Monday, July 29, 2013

7/7, Day 7.5: Belay that

So I had started a post for this final day of the 7 posts, 7days blogging challenge, but was pulled away mid-writing by family (I've been at my parent's this weekend), and when I came back to it, well, the seventh day had turned into a pumpkin.

I know the whole point of the exercise was to post even when things aren't perfect, or even necessarily ready, and to write write, write every day, but the post I had planned needs more from me...and sometimes that takes time. Plus, I have written every day, only today I just didn't meet the deadline. And while I can't promise I will post something every day from now on, it will be more frequent, and more than just once per week.

Anyway, I have loved taking part in this, and the writing every day -- for me, not for work -- is so good. It seems bizarre even to me to think this, but I'd actually forgotten how much I needed the outlet, regardless of whether anyone reads this blog or not. It's good for the soul. Or at least my soul.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

7/7, Day 6: Revisiting "Brideshead"

Earlier this week, I started rereading "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh. The last time I read it, I was in high school, and it's always fun rereading books after a long gap, because you get different things out of them as an adult.

Sebastian with Aloysius, Lady Julia and Charles
from the 1981 miniseries
 Back then, I read it the first time (for fun, mind, not for school) in large part because I'd discovered the miniseries with Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Rigg and Sir Laurence Olivier through reruns on Bravo, and would come home and watch episodes of it after school (often in the same afternoon as more atypical early 90s teen fare like "Saved by the Bell." How's that for opposite ends of the spectrum?). After I bought the book (which actually has a tie-in cover to the mini-series, even though it was produced in the early 1980s), I was somewhat amazed to discover that Evelyn was in fact a man (baby!), but I do remember enjoying it, more so for its plot of how the upper crust lived in pre-WWII England than anything else.

"Brideshead" is a very Catholic book, dealing as it does with the wealthy and aristocratic Flyte family, who are Catholic, seen through the eyes of the agnostic Charles Ryder (Irons), who is befriended by the younger son, Sebastian Flyte, Lord Marchmain (Andrews), while the two are students at Oxford. When I read it in high school, while I went to church and was involved in youth group activities, I wasn't as passionate about my faith as I am now, and, while I knew and recognized the blatant Catholicism of it, much of the book's depth was lost on me at the time.

Now, even only 100 pages in, I'm just floored by a)Waugh's amazing skill with language -- the lengthy paragraph where, in the preface, he describes the older Charles' disillusion with his Army career just took my breath away, the bitingly dry and sometimes not-so-subtle comedy, the vocabulary (although Waugh allegedly poo-pooed the book after re-reading it several years following its publication) and, b) the simple yet powerful truths he conveys as Charles -- who is quite puzzled by this new world he's entered -- learns about the (sometimes ill-practiced) faith of his new friend and his family.

"Often, almost daily, since I had known Sebastian, some chance word in his conversation had reminded me that he was a Catholic," Charles says on page 86, and again, on 89, the following exchange takes place between Sebastian and himself:

C: "They (Catholics) seem just like other people."
S: "My dear Charles, that's exactly what they're not ... they've got an entirely different outlook on life; everything they think important is different from other people. They try and hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time. It's quite natural, really, that they should."

A few pages later, Charles, in talking with Sebastian's younger sister, Cordelia, he asks her if her family talks about their religion all the time. "Not all the time," she replies. "It's a subject that just comes up naturally, doesn't it?" To which Charles responds, "Does it? It never has with me before."

It all reminded me a bit of this quote I read on someone else's blog (forgive me for not noting who's blog that was) last week:

"Writing is a vocation and, as in any other calling, a writer should develop his talents for the greater glory of God. Novels should be neither homilies nor apologetics: the author's faith, and the grace he has received, will become apparent in his work even if it does not have Catholic characters or a Catholic theme." —Piers Paul Read, "The Death of a Pope"

That said, I'm now catch passing Catholic references I never would have recognized in the book when I was 15. The first page of chapter one, for instance, describes Oxford's "spacious and quiet streets" where "men walked and spoke as they had in Newman's Day..." Newman, of course, is Blessed John Henry Newman, who was a teacher and Anglican pastor at Oxford but then later in life converted (Waugh, too, was a convert) to Catholicism. Filled with nerdy glee, I made a margin note about it.

As an aside, does anyone else make copious margin notes in some books? I remember having a discussion with a guy I sort-of dated years ago (sort of because we talked around it for ages and he only finally asked me out to dinner the night before he moved across the country, but that's a story for another day) about taking notes in a book. I am (quite obviously) in favor, and will happily mark up, jot notes, underline and draw arrows to points/words/passages I find interesting or compelling (does it bother anyone else to switch ink colors while taking notes in a book? I'm not Type A about many things, but that's one of them) because it gives immediate access to said notes when and if they're needed again, as well as serves as a quasi-journalish, time capsule of sorts, documenting thoughts had at the time.

He was in the opposite camp, preferred his books pristine, and instead chose to create a file on his computer for whatever book he was reading, then take type in his notes or observations there, rather than in the book's margins. It almost goes without saying that he was an (albeit very well read) engineer.

But I've digressed...

Anyway, what struck me about the above passage from "Brideshead" is that it's true. When your faith is part of your life, it becomes obvious, even if you're not proclaiming it from the housetops. It simply (profoundly, deeply) colors your life and, as Cordelia Flyte said, "comes up naturally."

Friday, July 26, 2013

7/7: Day 5, or What's in a name?

Today is the feast day of St. Anne, (and also that of St. Joachim who also is celebrated today), mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grandmother to Jesus. Perhaps because I was given her name, I've always had a devotion to St. Anne, and ask for her intercession often, I had several friends wish me a happy feast day on Facebook today, which was awesome.

According to Wikipedia (which is, of course, never wrong, lol), “Anne, alternatively spelled Ane or Ann, is a form of the Latin female given name Anna. This in turn is a representation of the Hebrew Hannah or Hanani, meaning 'He (God) has favored me', the name of the mother of the prophet Samuel.” It also means graceful, I've been told.

When I think of grace, my mind automatically begins, “Hail, May, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.” St. Anne was the mother of Mary, and therefore was, when pregnant with the Blessed Virgin, literally full of grace herself.

I think, too, especially when considering the Old Testament story of Hannah, that (in one of those Old Testament/New Testament correlations) both she and St. Anne were older, essentially beyond childbearing years, when they bore their children, gifts from God. I, who am as yet unmarried, wonder if I, too, will be “old” when I have my children (I certainly would have been considered such in Biblical times, or even in the 1940s, a woman doomed to spinsterhood), should I be so blessed as to marry as I feel God is calling me. But I suppose their fate also should give me hope, in the sense that I too may one day be blessed as they were, that my prayers will also be answered, my patience rewarded. A friend told me once on a retreat that God never withholds His blessings. :)

There is a strength in waiting, a grace and favor to accepting where God has me. A hopefulness in trusting in His plan, His timing, which are so much more knowledgeable than my own human plans.

Anne is actually (full disclosure time), my middle name, although I have never been called by my first name except by teachers who didn't know better. My first name is Laurel, a name which is derived from the laurel tree. In a way, and I've never thought about it before, my two names go well together (not just in flow), but in that trees, and the wood of the laurel tree especially, is strong, a hard wood that is not easily chopped down. Trees also bend with the wind (provided the wind isn't of hurricane strength), with change. In ancient Greece and Rome, victors were crowned with wreaths of laurel leaves. 

People have often thought I don't like my first name, but that isn't true. It's a beautiful name, but my parents simply have never called me Laurel a day in my life. Anne was a long-standing choice, but with an Anne Marie already in the family, and my parents unwilling to duplicate, Laurel was the last-minute addition. For what it's worth, no one thinks I “look like” a Laurel, but everyone thinks I do “look like” an Anne.

I was named for my great-aunt Anna Kroner, my great-great aunt actually, my great-grandmother's sister. I remember meeting her as a child, once sitting by her feet on a front porch in Illinois during a summer visit. She was rather curmudgeonly, although she and my dad were always close. She was a nurse in the 20s and 30s, and, depending on which family story to believe, she either A) could never find a man who was good enough to meet her highly exacting standards, or B) the man she loved broke her heart and she never got over it.

It must run in the family, those  incredibly high standards. I have them, too, I have been incredibly fortunate, however, in that my heart has never truly been broken. Which is a grace unto it self and a way I have been favored indeed.

Graceful. Grace-filled. Moving with elegance and refinement and rhythm, like a waltz. I love to waltz. There is joy in the three-beat cadence, the gentle quarter-step swings to the beat, but I haven't waltzed in years, other than the occasional, solitary turn around my living room. There is a longing to be dancing in a sumptuous dress – I have dreamt of it – like classic Hollywood actresses, women who seemed the epitome of class, there on the black-and-white-screen. I am a romantic, and hope for that, too. 

Anne Elliot, the heroine in Jane Austen's final novel, "Persuasion," was also older, but capable, sensible and a romantic as well. A literary creation who loves her family despite their foibles, and another Anne who patiently waited, trusting and receiving her heart's desire in the end.    

The literary Anne Shirley, of L.M. Montgomery's “Anne of Green Gables,” thought her name to be very unromantic. I am not of that mind, but we are in agreement about one thing:

“...if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.’
What difference does it make how it’s spelled?’ asked
Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.
Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much
nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always
see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and
A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.
If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

7 Days, 7 Posts, Day 4: Old song/time machine

Working on my back-to-school tab today (and yes I wrote the column, although I'm not completely satisfied with it. And no, I didn't fiction it up, either), I set my Ipod to shuffle to give me some music to work by. 

After about half an hour, a song popped on that that I'd forgotten I'd downloaded, out of nostalgia, at some point, "Adonis Blue" by an English/American group called Voice of the Beehive. My dad has a thing for buying random albums to see if they're any good, and this was one he found (on cassette) back in the early 90s that I, um, appropriated at one point and listened to over and over. I think it's still somewhere in a box with other cassette tapes I haven't touched in ages.

Anyway, this song popped on and suddenly it was 1991 again and I was maybe 13. It's summer break, and, shade-cooled, I'm straddling a large branch 15 feet off the ground and half-way up the cherry laurel tree that used to stand in the center of my parent's back yard. With my back against the tree trunk and my feet balanced on slightly lower branches, my Sony Walkman clipped to my jean shorts and headphones on, I listened and re-wound and listened again, at the same time alternately reading a battered paperback copy of "Romeo & Juliet" and daydreaming about this guy named Craig, my crush of the moment.

All this from an early 90s pop song. Yes, I climbed a tree to read Shakespeare, although I don't remember why. And yes, I remembered all the words to the song. You listen to something often enough and it sticks with you. Clearly. :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

7 Posts, 7 Days, Day 3: Making the same-old interesting

So part of the challenge of this challenge (and at somepoint I will stop referring to it and just write about something, I swear) is finding things to write about. It's a conundrum I often face at work, too, only in a slightly different fashion.

I've been at my job for almost eight years now, and for the last five or so, I've been covering the same beat for the paper. That means I'm in charge of the annual graduation and back-to-school special sections.i do love the responsibility of it, despite the fact that they can stress me out (the grad tab -- so called because it's tab-sized. Sorry, journalism lingo -- in particular).

The challenge comes in with having to write columns every year that are somehow new and interesting. With the graduation section, it seems a little easier. But for back-to-school, there are only so many times/ways you can write about coming across an aisle of school supplies in a store weeks before you expect them to be there (which I think I've done at least twice) and have it be interesting. So that's kind of the hurdle I have to leap over tomorrow: come up with something about back-to-school that's compelling. Because the reader (or at least this reader) can tell when a writer doesn't really enjoy their topic. There's no spark. 

If I could fiction it up a bit that might be fun, since so many stories in novels and movies are like that, similar plot lines repeated over again only in slightly  different ways: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, for example.

Hmm...fiction. It is a column, so I can do essentially whatever I want, within reason. Or perhaps I could come up with something in iambic pentameter? Or would that be too much? Yeah, maybe. I'll need to give this idea some thought. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

7 Posts, 7 Days: Day Two, or Daydream Believer

I think if people knew how many imaginary conversations I have with people -- family, friends, co-workers, crushes (sometimes out loud, although that's only when I'm by myself) -- they would probably think I'm certifiable. Seriously.  I invent situations in my head, and sometimes they play out verbally. In my house. While I'm alone.

No, that doesn't make me sound bizarre, at all does it? 

Maybe I should be writing them down instead. But I digress...

I put part of it down to being a daydreamer with an overactive imagination. I've always been one, a daydreamer, I mean. I know "always" is a pretty definitive word, but I actually have proof.

Really, I do. Although here "always" should read "since I was 7."

Exhibit A is an exchange of notes between my mom and my second-grade teacher Mrs. Carillo (who's first name I have never known, but then who does know the first names of teachers at that age?).

My mother notes in her missive that I have been bringing home incomplete work, and she wonders if I have had sufficient class time to complete the assignments. I apparently told her a girl sitting near me distracted me with her chatting ways.

Mrs. Carillo quickly disabuses her of that notion, informing my mom that really, I ( and not this girl, Christina, mentioned in the note) tended to be the chatterbox, and the only solution -- which she didn't want to stoop to -- was isolation. My teacher said I needed to work on self-discipline and time management in order to complete my work. She also added, almost as an afterthought, that "Many times daydreaming is the problem, not always talking."

Looking at that note now, I find it funny/ironic that some of my personality characteristics were firmly in place by age 7: a daydreaming procrastinator who enjoys talking to people. I now have a deadline-oriented job that basically allows me to be nosy for a living while keep the procrastination in line (work wise, at least). But it should come as no surprise that I'm an INFP, a personality type often referred to as "The Dreamer."

I wrote most of this this morning before work and then rushed off when I realized I was running late. I'm not satisfied with it, but that's the whole point of the 7 posts/7days. Just the writing. Will try to write something better tomorrow.

Monday, July 22, 2013

7 Posts, 7 Days: Day 1

So the last few days I've been bemoaning the fact that I don't write any more.

Now, when I say that I "don't write anymore," that's not completely accurate, since I'm a newspaper reporter for a local paper ( I don't cover national or international news) and I write every day. I also, on a volunteer basis, do a weekly posting (which I almost always post here) for a non-profit group a friend of mine is working on up in D.C. for young, Catholic women, which is also something.

But I don't WRITE any more. I don't journal the way I used to (in fact, I can't remember the last time I did, officially, aside from the occasional rambling on a nearby scrap of paper, that I'll probably find three years from now wadded in the corner of a purse I'm cleaning out, along with a half-used tube of lip gloss, old receipts and a flattened granola bar I meant to eat somewhere along the way...). And I don't write poetry. I used to write poems all the time, about serious topics, or silly things like laundry. I had, and still have, all these ideas in my head (fictional, non, etc...), and I do nothing with them. Sometimes I feel my creativity has been lost, or at least sapped, by the regimented newspaper writing I do every day. What happened to the girl who was going to write books and books? I'm not married, and I don't have kids, so that's not an excuse for time not spent writing.

So when I came across Jennifer Fulwiler's 7-Day blogging challenge over at Conversion Diary, part of me was downright giddy (talk about someone who does write: with six kids and a book just sent into her publishers, I feel slightly less than inadequate, in comparison. What DO I do with my time?!). I do enjoy a challenge, and here was an invitation to link up, to add my URL followed by all of three people to a list of more than 100 who may potentially start to read my blog as a result (actual readers?! What a terrifyingly yet tremendous idea!), to make a commitment to write fearlessly and put it out there, even if what I write is absolute rubbish.

But I paused. This would actually make me write. I couldn't sign up and add my link and then not do it. What if people read my thoughts and think I'm ridiculous, or backward, or just stupid? I read a number of blogs and think, "wow, they're such a good writer. I'd never be able to do with words what s/he's just done."  But Jen spoke to all those fears, and then some. Plus, you know what they say: you should do the things that scare you (within reason, natch. Jumping off literal cliffs is just dumb), because they might lead you to something amazing.

It also seemed timely, considering a quote I came across just yesterday from Blessed (soon to be Saint!) John XXIII: "Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."

Right. So I signed up and threw my URL up on Jen's site. I make no promises of quality, but I'll do my best. I'm going to write. My heart is pounding out of a bit of nervousness, but there's also the part of me that is just... joyful. Like I'm going to take a little bit of my (clearly overly dramatic) self back. So here goes.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Yard work

This morning, I spent about two and a half hours outside working in my yard, mowing the lawn (mostly grass in the front, mostly weeds in the back) and trimming trees and bushes. Between recent trips and the almost ever-present rain here in Florida, it had been a while since I'd done much, and that was pretty obvious.
The grass was higher so I had to mow some areas twice, and a bougainvillea -- beautiful when in flower but, oh, look out for those thorns! -- was running amok over and around my A/C unit.

And as I was mowing my lawn, I got to thinking (and this is a sample of how my crazy mind works, by the way) that it's a bit like going to confession, yard work. The longer you leave it, the more daunting it seems to be to make yourself get up and take action because it just gets harder. It's easy to persuade yourself that you're fine, it can wait another week. Or, "let me just enjoy this morning off, I'll get to it this afternoon." With the yard work, it's kind of just there, reminding you every time you leave or come home that, hey, this needs doing. With confession, though, if I don't go often, a part of me just feels slightly off.

But once you've done it, there's almost nothing more satisfying, although cleansing your soul is far more important than trimming the verge. :)

Today is also the feast day of St. Bonaventure, who is a doctor of the Church, and I wanted to share this quote of his:

"Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the “throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant,” and 'the mystery hidden from the ages.' A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope, and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a 'pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: 'Today you will be with me in paradise.'"  from Journey of the Mind to God by Saint Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, pray for us! 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The ties that bind

Over the July 4th long weekend, I flew up to southern Illinois for a family reunion for my dad's side, which started on Thursday with a picnic followed by fireworks. There are lots of us Klockenkempers: my great-grandmother had nine children, seven (all boys) who survived to adulthood and married and had children of their own (my great-uncle John and his wife have 10). Those children had children. There are even a few great-great-grandchildren now.

While my great-grandmother was alive, we used to have the reunions every two years over Thanksgiving, which was near her birthday, but since she passed away in 2004 (she was 109!), we moved them to summer and now only hold them every three years.

We started having them regularly when I was in high school, and I've never missed one. But others have. And this weekend, I was able to meet one of my dad's cousins, and her husband and three children, whom I had never met before. The funny thing was, she knew me, because she'd found me online several years ago and has been reading stories I wrote for the paper. We chatted away like we'd known each other forever.
With other cousins, aunts and uncles, I exchanged stories about past visits (some decades ago) and updated each other other family who weren't able to attend. Although some of us are veritable strangers, there was this common bond, this connection and fascination with our shared history, that is such a blessing. There was lots of laughter.

Family can also be a challenge. With the togetherness, there is the danger of almost inevitable gossip, the expected-but-well-meant "When are you going to get married so we can have another family wedding?" questions, clashing personalities and political ideologies and the "don't tell so-and-so I said this, but..." conversations. There was the constant go-go-go of having to meet up for meals and events that, in rural Illinois farm country, involved a lot of time-consuming driving, which could be a bit tiring. To save money, I also shared a hotel room with my parents, and my introverted self found the lack of privacy to simply recharge after those full days a bit daunting,

Still, there was the love we share for who we are and where we came from, and for those we have lost. And there was prayer and comfort offered for those who are sick, or out of the country, or struggling, because there is another common bond we share, our Catholic faith. On Saturday, we concluded the reunion with a vigil mass, celebrated in the front yard of my great-grandmother's house in the tiny hamlet were my grandfather and his brothers grew up. No one lives there now, and the hundred-year-old house really isn't in a state to be lived in, but the property is still in the family. So we scattered chairs and blankets in the front yard, a local retired priest came over and set up an alter on the front porch, my Uncle Joe played hymns on his guitar and we had mass under the trees and the late afternoon sunshine in a place we all, despite the distances we now came from, are bound by. It was beautiful. There were nearly 100 of us, and I am so thankful for all of them.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A different kind of bridal shower

I was totally thrown off by working Monday, which is usually the second day of my weekend, so please forgive me for being a day late. I'm also in the midst of dishwashing and packing (again, when I haven't completely emptied my suitcase from my last trip) to head to Illinois tomorrow for a family reunion over the July 4th weekend. As I'm leaving straight for the airport from an abbreviated day of work tomorrow afternoon, and since I'm nothing if not a first-class procrastinator (although at least all my laundry is done), needless to say I'm a bit crazed.

So as I sat here a few minutes ago, pondering what to write, an email popped into my inbox. It was from my friend Jenna, a St. Peter's parishioner and roommate to my cousin Carrie. And my writing problem was solved. Let me explain:

I know, for me, and for a lot of you, I'd warrant, we feel called to marriage, and we spend a lot of time daydreaming and wondering and praying and crushing and over-analyzing and worrying needlessly about who our husband will be and when on earth will God bring us together already because this whole single thing is getting really old. Am I right?

But not all of us are called to marriage, ultimately. For some, God calls them to religious life.

In late May, Ben, a young man I know (he's in his late 20s now, but I was in grad school and volunteering in youth ministry when I met him on a retreat during his senior year of high school) was ordained to the priesthood. His ordination (and that of three other new priests) was in another diocese across the state, and I couldn't go, but the diocese streamed the ordination mass live on their website. And I cried tears of joy for him, for he had found his calling, his bride, in the Church.

I cried similar tears when Jenna, who for those of you who don't know her, is all-out fun and smart and faithful, sent out a mass email (also back in May), letting her friends know that she, too, had discerned her call to become a nun with the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, an order that ministers for terminal cancer patients who cannot pay for their care. As I read her initial email, though smiling, I wept again. I know you're probably thinking I'm a weepy mess more often than not (ok, I kind of am), but the reason for my emotion is that these two found the desires of their hearts, the answer to their prayers, their home. I would (and have) done no less for friends who become engaged to be married.

Now (here's where that email I received tonight comes in), Jenna has set up a donation web site and is seeking help from family and friends to help join her order. See, what some of you might not know (in fact, I don't think a lot of Catholics are aware of it, actually) is that in order for a woman to enter religious life, she cannot bear any debt. And Jenna has more than $32,000 in student loans she needs to pay off by September, if she hopes to enter the convent this coming October on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The amount seems daunting, when you look at it from a practical level, but I have no doubts that God can make this happen.

In her own words, Jenna says:
"Please look through my site – read my story, look at the pictures I have put up of me and of my future Sisters (and Brothers) and prayerfully consider donating the suggested amount of $50-$100. If your financial situation does not allow for a donation of that size, please offer whatever you are able to no matter how large or small that amount is. I am grateful for donations of any size and truly blessed by your generosity. Also please note that you can make your donation anonymous on the website if you would prefer that. 
I also ask that you send this to anyone and everyone that you would like to - anyone who might be interested in helping financially and willing to pray for me and my sisters, and all our benefactors. I'm happy to have this email go far and wide. Even the smallest donation means a great deal to me, and I cannot do this at all without prayers. 
Please know that I will be praying for all my donors/benefactors personally -- forever. I really do mean forever. I cannot offer you anything material for your support, but my confidence in the Lord and His generosity and in the power of prayer steadily increases and I know that your generosity will never go unrewarded. I can also assure you that my appreciation is beyond words.
 I'm happy to answer any questions and so grateful for your help. Thank you for helping me move towards the life of service the Lord is calling me to!"

Think of it, in a way, as a bridal shower. When a woman is engaged, she is celebrated with parties from friends, coworkers and family who celebrate her, bringing with them towels and small appliances, tea pots and (sometimes hideous-but-well-intentioned) decorative items as a means of support as she prepares to start her new life with her husband.

Now, Jenna won't need any of that, in fact, she'll be leaving pretty much everything behind. But how much will the world benefit by her gift of self? There's no way we can know, but the least we can do is give her a wedding shower -- of financial help, if possible, but of prayers most certainly -- as she prepares to become a Bride of Christ.

the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne.Dom
the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne.
Last but not least, I hope everyone has a wonderful Fourth of July, and may God Bless America!