Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Viva il Papa!

Scene: Wednesday March 13th, I am traveling for work, currently in the middle of suburbia sitting in a windowless room, performing some really exhilarating file reviews, watching the live feed of the chimney on EWTN's website, switching between that window and the work I'm supposed to be looking at. I see the white smoke, I stop breathing. My heart is pounding, maybe audibly, and I turn to my coworkers (who I have known for a total of 7 days) and tell them a new Pope has been elected. They look at me like I am paint drying on a wall and go back to work. I run into the hallway to shake out some jitters. Some poor guy walks by me and I excitedly explain what just happened, as I hop from one foot to another. This guy at least musters up a confused smile, and continues on his path. Then I run outside, because I have too much energy, and I can hear my mother saying something about inside voices and activities. I call my parents. I text my friends. I run back inside to hear the EWTN commentary. I listen, and wait, and watch, and minimize the live feed because a manager is walking behind me. He's gone, back to EWTN. Soon enough, the curtains open and out steps the Pope. That's what the commentators are saying anyway. To me, he's still Cardinal Bergoglio. My eyes get a little misty. The girl sitting next to me looks freaked out and hands me tissues. "You must really love the new Pope."

I want to cry for our new Pope. But to be painfully honest, I'm crying for the Pope Emeritus. I miss Benedict. His announcement last month that he was abdicating the seat of Peter shook me. I felt like a lost little sheep. Don't worry, I know the Pope isn't divine, but that's the honest truth about how I felt. I am a member of the flock which was left in the earthly care of the Pope. No Pope, no earthly Shepard. Shepardless sheep feel scared, even when they are totally sure of their Divine Shepard. 

Pope Benedict XVI was the first Pope I knew from the beginning of his papacy. I loved John Paul II, but I began to love him mostly from what I learned after his death, after I decided being Catholic was something I wanted to actually do, and not just be based on the virtue of my family. Benedict was the Pope when I finally went to confession for the first time after I had sworn it off. Benedict was the Pope when I prayed, for real, for the first time in my life. Benedict was the Pope when I heard the voice of Jesus tell me I was passionate, and that it was a good. The first papal encyclical I ever read was by Benedict. The first time I sponsored someone who wanted to become Catholic happened when Benedict was the Pope. I saw him say Mass at the Nationals stadium in D.C. I fell in love with his accent and gentle manner of speaking. He was truly a leader when I decided that following was something I wanted to do. He tended Jesus' flock well, and I am grateful.

But our new Pope Francis I need not worry about my dry eyes. The tears came soon enough.

Pope Francis I, in persona Christi

Monday, February 4, 2013


"A saint is capable of loving created things and enjoying the use of them and dealing with them in a perfectly simple, natural manner, making no formal references to God, drawing no attention to his own piety, and acting without any artificial rigidity at all. His gentleness and his sweetness are not pressed through his pores by the crushing restraint of a spiritual straight-jacket. They come from his direct docility to the light of truth and to the will of God.  Hence a saint is capable of talking about the world without any explicit reference to God, in such a way that his statement gives greater glory to God and arouses a greater love of God than the observations of someone less holy, who has to strain himself to make an arbitrary connection between creatures and God through the medium of hackneyed analogies and metaphors that are so feeble that they make you think there is something the matter with religion."

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

via BadCatholic

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In Defense of a Good Nap, or My Pathetic Attempt at Convincing my Parents to Let me Sleep In, a Few Years Too Late

Anyone who has lived with me might tell you that I am not a morning person, but I would argue to the contrary. I am certainly a morning person. I enjoy every minute that I sleep in.

It is true, that more often than not, I oversleep.

I wake up to my alarm, perfectly and painfully aware of what time it is and I sometimes simply refuse to get out of bed. I clumsily withdraw my arm from its cocoon of warm covers and smack my alarm clock. Then my cold arm slithers back into its cave and I roll over and go back to sleep.

I wake up eventually, arriving at work sporting an up-do because I only have time for one form of brushing, and dental hygiene is more important to me than styled hair.

I have vague memories of college roommates lecturing me on the values of starting your day early, and with a pleasant attitude. (But like I said, the memories are vague, because I was in a hazy cloud of disbelief at being awake before noon.)

Long before my college roommates tried to impart their skippy, early-morning attitudes on me, my father tried to do the same. The man, God bless him, wakes up with sunshine oozing from his pores and the voice of a song bird. He would cheerfully and smugly waltz into my room while singing,

Wakey, wakey
Rise and shine,
You've had your sleep
I've had mine!!

He would try to use feeble reasons to get me out of bed, including one troubling concept that I have heard on multiple occasions. This idea seems to plague the go-getters and chipper people of today. I've heard it from my father, roommates, friends, and seen it in stylized quotes on the internet. This troubling phrase is one that the go-getters use to romanticize their world view.

I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Upon first glance it might seem daring and sexy. Just think, if i didn't have to waste all this time sleeping, I could do so much more, learn so much more, take more adventures, live more life! What a lovely idea.

But no, my dear go-getter friend so full of naive ambition. This is a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad idea. The danger lies in thinking that life is only lived while awake. I don't want to get all biblical on you (wait, yes I do), but God is a big fan of dreams. He's made some of his grandest entrances there. Joseph decided to get some shuteye after hearing his darling betrothed was pregnant, and God used that quiet and peaceful state to deliver His powerful message (Matthew 1:18-25.)

If my abbreviated version of Matthew's gospel doesn't convince you that sleep is a glorious thing, then ponder this:

Without sleep, you will never experience dreams. Without sleep, you will never know the joy of waking up on Christmas morning, or your birthday. Without sleep, you will never be woken up by your children slipping into your bed and pressing their icy cold toes next to your warm legs. Without sleep there are no dreams. There is no snoring followed by a whistle that makes you sound like you are from an old cartoon. No need for nighties or nightcaps. Without sleep you can't nurse that hangover from all that awake-living you did last night. (Whatever works to make you understand that sleep is good.)

I've never had God or his angels visit me in dreams, but I have fallen asleep in prayer. (Sometimes you take the 3:00am holy hour shift because you have really phenomenal intentions.) Perhaps I am too casual in my prayer life, but I find it very difficult to feel guilty falling asleep in prayer, because all I can think about is God the Father, the parent, watching me and smiling. I have never been a parent, but I know the joys of a happy childhood and I have experienced parental love without condition. We are God's children. We are his little darlings. What parent does not feel their heart swell with joy when they see their baby sleeping?

It is vain that you rise up early 
and go late to rest, 
eating the bread of anxious toil; 
for he gives to his beloved sleep
Psalm 127: 2

So parents, think about that next time you think it would be best for your children to do yard work at eight o'clock in the morning. Let them get their sleep in now, because I sincerely hope that they won't sleep when they're dead. I've heard heaven is quite the party, and I hope they are awake for every minute of it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! 2013

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” -Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


He said to me, so you are like, one of those people that loves routines then?

No, no! I silently scream, I despise routine, routines are for the elderly and their labeled pill boxes so they remember that Monday is Lipitor and Tuesday is Prilosec. I am young! I am carefree! I wake up in the morning to eat leftovers, and then make pancakes for dinner!

Instead I smile and nod, seemingly agreeing what what my conversational counterpart has just inquired, but actually acknowledging the reality of my day.

It begins by hitting the snooze button three times too many. When my guilt acts as the final alarm clock, I glance up at the crucifix hanging right above my bed. Jesus' tender gaze, even in excruciating pain, is glancing down at my sleepy head. There really isn't a more poetic way to wake up.

After smiling at God, I roll out of bed, feel my way blindly along the wall to the bathroom, opening my eyes only after I have turned on the light and given my closed lids ample time to muster up courage to open themselves. I brush my teeth. I wash my face with cold water, because it feels wonderful, and I heard it prevents wrinkles.

I shuffle back to my room, stare at my closet and mentally match all outfit possibilities for the day. I think about putting on make up, think about curling my hair, look at the clock, decide I have no time to look pretty, and I begin the long journey to work, involving multiple forms of transit, free newspapers to keep from people-watching, and daring the crosswalks to let me go.

Then I sit on my rear for about ten hours doing many important grown-up, real-world activities that people care enough about to give me a paycheck. I start my evening wind-down. It's the same, only backwards and without a snooze button.

Could it be? Do I have a routine? Have I, in a mere ten months succumbed to the all-too-widely-accepted definition of a grown up? My ten-month old grown up self wants to say,

No sir, not today, not ever. You see, when you asked about my day-to-day, I made the mistake of answering your all-too-common question with an all-too common answer. Do not ask me about my day-to-day, rather, ask me what inspired me today. Ask me how my day was anything but ordinary, because if God has made this day, then by golly it is extraordinary. Ask me what my favorite flavor of pancake is, because I need to start thinking about dinner anyway. 

But the truth is, I have a routine. I rely, perhaps too much, on my Google calendar. It is a color coded, accurate-to-the-minute diary of my past, present and future. And it's really not that terrible and boring.

I have a day-to-day schedule that can be summed up succinctly, but there is joy in the routine. If we are made in His image and likeness, then we too can take pleasure in the sunrises and sunsets, and other beautiful things that follow a precise schedule. In routine, your eyes are opened to the smaller nuances of your day because they stand out a little more. I fondly remember the abundance of spontaneity in my life, but it dulled my keener senses to so many little things. Now I can fully appreciate a new tube of toothpaste. And let's get real, a new tube of toothpaste is just too great not to brighten your whole day.

Monday, February 6, 2012


My mother found this in my grandmother's old box of pictures and things she had saved over the years. It is an article written by Cammy Sessa, who I believe wrote for the Virginian Pilot about 20 years ago. I have read it again and again. I hope you enjoy it too.

Out the front door in a rush to get to work, I hardly notice the daffodils until I get in the car and look back at the house.
They stand in rapt attention on the edge of the brown unseeded lawn. Almost overnight, their bright yellow noses poled from staunch green stems that had stood firm against the ravages of a cold and windy March.
The key is in the ignition but I don't turn it. The flowers jolt my memory, taking me back in time. The car's interior becomes a cocoon of silence that's broken when I try to sing a child's quaint song:
"Daffodils standing so straight in a row
Bright yellow bonnets just see how they glow.
Beautiful dresses they're wearing but oh . . .
When the wind blows
Each green petticoat shows."
She was in the first grade. I remember the day she came home from school, her dancing eyes and knowing smile telling me she had something special to share.
I can almost hear her sweet voice singing the daffodil song. When she came to the last line, she picked her dress up to show her own petticoat.
I loved it.
Loved her.
Daughters are such a part of a mother's ego. I recall nudging her to sing about the daffodils for my friends and co-workers. I didn't know then that such moments are rare and meant for only one person to savor. Those times are lasting, pure and the only absolute beauty we mortals can experience.
The daffodils are a reminder of a little girl and a time in my life that was over all too soon.
"They grow up before you know it," is a cliche said so often that perhaps young mothers don't pay attention to it.
I didn't. Her growing years sped by like a home movie shown at top speed, not even slowing down for the big events that were supposed to be milestones: high school prom, college graduation, marriage, a job, a house . . . .
As it turned out, the really big events were the ones never taped or photographed. They are subtle moments in a mother's life that can only be recaptured when the daffodils bloom.

Cheers to you in heaven Nanny. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Life Advice

How to have a better day

1. wake up
2. thank God for the fact that its summer
3. go to the beach
4. drink beer
5. own a puppy
6. make a more realistic list

1. wake up
2. thank God for waking up
3. drink tea
4. brainstorm ways to move to the beach and own a puppy
5. drink wine
6. write a blog post about it

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I received an early birthday present in the mail last week. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have waited patiently, savoring the sweetness of wonder. But the circumstances surrounding this particular package were not ordinary in the least. This particular package had made it's way all the way from southern Italy, and patience was a virtue that I simply could not afford.

I tore into the package. It didn't budge. I grabbed a knife. That seemed drastic, so I put it back and picked up scissors instead. Furious slicing and cutting and perspiring ensued. I didn't save any of the bubble wrap or wrapping paper by cutting neatly and carefully, sorry mom, but there really is no better way to behold a new present than to be surrounded by mountains of shredded colorful paper, popped bubble wrap, and packing peanuts.

I did my best to maintain a shred of decency by reading the card before I unveiled my birthday surprise,
Dear Ruthie,
Auguri for your birthday!
Open your present and then continue to read...

Some people just get me.

And this is where words fail. I opened my present and began to cry very happy tears.

...Do you remember this portrait? You saw it in my grandma's home in Sorrento, I remember you really liked it, so I was so glad to find an identical one (just smaller) for you.
Oh yes, I remember quite well. I just admired it for a while. I was simply taken by the beauty of the artist's rendering of a face. A face enamored, a soul at peace.

It is an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, gazing downward. You can't see, but just below the edge of the frame, I know she is looking upon her sweet infant. I don't know what she is thinking, but it's easy enough to imagine. Nine months of waiting to nibble the sweet toes on the little feet kicking inside of her. Nine months of waiting to put her ear to his warm chest and hear his heart beat with her ears, instead of feeling it through her hands laid over her belly. Nine months of waiting to see his eyes, smell his skin and kiss his nose.

Jesus' birth was, and is, the most anticipated birth the world has had the honor of being patient for. Soon we will celebrate his birth again, but for now, we wait. We wait patiently and happily, all while preparing our souls for that very moment they felt their worth.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas. Enjoy the wait.