Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas Letter

Bouguereau (1825-1905) Song of the Angels (1881 A.D.) 
Dear Family and Friends,

I pray this letter finds you in good health and cheer and in readiness to welcome our Savior Jesus Christ. Oh, He loves you so much! And it’s for you and me, our family and friends, our enemies even, that Christ was born. It’s this plan of God becoming Man—the Incarnation—that Satan hated. Non serviam. I will not serve. We can never forget that Satan hates us and will do anything—witness the chaos and divisions—to keep us from our dear Savior. Let us be like Mary, who crushes the head of the serpent with her humility. Fiat mihi. Let it be done unto me. It must really rankle Satan to be defeated by a mere creature, and a woman at that. But she is full of grace and happy to supply what we lack. This is why the Hail Mary is such a perfect prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. 

This time last year, I was in Texas with my brother Mohan. You all will be happy to know he is doing fine. I tell you, he’s a cat with nine lives! Mohan’s illness has brought our family closer to one another. I especially enjoyed getting to know my grown niece Anjali—she has all the best qualities from each of her parents, Mohan’s analytical mind, Sujata’s artistic bent. Praise God for all He’s doing.

I am thankful to be home with Michael—we are like hobbits with our creature comforts. After a lifetime of setting up home in different continents, countries, states, and cities, it is good to finally put down roots. I remember the first Mass we heard at Stella Maris Catholic Church 12 years ago on our 17th wedding anniversary. I wept because I was home. No other place has had this effect. We are blessed here. This year, the biggest blessing was the completion of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, the jewel of Daniel Island. We often walk or bike to church for Adoration or to hear Mass and that itself is meditative. It was an honor to be invited to sing at the Mass of Dedication in April. JOY!

Music has taken over our lives. We continue to sing in the Latin Mass choir at both Stella Maris and Sacred Heart but we receive more than double blessings with double dose of Scripture :) We love how Sundays are truly set apart for worship. We enjoy socializing after Mass and are often the last ones to leave :) When my sister Suman came for a visit, she was happy to hear daily Mass and sing with us. She called it a spiritual retreat.

My health has improved significantly by relying on local farmers for meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. We’re moving away bit by bit from the medical/industrial food system. Clean living is allowing us to participate more in community life. Michael and I joined a recorder group; it’s a lot easier than singing or playing the piano! It’s such fun to make music together, harkening back to olden days when music-making was a communal affair. I’ve also joined a women’s barbershop that’s very challenging. Good for the brain! We’ve had our first concerts in these new groups and it has brought the same joy as bringing a book to publication. In the beginning, writing is a gift for yourself, then upon publication, it becomes a gift for others. Alas, I’m not writing much but I hope that as I become more proficient in music, I will have the mental space for creative writing. Michael is eager to retire and devote more time to his monkish pursuits—religion, brewing, gardening. He is such a good provider—look at the bounty from our garden (that’s still producing despite the cold).

Max is the opposite of a hobbit. I get tired just listening to him talk about his hectic schedule travelling for work and play. But I really appreciate the time he takes to be present to family and friends. This year, in addition to visits home, we ended up meeting in Chicago. I was visiting my father to celebrate his 95th birthday and Max was visiting some friends for July 4th celebration. So he spent some time with my parents as well. Such a wonderful God-cidence!

Max is happy living and working in DC. He and his housemate Chris continue to host marvelous Thursday night dinners. They remind me of my thesis advisor and mentor Lin, who’d prepare seven course meals for her black-tie dinner parties. She taught me a great deal—good science, good art, good cookingand I carry those principles with me. This spring, Jerry arranged a wonderful 50th year celebration of their Membrane Group. Of course, Lin prepared a delicious buffet for all 50+ of us. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and colleagues, some whom I’d lost touch with. To see Lin and Jerry again was a great joy! The last time was 25 years ago at their restaurant Combray, in Pullman, WA, when we were driving from Purdue Univ. to Redmond, WA. Max was just an embryo!

How time flies! Dagny too has flown the nest but we see her weekly for Mass and choir practice. She tells Max to move down to Charleston and become a wedding planner :) I think he’d be very good at it and we’re enlisting his help… because Dagny is engaged to be married to Ian Jacobs, the handsome boy down the street! Save the date: Monday, Dec. 30, 2024. Come celebrate their Holy Matrimony with us.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After graduating last Dec. from Ave Maria Univ., Dagny worked at Firefly distillery on the production team. It’s been so interesting to learn more about spirits from her, though I’ve not yet developed a taste for them. However, she makes flavorful mixed drinks. She recently left Firefly to work for SC Dept. of Water. She’s enjoying having a desk job, making more $$$, and not having to wear steel-toed boots. She’ll keep our water clean for drinking, fishing, and playing. Her interests align with Ian’s; he’s studying civil engineering and will graduate next Dec. He’s already studied one of my father’s textbooks!

We took a family vacation in Ave Maria for Dagny’s graduation ceremony in May. We had a wonderful time listening to the inspiring sermons and speeches, meeting professors, parents, friends. Our Lady truly took our children under her mantle and formed them in virtue. Deo gratias! The best part was having downtime at the farmhouse that had kittens not even a month old. Such delight to pick them up whenever we wanted. Made it a purrfect and peaceful retreat. May you also have pockets of peace!

Closing with love and prayers for a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthful New Year. Pax Christi!


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Summer Memories

What a summer! What a life of leisure! I've been reading, singing and playing so much, I've not taken the time to do much else, even write. But here I am on my poor, neglected blog. 

Dagny has moved farther away from her work and church and us but she's enjoying living closer to the beach with her new friends. I just love that her new home has a little stairway just for fun--just like in the song, If I Were a Rich Man in Fiddler on the Roof! I believe it must be a school project; both new housemates study here: Trades — American College of the Building Arts ( My heart is at peace knowing she's in a good place with young women who share not only many interests, but also faith in Christ. It's been lovely to watch her grow in love and friendships and virtues.

I'm learning all kinds of new things at the library. We meet for "crafternoons" once a month and it's so fun. I get to be a kid again. I'd collected lots of pretty shells on the beach and learned to decoupage them; next, some painting! We're also learning to play the recorder in a group and purchased a tenor recorder for Michael--its tone is lovely, same range as the human voice. Luckily the fingering is the same as with the soprano, only it's twice as big, so he's getting used to having the fingers separated more--it helps to have big hands :) We continue to sing at both Stella Maris and Sacred Heart--it is our joy! I also got an invitation (from one of the ladies in the recorder group) to come listen to her women's acapella group, Charleston Sound Chorus, and since our church choir was on a summer hiatus, I thought it'd be fun. Barbershop has a unique sound. Melody (how aptly named) gave me a folder of music to sing along and I struggled my way through. But such fun! Challenging! I prayed to God that if it were His will for me to sing with CSC, He'd have to make it happen. And He did! All the details. I promised to do my part, which was to practice faithfully. Singing in three choirs is making me grow in musicianship. What's funny is that sometimes I wish I had my recorder at barbershop so that I could play the parts that I'm having trouble singing. But isn't it incredible that we're born with a musical instrument! 

Now that I'm mostly caught up with all the talented ladies in barbershop, I want to see whether I can write more productively (as in publishable material). I'm still only scribbling ideas (they just keep on coming) but I put away my historical pray that I can do it all. I want everything, yes, it's true. Sometimes I talk to St. Therese, the Little Flower, about it because she, too, wanted everything! But she also gave everything, her very self, completely to God. Do I? I try. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Max and his friends from American Moment came for a visit in Sept. and it was such a joy to spend some time with them celebrating birthdays, solving puzzles, discussing politics and religion, making music, and of course, eating good food and drink! It reminds me of the poem by Hilaire Belloc: 

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

We all enjoyed some homebrew. Michael got some art from Tridentine Brewing Co. and it fits so perfectly with why we do what we do--for the greater glory of God. My motto is that of the Knights Templar: non nobis Domine (and we sing it often). Michael planted a fall garden and it's doing well (the bunnies haven't been able to get at it). 

Hard to believe that we're already in the last days (of the liturgical year, but also considering the chaos and evil in this world). All we can do is pray. So I leave you with a picture of the Source of my peace and joy along with some Lowcountry beauty captured by Dagny and Max. Pax Christi.   

Monday, August 21, 2023

Young Love

Our minds have been on our marriage, so I was delighted to discover this young man's intentions towards our daughter. Michael, being a typical dad, is still wondering how these kids got to this stage so quickly (they've been dating a year). It was a whirlwind weekend for Ian. He was finishing up an internship in Ohio. Dagny flew to see him and drive back with him. Here they are at Cumberland Falls in KY. We met with Ian privately on Sat. and he proposed to Dagny that evening. It will necessarily be a longish engagement because Ian is still in school (leaving today), but I've not met a more mature young man, who knows whom he wants to spend the rest of his life with and isn't afraid to make a commitment. Dagny, too. They don't have to "play the field" or get their hearts broken. It is so lovely to imagine our children entering into marriage with time to grow in virtue as they prepare themselves for this most beautiful of Sacraments.

I also love that they have a faithful community of Catholic friends who will support them as well as our wider Church family. Our families have known each other for over a decade. Ian is literally the boy next door. Of course, when they were children, they ran around in their own friend groups--Ian with all the boys in the church. At one point there were something like 15 boys at the Altar, serving. There were far fewer girls so they were a tight little group. But all our children are growing up and I'm especially grateful that for many, this is home, this is where they want to be, and where they want to raise a family.

Mass was especially beautiful with a medieval motet for Holy Communion: Maria Matrem. Deo gratias! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

An Anniversary, an Exhibition, and a Feast Day!

We just celebrated 29 years of marriage--that's half my life! I'm often amazed at how much more we are in love now and I must admit that it is supernatural. We've been together for a long time and the first decade before marriage was unholy. Yet, where sin abounded, grace did more abound (Rom 5:20). It is truly the grace of God that has brought us where we are, in love with Him and each other. Sunday Mass was offered for our intentions--the most precious gift we can give to each other. But we enjoy the many gifts the world offers as well and enjoyed our fish tacos at Taco Boy, beer for Michael and a hibiscus margarita for me.

We went to Sistine Chapel Exhibit downtown. It is really well done--if you get the VIP ticket, you will receive a book with all the paintings in the exhibit + commentary and it is high quality. Pope Sixtus originally wanted the life of the Apostles in the chapel but Michelangelo had a grander vision and aren't we lucky that the Pope gave him artistic freedom? He painted the ancestors of Christ (in triangles), not when they were grown ups with power, but as little children, all pointing to how Christ comes to us, as a Baby in a Holy Family. He also painted the prophets (Isaiah; loved all the details, down to his toes) and sibyls (women prophets from the East who foretold the coming of Christ--below, my favorite--the Delphic sibyl who is startled by the Word of God. She prophesized that the coming Messiah would be mocked with a crown of thorns). In all these paintings, there is movement. So beautiful. 

I loved these two panels below: The bronze serpent that the Israelites looked upon to be healed from snakebites foreshadows Christ on the Cross redeeming all mankind. And Judith slays the Babylonian king. In the readings for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven (celebrated Aug 15) we remember Judith--she is a type of Mary, who crushes the head of the serpent. It's a beautiful feast day, full of hope, because where she is, we hope to go as well.

Sandwiched between the Creation of Man (I do so love that we are all conceived in the mind of God before we're ever born! It even looks like the brain!) and the Last Judgment is the creation, fall, and the deluge account. Creation of Eve is the central panel (because it is the fall that brings to us so great a Redeemer). Michelangelo placed the first act of creation: Separation of Light from Dark next to the Last Judgment. Oh, yes, there is a heaven and a hell and it is for all eternity. Sobering.

We've been to the Sistine Chapel back in 90s when we were living in Belgium. I had gone for a conference in Southern Italy so Michael and I planned to meet in Rome after. Goodness, how did we manage without cell phones? The Italians were having a train strike so I was stuck and no way to let Michael know. Though I assumed he'd figure it out when he went to the train station to pick me up. I ended up taking a bus, which broke down, and had to wait for another, but I made it to Rome and what a relief to be reunited with Michael again. We had a wonderful time sightseeing for the next three days. How I wish we were Catholic back then because the more you know Scripture, the greater your appreciation for the tremendous art. What a treasure! Deo gratias!