Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning With Thorns

Image and text credit: Crowning With Thorns, Sir Anthony Van Dyck
The contrast between the serenity of Christ and the villainy of his captors is vigorously conveyed in this early work by Van Dyck. The composition, as so often, is based on a prototype by Titian, of whom Van Dyck was a passionate admirer. But the influence of Rubens is also crucial, and the presentation is typically baroque: the viewer is forced into the role of a close but helpless witness of the violence enacted. The effect is reinforced by Van Dyck's textures - for instance the exposed and brilliant chest of Christ against the gleaming precision of the axe above or the fluid musculature of the tormentor beside it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning With Thorns

Image and text credit: Christ Wearing the Crown of Thorns, Supported by Angels, Carracci
Christ, shown at the centre of this work as a half-length figure supported by two angels, dominates the picture. His naked upper body leans forward and slightly to the left, a movement continued by his head, which bears the crown of thorns and is surrounded by a halo. The face of the Saviour, shown in profile, streams with blood and is partly cast in shadow by the heavy crown of thorns; the eyes and mouth are half-open. Christ wears a white cloth about his loins, and a red cloak slips from his shoulders. The angel to the left is clothed in a white cape held together by a brooch and supports Christ's bent right arm with his two hands, placed one on top of the other. To the right a second angel, mouth open, looks upwards in lamentation. The light, shining flesh tones of the Saviour are lent additional intensity by their contrast with the warm, yellowish-brown of the wall behind. To the right is a narrow stretch of countryside with a tree leaning to the right, in a compositional correspondence with Christ's twisted body.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning With Thorns

Image credit: Head of Christ Crowned With Thorns, Lucas Cranach the elder

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

From today's Mass petitions:

I thought of all my fellow Church Ladies during Mass this morning as we prayed the following:

For all devout women
that they may hear God's voice
and be instruments of His grace.

Amen and have a blessed day, Ladies!

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Image credit: Ecce Homo, Valdes Leal

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Quick Potato Leek Soup

3 T butter
4 leeks, finely chopped

8 cups stock
4 cups instant mashed potato flakes

salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley

Sautee leeks in butter in a stockpot until bright green. Transfer leeks to a bowl. Bring stock to boil; whisk in potato flakes. Heat through; season to taste.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Image and text credit: The Scourging of Christ, Luca Signorelli

Signed: "OPUS LUCE CORTONENSIS." With the Madonna and Child, which is also in the Brera, this painting made up the double-faced processional image of the church of S. Maria del Mercato at Fabriano.

This work reveals the broad influences on the young artist, who had closely studied the work of Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forli, Perugino and Francesco di Giorgio. The example of Pollaiolo can be seen in the creation of space by means of the harmonious placement of the figures in a circle around Christ. A classicizing atmosphere is created by the relief running across the foreground, which places the scene on a stage and separates it from the spectator. Other classicizing elements are the column bearing an idol, and the simulated bas-reliefs of the background wall, which recalls the scaena of an ancient Roman theater.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In today's mail ...

We received a letter today from Abbey, a lovely young lady in our parish who has discerned a vocation to religious life. The part I want to share with you is the accompanying letter from the Laboure Society whose mission is to foster "priestly and religious vocations through student loan resolution."

It is said that 1 out of every 2 Aspirants is prevented from entering formation because of student loans. Without assistance, these vocations of whole-hearted and free love and service are delayed for many years - even abandoned. Can our world afford to lose the goodness of these modern day saints?

The Laboure Society has assisted over 200 men and women into formation as a result of the generosity of God's Holy people: 45 to the priesthood, 141 as religious sisters and 23 as religious brothers. There are currently 60 qualified Aspirants in our portfolio and we need your help! [...]

Please join this important work through your prayers and financially.
If you're interested in learning more, go to their site (still under construction, but there is contact information) or watch the video interview with their founder below.

40 Meatless Meals: Bhaigan Bharta

Slow Cooker Bhaigan Bharta (Curried Eggplant)

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut in 1" cubes
1 t coriander
1 t cumin
2 cinnamon sticks

2-3 T vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped

1 T grated fresh ginger
1 t turmeric
1 T paprika
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup frozen peas
1 T mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Place first four ingredients in the bottom of slow cooker. Heat oil in frying pan, and sautee onions until tender. Fold in ginger, turmeric, paprika, and tomatoes; cook 5 minutes. Stir tomato mixture into eggplant, and cook on low, 6-8 hours. Stir in peas, and let cook until heated through. Whisk in mayo; gently fold in cilantro and serve with rice, couscous, or flatbread.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Image credit: The Scourging of Christ, Tiziano

Monday, March 21, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

Baking potatoes in a slow cooker has changed my life. The potatoes are much more flavorful than oven baked potatoes. I'm perpetually running short on foil, so I just throw the prepped potatoes in the pot. The extras can be used in other meals (might I suggest twice baked potatoes)?

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Image credit: The Scourging of Christ, Fernandez

Saturday, March 19, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: St Joseph's Day

Check out these great recipes for St Joseph's day, which are traditionally meatless.

Related posts
2010 St Joseph's Altar
2009 St Joseph's Altar

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image and text credit: The Agony in the Garden, Durer

Christ's struggle is already over. He seems to be staring at the cup. The disciples are far in the background. The Saviour kneels, untouched by the raging storm; only His hands, ready to receive the chalice, reveal emotion. Dürer is as inventive as ever. This drawing too gives the impression of a tough and impetuous pen drawing rather than an engraving and already takes advantage of the etching technique in order to blend the clair-obscur effects of the preceding phase with the expressive literalism and grand pathos of the Large Passion. The plate of this etching is preserved at the Staatsbibliothek in Bamberg.

Friday, March 18, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Squash Pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza (from Real Simple magazine)

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image and text credit: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Brandi

Today he is considered a minor painter, but in his time Brandi was regarded as a master, certainly on the level of such artists as Pier Francesco Mola, Giro Ferri, and Carlo Maratta. In 1650 he emerged as the direct heir of Giovanni Lanfranco, with whom he had studied. Brandi gained a reputation as an artist who was able to bring together the classicist style with baroque figurative inventions and above all the light of Caravaggio, something he was aware of through the paintings of Mattia Preti. In fact, Brandi's style is marked by the potent effect of colours amid shadows, colour that in some cases was all too strong.

The Christ in the Garden is characterized by an atmosphere of great intimacy. The pyramidal grouping of Christ comforted by two angels emerges as it were from a dense bank of clouds, which appear indeed to be invading the scene from the left. This type of dynamism coming out of the background is a typical baroque expression.

And for a today's bonus, the Web Gallery of Art suggests listening to this piece by Beethoven while contemplating this painting.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: St Patrick's Day Drunken Fisherman's Pie

St Patrick's Drunken Fisherman Pie
(adapted from Cooking with the Saints)

For every two servings
3/4 lb mixed seafood, boiled
1 cup cooked vegetables
1/2 cup finely sliced sauteed leeks
1 cup white sauce, made with white wine or ale in lieu of milk
1 large boiled potato, sliced finely
1/4 cup grated cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine seafood, vegetables, and leeks. Mix white sauce in thoroughly, and spread evenly in casserole dish. Cover with potato slices and bake for 30-45 minutes, until set. Top with grated cheese, if desired.

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image credit: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Giovanni di Paolo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Seafood Gratin

1/4 cup finely minced onions
4 T butter, divided

3 T flour

1 cup boiling milk
1/4 cup vermouth

1/4 t salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 t oregano
4-6 T cream

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned salmon, tuna, or clams
1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Grease an 8" shallow baking dish.

Cook onions in 3 T butter in a saucepan over low heat for five minutes until the onions are tender, but not browned. Stir in flour and cook for two minutes without browning.

Off heat, beat in the boiling milk, then wine, then seasonings. Now bring this sauce to boil over moderately high heat, stirring. Boil several minutes to evaporate alcohol and allow the sauce to thicken considerably. Then thin it to a medium consistency with cream. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Fold the seafood into the sauce, and check seasoning again. Spread mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle on cheese and remaining butter in pea sized dots. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until top is nicely browned.

Serve with a green vegetable and bread.

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image and text credit: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Wagner

This sculpture group was made in 1498 for the cemetery of the church of St Thomas in Strasbourg. It was transferred to the Cathedral in 1667.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Carrot Ginger Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 t dried thyme
5 cups vegetable broth (use more for an oval pot)
2 T honey
1/2 t grated nutmeg
1/2 t powdered ginger
salt and pepper

Heat oil in skillet. Sautee onion until tender. Add carrots; sautee 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Add potatoes, garlic, broth, and thyme. Cook on low 6 hours. Puree smooth. Stir in honey, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and pepper.

Serves 6-8.

Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image and Text Credit: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Veronese

The Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was originally in the Santa Maria Maggiore in Venice. In this painting Veronese repeats the scheme of composition inaugurated in the baptism for San Nicolò, once again placing the figures of Christ and the great winged angel supporting him, caught in an unexpected gleam of light, on the left, while the figures of the sleeping apostles, much smaller in size, are arranged in a deeply shadowed landscape on the right.

Monday, March 14, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Lentil Pate

2 cups brown lentils
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T olive oil
dried thyme, salt, and pepper (to taste)
French bread

Simmer lentils, carrots, and onion until well done, about 20-25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350, and grease terrine.

Drain lentils, reserving stock. Rinse lentils and vegetables, then blend with garlic, cream, olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with French bread and a green salad.

Serves 4 as a sandwich spread, 6 as an appetizer

Adapted from In Celebration of the Seasons

The first Sorrowful Mystery: the Agony in the Garden

Image Credit: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, Borgianni

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Celebrating Sunday: First Sunday of Lent

Proper Sunday lunch is everything contemporary cooking is not... But neither nostalgia for nursery foods nor an interest in ponderous culinary Victoriana is what Sunday lunch- Sunday dinner- is all about... solidity, family, the home. [Nigella Lawson, How to Eat]

Sweet and Sour Crockpot Pork

About Celebrating Sunday

Saturday, March 12, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Tuna Cakes

3 T unsalted butter
3 T all purpose flour
1 cup milk
3 3 ounce cans tuna, drained
1 shallot, minced
3 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
salt and pepper
cornmeal or breadcrumbs
olive oil for frying

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and let the mixture bubble for a minute. Off heat, slowly stir in the milk. Return the mixture to heat, and let it cook for a few minutes, stirring to deter lumps.

Transfer the white sauce to a bowl, and stir in the tuna, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill the mixture at least 2 hours or overnight.

Shape the mixture into litle 2-inch round cakes. Coat the cakes with cornmeal or breadcrumbs. Heat a very thin layer of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Fry the cakes until quite brown- about three minutes each side. Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 6

Adapted from Good Day for a Picnic

Friday, March 11, 2011

40 Meatless Meals: Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean burgers

(Cloche tip to Dovian)

Fridays in Lent

For today's prayer, the Church Ladies recommend these Stations of the Cross meditations from the diocese of Palm Beach. (Click through on the side bar.)

Image credit: Albrecht Altdorfer's Crucifixion found at the Web Gallery of Art

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Gammarelli Man

This article is tremendous in every way! You can now purchase your own socks in "cardinal red, bishop purple, or priest black" from Gammarelli, clothier to popes, bishops and priests for over 100 years. (Papal white is only offered on special request.J)

I suspect you know someone from their target audience:

Mes Chaussettes Rouges targets a particular kind of customer – what they call “The Gammarelli Man” – who, according to the website, is someone who possesses true virtue in all things and appreciates the little things in life.

Just make sure they don't clash with your tartan tie.

Lent for Children: A Thought a Day

Are you looking for a simple way to help your children grow in holiness this Lent? Take a peek at this Lenten devotional from 1951, scanned and reformatted for you to print today. These lovely meditations are the perfect length for children and are challenging enough that they won't feel patronized.
Today's, for example:
When the priest put ashes on your forehead yesterday, he reminded you (in Latin) that you are made of dust. But your body of dust is the less important part of the REAL YOU. As if this body were an old garment, you put it off for awhile and go alone to God. You will find God a loving Father if you loved Him and tried to please Him here; and some day you will put on again this same garment made gloriously new and beautiful.
Resolve today to show your love by spending a good Lent.

Say often through the day:
May I so live that I may be
Ready, dear Lord, when You call for me.
She also has Stations of the Cross cards here.
Thanks to Grace for the links.

UPDATE: The updated link with added artwork and quotes is here. Thanks for the correction Jennifer!

40 Meatless Meals: Mediterranean Rice Salad

Mediterranean Rice Salad

1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped spinach leaves (fresh ones)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

In medium sauce pan, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil, add 1/2 tsp salt and the rice. Turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with fork. (I throw mine in a rice cooker--just cook the rice all the way! :)

In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, pepper, pepper flakes and remaining tsp. of salt.

Add rice to dressing and toss to combine. Add spinach, toss and let sit until no longer steaming, about 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Serve at room temp or cold.
(from Sunset Magazine, Sept. 2006, shared by bethanyg)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Several years ago, when John Paul II issued Rosarium Virginis Mariae the big news, of course, was the Mysteries of Light. The part that really stuck with me though was the simple suggestion of using images to help maintain focus.

29. Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention. The words direct the imagination and the mind towards a particular episode or moment in the life of Christ. In the Church's traditional spirituality, the veneration of icons and the many devotions appealing to the senses, as well as the method of prayer proposed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, make use of visual and imaginative elements (the compositio loci), judged to be of great help in concentrating the mind on the particular mystery. This is a methodology, moreover, which corresponds to the inner logic of the Incarnation: in Jesus, God wanted to take on human features. It is through his bodily reality that we are led into contact with the mystery of his divinity.
"focus our attention"
"direct the imagination"
"concentrating the mind"

Those promises are all exactly what my over-committed, multi-tasking, easily-distracted self needs to help make my daily rosary more than empty words.

With that in mind, I invite you to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries with me this Lent, and each day (beginning with the first full week in Lent) I'll post a new image to help direct our collective imaginations.

The Sorrowful Mysteries
22. The Gospels give great prominence to the sorrowful mysteries of Christ. From the beginning Christian piety, especially during the Lenten devotion of the Way of the Cross, has focused on the individual moments of the Passion, realizing that here is found the culmination of the revelation of God's love and the source of our salvation. The Rosary selects certain moments from the Passion, inviting the faithful to contemplate them in their hearts and to relive them. The sequence of meditations begins with Gethsemane, where Christ experiences a moment of great anguish before the will of the Father, against which the weakness of the flesh would be tempted to rebel. There Jesus encounters all the temptations and confronts all the sins of humanity, in order to say to the Father: “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42 and parallels). This “Yes” of Christ reverses the “No” of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. And the cost of this faithfulness to the Father's will is made clear in the following mysteries; by his scourging, his crowning with thorns, his carrying the Cross and his death on the Cross, the Lord is cast into the most abject suffering: Ecce homo!

This abject suffering reveals not only the love of God but also the meaning of man himself.

Ecce homo: the meaning, origin and fulfilment of man is to be found in Christ, the God who humbles himself out of love “even unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the Cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God's love for man and to experience all its life-giving power.

Image credit: Madonna of the Rosary, Minardi

Redeemed by the mercy of God

In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes which are used in the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday. The use of ashes is a survival from an ancient rite according to which converted sinners submitted themselves to canonical penance. The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent. The faithful who come to receive ashes should be assisted in perceiving the implicit internal significance of this act, which disposes them towards conversion and renewed Easter commitment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing for Lent

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.).
The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. When considering stricter practices than the norm, it is prudent to discuss the matter with one's confessor or director. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.

Thanks to EWTN

Before the solemnity of the seasons begins...

... I'd like to direct you to an old favorite on Ash Wednesday by John Zmirak.*

Ash Wednesday: Catholic Mating Identification Day
This is one of the most solemn days on the liturgical calendar, marking Jesus's departure to pray and meditate - and endure diabolical temptation - in the desert, in preparation for the culmination of His earthly mission, entry into Jerusalem, and death on the cross. Our Lord spent forty days in the desert - a profoundly symbolic number in the scriptures, which also marked the number of days the skies poured rain during Noah's flood and the years the Israelites wandered in the desert after leaving Egypt, before they found the Promised Land. (Look at a biblical atlas some time to see how they must have wandered; it's not that far from Egypt to Israel. Those Jews were good and lost. They were probably using Mapquest, which has sent the authors two hours astray in the snow on to service roads of Newark Airport, simply to avoid a seventy-five-cent toll on the New Jersey Turnpike. But we digress.)
To mark the onset of penance, the Church distributes ashes to Catholics which are rubbed on the forehead with the timeless warning "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return." This ceremony is so vivid that it has the power to draw people to church who almost never otherwise attend. (So Catholics like free samples - what's wrong with that? See you on Palm Sunday!) Our favorite Ash Wednesday anecdote concerns an old parish of ours near Grand Central Terminal that had a fire, and hence an abundance of ashes, but no place to hand them out. So the priests put on their stoles and stood in the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal - as fearless as Hari Krishnas in an airport - and smudged the foreheads of anyone who stopped by. This sort of "drive-through" Ash Wednesday service proved much more popular than any actual liturgies that day, and was soon discontinued. But it shows the enduring power of this public sign of penance, which serves to mark one's intention to lead a truly penitent Lent.
It's also a handy way for single Catholics to spot each other and meet. For one day a year, that cute intern you've been eyeing in the elevator, the distinguished executive who doesn't have a wedding ring, the pink-faced Polish waitress or Irish construction worker, walks around all day with a sticker on his or her head that says "Marriage Material." We know that there isn't the same opprobrium attached to mixed marriages as there used to be; mixed couples no longer have to hold the wedding ceremony in the rectory. But there is still something powerfully appealing about finding someone who shares your deepest beliefs about the world, who speaks in the same vocabulary of faith - and feels guilty about all the same things. It clears away any number of potential areas of conflict, such as which religious services you're going to attend, and to which sort of miserable school you're going to send your kids.
So if you're a single Catholic, take full advantage of the solemn fast we like to call "Mating Identification Day" by making a point of meeting those unhitched papists you've been ogling all year. Here is a list of classic "Catholic pick-up lines" that have been circulating in church vestibules and email inboxes for years, which Catholic writer Patrick Madrid sorted out, edited, and (most importantly) copyrighted in his delightful magazine Envoy. Clearly, they're designbed for Catholics of a particular sort - the serious, self-described "orthodox" believers who have probably already slammed this book shut with a guilty smile.

10. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?
9. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we're having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?
8. Sorry, but I couldn't help but noticing how cute you look in that ankle-length, shapless, plaid jumper.
7. What's a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?
6. You don't like the Culture of Death either? Wow! We have so much in common!
5. Let's get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.
4. I bet I can guess your Confirmation name.
3. You've got stunning, scapular-brown eyes.
2. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?
1. Confess here often?

*From the highly recommended book "The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living" by John Zmirak and Denise Matychowiak. (I'd link to it's Amazon page, but buy it from your local Catholic bookstore instead, okay? They can probably use your support.)

Check here for a good review, and if you haven't already read it, consider doing so as a little light reading this Lent. It's funny and informative and I suspect you'll find you're a better Catholic when you're done with it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Little Rewards

You may be familiar with the history of pretzels as being invented centuries ago by an Italian monk who gave them to children as a reward for learning their prayers. Pretzels have long been associated with Lent because it's such a simple, yet substantial recipe that fulfills the Lenten requirements at the time for abstaining from animal products.

I recommend this soft pretzel recipe by Alton Brown. You might also want to watch him give a bit of pretzel history, related science involving yeast and Ph, and demonstrate a technique or two in these videos. (The actual pretzel recipe starts about 5 minutes into the first part.) It does include a little butter to make the bread softer and it's brushed with egg yolk to give it that great color (without using lye), so if you're avoiding all egg and dairy products this Lent, you'll want to make those adjustments.

Related articles here, here, and here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A little bit of POD in the mundane

My supermarket flier this week

Unplanned: A Brief Review

This past weekend I had the opportunity to read Unplanned, the recently released autobiography of Abby Johnson.

It is an incredible book and I encourage everyone to find a copy and read it!

For any of you who may be unfamiliar with her, Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director who left her job in 2009 after a dramatic realization (I hesitate to use the word conversion, though many have described it as such).

The clinic she ran just so happened to be the one in Bryan, Texas (near College Station/Texas A&M) - the home of the first 40 Days for Life.

The book is a very fast read. I devoured it in a few hours and my sister did as well. It is gripping, blunt, and speaks right to the heart.

Unplanned traces Abby's path from her college days as a very genuine psychology major who just wanted to help others, to Planned Parenthood volunteer, then staff member, then director and ultimately her escape.

Through the book we see into the heart, not only of Abby, but countless other women and men who fell for the same lies Abby was fed. We see a vivid picture of the pro-life movement and the myriad of tactics used by it - and what hurts and what works. Abby delves into the role of religion and churches in her journey.

Above all, Abby wonderfully shows her readers the complexity of the issues she faced, and asks us -regardless of where we stand - to look at them through the eyes of the other side. Below is her introductory note:

“My story is not a comfortable one to read. I think it’s only fair to warn you of that up front. Not comfortable, but honest and true. As you are about to discover, I’ve spent years on the front lines of the face-off between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. Which side? Both sides. You are about to enter my journey from naïve college girl to director of a Planned Parenthood clinic to advocate for families in crisis, including the unborn members of those families.

“I reveal my story not because I am proud of it. I am not. But my thinking and choices are not unlike those of so many people I have encountered. And until we each set aside our own preferences for how we wish others would think and behave, or how we assume others think and behave, we won’t be able to understand those with whom we differ in order to engage in real dialogue and discover truth.

“To this day I have friends on both sides of this polarizing debate. We all long for a story that shows ‘our’ side is right and good, and ‘their’ side is wrong and bad, don’t we? But I testify that there is good and right and wrong on both sides of the fence. And even more shocking – we have far more in common with the ‘other’ side than we might imagine.

“So what side of the fence are you on? In all likelihood, as you look through the fence, you see faulty thinking and harmful behavior on the other side. Here’s my question for you: are you ready to look through the fence and see goodness, compassion, generosity and self-sacrifice on the other side?

“Did you just feel yourself squirm? If so, welcome to my journey.”

Unplanned is published by Ignatius Press. Visit the book's website here and read the first chapter of the book.

This book is a valuable story for us all. Everyone, pro-life or pro-choice, must read this amazing book.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for March, 2011

General Intention: That the nations of Latin America may walk in fidelity to the Gospel and be bountiful in social justice and peace.

Missionary Intention: That the Holy Spirit may give light and strength to the Christian communities and the faithful who are persecuted or discriminated against because of the Gospel.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all our associates,
and in particular for the intentions
of the Holy Father for this month.