Friday, March 29, 2013

Shh! Can You Hear the Bells Ringing?

The one part of church that my toddlers have always enjoyed is the sound of bells ringing at the moment that the priest consecrates the host.  If the kids were feeling bored or tired of sitting still, I could always whisper to them, right then, "Shh!  Can you hear the bells ringing?  Jesus is here in the bread!"  And a few minutes later, "Shh!  Did you hear the bells?  Jesus is here in the wine!"  Sometimes, the kids would respond with a wise, open-eyed nod or maybe a single word spoken sotto voce, "Jee-jus!"

On Easter, I get the same feeling of wonder that the kids get.  Jesus is here!  All through Lent, the Gloria is missing from Mass, and there is no Alleluia.  On Good Friday, the empty tabernacle leaves me feeling bereft and achingly sad.  So when we hear the Alleluia again on Easter, and the carillon bells on the organ ring all the way through the Gloria, I know that he is risen.  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

My kids never had trouble believing in Jesus' resurrection.  They grew up with the notion of resurrection woven seamlessly into the cloth of their childhood.  Death and resurrection, for them, were inseparable concepts.  My eldest daughter, Lelia, was 3 years old when Pope John Paul II died in the Easter season of 2005.  After the time of the conclave, I announced to her joyfully that we had a pope again.  She cried when she found out that a new man would be sitting on the chair of Peter.  "I thought he came back," she said, speaking of John Paul II, "I thought he came back like Jesus."  How beautiful is the faith and the heart of a child!

"Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:12-14)

May All of You Enjoy this Glorious Season of Our Lord's Resurrection!

Bells Photo Credit: $owmya via Compfight cc

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Motherhood in the Garden of Gethsemane

In my darkest days, I think that motherhood is doing things that don't matter for people who don't care. Preparing food they refuse to eat, buying clothes they refuse to wear, picking up toys that get thrown back on the floor, teaching them lessons they can't remember and don't want to learn.  Some days, it seems, all my kids and I can say to one another is "No!"  And it all seems utterly futile.

These thoughts, allowed to continue unchecked, drive me down the path to despair.  These thoughts are like the whisperings of the dark angel that taunted and tempted Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane.  You're a failure.  You can't do it.  Some people hate you, and to the rest, you're a nuisance.  They don't care what you've done for them.  No matter how much you sacrifice, they will never love you.

But for Our Lord, the whisperings were worse.  Your people are soaked in sin, it has penetrated to the bone, they will never give it up for you, they won't, they can't, they don't want to.   No matter how many times you tell them, they will never obey; no matter how many miracles you show them, they will never believe.  And under the weight of this agony, Our Lord began to sweat tears of blood.  But in the midst of his agony, there was also an angel of light to minister to him and strengthen him.

What words of comfort did the angel offer to Jesus?  Perhaps, "the Lord is your rock, and your fortress, and your deliverer."  Or, "although you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil."'  Perhaps the angel even promised to Jesus, "Behold, you will make everything new."

Our Lord in the Garden had the freedom to accept his mission or deny it, and he freely chose to follow his father's will.  I, too, have the freedom to make a choice in my mission of motherhood.  I can act as a dark angel or a light angel perching on my children's shoulders.  I do not have to pass my dark, despairing doubts onto them.  I can say, "You can do it, because God will help you,"and "You are loved, because God has loved you."  And perhaps I can spare them my agony.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Google Reader's Pending Demise (News and Notes)

It figures that as soon as I found my Google Reader subscribers, Google would decide to shut the whole thing down. For those of you who haven't heard, Google plans on dismantling Reader by July 1. But functionality is diminishing sooner than you might think. Reader already sporadically disappears from the drop-down menu on the Google toolbar. Switching to an alternative RSS reader sooner rather than later is probably your best bet. I switched to feedly yesterday (no endorsement, just saying). Feedly accessed all the blogs I was following on Google Reader with the press of a single button. So far, no problems, but only time will tell, especially once Reader is finally terminated (/sniff). Good luck to everyone in finding a new RSS reader. If anyone finds one they particularly like, let us know in the comments.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Keeping Adoration in Your Marriage

Our monthly Hot Date Night/Eucharistic Adoration combo has always been special to my husband and me.  When Manny and I began dating, I was Episcopalian and had no idea what Eucharistic Adoration was.  But Manny spent entirely too much time in bars, I thought, so going to church offered a wholesome alternative for Friday night.  A bunch of our friends would regularly gather together in a diner to grab a bite to eat before heading to Our Lady of Peace on 62d Street, Manhattan, at around 9 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

The Bruschi family, known for their evangelical dynamism, ran the monthly vigil in honor of St. Pio.  Word had it that Papa Bruschi had traveled all the way to Italy for Padre Pio to hear his confession, but Padre Pio had refused to grant  him absolution.  That had changed Papa Bruschi's life.  Organizing this monthly vigil was Papa Bruschi's way to say thank you.  The custom of spending the First Friday of every month in Eucharistic Adoration dates all the way back to the 17th century, when Jesus appeared in a private vision to St. Margaret Mary and encouraged her to begin and promote the practice.  In this same vision, Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary, and thus to the world, his Sacred Heart, encircled by a crown of thorns and wounded for our sins.  For me, then, Friday night vigil was a crash course in centuries of Catholic tradition.

The vigil included incensing, which filled the church with fragrant smoke, and a procession around the church with the Eucharist being carried under an umbrellino, or small umbrella, to protect it from anything falling from above.  To our great delight, our friend Steve usually got to carry the umbrellino.  The vigil also incorporated a Mass in which the two beautiful, dark-haired Bruschi daughters sang Gregorian chant and a capella duets from the choir loft high above.  People remained in the church all night in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist, exposed on the altar in the gorgeous golden monstrance.  Manny and I usually left after the first coffee hour, which ended around midnight.  The notable exception was the night he proposed to me, outside the church, on one knee, with a diamond ring in his hand.  There was no way we were going to sleep after that.  We stayed in the church praying until six o'clock the next morning.

After we got married and moved out of the City to Long Island, Manny and I fell out of the habit of going to First Friday vigil.  Then one of our friends gently asked us, "Well, you do something for First Friday, don't you?"  Imagine our surprise when we discovered that our own parish had already held First Friday vigils for many years, based on the format of the Nocturnal Adoration Society.  Thus, we began our new tradition of monthly Hot Date Night combined with Eucharistic Adoration.

For this Year of Faith, the U.S. bishops have asked all Catholics to attend a monthly Eucharistic Adoration for the intentions of life, marriage, and religious liberty.  In a way, Manny and I were doing this already.  But the bishops also recommended reading certain Scriptural passages to help people to meditate on these intentions.  Last month, our parish priest revised the normal vigil format to include some of these passages, and the vigil leader asked me to be the reader.

So, I stood before the assembly and read from the Gospel of John: "If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love ... These things have I spoken to you so that your joy may be complete."  Our parish church had no umbrellino, no choir, and no coffee hour.  But standing beside my husband, before the Holy Eucharist, I could sense the continuity with Catholics throughout the centuries.  And I could feel the unending adoration.

Holding Hands Photo Credit: johnhope14 via Compfight cc

Monday, March 18, 2013

Loving this Liebster Award (News and Notes)

Thanks to Patty at Tales of Me and the Husband for giving me this Liebster award!  This is how it works:

Here's 11 facts about myself:

1.  I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in a town with a population of less than 5,000.  The college I attended had three times as many students as my hometown had people.
2.  My parents had a Golden Retriever dog when I was little.
3.  My favorite color has always been purple, which my elegant grandmother for some reason considered to be almost scandalous.
4.  I graduated from the University of Virginia undergrad and the University of Virginia Law School, which makes me a Double Hoo.  Hoo is short for Wahoo, a kind of fish that is the school's mascot.
5.   The only place where I NEVER wanted to live and work was New York City.  The only place where I got a job after law school was New York City.
6.  Two months after starting to date my husband-to-be, I moved to Japan for six months.  We courted via daily emails. 
7.  My husband and I planned to spend our honeymoon in Spain and Israel, but we got marooned in Paris for the weekend due to technical difficulties with the airline.  We didn't mind it so much.
8.  I converted to the Catholic Church in 1999.
9.  My favorite music is Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony.
10.  Before getting married, I considered having two or maybe three children.  My husband wanted around four kids.  Now we have six.
11.  Our family doesn't have any dogs, cats, or gerbils, but we have turtles, toads, and lizards.  We also have a lot of fish.  None of them are Wahoos (see fact #4, above).

Here's my answers to Patty's questions:

    1. Favorite saint and why -- St. Therese of Lisieux, because her relics went on display at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and so many people visited that we couldn't even fit inside the cathedral.  We walked around and around the city block singing Marian hymns.  I fell in love with the love that people had for her.

    2. Why you started blogging -- To see who'd be interested in the book I was writing based on Blessed Pope John Paul II's teachings on marriage and family.  Then, the blog took on a life of its own!

    3. Name something you have always wanted to learn -- How to make clever small talk

    4. 1 place you want to travel to that you've never been and why -- Hong Kong, because one of my friends invited me to visit when I was in college and I never did.  I've been kicking myself ever since.

    5. When you have some money, favorite store to shop and splurge at -- Splurging is not really my thing, but there's a new clothing store called C. Wonder that always makes me drool.

    6. Best book you have ever read and why  -- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  It's a great wunderkind, sci-fi story.

    7. 3 questions you want to ask Jesus someday when you meet him in Heaven -- Why, why, why.
    8. Favorite Disney of all time -- Mary Poppins.  The song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious can't be beat.  I once wrote a series of stories starring the Supercalifragilistic Kid, who was a super kid from California made from fragile plastic.

    9. What animal best describes your personality and why -- A horse, because I like to run fast but sometimes need someone to guide me down the right path.

    10. Favorite blog to follow and why --  Held by His Pierced Hands  -- Amazing writing, amazing insights.

    11. Biggest lesson you have learned in life so far -- Trust God even when it hurts.

My Nominees:

Okay, here's the really fun part.  Introducing you to all the cool blogs that I recently discovered!  Each one is worth a visit.  (My apologies if your blog has more than 200 followers or has already been nominated.)  Drumroll, please...

1.  Not a minx, a moron, or a parasite at
2.  Catholic Cookie Jar at
3.  Captive the Heart at
4.  Messy Wife, Blessed Life at
5.  First Friday Fast at
6.  Contemplative Homeschool at
7.  Restless Until I Rest in Thee at
8.  Life on Fire at
9. God's Love is So Amazing at

My Questions for the Nominees:

My questions for the nominees are the same as the ones I asked myself, namely,

1.  Where did you grow up?
2.  Did you have a pet when you were little?
3.  What's your favorite color?
4.  What was your school's mascot?
5.  Where was your first big move?
6.  What's one of your favorite memories from when you and your beloved were just dating?
7.  Where did you go on your honeymoon or where would you like to go?
8.  What's your religion?  Are you a convert, a revert, a cradle Catholic?
9.  What's your favorite music?
10. How many children do you have or would you like to have?
11.  Do you have any pets now?

To all the nominees, hope you have fun with this.  Happy blogging!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis Inspires Spanish Version of Blog

Although, as a New Yorker, I had nurtured some hope for Cardinal Dolan to be chosen as our new Pope, one thing gave me pause.  The Pope needs to communicate the Good News of Christ to all the people of the world, and our beloved Cardinal Dolan is supposedly not the best linguist.  When Blessed Pope John Paul II was elected to the pontificate, he addressed the crowd in Italian in order to show them that a foreigner from another country could still communicate to them as a native son.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did the same.  Yesterday, Pope Francis continued the tradition by speaking to the crowd in Italian.  But as an Argentinean, Pope Francis' native language is Spanish. 

Although many sources report that Pope Francis is fluent in Italian, Latin and German, only one prominent U.K. newspaper has so far confirmed that the new pope speaks English at all.  A search for documents written by our new pope in English has yielded very little fruit.  On the other hand, he has published at least ten books in Spanish.  What does this mean for Catholicism and the Church?

To me, it signals that Spanish is poised to be one of the key languages of the new evangelization.  There are 425,490,000 Catholics in Latin America alone, according to the Huffington Post, and the vast majority of these Catholics are Spanish-speaking.  Latin American Catholics in fact represent 39% of the world's total Catholic population.  In addition, more than 35% of Catholics in the United States are Hispanic or Latino, as estimated by the USCCB

My own personal Catholic experience is deeply interwoven with a Spanish-speaking tradition, since I converted to Catholicism through the influence of my husband and of his family, who immigrated here from Spain.  My husband and his siblings grew up speaking Spanish in the home.  When the extended family gathers together for meals, my father-in-law normally "blesses the table" by saying grace in Spanish.  When we pray the rosary as a family, everyone prays in their own language, half of us reciting the prayers in Spanish and half of us using English, all at the same time.  To an outsider, it probably sounds a bit like the first Pentecost.  Some of the first Spanish words I learned were the words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

All of this has led to a conviction in my mind that proclaiming the Gospel in today's world cannot remain confined solely to the English language.  And so, in honor of our new Pope Francis, I would like to create a Spanish-language version of this blog to proclaim the Church's good news about marriage and family to a broader, more global audience.

The name "Can We Cana?" doesn't translate particularly well into Spanish, but there are two possibilities for the new blog's title.  To all my Spanish-speaking readers, please take a vote here on the blog, on facebook, or on Google+ for which of these two titles you like best:

Casarse en Cana [or] Casamiento en Cana

Please help me spread the Good News!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Theology Professor Endorses My Book

"Clear and crisp, substantive and yet easy to follow." 


"Successfully communicates Catholic wisdom on marriage and family by weaving well-selected quotations drawn from the tradition with living examples from her family and other faithful Catholic couples today."


"Shows that married couples who are faithful not just to one another but to the example of Christ the Bridegroom and the teaching of his Bride will find their love flourish and be fruitful now and in the life to come, for it will be fed by deeper wellsprings than anything available in our shallow culture today."

I am so grateful for these words of support from Dr. Michael Hoonhout, professor of systematic theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception here in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Prof. Hoonhout has helped me greatly in the last stages of finalizing my book on the Church's beautiful teachings regarding marriage and family life.  For the past ten years, I have been writing the book chapter by chapter and piece by piece.  Dr. Hoonhout encouraged me to look at the book as an integrated whole.
When I met him last November, Dr. Hoonhout took the chapters I gave him and then requested a Table of Contents and bibliography, neither of which I had prepared.  Writing the Table of Contents helped me to envision the connections between the myriad topics on marriage and family, from sacramental grace to openness to life to raising your children in the faith to turning work into prayer.  It was as if squares of a quilt had been stuffed haphazardly into a sewing basket, and now I had to sew each square together and unite them all with a border.  Dr. Hoonhout helped in crafting that border as well, by suggesting an overarching theme for the book that was far better than my tentative choice.
Dr. Hoonhout is a terrific resource on the theology of marriage, since he has taught a course on the topic to seminarians and laypeople for the past six years.  He is also the general editor of the seminary's online theological and pastoral journal Seat of Wisdom.   The journal has published helpful and informative articles on marriage and family such as "What Do Children Think of God? New Data on Childhood Images of the Divine" (Summer 2011) and "Natural Family Planning over Contraception: A Strong Case," which examines some negative health effects of artificial contraception (Summer 2012).  The journal's Winter 2013 issue just came out.  The journal is free and open access, so just click on the link in this paragraph to take a look.

Once again, I'm thrilled that Dr. Hoonhout has endorsed my book.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit and Holy Mary, Seat of Wisdom, guide me to find the right publisher!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Subscription News (News and Notes)

This post is a quick thank-you to my subscribers.  As you all probably know, I'm extremely new at blogging and this blog only just celebrated its 3-month anniversary.  My friend Peter just showed me how to find my Google Reader subscribers (hello, Google Reader subscribers!).  The help team at blogger has recommended that I burn my feeds through feedburner instead.  Don't ask me what this means, I just hope that subscribers continue to see my posts the same way they always have.  If you have any problems, please comment below.  Even better, please respond if you see this post the same way you always do!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chaste Sex: Not What You Think It Is

If you think being chaste means not having sex, you're wrong.  Chastity means using your sexuality in the way God intended.  Single people who are chaste don't have sex (and don't do a lot of other things as well).  Married people who are chaste DO have sex.  But, one reader asked, what exactly is chaste sex?  Some people complain that the Catholic view of sex reads like a long list of "nos" -- no pornography, no masturbation, no contraception.  So, based on a little research and a few informal online surveys, I came up with a list of 58 ways that devout, validly married Catholics say "yes" to sex.  Warning: the following is for mature audiences only.

From Blessed Pope John Paul II:

1.  Yes to simultaneous orgasms.

From ordinary Catholic laypeople:

2.  Yes to sex at every opportunity.
3. Yes to doing it in all sorts of positions.

4. Yes to building anticipation when sex isn’t appropriate at that very moment.
5. Yes to lots of foreplay.
6. Yes to fantasizing about your spouse, but not about anybody else.

7.  Yes to displaying sexy parts in private, but not in public.
8. Yes to using arousing language (the modern equivalent of your breasts are like gazelles).

9.  Yes to kissing your spouse everywhere.  I repeat, everywhere.
10. Yes to having sex with Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' at full volume (Bose stereo optional).
11. Yes to nakedness.
12. Yes to saying, "I love you naked."
13. Yes to saying "I love you" while intimate.
14. Yes to saying, "I enjoy this."
15. Yes to spending a lifetime getting to know your partner in an intimacy that proponents of "casual sex" do not even know exists.
16. Yes to never thinking of pregnancy as a "problem" to worry about.

17. Yes to the hope that this time a child will be conceived.
18.  Yes to saying, "I hope this child will be a Saint."

19.  Yes to making your wife feel beautiful.
20.  Yes to making your husband feel appreciated.
21.  Yes to saving yourself for your future spouse.
22.  Yes to giving your virginity to your spouse as a wedding gift.
23.  Yes to learning together as newly-weds the fine art of making love.
24. Yes to never suffering any stress over possible STDs.
25. Yes to never worrying if your partner will be there in the morning.
26. Yes to never worrying if your partner is comparing you to someone else.
27. Yes to accepting that things don't need to be perfect.
28.  Yes to keep trying until you get it perfect.
29. Yes to the knowledge that you are together because you love each other, not because you "need" the "sex".
30. Yes to "no"!  Yes to knowing that times of sexual abstinence, whether by mutual decision or by force of circumstance, improve your relationship.
31.  Yes to Natural Family Planning methods of periodic abstinence.
32.  Yes, if every time we come together in the marital act, we're open to the possibility of life.
33.  Yes, if my spouse accepts and practices the Church's teaching on contraception.
34. Yes, if my husband's not committing Onan's sin (coitus interruptus).
35. Yes, if it's an expression of love and not to use each other for simple physical gratification.
36. Yes, if there's lots of cuddling afterwards (falling asleep is okay).
37. Yes, if it's the normal way (no a**l sex, and the such).
38. Yes, if it's just the two of us (no swinging or extracurricular partners!).
39. Yes, if my spouse loves me third (first God, then Our Lady, then me).

40. Yes to thanking God for the gifts he gave us -- first for our spouse, and second for the gift of sex itself.
41.  Yes to saying the rosary as a couple every night before jumping into bed.
42.  Yes to mutual respect.
43.  Yes to total self-giving.
44.  Yes to being an earthly echo of creative Trinitarian love.
45.  Yes to knowing why it matters.

From Christopher West's Good News about Sex and Marriage

46.  Yes to receiving each other's bodies worthily.
47.  Yes to the challenging demands of authentic love.
48.  Yes to keeping the lights on.
49.  Yes to looking deep into each other's eyes at the most vulnerable moment.
50.  Yes to oral sex as foreplay but not as an alternative to making love.
51.  Yes to oral sex afterwards if a husband has not yet pleased his wife.
52.  Yes to asking your spouse's forgiveness for not saving yourself for marriage.
53.  Yes to giving your flashbacks of past experiences to Christ and asking him to heal you.
54.  Yes to expecting miraculous changes of heart if your spouse still insists on using contraception.
55.  Yes to recognizing that we may all have mixed motives.
56.  Yes to letting the power of love hold sway over the pull of lust.
57.  Yes to becoming one in a life-giving communion.
58.  Yes to becoming a sacramental sign of the union of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church, his Bride.

In conclusion--

If you're not practicing chaste sex, then you don't know what you're missing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We Have What We Need to Be Holy (Guest Post)

Today's guest post is written by Maura, a homeschooling mom from Manassas, Virginia.  Maura and her husband have three young children, and they're expecting their fourth this month!  Maura's blog, First Friday Fast, encourages us to pray for the sanctification of marriage, the healing of broken marriages, and for single people to find their future spouse.  In this brief but inspirational post, she reminds us that the graces of sacramental marriage offer us everything we need to be holy.


"The purpose of marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others. For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy, to identify themselves each day more with Jesus Christ, and to lead those with whom they live to God.
That is why I always look upon Christian homes with hope and affection, upon all the families which are the fruit of the Sacrament of Matrimony. They are a shining witness of the great divine mystery of Christ’s loving union with His Church which St. Paul calls sacramentum magnum, a great sacrament (Eph 5:32). We must strive so that these cells of Christianity may be born and may develop with a desire for holiness, conscious of the fact that the Sacrament of Initiation – Baptism – confers on all Christians a divine mission that each must fulfill in his own walk of life.”
(Saint Josemaría Escrivá )

In the vocation to marriage (as with our simultaneous vocation to holiness), it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking,"if only I had more of such and such a virtue, I could be a much better spouse and parent." Well, why is it that we cannot acquire this virtue? Why is it that we allow ourselves to despair of attaining perfection, and settle for mediocrity? At the root of this problem is a distrust in God's grace. We do not trust that He has given us sufficient grace not only to perform our daily tasks, but to do so with a generous and patient heart.

When we lament our lack of virtue, we forget that God has already given us the necessary graces to become a saint in our vocation. His graces abound in the life-giving waters of the Sacraments, but He cannot and will not force us to drink these waters. His grace is there, but our free will must cooperate with it. Patience, humility, generosity, self-sacrifice, fortitude, etc. can all be attained and practiced if we truly believe we have been given "within [our state of life] everything [we] need to be holy."  And when we embrace this call, we make firmer the foundations of our marriages, our families, and consequently, our society.