Monthly Archives: January, 2017

Holiness and Horror (Review: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories”)

Everyone loves a happy ending, but the sad ones are way more interesting. That’s the basic premise of every story by the incredibly talented Flannery O’Connor. She was one of the greats of Catholic fiction, so for my last regular review for ATX Catholic, I encourage you to give her a try.

The first of her stories I read was either “Good Country People” or “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” I read them both for one of my English major classes back in undergrad, and they helped me see that short fiction is not just for fat English textbooks. Those two stories are the standout features of the collection “A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories,” although each story shines and shocks on its own.

a stone angel with a garland of flowers in front of a cross

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Sunday Style: Hints of Winter

I don’t have a whole month to recap this time! I’m making baby steps towards getting back to regular posting. My offline life is taking a variety of twists and turns, but I’m still pursuing love and joy, so I’m still here.

What I Wore Sunday, January 15

Sunday Style for January 15

Dress and shirt: Old Navy
Sweater and leggings: Target
Shoes: Old Navy
Earrings: gift, and too small to really see in those photos, anyway
Necklace: holy medals

It’s Ordinary Time! I love to dress liturgically, but no one owns enough green for 33 or 34 weeks. I have a little bit of green, though, so I broke it out. The shirt also makes this dress appropriate (a) for me to wear, and (b) to wear to church. I went to Academy after lunch still wearing this outfit, and the lovely cashier complimented my modesty. She used that word and everything; I was impressed. Evangelization comes in many forms.

Deacon G gave the homily, with Msgr. Old Pastor celebrating. He went through short descriptions of each reading except the psalm, which I appreciate—even though I consider the psalm a reading and never like when people ignore it. The Great Adventure opened my eyes forever to the power of the responsorial psalm at Mass. The overall message of the day, according to Deacon G, was loving Christ so much that the news of his love must be spread to all nations.

He also mentioned that this Gospel reading falls in the section of John’s Gospel called “the declarations” (I think), in which Jesus is identified as the Messiah multiple times. So, in this case, the Baptist has just been asked if he is the Messiah and said he isn’t. Now, he points out that the real Messiah has finally shown up, the one whose baptism he has been preparing the people for. It’s like a holy version of saying, “No, I’m not the guy you’re looking for, but here he is now!”

What I Wore Sunday, January 22

Sunday Style for January 22

Dress and tights: Target
Tank top: online store that is now out of business, and I probably should have worn a white one anyway
Sweater: Old Navy
Boots: Lauren Conrad
Leg warmers: Target
Necklace: holy medals
Earrings: basically invisible

It was almost cold this past Sunday! I celebrated by wearing this dress in its winter formulation. (I also wear it during the summer.) If you’re wondering why I’m celebrating the cold, I will note that we had a record high yesterday afternoon (81 degrees) followed by a dramatic low this morning (41 degrees). Thus, I will continue to break out my boots and sweaters every chance I get. The chances slip by so quickly!

Deacon G again gave a comprehensive homily. He even said explicitly that he would be making three points, one per reading! I like his style.

The first reading highlights that Jesus has come bursting onto the scene and into our lives, like a bright light. Naming the land of Zebulun and Naphtali (the northernmost part of Israel, which was invaded all the time) points Jesus’ light toward a land frequently consumed by darkness and conquering strife. Not only does Jesus come, he comes where he is most needed.

The second reading emphasizes our need to unite in community around Christ. We all have the same savior, despite our personal preferences, how we came to know God, or our politics. This is an especially relevant message after a tough election season and immediately after a tense inauguration.

The Gospel shows that fishermen have the qualities we need to be evangelizing disciples. That threw me for a second; I’ve heard about shepherds being models for listening to and following God, but fishermen is a new one. It takes more than one try to catch a fish, Deacon G said, just like people need to hear the Gospel more than once. Fishing takes time and patience, just like leading people to Christ does. You need the right skills to be a fisherman, just like evangelists do, and they were taught to you, just like fisherman and evangelists learn their craft. It was weird yet memorable.

What have you been learning in church? “My toddler can tear pages out of a hymnal very, very quietly” totally counts.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Get Through the Bible Today! (Video: John Bergsma, “Bible Basics for Catholics”)

Are you a member of the Perpetual Bible in a Year Club? I am. I know several people who have read through the entire Bible. Some have even managed it in a year. About ten years ago now, I set out to join them… and like many others, I fell behind. I promised I wouldn’t give up, though, and I didn’t restart, so I am technically still trying to read the Bible in a year.

Along the way to Revelation, however, I realized that I could learn about the whole Bible without necessarily reading cover-to-cover. Thanks to a variety of excellent Bible teachers and writers, I discovered that salvation history is laid out in the Bible quite nicely, and you can get through it much more quickly than you might think. If you’re ambitious, you can do it in an hour.

Thus, I present for your edification a recording of an Ave Maria Press webinar presented by Dr. John Bergsma, author of Bible Basics for Catholics. You can read my review of Bible Basics very quickly, or take some time to read the whole book, but if you’re aiming for the middle ground and short on time, give this video a try:

And if you don’t even have that much time, my highlights follow.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Sunday Style: January, So Far

After yesterday’s Sunday Style catch-up, here is the rest of my backlog. Rest assured that, even though I wasn’t posting, life was pretty good.

January 1

Sunday Style for January 1

Top, skirt, and shoes: Old Navy
Necklace and earrings: Charming Charlie

Yes, that is bare skin you see. I don’t remember it ever being this warm in the winter. Also note that there were a couple of days in December that were the coldest it has been in Texas since before I moved here seven and a half years ago. I will never understand this place.

Church was much less fun without Mr. Man. Our guest priest reminded us that we’re still celebrating the Incarnation (a.k.a. Christmas) despite the title of today’s solemnity. I suppose that was easier to wrap our heads around since it was Sunday rather than a special weekday Holy Day of Obligation. It might also be a more obvious connection if we celebrated the day as the Lord’s circumcision, but I’m sure plenty of people smarter than I am thought of that when they changed the observance in the first place.

He went on to say that Mary demonstrated three qualities we should imitate in particular: humility, obedience, and prayerfulness.

She demonstrated humility in her relative silence in Scripture: she speaks on only two occasions; three if you count the Magnificat. I had never noticed that before! St. Joseph gets all kinds of cheers and jeers for not having a single recorded word, but Mary is not far ahead of him!

She demonstrated obedience in many instances, including the flight to Egypt. The National Shrine, one of my favorite places in the world, has a lovely statue of the Holy Family depicted in the middle of their journey. Even after all the miracles they had experienced to that point, I can imagine being terrified at going so far away from home. Especially in terms of salvation history, going to Egypt is moving in the wrong direction. But they did it anyway.

She demonstrated prayerfulness in pondering Gabriel’s message and Simeon’s prophecy in her heart. I can get behind that. My preferred response to sudden bad news, a fright, or surprise is to take a second (or more) to think about it. I’m never comfortable when I have to act immediately. Similarly, when I do spring into action, that usually means something is wrong.

That might have been the most impactful Marian homily I’ve ever heard.

January 8

Sunday Style for January 8

Dress and undershirt: Target
Scarf: gift from my brother
Tights: Target
Shoes: Old Navy
Earrings: gift from my mom

Yes, that is a toasty warm winter outfit worn just seven days after my previously unseasonably warm outfit. And as I’m drafting this post, I am wearing a skirt that does not even reach my ankles. It seemed silly to wear tights when it is over 60 degrees out, but I couldn’t bring myself to go bare-legged, either.

To be honest, I was super tired during Mass. I stayed up way too late thawing my toes and managed to hit my exhaustion wall during the readings. I was very glad for my habit of pre-reading for Sunday Mass.

Through the fog, I managed to pay attention to at least part of the homily. We had the same guest priest, who started off by mentioning all three epiphanies and explaining each one very well. I love that aspect of Epiphany: we celebrate his appearance to the Magi, his first acknowledgement as part of the Holy Trinity at his baptism, and his first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. The Liturgy of the Hours has beautiful antiphons identifying all three epiphanies. I prayed exactly none of them this go-round, but I did glance at them before I started Night Prayer.

Fr. Guest Priest also mentioned that, this year, the gospels for the preceding day and the next day feature the other two epiphanies. Wow! He went on to relate all three gifts of the wise men to gifts offered to a king and to God. You’ve probably heard that part before.

I couldn’t have asked for more in an Epiphany homily. I wish I had been more alert! I hope this visiting priest visits often; I like his style.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Sunday Style: The Rest of December

I have not posted a Mass recap in over a month, so if you are on a metered data connection, turn back now!

If you’re sticking around, hi! Despite not posting any of these outfits and homily recaps for so very long, I did take all the right photos and notes. My recurring character makes an appearance towards the end. I’ll share January tomorrow.

December 11

Sunday Style for December 11

Polo, skirt, and shoes: Old Navy
Tights: Target
Necklace: gift
Earrings: super old, barely visible, and also a gift; so it works out

It was Gaudete Sunday, so pink was a necessity. Although I call this one “raspberry,” it still worked. It was actually kind of cold (weather-wise, not outfit-wise).

One of our deacons preached this week. He proposed that John sent his messengers to ask if Jesus was the Messiah because their styles and messages were so different. All the talk of love and mercy apparently didn’t make sense to John, who spoke more about repentance and conversion.

I call shenanigans. Both repentance and mercy are essential parts of our relationship with Christ. There’s nothing to be merciful about if you didn’t do anything wrong. There is no justice if nothing is unjust. There’s no healing if you’re never sick.

He did, however, highlight both advents: the coming of Christ in flesh at Christmas, and the Second Coming at the end of time. I appreciated that. But neither he nor Msgr. Old Pastor said anything about Gaudete Sunday getting its name from the liturgy’s beginning with “rejoice.” Yes, it’s the halfway mark to Christmas, and that is a reason to rejoice, but that felt like a missed opportunity.

We did have the Communion antiphon, though, a cappella this time, which was hauntingly beautiful. And I learned to sing “O Come, Divine Messiah,” which reminded me how much I enjoy French songs. This parish has excellent music.

December 18

Sunday Style for December 18

Sunday Style for December 18, full length

Sweater and… I think those are thigh highs: Target
Blouse: actually a work shirt, but I only ever wear it like this
Skirt: Old Navy
Shoes: Payless
Earrings: handmade, gift from Mr. Man
Ring: handmade, from a craft fair

Back to Advent; back to purple. I’m not sure I like these shoes. The heels are not staying on my foot properly, but I can’t wear heel grips with any leg-covering hosiery (I’ve tried), so they might get donated. I got them as the second “O” during BOGO at Payless, though, so that wouldn’t be a total wash.

I wore these earrings because they match and I like them but also because Mr. Man likes to see me wear them. He knows, however, that they are very heavy, so I can’t keep them on for long. We compromise.

Mass, however, sought to challenge my attempt to wear these earrings just long enough for church. We were instructed to stand at the end of the pre-Mass announcements, as usual, and then we had to wait for at least sixty seconds. Silent. Books open, as ready to sing as we were going to be, waiting for our excellent organist to give us the intro. It felt very long, but I resisted the urge to look at my watch. The organist and cantor were waiting, too, very obviously, so I knew they were waiting for something as opposed to just forgetting when and how Mass usually starts.

Suddenly, our musicians sprung into action, we sang, and all went as usual. Fr. Pastor apologized for making us wait, “but,” he said, “that is part of Advent.” I’m still not sure whether he planned it that way, but it was funny. And it unexpectedly gave the latecomers time to get in.

In his homily, Fr. Pastor noted that the Jews knew the Messiah was coming when Isaiah made his prophecy, but they had to wait seven centuries for the prophecy’s fulfillment. How many times have we prayed fervently for something only to be frustrated when God’s response seems to be a long time coming?

December 25

Sunday Style for December 25

Click for full size and full sweetness.

Blouse, sweater, and skirt: Old Navy
Belt and tights: Target
Boots that you can’t actually see in any of these photos: Lauren Conrad
Cause for smiling (besides Jesus): Mr. Man!

His tie: JC Penney; he chose this tie “specifically because I knew you liked patterns”
His shirt: probably also from JC Penney, “with no buttons on the collar (because those are the worst)”
His pants: khakis (“because they’re the best”), from “probably Kohl’s”
His shoes: he doesn’t know where they’re from, but they’re black (yes, with khakis and a red shirt; yes, I have been trying to work on that)

I didn’t ask what color his belt was. If it was black, then it matched the shoes, which is ideal. But the shoes don’t match the rest of the outfit, so I’m not sure which of those battlefronts I should be starting on. I do like the tie.

I usually prefer to dress for liturgical Christmas versus cultural Christmas, i.e. in white and gold instead of red or green. I’m running out of Christmastime neutrals, though, so I aimed for the middle here.

As you can see, Mr. Man joined me for Christmas! Our matching is completely coincidental. It was the most amazing gift to not only be not-alone at Christmas Mass but also to have him beside me. My usual twinge of sadness was replaced with the most delightful burst of joy.

My family had an early surprise birthday party for my brother on Christmas Eve, so we went to Mass on Christmas Day. Fr. Home Pastor always gives great homilies, even when it is not Christmas. If you’ve ever been to Mass on Christmas Day, you’ll know that the gospel reading is from the beginning of John. Based on the lack of shepherds and newborns and such in that opening, Fr. Pastor surmised that St. John would probably prefer that we celebrate the Incarnation of Christ at the Annunciation rather than at Christmas. He was just as much Word-made-flesh in the womb, after all.

He also shared a Christian fact I’d known: in the Bible translation produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, John’s gospel proclaims that the Word was “a god” versus just “God.” That’s not a typo, and it’s not the same thing.

We Catholics (and basically all other Christians) believe that Jesus was the fullness of God. As St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped.” It was part of the gift he received from the Father: to be both God and man. Even an angel could not have brought the fullness of God to Earth.

The Incarnation of Christ is a beautiful thing. Mass was especially incarnational for me this year having Mr. Man there. I hope your Christmas brought you just as much joy.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Currently: January 2017

Currently at Lindsay Loves

Whew! That was kind of a long time to go without posting properly. Back to it now.

Here’s what I am currently…

Gathering: My hair around my head at bedtime. My hairstylist gave me a Christmas goodie bag with a hair wrap in it, so I’ve been wrapping my hair. Forgetting to pack the wrap when I was home over Christmas was a setback, but I’m back on the wagon now. It took some experimenting to figure out how my hair responds, and I had to buy a boar bristle brush to make it work, but I’m getting much better at the whole process. My hair stays way straighter now. I might have also spent too many minutes gathering tips from the Glamtwinz’s other hair videos. I don’t know any other black women with hair as long as mine, relaxed or natural, so I’m always looking for advice.

Making: A legit Christmas card display. I do not come from a Christmas Card Family, but I have been a Christmas Card Person since high school. My grandma was also a Christmas Card Person. This was the first Christmas since she died, so I felt a little extra joy knowing that someone in our family still has still got it. Oh, and the secret to displaying flat cards like this? Binder clips!

Sipping: Pure Cane Sugar Dr. B ( a Dr Pepper imitation) from HEB; they had a coupon kind of a long time ago. Maybe a year ago? I forgot to drink them because I almost never drink sodas that have both sugar and caffeine. And I put them on the top of the wall cabinets in our kitchen, which is my extended storage space because I’m the only roommate tall enough to reach (without a chair, I guess). During my last grocery run of the year, I forgot to get my usual case of Coke Zero, so I drank those instead. They were tasty, but the extra sugar threw me off balance for a while.

Following:-slash-stalking Yahoo View for new episodes of my TV shows. Grey’s Anatomy had a most excellent cliffhanger, and Bones has started back up after its amazing finale. At least Black-ish has been back online already. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but cutting the cord and hand-picking what I watch has given me an almost fanatical devotion to the few shows I do watch.

Resolving: To write “2017” instead of “2016.” That’s the closest thing to a resolution you’re getting from me!

Recapping: December

  • I have morphea. I sat on that post for a long time before finally publishing. It was on my Epiphany cards, so it was time to just come out and talk about it.
  • Mr. Man went home with me for Christmas. We survived meeting my family, some classic tourist confusion about the DC area, and shoe shopping. It was delightful.
  • I got a filling. It was literally painless. My dentist is great.
  • I rang in the new year with a friend. We had a lovely hotel dinner with her mom and went to a great local brewery party.
  • I took myself on a date to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I liked it!

So what’s new with you? What are you gathering currently?

Currently is hosted on the first Wednesday of each month by Anne of In Residence. This month’s guest co-host is Jessica of An Immeasurable Joy. Won’t you join us?

Taboos and Resolutions (A Response to Archbishop Chaput’s Tocqueville Lecture)

They say you shouldn’t talk about sex, politics, or religion in public. As an evangelization-minded Catholic, I live a little differently, but I do tend to stay away from politics. I just don’t like it.

These days, however, there’s no getting away from politics, even when we’d rather talk about some of those other uncomfortable things. We’re seeing shifts in worldwide political power that have worried many, from both sides of the aisle and every form of government. If there was ever a time to talk politics, it’s now. I like my politics as a side to religion, though, so that’s what catches my attention.

That mindset drew me towards a speech given by one of my favorite speakers, writers, and bishops, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. He was invited to speak at the 2016 Tocqueville lecture at the University of Notre Dame, where I attended graduate school several years ago. If I will listen to anyone talk about politics, it’ll be him. The venue and occasion are just gravy.

"The Gospel of John reminds us that the truth, and only the truth, makes us free. We're fully human and free only when we live under the authority of the truth." —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

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