Category Archives: Catholicism

What I Wore Sunday: The Tights and the Immaculate Conception Fight

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I started writing this post on Wednesday, but the latter half was so difficult that I didn’t post it right away. I’ve done my best to be charitable and clear. Let me know in the comments if you think I managed it.


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It is days like today that remind me why I’ve been trying so hard to post this on Sundays, right after I get in from church. My memory does not hold onto a homily very long. My friend Seth told me just last night that his pastor typically gives a second mini-homily after Communion, repeating the first homily. At least I don’t get that (although it might make remembering easier).

Here’s what I wore:

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Dress worn as a skirt: Old Navy
Top: The Limited (super old)
Sweater: Old Navy
Necklace: gift
Tights: Target
Shoes: Old Navy

We finally had another cold Sunday, so I was determined to break out these navy blue tights. I basically built the outfit around the tights. That’s okay, right?

The last time I wore this dress + top combo, it was much too hot for a ponte knit dress and I thought I might sweat to death. The church was warm yesterday, but not so warm that I was uncomfortable. I forgot all about my lifelong plan to dress liturgically because I was so excited about the tights.

I really like these tights.

It’s been more than a day and I went to another Mass in the meantime, so I honestly can’t remember what our pastor said in his homily! From my pre-reading, the theme was the hope of salvation even when sin and despair threaten to overwhelm us.

I do, however, remember exactly how the announcements went on Sunday.

Of the six* non-Sunday holy days of obligation in the U.S., three of them (Mary, Mother of God; the Assumption of Mary; and All Saints) are not obligatory when they fall on a Saturday or Monday. We saw that with All Saints last month. Attending Mass two days in a row is a hardship; lifting the obligation eliminates that hardship.

The Immaculate Conception does not work like that. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States, so her feast is always a holy day of obligation. She’s the exception. Two years ago, the solemnity fell on a Saturday. This year, it fell on a Monday. Both times, many people were confused about when or whether to go to Mass. The confusion and arguments over this situation rival all others except the Annual Lent Fight.

In my honest attempt to be helpful, I got caught up in the Immaculate Conception Fight this year.

My parish provided only a brief reminder note in the middle of the worship section of the bulletin last Sunday (November 30). In contrast, we got a long pulpit announcement about the parish Advent/Christmas production, and even longer one two weeks ago about the Christmas gift outreach. That doesn’t seem right.

Since fully half of our holy days of obligation are sometimes not obligatory, and especially since the last one (All Saints 2014) was in fact not obligatory, I knew there would be confusion again this year. I tried to help by posting a PSA on Facebook. In retrospect, that was a bad call.

After I caused confusion with my Facebook post, I emailed my pastor for an authoritative answer. I kept my email to three sentences: the first expressing my disappointment in the lack of pulpit announcement before December 7, and the second two to ask about the possibility of a “two-fer.” But he didn’t seem to agree that the announcement should have already been made, and he didn’t answer my question.

My “two-fer” question was this: I was considering, for the first time ever, attempting to go to Mass just one time (Sunday evening, as usual) for both holy days of obligation (the Second Sunday of Advent and the Immaculate Conception). The evening preceding a solemnity “counts” as the solemnity for Mass-attendance purposes, no matter what readings and prayers are used. The problem is that you can’t fulfill two Mass-attendance obligations by attending just one Mass. As Ed Peters rationally pointed out, if that were possible, the bishops probably would have proposed it already. They’re in favor of reducing Mass-attendance hardships, after all. Thus, the (past) options are this diagram:

Immaculate Conception 2014 Diagram

Click for full size.

On December 7, our pastor finally reminded everyone about the Immaculate Conception in a pulpit announcement after Communion. That would have been great if it had happened just one week earlier! People need more than one evening’s notice to get to church the next day. In contrast, Mass times for the entire Christmas octave were publicized via the parish email newsletter before Thanksgiving.

After much discussion (and some regret that I’d even tried), I went to Mass on Sunday evening and again Monday evening. Because I went straight to Mass at 6:30 p.m. from work and stayed through Spirit & Truth, I had to pack my dinner and eat it at work at 4:30. I’m too young for the early bird special. This is what loving Jesus does to me.

I’m upset that my pastor didn’t answer my question about the two-fer possibility, but I’m ridiculously glad that this situation won’t turn up again for several more years. And I got to see my old, retired pastor for the Immaculate Conception last night. He recounted the story of Our Lady of Lourdes quite nicely and exhorted us to be still (in prayer with God) during Advent. By then, I was calm and happy again. Hooray!


*Canonically, there are ten holy days of obligation. In Hawaii, there are only two.

Check out more Mass fashion and commentary at Fine Linen and Purple.

Called to Love (Review: Gay & Catholic)

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If not for my particular faith journey, I might never have read this book. I started going to church at the age many people first stop. Campus ministry is how I met Gabriel, who blogs at Mudblood Catholic. His writing is highly philosophical and remarkably eloquent. I enjoy his writing because he is honest, faithful, a convert to Catholicism, and gay.

There are not a lot of celibate gay Catholic voices out there. Scant few have published their writing in any outlet. Gathering thoughts previously expressed primarily online, Eve Tushnet offers Gay & Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, a book that is part memoir, part theory, and part self-help manual. The parts of Eve that are gay, celibate, Catholic, erudite, alcoholic, and hopeful converge into a book that is encouraging and rational.

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Read the rest at Austin CNM.

Not Alone Series: How I Do Advent, Etc.

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How do you prepare your heart, home, etc. for the coming of the Lord? Are there specific recipes or traditions you partake in? Share with us how you are making way for our newborn King!

I am 100% with Jen in her frustration about early Christmas preparations. On November 12, I saw a minivan with a real Christmas tree strapped to the top. November 12! My family has always been a fake tree family (and a fake plant overall family), so I don’t know if you can even keep a tree alive that long. That just seems foolish. I want to enjoy my Advent!

The tough part about trying to enjoy Advent is that it makes me seem (and feel, to be honest) like a Grinch. I saw this meme on Facebook around the same time I saw that poor live tree, and I laughed, but I didn’t share it. I’m trying to be charitable. Even if it’s making a general point I can get behind, it’s mean-spirited.

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There is much I support about early Christmas activities. A spirit of giving and peace is fantastic for the secular and religious alike. I’m in favor of shopping anytime you feel like it. Buy Christmas gifts in March if that works for your budget! Plenty of “Christmas music” is actually about Thanksgiving (Jingle Bells), winter (Sleigh Ride), or preparing for Christmas (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel), so crank it up! I keep three playlists for this time of year for that very reason, and they have some of my favorite contemporary songs, period:

I even have a couple of New Year’s Eve/Day songs that are not Auld Lang Syne.

The parts I don’t like are twofold: one, there’s no room for Advent; and two, people are done with Christmas when the Christmas season starts. Those are both big problems.

So I celebrate Advent. I have a few key traditions.

I’ve had an Advent wreath every year since my sophomore year of college. I used to make it out of construction paper since the dorms didn’t allow candles, but I graduated to real candles eventually.

During Lent, I read a book of daily reflections by Henri Nouwen. During Advent, I read one by the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross (who run Notre Dame, which is where I went to grad school). I keep it in the bathroom cabinet to read while I brush my teeth in the morning. I brush my teeth every day, so it’s an unmissable reminder.

I have a mini Nativity scene now (a gift from my mom last Christmas), but it’s just the Holy Family, and it’s all one piece. I can’t take Baby Jesus out until Christmas Eve, so the whole thing stays away until then.

I don’t do St. Nicholas shoe presents, but I got one once from one of my previous roommates. It was pretty delightful! I’m not a Christmas lights person for lack of cash, time, and the desire to be outside.

My Christmas tree is a source of great (self-generated) frustration. I always go back to Maryland to visit my family, so I am never home for the end of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the beginning of the Christmas season. (I almost never get to light the fourth candle on my Advent wreath because of this, which is part of the reason I use such inexpensive candles. It would be so frustrating to buy in sets of four and only ever light three.) My family isn’t religious, so all their decorations go up on the day after Thanksgiving, in typical American fashion. I try to be a little more conservative (i.e. religious) with my tree so as not to crush out Advent. This year’s plan is to put up the bare tree on the Second Sunday of Advent, decorate it on Gaudete Sunday, and leave it up through Epiphany.

Gaudete Sunday is the hinge of that plan. It’s roughly halfway through Advent, so I will have given the season a fighting chance, and it’s a day of rejoicing, so decorating seems appropriate. “Joy” is my one-word reason for being Catholic, so decorating the tree that day contributes to my attempt to maintain a single identity.

And my tree is so cute! It’s a two-foot tabletop tree, so it isn’t much, but I love it and want to enjoy it. (See? Joy!) Maybe when I have someone to share my life with, I’ll put it (or a larger one) up right away and create a Jesse tree. I can’t quite muster that effort for just myself.

My real problem is not failing to celebrate Advent, though, it’s failing to celebrate all of Christmas! Is it just me or are there not many ways to observe the liturgical Christmas season? My reflection book goes through Epiphany, so I keep reading it. The octave day of Christmas is a holy day of obligation, but that’s its own celebration, so it doesn’t really feel like still celebrating Christmas. Epiphany is beautiful in its own right.

Any suggestions? How do you keep all twelve days of Christmas going?


Thanks to Jen and Morgan for hosting! Check out other responses on their blogs.

Catholic Calendar 2015

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Welcome, Googlers! My Catholic Calendar posts remain some of my most popular since 2011, so I am glad you are here. If you like reading Catholic lifestyle blogging, stick around!

It’s good to see you, too, regular readers. The Catholic liturgical year begins tomorrow evening with the First Sunday of Advent, so it seems like the perfect time to post these instructions.

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Photo by Joe Lanman at Flickr.

On to the good stuff.

If you subscribed to the Catholic Calendar in 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014, you should be set for 2015 now. I added those dates today. Each event lasts all day and has the liturgical color and the rank of the day in the description.

If you want to know more about ranking, see the Table of Liturgical Days.

If you are not subscribed and you use Google Calendar (or another program that accepts the iCal format), you can subscribe using this method:

  1. Copy this link: https://www.google.com/calendar/ical/mmc0sisckm9lduf8722ihsn3us%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics
  2. Log in to Google Calendar.
  3. On the left-hand side of the screen, click the small arrow to the right of “Other calendars” and choose “Add by URL.” Paste in the URL you copied above.
  4. All the U.S. Catholic holidays since 2011 should be visible now as all-day events. If you open the event, you can see the liturgical color and the rank in the description. (I only use Google Calendar, so I don’t know if those details transfer to other programs. If you use it elsewhere and can verify that, please comment to let us know!)

If you don’t use Google Calendar or an .ics-friendly program, you can bookmark the single-page, fullscreen online version. (This is not same URL as the one above.)

Some special notes for this year:

  • We have a fairly early Easter, right at the beginning of April.
  • All Saints Day is on a Sunday. That means it is a holy day of obligation. All Sundays are holy days of obligation, though, so you don’t have to do anything different.
  • The Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would fall on June 13 this year, but since that is usually St. Anthony’s obligatory memorial, both the Immaculate Heart and St. Anthony are optional memorials.

For more information about the U.S. dates for the 2015 liturgical year (and the rest of the 2015 calendar year), you can read this very helpful PDF published by the USCCB. They have kindly released this information for free before the year it covers is over (which was not true in the past). We can now all appreciate their generosity!

If you have trouble, please comment or use my contact form. I will do my best to help. I also appreciate comments letting me know that it worked.

Thanks to Romcal for the original idea and the backend data!

The Church’s Teaching on Marriage Hasn’t Changed (#Synod14 and Humanum)

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I think it’s safe to say that the synod was a media fiasco. The last time Catholics looked quite that bad was during the U.S. clerical sex abuse scandal, but that was twelve years ago, and the Church has come so far since then (thanks be to God). We might never recover our damaged reputation after that disaster, though.

The recent extraordinary synod of bishops on marriage and the family in the context of evangelization (a.k.a. #Synod14) had the potential to be so beautiful, but it was essentially a hot mess. My immediate reaction was to stop reading any articles or even headlines about it. I’ve been an involved Catholic long enough to understand that the Church does nothing quickly and therefore generally gets things right the first time. I take a “wait and see” attitude. Your reaction might have been different.

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Photo by Nick Losacco.

Read my conclusions and find out what the Humanum Colloquium was all about at Austin CNM.

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