Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I came home last week and noticed that my mom was wearing a bright red and green button on her coat. It said, “I celebrate Christmas” and she said that the pastor of our Church told everyone to wear them. The idea is, I assume, that when you’re shopping and in public, everyone can say “Merry Christmas” without offending you.

Well, as the saying goes, this is worthy of a conversation.

I am sure that this was suggested out of the best intentions. We want the world to recognize that Christmas is not just another holiday, a nice time to exchange gifts and eat sweets. It actually means something. Or in Bart Simpson speak, “Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.”

The other day someone was saying “I feel like everyone gets caught up in gifts and forgets the real meaning.” That statement no longer makes any sense to me somehow. Not only because it’s so obvious—yes, there are some people who don’t get it—but people say this ALL THE TIME and the statement itself seems to have lost its own meaning. It’s also because you can’t totally separate the Meaning and the actions that have developed around it. It’s not like “Jesus Christ was born and then these commercial materialists got a hold of it and it’s not at all connected anymore”. I’m not saying that people aren’t manipulated by advertising and other things into buying stupid gifts for no reason other than a sense of obligation, or that it isn’t used as an opportunity for that. I hate shopping with a passion. BUT as the HF reminds us, we give gifts to remind us of the greatest Gift of all; God who gave His only Son.

Professor Griegel from the JPI in Rome gave us a master class last year in which he highlighted the fact that if the person is not present in the gift, it is a lie. He put it this way—“Boy gives girl a flower. If boy is not in flower, then flower is a lie, a manipulation.” He meant that our gifts have to reflect that we are giving ourselves to the other person. If they are not reflections of that then they are not true. You know how you feel weird giving a gift to someone you hardly know? You do not know how to share yourself with them.

One of the best gifts Sr. Sea ever gave, she says, is the promise to write to her sister once a month. I think I will start that at home with my dad this year. I think that he would really love that, and he does not need or want anything else, really. Except a piano book! I keep telling my mom that I'd love a recipe book of her recipes, or a book of stories from growing up, but she does not get it. And that would take a lot more time as well.

How did I get from the button to there? Oh well.

Obviously, I celebrate Christmas. I believe that Truth Himself was born of a woman; that the idea of an immovable, untouchable and unchangeable God was cast aside for a living reality, a God who is Love, who takes flesh and walks among us.

Now, if someone would just put all that on a shirt, maybe I’d think about it. But “I celebrate Christmas”? “Good for you” is the response I imagine from anyone who does not. It’s not really challenging. It doesn’t call you further. It’s not really much of anything, actually, and to me it seems to belittle the greatness of it.

I’d rather wear a button that says “God loves you.”

Decorating the Basilica!

This year was the first year I got the "inside scoop" about decorating the Basilica for Christmas. It was such a joy!!! (See mention of decorating below) Poinsetta plants everywhere, real hay for the humongous Fontanini Nativity [which was an anonymous donation a few years ago] and lots of trees and lights. And of course, wonderful company like my favorite Dominican brother and the ladies of Monroe St. Hopefully one of my friends will send along the pictures from the sections we were in charge of so that I can brag even more. We got to do the "Flight to Egypt" which is one of my absolute favorite spots. It's an amazing operation, and I hope to make it an annual tradition!

Consolation and Desolation

“…during the time of consolation, prepare for suffering.”

This is a line from the novena to St. Joseph that we do every year. The first time we said it, Marie, Kathleen and I paused there. Whoa, really? The question is: how do you do that?

A few weeks ago at a planning meeting for St. Anthony’s youth group, we were talking about preparation. And in answer to the question “What is the best way to prepare for anything?” I said prayer. Prayer is the best preparation for anything because it is connecting yourself to the Meaning of everything. Without prayer you cannot be prepared because you have not been in contact with the One who sends you whatever you have received- be it “good” or “bad”.

I think of friends who do not have faith; how when something truly wonderful happens to them, they do not know what to do with it. One of them said to me, “I tried to write it down but I just couldn’t capture it at all.” When I said that seemed right because there’s something in joy that is not transferable (without saying “it’s the Holy Spirit”) she just looked puzzled. Not knowing Who to thank for a great gift is almost worse than not understanding why you are sent the gift of suffering.

Contrariwise, I have friends who are undergoing a tremendous trial of suffering. Were they prepared for this? No way, not in the sense that people usually mean that. It’s not as if they had studied cancer, nursing, or medicine, and they aren’t even georgraphically close to their families for support. But they were prepared in the only way that matters in the end: by faith and love in prayer.

So what are consolation and desolation? The definitions of these words don’t capture them for me, and I am sure that everyone experiences them differently. I have discovered that, for me, it’s really easy to tell when I’m in consolation, and I’m totally oblivious when I’m in desolation. (Hence I am writing this in what I’d call consolation) What I mean by that is that when I’m in desolation, I forget that such a thing as consolation even exists and that I have ever felt it. I accept desolation as “the way things always are.” It happens every time; I forget the past joy almost entirely. I think that I’ll have to make a habit of prayer-writing a LOT in consolation so that I can go back and read it later, remembering this experience. Preparing for the dull suffering of desolation.


Desolation: If I have to listen to one more thing about God I think I’m going to scream. (I wish I was joking)

Consolation: Why would anyone want to talk about anything but God? I only want to talk about Jesus all day! What else matters? Can we talk about ideas versus experience?

Desolation: Just get through today.

Consolation: Isn’t it an amazing day? Don’t you think? Have you seen the clouds? They’re awesome!

Desolation: At least I’ll get to mass and He’ll get me through the rest of the day, even if the chapel is ugly, the homily is boring and the music is awful. At least the Lord is there.

Consolation: I can’t wait for Mass! I love everything about this chapel. I love these priests, they’re precious, and I love the quirky sister who does the music. Thank you Lord!

Desolation: Decorate the church? I don’t really want to decorate, thanks.

Consolation: Oh my gosh! What cute little ribbons! Are we putting 1000 of them on this one tree? Awesome!! It’s going to look beeeautiful!!! Oh look at the Nativity! The sheep! They’re baa-ing!! CUTENESS!

Desolation: I don’t really feel like cooking tonight, what do I have in the cupboard?... peanut butter and bread? Perfect, works fine.

Consolation: And then, I’ll make a whole chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and green beans and when it’s done I’ll make it into a soup by cooking all day until it falls off the bones just like my mom always does. And then I want to bake cookies for the neighbors.

You get the idea. Most things I have read about these two states focus strictly on the experience in prayer- dryness or whatever else- but I find that for me it’s more the constant state throughout the day. Maybe there is another term for that, I do not know.

Does anyone else relate to this?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wretched Advent

This will be an actual substantial post! Wow! It's a little something I wrote about Advent and being a wretch and in the middle state. If only I listened to myself more...


I am Advent. I wait in wonder and expectation; Someone is growing within me, but I cannot see Him yet. I feel gentle movements at first; He’s testing the waters. Gradually He takes up more and more space in me, and begins to make His presence undeniable. This silent growth sometimes brings discomfort and anxiety, but it is already underway and cannot be hindered without doing violence to myself. I deeply desire to give birth, but I cannot rush Him. I want to know what He looks like, see His face and hold Him in my arms, but this is a time for waiting.

I am almost twenty-five and I have not made any vows. You must admit that I am lacking something: I have not given my life away. It is still here in my small, shaky and inadequate hands. Every day I awake knowing that I have a mission to accomplish… but darned if I know what it is. Every moment is one in which I either affirm or deny His presence, and this will always be so… but I have nothing in my life to compare with a choleric infant or crotchety superior, neither of which it is possible to ignore. On the contrary, I am sure I can and do ignore plenty of opportunities to grow in grace and virtue. I cannot trust my own will for a second, and yet it is apparent that Christ does.

The fact that I am in this state of unknowing is a sign of His trust in me, His promise that even if I do not know it, He can and will accomplish something though me. My life and my mission are not on hold; they have already begun. In Baptism, I was given a new life; the vows that were spoken for me then will always be the most definitive, for I am Christ’s and there is no turning back. Even when I feel like I am just waiting around, the Holy Spirit is not. Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and in her time of waiting only a privileged few knew of the Mystery that grew within her. In a similar way, we single persons must cultivate the Life growing within us, witnessing to the work of the Holy Spirit silent and steady in our hearts. In not yet having a home to “settle down” in, we live the reality of being pilgrims on this earth. We are called to recognize and proclaim that this is not our true Home. Even without a ring or a vow, we know Love and hope in His promise. This promise is much greater than we can imagine, and is the true end of all our human longings, even for a vocation.

I have not done an extensive sociological study, but there seem to be increasing numbers of “us”- faithful vow-less 20-and 30-somethings. This is not accidental and the whole of it is fruitful. It must be the way the Holy Spirit is working in our age. Advent is a special time to meditate on the tremendous work that God does in secret. He seems to be suggesting “Slow down,” “Be healed,” “Surrender control.” I do not mean to mitigate personal responsibility for prayerful discernment and decisive action. I am simply looking around at the many people I know who are open, prayerful and seeking to give their lives away. They want to be poor, chaste and obedient, giving all of themselves to God. They tend to congregate together and form a sort of “Catholic mafia.”

Like most young adults, my friends—particularly women in the same state as me—are my constant support and encouragement. These are friendships that are almost indescribable to anyone who has not known Christ and given all to Him. “See how they love one another.” Yes, look! I think of those words anytime I am waiting at the airport for a friend to arrive because of the joyful anticipation and ensuing silliness that inevitably bursts out when we see one another. There is an intense joy there that is born of being on this journey together. United in prayer and the Eucharist, we become ever more one though we live far apart. I was in a college study group once that turned to talking about male and female friendships. I was bewildered by the experience of these young women who said that their friendships with other women were fraught with drama, cruel words and backstabbing. I could not even imagine that. I do not think I could remain hopeful without my friends.

In light of this discovery, a few women and I began a sort of fake religious order. We call ourselves the Little Wretches of St. Joseph, and we have very few rules. Basically if you love St. Joseph, you think you are wretched (sometimes) and you are not in a vowed state, you’re in. We all have names that are connected somehow with the created world. The first four wretches were Earth, Wind, Water and Fire… yes, kind of like Captain Planet. Nature is a big part of our “charism”, but our names have also begun branching into time and seasons. There are now over seventy women who call themselves wretches, and I have never even met a number of them. Since its beginnings three years ago on the feast of St. Joseph, we have had an even split: four of our “sisters” have entered religious life while four have gotten married. It is wonderful to be in the company of so many young women who are, well, pretty normal, and yet radically seeking God’s will in their lives. We cannot become holy on our own, and every interaction I have with my sisters in wretchedness reminds me that we are all called to be saints and if I am ever to get there it will only be in the company of my friends. In watching them grow and find their homes in this world, I see truly that everything has been arranged with perfect timing. As Christ grew within them, He gradually revealed to them a place in which to see His face.

In Advent, while the world is bustling around buying trinkets, Christians turn their eyes toward the Lord and beg Him to come back. On December 25th we recall His birth in the stable, and how He deigned to walk among us. We think about His tiny hands and feet, the same ones that would one day be pierced, and think of the joy of His mother Mary before the sword of the Cross. We do all this in a spirit of waiting for Jesus to return. Advent is the season in which the Church recognizes that she is still pregnant and that she must carry Jesus faithfully until the end of time. Those of us in the middle state are given the tremendous gift of experiencing this waiting in a special way. Our lives must proclaim the hope that He is coming again. By being joyful “in the meantime” we proclaim that this world is not all there is. If we are in the hands of the Father, trusting in the Son and led by the Holy Spirit, then our waiting is that of Advent: hoping in the promise of the One who will never disappoint.

Canticle of Zechariah

This morning's Canticle antiphon was full of our sisters:

Like the sun in the morning sky, the Savior of the world will dawn; like rain on the meadows he will descend to rest in the womb of the Virgin, alleluia.

Monday, December 11, 2006


"Look at the human being you are with sympathy." ~Fr. Antonio

So often we look at ourselves only to find fault. It is good to see yourself clearly, but you must also remember that you are loved. Just as you excuse the little faults in those you love, excuse your own (assuming you also seek forgiveness and intend to do better!). Jesus loves you anyway! Really loves you. Sigh.

Erin Dawn's Reflective thing

Since Advent is a time for reflection...

"Paste the first sentence you posted for each month of the year and then look over it."

January: Ok, I do not know where this "vacation" has gone.

February: I just wanted to let you ladies know about a Catholic Olympian, Rebecca Dussault, 25, who is a cross country skier, wife and mother.

March: This is the new catch phrase around, started by Wave but very contagious. ("Worthy of a conversation")

April: Not to reveal myself at all, but one of my pictures has made it into Dappled Things.

May: I just shamelessly stole this from "Christianity today" who took it from Barabara Nicolosi's blog- but I'm giving credit of course...

June: Tonight is the vigil mass of Pentecost- a feast that I never understood so well as I do now and certainly never celebrated as well as I plan on doing.

July: Amy's wedding is on Friday!!! Amy is Sr. Spice, of "Refusal to Grasp" blog fame. Prayers for her and Duston...

August: Wretches and friends!Please pray for me on Monday August 7th.

September: The other day, in the Weekend section of the Post, there was an interview with one of the Affleck men.

October: And it includes a beautiful piece on discernment for wretches. (Dappled Things)

November: Last year's Homily at the Dominican House of Studies Vigil of All Saints was INCREDIBLE.

December: This story is worth the read, if you get the chance!

Well now. It is terribly apparent that I do not pay any attention to making a memorable first post of the month :)

The Road to Heaven

... is Heaven. (Teresa of Avila)

I've mentioned that quote before, and it was on reflecting on being in this very house, with some of these same people. Two of the couples are newly engaged- one of them is our wretched Sr. Heavens. Tim and Lori have 2 little girls, and Katie and Jake are expecting their first. Brother Ron was in the House (student ministers at CUA) with Lauren, Kara, and Katie.

It is just so good to be with them!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"What makes us grow..."

CL seems to pride itself on the longest titles for things. This article's title is 20 words long.

It's about living reason; a reason that is not only intellectual but exists to take us beyond experience into the Mystery behind all things.

He quote a letter from a woman in the movement:

"...The days seem more and more empty, not just of things to do, but - what I find hardest- empty of meaning too. Often I get up in the morning already fed up with a day that promises to be sterile, arid, and often boring inside these four walls... So I have little to do, and what little there is annoys me. I often reach the end of the day empty and sad.... Where am I going, and with whom? Translated, this means: what do we mean when we speak of living reality intensely in day-to-day circumstances, however good or bad they may be?"

Julian Carron responds:

"We cannot drown in the circumstances... This is why last year we addressed the question of education. We are the ones who need to be educated, to be introduced to reality as a whole... We need people who are educated to live reality in its wholeness, people who are able to introduce us- by sharing their life- to the sense, the meaning of reality... Reason cannot be satisfied by what it sees, the beauty of the world; it is need for something else, for the infinite, for the greatness of God, without which it cannot subsist. We find this sigh, this longing inside us, this human urge, this intuition that the infinite should reveal itself."

Then the one that kicked my butt:
"Where is your consistence [a conscious and stable identity]: in what you do, or in What has taken hold of you?"

He prays, 'Jesus let me see you, and not close my eyes; let me acknowledge Your presence and be aware that this is why we are together. Help me acknowledge Your presence in my life.'

You mean You're here, even in this office? You mean I should never be bored? shoooooot. Gotta tell you, it's so obvious and yet it was a total moment of grace for me to read that article last night in my empty house, with the dog, recognizing the profound way in which I have been defining myself lately by what I do, what I did, or what I could do.

Time to just say: I am the Lord's!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Attics are my specialty

For my friends who have not experienced the adventure that is going to my room, Sunset took this picture to give you a little taste of what it is like!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

For Sr. Wind:

"We must return to proclaiming powerfully and joyfully the event of Christ's death and Resurrection, heart of Christianity, principal fulcrum of our faith, powerful lever of our certainty, impetuous wind that sweeps away every fear and indecision, every doubt and human calculation."
~Pope BXVI, homily in Verona, 19 Oct 2006

Thanks Wind!

Get hooked up with a Saint!

For 2007

It is a great tradition to choose a saint for the year; and I do hope Sr. Maple/ Sword will supply us with virtues for the year too! I'm looking forward to the end of my year of humility. Though I bet you anything I'll just get it again, since it "didn't seem to take" ;)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Father and son

This story is worth the read, if you get the chance!

"I'm not a saint. I'm a parent" Of course, I wish he knew that it could be the same thing :)