Os justi meditabitur sapientiam

When I opened my missal for Mass this morning and realized that today is the feast of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, I knew I recognized the name of one of the three glories of the order of Our Lady of Mercy, instituted for the ransoming of Christian slaves from the Muslims (along with St. Peter Nolasco and St. Raymond Penafort.) I was also fairly certain I remembered seeing a particularly striking portrait of him on Portraits of Saints, and reading bits and pieces of his story there, but resolved to check later. What I found was so beautiful I just had to share it here.

Raymond received his surname “Nonnatus” (not born) because his mother died in childbirth, and he had to be delivered by cesarean section in the year 1204; thus he is invoked as the patron of midwives, children (especially the unborn), pregnant mothers, and obstetricians.  When grown, Raymond became a priest and entered the order of Mercedarians under St. Peter Nolasco. As the rule of the order dictated, upon running out of funds on a mission trip to ransom slaves in Algeria, he offered himself in the stead of other captives and was imprisoned.

Even in prison, this zealous missionary was converting Muslims around him. This so infuriated his captors that they bored holes in his lips and attached a padlock to keep him from preaching.

Eventually, Raymond was ransomed, but he died upon his return to Spain at the age of thirty-six.

The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment: the law of his God is in his heart.

The richness and beauty of the Church’s liturgy often leaves me in awe; but today, praying along with the Mass of Os justi for the feast of St. Raymond, I was entranced by its eloquence, by this Saint of eloquence whose living martyrdom gave voice to a love that no captor could ever silence or drown out. His mutilated mouth truly was the mouth of the just one, which meditated heavenly wisdom in both its preaching and its silence. His imprisoned tongue spoke the judgment of God’s justice and mercy in its very captivity. How powerfully his Christ-like offering of himself as a ransom proclaimed that truly, the law of his God was in his heart.

St. Raymond Nonnatus, Silent Missionary, pray for us!


Thoughts on a Threefold Feast Day

rose of lima
“Rose of My Heart, be Thou my Spouse.”

I’m back! After a tremendously blessed weekend (and week-beginning) full of birthday celebrations for a very special birthday (the planning and execution of which, along with a couple of babysitting jobs play dates with the four cutest tots in creation, have taken up most of my focus for the past several days), I find that August is almost over; summer is waning, and it will soon be fall (Deo Gratias!). The two young men (and close friends) I graduated with this spring are plowing through their first week of college, and I am praying for their protection as they have to contact some of the ugliness of the world I have been spared from. Our own homeschool is up and running full-throttle, with almost a month under its belt. My resolution to finish my novella by the beginning of September is pricking at my conscience and telling me to get a move on; however, I’m only four story-days away from the climax, so it shouldn’t be long. Maybe mid-September.

And so, as life flows on around me, so does the liturgical year, and August 30th has come again; it’s a special day to me. Besides being the birthday of a very dear friend (a magnificent birthday to you!), it is the feast of St. Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, to whom I commend them all, and especially the ones I am privileged to know personally. Naturally, in the time of my discernment with them, she became one of the patronesses of my vocational discernment, and although I no longer believe God is leading me into her religious family, I know she continues those prayers for me. St. Jeanne, pray for us!

Also, in the old calendar, we celebrate the feast of St. Rose of Lima today. This saint is special to me in so many ways. She was one of the first saints I ever read a book about, and I loved her story to the point of trying to convince my parents to let me build a hut in our backyard and live there as a hermit. (Mom said no.) I contemplated choosing her as my Confirmation patron (agh! what a choice to have to make!). She was dear to the heart of one of my best friends (now a friend in Heaven), Sister Joseph Mary, along with her Peruvian partner St. Martin de Porres, and I received all sorts of Rose-and-Martin-related memorabilia with Sister’s letters. As the first American saint, she automatically has to be my patroness; and as she is invoked against vanity, she is particularly suited to protect females of all ages from our common pitfall.

And, finally, today are also commemorated Sts. Felix and Adauctus, Martyrs. St. Felix, a priest of Rome, was martyred in the year 303; at the last moment, he was joined voluntarily by an unknown Christian, and they were beheaded together. The Church named this unknown martyr Adauctus (“added”). I was first introduced to this pair in Once Upon a Time Saints years ago; and they captivated me to the point where I wrote a short story dramatizing their martyrdom for a project my sister and I were part of. Just for fun (and humility!) I thought I would share it here (with a few edits, because I’m not quite humble enough). Hope you enjoy, and a very blessed feast of Sts. Jeanne, Rose, Felix & Adauctus to you!

     As Felix, shoved by the guards, stepped out into the open, he saw the streets surrounding the prefect’s palace were suffocated with people: free and slave, plebeian and patrician, there was no distinguishing between the members of the angry hoard now surrounding the building. As the great doors fell shut behind him and the small company of soldiers, whose cloaks blistered blood-red under the Italian sun, the crowds roared with even greater volume. Two of the soldiers gripped Felix’s arms; their hands stung his skin, which was freshly broken from flogging. Still, the gentle joy deep in Felix’s blue eyes remained unchanged.
     The crowd surged up the steep marble steps, so the escort of soldiers around Felix was forced to become a shield for him against the mud, stones, and abuse the angry Romans hurled. It seemed like an eternity before the party reached the base of the stairs. The road ahead to the place of execution was, in truth, short, but the prospect of shoveling through crowds for even another hundred meters seemed to drain the last of his energy. He was grateful when the leader of the unit – who was also serving as the executioner that day – turned to his second-in-command.
     “They’ve gone mad!” he shouted. “Get back up to the palace and send reinforcements to clear the roads!”
     The second-in-command turned and make his way back up the stairs, disappearing inside the palace doors. Soon, two fresh columns of soldiers marched down the steps, past Felix’s escort, and the mob began to vacate the roads. Felix and his guards were able to proceed; raising his eyes to heaven, Felix thanked God. Words of comfort flooded his soul. 
     It will soon be over. You have been faithful, My son. Your hour is at hand, but I shall be with you.
     The two guards holding Felix’s arms were surprised to see the priest smile. One of them, quite young, wondered how the crowds could have been so angered by the gentle, joyful man they were leading to death. The young guard suddenly felt a wave of discomfort at being a part of this, his first execution, which he had rather looked forward to. It wasn’t at all what he had imagined. 
   The prisoner seemed to sense this and looked at him. “Do not be afraid. This path is my road to Heaven,” he said.
     The young guard outwardly ignored him, as any conversation between them would have been inappropriate, but the strange words of the old Christian reached his soul. For years to come he would remember the day a convict had tried to comfort his persecutor.
     The crowds may have been cowed by the arrival of additional guards, but there was still a tangible unease, an angry murmur running low and thick as summer humidity through the street. Just as the quiet reached the height of its tension and Felix could glimpse the place of execution through the shoulders of the men in front of him, the guards halted suddenly. Turning in confusion, Felix saw a young man stepping out from the crowd to bar the way of the Roman company.
     The young man appeared to have barely a score of years behind him, tall and broad-shouldered, dark with very dark eyes that met Felix’s clearly.
The executioner gestured at him violently. “Clear the road!” he barked, but the young man did not move. Felix saw his hands trembling, but the dark eyes were steadfast as they turned to the executioner.
     “I believe what this man believes,” his voice came out like a trumpet’s call, “and I will die with him to glorify the same Lord, Christ.”
The words hung in the now complete silence. The young man’s eyes rested again on Felix’s face, and Felix smiled, his heart quickening with joy.
     For a moment, the executioner was dumbfounded. Then he shrugged and muttered, “Die with him, then.”
     The soldiers seized the young man and clapped iron around his wrists. At a shove from the guards, the new prisoner staggered to stand next to Felix. The priest could see the absolute exhaustion on the young man’s face and knew how much his valiant action had cost his courage.
Come, my friend,” Felix said gravely, taking the young man’s hand in his own. “This is how we begin. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” 
   “His love is everlasting,” the young man responded, a smile lighting his dark features.
     “For strong as death is love,” said Felix.
     “And stubborn as the underworld is its devotion,” the younger replied.
      The two men knelt, side by side, before the execution block, while the onlookers gazed in amazement at the two convicts who conversed calmly. Had they gone mad?
     “And the Master of the house said to the servant, ‘You have done well, my good and faithful servant,” the dark-eyed man continued, meeting Felix’s blue eyes from across the block with a look of peace. The executioner’s sword rasped from its sheath and hissed downwards, cleaving the air as it fell. Felix felt a thrill rush through him.
     “Come, share your Master’s joy,” he whispered. 


Novena to St. Giles begins today!

In the liturgical calendar, the month of September begins with the feast of the Holy Helper St. Giles. (Yes, I can actually pronounce his name!) I particularly love the portrait of him below (from Portraits of Saints, of course. And no, they haven’t paid me to advertise for them. I just love their work!)

Beloved of God and men, whose memory is in benediction. He glorified him in the sight of kings. . .For He heard him and his voice, and brought him into a cloud.

Giles, originally from Athens, Greece, lived the secluded life of a hermit in the forests of southern France for many years. His only companion was a doe, said to have kept him alive with her milk. When King’s hunters fired after the deer while hunting, the arrow missed and struck Giles instead. In reparation the king offered Giles a piece of land, on which the saintly hermit founded a monastery. The monastery grew in renown, as did its founder on account of his sanctity and miracles.

St. Giles died in the sixth century, and is honored as patron against plague, of cripples, people with disabilities, the poor, cancer patients, difficult breastfeeding, sterility, depression, childhood fears, convulsions, and of Edinburgh in Scotland (and probably other things!). Many churches were established under the name and patronage of this great abbot who desired nothing of this world, but only to be alone with God.

Novena to St. Giles

May the intercession of blessed Giles the Abbot commend us unto Thee,
we beseech Thee, O Lord: so that what we cannot acquire by any merits of ours,
we may obtain by his patronage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God,
world without end.

On a side note, also commemorated on September 1st are the Twelve Holy Brothers, African martyrs who gave their lives for Christ at Beneventura, Italy, under Valerian in 258. As you probably have guessed by now, I am absolutely fascinated by martyrs who were siblings, and, although I don’t have much other information at my disposal about these obscure and probably extremely neglected Saints, they have captivated me and I want them to be known and honored. So I’m going to be making a novena to them, along with St. Giles, which I will be offering for the new Fr. Charles Ike of the FSSP. His ordination in Nigeria on the feast of the Assumption was the first traditional priestly ordination to take place in that country in over fifty years; and see if you can guess the name of the church that held his ordination!

    nigeria1(Read more about it here)

Novena to the Twelve Holy Brothers

May the crown of these holy brothers, Thy Martyrs, bring joy to us, O Lord:
may it give increase of virtue to us who believe, and by their manifold prayers
bring us consolation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who livest
and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

Happy feast of St. Philip Benizi!


Why do you linger here? {Arwen’s Choice}

During these last couple of August weeks, the freshman year of college is beginning for the great majority of my female Catholic homeschooled peers. Two girls my age from our parish have moved away, and other, older girls are starting anew the cycle of their third or fourth school years. Their lives have doubtless become busier, more complex, more noisy, and I can only imagine many of them are suffering or will suffer at some point from homesickness, new exposures to the ugliness of the world, and inevitable temptations against faith, purity, truth, and a virtuous lifestyle in general.  In the eyes of most people, though, they’re just doing “what you do” if you’re not going to turn into a millennial, a burden to society, or someone who digs ditches or sweeps floors for the rest of their lives (poverty? doing without? yuck!). College is what you do if you give a flip about being productive, well-educated, getting ahead, and doing something remarkable with your life.

But there are much deeper forces at work here than the face-value pros and cons that can be weighed back and forth in a young woman’s mind as she ponders college. Which is why you will find this eighteen-year-old still at home this fall.

This blog probably wouldn’t exist at all if I hadn’t made this choice; the same choice has underlined every word I’ve written here, yet until now I haven’t found voice to eloquently explain the reasons behind the choice. Now, as so many very young doves are flying from their nests while I remain nestled in mine with my family, my choice is challenged more than it ever has been before. And at this exact time God has smiled at His little dove in the nest and given her the words in her favorite way–in a love story.


It is a worried father who goes to Arwen, waiting and praying in the recesses of her home, as the Shadow draws over the world. “It is time,” he tells her gravely, “Your ship is leaving. Go, before it is too late.”

“I have made my choice,”
is all she can say.

To wait was the choice she had made and made again, pressing it into the hand of her beloved even when he lost faith in it himself, when even his voice was turned to
discouragement in her ears.

“You have a chance for another life,” he told her. “It was a dream, Arwen. . .nothing more.”

Even then, she gave her choice to him, with a heartbroken smile. “It was a gift. Keep it.” She doesn’t know his doubts were only an echo of Elrond’s anxious counsel.
Let her bear away her love for you. . .it will be evergreen. . .”

Aragorn had fought it at first. She stays because she still has hope.”

“She stays for you,” Elrond shot back, not understanding the very truth he is speaking.

As all those around her desert the House of Rivendell, as her heart aches with the patience and loneliness of her decision, as the future seems to grow blacker and blacker, she must face once more the questions and doubts that come even from the mouths of those she holds dearest.

There is nothing for you here, Elrond tells her firmly. Why do you linger here?


Why do I linger here?

My beloved, my Aragorn, I stay for you.


I stay because I believe there is hope in waiting for you to come to me. I stay because, no matter the darkness that clouds the future, I do not believe the doubts that whisper, What if he never comes? What if you wait and wait and nothing happens? I stay because I know that our vocation is more than a dream.


I stay because waiting is the best gift I can give to you now. I stay because I already love you, and will not bear away the purity of this love into the distractions and chaos and dangers of this world’s seas, trusting that they will let it remain evergreen. I stay because here, in the quiet of my home, I can pray best for you. I stay because it is only here that I can find and adorn myself with the fairest virtues of the homemaker, so you will find me worthy to be the beautiful queen of your home, the one and only place I hope to occupy in this world.

There is nothing for you here. . .

My Aragorn, I stay because there is no “chance for another life” outside of the life God has created me to live–a virtuous woman, your wife, the mother of your children, the heart of your home. I stay because I do not need this kind of “life”: tossed on the seas of the world, far from my place in your home. I stay because there is no more beautiful place in the world to me than your home, be it a castle or a cave. I stay because I would rather spend my lifetime in the recesses of your home than to ‘get ahead’ and possess all this world can offer alone.

I stay because I know there is far more than nothing for me in the home.  Everything for me is here.

She stays for you. . .



“Who would be wrong to call her heaven?”


“Mary, thy heart for love
Alone had ever sigh’d;
So much it loved at length,
Of very love it died.
O happy, happy death;
If death indeed could be,
Blest Virgin, that sweet end,
Which God bestowed on thee.

“‘Tis in a sweet repose,
With smile of heavenly mirth,
Thou takest joyful flight
To paradise from earth:
And see! above the choirs
Of saints and angels bright
God’s Mother near her Son
Enthroned in dazzling light.

“Come, then, to fetch thy child,
O Mary, Mother, dear;
And tarry by my side
When my last hour is near.
Yes, this I hope from thee–
Despise not my request–
To yield my soul in peace
Upon my Mother’s breast.”


“. . .Then followed a strife of praise, not as if each was seeking to outdo the other–for this is vainglorious and far from pleasing to God–but as if they would leave nothing undone for the glory of God and the honour of God’s Mother.

“. . .The place of the bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the heavenly courts. It was fitting that she who saw her Son die on the cross, and received in her heart the sword of pain which she had not felt in childbirth, should gaze upon Him seated next to the Father. The Mother of God had a right to the possession of her Son, and as handmaid and Mother of God to the worship of all creation. The inheritance of the parents ever passes to the children. Now, as a wise man said, the sources of sacred waters are above. The Son made all creation serve His Mother.

“. . .Today the spotless Virgin, untouched by earthly affections, and all heavenly in her thoughts, was not dissolved in earth, but truly entering heaven, dwells in the heavenly tabernacles. Who would be wrong to call her heaven, unless indeed he truly said that she is greater than heaven in surpassing dignity?”
-St. John Damascene

Our Lady

A blessed feast of Marymass to you!



Waiting for My Nazareth

See what I mean about sharing graces and encouragement? Mary and I were blogging about the same things on the same day without realizing it. . .it’s obvious that we spend a great deal of time together and share everything most important to our hearts! Enjoy!

Benedic, Domine, Nos


The role of the girl in life is the most glamorous and fascinating in all the world. To the nomads of the East she is the “little gazelle “and to the Japanese the “plum blossom.” In the Book of Proverbs she is the “dearest hind and most agreeable fawn.” Jewels, sapphires and rubies are her eyes and lips. The softness of a spring morning is in her words. Her smile is as the splendor of the rising sun. Of all the creatures in the world she is made by God the most beautiful. She is the incarnation and summation of all the flowers of nature. No man ever spoke more truth than when he whispered into the ear of his beloved that she was divine. She is an image, a spark of divinity given to us in life as a preview of things to come. She is yielding, helpless, yet…

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The Hidden Life ~ a Time of Purpose

The past three days have seen the start of our home school’s school year, with my younger brother and sister diving courageously into a new world of hard work and growing knowledge, lovingly and painstakingly prepared and directed by Mom. It’s a familiar time of year to us all–summer break lasted just long enough, and before boredom and idleness can set it, it’s back dutifully to the books, with a renewed spirit of work and purpose in the day (even if, by Monday evening, some of us were peering with wistful, bloodshot eyes back at the summer and wondering where it went).

The only strange thing about this familiar cycle is. . .this year, it didn’t include me.

Yep, folks, I’ve joined the ranks of homeschool graduates and I have a fancy-schmancy diploma hanging over my desk to prove it (and to remind my younger siblings that yes, even though I’m no longer plowing through the rigors of Saxon Math, I did my fair share). Heaven knows I was excited when I finished my last textbook in the late spring, when Mom sent off for the diploma, and when, at the little ceremony our parish had for its homeschool seniors, I officially graduated and came to the realization of what Mom and I had accomplished together. This was topped off by a wonderful summer of having loads of time to write, hang out with family and friends, work on this blog, and continue (hopefully) to grow closer to God.

As the second-oldest of my family’s four children, I’ve certainly had it easier than my older sister did. She had the grace, courage, and confidence to first blaze the pathway of deciding not to go to college or in any way pursue what society would deem a “career”, simply because she wanted to be a Woman at Home, cultivating the truest skills and qualities of a woman in the place where God designed women to be, with the dream of one day being a holy wife and stay-at-home-because-I-love-home mother. This wasn’t something many of our friends considered important, and certainly none of our relatives had done so or were overly eager to jump on the bandwagon of the idea.

I got the cream of it all by the time I graduated; I was following an already-trodden path after a bright example, with her graces and encouragement to benefit from, as well as the enormous support that exists for the Woman at Home in the whole of traditional ‘salty’ Catholicism that the Traditional Mass had led our family deeper and deeper into. And it was fun; with a happy, peaceful heart full of dreams, I left the school of my childhood with only my future vocation in sight; my beautiful, beautiful road to Heaven that I pray, one day, I will walk well, hand-in-hand with my man. This was something I’d already been desiring for a while, and I’d had my fits of struggling with patience (which, if you read about my discernment so far, you have a good idea of).

But now I can suddenly see, with a strange, frightening, and yet peaceful breath of salted air, I’ve just embarked on the seas of waiting I thought I was already sailing across at full speed. Now the hard part begins, as I live this beautiful but difficult time of waiting–the real test of patience, the real purification of intent, the real steps away from childhood and into all that lies beyond.


“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
1 Corinthians 13: 11

With so much to work on in these areas, it may seem, at first glance, as though this strange new chapter of life between childhood and vocation should feel anything but empty. However, for a young woman who desires Heaven, sainthood, God’s will, and the vocation that will enable her to love as she was created to love, that will make her the woman she was made to be, the waiting can feel exactly and, at times, terrifyingly like that. Empty.

And, honestly, there are effects of the choice of a young woman to stay at home after high school graduation that can easily feed this sensation of emptiness. Of course we’re not giving in to idleness; we know time is precious, life is short, and we keep ourselves busy (and happy!) between cultivating our prayer life, spending time with our family, helping keep the house and learning (mostly by mistake) the ins and outs of running one, our creative endeavors, our reading, our friends, and the million other little things that we find to fill up the time between dawn and dusk.

But that’s just it; it can feel an awful lot like just “trying to fill up” time while we wait. Not that this is an unworthy goal–and of course it is necessary to stay busy and use our time well for God’s glory–but emptiness can still creep up into the middle of it, with all its accompanying doubts. What am I really doing with my life? Why did I stay here? Shouldn’t I be doing something really productive, like going to college or working?  or, on the other hand, Why isn’t anything happening, Lord? Don’t You hear all the novenas I’m praying? Where on earth is he?

 The fact of the matter is that it is very easy to, when you have chosen this less-than-common, against-the-world’s-grain period of humbly waiting, feel purposeless. Of course I know I’m doing good things now; of course I know God has a perfect plan for my vocation to unfold and that the purpose of my life is His glory and Heaven; no, the temptation is more subtle than that. In the place where I find myself standing, right between childhood and the purposefulness of my vocation, its goal is to sow a slow and quiet sense of despair and listlessness that will (supposedly) only be cured by the beginning of my vocation, and thus make me lose sight of any purpose at all in the day-to-day of life right now.

I’ve been blessed with the understanding that going off to college or trying to bury myself in a job would be no cure for the sensation of waiting purposelessness; it would be nothing more than a distracted killing of time that would, I’m sure, pull me away from the beautiful (though challenging) world of my faith and family life that I’ve been immersed in all my life. As a young woman, that’s exactly what I don’t want.

  So I had a talk with Dad. It’s what you do when you’re wearied by questions.

21087-Bouguereau, William-Adolphe

  My parents’ wisdom never ceases to amaze me. Dad listened, absorbed what I was saying with understanding as his fingers fiddled with a tune on his guitar, and replied, “The best thing you can do now is work to sanctify your efforts; because God doesn’t expect success in our work, just faithfulness.” I sucked on this thought like a piece of hard candy whenever it came back to me, with a new sense of joy, for the rest of the day.

But it wasn’t until the next morning, as I settled into my daily five-minute-meditation, that the fullness of it settled onto, or rather into, my soul.

The topic of meditation happened to be the imitation of Jesus. This brought the oft-repeated wisdom of my spiritual director to mind: “Holiness is the imitation of Jesus.” My mind began to wander to what Jesus would have been doing, what His divine dispositions would have been, when He was my age; for, it’s far too easy for me to forget, He was an eighteen-year-old once.


  As I pondered this, it began to hit me that Christ’s earthly life not only included, like mine, a period between His Divine childhood and His embarkation on the work He entered the world for; His life on earth was mostly that period.


Considered for a moment, it’s easily seen: Jewish boys left childhood for manhood at the age of twelve. Christ did not begin his public ministry until the age of thirty. So he actually spent eighteen years in His hidden life at home, in Nazareth, in humble work and subjection to Mary and Joseph; in waiting.

“Jesus Christ gave more glory to God the Father by submission to His Mother during
those. . .years than He would have given Him in converting the whole world by the working of the most stupendous miracles.”
St. Louis de Montfort

Somehow the full magnificence of this had never fully dawned on me before. Over half of our Lord’s life on Earth was spent in this exact phase where I find myself between childhood and the “life’s work” of a vocation. The true life of a Christian is, as its name suggests, to be an imitation and image of Christ’s life, and one of the reasons He became man was to show us how to live in every stage of life. What a tender grace there is for people just like me in His eighteen years of patient, hidden, virtuous, work-filled waiting; of His growth in “age and wisdom and favor with God and men”.

So, I have to wonder, how exactly did Christ spend those eighteen years? Just how did He manifest this growth in age and wisdom and favor in His life in Nazareth? Certainly He, the Fullness that fills the universe with purpose, did not spend this time in emptiness or purposelessness. Surely those years were, though hidden, just as beautiful in their own way as the years of His infancy, His public ministry, His Passion and Resurrection.

And so must this time of my life be. I want to see Him in these years, to show Him forth in these years of waiting. There is purpose and fullness here–because He is here–because it is God’s will that I am here, and God’s will is never devoid of purpose and fulfillment. I may not be treading the road of my vocation yet, but as I wait for that (hopefully not for eighteen years!) I’m still following Him, growing close to Him in His hidden life.

And what exactly is this “hidden life” I am spending in the sanctuary of home, voluntarily hidden from most of the world so as to be closer to Him? What is the beautifying secret in the hours and days and weeks and months of “continuing in subjection” to my parents and of serving my family, of waiting for the signal of the Father that will send me on that vocational road?

It is nothing less than the sanctification of effort. It’s the will to color, immerse, and immolate the smallest of my thoughts, words, and actions in Divine Charity. Surely every push of the saw, every rest and rising of Our Lord at Nazareth burned with charity.

It’s the picking up and following, not only with the big crosses, but with the splinters. Surely Our Lord got splinters under His fingernails.

 It’s the unremitting effort to allow God’s grace to enter, purify, and sanctify every bit of our days, every bit of what God has entrusted to our care, whether or not our projects fail or succeed outwardly. Surely even Jesus had to deal with some unsatisfied customers in the carpentry business. But the intention, the love that we put into our work is all that will ever remain of it.

I know that when, God willing one day, I am happily married and trying to keep up with my fifteen children, I want to look back on this time in my life and, whether or not my book was ever published, whether or not I ever managed to make a perfect Boston Cream Pie without catastrophe, whether or not I managed to be a wonderful, effective, and pleasing grammar tutor to my younger siblings; I want to know that I tried my hardest to sanctify my efforts, to sanctify this time of waiting, after the example of the Lord Who not only became Man, suffered, died, and rose for me; but Who even, in the greatness of His humility and loving condescension, spent eighteen years of hidden waiting to show me how valuable, full, and purposeful this time is now.



It’s a good idea to listen. . .

“In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.”

I sat down at my computer a few minutes ago and realized I’d never written anything about First Saturdays. And, as we’ve just entered the month of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, and today happens to be the First Saturday of the month, and we are observing the one-hundredth anniversary of the Fatima apparitions this year, it just seems like the right time!

First Saturday Mass was never really available to our family until we began to attend our current parish, a little over a year ago. Since First Saturday is generally the only time the Traditional Form of the Mass is offered at our church apart from Sundays and big feast days (and we usually have altar server training, choir practice, and church cleaning afterwards), we’ve tried to go whenever possible. Yes, it’s an early morning; yes, some months there can be sickness, pressing duties, or just an overload of the schedule that, for prudence’s sake, make it less than doable. Whenever we’ve been blessed to be there, it’s always been a grace-filled experience. (Mass generally is. . .)

 But, for my part, I wasn’t really focused on the devotion itself until Mom, ever a child of Our Lady of Fatima, brought it to the whole family’s attention at the beginning of last month. When the Holy Ghost puts something on Mom’s heart, it’s a good idea to listen. And so we did, sitting around our dear, much-scuffed kitchen table, as she read to us about the ins and outs of the First Saturday devotion. Her desire to answer our Lady’s plea for reparation through this devotion was contagious, and now it feels as though our family’s devotion to Our Lady, already cultivated by our daily family Rosary and Confraternity of Angelic Warfare Prayers, has grown a new branch, a branch which I am sure will in time bear wonderful fruit for God. Thanks Mom!

So, for the first time, last First Saturday we all undertook to complete the four simple requests of Our Lady, which are as follows:

On the First Saturday of five consecutive months, we are to, with the intention of making reparation for the offenses committed against her dear Heart:

-Go to Confession (may be within eight days before, as long as we stay in the state of grace; or at the first opportunity after)
-Receive Holy Communion
-Pray five decades of the Rosary, including the Fatima Prayer (O my Jesus)
-Keep her company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary (this is to be separate from the Rosary; and one may meditate on one mystery, all fifteen, or any number of them between)

The offenses we are striving to make reparation for are the many ways in which her Immaculate Heart is offended; such as attacks against her Immaculate Conception, her virginity, and her Divine Motherhood; the sin of those who teach their children contempt of her; and the desecration of her images.

In return for these little gestures of loving reparation, our most generous Mother vows,
“I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who (do so) in order to make reparation to me.”  

So this morning I was up with the birds (yes, I’ve been reading my sister’s posts!) and happily able to be at First Saturday Mass for the second consecutive time. We’ll see if I get another three in a row before a car breaks down or someone is stricken with the plague–but if some calamity or conflict does occur, there will always be a chance, God willing, to start again the next month.

But only this afternoon–and even as I was writing this–did it really come home to me and penetrate my heart: the true reason why First Saturdays matter for me. The reason is much deeper than going just because it’s ‘what you do’ as part of the Latin Mass community at our parish; it is deeper than just an obedient (and loving) response to the inspiration of my sweet mom on Earth; the reason even goes beyond the power of her promise to assist us at the our of death (which, Heaven knows, is the grace I desire just about more than any other).

The reason I have devoted myself to making the Five First Saturdays (or to spending the rest of my life trying) is simply this: my Heavenly Mother asked for it. And when the Holy Ghost puts something on Mom’s Immaculate Heart, it’s a good idea to listen. If I can’t refuse the requests of my mother on earth because of my love, respect, and obedience for her, what should my response be to the requests of my most sweet, most amiable, most lovable Mother in Heaven?

“Mary is in me. Oh, what a treasure! Oh, what a consolation! And shall I not be entirely hers? Oh, what ingratitude!” ~ St. Louis de Montfort

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Sorrowful Heart of Mary, I compassionate thee!


I have not hid Thy justice within my heart

Today is truly one of my favorite days of the year. In the old calendar, August 2nd is marked as the feast day of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, Founder of the Redemptorists, and one of my dearest friends in all Heaven.

“. . .and he directed his heart towards the Lord, and in the days of sinners he strengthened godliness. Alleluia.”

  I hardly even know where to start in talking about St. Alphonsus; it’s almost like trying to describe to a stranger the person you have a crush on. There is just so much; so very much that he suffered, persevered through, and accomplished for the glory of God. There were his incredible intellectual gifts that enabled him to join the Neapolitan Board of Law at age sixteen; there was his writing, at which he was not only prolific and brilliant enough to become a Doctor of the Church but also the most published author in history; there was his decision to leave everything behind in response to a divine call to the priesthood; his patience, his labors, and the endless difficulties of setting up and cultivating his Congregation; the cross of his scruples as well as all his physical sufferings; his reluctant acceptance of a bishopric at an advanced age; his miracles, his preaching, his fathering of the Redemptorists, his love for the poor; and finally his greatest cross in his old age of being separated from the Congregation he loved so dearly.

I suppose when someone as stubborn as Alphonsus makes a vow never to waste a minute of his life, and then lives for ninety-one years, they get a lot done. I spent some of my senior year of high school reading a 300+ biography of this great Saint, written by two priests of his order (Fr. D. F. Miller and Fr. L.X. Aubin); there was so much information, so much time, so many people and places wound up in his life and in the work he undertook for the glory of God; I could write reams trying to paint a sufficient picture of his many years. But I honestly think that this very humble man would rather be remembered simply and briefly as a servant of God, a child of Mary, and a priest who gave himself entirely for the Church he loved so much.

“A great priest, who in his life propped up the house, and in his days fortified the temple;
as a bright fire, and frankincense burning in the fire.”
(Communion from today’s Mass)

But, you may be wondering, what brought me to befriend St. Alphonsus and love him so dearly?

Really, I believe it was the sweet Saint himself who befriended me.

A couple of years ago, I was stuck fast in the muddy, bloody, bewildering trenches of scrupulosity. If you’ve ever suffered scruples, you know what I mean; if you haven’t, I can only say that they are both an acute suffering to be offered and a spiritual threat that must be addressed. They were driving me (and I’m sure my poor family) absolutely crazy. I was constantly full of fear instead of love; everything, every thought, word, and action, needed scrutiny to make sure it wasn’t somehow displeasing to God; the strangest little things were suddenly potential mortal sins, and I had to grind and grind on them until I was sure they weren’t–or otherwise go to Confession right away. It may seem laughable to those who haven’t experienced it, but it can be a terrible state to be in. It was rendering every Holy Communion completely distracted with the worry that I might be in mortal sin; it made reading anything for school a torture because I might be somehow in danger of sin if there was something “bad” in the book somewhere; it absorbed so much of my mental and emotional energy I had very little left; it zapped my joy, stole my peace, and it kept getting worse. And in the midst of it, it was so very easy to think there was no one who was ever as crazy with scruples as I was. I needed help, but often I either wasn’t strong enough to hope and pray for it, or unsure if I should embrace it all as a cross and not pray for relief.

Then, into the midst of this chaos, insert my dear older sister (probably after one of our nightly scruple-help sessions) with a big, fat book of saints. “I read a quote from. . .St. Alphonsus, and I thought you should read it.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, wherefore He hath anointed me:
to preach the Gospel to the poor he hath sent me, to heal the contrite of heart.”
(Introit of today’s Mass)

Deo gratias! Thanks be to God she gave me that book; it was the first time I met St. Alphonsus, met this great soul through whose intercession I would find the help I needed to overcome even my scruples. The quote read:

“Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all the inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves His statues for paradise.”

Fascinated, I went on the read the short biography preceding the quote; and, as one does with the Saints, I fell in love with this holy old Bishop, whom I had seen a hundred times in picture books of saints (not knowing that his terrible arthritis was the cause of his bowed head, I thought he was just rather sweet and humble and thus bowed his head) but never met before. I was inspired by the description of his long life, filled with work and loving suffering; I was consoled by the description of his gentle confessions and simple preaching; and he had undergone two years of intense darkness, aridity, and scrupulosity just before his death. Here was someone who could help.

And then I realized that particular night was exactly ten days before his feast–just enough time for a novena.

So I took my journal (one of the seven hundred journals I’ve started and never finished) and penned a prayer. I prayed it every night, praying for the grace to please God and to get to Heaven with him. During that novena, he took me as his child–but to what I extent, I wasn’t to know until a little later.

As the scruples were worsening, Dad suggested us visiting a priest for counsel on how to handle this situation that was getting out of hand. And I thought of Fr. Leonard.

Apart from hearing a few of his homilies and going to Confession a couple of times to him, I didn’t really know Father Leonard; but the confessions were so very consoling, so gentle, so encouraging (sounds a little Alphonsus-like, doesn’t it?), that I knew he was the man for the job. On a Sunday when we happened to be at a parish where he was offering Mass, Dad had even asked him to give me a blessing to help me in my struggle with scruples, which he had of course gladly done.

Now again, when Dad contacted him about meeting with us to talk over scruples, he responded graciously and even enthusiastically, and so one evening Mom and Dad took me to have a talk with Father Leonard.

I still believe that, when we left for home that evening, I was happier than I’d ever been before. It wasn’t a sudden and drastic end to the scruples, but it was the beginning of the end. He was so gentle, so fatherly, burning with charity for the Lord and with the desire to see me free from the burden I was carrying. He was simple, clear, and eloquent; he said just what I needed to hear most; and I felt as though I could fly.

In the midst of our conversation, he asked casually, “Do you have any special devotions? Any favorite saints?”

“Well,” I said a little timidly, “St. Clare, St. Therese, and I love St. Alphonsus Liguori.”

“Ah,” he said, nodding. “You know, St. Alphonsus and St. Leonard were friends.”

I was about to burst to tell my parents on the drive home about the novena I had prayed, that had been answered in so loving and radical a way. I had been cared for by the compassionate heart of a Saint who knew what I was going through and wanted to help. And apparently, that saintly friendship is still going strong.

I know he was responsible, too, for bringing to our attention the book Scruples and Sainthood, the author of which evidently loved St. Alphonsus almost as much as I do, and which helped greatly in clearing up and calming the storm in my soul. And I was amazed yet again when, as Our Mother of Perpetual Help was beginning to invade my heart, I discovered the deep connection between her miraculous image and the Redemptorists, and the fact that the icon is now resting in the church of St. Alphonsus in Rome.

So that was how St. Alphonsus and I became friends. In him I experienced for the first time a glimpse of the love that the saints have for us, and their desire to intercede for the good of our souls. I know that, ever since that novena, he has been a faithful patron for me before the Throne of God. Now Father Leonard is my spiritual director, with whom I have an appointment this evening–very special. I know that, even beyond helping me through my scruples, St. Alphonsus has also helped me in my vocational discernment thus far and has shared with me his devotion to Our Blessed Mother. He is one of the Saints I literally cannot wait to embrace in Heaven.

I’m convinced that, just as in this life he labored zealously to waste no time but was afire with zeal to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, now he will use eternity just as industriously to pour out the burning streams of truth and charity that flow from the right side of the temple upon little souls like me.

“I remembered, O Lord, Thy judgments of old, and I was comforted; a fainting hath taken hold of me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law. I have not hid Thy justice within my heart: I have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation.”
(Gradual from today’s Mass)

And so, on this day above all others, I encourage you to turn to this generous and gentle Saint who, although he dwells in paradise with God, has not forgotten the lot of us still in exile; do not hesitate to go to him, and give him a chance to befriend you as lovingly as he has me!

Image from Portraits of Saints. I keep this on my desk and pray he will intercede for my writing!

O God, Who didst kindle in blessed Alphonsus Mary, Thy Confessor and Bishop, burning zeal for the salvation of souls, and through him didst enrich Thy Church with a new offspring: grant, we beseech Thee, that imbued with his saving doctrine and strengthened by his example, we may be able happily to come to Thee. Through our Lord. Amen.
(Collect from today’s Mass)

Dear St. Alphonsus, pray for us!




The Imperishable Jewel


My sister sent “The Good Wife’s Guide” to me after finding it in the archives of the blog of a homeschooling mom we know (visit her here); and we both just adored it. You would never find an article like that in any housekeeping magazine these days–which is a guarantee that it’s probably worth your while. And I’m sure that most feminists would probably want to strangle me for the post I’m about to write–and again, that knowledge gives me confidence that it’s worth writing.

 “Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. . . Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land.”
-Proverbs 31

There are few things on this earth that I would rather do than have a good way-past-bedtime conversation with my older sister. As St. Augustine would’ve said, these conversations about God, about the spiritual life, about growing, about discernment and virtue and fighting vice, are truly food for my soul (and besides, who needs sleep?)

21125-Bouguereau, William-Adolphe

“. . .and they talked for a time of their plans and wishes. . .gravely, earnestly, hopefully, as youth love to talk, while the future is yet an untrodden path full of wonderful possibilities.”
-Anne of Avonlea

 It is always a grace when God shows me, with the gentle light of truth, something within myself that I need to change; and if I take advantage of the opportunity, it becomes a healthy encounter with humility, repentance, and the resolution to change. We all need continual conversion, and whenever our Heavenly Father gently calls me to it, it brings me a sense of peace.

And so it’s happened over the past few days with the virtue of feminine docility and quiet.

“Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands. . .let not yours be the outward adorning. . .but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a meek and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.”
1 Peter 3

It is such a very natural, beautiful, fitting thing for a woman to cultivate this “meek and quiet spirit”, especially in regard to her relationship with her husband. It is altogether rooted in humility, in love, and in the clear and proper understanding of what God created woman to be: a companion to man, his helpmate, the gentle and weaker sex, whom, as the Catechism of Trent puts it, was created neither from the feet nor the head of Adam, but from his side. (I just love that analogy!)

Over the past year, with my ongoing discovery of truth that has come with growing up and with falling in love with the Latin Mass (not to mention the friendships I have formed with some brothers in Christ who are very, and rightly, passionate about what they believe in), I have found it easier and easier to become a little overly zealous, a little too eager to argue and inject myself unnecessarily into conversations, and (because temptation will always creep in and try to ruin the gifts God gives us) far too confident that my point of view is the most reliable one in a given argument (yes, please, laugh. It’s funny).

In short, I have been given much, but instead of growing more humble because of the gift, instead of my heart becoming softer because I have received it, I’ve let myself harden somewhat. It isn’t that truth isn’t worth being passionate and zealous for, that it shouldn’t be argued and fought for; it’s that as a young woman, I’ve been ignoring the truest and most fitting ways I can fight for the truth in my arena; or, even better, to cultivate love of the truth, and the truth of love.

As a women, I have a different array of weapons at my disposal for the spiritual combat than men do, and I am ready to embrace those weapons; weapons of love, of mildness, and of simplicity. Women were created to be the softer, gentler helpmate formed from the heart of man; we are meant to be the support, the peacemaker, the homemaker, the beacon of charity that will support them in the battle for truth. We keep their guns loaded. We welcome them home with open arms and hot meals. We warm their worn hearts with love, gentleness, innocence and fresh supplies of grace. We listen when they need to talk and counsel them when they ask for it. We mother, cherish, guard, teach, love, and guide their children. We massage their tired feet and hide love notes in their lunches and cultivate the atmosphere of our domestic church so they will have a true and secure refuge, a resting place, to retreat to from the battlefield of the world.


In a word, the woman is the heart, while the man is the head, of the home. It’s so simple; and it’s so very beautiful.

When I marry, I want to marry a man I truly look up to, who I can joyfully and proudly acknowledge is better at many things than I am. And I want to be unafraid to fade into the background when “the menfolk” talk, when he takes the reins of discipline with our children, when he exercises his role in any way as head and chief of our household. It’s not that I don’t hope he will value my opinions; it’s not that I think I will never have anything worth saying. It’s simply that, being the young woman I am, and especially one day being a wife,  I want to be happier to listen than to insert myself unnecessarily into conversation.

That’s what the key of the matter is–my own need for that “meek and quiet spirit” in a woman that would rather listen to her man speak, out of respect and love; that would rather tuck her opinions to the side for a minute and be willing to see what she might learn if she only trusts in his wisdom and authority as head of the house. Really, it’s as simple as putting someone else ahead of myself, of true fraternal charity.

From The Good Wife’s Guide:
“Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first–remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
“Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”

Now, there will be times when serious things call for discussion, when he will truly need my counsel, or when, Heaven forbid, there is a blatant wrongdoing that must be addressed one way or another. But even here, St. Peter encourages wives,

“. . .be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word,
may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent
and chaste behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)

I want to be his helpmate, not his boss, his busybody, or his mother. I want to be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of his home, to give him joy when he gazes upon me and the little olive plants surrounding our table. I want to have the imperishable jewel so I can give it to him. I want to cultivate the virtues of humility, willing service, love, and gentleness in myself so that I will truly become this helpmate when the time comes; and I believe that mortifying the pride of my tongue is an excellent place for me to start applying the hoe!

“My beloved to me and I to him; my soul melted when he spoke.”