Real joy isn’t optimism or cheerfulness. Life circumstances can change too quickly for that to be sustainable. And realistically, life is going to be tough at times. Can we still find joy at those times? Yes! Joy doesn’t depend on outward circumstances or conditions because those don’t last. But joy does.
Of the many things I love about being Catholic, the season of Advent is definitely high on the list. Advent is the beginning of each new liturgical year. It’s a fresh start (we get TWO new years!), and a hopeful season in preparation for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.
There are so many ways to observe Advent, but much of what I see on the interwebs is how to observe it within the context of family life. As someone that doesn’t apply to right now, I thought it might be nice to share a bit of how I’ll be observing the season.
1. Decorating my apartment
It might be hard if you live with un-festive people, but fortunately that’s not the case for me. We already got a tree (still to be decorated) and set out our Advent wreath with a few other things and will be adding more soon. I think it’s fun to leave the mangers empty in nativity scenes and only add him on Christmas, but otherwise I say go all out. Chocolate calendars are not only for children.
2. Cutting back on social media
It’s a perennial problem for many people nowadays that we just need to put down our phones more. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, because I like to break self-imposed rules. But my mornings are awesome when I don’t get on anything before work, so that’s where I’m starting. I removed the Facebook app from my phone a while ago. We’ll see how this goes.
3. Making time for extra prayer
First, this includes saying the St. Andrew novena (starts today!). It goes from November 30 to Christmas Eve, and I highly recommend the beautiful prayer if you’ve never said it. My family said it around the lit Advent wreath every night growing up, so I’ll be making an effort to light the wreath more often with my housemates.
4. Making time for extra reflection and reading
This year I was overly ambitious and purchased In the Beginning as well as Rooted in Hope. I enjoyed Blessed is She’s last year – it was an excerpt from the Bible, a reflection, and journal space for each day. In the Beginning is the same format. I’m excited to do Rooted in Hope as well because it gives you space for lectio divina for each day’s Bible excerpt, which I think helps you dig even deeper into it and think about what you’re reading. I’m getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal to give more time to do this in the morning before leaving for work.
Ideally I would be going every month already, but never in my life have I gotten into that habit. Advent and Lent are always times I’ve gone, though, and I want to make this the beginning of a monthly habit.
6. Festive everything
Socks, pajamas, hand soap, FOOD, music (just bought this), earrings, you name it. Bring on the festivities. I am really not at all liturgically observant of the fact that much of the celebration is more appropriate in the 12 days of Christmas. I just can’t contain the cheer and yes, if you’re wondering, I am not yelling in my car at the stoplights. I am rocking out to festive music because Baby Jesus is worth celebrating. Here’s a pretty epic song to check out.
7. Christmas cards
Is it awkward for single young adults to send Christmas cards? If it is, I don’t care, because I’m doing it anyway (along with housemates). Snail mail is timeless and amazing and I love sending Christmas cheer. This year I designed the card by hand, digitized it, and had it printed, which is quite exciting.
Aaand I’m linking up with Kelly & fam for some Friday quick take fun. Head over there for more.
That’s it for now! How do you do Advent? Share below and let’s chat about all the ways we can celebrate the season. Jesus is coming!
My reading preferences have evolved over time, and I have to say that working in Acquisitions for a reputable publishing company has only raised the bar (significantly) for what I consider a good book. But it is just so delightful to have time right now to read more.
I read Catholic non-fiction, conversion stories, random cultural issues (especially abortion, womanhood, marriage, and other controversial things), memoirs, and am now diving into classic fiction. I skipped a lot of literature in high school and didn’t soak in what I actually did read, so it’s been interesting going back to some of those classic titles – anyone else wonder why some things qualify as must read classics? Yeah, me too. Anyway.
Without further ado, here are 7 titles I’m working on or have finished reading recently. I’m linking up with Kelly for some Friday quick takes!
1. The Power of Silence by Cardinal Robert Sarah
I may be a bit biased about this one, but it is truly a timeless book I think everyone should read. So many of us are missing real connecting-with-God kind of silence in our lives, aren’t we? This is interview style with numbered paragraphs that are mostly stand alone. And that’s a good thing, because some of them could leave you pondering for a week. I’m not done with this, but have enjoyed reading a paragraph or two before bed. Available here.
2. Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, edited by Leila Miller
This is my cultural read right now, and it is sobering to say the least. Leila asked the same questions of about 70 people who were children when their parents divorced, then made it into this book. The individuals are anonymous, and show the raw depth of their pain as children, which is completely ignored in the popular narrative of divorce being a positive step for happier parents. It makes me so, so, grateful to come from an intact family, as well as grandparents who have stayed married for going on 57 years. I picked this up because I wanted to understand the real life impact of divorce. Whether you find solidarity because of a similar experience, know people who are considering divorce (or have yourself), or just want to understand the impact, I highly recommend this. It is a necessary part of the conversation when we’re talking about the sanctity of marriage, and is incredibly compelling. Available here.
3. My Antonia by Willa Cather
I don’t know how much of a classic this is considered to be, but I enjoyed it. It’s one of those books that follows a character through a period of his/her life instead of being driven by plot – very similar in that way to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I also read recently. It wasn’t overly descriptive (good, because I would have put it down), but successfully paints a picture of the life of people who had immigrated to the prairies. I love learning about periods of history in this way, and found this to be an easy, enjoyable, read. Available here.
4. Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc
This seemed appropriate to read with the recent 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses. Honestly, the title sounds boring to me. But I was surprised by how easy to get through this is – it’s not overly historic or biographical feeling. After a good introduction to this time period, it profiles the key figures in the Protestant takeover of England, which I knew little about. You might know about Martin Luther, but did you know that without what happened in England, Protestantism probably wouldn’t exist as it does today? I’m not done yet, but highly recommend it as a good starting place to learn about the Reformation. Available here.
5. Unseen by Sara Haggerty
The tagline of this one was quite intriguing to me: “The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed”. What an interesting topic. But honestly, I’ve been underwhelmed by this one. I had seen it everywhere, and picked it up on recommendation. But it is quite repetitive and is lacking a depth I expected of a book on this topic. I mean, it’s not terrible, but I think the ideas could have been condensed down to maybe 20 pages. Other people might enjoy it more than me, though – I usually feel that non-Catholic Christian books lack a depth I want in something about God. Available here.
6. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This first part of her autobiography follows Maya’s life up through her late teenage years. I really didn’t know much about her life, and wow did she experience a lot. It was interesting, and sad at parts, reading the story of a black woman who grew up when Maya did. It’s one of those books where the subject is very different from me, and I read to understand them better. I would not hand this to young kids without discussing it, because of some mature content (some a bit graphic). Available here.
7. Surprised by Life, edited by Patrick Madrid
Conversion stories are some of my favorites to read. I just love to see how God is always after us, and the door is always open for us to find our way home. I’ve read Patrick Madrid’s other similar titles Surprised by Truth, which are collections of people’s conversion to Catholicism. This book, though, is about conversions specifically related to the Catholic Church’s moral position on life issues. Those are some of the toughest issues for many Catholics to accept. But they are also what draws some Catholics in. I highly recommend this and the Surprised by Truth books. All them are available here.
If you want to stay up to date on what I’m reading, head over to Goodreads, which I keep mostly current. What’s on your bookshelf? I’m always open to suggestions!
For me, gratitude is much more than going around the table at Thanksgiving to list a couple things (though that’s neat!). It is the choice to say that even if I’m in a hard place, God is good. He does not abandon us. It’s saying “thank you God for all I have” instead of “God, why don’t I have everything I want?”.
Want to know a little way I’ve grown in gratitude? Head over to Everyday Ediths to learn about the little way I forced myself to be more thankful.
I think during this time in history with so many recent disasters and tragedies, many people are in need of comfort. Not the takeout and Netflix type of band aid that covers up what’s going on. We need deep soul-level human togetherness and the comfort that only comes from God.
We have a pope some people love for his focus on mercy and others hate due to his seemingly purposeful ambiguity on difficult issues. I put myself between those extremes. I don’t want to form beliefs about people until I have the whole story. But when a filial correction is sent after many attempts at clarification, and you find out about something like this where the intention is so unclear, it might be time to start thinking and talking about this more.
We already know about the ambiguity in Amoris Laeticia which is being interpreted in wildly different ways by different bishops (if you want more details, we can chat!). For any moderately aware Catholic, this can be unsettling and frustrating, which is why we need to talk about it. Ignoring it doesn’t help. These are stormy waters, and the world isn’t exactly for us, so we’ve got to work together to navigate these times.
When you’re a child, at least in my experience, you take many things for granted. Often the faith you do or do not grow up with is a default until one takes ownership over it and transitions into a more adult practice.
I have purposefully chosen and embraced my faith over the past several years by learning more about it and putting it into practice. But as I grow more deeply into the truth of Catholicism, I’ve only grown more aware of the challenges Catholicism has faced throughout history and is currently enduring too. It is deeply unsettling to come to the realization that your church is made of fallen people who are capable of making bad, sometimes evil, decisions. And I will never, ever, defend gravely wrong (or just dumb) decisions made by people just because they may claim the same faith as me.
If you’re aware of any pope, bishop, priest, religious sister, or any other person who represents the Catholic Church who has done confusing or frustrating things, you might be disturbed. You might decide religion isn’t for you. But when things like this happen, I think we need to dig deeper, together, as believers weathering stormy waters. We’re members of a church filled with imperfect people. So what is one to do with this realization?
Educate yourself. I think this is the most empowering action we can take, because regardless of what any mistaken individual might think or confusing thing people might say or do, we will actually know what the truth the Church teaches. There are clear and rich explanations for the tough positions we’re called to take, even if a leader doesn’t recognize that publicly. Looking for resources? Comment or email me and we can talk about where to find info on specific topics.
Don’t assume headlines are true. I want to assume the best of people until or unless they’re proven guilty, but that’s hard when headlines give an unproven verdict. So when people start saying crazy things about Catholicism or any figure within the Church, the facts are what gives the clearest picture – not headlines. Look at what the person actually said or did, not just what people want you to believe. Don’t make assumptions or rely on biased reporting (CNN, MSNBC, and LifeNews being respective extremes). It’s easy to get caught up in rabbit holes of despair and worst case scenarios when we don’t have all the facts. But when we have the facts of the case, it’s easier to see what’s actually happening.
Discuss the issues openly. One of the worst things people who are Catholic can do right now is to ignore this, not learn about it, and refuse to talk about it. We are not perfect and nor are our leaders. Being honest about that and not being afraid to talk about it publicly demonstrates our humanity, which I think is important when people have so many misconceptions about what we believe. We should be talking about the good books and articles we’re reading, the podcasts, songs, and projects that enrich our faith – most importantly, engaging in discussions on these tough topics, and arming ourselves with what we know our faith holds.
I can’t make Pope Francis clarify these issues. Nor do I know how to change the minds of misguided bishops, priests, religious sisters, and other leaders within the Catholic Church. There is only so much I can do about other people. And knowing motives behind confusing actions (or lack thereof) is not one of my super powers.
What I can do is educate myself and grow my faith deeper, because my faith ultimately can’t depend on other flawed people. My faith depends on Jesus Christ, who came and died for each of us personally. He is the rock my church is directly built on. He left a perfect church made of imperfect people.
So do Catholic leaders do confusing things? Things that are hard to imagine in a charitable light? Yes and yes.
Should that push us away from the truth? No.
Seeing other people’s flaws should not drive us away. It should drive us ever deeper into the faith we know holds the treasure not everyone sees. Have you found this pearl of great price? Do you know God loves you, even when people do confusing things? He is the glue that holds our universal Church together. He is the foundation of our belief, especially so when people on the same journey as us fall short. And when they do (because we all will fall short at times), we can’t let that rob us of the peace and steadfastness in our faith God calls us to exercise.
Let’s build our understanding of this foundation we’ve been entrusted with. Because if you grew up with some of the same hymns I did, you know that no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.
Did you know it’s possible to reverse a medical abortion? I’ve over at Live Action News today talking about some of the 300 moms who have saved their babies through a pioneered abortion pill reversal protocol.
One of them, Emily, said:
“I am forever changed into a new person because of my son and what I went through to bring him into this world. He is the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me . . . I hope everyone when faced with this choice chooses life, but thankfully, if they make a mistake like mine, there’s a second chance, which is the reversal process.”
Friendship can be hard with our different habits, distance, and how busy we all get. But if I’ve learned anything through trial and error, it’s that friendship is worth it. We need it. We were not created to be alone or isolated. We are made in the image of God, a communion of persons, to do life with other people. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something we know we need.
It’s been a quiet year since graduating college. And if you told me in the months leading up to graduation what life would look like now, I don’t know that I would have believed you. It’s not because life is crazy, but because honestly, life has been status quo and at times mundane.
In college, my schedule was packed most of the time: classes, weekly meetings of different sorts, babysitting, event planning, group leading, spontaneous adventures and everyday living with people, etc. The funny thing is: none of that comes with you after graduation. I knew that. But now I’ve lived it too.
I started a new job, moved, and found a parish. But I’m not super busy anymore.
As someone who was so used to being busy, it was and still is strange to come home from work and have nothing that absolutely must be done. It’s freeing in a way: I’ve read so much, explored creative things, gotten a bike, taken group exercise classes, killed some plants and kept others alive. But it’s also terrible. I feel a responsibility to spend my time well and give back to the world, which is easier said than done – because hello, where do you start?
When you graduate and are starting life all over again, having a world of possibilities is empowering but also frustrating. Yes, the sky’s the limit. But where do you start? I’ve tried out lots of things and have met great people since graduating. But it’s just different. And I haven’t found exactly the things to commit to yet.
I’m learning to be okay with that.
This is a time not everyone gets in their life, and really I am grateful to breath in the stillness of hikes and read and cook and work on myself. I count it as an accomplishment that I’ve grown comfortable being by myself (in a healthy way) and finding new things to try out. People say kids need to be bored to spark their creativity and imagination – is it true for adults too? Seems like it. I’ve been thinking and writing so many posts in my head to share. Maybe one day I’ll remember to!
My faith is so important to me, and the gospel from last Sunday had me thinking: it was the story of the seeds sown in different areas and how you need fertile ground for seeds to grow and thrive. Do I hear and understand God’s word and take action because of it? Do I nurture and prioritize the most important things in life? Yes, I know the power of God’s love at the capacity I can understand it right now. Have I let that soak into every part of me and radically change the way I live?
. . . a challenging question for us all to ask.
I have no idea what life will bring, but I do know the future is in the hands of a God who’s got my back.
There’s so much I could write and rage about, but really – what else matters? I mean, there’s a lot that matters and we can’t be apathetic. But this time is giving me space to read and learn and grow and seek and find what’s really most important in life. It’s been the perfect time to read Cardinal Sarah’s book The Power of Silence. He Says:
“Without noise, man is feverish, lost. Noise gives him security, like a drug on which he has become dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids facing itself. Agitation becomes a tranquilizer, a sedative, a morphine pump . . .this noise is a dangerous, deceptive, medicine, a diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself”
Did you need a truth bomb? Because Cardinal Sarah has you covered. I want to come back to that thought and really challenge myself to use this time well: confronting what needs to be, giving how I can, working hard, and finding God in the stillness that can be so annoying.
Have you experienced a season of life like this? I’d love to hear about it!
If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve probably seen someone post about Charlie Gard, the 10 month old London resident who will most likely die soon due to infantile onset encephalomyopathy mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS). For us non-medical professionals, it’s a genetic disease where muscles and the brain progressively deteriorate and lose function, leading to death.
There’s only so much you can do in a situation like this. So Charlie’s parent’s wanted to bring him to the US to undergo an experimental treatment. They made a treatment plan with a leading expert and raised over a million pounds to cover expenses. Under their socialized medicine, though, Charlie’s specialists decided it would be in Charlie’s best interest to not pursue the experimental treatment and remove life support.
Charlie’s parents appealed, but lost their legal battle. They cannot take Charlie to the US or home to die naturally. The State has the final say.
Understandably so, many people are enraged at the State’s usurping of parental rights. I am too. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to receive such a diagnosis for your child, and then to be prevented from pursuing your last hope of treatment. So what’s the point in writing about this?
The Pontifical Academy for Life recently released a statement on this, and some people are losing their minds over it. So let’s clear a few things up:
The issue here is not the removal of life support – in this case, a ventilator. The issue is the State (using that term generally to refer to various local and national legal entities) usurping the parental right to pursue a treatment plan and decide, in consultation with specialists, if and when life support becomes burdensome and should be removed.
Removing life support is not always (though can be) equal to murder. Some of the headlines are absolutely ridiculous on this. Catholic bioethical standards are clear on ordinary versus extraordinary means of keeping individuals alive. We must take advantage of ordinary means of maintaining life. But we are not obligated to pursue extraordinary means of prolonging life when they “do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit, do entail an excessive burden, or do impose excessive expense on the family or the community”.
This is not something we as the public can decide for Charlie, as it’s a delicate line the medical professionals involved need to determine with the parents.
So when The Academy says: “we do . . . have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs” – they’re absolutely right. Charlie’s doctors and parents seem to disagree about those limitations, unfortunately, which is where the problem exists.
It’s true that parents “must be helped to understand the unique difficulty of their situation”, as The Academy says. That doesn’t mean in this particular case the specialists or State were correct. It doesn’t mean the Vatican “sided with the State” as irresponsible journalists are titling their pieces. But I think we can all recognize that parents naturally would fight for their children. In some cases, they may fight beyond the time when a reasonable chance of recovery exists, which I think the Academy is making a point to recognize as a possibility in cases like this.
What can we gather from this?
Bioethics are extremely complicated. We know that any “act or omission that of itself or by intention causes death to alleviate suffering” is always morally wrong. So no, we shouldn’t advocate for “pulling the plug” to get it over with already. Life support should not be removed to hasten death.
From what I’ve read, that seems to be the problem here. The State seems to be hastening death when Charlie’s parents were prepared to pursue one last treatment that might have been able to reasonably help and improve Charlie’s life. The State is dead wrong to usurp parental rights, that’s for sure. But that’s the problem, not the removal of life support – which is a difficult decision we’re not qualified to make.
We need to be clear in our language, and try to understand this as best we can if we’re going to talk about it.
To learn more about issues like this, The National Catholic Bioethics Center is the best resource I know of to explore these kinds of bioethical issues. You can even email or call one of their ethicists for a consultation if you are facing an ethical dilemma or difficult medical decision.
If you’re left with questions still, let’s talk. And during this extremely difficult and tragic time, let’s pray for Charlie’s family and medical professionals.