An Irish Romance

 By Tracy O’Dwyer

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WELL AND TRULY MARRIED: Our sacramental marriage is symbolized by our very first Christmas ornament.

It’s Christmas again. Here I am, snug in Ireland, married to Liam, the man I love. But it was not always so.

The philosophy behind how Liam and I came together is something I think about a lot. Especially now during the Christmas season, as it has to do with knowing what is truly important. This is a hugely important part of who we are, how we met and how our success story evolved and came to be. We were – in our separate lives — preparing ourselves to become a better people for our future spouse.

Life is funny. Every decision you make — small or big, right or wrong – leads to exactly where you belong. You must have faith; as long as you do the right thing — even if it’s not popular — God will take care of your needs. You will see the greater picture when the time arrives to understand.

What does this mean? Simply this – if you are spending this Christmas alone and if you think you are ready now, you probably aren’t, quite yet. Or maybe your future spouse is not yet ready.

It’s all in God’s timing. Plain and simple. It’s not on your clock at all. There is a right time, a right place and the right person. You could be 20, you could be 40 or you could be 60.

Liam and I both know this, because we have felt the hand of God preparing us for the day I stepped off the plane in Dublin.

If you are spending this Christmas alone and if you think you are ready now, you probably aren’t, quite yet. Or maybe your future spouse is not yet ready.

Alone In the Windy City

In 2003, I had recently moved from Texas to Chicago, where I had no Catholic friends. My parish had no young adult group. Ditto, other parishes. Searching “Young Adult Catholic groups” on Google yielded dating websites. I wasn’t interested, but signed up for a free membership on Catholic Match anyway.

A few months later I found what I was looking for, in the most surprising of places — a community of Catholic friends all across the globe in the forums on Catholic Match. To this day, I remain friends with so many of these wonderful people.

IRISH WEDDING: Liam and I were married on The Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 2009.

But dating? Well, I knew I had to break my cycle of wrong relationships. I was a good person, doing the right things, but ended up disappointed, time after time. I knew it was the people I was choosing, but it took some time of personal discernment to realize that the common denominator in any relationship was me!

I had to begin again, this time asking God for His will for my life. (Asking God for His will is not asking for the things you want. Because we know that God will give you the things you need; your wants are completely different.) Without those light bulb moments and the ‘Ah ha’s’ it would have been more likely that Liam and I would have completely passed each other by.

I was over-the-moon happy, on my own, as a single mother, with an amazing daughter, supportive family, and the best group of friends one could ask for. I was happy home alone on a Saturday night; I was even happy when I had no date for Valentine’s Day. I didn’t need someone else to make me happy.

I was amazed by the holiness of some of the incredible guys on Catholic Match. This helped me to create a picture of what a good, holy man looked like. This helped me prepare for my ‘Joseph,’ my Liam.

I was amazed by the holiness of some of the incredible guys on Catholic Match. This helped me to create a picture of what a good, holy man looked like. This helped me prepare for my ‘Joseph,’ my Liam.

Preparing for Marriage

We prepare for weddings, parenthood, sending our children to college.  We plan retirement and Christmas dinners. So why don’t more people prepare themselves for their future spouses?

My advice for single people? Take the time now to prepare for one of your most important decisions. Prepare now to help you choose the right spouse. Spend the time working on yourself to be a better person.

All the while I was in Chicago, half a world away my future husband, Liam was taking care of his dying mother. He spent 23.5 hours by her bedside with only a 30 minute break to eat and do chores. Feeding, clothing, bathing his mother, while also taking care of his father.  He cooked, cleaned, scrubbed floors, did the laundry, the ironing, the grocery shopping.

This is the man who sacrificed his life during his prime — his wants, his needs — to care for another. He was preparing for his mother’s death and all along unbeknownst to him preparing for a spouse. How? By being a selfless person who knew exactly what it meant to give of himself, even under the worst circumstances and to put another person first.

 

This is the man who sacrificed his life during his prime — his wants, his needs — to care for another. He was preparing for his mother’s death and all along unbeknownst to him preparing for a spouse.

All the time I was busy with life, in nursing school, raising a young daughter on  my own and in personal discernment so I could be the best me I could be.

This is our TRUE success story. Little by little, we were becoming better people separately, day by day praying for one another, listening to God’s will and preparing ourselves step by step.

God knew He would bring us together, when the time was right.

August 27th 2008

That morning, I stumbled upon someone’s review of my Catholic Match profile; his name was Liam and he lived in Ireland.  Glorious travel photos, hilarious captions on photos of miniature donkeys in Ireland and his own little doggie ‘Oisin.’

Laughing out loud, I was charmed with his personality. Even though I wasn’t interested, for the first time in my life, I made the choice to send him an emote to him first.

The next morning it all began. A weeks-long series of email and then finally skyping. This also started our on-line game playing of checkers and backgammon, betting on who would win.

First, a trip to Rome, if I won. ( I lost.)
Then, a trip to Ireland, if I won. ( I won.)

The very next day, I had a ticket to Ireland with my name on it. And that’s how it came to be that I stepped off the plane in Dublin.

He was a perfect gentleman. We had a lovely time. I stayed in a charming hotel in Dublin, and saw all the sights. But it wasn’t until I darkened the door of an Irish old folks’ home that I knew.

After years of taking care of his father after his mother had died, Liam could no longer do it on his own.  With great pain, he’d brought Martin to a nearby old folks’ home.  And this is where it happened. The “You’ll just know moment.” That moment you look at someone and your mouth falls to the floor and you say.. “He’s the One”.

I watched him take out his father’s night clothes and neatly fold them on the bed — which he’d made up for his dad, as he does every night. When I saw him put his arms lovingly around his dad’s shoulders, I got it.

This is a man, I saw, who puts others before himself. This is a man who will forever take care of someone regardless of sickness or health. I knew, that in good times and bad, Liam was capable and willing to put another first.

I watched him take out his father’s night clothes and neatly fold them on the bed — which he’d made up for his dad, as he does every night. When I saw him put his arms lovingly around his dad’s shoulders, I got it.

A Plane Ticket with My Name On It

I left Ireland on December 15th, not knowing if I’d see Liam again. I was sorta sad, but not too bothered. I am not the Cloud 9 type anyway.  I hadn’t fallen in love, per se. He called while I was still on the plane.  He was sad as well. He wished me a safe flight.

Back in Chicago, we talked the next day. Liam asked me how I felt about how everything went. He said he didn’t ask whilst I was there because he didn’t want to put any pressure on me. He’d thought that ‘a good think about it’ would be good for me. And he was exactly right in doing so. It was mature and responsible and another way of putting himself on the back burner.

The next day Liam sent me another plane ticket to Ireland with my name on it. The flight was  leaving in just 6 days; I hadn’t even unpacked from the first trip. That began a series of transatlantic flights for me and my daughter – and my mom, too.

Liam flew my mother from NYC to Ireland so she could give him the once over.  Apparently he passed with flying colours. On March 12th 2009, after Easter Mass and our ham dinner, Liam got down on one knee at the dinner table in front of my mother, my daughter and his father.

Would I marry him?

Yes, I told him.  We were married four months later on August 15th 2009, on The Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Two Completely Different Halves

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OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS IN IRELAND featured snow — a delightful surprise for Liam and my daughter.

Liam and I are complete opposites. Two completely different halves that come together beautifully to form an amazing whole. I don’t know how, it just works.

He’s left-brained and wicked smart with three degrees and post grad, and I’m right-brained — a ‘Jill of All Trades’ who can make a five course meal out of string.

He’s a night owl; I’m an early bird.  He is kind and quiet; I’m kinda loud.  He rarely has a bad day; he throws me chocolate when I’m cranky.  He irons and makes the beds; I do laundry.  He loves the MALL; I hate the place.

 

He’s left-brained and wicked smart with three degrees and post grad, and I’m right-brained —a Jill of all trades who can make a five course meal out of string.

He thinks I’m a bad driver; I get car sick when he drives. He likes his bread buttered on each side; I won’t accept my sandwich unless it’s cut corner to corner.  He makes my coffee every morning; I make him cupcakes.  He’s usually always right; I usually think I’m always right.  He takes forever in the grocery store and buys items not on the list; I’m in and out and only get what I need.   He’s got the patience of a Saint; me,  not so much.   I love chocolate; he steals my chocolate.

He loves and adores me; I love and adore him. We are well and truly married.

Postscript

Four days before our first contact on Catholic Match, Liam had given up. He’d received a renewal notice and decided to cancel.

But God had other plans. Instead, Liam accidentally clicked ‘Renewal’ instead of ‘Cancel.’

Three days later, Liam found me.

Indeed, God works in strange and wonderful ways.

 

Christmastime in Dublin

By Tracy O’Dwyer Imagine nearly two weeks when all but the most necessary chores are set aside. When family is reunited. When the hospitality of the house is open to all.  When friends and neighbours gather around your fireside for long evenings of storytelling, music and reminiscing. That’s what you can expect during Christmastime in … Read more

The Perfect Gift for a Priest

by Angie Gadacz

Rick Murphey lives just outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, tucked away in the woods with a small herd of sheep, a few chickens and other critters. Rick grew up working in his father’s construction business in Carson City, Nevada, learning cabinet-making skills. Over the years, he came to appreciate the character and beauty of the different grains, blemishes and knots of wood.

Today, Rick is a man with a unique vision. In the long cold winter months from November to May, Rick can be found in in his woodshop, crafting this vision into reality.

“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom, “ he says. “These shrines promoted holy adoration and property protection.” However charming this idea, Rick found little interest beyond a few relatives.

FSSP priests Father Gordon (left) and Fr Kemna (with glasses) admire Rick’s altar in his Idaho home.

“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom.” Rick Murphey is a man with a unique vision.

“I got a new idea at dinner one night, from Rev. Dennis Gordon, FSSP, our pastor at St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, “ says Rick. When Father Gordon visited to bless one of Rick’s wayside crucifix shrines, he asked Rick to make a portable altar, designed to house an altar stone he had obtained from the chapel of the Monsignor who had baptized him. Father Gordon wanted to use the Cristeros-era stone and the portable altar on occasions when he had no access to a church to say Mass.

Rick eagerly responded to the challenge of designing and building such an altar.

“First, we built a prototype and over the course of a couple builds, a smaller, lighter model — based on feedback from the parish priests. This resulted in a more compact 14”x22”x9” size weighing about 35 lbs., with a sturdy handle for ease of carrying. It fits within the maximum dimensions for a carry-on with most airlines.”

The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.

The front panel on the altar is engraved with the “IHS” and is hand-painted with antique gold, highlighted with black. “Invisible” hinges allow the wings of the altar to fold out, yet still appear to be a long solid piece of wood. The wings are supported by two pullout drawers, lined with felt for storage of a mass kit and the crucifix. The top flips up, and a wood inlaid crucifix mounts atop in full view of the priest as he celebrates the Mass.

“Rick has found that priests prefer to have their own altar stone installed, but these altars can also be built without altar stones, in which case the priest would use a “Greek corporal” when he says Mass. This is a piece of cloth with relics sewn into it, usually used in military settings.

 

The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.

“Unfortunately, due to the amount of labor required and the quality of materials, these beautiful altars are expensive. Rick’s altars are fairly complex, consisting of more than 50 pieces of wood to assemble, but he doesn’t have a blueprint for them. Each one is custom-made, and he works off a “general” plan. At the advice of his parish priest, he has added a more simplified model, the “monastic model” without all many coats of polyurethane, for those priests who cannot afford the high gloss original model. This has enabled him to charge significantly less.”

Unlike most commercial artists, Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.

“Perhaps with the proper skills, tools, and motivations, more people can step forward,” he says. “There is a need for travel altars, and many priests would love to have them.” 

Rick’s altars can be found at his website:  stjosephsapprentice.com

 

Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.

Christmas Schkatalata in Italian Brooklyn

by Camille Loccisano There’s no getting around it. As an Italian-American, my holidays have always included great food, especially at Christmas.  Christmas Schkatalata was a favorite. I grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn — a middle-class neighborhood which nestles like a small jewel under the Verrazano Bridge. In the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, it was … Read more

“We Do Not Feel Worthy”

The Astounding Success of De Montfort Music

Each and every new release of their fledgling music company is up for a Grammy Award.

As veterans of global entertainment companies SONY and DreamWorks SKG,  Kevin and Monica Fitzgibbons have big-time entertainment business experience- and it shows. But that’s not what’s behind the phenomenal success of upstart De Montfort Music, they say.

So, why would two executives who learned from the best minds in the secular music world start a Catholic music company?

Monica Fitzgibbons sat down with Regina Magazine to tell their amazing story.

Q. Do you see evidence that people are drawn to sacred chant and traditional Orders? If so, why do you think this is?

Yes!!  All of our releases on De Montfort have shot to the top of the Classical Charts in Billboard!  They are up for Grammys!  

On the most basic level, people are hungry for the peace and contemplative moments that are inspired by this art.  

The fact that the music came from the Catholic Church originally and from religious, it is interesting to follow that “model,” so to speak. The music has been covered in all kinds of press outlets, from the faith-based to the mass media.  

There is no “typical” demographic other than to say the feedback we’ve received overwhelmingly points to the fact that on the most basic level, people are hungry for peace and contemplative moments that are inspired by this art.  

It also indicates that beauty reaches hearts in a special way, which provokes a response! This would be the work of something much greater than our company. More often than not the experience for us is almost that of being in the passenger’s seat and marveling at what these religious and the Holy Trinity can do together.  

To see this success is to be in awe of Our Creator.

More often than not the experience for us is almost that of being in the passenger’s seat and marveling at what these religious and the Holy Trinity can do together.  To see this success is to be in awe of Our Creator.

Q.  What made you start De Montfort Music?   

We started De Montfort Music as a way to try to give to art and culture the True and the Beautiful — and to share its roots from the ancient to the present day. We felt there was art that we wanted represented in today’s “conversation” that we felt passionate had an important role in the arts, as it had throughout the ages.

One of the models that was always interesting in our pasts in mainstream entertainment, so to speak, is that we would always try to not only put out the new art but also to trace the influences of the contemporary artist thereby leading to the discovery of more obscure historical content and we would typically try to connect those dots.

We started De Montfort Music as a way to try to give to art and culture the True and the Beautiful — and to share its roots. 

Q. What has been your biggest challenge?

Trying to keep up with these incredible religious and their abilities!! But this has been a good problem to have!

One of the things that has been fun and interesting with De Montfort Music is that we created it solely for Religious Orders, for them to release their music and know that we would create a space for them to do so. 

All of our releases on De Montfort have shot to the top of the Classical Charts in Billboard!  They are up for Grammys!  

Q.  What has been your greatest joy?

Discovering much of this music personally, but also bringing to the world original material created by these beautiful Religious Orders.  

Some of the most talented people in our world today have given their entire lives and identities over to God’s will in their vocation.  To see what He can do with these lives is extremely moving.  To then document and record these communities and their art is Heavenly.  

We do not feel worthy.  It’s a totally new feeling — different from than anything we ever experienced in our previous careers.  

Q. Where can people find this music?

 The website link for De Montfort Music is http://www.demontfortmusic.com

Some of the most talented people in our world today have given their entire lives and identities over to God’s will in their vocation.  To see what He can do with these lives is extremely moving.  To then document and record these communities and their art is Heavenly.  We do not feel worthy.

What Tiny Tim Really Taught Us

How Charles Dickens Accidentally Revived Christmas, What Tiny Tim Really Taught Us by Michael Durnan It is the year 1843.  A young Victoria is on the British Throne, supported by her consort, Prince Albert. The prince has introduced the German Christmas custom of a decorated fir tree — to an England that no longer cares about Christmas. Britain … Read more

The ‘Try-On’ Wife

A Short Story, by Beverly Desoto Stevens

After 15 years, they were breaking up. And it was Christmastime.

I stood in the spacious bedroom of the brick Mc Mansion, admiring my surroundings. The expensive furniture. The adjoining ‘master bath’ with every imaginable luxury, all in marble. The carefully-matched carpets and silk drapes — not too girly, but elegant, sober and respectable.

Just the kind of place that a successful St. Louis businessman might lay his head every night. And well he might, it seemed. He had earned every penny, as they say.

Drew would continue to sleep there, too. It was my sister who was moving out.

She was nineteen when she began working for Drew as a secretary. He was five years older, a fledgling builder in a real estate market poised on the brink of expansion. A year later, they’d moved in together, and proceeded to build a spectacularly successful business.

Megan is very pretty – slender, blonde, sweet-natured, she takes after my mother’s side of the family. I take after our dad – dark-haired, solid, hard-working. Mom tried to warn her about living together, but Megan wouldn’t hear a word of it.

Truth be told, we laughed about this in private. Bitter laughter, really. After all, our parents divorced when we were kids, so neither of them really had the right to say anything about our life choices.

As for Dad, he knew better. Never said a word.

After all, our parents divorced when we were kids, so neither of them really had the right to say anything about our life choices.

I stood at the window, looking at Megan’s brand-new Volvo SUV outside, gleaming in the winter sunlight. This was Megan’s ‘consolation prize,’ for her non-divorce.

“Pretty nice, right?” she asked, her voice heavy with the unaccustomed irony. She was packing, her matching Coach luggage overflowing with the loot of her 15-year relationship.  A dozen expensive handbags lay on her bed.

I picked one up, a $2000 beauty – all creamy beige luxury.

Megan snorted. “That was for Christmas last year. About the same time he started dating Gabriella.” She turned away from me then, but I thought I saw a tear gleaming in her eye.

I sighed.

Gabriella was pregnant. That happens pretty fast when you’re 23 years old, especially if you’ve been having sex regularly with some else’s boyfriend. Like Megan, Gabriella is a delicate blond.  Unlike my sister, Gabriella hasn’t been on the Pill for 15 years.

So, Drew and Gabriella will be married in a local mega-church next Saturday. Gabriella is barely showing, so her dewy youth will be resplendent in her strapless gown – a feast for the eyes of the 500 invited guests.  Their wedding photos would be taken against ‘a stunning backdrop of brilliantly-lighted holiday trees,’ too.

We knew this because Drew had inadvertently forwarded Gabriella’s breathless e-mail to my sister, in the chaos which had immediately ensued after his own email announcing his upcoming nuptials to his live-in girlfriend, my hapless sister.

This was uncharacteristic of the careful, business-like Drew. But he was so giddy with joy these days that Drew was making mistakes. This morning on the way out, he’d forgotten himself for a moment with Megan.

Would it be okay, he’d asked, if Gabriella’s gown could be delivered to the Mc Mansion that day?

My sister, normally the accommodating type, had drawn the line there.

No, she told Drew. Not until she moved out.

“Can you believe they’re going to use my dressing room as a nursery?” Megan said suddenly. I stood in the doorway of her pearwood-lined, ultimate luxury statement. The hushed lighting softly illuminated  the thick carpet, now heaped with a messy pile of designer shoes.

To be honest, I was awash in a sea of gut-wrenching emotions, myself. Rage at Drew for his callousness. Pity for Megan in her helplessness. Indignation at how this was how it had to be.

And something else, too. Something even more uncomfortable.

On the way over in her Volvo, Megan had said something uncharacteristically big-sister like.

“You don’t think this can happen to you, right?” she’d said, backing out of my condo driveway.

I was taken aback. Far more street-wise, I’d made sure I got my degree in finance. At 29, I had a good job and a stable relationship with Brendan. We were talking about moving in together, in fact. Though now obviously wasn’t the right time to discuss this with Megan.

“I was a ‘try-on’ wife, you know,” she’d continued quietly, as the beautiful car swept through the suburban streets decorated for Christmas. “Drew is a conservative guy. He wasn’t sure he could handle a wife and kids, so he used me to see whether he could do that.”

“And now he is. All ready, that is,” I replied bitterly. I hated conservative rich guys. Brendan wasn’t like that. He was a regular guy, proudly wearing his scruffy beard to his night job in a cubicle – answering IT questions for idiot baby-boomers.

“I thought about leaving him when I was your age,” she said simply. “I really wanted kids. And he didn’t.”

That sure has changed,” I snapped. Drew was positively glowing with pride when he’d stopped by the Mc Mansion.

How could a man change so much? It wouldn’t have been so bad for Megan now if she did have kids. At least she would have something, now, besides a pile of luxury goods.

“You know,” Megan said quietly, “I know three other women who this has happened to.”

Three other women stupid enough to become a rich man’s plaything, I thought. As if reading my thoughts, she smiled sadly and looked at me.

They didn’t even get a Volvo. Two of them had to pay for the movers themselves. All of them are in their mid-thirties…”

“You can have kids until you’re fifty now,” I said stoutly. “You have time.”

Megan had smiled sadly. “I’m thirty-six years old. The chances that I will find a man who wants kids in the next couple of years are pretty slim.”

“So, you don’t need a man,” I retorted. “You can get pregnant without one.”

Megan didn’t say anything. We drove in silence for a few minutes. When she finally spoke, her voice was choked with emotion.

Listen to me. I am in no shape to have kids on my own. I’ve been on the Pill for 15 years. It would take me months of hormone therapy to get pregnant now. I am a secretary looking for a job in a bad economy. A secretary that’s moving back in with her divorced mother. Get real. This sucks.”

“I know it does,” I said soothingly, trying to head her off at the pass. “You’re just upset now.”

No,” Megan replied sharply. “This is about you, too. Don’t tell me you’re not thinking of moving in with Brendan.”

“Brendan’s different,” I said shortly. The conversation was going in the wrong direction for me.

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

“You don’t know.”

“Mind your own business.”

Her breath drew in sharply at the rebuke. I was instantly apologetic.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s just that I don’t want to talk about Brendan now.”

She’d sighed, then, and said no more, as we pulled into the driveway of the Mc Mansion. The front door was beautifully decorated, by Megan, of course, who never failed to make a fuss over the holidays.

AD 1

Five stressful hours later, my sister burst into the library, where I was packing books.

“You think you can’t get him unless you let him move in with you, right?” Megan said suddenly, her arms full of linens.

“No,” I said reflexively. Though, of course she was right.

“And you think you’re better than me because you went to college, too.”

“No!” I replied heatedly. But Megan was too far gone to listen. She dropped the linens on the polished wooden floor. Her face was red.

“You think that because you and Brendan are ‘equals’ that none of this can happen to you. You think I’m just a dumb blond who got used by a rich guy. You think your college degree will protect you.

“Well, let me tell you something, little sister. Your job can disappear like that. Your man can, too. And you will be just like me. Middle-aged. Alone. No kids. Nothing.”

Mascaraed tears were coursing down her face, but Megan didn’t care. She wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“You think you’re above all this, right? Smarter than me?”

I didn’t quite know what to say. Of course, she was right. I gulped, and took the plunge.

“So what should I do? Wait until he asks me to marry him? We’ve been together for a year…”

“… and if he hasn’t asked, then he’s not gonna just because you are living together! TRUST ME! I KNOW THIS!”

I looked at Megan, surrounded by the detritus of her life. It was true. The tears came to me, unbidden.

“What the hell am I SUPPOSED TO DO?” I shouted suddenly.

The question hung in the air between us.

Megan shook her head slowly. She sighed heavily.

“Listen, I know exactly how you feel. You think somehow your love will be different. That everything will work out. And you keep taking the Pill, because it’s the responsible thing to do. And you work, and you hope. .

“Well, lemme tell you. It’s NO GOOD. And Brendan is no different than Drew. They get married when they get to a point when they feel like they can support a family. IF they get to that point,” she looked at me meaningfully.

“Brendan works for a living!” I said hotly.

“Yes. But does he earn enough to support you and a baby?”

“No, but I’m not expecting him to.”

“So, you think that you’ll do it all, right? You’ll get pregnant when Brendan comes around to the idea. You’ll take the hormones. Endure the pregnancy. Have the baby. Then you’ll go out and support the baby – and maybe Brendan too, right?”

I knew she was right. But I really didn’t want to admit it. I stood there glaring at her defiantly, tears coursing down my own cheeks.

“Listen,” she began, more kindly. “I know you’re scared. You’re at a make-or-break point with Brendan now, right?”

“Y-yes,” I said, miserably.

“You think it’s time to get to the next stage, right?”

“He does, too,” I said helplessly. “It’s his idea. He says we can save money. And be together.”

“Right. This way he doesn’t have to worry about you going out on him. And his rent bill goes down by half.”

I looked down, ashamed.  Brendan had said almost these exact words.

“Plus, you’ll probably do his laundry, right?” she laughed humorlessly. “Look, I’m not saying Brendan is a bad guy. I’m saying he’s a baby. And he doesn’t want to step up to the plate.”

“H-his parents are divorced, too,” I mumbled.

Megan let out a sudden peal of laughter.  Shocked, I gaped at her.

Everybody’s parents are divorced!” she exclaimed, her eyes twinkling with merriment. “That’s no excuse for not growing up.”

Later, as we drove slowly through the dark, snowy streets, Christmas lights sparkling at every door, I found myself wondering aloud how many unhappy couples lived behind the facades of these Mc Mansions.

“Who knows?” Megan shrugged, carelessly.

“What are you going to do now?” I asked, curious.

“Now?” she echoed, sighing. “I’m going back to Mom’s. Back to where I started when I was nineteen years old. And I’m going to Mass.”

“Ch-church?!” I spluttered, taken aback. “W-why?”

“Because I want to. I’ve started going to a Latin Mass, downtown.”

“In downtown St Louis?” This was not normal for my suburban sister. I would’ve bet she could count the number of times she’d been downtown by herself on one hand. “Why there?”

“Because it’s beautiful,” she sighed. “And right now, I need some beauty in my life.”

I thought about that. I could understand how she was feeling.  The ugliness of the strip-malled road we had turned onto suddenly seemed oppressive.

“Why don’t you come with me?” she said quietly. “We could go, for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Bring Mom, too.”

Maybe I will. Though Brendan probably won’t want to come.

But maybe I will, anyway.

PHOTO CREDITS: YUME DELGADO

Ladies, Take Back Your Christmas!

Eight Days to a Better, Blessed Catholic Season

by Beverly Stevens

Ladies, Take Back Your Christmas! It’s that time of year again, when women’s magazines inundate us with psychological studies about how depressed we get at Christmas.

Why are women often so sad at Yuletide? Mostly, it seems, we are casualties of the family under attack. Many are divorced, or have lost someone to illness. Or they are estranged from their family. Or they are suddenly the sole support of a family where a husband has been taken out of the work force — or out of their lives. Many are out of work – and down on their luck. Many women are just sick and tired, and about to give up hope.

For some  of us, Christmas is a time when all of life’s downers seem to crowd around like ghosts pointing accusing fingers. Some women get mad. Others get sad. Others just party frenetically.

The worst part is that all this stands in high contrast to the genuine good times that everyone else seems to be indulging in, right? Okay, so here’s some concrete steps you can take to pull yourself out of the Christmas Trap – courtesy of the Catholic Church, which brought you the real Christmas in the first place.

Take a deep breath. And then take the next eight days to re-adjust your Christmas. 

The First Day of Christmas: Get serious about making your season holy.

First, set your private Christmas goals, in a notebook reserved just for you. Here’s some ideas:

  • Reduce the stress.
  • Observe Advent.
  • Treat yourself every day.
  • Control your Christmas spending.
  • Shop Catholic sources.
  • Focus on helping others.
  • Create beauty.

DAY ONE: Get serious about your Christmas experience.

The Second Day of Christmas: Reduce the stress.

Your Christmas experience is largely in your own hands. Think about how you can reduce your stress level.

  • Limit or eliminate TV altogether. You don’t need the noise, the sentimental craziness, the bad evening news or the commercials. Use the time you have saved to go for a daily walk, read a book, or bake cookies.
  • Avoid crowds and traffic jams by limiting your driving to off-hours. Driving wastes time and gas, and drives your stress levels higher.
  • Shop online.
  • Suggest that you share planning and expenses for Christmas events with trusted friends or family.
  • Swap services with a good friend — you can color her hair, and she can babysit your kids.
  • Indulge in a warm bath – baking soda softens your skin, and a few drops of perfume add delightful scent.
  • Set aside time before bed to pray.

REDUCE STRESS: Avoid frustrating traffic jams. Plan to drive at off-hours.

The Third Day of Christmas: Observe Advent.

Since medieval times, the Church in her wisdom has helped Christians prepare for the Nativity of our Lord.

  • Contact your parish to see what their Advent plans are. If they are not observing the Season, find a Latin Mass parish near you 
  • If there are communities of Religious near you, visit their chapel, especially when they pray the Divine Liturgy.
  • Make a good Confession at least once between December 1 and December 24.
  • Set aside one evening each Advent week for your private devotional time. Light a candle. Play soft Advent music. Pray a rosary. Read the Biblical accounts in Matthew, Luke and Mark.
  • Set up your Nativity Scene, but leave the Baby Jesus in a drawer so that the youngest family member or visitor can have the privilege of placing the Child in the manger. Take a photo and send it to them!
  • Invite friends or neighbors to help decorate your Tree. Play Catholic chant music and serve simple refreshments.

OBSERVE ADVENT: Celebrate the Season by preparing for the Advent of our Lord.

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Treat Yourself Every Day.

You will be surprised how giving yourself a small treat every single day really does improve your mood.

  • Take a walk.
  • Light a candle in Church.
  • Go to exercise or stretching class.
  • Shop for a new Christmas outfit in a secondhand or vintage store.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Invite a friend for coffee.
  • Settle in with a good book.
  • Get your hair done.
  • Buy yourself a new lipstick.
  • Attend a school or church Christmas concert.
  • Go caroling.

TREAT YOURSELF: Take a walk with a friend.

The Fifth Day of Christmas: Control your Christmas spending.

Spending big bucks is about consumerism, not Christmas. Focus on spending with intent, for the right reasons and to support the right people. 

  • Instead of gifting busy friends and neighbors, give them the gift of time! Volunteer to make Christmas ornaments or cookies with their small children one afternoon. Sit with their elderly relative while they run around. Volunteer to walk their dog!
  • Instead of meeting friends for restaurant meals, plan a potluck dinner at your place. (If you can’t cook, provide the table, the wine and the cleanup!)
  • For wonderful, inexpensive gifts that enhance your faith and that of others, shop at online stores of Religious Orders.
  • Patronize your parish’s annual Christmas Bazaar.
  • Avoid buying expensive, ready-made gift packages – bake fresh Christmas cookies instead, taking care to wrap them beautifully!
  • Give the gift of a FREE Regina Magazine subscription!

DITCH THOSE EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT MEALS: Cook with friends at home!

The Sixth Day of Christmas: Shop Catholic Sources.  

Stop making global corporations richer. Many traditional Religious Orders and home-based businesses rely on Catholics doing their Christmas shopping at their stores – online or within their communities. And they are honest merchants, usually purveying top quality products.

  • Trappists, Dominicans, Benedictines, and Cistercians are just a few of the Orders who produce spectacular beer, wines, cheeses, coffee, baked goods and specialty items.
  • Visit your local Religious communities to see if they have any products – books, rosaries and CDs are very common.
  • Many Catholic parishes have Christmas Bazaars with homemade items – check out the websites of parishes near you!
  • Some parishes even have regular stores, which support their youth activities or other outreach.
  • Parish bake sales are a great way to pick up sweets for gifts – and for your dinner party table!
  • Patronize the Catholic companies you see online. (Maybe your homeschooling daughter could use some Catholic resources? Or your priest would welcome new vestments?)

SHOP AT CATHOLIC SOURCES: Many Orders rely on your Christmas spending to help them get through the year!

The Seventh Day of Christmas: Focus on helping others.

There is a lot of pain in this world, and we don’t have to hop a jet to find it or spend a million to make it better. You can help your neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners with simple gestures. (Plus, it helps to get your mind off your own worries!)

  • Inquire at your parish to see if they need help with events in Advent or Christmas.
  • Is your co-worker nursing a sick husband? Is your friend stressed to the max? Why not take her kids out for snow-sledding and hot chocolate? Or take her dog for a romp in the snow?
  • Reach out to your neighbors with small gifts – a homemade tin of cookies with a pretty ribbon often goes a long way!
  • If you know a family out of work, get together with some friends and organize a surprise food shopping expedition. Five friends donating $20 each can provide a family with a whole lot of food for the holidays!
  • Can you cook? Bake? Sew? Knit? Do crafts? How about house-cleaning? A clean house, folded laundry, a home-cooked meal, a handmade Christmas wreath, or a knitted afghan are all great lifts for families under stress during the holidays.

IS YOUR NEIGHBOR SICK OR OVERWHELMED? Walking her dog can be a great Christmas mood-lifter!


The Eighth Day of Christmas:
Create Beauty.

Christmas is ultimately about Beauty. Now is the time for you to take a fresh look at your life, to see where you can enhance the beauty of Life and the Faith.

  • Gather greens and berries to fill your house with simple, fresh, fragrant Christmas decorations.
  • Volunteer to decorate your Church for Christmas.
  • Begin work on Christmas crafts – with friends, this is especially enjoyable.
  • Give your home a new look for free! Use some of that time you’ve saved by turning off the TV — re-arrange the furniture in your living room, or give one wall a fresh coat of colorful paint.
  • Sing along with chant CDs as you drive around.
  • Throw a baking party! Invite friends over to make loads of cookies, sing Christmas carols and celebrate the season!
  • If people ask what you’d like for Christmas, tell them you’re saving up to take that drawing & painting class you’ve always wanted—and that you accept donations gladly. (This will set you up nicely for the New Year!)

CHRISTMAS GREENS from a walk in a nearby woods can grace your table this year.

UPDATE

The New Traditional Catholic Architecture

Duncan G. Stroik is an American architect, Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and founding editor of the Sacred Architecture Journal.

In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Duncan Stroik discusses what’s happening today, at the cultural nexus where Catholic culture and architecture meet.  

Q. Do you think that Catholic church architecture is at a turning point in America today? If so, why?

The movement towards traditional Catholic architecture is certainly building momentum in the United States. There are many bishops, pastors, and lay faithful who support the movement, and a growing number of architects with the understanding and training to design beautiful churches.

However, the modernist mentality also continues to influence some parishes, liturgical consultants, and architects. It is a constant tension experienced in each new building project, but I believe more people are becoming aware of the need for beauty and tradition.     

Q. Where do you find the greatest support for this classical architecture movement?

I find that younger bishops, clergy, and laity are enthusiastic in their support of the traditions of the Church, not limited to architecture, but also including music, sacred art, and all aspects of liturgy. Those middle-aged and younger grew up with the “brave new world” of abstraction and so-called liturgical participation and have found it unfulfilling.  

Those middle-aged and younger grew up with the “brave new world” of abstraction and so-called liturgical participation and have found it unfulfilling.  

Q. From whence does the impetus for this movement arise?

I believe it comes from a rediscovery of love for the tradition and the artistic patrimony of the Church. The experience of living in traditional cities also reinforces the movement towards Classical architecture, while the experience of the recent decades of architecture encourages us to seek what has been lost.

The experience of living in traditional cities also reinforces the movement towards Classical architecture.

Q. Is this extending outside the US, to your knowledge?

It is extending to England to some extent.  Europe remains in the hands of the cultural elite.  Africa, Asia and South America are next, though. The economics have made it difficult for them to build but that will change eventually.  

It is extending to England to some extent.  Europe remains in the hands of the cultural elite.  Africa, Asia and South America are next, though.

Q. What is the roadblock in many countries?

The Catholic faithful in most countries would prefer the tradition, they just don’t think they can have it due to the control of art and architecture by the cultural elites. 

Q. You founded a journal on church architecture, which you have been editing for 15 years. Can you tell us about why you created the journal?

The Sacred Architecture Journal was conceived in response to the many phone calls and letters I have received from pastors and laity requesting literature to read or architects to hire. The people of God have expressed a great desire for an architectural publication which will draw on the riches of the Catholic patrimony and articulate the principles for a sacramental architecture.

A respected cleric pointed out to me that while we have drama, music and art critics in our major journals there is little serious criticism of contemporary church architecture. Thus the intention of this journal is to sponsor substantive debate about this crucial subject.

Q. Where can you be reached?

I can be reached through my website at   http://www.stroik.com. The journal is located at http://www.sacredarchitecture.org

The Catholic faithful in most countries would prefer the tradition, they just don’t think they can have it due to the control of art and architecture by the cultural elites. 

Christmas in Carmel

by Donna Sue Berry

They are monastic superstars for a growing following of devotees of their Mystic Monk Coffee — an innovative small business that sustains the monks and their dream of building a monastery in the wilds of America’s Wyoming.  But they are also cloistered Carmelites, who observe strict contemplative rules. In this fascinating look behind the scenes, Regina Magazine’s Donna Sue Berry takes you on a privileged visit to Christmas in Carmel, with the Mystic Monks.

Q. Father Prior, what do the words ‘Christmas in Carmel,’ mean to you? 

The Carmelite life is a hidden life of loving intercession for the church and for the world.  In Carmel, Advent is a time of even greater recollection as the monks spend yet more time in silence and solitude to prepare for the great mystery of Christmas.  As such, Christmas arrives in Carmel after much preparation and anticipation.  The joy a contemplative knows in his cloister at the birth of the Lord is difficult to clearly articulate as his entire vocation is one of waiting upon the Lord that the monk might “open when the Lord knocks” on his heart. Christmas in Carmel is a blessed time of tremendous joy and peace.

Christmas in Carmel is a blessed time of tremendous joy and peace.

The Order of Carmel has its roots in the Old Testament when our hermit fathers, the sons of the prophets, spent centuries waiting for the coming Messiah prior to Christ.  In some way, Carmelites today share in that waiting for Christ whether it be in the days of Advent leading to the celebration of Christmas, the Carmelite day where we wait to receive Jesus again the Blessed Sacrament at Holy Mass, or especially in our own lives where all is ordered towards attaining to mystical union with God and through prayer and penance assisting countless other souls towards this same union.

Families have traditions during Advent leading up to the great celebration of our Lord’s birth. Can you tell me what traditions are observed by you and the Monks at the Monastery?

In Carmel, dating from the time of our holy Mother St Teresa of Avila, the Carmelites observe what we affectionately call “the child Jesus days of recollection.”  This great and noble tradition has the entire community process in white mantles holding candles, with the prior carrying the child Jesus in a little manger, to a monk’s hermitage each evening that the father or brother may spend the next twenty-four hours in solitude and more intense prayer.  This time of retreat is so special as the monk, together with the Virgin Mary, contemplates how meek and humble our God truly is as manifested in his nativity.

 
The Carmelites observe what we affectionately call “the child Jesus days of recollection.” 

Another great tradition of our Carmel is that each evening, following mental prayer and before the evening collation (or small meal), the community gathers in the refectory for the chanting of the Veni, Veni Emmanuel around the burning Advent wreath.  Oh how great is our expectation and our desire to prepare ourselves to receive our divine King on Christmas night!

Q. On an individual basis, can you each have certain devotions or “traditions” from your past life that you may keep while in the Monastery?

As Carmelite monks in the great tradition of the discalced reform, we enter the monastery to imitate particularly the Blessed Mother, but all the great Carmelites down through the ages.  We do not seek to do anything new, or discover our own path to holiness; rather we joyfully embrace the glorious tradition of Carmel and its deep wellsprings of Marian spirituality and devotion.  That being said, we recognize in the order of Carmel, manifested through our many saints and blesseds, that there is a myriad of Carmelite devotions, each reflecting an aspect of our Lady’s spirituality. 

We do not seek to do anything new, or discover our own path to holiness; rather we joyfully embrace the glorious tradition of Carmel.

When we are clothed as novices, we take new names in religion such as “Fr Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified.”  The second part of our religious name might be thought of as a window into each monk’s individual devotion.

Q. As out in the world there is always the exchange of gifts between loved ones, do you exchange gifts among each other in Carmel?

In Carmel we do not exchange gifts, as we are but poor religious. 

What we exchange at Christmas is our love for one another that manifests itself so beautifully when on Christmas Eve day, after the solemn chanting of the martyrology at prime announcing the birth of Christ on Christmas day, the monks warmly embrace one another wishing each other a truly Blessed and Merry Christmas.  Christmas and the following three days are known as recreation days when the silence is lifted in the monastery and the monks spend these days in beautiful liturgy and fraternal charity.

Q. What is Christmas Eve like in the Monastery?

Christmas Eve we like to call the “Day of the bells” as the day begins with merry procession throughout the monastery with rustic instruments.  After solemn prime, the monastery’s bells toll out announcing as it were to the whole world that Christ is to be born on Christmas night.  The rest of the day is spent in beautiful chanted liturgy and the final preparations of the crèche and Christmas tree.  As monks, we enter into the joy of Christmas most intimately by means of the sacred liturgy as we prepare through our hours of contemplation to welcome Christ into our hearts.  The beautiful and solemn three Masses of Christmas day, beginning with midnight mass, and continuing with the Mass of dawn and the conventual Mass, invite the monk to enter into Christmas with exuberant joy.  Indeed, praised be Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary.

After midnight Mass, the community gathers before the Christmas crib singing carols to our divine Savior. 

In a lovely Carmelite tradition, there is a procession throughout our monastery even going into the monk’s cells, to the turn, to the parlors, and all the other monastic rooms where the prior carries Our Lady and the sub-prior carries St Joseph.  The monk kneels to kiss these holy images when they are brought into his cell and placed on his straw mattress. 

In this way, the monk’s very hermitage becomes a new Bethlehem where Christ is welcomed in obscurity but with great love and adoration.  Our holy mother St Teresa loved this custom and insisted upon its practice, being moved by her tremendous love for God that grieved her so deeply when she considered those who turned the Holy Virgin and good St Joseph away as there was no room in the inn. 

Q. And then on Christmas Day? Does it begin with Midnight Mass? More Masses said during the day? Is there a Feast…a dinner celebration?

In Carmel there is an ancient saying, “Carmelus totus Marianus est” (‘Carmel is totally Marian’). 

As above, there is indeed a delightful time of celebration following midnight Mass where the community gathers before the Christmas crib singing carols to our divine savior.  As the sleep comes into the monks’ eyes, the Father Prior concludes this celebration in the middle of the night by intoning the psalm, Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes (O praise the lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.)

On Christmas day, the monks again share a delightful meal and joyful conversation in the recreation room, rejoicing in the divine infant born for the salvation of men. 

Q. Tell me a little about the Mystic Monk Coffee we so love. What’s in store for Christmas?

 Throughout the great tradition of monasticism, monks have always done monastic industry to be as self-supporting as possible.  Some monks have baked breads, others have brewed beer.  As monks who keep vigil in the middle of the night, we know a great deal about a good cup of coffee to keep us awake for our times of prayer. 

Moved by other coffee companies that openly supported the pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-death, atheistic agenda of our modern day, Mystic Monk coffee was born as a pro-life coffee company to support the building of our monastery here in the rocky mountains of Wyoming. 

Roasted by our monks during our times of daily work, Mystic Monk coffee is a true monastic industry.  For Christmas, we annually hand-craft our own signature Christmas blend that is a delightful holiday roast for those cold winter days of December.       

Q. Your web site says ‘The Carmelite monks of Wyoming seek to perpetuate the charism of the Blessed Virgin Mary by living the Marian life as prescribed by the primitive Carmelite Rule and the ancient monastic observance of Carmelite men.’   Can you tell us what that means?

In Carmel there is an ancient saying, “Carmelus totus Marianus est” (‘Carmel is totally Marian’).  Carmel has been hailed by the popes as the “preeminent order of Mary.” 

We are true Marian souls who seek to “perpetuate the charism” of holy Mary through our union with Christ, hidden here in the enclosure, where our obedience, chastity, and poverty are modeled after the Blessed Virgin and allow us to be transformed into spiritual fathers of countless souls.

 

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