Travelogue: Washington, D.C.

travelogue D.C. @emily_m_deardo

Two of my friends and I made a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C. over the past weekend for Dominican ordinations. We were in town Thursday-Saturday afternoon, and a lot of that was spent with the Dominicans, so this isn’t a typical travel post, but, like the others, I do note where we stayed and what we did, so you can do the same when you’re in D.C., if you’re so inclined. (Every place I mention that’s bolded is linked at the bottom of the post)

First off, we had amazing weather. It was in the 70s and just perfect. No rain, no clouds–perfect. Which was good, because we did a lot of walking and being outside!

We stayed at the Doubletree Hotel on Scott Circle, near Embassy Row. This worked out really well because they had great valet parking, and we were very close to the Dominican House of Studies (DHS)which is where a lot of the weekend activities were going to be happening. Scott Circle is in the residential part of D.C. We were pretty far past the usual tourist places (the Capitol, the Smithsonians, the White House, etc.), so it was also fairly quiet and not touristy, which was nice. Also–chocolate chip cookies when you check in to the hotel. WIN. Our room was perfectly adequate for three people, even if the bathroom did get crowded in the mornings with three women using it. 🙂

On Thursday afternoon after checking in, we went to the DHS for the Office of Readings and Vespers, and then went to dinner at the Potbelly Sandwich Works on Monroe Avenue, down the street from the DHS. The DHS is across the street from the Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The last time I was in their neighborhood (11 years ago), it was sort of scary after dark, but now it’s become really beautiful and here and there are all sorts of little shops and restaurants that have sprung up. Potbelly is one of them. Dinner was quick because we had to get the friars back for holy hour, which was at 7:00, and then compline right after. So most of the first day was spent entirely at the DHS. We got back to the hotel around nine.

The next morning was actual ordination day. The ordinations were held at St. Dominic’s Church in D.C. which is (duh) run by Dominicans.

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One of the order’s mottoes in stained glass

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The institution of the second and third orders (Love this!) at St. Dominic’s.

The church was packed. I counted several religious orders in attendance: the Missionaries of Charity (yeah, that got me excited. Mother Teresa’s nuns! In person!), a Benedictine monk and nun, a Norbertine, a Sister of Life, and of course Dominicans, including the extern sister from the Summit Dominicans, Sr. Mary Magdalene, and Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor). The Mass was beautiful and was presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador) to Ireland.

After Mass, we headed back to the DHS for the first party of the day. Their cloister garden was beautiful and the perfect setting for this.

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View from the House of Studies’ front door–that’s CUA in the foreground and the basilica behind.

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Mary in the cloister garden.

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Aren’t these gorgeous?

After the lunch party, we headed to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conceptionwhich is the national church for the United States, and is just amazing. Here I visited the shops and got some gifts, as well as books for me. Because, yes, a good Dominican loves bookstores, especially religious ones! I also visited the sanctuary to pray and light candles for people.  It was also really cool to see the Jubilee Year doors (see below)–I’d never seen them in person before.

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Our Lady of China inside the basilica

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

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Basilica interior

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The Jubilee Year doors for the Year of Mercy with the papal coat of arms above.

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Outside the basilica, enjoying the gorgeous weather!

After the basilica, we had dinner at Busboys and Poets,which is basically my Dream Business. It’s a cafe and bookstore (the bookstore is stocked by Politics and Prose, which we visited the next day). The staff was super-friendly and the seating was eclectic (there were velvet chairs!) and comfortable. The food, by the way, was great. My burger was the Ideal Burger.

Dinner was followed by party two, which was less formal than the lunch party, at the DHS. The entertainment was provided by the student brothers’ jazz band, and drinks and h’ors d’oeuvres were served. The party went until 9:30, when Compline was said in the chapel, and I had a great time talking to one of the brothers about Jane and literature. Because that’s how I party, guys.

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The student brothers’ band playing in the cloister garden.

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The garden at twilight

Saturday started with lauds and Mass at the DHS, followed by breakfast at Busboys and Poets again. I’m glad to report that breakfast was just as good as dinner had been. If I lived in this neighborhood, I’d be here all the time. It was so fun. There were a bunch of fathers having breakfast with their daughters, which was also adorable. We stopped back up at the DHS to say good-bye to the brothers, then headed the Franciscan Monastery on Quincy Street.

Guys–their garden is amazing. Seriously, it’s going to need its own post, so I can just do all photos of the amazing flowers. Around the garden was a walkway which had all the mysteries of the rosary done in mosaic, accompanied by the Haily Mary in just about every language ever known to man, including:

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The Hail Mary in Scottish Gaelic.

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The Hail Mary in Yucatan hieroglypics. Really.

So–more on the Monastery later, I promise, because it was amazing. The garden alone made me want to be a Franciscan!

The monastery was followed by our final D.C. stop, Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave., so I could sate my Independent Bookstore thirst. P&P is pretty famous in the D.C. area, and for good reason–it’s crazily well-stocked and has tons of author events (there was actually one going on when we were there), and has a book printing press, if you want to get your Great American Novel published. It’s two floors (with an elevator)–cafe, sale books, and kids’ books are on the lower level, and everything else is on the first floor. You will have to climb on the shelves to get certain books. It’s not a great place for short people, but the staff is very helpful! But I found two books about Jane, which made me very happy.

P&P was our last stop in D.C., and then we headed home. I told you–whirlwind trip. Not the typical travelogue for me.

Here are links to where we stayed, ate, shopped, and visited:

D.C. image small

Retreat Notes 2015 Part IV

retreat notes

Sunday Morning
7:30 Rising Bell
8:15 Morning prayer and benediction
8:45 Conference
10:00 Mass
11:00 brunch–silence ends

Conference four dealt with one of the dominicans’ favorite things: contemplation. In fact, my favorite Dominican motto is “Contemplate and give to others the fruit of your contemplation.” Fr. C ran with this idea in his last conference. He also touched on the Dominican pillar of study.

  • “You have to be perfect to get into heaven. It’s the entrance requirement.”
  • Purgatory–fire of purification
  • We have to have a desire to intercede for others.
  • Practice of virtue–trial and error. The more you do it, the easier it is.
  • Flexibility and adaptability in prayer life
  • Study is meant to be lovely: good study pursues wisdom
  • Virtue is in the middle of two extremes.
  • “The happiest possible activity is contemplation.”–St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Practical intellect: Thinking about what you do
  • Speculative intellect: (or Contemplative intellect) Ponders the truth. Looks on God in a disinterested way.
  • Adoration is an extension of Mass
  • Have gratitude–this frees the soul to love God.
  • Allow him to make all things new.

Homily: Third Sunday of Lent Year B (Jesus overthrowing the tables in the temple)

  • Emotion is part of man. Passion drives us.
  • Being passionate about your task can be a good thing.
  • In the Gospel, Jesus is furious. “Zeal for God’s house” has consumed him.
  • St. Dominic witnessed by her fervor, warmth. He was intrepid. and compassionate.
  • He had “radiant joy in all circumstances”
  • Fervor of the Holy Spirit: Acts 18:25
  • Hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.
  • “Be aglow with the spirit, rejoice in your hope, be constant in prayer.”
  • “Joy is the leaven which pervades Dominican life.” (One of the reasons I love being a Dominican) Joy and zeal give us strength to do God’s will.
  • Fervor enkindles the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Retreat Notes 2015 Part III

retreat notes

Saturday Evening
6:45 Conference
8:00 Exposition, Vespers, Adoration until 8:15 AM

Fr. C had been in the confessional for a long time that day–my conservative count was about three hours. So I imagine he was glad to get up out of the confessional room and stand up for a bit!

Conference Three Notes:

  • The three theological virtues (how God works in our lives): Faith, Hope and Love. “God Words in us without us.”
  • St. Augustine: The God who made you without you can’t save you without you. (Think about that for a bit)
  • We participate in our salvation
  • Mary has all the virtues perfectly. (i.e., prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude)
  • Her role for us is intercessory.
  • God works as a movement in our lives–how is he working?
  • God acts first. Everything that we do that is good is a result of His first act.
  • Surrender takes faith.
  • You cannot love what you don’t know.We have to get to know God.
  • God wants us to recognize what we need. He’s acting, but we can’t always see how he’s acting.
  • All grace is mediated.
  • Angels mediate grace/law/messages, in their Biblical appearances.
    • God chooses to have grace mediated (instrumentality). It doesn’t have to be this way.
  • Even when we’re in a spiritual desert, God is acting. He gives us things specifically for our good.
    • the desert is about conversion, which we all need.
    • Mary is fully converted. She had a choice, and she helps us with our choices.
  • God is knowable; He uses human instruments to be mediators of grace.
  • Mary: “Do whatever He tells you.”
  • We desire the good of others. We want our love to be effective and we get frustrated when it is not.
  • Feminine instinct: To anticipate someone’s needs and to do it gracefully. We live in accord w/ that instinct. Our generosity is reveled in our love for others.
  • Sin and the devil want us to cling to things/people. We have to turn and see what is truly attractive.
  • Mary is our hope.
  • Charity/actions reveal who we are. We are judged by our actions.
  • People in Heaven (saints) are active in charity. They intercede for us–they are superabundant in their charity.
  • “God can help us anonymously, but He doesn’t like it as much.”
  • Trust that God is acting in your life. Be patient, be ready, and don’t rush it.
  • Turn back to the Lord. Patience–God really does things.
  • Grace of charity speaks of real friendship.
  • God orders everything for our Good. He wants us to flourish.
  • Model the saints, admire them.
  • Acts of worship, i.e., adoration, help us get to know God better.
    • The first act of worship is adoration.
  • God wants to reveal himself to us.

Lent Retreat 2015 Part II

retreat notes

Saturday Afternoon

1:15-2:45 Time on your own/confessions in Chapel
3:00 Conference
4:15 Stations of the Cross
5:30 Dinner

Conference notes:

  • Fr. C opened by talking about our friendship with God and how we relate to the saints. How can we restore our relationship with God?
  • Sin causes chaos in our lives, and we need to restore us. Confession is a great way to do this. We need God, and in the sacrament He provides Himself to us in a unique way. Don’t rely on guilty feelings to tell you something is wrong.
  • We can cling to guilt: God doesn’t want that! He doesn’t want us to have extensive guilt.
  • The spiritual life has its ups and downs. There’s a seasonality to it, just like with weather. We have times where we’re receiving lots of consolations, and times when we’re in the desert, so to speak. But God wants to restore us in a non-mechanical way.
  • Remember, God is forming us into His image. He has a plan for each of us that is unique. But He’s most often doing it with subtlety.
  • Mary was a sinless person. But she wasn’t boring. Grace is a lively thing. It’s very creative. “The holy life is a creative life.”
  • God wants us to see how He’s called us to perfection, and how to live in the Fullness of Life.
  • Mary’s maternity and virginity go together. The virginity is representative of the perfection of religious life. (Fr. C also noted that no one is married in Heaven.)  He also noted that the term “virginity” Isn’t used to apply to men.
    • What does it mean to be pure?
    • Purification of the heart: routine of life makes you more and more in tune with God, leading to peace and freedom.
    • We receive grace: reception is what we can do. We can be hospitable to it!
    • There is a loneliness to virginity. But as Mary waited on the Lord, we (in that position) teach ourselves to wait.
    • St. Thomas Aquinas: “All relationships we have in life are forms of friendship.”
    • God establishes these relationships in us. Confession is an act of friendship.
    • We need our friends.
  • Maternity: the generosity of women. You don’t have to have children for this to apply.
    • the love of women, how we relate to the world.
  • Hope speaks about clinging to God as a present helper.
    • It’s a passion.
    • We should pray for the grace of Hope.
    • Hope is “The willingness and the ability to be surprised by love.” 
  • Confession trains and humbles you.
  • Only cling to God.
  • Some things women do that are not helpful: passive-aggressive behavior, clinging to things (i.e., grown children).

Lent Retreat 2015 Part 1

retreat notes imag

Friday Evening
6:00 Welcome
6:30 Dinner
7:45 Mass
8:45 Vespers
9:00 Confessions 

This retreat was held at St. Therese Retreat Center, which is administered by the Diocese of Columbus. I’ve been to several retreats there, and it’s always comfortable and welcoming, and about five minutes from my house, which is a plus. Another plus is that the priest giving the retreat is also a priest at my parish, so I knew it would be good preaching.

The theme for the retreat was “The Virtues of Mary”, but that covered a lot of not-so-obvious applications, as you’ll see.

This was a silent retreat, but that doesn’t mean from the start. Silence started after dinner. I had some lovely ladies at my table and I enjoyed talking to them. We had a mix–one girl had just graduated from Notre Dame and is getting married in April; another was an African immigrant (not sure which country), and she wore fabulous outfits; two other ladies were from my parish, and one was a grandmother. We were quite a mixed group at our table!

This retreat was a little different than in the past. Normally, there’d be a retreat conference given the first night, but Fr. C used his homily at Mass as sort of a mini conference, which I found really useful. He did this throughout the retreat, so everything was consistently woven together, instead of the Mass homilies being one thing, and the conferences another.

(Retreat lingo: conference is a talk, normally about 45 minutes to an hour, on the retreat topic du jour.)

  • We need to constantly open our hearts to the words God is speaking to us.
  • Mary brings graces to us–grace as a human face, not something that we can’t see.
  • Grace moves, touches, embraces us.
  • Hospitality means that we receive the things that are sent to us well, in a sense of generosity of spirit. We have to be humble and surrender to what we are sent. This does NOT mean crazy spring cleaning (here Father told us about spring cleaning in his house as a kid); it means the opposite. We should decrease activity, and decrease busy-ness. We should still our hearts.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be frustrated: just let it happen. It’s about God’s actions, not yours.
  • God does what He says He will Do.
  • Father asked us to consider what we want, what we desire. What do we need to ask God for?
  • “Hope is the only theological virtue that pertains to you.” Faith is outwardly directed (faith in God), and charity (love) is the same way. But hope is what we do to/for ourselves. It’s self-directed.
  • We struggle to obtain holiness, happiness, joy, but by surrendering to God, we receive the knowledge of Him. When we open our hearts to the Lord, we can transform our lives and remove the baggage that’s there. Allow God to form our hearts to desire Him, and our happiness and our holiness.

These are things I think we all need to remember on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Fr. C touched on some very important things here, things that we often forget. He asked us to ask God how He wants us to transform our lives, and focus on what He wants to give us.

After Mass we had vespers, and after that, I went to bed. I usually don’t go to confession the first night, because I like to use that time to sort of get into the retreat spirit and think about what the priest has presented to us already.

Saturday Morning

7:30 Rise
8:15 Lauds in the chapel
8:30 Breakfast
9:15 Conference #1
10:30 Rosary in chapel
11:15 Mass
12:15 Lunch 

I was, amazingly, up at 7 AM. My room was close to the chapel and the bells rang at seven, which was a nice way to wake up. So I got dressed and had some time in the chapel before the tabernacle before we prayed lauds. I had found a lovely prayer card with a quote from St. Catherine Laboure in my Bible:

Whenever I go to the chapel, I put myself in the presence of our good Lord, and I say to Him, “Lord, I am here. Tell me what you would have me to do.” If He gives me some task, I am content and I think Him. If He gives me nothing, I still thank Him since I do not deserve to receive anything more than that. And then, I tell God everything that is in my heart. I tell Him about my pains and my joys, and then I listen. If you listen, God will also speak to you, for with the good Lord, you have to both speak and listen. God always speaks to you when you approach Him simply and plainly. 

So I took St. Catherine’s advice. It went well. (Maybe more on that later!)

Fr. C’s first conference covered a lot of ground. Notes:

  • We want to know Mary better and understand who she is. No one is more beautiful in creation than Mary.
  • What is virtue? A good quality of mind by which one lives righteously, of which no one can make bad use
  • We can’t love what we don’t know. We have to know God to love Him.
  • Virtue speaks to our dignity and witness. It just works. The more you practice it, the easier it gets.
  • Letting go defines love.
  • Mary is the image of human perfection: she’s what we should imitate, because she’s the perfect example of what God wants us to be.
  • Virtue speaks of happiness. “Blessed”=”happy” in translation. It’s the same word. So “Blessed art thou”=”happy art thou.”
  • God wants us to flourish and be happy! He wants us to have the fullness of life.
  • Fr. C the segued into a point about freedom. God gives us freedom, but there are two kinds: Freedom of indifference: our ability to choose, and freedom for excellence: freedom is in the intellect, for flourishing.
  • When God speaks of freedom, He speaks of what is real. Freedom is the pursuit of happiness, but happiness at the level of flourishing.
  • God has created us with a purpose. He’s painting a picture of our lives, and we have to surrender to that.
  • Grace speaks of elegant movement. It’s not just a gift we get, it’s how God animates you.
  • Contrast of Mary and Eve
    • Vanity
    • Superficiality
    • Seduction
    • Imagination: Dreaming too much that we forget what is real (i.e., reading too many romance novels.)
    • Shopping: thinking that things will make us happy.
    • Emotions: emotions are good but we have to control them, channel them to be effective.
  • Fr. C told us he’d taken dancing lessons as a kid (“I went because there were girls”; in the South, this is a thing, apparently.), and so God is our dancing partner. We don’t want to step all over Him.

At Mass, we celebrated Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, early martyrs who died in 203 AD. Father reminded us that the saints are our heroes, and we should want to imitate them. They inspire us, teach us how to be more like God. God gives us the means to live out the life He has planned for us.

How a Lay Dominican (that’s me) prays!

Since we’ve had a Dominican Friar and a Dominican Nun (also known as the first and second orders of the Dominican order, respectively),  tells us how they pray, it’s time to get the third order in here.

Me. 🙂

So anyway, this is how I pray, and I’m using the same questions put to these fine people. Enjoy.

Romans verse

Who are you? 

At the most basic level, I’m a child of God, whom He created with a purpose for some unknown plan of my life. He knows the plan, I don’t, and sometime I’m OK with that. Sometimes I want a burning bush. 🙂

At a more prosaic level, I’m a daughter, writer, actress, singer, first grade CCD teacher, cousin, niece, granddaughter, and sister.

What is your vocation?

My vocation is to the Third Order Dominicans–Lay Dominicans, as we’re called now. We are part of the Dominican family but we are “in the world”, in that we’re not cloistered like the nuns, and we don’t wear habits or live in community, like the nuns and friars do. We have regular work-a-day lives but it’s colored by our specific call to praise, to bless, to preach (one of the order’s mottos) and to spread the Truth of Christ and His Church throughout the world.

What is your prayer routine for an average day? 

My day starts are various times–right now I’m writing full-time, so I don’t have a time I have to get up. When I get up I have my coffee and say lauds and then have time for lectio divina, which I’ve recently started in earnest. I find that I have to do it after lauds or it doesn’t get done.

At 3:00, I pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and the Office of Reading. Around 5:00, I pray Vespers and say my rosary, if I haven’t said it earlier in the day. Before bed I usually have at least 15 minutes of spiritual reading/mental prayer, and I’ll say compline if I can. As a Lay Dominican, I’m asked to say at least morning and evening prayer (lauds and vespers), pray the rosary daily, and go to daily Mass when I can. If I go to daily Mass, it’s usually the 11:45 at my Dominican-run parish.

How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t? 

Since unlike Br. Humber or Sister Mary Catharine, I don’t live in community and have a life that is governed by a horarium, it can be difficult, especially vespers, since that’s right around dinner time. If I’m going out (like I am this evening, to a hockey game), and circumstances dictate that I can’t say vespers at the regular time, I try to say it when I get home. Yesterday, for example, I had an early morning doctor appointment, so I missed being able to say lauds. Since I’m not bound by pain of sin to say the office, like priests are, if I miss it’s not a huge deal. I just get back to my normal routine the next day (or as soon as I can. There are times when I’ve been hospitalized and unable to say my breviary because I wasn’t quite with it. 🙂 ). On most days, I manage this fairly well.

Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective? 

The rosary, and we’re going to talk bout that more below. I’m also a huge fan of the Divine Mercy chaplet, and the Liturgy of the Hours. In fact, wanting to pray the Liturgy of the Hours regularly is what led me to the Lay Dominicans!

Do you have a place, habit, or way of praying?

I generally pray while sitting in a corner of my couch, next to a small end table that has a candle with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it, and a statue of Our Lady of the Smile. My rosary beads and some devotional books are also on this table. I pray lectio at my kitchen table so I have room to spread out my Bibles and my notebook.

Do you use any tools or sacramentals?

My rosary, of course. Lots of books–breviary, the Ignatius Study Bible New Testament, and the C.S. Lewis Bible, which I adore. I also like to use a pamphlet of rosary devotions, or the Magnificat Rosary book.

What is your relationship with the Rosary? 

I love it. I’ve always loved it. I always have one on me–usually a few, actually. It’s my favorite way to pray. I love how many layers there are to it; there’s always something new to think about. It’s my go-to intercessory prayer. When people are on my prayer list, that means they get a decade of the rosary.

Are there any books or spiritual works that are important to your devotional life? 

There are a few I regularly go back to: Mother Mary Francis’ Come, Lord Jesus (a book of Advent meditations), Fr. Richard Neuhaus’ Death on a Friday Afternoon for Lent, and Be Holy, by Fr. Thomas Morrow, is amazing.

What is your most recent spiritual or devotional reading?

Right now I’m reading Benedict XVI’s General Audiences: Prayer. And I’m just about to finish those. Next up will be a book by Cardinal Wuerl that, incidentally, Brother Humbert got me for Christmas. 🙂

Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?

St. Therese of Lisieux was my confirmation saint, and I have a strong devotion to her. St. Catharine of Alexandria, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Dominic (of course), and St. Catherine of Siena are also some of my favorite patrons. Since I sing, St. Gregory and St. Cecilia are often called upon. I also love the story of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and pray to her frequently. My Dominican patron is Blessed Lucy of Narni, and yes, she is most likely the influence for both “Narnia” and Lucy Pevensie, which makes me happy, and may have been an influencing factor in me choosing her. Also St. Genesius of Rome, the patron saint of actors!

Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences as the result of your prayer life?

Negative. That’s OK though! 🙂

How a Cloistered Dominican prays: Sister Mary Catherine!

I was fortunate enough to meet Sr. Mary Catherine (and most of the other Summits nuns!) when I was discerning if I had a vocation to their wonderful life in Summit, NJ. Obviously, I didn’t, or I wouldn’t be writing here (ha!), but the deep Dominican spirituality and joy I found there continues to echo.

Like last week’s post, Sr. Mary Catherine discusses how she prays. To round this out, I think I have to write about how a Third Order (or Lay) Dominican prays. Then we’ll have the whole series! 🙂