Monthly Archives: December, 2014

Year in Review: 2014

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As bad as 2013 was, I needed this year to be better. I couldn’t imagine a worse year that didn’t involve death or serious illness. Thankfully, neither of those happened, and 2014 was, in fact, a vast improvement.

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Approaching the Capitol during the March for Life.

January: I rang in the new year with great friends at the home of a couple I love dearly. I blogged up a storm, beginning with a general reflection on resolutions that I still endorse. I stepped into a leadership role with the Catholic 20-Somethings shortly after surviving the Icepocalypse. For the third year in a row, I attended the March and Rally for Life at the Texas State Capitol. For at least one day a year, I get political.

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Me and my parents at my graduation from Notre Dame.

February: Our diocese has been working on a five-year pastoral plan, so I attended a “listening session” with several friends and other diocesan parishioners. We had a solid discussion to help identify where we think the diocese should be focusing their resources in the future. The implementation plan should be released into the wild in February. I was inspired by a CNN.com article to write about my feelings about being black. I posted it on Facebook, and it won me a huge traffic spike! It’s still one of my most popular posts.

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My #ashtag from Ash Wednesday.

March: We had a roommate switch at my house topped off by a delightful party to send the outgoing roommate off into married life. I celebrated nine years of my active Catholic life on Ash Wednesday.

April: Google Calendar spurred me to mourn my grandfather on his first birthday since his death in June 2013. My first Palm Sunday at my parish was left much to be desired, but my Triduum turned out much better than I’d anticipated. This was also when I switched to my current pattern of posts at Austin CNM (one book review plus one article review per month).

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Me with my grandfather after my high school graduation. He was so proud of me.

May: I saw the annual Zilker Shakespeare performance, a Renaissance As You Like It. I had the honor of lectoring in my former roommate’s wedding, during which I managed not to laugh or cry from all the joy. May was also the month I began to fall in love with YNAB.

June: I started taking a Bible study on the Psalms at my parish. Every person who made it through to the end was at least ten years older than I am! Two of my friends were ordained to the priesthood as Dominican Friars and two more for the Archdiocese of Washington. I was also promoted to my current job with the same company I’d started temping for back in 2013.

July: Austin CNM hosted a day-long retreat that was way better than I expected (and I hadn’t expected it to be bad). I started using Wunderlist, which has revolutionized my ability to Get Things Done.

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Sara, Rebecca, and me, reunited!

August: Sara and Rebecca, two of my friends and roommates from college, came to visit Austin. We got to spend some solid time reminiscing. The next weekend, I went to see Oklahoma! at Zilker. Having never seen any version, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was quite pleased. I finally admitted that I am an Augustinian at heart, which has been enriching and freeing.

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Me with my fellow Young Professionals volunteers. Photo by Anastasia Curtis.

September: I celebrated my birthday (rather later than usual) with a delightful luau. Later, I had one of my busiest social Saturdays ever: a mandatory liturgical retreat in the morning, a baby shower in the afternoon, and a birthday party at night. I started my Pope Francis series responding to the questions asked at the Synod. I started volunteering with Pure Fashion again, leaving me tired but excited about the direction of this year’s program.

October: I learned the Texas Two-Step (which is really more of a three-step) and attended my second wedding of the year. I also renewed and extended my salsa abilities (the dance, not the food). On the blog side of things, I joined the Not Alone Series with a (very popular) post about the rosary and single life. I also started using Pocket (and blogging about it in bits and pieces).

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November: Having experienced more organic blog traffic growth, I dove into National Blog Posting Month. I didn’t exactly win, but I was overjoyed with the results. The annual Hesburgh lecture sponsored by my local Notre Dame club got me thinking about race again. I hadn’t expected to be invited to my third and final wedding of the year. The reception somehow combined elegance with a woodsy fall theme. I even got to practice my partner dancing skills! I officially joined the Apostleship of Prayer, ratifying a habit I’ve kept for about five years.

December: I finally got my car fixed as part of that massive GM ignition switch recall, so I’m less likely to accidentally die in a fiery accident. That’s cool. I heard Chris Stefanick speak at a local parish, and I was able to cash in all of my use-or-lose vacation days by going home for Christmas.

All in all, 2014 was a good year. Here’s hoping that 2015 continues that upward trajectory!

My Thoughts for Pope Francis, Part Five: Same-Sex Marriage

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Synod14.

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Intro | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

I decided to top off NaBloPoMo by not posting much at all in December, it seems. I’m not a quitter, though, so I haven’t given up on this series even if I didn’t give it the attention it deserved. Now I’m back in action and ready to keep talking.

I read a post today about the questionnaires (now published for the ordinary synod, too) from a news publication I trust. The author came down quite negatively on the decision of some bishops to provide the questionnaire from the extraordinary synod to laypeople. That’s the very same questionnaire I’ve been working through in this series. As he wrote, it was “not for the laity.” That would include my bishop, my diocese, and me.

I was always aware that different dioceses completed the questionnaire in different ways and to different subsections of the diocese. Some administered it only to diocesan staff, some to priests, some to pre-selected laity, and some (such as mine) to self-selected laity. It seems so harsh to declare that laypeople as a whole couldn’t have understood the document. I loathe the word “accessible,” and I hope that this series demonstrates that some plain old laypeople are well-educated and knowledgeable enough to understand the goal of the questionnaire and its specific questions. The writer didn’t come right out and say that the majority of Catholics are too dumb to understand the questionnaire(s), but that’s what it felt like.

That said, I will continue to offer my educated and (I hope) thoughtful opinions.

On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

(This one is pretty clear, too. The questions specifically don’t call it “marriage,” but since that’s what the states are saying, I will, too.)

Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

In the U.S., there isn’t a law; there are many laws. As I learned when I was doing marriage prep (for other people, not for myself), marriage laws vary by state and often by county as well. State by state, same-sex marriage is becoming legal by that name (not as civil unions or domestic partnerships). In a country where remarriage after divorce is barely something to bat an eye at and children are an optional bonus to marriage only for those who want them, it seems inevitable. When marriage doesn’t include children and permanence by definition, it’s hard to limit it to just one man and one woman. I don’t think the country will be able to hold out for much longer. I don’t like that at all, but I don’t see any other future that’s consistent with the past half-century.

What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

Texas will be one of the last few states to give in on same-sex marriage. It’s easy to forget here in Austin that most of the state is conservative, Republican, and proud of it. Texas won’t go down without a fight. Currently, Texas has a marriage preparation endorsement called Twogether in Texas. It certifies programs and counselors who work with couples preparing for marriage. Even the secular state government recognizes that it’s easier to resolve problems on the front end than to try to stop divorce later. It even comes with a hefty discount on the base marriage license fee as an incentive. Some parishes have Twogether in Texas-approved programs, so specific pockets of the diocese support Texas’s current stance, at least.

As far as viewing people in same-sex marriages, the diocese doesn’t recognize that as marriage, of course. I don’t know if this diocese in particular has had any instances of employees desiring health benefits for same-sex partners, but I know that’s come up elsewhere in the country.

What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of unions?

That’s a tough one. It helps that people are generally aware that the Church doesn’t allow two people of the same sex to marry. They’re unlikely to approach the Church for a wedding. They may well turn up for funerals or liturgical ministries, though, and that causes real tension.

Following Gabriel’s blog and reading Eve Tushnet’s book have given me much to think about regarding the actual lives of gay Catholics. They’re both celibate, so it doesn’t apply directly, but it helps me see gay people as people with actual emotions and relationships. Love is doing what is best for the beloved. Two men or two women can truly care for each other. It’s the sexual aspect of their relationship that can’t be “what is best.” Recognizing the good while acknowledging the bad is a delicate balance for any sin and any sinner.

In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

Same-sex couples have enrolled their children in Catholic schools or requested baptism for their children. On the one hand, we can’t hold children responsible for the actions of their parents. Those children deserve grace just as much as anyone. On the other hand, it’s important to make sure that the parents understand that the education their children receive (in regular subjects and in religious education) will eventually teach them that their parents’ unions are not recognized. That could be a world-shattering moment, and it’s inevitable. Preparing parents for that moment requires specific attention and great sensitivity.


What about you? How do you approach relationships with gay people in your life? Have you ever attended a same-sex wedding, or would you if you were invited? What tips do you have for the children of same-sex couples?

What I Wore Sunday: What’s Warm?

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I am back in town after visiting home for Christmas, but I don’t have to go back to work until Friday. Use-or-lose vacation time can come in handy occasionally. To my shock and dismay, it was colder today in Austin than it was back East! With temperatures in the thirties at midday, I knew I just needed something warm for this evening.

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Dress: Hand-me-down
Necklace: First Communion gift
Sweater: Old Navy
Layering undershirt: Mossimo for Target
Shoes: Payless

Today’s outfit started with the undershirt, curiously enough. It has long sleeves, although you can’t seem them cozily layered under my sweater. I wore the same undershirt on Christmas Day with a heavier dress and a different sweater, so I knew it would be a warm combination. This dress has a low v-neck that I always wear with at least a camisole anyway, and the flowers keep it from being too somber.

This particular buttoning pattern is new for me. I realized last spring, right when my wardrobe revolution was beginning in earnest, that I don’t look any better now in big, blousy tops than I did in my elementary school baggy phase. Taking the “loose tops with fitted bottoms” rule to heart, I’ve started buttoning or belting my sweaters more, and I like the shape they create, especially with A-line skirts such as these. Pencil skirts are great and arguably more professional, but unless they’re stretchy, they’re not going to hang well on me. I picked up a new black A-line at TJ Maxx with my mom just before Christmas, so I’m excited to add that to my collection.

Continuing the Christmas season, today’s Mass was for the Feast of the Holy Family. I love the different angles presented in the lectionary options for today. I spent some solid time reading and reflecting on those this morning (well, afternoon; I got in late last night and slept until almost noon today). Our pastor slipped in a few furniture layout changes while I was away. They are awkward, to say the least. He has also attempted to move the announcements to the middle of Mass, but no one expects that, so no one remembers. Thus, we have had zero announcements this month. I’m going to chalk it up to growing pains.

Fr. Associate Pastor gave a great homily about the importance of families sticking together and parents serving as good role models for their children. I think I would have been inspired if it had applied to me at all. I don’t have a family of my own. My family of origin doesn’t go to church at all. It’s just me. I’m glad that I didn’t feel slighted or hurt by the lack of anything I could apply to my life, but my heart ached on behalf of all the people who did feel that way. There are more people than just me who aren’t married or don’t have children but greatly desire them. Remember us in your prayers, especially when you pray for families. Not everyone in a “family” of one or two wants to be.


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

Pope Francis Calls Out the Curia (and All of Us)

This is the time of year when many of us begin narrowing down our New Year’s resolutions. I have had great success with resolutions I make throughout the year: drinking water, managing a better to-do list, and blogging more frequently. Your mileage may vary.

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Pope Francis, however, seems to be on top of the end-of-the-year reflection. He has reminded the Roman Curia—and by extension, all of his faithful—that this is resolution season. He was especially hard on the Curia because they comprise the highest court in the Church. Many of us are leaders, though. We leaders all need to ferret out the “illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord.” You can read the full Vatican News report of the meeting, but….

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

What I Wore Sunday: Mix & Match

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As I mentioned in my Quick Takes, I am home for Christmas. Thanks to adopting a new packing/wardrobe philosophy from Putting Me Together in addition to my long-term commitment to dress liturgically when possible, I had to choose today’s outfit carefully.

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Chambray, cardigan, and skirt: Old Navy
Shoes: Payless

I wore this sweater with a different top already, and I can wear all of this with a “coastal green” top I brought. I could also layer this chambray over every other top I brought. Hooray for mix-and-match fashion!

For Mass today, I had to get up and go in the morning to the church I usually attend when I’m at home. (That’s why my photos are so bright: I took them during daylight!) The priest reminded me of Fr. Associate Pastor back in Austin. He started by giving us tips for a fruitful Advent, but since there are only a few days left, that wasn’t terribly useful. When he was a child in a school run by Carmelite sisters, they told the students to spend the first part of Advent cleaning up their homes for Baby Jesus (through confession) and the second part building a humble but sturdy stable for Baby Jesus to be born in (through good habits).

I commend the priest for making a push for confession, but I doubt many people will take him up on that. He didn’t mention any scheduled times between now and Christmas Eve. He said, “This parish must not have many sinners,” remaking about the nonexistent lines at regular Saturday confessions. I get his point. However, having frequented confession times other than the standard “hour before Mass on Saturday afternoon,” I think there is a real need for expanded or changed confession schedules. My favorite local Saturday evening time is being eliminated by the parish’s new pastor. I encountered an hour-long line there more than once, even outside of Advent and Lent. There must be reasons for the decision, but I don’t like it, and I don’t think it’s good for the people.

In the field of things I do like is the Spanish page of the bulletin. It has a lengthy reflection on all the readings, including the Psalm, and it is magnificent. I’ve never been to this parish’s Spanish Mass, so I don’t know if the homilies are similar. Maybe it’s just me, but theology seems so much more direct in Spanish. Any good Spanish lectionary reflections I should subscribe to?


For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Fine Linen and Purple.

7 Quick Takes on Cable, Pocket, and “Happy Holidays”

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— 1 —

It’s only been a few days since my last 7QT, so forgive me if I don’t have much to report.

I’ve made my annual trip home for Christmas. Just when On Demand cable got me hooked, we lost power for about two hours this afternoon. It was almost a disaster except that the gas-powered fireplace still worked, we had battery-powered lights, and it was only a few hours. Huddled under a big blanket, I prayed a couple of rosaries I missed during the week, which kept me from being forced to converse with my family, like cavemen. (Just kidding. My dad would have just napped even if we had power. My sister was on her phone, and everyone else was out of the house.)

Now that the cable is back, we’ll be okay.

— 2 —

When I first started using Pocket, I did a ton of reading online about best practices for using it (most of which I read using Pocket; so meta). One of the blog posts I read was a surprised response by a reader who received a year-end email that he was in the top 5% of Pocket readers. Now I’ve had the same reaction, because I got the same email.

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If only I could count all of that toward my sadly uncompleted Goodreads Challenge!

— 3 —

Based on my status, most of the people who save things to Pocket don’t actually ever watch or read them.

I read in Pocket pretty frequently. It helps me spend less time wandering down internally-linked rabbit holes. Once a month, I delete items I haven’t marked as favorites as part of my computer maintenance. That breaks the Highlights feature of the Pocket iOS app, but I have already self-curated before I put anything into Pocket, so I don’t mind.

Pocket must still keep statistics beyond what stays in the app, though, because it has a keen sense of the topics I like to read about.

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You’ll notice that’s a decent list of the topics I blog about, too. I have decided not to be weirded out by this. Too much paranoia makes it hard to sleep at night.

— 4 —

I am not a fan of three things about this time of year. I wrote for the Not Alone Series about Christmas music before it’s Christmas. The other two are “Advent is a penitential season” and “Happy Holidays.” I will try to keep my inner Grinch contained here, but no promises!

— 5 —

Kendra went viral with her post about why she doesn’t mind “Happy Holidays.” She makes a lot of valid points. It is about business, absolutely, and it is more inclusive of whatever celebration someone might be observing. I actually do refer to holidays throughout the year as “the holiday.”

On the other hand, some of her points are reaching. I would love to think about the Immaculate Conception as one of the holidays of which I am being offered a happy experience by store clerks and company cards, but that seems like wearing rose-colored glasses. People say “Happy Holidays” because they’re afraid of offending someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas by wishing them a merry one. Buying for Christmas is still popular, traveling for Christmas is a thing, but identifying Christmas as the reason has fallen out of favor due to PC-ness and fear. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

The thing is, I don’t think there are as many people actually offended by “Merry Christmas” as people with money and power think. Like Kendra, I send cards with Christmas greetings even to people who aren’t Christian. I send them to people who, like my own family, celebrate only a secular Christmas. (I celebrate it religiously; they don’t.) I usually send them during Advent. In my experience, people who are actually offended by something say so.

For the record, when people wish me “Happy Holidays,” I just say “thank you” and smile. It’s a genuine smile. I like smiling. But I don’t return the greeting. And when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me, I say “You have a Merry Christmas, too,” which satisfies my affinity for Advent. No bullying. Real kindness shared. Done.

— 6 —

I gave a presentation at Spirit & Truth this past Monday about the O Antiphons. (I put my handout in Dropbox if you’re interested.) They are such a critical part of Advent that I took the opportunity to share some of my favorite Advent songs and raise an issue that’s been nagging at me for a few years now.

Advent is not a penitential season. Lent is a penitential season. It has specific ways of doing penance that do not apply any other time of year: the only two fast days in the entire year, required abstinence on Fridays and Ash Wednesday, no alleluias in the liturgy. It is long and has a static time period (because Easter is always on a Sunday).

Advent has some things in common with Lent. We are encouraged to go to confession, but not as heavily as during Lent. The Gloria is omitted in liturgy, but we keep the alleluia. Giving is encouraged, but it’s not central to Advent (especially because we give at Christmas, which isn’t Advent anymore). … That’s about it. No fasting or abstinence. It’s rarely four full weeks because Christmas moves through the week. Advent is about preparation. We’re preparing for the birth of Christ, supernaturally, but we’re preparing for the actual return of Christ. That’s going to literally happen someday, and you don’t know when. Prepare now, and stop “giving up something for Advent” (unless it’s a sin you should have given up sooner anyway).

— 7 —

That said, I hope you have all gotten your life in order for both of the Lord’s comings, that your Panic Saturday (the last day before Christmas) was productive and injury-free, and that you have a very Merry Christmas and/or a wonderful day.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Booking Through Thursday: YA

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Ha! This is perhaps the least revealing BTT topic for me ever, but I’m glad to have it back.

Do you read books written for children or teens, or do you stick to books for adults?

I love YA. As I’ve described it, I don’t really read books for adults. They tend to be depressing. It took me a while to realize it, but when I wrote my guest post for Super Swell Times, I figured out exactly why I love YA. It’s hope: my favorite virtue.

I do, however, read nonfiction books for adults. I read a lot of books about being single (because I am single), and I read almost every book I can find written for Catholics. That and YA are the backbone of my Austin CNM column. That’s the perk of getting to pick your own books.

Are you a closet YA fan (or an open one)? Do you think adults should stick to adult books? I’ll check back for answers after I finish re-reading The Princess Diaries.


For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

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