30 March 2014

Super Sunday

It's amazing how much a couple things can happen to completely change your week and give you a really good day.

I had been feeling quite discouraged this week, being my usual stressed and over-worried self, bogged down in the middle of Lent, waiting and waiting for the sun to come out. Today, though only partially through, has vastly improved my temperament (and yeah, I know in psychology--and in general--temperament is described as a more permanent thing, not something which changes over night; I'm kind of hoping I stay more positive on a permanent basis).

My day started with Mass. Waking up on Sunday morning for Mass is, admittedly, one of my least favorite things. Don't get me wrong: I love Mass and am totally fine once I get there, but I never manage to sleep as much as I want the night before. I would rather wake up with time to slowly adjust to the day than to hop up and get down to work. I wish I were a morning person, but I'm not. It was much easier at school when Mass was also offered at night. Frankly, I like Mass most at night: candlelight Masses are beautiful.

Anyway, Mass was great, as usual. Father (strongly) encouraged the parishioners to come to a holy hour for vocations next week, during which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. I've never gone (though this hour happens every month), but probably should. The Stations of the Cross will be prayed then as well, so it would be a nice spiritual two-in-one. Perhaps it helped that today is Laetare Sunday: Easter will come!

Walking home from Mass was beautiful. The problem with living in the Midwest is how flat the terrain is: there is nothing to block the wind, which can be incredibly unforgiving. It was a little breezy, but the sun was out too and I almost didn't need my coat. Spring is finally here!

I then had a nice breakfast at home alone (my family doesn't get home from their Church until about an hour after I do) and listened to about half of this talk by Michael Voris on the Eucharist. It is quite good and so important to stress the belief in the True Presence. We Catholics believe the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, is present at each Communion. This belief, more than any other, separates us from other all other religions. You can watch the video below if you like:

I then went with my mother, sister and grandmother grocery shopping, with a quick stop at Starbucks on the way. Since today (!!!) is the first anniversary of my Confirmation, I decided to get a croissant to celebrate.

Flaky goodness.
I also donated books and clothes which have been sitting in my room for ages. I still have more books and clothes that need boxing up. It is insane how much stuff I manage to accumulate. How does that happen?? With the space freed up (if only a little) from the donations, I felt inspired to tidy up my room a bit more. Now that Spring has finally shown itself, I decorated my table (with a leftover centerpiece from my aunt's baby shower; muy bonita), added a candle to my candle stand and opened the window and curtains. I love a Spring- or Summertime breeze in the house.

Yes. Christmas lights in March.
Now I'm listening to music and straight chillin', AKA doing what I do 40% of the time. Hope you guys are having a great Sunday!

Some Good Quotations

I have been seeing really excellent quotations around the internet lately from Saints, philosophers and generally cool people. Enjoy!

If the Word of God is living and powerful, and if the Lord does all things whatsoever he wills; if he said, "Let there be light", and it happened; if he said, "let there be a firmament", and it happened; ...if finally the Word of God himself willingly became man and made flesh for himself out of the most pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever Virgin, why should he not be capable of making bread his Body and wine and water his Blood?... God said, "This is my Body", and "This is my Blood." 
— St. John Damascene

When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration.
Saint John Chrysostom

I accept joy or suffering, praise or humiliation with the same disposition. I remember that one and the other are passing. What does it matter to me what people say about me: I have long ago given up everything that concerns my person. My name is host — or sacrifice, not in words but in deeds, in the emptying of myself and in becoming like You on the Cross, O good Jesus, my Master!
— St. Faustina

Religion is actually not a crutch; it is a cross. It is not an escape, it is a burden; not a flight, but a response. We speak here of a religion with teeth in it, the wind that demands self-sacrifice and surrender.One leans on a crutch, but a cross rests on us. It takes a hero to embrace a cross. — Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Democracy and equality are good ideas in politics, but nature is not a democracy. God is its absolute monarch, angels His ministers, men His children, animals His pets, plants His decorations, minerals His construction materials, and time His land. All are good, all are precious, and all are loved, but not equally. That would be chaos, not cosmos. 
— Peter Kreeft

Happy Sunday!

25 March 2014

The HHS Mandate: An Allegory

Imagine there are these vegetarians, okay? Just chillin' with their carrots and hummus and doing their own thing and whatnot. And then these meat-eaters come along and they're like:
Hey, vegetarians! What's up? Listen up. Listen: We've decided that you guys have to eat meat now.
Vegetarians: What gives? We're morally opposed to eating animals.
Meat eaters: Oh, yeah, we know that, but WE aren't. So...yeah.
Vegetarians: You can't force us to eat meat!
Meat eaters: Are you infringing on our RIGHT to eat meat?
Vegetarians: What?? No, what the heck?
Meat eaters: Rare or medium rare?

Honestly, how outraged would people be? "You can't do that!" "Where do you get the power to inflict your views on me?" "You can't force me to do something I don't believe in!"

Yet it's completely fine if the same is done to people who believe in a bigger, more basic, more essential, more compassionate ideal: that life matters at all stages.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, pray for us!

15 March 2014

One Week into Lent

One week down, six weeks to go!

I'm actually not counting down quite yet. Instead, I'm enjoying Lent. Is that okay to say? Enjoying Lent? Oh well. We'll see how that continues. Here's the breakdown of how my intentions are working out:

Prayer: Do a Sorrowful mysteries decade of the Rosary each day (on Sundays do a Rosary of the Glorious mysteries) and incorporate the Liturgy of Hours into my daily schedule.

This plan has worked out really well! I've also added reading St. Louis de Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary, reading a rose with each decade. There's a lot of interesting history behind the Rosary, about which I'm currently reading. I definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Reading: Read from a compilation of works by the Church Fathers.

Is it bad if I think this reading is a little dull? Maybe because all of it is pretty early so far and they kind of repeat the same things ("You're doing well, respect your bishop, avoid heresy..."). They are all good things, I'm just waiting for something really compelling or confrontational. That makes it more exciting!

Food: Abstain from sugar throughout Lent and decrease meat consumption.

Whose bright idea was it to abstain from sugar/sweets for forty days? Oh, it was me? It was me, wasn't it? Right. Brilliant. As much as I complain about it, this probably was a good idea...given how much I complain about its absence. It sounds stupid to be mortified over nixing sugarit seems completely inconsequential compared to fasting for several days or abstaining from something really importantbut it's still a challenge. Last night we had people over for dinner and my mom prepared two desserts. TWO. I'd be all over that any other time of the year, but I declined. Nutso.

Slowing Down: Spend more time outside, with family and with entertainment other than the computer.

We had a legit Spring day! It was in the high forties or fifties this week. And then it dropped to thirty and snowed for two days. Ah, the Midwest....
I've made some effort to stay out of my hermit-like existence, but it could be better. We have family visiting (for reasons I will explain below), which has encouraged me to be out and about a bit more. I really just can't wait for it to get and stay warmer. It's such a mood-lifter.

With all of my Lenten intentions, I can see a difference in my behavior (easily: I'm adding and taking away things) and especially my attitude. I tend to become frustrated or even angry easily, but that has improved (even if slightly). For example, instead of becoming annoyed immediately, I can tell myself to chill. No promises for it lasting the whole day, though. Work in progress, here.

So what else is going on?

Last Saturday, family arrived from Texas to reunite with us but also to await this darling girl:

Welcome to the world, baby cousin! Our family have been incredibly excited for the arrival of Rylin for the last several months and their waiting was over on Tuesday morning. She is sweet and quite relaxed until she's hungry: then she really lets loose. She has the entire family wrapped around her finger.

We had left for the hospital to get there just as visiting hours began. It was a very exciting time, but the day would not let up on us. Our ten year old dog, Suhn, died the same day, from causes not fully known, though by that point, age isn't too wild a guess. It was such a shock and I think we are still taken aback by it. The house is much quieter and my daily routine is completely off. His bed was just outside my room, so there's no more hearing him shifting around or letting him outside in the morning or talking to him as I walk around the house. It's mostly just bizarre. I'm happy he isn't in pain (he had an old leg injury and he hated Winter with a burning passion), but it truly is strange not to have him here anymore.

To celebrate his goofball-ness, here's a picture of him celebrating the New Year last year:

This has certainly been the longest week of 2014.

P.S. This is my 100th blog post! That just sounds wild. If you're reading, I'm happy you found your way here. Whether you've just come across my blog or you've been following it since its infancy, thank you for reading! :)

05 March 2014

Ash Wednesday Thoughts

Here are some pieces of readings which stood out particularly to me today. I have also included my plan for the Rosary throughout Lent.

Laudate is a good app for Catholic resources: the Liturgy of Hours,
Rosary, other prayers, daily readings... all are on here.

From the third Psalm of the Day (Terce):
If it were not for the Lord's help,
I should quickly find myself in the land of silence.
Whenever I said, 'My feet are slipping,'
your loving kindness, O Lord, held me upright.
In the midst of my heart's troubles,
your consolations gave me back my happiness.
From a reading of Eekiel:
Repent, renounce all your sins, avoid all occasions of sin! Shake off all the sins you have committed against me, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why are you so anxious to die, House of Israel? I take no pleasure in the death of anyoneit is the Lord who speaks. Repent and live!
 From the Didache (Church Fathers reading here):
Chapter 2: You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.
Chapter 14: But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.
A lovely gift I received last year before Lent.
Quite possibly the prettiest cover ever. 

The Rosary:

The plan for now is to do a decade each week day of the Sorrowful Mysteries and a whole Rosary each Sunday of the Glorious Mysteries. Since there are forty days, I can do a set of mysteries eight times throughout Lent. Today's mystery was The Agony of Jesus in the Garden.

Accompanying each decade, I'm adding readings of St. Louis De Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary. He has fifty roses, brief writings about aspects of the Rosary: its purpose, how to pray it, commentary on the prayers included,.... The first rose, for example, concerns the prayers of the rosary. St. Louis highlights the dual prayers involved: mental prayer and verbal prayer.

He also includes extra information on how to offer each decade. One (shorter) way is to add a couple of words in each Hail Mary after "and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus." For today's mystery, for example, one adds "Jesus in His agony." The second (longer) way includes parts said before and after the normal prayers. For today's mystery, added is the following:
We offer Thee, O Lord Jesus, this sixth decade in honor of Thy mortal Agony in the Garden of Olives and we ask of Thee, through this mystery and through the intercession of Thy Blessed Mother, perfect sorrow for our sins and the virtue of perfect obedience to Thy Holy Will.
[Our Father, ten Hail Marys, Glory Be]
Grace of Our Lord's Agony, come down into my soul and make me truly contrite and perfectly obedient to Thy Will.

It is so nice having a holy hour to start (or two half-hours to split) the day. I haven't got my ashes yet, since the last Mass isn't until 6.00 PM. It's been snowing constantly since the morning. :(

Hope everyone's having a good Ash Wednesday. :)

04 March 2014

Lent 2014

It's that time of year again. The trees remain bare of leaves but cloaked with snow, slush is piling up along the gutters and the wind whips against you so quickly that you nearly fall into aforementioned pile of slush. Just when the temperature breaks 30 degrees, it plummets back down below 0. I'm kind of getting sick of you, Winter.
Everything the light touches, Simba.
That's your never-ending Winter kingdom.
Spring seems to be evading us for as long as possible. Where are the clear sunny skies of yesteryear? Where are the flowering bushes which once lined the yard? Where's the grass? A peak of anything green or bright, besides the blinding snow, would be a happy relief.

Why indeed.

"We know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now," Paul writes in his letter to the Romans. "And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience."

Though Winter seems never to end, Spring will come. Just the same, as Lent begins we remember the waiting we endure now until we reach the other side of eternity. More importantly, we remember that the reward at the end far surpasses the trials of the journey. Though, let's be honest: I declared Lent my favorite part of the year only the other day. Either I'm doing Catholicism right or I'm completely insane. Maybe both? Win-win. Wait...

If you are still making your Lenten preparations, here are a few good links full of thoughts: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (with various levels of difficulty), 100 Things to Do for LentLiturgical Living at a Glance: March and poor Grace who, bless her heart, is giving up tea for Lent. Brave woman.

Here are my plans:
Unfortunately, no, this is not actually one of them.

Prayer: The Rosary was the first devotion I took up. When I began it, I would say it every day for weeks. Somehow that habit disintegrated. I've been saying the Rosary the last few Sundays, but I want it to be part of my daily life. My goal is to say a decade each weekday and a whole Rosary each Sunday.

I also will be adding the Liturgy of the Hours to my daily routine, with the goal of one hour each day (either Lauds or Vespers, haven't decided), but perhaps I'll up it as the weeks continue?

ReadingThis document compiles writings by ten Church Fathers with readings for each day of Lent. I am actually quite excited about this plan because I intend to do more religious reading but have not been sure where to start.

Food: The usual obligatory fasting (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday) and abstinence from meat (Ash Wednesday and every Friday) will take place. While last Lent I abstained from meat entirely, this year I'm giving myself a bit of a break on that by limiting meat to thrice per week including Sundays (my family eat quite a bit of meat). I also want to cut out sugars except for the teaspoon of honey I add to my tea. I am so bad about snacking and sweets (I'm still so hungry afterward!), so sayonara, nos vemos, adios until Easter!

Hello, tasty.

Slowing Down: One of my resolutions for the year is to slow down. I struggle with patience and living in the present (instead of reminiscing or daydreaming). I'll be spending more time with family and less in my room, more time reading and less mindlessly jumping from internet page to internet page, more time getting outdoors and enjoying the weather (whenever it decides to arrive!) and less holing up inside like the grouchy homebody I too often become.

With my Shrove Tuesday pancake eaten (recipe here), I think I'm ready to start Lent. Let's do this!