My little shrine



I had to drop in again, because, lo and behold, my latest order of holy cards from Portraits of Saints arrived this afternoon and I set about taping them everywhere 🙂

One of my spiritual “weaknesses-oft-become-faults” is a tendency towards frequent distraction in prayer. I think this is just being human to some degree; but this struggle definitely seems to be intensified for people who have a dominate sanguine temperament (meditation can be very difficult) like me. I also seem to have an equal tendency to be a “visual person” who prefers/needs visual reminders (pictures, lists, etc.) to keep my mind oriented.

Anywho! That being said, while I was blessed to finish the 54-Day Rosary Novena to Our Lady of Pompeii early this week, I’m still trying to keep up the habit of praying the full sets of mysteries every day, at least whenever I can. I mean, when (through the spiritual assistance of probably every compassionate angel and saint to be named) I can somehow manage to do it (imperfectly) for 54 days, it seems kind of silly to just . . . well, stop! 😉

Over my bed has hung “Song of the Angels” from The Dash, as well as the little Italian icon of Our Lady from friends, and holy cards of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Faustina (patrons) for some time. But I realized I was interiorly missing images and visual references of Our Lord’s face . . . it’s really easier for me to pray the Rosary when I have them. Thus, I decided I needed to procure a few holy cards with His Holy Face on them 🙂 Tracy Christenson has some of the most beautiful and masculine depictions of Our Lord that I’ve come across. I ordered the Sacred Heart, Agony of Jesus (my favorite), and the Good Shepherd.

And then I broke down and ordered two of St. John the Baptist (adult and child), the Savior of the World, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, because . . . Well, 10% of all profit goes to the FSSP, so . . .

They came in this afternoon. Lena and I lovingly pored over them and then I eventually took them upstairs and assembled!

The picture above is a close-up of my little shrine, including most of those holy cards (I dispersed a few around the room), along with the ones I already owned . . . plus, the Two Trinities holy card is top center, while St. George is bottom center . . . thanks to Lena, I love St. George!

Here is a more distant view, just to see how it all fits together:


Simple and sweet, and ten times more beautiful in person! I love it, and am grateful for the opportunity to expand the small “shrine” above my bed, and hopefully keep my mind better focused during prayer.

(Oh, in case you’re curious, that piece of paper taped to the left side of the wall is a note of encouragement The Dash left me on my windshield the first day of co-op while I was inside, teaching class. It made my month!!! <3)



July is (random observations) . . .


. . . hot!!!

As in “put my hair into a bun every day” hot.

I snapped the above picture after a (hot) day of cleaning, laundry, and canning pears on Monday (although I was one of the much lesser contributors to the whole canning enterprise. I was cleaning the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes after the canning, etc…) Lena is in the background, her hair also in a bun. We Donellan women are putting our hair up, people. In the words of The Dash, “Look out.” 😉


A delightfully clean bathroom. Unfortunately, I am too proud to show the “before” picture. I did send the “before” photo to The Dash, so you can rest assured that however proud I am, I’m not that proud.


At one point during the canning process, they called me downstairs to factor an accurate(ish) ratio of pectin to pears, based off an online ratio table, which was oriented around 7 cups of pears per batch. We eventually discovered we were dealing with 12 cups per batch. So how much pectin would that be?? (13.5 tablespoons, more or less.)


We have been canning fruit practically ever since we moved to our current home (seven years ago, this September). The builders/previous owners of this home planted blueberry bushes, horse apple trees, pear trees, and a fig tree. We were thrown into “Canning 101” when we wound up with more fruit than we could consume in cobblers. (Although we can consume a lot of cobblers, I assure you.)

Monday, Mom, Lena and youngest sister made jar after jar of Holiday Spice Pear Preserves (or pancake syrup, depending on how much pectin was used per batch; either way, a success!) . . . which are, frankly, sumptuous. Cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg heaven.


Here is banana pudding, replete with milk and preservatives and rich deliciousness: once-a-year dessert finery. We always make it for one of the summer American holidays (4th of July, or Memorial Day, or Mother’s Day . . .). I’ve had the honor of making it the past couple of years. So far, it has survived me mixing the wrong ingredients together and mildly scorching the pudding. That’s what strainers are for.

However, right now *sigh* I’m done with sugar . . . I know it’s been affecting, at least somewhat, my hormonal health (or, really, lack thereof) and how I’ve been able to deal with stress. Taking it away won’t fix everything, but it will certainly improve the landscape a little!


Here I am, cooking (enchiladas) with my favorite guy, Tuesday night ❤ For the curious-eyed, The Dash is wearing an apron I received for my eighteenth birthday, bearing a picture of Johnny Gage and the phrase, “Genius at Work” (a reference to the Emergency! episode “Dealer’s Wild.”) When I wear the apron, it’s a joke. When he wears the apron, it’s the truth 🙂

Us in the backseat with my sister . . . slightly cramped . . . but we still leaned in for this picture 😉

We’re only a few days away from our 10-month courting anniversary! Each new month is a blessing. Tuesday night, my family and I showed The Dash a treasured secret of our secluded mountain road: a fantastic yearly fireworks show on top of a nearby hill. We pull off onto the side of the road, arrange ourselves on the grass with the help of some lawn chairs, and soak in the display like villagers watching castle parties from afar. At first, we thought They (The Party People) would be setting off the fireworks last Saturday night, but after pulling off the side of the road and listening to the frogs croak for an hour with nary an explosion, The Dash was (understandably) rather skeptical of their existence (the fireworks, that is–not the frogs). Fortunately we were able to regain his faith 😉



There is a beautiful (if intense) 54-day novena in honor of Our Lady of Pompeii that fell into my lap only a few days ago, thanks to a friend emailing me this homily. It is challenging, consoling and uplifting–and, as with all things under God’s Providence, perfectly timely. The whole text is here.

Yesterday I took some time to read a little of the story of the origins of devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii, along with the story of Blessed Bartolo Longo, as well as prepare a long list of intentions for this novena. Something that’s dawned on me is that, the greater your intentions, the greater your suffering or anxiety or desires . . . the greater your prayers should often be. Prayer is our most powerful recourse, and it should grow in proportion to our needs.


And finally, a walk this morning! Much-needed and very brisk. I somehow managed to walk to the cadence of two poems the entire time, mumbling them under my breath . . . hopefully I didn’t look too insane . . .


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now, far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow, if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
And whither then? I cannot say.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .

A blessed feast of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria to you all, and happy Thursday! 🙂


“Nothing is so beautiful as spring . . .” (A Woman at Home post)


. . . or thereabouts, anyway.

_MG_6579 (2)

What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of earth’s sweet being in the beginning, in Eden Garden. Have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning; Innocent mind, and Mayday in girl and boy, most, O Maid’s child, Thy choice, and worthy the winning.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring”

_MG_6580 (2)

This morning, we drove Lena and our dad to the airport, dropped them off, and drove home under a glorious blue-skied start to a beautiful, chilly March morning. Her visit to Our Lady’s House begins!

Upon returning, I cleaned up a few rooms, made some beds, switched some laundry . . . and then, quite spontaneously, snatched my camera and dove outside to capture some of the “juice and joy.” It was cold and windy, belying all the early-budding trees and flowers. Shivering in my bulky green coat, I only stayed out for a few minutes. But it was so very refreshing. There is intoxicating fun and a strange peace to be found in getting down on your stomach and viewing the world like a baby does.

_MG_6584 (2)

I am eighty or so pages into reading aloud The Fellowship of the Ring to my youngest sister, who is still recovering from her cold. This morning, we trekked with the irrepressible hobbits towards Woodhall, evaded the ominous Black Rider, and met Gildor Inglorion together in the quiet sunshine while other family members recuperated with naps from the morning that started in the 5 o’clock hour.

It is a delight: both the story, and reading it aloud to her. Nostalgic in that it brings me back to that time when I was her age (nine years ago!) . . . and new in that the story grows ever stronger and more potent in its images, its themes, its applicability (to use Tolkien’s word) the longer I leave it, like good wine. The Old Winyards, to be precise.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can, pursuing it with eager feet until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet, and whither then? I cannot say . . .

-J. R. R. Tolkien

_MG_6587 (2)

Today is First Friday, and Friday of the Second Week of Lent. It’s strange to be praying my devotions and the Mass by myself, without Lena . . . but at the same time, it has its own beauty and stillness.

In fact, the above verse from Tolkien seems incredibly appropriate for today, the more I ponder it. Our paths are branching, little by little. My road is unfolding in one direction; in hers, another. This brings so much joy and excitement, mixed with the natural bittersweetness. All good things come from God, and to be nearing one’s vocation, one’s path of sanctity, to be able to smell it like salt in the air as one approaches the ocean, is such a very, very good thing. To Him be all the glory! We pursue our paths with eager feet!

Look down, O Lord, to help me: let them be confounded and ashamed together that seek after my soul to take it away: look down, O Lord, to help me.

-Offertory, Friday of the Second Week in Lent

_MG_6588 (2)

As I continue to pray for the one-day gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, earlier, I was reading this from Dom Prosper Guéranger, “An Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass” and thought it particularly beautiful:

Having made the sign of the Cross, the Priest says the Antiphon: “Introibo ad altare Dei,” as an introduction to the 42nd Psalm. This Antiphon is always said, both before and after the Psalm, which he at once begins: “Judica me Deus.” He says the whole of it, alternately with the Ministers. This Psalm was selected on account of the verse “Introibo ad altare Dei: I will go unto the altar of God.” It is most appropriate as a beginning to the Holy Sacrifice. We may remark here, that the Church always selects the Psalms she uses, because of some special verse which is appropriate to what she does, or to what she wishes to express. The Psalm, of which we are now speaking, was not in the more ancient Missals: its usage was established by Pope Pius the Fifth, in 1568. When we hear the Priest saying this Psalm, we understand to whom it refers:- it refers to our Lord, and it is in his name, that the Priest recites it. We are told this by the very first verse: “Ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.”

The verse here used as an Antiphon, shows us, that David was still young when he composed this Psalm; for, after saying, that he is going to the Altar of God, he says: “Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam: To God, who giveth joy to my youth.” He expresses astonishment at his soul being sad; and, at once, cheers himself, by rousing his hope in God; hence, his song is full of gladness. It is on account of the joy which is the characteristic of this Psalm, that holy Church would have it be omitted in Masses for the Dead, in which we are about to pray for the repose of a soul, whose departure from this life leaves us in uncertainty and grief. It is omitted, also, during Passiontide, in which season, the Church is all absorbed in the sufferings of her divine Spouse; and these preclude all joy.

This 42nd Psalm is an appropriate introduction to the Mass, inasmuch as it in our Lord whom it will bring among us. Who is He that is to be sent to the Gentiles, but He that is Light and Truth? David foresaw all this; and, therefore, he uttered the prayer: “Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam.” We take his prayer and make it ours; and we say to our heavenly Father: “send forth Him, who is thy Light and thy Truth!”

_MG_6599 (2)

Small things are beautiful; folding a stack of laundry, brewing a pitcher of tea, wiping off a counter, sitting across the table from my mother, faking (very bad) English country accents for hobbit’s voices, kissing a sibling’s hair, praying the Rosary while driving, taking the time to capture moss growing on a log in a certain transformative slant of morning sunlight.

There is a stillness that, eventually, comes with simplicity. I don’t always have it, because I often go about things the complicated and absorbed way. When I have the brains to seek out the simplicity, that disconnecting from noise, and when I begin to hear in my heart a stirring of hope for a future family, a future life, a future culture built around the Holy Faith, around books and conversations and the old-fashioned, simple, homey things–then stillness comes.

The further I travel into this Lent, the more deeply I am drawn towards my future wifehood and motherhood being built upon simplicity and quiet of heart. I am at the very beginning . . . I don’t exactly know what all it entails yet. I’m sure I’ll be constantly learning as the years elapse. For now, I do know it means openness to life and radical unselfishness; it means the family table; it means cooking and singing together; it means reading aloud books together in the evening, discussing all of life’s aspects with enthusiasm and a desire for truth, engaging and building up one another in the warmth of the family heart as our means of recreation and leisure. It means daily Mass (God-willing!) and the daily family Rosary; it means a healthy and wholesome lifestyle of homeschooling and tradition and solid work and pure playfulness, of living in community while protecting the integrity of our family; it means service and sacrifice; it means steadfastness, fidelity, and prayer; it means wanting to be saints and believing that is very the purpose of our lives. A perfect quote from Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children made it into my Commonplace Book the other week:

Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it is one of the things our children already possess. We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering-up. We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that “impractical” spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God. If this is the undercurrent of our existence, then we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.

_MG_6603 (2)

Next week, The Dash and I arrive at half a year of courtship! That seems unbelievable! Half a year since I sat in the pew with him, the first Sunday of our relationship, and was greeted by the words of the Offertory:

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!

How overwhelming is God’s goodness! St. Raphael, ora pro nobis.

Smiling, I just now remembered a certain paragraph out of The Wife Desired:

Ordinarily, love begins for a young girl when she becomes well enough acquainted with a young man to develop a spiritual affinity with him. She admired his qualities and abilities. She likes his attitude toward life in general. She begins to feel at ease, at home in his presence. Then other things begin to happen. A simple phone call brings a flutter to her heart. Her pulse quickens when he calls at her home. She has eyes for no one but him.

With reason she wonders whether she is in love. Her doubts will vanish when she reaches the point of growth in love where all her being reaches out for him in the effort to bring him happiness. Her own whims and desires fade into the background. His happiness is her only real concern.

What a beautiful and brilliantly wise description of the God-given journey I am still undertaking! Half a year is a grossly insignificant amount of time when it comes to even beginning to get used to how much God has blessed me with The Dash, and how wonderful, steady and virtuous a man he is.

_MG_6604 (2)

The rest of today . . . well, for me, it’s quiet and full of sunshine, carrying the diffused scent of eucalyptus essential oil; I’ve got some tutoring planning to sort through, although that may spill over into tomorrow . . . then there’s the Daily Full Meal (should I trademark that Lenten expression?) and the evening with the family (hopefully Stations of the Cross will be part of it). May the rest of your day be very blessed! Please do pray for Lena as she visits Our Lady’s House 🙂


De Maria nunquam satis (Of Mary there is never enough)


In all my ramblings here, I’ve written in a sporadic fashion about Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary . . . But I actually can’t recall a single post entirely devoted to it! (Although this one came close.)

This past Saturday, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, was my first “Consecration Anniversary” and I would have technically offered my yearly renewal on that feast if I hadn’t already made my yearly renewal back on May 13th (it being 100 years since Fatima, and that sort of thing not happening every day . . .). From now on, though, I’ll be sticking with tradition and renewing annually on October 7th 🙂

Across the almost-year of Benedic’s blogging existence, I feel kind of ashamed that I haven’t once gathered my thoughts and written coherently (well, um, do I ever write coherently . . .?) about what the Total Consecration devotion is, how I came into it, why I chose it, and the ways in which it has altered my heart and my spiritual life, the way I think about life and Heaven, and most of all, think about her.

What Lucifer has lost by pride, Mary has gained by humility. What Eve has damned and lost by disobedience, Mary has saved by obedience. Eve, in obeying the serpent, has destroyed all her children together with herself, and has delivered them to him; Mary, being perfectly faithful to God, has saved all her children and servants together with herself, and has consecrated them to His Majesty.

-St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, 53

So, as a belated Consecration anniversary gift to our Blessed Mother, I thought I would at last take the time to write about all these things!

“Strike the roots, My Well-beloved and My Spouse, of all your virtues in My elect, in order that they may grow from virtue to virtue, and from grace to grace.”

A friend introduced me to the Total Consecration devotion in August of 2016, and we did it together from that September to October. Before that point, I only vaguely recall having heard of Total Consecration at all, and the concept was accompanied in my mind by the recollection that it was rather intense and demanding, with a collection of long daily prayers. But at the same time, I was game for it for multiple reasons (let alone just trying to grow in holiness), and thus I embarked, little knowing how much I needed it.

The Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary itself is a 33-day period of daily (often long!) prayer, spiritual reading and meditation (in this case as prescribed by St. Louis de Montfort in his passionate work True Devotion to Mary with Preparation for Total Consecration), with the act of Total Consecration being made on the 34th day, which is always pre-selected to coincide with a Marian feast.

Total Consecration has the character of a vow, and so is solemn and lifelong. You voluntarily surrender yourself, in a spirit of slavery, to Our Lady, so that she can give you completely to Our Lord. Freely and willingly, you give her your rights to “your body with its senses and members; your soul with its faculties; your present material possessions and all you shall acquire in the future; your interior and spiritual possessions, that is, your merits, virtues and good actions of the past, the present and the future.” You give them to Our Lady for her own possessions, so that she can do with you as she wills, for God’s glory. Having totally consecrated yourself, your obligation is to then live in that spirit of special devotion and slavery to the Blessed Virgin for the rest of your life.

At first glance, it sounded radical and even a little frightening. But one thing that struck me from the beginning of this devotion was: how can I suffer, how can I be less, by giving everything I am and have to Our Lady? I have so much trouble sanctifying my own actions and clumsily trying to do God’s will (to put it mildly). If I theoretically gave myself to the Blessed Mother in such a radical way, wouldn’t she only help me and give God more glory in the process? The prospect was appealing!

So it was with that reasoning that I embarked on Total Consecration. Although I was able to keep to the prayers pretty well, I definitely didn’t do it perfectly (such a surprise . . .) especially in spirit, and in all my renewals I know I never will. (Sigh.) But in a way, that’s the point: the idea and practice of Total Consecration is a spiritual summit to daily climb towards and aspire to; it’s a challenge, not a pacification for where you are. My actual day of Total Consecration was comprised of a blown tire, a last-minute English Mass and a hurriedly whispered Act of Consecration that I had to break up into two parts, since I ran out of time after Communion . . . just to give an idea 😉

But despite the chaos and imperfection I brought to it, the graces I received from those 33 days were beyond what I’d anticipated. In fact, they were pretty inundating. The more I read of St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, and had my eyes opened to the splendor and beauty of the Mother of God in a way I’d never, ever seen her before; the more of the daily consecration prayers I offered and the more I struggled to embrace that spirit of humble slavery and surrender to the Blessed Mother, I often received these incredible spiritual consolations and a feeling of sweet closeness to her that’s almost futile to attempt describing.

Most importantly, though, these graces coincided with a complicated and painful situation that demanded more of me, emotionally and spiritually, than I previously thought I was able to give. So I’ll always remember my initial Total Consecration as a chrysalis of grace and transformation, a mantle that was wrapped around my shoulders and helped me weather a strong storm. During those weeks, I would take solace outside in the cool autumn wind with a journal and write long letters to the Blessed Mother, sometimes crying, sometimes simply still and listening to the quiet, and feeling pieces of me heal and slowly awaken to a call to conversation with her, and conversion.

Total Consecration to Mary was, really, the very beginning of my being able to embark on vocational discernment. She was the one who tilled up and softened the rocky soil around the shoot of my rose. She began stripping away musty layers and prepared me to be able to tell God, “Do what You want with me,” for really the first time in my life with sincerity and love. She helped me to cry and pray, to better embrace the Faith, and to give God my rose.

Casting a glance back over that time from the perspective of where I am now–so happy and blessed–fills me with amazement. Truly, I would have to be blind in order not to see how much of where I am (so undeservedly) now is due to my first Total Consecration to her.

“It is Mary alone to whom God has given the keys of the cellars of divine love, and the power to enter into the most sublime and secret ways of perfection, and the power likewise to make others enter in there also.”

And now a year has gone by since then!

The practice of Total Consecration is, at its heart, an act of true and selfless love for Our Lady, and for Christ. And, just as with true love, I’ve found out that this practice requires effort of my will 99.9% of the time, with consolations and feelings of joy and devotedness making up the other 0.1% (okay, that’s something of an exaggeration 😉 ) . . . because spiritual consolations just aren’t going to last forever, no matter the devotion.

Although I deeply believe that the graces of this devotion are abundant, and I pray that much is going on (thanks to Our Lady) that I’m not currently able to see . . . I am still the same person, still invariably human and sinful and faulty, and I simply can’t go on feeling deeply excited and consoled all the time about being totally consecrated to the Blessed Virgin. I have realized that, without literally trying to maintain the spirit of consecration, I don’t get very far in behaving anything like truly devoted to the Blessed Mother. (In other words, although this devotion is truly wondrous, it’s not what we sloppy humans call An Easy Way Out.)

More often than not, I’ve learned that I have to purposefully enter into that spirit of consecration to her, and actively cultivate it through effort and prayer . . . especially when I don’t feel like it. (Which is odd, since most other areas of the Faith and the spiritual life are completely removed from that approach. Hmm.)

You are meant to renew your 33-day consecration to her every year, ideally on the same feast, but a year is a long time and you can’t simply glide on feelings of devotion for the other 330-odd days of the calendar.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post how praying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been important for me, personally, in keeping and cultivating my spirit of holy slavery towards the Mother of God. There are several other practices recommended by St. Louis de Montfort for once the Total Consecration has first been made (below, from Fish Eaters). I feel like I am only scratching the surface in this devotion, and now that I’ve passed a year of being totally consecrated, I’m determined to learn how to incorporate these practices more into my daily life, in a way that’s practical and achievable in the duties of my state (and my own personal quirks . . . sigh):

  • Keep praying to develop a “great contempt” for the spirit of this world

  • Maintain a special devotion to the Mystery of the Incarnation (e.g., through meditation; spiritual reading; focusing on Feasts centering around the Incarnation, such as the Annunciation and the Nativity, etc.)

  • Frequently recite the Ave, Rosary, and the Magnificat

  • Recite, every day if it is not inconvenient, the “Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin” — a series of Paters, Aves, and Glorias — one Ave for each star in the Virgin’s Crown. St. Louis has a special way of praying the Little Crown, which is recommended.

  • Do everything through, with, in and for Mary for the sake of Jesus, with the prayer, “I am all thine Immaculate One, with all that I have: in time and in eternity” in your heart and on your lips

  • Associate yourself with Mary in a special way before, during, and after Communion (see Supplement of the book, “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary”)

  • Wear a little iron chain (around the neck, arm, waist, or ankle) as an outward sign and reminder of holy slavery. This practice is optional, but very recommended by St. Louis. The appearance of this chain is not further specified.

  • Renew the consecration once a year on the same date chosen above, and by following the same 33-day period of exercises. If desired, also renew the consecration monthly with the prayer, “I am all thine and all I have is thine, O dear Jesus, through Mary, Thy holy Mother.”

Since my personality and vocation are both rooted in the home and the rhythm of family life, what usually works best for me is to form habits of offering small prayers and ejaculations, or songs (like the “Salve Regina” at the dishwasher . . . those two just seem to go together), in conjunction with daily work, whether it’s dishes or laundry or even showering. (I’ve been finding out that if I don’t remember to pray the Little Crown in the shower, I usually fail to remember to pray it later. So yes . . . )

I’m not by nature a deeply contemplative person and I’m fairly certain my future vocation will require more active forms of prayer that come with nurturing and raising a family. And so I’ve begun to realize that I need to learn how to better incorporate my Total Consecration into the ordinary rhythms of my day, to where our Blessed Mother becomes all the more a part of me and my heart becomes more and more joined to hers, since spiritually I’ve placed myself in her chaste womb and pray to never be removed!

Despite all of my faults, I know it is she who will teach me over the years, in her own beautifully patient and gentle ways, to be a holier woman, a valiant woman, and God-willing a selfless and devoted wife and mother; it is she who will work to preserve my purity of heart and to give me deeper self-knowledge so that I can draw closer to her Son in humility and contrite desire. It is she who will, I pray, save my soul in the end. I really feel like I can give her so little, and yet there’s a strange sort of peace that comes from knowing that I’ve already given her everything I have or ever will have; even though imperfectly, I did it freely, and will keep on doing it freely for all my life. And I trust she understands the beauty and worth of it all far more than I do or ever can–and that’s more than enough for me!

“The most terrible of all the enemies which God has set up against the devil is His holy Mother, Mary.”




What Better Can There Be . . .

_MG_5787 (2)

I still own my old battered copywork notebook, filled up with childish handwriting, imaginative illustrations, and many copied poems, from “The Lady of Shalott” to Stevenson’s “The Land of Counterpane.”

I still remember my sister and I dressing up in Victorian-style dresses for a birthday tea party and reciting Robert Louis Stevenson in front of the old camcorder.

And after getting published in an online homeschoolers’ magazine, my inspiration was fired and, in my teen years, I wrote poetry often; I loved dabbling in metaphor and trying to carve out those eloquent, startling, unique turns of phrase that I thought worked transformational power on an ordinary poem. (Not sure how well that went, but still . . . 😉 )

I wrote poems describing nature, or that paid tribute to favorite stories of mine (Lord of the Rings was always a top candidate) or to the Faith. And up until now, though I hadn’t written poems with such frequency for a while, I still had that patch in me that loved a good poem and admired its inherent beauty and capacity for art.

But now something’s happened.

I used to be immersed in what I felt was a more “grown-up,” or at least challenging, style of poetry–sestinas, blank verse, villanelles, you name it. The kind of poems that had the potential to honor the Faith, or the beauty of God’s creation, or the meaning of a profound story, with style and subtlety, without sounding like catechism lessons. After all, that’s what you hear today in any forum concerning creative mediums, and that’s certainly akin to advice I read: Don’t preach! Don’t be a soapbox! You’ll impair the impact of your medium if you’re preaching! Be subtle! Don’t be overt!

To a degree, that point may have some worth; a poem, book or film that “preaches” its viewpoint at the cost of reason or beauty is rather self-destructive . . . and yet, is it really preaching at all?  Isn’t authentic preaching of any kind a combination of holy Truth, of courage, beauty in form, simplicity, and charity?

If it is, it stands to reason why I’ve now changed my mind about the poetry I prefer. I’ve completely fallen in love with the poems that are catechism lessons. The simple poems that, in bygone days, traditional and fervent priests, nuns, and laypeople wrote for the children of their parishes, and for Catholic children all across the world.

Some of my favorite spiritual reading can be found in the writings of Fr. Lasance. In his Catholic Girls’ Guide is a wealth of wisdom, beauty, and true fatherly instruction. And poems.

I overlooked these poems for a long time, not making any effort to humble my oh-so-great intellect for a moment and truly listen to them.

But now, Deo gratias, I’m won over!

Accept, Divine Redeemer, the homage of my praise;
take my heart and keep it, Lord, through all my earthly days.
Be Thou my consolation when death is drawing nigh;
be Thou my only treasure through all eternity.

(from The Catholic Girls' Guide)

I’m not sure exactly what happened, only that it had something to do with

1) being captivated by the old liturgy and traditions of the Faith through introduction to the Latin Mass

2) having the blessing of then being able to fill my mind with classic/traditionally tenored Catholic spiritual literature (Fr. Lasance, Fr. Laux, Fr. Pietro Leone [I know, triple L’s!], Frank Sheed, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the 1962 Missal, to name my favorites so far.)

3) contemplating the (hoped-for!) possibility I might be blessed with children one day who can grow up immersed in all these wonderful beauties and traditions of the Faith that I’ve come so late to

4) viewing pretty much everything through this lens!

And somehow, that made me fall in love with these kinds of poems: the simple, salty, prayerful, old Catholic prayer-poems. Simple and true enough to teach a child; simple and true enough to pierce the soul of an adult.

To give an example . . . my sister and I just now invested in Fr. Lasance’s mammoth With God: A Book of Prayers and Reflections. 900 pages of old, traditional, beautiful Catholic prayers (many of them indulgenced) that have been largely forgotten . . . it came in the mail last Friday and was received with, erm, much joy. (I will have a post devoted just to this book once I stop freaking out about how wonderful it is and become coherent again.)

Towards the beginning of this hulking volume that could serve as a physical as well as spiritual weapon, there’s a section called, “Sanctification of the Day” and in it, a sub-section titled “Prayers in Verse.”

There are gems like this:

Before the Rosary:

Mother, now I'll say my beads,
for my soul some comfort needs;
And what better can there be
Than to raise my thoughts to thee,
Sweet Mother!

Doesn’t this immediately inspire childlike confidence in our “sweet Mother”? My soul some comfort needs. Doesn’t this evoke our weariness both of body and soul, and yet remind us of the delight we should take in having constant refuge under the mantle of the Mother of God? All this, in just a handful of lines!

In the final section, “Hymns,” consider the first few verses of this sweet, beautiful, soul-awakening catechism on the reality of our guardian angels and the gratitude we owe them (by the wonderful Fr. Faber):

Guardian Angel Hymn

Dear Angel! ever at my side,
how loving must thou be,
To leave thy home in Heaven to guard
A sinful child like me.
 Thy beautiful and shining face
I see not, though so near;
The sweetness of thy soft low voice
I am too deaf to hear.
But I have felt thee in my thoughts
Fighting with sin for me;
And when my heart loves God, I know
The sweetness is from Thee . . .

When my heart loves God, I know the sweetness is from Thee. I had never thought much of how any holy inspirations I have, or simply the spiritual joy I experience in loving God, are due at least in part to the intercession of my guardian angel, until I read this poem!

And for a third example, consider this poem from “Continual Prayer”:


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

And this one . . . this one just makes me want to cry 🙂

This is just the tiniest taste as to the wealth of these poems available to the faithful. I would quote more here if I had time . . . but the fact remains, we truly need to bring these poems back into our Catholic households! We need to seek them out, teach them to our children, copy them down, put them up where we can see them, set them to music. They are anything but quaint . . . I think they are truly necessary.

The poems and songs from our childhood remain with us in our adulthood (whether we like it or not 😉 ) and throughout the rest of our lives; they inform us more than we realize. So why not make them poems that are filled with truth, with simplicity, with spiritual power?

If God blesses me with children one day, you can be sure their mama will be using these poems in all sorts of ways to fill their dear, sweet souls with the beauty, truth and goodness that comes from their Heavenly Father. And in the meantime, I’ll be using these poems to do the same with my own soul.