Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Time for Discipline

Ash Wednesday with Cross | slide 1

I am so excited, because Lent beings this week!

Now, I realize that may seem strange, especially since Lent is a time of sacrifice and self-denial.  But, any of you who have been following this blog for a while know I often create many goals for myself, yet have trouble following through, most recently with my New Year's resolutions.  I made many resolutions, too many, and I have fallen short of all of them.  I knew I needed to do better, every day I felt guilty for my short-comings, but something was holding me back.  And then, the beautiful liturgical calendar of the Church intervened, and Lent came!

I have decided to use this season of Lent as the perfect time to start a "spiritual boot-camp."  I modified my resolutions, and made a new list of reachable goals.  I started listening to podcasts again, because I love to find new ways to remain "healthy and holy" ("Health and Holiness" is the name of a podcast I enjoy very much.  It is hosted by a Dutch priest named Fr. Roderick and he discusses ways to live a better life, both physically and spiritually.  He describes his style as "off the cuff," which makes his podcast a very light-hearted and enjoyable one).  I also started reading some theology, staring with Stephen Ray's Crossing the Tiber, which I am reading for the first time and will review at the end of Lent. 

Over time, I have discovered that it is impossible for me to do well without the proper tools.  So, here's a list of some of my favorite Lenten "tools" that have helped me benefit from the season, and may hopefully help you too!

  1. Prayer:  Always start with prayer!  Do not go another minute without offering up your intentions to do better this Lent, and the ways you plan to do so, to God for His blessing and help.  A plan started this way will succeed, but one totally dependent upon your own strength will fail.  Stand on a rock, don't build your house in the sand!
  2. The Magnificat:  This popular, monthly devotional that many Catholic subscribe to offers a simplified version of the Divine Office, and has a new "Morning" and "Evening" prayer for every day, and "Night" prayer for each month, along with the daily Mass readings and reflections.  Lent is the season when I appreciate this the most, because it forces me to add some structure to my daily schedule by saying at least the morning and night prayer every day.
  3. The Passion of the Christ:  This movie is an essential for me, I've been watching it every Good Friday with my Mom for the past couple years.  I reviewed it last Lent, and you can read my full opinion of it here.  A very dear friend of mine told me she stayed up all night on Good Friday reflecting on the passion of Christ using Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion (go here if you don't know about who she is), which I thought was a beautiful idea and one I plan to try this year  (an interesting side note: I've heard that they used this book when they were filming The Passion).
  4. A Notebook:  For writing down things learned, for telling the Lord about my struggles, for writing down my Lenten goals where I can see them and be reminded of them regularly.
  5. St. Therese's Sacrifice Beads and The Gargoyle Code:  I put these two together because they're new this year.  My dear friend made me a "St. Therese Sacrifice Beads" bracelet, and what you do is move a bead every time you make a sacrifice for God.  These beads can be used for all sorts of things, for example my Mom likes to use them to count the things she wish she had done better throughout the day, to remind herself to pray about them before she goes to bed, to ask God for guidance the next time a situation like that arises.  But, during Lent I like to use them to count sacrifices; it helps me keep in mind the great theme of Lent: Christ's suffering for us.  The Gargoyle Code is a book by Fr. Dwight Longenecker written in the style of C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters; it is a conversation between demons trying to tempt their human "assignments" and eventually bring them to Hell.  It is eye-opening, and delivers a fresh perspective on the human race.  Fr. Longenecker's book is written as a devotional, day-by-day read for the Lenten season, and this is the first year I am treating it as such.  It's a wonderful way to instill the virtue of humility within yourself during this season where becoming prideful is easy.
I hope these things help you all find new inspiration, and I would love to hear some of the things you all like to do to get the most out of Lent.

May God bless all of your Lenten goals.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Joke of a Compromise

President Barack Obama speaks at Ford’s Torrence Avenue assembly plant on Chicago's South Side on Thursday.There he is, President Obama, the man who thought he could pull the wool over the eyes of millions of Catholics in America by claiming he had modified the HHS Mandate in a way that would make everyone happy.  Unfortunately for him, it isn't that easy.

For those who do not know what I'm talking about, let me explain.  On January 20, Obama tried to install a new policy called the HHS Mandate.  This mandate would have forced all employers, Catholics included, to provide free sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs to anyone who decides he (or she) wants them.  After all of the other things he's gotten away with, I guess he figured, "Why not try this!"  But when his intentions became public knowledge, he received a reaction he never expected.  Catholics everywhere errupted; honestly I was very impressed with the nation-wide reaction.  When Obama realized that he just woke up all the Catholics who had been blindly voting for him, he tried to fool them again by saying he would find some "middle ground" to pacify everyone.  But his "compromise" was a joke.  Instead of supplying the contraceptives themselves, employers now are going to have to pay higher rates for insurance companies that will provide the same thing to employees for free.  So, Catholic employers are still being forced to pay for services that are contrary to their beliefs.

Unfortunately for Obama, it's not working.  The Catholics who were not already paying attention to politics have been woken up, and it's going to take a lot more than a fake deal to lull them back to sleep again.

God always uses evil for the triumph of a greater good, and this is a perfect example.  Now that Catholics are all fully aware of the dangers of having this un-American man in office, Obama's chance of being re-elected is looking even worse, and Rick Santorum's chance is becoming more promising.

Thank God for this, and may He put the man who can turn this country around in office, soon!

Picture from

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"[Vegetarianism is] the belief that the body is a sort of magical factory
 where things go in as vegetables and come out as virtues"

I came across this quote in the current issue of the St. Austin Review, and thought it was hilarious!

Chesterton is one of the only people who can honestly be described as "seriously funny".  I just finished his The Ballad of the White Horse, and it was incredible.

What are some of your favorite Chesterton quotes?

picture from

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Horses and Zebras

War Horse

Normally I don't like animal movies.  Yes, I find them inspiring, but too often the animal dies in the end and leaves me feeling depressed. This one was different.  I absolutely loved this movie. 
Basically, the story begins with a middle-aged man buying a horse against his better judgment; he needed a work-horse and he bought a young show horse.  He brings it home, and his son Albert forms a very special bond with the animal.  The two seem to understand each other in a deep, beautiful way.  But, due to a financial crisis within the family, the father sneaks off early in the morning to sell the horse to the French army, looking for troops at the beginning of World War I.  The story follows the horse as he is traded from one owner to another, and those watching get a glimpse of how the war is affecting different people.  The story also follows Albert, who joins the army as soon as he is old enough in order to find his beloved horse.

What I Liked:

This movie was wonderful.  There were no inappropriate scenes, the curse words were minimal (I'm having trouble remembering any), and nothing was too graphic, despite the fact that the PG-13 rating is due to the war scenes.  The characters are so real and beautifully written.  This movie truly has the depth, beauty, excitement, and morals that make a film worth watching.  There is even a scene where a soldier begins to recite Psalm 23.

Possible Concerns:

Since it is a war movie, there are some sad scenes and quite a few deaths.

I recommend this movie to everyone.  My brother and I loved it; this film is one of the rare movies coming out now that actually support Christian morals, honest characters, and quality material.

We Bought a Zoo

My brother and I went to go see this movie seeing the cute trailer, and after seeing it "cute" is really the best way to describe it.  It is about a widower, Benjamin Mee, who has spent his whole life living on the edge thanks to his job as a reporter.  He has done just about everything, and is afraid of hardly anything.  After his son, who is depressed after his mother's death and has begun to draw morbid pictures as a way to release this depression, is expelled from school, Benjamin decides it's time for himself, his son, and his seven-year old daughter to start a new life, to begin again.  They begin house-hunting, and upon driving up to a run-down house in a beautiful landscape decide they are meant to have it.  That is, until they find out it's a zoo, and anyone who buys the house must agree to re-open and run it.  Despite his misgivings, Benjamin buys the house after seeing how happy his daughter looks, happier than she's looked in a long time.  The movie tells of the difficulties of their new life, the strained relationship between Benjamin and his son, and the family's new relationships with the surviving zoo employees.

What I Liked:

It is obvious from the very beginning of the movie that Benjamin was completely in love with his wife, and this love continues through the entire film.  His devotion is truly touching, as is his love for his kids.  This love is seen more strongly in his relationship with his daughter, but as the movie progresses and the father and son get through their difficulties with each other, the love becomes apparent there, too.

Possible Concerns:

Despite being advertised as a family-friendly film, there is cursing in this movie.  A couple times the words are yelled, a couple times just thrown into regular conversation, which was very disappointing.  The son's morbid pictures are very disturbing, one in particular being hard to look at, so preview the movie before showing to young viewers.  Also, the ring-leader of the zoo employees is a straight-forward 28-year old female, who tells Benjamin that if she "wanted to kiss him, he wouldn't have a choice."  And, later on in the movie, she proves her point.  It's hard to tell if their relationship is pursued on a romantic level, but I was pretty disappointed to see a romance between them at all, since he had only been a widow for six months.  But, I will say, that even though this does happen, the movie ends with Benjamin acting out the day he met his wife for his kids; a very sweet scene.

Overall, this was one of those movies that might be fun to rent for a movie night, but I wouldn't buy a copy.  Not exactly family-friendly, unfortunately.  But, I still feel like Benjamin was one of the more positive father figures to emerge in recent movies.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

God Bless.