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November is by far my favorite month of the year.  It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it.  The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled.  And yet there is a special light and warmth as well.  The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums.  The golden tone of the slanting sunlight.  All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast.  Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months.  I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!

I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet.  On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated.  I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own.  Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children.  I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life.  But things have not turned out that way.  In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.

But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom.  And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful.  The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become.  And that is very liberating!

Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election.  I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully.  But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics.  There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident.  There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy.  Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord.  This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me.  It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is.  No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant.  That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit.  I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.

But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God.  My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first.  Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican.  The Vatican?!  Boy, they didn’t know the half of it!  They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us.  For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom.  We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for.  The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”

November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.

For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.

So, it seems that the United States federal government’s health care legislation has many of my fellow citizens all riled up. Personally, I have no idea what the legislation actually says or how it will play out–does anybody fully know?

It does trouble me, though. What troubles me is that many Americans seem to be under the illusion that the government is a charitable organization and that health insurance for all will translate into quality care for all. I fear that the reality is going to be harsh.

And yet, I can hardly blame anybody. An enormous void has grown in our society–a void of true charity, created with the breaking down of religious communities and religious identities and the shift toward pure secularism. The disintegration and now near-extinction of true charitable organizations such as Catholic hospitals.

And for all our anxiety and protests about having what’s left of our religious identities and charities and liberties squelched–we pretty much have only ourselves to blame. We’ve neglected them for decades, opting to go with the flow of secular society, forgetting all that our ancestors have contributed, buying into the revisionist history that claims religion has never been a force for good in society.

What we–and our country–have lost will only be restored by a trial by fire, and probably a very lengthy one. Pray and fast, brethren. Pray and fast. Start right now. And for Heaven’s sake, let’s stop complaining about the government and start taking responsibility and getting our own houses in order!

Governments come and go, rise and fall, try to replace religion and fail miserably. Sooner or later, it will once again be the Church that is filling the void of charity, striving to meet every human need and protect every human right. Let’s start preparing for that day sooner rather than later.

I hope everybody is having a wonderful Christmastide, and wish you a very happy and blessed new year!

I had a lovely visit with my beloved family in Jacksonville, Florida.  I attended Christmas Day Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Jacksonville.  It’s an old church, and probably the most beautiful church in which I have attended Mass–the stained glass windows were stunning, and they had large, very beautiful Stations of the Cross.  Here is a photo that shows some of the windows around the altar:

(photo by Flickr user stephg67)

After Mass, I helped my mom and sister prepare our Christmas dinner, we exchanged gifts, and then ate.  It was a beautiful day, perfectly befitting the birthday of our Savior.

Now the new year has begun, beginning with the beautiful Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!  It is comforting to begin the year knowing that we are secure in the love of God and Mary, and that they will see us through, come what may.

Here at home, I’ve been busy doing my new year’s cleaning and de-cluttering.  I’m always amazed by how many things I have around that are just taking up space and gathering dust.  It’s always liberating to get rid of stuff, keeping only things that are meaningful, important, and/or useful… to clean things and make them bright… to do some re-arranging of spaces.  It gives me a feeling of peace and pride in my home, simple (almost spartan) though it is.  I hope I can buy some more furniture this year!  I did just make my last car payment (YAY!!!) so maybe I can put some of that money aside for furniture.

I received my Patron Saint for 2010 from The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies.  This year’s Patron Saint is:

St John Neumann

Pray for the Church in America

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. [Gal 6, 9]

I think this is a perfect Patron Saint for me–and for the Church in this country!  He did so much to nurture, grow, and lead the Church in the U.S., and was the first American man to be canonized.  A Catholic immigrant himself (having been born and grown up in Bohemia), he was ordained in this country, and lived and worked here for the rest of his life, building churches and schools for his fellow Catholic immigrants.  I think I shall try to visit his national shrine in Philadelphia this year!

I have not forgotten my previous Patron Saints of the Year, St. Martha and St. Jason.  They are still a positive influence on my life… especially my home life and relationships with family and friends.  I’m sure that will always be true, and thank God for it!  And now, this year, I will perhaps gain a better outlook on my larger home, America.

I look forward to seeing what this new year has in store.  I hope it contains lots of happiness, blessings, and growth for you and for me!

For now, I must get back to my cleaning!

I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last Sunday of the Church year!  Next Sunday it begins anew with the First Sunday of Advent.

The Solemnity of Christ the King can’t help but be tremendously powerful.  One can’t help but be moved to humility and awe before the King of Heaven.  On this day, of all other days, I always feel as though a veil has been lifted from my eyes.  I see Christ as my King, God, and Creator, and I see myself as His creature, created out of nothing, entirely dependent upon Him.  And although I feel like a speck of dust before Him, I rest secure in His love, His goodness, His graciousness, His generosity, and His peace.  I know that it is by and for Him that I exist at all.

Today in Mariology class, we spent most of our class talking about the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.  Going into the class this morning, I was completely unaware of what riches were there to be mined from this single dogma.  Of course, it is about Mary and God’s singular extraordinary grace upon her, but beyond what it tells us about Mary is what it tells us about God and His very special love for every single one of us!  He wants to be in a special, intimate relationship with each of us just as He did with Mary.  Like Mary, we are each unique persons, with our very own role in God’s creation.  He loves each of us as completely and particularly as if we were the only person in the universe.  What He did for Mary is a sign of the tremendous love and power he offers to each of us.

And our professor pointed out something very important: human beings don’t come into the world on their own, and then God looks down and says, “Oh, here’s another one… Hm, am I going to love it or not? Maybe I’ll decide once I see what kind of creature it is and how well it behaves.”  That’s not how it is.  We come into being because of His love.  His love brings us to life, and it sustains us in life.  His love is a given, and it is a completely free given.  How we respond to it is up to us (because love must be freely given on our part as well).

This Solemnity of Christ the King is a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize and respond to His love.  To reaffirm that He is indeed our King–our King who loves us and gives us our being.  To reaffirm that we choose to be His subjects–subjects full of dignity and freedom and love given in return.  There is no humiliation, no degradation, no oppression, in being subject to the King of Heaven.

And yet so many people in our world reject and despise Him because they hate the idea of being subject to a King.  That’s almost as true of this country as of all of the more blatantly secularist nations of the west.  For all of the United States’ famous (or infamous) religiosity, we Americans tend to be intensely independent, individualistic, and self-autonomous.  You don’t have too search too deeply to realize that much of the religion in this country is really about being prosperous in this world.  At best, it is often confined to Sundays, holidays, and church walls.  Over 230 years after obtaining our independence as a nation, “King” is still a four-letter word in this country.

And because we are all part of this world, it can be very tempting to just go along with that.  But we mustn’t.  The truth is, there is no such thing as life without a king.  Rejecting the true King does not free us.  It only makes us subject to other “kings”–be they rulers of nations, heads of corporations, media moguls, pastors of feel-good mega-churches, or our own flaws.  “Kings” are a dime a dozen in this world, and they all play right into the hands of the “king” of Hell.

Make no mistake: the devil is the only one who benefits from us not serving Christ the King.

So, on this holy solemn feast day, let us make a radical declaration, not of independence, but of dependence.  Let us declare with all our hearts, “I am a subject of Christ the King, the Source of all life, love, and freedom–and of no other!”

And then–here’s the really challenging part–let us pledge to live every day of the upcoming new year as if we really meant it.

Today we remember the tragic, sudden, and violent loss of 2,996 innocent Americans on 11 September 2001.

This year, I have the special honor and privilege, thanks to Project 2,996, to pay tribute to Paul “Paulie” Ortiz, Jr., aged 21, from Brooklyn, NY.

Paul Ortiz, Jr.

Paul was preparing a conference at the Windows on the World restaurant atop the north tower of the World Trade Center when the tower was struck by a jet liner.

Although he lost his life at the very young age of 21, Paul had created a happy and successful life for himself and his loved ones. He was clearly a hard-working and passionate young man who knew what was most important in life.

Paul was devoted to his wife, Star, and their infant daughter, Rebecca. He worked as a computer technician at Bloomberg, a job and a company he loved. He was also dedicated to and active in his Jehovah’s Witness faith and community. He was a very joyful and caring man, always putting himself at the service of others. Many who knew him remark upon his radiant, unforgettable smile.

This excellent young man will live on in the wonderful legacy of love he has left in his wife and daughter and in everybody who carries his memory in their hearts.

I pray that he has found peaceful rest in God’s eternal light and eternal life, and that God will also grant peace and comfort to his family and friends, especially to Star and Rebecca. May the Lord’s face shine upon them all!

Let us never forget Paul Ortiz, Jr. or any of our brothers and sisters who lost their lives eight years ago. No matter how many years go by, let us never forget!

Related links:

See other tributes at the Project 2,996 blog

Paul’s memorial page at Legacy.com

Paul’s memorial page at 9-11 Heroes

Another blogger’s tribute to Paul from 2006

My tribute to another 9/11 victim, Thomas E. Sabella, from 2006

Project 2996 is an online volunteer project to remember and pay tribute to each of the 2996 innocent people who lost their lives on 9/11.

The project for this year needs lots of volunteers, so please consider signing up!  Here’s more information from the project blog:

On September 11, 2009 the participants of Project 2,996 will join in a massive blogburst. With enough participants I hope we can flood the blogosphere and the internet with the names faces and stories of the 2,996 people who were murdered for doing nothing more than living their daily lives.

If you’d like to participate, please sign up below.

  • If you’d like to volunteer to write a tribute on and post it to your own blog or website on 9/11/09, please be sure to include the URL of your site, and in the comment section tell us that you’d like to write a tribute.
  • If you don’t have a website but would still like to participate in Project 2,996, go ahead and sign up and I’ll send you updates about our progress. But if you don’t want to write a tribute please don’t enter your URL.

Like the first year, I’ll assign a random 9/11 victim to each person who wants to write a tribute. But unlike years past you probably won’t be assigned a victim right away. To cut down on on the craziness behind the scenes I’ll be assigning names in bulk along the way.

I have signed up for this year and look forward to it.  It is an honor and privilege to remember those who have died.

I wrote a tribute for a fallen hero in 2006.  Read it here.

Thank you.

… but my brain seems to be a bit stuck in vacation mode.

I loved Asheville!  It’s a very charming little city with some spectacular architecture!  And any place that has hills and mountains will automatically win my heart. The population is very eclectic.  Lots of young bohemian/hippie types.  Also lots of retirees.

As expected, I loved the Basilica St. Lawrence.  It was more beautiful and impressive than I could imagine!  I attended Mass there on Saturday evening, and it was wonderful.

I did take pictures, but many of them did not turn out well.  My hands are not as steady as they used to be.  :(  I got a few good ones, though, and will post some soon!

Will try to get up to speed with blogging soon.

My friend and co-parishioner, Julie, is reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe at her excellent literary podcast site, Forgotten Classics.

You really need to go and listen to it.  Really.  Now.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read the book, so listening to Julie read it is my first real exposure.  And no, that scene in The King and I doesn’t count!  I had no idea what an American treasure I’d been missing out on.

The story is exciting, heartbreaking, clever, and sometimes very funny.  It was originally written and published as a serial, so there are all kinds of cliff-hangers.

But what really captures me is that it is real.  It’s human.  And it’s about real history.  Julie gives lots of wonderful background information that helps bring the story to life and impress on us the realities it describes.  Naturally, there has been plenty of debate, criticism, interpretation and re-interpretation aimed at the story and its author.  But I, coming “fresh” to this story, just find it very real, powerful, and humanly satisfying.  It goes straight to my heart.  And the bit of background info that is constantly in my mind and that resonates most with me is that former slaves testified that the story provided an accurate portrayal of what life was like for them and in the world around them.  One cannot be unmoved by that!

Even if you have read the book, I recommend listening to it.  Julie does such a fantastic job with the reading.  Even if she hadn’t remarked on it herself, I could easily imagine that it would be very difficult to read… what with the offensive language and the vernacular dialect and the intense emotion of the story.

I got this in my email this morning from FastForHope.com:

2008 ELECTION CONSECRATION PRAYER

“Ever-faithful God, we consecrate the 2008 U.S. presidential election and our entire nation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Loving Mother, Patroness and Protectress of the Americas.

We ask that You take our Nation into Your Loving Care, reach into the hearts of the electorate, and give them the strength and enlightenment to know your Will, and to exercise Your Will in their vote. Abba, Father, Thy Will Be Done!”

At the site, they have a pledge for prayer and fasting for the election.  I always find that signing pledges makes me a little more mindful and motivated.  I’m a woman of my word; it’s a matter of personal honor for me to follow through on any pledge I make!

For Morning Prayer today, I decided to do the version for Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday.  I just felt a great need to honor Mary and to pray in a special way for her intercession.  I’ve been getting more and more excited (not necessarily in a good way) about Election Day and about our country in general.  Fortunately, the U.S. couldn’t have a better Patroness: Mary, the Immaculate Conception.  Saying the prayers in her honor, followed by a Rosary, really helped put me at ease.  I found the Psalms to be rather appropriate, as well.

I prayed this one especially on behalf of our civil leaders and those running for office:

Wisdom 9:1-6,9-11

God of my fathers, Lord of Mercy,
You who have made all things by Your word
and in Your wisdom have established man
to rule the creatures produced by You,
to govern the world in holiness and justice,
and to render judgment in integrity of heart:

Give me Wisdom, the attendant at Your throne,
and reject me not from among Your children;
for I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid,
a man weak and short-lived
and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.

Indeed, though one be perfect among the sons of men,
if Wisdom, who comes from You, be not with him,
he shall be held in no esteem.

Now with You is Wisdom, who knows Your works
and was present when You made the world;
who understands what is pleasing in Your eyes
and what is conformable with Your commands.

Send her forth from Your holy heavens
and from Your glorious throne dispatch her
that she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is Your pleasure.

For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me discreetly in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory.

No matter who becomes president, he will need wisdom from above… I just hope he is open to receiving it.

The Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel never hurts, either, especially in these difficult and uncertain times:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us
in battle, be our protection against the
wickedness and snares of the devil. May
God rebuke him we humbly pray; and
do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell Satan
and all evil spirits who wander through
the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Now to Evening Prayer!

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