The Desert Nuns

I just found the luckiest people on earth.

This community of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Phoenix Arizona. They live a contemplative life in the desert - what I wouldn't do for that great privilege. These lucky, lucky nuns live in the desert and worship Jesus. They pray for the world. This is their WHOLE LIVES.
Even their home has a great name: Our Lady of Solitude. Solitude! How wonderful would solitude be, especially in this Holy Week! A distance from work, from school, a chance to stop talking for days on end and do nothing but worship God and work in the desert ...

AND they're Poor Clares. That means they're affiliated with Franciscans, and, God willing, they will be my sisters if I take my vows as a secular Franciscan ...
If I wasn't married, I'd be a desert nun. I wish Bear and I could be desert Secular Franciscans. We could teach kids out there, live in an eco-house, have our rainbow children, and pray.

I hope the desert nuns realize how lucky they are.


Barack Obama and the Politics of Hope

Just go read the speech.
This man is the greatest of our generation. He appeals to the best in us instead of the worst. He gives us hope instead of the same old politics. He gives us an image of ourselves that is both honest and hopeful.
And he gave this speech in PA, no less. Take it from me: they are more racist there than we are in SC. In SC, we see African-Americans every day. We work with them, interact with them. In PA, many whites only see African-Americans on the street corners. They associate them with the inner cities and with crime. White Philadelphians are terrified of North Philadelphia. Why? Black people.
So for Obama to give this speech in PA has special meaning for me. For him to give this speech across from Independence Hall, the birthplace of our freedom ... he tries together our collective American Dream.
After the Democratic National Convention in 2004, I wanted to believe. Now I do.
Yes we can. Oh, yes we can.

Baby Squirrel ...

God knew it would be hard for me to let Otis get adopted. He's going on Thursday, after several false starts ... his new parents are rich :). He'll be really happy, but I'm very sad. What will I do without my baby piggy to cuddle with?

Jesus and my German Shepherd say I should be take care of a baby squirrel.

This afternoon, while I was typing in the office, Bear started screaming. Bear's a terrible arachnophobic, so I zoomed out all ready to squash a spider. Turns out he saw Otis whining at the bottom of one of the bookshelves and thought he'd rolled his ball under there. So he reached under - and got a furry surprise. Hence the scream.
Since it's so nice, we've been leaving the door open. Evidently someone (I have serious suspicions here) brought in a baby squirrel. He wasn't gnawed on; he was just chilling under the shelf.

It had to be Pandora. She was the only puppy totally uninterested in him ... she sat on the other side of the room and watched while we took care of him. She's always up in our business. Anyway, the boys are more likely to ignore him or chew on him. They'd never just bring the squirrel in. And I don't think he walked in on his own - he seems like he's a little sick, or at least very dehydrated.

So now we're squirrel nurses. We'll give him goat's milk and Pedialyte. I hope he lives through the night.


Nennolina and Papa Benedict

The Pope had many words for the crowds at St Peter's on this Palm Sunday. He spoke out strongly against the war in Iraq; he asked people to consider what 'idols' of the modern world keep them away from God. He also said this:

"To recognize God, we must abandon the pride that dazzles us, that seeks to push us away from God." To find God, "we must learn to see with a young heart, one which isn't blocked by prejudice and dazzled by interests."

Those words reminded me of a Servant of God, Antonietta Meo - or, as her loved ones call her, Nennolina. Nennolina, buried in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, is in line to become the youngest non-martyr saint in the Catholic Church. She died of cancer at the age of 6 and a half, having written over 160 letters to Jesus and the Blessed Mother. In these letters, she expresses her total sacrifice and love for Christ Crucified. Despite her young age, many consider her to be a mystic. She asked that the Lord allow her to die before she committed a mortal sin; she predicted her own death, saw visions of Jesus and Mary, and suffered terrible pain without complaint.

Nennolina is the perfect embodiment of Papa Benedict's words. Nennolina sought to be humble and unite herself with Christ's Cross. Here's the letter she wrote to Jesus at about this time of year:

"Dear Jesus the Crucified I love You oh dear Jesus. Dear Jesus tell God the Father that I love Him so much. Dear Jesus I'm so glad Easter is coming. Dear Jesus I know You suffered a lot on the Cross and I want to suffer with You during this week of Passion, I want to suffer for the souls who need it, so that they can be converted Dear Jesus I love You so much, really very much Jesus, and I want to be Your lamp and Your lily, the lily that represents the purity of the soul and the lamp that represents the flame of love which never leaves You. Dear Jesus bless the Church, the Clergy and especially my confessor my family my teacher, and all the world.
Dear Jesus I send You a lot of kisses and greetings Your Antonietta and Jesus"

Her desire to "suffer for souls who need it", I think, is the kind of humility that the Pope meant. If only we could all have hearts like Nennolina!

Dear Nennolina, please ask Jesus to make my heart like yours. Through your intercession, may all of us approach Jesus like you do, and love Him with your all-trusting and all-consuming love. Ask him to remove all impediments and prejudices that stop me from loving Him and my neighbor with all my heart. Thank you for all the prayers you pray for me and for all people. Amen.

on reading the Passion

I was the Voice in the Passion today, reading the words for Judas, Caiaphas, and Pilate, plus Peter denying Jesus. I knew that as I read, through my sins, these words are the response I have to Jesus every day. Every time I lie, talk behind people's backs, curse, or listen to obscene music, like Judas, I hand Him over to be crucified.

When I think of the crucifixion, I always think of the crowds yelling for Him to be killed. His own people betrayed Him, said they did not know Him, and every time we sin, we become part of that crowd.

So whenever I think of the crucifixion, I always think how I would rather be one of the women who comfort Jesus and cry over his ill-treatment. He said to St. Faustina (basically) that those souls who love Him and who pray were a great comfort to Him while He suffered and died. I want to always be one of those souls. That's why I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet so much.

I'm going to try to keep in mind these thoughts during Holy Week. Maybe, by doing that, I can be a little better.


I Adore You, O Holy Cross!

Several popes confirmed that if this prayer was said 33 times on Good Friday, it would free 33 people from Purgatory. If said 50 times on a Friday, it frees five souls. If Purgatory's anything like the kids from Fatima said, you want to get your people out. Seriously.

I worship you, O Holy Cross, which was adorned with the most Holy Body of my Lord, covered and stained by his precious Blood. I worship You, my God, crucified for me. I worship you, O Holy Cross, for love of the one who was my Lord. Amen.

Prayer to Jesus Crucified

Pope Pius IX granted a plenary indulgence to anyone who, on a Friday during Lent, said this prayer in front of a crucifix. A partial indulgence is granted at any other time during the year. So get to it!

Behold, O kind and sweet Jesus,
I cast myself on my knees in your sight,
and with the most fervent desire of my soul,
I pray and beseech you
to impress upon my heart
lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity,
with a true repentance for my sins
and a firm desire for atonement,
while with deep affection and grief of soul
I ponder within myself and contemplate
your five most precious wounds
having before my eyes that which David
spoke in prophecy of you,
O good Jesus: They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones. Amen.
Our Father - Hail Mary - Glory Be
My Jesus, have mercy on me!
Though the merits of your Holy Wounds.

The Power of the Phonebook Compels You!

While we were in Rome, Bear and I discarded practically every Lenten resolution and went into the Vatican bookstore (it doesn't count because the money goes to the Church, right? Right?!). In that shrine of all things theological (though not necessarily written in English), I found the Phonebook.

The Phonebook, so dubbed by its color-coded scheme that vaguely resembles the Yellow Pages, lists practically every ritual prayer, ever: chaplets, novenas, rosaries, litanies, prayers of petition, reparation, promises, mysteries, and recommendations. Your prayerbook may have the Litany of the Holy Spirit, but the Phonebook has a prayer to ward off witchcraft. When the Wiccans beat down my door, I'll be ready.

I kept the Phonebook in my carry-on during the flight home from Italy (I'd like to say it kept me from being a miserable misanthrope, but it didn't). With nothing to do for ten hours but gripe about the screaming Puerto Rican teenagers sprawling on
every frickin' side of me, I messed with the Phonebook. I made lists of novenas. I memorized prayers. I begged the Blessed Mother to stop me from kicking the seat in fromt of me. Then I sorted all those novenas and prayers by date.

I'll be posting lots of those prayers and novenas here. I'll start with those prayers for Good Friday. We've got a week; I'll be praying with these.

These prayer will be in the text of the blog, not linked. If I link them, you might not click them. So, in the spirit of the Phonebook's real title, Pray, Pray, Pray!

Fringe Benefits of a Pilgrimage

Bear and I just returned from Rome a few days ago, where we hung out with Gashwin, Pietro, and Giuseppe . When Bear and I are overseas, we usually spend our downtime watching BBC News. Our room in the Hotel Columbus, however, had a limited number of channels. After a momentary lapse into catatonic schizophrenia when I realized that I couldn't get my favorite fix - I frickin' need 24/7 news, okay?! - Bear and I started to flip through the channels.

You can complain about American television. I certainly do. But realize that the depths of its awfulness are nothing compared to those plumbed in Italy. Italian gameshows operate on the approximate intellectual level of an American third graders (we could answers the questions, and we don't speak Italian). Italian soap operas put Days of Our Lives to shame. Italian reality TV ... well, Americans might watch shows about transvestites, but at least Discovery Health doesn't show them naked.

In this vast desert of suck, however, one oasis sustained us. In Italy, MTV shows videos. So every morning and every night, Bear and I watched European music videos. All of the them appropriated the standard tropes established in America - with no understanding of what those signifiers meant. Hilarity ensued. Especially with Italian gangster rap. . Check out the Euros - not dollars - showering down from on high. And watch for the nun and the priest. Every good gangster rap video involves clergy.

Gangster rap nonwithstanding, Bear and I did find some great videos. My new favorite artist is Mika, a Lebanese transplant to Britain of seriously dubious sexuality. Sort of a pop-y Franz Ferninand with a healthy dose of exuberant Freddy Mercury. Check out my favorite video of his, Big Girl (You are Beautiful), which he wrote for his mom (awww), after he saw the prejudice she encountered over her size.
"Diet coke and a pizza please/ Diet Coke and I'm on my knees"

For the divorce of signified from sign coupled with Surf Wax America, Baustelle's Charlie Fa Surf. We can only assume that this means "Charlie Surfs", but it's far more hilarious than that. Baustelle's got a great beach-rock, Weezer feel. Plus their lead singer looks as awesome as only an Italian emo boy can.
The lyrics, as best as Babel Fish can tell me, somehow involve ET.

There's some other great videos not posted to youtube, including one that involves artful somberos, a revolution, and the revolt from the modern world. Finding it is now my Holy Grail ...


Rant: We Don't Need Bells and Whistles

While looking for some material about the Holy Spirit, I found the LIFT Ministries site. LIFT Ministries, a Catholic group out of Boston, aims to appeal to the young through "modern elements such as professional lighting and sound, video screens displaying worship imagery and song lyrics, creative environments and the latest in contemporary praise and worship music performed by a live band to enhance the worship experience". In their defense, they don't seem to be doing this during Mass. However, they conclude their services with "a time of Eucharistic Adoration enhanced by more praise and worship music".

It's great to get more kids to church. It's great to make church cool again - declining numbers of young people are going to Mass. But should we take a cue from the Evangelicals to do it?

The postmodern world - and that of my generation in particular - is saturated with cell phones, big screens, iPods, and wailing guitar. We like the bells and whistles; we like shiny things, especially shiny things that beep. Do we really need more of the same on Sunday? Not to sound like a Luddite, but Jesus didn't have a Jumbotron during the Sermon on the Mount. The Transfiguration did not involve stage lighting. And doesn't God come as the "small, still voice" instead of the wind? We like spectacle. God calls to us in the silence. I wish we'd help lead people into a world with less distraction, instead of more.

And, c'mon now. Jesus is REALLY PRESENT in the Eucharist. So while he's there on the altar, should some long-haired dude be wailing away at a U2 cover? Stop swaying, put away your cigarette lighter and take out your rosary. If you don't like the rosary, say the Divine Mercy Chaplet (more on that later).
This is not to say that the Catholic Church has no use for a Jumbotron. We have two: to help people see the Pope, and to show the Latin words to the Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Protestants have to "enhance the worship experience" because their services have no center. Ours have the real Presence of Jesus. If we've got that, do we really need a drum kit?

Something Else for American Catholics to Ignore

Check out this story from Catholic World News, which promises us (drum roll, please) a new social justice encyclical on May 1. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone says it will talk about "international social problems, with special focus on developing nations." Hopefully we can expect it'll talk some about the growing water privatization problems, (which the pope has already mentioned), the abuse of third-world labor, the growing international sex-slave trade, and the moral responsibility for those who have much - that means you, America - to help those who have little.
Maybe it'll help American Catholics realize that social justice extends beyond abortion. We can always pray.

Mary or Master Shake?

For my first post, I should probably say something profound. But ...
Last night, totally sleep-deprived, Bear and I were navigating Malfunction Junction when we saw one of those cars. You know what I mean: low/no profile tires, neon underside, chromed-out spinners, rusted-out bumper, Mexican flag: Someone's souped up your mom's old eighties-era sedan. Standard, but with one variation: Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back window. Nothing huge or bizarre, just a small image of Our Lady.

I pointed it out to Bear. "We should get one of those for our car."
"One of what?" he asked. He thought I meant the neon.
"Our Lady of Guadalupe."
"Where we would put it?"
"Um, on the car."
"What, on the bumper? So our car could have a University of Richmond Spider, a Gamecock, a Phish sticker, Master Shake, and Our Lady? Come on. That implies a disturbing kind of equivalency."

I tried to explain to him that, in a bedroom, one's Phish poster would be a certain size, and the picture of one's mom would be far smaller. You wouldn't blow your mom up to poster size. He found this argument unconvincing.
"It's a bedroom. That's different. You can put up a Catholic Worker sticker if you want. But no Lady of Guadalupe on the Honda."

Bear had the car before he had me, so I dropped it. But I'm still not convinced.
Maybe I'll put some of those big Mexican candles in the kitchen. But then I'd have to go to Wal-Mart.