Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spontaneous Catholics is now Ignitum Today! And now that the pixels have realigned at the new address, it's safe to share this with you (Please go LIKE the new Facebook page here):

“I know Catholics aren’t exactly known for being spontaneous…” my priest said to a chorus of laughter.
This morning’s Thanksgiving Day Mass took a turn for the unexpected when the conclusion of our priest’s homily called for an open forum among the community. He asked the 100 or so in the congregation to “go around the table” and shout out that which we are thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.
Immediately I winced, not because I didn’t like the idea, but because I lacked faith in the bravery of my brethren. We’re Catholic, after all. We like tradition, camaraderie and (sometimes sadly) the norm.
Thus, when the first shout out in gratitude for our close community came from the music pit, my anxiety faded. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I belong to, perhaps, the greatest community of believers I’ve known.
We’re not the most traditional (we don’t have kneelers or altar servers), we’re not the most pious, but the 1300 sq. ft. commons area outside the sacristy is a-buzz with chatting families and loud voices left over from the previous Mass within minutes of a later Mass beginning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mount

Moments that remind us God fully exists
"The Mount" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I blog.

Blogging is a lifestyle, not just a practice involving drafts, HTML, and comment boxes. When you blog, you start seeing life through the scope of your writing capabilities.

Bloggers get to a point wherein every lesson they learn must be assessed: can I share this with the world on my blog? Will I do it justice? Should I just jot down this thought on my napkin while no one is looking?

That point sneaks up on you until one day you have a really great cry, or your talking with your best friend about something you've never discussed with anyone, and you think, "I need to blog about this."

It's a similar problem that plagues Christians (the bloggers and non-bloggers alike) in their daily lives. I know my mind is littered with mental notes of the "perfect" analogy, or the "best" examples of Christian living, set aside to pull out in the middle of a discussion.

We get so wrapped up in the path we took to grow our relationship with Christ and want to share it with others that we forget that the Holy Spirit is at work all day, everyday. We start to judge, accuse, get comfortable, get lazy, and go through the motions.

In cases such as these, in His infinite wisdom, God provides for us His vast expanse of nature.
Mt. Rainier (I don't own this picture)
When I traveled to Seattle and my beau joined me for a four day Northwestern excursion, we spent an entire day around Mt. Rainier. Upon arrival, the day was chilly due to cloud cover, but not enough for a jacket on the hike.

It's no mistake that much of Jesus' greatest work was accomplished outside, e.g., feeding the 5000, Beatitudes, Crucifixion, etc. The great outdoors opens the scope for larger crowds and a reminder of Original Man's surroundings.

Rather than slipping into an 8th grade poem about crisp air, clear blue sky, white mountain tops and ... oops, we're already there.

There is no virtual reality game for hiking or walking around without the whuushhh of cars rushing by while you stare off the edge of a cliff in the presence of a snow-covered mountain in July.

It would be like trying to describe the vast experience of a conversion or enlightenment by explaining the wallpaper in the room one was sitting in when it happened.
"Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound..." 1 Kings 19: 11-12
When we ascended the mountain, with the iconic Rainier peak to our left and green-carpeted mountain piles on our right, a warm wind picked up. It slowly nudged the clouds over our heads and beyond our sight.

The sun emerged without threat of straggling cloud when we started descending the other side of the trail, illuminating the landscape and strengthening the color contrasts. In one [panting] moment at the high point of the trail, I felt God in the wind.

I grabbed a pen (still not free of the blogger's crutch) and wrote this down, my leg as my clipboard:
He makes it so obvious to us and people still won't recognize Him. Post about spiritual dry spells vs dry rainforests. You don't realize how you could not see Him when it's wet. The opposite when it's dry.
I certainly don't have it figured out and my homage to the spiritual jump-start I got that day at Mt. Rainer is to avoid describing it. Rather than belittling it, I just encourage anyone who is physically able to climb away from daily life, to do so.

Go somewhere you can watch out for Him and listen for Him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Year of JML Love

Today is the one year anniversary of the unexpected passing of one of my grandparent figures. She was a wonderful, giving woman in every sense of the word. My family celebrated her life this morning at Mass, putting us in communion with her and the rest of the Communion of Saints.

Thank you, God, for putting her in the lives of my mom, my aunt, her husband, her children, her daughters-in-law, the grandchild she got to hold and the twin grandchildren who will learn about her throughout their lives.

In memory, I'm re-posting the eulogy I gave in her honor a year ago (For those who have never heard the Richmond accent, "Hello there" is pronounced <<Hello, they-yah>> and she was famous for it):

Hello they-yah.

One of the most consistent memories I have of Joan Marie was that she was always very well put together. She always had a fun jacket or sweater, perfectly matched shoes, and a fresh face of make-up. I remember that every time I hugged her, I felt a little foundation rub off onto my cheek.

Now, I think I was in 6th grade when I finally grew taller than her, so it was the little ritual I will always remember: first, she’d say “Hello they-yah Elizabuth,” Second, bend down, but not until the last second, so as not to look like I was about to hug a 10 year old. Third, accept the warm kiss on my cheek and feel the slick spot of foundation on my cheekbone. Just like I could feel that little spot on my cheek, we all feel the direct and indirect “rub offs” that Joan left on each of us.

Joan Marie and the house she decorated WERE CHRISTMAS. She used to tickle my dad into submission. Laura and Chris always mentioned each time they received a gift, which was always perfectly wrapped, on time, and ideal for that person, it would most likely be green. My freshman year of college, she IM'd me. My 65 year old Great Aunt IM'd me! I’m sure Michael Jr will testify that she was the coolest Mimi around and he’ll get to tell his new cousins all about her.

Joan lived the faith and didn’t ask for credit. Obviously Matthew 6 was stamped right on her heart. She probably dropped off meals at peoples’ houses who, to this day, do not know from whom they came.

This philosophy spilled over, in abundance, to her life with Saint Gertrude High School. I never knew how involved in Saint Gertrude she was until I was pleasantly surprised to run into her at a class correspondents’ meeting earlier this fall. Gerties love their committees, I think I sit on 3 of them and I’m sure she sat on 30 or more since she graduated. There she was at her alma mater for what was likely her 1000th meeting to discuss Alumnae relations, chatting up some ladies from her Gertie era. She was the popular kid!

When I offered to talk about Joan, Johnny asked me not to be too soupy. So let me see: ham biscuits, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, Peecahn PAHI.

Let’s just agree, the essence of Joan Marie is: Joy. And it’s our job to keep that joy going.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ferris Bueller, You're My Hero - 7QT, Volume 50

Click to go to Jen's Blog

This one goes out to my lovely cousin who had to prod me a few times in the last few weeks due to lack of posts/quick takes. Normally I would post a picture of us as babies, but I forgot to ask permission.
Here's one I think she would appreciate:
(Owned by Focus Features)

I love my job because it allows me to travel to and fro and pays for hotels with views like this:


We were in Ft. Lauderdale last week and one of my co-worker buddies suggested we take the rest of the weekend to relax instead of flying out. Relax we did (with a minor hiccup on the way home).

We tried to go in the sun, but it was so windy and there were so many (albeit fast-moving) clouds that we ended up back in the hotel hot tub every few hours. It was glorious to sit and read outside, especially when I was in my ski jacket in the Virginia mountains just two weeks ago:


I'm obviously the one taking the picture and NOT standing on the waterfall above. A group of friends from college gathered at one friend's family house in a Virginia ski resort at the end of October. REUNION!

We were driving up the mountain, minding our own business, and it starts to snow. And it snowed and snowed. And snowed.

My beau was going to have to join on Saturday because he did something very impressive that Friday (big pat on the back, AGAIN, you-know-who-you-are) and took a big exam. I was worried it would be unsafe for him to come up after the snow, but come he did, just in time for the pumpkin-carving contest.

It's hard to see it, but ours is the cat next to the turtle.

It was during that trip that I realized I'm officially an adult.

You would have thought that might have happened at Confirmation, 18, 21, or any other year in the last six, but no. Half of the folks on our little reunion trip were married (to one of the other people on the trip). Adult.

Perhaps it negates the epiphany into adulthood when one points it out...

To distract you from that, I would like to urge you to read Scott Hahn's "A Father Who Keeps His Promises." I haven't done enough studying of the Bible, so the idea of walking through the entire Old Testament into the New Testament intimidated me.

Read it, you'll know what he means when he says our God really is a Father who keeps His promises. Over and over and over again. Especially when we don't deserve it.


Now for the reason for the title:

Liesl of "The Spiritual Workout Blog" is my hero.

She went to the doctor yesterday for something entirely unrelated to her face, yet the first thing the doctor mentioned was birth control treatments for acne. Liesl said her in-head reaction shouted, "Yes I would like to pollute my body in exchange for getting rid of a zit."

Later that night, Liesl constructed her words and called the doctor to leave a voicemail. She thanked the doctor for her time and attention that day and then confronted her about her rash suggestion for birth control. She asked her, as a patient, to consider the extremely harmful, carcinogenic side effects of The Pill before off-handedly prescribing it to the women who walk in her door.

How many of us stand up and raise our voices like that? Well, Liesl did and she wins the Catholic (really, this should apply to all women) Superhero award.


The Bright Maidens were *cough* unable to *cough cough* post this week. Thank you for your patience, but we're going to post on the topic, "Moments we realized God fully exists" on THIS Tuesday.

As Mary said, "Perfect for Thanksgiving week!"

Yes, yes, that's exactly why we're posting it late...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Traveling with Purpose

Tie your running shoes to the outside of your bag before the security lines to save space and wear slip off shoes for ease of removal. Keep your 3-1-1 liquids bag in an outside pocket. Have your ID and boarding pass in one hand and your laptop in the other, prepared to grab two plastic bins.

Fill this place with LIGHT
Much of the last two years of my life have been spent in airports or en route to a different location for work. The quirks of traveling have become habit. I am not as mechanical as Clooney in Up in the Air, but I'm good at the routine.

In the first few trips I took for my job, I concentrated on looking like a professional traveler instead of interacting with others along the way. I was always courteous and kind, I would even strike up a few chats:

"Is this seat taken?" "No, no, it's all yours!" or "I think I'm in the seat on the other side of you." "Okay, no problem, I'll get up!" I was really reaching people to the core.

Airplanes always seem like temporary time machines to me. I get on the plane, sit for X hours and then get off, knowing I might bump into that lady in the restroom or that guy in the line for coffee. We'll probably never see each other again.

It reminds me of how many people on Earth I will never know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Neither parties will do OUR job

I had great plans for this post. I was going to stealthily tip toe between the nail-biting subject of politics and the clearer world of Catholicism to argue what you already know: Catholics don't have a party.

Both Democrats and Republicans should check themselves against morals. The political right in the Church have to avoid harmful selfishness, warmongering, and supporting murder through the death penalty and euthanasia. The political left in the church have to avoid creating too much power for the secularized government and avoid supporting abortions, euthanasia, and other non-negotiable beliefs by association.

As I am a recovering politicaholic, I have tried hard to avoid the subject of politics and elections on this blog, other than on an issues basis. This post was going to climb over that wall I built and offer the reader a hand to see both sides. Like I said, I had great plans.

The talented and insightful Anna Williams has done a much better job than I could have done and I would rather just point you to her for your political feast:

In pursuit of Catholic politics at

Politics are a tricky business, even trickier for a Catholic. Anna reminds us that our Catholic faith encompasses our entire life, not just the parts outside of the voting booth.

Now I must go off and guide where the rubber meets the road: it's off to the voting booths for me. Lord, please guide my thoughts, so that I may cast my tiny vote in a way that helps and does not harm my community.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hold your tongues

PDA in the Digital Age

by Julie at The Corner with a View
Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite will be sitting out this week.
"Hold your tongues" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

We've all clicked through more Facebook photo albums than we care to admit.

Perhaps you're more disciplined than I am, but I remember when Facebook first allowed Photo Albums back in the fall of 2005 and I stayed up until 3:00 in the morning, clicking through random photos. What a stalker I "was."

Even today, though the nuance of Facebook and photo albums has worn thin, I find myself perusing a few photo albums of people I barely know. Call me creepy, but I say Facebook has opened a whole new scope for amateur sociology and I eat it up. The colors, the creative Halloween costumes, the photos of places I wish I could go, happy wedding and baby photos of those I haven't seen in years. I just can't get enough of the pictures!

One sure way to get me to click away, especially when I was lovesick and single, was when a Facebook friend posts a MySpace-style photo of a smoochfest from an arm's length away. Yup, a split-second look at two (usually young and freshly dating) folks exchanging a kiss just seems out of place in my admittedly liberal dose of photo perusing.

Many couples post pictures of kiss exchanges between them and their new spouses in their wedding photos and these are quite touching. They seem like moments of ecstasy, captured by someone invited or hired to document the day.

I'm not writing to condemn others for the random kissing photo in our digitized world. Some are simply more comfortable with flaunting their physical love for their significant other than I am.

The Facebook generation has fewer inhibitions to their privacy and the camp seems to be split: is Facebook PDA better, worse, or the same as in-person PDA? Perhaps we shouldn't be looking at photos of our friends if we're not prepared to see their tongues. Or perhaps we should think about why we're posting a play-by-play of our tonsil hockey on Facebook.

Most people posting these photos are probably not boiling down their entire relationship to one kissy photo, but that's one of the impressions it gives: This is how we love each other, isn't it cute? I would suggest they consider the potential pain of "detaging" or deleting those photos if the relationship were to end, knowing that they can neither "detag" nor delete the image from onlookers' eyes and minds.

Just because you're on the Internet and you cannot physically see other people does not mean the rest of the world ceases to exist. We're all humans out here and those who tend to interact with more people through the Interwebs would do well to remember that.
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