Rooted & Grounded in Charity, Vol. 6: How did you know marriage was your vocation?

Charity

JMJ1

Friday, October 10th, 2008 . . . I am thinking . . . about how it would be to be married and have kids . . .

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote this down on a sheet of daybook prompts. I was twelve. I can assure you that my hopes to be married had begun long before that day, though.

Growing up, I was absolutely, always, undoubtedly the girl of typical feminine fiber who adored romance and wanted marriage and babies, amen, from the time I was old enough to think about it with relative seriousness (and old enough to have desperate crushes, too, but that’s a story coming up in a moment . . . blush).

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Lena (who has a beautiful story of her ongoing vocational journey, by the way) was the one who continuously thought about being a nun. She pen-pal-ed with a nun (God rest her soul!). When we were children, she would garb herself in bedsheets and would have loved to live outside in a hut, Rose-of-Lima style.

This line of thinking never appealed to me. Marriage and babies, please.

From ages 11-14, roughly speaking, I had a few successive crushes on several altar boys/parishioners at our then-current parish. Some of them lasted for a good year or two (or three). One crush in particular was tall, dark, and handsome, approximately four years older than me, and totally fatal to my glasses-wearing self. It was the real deal. Although, more or less, I genuinely was striving to grow in faith and love of God . . . shallowly speaking, he was the reason I went to Mass.

Maybe he would look at me this time . . . Lena nicknamed him Abraham Lincoln. Maybe it was because he was tall.

One winter Sunday, while all the parish kids were streaming outside after finishing PSR classes, my dad (with whom I was standing) and his dad were casually chewing the fat about where our respective families got Christmas trees. Before I knew it, he walked up and listened quietly on the conversation, offering the name of the place when his dad couldn’t remember. I nearly died with ecstasy. It was the closest thing to a conversation I ever had with him.

‘Twas not meant to be, of course (thank Heavens . . . no one remotely compares to The Dash!!!) but during that time, all I did was daydream about Mrs.-hood. And attempt to be productive with my life by writing stories, in which, of course, heroes and heroines fell in love.

Around the time I was fifteen or so, I sobered a little and realized I needed to stop frittering away my time (and heartstrings) on crushes and instead be at peace with where I was in life. I still wanted to be married more than anything, but I was striving to be reasonable. After all, I was fifteen, and by that time it had clicked that indulging in imaginative crushes were at least remote occasions of sin at that point in my young teenaged life, so for prudence’s sake, I should cease and desist.

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Me at 18! Yikes, flashback!!!

We moved homes, changed parishes, proceeded on with life. I finished high school at 17 and prayed a novena to St. Anne that she would help me find my future husband. Because, after all, I was done with school for the foreseeable future and about to turn the legal marrying age. There were a few decent fellows (one was noticeably devout and my age) at our current parish, plus the possibility that some handsome stranger would walk in for Mass one day. It was perfect timing.

I entered my first courtship (although it was missing some key factors of courtship I now know to be essential; it wasn’t our fault, we just didn’t know!) when I was 18; it was long-distance with a good young man, but ended when I was 20. Just like any relationship, it is heartbreaking to have something like that end after the investment of time and heart with another person. I made a lot of mistakes. Looking back, I see with undeniable clarity how very, very much I had to learn–God knew this!

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Me at 19

During that time, I totally consecrated to Our Lady. Immediately afterwards, I went through a period of regrouping, journaling, prayer–all the things that are perhaps natural to do in that situation. It felt like everything I thought I knew was turned upside down–in the sense that you come home after a long journey, and are tired and stunned to silence and just need to think.

This was when I went through what I consider intentional vocational discernment.

Up until then, I’d known what I wanted. But I hadn’t been silent. I hadn’t unclenched my fists. I’d been consumed with the desire to be married and to be a mother. I’d been inwardly terrified that maybe God would be calling me to the religious life instead.

In the summer of 2017, I wrote in an article that was published at OnePeterFive:

When I was a teenager, and when it came to considering the state of life to which God was calling me, I had strong, gripping hopes and dreams for what I wanted to do – but an even stronger, more gripping fear of letting my soul be silent. A fear of simply listening.

In my own imperfect way, I loved God and the Catholic Faith and was trying to grow in holiness…but I was, nevertheless, terrified of letting my soul be still, to the point where I could let go of my desires and wait to hear Our Lord’s voice telling me His designs for me. That might have required me giving up everything I wanted (that is, marriage and motherhood in the home). And that felt physically impossible for me at the time.

If I ever sensed a type of spiritual silence descending on me (whether it was in Adoration, at Mass, or in bed), I would panic and chase it away. I was so immersed in this fear of God’s will that, now, I can only imagine how worn and unhappy I must have been, without even realizing it.

I desire you to be a consecrated virgin. I ask you to be a nun for My sake. Fantasies of hearing those phrases ring out clearly in my soul were paralyzing. If I felt “a silence” coming, I would immediately begin convincing myself – “I’ve always wanted to be a good wife and mother. That means God gave me the desire from the beginning – that means it’s my vocation.” Essentially, I had my spiritual hands clapped over my spiritual ears.

That description is unfortunately very accurate. I was afraid. Terrified that I wasn’t meant to be married.

Being introduced to the Latin Mass, particularly Low Mass where silence reigns for much of the time, brought me into a “courtship” with silence and with liturgical awe of God. It was something of a gradual process, but my fears eventually died down and I began trying, on a regular basis, to make acts of perfect surrender to God’s Will. I can’t recall if I’d ever previously done something like that in the context of my vocation. Time and time again, I renewed my efforts to, in prayer, completely let go of what I wanted my vocation to be, and to tell Our Lord that all I wanted was what He wanted.

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Me at 20

I still had the same desires to be married, although they were calmer and softer (for lack of better words). I still noticed and thought about some great Catholic guys I knew. But I also took time, for example, to go out and thoughtfully look at the website for the Nuns at Ephesus and read about their spirituality. It was beautiful and entirely different from anything I’d considered before. I didn’t feel an urging to explore beyond that, but I made these kinds of deliberate acts to combat my old terrors of Anything Other than Marriage. In my mind, I termed this period of a few months as “living in the quiet.”

Now granted, I didn’t go and visit any communities; not because I felt repulsed by the idea, but because opportunities didn’t really open up, nor did I feel a strong stirring to go. I spoke to a priest about my journey over the past few months, including my desires for marriage, and he encouraged me to bring all my desires to God and prayer, to trust Him like a Father, and to be at peace. During this time, I was praying to St. Raphael for my future husband, but I also wondered if I should stifle any desire for marriage altogether so as to truly give God my interior silence as part of my discernment.

This brought me back around to another novena to St. Anne . . . already, it was summer again. I wrote a post here called The Rose (Or, Desires and Analogies), which was a pivotal “diary entry” in which I tried to express myself and my calmer, still existing desires for marriage, as well as my desire to give God my total “vocational openness”; and immediately after that, I also wrote about my novena to St. Anne and what happened on the last day:

At the end of my novena, I’d been given the gift of clarity to see that I should be giving my Lord what I have–and not emptiness. I saw that giving Him my desire for Marriage as an actual gift was not closing myself to His will; but rather, it meant trusting Him all the more with my life, my future, my salvation.

The relief and joy was palpable; it was a moment of true grace. I feel I can now embrace whatever God’s will is for my life, and also yet embrace my hope for the Sacrament of Marriage wholeheartedly, and to pray for my future husband, as I believe now there is one. There is no longer a contradiction between my two desires.

It was at this point that I was able to indeed embrace the hope of marriage as my vocation, having finally gone through the silence and surrender. My love and perception of marriage as a vocation was purified and distilled in a way it had never been before. Although my courtship with The Dash has matured me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated, that time of “living in the quiet” and coming to these realizations through God’s grace was a time of unique and intense maturation that will always stand out to me.

And it was during these formational weeks that I first met The Dash and began spending time with him (and began gently, happily falling in love with him). The timing was something only Our Lord can achieve!

Us

And so, now I’m here.

The Dash and I have been blessed in our courtship for over a year, and Our Lord has used this wonderful man in so many ways to enrich, improve, and support the woman I’m still becoming. He truly is my best friend and I’m immeasurably blessed by his heart and his virtues every day ❤

18-21 were chiaroscuro years; up and down, adventurous, intensely formative. To be 22 and to have been blessed with the graces necessary to make that surrender and then be showered with gifts beyond my imagination . . . it’s a sweet and precious place to be!

However, the surrender doesn’t stop. I’ve learned that, just because I made acts of surrender way back when, I’m not exonerated from the need to do so now, in countless situations. Just because I’m peacefully assured that I am being called to marriage doesn’t mean I’m still not asked for daily vocational surrender. Surrender in the little things; surrender of my selfishness. Sometimes that is far harder to do than just surrender my ideas about my vocation!

One of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary (Our Lord is the one speaking) sits on top of my desk, and has done for years:

Entrust yourself completely to My will, saying, “Not as I want, but according to Your will, O God, let it be done unto me.”

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A recent haircut . . . it doesn’t happen often, so a picture was in order 😉

I pray that I will be able to surrender to the Will of God more perfectly with each day that passes, especially now as I wait to enter the vocation of marriage. Again, it is a sweet place to be.

Sig

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7 Rambling Monday Takes :: Vol. 5 (Anniversary Edition)

MondayTakes

1.

In the words of Bilbo, I wish to make An Announcement . . . Today, October 23rd, marks one year since I started this blog! That’s quite hard to believe . . . and what a year it’s been!

In the beginning, my most central motivation in starting Benedic was to create a place where I gathered links to my off-site articles, such as at Seton Magazine and, eventually, 1P5. In fact, that was how I pitched the whole “Hey! What if . . .” to my parents, way back when 🙂 But I think Our Lord had even more exciting expectations for this than I did, because this little place of mine has come to be a delight to write on, an opportunity to share a part of myself with others, and it’s My Precious now 😉

It turned out to be the place where I would eventually write about certain blessings, some of which were so unexpected as to be termed incredible: having the privilege of being published in new places; attending special Latin Masses; traveling on a beautiful family vacation (and beginning my devotion to St. Raphael); receiving graces for my vocational discernment; turning twenty-one; entering into a wonderful courtship (a gift straight from St. Raphael!) with an amazing man; most recently, becoming a godmother; and, really, that’s only the beginning! Our Lord has blessed me so very greatly this past year, not only with all of these wonderful things, but also with the opportunity to capture them (imperfectly!) in words here.

Reflecting on all of this, it’s also fun (sort of) to go back and glance over my earliest posts. Sigh. I still groan in an embarrassed fashion because of how seriously I took myself early on. Ay yi yi. I was so formal. However, I eventually learned how to relax a bit more, poke fun at myself, and start making all the jokes in blog-post-format that I would crack without hesitation in real life . . . while still penning down my passions and hopes and ramblings about the things that are most important. So yes, it’s fun to see how and where I’ve traveled as an amateur writer.

This blog has also seen the sprouts of my equally amateur photography, which has been tantalizing to delve into! Although at the moment, my even-more-passionate-than-I younger brother has (with permission) confiscated my camera and is taking pictures (some of them astonishingly good) by the hundreds. He helped chronicle my godson’s baptism on Saturday with truly professional flair. (Oh, yes, and by the way, the baptism was on Saturday . . . I posted about it yesterday on Sunday evening, the 22nd . . . but WordPress incorrectly announced to everyone that I was posting on Monday, 23rd . . . which made all my “yesterdays” incorrectly refer to Sunday . . . not that it matters . . . but my perfectionism demands a clarification. Sigh.)

And truly, I’m rather shocked that I’ve completed a year of consistent blogging! That is simply and solely God’s grace working to improve my flighty temperament, which finds it so hard to stick to personal projects. As I jubilantly announced a few weeks ago, I was mysteriously able to hold off for what felt like a very long time before finally designing my own header, just to make sure I could force myself to be faithful to posting instead of merely tweaking the eye-candy around here.

So yes . . . gratitude. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to begin this blog; that Our Lord has mercifully arranged things to where Benedic became a tool for not only expressing my thoughts, but also for growing in simple knowledge of myself and in a determination to form a cohesion between what I write about and how I live. It is easy to be passionate, less easy to be humbly passionate. When you put your thoughts and passions down, particularly in public (even with the comments turned off!), I’ve learned that you commit yourself to living up to your words, or to amending your heart and your mindset when you discover that your words could better reflect that which is true and good.

And I feel quite excited because Benedic feels so home-y to me that I can easily envision it remaining my “writing place” indefinitely, especially as my life continues to unfold towards and, one day, within my vocation! That’s a blessing in itself!

2.

Today is a gray, wettish, windy autumn Monday; laundry day, general recovery and get-back-to-business day (isn’t every Monday?). It’s the day in which I step inside a bathroom I cleaned on Friday and think, I just cleaned this on Friday!!! (It’s no one’s fault . . . it’s merely life!) It’s the day on which I always determine to eat more healthily during the week than I did on the weekend ;-P

I just realized today’s the day I need to sweep out and dust our dear little laundry room. Have I told you about our laundry room, right off the kitchen? It has a big window to let the daylight in, patterned wallpaper on a cornflower-blue background, wood cabinets, and a faithful washer and drier. It’s a really sweet place. Just . . . dusty at the moment.

You know, it might be fun to actually give the washer and drier names. Hmm. Merry and Pippin? Perpetua and Felicity? Fictional or saintly? How symbolic should I get here?

I think I’m thinking too hard . . .

3.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow is the feast of St. Raphael and while I have no idea what I’m doing yet, I do know it’s going to be wonderful and special! And it will merit its own blog post, never you fear. I am so excited.

4.

Around the house, we’ve been listening to a lot of Michael Buble recently. We enjoy him and he perks up the homeschool atmosphere 😉 “Everything” is currently the most oft-repeated favorite!

Now, delightfully smooth as he is, he can’t top Frank Sinatra, and his only Sinatra covers that I enjoy equally to the originals are “The Way You Look Tonight” (because they altered the rhythm from foxtrot to a relaxed cha-cha, which is always fun, and also because the song’s become something of our bedtime routine; all the girls get in pajamas, wash off makeup, let down our hair, and croon, “There is nothing for me but to looooooove you, and the way you look tonight!”) and “You Make Me Feel so Young.” My other Sinatra favorites are not to be touched, however, and I cringe to hear covers of any kind.

My youngest sister and I have a particular favorite from Voces8; and it all started with a 40’s WWII album we got a while ago. Do you know the old tune, “A Nightengale Sang in Berkeley Square“? Well, lo and behold, I discovered recently that Voces8 had done a version of this very same tune in honor of William and Kate’s marriage back when it was all abuzz . . . and it is brilliant. My youngest sister and I lip-sing it to one another while getting chills from their impeccably tight harmonies. Ahhh . . .

But now, of course, it’s “Are We Dancing?” The Happiest Millionaire will never be gone from our household . . .

5.

Although I haven’t had time to read it over the past few days, I nevertheless have been enjoying the first few chapters of War and Peace. Although the translators are surely deserving of a lot of credit, Tolstoy’s style of description is very engaging; he has some brilliant phrases and very unique concepts of how he wants his people to appear. Now, I may have to re-request it from the library a few times before I can actually finish it, but the start is promising and amusing. Nothing like a drawing room party, full of the world!

Just then a new person entered the drawing room. This new person was the young Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, the little princess’s husband. Prince Bolkonsky was of medium height, a rather handsome young man with well-defined and dry features. Everything in his figure, from his weary, bored gaze to his quiet, measured gait, presented the sharpest contrast with his small, lively wife. Obviously, he not only knew everyone in the drawing room, but was also so sick of them that it was very boring for him to look at them and listen to them. Of all the faces he found so boring, the face of his pretty wife seemed to be the one he was most sick of. With a grimace that spoiled his handsome face, he turned away from her.

6.

Today is the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Confessor. This morning was a slightly sleepy one and we couldn’t make Sarasota, so I’m hoping to catch Fribourg’s Mass here in a little while, and to ask for his intercession for all sorts of special intentions!

From the Missal:

Anthony Mary Claret founded the Missionary Sons of the Heart of Mary, the Teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate, and other communities of nuns. For many years he labored in Catalonia, for six years in Cuba as Archbishop of Santiago, and finally in Madrid. He died in exile in France in 1870.

The Collect:

O God, with the virtues of an apostle Thou didst exalt blessed Anthony Mary, and through him build in Thy Church new religious congregations of men and women: grant, we pray, that led by his counsels and helped by his prayers, we may unremittingly work for the salvation of souls.

7.

A random thought (because random thoughts are all I have left, and I need to switch laundry), but it’s very hard to believe we’re nearing the end of October and that tomorrow is two months from Christmas Eve, with this Sunday already being the Old Calendar Feast of Christ the King! Our parish will be having a High Mass and Lena and I have been privileged to learn some beautiful music for it, along with brushing up on Mass IV . . . our favorite Mass setting from the Kyriale! Life is good 😉

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Sig2

 

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

immaculate-heart-Mary

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.”

Sig2

 

 

7 Rambling Takes, Monday Edition

MondayTakes

When trying to decide exactly how I wanted to ramble about the recent goings-on around here, I decided that the most efficient way would be join in that tantalizing blog post technique known as the “7 Quick Takes,” which you usually find on homeschooling blogs (hence my knowledge of them to begin with).

Unfortunately, that technique has always been designated for use on Fridays . . . but since I have a Monday morning at my blogging disposal, and Friday seems quite a long way away, I think I shall break convention. Oh, and I’ll also be breaking convention because–true to my style–none of these takes are going to be quick.

On second thought, I think I’ll just call it 7 Rambling Takes and make it my own.

1.

We’ve just started the third full week in our new homeschool year, but it’s our first-ever year to use Our Lady of Victory School. Beautiful, traditional Catholic books, largely from Lepanto Press. Sigh. I’ve demanded requested that Mom never get rid of any of them so I can use them in my future homeschool.

My younger brother and sister have their noses to the grindstone, and are pretty much swimming in decidedly “older,” “harder” school work. 8th and 7th grade . . . they really are getting older and, now, are are both distinctly taller than Lena and I . . . my brother is the tallest of all of us four now . . . yes, things are happening. Sniff.

I know Lena and I have both waxed lyrical about being unregretting graduated women at home, and will continue to do so to our hearts’ content, but instead of indulging in that at the moment, I’ll instead talk about tutoring English.

I haven’t really tutored in English until this point, when I decided to blithely offer my help to Mom in tutoring my brother in this particularly dazzling field of study. In fact, I haven’t sat down and read formal English in what feels like decades. The terms are a little mind-numbing, and I actually taught one concept last week which I completely, totally did not understand, and yet he got most of the answers right anyway. He’s got smarts.

Tutoring your brother or sister is surprisingly rewarding, despite the natural ups and downs you can expect to have when you’re dealing with school AND siblings. While it can occasionally be a marvelous exercise in virtue, most often, it’s a perfect opportunity to crack jokes, conjure enthusiasm, and build on your relationships. As an older sibling, you’re provided a chance to encourage diligence and real learning in your younger siblings, as well as an opportunity to realize and navigate temperamental differences (and you can bet there are major differences in our household!), and to grow in patience as well as creativity. Without hesitation, that’s what I’ve enjoyed most so far.

And, if you’re a woman at home (I hope you saw this coming), tutoring is a prime way to practice for when you’ll be schooling your own children as a wife and mother one day. So I’m personally hoping to continue helping out in our homeschool until I’m off and married, or they’re out of school (hopefully the former will occur before the latter, though! . . .)

2.

I just finished reading my favorite book on the planet.

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The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo J. Kinsella is, quite literally, my favorite book. Ever. After my missal, I would grab this if the house were on fire and I only had time for one other item. (Well, okay . . . at least one other book. I won’t pin myself down that much. I have a feeling I can grab a lot, quickly.)

Although I had first resolved to read a chapter a day, and to responsibly meditate and absorb and contemplate . . . I devoured it, and now I’m beginning my re-read.

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While it’s been re-typset (probably independently) and re-published since it’s debut, I hunted down and found a used copy from back in the day, and it’s so charming. It’s little; the pages are yellowed; but it was in good condition (and, of course, considerably cheaper, which is always a bonus).

It caters beautifully to traditional stay-at-home wives (or girls who are aspiring to be so) with both powerful insight and candid humor that makes you chuckle. It has adorable illustrations and the sagest wisdom. It is a handbook. It is amazing. I’m keeping it forever. (Don’t worry, Lena, I’ll buy you a separate copy before I leave.)

It is thoroughly, traditionally Catholic in its perspective (it’s written by a priest, after all!), and yet it almost entirely focuses on the natural gifts a wife can bring to her marriage, in contrast to focusing on the sacramental and sacred aspect of marriage, which it takes for a given. The book is divided into seven chapters. Each chapter hones in on a particular attribute of the ideal wife. (“The Wife Desired is an Inspiration to Her Husband;” “The Wife Desired Has Personality;” “The Wife Desired Has a Sense of Humor;” etc.)

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It has given me so much to ponder and to work on. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to teach me as much as confirm all my current ideas and convictions . . . well, I was in for a surprise. Of course, there was much in the way of confirmation and encouragement for me, but it also drastically illuminated my understanding of, and eagerness for, the best ways I can be a good wife in the future, should that be God’s will for me. It was marvelous.

There is so much practical advice in this book. So many little things that, in my ignorance, I had never really thought about before, at least not purposefully and intentionally. With eloquence and fun, this good priest points out the natural gifts of women, emphasizes their great worth and potential, and then encourages women to use them wholeheartedly in the service of their God-given vocation, for the good of their souls and their husband’s souls. Again, so marvelous.

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I’m planning to use this book as the inspirational basis for writing letters to my future husband, in the style of Woman in Love. Granted, it’s a little hard to get my act together for this practice of writing letters (on the other hand, my sister is almost unbelievably faithful to it), but it’s something I still want to pursue, and this book has given me so. many. thoughts that if I don’t begin writing letters I might simply explode with excitement and eagerness.

And we wouldn’t want that.

3.

Continuing on the theme of books, when I’ve been able to pull myself away from the addictive The Wife Desired, I’ve been buried in two other very good ones as well, lent to me by two different friends.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death is definitely stretching my brain. I like to consider myself intelligent (well, doesn’t everyone?) and so for humility’s sake (as well as the sake of actually learning things!) it’s always good to come across a book where I have to be incredibly intent while reading it so as to understand and process the content. It’s a difficult read for me, but at the same time, is fascinating in its premise, charting the differences and development in the mediums of discourse across the centuries, as well as the modern decline of the value of our public discourse through television.

Until I began reading this, I’d never really considered the shift that gradually occurred between some societies’ mediums of discourse; once considering the spoken word to be more trustworthy than the written word, they eventually reversed (it kind of makes me feel guilty for blogging, but oh well), to where a medium that was once believed to give evidence of wisdom and knowledge (such as the memorization of proverbs) became looked upon as childish and ineffective. Neil Postman probes at examples such as this at a deep level; he unearths why and how particular mediums of discourse resonate with different societies, or society in general.

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On the subject of mediums and metaphors in society, one particularly interesting paragraph (I thought, anyway) relates:

A person who reads a book or who watches television or who glances at his watch is not usually interested in how his mind is organized and controlled by these events, still less in what idea of the world is suggested by a book, television, or a watch. But there are men and women who have noticed these things, especially in our own times. Lewis Mumford, for example, has been one of our great noticers. He is not the sort of a man who looks at a clock merely to see what time it is. Not that he lacks interest in the content of clocks, which is of concern to everyone from moment to moment, but he is far more interested in how a clock creates the idea of “moment to moment.” He attends to the philosophy of clocks, to clocks as a metaphor, about which our education has had little to say and clock makers nothing at all. “The clock,” Mumford has concluded, “is a piece of power machinery whose ‘product’ is seconds and minutes.” In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences. Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God’s conception, or nature’s. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.

A little mind-bending (for me) . . . but it makes sense!

4.

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And the other book! How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. Admittedly, the title is a little misleading in tone, but it’s proven so far to be a thoughtful, thought-provoking read (what I’ve read of it, anyway; I don’t read every section of relationship books such as these, since fortunately, much of the world’s relationship problems/sinful habits aren’t, thank God, applicable to me!).

On a similar vein to The Wife Desired, I’ve thus far found it an engrossing and practical help in examining the natural, emotional, and psychological elements of how to build a healthy relationship, and to thus discern if you and your partner are naturally compatible and–from the Catholic perspective–will find it possible to lovingly and healthily cooperate together in doing God’s will in marriage. I think a book such as this can go hand-in-hand with a traditional Catholic courtship, because it has the potential to stimulate so many worthwhile conversations between partners and aid them in getting to know one another rationally, so they can then better discern if their are meant to share in the marriage vocation together.

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Again, I feel as though I have interiorly focused so much on the spiritual and sacramental aspect of marriage (the most important aspects, of course!) during discernment over the past year, that now, discovering the more natural, practical aspects of building courtship and married relationships has been deeply enlightening, and a helpful preparation should I begin needing it someday.

5.

Now to leave books behind! My family just took a weekend trip to visit my paternal grandparents, as well as my great-aunt and great-uncle on my mother’s side. We had a wonderful time, ate far too much food, talked into the night, and listened to far too much Frank Sinatra on the drive both ways.

After receiving a CD of Frank Sinatra’s as a gift, we’ve become rather addicted to it . . . it’s our “feel good” music, and since we tend to enjoy feeling good on a daily basis, it stands to reason that you will hear the strains of “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in our homeschool around lunchtime, accompanied by a good foxtrot. Ballroom dancing is our noon PE.

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6.

Posture. I’ve been focusing on improving my posture (sitting and standing, but especially standing) for approximately the past four days. I came across a blog post talking about it, and since then, I’ve been trying to stand better aligned. My knees hyper-extend, my shoulders tend to slouch, and if I give in to my habit of putting my weight slightly more on one foot than the other, it tends to give me hip and leg pain (probably remnants from the mild torture I put my body through in ballet) . . . and besides, I think good posture just looks (and feels!) far better.

I’ve been evangelizing my family members about it and they’re probably tired of it by now.

7.

Last night, my entire family took the temperament quiz at Temperamentquiz.com. It was a hilarious but nonetheless revealing hour. It turns out we have three choleric-sanguines (no surprise there; I predicted those in advance), one phlegmatic-sanguine (ahem, me), one choleric-melancholic, and one melancholic-phlegmatic.

And those are my seven rambling takes! Time for the Angelus and lunch 🙂

A blessed feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal!

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Mulierem fortem quis inveniet? {Who shall find a valiant woman?}

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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)

* * *

Today is St. Anne’s feast, and it ends the nine-day novena in her honor. There is a real peace and expectancy, even gratitude, that settles over the soul at the completion of a novena, isn’t there? I remember, as a seventeen-year-old, praying what was probably my first novena to her with the intention of asking her to find my future husband. Or maybe begging would be the better word . . . On the final day, I practically skipped into the nave of our old parish with my eyes absolutely peeled for the sudden appearance of “Him.” (I don’t think he was there 😉 )

And now, three years later, I’m finding myself at the end of a full circle: at the end of another novena to dear St. Anne. My sister and I prayed the final prayers last night, and woke up with smiles and exclamations of, “Happy feast day!” before settling down to the Mass in her honor.

But not it’s not the “end” I would have expected three years ago. Three years ago, I probably would have anticipated something like engagement by now, in answer to my novena to St. Anne. But this end . . . it’s infinitely better.

It’s called peace. It’s called the rose.

These three years have been both a very long and very short time for me. They charted me growing out of childhood; they wrote the beginning of an unexpected story, its middle and its end; they were suffused with joy, difficulty, sometimes confusion and pain, much learning and slow transformation into what I hope is a better, more God-honoring woman than I used to be.

I admit that the strength of my devotion to St. Anne depended on how close I thought I was to marriage, depending on the place I stood and how the climate was looking, during those three years. Eventually my prayers to her fell dormant, when I retreated into discernment and questioned as to whether I was I even called to marriage at all. I don’t think it was a conscious omission as much as it was the state of my life not inspiring me, or reminding me, to pray to her. Either way . . . I wish I had prayed to her more.

As the three years wore on, and I entered into this last year of my Latin Mass “love story” and my discernment, while I didn’t pray to St. Anne regularly, I began to learn so much. It was as if streams of truth were being poured into my thirsty heart. So much about what the Sacrament of Marriage means; so much about how the Sacrament must be lived in order to achieve the sanctification of the spouses and their children; so much about the role of the wife, in particular, and what she should be to her husband. So much about what I needed to be, if I were called to that state. It was all being poured over my soul . . . and now, I can’t help but realize that it had to be due, at least in part, to St. Anne’s intercession for me. Help me find my future husband, I’d begged her as a seventeen-year-old. But how could I be actually ready to find my future husband if there was still so incredibly much I needed to learn, as a girl growing into a woman, about marriage and the duties of holy Catholic spousal life; if there was still so much in my heart that needed correction and illumination, so many preconceived notions that needed to be replaced with Christ’s Truth, before I could proceed to embrace the Sacrament, if God were calling me to it?

* * *

From the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

The more easily to preserve the holy state (of marriage) from dissensions, the duties of husband and wife as inculcated by St. Paul and by the Prince of the Apostles must be explained.

Duties of a Husband: It is the duty of the husband to treat his wife generously and honorably. It should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam “his companion.” “The woman,” he says, “whom thou gavest me as a companion.” (Gen. 3:12). Hence it was, according to the opinion of some of the holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband.

The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice.

He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, and see that they faithfully discharge their duties.

Duties of a Wife: On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles:Let wives be subject to their husbands: that if  any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let not their adorning be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” (1 Peter 3:1)

To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out; and she should never presume to leave home without her husband’s consent.

Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience.

* * *

As this past year wore on, my sister and I discovered the devotion to St. Raphael. He was and is such a great consolation, and devotion to him really did capture my heart; but at the same time, I came to where I was practicing this devotion with constant caveats and ifs, because I was afraid of desiring Marriage to the point where I would stop desiring the will of God.

And so, nine short days ago, I began my novena to St. Anne. My intention was that I would just know and do the will of God in my life. No specifics, all simplicity.

As I was praying the novena, a good friend lent my sister Woman in Love by Katie Hartfiel–a beautiful love story, but most importantly, a Catholic vocational story. (I haven’t read all of the book, but I watched the Hartfiels on Life on the Rock several years ago and so I know the factual plotline 🙂 )

In the past, I’d been familiar with the concept of writing letters to one’s “husband to be” as a way of praying for him daily and uniting with him in spiritual love and faithfulness, even before you knew who, precisely, he was. Over the past few years, I’d tried it myself, several different times. But it was stilted and uncomfortable. I felt unrecognizable in the words I was penning down, and I would stop after a letter or two. I lacked clarity; I lacked healing; I lacked knowledge of what I was desiring.

Until this novena.

Let me know and do the will of God in my life, I asked the mother of my most Blessed Mother. Let me know.

The seventh day of the novena, I was sitting on my bed, Catholic Girls’ Guide in my hands, and I was in tears, not because I was feeling depressed or discouraged, but because I felt so overwhelmed with the love I ached to give as I contemplated possibly being married and having children.

On the eighth day of the novena, I observed my sister writing her own Woman in Love letters in a notebook. (Ironically enough, it was the notebook I’d bought to write my letters in, months before, the practice of which I abandoned shortly thereafter. 🙂 ) Even as I recollected my failed attempts, I felt moved to try one more time. I found looseleaf paper and a pen . . . and the words poured and poured. I’m not sure I can describe it well. But I was myself; I was earnest; my heart was alive and full of clarity and hope. I felt I was able to at last unite my new desires for holiness, for pleasing God and doing His will, with my long-held desires for Marriage (my rose), for a husband, for children. I felt as though I was beginning to know.

Yesterday, the final day of novena . . . I sat down and wrote “The Rose” itself. It was as if the last clouds had cleared; it was an epiphany, of sorts. At the end of my novena, I’d been given the gift of clarity to see that I should be giving my Lord what I have–and not emptiness. I saw that giving Him my desire for Marriage as an actual gift was not closing myself to His will; but rather, it meant trusting Him all the more with my life, my future, my salvation.

The relief and joy was palpable; it was a moment of true grace. I feel I can now embrace whatever God’s will is for my life, and also yet embrace my hope for the Sacrament of Marriage wholeheartedly, and to pray for my future husband, as I believe now there is one. There is no longer a contradiction between my two desires.

So, needless to say, my devotion to St. Anne is renewed. I began praying to her as a girl who knew very little about the things I wanted; and I’ve come back to her again as a young woman who’s learned much through her often unnoticed intercession, and through the work she has done to bring me to her daughter in Total Consecration. She has, indeed, taught me what it means to be a valiant woman, and what I must do to pursue that end. Without my even knowing it, she has taught me about holy marriage; she has helped the rose of my desire for Marriage to grow into something more pleasing to God. While I have still so far to go, I have learned more modesty, more submission, the value of prayer, more joy, more authentic femininity, more domesticity, more trust. I feel the need to thank her for that.

And so how could today’s Epistle have brought me anything other than joy and delight, as I contemplated the mother of my Mother, all she has done, and all she has yet to do for me?

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. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands. She is like the merchant’s ship, she bringeth her bread from afar. And she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens. She hath considered a field, and bought it: with the fruit of her hand she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good: her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry: fine linen and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite. Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed: her husband, and he praised her. 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. Give her of the fruit of her hands: and let her works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31: 10-31