Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Job That Landed on my Shoes

I’m just pumped like a fat bouncy house with a swarm of jumping kids, and here’s why:

1.     The esteemed position of resident book reviewer for Catholic Stand just fell from the heavens and landed on my eager palms! Its so official that our dynamic Ed-In-Chief Diane McKelva is going to issue a Press Release.  A PRESS RELEASE!  A press release with MY NAME on it… Oh dear, what am I going to wear?

2.     If you remember my most widely read book review when I suffered the excruciating dilemma between buying a new pair of shoes and a hardbound book, and I wound up picking the book and repurposing it as sandals, you’ll understand why I'm going Woohoohoohoo like Tigger all over the place.  Not only do I get a library of freebie books, I can allocate my budget to adorn my feet (and splurge on the Coffee Bean's pure double chocolate ice blend.)

3.     I’m going out on a limb here by assuming you already know the job description of "book reviewer" but I also want to make sure you know what else this means. It means that this blog is still going to write about the usual, but reading and writing about books more instead of lapsing into frumpy oblivion like I did over the summer. (If its been quiet around here, its because I made more of an effort to enjoy live moments instead of documenting them.  And when I did document, I shuffled them over to Instagram because filtered pictures speak a thousand blog posts. Am I following you yet? Let’s be IG buddies, okay.) 

4.     Can we talk about IG? My mind is all abuzz with ideas I could shoot to jump on the #currentlyreading posts over there. What’s the craziest, weirdest, prettiest pics of books you’ve come across?  Any cool book grammers I should be following to inspire me to get past the lame pictures of books posing with my librarian shoes?

5.  When I first typed a book review on a word processor back in the day, I never dreamed the position of Catholic book reviewer was something to aspire for.  Come to think of it, I wasn't widely enthusiastic about writing a review when I could've been off reading another book.  And the text book samples of how to write a book review were certainly no help in stirring inspirations.  Because who wants to write about or read about a book and then buy said book when the book review isn’t a compelling read in the first place, amiright?  Pray for me as I attempt to break out of the mold and write/right a grievous wrong against writers.
Pic from my sisters room cause I'm not cool enough to own a pic of a library like that 

6.      Apart from the shoe hoarding benefits of my new job, I am excited as a hen on a hot griddle to connect with authors, interview them, and promote them.  As an indie fiction author, I well understand the need for writers to help each other market the beauty of Catholicism through God our given writing talent.  If your work needs a shout out via Catholic Stand, shoot me an email.

7.     Since I have standards, I do have a system for review:  

1 star means =needs improvement
2 stars means =Meh for me (though maybe not for you)
3 stars means =Inspiring, informative or entertaining enough
4 stars means =Engaging and educational. Buy yourself a copy, your soul will thank you.

5 stars means =Forget the budget for your next project.  This book is faithful to the Magisterium, well written and style appropriate to genre, go grab five copies for yourself and every person on your gift list.

           *Its not that I'm a book snob but I do want my recommendation to mean something so that when you find a blurb on a book cover like "A work of art obviously written by the finger of God --Anabelle Hazard," you can trust me me.  Fair enough?

See you on the other side of the press release! Joining Kelly for 7 quick takes today. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

What Sts. Louis and Zelie Teach Us about Soulmates

Featured on Catholic Stand.

       According to pop culture’s definition of ‘soulmates’, I didn’t marry mine.

             When my husband and I met, our eyes didn’t simultaneously gaze across a crowded room to find each other, with a swelling orchestra crescendo for a backdrop.  He didn’t propose aboard a rose-strewn yacht offering to travel the oceans of life with me. On our wedding day, the earth didn’t shake a 3.0 magnitude on the Richter scale and we didn’t pledge ourselves to each other with self-made vows about the stars and our silken hair.  To this day, I can’t stand watching football games with him or tinkering with vintage cars about as much as he resists sitting through musicals or reading books beside me. By golly, he can’t read my thoughts like I wish he would and I have to work at communicating feelings outside the honey-do list. He likes things tidy and organized; I like things tidy and organized too so long as I’m not the one who has to do it.        

            My husband has every reason to complain that he got the short end of the bridal stick and I have every right to demand a refund from the coordinators of the romance lottery. If we followed pop culture trend, we would have been divorced ten years ago or one or both of us would be active clients of the Ashley Madison adultery website in search of someone more submissive, sensitive, prettier, richer, quieter, skinnier, healthier, etc…

            The answer to the syndrome of dissatisfaction that plagues every marriage past the newlywed stage is the recent canonization of Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin.  By holding up two holy spouses together, the Catholic Church inspires us to re-evaluate pre-conceived expectations and our own real marriages in the light of the Martin’s short but significant union.

             Louis was a watchmaker; Zelie owned a lace-making business.  They were introduced at the intuition of his mother.  Zelie once passed Louis randomly in the street, and the still small voice of the Holy Spirit nudged her that she was going to marry him someday. Together, they had nine children, four of whom died young and five girls who entered the religious life.  Zelie died at forty six years old, leaving Louis a widow, in a tragedy that Hollywood would never consider a happy ending.  Yet their youngest, St. Therese of Liseux, is hailed by Pope Pius X as the “greatest saint of modern times,” and they are the first couple to be canonized together in the Catholic Church’s 2000 year history.   

            Louis and Zelie shared one essential passion: a love for Christ, which blossomed into desire to bring up their children serving His Church.  They assisted daily Mass frequently.  Leading by example, they offered up small sacrifices like refusing butter on toast, or big ones like prolonged illnesses. Their home was inclusive to invite the homeless to dine with them. They corrected faults and encouraged the virtues of their children, often speaking to them of their ultimate and eternal destination. 

            The Martin saints teach us that love involves much more than two imperfect persons.  Love began with infinite goodness and this source is the only one that can fully satisfy a heart’s deepest longings.  To find union with that love is the goal of every soul. If a soul pursues that love, that love consumes him so that he can freely give to his spouse, and from them flows a natural love for their family. A soul that focuses on a perfect God knows that a gnawing discontent is not the fault of his spouse but the consequence of his own search for true love, which can be found only in His Creator.

               Such a love doesn’t end when sickness, poverty or death threaten it. Love is supposed to challenge our souls to the apex of sanctification. Love expands, multiplies and encompasses not only its offspring, but also in-laws and the suffering world around us. Love is inevitably sacrificial and once embedded in the Church, it can have everlasting repercussions generation after generation, centuries after our human bodies have been laid to rest.

            Marital love is beyond temporal romance, cosmic connection or comfortable companionship.   It is an indissoluble union that doesn’t always sail through seamless blue waters, but anchored on Christ’s cross, survives blizzard blows and echoing discontent to navigate its way home.

            My marriage far from the example set by the Martins.   But in studying them, I realize we have more in common than we do with pop culture.  Like Louis and Zelie, our mothers-in-law were involved in our meeting each other. (My mother prayed a novena to St. Expeditus; my mother-in-law invoked St. Therese). After being married in the Catholic Church with traditional vows, my husband and I were blessed with girls and grieved through several miscarriages. We have a devotion to the daily Eucharist and the rosary, work for the Church and stay close to our parish.  We sin, (of course!) but with God's grace, can forgive each other's weaknesses, just as we seek God's mercy in the Sacrament of Confession for our own.  We accept that our trade, profession and hobbies are always going to be polar opposites.

             From Louis and Zelie, I’ve learned that a true soul’s mate is someone who shares my dream of becoming a saint, of making me a saint and helping me raise a kingdom of saints. St. Louis and Zelie, pray for us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Sacramentals for Tough Times and Etc...

A reader who randomly chanced on one of my posts had several questions for me. I thought the answers would benefit y’all so with permission, I’m making the Q and A public:

What prayers and sacramentals do you recommend to help you through tough times?

1.     The Rosary.  St. Lucia said “There is no problem, no matter how difficult it is...that cannot be solved by the rosary.”
2.     St. Michael prayer. (If it's a spiritual attack, I need heavenly wisdom and strength.)
3.     The Precious Blood prayer: “Lord Jesus Cover me with your most precious blood.”
4.     Adoration.  Adoration always reminds me Who is God and Who is in charge, and I never leave the Adoration chapel without the gift of peace.
5.     Miraculous Medal. Our Lady promised St. Catherine of Sienna "special graces to those who wear her medal around the neck."
6.     The purple scapular given to the mystic Julie Marie-Jahenny. Its supposed to give protection from calamities; it hangs on our wall.

7.     The green scapular - I place it around the neck or over the bedpost of someone sick (or in need of conversion).
8.     Exorcised Salt, water and oil –for sprinkling all over, whenever, whoever.
9. Consecration to the two hearts.  Being reminded that I belong to Our Lord and Our Lady helps me remember that I promised my fiat and that they are doing something with my offering.
10.     The Medal of Our Lady Guardian of the Faith (I just got this recently when the seer Patricia Talbot visited our parish.  More on that later.)

 Is there a certain St. Benedict medal size that you prefer?  What are the best places to place them in the house? Have you felt a difference in your life when you started wearing it or having it around the house?

            We have the 7 inch exorcism cross (the medal imbedded in the cross) above our front door, a 2 inch exorcism cross over garage door, and the patio door to ward off evil from every thing and person that enters our home. The exorcism cross is on my keychain so I carry it with me at all times.   I’ve been meaning to sew the half inch medals to my children’s brown scapulars and now that you mention it, I’m going to take out my needle and thread.

            I grew up with a medal on our doors and studied at a school with a medal inscribed on our uniforms.  When I went away to college, I kind of forgot about the medal until after getting married when my husband tacked it over our front door.   During the years when the medal was in close proximity, my faith has been solid and Orthodox, my sacramental life and love for the Church flourished and I’m surrounded by friends who are good influences in my spiritual life. I don't know if its the medal or the rosary or both, but I'm more attuned to that prickly feeling about a dangerous situation/place or an unfavorable person in my children’s lives, or mine. And there have been too many near misses because I listened to that persistent warning.  As for years I had forgotten about devotion to the medal, my soul was, let's just say, an endangered species. 

When you pray the daily rosary, do you struggle? Do you feel emotionally, physically, mentally drained?  Do you feel things go against you?

Yes, praying the daily rosary with three children and a baby is constantly a struggle!  We usually pray after dinner, but if we are attending daily Mass, we pray in the van on the way to/from Church.   Each of the children take turns leading a decade to ensure participation.  If I catch them picking at fingernails or braiding their hair during the rosary, I’ll take out my phone and say, “I’m going to take a picture of your nails/hair and post it on the altar so you can pray to your new god.”   It’s exasperating to be praying and calling their attention, but we persevere. On the rare occasion that we skip, I’ll pray an extra rosary by myself.

I can’t say I feel drained but I’ve noticed there is the feeling of isolation and distancing from situations and people and who don’t share the same prayer life and priorities. I suppose its a necessary consequence of a growing spiritual life.  The deeper one's immersion in eternal things, the more detached we are from temporal things and the less we have in common with the "values" of the world. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

How to Outrun Armageddon (Or 5 Ways Keep Spiritually Fit)

Featured on Catholic Stand.

Someone’s idea of a practical joke was to register me for an advanced physical fitness class. The first day, our instructor marked our running time by ordering the entire class to run five lapsoutside the gym. I circled one block, panting in the heat, before I decided to hide until the final lap, when I rejoined staggering fitness buffs. I don’t know what I clocked, but I smelled fresher than the rest of them.
Needless to say, if I had to run for my life because Armageddon was chasing me, I probably won’t survive. But, I can find a good hideout spot for my survival kit and I live in hope that because I work hard at my spiritual fitness, when my body is out cold and flattened by a kingdom-come-stampede, my soul at least has a fighting chance of floating to the locker room of purgatory. Then I can receive the final cleansing before reaching the heavenly gates.
I have nothing against health, sports or fitness per se. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of kayaking and waterskiing; I don’t begrudge marathons or the Zumba if that’s your thing. However, I do think ESPN’s obsession with the pursuit of physical fitness for entertainment or Hollywood’s pursuit of the “perfect” body image has gone overboard to idolatry proportions. It’s rubbed off on us and needs be dethroned by spiritual fitness.
So, what does it take to be in advanced spiritual shape?
  1. Eucharist. Out of 168 hours in a week, God only commands for one Sunday Mass, roughly 1 ½ hours. To add another half an hour of daily Mass or two during the week isn’t that demanding and goes a long way in sustaining a healthy soul. The Catechism teaches that the Mass is at once a sacrifice, worship, and communion with Christ and His Body, the Church. From this Sacrament, we are sanctified by sacramental graces and sent out to the world as disciples so that we may fulfill God’s will for our lives. The Body of Christ contains all that is essential for a soul’s nourishment. John 6: 51 says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will have eternal life.”
  1. Examination of Conscience.   According to the Catechism: “A thorough examination of conscience is a prayerful reflection of our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we have sinned against God.” On the USCCB website, there are tailor-made examinations based on the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, for children, youth, single or married people. St. Josemaria Escriva advised an examination must be conducted daily if we are to follow our Lord with sincerity. He added that, “your particular examination should be directed towards the acquisition of a certain virtue or the rooting out of a predominant defect.”
  1. Confession, otherwise known as the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, is not as Pope Francis said, “a psychiatric session that neglects the question or sin or a mental email to God that avoids a face to face encounter with God through a priest.” Precisely, the Catechism teaches that because sin is an offense against God and a rupture of communion with Him and the Church, the sacrament of penance as instituted by Christ in scripture, is necessary in order to return to full Communion with the Church. Through Confession, we acknowledge our sins, seek God’s mercy through his Church, who forgives in the name of Jesus. Then we return to full Communion with the Church, much like a delinquent gym member can return to privileges after settling fines with management.
How often should we confess? As often your examination of conscience compels you to. St. Pio suggested, “Confession is a soul’s bath. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust. Return after a week, and you will see it needs dusting again.”
  1. Prayer and Scripture.  St. Ignatius defines prayer as two-way, “asking some favor, acknowledging faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, fears, projects desires, and in all things seeking his counsel.”  The Catholic Church has an inexhaustible list of traditional prayers like the morning offering, the noon angelus, the liturgy of the hours, nine-day novenas, or the rosary as a family prayer, to which promises attached. Or it could just be a simple glance toward heaven, as St. Therese defines.  The more important, and less emphasized focus is God’s input, which we find through meditation of scripture,  the inspired word of God. Apart from the traditional leccio divina, modern technology has enabled easy access to scriptural reflections through the Laudate app and websites and
  1. Fasting. Other than the Lenten practice of fasting and abstinence, Canon 1251 provides, “Abstinence from meat or some other food… is to be observed on all Fridays unless a solemnity happens to fall on a Friday.” The Catholic Bishops of the United States has allowed other forms of renunciation as discussed in its pastoral statement. But every Friday remains a day of “self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.” Fasting trains our bodies that we are not of the world, and it strengthens our souls for fidelity to Christ and His Church.
If you find the advice of bishops and saints rigorous, you can always seek the spiritual direction of your priest. He, like a physical trainer, will know how to tailor your program to the state of your life and the welfare of your soul.
The urgent challenge is to prioritize an advance in spiritual fitness. Not because the fig trees are blossoming or there’s a comet tail in sight, but because Jesus said:
“Do not worry about your life and what you are to eat, or about your body and what you are to wear…instead seek His kingdom, and all else will be given to you besides.” (Luke 12: 22, 31)