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Today we celebrate a great and extremely interesting Saint, Mary Magdalene.  Maria_Magdalene_crucifixion_detail

A woman of considerable mystery and controversy, her exact identity is not clear.  Is she the same as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus?  Is she the unnamed sinner who anointed Christ’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair?  Was she a prostitute?

Her name brings to mind repentance, conversion, and liberation from evil.  One of the few clear statements about her in scripture says that she was exorcised of seven demons, and after that she followed Christ on His journeys.

We also know with certainty that she was present at the Crucifixion and that she was the first person to receive and announce the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection.  Dominicans regard her as a patroness of our Order, for she was the preacher to the preachers and the apostle to the apostles.

Even with such scarce evidence, we can conclude that St. Mary Magdalene had a remarkable and dramatic spiritual journey, a profound conversion.

While some might take umbrage with identifying her as a great sinner, the mention of her possession by seven demons suggests that for some period of time her life was far from saintly.  As a woman who has in the past has lived dangerously close to the demonic, I have long identified closely with St. Mary Magdalene.  When talking about my experiences with fellow Catholics, I have occasionally been met with appalled and scandalized responses, a very un-Catholic recoiling from my past as if it were still my present and my future, as if there were no such thing as repentance, conversion, and salvation of sinners.  And I have to admit that I am sometimes the most appalled of all, nearly tempted to doubt my own salvation.

But just as St. Mary Magdalene cannot be defined by her past errors, neither can I be, nor can anybody who turns their face to Christ and opens their heart to His saving grace!  The only sense in which we are defined by our past is that the great darkness which is behind us makes the transforming light of Christ gleam all the more radiantly!  Where sin abounded, grace abounds all the more, as St. Paul said.  And as St. Augustine said, every Saint has a past, and ever sinner has a future.  (Sts. Paul and Augustine should know very well, for they too are well-known as repentant and converted sinners.)

What greater grace could there be than to encounter the resurrected Christ in person?  And what greater future for a sinner than to announce that Good News for the first time in human history?  Those are the reasons we honor the great Saint, Mary Magdalene, and because she who was once Satan’s possession became Christ’s, preacher to the preachers, apostle to the apostles, and a glorious model of hope, repentance, and conversion for all of us sinners.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

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Just a few months ago I seriously started looking for a relationship with a man again. This is the first serious effort I’ve made since losing my intended husband 6.5 years ago. And, as you may have gathered from some of my recent posts… to say the least, things have not been going very well!

I don’t know if I’ve just had the bad fortune of running into lousy men, or if I am just so rusty with interacting with men that I have been making my own lousy mistakes, or if the rules have changed drastically in the last 6.5 years. Maybe it’s just that I am 6.5 years older now, and decades more mature than a person my age should be.

In any case, it has been so hard not to get utterly discouraged and fall into despair. Yeah, it’s only been a few months, but I’ve gotten quite a few fresh wounds in this short time! My spiritual life has been pushed nearly to its limits as I struggle not to lose hope and patience and trust in God.

However, I have also found great comfort in God and the Church–particularly the Communion of Saints. I have found some novenas that are said to bring wonderful, even miraculous, assistance in finding a spouse:

Novena to St. Joseph

Novena to Bl. Anna Marie Taigi (scroll to very bottom of post)

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Currently, I have just completed the Novena to St. Jude–since finding a decent man and potential husband does seem like a rather impossible cause.

I also pray each day this prayer to St. Raphael the Archangel.

In these and in my daily Divine Office and Rosary, and each time I go to Mass, I pray that I will soon meet a good man to be my husband, and that in the meantime, I will devote myself to growing deeper in love with God and to preparing myself to be a good wife and mother, with the Virgin Mary as my role-model.

I also pray for all the other single Catholic women who are also longing for a good husband and marriage and children.

I offer prayers for my future husband and children and ask that we all be together as a family soon.

I pray very hard for all the single men out there, especially Catholics, that they will fervently and steadfastly and courageously pursue the vocation of marriage and be open to loving women, no matter how many times they may have been hurt or rejected.

I pray that all of my own wounds from the past will be healed so that I can give myself whole and healthy and happy to my future husband.

Overall, I am just trying to put God first in my life and trust that He will richly provide for every need and desire I have. I am trying to be mindful of, and very grateful for all that He has given to me and done for me, to focus on the blessings I have, rather than focusing on what I lack. And I am trying to always remember that I am His daughter, and He is my Father. He loves me, and I love Him, and from that love springs all others.

Whenever I ponder love, I am brought back to this quotation from the film, Diary of a Country Priest:

Priest: We did not invent love. It has its order, its law.
Countess: God is its master.
Priest: He is not the master of love. He is love itself. If you would love, don’t place yourself beyond love’s reach.

Words to live by.

As the anniversary of my father’s death approaches, and as several people I know have recently lost loved ones, I have been praying the Divine Office’s Office for the Dead (this link, courtesy of the Holy Souls Sodality, gives the full text: Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer).

As I pray these beautiful Psalms, scriptures, and petitions, I find myself surrounded by such a comfort and peace.  They brim over with hope not only for our deceased loved ones, but for all of us.  They remind me that I too shall die and stand before God, but they also remind me how very merciful and loving God is, how eternal and beatific the life He offers to us, and what unspeakable joy and rest the soul of the faithful shall find in His presence.

Here is one of my favorite passages from Evening Prayer:

My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on His word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.
(Psalm 130 – De profundis)

How wonderful and refreshing it must be to finally have our waiting and longing satisfied… it’s hard to even imagine.  But that time shall come for us all, sooner or later.  Pretty amazing, isn’t it?  A little frightening, sure.  But as the Psalmist says, we can definitely count on the Lord, whom we revere for His mercy.

This feast day is a much-needed spirit-lifter for me, and it came just in time!

Last night, I was feeling so much sorrow and pain, over various things, but especially the loss of my dad and of my once-fiance, Patrick (I’ve been thinking about Patrick much more since my dad died–both of them so important to me, and both of them sorely missing in my life). I was praying and begging for relief. I told God that I felt like I was dying a slow, agonizing death. That was all I could make of the pain I felt at the time–death.

Today, however, I am reminded that suffering gives life as well. The Cross of Christ bears witness to that.

To destroy the power of hell Christ died upon the cross; clothed in strength and glory, He triumphed over death.

The Lord hung upon the cross to wash away our sins in His own blood. How splendid is that blessed cross.

How radiant is that precious cross which brought us our salvation. In the cross we are victorious, through the cross we shall reign, by the cross all evil is destroyed, alleluia.

We worship Your cross, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your holy resurrection, for the wood of the cross has brought joy to the world.

(Antiphons from Morning Prayer of the Divine Office)


I heartily recommend reading “The Dream of the Rood” on this feast day.

Here is my favorite previous post on this feast day:  The Tree of Life

The incredible thing about the Divine Office is that it never grows stale.  No matter how many times I may cycle through the weeks and the liturgical seasons, the prayers never cease to touch me and speak to me.  Sometimes they comfort me.  Sometimes they convict me.  Today, it was a little of both.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the Invitatory Psalm, Psalm 95.  And yet this morning, it really struck me.

“Do not grow stubborn as your fathers did in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah they challenged Me and provoked Me,
although they had seen all of My works.

They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know My ways.”

These familiar words really panged my heart.  Heaven knows that I have been known to be stubborn, even before God.  My heart has gone astray more than once.  And despite knowing how good God has been to me, I have doubted.  Perhaps some of the pangs I felt were personal remorse.  And then, there is the remorse I feel on behalf of the culture in which I live.  Talk about stubbornness and going astray, challenging and provoking.  It’s the Western way these days, I’m afraid.

This evening, Psalm 46 made me think of the horrible suffering in Haiti, after that devastating earthquake, while also being a fervent expression of hope and trust:

God is for us a refuge and strength,
a helper close at hand, in time of distress:
so we should not fear though the earth should rock,
though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea,
even though its waters rage and foam,
even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.

I know that’s pretty easy to say here where I am, where the earth has not in fact rocked and quaked and engulfed and trapped and killed. If I were in Haiti right now, I might find no comfort or hope at all in those words. I might not feel that God was with me at all in my time of distress.

More than anything, I feel that this is a call for me, and for all of us, to do everything we can to let our suffering brothers and sisters in Haiti see and feel and hear God and His love through us.   To let them know that they are not alone or abandoned.  Most of us cannot be there in person, but we can support and supply the people who are there giving assistance in person.

I feel this calling very strongly.  To give prayers, to give money.  My local bishop is calling for special collections to be taken for relief in Haiti; I think the same is true in dioceses across the country and around the world.  I’m sure that non-Catholics are finding ways to help too.

It’s a tragedy that such catastrophes must occur and cause so much suffering.  But tragedies can also break us from our stubbornness, our pride, our blindness.  They can shake down the walls of complacency and self-centeredness.  They can bring forth wellsprings of mercy and charity.  They can bring us closer to God and His ways than ever.  They can inspire us to imitate Him, to make His presence known and felt in the world.

To do so is a tremendous privilege.  In helping bring Him to others, we can become closer to Him ourselves.  We can also make amends for our failings as individuals and as nations.

Also, I would like to remind my Catholic readers that in addition to helping provide material assistance, we can also give our prayers and good works to assist those who have died in this disaster.  We can seek indulgences for those dear souls who may be suffering in Purgatory now.  We can provide real, first-hand aid to them!  A kind of aid that would not even occur to many people, or in which many people do not believe.  Praying for the dead is a very important and much-needed act of mercy!

As I’ve probably mentioned before, one of my cats has been ill since summer.  The doctors have been stumped as to what is wrong with her.  No matter what we do, no matter how much money I spend, the situation just doesn’t get any better.  Coping has been very hard, and it gets harder as time goes by.  The nature of her illness is particularly distressing to my home life–basically, let’s just say, she can’t control her bowels, and she isn’t always able to get to one of the litter boxes.

Last night, after frantically trying to clean up a mess right beside my bed around 1:00 in the morning, I was lying awake, anxious and angry–not at the cat, but at the situation.

For the hundredth time, I was saying, “Lord, I don’t know how much longer I can keep going with this!  I just want her to get well, but I also need my own health and sanity!  Oh Lord, please let the vet find a solution and a cure!  I just can’t take it any more!  Oh Lord, give me a sign that everything is going to be all right.  I just have to know that things are going to be all right…”

Whenever I ask for a “sign,” I always feel sort of foolish, as if God is laughing at me and saying, “A sign?  You don’t need a sign from Me!  Don’t be silly.  Why do you ask for a sign when you know full well I’ve always taken care of you?”

I was so tired and so desperate that I didn’t care how foolish I was being.  In fact, as I slowly fell back to sleep, I added, “I know… You could make it snow.  That could be the sign.  A good snow, enough to make the world white.”

Now, snow in Dallas is pretty rare, and snow on 2 Dec. is almost unheard of.  Oh, the weather forecaster had said there might be a flake or two mixed in with the rain this morning, but nothing remarkable.  When I woke before sunrise, I looked out the window and saw nothing but rain.  Yes I had been a fool.  Again.

As I put on my shoes, I said to God, “Lord, I know I shouldn’t ask for signs.  I know that everything will be OK.  You always make everything OK.  I was just tired last night.  Never mind all that talk about signs and snow.  It was just my worry and half-asleep-addled mind talking.”

I thought no more of it… until I pulled out the driveway and realized, “Hey there’s some snow mixed in with the rain.”  And I watched in amazement as, on the way to work, the rain became entirely replaced by snow–big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow!  And they were coming down pretty hard!

A burst of childlike joy and wonder burst forth in my heart.  I laughed out loud.

By the time I got to the university, the grass and plants and cars were being covered with white, and the air was full of white.  The whole world was being made white!

At that point, I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry.  God had given me my sign after all.  It was so amazing and exciting and comforting.  I felt so loved.  And so rejuvenated, refreshed, re-ignited!

I only wish I’d had my camera!  But here is a photo I found online taken in downtown Dallas, probably around the time I was driving to work:

(Photo source: WFAA-TV)

The snow is melted now, but the hope and gratitude in my heart are still burning bright.

And I hear we might get more snow on Friday!  :D

Related Post:

Praying for snow

I attended my first High Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF) this morning.  It was glorious!  I’ve been wanting to attend one for a while now, but there’s a story behind why I went today.

Basically, I did something really stupid last night, such that I really, really needed to go to Confession before Mass!  The only priest I could think of who offers Confession before Sunday Mass was our FSSP chaplain.  So I dragged myself out of bed before 6, and mustered up my courage to go to a new place, for a new kind of Mass, and to confess to a new priest.

I got to the monastery chapel where the Sunday EF Masses are said, and I got there in plenty of time.  But I couldn’t tell where the confessional was, and I had not seen the priest around.  I finally asked a young man sitting behind me, and he told me I needed to go outside to an adjoining building.  Well, by the time I got there, there was quite a line.  And about 20 minutes until Mass was to start.  The priest had to cut us off.

I stood there, crestfallen and uncertain what I should do.  The young lady who’d been in line ahead of me told me that Father also hears confessions after that Mass.  That was well and good, but I felt I would have to refrain from receiving the Eucharist if I confessed after Mass.  I thought about going somewhere else, in hopes of possibly finding a priest to hear my confession.

But I felt oddly compelled to attend the high Mass.  It was something more than interest or curiosity that compelled me.  Something much more powerful… something supernatural, which came from within me and from without at the same time… if that makes sense.  The phrase I have long used for it is a gravity upon my soul.  An ineffable, external force which also ignites a great longing within my soul, a willingness and eagerness to respond to the force.

So I walked back over to the chapel, which by that time was standing-room only.  I stood in the doorway, not sure where I should go or whether I could possibly find a seat.  I was feeling very uncomfortable and hot and self-conscious.  Honestly, I just wanted to disappear, and in fact, I was about to turn and slink away when a young man came and told me there was a seat up front.  I didn’t like the idea of having to refrain from Communion in front of the entire chapel (as if it were all about me, right?).  But I also didn’t want to be ungrateful for the consideration shown to me.  I hesitated, but again, I felt that compulsion.

I followed the boy to the empty spot, sat down and tried to pray, fumbled around for my missal.  All while being devastated that I couldn’t in good conscience receive Communion.  I felt sort of like there was an earthquake going on inside me.  I wondered if the people around me could tell–it seemed impossible that they couldn’t.

And then…

And then the music began, organ and choir.  A simple hymn before Mass, but it was so beautiful that I could imagine the angels in Heaven appearing and becoming audible.  Then a bell rang, and the splendidly-attired servers and priest filed in.  The priest began the chanting of the Asperges Me, and the choir and congregation took it up while the priest sprinkled holy water on everybody.  I recognized the text of the antiphon as a passage from that most excellent prayer of penitence, Psalm 51:

Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.
(Angelus Press 1962 missal translation)

As I felt a small shower of water come down around me, I felt God’s mercy wash over me.

And I was transported.  Transported out of my worry and discomfort, transported out of my nervousness and the internal earthquake.  Transported out of everything dark and worrisome and into a marvelous light.  The chanting, the Latin language, the incense, the splendor of the chapel and the vestments and the finely choreographed movements… it all transported me.  It wasn’t about me at all, and yet I found myself in a most wonderful place.  “It is good that I am here,” I thought, echoing the sentiments of St. Peter as he stood before the transfigured Christ, dazed but fully conscious of the blessing he had received.

Yes, of course, I found the liturgy a bit strange and hard to follow along with (I still find even the low Mass challenging at times).  But it didn’t matter.  I was aware of what was going on.  A great mystery, to be sure, but a mystery into which we are meant and indeed created to enter, without fear or hesitation.  I had been compelled to do just that, and I was now part of it in some small way.  What my feeble mind didn’t grasp, my soul certainly did.  It resonated with every sound, smell, sight, and motion.

And then there were the Scripture readings and the homily.  As I listened, I thought and prayed:  “OK, Lord, so this is why You compelled me.  This is all exactly what I needed to hear, and what You wanted to tell me.”  We heard Galatians 5:16-24, where St. Paul speaks of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit and how we must live in the Spirit and crucify our flesh together with Christ.  Yes… I suppose I needed that reminder.  The Gospel was Matthew 6:24-33, where Christ warns that one cannot serve both God and mammon, and that if we have faith and trust in God, we will not be anxious about provisions for the needs of the flesh, for God knows us and provides for us, as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field–and then some.  “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Yes… I definitely needed that reminder!

As part of his homily upon these exhortations, Father encouraged us to pray the Rosary.  It was probably the best and most inspiring preaching on the Rosary I’ve heard!  It really moved me, almost to tears.  My prayer life of late has been… shall we say… a bit weak.  Not because I’ve been unable to pray, but, honestly, because I just haven’t made praying a priority.  (Gosh, maybe that’s why I’ve been falling to pieces lately.  Do you think?)

The Mass proceeded.  I implored the Lord for a spiritual Communion.  After Mass came Adoration and Benediction.  I once again bewailed my sins and begged for mercy.  I was still painfully aware of my separation from Him.  And the fact that it was I, not He, who had caused it.  A hard conviction to pass upon oneself.  But not a death sentence.  God doesn’t hand out death sentences (despite some all-too-popular misconceptions about Him).  Rather, I felt Him say to me, “My child, I know that you came here to be reconciled, and although things have not gone as planned, I have kept you here so that you might receive hope, healing, and encouragement to sustain and re-fortify you.”  I thanked Him profusely and reaffirmed my intention to get to Confession as soon as possible and to do better.  I marveled at how He brought that beautiful morning from the previous day’s pitiful failing.

I tried to go to Confession again after Mass, but again, there were too many penitents and not enough time.  At the time, I was still disconsolate about it.  But I decided that I would wait until Tuesday morning and go to Confession at my parish church, to my parish priest, my usual confessor.  And in the meantime, I would trust in God’s tremendous mercy and providence.

That’s what I am doing now, and with considerable peace of mind, thanks be to God. But perhaps that raises another question:  So, why go to Confession anyway? I’ll address this question in a separate post.  I was planning a similar post anyway, and what happened today provides a good context for it.

Let me just close by saying:

1. Mortal sin IS. NOT. WORTH. IT. So avoid it at all costs and save yourself a whole lot of grief!

2. But if you can’t avoid it, DO. NOT. DESPAIR. Be humble, honest, and contrite before God, and get to Confession ASAP!

After our meeting, I joined some other members of the parish pro-life group in praying the Rosary outside a local abortion mill.  Doing this is always a profoundly moving and powerful experience.  On one hand, it gives a real sense of solidarity and strength, which is comforting and hope-affirming.  Nobody in the pro-life movement is alone.  Especially not when it comes to prayer.  Our hope truly does spring eternal–in our myriad young members, in our children and descendants, whether biological or spiritual, but most of all in the Lord.

But what a cold, sharp contrast from the people on the other side of that chain-link fence.  Most of them are doubtless very much alone and very much in despair.  What else could lead them to even consider abortion?  Yes, there may be other factors and influences, and also coercion at work.  But I suspect that fear, desperation, desolation, and abandonment bring most people there.

As we prayed, we saw some people go in.  My heart was so heavy and wanted so badly to fly out to them and plead with them!  To do anything to help and heal and reassure.  All I could do was send my prayers after them.  And that’s what I did, together with a number of people.  If there’s one thing I know, it’s the power of prayer.  I trust and hope in it, as I trust and hope in the One who hears.

One of the biggest lies our opponents tell about the pro-life movement is that we don’t care for the struggling, suffering women who consider or choose to undergo abortion.  And we don’t care about children once they are born.  That these are malicious lies is testified to by the burdens our hearts and minds bear for all the women, children, and men who are affected by abortion–and for our entire society, country, and the human race.  The pro-life movement is a matter of life and death to us, nothing less.

Testimony to the lies is also given by the White Rose Women’s Center that stands right next door to that abortion mill.  After we prayed the Rosary, one of our members provided a tour of the Center.  What a vastly different atmosphere within those walls!  What a labor of love and generosity.  It offers physical, psychological, educational, spiritual, and material support to women and children.  Practical, long-lasting support.  One of the highlights was visiting the chapel that overlooks the abortion mill next door.  The sanctuary lamp was burning bright.  It was also wonderful to see the room full of supplies for mother and baby–baby clothes, diapers, and many other kinds of material goods.  And to see people bringing in more donations!

It reminded me once again of what Bishop Farrell told us at this year’s Roe Memorial Mass–the victory of the pro-life movement will not be effected with the repealing of abortion rights laws.  Rather, the victory of the pro-life movement will be effected with the building up and flourishing of a culture of life in which abortion rights laws simply become irrelevant. Because nobody will have any need or desire or care for them.  They will know that there is something much better.  They will be able to find the hope, comfort, and real help that they need.

It may or may not happen in my lifetime.  That doesn’t matter to me.  I have every reason to hope, and no reason at all to despair.  Let’s keep on praying and let’s support organizations like the White Rose Women’s Center.  And let’s keep on standing together, united in our hope.

I just felt like saying that!  :)  Because it’s true.

I’ve been going through one of those phases when I find myself besieged by lots of things which, individually, seem pretty trivial and silly.  It’s amazing how quickly things can overwhelm me and tip my world off its axis.  I get a kind of tunnel vision that only sees the negative in things.

But you know, there is always a way out.  I am never trapped.  Yesterday, when I’d just about reached the end of my rope, I went to church, went to Confession, attended Mass, and received Holy Communion.  And I came out of church as a completely new person. As usual, the priest was able to help me put things back in proper perspective and remember how very good the Lord has been to me.

I’m still amazed at the simple and yet profound power found within the Church.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why I ever left her.  I don’t know what I would do or where I would be without her.  Truly.  I shudder to think.  And when I think of all the people out there who are without her, whether by choice or not, my heart goes out to them.  My heart wants to go out and embrace every one of them and draw them home!

God Himself is there.  Love and Life are there in all truth and purity, goodness and beauty.  Oh, if only all souls knew what and, more importantly Whom, they could find in a Catholic church!

Our society is increasingly trying to shut God and Church out of the public square.  I hate to see that happen.  But if, or when it does, hope won’t be defeated.  Hopefully, many people begin to realize what and Whom they are missing.  And hopefully they will seek Him out.  And when they do, they ought to find Him in our midst.

This is the time for Catholics to unite, to be of one heart and mind, to truly be one Body.  This is the time for us to get serious and hold fast to our tradition.  This is the time for us to embrace our identity, even if it sets us at odds with some.  This is the time for us to say, “Here we are, and we want you to come and find your home with us!”  This is the time to remove all the bushel baskets and let our light shine into to the world, so that people may give glory to God.  The beacon of the Church will attract enemies.  But it will also attract seekers of goodness, truth, and beauty.

As I can testify from my own personal experience, God miraculously transforms bad things into good.  The more darkness and evil are in the world, the more light and grace come to be.  Time and time again, it proves true!

Let us not fall into that awful tunnel vision that sees only bad.  Let us remember: God is so good! And if we have trouble keeping sight of that, let us avail ourselves of what our Church offers us–nothing less than God Himself!

Profound silence falls over the world when Christ, the Word of God, descends to the realm of the dead.  My heart is close to bursting with prayer and supplication… desperate to fill the silence and the void.

Despair is closer than ever, easier than ever, on this day.

And yet a small spring of hope still wells forth in the heart’s deepest, darkest recesses.

For the realm of the dead cannot confine Him who is Life Itself, Him through whom all life was created.  And even now, in the deepest, darkest recesses of the universe, He is very much alive and constantly at work, reviving and liberating the souls of the just from all previous ages, all the way back to Adam and Eve.

Our silence is their jubilation.  Our closeness to despair’s chilling breath is their hope and their breath of life.  He whose empty body we on Earth saw laid in a tomb is the living and mighty champion of those in the underworld.

And even for us, Easter’s promise, so close at hand and sensible, sends up that little rivulet of hope.

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

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