A mammoth October daybook in which I catch up on things at great length (Woman at Home Daybook :: Vol. 7)

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JMJ1

Read previous installments here 🙂

This day in the Liturgical Year . . .

Monday, October 1st, 2018 A.D. Commemoration of St. Remigius, Bishop and Confessor. From Butler’s Lives of the Saints: “At the age of twenty-two, in spite of the canons and of his own reluctance, he was acclaimed Archbishop of Rheims. He was unusually tall, his face impressed with blended majesty and serenity, his bearing gentle, humble and retiring. He was learned and eloquent, and had the gift of miracles. His pity and charity were boundless, and in toil he knew no weariness . . . The South of France was in the hands of Arians, and the pagan Franks were wresting the North from the Romans. St. Remigius confronted Clovis, their king, and converted him and baptized him at Christmas, in 496. With him he gained the whole Frank nation. He threw down the idol altars, built churches and appointed bishops. He withstood and silenced the Arians, and converted so many that he left France a Catholic kingdom . . . He died in 533, after an episcopate of seventy-four years.”

St. Remigius, pray for us; pray that God would send us good and holy bishops!

It’s also the eighth day of the St. Therese novena (if one is leading up to her Old Calendar feast on the 3rd), and the twenty-eighth day of my renewal of Total Consecration . . . which I’ve been very imperfect in doing, honestly, but am trying to press forward with better commitment.

Outside my window . . .

Somewhat overcast. We had beautiful blue skies yesterday, perfect for Sunday, following a week of torrential rain. Today isn’t quite so blue . . . but no rain, at least!

The leaves are slooowly being convinced to abandon green. The temperature is not yet convinced to drop, alas . . .

Also . . . this is such a girlish thing, but The Dash and I have not gone out for any intentional couple photos since March of this year. March! It’s killing me!! Those were our six-month photos, but it’s just been too hot and unappealing to have another round since then. As soon as things turn blissfully autumnal, I am intent on spending a day getting pictures with him somewhere picturesque and romantic 😉

Sounds throughout the house . . .

Right now, I’m listening to the soundtrack for North & South by Martin Phipps. I love its wistfulness and romance!

Through the walls, I hear my brother playing guitar; lunch break has just settled in here 🙂

The air conditioner running. When will my disconsolate spirits be eased by the coming of cold temperatures? 😉

Time has passed since I started this post, and now I hear my brother’s and mother’s quiet voices . . . more school. This school year has entailed a pretty hefty load for the last two students left in our family!

Cabinets being shut, dishes clattering . . . not sure why . . .

Upon a quick venture downstairs, I’ve discovered Lena and our youngest sister are making apple muffins. I approve of that 😉

I am wearing . . .

A light-gray top (cap sleeves, with a cute kind of miniature turtleneck), the softest blue denim capris I’ve ever worn (they’re like butter!), a black ponytail on my wrist, light makeup.

Oh, and speaking of makeup . . . recently I did something that probably no one else notices, but I’ve really enjoyed; that is, I stopped wearing eyeliner 99% of the time. It wasn’t that I was wearing an inordinate amount (it was pencil and a charcoal/gray/blue color, so not even very dark, and I wore it to just enhance) but I came to a crossroads of being just tired of putting it on, and wanting to lean towards a more natural look for most occasions. I kind of wanted to follow the muse, What am I realistically going to wear as a wife and mom?

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Honestly, I’ve loved not putting it on and having a slightly fresher look for my face, while still feeling put-together and dressed in the way a small amount of makeup does for me.

I think I would still wear a little eyeliner for special pictures or really dressy occasions, but most of the time now, it’s off.

Attempts in the kitchen . . .

Well, Saturday I made cornbread muffins from scratch! I don’t recall having done that before. We were having a potluck dinner dance that night at our parish, so I pulled an apron on over my dance attire (it was a Southern barn dance theme, so yellow plaid for me) and threw together a recipe Mom had found. I was hot, but it was fun, and I was proud in that classic girl-who’s-just-made-muffins way.

A note on projects . . .

So, the Rooted & Grounded in Charity post series has finally wrapped up! Honestly, I hadn’t intended for that to be my last post, but I ran out of September and so therefore, the last post it became 😉 I thoroughly enjoyed it, but find myself excited to return to normal blogging, too. There are so many random little things I can post about now . . . although, of course, courtship inspiration material is never-ending, and may appear here at any time . . .

Teaching at co-op is going well so far this year! I adore the kids (they are so precious, and to have some of them recognize me and come up to me outside of co-op just melts my heart!), and as any sanguine would, I enjoy getting out and seeing so many families; even the 70-mile round trip of driving is fun (especially when every song that’s special to The Dash and I’s relationship is streaming through Bluetooth on an intentionally crafted Spotify playlist . . .). Granted, being the homebody that I am, I’m more than happy with the fact it’s just once a week . . . but it’s still delightful. I finished planning for tomorrow’s class a few hours ago. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will end the first quarter! Quarter 2 will involve a lot of preparations for Advent presentations, which I’m thrilled about ❤

I’ve been journaling almost every day for the past few weeks. I haven’t done this consistently for what feels like so long, but I’ve made it part of my morning routine as a way of putting down everything on my mind . . . it’s so beneficial. Also, I journal in pencil . . . it takes some sort of mental pressure for perfection off of me, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

In any event, it’s easy to journal when you have something so lovely like this hardbound piece of feminine perfection (subjectively speaking) which was discovered at Wal-Mart for $5:

journal

I recently cleaned out my inbox (that short phrase contains a gargantuan amount of inferred work), reorganized my folders, and caught up on at least 90% of my sadly neglected correspondence. That was so gratifying to get done!

In an attempt to not waste nearly all of my teenaged years, I’m attempting to re-write an old story . . . or, really, to just delve into it again and let it surprise me. Again, it’s in pencil. I was able to work on it both Friday and Saturday and am determined to keep at it, if only to email scenes to an interested cousin to whom I’ve promised installments at some point. The things we do for cousins.

Also, I rearranged my desk last week, putting my monitor on the left side and freeing up the right-hand desk space for writing (like it’s supposed to be, but occasionally I’ve changed it up for variety’s sake). It feels like a new work space and I love it!

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I am reading . . .

Ah! Last month, I read Crime & Punishment.

On a whim, I checked it out (on The Dash’s card . . ) when he, Lena and I were at a library one afternoon in August. It amazed me. The psychological depth of Raskolnikov, in particular, was beyond compelling, and the ending genuinely surprised me. It was pitiful, engrossing, morally instructive in a masterfully artful way. I’ve never read anything like it but would absolutely read it again, simply because the characters “lived” inside my mind in a way I haven’t experienced in a while.

Also, at the end of August I read By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand – a birthday present. I devoured it in two or three days and I love it to pieces. I highlighted a passage from nearly every letter, and I think it would be a wonderful thing if every young woman hoping for marriage were able to read and absorb it. It edified me in so many small ways, and confirmed me in the joy and worth of the state of life I’m anticipating so eagerly.

“Union necessitates that the two persons remain fully themselves, clearly separate – yet bound to each other by “the golden chords of love.” A husband and wife who love each other become one, but in so doing, they don’t cease to remain fully themselves, two clearly distinct individuals. In fact, mysteriously, through loving union with each other they each find themselves and their own unique individuality in a new and deeper way.”

But currently, I’m still reading Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture by Michael D. O’Brien (deep and rich) and The Privilege of Being a Woman by von Hildebrand (also deep and rich). The Dash and I are reading the Book of Tobit (RSV) together. I’d love another novel, though . . . hmm, what about North and South?

Contemplating authentic femininity . . .

From The Privilege of Being a Woman:

The female psyche is more responsive to the personal than the impersonal. Women respond thus intuitively, without much deliberation, because they “feel” that persons rank infinitely higher than nonpersonal things . . . Edith Stein further claims that women are more interested in wholes than parts. Their minds do not dissect an object; they grasp it in totality . . . Because their minds and their hearts are closely related (their minds work best when animated by their hearts), their grasp of persons and objects does not fall into the traps which threaten specialists, who no longer see the forest because of the trees . . . {John Bartlett} expressed: “Woman are wiser than men because they know less but understand more.”

Courtship is such a tremendous blessing, and The Dash and I are unified on the path and timeline we believe God is asking of us, but it doesn’t make it always easy, or doesn’t prevent some weeks from feeling long and mundane . . . the past few weeks have had some great moments, but on the whole have been rather hard. That’s just part of life and is sanctifying if I approach it with the right disposition!

But it’s also thought-provoking . . .

Waiting to meet someone is incredibly hard, and I empathize so much with girls who are waiting to meet their future husband; I’m also learning that waiting to be able to move forward to betrothal and marriage (and all those large and small joys that come alongside them) with the person God has sent you is its own kind of Cross. This is when heroic love in little things is called for; St. Therese’s Little Way!

Things are rather intense on both sides of our courtship. The Dash has just a little over 2 months left until he graduates college (hallelujah!) and a huge slew of obligations containing, but not limited to, work and school and everything. My side is certainly less busy than his, although I’ve got duties and tasks of my own with teaching and family, helping out, writing . . . however, as a woman, my heart is operating under the  consciousness of everything that is challenging, hard, worrisome or time-consuming for myself and The Dash, at the same time.

Like the quote above expresses, I find myself instinctively grasping things in totality. The totality of The Dash and I’s current spot in our relationship; the totality of how this is an intensely demanding season of life for him and my wishing I could help somehow, even in ways that I can’t; the totality of feeling and caring and thinking about it and all of its tangents . . .

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One night, my youngest sister was trying to instruct me on how to take a “natural” selfie. We figured out that I just needed to open my mouth, since apparently I talk enough to render that my “natural” look . . .

Right now, some things are really hard; some things are simply part of the daily grind; some things bring joy; some things require perseverance. As a woman, I sense and feel and carry these things in a very distinct way; one that God intended from the beginning of time. Courtship awakened this deep aspect of femininity in my heart in a way I hadn’t experienced until now. And that’s what I would want to try and find the words for, for any lovely and faithful young woman who’s waiting to meet the man she will love and is struggling to remain brave. Her womanhood is going to make love a beautiful cross. Her love, her courtship, is going to start asking her to become an adult, a woman. Instinctively, her heart is going to carry the totality of things without much compartmentalization . . . which is a dazzling gift, and yet can be very heavy.

It’s a lot sometimes 🙂 But . . . it’s the privilege of being a woman. And I am so very grateful.

On living the Faith . . .

Daily Mass stream; fighting the daily interior battle for faithful prayer; coming close to completing my yearly renewal of Total Consecration, but having been totally humbled by how patchy my efforts have been; picking up Lives of the Saints for today’s post and knowing I should read from it daily; trying to live virtuously and humbly rely on God for the strength to do anything virtuous at all. Sometimes it is so hard to do the smallest things well. Often, it is so easy for me to be lazy about praying. But we can only begin again today.

Our parish is going to start offering an evening Low Mass on First Fridays; I am so excited to have the opportunity to be able to attend First Friday and First Saturday Masses, back-to-back, at “home”!

Yesterday’s Mass was That Mass at which all the littles in the congregation had their turn for a meltdown, with that muffled chorus of outraged screams emanating from the narthex that doubles as a cry room. Although their dear parents might have found it a tad stressful, I couldn’t stop smiling at the sounds of our community: a community bursting at the seams with new life and lovingly accepting the noisy, messy beauty of its youngest generation. If I’m blessed with children one day, I have no doubt they’ll join the ranks of screamers (on occasion).

Prayerfully . . .

So many things on my heart to pray for, but especially for a friend who very recently suffered a tragic loss. Your prayers for the repose of a certain soul and the comfort of a family would be so appreciated.

And we are embarking on the month of the most holy Rosary! It seems the perfect time to post a prayer, long ago prescribed by Pope Leo XIII for the month of October, after the recitation of the Rosary:

To thee, O blessed Joseph, do we have recourse in our tribulation, and having implored the help of thy thrice-holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that charity wherewith thou wast united to the immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray, that thou wouldst look graciously upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ hath purchased by His Blood, and assist us in our needs by thy power and strength.

Most watchful Guardian of the Holy Family, protect the chosen people of Jesus Christ; keep far from us, most loving father, all blight of error and corruption: mercifully assist us from heaven, most mighty defender, in this our conflict with the powers of darkness; and, even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the supreme peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; keep us one and all under thy continual protection, that we may be supported by thine example and thine assistance, may be enabled to lead a holy life, die a happy death and come at last to the possession of everlasting blessedness in heaven. Amen.

Sig

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Waterhouse

JMJ1

For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever.

St. Therese of Lisieux

Last night, just before bed, I impulsively grabbed an orange sticky note from my desk drawer and wrote down: No selfishness. Offer all suffering with love and joy. Understand rather than be understood. I stuck it inside my Missal and went to sleep, internally embracing the much-needed clarity of that message and finding solace there.

Every single soul goes through trials. Things are happily coasting along in one or more areas of life, but then comes a stumble, a bruise, or even a gut punch. The beauty around you winces, shudders, or even crumbles. Emotionally, few things makes sense: the pain and confusion are so raw, and your weaknesses are fully exposed and your perceived strengths lie frustratingly dormant.

An unexpected personal situation has caused me true astonishment at how little spiritual muscle I really have, particularly in terms of selfless love and trust in God’s goodness. It is so easy to “feel” selfless and trusting when things are going well. I find myself amazed at the abundant mercy of God to send me such a trial, pulling me back from where I had fallen into a sense of entitlement, a lack of gratitude towards Him, a selfish attachment to my own emotional gratification, and a lack of prayer for grace and protection. He has sent me a trial to remind me with such compassionate Fatherly tenderness that I have nothing apart from Him. If I hope for anything good in life, I must rely on Him for it, and live virtuously.

It really is a wonderful opportunity for humility when Our Lord sees fit to gently tip the axis of your own little world. From the human perspective, it can feel as if one’s world is being shoved upside down. In reality, Our Lord is softly turning it right-side up again.

True, I am in love with suffering, but I do not know if I deserve the honor.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

What has amazed me most is how focused I’ve been on my own pain, and how naturally unwilling (terrified, really) I’ve been to suffer. Of course, humility means simply acknowledging things for what they are; and I know I have been exercising my own will multiple times in the face of my emotions, and trying to offer up the suffering, trying to sacrifice, and seeking to be rational and submissive to God’s Will, even if it’s causing me momentary pain. So it hasn’t been a total failure, I suppose. But I haven’t been exempt from often huddling in my own little corner and whimpering about how awful things were. There is an intense longing for one’s pain or disappointment to be understood and cared about first . . . but virtue is found in living to understand and console the pain and disappointment of others, especially while you are also hurting.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console. To be understood, as to understand. To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving, that we receive. It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned. It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.

How many times have I told God in prayer that I wanted to be a saint? That all that mattered was His will? I’ve been humbled by my weakness and self-centeredness in this circumstance. For months now, I’ve been rejoicing with the hope of future marriage to the wonderful, amazing Dash. I’ve been so eager to live out sacrificial love with him. In this moment, I am truly grateful that this trial is showing me I still have so far to go. I have so far to go in learning how to choose to offer up a considerable suffering out of love, and to live joyfully while I am hurting. I know marriage will teach me this further, but this trial has, thankfully, taken away my presumption that I’m already there, and reminded me I still need to fight for these virtues. Too many times over the past few days, I have turned inward on my own pain and have selfishly longed for someone to fix it. But no more!

Whoever loves does all things without suffering, or, suffering, loves his suffering.

St. Augustine

How appropriate that this all has happened early on in the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His is Suffering Love. His is Selfless Love. His Heart is crowned with thorns, burning, and yet overwhelming in generosity. My foolishness is considerable. I prayed to receive His Crown. Smiling with pity, He granted me one small thorn, and I threw a tantrum. Now it’s time to embrace the thorn for however long it lasts, and to live for others.

Even before this circumstance reached full pitch, my confessor reminded me (on an unrelated matter) that we live in a “victim culture.” We are taught to perceive ourselves as victims whenever we are hurting. But in truth, there is only one Victim, and He is also our King. Any pain of His that I am allowed to share in is both an honor and a gift.

My fate is in Thy hands,
My God, I wish it there;
My heart, my health, my life I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

My fate is in Thy hands,
Whatever it may be,

Pleasant or painful, bright or dark,
As best may seem to Thee.

My fate is in Thy hands.
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s Heart will never cause
His child a needless tear.

Sig

 

 

Tiredness

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Just a little sleepy 😉

I am an energetic person by nature, a happy person by temperament (and God’s grace!) . . . but sometimes (like today), I am just tired. Tired and grouchy-feeling. How tempting it is to be discouraged by these feelings of tiredness and grouchiness, to be frustrated when I give into them and consequently don’t have that same I’m-so-happy-to-be-around-my-family shine as I usually do.

What am I doing?! I groan inwardly. I just went to Mass this morning!

And I did. In a little chapel with Lena and three friends and a marvelous priest. Everything was soft and still. Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. What a gift. For a little while now, I’ve been praying hard for the eventual gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, that I can attend every morning. But for now, once a week has been amazing!

I drove Lena and myself home through a light drizzle, the two of us chattering happily. I came in and had my fasting breakfast. I went upstairs and took a shower. And . . . I came out tired.

I’m sure it has something to do with being human. With early mornings, less food, family members being gone, teaching a classroom of girls, running up and down our lane until I can’t breathe (i.e., training for a 5K) and, because of my lack of virtue, so often failing to accept these feelings of tiredness and grumpiness as Crosses, and to embrace them with a joy that radiates to where no one can tell that I’m feeling grumpy at all. I’m working on the joy. Do you know how it is when the smallest acts of simple decent human kindness seem almost impossible to achieve? (I know . . . it’s the signal that I need a nap 😉 I think I will lie down shortly . . . )

My youngest sister has a cold. Lemon and melaleuca are being diffused in the living room. I gave her a mini-concert and played on the guitar, singing songs I’d written, for half an hour earlier. Things are gray outside. Lena is leaving on Friday. A whole week without her is a strange prospect; quite possibly a very light foretaste of the future in which she might be in her house at Ephesus and I’m in my house surrounded by a future beautiful brood of children. Does God intend for the majority of our earthly sisterhood, our close earthly companionship that has been particularly close ever since our early teen years, to be spent apart, joined together by letters and prayers, but by only the barest human contact?

Of course, the thought brings both spiritual joy and human tears. Joy for vocation and for becoming saints. This is what Lena and I want more than anything! But tears for the little daily things that will pass away and leave a void capable of being filled only by God; the countless conversations, the little jokes, the giggles, the hugs, the knowing of what the other is thinking and feeling in a way only sisters can, the shared daily prayers and devotions, Mass together, two white mantillas side-by-side. To some degree, it would still pass away even if we were both married . . . but not as radically as this. The little things will pass for a time, but the love will remain. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. And I am already rejoicing with excitement and gratitude at what God may have in store for my dear sister, and for me, and for our sisterhood.

This Lent has been unlike any other. The fasting is a great challenge; not just the absence of food, but using the absence of food to gain mastery over oneself and grow in virtue. That is the hardest part. It has been exactly two weeks now since Lent began. Three weeks to corrupt a vice, three weeks to instill a virtue. At this rate, I’m 2/3 of the way through corrupting the vice of intemperance . . . and then, after another week or so, I’ll begin to instill the virtue of fasting.

Perseverance!

Fr. Ripperger’s talks at Sensus Traditionis have been one of my mainstays. It is unspeakably consoling to receive truth and guidance in the form of masculine, priestly, fatherly direction. I can’t seem to get enough. I also just finished his “The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy” from Latin Mass Magazine, and this paragraph struck me particularly (no wonder, after having just attended Mass!):

The ancient ritual also gives one a taste of heaven, so to speak. Since the altar marks the dividing line between the profane and sacred, between the heavenly and the earthly, and the priest ascends to the altar to offer Sacrifice, the traditional rite leaves one with a sense of being drawn into heaven with the priest. This feature naturally draws us into prayer and gives the sense of the transcendent and supernatural that are key in the spiritual life. The numerous references to the saints foster devotion rather than minimizing it. The Latin provides a sense of mystery. The beauty of the ritual, the surroundings that naturally flow from the ritual itself (such as the churches that are designed for the ritual), the chant – all of these things lead to contemplation, the seeking after that which is above.

Life is beautiful, because God is Supreme Beauty and He provides so many channels of grace for us through the Sacraments, through prayer, through pursuing the virtues. We can all be saints if only we continuously trust and try. Perhaps the tired days are the most beautiful days of all; or they can be, if only I ask for His grace and participate in it with joy 😉 Always and everywhere, Deo Gratias!

P.S. Keep praying for Baby Isaac’s complete healing! https://www.facebook.com/Prayers-for-Baby-Isaac-1977272082313227/

Sig

Peering Towards the End

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My Lord and my God, from this moment I accept at Thy hands, with resignation and cheerfulness, the kind of death it may please Thee to send me, with all its pains and anguish.”

Recently, it occurred to me that my daydreams have never been exactly what they ought to be. As any girl who senses the vocation of marriage in her soul might do, I’ve often let my chin fall to my fist while I daydreamed up the perfect wedding day (and these daydreams are punctuated by the minutest liturgical details, such as the floating chant of the Introit of the Nuptial Mass: “Deus Israël conjungat vos: et ipse sit vobiscum . . .”), or of future children being born and baptized (complete with things such as the Exsufflation and with their little mouths squirming from the intrusion of blessed salt), and receiving their First Communions (at the altar rail) and Confirmations (slapped on the cheek, naturally).

I’ve daydreamed of attending imaginary FSSP priestly ordinations of friends (“Oh, raptures, I can hear him softly praying the Canon for the first time with his newly ordained fellow priests!”),  and I’ve nurtured countless smaller daydreams of future domestic life as its potential Keeper of the Hearth. Being largely sanguine, I’m capable of galloping a thousand (imaginary) miles per minute . . . if I’m not actively engaged in combating distraction for my own mental and spiritual good, that is.

But it struck me a few days ago that I have never purposefully daydreamed about my death.

Which is odd, because of all potential subjects with which I could daydream up a storm, my death is the one thing in life (or almost out of it) I can count upon, with all certainty, to actually happen to me. As befits the beautiful sign of contradiction that is the Catholic Faith, my death will be the most important moment, the defining moment, of my life: its summation, its crowning note, for better or for worse—salvation or damnation, forever. Yet, curiously, it naturally ranks rather low on my “let’s daydream about this today” list.

And so the premise intrigued me: to daydream about my death.

Of course, to frequently meditate on the reality of one’s death is rather imperative for the Christian, by all traditional (and just plain sensible) accounts. I am going to die, after all. My soul will one day separate from my body; immutably sealed in its then-current state, it will be summoned immediately to my Particular Judgment (God help me).

Just like everyone else, I’ve been left clueless as to the day of my death; to the age, weight, hair color (if my hair remains by then . . .) and mental faculties I’ll possess at the time of my death; to what, precisely, I’ll be dying from and how long it will take. I pray fervently I’ll be spared a sudden death, that I’ll be blessed with the assistance of the last Sacraments, and so forth. But I really know nothing at all about my impending death; no details, no hints, except that it will happen . . . and, in the grand scheme of things, it will happen soon. If I hope to be spiritually prepared for it in any way, then meditate on its awesome reality I must.

To my mind, daydreaming about death differs from meditating on death because daydreaming involves mental storytelling, the fabrication and weaving of intricate details based on the whims of your desires and experiences (or lack thereof). In meditation, you quiet and discipline your mind so as to contemplate a truth; in daydreaming, you let loose and narrate a story to yourself. Although it’s inferior to meditation, I think the possibility remains that a good daydream, of the right sort, might lead to a wholesome meditation. And so I propose that if I spend the next half-hour concocting one decent daydream of my own death, it might cultivate a propensity in me to think about my death—and, consequently, begin to meditate on it—more often.

Echoing the traditional prayer, I wholeheartedly embrace whatever death Our Lord has destined for me, down to the tiniest details. With that kept always in respect, I think I can safely proceed to weave my first daydream of my death . . .

* * *

Peering towards the end, I would first like to imagine I’m not dying in a hospital.

Hospitals are for the preservation of earthly life, after all; and so attempting to die in a controlled environment, one nobly dedicated to saving life, feels similar to making a date with one’s friend at a Krispy Kreme in order to solemnly disclose you’re never eating sugar again. I’m afraid it wouldn’t put me in the best frame of mind for total surrender.

So in this daydream of death, in which I may pick and choose the details, I’m dying wherever my home would be — or, at least, in a place that would feel like a home to me, such as the home of a friend or family member.

I’m lying in a small room, a quiet room, with no electronics but perhaps a window; and I’m surrounded by a simple arrangement of the holy images I’ve come to hold dear across my life. The Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Sorrowful Heart of Mary; St. Joseph; St. Anthony; St. Raphael; a Madonna and Child, especially “The Song of the Angels”; St. Faustina. Perhaps most important of all, Our Lady of the Rosary, since it was on her feast that I first Totally Consecrated, and it will be on my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary–perhaps more than anything else–that my frightened soul will be leaning during my last hours.

I don’t know what my sufferings will be, but without wanting to sound too morbid, I really do hope there will be significant pain at the end, and so there is pain in this daydream. I want there to be suffering that can be offered up for others; but most of all, suffering to be offered up in reparation for a lifetime’s worth of sins. What a staggering thought as I lay there, dying–my life is stretched out behind me, irrevocable. Clarity envelopes me; an awing clarity I wholly lacked back then. I will want to suffer, to offer reparation as much as I can!

This suffering is, most likely, the worst pain of my life, the last agony, but it is also a consolation because I know Our Lord is bestowing on me the gift of suffering purifying my love for Him. It isn’t a pain that robs me of peace, but rather, it is a channel of grace and final charity to my soul.

The room in which I’m lying is very still. However, through the walls, I can hear the muffled sounds of children playing and of dishes clattering; footsteps, maybe a slightly stumbling piano practice. These beloved household sounds remind me that while my approaching death is the most intense and perilous moment of my life, I am just a grain of sand in God’s universe, and that time and the people within it will carry on without my physical presence, for as long as He sees fit.

I am passing out of time; I am not the center of it, nor ever was.

This thought is utterly overwhelming; a mystery I can’t even begin to touch, and one that frightens me more than a little but is nevertheless true and unavoidable. I am leaving time and entering eternity. I am on the brink.

And, in this daydream, I know I am on the brink. I know, quite clearly, that I’m dying—and I’ve known for at least a little while. Through the infinite mercy of God, I’ve had time to pray, to receive the Sacraments frequently (my illness permitting), to contemplate death, to weep, to confess, to anticipate. I’ve been given time to be afraid and yet to renew within myself the sentiments of faith, hope and charity; to learn to be even joyful.

As I lay dying, surrounding me in the room are a handful of people softly murmuring the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary (in Latin; because I will die a stickler for Latin, and they will lovingly accommodate my wishes in hora mortis). As I daydream about this, I’m not sure who they are, precisely, though I see them as my family, either by blood or because we are members of the same Church Militant. Are they my future husband, future children, future grandchildren? Parish friends? Sisters in Christ whose babies I’ve held, tears I’ve dried, and with whom I’ve traded many a phone call over the hectic cacophany and quiet stillness of the unfolded tale of my life?

Or are they strangers?

Naturally, the presence my future husband enters immediately into my daydream’s consideration. But I’m not sure. Is he here, praying for and with me, holding my hand with the unwavering softness and steadiness that comes from a lifetime of knowing, loving and forgiving me in the Sacrament of Marriage . . . or am I without his physical presence? Have I already helped him in his own death, and am now suffering mine alone?

In building up this daydream, both options are their own mixture of wine and gall. If he is here with me physically as I die, then I know I’m aching over his own grief and over the thought of leaving him alone, and yet rejoicing because, God’s mercy permitting, I’ll be able to pray for him and his salvation far more efficaciously than on earth (even if it’s from Purgatory for a time). However, if he’s already gone, then I know I’m longing for the immediate consolation of his physical presence, but yet finding a deeper consolation in hoping he’s praying (either from Purgatory or Heaven) for my salvation in my final hour—again, far more efficaciously than he could on earth.

Since I feel I should choose this detail for my daydream, I would ultimately choose for my future husband to already be gone (although this is one of the countless reasons I am so very thankful Our Lord is in control, and not me–I won’t have to decide!); firstly, for the reason mentioned above (his, hopefully, praying for me with a power he could not have possessed on earth)–secondly, that I could offer up my loneliness without him as another sacrifice to God for reparation–and thirdly, because his physical absence would remind me all the more sharply that my approaching death is fully and utterly between God and myself, alone.

But regardless of anything else—of anyone else in the room—of whether they’re my children and I’ve lived decades of my life with them, or if I’ve never seen them until these last moments — . . . regardless of all these things, there is the priest.

Out of all the possible components of my daydream of death, the priest is the one that cannot be removed. He is there. With all absoluteness, I have to have him at my side . . . because he is Christ for me now.

In my daydream, I don’t need to know the priest’s name, to recognize his face or the modulations of his voice. I have been blessed to know, or hear of, so many wonderful priests, I now feel spoiled for choice. If, at this unknown time of my death, my age or location doesn’t accommodate my wonderful parish priest, then the priest in question might either belong to the FSSP (because I dote on them and long for the day I can meet one in person) or at least has a knowledge and pure, wholehearted love of the traditional rites.

This faithful priest sits beside me in a kitchen chair (relocated to the bedroom), his head bowed slightly, his body perhaps only a shadow in my sight, but he is there. He is accompanied by a Crucifix, a burning candle, the fragrant scent of holy oils, the book containing the Last Rites . . . he is a powerful warrior, armed to defend and aid me in my last combat. He is focused wholly on me and on protecting me and ushering me in to eternity. This is consoling beyond all words!

He is murmuring along with the Rosary, helping me to pray, and I am holding his hand as the intensity escalates, both of my pain and of the knowledge that I am about to die and to be judged. I have known for a long time that the moments leading up to death are the moments of unparalleled spiritual attack, and now I feel temptations to terror and despair sweeping over me. My countless sins and failures, distended and even grotesque, flicker sharply through my memory. I pray in fragments, in final battle. This good priest at my side has heard my Confession and absolved me; now, he urges me to have childlike trust in God and to surrender my soul entirely to the Blessed Virgin’s care, reminding me that I made myself entirely hers, and she will not forget me now. Repeatedly, I ask him to pray for me; in response, he nods each time and continues the Aves.

The Rosary is soon finished, and as the tempest thickens within me, I begin to hear the names of the saints.

Holy Mary, pray for her.
All ye holy Angels and Archangels, pray for her.
Holy Abel, pray for her.
All ye Choirs of the Just, pray for her.
Holy Abraham, pray for her.
St. John the Baptist, pray for her.
St. Joseph, pray for her . . .

My soul warms at the name of the Blessed Mother; my patron, St. John the Baptist; and good St. Joseph, my consolation. My eyes are closed now; I pray along with this last litany with increasing physical feebleness. The pain is, perhaps, at its highest point–but at the same time, I sense it is my rope to Heaven and I cling to it, struggling as mightily as I can to embrace and not reject it.

The priest’s voice finds me again.

“Go forth, O Christian soul, out of this world, in the name of God the Father almighty, Who created thee; in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, Who suffered for thee; in the name of the Holy Ghost, Who sanctified thee; in the name of the holy and glorious Mary, Virgin and Mother of God; in the name of the Angels, Archangels, Thrones, and Dominations, Cherubim and Seraphim; in the name of the Patriarchs and Prophets, of the holy Apostles and Evangelists, of the holy Martyrs, Confessors, Monks and Hermits, of the holy Virgins, and of all the Saints of God; may thy place be this day in peace, and thine abode in holy Sion. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

His prayers continue, guiding me like a small ship through a mighty storm while I, wearily but with hope, look for the first sign of stars.

Beyond this, I can’t formulate much more for this daydream. The precise moment of death is too shrouded to even daydream about. I do wish for one last thing, though: that this good priest, in my last minutes, would be able to assist me in making a final renewal of my Total Consecration.

” . . . I, Mary, a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before. In the presence of all the heavenly court I choose thee this day for my Mother and Mistress. I deliver and consecrate to thee, as thy slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present and future; leaving to thee the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to thy good pleasure, for the greater glory of God in time and in eternity . . .

“O faithful Virgin, make me in all things so perfect a disciple, imitator and slave of the Incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ thy Son, that I may attain, by thine intercession and by thine example, to the fullness of His age on earth and of His glory in Heaven. Amen.”

And even as I am praying this to the best of my ability, clinging to the priest’s hand, still hearing snatches of children’s voices from behind the walls, I imagine the storm fading away; the tempest calming in my soul; the pain, even, ebbing; and, too wonderful almost to hope for, I imagine at last witnessing the mysterious fulfillment of Our Lady’s promise to those who honored her Seven Sorrows:

I will visibly help them at the moment of their death; they will see the face of their Mother.

And, in my daydream, I close my eyes for the last time; or, am I opening them?

* * *

It’s a strange feeling, to have just written a daydream of your own last agony. And yet, there’s a sense of peace hovering about it, as well.

In ruminating about what my death might be like, in hoping fervently for a holy one, and in having to depart from the daydream just before the actual moment of my death, I can’t resist a final glance at Screwtape’s last letter of ranting failure to Wormwood, which can now stand for an eloquent description of what I chose to leave unsaid:

He saw Him. This animal, this thing begotten in a bed, could look on Him. What is blinding, suffocating fire to you, is now cool light to him, is clarity itself, and wears the form of a Man. You would like, if you could, to interpret the patient’s prostration in the Presence, his self-abhorrence and utter knowledge of his sins (yes, Wormwood, a clearer knowledge even than yours) on the analogy of your own choking and paralysing sensations when you encounter the deadly air that breathes from the heart of Heaven. But it’s all nonsense. Pains he may still have to encounter, but they embrace those pains. They would not barter them for any earthly pleasure. All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door. He is caught up into that world where pain and pleasure take on transfinite values and all our arithmetic is dismayed.

Latinsig2

October weekday ramblings . . .

 

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Hello! I’m sitting here at my desk, comfortably nestled in a very autumnal beige cable sweater since this morning it finally deigned to drop into the 40s, listening to “Choctaw Hayride“, surrounded by my assorted books such as my missal, The Baltimore Catechism, Hungry Soulsand my newly arrived War and Peace from the library . . . and having finally recovered some mental energy after a week-long tussle with a cold, I’ve realized I keep consecutively missing my 7 Rambling Monday Takes series (moan) and so simply need to do a “dump post” and ramble without prompts or reasons. Alas.

(Well. Now I’ve been called to a tutoring session. I’ll be back in 25 minutes.)

***

Well, make it more like an hour filled with grammar, poetry, and Men of Iron. But back to business. Here I am!

Today has proved to be a blissful fall day, with scoured blue skies, breezy air, and cheerful sunshine. It’s the feast of St. Margaret Mary and so the Propers for this morning’s Mass from Sarasota were filled with such sweetly beautiful Scripture and petitions . . .

I sat down under His shadow Whom I desired: and His fruit was sweet to my palate. How lovely are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.

Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it. My flesh and my heart have fainted away: Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.

Alleluia, alleluia. I to my beloved and his turning is towards me. Alleluia.

St. Margaret Mary, ora pro nobis! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, miserere nobis! And a very happy Confirmation-patronal feast to my youngest sister 🙂

So, of course, this past Friday the 13th was the hundredth anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. In the mid-afternoon, my mother, sisters and I were able to go, along (happily!) with my guy, to a few minutes of Adoration and to venerate relics of Ss. Jacinta and Francisco, as well as a relic of a branch from the tree at Fatima. Even now, I can’t absorb just how blessed I was to be able to do that.

Praying before their relics that afternoon, I was humbled by these two small child saints. Loving children as much as I do, it awed me to contemplate the heroic virtue this brother and sister practiced on earth, all “for souls,” to a level of zeal and faithfulness that far surpasses any of the paltry acts I’ve scraped together throughout my life for God and souls.

I struggle daily with my inherent superficiality, and so in prayer before their relics last Friday, I was inspired to really cast my heart upon their intercessions, asking them to inspire me in offering up little things to God, for souls, and to more willingly accept suffering. Also, my guy and I adopted them as the patron saints for our courtship after that time in the chapel; something about their purity and loving single-heartedness for God seemed to offer a welcome mantle of protection and support for our discernment and growing relationship. I’m excited and truly grateful for the two of us to be under their care during this time!

And the whole past weekend was a wonderful one, which my mother and sisters and I spent with close friends across two nights; most of us caught a Mass at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, followed by Confession, Eucharistic Adoration, and of course a big breakfast 🙂 Being the happy victims of brilliant logic and card games, watching football, doing dishes together, snuggling kids, praying the rosary, engaging in meaningful conversations, laughing endlessly, and being able to spend time getting to know many other Catholic homeschooling families up on a gorgeous piece of Southern land surrounded by foothills and ridges, were some of the highlights of this fine weekend 🙂

I spent yesterday catching up on my laundry and trying to write a blog post (failure), but in fact ending up catching up on rest (napping on the couch, waking up with a crick in my neck and very foggy-brained, but then eating a snack and feeling fine . . . sigh, my strange self) and going through a whole regimen of natural remedies for this cold which honestly worked wonders; I felt so much delightfully better this morning. The only dumb thing was once forgetting to add the saline to my saline rinse. Cue sinus burn. Fortunately I’d already invited Ss. Jacinta and Francisco into my spiritual life . . . 😉

And today, I have been intently reading on some topics (of a Sacramental nature) in preparation for something I’ll post about sometime next week . . . ah, I love secrecy . . . and I have also been looking forward to spending time with a friend this evening, the scheduling of which we have been working on for months; such is life, but God is good!

Oh, a random thought: While reading aloud Men of Iron to my brother earlier, my fancy was struck by a witty saying which I’ll have to paraphrase since I don’t have the book with me: seventeen-year-old Myles is attempting to convince his best friend Gascoyne to secretly deliver a letter to the young Lady Alice, whom Myles has been recently forbidden to see. The beleaguered Gascoyne sputters something to the effect of, “I’m not going to burn my fingers by trying to pull your nuts out of the fire!” And I liked that 🙂 So now your life has been immeasurably enriched by my sharing that with you; you’re welcome.

Hmm . . . do I have any other thoughts? Oh yes, Mom recently bought us all fairly nice metal travel cups for daily drinking (that brilliant idea of everyone having their one and only cup to drink from a day is slowly infiltrating our family) and ordered some decals so that we could tell them apart. Mine says “Mary A.” (have I ever mentioned here my middle name is Allison? Well, now I have . . .) and I had offered my cup as the guinea pig since we’d never applied decals before. Fortunately, probably due to the manifold merits of my noble sacrifice, my decal turned out just fine and I now get to gaze lovingly upon my own name every time I take a sip of ice water.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Lena’s post about her vocational discernment, you really should 🙂 Apart from a beautiful story, it also includes a perfect prayer by St. Anselm which I really need to make into a holy card for my missal (since my missal is so devoid of holy cards at the present moment, ahem . . .)

O Lord my God, teach my heart this day
where and how to see You, where and how to find You.
You have made me and remade me,
and You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
and still I do not know You. I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You, for I cannot seek You unless You teach me,
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire, let me desire You in my seeking.
Let me find You by loving You, let me love You when I find You.
Amen.

Spotify, meanwhile, is continuing to play . . . the house is quiet in a post-school fashion . . . now I’m hearing the genius Jon Foreman’s “Inheritance” . . .

Your heart is a work of art
I want to be rich in memories, not money
Our love is our inheritance, honey
We’ve come so far
I want to be rich in memories, not money
Our love is our inheritance, our inheritance, honey

So sweet 🙂 And it makes me think about my amazing parents, who are going to be married 25 years next year!

And now I’m really just contentedly rambling, which means I should wrap this post up. 🙂 Have a blessed rest of your day! And please do continue to keep my great-uncle in your prayers, body and soul, as he continues suffering from his illness. Thank you!

Sig2