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White smoke drifting into the night sky:

white smoke

The world watches…

St Peter's Square

…21st-century style:

Crowd 2

The crowd goes wild:

Crowd

A moment of prayer:

pope francis bowing

The cardinals take in the crowd’s jubilation, and no doubt look forward to resting more easily:

cardinals

Pope FrancisHabemus Papam!  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires is now Pope Francis!

What a wonderful gift God and our cardinals have given to the Church today! Our new Holy Father seems like such a humble and gracious man.  I will never forget when he bowed and asked the people to pray for God’s blessing upon him, and the entire crowd fell silent and prayed, joined by the millions around the world who were watching via the media.  A beautiful, edifying, unifying moment.

I so look forward to getting to know our new Papa better and seeing and hearing more from him.  I feel we are in very good hands, and that he is going to move the Barque of St. Peter forward and reach out to the world.  A good leader for this age of the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith.

Pope Benedict farewell

With humility he came to the papacy, and with humility he left.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI bade farewell to the public world today.  I’m still taking it in.  The Church is pope-less for a time.  Sedes vacans.  While I was watching videos of his departure from Vatican City, I felt awe at the fact that I was witnessing such an historical moment.  I also felt a touch of sadness.  But I know Papa Benedict will be a great prayer-warrior for the Church and the world, and I am grateful for that.  I hope and pray that this gentle scholar–that is how I will always remember him most–will enjoy serenity and some refreshment for the rest of his days.  I hope he will continue to bless us with his writing as well.

At the same time, let us pray very hard for the cardinals who will be in the upcoming conclave.  As Papa Benedict himself said in his farewell address to them, the future pope is among them.  We must pray for their discernment, for their careful attention to the voice and motion of the Holy Spirit.  In addition to praying for the college of cardinals as a whole, perhaps you might want to adopt a cardinal and pray for him in particular.  I am praying for my adopted cardinal, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary.

What a way to start a Monday morning.

Like many people, I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that Pope Benedict XVI had decided to resign from the papacy.  Also like many, I felt a storm of conflicting emotions: gratitude to God for having given us so good a shepherd… sadness that his papacy had to be cut short… admiration of his humility and steadfastness… worry about his health and about who would succeed him as our holy father… but above all gratitude and love!

One thing is clear: we all know what we need to pray and fast for this Lent!  For the peace and much deserved rest for Pope Benedict… and for the cardinals who will be electing his successor, that they listen carefully to the Holy Spirit.

And now, here are some of my favorite photos of dear Papa Benedict!

pope-benedict-xvi

Pope Benedict blessing babies in the Holy Land

pope-benedict-praying-while-walking

Portrait of Pope Benedict XVI

 From NASA’s NuStar Project:

Is it not amazing what we can do these days?  Seriously, pinpointing black holes in a galaxy 7 million light-years away!  It wasn’t that long ago that scientists didn’t believe black holes really existed.  Just a strange quirk in the mathematics of relativity, perhaps.  And now they’ve even caught a glimpse of the black hole at the center of our own galaxy:

Here we are again at St. Dominic’s feast day, one of my favorite days of the year!  I hope it has been a blessed and joyful one for everybody–especially my fellow Dominicans!

I had the good fortune to attend a very pleasant and educational celebration at the University of Dallas sponsored by the UD Alumni.  Several of my fellow Lay Dominicans were in attendance, and we enjoyed a talk and Q&A with Dr. John Sommerfeldt, Professor Emeritus of History, about St. Dominic and his world and his Order of Preachers.

One thing Dr. Sommerfeldt spoke about was the fact that we really know very little about St. Dominic.  There are some writings and testimonies about him, but they are more hagiographical than biographical.  We have even less that is from and by the saint himself.  It’s rather strange, isn’t it–that the man who founded the Order of Preachers should be such a quiet figure!

And yet, by the fruits of his labor, we know him.  The Order he founded not only outlived the Albigensian heresy it was founded to confront–it has outlived everything since, right up to the present moment.  It is approaching its 800th year!  800 years and an unbroken succession of Christian men and women who joyfully and lovingly call ourselves Dominicans, after our spiritual father.  Many of them have become saints themselves: Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas… Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima… Martin de Porres and John Macias… Pope Pius V and Louis de Montfort… these are just a small selection of Dominican saints.

Prayer and preaching were the two foundations of St. Dominic’s life.  Contemporaries said that he always spoke with God or of God.  St. Dominic must also have been a very practical man.  He knew that in order to preach effectively, one must be dedicated to study.  In order to study, one must have things like access to books and a roof over one’s head.  And so, he sent his friars into all the cities of Europe and had them establish Dominican houses close to the newly-flourishing universities, where they studied and not long after began teaching.  These intellectual friars also attracted students and teachers to join the fledgling Order.

But of course, the growth and flourishing and survival of the Order was, and is, and ever will be largely a result of its founder’s prayers and sacrifices–all of the great works he did in secret, during the night.  His life and his mission and his Order were never about him.  He cared more about ensuring the future of the Order.  He wanted it to live long after he was gone.

Even in death, he probably would have been content to work behind the scenes, in ways fully known only to God and himself.  He died on 6 August–the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  He would have been content to have his own feast day eclipsed by a feast of the Lord.  But the Church treasures her quiet light, and so we commemorate him on 8 August.

Pope Benedict spoke of St. Dominic and his deep prayer life in his Wednesday Audience today.  Read about it here.

(Photo: statue of St. Dominic at the priory of Santa Sabina, Rome – by Flickr user Lawrence OP)

I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice thick blanket of snow outside this morning!  The weather forecasters were only predicting maybe an inch or two.  We’ve gotten about 6 inches where I live!  It’s beautiful.  And since snow is much easier to walk on than the ice we’ve had for the last few days, I went out for a walk.

Snowy days always have an extraordinary silence about them.  The kind of silence you can hear and feel.  Stand still, and it just envelopes you.  Even when you’re walking, the sound of the snow compressing beneath your shoes just emphasizes the quietness.  The monochrome of snow and sky reflect it.

And in that white silence, I felt closer to God than I have in a while.  Partly because He is recognizable in all beauty.  Partly because snowy days always return me a little to the joy, innocence, and wonder of childhood, when I was always so close to Him and rarely lost sight of Him.  Partly because there was no need for words, just a pure connection between my soul and Him.  It was a silence that was anything but lonely.

Here is a link to some photos I took while I was out.

A full solar eclipse reveals the extraordinary beauty of the sun’s corona, which in turn reveals the intricate lines of the sun’s magnetic field.  See a larger photo and read more about the solar corona here.

ht: Fr. Cory Sticha, via Plurk

Today was the Dallas March for Life/Roe v. Wade Memorial.  I didn’t go to the Rosary or the Mass, but just to the march and the rally.  I got to the cathedral before the Mass was over, and the plaza in front of the cathedral was already jam-packed!  I don’t know if we reached our goal of 10,000 participants, but there sure was a crowd in any case!

I somehow managed to find Julie and her husband, which made me happy–it’s sort of been a tradition for me to attend the march with them.  I saw plenty of other folks from our parish, and saw one of my Lay Dominican sisters in the crowd.  We happened to walk beside this lovely lady, Mrs. Terry Jenkins, who was talking about how she and her husband had gone to jail before for protesting against abortion.  Julie struck up a conversation with her and learned that she has been a pro-life activist since Roe v. Wade came about.  I wish I could have listened in more on her stories, but I was so pitifully hard of hearing, especially in the middle of the crowd and noise.  One thing I could tell very easily was that she was so delighted to see the young people taking up the standard and ensuring that the cause will be carried forward.  And it was a wonderful privilege for me to meet somebody who helped get the cause started.

Here’s a photo of me, Mrs. Jenkins, and Julie after the rally (thanks to Julie’s husband, Tom for taking it).  I call this one “Ladies on Crusade”!

The signs were being handed out by one of the other marchers.  They were made by the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which seems like a very good Christian campaign against abortion.  From their Web site:

Silent No More Awareness is a Campaign whereby Christians make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women and men. The campaign seeks to expose and heal the secrecy and silence surrounding the emotional and physical pain of abortion.

The Campaign is a project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life.

I have to say, though, one of my favorite signs of the day was this one:

I like the little baby with the cowboy hat.  And for those of you unfamiliar with Texas, the slogan is a play on the state’s iconic anti-littering slogan, “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get too many good photos this year–partly because the crowd was so huge and there weren’t really any good vantage points–and I’m not going to complain about that!  I’m sure that the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of Dallas will be posting some photos soon.

Read Julie’s account of the day too.

Here is my post from last year.

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!

This blog is brought to you by a Lay Dominican

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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