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Dallas’ own Bishop Kevin Farrell now has a blog!  :D

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My diocese has launched a local “Catholics Come Home” program for the Christmas season.

I think it’s a great idea, since many people attend Mass at Christmas who may not attend Mass at any other time.  I hope that many people take advantage of it, that Catholics will  invite fallen-away Catholics to Christmas Mass, and that fallen-away Catholics will accept those invitations with an open heart and mind.  And that those who only attend Mass at Christmas will start attending every Sunday and holy day of obligation.

As a Catholic revert myself, I can attest to the powerful and surprising ways in which the Holy Spirit can move us.  I pray that many people will have their faith and dedication re-ignited, as I have, and that they will accept the call to conversion whole-heartedly, humbly, and joyfully.

I can hardly imagine life without my Catholic faith now.  It is the greatest of blessings.  I hope that many others will discover, or re-discover, that blessing for themselves.

A blessed All Saints Day to one and all!  I just love this feast day, because it helps turn our faces toward Heaven, toward our goal and destination.  It reminds us that we are never on our own.  It reminds us that the way of sanctity is not impossible.  It reminds us that there is so much to being human that is not bound and restricted to this world, to this vale of tears.  What a great blessing!

I feel especially blessed that I was born on this feast day!  I feel like I have the patronage of all the saints in Heaven!  It’s like winning a spiritual lottery.  :)  Heaven knows I can use all the help I can get.

It’s been such a beautiful day.  As always, I’ve been inundated with kind well wishes from family and friends–that’s the best part.  And some lovely gifts as well.  I’m now the proud owner of a Nintendo DS Lite in metallic rose–it’s the most adorable game system ever!  My beloved friend and past college roommate generously sent me several books from my Amazon wishlist: Questions and Answers by Pope Benedict ; The Privilege of Being a Woman by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand ; and Ironies of Faith: the Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature by Anthony Esolen.

This morning, I went to All Saints Day Mass.  Our pastor had invited a priest who works at the local seminary to celebrate Mass for us and talk about priesthood and vocation.  He brought our 3 seminarians from our parish to serve at the Mass.  It is always wonderful to see them!  We’re so proud of them.

I also visited the old Calvary Cemetery, the original Catholic cemetery in Dallas.  It is not very large.  It’s mostly immigrant families.  I walked up and down it, praying my Rosary and reading the stones.  There were several priests and sisters buried there, and among them was our “martyr priest,” Fr. Jeffrey Hartnett.  In 1899, there was an epidemic of smallpox in the city.  Fr. Hartnett went to the “pesthouse” to care for the sick and dying victims.  He contracted the disease himself, and died.  Visiting his grave and reading his story really brought All Saints Day closer to home for me.

I was rather sad that I was the only living person in the cemetery–living in the earthly, mortal, physical sense.  I did not feel lonely at all.  As I quietly prayed my Rosary, I could almost hear the chorus of those souls whose flesh had returned to dust in the ground below!  I offered the Rosary and my visit there for the poor souls in Purgatory, of course.

I hope everybody had a beautiful day!  :)

The blog Fallible Blogma is running a poll on the best Catholic speakers for 2009.  You can vote only once, but your vote can include up to 10 selections!

I was alerted to this poll by my friend Monica Ashour, who happens to be one of the nominees.  She is an outstanding speaker and teacher on Theology of the Body.  She’s the director of our local ToB apostolate, Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET), which I’ve mentioned a few times before.  I can’t recommend Monica or TOBET highly enough for ToB talks.

As you’ll see, however, that poll includes many wonderful speakers who deserve recognition.  So why don’t you go vote for your favorites!

I just wanted to announce Vocation Boom!, a new initiative dedicated to encouraging and supporting priestly vocations.  From the site:

Vocation Boom! is a non-profit initiative that is the fruit of more than twenty years of prayer and deliberation. It is a vision which began to take shape in the heart of Jerry Usher while he spent time in priestly formation from 1989 to 1995. Over the past two years, he and a few of his colleagues have been moving Vocation Boom! from idea to reality. Pope Benedict XVI’s recent proclamation of The Year for Priests is a confirmation of our intentions and as an indication that now is the time to unveil Vocation Boom!

We have assembled a team of passionate partners consisting of top Catholic professionals in business, marketing, media and content development, as well as Church leaders, including priests, bishops, and vocation directors committed to guiding us on our journey. And we ask that you prayerfully consider helping us with this important endeavor.

You may know Jerry Usher from his previous work hosting the Catholic Answers Live radio program.

I am pleased and proud that some efforts from my local Church went into this wonderful project.  The logo and the Web site were designed by a gentleman I know from my local parish and Lay Dominican community.  I think they look awesome!  He also directed the video, “I Will Give You Shepherds,” which includes some of our parish’s seminarians too!

[UPDATE] Julie tells me her husband contributed the layout, so there’s another local gent who deserves credit!

The site includes many more videos, helpful resources such as links to seminaries, educational and inspirational food for thought about the priesthood, and Jerry Usher’s blog.

I think this is a great project… I can hardly think of a more worthy cause!  We should definitely support it with our prayers and in any other way possible.

To begin with, please go visit the Vocation Boom! site, and spread the word!

I’ve had a pretty busy morning, including some hurried pic-shootings.

Me in my veil:

Veil 2

My church library, where I volunteer:

St. Jude Library

Some others here.

I now need to eat some lunch, put some laundry in the washer, and relaaaax!  :)

After Mass this morning, a young lady was leaving the church at the same time I was.  As we went out, she turned to me and said, “Thank you for veiling.”  I saw that she had a white lace veil folded in her hand.

I was so pleasantly surprised by her kind comment that I was nearly stunned!  I think I managed to say something like, “Oh, um, you’re welcome.”  Which, I realized 2 seconds later, was totally lame.  What I was thinking was more like, “Oh, bless you, and thank you for veiling also!  You just made my day!  Have a lovely Sunday!”

Alas, I’ve always had this crazy roadblock between my mind and my mouth.  That’s what I mean when I say I’m a poor speaker.  Or is it more a case of being “socially inept?”  In either case:  Doh!  I hope I didn’t come across as rude.

But, my incredibly clumsy response aside… what a wonderful comment!  What a wonderful encouragement!

Thanks to my friend and co-parishioner Julie of  Happy Catholic for mentioning the USCCB’s video reflections on the daily Scripture readings.

She also pointed out that our parish pastor gives the one for 23 June!  Apparently our bishop and some other priests in our diocese also contributed some reflections.  They were all filmed in our parish church.

Go check it out!  :D

Our local Adult Faith Formation program is currently accepting registrations for Fall 2009.

This semester’s line-up of classes:

Resurrection from the Dead

The Gospel of John

Mariology

Evangelization and Catechesis

I’m seriously considering taking Resurrection and Mariology.

I’ve taken some of these classes before, and they have been really outstanding!  They are a great way to delve deeply into the faith.

Tuition is just $50 per class (plus book costs, where applicable).  First time applicants to the program also pay a one-time $50 application fee.

Go to the Web site for lots more information, including class syllabi, schedules, and registration forms.

This morning I went to a meeting of my parish pro-life group.  We had as our guest speaker Darlene Ellison, one of our own co-parishioners and author of The Predator Next Door.  She’s a wonderful lady, and gave a powerful talk… a very brave, very open talk.  She spoke of how tragedy helped her begin to truly believe and live out her faith, and how, in looking back at her life, she could see that God had been subtly building her up to face the tragedy–and to overcome it, to grow from it.  He brought new life and purpose from it.  He brought understanding from it.

Although my story is very different from hers, I identified so much with what she was saying.  I too re-discovered my faith in tragedy, and I too can see how God was working to build me up to face it, to overcome it, to grow from it.

This might sound strange, but when I think of the time leading up to Patrick’s death, it was almost as if I had premonitions at times–without fully realizing it at the time, of course.  It’s really hard to describe.  A lot of little things that sort of subconsciously or unconsciously jolted me with the message, “You won’t be able to have him with you much longer… but you will get through it… I will be here to see you through.”

The biggest thing I remember was the night when Patrick pointed out the church that was to become my parish church.  Part of me deep inside knew that it was going to become my safe haven, my castle keep, my second home.  Part of me was poised to flee to it, and when the awful time came, flee to it I did.  Amid all the shock, confusion, and anguish, I gravitated to the Church, and to this church in particular.  It was like a homing beacon had gone off.

People don’t always understand how I could regain my faith and my relationship with God in the midst of tragedy.  I can see how it might seem counter-intuitive.  We often hear of people losing their faith and turning against God or ceasing to believe in Him at all in response to tragedy and suffering, and we can hardly help but understand and sympathize with that.

I don’t really know how to explain it.  Perhaps I never entirely lost the faith of my childhood.  Perhaps there was still a tiny speck of faith left in me.  Faith that informed me that suffering and tragedy bind us to the Cross–and to Resurrection.  Faith that informed me that God would never abandon me.  When I was a child, I often looked at this plaque my grandmother had at her house upon which was inscribed the  poem, “Footprints.”  Maybe that memory was a tiny seed that had lain dormant in me all those years, waiting for a moment in which to burst forth in all of its meaning.  Waiting for the moment at which I would really need to know its meaning.

It was a moment that had to come sooner or later.  No human being alive has any guarantee against it.  And God generally doesn’t protect us from it.  But He does enable us to weather the storm and then to grow–even flourish.  He never fails to bring forth goodness from tragedy or from evil.

It is always good to have other people re-affirm these truths and re-affirm for me that I’m not really all that strange for gaining faith from tragedy.  It emboldens me to tell my own story and give my own testimony to how very good and powerful God is.

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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