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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Actor answers God's call on stage

Check out this fantastic article about Jeremy Stanbary, a friend of mine who has founded Epiphany Studio Productions, with a home base here in the Twin Cities.

If your parish would like to host one of Jeremy's fantastic one-man plays, or his awesome Scrutiny Passion for next Lent, give him a ring! I particularly recommend his Alessandro, a powerful telling of the story of Maria Goretti through the eyes of her killer, who later repented and was present at her canonization. Great one for teens and young adults to see!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another chance to love some people

Dom over at Bettnet beat me to the punch and posted up
this novena to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati on behalf of a friend of mine, Peter Braam, and three of his friends who are all suffering, or likely suffering, from cancer.

Peter just found out that a lump on his neck is likely to be lymphoma, but is waiting to hear final biopsy results. Peter has a huge devotion to Bl. Pier Giorgio, in fact it is in large part thanks to Peter's efforts that Frassati Societies have sprung up in Denver and, through his sister, here in the Cities). Therefore, it is fitting that he has asked for us to pray a novena to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati for healing and strength for these four people, in accord with God's will for them. Please join us - if you can still do it today (or "catch up" with us) we will end on April 6th, which happens to be Bl. Pier Giorgio's birthday, fittingly!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Opening the Guitar Case

Make your own clipart like this @ www.TXT2PIC.com

As most of you know, I have discerned a call with the Benedictines of Mary and hope to enter the convent on June 11th of this year. (My full story is here)

Day in and day out, in parishes and homes across the world we pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Many of us do so without ever imagining that we ourselves might be part of God's answer to that prayer, or that our children might be. Well, speaking as one of those answers, to hear the call and accept it eagerly is one of the most marvelous things that can happen in one's life! I strain forward towards that day when I can join my monastic family at the foot of the Cross, and though in many ways it is fast approaching, can an engaged person ever say that their wedding day is not coming quickly enough?

Unlike an engaged couple, however, I and others seeking our vocation in the cloister have a major difference in our preparations - what to do about our educational debt load. Engaged couples worry about money, certainly, but they are not prevented from their marriage due to outstanding debt. Aspiring Sisters like myself, on the other hand, are.

I am now working with the Laboure Society with the goal of clearing my educational loans. To plan and run the usual means of fundraising is difficult for me, as I am working full time at a parish plus taking 10 credits of university language courses in order to be able to graduate before entering. June 11 is fast approaching however, and so I am making this online plea to YOU.

I am not worried - I trust in God's Providence and in the Holy Spirit that if this is His will, all will be well. However, as Catholics we also realize that our cooperation is essential - we must each say yes to God and our actions towards one another matter, we make a difference by God's grace in others' lives. Hence, while I have constant trust, I am also not going to leave any rocks unturned! :)

Please, if you have prayed for vocations with an open heart and have not yet contributed financially to assist someone's vocation directly (or even if you have!), consider making a (tax-deductible!) contribution that will assist me in offsetting my loans through the Laboure Society. If you choose to give, please tag your donation to the Laboure Society with the memo "VS blog 2/8".

Thank you!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prayers for a family's tragedy

I've always argued for the goodness of the Internet, but perhaps this is the best defense of all - the web forges new links between us as a community, helping us to know of others so that we can love them, and as believers helping us to fulfill our responsibility to pray and intercede for one another.

Whenever you think you're having a rough day, the Lord just wants to show you that there are others who He is calling you to pray for.

Steve Walker, I don't know you, but God does - and I pray for your eternal rest and for the comfort of your family.

Meet Nathan, one of thousands...

...who were received into full communion with the Catholic Church this spring.

...This highlighted for me one very important fact that my RCIA program never even alluded to: that to be a Catholic, you are taking a very firm stand in a very distinct way. The fullness of truth does not come without its costs. Our faith is not something that should work to make us comfortable where we are, rather, it is something that that should make us bitterly uncomfortable where we are whenever we are not fully in God's presence. There is no salvation without the cross.

Over at Genesis and Eschaton, Nathan Kennedy bares his soul for us and reminds us once again that the road to Christ is not wide and easy but one that requires our full cooperation and dedication. Oftentimes, as Christ promised us, this means that in the eyes of the world, particularly in the eyes of those who are closest to us, we are deemed insane, fools, fanatics. For many converts like Nathan, there are immense struggles attached to committing to Christ in the Church - but the same goes for anyone who takes their faith seriously. We can all learn and gain from reading Nathan's story, whether we are converts, reverts, or still unsure of what we really believe and how far we are really willing to go for God.

Go read all of Nathan's Early Reflections on the Challenge of my Confirmation

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"I" define a person as ________.

Via Zadok comes this frightening report from Belgium:

Mr Tommelein, whose party is a key member of Belgium's coalition government, has pledged to bring forward new legislative proposals extending euthanasia to children and old people suffering from such severe dementia that they are unable to choose for themselves.

And perhaps even more frightening:

There are more than 39 cases of euthanasia declared by doctors in Belgium every month, but the true figure is thought to be double that.
Euthanasia is currently permitted on infants and more than half of the Belgian babies who die before they are 12 months old have been killed by deliberate medical intervention.
In 16 per cent of cases parental consent was not considered.

Wow. So... when faced with a population crisis because of not having enough people being born to sustain the amount of federal social welfare programs, apparently Belgium's solution is to just kill off the people that they promised that those programs would protect, by trying to convince us that they aren't people at all (no, they don't say that outright - but that's effectively what their actions mean. Persons are those who live a "worthwhile" life. Humans who are too young, old or incapicated or who just have a "life unworthy of life" are not persons and should be killed to make way for those who are persons.)

Who's next to be determined useless, person-less, and marked for death - poor people who aren't pulling their weight in the Brave New World? Children who are slow learners and falling behind in class? People with a cleft lip (wait - that's already happening: Over 30 babies aborted in England alone)? Me? You?

As that old adage goes, referring to Nazi Germany:

They came for the Jews and I did nothing.
They came for the foreigners and I did nothing.
They came for the religious and I did nothing.
They came for the homosexuals and I did nothing.
They came for the children and I did nothing.
They came for the old and sick and I did nothing.
They came for my neighbors and I did nothing.
They came for me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Buona Pasquetta!

Since I missed out on wishing you all a Buona Pasqua, I'll wish you a Buona Pasquetta instead - Happy Little Easter!

Today, Easter Monday, is celebrated as a quasi-national holiday in Italy, where it is dubbed "La Pasquetta", or "little Easter". Here in the States, the only remnent of this tradition is found in some Catholic schools, where Easter break extends through today.

Take some time today to celebrate Easter all over again - and don't forget, there is a whole OCTAVE (8 days) of Easter, so even after the "Little Easter" there are still 6 more little Easters to go! Time to go stock up on gelato!! :)

Speaking of celebrating, this post from Ian called Nothing Is Too Cheap For God seems to be a relevant observataion today. A snip:

...I believe that an actual love of God must be cultivated among all the Faithful. Most people would be aghast if it was suggested that they give the music or the art in their parishes to someone they love as a gift. They would probably choose something of higher quality as a gift. And yet, this lack of quality is what is offered to God each day at Mass. To achieve the goal of love of God will require a lot of patient education. This education may offend people who have come to believe that liturgy is all about community instead of worship and that mediocrity (though they wouldn’t put it in that term) is the best that can be expected. A true love of anything will always naturally bring about an improvement in the quality of attention given to the beloved. We need to abandon the idea that nothing is too cheap for God and return to the notion that nothing is too good for God.

Case in point.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Abbastanza buono per San Giuseppe?

How do you know when it's time to celebrate the sanctity of St. Joseph, foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ and most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

When le zeppole appears in Italian pastry shop windows of course!

This year the feast of St. Joseph crept up on me and caught me unprepared - I could use the transference of his feast day to the 15th (instead of the 19th) as an excuse, but I won't. Instead, I'll blame it on the fact that fate has left me thousands of miles away from any Italian pastry shops and their windows. :)

So, yesterday, at Mass I suddenly realized that la festa di San Giuseppe was upon us... and that I was craving le zeppole! What's a girl in the wrong latitude and longitude to do? Make some!

The first question was what to make - there are lots of different varieties, from the fried donut kind to the cream puff kind that I saw a lot in Rome. An added problem is that most of the recipes are in italiano and are geared for centigrade stove temperatures... I didn't have the energy to translate a whole recipe or to try to do a proper conversion. That limited my choices significantly. And, while I guess the most traditional and common type of le zeppole is the fried donut, I am without a deep fryer and had no desire to deep fry in a skillet today. Thus, in the end I opted to go for the cream puff kind (with raspberries, because the typical cherry on top is out of season in Minnesota in March, for some reason!).

So, after finding my recipe this afternoon I: looked at the ingredient list, gasped at the amount of calories involved, went grocery shopping, made the check-out clerk gasp at the amount of calories involved, came home, used three different pans which made three different consistencies of pastry puffs (oops), whipped up heavy cream for the first time (and got cream spots on everything in a three mile radius), made my roommates gasp at the amount of calories involved, folded heavy cream into instant pudding for the first time, spilled folded cream & pudding mix all over the kitchen floor, improvised a ziplock baggie into a frosting squeezer for the first time (a lot of firsts today!), realized I still need practice at getting whipped cream the right thickness as I watched it ooze over everything without leaving a lot on the actual pastries, got powdered sugar EVERYWHERE, realized once again just how spectactular fresh raspberries are (Mmmmmmmmm!), had problems getting the pesky little pastries to look "right", made our guest gasp at the amount of calories involved, and finally... ate one. And it was very good.


Ta-da! I present to you, Le Zeppole di San Giuseppe (alà Mary :)


There's definitely room for improvement... the consistency and flavor of the filling isn't QUITE right. The instant pudding part is going to have to go, though I shudder to think of the effort involved in making real crema (or whatever you call what goes into the real thing). And I really need to learn what exactly "stiff peaks" means when whipping up heavy cream, I think that could be a bit thicker. But all in all, a good start I'd say and quite tasty in itself.

Next problem: I need to figure out what to do with a ton of leftover crema! For the amount of puffs that this recipe made, the amount of crema produced seems to be overkill! So if you try this recipe, just keep that in mind... and maybe reduce the ingredients for the filling (unless it's only a matter of knowing how to properly whip cream, in which case... do let me in on the secret!)

Now, I really want to try the more traditional kind. Even if it does mean risking my fingers from having hot oil popping in a frying pan. Perhaps I'll try it on San Giuseppe's "real" day, March 19th, this Wednesday, if I can find a decent recipe. Stay tuned!

Recipe I used for this version of Le Zeppole di San Giuseppe:

Le Zeppole:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in all of the flour. Beat vigorously with a spoon until thoroughly blended. Stir over heat 1-3 minutes until mixture comes away from the pan to form a ball. Remove from heat and beat eggs in one at a time. After each addition, beat until batter is well blended and smooth.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool puffs, cut in half and fill with filling.

Almond Cream Filling:
1 package instant French vanilla pudding
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pint whipping cream
1 pint raspberries
powdered sugar for dusting

Follow directions on package of pudding, substituting almond extract for some of the milk. Let pudding set for 1 hour. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the pudding.

Slice cream puffs in half and fill. Top with some raspberries. Put the top back on and dust with powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Words to live by

From a friend:

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ
that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.”

Mice eyeing cats.

You just never know what you're going to find at Goodwill... Today I was on my way home from Sam's Club and popped in to browse through the books, as I am wont to do when given an opportunity. An old hardcover with a tattered dust jacket entitled "We Ate Gooseberries" caught my eye for some reason; when I pulled it down I was quite intrigued to find that it is by a Fr. Vernon J. Schaefer and subtitled "Growing Up on a Minnesota Farm During the Depression". Bonus: the inside cover seems to be signed by the author. And at only $1.00, I figured, perchè no? and added it to my pile of books - Dad, it's yours when you get here next weekend. :)

Anyway. My point, and I do have one, is that I just now started reading a few pages and really like Fr.'s witty and casual style of telling his tales. While it may not be the next classic in the sense of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I'm actually glad it's not. Instead, it's a very friendly and down-to-earth collection of personal stories. Most of all, I love the impression of his own habit of speaking that comes across - I've never heard or seen the man, but I can almost believe he is speaking these words to me as I read them. Take, for example, this little gem of an observation (remember, the good Father published this book in 1974):

..."While we were still residing on the Schumacher Place another member of the Schaefer tribe arrived. This was Marjorie Ursaline born on March 11, 1921. So it was evident that Ma wasn't practicing birth control, the big "virtue" of the sixties, and it looks like it's going to be worse in the seventies for a new human being to sneak into the world. But poor Ma, she never spaced her children but let the Lord do it and had five in a row. According to the modern experts she should have collapsed physically and mentally. Approaching eighty now, she is as healthy as a horse. On the other hand, some of our modern mothers are killing themselves with drugs, gadgets, and worry lest they give birth to another child and are about as happy as a mouse eyeing an oncoming cat."

"A mouse eyeing an oncoming cat." Yup, that about sizes it up I'd say, and sadly it didn't get any easier for new humans to "sneak into the world" in the eighties, nineties, or now in the oughts either...

Another gem:

..."Back beyond the trees clustering about the house and yard area was a small barn which could accommodate six cows and two horses. Above it was a small haymow into which was pitched a load of hay by hand on occasion. Although the Sisters in school put out a rather vivid account of what hell was like, it was in that haymow one day that we experienced hell first hand as we were ordered to pull the hay back when it was pitched in through that small door on a hot July day. With no semblance of a breeze, the heat-charged air was filled with choking dust to the point of almost suffocating this freely perspiring little saint in overalls. The suffering son of Adam could think of only one thing - hell - and he vowed he would never commit a mortal sin and take a chance of having to endure this for eternity. Rural life in the old days had moments admirably geared to inculcating real sanctity."

And another:

..."Also in the grove beyond the woodshed was a narrow tile structure of dull orange color like the hen house. This was the smoke house. Besides using it for flavoring the protein, we often used it as a pulpit. The hollow tile was open at the corners, and it was easy to mount to the gently arching cement roof. On this we stood and preached eloquently, or so we thought, to the sparrows, woodpeckers, squirrels or whatever wildlife happened to be occupying the area at the moment. Despite these efforts, which made Demosthenes a famous orator, we're told, we gained nothing from the practice, apparently. In fact, we became one of the world's worst pulpit orators in the Church."

With many more pages to go, I think I'm going to find a nice spot to curl up for a few hours once I post this!

After doing a bit of a search online, I discovered that Fr. Vernon Schaefer, of the Diocese of Winona, died on November 16, 2000. I pray for him today, may he be at peace with our Lord eternally, and I ask for his prayers for all of us!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The world is not a 'prison house,' but a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks."
~ Edwin Arlington Robinson (H/T to Artur!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Quickie Prayer for the World

There's a beautiful ejaculation, a quickie prayer that Our Lord gave to Sister Maria Consolate Betrone. It says, "Jesus and Mary, I love you. Save souls." It's very simple but, oh, it carries a lot of weight. So intercede for the whole world.

~ From Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality

"Someone's beloved never got to be born"

One of the most powerful blog posts I have ever had the honor of reading can be found today over here at Adam's Ale. In it, a woman shares with us her face-to-face encounter with both the reality of our sins and their consequences, and the hope that we have in Christ's mercy. Read it, share it, meditate on it. And "Go and sin no more."

Several months ago this blog [Adam's Ale] featured the priest’s frustration at dealing with young couples preparing for marriage who roll their eyes and sigh as he explains the Church’s teaching on premarital sex and birth control. Thirty-two years ago, I was one of those young people. I am still married and have 4 wonderful children, but I recently realized that even after going to Confession and being forgiven by God, I had not forgiven myself for these sins.

So I went to Adoration and in front of the Blessed Sacrament, bared my soul to God. The first day I talked to Him about birth control. Not only did my husband and I use artificial contraception, but I took oral contraceptives. I knew birth control pills were abortifacient, but I chose to pretend that it didn’t really count. Of all the things I have ever done in my 54 years on earth, this is the one I regret the most.

Catherine Grace and Benjamin Douglas
And how many more
Poor souls conceived and then destroyed
By my selfishness.

And yet my selfishness is my loss.
What could be more intimate than nursing a baby,
Giving of myself to one who is helpless without me
Giving what only I can give,
Holding that gift from God
Looking into its tiny eyes
Counting its tiny fingers
Comforting a new creation
Not quite comfortable in this world

I’ll never be able to do that again.
Yes, I will have the chance to hold a baby
But not flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.
I will have a chance to feed a baby
But never suckle it at my breast.

More than a sexual union
I think that this is the intimacy of the Eucharist…
God, reaching down
Looking us tenderly in the eye
And feeding us from his body and blood.

I had a chance to share in that mystery four times,
But how many more could there have been?

And even that is selfish, Lord.
What about the poor innocent souls
Who never got to live out their purpose in life.

I’m sorry

One might have found a cure for cancer.
One might have been Pope.
One might have been a sport hero worthy of being looked up to.

I’m sorry, Lord.

I have taken innocent lives.
I have had abortions
I have murdered.

What have I done???

Oh, God, save me from the snare of the fowler
The snare that says I know better
The snare that says I’m OK because everyone does it.

Every sin is communal
Someone’s beloved never got to be born.
Someone’s best friend never took his first breath.
Someone’s favorite teacher never got to preschool.
Someone’s spiritual director was never even baptized.


Please don’t be like my friend who says that sorry doesn’t help. I can’t go backwards. Believe me, I wish I could.

How do I make amends?
How do I go to those saints in heaven and repay my debt?
How do I contact all of those people between the ages of 10 and 30 and say that I’m sorry that because of my selfishness and fear, someone important in their life won’t be there when they need them?

I cannot even look at You. I am so ashamed.

Look at me.

I pounded those nails. Worse than that, I jeered at you with the crowds. I was caught up in the fever of the day.

Look at me.

Can this be healed, Lord, it is so big?

You’re already forgiven. Come to me and be healed.

I cannot even look at you. How could I approach you?

Come. My mercy shall wash you clean.

Here is your God,
He comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
He comes to save you.

- Isaiah 35:4 -

Thursday, March 06, 2008

(Not quite) Leaving the world behind

Welcome to any new readers from today's Catholic Spirit archdiocesan newspaper!

Please click here to see my previous post about my decision to enter the Benedictines of Mary!

My blog has been fairly quiet lately, as I prepare to enter the convent, however many people have wondered, "just how do you prepare to be a nun anyway?"

Thus, I am planning on posting a bit more frequently now about these preparations. Please check back again and do let me know if you have any particular prayer intentions for me and the community to pray for.

Dio ti benedica!

Fra Angelico's Annunciation