Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Bunnies, Neil Gaiman, and Authors who make a Difference

If Christ be not risen, then our faith is in vain, St. Paul says. I believe. Help my unbelief, we pray. Where can faith come from, if not from God Himself? I am deeply grateful.

Happy Easter!!! Alleluia!!!

I'm glad I took a picture of these chocolate bunnies before the ears and bobtails got eaten ... right after we got home from Vigil Mass! We bought these not just for the chocolate but the little cage, just perfect for all the little animals my daughter plays with. Maybe a certain little hamster might also find himself in there ...

Since I cannot pass the bunnies around, I share with you a wonderful speech by Neil Gaiman where he pays tribute to three authors. I found myself smiling, not because Lewis, Tolkein, or Chesterton were my childhood fare (except for Lewis, I didn't discover the others until I was a grown-up), but because I also define myself chiefly by what I read. When asked to write a short biography introducing myself for the ICL course, I found myself writing of books and authors at critical times in my life -- Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, Lloyd C. Douglas, A.J. Cronin, Ayn Rand, and finally the Bible -- books that changed my life and shaped me into the person I am.

So you can understand how I was transfixed by the first words that Neil Gaiman begins with:
"I thought I’d talk about authors, and about three authors in particular, and the circumstances in which I met them. There are authors with whom one has a personal relationship and authors with whom one does not. There are the ones who change your life and the ones who don’t. That’s just the way of it."
You can read the full speech here.
Please share some of the authors and books that have made a difference in your life. And if you've made a difference, don't be shy about crowing. Tell me!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday


This image hangs on my office wall. I recently learned that St. Bernard asked Jesus which was His greatest unrecorded suffering. Jesus answered, "I had on My Shoulder, while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others and which is not recorded by men. Honor this Wound with thy devotion and I will grant thee whatsoever thou dost ask through Its virtue and merit and in regard to all those who shall venerate this Wound, I will remit to them all their venial sins and will no longer remember their mortal sins."
Our Lord is merciful.

We've had a fruitful Holy Week. I re-consecrated myself to Christ through Mary (it's my first anniversary on the Feast of the Annunciation) and we've been able to go for Mass several times. I am so thankful for the Lord continually drawing us near. The conversion is ongoing. Four years ago, when we were received into the Roman Catholic Church, was just the beginning. Words cannot express my joy. Maybe this is why I love to sing so much.

We've also been preparing music for the Sacred Triduum. Below, I give you a taste of the beautiful music which draws us into His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

I couldn't find the fugue-like arrangement we sang of O Sacrum Convivium for Maundy Thursday so I share this simple communion hymn: Adore te devote.
Good Friday: Stabat Mater and some music by Sir John Stainer (Crucifixion)
Easter Vigil: This Joyful Eastertide

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on Write 2 Ignite

What an incredible weekend in Tigerville, on the campus of Northern Greeneville University. It was lovely to reconnect with writing friends and I especially enjoyed rooming with Joyce Moyer Hostetter, a writer of beautiful historical nonfiction, whose workshops I had the privilege of attending last year. This year, because I was teaching, no such luck. But there was time to visit in the evening and during lunch. I don't have much to say about the other presenters because I was either busy teaching, critiquing, or just having some downtime, but let me say that everybody -- editors, agents, authors -- was unstinting of their time and encouraging. Faculty and students had plenty of time to mix and mingle.

Note: As promised, I have my updated handouts on Magazine and Nonfiction writing here. I hope you will find them useful. I had such an enthusiastic group of attendees and grateful that so many of them considered writing nonfiction. Thanks to my first grade friends who shared their handmade nonfiction books at the conference.

Write 2 Ignite is the only children's writing conference that is focused on bringing the Gospel of Christ to children. Many people might assume it's about writing devotionals or religious materials only, but it is so much more than that. It's about learning to write good stories that have the Christian worldview integrated into the stories. Children want good stories! They can go to church for the preaching. I had the opportunity to critique several manuscripts and was so impressed with the quality and content of the writing. It made my happy because I believe that as Christians, we ought to be held to a higher standard.
I was bowled over by the praise and worship led by Donna Earnhardt. If you look at her bio, she says she longs to bring people to the throne of God so that they may worship Him with abandon. And it is evident. Beautiful, heartfelt music to stir the soul. I went to sleep and woke up with the words of offering: All I am, is all I have ...
I’m hoping to return next year with a couple of teenagers for their fabulous teen track. My prayer is for this conference to grow, so that we may learn to spread the Gospel with our stories, overtly or covertly.

I decided to spend an extra night to rest and recover from the long day, and made plans to attend Mass at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Greeneville. I was richly rewarded with a High Mass. It will always be a sacrifice, the priest leading us all to Calvary. When I saw the rich vestments, smelled the incense, listened to the beautiful Gregorian chant, I remembered the alabaster box song ... and it makes perfect sense to have all this richness and beauty poured out in worship. For the priest is in persona Christi ...
We used St. Campion missals and I had the good fortune to meet the owners of St. Benedict's Catholic Bookstore who were willing to sell me a copy. After Mass, we had a lovely visit and now I have my own beautiful copy. I love this missal -- it's got bigger print than the 1962 missal, and has several Masses along with hymns in the back.
It was a long drive, but I had my music, rosary and Gospel of John to keep me company. I love it because it's different *hearing* the Word of God than when I read It. And it makes me wonder whether I, too, would be unbelieving if Jesus said those words to me today in the flesh ... about being the Son of God, elevating Himself to the Father, about being the Living Bread from heaven. How blasphemous! C.S. Lewis writes eloquently in Mere Christianity, that either Jesus was a liar, a madman, or God.
I've rambled enough ... it's hard to believe how quickly this Lenten season is passing. It's been filled with joy and sorrow, peace and anxiety, but always my heart is full of thanks to God.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!!!

We have a new shepherd! The first from the New World. The first Jesuit. Praise God!!!

Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina is now Pope Francis!!!

Here's short article to give you some quick insight and a Wiki entry.  Enjoy!

God bless you, Pope Francis.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

(Matt 16:13)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Laetare Sunday

Halfway, kitty!
That's why we are celebrating Laetare Sunday with High Mass today. We're singing the short Mass composed in honor of the Feast of John the Baptist by Rene Quignard. It's a lovely little piece for two voices ... my favorite movement being the Agnus Dei. I thought I could find a recording on Youtube, but no such luck.

I'm one of those crazy people who really do love Lent ... it's a great time of spiritual growth and although it's a long and slow haul toward virtue, with many setbacks and failures, I am aware of the graces and blessings bestowed. 

I am enjoying my time away from keeping track of what everybody else is up to. Of course, I'm reading with great interest the happenings in Rome, and feeling ever so thankful that the process of choosing a new pope is nothing like politics. I've been in the Sistine Chapel -- what a perfect place for the cardinals to prayerfully cast their ballots. I learned that they take their oaths near the painting of the last judgment by Michelangelo. Sobering. Please join me in praying for Holy Mother Church.

We've been busy with birthday celebrations, school, sports, choir practice, extra devotions, computer malfunctions, and I nearly lost all the work I'd done on my Write2Ignite workshops, coming up next weekend. My husband came to the rescue... before I had a meltdown. So this is a gentle reminder to back up your work, folks.

I hope you are all having a good Lent. Do not be discouraged if you fail at keeping resolutions. Remember that you can choose to make a change at any hour. And ask God for help! We do nothing by our own power. Grace is everything.