June

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help begins today!

Desprestaur

I just wanted to drop in and note the start of this beautiful novena today! (Oh, and by the way, here’s to one hundred posts on Ut Cum Electis Videamus!) I know I don’t really have to ramble at further length about Our Lady of Perpetual Help and how much I love her (don’t worry, I’ll save that for her feast day!), but I wanted to share my personal favorite prayer, which I usually pray after Mass before her icon every Sunday.

Novena Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying.
O purest Mary! O sweetest Mary! Let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips.
Delay not, O blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call upon thee; for in all my needs, in all my temptations, I shall never cease to call upon thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary. O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fills my soul when I pronounce thy sacred name, or even only think of thee!
I thank God for having given thee, for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely pronouncing thy name. Let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help!

(Recite nine Hail Marys)

angels-67

I highly encourage you to turn to this sweet Mother for help in all of your needs. I pray she blesses you as powerfully with her help as she has me!

“Remember, O Virgin Mother, that thou speak good things for us in the sight of God, that He turn away His wrath from us.”

“I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me. With me are riches and glory, glorious riches and justice. For my fruit is better than gold and the precious stone, and my blossoms than choice silver.”

Thou art all lovely and sweet, O daughter of Sion, beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array. The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, because by Thee He hath brought our enemies to nought.”
-From the propers for the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

God bless!

Advertisements
June

O amiable, holy youth! {on the feast of St. Vitus & Companions}

Hl_-Veit
St. Vitus, special protector of chastity, pray for us!

“St. Vitus’ father, Hylas, placed him in early childhood in charge of a Christian couple named Modestus and Crescentia, who raised him in the Christian faith, and had him baptized. He grew in years and in virtue, till, at the age of twelve, he was claimed by his father, who, to his great anger, found him a fervent Christian.”

5 Vitus
That through the intercession of St. Vitus Thou teach us the value of our soul, we beseech Thee, hear us!

“. . .his father delivered him up to Valerian, the governor, who in vain employed every artifice to shake his constancy. Finally he commanded Vitus to be scourged, but when two soldiers were about to execute this order their hands and those of Valerian were suddenly lamed. The governor ascribed this to sorcery, yet he invoked Vitus’ help, and behold, when the Christian boy made the sign of the cross over the lamed members, they were healed. Then Valerian sent him back to his father, telling him to leave no means untried to induce his son to sacrifice to the idols.

“Hylas now tried blandishments, pleasures, and amusements to influence the brave boy. He even sent a corrupt woman to tempt him. . . But Vitus, who had remained firm amid tortures, resisted also the allurements of sensuality. Closing his eyes, he knelt in prayer, and behold, an angel appeared, filling the room with heavenly splendor, and stood at the youth’s side. Terrified, the woman fled. But even this miracle did not change the obstinate father.”

pls-Saint-Vitus-etc

“Finally Vitus escaped, and with Modestus and Crescentia fled to Italy. They. . .there proclaimed Christ wherever they had an opportunity. Their fervor and many miracles which they wrought attracted the attention of Emperor Diocletian to them. . .they were cruelly tormented, but with no other result than confirming them in their constancy. Enraged, the emperor condemned them to be thrown to the wild beasts. But the lions and tigers forgot their ferocity and cowered at their feet.”

Vitus-e1399562150528

“Now Diocletian, whose fury knew no bounds, ordered them to be cast into a caldron of molten lead and boiling pitch. They prayed, ‘O God, deliver us through the power of Thy name!’ and behold, they remained unharmed. Then the emperor condemned them to the rack, on which they expired, in the year 303.”

StCrescentia
St. Crescentia (I couldn’t find one of St. Modestus!)

“The heroic spirit of martyrdom exhibited by St. Vitus was owing to the early impressions of piety which he received through the teaching and example of his virtuous foster-parents. . .What a happiness for a child to be formed to virtue from infancy, and to be instilled from a tender age with the spirit of piety, simplicity, meekness, and mercy! Such a foundation being well laid, the soul will easily, and sometimes without experiencing severe conflicts, rise to the height of Christian perfection.”

-The Fourteen Holy Helpers by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer

Happy, happy feast of Ss. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia! What an amazing story and an inspiration, especially for Catholic parents and godparents striving to raise their children to be saints! If I had such a thing as favorites among the Fourteen Holy Helpers, St. Vitus would be right up there at the top (I mean, he’s the littlest one, and therefore the most special, in a way, right? I have a feeling the other thirteen have a very special affection for him.)

I first met St. Vitus when Portraits of Saints first released his beautiful image (above, second from the top) last year. I wanted to know who the curly-haired martyr holding the chicken was (by the way, although it isn’t mentioned by Fr. Bonaventure, I believe the chicken symbol comes from the fact that a rooster was thrown into the boiling cauldron with Vitus as a superstitious antidote against his ‘sorcery’). The more I’ve learned since then, the more I’ve loved him. His story has reaffirmed my belief in just how seriously parents ought to take their responsibility and privilege of not only instructing their children in the Faith, but of cultivating those precious seeds of faith and piety in the fertile soil of their child’s pure heart, which can grow most easily there into the charity of a martyr. If God calls me to motherhood, I have a feeling I will be invoking the aid of this foster-family of Saints very often!

Prayer in Honor of St. Vitus

Grant us, O God, through the intercession of St. Vitus, a due estimation of the value of our soul and of its redemption by the precious blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ; so that, for its salvation, we bear all trials with fortitude. Give this Thy youthful servant and heroic martyr as a guide and protector to Christian youths, that following his example they may after a victorious combat receive the crown of justice in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Invocation of St. Vitus

St. Vitus, glorious martyr of Christ; in thy youth thou wast exposed to violent and dangerous temptations, but in the fear of God and for the love of Jesus thou didst victoriously overcome them. O amiable, holy youth, I implore thee by the love of Jesus,  assist me with thy powerful intercession to overcome the temptations to evil, to avoid every occasion of sin, and thus to preserve spotless the robe of innocence and sanctifying grace, and to bring it unstained to the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, that I may forever enjoy the beatific vision of God which is promised to the pure of heart. Amen.

Prayer in Honor of Ss. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia

We beseech Thee, O Lord, to graciously grant us through the intercession of Thy blessed martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, that we may not proudly exalt ourselves, but serve Thee in humility and simplicity, so as to avoid evil and to do right for Thy sake. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God bless, and happy feast!

August · June

A Young Lady’s Daybook. . .catching up!

Living the Liturgical Year. . .

St-barnabé-veronese-rouen

Happy Feast of St. Barnabas, the son of encouragement! May this holy martyr fill our hearts today with joy and courage in following Christ as dauntlessly as he did!

Also, happy month of the Sacred Heart! The Heart of Jesus is just the most beautiful devotion I can think of. One just has to think of the names given in the Litany of the Sacred Heart to be filled with a sense of the Treasure of those who give their hearts in exchange for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. House of God and Gate of Heaven; Abyss of Virtues; Desire of the eternal hills; Salvation of those who hope in Thee; Hope of those who die in Thee. 

While on this note about the liturgical year, I thought I would acknowledge how much I’ve blown it with novenas around here (not to mention blown off posting altogether!). But life happens, and there’s certainly been a whole lot of life going on around here this month. I had the full intention to post St. Erasmus’ novena, but ended up going out of town the day it began. I wanted to post on his feast day, but we were moving me into the girls’ room and my desk and computer were temporarily blockaded with other furniture for a few days. And. . .because I was praying the St. Erasmus novena I completely missed the start of the Sacred Heart one. And then I missed the start of St. Vitus’ novena by a couple of days and thus failed to post it (though I’m still personally offering a seven-day novena. . .a septena?. . .because I don’t think he’ll mind, and I really love St. Vitus).

You know how sometimes it just seems like things you’d really love to do just aren’t meant to be? God knows best. . .

Anyway. . .as I did with St. George back in April, I’ve begun using the novenas from Fr. Bartholomew Hammer’s book The Fourteen Holy Helpers. These are just about the most beautiful novenas I’ve ever read, and are certainly helping me to nurture my devotion to the Holy Helpers. I’ll be sure to share (God willing!) some of the prayers to St. Vitus on his upcoming feast day.

Outside my window. . .

It’s a rather gray day, but I’m sure it’s still plenty warm out. Everything is full and leafy and green, Mom’s roses and hydrangeas are in bloom (have I ever mentioned how much I love hydrangeas? I think they’re almost my favorite flower, pretty close to carnations!), and we’ve been enjoying some wonderful swimming weather, sprinkled intermittently with quick and powerful summer showers. I love strong rain (as long as I’m not stranded out in it!) in the summertime. (Yes, I’m aware it’s not quite summer yet, but if you lived where I live you’d hate to call these temperatures spring!)

Sounds of home. . .

Not long ago, I was hearing the sounds of Mary faithfully giving our bathroom a wonderful clean, with Frank Sinatra cheerfully crooning from her computer. Now she’s gone, probably switching her laundry around, and I’ve taken over Spotify with Thad Fiscella’s beautiful piano. I guess I haven’t mentioned Mr. Fiscella’s music here yet; but I’ve completely fallen in love with it! I happened to discover a song of his a while back on Spotify radio (The Road Home) and soon was adding his albums, one after another, to our library. I’ve always been a sucker for piano, but there’s something special about this guy’s stuff.

I’m fully aware that I can’t really write music on piano, but if I could, it would sound just like his songs! What I’m trying to say is that, at least as a musician listening to others’ music, I often find myself wishing they’d made a different choice of notes, chords, transitions, etc. But this guy makes all the choices I would if I could write piano music! It’s really cool. . .he must be melancholic 🙂 My favorite songs number among Annie’s Song, Angel Kisses, October Fade, Forever (The Proposal). . . I could really go on and on here.

I am wearing. . .

Ha. Pajamas. What else? This must give a really bad impression about my lifestyle. I am productive, I promise. It’s just a relaxed style of productivity, in which pajamas are acceptable. (Maybe it’s a writer thing. . .a lot of Paint Everything Blue, my current novel-in-the-works, and the majority of my blog posts are written in pajamas. If it works. . .)

 From the bakery. . .

Well, back on the feast of the Sacred Heart I really wanted to make something festive. Feast days are always more special with some sort of symbolic, delicious, commemorative dessert, right? Right.

Remembering how cute the St. Nicholas cookies turned out back in December, I dug up the recipe and determined to make a Sacred Heart version; a lightly sweet gingerbread cookie, iced with lovely shades of red and gold and as cute as can be. A liturgical-minded baker’s dream.

I will say that I was exceedingly proud of how they looked (I need to find the pictures my brother took so I can share them here). I will also say that it’s really not a good idea to divide your attention between two of your favorite things in the world: baking cookies and watching a western.

Nanny_and_the_Professor_Richard_Long_1970

It was totally Jarrod Barkley’s fault. I mean, when the most compelling episode ever of The Big Valley is playing in the living room, and you’re in the kitchen listening to one of your favorite characters struggling to overcome a tragic temporary blindness. . .you’re apt to get distracted from the cookies. And. . .maybe forget the butter you melted in the microwave. . .and then wonder why your dough is nothing but dry crumbs that won’t stick together, and your first batch of cookies has the delicate consistency of cardboard.

My younger sister really saved the day, as she discovered the butter in the microwave in time for me to remedy my dough and save most of the cookies. She also decided she liked the cardboard cookies better than the normal ones, so she took care of those and we didn’t have to throw them out. How about that? There are so many really useful facets of family life. But yes. I’ve learned my limits as a multitasker.

From the writer’s desk. . .

There is nothing quite so fun as getting into Chapter Three of a novel and realizing that what you’ve been working on for weeks is more than a scribble, an attempted beginning of just another story, a spark of an idea quickly fading. It’s growing into a book! Your characters are gaining depth and color! You’re investing your imagination and time into a story you know is worth writing. Dialogue is spouting like crazy from somewhere in your mind until you find yourself muttering conversations when no one else is around (at least, I do. . .)

I don’t know exactly how it will look and feel and take shape in the end; but I do know that I’m happy as a tick to be working on another book!

Also, I’ve been thinking on ways to attract more attention to Paint Everything Blue. . .more on that to come. By the way, if you’ve read it already and enjoyed it, I’d be so grateful if you’d spread the word around! Also, if anyone would be willing to take the time to write a short review of it and email it to me at painteverythingblue@outlook.com, I’m hoping to set up another blog just for the sale of my book in the near future and might use your feedback there, if you’re willing! That would be just fantastic.

Prayerfully. . .

Contemplating the faithfulness and patience of God in keeping His promises. Thanking Him for the sunshine after rain, the love of my family, and for the difficult times and storms when He is all we have and prayer is our greatest comfort. What a gift those storms are, just as much as the calm that follows them! Deo Gratias!

May God bless you!

May

More than Memory

1280px-3rd_Battalion_3rd_Marines_dawn_patrol

Please remember to pray today for all our nation’s military, past, present, and future, especially those who are deceased and the families grieving for them. We all owe them so much, and our prayers, gratitude, and constant memory of them are the least we can give. Maybe this memorial day is the most powerful one for me yet because one of my best friends is away at boot camp, and the void of his presence with us brings the sacrifice of every soldier into my life in a real way. Please pray for him as well!

I thought I would share a poem I wrote several years ago in honor of soldiers, especially veterans suffering the loss of comrades and dealing with survivor’s guilt. I wrote it after the pattern of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, as a sort of dialogue between the grieving survivor and the soul of his lost brother (the latter’s words being in italics). Whatever it’s worth as a poem, I wrote it with love, and that love for our military has only grown in my heart, and I hope will always continue to grow. May God bless them all!

More than Memory


Is there a day when bruises heal,
War’s fingerprints cease to reveal
A frail survivor left alone,
The loneliness that I now feel?

And is this grieving all my own,
Locked within my skin and bone?
Tears sealed behind my eyes to burn
With all the names of those I’ve known?

And do survivors ever learn
To feel the joy their fight should earn,
To view the world again as a child,
When alone from darkness they return?

Do you still remember how to smile?
Do you remember the faith that no fear can defile?
Do you remember the songs to the sky we sent
Through the harshness of every mile?

I rode out with you against the sin,
To keep the Light of stars in men,
Don’t abandon the hope I died to leave,
Hold to the good I left you to defend.

For there is more left than remembering,
More than burial songs for you to sing,
You are not alone—you stand in sunrise,
In a Love that is more than memory.

I feel a song in my throat revive
Warmer still than the tears I’ve cried,
For there is more than memory,
For there is more than memory.

May

Simple Humility

21807-Bouguereau,William-Adolphe

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
-C. S. Lewis

Sometimes, it seems as though humility is the one virtue I could use most, long for most, and the most elusive. Yet humility is simple in its very nature; why, then, does it seem so tricky at times? It’s easy to think I’m being very humble by dwelling in frustration on my faults and shortcomings, when in fact that frustration and accompanying discouragement are nothing but pride in disguise. Sometimes I mistake healthy confidence or pleasure in the talents God has given me for pride. Then, every once in a while, a real humiliation comes along, a real taste of that wonderfully bittersweet virtue, and uncovers the truth about what I thought to be humility or pride before.

As much as I long to be a humble person, sometimes it’s a very frightening thing to actually pray for humility. I often find myself praying, “Lord, please make me humble. . .but gently, Lord!” (And you know, He always is. . .)

I think there’s a lot in the quote above that helps to round out my perspective of the queen of virtues. I believe that one of the (apparently) trickiest things about humility is that the more you really have, the less you think you have, because you’re not thinking about yourself anyway. There isn’t a truly humble person in the world who is proud of themselves for being humble, if you think about it for a second. So it’s almost an invisible virtue, to oneself, because by its nature it turns you away from yourself and towards God and others.

My amazing parish priest often gives me wonderful advice in Confession (yeah, you can probably guess what I’m confessing!) about humility; the two greatest weapons he’s ever discovered against pride are gratitude and generosity, the two G’s. Gratitude, because everything we have that is good in itself comes from God, and we’d never have it if He hadn’t given it freely. Generosity, because it’s the opposite of pride and selfishness, and puts that gratitude into action. Really, I think this is brilliant, because gratitude first turns the soul to God, and generosity turns it to others. There’s no room for the pride that thinks about self in either of them.

 You know, maybe humility seems confusing to me sometimes because I’m the one that’s overly complicated, while humility is simple, virtue is simple. God is simple.

When I slow down a little, pray, and choose not to be afraid of seeking after humility, it can become very clear, hiding in the little choices. Even something as simple as talking with charity or admiration of someone else, as opposed to mentioning myself in conversation, instantly puts me in a good disposition towards humility. Or praying for others before praying for myself. Letting someone else go through a door first. Being happy to listen to or watch others do something I’m good at and would like to be doing. Really, these things seem so small that often I hardly notice the choice I make, the choice that inevitably leads either to pride or humility.

I guess it follows that the more I am content to be little and simple, focused on the little and simple, the better I will be able to choose humility, and perhaps eventually even be truly humble enough not to think of myself at all, but choose humility habitually. (I know, like by the time I die!)

I guess one of the elements of my state in life right now where I see the greatest need for humility in myself is just the not knowing (which I talk about endlessly here; sorry!), the having been wrong often about what I thought I wanted, what I thought God wanted. I’ve been so certain at times that I knew what His will was, and yet He’s had better plans. While it’s certainly not sinful to be wrong, it’s unpleasant, frustrating, and discouraging. Will I ever really know anything? Should I even have dreams and desires if there’s no certainty they’re going to come true?

Pride says no, I don’t ever want to be proved wrong again! But humility, with a softer voice, encourages me not to be afraid to entrust those dreams to the God Who is not only a God but a Father. Why should it irk me that He knows better than I do, especially when He holds me, dreams and all, with infinite tenderness in His own Heart?

Pride has no room for a love like that, but humility, like an open flower facing the sun, spreads her arms to it, is filled by it, and eventually knows nothing but it. That’s what I want.

 sun-flower_3298

O Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make my heart like unto Thine!

God bless!
In our loving Lady,
Lena

May

{pretty, happy, funny, real} kitchen cleaning edition

phfr

Disclaimer: this is not my original idea! I just love the concept of this post series from Like Mother, Like Daughter, and have wanted to imitate it for a while. On a whim I threw together a logo, using a free monogram-making site my younger sister is in love with. . .anyway, hope you enjoy!

{pretty}

Floor

Kitchen

Sometimes I find myself wondering what the most productive way to spend my morning hours is. The answer does vary greatly from day to day. I love it, thought, when it is delightfully clear, like today, when the kitchen was just crying out for a good clean. A busy weekend coupled with the start of the last week of school before summer break (yay!) can have a disastrous effect on the state of the kitchen. And with Mom and my two younger siblings working away at the schoolbooks, and Mary heads down on a deadline-related project, the privilege of kitchen cleaning fell to yours truly. It was that perfectly delightful invitation to deep clean; I mean the going-through-the-nameless-stacks-of-mail-on-the-sidebar-and-mopping kind of deep cleaning; promising that satisfaction, perhaps known only to the feminine heart, of a gleaming kitchen and a few hours well spent on domestic work. I don’t know if it’s best termed domesticity, industry, or nesting, but it’s a very useful gift to the woman at home. There is something thrilling about a clean kitchen.

{happy}

Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago today, my mom and dad were enjoying their first full day as a married couple on their honeymoon! It has truly been a joyful time this month, celebrating their silver anniversary and the wonderful witness of lasting love, joy, and faithfulness their marriage is, especially to us, their children. I am just so grateful for them, and love them both so much! I pray that, if I am called to be married one day, I will be a wife just like my mom and find a man just like my dad!

{funny}

Living room

This is what the living room looked like as the kitchen got all my elbow grease. . .oh well, I suppose it’s a case of shoveling in the proverbial snowstorm. There’s always something new to clean! (I did move the chairs and barstools back to the kitchen; but the living room still needs some TLC! Tomorrow. . .)

{real}

mop

When you finish mopping and have to wonder in alarm when the last time you mopped was. . .honestly I can’t remember. . .yikes! But it’s still satisfying to see all that dirt which is no longer on your floor.

Hope you’ve had a blessed and beautiful morning as well! God bless!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

May

Ribbons in my hair {embracing an accurate self-image}

“. . .he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass:
for he beheld himself and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.”
-James 1

You know, it’s funny how easy it can be to have an inaccurate mental image of what one really looks like. Really, even mirrors and photographs are just two-dimensional shadows of my appearance as it’s known by those who are around me. They leave room for imagining things in. Everyone probably does that. But as I grow older, and closer to looking the way I’ll probably look for the foreseeable future, I’m beginning to realize, and to embrace, a truer picture of my looks.

You see, I’ve always pictured myself as something of an elvish maiden. . .

elf

 . . .but, really, I seem to be a hobbit lass.

Rosie

There are those things about yourself that you just never see coming until they’re part of you. Like the need to wear glasses pretty much anytime you want to focus on something. Or short, quite curly hair.

My short hair is kind of a funny story, in that I persuaded (on a whim. . .imagine that. . .) my mom to cut off eleven inches of it the week before I visited Ephesus. I was ready for a change. I’ve been blessed with an overabundance of thick hair that seems to be quite healthy, and so whenever I cut it I’m blessed to be able to donate it. But that wasn’t the main motive, I must confess.

I was going to be a nun. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to be thinking about, not to mention trying to attract, boys anymore. Hacking one’s hair off just seems the thing to do in such an instance, doesn’t it?

Well, as soon as those eleven inches of weight were gone, up came the curls. I mean curls, too, like Mary’s curls, except short. The funny thing was, though, that everyone seemed to think it suited me better than long, wavy hair anyway. My mom told me with a smile that she didn’t think cutting it had had the desired effect. Oh well, I thought. It felt nice to have all that weight off. But when I came back from Ephesus with a new outlook on the foreseeable future of my life, and my current state in it, I was really kind of glad that the short, curly look seemed to be becoming on me. Now I am just mastering the art of how to fix it, ‘learning my hair’ as one says.

So that’s that for hair. When I was a little girl, I never dreamed about how wonderful it would be to be the shortest member of my family. After all, who does? Rather, I always thought “tall and slender” sounded nice.

As it turns out, I’m neither tall nor slender, and I probably won’t become so–certainly not the tall part, as the only height change likely to occur for me in the future is the shrinking and settling of old age. I don’t know what my ideal height was when I was little and thought of growing tall, but I’m pretty sure it was higher than 5’3″. But that seemed to be God’s ideal! I don’t think I’m really overweight, but I also know I’m not some lettuce-eating stick. I’m part Irish and I like my potatoes.

Then there’s dancing. From what I’ve been told, bouncing would be a more accurate word than gliding when it comes to describing the way I dance. Far more like a hobbit than an elf princess! And you know, I think I’m going to wear ribbons in my short, curly hair the next time I dance.

I don’t intend to sound self-deprecating in the least. This little journey is all about learning how God has made me, and to me, the transformation of my mental self-image from elf to hobbit is really an exciting and refreshing one. Truth will always set you free and help you stop trying to be someone you are not. Both Arwen and Rosie Cotton are beautiful, feminine, charming, and graceful in their own ways. Arwen may have ended up with Aragorn, but Rosie got Sam.

So yes, you may notice shortly that I am changing my user ID (which I do every few months, when I get the itch for a change!) to Rosie with Ribbons, to help me remember my hobbit side and work to cultivate a femininity that includes bouncing curls and ribbons in them!

Hobbithole

God bless, and happy feast of the Ascension!

May

Ever new {spiritual direction helps!}

Salt Lake Desert

“Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest?
. . .For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
‘In returning and in rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength’
. . .Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
-Isaias 29 & 30

I am so grateful for the gift of monthly spiritual direction, which I’ve had recourse to for two whole years now! Time is a strange thing; it can seem so slow in the present looking towards the future, yet in retrospect it has flown. It has already been a year since my graduation from high school! My Franciscan father has guided and nurtured my soul through ups and downs, in varying vocational paths, and through (I hope!) much growing.

It was really time for a meeting last night, and after Confession I was ready to unload the struggle on my heart, which will come as no surprise to you–the struggle of waiting. The patience. The monotony. The uneventfulness. Simply put, the same old, same old, while I just don’t know. I don’t what’s going to happen, what vocational path is mine, what God wants me to do with my life. I just don’t know.

And I want to know! Even if it can’t happen yet! Even if it’s not what I want to hear! There is a stubborn part of me that wants to know.

After expressing this to Father, he kind of smiled with a very humble and kind I-told-you-so expression. Then I remembered that he had kind of warned me this would happen at our last meeting. He knew then that I was, at that point, just a couple weeks home from Ephesus, and was buoyed up with the newness of all those very real, very special graces I’d received. Everything–my family, my home, my life as a young woman at home, was flooded with a new light. Not rose-colored, just new. And he also wisely knew that the feeling of newness would fade away into a dryness.

Just remembering that he’d predicted it made me feel better right away. It just makes sense. Doesn’t make it necessarily easy; but sometimes, just knowing exactly what you’re dealing with can make embracing the Cross a lot more simple.

It seems that whenever I come to him with my woes, my dad always ends up pointing me to the hidden life of Christ, quoting Fr. Leo Clifford: “For thirty years, He did nothing.” I need to be told it over and over again, obviously; but this must be exactly what God wants me to be thinking on, because it’s just what Father brought up.

James_Tissot_The_Youth_of_Jesus_700

It is rather encouraging to think that Christ spent thirty years at home. More than encouraging; amazing. For thirty years, He was pretty much doing what I am doing. He was at home, hidden but growing. He was certainly about His Father’s business in every moment of His human life upon earth, and certainly He longed for the coming of the three years of public ministry, and finally for the Cross, Resurrection, and beginning of His Church. Yet He spent thirty years waiting; thirty years in the same monotony of every day at home; thirty years of internal stillness, dryness.

It’s easy for me to fall into longing for sensational, exciting things to happen; for fireworks inside, as Father put it, in any form. Yet right now it seems that I am on a very gentle, barely noticeable slope. There are mountains and valleys somewhere in the distance, but most of the journey ahead will be rather flat, rather dry under a hot sun, rather the same as I walk along.

Maybe this sounds a little depressing, but I am extremely encouraged. Why? Well, Father pointed out a beautiful analogy to me about this dryness, flatness, whatever you want to call it. When things are dry beneath a hot sun, you begin to sweat. In the same way, God uses the dry times to bring good things out of us, almost like squeezing water from a sponge.

Christ could not possibly stagnate, but was always fruitful, and so those thirty years couldn’t have been just miserable for Him. There was a particular grace and glory that belonged to those years; dry, monotonous, difficult as they probably were. Father assured me that, in this sort of dryness when everything feels the same and nothing seems to be happening, God is at a work in me which, although I cannot perceive it as new, is constantly new. It is hidden, but present nonetheless–like Christ in Nazareth.

April

Twelve years ago today. . .

therese2-cal3

It’s no wonder that April is my favorite month of the year. Spiritually, I was both born and married in April!

Twelve Aprils ago to the date, I was a seven-year-old sprite approaching the Lord of Heaven and Earth for the first time in Holy Communion. I would love to claim that I was as prepared and pure and afire of soul as St. Therese or Blessed Imelda Lambertini or Little Nellie of Holy God, but, though my mother prepared me very well, I know that’s not true!

sacrament3

I would love to look back on my First Holy Communion as taking place in the Old Rite, on my knees at an altar rail, surrounded by the same quiet and solemnity and awe of the First Communion that took place at our parish a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t (although my parents instructed me to receive on my tongue, unlike the majority of my Communion class. Thank heavens!!!).

I can remember the very moment, the first time I experienced the most intimate union with God possible upon earth. I think I was expecting a blinding flash of light and tears and scales to fall from my eyes. . .no, that didn’t happen. Looking back now I smile at my dramatic side, at my uninformed imagination, my funny ideas. But I have no regrets. Christ did insist, “Let the children come to me,” and I was very, very much a child! He wanted me that day to become His tabernacle forever, even with all of my manifold imperfections, silliness, and ignorance. He wanted to be with me–and He still does. That makes the anniversary I celebrate today one of the most amazing days of my life.

It is amazing to look back at the patience He has had with me over these twelve years of being bonded to Him in the Holy Eucharist. Of course, it is a mystical union, an invisible relationship that will never be fully grasped by my poor senses or finite mind–Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui. Let faith supply assistance to our deficient senses! In coming to me in Holy Communion, pretty much at least every week over the past twelve years, God has been closer to me than I have ever realized. Whether or not I had prepared myself well, let my thoughts wander, was under an agonizing attack of scruples, or barely thought of Him the whole time, He was unchangingly here. Upon my tongue. In my breast. For a quarter of an hour, Heaven came to me.

What a sobering reality. What an immense love.

I cannot begin to express how grateful I am that somehow, my parents knew we should make receiving Holy Communion on the tongue the norm for our family, even though that certainly wasn’t taught at our old parish. There were a few times I did receive him in my hands out of ignorance–and still He has come.

Looking back at just the past two years of life, from the time when our family began to attend the Extraordinary Form, I am amazed to see how my Holy Communions have been given so many helps to flourish. The quiet, the lengthy time for both preparation and thanksgiving, veiling and modesty, the reverence of those around me, kneeling at the altar rail, receiving just from the consecrated hands of the priest–every one of these things has deepened my ability to be present to the presence of God. Of course our Lord knows we are nothing but dust, and  are easily distracted (at least I am!), but on our end, we should be doing everything in our power to give Him our utmost attention, reverence, love, and surrender. There is no relationship parallel to the one Catholics possess with the Eucharistic Jesus–it is beyond comparison, even with the purest and most intense marital love. Those fifteen minutes are the most important moments of our lives–they are the touching of time and eternity. They are our practice for Heaven, our foretaste of the Beatific Vision.

hc148

I wish that I could make the world believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  I wish I could shed my blood to prevent just one of the sacrileges and abuses that abound against Him in His Divine Vulnerability. I wish no one would put limits on their idea of God’s generosity, as if we could conceive of something too great or precious for God to give, even after what He did for us in His Passion and death. How frustrating to His love, when He longs to lavish us with such unfathomable blessings, and we simply will not receive them! I wish everyone would take God at His word: as St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “If Christ Himself has said: This is my Body, who will dare to doubt that it is, indeed, His Body?”

I wish everyone had what I have: me, so unworthy of Him! I wish He had possession of every human heart, the hearts He desires so much that He gives His own in exchange for them.

Christ

He is there, whether we believe it or not, whether we approach Him or not, whether we care or not. He is always there, in the tabernacle and upon the altar, as He promised: I am with you until the end of time. Without that presence, the world would not hold together. The Church would have long ago fallen to the gates of Hell. We would all be lost and our attempts at virtue, if we even attempted, would be nothing but jokes. I know that without His Eucharistic presence, I would not have grown from the sorrows in my life, overcome my scrupulosity, or had the courage to cling to Him during the difficulties of my week at Ephesus. I cannot even imagine my world without that Presence. It would be a world without a sun.

Christ knows that nothing but Himself is great enough to satisfy the hunger of our soul, and so He gives us Himself as food. In face of such an unfathomable love, we must not be indifferent, and we must also not be so afraid of our nothingness that we don’t approach Him. He is not afraid of it!

This morning, I dug out my little trunk of special possessions (and upon doing so wondered why most of the stuff in there once counted as special possessions. . .who knows. . .), and found the little pouch that contains a couple of most special letters from my parents. One of them, in my dad’s unmistakable handwriting, was written just before my First Holy Communion. I treasure it more now than I ever have, just as my love for the Eucharist, and for my dad, has grown with me. I want to share just a little of it with you so you know what a wonderful dad I have. . .

“My darling Lena,
I’m glad that you are approaching your 1st Holy Communion with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. . .Daddy will be praying hard for you to always love, know, and serve Jesus. You are a great blessing in my life and I will always love you. Jesus loves you more than 10,000 of me — and I want you to love Him the most. . .I want you to have everlasting life with Jesus — and He is “the Bread of Life”! Welcome to the great banquet my love!
I love you,

Daddy”

This was exactly what my father told me at the beginning of last month when he held me and then let go outside the doors of Ephesus. Neither of us knew where Jesus was leading us that night–apart or together–but, then just as twelve years before, he chose to believe that Jesus loved me more than 10,000 of him could and wanted me to love Him the most. Okay, I’m about to cry. . .

What an amazing life I have, because of the Divine Spouse that has taken my heart from my youth to be His own! What an amazing security to know that, wherever He leads, He will not only be the road, the destination, and the Companion: He will be the Food for the journey as well. He will never leave me, and He will always be enough!

PhotoScan (2)

Thank You, Jesus!

April

The reason I haven’t really been blogging. . .

060_Fighting_back

. . .is that my creative energy has been almost completely wrapped up in fiction for the past couple of weeks as I’ve been mentally vacationing in 1880’s Utah on the back of a horse.

And I guess it doesn’t really help matters that I have a hopeless crush on my main character. This is all his fault!

074_Grief

Anyway, I hope to find time and imagination to post at more length soon. . .but at least you know what I’m up to!

Happy Feast of Ss. Cletus and Marcellinus!

April

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer {on the feast of St. George}

13 George

“Thou hast protected me, O God, from the assembly of the malignant, alleluia:
from the multitude of the workers of iniquity, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Hear, O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to Thee: deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy.”

Happy feast of St. George, Martyr! I have a special love for this hero of Christianity, who is traditionally listed first among the Fourteen Holy Helpers. I like to think that he might have been the first of them to appear to the Bavarian shepherd boy, the Helper who spoke, saying, “Be our servant, and we will serve thee.”

The thought of St. George just fills me with a love and awe of his true masculinity (don’t you love how calmly he’s staring down the dragon in the portrait above?). According to tradition, he was born to noble Christian parents, whose wealth he inherited. Being strong in body as well as soul, he became a tribune in the Roman army. According to Fr. Bonaventure’s book The Fourteen Holy Helpers:

“His courage and fidelity attracted the attention of Emperor Diocletian, who bestowed upon him marks of special favor. When that prince declared war upon the Christian religion, St. George laid aside the signs of his rank, threw up his commission, and rebuked the emperor for the severity of his bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and alternate threats and promises were employed to induce him to apostatize. As he continued firm, he was put to the torture and tormented with great cruelty. ‘I despise your promises,’ he said to the judge, ‘and do not fear your threats. The emperor’s power is of short duration, and his reign will soon end. It were better for you, to acknowledge the true God and to seek His kingdom.’ Thereupon a great block of stone was placed upon the breast of the brave young officer, and thus he was left in prison.” After further gruesome tortures, during which he was comforted by a vision in which our Lord told him, “George, fear not: I am with thee.”, St. George was beheaded, in the year 303.

Although most people associate St. George with a dragon, I don’t think the dragon is often associated in our minds with the positively diabolical Diocletian, the great Saint-maker (as our family likes to call him!). And yet St. George stared down this dragon’s threats and promises with a perfect detachment from human respect, prosperity, comfort, or even his life. He was solely Christ’s, and it was enough that Christ was with Him to drive away the most atrocious fears the dragon could inspire.

He is, then, the great model of every one of us, of true detachment. St. George particularly exemplified the virtues of faith, hope, charity, courage, and perseverance. May he share with us the burning love that inflames his own heart for Christ!

800px-Paolo_Veronese_023

St. George, invincible martyr, pray for us!

 

April

Novena to St. George begins today!

Hl_-Georg
Statue of St. George in the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

I have to get to bed so I can get up tomorrow ;), but I didn’t want to let the first day of St. George’s novena slip by! This saint is extra special. I look forward to writing about him at more length on his feast day, God willing, but for now, here is a beautiful prayer from the book The Fourteen Holy Helpers by Fr. Bartholomew Hammer (best book ever!). I will be offering my novena for a good friend of mine who is going to be starting boot camp next month, as well as for your intentions! May St. George be gracious to us in his intercession before the throne of God!

Novena to St. George

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, St. George; favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. Amen.

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.

April

In love with. . .who? {thinking about my death}

sacrament7

This has been the most beautiful April I can remember (in spite of the January-like weather we had on Saturday). It’s felt absolutely perfect outside, especially during the short walks I’ve taken the past two afternoons around a little lake near our home with my mom and sisters. As is so fitting to the Easter season, everything is young and fresh and jubilantly alive. . .even the colors seem young and excited to exist for the glory of their Creator. Our azaleas have been a fever of color around our yard. Carpenter bees are once more surveying our back deck (St. Joseph, help us!). I’m not very old, but I feel younger than I have been feeling. . .happy to be alive, invigorated and bright. It’s April!

And yet, here and there over the past two days, I’ve been thinking about my death. And the thought has come with a sort of disturbance. . .which means that I need to face it and truly consider how this thought should affect me.

Certainly, the thought of my own death pricks many different thoughts and emotions in my heart. There is natural, and at times strong, fear of suffering and the unknown. . .of that last great battle to cling to God and not give in to the attacks of despair and pride I know the adversary will wage against me. There is a sense of regret. . .I hope, contrition. . .for my numberless sins and failings already committed, as well as the ones I will probably fall into throughout my life. I know that, at some point in my death and particular judgment, I will finally understand the gravity of my sins and how much they have pained God. What a truly sobering thought. How differently I might live many moments of my existence if I thought about it more.

There is (if I manage to open my soul to it) a humbling realization of my own weakness, and that I will finally understand that weakness for what it is in that last struggle. . .and, paradoxically, this gives me a sense of joy; for in that great and terrible day and moment, I must not rely on myself at all, for that would be both pride and folly; but completely drown myself in the Blood of Christ and throw myself into the arms of my Blessed Mother and dear St. Joseph. I must hide in the wings of my Guardian Angel and in the prayers of all the Saints who have loved me. Not in myself. . .for I will have nothing to rely on, nothing to hide behind, in myself.

Death is certainly something I’ve thought about. . .but how much has this thought really sunk into the way I live, into my intellect and will and into virtue and habit? There’s the rub. It’s always easier for me to think and speak than to do. How much do I really pray for the grace of a holy death? How much do I focus on making reparation for the manifold sins of my own and of others? How much do I really fight against my faults, fight to be faithful to prayer and spiritual reading? How much do I strive to cultivate those virtues I need most, and will need most at the hour of my death. . .humility, trust, perseverance, long suffering? How much do I choose to serve my body, which will one day decay under the earth, rather than work for the good of my immortal soul?

For all things around me. . .all that I know in terms of earthly things. . .all things are passing, including my earthly life. I’m already nearly twenty years old. . .probably a quarter of the way through an average lifespan. And I know that time will only keep going faster as I get older.

 How much, then, do I really consider the day of my death. . .that great journey from time into eternity that we all must take? The moment in which I will see the face of God, and either turn to Him in love, or fly from Him in self-love. Saturday morning, as we drove home from First Saturday Mass and choir, Mary and I were discussing this profound quote from A Map of Life by Frank Sheed:

“I have said that if a man dies hating God, then he must be separated from God. But it may be urged that hatred of God is rare. Explicit hatred of God may be rare, but there is a form of self-love which is equivalent to it. Thus a man might go through life ignoring God–and therefore not hating Him–but building up such a love of self that he has only to be confronted with God to hate Him. After death, God cannot be ignored: and then love of self will bring to the surface that hate of God which has always been implicit in it, and of which the only possible consequence is separation from God.”

As we talked, Mary made the point, which echoed my own thoughts, that Heaven and Hell exist in the smallest things; in the very attitude with which we approach living out each day. It is extremely easy for me to fall into an attitude of self-love which turns me from focusing on God to focusing on myself. When I allow this, I am cultivating weeds in the garden of my soul; pride instead of humility, vanity instead of modesty, selfishness instead of generosity, laziness instead of industry, self-righteousness instead of repentance, self-centeredness instead of Christ-centeredness, self-obsession instead of charity. It is all connected; one vice chosen truly does open the door to countless others.

In that fundamentally perverted direction of self-ward living, I might perform a good work yet corrupt it through and through because I’ve done it for myself; to make others think well of me, because it’s what I feel like doing, because it makes me feel better about myself, because I might gain something by doing it. But, “Nothing is done well when it is done out of self-interest.” (St. Therese). Nothing. Because we are simply not made to be directed towards ourselves, but towards God. This universe was not created to be anthropocentric, but Christocentric. And the same can be said for our hearts. As St. John Vianney said, the human soul is so great that nothing less than God can fill it.

And all of this is why detachment is so important. We constantly hear the Saints speak about detachment from creatures, but what does this mean?

Well, it means what it says–that it is necessary for one to be detached from all creatures in order to be attached to one’s Creator. That is why Christ said you cannot serve two masters. That is why the theological virtue of charity is defined as love of God for His own sake, and love of neighbor for God’s sake. It’s all about God. Everything.

This has been one grace which I have reaped from my vocational journey so far: a deeper realization that it is neither “my life” nor “my story”. It is not about “my dreams” or following my heart. It’s not about me. My life is God’s. It is one small part of God’s story. It is willed into being by His Sacred Heart. It is His. Therein is detachment from creatures–attachment to God. And when God is in the center, everything else falls into its proper place.

But how to reach that true sense of both detachment and attachment, when I am so often, as Dame Veronica confesses herself to be in In This House of Brede: in love with myself?

Again, it comes down to the little things. Another phrase we hear often from the Saints is death to self: the practice of detaching ourselves from self by self-denial. There are countless opportunities each day for us to practice this death to self. . .to embrace our crosses and follow Christ. . .and really, they are like a practice for our death, when true detachment from creatures, especially from self, will be so necessary. How much easier it will be for my soul to fly from my body to the arms of God if it is truly detached from self! I think of our Blessed Mother in her Assumption, so pure and so utterly detached from all things but God that she could fly to Him, body and soul.

I suppose the simplest way to condense all of this is (attention: if you’re skimming this post, just read this part) that I have to ask myself often: who am I in love with? Myself or God? Creature or Creator? And if the answer is hazy, or leaning towards self and creature, then the first thing to do is search out a little death to self to practice, a cross to embrace–for there is nothing of self on the Cross. Only Christ is there.

  800px-Cristo_crucificado

So yes. . .I’ve been thinking of death in life and life in death. . .Heaven or Hell in the little things. Maybe they’re rather hefty thoughts for an April day in the Easter season; yet are they not somehow fitting?

“Faithful Cross! above all other, One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom, None in fruit thy peer may be.

“For this work of our salvation needs must have its order so,
And the manifold deceiver’s art by art would overthrow,
And from thence would bring the healing, whence the insult of the foe.”
-Crux fidelis inter omnes (Hymn for Good Friday)

cornus_florida_dogwood_blossoms

May this Spring be for us all full of blossoms of holy self-denial upon the limbs of the victorious Cross! God bless!

In our Loving Lady,
Lena

April

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae

stgla5a

“Grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.
Because of truth and meekness, and justice, and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.”
-Psalm 44: 3,5

Regina Angelorum

by G. K. Chesterton

OUR LADY went into a strange country,
Our Lady, for she was ours,
And had run on the little hills behind the houses
And pulled small flowers;
But she rose up and went into a strange country
With strange thrones and powers.

And there were giants in the land she walked in,
Tall as their toppling towns,
With heads so high in heaven, the constellations
Served them for crowns;
And their feet might have forded like a brook the abysses
Where Babel drowns.

They were girt about with the wings of morning and evening,
Furled and unfurled,
Round the speckled sky where our small spinning planet
Like a top is twirled;
And the swords they waved were the unending comets
That shall end the world.

And moving in innocence and in accident,
She turned the face
That none has ever looked on without loving
On the Lords of Space;
And one hailed her with her name in our own country
That is full of grace.

Our Lady went into a strange country
And they crowned her queen,
For she needed never to be stayed or questioned
But only seen;
And they were broken down under unbearable beauty
As we have been.

But ever she walked till away in the last high places,
One great light shone
From the pillared throne of the king of all the country
Who sat thereon;
And she cried aloud as she cried under the gibbet
For she saw her Son.

Our Lady wears a crown in a strange country,
The crown he gave,
But she has not forgotten to call to her old companions
To call and crave;
And to hear her calling a man might arise and thunder
On the doors of the grave.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!!! What a remarkable and rare thing, as it happens this year, to turn from celebrating the victorious summit of Christ’s mission in His Resurrection, back to the very beginning of His earthly Life, in the Fiat of Mary. What a reminder of the profound gratitude we owe to Our Lady for her tremendous ‘yes’, which has echoed throughout all time and unto eternity.

annuncia26

“On this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, uniting for evermore our human nature to the Divine Nature. The mystery of the Incarnation brings vividly before us the boundless condescension and humility of God the Son in stooping to our condition in order to be our Savior. Equally it proclaims the glory and greatness of Mary, who was chosen to give to the Divine Word human flesh and human birth, and so to co-operate with God in the restoration of mankind. Hence her most glorious title of ‘Mother of God,’ which explains all her glories, her sanctity, and her honor.”
-1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, Angelus Press

There are many ways to celebrate today’s feast, primarily going to Mass (for us it will be watching LiveMass! Thank you FSSP!). The Propers for today are fittingly glorious *happy sigh*. Over the years we’ve made different things food-wise, such as an Angel Food Cake or some kind of white cake (in honor of our Lady’s purity), but we are still surfacing from Easter Octave treats and need no more sugar here! Mary and I will probably be singing one setting or other of the Ave Maris Stella all day. This hymn is so special to me and always makes me think of my Total Consecration, since one prays it, along with various other prayers, every day of the thirty-three-day preparatory period. The version performed by Voces8 on their album Equinox (arranged by Philip Stopford) is one of the most sublime pieces of music I have ever heard. Absolutely as heavenly as earthly music comes. I like to pretend I can sing it!

This is kind of random, but I thought it was a perfect day to share an idea that I’d been discussing with my sisters recently. Being who we are, systems for the naming of future children has always been a fun topic of conversation, usually over breakfast. I often manage to horrify my younger sister (I’m sure because of a genuine pity for her potential future nieces and nephews) by the extremely. . .Catholic. . .names that I come up with. I mean, how cool would it be to be a Prisca? Alphonsus? Vitus? Agapitus? (Okay, I am usually kidding when I pull that one out, though I do love St. Agapitus!)

My new favorite idea is (I think!) a little less shocking, but I am really enamored by its beauty. Once we started, ideas came in a rush, a multitude of Marian-themed names for girls, each linked to a different feast of, or title of, our Blessed Mother. Like Virginia Marie. Marie Perpetua (Our Lady of Perpetual Help). Aria Maria (Our Lady, House of Gold). Sophia Marie (Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom). Rosemary (Our Lady of the Rosary). Ava Marie (The Annuciation; this isn’t original, though!). Mary Grace or Grace Marie (Our Lady of Grace). Regina May (Our Lady, Queen of the May). Angela Maria (Our Lady of the Angels). Elizabeth Marie (The Visitation). Mary Loretta (Our Lady of Loreto). Mary Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). Maria Victoria (Our Lady of Victory). Maura Stella (Our Lady, Star of the Sea). I could go on and on. . .I guess I already did!

I know I sound at least a little crazy, but if I were to be blessed with a vocation to marriage and motherhood, not to mention an on-board husband and, like, fifteen daughters, I think it would be the most special thing ever to give each a different Marian feast day for their name day, to dedicate them each in a special way to her powerful protection and give them each the most beautiful name a woman could possess. Of course, there are so many forms of this name (Mary, Marie, Maria, Maura, Marin, Maire, and May being the most obvious to me), one could be pretty inventive. Who know what God has in store! I guess if I have to be crazy about something, it might as well be Our Lady.

annuncia2

Well, enough of my rambling (although I guess that’s all my blog is! Ha!) I hope and pray you have a wonderful feast day, and that Our Lady draws you ever closer to her most Immaculate Heart, and to the Son Who ever dwells there, in His chosen abode.

God bless!
In our Loving Lady,
Lena

April

The Present {my battle for true contentment}

21138-Bouguereau, William-Adolphe

In a conversation last night with some friends (one of whom, the Knight, demanded that I start posting some original thoughts here instead of just inspiring pictures and quotes, so here goes ;P) the topic of using things in order to escape from the present moment came up.

I really love when Our Lord directs my soul in conversations like that one by pointing them suddenly towards something I really need to learn. As we sat around our table enjoying chicken & sausage gumbo with potato salad (I love being part-Cajun!), I was struck suddenly with a new clarity and true self-knowledge (ever humbling. . .thus a gift!) in this particular area. I realized that, in many subtle ways over the years of my life so far, I have often welcomed and even fostered my own discontentment. A scary thought, but true.

I believe I could not have a more wonderful or blessed life. I would not trade it for anyone else’s. I look back on my childhood as filled with beauty and peace; I look on my life as I am now with gratitude and joy; I look towards whatever future God has in store for me with excitement and trust that it will be good, no matter what crosses and trials it may contain.

And yet, more times than I care to count, I have slipped into trying to escape the present moment. Wanting to be someone, somewhere, something else. Anything else. What if I had a cute bedroom and cute outfits and a cute name just like the cool girls on Fetch!, a PBS kid’s show we used to watch in our younger years? My hobbies didn’t seem as cool as theirs. What was their life like? It glittered somehow, and made my life feel incomplete. Who was I, anyway?

A few years ago, when my siblings and I were in the height of our Adam-12 and Emergency! fanhood fever, I knew that if only I could somehow enter that world and be the girl that Pete Malloy was rescuing, or the patient that Dr. Brackett was treating, just for a day, it would be the ultimate dream come true. For an hour and a half each afternoon, we were submerged in the exciting lives of these awesome characters, plunged into thrilling rescues and hilarious plotlines. But it always ended, and we were back in our mildly messy home, with chores to do and each other to get along with. Hmm.

When we got caught up, not so very long ago, in the When Calls the Heart craze (which luckily no longer holds us enthralled), it was the same story. There were moments when I was Elizabeth, and Jack’s blue eyes were looking into mine and he was holding my hands and promising me that if I ever needed him, he would be there, day and night. What girl wouldn’t love it if that happened to her? Yet, when the credits came on screen, Jack vanished, Elizabeth vanished, and I was just Lena, a seventeen-year-old girl with no Jack.

It’s so tricky, because it all seems so innocent. Surely every kid, every young woman, everybody dreams of being someone else, somewhere else, in some other time! And it isn’t just TV. It’s infiltrated how I read books (I would have been so happy to be a squirrel on Mistmantle!), how I viewed friends and acquaintances, what songs I would sing or listen to.

I have nothing against listening to love songs, and know and enjoy hearing and singing many wonderful ones. But I’m beginning to realize how easy it is to let myself drift away while singing a love song into unrest and wistfulness and discontentment, because I am filling myself with a desire that simply is not suited to my life right now. Even if it is God’s will that I fall in love and get married one day, I can’t do anything about it right now, except maybe pray for His will to be done! Yet those longings for love can be so strong, especially in a young woman, and I’m not doing myself any favors by fanning the flames in myself, however pure the desires might be.

There have been many times I’ve felt, without fully acknowledging it, that my life really won’t begin until my vocation begins. What a miserable feeling, that what I have and even what I am now is insignificant and unfulfilled. It is a lie, of course, subtle, but with the power to render me very discontented and longing to escape to something that seems more wonderful than what I have. . .and I therefore become ungrateful for the reality that it at my fingertips. The present moment. A cup of coffee nearby. . .my younger sister playing guitar and singing downstairs. . .the azaleas blooming outside. . .our dogs barking at something. . .home all around me. God’s presence around and in me. I am a nineteen-year-old girl who has the most amazing family and community ever. I am a young woman who gets to cultivate her faith and femininity and serve God at home. I am loved. God loves me. God.

My journey to Ephesus and back taught me the meaning of contentment in a new and powerful way. It was an amazing and much-needed grace; but I am beginning to realize that it’s not enough to just receive this grace: I must be faithful to it. Faithful in holding on to that sense of contentment in every thought, word, and action, every day for the rest of my life. And it must be a contentment rooted in the will of God, and therefore beyond any selfishness.

Although I’ve been given much during the last month, I am still the same person, with the same bad habits I’ve adopted over time to struggle with. It’s all too easy to think that I could be so much happier, or truly fulfilled, if I had this or that, or if this or that dream of mine came true, even after all I’ve learned.

  Yet, when I feel that longing to escape into some imagined other life stirred up in myself, when I am tempted to stir it up in myself, I must grow in contentment with all God has given me, and where He wants me to be right now (which at the moment seems to be in pajamas and glasses at my computer typing up a blog post). I must remember that I have absolutely nothing to escape from. . .and that God is not present in those imaginary worlds that seem so enticing, or in discontent. He is present in peace; He is present in the present; with me, in my pajamas and glasses, about to go switch my laundry and help my siblings with schoolwork. What could be more wonderful?

I humbly ask your prayers that I will be able to persevere in my battle for contentment! God bless you!

 life-of-jesus-pic-06

“Be still, and know that I am God.”