My Heart's A Manger

Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-6)
Mary, clearly distressed from childbirth, holds her "newborn" son, Jesus. Doting animals included. 
Perhaps you've heard of a tradition some Christian families have: As Advent begins, the family sets up a Nativity scene. When a child does a good deed, he or she may put a piece of hay in the manger of the family's Nativity set.

Review: The Perfect Blindside

Today I am excited to share with you the very first one more catholic book review! Cathy Knipper of Pauline Media asked me to review Leslea Wahl's The Perfect Blindside, a novel for Catholic teens.

Courtesy of

First, I want to applaud Wahl for telling a realistic story, weaving in the Catholic faith artfully without overwhelming her readers or detracting from the plot. When I was a young teenager, many of the Christian teen novels I read frustrated me because they were cheesy; the characters, model Christians in constant inner dialogue with the Lord, lacked depth. With The Perfect Blindside, Leslea Wahl strikes a harmonious balance between the Catholic faith and her moving story.

Fun with Gifs: The Marian Virtues According to Saint Louis de Montfort

The 10 Marian Virtues According to Louis de Montfort (Or "Just for Fun, I Share How I Pictured the Marian Virtues Before I Learned about Them"):

1. Ardent Charity


My Nagging Mother

I love my mom. I always have. But when she quit dyeing her hair while I was in high school, letting it grow out to gray, I was mortified. Selfishly, I couldn't see why she would give up dyeing her hair other than to embarrass me. Mom had other reasons, of course, but I thought she existed solely to ruin my life. Throughout my high school years, she drove me to school in a large white delivery-type van, unashamedly conversed with cute boys my age without consulting me, wore hideous frameless glasses and ankle-length skirts, and sang opera-style at church. I used to hide and blush and cry "Mooooom!" at her embarrassing antics. 

All Who Are Weak

As I rushed from the library to my dorm, I remembered I still had an unfinished Rosary hanging over my head. Still, I galloped past the chapel, mentally turning over the half-dozen tasks I needed to complete. Later, I told myself, stifling my desire to pray with a reminder of the long to-do list awaiting me. But then I slowed my pace. 

Reasons to Write Letters

As many of my friends know, I enjoy writing letters. Though email, texting, and a host of other media are instantaneous and easy ways to contact friends and family, I've put together a list of reasons why good old-fashioned letter-writing is my preferred method of communication. 

Some of the letters I've received over the past year

The wait is exciting. There might be weeks or months between letters. Yet I still check the mailbox every day in anticipation of a reply, because I know it's coming. Corresponding by mail can be an exercise in patience, but what a glorious day when that little envelope arrives!

Corn, Cattle, and Catholicism

I went to Kansas.

I thought about it for a while beforehand.

I told myself I didn't need to go, that there was nothing to do in Kansas, and that I had seen it already (while passing through on a road trip to Yellowstone). But the pull of Kansas was just too strong, so last week, I packed my bags and flew into Wichita, where I surprised some friends. 

And let me tell you, Kansas is fabulous. (With that sentence, I have given my sisters license to make fun of me for the next sixteen years, approximately.) I'll start by saying that yes, there are a lot of cornfields. And cattle. 

My Patron, St. Lawrence

Today, I'm celebrating my birthday. It's also the feast day of a saint and martyr, Saint Lawrence!

St. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Rome, was a deacon in the third century. He was charged with the care of material goods in the Church and distribution of alms to the poor. When the Roman persecution of Catholics began, Lawrence knew he would be arrested and likely put to death. He, therefore, quickly distributed the Church's goods among the poor. Tradition dictates that St. Lawrence put aside only the Holy Grail, the chalice Christ used at the Last Supper. Then, seized while assisting with the Mass, St. Lawrence was brought before Roman officials:

A Series of Thank-Yous: To the Men

To the men who showed me what it means to be a woman of God by their example, calling me on to do His work, thank you. 

To the men who saw their sister in Christ struggling to realize her identity as a daughter of God, thank you for listening and loving me through those difficult times. 

To the men who walked me back to the door of my dorm at night, come hell or high water, I cannot thank you enough. (And if you trudged through the snow to do so, you probably knocked a few years off Purgatory. I'm sanctifying you.) 

Choosing God

July became my fighting month. 

After two months of regularly attending daily Mass, I suddenly found it very difficult to drag myself to church in the mornings.

July was the month during which I would wake up and roll over to see that I needed to leave for Mass in twenty minutes. Then I'd lie there for ten trying to decide if I needed to go. 

I fought with myself. I fought against my complacent desire for sleep. Each morning, I had to make the conscious decision to go to Mass. 

Or not. 

Praise for the Steubenville Conferences

LifeTeen Steubenville East Logo

Five years ago, I attended my first Steubenville East youth conference, and God rocked my world. 

I was not yet fourteen, preparing for my freshman year in high school. I had braces and primarily wore brand-name clothing because I thought it looked cool. I looked and felt incredibly awkward, at all times, without exception. 

My older sister had invited me to our parish's youth group a few months before. I heard about the Steubenville East conference after a holy hour with the youth group. My youth minister bounded up to the podium and delivered an invitation to a conference for Catholic teens. Having experienced Eucharistic Adoration for the first time that night, I felt compelled to learn as much about the faith as I could, to join this "new" community of young Catholics. So I grabbed the forms for Steubenville East and headed home. 

Death and Resurrection

The second reading at Mass a few weeks ago struck me. In the first few lines, St. Paul writes:
Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
When I heard this read aloud at Mass, my brow furrowed. Ah, yes, I thought. There's that Christian joy we desire. We have all died. However, we know as Christians that Christ has conquered death. Why, then, is it necessary for us to die as well? 

You see, we do not die in addition to Christ, but alongside Him, united in His sufferings so that we may be raised from the dead as He was. This is directly related to our participation in the Eucharist. 

Not Yet Home

This is not how it's supposed to be, I thought to myself as I processed the latest unfortunate news, still shaking sleep from my eyes as I plodded down the hallway from my bedroom. 

This is not how it's supposed to be.
All of these were not meant for us. Man was not made for destruction. Man was made for life. 

We all know the unfortunate story: Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God. Sin entered the world. 

The devil brought death into our world, a world unstained by sin and in which man lived as he was meant to live--in perfect communion with God. Death is not of the Lord; it is of the devil. Satan cannot create life, and therefore, in his jealousy, he seeks to attack it. From The Catholic Gentleman
Only God can truly create. Satan cannot. And Satan hates this fact. He is sterile in every sense of the word. He hates the Trinity because he envies its life giving and creative power...

A Still, Small Voice

I love The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is a fabulously moving commentary on the folly of man, written from the perspective of the Tempter himself. The book is a collection of fictional letters between a senior devil, Screwtape, and his protégé, Wormwood, a young devil. Screwtape advises Wormwood in the ways of the successful tempter. One passage on noise strikes a chord in my heart each time I read it. Screwtape writes to Wormwood:
We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in that direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.
Screwtape readily admits that he does little work to tempt man in evil ways, away from God; rather, he simply promotes noise. See, God’s language is silence. His creation grows in silence—flowers, plants, babies in the womb. Jesus, God Incarnate, was conceived in silence; St. Joseph uttered not one word in the gospels. God speaks to our hearts in silence. When we let ourselves be overcome by noise, we distance ourselves from God. 

A Love to Rule All Loves

This past March, I had the opportunity to attend a women’s retreat through Franciscan. I knew little about the retreat prior to attending, aside from what I could garner from its name, “Capture My Heart.” It sounded a bit too touchy-feely and girly for my taste, but after a strange course of events, I found myself in a room with yellow curtains at a monastery in rural Pennsylvania, adjacent to a herd of cows. 

Though I could say plenty about the incredible healing power of the weekend, I would like now to focus on one particular encounter centered around, oddly enough, this crown: 

The Little Flower and Her Brother

One of my goals this summer is to finish all the books I started reading at school (and there are many). So far, I’ve completed Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty and Patrick Ahern’s Maurice and Thérèse: The Story of a Love. If you know anything about the Little Way, you’ll recognize those accent marks. I’m referring to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whom I mentioned in my previous post. Prior to reading this book, I had little knowledge of St. Thérèse, aside from what others had told me about her sainthood. However, as I read, I began to understand the attraction many Catholics have to St. Thérèse’s Little Way. 

Maurice and Thérèse is a collection of letters between St. Thérèse and Maurice Barthélémy Bellière, a young seminarian at the time of their correspondence. Thérèse, a cloistered nun, was asked by her superior to pray for the struggling Maurice, which she obediently did. She adopted Maurice as her spiritual brother, constantly referring to herself as his “little sister”—not because she was younger than he, but because of her great humility. Thérèse had no inhibitions when writing to her brother, and thus readers come to know this great saint, the “Little Flower,” in a deep and beautiful way. 

In the Words of Peter Pan, Here We GO!

For my inaugural blog post, I will detail the importance of living a healthy, well-rounded, faith-filled lifestyle, which you can easily implement in Three Easy Steps You Can Complete in Five Minutes From Your Couch!

Just kidding. Life is not so simple. Life, oftentimes, seems immensely complex and overwhelming. Even the task of typing out this post was monumental for me, despite the facility of creating a blog. You see, anyone can make a blog to write about anything. Social networks are overrun with links to blog posts about fitness, relationships, spirituality—you name it, it’s probably been blogged about. And of course there is very little pressure on me to create a completely original, captivating, heart-rending blog with a substantial readership and regular updates and practical life advice relevant to others. (Hello, innocent new readers. Sit down, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.) 

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