30 December 2012

2012 Year In Review

A lot of really good stuff happened this year. I tend to take a lot of photographs [with my phone, which is alright: I'm hoping to later save up for something a bit more substantial (Canon Rebel, anyone?), but the phone does well for now], which helps me remember all the things I've done. Below, aided by photo collages, the events of my year are collected. In this year, 2012, I...

Visited bakeries and cooked legit dinners:

Bakeries include: Baked (NYC), Termini Brothers (Philadelphia) and Mirabelle's (Urbana, IL)

Baked, a lot (a lot more than is pictured):

Feast your eyes on a lot of butter and sugar, folks.

28 December 2012

Christmas 2012

Happy Christmas!

I am now hailing from the East coast and will be here until mid January (the majority of break between semesters). I love it here: the cities are plentiful, the scenery is gorgeous and my boyfriend, C, lives here.

I got in in Saturday after a few flight delays just in time to prepare for Christmas. The 23rd was spent baking, one of my favorite activities. We left Connecticut late Christmas Eve and stopped in Manhattan for midnight Mass (my first) at Holy Innocents, mere blocks from Times Square. It was a sung Latin Mass, which I'd never gone to before. I was so antsy to get to the parish in time, the fact that it was finally Christmas didn't hit me until we knelt. All of the anticipation over Advent bubbled over as excitement. The Mass was beautiful, the sermon thought-provoking and the Latin easier to follow after attending Latin Mass on Tuesdays at school. I also got to wear a mantilla for the first time, which made me feel pretty fancy. :)

21 December 2012

First Confession

I had my first Confession yesterday morning. I woke up nervous about it, but for incredibly silly reasons. "What if it's randomly cancelled and I don't know?" "What if there's not a line and I don't know where to stand?" While the first one has a bit of validity, what on Earth is going on with the second worry?

This is how my brain works. I'm not worried about how my life will sound to the priest. I'm not (too) worried about passing out from nerves. I'm worried about minor technicalities that don't change the fact that I need to Confess but could slightly mess with my day.

And actually, that's a little important: I do need to know where to be if I'm expecting to be doing something in a certain moment. But anyway:

I got to the parish about half through the hour of Confessions and there was already a line (a short one, thankfully). But as the time drew closer I found myself reciting Hail Mary in English and Latin (my new challenge: learn prayers in Latin) to calm my nerves. Doing things correctly is already important to me, but doing things correctly concerning faith is so much more important. I want to do everything I can to please God.

Soon enough, the door opened and it was my turn. I recognized the voice of the Father and instantly felt a greater ease. I wasn't embarrassed by my sins to the point of worrying about how saying them would make me appear. I did and have detested them, so I certainly did not treat my sins lightly. But Father was patient and kind in asking questions and giving his advice and act of penance.

This was wonderful. He understood it was my first Confession and made sure I was aware of what I was doing, checked that I was baptized, made certain that I was certain about converting. All bases were covered, so to speak, in a very compassionate way. I'm sure Father has heard tons of Confessions, probably a lot of first Confessions, but he was careful to guide me through the process and encourage me in my walk in a way that felt very easy and natural. Pray for your priests! They do amazing things in their vocation to cleanse and strengthen your soul. Pray that they will be faithful to the Church and their duties, that they will seek Truth and Love in all they do and that they will Confess themselves.

10 December 2012

Advent: Waiting

So the first week or two of December sounded incredibly exciting to me about a month ago. I'd never celebrated Advent before and was excited by the challenge of it. Here was something else new I could learn about. But Advent is more than just a "something." It is an entire season of the liturgical year leading up to Christmas. 
Going into the season, it reminded me of Lent. I was all prepared to feel anticipation, and likely impatience, even excited about the anticipation. Waiting makes not waiting worth it. And that's how it has felt: waiting has just made me want Christmas to come all the more. It has made me excited, probably more excited than if I had been baking cookies and singing songs and decorating all Christmas-like all along. 
But there was something else I was not excited about for the first couple of weeks of December: the end of the semester. Last minute papers, projects and exams hit my desk all at once. The darkness and struggle I was vaguely expecting with Advent became very tangible with end of the year stress. This was especially exaggerated by the trip I would take after exams to the East coast, where I will be spending Christmas with my boyfriend and his family.
Why I was surprised by this, I don't know. I knew exams were coming up. I also had welcomed any struggle that came my way at the start of Advent. In the middle of deadlines, the third Sunday of Advent came and reminded me that the darkness will end. Exams will end, waiting will end. Christmas will come. 
Another thing that brightened my week was Mass on Tuesday. The parish I attend does Latin Mass in the evenings and I have enjoyed getting used to the language and imagining this is what it must have been like to attend Mass years ago. However, this week everything was in English! I didn't despair too much, though, because after Adoration occurs before Mass, the hymn "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" is sung a capella. It has become one of my favorite hymns an it is absolutely beautiful. It always turns my mind toward God and reminds me that He will reign justly and perfectly forever. There is a great deal of peace that comes with that thought. It brought me a glimpse once again of the light I am expecting at the end of Advent.

07 December 2012


Yesterday's Gospel reading:

"Jesus said to his disciples:
'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord,"
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,

but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

'Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.'"
Matthew 7:21, 24-27

While Father was reading the passage at Mass, into my mind entered:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter;
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Matthew 16:18

02 December 2012

Inspiring Words (Part I)

"To be Your Spouse, to be a Carmelite, and by my union with You to be the Mother of souls, should not this suffice me? And yet it is not so. No doubt, these three privileges sum up my true vocation: Carmelite, Spouse, Mother, and yet I feel within me other vocations. I feel the vocation of the WARRIOR, THE PRIEST, THE APOSTLE, THE DOCTOR, THE MARTYR. Finally, I feel the need and the desire of carrying out the most heroic deeds for You, O Jesus. I feel within my soul the courage of the Crusader, the Papal Guard, and I would want to die on the field of battle in defense of the Church.
I feel in me the vocation of the PRIEST. With what love, O Jesus, I would carry You in my hands when, at my voice, You would come down from heaven. And with what love would I give You to souls! But alas! while desiring to be a Priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi and I feel the vocation of imitating him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood.

28 November 2012

Rambling (Part I)

They are so mysterious. Christ, Mary, all the Saints. When I pause my day and realize this, I feel desolate, like a child jumping, straining to reach swaying branches. The leaves which fall are facets of knowledge, graces I can't begin to understand. How lowly am I to dream of knowing. Isn't that where our problems began: wanting forbidden knowledge?

But their goodness--Christ's, Mary's, that of my to-be-determined Confirmation Saint--how could knowledge of them be forbidden? But then, who am I to gain insight? I have pulled apart curtains in my walk toward Catholicism, ruffled wisps of fabric until I meet a wall, like confused children in a wardrobe full of coats, like Alice staring at a locked door.

But haven't I been the one to set up a wall? It isn't that I don't want to learn and grow.  I still let myself get in the way. The question of my persistence is answered by my response: do I stare listlessly at the wall or do I pound on it until it's crumbled and I'm jumping now over rubble into an embrace almost too warm to bear?

The word of God is more piercing than any two edged sword; it is all discerning. God's love, God Himself, must be white hot and glorious, beyond measure or compare. His favor and His love and His mercy: how could I manage to maintain those? I think that is what I am most afraid of. I am afraid of misusing the gifts God has given and may give me. I am afraid my inadequacy will not convert someone, but push them away. I am afraid my unimportant, human issues will weigh more on my mind than the important, eternal thoughts I should have. I am afraid Father (God bless him) will nod off during my first Confession because I will be kneeling there for hours.

22 November 2012


"Soon I was no longer visiting [the old churches] merely for the art. There was something else that attracted me: a kind of interior peace. I loved to be in these holy places. I had a kind of deep and strong conviction that I belonged there: that my rational nature was filled with profound desires and needs that could only find satisfaction in churches of God." --The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton), page 122

I had a completely different post in mind the last few days but after it failed to save three times, I'm thinking that post wasn't meant for that time.

Instead, inspired by this same quotation I had planned to use, and in light of the day it is in America today, I am thankful.

Above all other things, I am thankful for God and his Church: I am thankful that it has been so welcoming throughout the whole process of my inquisition. I am thankful for the priests and friends I have met who have taught me more than they likely realize. I am thankful for the conversations that have blossomed these last several months: perhaps I have taught others more than I realize. I am thankful for this new world which has been revealed to me in which I can ask my Blessed Mother for her aid and ask St. Christopher for his protection, yet still find myself so astoundingly ignorant of all the lovely saints or any of my Catholic relatives.

I am thankful for all I have learned and all I have yet to learn. I am thankful for my Confirmation Saint, though I know not who they are. I am thankful that my life has led me to this point, ready to bound toward the Sacraments as soon as I can. I am thankful for God's love and mercy, my Lord Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, the faithful throughout the ages.

I can't wait to see what the next year will bring and give thanks for it all.

11 November 2012


Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tuae, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, mater Dei,
Ora pronobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee,
Blessed art though amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.

I remember vividly singing Ave Maria my first year of high school at a Winter choir concert. The arrangement was different from the traditional with four or more parts woven together. The interesting thing about choir concerts is the high use of Latin. I sang songs entitled "Adoramus Te" and "Kyrie Eleison" having little idea what they meant or that some words were used every day in Mass, yet I never sought the meanings behind such beautiful music. Looking back, a lot of my life in relation to Catholicism has frequently been that way. I knew the Catholic Church was there, but I was a stranger to it. I knew stereotypes, but even then, no matter how accurate my assumptions were, I didn't know them well.

03 November 2012

All Souls

Hello! Yesterday (now two days ago: this is what happen when I work late), 1 November, was All Saints' Day, and today (now yesterday) is All Souls' Day, when we think of those who have died. These two days are a new experience for me so I'm still trying to understand what's up with them and what I should be doing to properly recognize them.

As a Protestant I thought Purgatory was a place for the dead to have a "second chance," to try to make up for less than holy lives they lived on Earth. It seemed totally unfair and nonsensical to me. As I've learned more, I've realized it isn't in place to allow people do-overs. The following verse helps:

"For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

At the close of our lives, we will be judged. Jesus Christ is the foundation for salvation and our works--acts of charity, prayers, instruction--exemplify the faith we have. These works are all performed while on earth but are tried by fire to determine their worth. Purgatory is for the refinement of our souls, bringing us to fuller holiness. It is only a temporary state: those in Purgatory will advance to Heaven (collecting far more riches than $200).

31 October 2012

Not Alone

First order of business: a mere five months until Easter Vigil Mass! That thought thrills me with peace, excitement and the ever-present tingle of nervousness. The countdown continues....

I first heard of RCIA from a young man, J, at the end of a Thursday evening Mass. RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is a class for people interested in joining the Church or for Catholics who have not yet been Confirmed. I have been attending classes on Thursdays this semester with around thirty other Catechumens (unbaptized)/Candidates (validly baptized) and sponsors. Sponsors are strong Catholic parish members who advise and guide their "sponsoree" throughout the RCIA process.

Last week my sponsor, M, and I went to lunch. We talked about unusual sleep schedules, siblings and our faith backgrounds. She described her home life of rather sincere Catholics, a mother who urged daily prayer of the Rosary together, multiple siblings as seems the traditional fashion (it still strikes me as bizarre that random people I encounter seem to know, if nothing else, that Catholics generally make up or desire large families: how did everyone know this before I knew anything substantial about Catholicism?). My description of a Baptist Protestant, thank you upbringing, seemed to leave M a bit stunned. On my part I suppose I was stunned too.

21 October 2012

Chapter One

Where to begin after the beginning?

I still vaguely remember the first time I stepped into St. John's, the parish on campus. It was early December and the cold chapel was warmer than the snowy outdoors. I followed my boyfriend's stride, a question mark in my head at his genuflection, knots of nerves in my stomach as we sat down. My once protective coat was now uncomfortably warm and the knots had turned into jittery butterflies, but my racing pulse only communicated intense curiosity tinged with excitement.

I don't remember the hymns or Scripture passages (though I could go back to find them if I tried). I don't remember who celebrated the Mass or if I remained silent through it all (not unlikely). The details I do remember are more important.

I remember the quiet, as if the gray thick walls blocked out every worldly and street distraction (recently, I have noticed honking horns and rumbling busses, crisp whispers and echoing heels, so God must have silenced my ears that night). I remember the boots I wore and the way my knees were shaking in them after kneeling so long, which, my boyfriend jokingly remarked, meant God had to teach me discipline in that Mass (or something along those lines). I remember the unity with which those who surrounded me sung, responded and partook of the body of Christ, which was all too inaccessible for me. Most of all I remember being pulled into awe, feeling both free and surrounded by something powerful and mysterious that I couldn't understand. I remember how reverent it felt. I remember walking out thinking I wanted to be walking back in.

19 October 2012


Becoming Catholic was never something I considered a possibility for myself growing up. In fact, Catholicism was never something I considered period. Yet here I am, knowing what a thurible is, carrying around books about saints and wondering just how quickly I can will the next five and a half months to pass so I can be accepted into the Church come Easter Vigil.

My journey to Catholicism so far has been as rocky as the mountains and even more beautiful. Though I have struggled frequently, I know the timing has been exactly right. I trust that all things work for good, and believe this to be the greatest decision I will make in all my life. I find proof of this every time I enter the chapel: I let out a sigh of relief, dip my fingers into cold holy water, inhale the musky scent of incense and cross a silent threshold into home.

Along the way, I want to record my questions and thoughts, hopefully enter discussion with others and eventually be able to look back to see how much I have learned. Perhaps my musings can guide another down the same path.

For now, here are a few basics:

Age: 20
Occupation: University Student in Illinois, graduating Spring 2013
Family: Baptist Protestant
Baptized: at age 15
Mass attendance: ~5/week (let's set a record, self)
Confirmation Name: Nope
Confession: Not yet
Days Until Easter Vigil: 162