Emily | A Year of Living Adventurously
In iconography, St. Catherine of Siena, a lay Dominican, can often be found with a ship on her shoulder, the saint holding it steady as she looks ahead. The ship is the Barque of St. Peter–the Catholic Church–and the papal insignia is often found on the ship’s flag. Why the boat? St. Catherine is intimately connected with the papacy. During her lifetime, she worked to achieve peace among the warring Italian states, implored Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon and return the papacy to Rome, and encouraged clerical reform. In 1378, she was summoned to Rome by Pope Urban VI, where she worked for the reformation of the Church, served the destitute, and wrote eloquent letters on the pope’s behalf. Because of all the work she did to support the papacy, she had a vision that the Barque of Peter had been placed upon her shoulders, and it was crushing her to death. She was also a recipient of the stigmata and is one of the four female Church Doctors.
In this time of papal interregnum, St. Catherine is a perfect patron saint. Her novena would be a great practice to adopt as we await the beginning of the conclave, and the election of our next Holy Father. No matter how much her work on behalf of Christ and His church drained her physical energies, she never stopped proclaiming the Truth and showing Christ’s abundant love to all she met.
Novena Prayer to St. Catherine of Siena
O marvelous wonder of the Church, seraphic virgin, St. Catherine, because of your extraordinary virtue and immense good which you accomplished for the Church and society, you are acclaimed and blessed by all people. Turn your benign countenance to the Church who, confident of your powerful patronage, calls upon you with all the ardor of affection and begs you to obtain, by your prayer, the favors of peace in the Church, blessings upon our past Pope, and the grace of a saintly Supreme Pontiff.
You, who were a victim of Charity, who in order to benefit your neighbor obtained from God the most stupendous miracles and became the joy and hope of all, you cannot help but hear the prayers of those who fly unto your heart–that heart which you received from the Divine Redeemer in a celestial ecstasy.
Yes, O seraphic virgin, demonstrate once again proof of your power and your flaming charity, so that your name will be ever more blessed and exalted: grant that we, having experiences your most effacious intercession here on Earth, may come one day to thank you in heaven and enjoy eternal happiness with you.
O God, Eternal Shepherd, who govern Your flock with unfailing care, grant in Your boundless fatherly Love a pastor for Your Church who will please You by his holiness and to us show watchful care. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
The last chapter of our February book, Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home, The Bedroom. Thomas Howard again emphasizes the constant theme, “My life for yours.”
As a married woman, mother of 7, my thoughts on the bedroom will look differently than Emily’s and I would hope that Miss Emily would please share all her wonderful thoughts with us in the comments or in a post I can link to. (Yeah! Emily took the bait and wrote about the bedroom from a single woman’s perspective.)
This total self giving, or at least the supposed self giving, can take many forms in the bedroom. Howard begins with talk of conception and comes full circle to talk of death. Both are a laying down of life…or a beginning of a new life. And so the bedroom is rightly called a place of beginnings and ends.
This total giving of self, hhmmm…How many times does our gift of self dissipate before the door even shuts behind us? And our husband, well, he’s left with the crumbs…Oh, and we want the lights out even though we’re already covered by an old gym shirt and years of insecurity?
And when we do have the lights on, what do they reveal? Is our bedroom junk drawer of the house? Laundry scattered, toys strewed, papers stacked here and there and a night stand with a tower of dusty books reaching higher and higher as if infused with the same magic Jack and his infamous beanstalk were?
The saying goes the kitchen is the heart of the home. I contend the bedroom is the heart of the family. If there is discord in the bedroom…there will be discord in the family.
Right before Leo was born I started making my bed regularly, turning on some soft Gregorian Chant and using a candle warmer to set the mood for our bedroom. Now, Chris could care less about any of the stuff. But for me, it made my bedroom a sanctuary. Now, since Leo’s birth, my bed is not made regularly, some days I forget the music or candle warmer…and the bedroom loses its oasis like qualities; it has just become another room in the house. It is not set apart as a mysterious sacred space in which the whole family benefits.
And your bedroom is a sacred space. It is in the bedroom we become co-creators with God. (Without being vulgar, I realize there are other rooms in the house in which intimacy can be achieved.) The bedroom most clearly express the reoccurring theme of laying our life for another in two very distinct ways.
And in the rite of conception, we can see, as we have seen in a dozen other exchanges and acts around the house, the whole story in one little act. Here, life is “laid down” quite dramatically, in order that the life of love may be born anew, and that literal new life may come into being. The exactness of the picture is astonishing, not to say amusing: both bodies laid down, like the corn of wheat; both laid open, like the corn of wheat. Vulnerability, defenselessness, giving and receiving–nay, giving and receiving wholly indistinguishable from each other, for who will keep tally in these blissful exchanges to make sure the score is even? My life laid down for you; our two lives laid down, becoming one life, and in this laying down and union, lo, the springing forth of new life. My service to you turning out to be joy. Your life laid down for me turning out to be joy. Your acceptance of me being itself your gift to me.
Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home
And the two distinct ways our life is laid down? One, when we lay down our life, we do so with the least shred of pride. There is not time to think of self, only of the one whom we are willing to sacrifice our very life for. And yet how often do we shun a compliment from our husband? Dress quietly behind the bathroom door or wait until it’s dark? How often do we never fully relax and enjoy the most intimate of moments–two bodies becoming one? And so we have not truly laid our life down…we’ve covered it in thick blankets of wool and darkness. We’ve kept a part of ourselves hidden so as not to be hurt, laughed at or scorned. We assessed the risk and figured it to be of too great a price. The sacrifice of our life has not been made. We kept a part of ourselves back.
We may not be willing to splay ourselves in front of the body we vowed unity, but we push ourselves wide open to bring forth a new life…the second way we lay our life down in the bedroom. Each new soul that enters a family brings its own special set of graces…it also demands its own special set of sacrifices. This pregnancy may demand the physical sacrifice of the very food we eat; nine months permeated with bouts or days or even months of nausea. And yet another pregnancy may seemingly demand very little but the colicky baby more than makes up for the nine months of expectant bliss.
We easily see the need a child has for us to sacrifice all: sleep, comfort, self…in order to care for the defenseless. But what about our husbands? They have the same need of us. They need our complete sacrifice as well. And they are just as defenseless. Just as defenseless as we are when we slip under the sheet in the skin we came into the word. The baby and the grown man, both vulnerable in the skin God gave ‘em. Our men are at their most vulnerable and they cry…only silently. They want to be completely accepted. They want to be totally needed. They want unconditional love. We do not deny these things to a creamy white skinned baby, why deny them to the grown man?
Well, “He can hurt me like a baby can’t,” we may contend. And yet we carry that same power. Our wicked tongues compare them or tear them down as they lay naked next to us. Or our own bodies stiffen as they approach. The “closed” sign slapped in their face.
Each sacrifice, one of laying with our man and one of laying down to bring forth man–none the more sacred than the other. The process of bringing new life into the world emanates from the sacrifice of being totally known. It is no coincidence the Bible says “Adam knew his wife.” And that one little word brings me back to my initial thought…the bedroom is the heart of the family. This “knowledge” must be rightly ordered or the family will suffer various forms of disorder.
I almost hate to bring this up…Years ago when I would watch Dr Phil, he said something one time that made so much sense. I will paraphrase to make it less crude. Basically, if things are going fine in the bedroom, that part of your marriage equals about 10%. If things are going poorly, it’s about 90%.
The bedroom is the heart of the family.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, this chapter on the bedroom. I’m sorry this post was so late in coming up, I couldn’t quite get the words together. Hopefully I did now.
Good Morning Lovely Ladies. Miss Emily is sick today, so it’s me again.
I’m not quite ready to end our month of being little.
I’ve been reading some of St Paul’s letters in the New Testament and wondering
How can one be little for Christ and yet preach Christ boldly?
Are they contradictory?
I came across this sweet little quote of St Therese and thought I’d share it with you.
Isn’t that a lovely mental image she paints with her humble little words?
Happy Wednesday ladies! I always heard time flies when you’re having fun, but this is ridiculous…it’s already the end of January…2013! Remember when we were all realizing the world was still here and operating the end of January 2000? Anyway; it is the end of January, we are wrapping up any thoughts and reflections we have on St Therese’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul. Here’s a link to the free online version or the audio version.
We’re also checking in on our memorization verses, Ephesians 4:25-32. Do you remember being back in high school, writing page after page of verb conjugations so you could memorize the endings for the regular verbs or the conjugations themselves for the irregular verbs? Or maybe all the way back to elementary when we wrote our spelling words three, four, five or more times so we would have them memorized for the test? Well I do and I am going to have to resort back that practice.
I regret to inform you, I do not have my verses memorized. I could blame it on all sorts of things: nursing momma brain, sleep deprivation, lack of motivation, lack of time, or my new favorite–”Work related_____” memory loss, hearing loss, you name it. And maybe that’s some of it, but some of it has to do with priority and my Scripture memorization just did not make it to the top of that list this month.
Ouch, that looks pretty bad and felt even worse typing it out.
But I am not going to beat myself silly or let the devil do the same. I’m going to make it a priority, move it to the top of my list and catch up with you all in February.
I’m pretty sure after confessing I did not get my scripture verses memorized, you won’t be surprised to know I also did not finish the book. I know…really?! But that’s not keeping me from discussing it and it shouldn’t you either. Don’t sit there with something to share and not share it. I am positive we would benefit from your perspective. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago my small parish had a women’s book club and I rarely read the book, but that did not stop me from attending the discussions, enjoying the company of other women and their thoughts on a book I had not read, but could still contribute to the conversation and enjoy the snacks. So please jump in and let’s learn from each other.
Even at that age I loved far-stretching views, sunlit
spaces and stately trees; in a word, all nature charmed me and
lifted up my soul to Heaven.
–St Therese the Little Flower
A few years ago I was really struggling, I mean really struggling. I called a friend, a kind soul I refer to as my soul sister. She told me to make myself a scrambled egg sandwich, go sit outside and get some sun on my legs, arms, and face. Being the piglet (and Rabbit) temperament that make me, me…I worried about skin cancer but worried more about me if I did not heed her advice. The above passage reminds me of that day. “…all nature charmed me and lifted my soul to Heaven.” I’m also reminded of a recent post by Ginny at Small Things.
There is something very beatific about placing oneself in nature.
Another brief passage, this taken from St Therese’s recollection of her mother’s death and her sister Genevieve. St Therese is speaking of herself in the third person, “…for trials had matured and strengthened her soul, so that nothing on earth could make her grieve.” Pray for me sisters; I am not there. I still cry frequently over a rough 2012 having to leave our family parish home of almost 17 years. I grieve not sitting in the pews I sat in before the baptism of each of my children. I pray this trial is maturing me and strengthening my soul for Heaven, but most days it just leaves me in a sloppy puddle of tears for being misunderstood and maligned.
And that’s why Holy Mother Church has given us these holy examples found in the saints. They were so human that we can relate and yet so pious that we strive to imitate them.
Which saint do you strive to imitate and why?
The next passage I wish to discuss is her description of her first confession.
Shortly after this I made my first confession. It is a very sweet memory. Pauline had warned me: “Thérèse, darling, it is not to a man but to God Himself that you are going to tell your sins.” I was so persuaded of this that I asked her quite seriously if I should not tell Father Ducellier that I loved him “with my whole heart,” as it was really God I was going to speak to in his person. Well instructed as to what I was to do, I entered the confessional, and turning round to the priest, so as to see him better, I made my confession and received absolution in a spirit of lively faith–my sister having assured me that at this solemn moment the tears of the Holy Child Jesus would purify my soul. I remember well that he exhorted me above all to a tender devotion towards Our Lady, and I promised to redouble my love for her who already filled so large a place in my heart. Then I passed him my Rosary to be blessed, and came out of the Confessional more joyful and lighthearted than I had ever felt before. It was evening, and as soon as I got to a street lamp I stopped and took the newly blessed Rosary out of my pocket, turning it over and over. “What are you looking at, Thérèse, dear?” asked Pauline. “I am seeing what a blessed Rosary looks like.” This childish answer amused my sisters very much. I was deeply impressed by the graces I had received, and wished to go to confession again for all the big feasts, for these confessions filled me with joy.
St Therese the Little Flower
The Story of a Soul
As you’ve been reading through or just picking out snippets here and there, what words of this holy and little saint have made you stop and ponder?
Let’s discuss our little saint in the comments. Share the saints you strive to imitate and why. How did you do on our scripture memory?
Our theme for February is “Home” and we will be reading Splendor in the Ordinary: Your Home as a Holy Place (Thanks to Angela in the comments for letting us know that Hallowed Be This House: Finding Signs of Heaven in Your Home is the reprint.) We will be memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men.
The above quote is from the Apostle Paul, defending himself against the governor Felix. The above quote should describe each and every one of us. It’s really, really important. It is critical to our well being…yes, that important. We see why this way of life is so valuable in the next chapter. In Chapter 25, Paul is now appealing to to the Emperor Festus. Look at verse 7
And when he had come, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem stood about him bringing against him many serious charges which they could not prove.
So you have these swirling voices accusing Paul, of some serious things the Scripture says, yet they could not prove them.
I wrote a little note next that verse:
“Satan’s lies do the same things to us!”
How many times my dear sisters have the voices been churning in our minds–upsetting our stomachs, agitating our lives? I will answer that one for us all…too many times. There are not enough tally marks in the world to keep account and I’m pretty sure the average would be outrageous. Let’s go a little farther into chapter 25.
For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.
My little note in the margin…“A prisoner without charges, that’s me sometimes.”
Are you a prisoner without charges? A crazy yardbird of a woman being held hostage by the imaginary squawk of Satan? Yeah, me too sometimes. Held tight by invisible chains wrapped so tight I can’t breathe. Satan may get the ball rolling and then, as the country song says, it’s like a snowball headed for hell.
But let’s go back to where we started, keeping a clear conscience. How do we do that?
Go to confession.
Go to confession.
And then…go to confession.
Not a scrupulous, frantic dash to knock people out of the way in the confession line because you are the worst of the worst. That’s not God either. Do not be fooled into thinking of yourself as a vile sinner unworthy of God’s merciful love. Those thoughts come straight from hell meant to keep you out of the confessional and far away from a merciful and loving God. No, I mean keep a regular date with Christ in the confessional. Write it on your calendar, and go.
You may be sweating bullets on the drive and feel a bit jittery in the line, but when you come out of that sacrament, come on…you know you love it! You just encountered Christ and He placed you in His merciful heart, the one that was split open wide to prove His death, for you, was complete. He placed you in there and He showered you and filled you up with His immense, unconditional, always merciful and waiting for you…love.
Do not let Satan try to convince you of something you are not. Stand firm in who you are…
I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).
I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).
I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).
And tell the devil he’s full of baloney.
Good Morning Ladies! God has granted me the wonderful privilege of re-reading The Story of a Soul, the Autobiography of St Therese of Lisieux. I thought I would just skim through it, picking out passages I had highlighted years ago when I first read the book; only to find out years ago when I first read the book I did not highlight or take any notes. Blessed be God because now instead of skimming through, I am re-reading along with you all!
Sixteen years ago I went to our parish priest for spiritual direction, my very first. He inquired about my patron saint. Now, being a convert, as a child, in the 80′s…yeah, no patron saint for me. As a matter of fact, when we were confirmed, we didn’t even choose a saints name! But that is all beside the point…
Father recommended I read Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux and take St Therese as my patroness. He showed me a picture of St Therese’s cell and remarked, “That is the ‘Little Way.’” Just recalling that conversation right now, sitting in my dinning room with crumbs on the table, toys on the floor, and abandoned cups cluttering the table…I am not living the ‘Little Way.’
I understood that if all the
lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide
beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely
hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living
garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be
compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser
ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets
flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His
Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more
gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.
–St Therese the Little Flower
Speaking of the ‘Little Way’…I love how St Therese makes so many references to flowers. I can see flowers. I can touch flowers, smell flowers and even grow flowers. These are something I can physically know. So from the very beginning of her writing, she makes it–the spiritual life–accessible. I think most of us can easily shake our head as we read the above quote because we are visually picturing her writing. What a gift she gave to us; to be able to see her words. I can see the roses or daisies and violets and fields of flowers and know exactly what St Therese is talking about.
If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell
us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any
of its gifts.
–St Therese the Little Flower
My sisters, that is our aim. That sums up our theme for this month of January…to tell all that God has done for us without hiding any of our gifts…because they all belong to Him.
?How do we proclaim the goodness of God without sounding like we are bragging?
?Does that make you uncomfortable to praise God openly for blessing you abundantly in the presence of one who appears to be still waiting for that answered prayer?
Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Pop in the comments below and let me know if you’re reading along. Also, who would like to lead the discussion next week? Email me using the icon over there to the right and let me know.
1. (initial capital letter) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manisfestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth day.
Well…yes…we did already celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany as explained in the first definition above. I still reflect on this wonderful event in the life of Christ on this date even though it has been recognized already. Yes…I still have all the decorations up, the tree is lit in the window every night, we are still listening to Christmas music. I am savoring the very last moments…
2. an appearance or manifestation, esp. of a diety.
In reflecting on the second definition, I realize there are many manifestations of God in our daily lives. Some will be magnificent and wonderful…others small, ordinary, obscure. If we are not aware, we could miss those *smaller* epiphanies that *appear* in the daily…in the ordinary. Sometimes the manifestation occurs right within our souls~an invitation Spirit-whispered urging us closer to God.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely or commonplace occurrence or experience.
I love this!…the simple…the homely…the commonplace…isn’t that where most of us our living the daily…not in extraordinary circumstances but the everyday…the mundane? Finding God amongst this takes more perspective, awareness, living in the present….living in His Presence. By being grateful for the simple and even for the mundane, the gritty, we are drawn into that very moment ordained by God. He is there to manifest to us His Very Presence…an epiphany!
4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.
How many epiphanies, insights, revelations have met me through the many readings I have immersed myself into. Scripture, the writings of the Carmelite Saints and many other good holy books.
I am taking small steps…beginning to be grateful for the epiphany of every moment…it is not an easy task and one that I have to will myself to do for love of God. I am learning the more I thank, the more I see, the more I am aware of God in that very moment…even in suffering. All is hallowed ground…
Emily | Catholic Poster Girl
I’m going to guess that Mary’s first thought here was whew.
Her second was probably: What sort of punishment can I give the Son of God?
OK, I’m guessing–and kidding–on that last one, although I’m sure that any other kid that disappeared for three days would get an, “I love you and you are so grounded!”
This is one of the mysteries that seem very relatable, almost modern, to us. Who hasn’t been in charge of children and suddenly, one was missing? The heart starts to pound, the breathing increases, panic sets in.
A few years ago, my aunt took me, my sister, and my two cousins to the water park for the day. She couldn’t stay, because she had a little boy at home and errands to run. So I was in charge of the three kids. This was before transplant, so breathing wasn’t all that great, and my swimming skills are OK, but not lifeguard worthy (My brother and I flunked swimming lessons because we couldn’t float. True story.). As the second-oldest cousin on my mom’s side of the family, I was often put in charge of the kids, on land or in water. Land, OK. Water made me nervous.
We found chairs and dropped our beach bags and towels over them. Before the kids could go in the water, I very firmly said, “I cannot swim that well. You are not to go out beyond the three foot section, especially when the waves are going, because I won’t be able to get you, and I don’t trust that the lifeguards will see you in the craziness. You will stay close, and you will stay where I can see you.”
The kids obeyed (my sister, a bit grudgingly, because she can swim, and very well). Of course, their safety was paramount, but also, I didn’t want to have to face my parents or my aunt if one of them drowned. (Yes, I do tend to think worst-case scenarios when I’m in charge of other people’s kids!)
We got through the day without incident. But every time those waves started, I was as alert as a Tijuana cab driver at a stop light.
Now, Mary and Joseph were traveling with a lot of people, so it made sense that Jesus was with someone in the family. That also happens with my family. “Where’s the baby?” “Oh, Aunt so-and-so took her out on the deck.” Even if you can’t see your kid, someone has them, and she’s OK. So Joseph and Mary probably just assumed that.
But then, they realized no one had him. Well, crap.
This isn’t losing a kid at the mall or the amusement park. This is losing a kid anywhere between where they were and Jerusalem. Three days ago. I bet they flew back to the city, panicking the entire time and thinking what ifs.
And there was twelve-year old Jesus–totally old enough to know better–in the temple, calmly engaging in discussion with the rabbis and other religious leaders.
“Son, why have you done this to us?” A perfectly valid question that Mary asks him. In other words: What were you THINKING?!?!?!
Jesus is very calm when he answers. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus had faith: in his Father, and in his mother and his adoptive father, that they would find them. Jesus had to be in the temple, speaking with these learned men, preparing them for him when he would come so many years later and begin his public life. He also knew that his parents would find him, and take him home and all would be well.
But Mary and Joseph didn’t know that. Maybe they felt silly on the way back for worrying, Jesus being who he was. Maybe they felt a little chagrined at his cool confidence and steady answer. But I imagine what Mary felt was all-encompassing relief.
Like before, Mary trusted when she really had no idea of what was going to happen. She must have trusted that God wouldn’t let anything harm His son. But I’m sure there was still some worry. She was human, and a mother. But Jesus had total faith in her and Joseph. He knew they’d come for him.
God is like that lifeguard, or like me, standing at the water’s edge, watching those kids like a hawk. Jesus says that even a sparrow is accounted for before God. We have to have faith that God is protecting us, even when we seem lost, like Jesus did, and like his parents did. Because to God, we’re never lost.