23 May 2017

Things That Have Happened

The second half of May is always super busy for us. 
The twins came home from college and our first friend outing was the BHS Pops Concert last Monday. It was really fun to watch, and Tessie's solo was great!

Afterwards we had a little bonfire at home. We are so happy to be together again for the summer.

On Tuesday the sunset was gorgeous. We were driving home and took a detour to take pictures at the Veteran Memorial on the edge of town.

Isabel's college graduation was on Saturday. She now has a degree in Music Education!

Sunday was the senior Mass at church. We decided to count it as my "official" graduation.

 I got one of the church scholarships because I'm going to a Catholic college.

Maren's graduation party was tons of fun, and we recreated an old picture on her trampoline!

This past Monday was the beginning of summer jobs for Susannah and me. We are both working as research assistants in Dad's center. Lots of copying and pasting and reading scientific abstracts. Mom and Tessie brought us coffee to celebrate the first day!

16 May 2017

Two Recitals

     This weekend was a busy one: special Mass for the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions on Saturday morning, then a voice recital Saturday afternoon. Mother's Day Mass and brunch on Sunday morning, then my last studio piano recital on Sunday afternoon. A little tiring, but good practice for my senior recital, which is in less than two weeks!

I sang "Intorno All'idol Mio" by Antonio Cesti and Tessie and I did a duet of Franck's Panis Angelicus.

Seven kids at Mothers Day brunch!

For the studio recital I played the fantasia from Bach's Partita III in A minor.

I got a special trophy and pin for being a senior.

14 May 2017

Mothers' Day and Flowers

After singing at Mass, we went to McCrory Gardens for a Mothers' Day brunch. It was raining when we got there, but not long after the sun came out and we walked around the gardens after eating.

Mostly tulips out for TuliPalooza. 

This one still had rainwater inside it.

New growth, kinda felt like a toothbrush.

Cool tunnel #1


Cool tunnel #2

Cool sister #1 

Cool sister #2

12 May 2017

Visit to Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus

     I spent last week in Gower, MO visiting the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. It was a fruitful and enlightening visit, and I learned so much!

Flying into Kansas City.

I didn't quite know what to expect going in, as I had never spent significant time with a contemplative community. The idea of contemplative life was very attractive to me, though, so I went in with an open mind.
     The first thing that struck me was the silence. I had experienced monastic silence before, but not to this degree. And I found it to be liberating. Your mind is so much freer to focus on your work and prayer when it isn't interrupted by conversation. The loudest sounds throughout the day are the bell and the laughter of the sisters. As a naturally very quiet person, it gave me a sense of peace.
     Chanting the full Office in Latin had an otherworldly quality, to me. Even when chanting on a single tone, the act of singing rather than speaking the Psalms seems more prayerful, as you have more time to focus on the words you're repeating. And to sing the Office in the language of the Church which has been used for thousands of years simply makes sense. Pray the ancient prayers of the Church in the ancient language of the Church.
     Work is a big part of Benedictine spirituality. I was a little doubtful about that aspect of it, as anyone could tell you I'm much more of an intellectual than a worker. But when nestled in between hours of time in the chapel, eight times a day, the work becomes an extension of the prayer. Since we worked in silence, there was plenty of opportunity for reflection and meditation while working. My favorite job I had was helping make the habits for the postulants whose Investiture is coming up.
     It was a joy to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form every day that week. I plan to go to EF daily Mass in college, and since we don't have that opportunity at home, it was nice to get back into the rhythm of it.
     Speaking of rhythm, that's really the most prominent quality of monastic contemplative life. It took me a few days to adjust to the pace of life there, but once I did, the consistent rhythm of it was peaceful and comforting. I learned so much about religious life just by participating in the sisters' life. It was definitely a "hands-on" sort of experience, and I am thankful for that. The sisters aren't afraid of work, they aren't afraid of silence, and they aren't afraid of prayer. I found myself looking at the postulants in the chapel, and thinking how much courage they have to give up the comforts of the world in order to live this life, completely directed towards God. Nothing binds them there but love.
     This visit gave me a lot to think about. As far as my discernment is concerned, I am only more confident than ever that going to college is the right thing to do and that TAC is the best place I could be to continue discerning. So that's a relief. But it is hard to trust God and seemingly wait around for Him to show me what to do. From visiting the Benedictines, my suspicions were confirmed that I am more suited to contemplative life than to active life. But specifically being a Benedictine...I don't know if I could aspire to those heights. I think I may be too much of an academic to sincerely throw myself into a life so centered on manual labor. It would certainly be a great privilege to find out I'm called there! The sisters are so beautiful and inspiring. My visit to them has made me a better Catholic, for sure. And maybe, for now, that's all I need to focus on.

30 April 2017

Dinner Dance 2017

Last night was the annual homeschool dinner dance--my last one ever! It was so crazy that it was my last. Crazy in a good way, though.

Nicole, the hair goddess...

...and Maren, her faithful helper!

The traditional photos before leaving for the dance.

The theme this year was "Under the Sea." The decorations were super cute, the food was good, and the dancing was fun! A great way to give some closure to senior year.

Our whole group!

Huge thank-you to all the parents who so lovingly help out at this and make it so wonderful!

24 April 2017

Why every Catholic girl should look into religious life.

     Ask a Catholic mother you know--maybe your own--if she ever considered religious life. Chances are, she'll say no.
    Why not? Maybe it was never presented to her as a viable option. Maybe she didn't think she had a vocation. Maybe she simply didn't know anything about it.
     Growing up in a Catholic homeschool family surrounded by Catholic homeschool families, I always knew about religious life and considered it just as real a vocation possibility as marriage. I was exposed to religious sisters from a very young age (I don't remember not knowing any). I remember having childhood conversations with my friends in which we would say, "do you want to get married or be a nun?" I myself never quite knew how to answer that. Now I do. And knowing the answer to that question has brought me more joy and peace than I ever would have thought.

     So here's why I think every Catholic girl should look into religious life:

     1. Why not?
     Imagine this: you're an old woman, 70 or 80, looking back on your life. Maybe you're married with children and grandchildren. Maybe you're a sister. Maybe you're single. Regardless of your state in life, will you really regret having considered religious life? If you're married or single, at least you know what you could have done. If you're a sister, you'll be so glad you even thought to consider it. There is no downside to exploring the options. And, once you open your heart up to God's will like that, your vocation will become clear.

     2. Religious life is an actual thing, guys.
     I think we can all agree that not everyone is called to be married and raise children. Some girls, myself included, simply don't have that maternal, wife-y sort of quality. And that's as it should be. If people are worried about overpopulation, they should encourage more people to look into celibate life. (Kidding. But you get the point.) The world needs balance. Just like not everyone can--or should--be a leader (if we're all leaders, who's being led?), not everyone can or should be married. It's an amazing and selfless act to give yourself and your whole life to a single human in that way. The marriage vow, and motherhood, are unfathomably beautiful things, as I've come to realize more and more during my discernment. But some girls are called to be a different kind of beautiful. Instead of giving their life to a man, body and soul, they're called to live only for God. Body and soul. What a privilege, to be asked by your Creator to be His bride. 

     3. It will strengthen your relationship with God.
     When I went on my first nun-run, I thought my prayer life was pretty good. Ha. In those six days, I learned so much about prayer, virtue, and giving your life to God in general. One of my favorite take-aways from that trip was a love for praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Such beautiful, ancient prayers. And to drop everything seven times a day to praise God, what could be better?
     Besides learning new ways to pray, you'll find yourself closer to Jesus than ever before. As I mentioned earlier, when you open yourself to His will like that, He rewards you. The simple act of being willing to look into consecrated life makes you listen more closely for His will for you. And that gives Him an opportunity to tell you what He's been longing to tell you since He created you. 
     Every time I go on a retreat or convent visit, I come home with renewed peace and gratitude for God. I've never felt closer to Him than while spending time with His chosen ones, His brides. It's easy to be good in places like that. It's always hard to leave. And when I get home, I redouble my efforts to live for Him and Him alone in my present situation.

     4. Meeting sisters, yes please.
     So, in case you weren't aware, sisters are the actual coolest people ever. Everyone should hang out with them. That vague image in your head of a crumbling, dreary convent like the one in Sound of Music? Yeah. Destroy it. If you think sisters are boring, you clearly haven't spent time with one. They live in a freedom that allows them to be so rigorously alive--and it shows. I've done lots of crazy and fun things with sisters, including Irish dancing, playing basketball, taking the ornaments off a 20-ft Christmas tree, cooking, cleaning, playing games....they make everything fun. Trust me. You think you don't like sweeping? Try doing it with three sisters while you talk and sing and laugh. When every act is a gift to God, everything becomes saturated with meaning and joy.

     5. You might fall in love.
     To fall in love with God, the Author of love. What's more romantic than that? The amazing thing about being in love with God is that He loves you so much more than you can ever love Him. That's one faithful spouse we're talking about. Why wouldn't you want to give your life to Someone who gives you everything, who loves nothing better than to make you happy? Jesus weeps with joy when we say yes to Him. He is so full of love for us. It's hard to say no to a love like that. It kind of sweeps you off your feet. Like a good romance should.

     All that to say, if you haven't considered religious life, do it. Talk to that random sister you see. Go on a nun run. Look up religious houses in your area. Research different orders. Visit them for a day or two. I promise, only good will come out of it. 

21 April 2017

STM Youth Choir

     The school year is coming to a close, and that means the end of the religious ed program at St. Thomas More. The youth choir meets every week before religious ed, so they'll be done for the summer, too. I played piano for their rehearsals all year, and now that it's ending I'm realizing how great of an experience it was.
     First of all, the kids are wonderful. Being in a choir is kind of self-selective, and these kids' behavior is an indication of that. The choir includes first- through eighth-graders, and I've never met a bunch more enthusiastic about praising God in song. They sing their hearts out at every rehearsal. They beg to sing certain hymns over and over. They learn new songs faster than most adult choirs.
     It's interesting for me to watch them interact, since I never went to school and don't know what it's like being a kid in public school. There are sets of best friends, close cousins, and siblings who love each other. Someone always has a story to tell or a question to ask. They talk about what they're doing at school, what they're learning in RE, where they're going on vacation. They are a lively bunch of kids, and they have so much joy.
     Musically, too, this experience has helped me. My sight-reading skills have improved quite a bit over the past year, due to sitting down and having to play hymns and part-songs on the spot. The kids don't care how much I mess up, but sometimes they tell me I should practice. (They're always right.) It's nice to work on something, even something little, that isn't part of my actual piano repertoire. And it's nice knowing I'm accompanying a forgiving crowd. Sometimes they ask me to play a solo I'm working on while they aren't singing. When they sing in a circle, they like to watch the hammers strike the keys inside the piano. Spending time with people who are so fascinated by the instrument definitely breaks up the monotony of the practice-lesson-practice cycle.

At their Christmas Program in December--I'm behind the piano.

     I'll miss playing for youth choir. I'll miss the way the kids remember my name and talk to me, even if I don't remember which one they are. I'll miss their exuberance and their willingness to try new things. I hope that, in some small way, I've made a difference in their lives.