’m not positive. They are both beautiful!

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Prayer to Blessed Emperor Karl

O Blessed Emperor Karl, you accepted the difficult tasks and burdensome challenges that God gave you during your life. In every thought, decision, and action you trusted always in the Holy Trinity.

We pray to you to intercede for us with the Lord our God to give us faith and courage, so that even in the most difficult situations of our earthly lives we may not lose heart, but continue faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.

Ask for us the grace that our hearts may be molded into the likeness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Help us to work with compassion and strength for the poor and needy, to fight with courage for peace in our homes and in the world, and in every situation to trustingly place our lives in the hands of God, until we reach Him, as you did, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Prayer in Honor of Servant of God Zita

God our Father, You redeemed the world by the self-abasement of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was King became the Servant of all and gave His life as a ransom for many; therefore You have exalted Him. We ask You that Your servant Zita, Empress and Queen, will be raised upon the altars of Your Church. In her, You have given us an example of faith and hope in the face of trials, and of unshakable trust in Your Divine Providence.

We beseech You that alongside her husband, the Blessed Emperor Charles, Zita will become for couples a model of married love and fidelity, and for families a guide in the ways of a truly Christian upbringing. May she who in all circumstances opened her heart to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy, be for us all an example of service and love of neighbor.

Through her intercession, grant our petition (mention request), Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And I couldn’t make this post without wishing you a joyous anniversary of the heavenly birthday of Venerable Carlo Acutis, one of my favorite young men ever!

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“We have always been expected in Heaven.” -Carlo Acutis

What an extraordinary soul he is! You can read more about my love story with Carlo here, or visit his official website here (also his portrait on Portraits of Saints here!)

God bless you, our Lady keep you, and all the holy Saints watch over you!

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Karl’s last words to Zita before his death.

(All images of Blessed Karl and Zita from http://www.emperorcharles.org)

Novena to St. Denis!

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It just struck me as I was uploading this picture that St. Denis is the perfect patron of those with short tempers (who are in the habit of losing their heads…)

My deepest apologies for failing to post this yesterday, when the novena to St. Denis (also known as St. Dionysius) was supposed to begin. This seems to be turning into a bad habit of mine…or maybe it’s just helping me grow in humility. Oh well. I did have a very busy weekend, including a wonderful parish dance…but anyway, as they say, prayer is outside of time, and better late than never (I get the distinct feeling that a chronic procrastinator came up with both of those sayings).

Well, without further ado, here are the beautiful prayers of the St. Denis novena as found in Fr. Hammer’s wonderful book, The Fourteen Holy Helpers. St. Denis is patron of France, against headaches, frenzy, possessed people, rabies, hydrophobia, strife, and is invoked especially for tranquility of conscience (which would make him a wonderful recourse for the scrupulous soul).

Preparatory 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. Denis

O God, Who didst confer Thy saving faith on the people of France through Thy holy Bishop and Martyr Denis, and didst glorify him before and after his Martyrdom by many miracles; grant us through his intercession that the Faith practiced and preached by him be our light on the way of life, so that we may be preserved from all anxieties of conscience, and if by human frailty we have sinned, we may return to Thee speedily by true penance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Invocation of St. Denis

Glorious servant of God, St. Denis, with intense love thou didst devote thyself to
Christ after learning to know Him through the apostle St. Paul, and didst preach His saving  name to the nations, to bring whom to His knowledge and love thou didst not shrink from Martyrdom; implore for me a continual growth in the knowledge and love of Jesus, so that my restless heart may experience that peace which He alone can give. Help me by thy powerful intercession with God to serve Him with a willing heart, to devote myself with abiding love to His service, and thereby to attain the eternal bliss of Heaven. Amen.

Concluding Prayer

My Lord and 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 St. Denis and all the Holy Helpers intercede for you! Happy October!

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Please pick for me a rose {novena to St. Therese begins!}

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Happy Feast of Our Lady of Ransom! St. Alphonsus fans like me will note today as a special feast because his great vocational revelation led him to lay his sword upon the altar of the church of Our Lady of Ransom in Naples. Pretty cool!

Also, today marks the beginning of the novena to St. Therese of Lisieux, if one celebrates her feast according to the old calendar, on October 3rd. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s only been a year since the last one…it feels like so much has happened since then; many graces, hopefully a little growth, unexpected trials and blessings (and even the trials were blessings in disguise, of course…) I know my dear Confirmation patroness has been answering my last novena ever since I made it, and here I am at the start of another!

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Prayer

O Little Therese of the Child Jesus, please pick a rose for me from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love. O little flower of Jesus, ask God today to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands (mention requests). St. Therese, help me to always believe, as you did, in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate your “Little Way” each day. Amen.

O God, Who didst inflame with thy spirit of love the soul of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, grant that we also may love Thee, and may make Thee much loved. Amen.

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I think it would be particularly appropriate to include all the Church’s priests in our petitions to St. Therese this novena. She was devoted to praying for priests, aware of their great need for the support of prayer, and wrote this beautiful prayer that I pray after every Communion, and most every day:

O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep Thy priests within Thy Sacred Heart, where none may touch them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips, daily purpled with Thy Precious Blood. Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood. Let Thy holy love surround them and shield them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here, and in Heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

May God bless you, Our Lady of Ransom watch over you, and St. Therese pray for you!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

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.”

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Image from Wikipedia

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