Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Liked: whose approval are you living for? approval are you living for? by Kari Kampakis sounds like a book for teen girls that’s about using social media responsibly but it is so much more than that. Kampakis guides the reader to go to the root of how and why we interact online. Are we longing for attention? Love? Approval? She tackles different scenarios with Biblically based answers. It isn’t easy being a teenager nowadays where the pressure to present a perfect life to the world makes them feel like a fraud, where the number of “likes” determines their self-worth, and where a moment of poor judgment is recorded forever. Kampakis gives practical advice on navigating the online world, which can be horribly unforgiving, and asks her readers to dig deeper, to the truth of who they are, and why they are here, with a series of reflection questions at the end of each chapter. She reminds them continually that God loves them dearly, passionately, wholly, and to strive for Godly relationships at all times. I highly recommend this book for all teenagers (and grownups too – we suffer from some of the same problems in the quest to be liked online). This book is organized so that it’s suitable for use in teen youth groups. I will be giving a copy to our own. Thanks to HarperCollins BookLook for providing me with a review copy. Crossposted to Amazon. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Adoration of the Magi by Bassano Jacopo and Francesco
A few people have asked me what Adoration is. The short answer is: worship. The  consecrated Host is Jesus, all of Him: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. And so we fall on our knees in adoration like the Magi did when they worshipped the new-born Babe.

The long answer is my personal experience: I anticipate this date a week beforehand. Like a lover, I think about what I might wear, what I might talk about, what He might reveal to me. The night before, I am excited. And when the day finally comes, I can't wait to finish my morning chores so that I can go meet Jesus. I dress nicely, bring my veil, rosary, some spiritual reading, and my notebook. I read, write, pray, just be. My biggest challenge is staying awake especially in the afternoon or night. I get very, very sleepy. I suppose I'm not a very good lover. But it is lovely to rest in the Lord.

I've been doing this now monthly for about 2.5 years, ever since St. Clare of Assisi parish on Daniel Island was formed. The pastor at the Anglican church has graciously allowed us to use their church for daily Mass and Adoration. Weekend Masses are at Bishop England. I pray that when we have our own church building that we'll have a perpetual Adoration chapel. All it takes is a willingness to commit to spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, even if it's at 3 am. And it's so wonderful to be able to pop in for a few minutes. Even if Jesus isn't exposed, you can still visit with Him if the lamp near the Tabernacle is lit.

So I encourage my readers to go visit Jesus. You don't have to be Catholic or even Christian. Just sit with Him. And I can guarantee you that you will receive graces. Some illumination or insight into the spiritual world. Maybe even an epiphany!

Here's a directory.

During our conversion, I used to wonder why Jesus was all locked up in the tabernacle, but it is for His own safety. Many satanic groups will steal the Blessed Sacrament to desecrate it. I've even read stories of people in the satanic groups who can identify a consecrated Host from one that isn't. I find this amazing since even many Catholics have lost the sense of the Real Presence of Christ.

I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that the Lord of the universe comes to us in humble bread. This is why I love the hands of priests, because it is only through them we receive Jesus in a substantial way. One would have thought that Jesus couldn't do anything more humble than to come down to earth as a helpless baby, at the mercy of humans, to save us. Even one drop of His Precious Blood would've saved us all, but He loves us so much He suffers and dies for us. That's Passion!

The fruits of Adoration are many. The quiet time is a blessing. And there is something wonderful that happens being still. Many Masses, psalms and hymns come to mind but when I'm deeply in prayer, there are no words. It's heart to Heart. Last year I meditated upon the Hours of the Passion as recorded by Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta. Having seen Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, many of the images that come to mind are from his movie (He based it on the visions of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich). It's amazing how many of the details match both of these saints, separated by time and space.

Well, these are just some of my thoughts on Adoration.  And here are a couple of quotes from a dear saint, Mother Teresa. 

When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.

Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.

Sweet Sacrament is one of my favorite hymns and I love both this particular arrangement and the pictures that Msgr. Pope compiled for this video. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's Word

My family will get a big laugh out of this. When I was little, everybody called me a chatterbox. And that nickname has persisted even though I am a quiet person. But there is also a desire to talk, to be heard, and in writing, I have discovered an outlet. But the writing itself can be very distracting from what I need to hear. I've had a couple of days alone to ponder and pray what it is I need to work on this year and it happens to be silence. Maybe I will fail spectacularly, but I have to try to cultivate more silence so that I can listen better. Listen to the still, small voice of God within my heart. Listen to the stories. Listen to my husband, children and friends. Listen.

Won't you share what you'd like to work on in the New Year?

Look at these furry friends of mine. How silent and alert they are, listening. I have much to learn from them.

I love this hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

In previous years, my words have been: Trust; Courage & Clarity; Patience; Fiat. It's good to remember the progress I've been making over the past few years, as well as the pitfalls. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Blessings

Adoration of the Shepherds by Ludovico Cardi, 1599 AD
I will never forget our first Midnight Mass at St. Jude's -- snowy outside, candlelight inside, a cantor singing O Holy Night. The children were sleepy but excited to be woken up to go to Christ's Mass. And here at Stella Maris, we always celebrate with a High Mass. Our Advent is spent in preparation for this most Holy Hour.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
 in which the Son of God was born
 of the most pure Virgin Mary,
 at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God,
 to hear my prayers and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother.
Here's a beautiful reflection from Dom Prosper on the Midnight Mass. And I leave you with Byrd's Gloria!

Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle is a beautiful book to read during Advent when you are quietly waiting and assessing your writing life. L’Engle makes me question my motives. Am I being honest? I don’t just write for love. I also write for money. Am I listening and getting out of my own way? Yes and no, but I need to do this better. Spend more time in quiet and prayer. I love how Madeleine equates the sense of writing in flow to the same as when in contemplative prayer. I never made the connection before but it can be a similar state. Do I want the children to see this? What a wonderful question. Sometimes when I look at movie previews and I see something isn’t appropriate for our children, I realize it isn’t appropriate for me either. I love that about her books. They are for everybody. And this book in particular is a book for all Christian writers as she explores the relationship between faith and art. It is a book I’ve savored and marked up and I suspect I will come to it again and again.

Without further ado, let me share a few quotes to whet your appetite:

I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.”

We are all asked to do more than we can do.”

The child is aware of unlimited potential, and this munificence is one the joys of creativity.”

Creativity opens us to revelation.”

So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain. We may not always be able to make our “clock” run correctly, but at least we can keep it wound so that it will not forget.”

Time is to be treasured, worked with, never ignored.”

Choice is an essential ingredient of fiction and drama.”

What if – the basis of all story.”

My stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.”

Remember – the root word of humble and human is the same: humus: earth. We are dust. We are created; it is God who made us and not we ourselves. But we were made to be co-creators with our Maker.”

This book reminds me why I write. Writing and family life brought me to Jesus, and when you possess this great Treasure, you cannot keep it to yourself. My thoughts echo L’Engle’s: “If I understand the Gospel, it tells us that we are to spread the Good News to all four corners of the world, not limiting the giving of light to people who already have seen the light. If my stories are incomprehensible to Jews or Muslims or Taoists, then I have failed as a Christian writer. We draw people to Christ … by showing them the light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

Beauty, then, will save the world.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the review copy. Cross-posting this review to Amazon.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On Waiting and Longing and Our Heart's Desire

This beautiful poem by Frances Chesterton, copied from the front pages of her biography by Nancy Carpentier Brown conveys so much of the Advent longing.

How far is it to Bethlehem? 
Not very far. 
Shall we find the stable room 
Lit by a star?

Can we see the little Child? 
Is He within? 
If we lift the wooden latch 
May we go in? 

May we stroke the creatures there 
Oxen or sheep? 
May we peep like them and see 
Jesus asleep?

If we touch His tiny hand 
Will He awake? 
Will He know we’ve come so far 
Just for His sake?

Great kings have precious gifts 
And we have naught 
Little smiles and little tears 
Are all we brought.

For all weary children 
Heaven must weep 
Here, on His bed of straw 
Sleep, children, sleep.

God in His mother’s arms 
Babes in the byre 
Sleep, as they sleep who find

Their heart’s desire.

Wearing my mother's jacket!
It is fitting that I came across this yesterday because last night, after Mass, a friend I'd not spoken to in a while asked whether I was expecting. I wish! I let her know it was a "food baby." However, I also let her know that we've been longing for more children for quite some time, but didn't think it was going to happen given that I'm nearly 52. I mean, I pray for menopause on a regular basis now :) Why yes, I can hold completely contradictory thoughts in my head all at once.    

I know so many of us who struggle with infertility, who are waiting, expectant of the miracle of life. But Frances, also suffering from infertility, in How Far is it to Bethlehem perfectly captures the deepest desires of our human heart.  

This Advent, I am baking and writing and praying/practicing a beautiful William Byrd Mass for four voices and thinking of my own heart's desire -- the Babe. 

I pray you will have a most blessed Advent!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Christmas Books for Kids

For those who know me, you know I'm a sucker for letters. So look at these two beautiful Christmas books.

Christmas Love Letters from God: Bible Stories written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Rachel Clowes traces the Christmas story beginning with Isaiah's prophecy and ending with the visit from the Three Wise Men. There are seven stories altogether in a mix of prose and poetry, followed by a love letter from God (lift the flap). What I loved about this book is how much it promotes intimacy with God. Ms. Nellist emphasizes God's promises and His unconditional love. The artwork has a warm and textural feel to it and children will enjoy reading this multiple times. Thanks to BookLook for providing a review copy.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Kentucky written by Evelyn B. Christensen and illustrated by Kent Culotta is a wonderful adaptation of the traditional song. Martin is visiting his cousin Marybeth in Kentucky and each day she gives him a gift of an experience. Martin writes home about it. The letters are both fun and informative and the illustrations capture the spirit. Did you know Abe Lincoln was born there? Or that the world's longest cave system is Mammoth Cave in KY? Reading Martin's letters will have you homesick for the Bluegrass state. 

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ev five years ago when we were moving from WA and want to go back for a visit. And it's only after reading this book that I remembered that years and years ago, when we lived in Cincinnati, OH, my father took us to Cumberland Falls and we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken. So thank you, dear friend.

Parents of elementary school children, take note. She is a puzzle-master extraordinaire and has numerous math puzzle books for children. Check them out on Amazon or her website.

And here's a third book that is pure fun. The Twelve Days of Christmas: Starring the Chickens by Janet Lee Carey and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell is a fun romp with chickens. Carey's words had me singing and the chicken doodles cracked me up. I think a book like this can inspire kids to make their own 12 days of Christmas stories. Thanks to the illustrator for providing me with a review copy.

Finally, here's a picture of some of my bounty!!! I do love this time of the year to splurge on books not just for myself but for the people I love.