Valiance

But some of the Israelites continued to love and to serve the Lord in humility and detachment from the world, for they knew that the Saviour would come to free men from the oppressor within their own hearts.

It was from these pure families that, by His grace, God developed and guided the ancestors of His future Mother. They were extremely simple and devout persons, very gentle and peace-loving and charitable. Out of love for God, they always lived a very mortified life. Often the married couples practiced continence over long periods of time, particularly during holy seasons, for their highest ideal was to raise saintly children who in turn would contribute toward bringing salvation to the world. They lived in small rural communities, and they did not engage in business. They worked on the land and tended flocks of sheep; they also had gardens and orchards. They were very conscientious in fulfilling their religious duties. Whenever they had to go to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices in the Temple, they prepared themselves by prayer and fasting and penance. When traveling, they always helped as best they could any sick persons or paupers whom they met. And because they led such an austere and detached life, these good people had to endure the scorn of many of the other Jews.

Thus Mary’s grandparents inherited from their ancestors a love of humility, chastity, mortification and the simple life. Her mother, St. Ann, and father, St. Joachim, were the very finest products of this long line of pure and holy servants of God.

The Life of Mary as Seen By the Mystics (compiled by Raphael Brown)

* * *

It’s a very different season of life in contrast to those I’ve ever been before. Last year, I posted on the feast of St. Anne, and how amusing and amazing it is to go back and read over something you’ve written a year (or more) ago and marvel how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same!

On a similar whim, I flipped through an old journal, attempting to find something from July 26th of a previous year. 2014 (I was 17 at the time!) reads as follows:

I promised to journal. Now I have done it. Life has been rolling delightfully along with music & fiction & recording & website & more fiction & more music. And other serendipity. Tonight is “chess night with Mr. Wemmick”  – or, rather, LOTR with Lena. So tally ho!!! End.

Not too much about St. Anne. Alas. (I have always been a horrid journaler. Not that I needed to tell you that.)

This season of life, this time of courtship, has given me so much: so much joy and beauty and grace! But it’s also asked much (“to whom much is given, much is expected”)–it’s asked for what I’m increasingly realizing to be valiance. Not that I’m a valiant person by any means . . . but I’m having to strive for that, all the same.

Valiant:

  • boldly courageous; brave; stout-hearted: a valiant soldier.
  • marked by or showing bravery or valor; heroic: to make a valiant effort.
  • worthy; excellent.

As you may have gathered from an earlier blog post, I’m in the middle of a 54-day Rosary Novena to Our Lady of Pompeii for numerous private intentions. (Currently I’m on day 22 . . . and even though it takes effort some days, it’s amazingly beautiful and a total gift to whoever prays it!)

But of course, I still had to make time for St. Anne’s novena. And for whatever reason, while I had a few people I wanted to pray for specifically, my main intention for this novena surfaced as, “That St. Anne would intercede for me, and obtain the necessary graces for me to grow in all the feminine virtues, but especially the ones I most stand in need of in this courtship.” Not that I had particularly anything in mind . . . but as the way it often happens with novenas (and prayers in general), my prayers were actually answered. (Gasp!)

Current faults (that I’d been mostly blind to) and corresponding virtues to strive for were, by the end of the novena, illuminated in my mind–and the path ahead was made clear to me. Humbling but beautiful . . . you know the routine. I am so grateful for this, and for good St. Anne’s intercession! (I suppose the prayers you pray for self-knowledge are the prayers answered more quickly than any others!)

I’ll be turning 22 before long . . . but although I guess one could say I might possess some nice qualities and some relative maturity (like so many other people!) . . . becoming a valiant woman is an end still very much in need of attaining. Worthy and excellent. Brave and stout-hearted. Daily doing battle against the world, the flesh and the Devil with virtue and with strength.

St. Anne, pray for us that we may grow in all the virtues, especially those most needed in our current state in life!

Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life . . . Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

God bless you all, and a very happy feast of St. Anne! 🙂

Sig

 

 

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Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

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Lord, Thou hast prevented him with blessings of sweetness: Thou hast set on his head a crown of precious stones. He asked life of Thee, and Thou hast given him length of days for ever and ever.

Gradual from the Feast of St. Joseph

Happy feast of St. Joseph! What a beautiful day for the holy Church! The fast is lifted (my family, friends and I are so excited :-P), and the day is suffused with joy and excitement as we honor the head of the Holy Family, the protector of the Universal Church!

Joseph, says the Holy Scripture, was a just man; he was innocent and pure, as became the husband of Mary; he was gentle and tender, as one worthy to be named the father of Jesus; he was prudent and a lover of silence, as became the master of the holy house; above all, he was faithful and obedient to divine calls.

-Butler’s Lives of the Saints

Devotion to St. Joseph cannot be over-stressed! Let us all consecrate ourselves to his Most Chaste Heart as, in private revelation (approved by Bishop Carillo Gritti, Prelate of Itacatiara, Amazonas, Brazil, May 31, 2009), he requested in Brazil:

St. Joseph, The Most Chaste Heart, Print

My dear son, Our Lord God has sent me to tell you about all the graces the faithful will receive from my Most Chaste Heart which Jesus and my blessed
spouse wish to be honored. I am St. Joseph and my name means “God will grow,” because I grew every day in grace and divine virtues. Through devotion to
my Chaste Heart many souls will be saved from the hands of the Devil.

I am not one for reading too deeply into dreams, and until today, it never struck me to do anything like blogging about them. As with anything else, I know they can be superstitiously over-emphasized without due cause. Yet, at the same time, some dreams have more weight; God has spoken through dreams; we are encouraged to ask our guardian angels to protect our nightly dreams. Now, most of mine have been crazy and random, a conglomeration of life events and the occasional flying episode and stomach virus (from which I wake up incredibly relieved that none of us are sick!). However, as with anyone else’s dreams, a few of mine have been quite vivid and serious.

There have been a handful over the past few months that I actually mulled over the next day. One had to do with me standing alone on our back deck, looking at the daytime sky, rooted in a combination of terror and awe, watching revolutions and movements of the moon and planets across the sun as they continually increased in size and speed.

And early this morning, when it was still dark, I woke up from a dream even more intense. It began with a storm (again, over our backyard) and what looked like descending funnel clouds; but, without warning, one became a literal finger of fire. Then it transformed into a torrent of fire plunging down to some unseen location–but the fire’s repercussion nearly reached our yard. The terror was palpable. In the dream, my dad was standing beside me and he uttered an overwhelmed prayer to God. I woke up with more than a trace of that terror, and it certainly took a while for the vividness of the dream to fade. It prompted me, after my morning prayers, to return to a chapter from The Four Last Things that I had read a long time ago.

Jesus Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead, Who at His first coming appeared upon the earth in all stillness and tranquillity, under a gentle and attractive form, will come again the second time to judgment with great majesty and glory.

In order that His advent may not find us unprepared, He will send beforehand many and terrible signs to warn us to abandon our sinful life. Of these signs He Himself says: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be.  And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved.”

A very grim chapter follows that introduction; storms, floods, darkness, and a great fire falling from the sky are all discussed. The Church teaches that the end of the world will come on an unknown day, but that undeniable signs will precede it, that there will be universal chaos and destruction before the Last Judgment. It doesn’t take prophetic dreams to reveal that. Our times, while still possessed of hope, are very evil. It is interesting to have such a dream early in the morning on the feast of St. Joseph (who bears the name of his princely Old Testament predecessor), the patron and protector of the universal Church, the Terror of demons, the patron of a happy death. If anything else, it renewed my desire to pray to him, to pursue a life of virtue, and to live always in a state of spiritual vigilance, whether I or not I’m meant to experience the end times (though, humanly speaking, I really hope not! 😉 ).

Today, The Dash and I consecrate ourselves to the Most Chaste Heart of St. Joseph after finishing a novena:

O Blessed St. Joseph, tenderhearted Father, faithful guardian of Jesus, chaste spouse of the Mother of God, I pray and beseech thee to offer to God the Father, His Divine Son, bathed in Blood on the cross for sinners, and through the thrice-Holy Name of Jesus, obtain for us from the Eternal Father the favor we now implore, which is the grace of consecration to thy Most Chaste Heart.

O Joseph, foster father of Jesus, most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray for us daily to the Son of God, so that, armed with the might of His grace and loyally fighting the good fight here on earth, we may be crowned by Him at the hour of our death. Amen.

StJoseph
St. Joseph the Provider by Michael D. O’Brien

Here is a beautiful prayer that can be used for consecration:

Bless me, O dearly beloved Father, St. Joseph; bless my body and
my soul; bless my resolutions, my words and deeds, all my actions and omissions, my every step; bless all that I possess, all my interior and  exterior goods, that all may redound to the greater honor of God. Bless me for time and eternity, and preserve me from every sin. Obtain for me the grace to make atonement for all my sins by love and contrition here on earth, so that after my last breath I may, without delay, prostrate at thy feet return thee thanks in Heaven for all the love and goodness thou, O dearest Father, hast shown me here below. Amen.

Now pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father,
three times, in thanksgiving to God for the graces and prerogatives
bestowed on St. Joseph.

(I found both of these prayers at Catholic Tradition.)

God bless you all on this beautiful feast day! 🙂 Sancte Joseph, ora pro nobis!

Sig

 

All White, All Fair

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This morning I woke up early, around 6:15 (a slightly humorous fact, since it was the first morning this entire week on which I hadn’t set my alarm . . .). I lay there in the stillness, gradually noticing how the dim predawn light, filtering through my curtained window, had an unusually blue sheen. Summoning some willpower, I trundled out of bed and peered through the blinds.

Our mountainside world was blanketed with white. And even as I type, hours later, the snow is still pouring down.

“I will put enmities between thee and the woman.” In these words the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was announced to our first parents. It was to be the reversal of the friendship with the serpent contracted by Eve, when she listened to his voice and fell under his power. The second Eve was never to be under the power of the devil; the enmity between them was to admit of no possible exception. This involved the grace of being conceived immaculate. Mary’s Immaculate Conception was the foundation of all her graces. The absence of any stain or spot of sin distinguished her from all the rest of mankind. It distinguished her from the holiest of the saints, since they, one and all, were sinners. Her perfect sinlessness was the source of all her glory and all her majesty; it was  this which opened the door to the unlimited graces that she received from God; it was this that qualified her for her divine maternity, and raised her to her throne as Queen of heaven.

-from the Missal

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Snow is notably rare here in the South! And none of us can remember a snowfall before winter, definitely not one of five inches and counting.

So it’s impossible to describe the spiritual joy that suffused my soul as I stood at the window and watched the snow fall on the dawn of the Immaculate Conception. I felt like a child. I hugged myself with delight. I woke up my youngest sister sometime after 7:00 and we marveled at the window together with Lena, ecstatically wishing one another “Happy Feast! Happy Feast!”

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and with the robe of justice He hath covered me, as a bride adorned with her jewels.

from the Introit of the Mass

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The first poem I ever got published was a short acrostic verse called “Winter.” I was only fourteen years old and had submitted it to an online homeschool literary quarterly. It went something like this (I’m typing from memory, ahem):

Weathered branches, laden with
Immaculate snow:
Nature’s burial cloth, tainted only by a bittersweet empathy of
Things passed away. An aura of finality
Endures, but the ancient trees
Remember what promise rests beneath their icy shrouds.

In an email conversation with the then-editor, I still remember his comment on how he’d enjoyed my usage of the word “Immaculate” to describe snow, and praised how I’d included it intentionally to honor the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Only (squirm) I hadn’t . . . which was kind of awkward. Apologetically, I explained this fact to him, and he was genuinely surprised.

However, seven years later, I know I will always connect the two in my mind.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I felt strongly drawn to preparing for this feast day more deeply than I had in previous years. Hence all the immensely beautiful, indulgenced prayers I stuffed into my novena, which I finished last night. And as I mentioned in that same post, I rather wanted to make a gift of this novena to Our Lady, an in-between offering since my renewal of Total Consecration won’t start until next September. I included several very special intentions, but the utmost of them was simply for her honor and pleasure.

And yet, of course, she turns it into a gift to me.

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St. Bonaventure tells us that all the Angels in Heaven cry out incessantly to her, “Sancta, sancta, sancta Maria, Dei Genitrix et Virgo” : “Holy, holy, holy Mary, Mother of God and Virgin,” and that they offer to her millions and millions of times a day the Angelical Salutation, Ave Maria, “Hail Mary”; prostrating themselves before her, and begging of her, in her graciousness, to honour them with some of her commands.

St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary

The Second Triad – Powers, Virtues and Dominions: known as the “angels of creation” because they concern themselves with the ordering of the universe and a plurality of causes.

-Fisheaters.com

To me, it seems far from a sentimental thought to contemplate how the holy angels, who mysteriously order the universe, may have ordained this very snowfall: ordained it to clothe this spot of the world in white, to honor their beloved, Immaculate Queen of Heaven on one of her greatest feast days.

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Taken by my brother

Because of this downpour of snow and the unreliable condition of our nearby roads, it sadly doesn’t look like we’ll be able to make it to Mass, so we will be praying along with Fribourg’s High Mass here in less than an hour. I can’t wait to join my heart with the Gradual and Alleluia in praise of her who the snow honors today.

Happy Feast Day to you all!

Blessed art thou, O Virgin Mary, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people.

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Taken by my brother

Alleluia, alleluia. Thou art all fair, O Mary, and the original stain was never in thee. Alleluia.

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On the Eve of All Saints

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Hello there! 🙂 Since I, once again, missed my opportunity to write another installment of “7 Rambling Monday Takes” yesterday, I will be indulging in a rambling blog post comprised of all different sorts of topics . . .

It’s a glorious end to October over here, blue-skied and cool, and all the trees outside my window are reddening beautifully; I’m fittingly garbed in a sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes in celebration of this fine weather, and I’m glowing with the accomplished feeling of satisfaction a girl gets when she writes a long diary entry by hand. I have been woefully sporadic (although my attempts have been numerous and I have several full diaries) in this practice over the years, but once again I am going to try and be faithful to keeping a diary. I have a really nice one, in fact, that’s made by Eccolo, and I got it two Christmases ago (I believe) from my grandmother; it’s got an elegant green leather cover with some gold gilding and an embossed image of a tree on the front, with a “refillable” lined paper book you can tuck in on the inside. I hadn’t written in it since November of last year. Sigh.

I know, a blog sort of counts (since all I seem to do here is ramble ceaselessly about my life and my thoughts), but there is something irreplaceable about a true diary. Maybe it’s the handwriting (mine grows in flair in proportion to my level of excitement) and the lack of the Backspace key. Either way, I keep telling myself, “For posterity!” since I’m just the type of person who loves to think about her future great-granddaughter discovering an old diary of Great-Grandmother Mary’s in a musty attic somewhere. It sounds just like a Hallmark movie.

But to move on from that . . .

Renewing Baptismal Vows

The past weekend was a lovely one; on Friday, my aforementioned Baptism anniversary, we lit my Baptismal candle after dinner and I renewed my vows. True to my (only slightly) scattered nature, this meant I was flipping through my missal at the very last minute, attempting to decide which portions of the Old Rite of Baptism I wanted Dad to read aloud. All the while, I was getting ideas (which was not helpful in terms of keeping me focused on the then-current task) for how my future family could celebrate our future Baptism anniversaries.

Perhaps my ideas have been gilded slightly by the medieval feeling of Men of Iron (my brother and I are now on Chapter 28 of 34!), but I was thinking how I’d love for the family member in question (if they were old enough) to kneel before the family images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts while holding their burning Baptismal candle, and answer the Baptismal questioning (posed by the father of the family) in that posture. Maybe they could wear white, too, and have their white linen cloth! (Ideas abounding here . . .) And if the person in question was too small to do all this this, well, then, the Godparents (who would already, hopefully, be celebrating with us) could either hold or kneel with the child and answer for him/her, just as they would have done at the Baptism itself. I don’t know . . . It’s all about strengthening our dispositions to live a holy life, and it just seems to me that this could witness in an even more powerful fashion to the beauty and obligation of living out one’s Baptismal vows!

But, to return to the point (perhaps I should have named my blog But, to Return to the Point), here’s the traditional questioning Dad posed to me Friday night, along with my responses (taken from the Missal, pgs. 1831, 1838-1840). I would love to incorporate a few more applicable sections from the Rite next time (and maybe offer my responses in Latin, since my replies are unfailingly simple), but it was still very moving:

V. Mary, what do you ask of the Church of God?
R. Faith. (Fidem)
V. What does faith offer you?
R. Eternal life. (Vitam aeternam)
V. If, then, you wish to enter into life (perhaps “enter into eternal life” could be said, since we’re now commemorating Baptism), keep the commandments: thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.

V. Mary, do you renounce Satan?
R. I do renounce him. (Abrenuntio)
V. And all his works?
R. I do renounce them. (Abrenuntio)
V. And all his pomps?
R. I do renounce them. (Abrenuntio)
V. Mary, do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do believe. (Credo)
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born into this world and Who suffered?
R. I do believe. (Credo)
V. Do you believe also in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do believe. (Credo)

V. Receive this burning light, and keep the grace of your Baptism throughout a blameless life. Observe the commandments of God. Then, when the Lord comes to His heavenly wedding feast, you will be able to meet Him with all the Saints in the halls of heaven, and live for ever and ever.
R. Amen.

The Feast of Christ the King

Sunday was High Mass for the Feast of Christ the King. A very cold morning that dipped into the 30’s, at long last! However, our parish’s interior heating was working merrily well, and those of us who had dressed to compensate for the cold were shedding layers in the choir loft and turning on the fans while jokingly murmuring about offering it up as Purgatory (in the way that Catholics always seem to do) 😉

Over the past few years, it’s started to become a bittersweet feast for me interiorly: a feast of joy and love and adoration for Christ the King, of course . . . but as I knelt in the choir loft this Sunday, overlooking the solemn regalia of High Mass, the Propers (particularly the Gospel) stabbed me with a sense of grief that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not,” . . . a sense of swimming within this blackness of confusion, deceit and dissolution that is our time, and that is permeating everything, down to the foundations . . . like smoke that prowls, billows and stifles, leaving behind its stains and its smell. Pope Paul VI termed it the “smoke of Satan.”

What does it mean to be living now, in these dark times? Where does it fit into time and history? To be kneeling in the choir loft on the Feast of Christ the King, overlooking the splendor of the liturgy, while being surrounded by all of this turmoil and, truly, desolation? A poignant sense of sorrow, of being overwhelmed? Difficult to find words for this . . . and yet, we have this Feast.

The rejection, contempt and agony Our Lord endured throughout His earthly Passion included His suffering, at least interiorly, all the rejection and hatred He is receiving now at the hands of those who have deemed evil, good and good, evil.

But He is the King Who has told us, “Take courage, for I have conquered the world.” He is the King Who commands us to hope, and to be faithful!

The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor; to Him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Give to the King, O God, Thy justice, and to the King’s Son Thy judgment. (Introit)

He shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. And all kings shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him. (Gradual)

 Pilate therefore said to Him: Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth My voice. (from the Gospel)

Our Lord has seen fit to plant within my soul the vocation of marriage and family life, and in that same seed He has also gently allowed me to find, and lovingly helped me to nurture, the virtue of hope and the fruit of joy. And in the midst of all these rather sober reflections of mine, the Feast of Christ the King was filled with wonderful hope and joy; I was blessed to enjoy the company of very dear friends (while we celebrated an early Thanksgiving together), to spend time with the amazing man I’m courting, to hold and coo over my sweet Godson, and to cuddle some of my other favorite kids, all of which serves to create a perfect day for yours truly 🙂 I am so grateful for all of the blessings Our Lord has showered me with!

We have received the food of immortality and beg, Lord that we who are proud to fight under the banner of Christ our King, may reign with Him for ever in His realm above. (Postcommunion)

The Heroic Minute . . . and wrapping up . . .

Yes . . . now we come to this: trying once again to pick myself up instantly from bed, and (naturally) failing two days in a row. Such is my life. Granted, things have been busy and we’re almost managing to kick out the last of a month-long cold that’s been circulating through our family, which means schedules have been off . . . but still, it is so humbling to realize how hard it is to deny myself simply for the sake of denying myself, first thing. Hopefully, writing about it here (for all the world to see) will help . . . although, I think my Guardian Angel just whispered in my ear that I should probably be praying a little more for the grace to do it.

Yesterday I underwent a personal organizational project which involved taking one of my brother’s giant dry-erase boards from his room (with permission), cleaning it (a task) and making a monthly calendar out of it (also a task). I changed my mind two or three times about the color-coding process, but overall it went fairly well. I just needed to see the things I needed to do and the projects I needed to keep up with, if you take my meaning. Currently, it’s on the wall next to my desk, making me feel structured and efficient . . . ha 🙂

Mom and I were discussing the idea of having all our Christmas gift shopping/creating done by the beginning of Advent, in imitation of a friend’s practice and in order to leave that holy season free of a lot of that “rush”. We do have a lot to plan for this year, it feels, notwithstanding the fact that we draw names for our own family’s gift-giving . . . I would love to hand-make more things this year than I usually do, and I have some ideas, but of course we’ll see how it all pans out! Good intentions and a dash of optimism are all you need to get a job done, right? (Riiight 🙂 )

And as a final note, I have changed my blog signature to Latin! Going off what I had before, I’m confident it’s still fairly decipherable . . . Have a lovely rest of your day!

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“For I am the Angel Raphael…” (Of prayers and courtship)

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The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

-Offertory from the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

A month and a half ago, if you had visited my little corner of the world, you would have stumbled upon me in my parish church, bent over my missal, sitting and reading this exact verse at the Offertory of the Mass.

It was a mere two days after I had entered into courtship. I was in the pew beside the wonderful man who had asked me to court him, and I was wearing “the veil” I’d kept tucked on my prayer altar near the St. Raphael holy card for months.

The Angel of the Lord . . . The words rebounded through my head, tingling with intense gratitude. The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them . . .

Today, on St. Raphael’s feast day, it’s a struggle to find words to capture the story of his guidance, protection and intercession on my behalf over the past months. It’s a challenge for me to fully absorb the reality that it is his feast day and that my current joys are due in such a special way to his prayers for me! I’m at a loss as to how to adequately honor him, apart from litanies, prayers, and praying along with the Mass of his feast earlier this morning. I have so much to thank him for but feel as though I can only give so little.

Vividly, I remember being at the beach this spring, in the middle of a jumble of vocational desire and discernment. My feet were planted in the sand, my head was bowed over the little book about him while the salty wind buffeted me and made a circus out of my hair (no exaggeration there . . .), and sensing quite strongly that I only needed to climb under the shelter of his wings in order to be lead closer towards what I was so hungry for: my vocation.

Our Lord had allowed my heart to travel a hilly road across the three years since I finished high school, and really, our family trip this spring symbolized a time of rejuvenation and reflection for me, because I had experienced and learned so much–some things through joy, others through pain. I had tucked the aforementioned book about St. Raphael into my tote bag, brought along a newly acquired holy card, and across that week, I began forming a relationship with this beautiful Archangel, thanks to the inexpressible gift that is the Communion of Saints.

For Thy counsel is not in man’s power, but this everyone is sure of that worships Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy. For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: because after a storm Thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping, Thou pourest in joyfulness. Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed forever.

-Tobias 3: 20-23 (Sara’s prayer before encountering St. Raphael and Tobias)

Across the past year, I’ve shared here about my vocational discernment, particularly in my linked article on 1P5. I’ve written about how, all my life, I experienced a real longing for marriage and children, but how it took coming into the Latin Mass for me to be able to unconditionally, spiritually surrender to God’s (unknown) will for my life and, more specifically, for my vocation: to stop being terrified that He might be calling me to something else than what I wanted.

When I finally let His grace enable me to become open to whatever it was He wanted, I was soon given the beauteous peace of interiorly knowing the rose of marriage was in Our Lord’s design for my life. He lifted me out of myself during that time and transformed my desires.

This period of discernment all happened over the summer, after I’d embarked on my devotion to St. Raphael and was praying to him twice a day, every day. The specific words of my intentions varied a little, but they were as fervent as I could make them and were very much centered on my future husband (even if the state of my discernment meant that I was including the caveat of if God desires me to marry), and that he and I would be brought together. Eventually, I got to the point where I was specifically asking St. Raphael, the same Archangel that guided Tobias to Sara, that my future husband would be inspired to pursue me as soon as God’s will permitted, so that we could do all things together for His glory.

The two prayers I was offering on a daily basis throughout this time are copied below. This first prayer (taken from the above-mentioned book) brought me, from the beginning, an indescribable sense of consolation. It instilled in me a deep trust that I and my desires for my vocation and my future husband were all being taken care of; and it became the firm foundation of my little-sisterly relationship with St. Raphael.

Dear St. Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead me by the hand towards those I am waiting for, and those who are waiting for me. May all my movements, all their movements be guided by thy light and transfigured by thy joy. Angel guide of Tobias, lay the request I now address to thee at the feet of Him on Whose unveiled Face thou art privileged to gaze. (Mention your request.) Lonely and weary, deeply grieved by the separation and sorrows of earth, I feel the need of calling out to thee and of pleading for the protection of thy wings so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy.

Remember the weak, thou who art strong, whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God. Amen.

The second prayer was sent to me by a good friend earlier on this year in a text message, and I’m not sure of the source (I tweaked one or two words for clarity); but it struck me with its beauty and orthodoxy, and was in a way my first introduction to devotion to St. Raphael.

St. Raphael, loving patron of those seeking a spouse, assist me in this supreme decision of my life. Find for me as a helpmate in life the man whose character reflects many of the traits of Jesus and Mary. May he be upright, loyal, pure, sincere and noble, so that with united efforts and with chaste and unselfish love, we both may strive to perfect ourselves in soul and body, as well as the children entrusted to our care.

St. Raphael, angel of chaste courtship, bless our friendship and our love that sin may have no part in it. May our mutual love bind us so closely that our future home may ever be most like the home of the holy family of Nazareth.  Offer thy prayers to God for the both of us, and obtain the blessing of God upon our marriage, as thou wert the herald of blessing for the marriage of Tobais and Sara.

St. Raphael, friend of the young, be a friend to me, for I shall always be thine. I desire ever to invoke thee in my needs. To thy special care I entrust the decision I am to make as to my future husband. Direct me to the man with whom I can best cooperate in doing God’s holy will; with whom I can live in peace, charity and fidelity in this life, and attain to eternal joy in the next. Amen.

These prayers were the basis of my devotion to St. Raphael, but I also read the Book of Tobit and was blown away by the sheer beauty of St. Raphael’s instruction to Tobias and Sara in regards to their marriage. To imagine an Archangel, “one of the seven who stand before the Lord,” so mercifully intervening in the lives of Tobias and Sara and their families, bringing about healing and a holy marriage, was awe-inspiring, and it served as a confirmation that I was, indeed, praying to an advocate who had been made to care, with a special tenderness and power, for holy marriage and for potential spouses being led into one another’s lives.

A few months of this devotion went by; I received clarity as to my vocation and so then fell to praying more intensely; then came a new acquaintanceship, which grew into a friendship . . . and, in early September, I found myself sitting in the pew at Mass, belonging in a courtship: a time of purposeful, mutual discernment of marriage.

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

Our friendship-turned-courtship is a sweet and really amazing story in its own right, but one probably better saved for another time . . . however, the building blocks of it were so beyond me in the most literal sense of the word, so beyond my expectations and my own plans and potential conniving, as to be what one can only term “a God thing.” Or, more specifically, “a St. Raphael thing.” 😉 It all happened so effortlessly and gently; I blinked, and there it all was, laid out before me, its own story, so much better and more special than anything I could have written for myself! And now I am in awe of God’s grace and so grateful for the opportunity to discern marriage with such a good man in a courtship.

And now . . . a little bit about courtship itself, because I’ve been dying to blog about it! “Courtship” is a widely used term with various applied meanings and few if any universal rules. But for us, it’s pretty simple: courtship is a more traditional means of a man and woman coming to know one another better and asking God whether it would please Him if they married. While we don’t presume immediately upon the future and are focused on God’s will, courtship is very intentional and is not meant to last long unless the Sacrament of Marriage continues showing itself as a very possible and desired end for the couple in question.

For us, courtship has so far involved many purposeful conversations about the essential issues of Catholic living, marriage and parenting, and our perspectives and experiences growing up; but it’s also involved simply spending time together and growing used to one another’s temperaments and how we think, act and express ourselves. We have always been reserving our first kisses for our wedding days, and I have consistently thought holding hands would be a fun and sweet way to celebrate an engagement, so our courtship’s physical boundaries are modest but certainly not awkward. We’ve chosen for courtship to involve our being always chaperoned (which probably distinguishes it most drastically from the typical dating scenario) as a means of safeguarding our chastity and purity; and we’ve chosen for it to be very family-oriented, with our siblings, parents, and nieces and nephews around a lot of the time, brightening things up, making us laugh, and quite honestly putting us at our ease!

In short, courtship–while being a tradition both of our families have always believed in–was very much our own personal choice, and something that has since brought joy and healthy growth to our God-given relationship. Apart from our deeper conversations, it also involves him always opening and closing the car door for me, and it involves me almost always saying yes when he offers me something to eat or drink; it incorporates ballroom dancing, football games, skits, cooking and home movies, chivalry and good-natured teasing, prayer and, best of all, Mass 🙂 In my mind, it’s a perfect way for two young people to discern marriage and I wouldn’t have it any other way; and today, St. Raphael’s feast, seems the perfect day to write about it, and all he has done for me, with heartfelt gratitude.

And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?
And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her. All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife. Ask her therefore of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.
Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.
Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will show thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs. And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.
Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of the saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.

Sig2