St. Catherine of Siena

St. catherine sculpture NashvilleToday is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, OP, so Dominican Eat Cake day! 🙂 🙂

Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa was born on March 25, 1347, to Giacomo di Benincasa, a cloth dyer, and his wife, Lapa. She was the 24th of 25 children, and joined the third order of St. Dominic in 1365. Jesus joined himself to her in a “mystical marriage”, and bade her express her love through action. She attended to plague victims, brokered peace between warring factions in Italy, dictated The Dialogue (a conversation between the soul and God) and was instrumental in moving the papacy back to Rome from its post in Avignon, France. She died at the age of 33 after suffering a stroke.

She was canonized by Pope Pius II on June 29, 1461.She was the first member of the laity to be made a Doctor of the Church (given by Pope Paul VI on October 3, 1970). She is one of the co-patronesses of Italy, along with St. Francis of Assisi, co-patroness of Rome, and co-patroness of Europe (along with St. Edith Stein and St. Bridget of Sweden).

One of her best-known quotes is “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”

In addition to all this, she is also one of my Dominican patrons.

So, happy St. Catherine’s day!

 

 

 

Catholic book review: Something Other Than God

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Today (a day before it’s released in stores, go Ignatius Press!) I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s long-awaited (really, I’ve been clamoring to read this) memoir/conversion story, Something Other Than God. I knew that her writing style was by turns serious and laugh out loud funny, so I was expecting the same thing in the book, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The book isn’t a blow-by-blow account of Jen’s life. What it is is a story about how God worked in her life from its earliest stages, even if she didn’t realize it. Raised by non-religious parents, she considers herself an atheist for most of her life, but still can’t shake the feeling that there is more to life than just…this.

When she meets her husband, Joe, she slowly starts to consider Christianity. Joe is a Christian but he doesn’t take it seriously, but he does believe in Jesus. And through conversations and reading books like Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy, and writing out her objections to Christianity on her blog, Jen starts to think that Christianity might have something going for it. If Jesus Christ is real….then we aren’t in a lonely abyss hurtling toward annihilation. If Jesus Christ is real…..

A whole new vista opens up for Jen. Eventually, she and Joe decide they’re going to become Catholic, and start the RCIA process. But at the same time, Jen becomes pregnant with their second child–and develops a life-threatning blood condition that could be potentially fatal if she has any more babies.

I have to say, this is the part of the book that really hooked me, because I’ve been in her shoes. Even before transplant, my medication regimen was complex. A lot of the drugs I take now are absolutely verboten if you’re pregnant. Absolutely. When I was in college, and was engaged, this was a huge thing for me. Getting pregnant would be horribly not good for me and the baby. But I was–and am–Catholic. I am not going to use birth control. How in the world do we reconcile the two? I loved reading about Jen’s mental process through all of this, because I’d been there.

(She now has, by the way, six children.)

Jen’s conversion story isn’t fluffy, pretty, God-appeared-to-me-and-said-do-this! variety. It’s a real story. It has meat in it. Jen struggles and she lays those struggles out for us. She has questions, she has doubts, she prays to God in a bathroom and sneaks away to read the Bible, afraid she’ll get “outed” as the former atheist turned Jesus Freak. And this is the first Catholic book I’ve ever read where the author says she prayed for the soul of a deceased rapper–which makes Jen all the more relatable to me. While we probably haven’t met Tupac (the rapper she prays for), we all know people who live lives that may not be all good–but they believe in God.

She asks tough questions, especially about suffering. One of my favorite parts in the book is this bit:

He snapped out of his daze. ‘Oh, well, if you mean that they’ll have a bunch of tough things happen to them, sure. Do you remember what Noe said they do to Inquirers at the Rite of Acceptance?’

‘Not really.’

‘They mark them with the sign of the cross. The sponsors trace a cross over their eyes, their ears, their lips, their heart, their shoulders, and their hands and feet. It’s to prepare them that the cross will touch every part of their lives.’

‘What?’ My face contorted into a frown. ‘Well, that sounds horrible. Where do I sign up to have more misery in my life?’

‘No. I said ‘suffering’, not ‘misery.’

‘Same thing.’

‘But it’s not!’ Joe said, an urgency behind his voice. ‘That’s Christianity’s whole message: The more you love, the more you’re going to have to give up–you can’t hold anything back. And that’s going to mean suffering. But it’s also going to mean joy and peace.’

I stared at my hands. ‘I’ve been doing this Christianity thing for months now, and I think I have less joy and peace than I used to.’

‘But are you really putting God first?’

I didn’t answer.

‘We might go broke, or have to live with your mom for another decade, or whatever. It probably won’t be easy. But we’ll have peace.’

I stared at him, searching his face for the smile that would accompany the punchline to this dry joke, but it didn’t come. In his eyes was a gentleness, a bottomless vulnerability that I had never seen before.

(pg. 198)

Really, that sums up the whole book, and why I needed to read it right now.

Jennifer has done amazing work here. Read the book, and then read it again, and attempt to put God first.

 

The sacramental…

The sacramental and liturgical life of the Church helps us grow ever more in our ability to recognize the obstacles that impeded the Lord from drawing closer to us. Thus we should look forward to and welcome each season, all solemnities and holy days, and every Sunday. We should gladly and frequently celebrate the sacrament of confusion. We should willingly build our lives on the foundation of daily meditation, opening ourselves to the Lord, speaking and listening to Him from the interior of our hearts.
–Fr. Gary C. Caster

Catholic Women’s Daybook No. 58

Jacques Stella, "Christ on the Road To Emmaus"

Jacques Stella, “Christ on the Road To Emmaus”

Outside my window::

It’s a rainy Monday. I think Karen Carpenter had something to say about that?

Wearing::

My PJs. I’ve been sleeping fairly horribly lately so getting up around 930 has been my M.O. Oatmeal is simmering away on the stove, though, so that’s happy.

Reading::

In the home stretch of St. Faustina’s DiaryWings of the Dove; and The Goldfinch, which I just sort of starting reading at auditions on Friday. Might have to seriously start on that today.

In the CD player::

1996 cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. I just love that stuff.

Around the house::

It’s Monday so tat means dusting and vacuuming and  mopping–beginning of the week stuff.

From the kitchen::

Oatmeal, as I mentioned, for breakfast, with blackberries. Lunch is a peanut soup from Oh She Glows!. Dinner is mustardy pork chops from Dinner, a Love Story, and it’s one of my favorite recipes. Today is definitely fall in its temps and weather, so I’m going pork chops. 🙂  I have to meal plan for the week post breakfast. My Crock-Pot performed admirably last night, though, in the making of a Moroccan Stew, which was amazing. It made the whole house smell like cinnamon. Never a bad thing, that.

Pondering::

Don’t you go drawing back from your God; love your God. You’re always saying to Him, ‘give me this and give me that’; say to Him sometimes, ‘Give me yourself.’ If you love Him, love Him for nothing, don’t be a shameless soul. You wouldn’t be pleased with your wife, if she loved your gold, if the reason she loved you was that you had given her gold, given her a fine dress, given her a splendid villa, given her a special slave, given her a handsome eunuch; because if these were the things she loved about you, she wouldn’t be loving you. Don’t rejoice in such love as that; an adulterer, very often, can give more. You want your wife to love you for nothing, and you in turn want to sell your faith to God? ‘Because I believe in you,’ you say to your God, ‘give me gold.’ Aren’t you ashamed? ‘Because I believe,’ you say, ‘give me gold.’

You’ve put your faith up for auction; notice its price. That’s not what it’s worth, it isn’t to be valued in gold or silver, that’s not what your faith is worth. It has a huge price tag; God Himself is its price. Love Him, and love Him freely, for nothing. You see, if you love Him on account of something else, you aren’t loving Him at all. You mustn’t want Him for the sake of anything else, but whatever else you want you must love for His sake, so that everything else may be referred to love of Him, not so that He may be preferred to other loves. Love Him, love Him freely, for nothing.

–St. Augustine

 

Creativity: :

Formatting my one short story for potential publication on Kindle. I’m excited about this thought. It’s about Pilate’s wife.

Plans for the week::

Pulm Rehab today and Wednesday and other than that, not a lot. Three more CCD classes left for the year. I’m going to miss my kids.

 

Santo subito

Well, maybe not subito (immediately). But, still good.

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And on the feast of Divine Mercy–extra perfect.

The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy…Humanity and the modern world need so much. And they need mercy although they often do not realize it….

Making the Father present as love and mercy is, in Christ’s own consciousness, the fundamental touchstone of His mission as Messiah…

Chris proclaims by His actions even more than by His words that call to mercy which is one of the essential elements of the Gospel ethos. In this instance it is not just a case of fulfilling a commandment or an obligation of an ethical nature; it is also a case of satisfying a condition of major importance for God to reveal Himself in His mercy to man…

All the subtleties of love become manifest in the Lord’s mercy toward those who are His own; He is their Father…Mercy is the content of intimacy with the Lord, the content of their dialogue with HIm…

Mercy is in a certain sense contrasted with God’s justice, and in many cases is shown to be more not only more powerful than justice but also more profound…Love is “greater” than justice; greater in the sense that it is primary and fundamental. Love, so to speak, conditions justice and, in the final analysis, justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-à-vis justice–this is the mark of the whole of revelation–are revealed precisely through mercy. This seems so obvious to the psalmists and prophets that the very term justice ended up by meaning the salvation accomplished by the Lord and His mercy. Mercy differs from justice, but is not in opposition to it.

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 46

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I.

Happy Almost Divine Mercy Sunday! And almost two popes Canonization Day!

OK, I realize, if you’re not Catholic, you don’t care about the above two things, but….oh well. I am especially excited for the canonization of John Paul II. His Papacy covered the first 23 years of my life, and even now, it’s still sort of hard to think he’s not here anymore. He was a giant of his age (OK, any age, really). My parents were married under his reign, me and my siblings were born, I received all my sacraments…he colored everything during my growing-up years. Such witness. And I don’t think I need to say that his example in suffering has been incredibly helpful to me. Right now I’m reading his encyclical Veritas Splendor–the Splendor of Truth. Having been growing up during his papacy, I obviously missed reading a lot of his writings as they initially came out. So I’m doing catch-up now.

II.

This post is one I really like. If you haven’t read it, would you please? 🙂 (End of blatant self-promotion, right there)

III.

CCD starts back up this week, and I’m the teacher of the week. We’re talking about the Ascension. There’s only four weeks left in the CCD year, which I’m having a hard time imagining. This year’s class has been a great group of kids and I’ll miss them.

IV.

Auditioning for The Music Man tonight–summer theater production. So dusting off the resume and the music books.

V.

Pulm Rehab is also going well. Today was supposed to be my last day but we extended it into May because I seemed to be making progress, and we don’t want to stop the progress train. 😛 Progress does not mean I’ll be running the Boston Marathon any time soon (read: EVER), so get that out of your head.

VI.

I’m hoping to get to the Met’s Live in HD presentation of Cosi Fan Tutti tomorrow. I’m not a huge Mozart fan, except for his operas, so I’m trying to see more of those (the only ones I’ve seen in Don Giovanni and Le Nozze Di Figaro).  I love that the Met does this– basically, it’s the live performance streamed into movie theaters all over the world, so you get to see what the people in the opera house are seeing, without, you know, flying to NYC and paying lots of money. One of my bucket list items is to see a production in the house, but this is a good substitute until I get there.

VII.

Hoping to teach myself a new and better way to cast on knitting projects this weekend, because the one I use doesn’t really work. I need to have a better one in my repertoire for better projects!

Happiness in your own backyard

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.

–Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz

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It’s not a big secret to anyone who knows me– The Wizard of Oz is my perennial favorite movie. It’s entered family lore–my parents bought a copy in the early eighties, when VHS tapes were $80+, so I could watch it as a toddler, because it was the only thing that I would actually watch (read: sit still for an extended period of time). When it was over, I burst into tears. Probably because it was over.

Anyway, having watched this movie now for 32+ years, I think there’s a message in it that would do a lot of people good–all of us, actually. The idea that happiness isn’t something that is “over the rainbow.” It’s right here.

At the beginning of the movie, Aunt Em tells Dorothy to find a place where she won’t get into trouble, since everyone else is busy working on the Kansas farm. Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow”, wondering where this mythical place without trouble is. At first, she thinks it’s Oz. But trouble–big trouble–arrives a lot faster than she would have imagined.

At the end of the movie, when the Tin Man asks her what she’s learned about Oz, she gives the quote I used above:

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if isn’t there….I never really lost it to begin with

Back in Kansas, when she’s explaining what happened to her, she says, “Some of it was beautiful. But just the same I kept telling everyone I want to go home. And they sent me home!…And this is my house, and my room. And I’m never going to leave you ever, ever again. Oh, Auntie Em….there’s no place like home!”

This is scoffed at by some. Oh, home. Where is home? The definition varies. But the general idea that the movie expostulates is that happiness isn’t something that’s somewhere else. Dorothy had the power to go home–or, to be happy–the entire time she was in Oz. “Why didn’t you tell her before?” The scarecrow asks Glinda at the end of the movie. “She wouldn’t have believed me,” The Good Witch replies. “She needed to find it out for herself.”

When we’re unhappy, it can be easy to think that if we just:

  • had a new job
  • had a spouse
  • had a different spouse
  • had a better friend
  • a better house
  • a better car
  • a better neighborhood
  • a better church
  • a better body
  • a better salary
  • a better whatever

We would be HAPPY!!!!

Um, no. If your happiness depends on external factors, there’s a problem.

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” St. Augustine famously wrote. And that’s true. Happiness can really only be found in God, in resting in Him. No amount of rainbow wishes or trips to Oz can make us really happy until we’ve rested in Him.

That’s not to say we won’t ever be unhappy. Of course we will be. No one goes through life completely happy all the time–not even Jesus did that. Darkness will come to everyone. There is a difference, however, between the Big Things of life messing with happiness, and the things that are comparatively small.  Is our happiness so tenuous that it depends on things being precisely as we like them, to exist? To have the right house, the right church, the right neighborhood, the right neighbors….? It shouldn’t be, especially if we’re Christians.

We cannot wish our lives away, thinking, like Dorothy, “if I was only somewhere else….everything would be better!”

Well, no, it won’t be, magically. Because you’ll still be there. And if you’re not content, happy, in yourself–then it doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have or how gorgeous your local church is, or how excellent your season tickets to the local pro team’s games are. Lottery winners exemplify this. Saints do, too, except on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Perspetive is a wonderful thing–as is knowing where our true joy, our true happiness, resides.

NDLM_2014_Web_960x400 So today I got to do something super neat–talk to students at my former high school about organ donation! I was jazzed to be back in my old health classroom and at my old school. Some things are the same (the incredible amount of purple, the electronic bells), some things are better (there is an ample selection of Jane in the library, or “Media Center”), and some things are totally different (teachers saying “no technology out, please” before every class, and prom tickets being $50!!!).

I spoke to four different classes about my experience with organ donation–a brief overview of CF (all of the kids had taken biology A at this point so they knew what a “genetic disease” was), how long I was wait-listed, how long the recovery took, some of the surgical ins and out (lungs are like balloons that can be deflated to be inserted, where my scar is). The fact that I had graduated from the school seemed to touch a chord with them–as in, I was once where they were (Literally. Exactly where they were.)

Sometimes organ donation can seem really foreign and exotic, but when you meet someone who’s had it done, I think that really helps. Most of the talk in each class was done by a Lifeline of Ohio community educator, who talked to them about what can be donated, how that’s decided, what it means to be an organ donor, dispelling myths about donation, and using foam organs as visuals, to show them what can be donated, solid-organ wise (in case you’re curious: lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, small intestine, and pancreas; tissue wise: your corneas, muscle, bone, skin, tendons, heart valves).

The classes were enthusiastic and asked a lot of great questions. I had a lot of fun being with them and getting to talk to them about how organ donation doesn’t just save faceless people–I have a family, I have a life because of my donor.

April is Donate Life month. Are you an organ donor? 🙂 🙂