Church Madness 2017: Vote for St. Francis de Sales Oratory

Isn’t this church spectacular?

Out of 64 nominated churches, my beautiful parish, St. Francis de Sales Oratory, has made it into the FINAL ROUND of the annual Church Madness contest!  The contest was created to celebrate the beauty of Catholicism expressly displayed in the architecture and design of our Catholic churches.  We need YOUR help to name our gorgeous “Cathedral of South Saint Louis” the Most Beautiful Church in America!

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Salesian Advice for Holy Communion


“Every time you approach Our Lord in the Eucharist, receive Him with more devotion than before.” – Fr. Paul Hamilton

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The Beauty of Suffering


Today’s culture has lost a sense of what it means to suffer and persevere.  We spend our days finding ways to make work easier, erase pain, and enjoy the modern conveniences of 1st world luxuries.  The atheistic message reverberating through society is that happiness is directly proportional to the level of comfort.  Suffering, therefore, is meaningless and should be avoided or remedied at all costs.  Life is not worth living if it’s not lived in comfort; and if that’s not possible… well… it’s no wonder assisted suicide is the next best thing.

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Te Deum Laudamus

“You cannot have faith without trust, and trust is built upon gratitude.  Be thankful for all the little things God has granted to you; and, day by day, you will find your faith rewarded.”  Canon Talarico

Te Deum Laudamus!  To God we give praise!

As 2016 closes, don’t forget to give thanks to God for the past year.  Gratitude is a virtue quite forgotten in this day and age.

G. K. Chesterton once said: “You say grace before meals.  All right.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

Maybe you should too!

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Shhhhhhhhh… (Silence is Powerful)

A while ago, I was working part-time doing odd jobs around an office.  At that moment, I was tucked away in some back corner room by myself all week painting.  Towards the end of my painting streak, one of the other staff discovered me after I tripped over a stack of scrap metal.  She was quite amazed that I had been there the whole week so quietly; no music, or singing to myself, or much conversation.  Just me, paint, and a pile of doors.   Quite different from everybody else, who were either working with patients all day, listening to music, and chit-chatting to keep themselves entertained throughout the work day.

Maybe it’s because I’m such an introvert, that I don’t appreciate noise as much as others do, or a combination of both – but I was quite content with my just thoughts and a paintbrush.  In fact, I was quite surprised that they were so surprised!

Someone once told me that this generation has become addicted to stimulation.  While there is nothing wrong with being a friendly, talkative person, it seems we no longer know how to be content with ourselves when the time requires it.  We no longer know how to appreciate silence.  Look around at the people around you – look at yourself.  We can’t ride in a car silently, we can’t run silently, we can’t shop silently, and if we ever find ourselves in a silent situation – we start searching for someone or something to entertain one of our five senses because we are bored.

Now – I’m not just talking about physical silence (the absence of sound/movement).  I’m talking about a complete internal silence – a redirection of not only your voice; but your thoughts, your actions, and essentially your entire will to something… other than your own entertainment.

That’s an interesting thought…

Have you ever practiced being so silent that your entire focus was given to someone/something other than yourself?   Naturally, as Catholics on the path to sanctity (hopefully!), there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, or more important than offering ourselves and our entire focus in silence to God.  We feel like silence is so restricting because we can’t do what we want – but in reality, little acts of denying our will here and there is not restricting, but freeing.  It’s a kind of mortification, if you will, because we are denying our will and conforming ourselves to Christ.

The Silent Saints

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
–Blessed Mother Teresa

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”
–St John of the Cross

“A talkative soul lacks both the essential virtues and intimacy with God. A deeper interior life, one of gentle peace and of that silence where the Lord dwells, is quite out of the question. A soul that has never tasted the sweetness of inner silence is a restless spirit which disturbs the silence of others.”
–St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul

Silence, both external and internal, is something so important to the saints in order to come closer to God, that they labeled it as essential and necessary to spiritual growth.  Extroverts struggle more with removing themselves from external stimulation (people/activity/conversation) and being by themselves.  Introverts struggle more with quieting their internal stimulation (thinking/planning/dwelling) and giving their thoughts to someone else’s will.  However, both are required achieve this internal emptiness so that Christ can fill it.  There are many ways that we can all practice this:

  • Silent Retreats
    • SFdS calls retreats “one of the most certain means to spiritual advancement”
  • Eucharistic Adoration
  • Turning off the radio/background noise, just because we don’t need it.
  • Spending a little extra time praying before Mass, in preparation, and after Mass, in thanksgiving, instead of rushing off to socialization.
  • Meditations
    • A Canon of the Institute once described meditating as the blissful “Ahhh” moment of just taking in a beautiful sunset.  SFdS and St. Ignatius both offer beautiful and practical explanations on how to meditate.
  • Going to your room, closing your door and praying at home.
  • Really, anything else that puts your soul’s focus first on God instead of yourself!

For me, I was especially struck by St. Faustina’s quote “A soul that has never tasted the sweetness of inner silence is a restless spirit which disturbs the silence of others.”  Every so often I feel like both ends of that barrel (the disturbed and the disturbee); but more often, I seem to the be the latter since my prayer life has become somewhat of a ruined landscape, ravaged by a fire of worldly stress in my life.

So – instead of running off to be a cloistered nun and taking a vow of silence, I settled for the lay person’s alternative.  For Lent I gave up talking to and socializing with other people outside of my daily contact.  I got the idea from reading Intro to the Devout Life – Saint Francis de Sales speaks of an interesting and appropriate manner for this ideal quite well.

“Seeking familiar conversations with others and avoiding them are two extremes and both are blameworthy in devout people living in the world…  If you are not obliged to go out into society or entertain company at home, remain within yourself and entertain yourself within your own heart.  However, if people visit you or if you are called out into society for some just reason, go as one sent by God.”

–St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

Obviously, I do have a reason for seeking silence more than usual to repair and strengthen my crumbled ruins of a prayer life this Lent, but I certainly haven’t been unreachable.  In the meantime, I will be working on offering my sweet silence of soul for Christ, “for the language He best hears, is silent love.”

St. Francis de Sales, ora pro nobis

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The Mantilla and I

Allie and veil 2

For my entire Catholic life (and then some) I have been aware of the practice of women covering their heads during Mass.  I converted to Catholicism straight into a TLM community – so I had never really been exposed to women not wearing a mantilla.  It was just a normality for me.  It wasn’t until I started attending daily Mass at a local parish nearby my house that I became aware of how uncommon veiling actually is in the wider culture.

Every so often, I get questions about my mantilla – more along the lines of “What is that thing on your head?” than genuine curiosity, but nevertheless it opens up a line of communication to explain such a beautiful treasure of Catholic tradition!

So, why do I wear a mantilla in the presence of God?  Well there are three general reasons for which I can explain.
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Tota Pulchra Es, O Maria


All fair art thou, O Maria…

There are always many levels of little Sunday joys in my life… from just being grateful to arrive for Mass on time, to actually making it through the long confession lines before Mass, to being able to hear a fantastic sermon!

Not only did all of that happen today – but to add a little cherry on top, there was a special Solemn High Mass (which I haven’t seen one at St. Francis de Sales since… I can’t remember) to start our novena in preparation for the feast of the Immaculate Conception!  What a glorious Sunday!

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The Screwtape Letters for Modern Times


I have just come across this brilliant piece of work mimicking C.S. Lewis, which was posted on the blog Etheldredasplace (wow – that’s a mouthful ‘aint it?): for the original post, click here.

1 – I love C.S. Lewis and I love The Screwtape Letters.  This so very well recreates the intention of original writing.  If you’ve never read it… what are you waiting for?

2 – To be perfectly honest, I really have no idea what media mess this is in response to (I don’t watch the news… much less trust the secular media to accurately inform me of the workings of the Catholic Church); yet I still sorely benefited from such a reminder in many aspects of my life.  I hope you do too.

So without further ado…
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An Act of Charity

This morning I was praying before Mass at a local parish I sometimes frequent.  It’s a beautiful church – one that really feels like a sanctuary when you walk in and echoes when you whisper.  It has these beautiful white marble pillars and a statue of the Sacred Heart in the centre.  I really love going there, because I usually get the whole church to myself if I get there early enough!  Supposedly, St. Rose Philippine Duschesne (who started a school across the street) and Fr. DeSmet were quite influential in building the church and dedicating it to The Sacred Heart… but that’s just hear-say :)

Anyways… I was attempting to prepare myself for Mass, but it was just one of those days where my mind wasn’t going to behave itself and I needed something concrete to help me. Not having my usual daily missal with me, I got one of the little missalettes out and started flipping through the pages to see if there were any prayers.  I found a few, but I was rather disappointed by the short, simple, and unadorned prayers.  Technically, there is really no such thing as a simple prayer, as just even repeating “I love you Jesus” can be said with enough devotion to drown us all in holiness; but at this instant the 3 simple sentences just weren’t fulfilling enough for my lazy soul.
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A “Jolly Good” Video on the Institute’s Work in the UK

Watching this video made me miss visiting New Brighton just a tad bit. It’s a good video if you’re interested on what is going on overseas!

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