Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 18

::Pondering
The beginning of a new year—new General Assembly at work, new shows to audition for, vacations to plan—there’s a lot going on.
::Praying
For some new direction. I feel like the guy in the parable with the talents who just buries the money. Except I don’t know what proverbial money I’m burying…
::Cooking
I really hit it off over Christmas break, which was so fun. Need to plot out some ideas for this week, which is getting busy. Tomorrow I’m having a meeting at 6:00 which is providing dinner, so score!
::Wearing
A black wrap dress, sparkly (subtly!) red camisole, black boots
::Creating
I’ve made one complete revision of the novel. Now I’m going back and adding scenes.
::Going
Meeting tomorrow night, but otherwise the week is clear (so far! Knock wood)
::Reading
Madeline L’Engle. I am OBSESSED, people. I finished the Time Quintet last week and am starting the Austin family series now, with a re-read of “A Ring of Endless Light”, which I read many moons ago.
::Memorizing
::Listening to
Les Miz is in the car stereo—10th anniversary cast. In my mind there IS no other cast! (My take on the movie can be read here, if you want.)

::Liturgical Living

It’s still Christmas season according to the Church.  Thus the tree is still up!
::Around the House
I find it impossible to believe that I go through so many dishes and have so much trash….I guess I just am in a “using stuff up” phase of life, which would make my mom happy. :)

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News and Notes

  • A happy continued Christmas to you all! Yes, we’re still in the octave.DO NOT take down those decorations yet!
  • I saw Les Miserables over the weekend. This is a very good example of Excellent Christian Art. Tom Hooper makes movies (at least his last three) about good men doing difficult, but right, things: John Adams, George VI, Jean Valjean. They all have to do things for the greater good, which goes against their internal preferences (John Adams–to be with Abigail; George VI–to not be George VI; Jean Valjean–to not forgive, to not learn love). He’s a very good director for these things. In the Christian moments category: Valjean gives Javert a rosary; he sings his “Soliloquy” at the beginning in the Bishop’s chapel; Valjean keeps a crucifix in his room; the Bishop prays over their shared meal. Nuns tend to Fantine, and keep Valjean and Cosette safe as they escape Javert in Paris. The Catholicism of 19th century France is very present. The Christian message of the film is there, obviously, but it’s not ham-handed, it’s not done horribly. It’s done with art and class and taste.
  • Christmas was great, in general. It’s always great. I saw lots of cute kids, my three year old cousin from Texas saw her first big snowfall, friends from church got married, and I saw a great movie. I go back to work on Thursday, and the 130th General Assembly starts the Monday after that. Time to start again.
  • The USCCB have released this Call to Prayer. Have you heard about it? If not, go read the document at the link. I think it’s a good idea. This is the leadership we need from our bishops.
  • Also, there’s been a LOT of gloom and doom around the Catholic blogosphere lately. I do not, in general, listen to gloom and doom. I avoid it, because I don’t like it. I am an optimist. I dislike people who think the world is going to Hell in a handbasket, that the cause is already lost, etc. etc. Well of course the cause is lost, if this is how we’re talking. It’s lost when people give up on it.
  • Am I the only one who didn’t know Leonardo’s Last Supper (Ultima Cena, in Italian) was painted on the wall of a Dominican refectory? Not sure how I missed this. Maybe because I’m a Lay Dominican now, I see Dominicans where I didn’t before–or care now. :)
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Advent, Christmas, and pain

I wasn’t going to write about this, because really, what else can be said about the whole Newton thing?

A few things, I guess.

1) To paraphrase Elizabeth Ann Seton: God’s son was crucified. If he had to suffer, how do you think you’re going to get out of it?

2) What happened in Newton is horrible. It is, truly, frightening. But when people ask, “Where is God when this happens?” I say: see poitn 1, above, and also, the story of the Jews during the Holocaust: In one of the camps, a young boy was executed in front of the prisoners. The guards sneered, where is your God now? A prisoner replied, “There, hanging on the gallows, there is our God.”

3) God doesn’t do these things to us a la the kid with the magnifying glass and the ants. He doesn’t do this to torture us. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of theodicy–the idea that an all-loving God and a universe that involves pain co-exist. Parents love their kids, too, but they still do things that make the kids “suffer”. It’s how we grow. We can accept the challenge, a la Job, or we can rebel against Him.

4) Suffering. Is. Everywhere. Jesus came to suffer and to die for us. Yes, Christmas is about our salvation. But to achieve that salvation–the cross. The creche is only the beginning.

5) One of the psalms says: “in the midst of life we are in death.” But we also must rejoice, as St. Paul told us last Sunday. Rejoice that this is not the end. Death is not the end. If we believe in Christ, we believe in his promise of the resurrection. We believe in the hope of Heaven.

We can–and should–pray and mourn for those killed. But let’s also pray for the dead on a regular basis. Let’s use tragedy in our lives to grow as Christians and to become stronger in our faith. God is always here, but sometimes He’s harder to find.

Christianity is the religion of the Cross. But the Cross is not, is never, the end.

Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 17

Outside my window::

It’s snowing. Not sticking, because we had rain earlier. But snow, when I have my tree up, fireplace going, and Christmas music on, is a great thing.

From the kitchen::

This tonight. My sister got me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas, so I have been perusing the book and the website, and have come upon a lot of culinary gold. But right now I’m thinking a semi-homemade tomato soup for Wednesday (eating out at a meeting tomorrow). Also making shopping lists for the things I’m responsible for in the Christmas Food Department.

I am wearing::

Lululemon yoga pants and a gray Old Navy tanktop, because I have working out, cleaning and gift wrapping in my future.

To live the liturgy::

Mass as often as possible during the week; the Liturgy of the Hours; rosary; reading my Advent books; lectio.

In the CD Player:

Linda Eder‘s Christmas Stays the Same. Love this album.

Cover of "Christmas Stays the Same"

Cover of Christmas Stays the Same

A few plans for the week:

Planning meeting for Lifeline of Ohio‘s Dash for Donation (it’s in July, but fortune favors the prepared) tomorrow, and bachelorette lunch at PF Chang’s on Saturday. We’re really just calling it the ‘bridesmaids’ dinner’ instead of a bachelorette party, because we are not doing anything at all related to the normal ideas of a “bachelorette party”. Also, one of the girls in the wedding is in high school, so even if we were bachelorette party people, we’d have to tone it down. Also gift exchange with one of my best friends this week (I think. Depends on her schedule. Her gift is the one being wrapped tonight. :) )

Reading::

Be Holy: A Catholic’s Guide to the Spiritual Life; Introduction to the Devout Life, Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting.

Praying for::

Two friends that are getting married at the end of the month; two Dominican student brothers who were in a car accident last night (they’re in stable condition, some broken bones, which are no fun), and some friends’ intentions.

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The Advent Eating Plan

I don’t mean actual eating–although Advent and Lent are good times to think about “penitential” practices like fasting, or avoiding meat on W and F–I mean spiritual eating.(And no, not Communion, either. Although, you should definitely go to confession and receive communion more often during Advent, to better prepare for Christmas!)

In today’s reading from Come, Lord Jesus, Mother Mary Francis talks about “right nutrition”. Today’s gospel reading is the story of the Loaves and the Fishes; the reading is from Isaiah, about the Lord feeding his people choice food and wine, and the psalm is 23–the Lord is my sheperd–”you spread a table before me in the sigh of my enemies”. So food is a propos today.

But Mother Mary Francis uses her chapter talk to discuss spiritual nutrition, as in, what we’re putting in our minds and hearts and imaginations.  Are we forgiving others? Are we being patient with others? Are we focusing on our prayer life, making time for prayer, lectio, Mass, adoration? What does our internal soundtrack sound like?

In musical parlance, you could say what multitudes of conductors have said: “How you practice is how you perform.” If you’re goofing off, not paying attention, singing lacklusterly, that’s how it’ll be come concert time or opening night. You can’t just expect the discipline and the music to come out when the lights are up. You have to practice them.

In the same way, we have to practice being patient, being kind, being prayerful people. And, again, like music, it’s freaking hard. I remember one year in college, my choir was singing this godawful hard piece by John Rutter, called the “Donkey Carol.” If you’ve heard it, you might know why it’s hard. It’s supposed to sound like the gait of a donkey–not steady. The meter, I believe, changed every verse. There were lots of verses.

I hated this song, and the stupid donkey. I hated practicing it. But when we got to the first night of Christmas Festival, the song was performance ready. Now, I still don’t like it all that much. But I can sing the Alto part the way it’s meant to be sung. And who knows, I might like to sing it now.

Practicing patience and all the other virtues is like that too. There’s a reason some are called “heroic virtues.” It’s not supposed to be easy. I lose my temper. A lot. I get frustrated. A lot. But I try to not take that out on other people (and sometimes I still do this)

In Advent and Lent, I try for more spiritual nourishment. More confession. More Mass. More spiritual reading and lectio. This is part of the “practice” of virtue. Good things in—> good things out. (Most of the time)

I won’t be perfect at the end of Advent, just like when you start a new fitness regiment, you usually don’t hit your goal weight in four weeks. But I’ll be better.

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Advent Reading List

Boy howdy, I have a lot of these!

This first book is indispensable. I mean that. Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting, by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., is amazing. I look forward to this more than almost anything during Advent. It’s like sitting in a monastic conference every day during Advent, with separate Sunday reflections for each Year (We’re in Year C now, peeps!). Do yourself a favor, and get this post-haste.

Second: Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Pope John Paul II. Again, daily readings from the Pope’s genearl audiences, writings and conferences, with meditations and “action” items. It’s short, and it’s fantastic. There are others in this series, too, if you’d rather have someone else: Fulton Sheen, St. Francis, GK Chesterton, etc. (They also have a Lent and Easter series)

Meditations on the mysteries: The Nativity and Faith

...But if I was Mary, I would’ve been scared out of my mind.

Think about it: she’s a teenager, she’s pregnant with the Son of God. It took awhile to convince her husband of this, but eventually she got some help from an angel. So she and Joseph are preparing for this very important birth in Nazareth.

Then they’re told they have to travel 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Now, my car can do 80 miles in an hour and change. I don’t think donkeys go quite that fast. So Mary, who is very, very pregnant, is on the back of a donkey, for a multi-day journey to a place she was probably never been. Oh, and they may or may not have a room. There was no Travelocity for them so she and Joseph are counting on there being space for them…

Read the whole thing at Suscipio.  (and while you’re there, read this too!)

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Catholic Women’s Daybook No. 16

Beauty in the ordinary:

Me and Baby E

Meeting the result of my friends’ marriage–Baby E. Isn’t she PRECIOUS?

(Her mom took this photo while I was gaggling over her. Hence my face)

Also: Having written the first draft of a novel–beginning, middle, end.

Listening to: :

Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert CD in my car. Christmas music starts in December. :)

Reading::

Les Miserables. YEs, there’s a theme. But this is the new translation. :) Also: Hallowed Be This House.

From the kitchen::

Pondering this after I write this.:) I had dinner with my parents tonight.

(Yeah, this is short. Not a whole lot for you this week! I’m relishing being done with the draft of the novel.)

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Catholic Women’s Daybook No. 15

Moments of Gratitude (1,000 gifts):

747) My winter coat, which is new, because it’s going to be used tomorrow.

745) Spending time w/ my mom on my day off.

746) Grilled cheese. Really. Grilled cheese is a great thing.

747) my Lay Dominican chapter

748) Benedictine chant!

749) spending time at my alma mater

750) My novel–it’s National Novel Writing Month and I am on track to finish. Whee!

751) my new position at work.

752) Nice people in my new office. :)

753) Advent is almost here!

Beauty in the ordinary::

It’s Veterans Day observed here in the U.S, so I had the day off it. It was really rainy and windy, so I got to read this afternoon, work on my novel, and take a nap.

Listening to::

Recordare, The Benedictines of the Abbey of Regina Laudis (they also have a Christmas CD!)

Pondering::

This.  Any ideas?

From the kitchen::

Tonight was Mac and Cheese night. It’s that kind of day. Tomorrow dinner out, Wednesday dinner at my parents’, but Thursday might be omelet night.

Praying::

My Office, the rosary. Mass as often as possible.

Reading::

Be Holy: A Catholic’s Guide to the Spiritual Life; How to Pray With the Bible; The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Sienna

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