30 January 2017


I like to collect interesting quotes.
Here are two from The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.
"But folly, driven by self-deception, cannot change the merits of the case; nor can I think it right either to hide the truth or concede a lie."
"How could hostile fury drive men to take up arms when war offers no reward for gaping wounds except the blood that was spilled?" 

I have been re-reading Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who has some comforting words.
"But when God stretches out His hand to ask, His hand is never empty, and His intimate friends can draw from Him the courage and strength they need."
"Ah! Poor women, how they are misunderstood! And yet they love God in much larger numbers than men do and during the Passion of Our Lord, women had more courage than the apostles since they braved the insults of the soldiers and dared to dry the adorable Face of Jesus. It is undoubtedly because of this that He allows misunderstanding to be their lot on earth, since He chose it for Himself."

And a few miscellaneous quotations:

"Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou liv'st Live well; how long or short permit to Heaven." (St. Michael, in John Milton's Paradise Lost

"There are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it; and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use." (St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles)

"God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God's greatness." (St. Gregory Nazianzen)

"Who could know that, at a certain point in time, when it was very hard for you, you said through tears that you love Him and always want to love Him?" (Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer) 

24 January 2017

Photos from Life in January

I have lately fallen behind in blogging, largely due to my running the house while Mom was in Brazil for two weeks. But here's a random collection of pictures from my phone, for your enjoyment.

The only picture I took at the Motherhouse in Nashville--the dorms.

Flying out of Nashville
A few days after returning, I received a lovely letter from Sr. Peter Marie.

A winter sunrise.

fun with Tess

I am an official TAC student--I sent in my enrollment deposit!

09 January 2017

Vocation Retreat with the Nashville Dominicans

On Sunday I finished a five-day discernment retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN. I can't put into words how amazing it was. It was such a blessing to have this kind of wonderful opportunity. Here's a description of what we did:

On Wednesday afternoon I arrived, and two sisters picked a group of us up from the airport. We drove to the motherhouse in the car they affectionately called Tobit. At the motherhouse, we registered and put away our luggage in the dormitory. The motherhouse used to also be a boarding school, so the dormitory is one huge room with rows of beds. The beds have curtains around them that you pull and fasten with clothespins to make your own little "cell." The sisters gave us a late lunch, and we talked and met each other in the recreation hall while we waited for other girls to arrive. There were around 30 of us total on the retreat.
The sisters had a special place in the chapel for us retreatants to be, and we went in to say Vespers with them. There are about 350 sisters total in the Congregation, and many of them were still home from mission on Christmas break. The sisters sing the Office in antiphonal style, with the chant switching off between sides of the chapel. Their chapel is gorgeous. The stained glass windows at eye level depict the life of St. Cecilia, and the windows higher up depict the life of St. Dominic. They also have a relic and statue of St. Dominic, and a relic and statue of St. Catherine of Siena. When we arrived the chapel was still decorated beautifully for Christmas, with dozens of red poinsettias adorning the altar and a large Nativity scene.
After Vespers, we went into the guest dining hall and the sisters served us dinner. Sr. Peter Marie is the vocations director, and Sr. Mary Esther is her assistant. There were also some sisters helping with the retreat, including Sr. Anna Catherine, Sr. Anna Maria, Sr. Mariam, Sr. Mary Gianna, Sr. Cecilia, Sr. Maria Grace, Sr. Mary Christina, Sr. Rose Dominic, and Sr. Paulina. (There were more but I don't remember their names!) The sisters took us around and ate with us and talked to us throughout the whole five days. They were all incredibly kind and cheerful and so genuinely happy to have us there, it was a little overwhelming at first!
After dinner we went into the Oratory (which is the old chapel) and Fr. Raphael Mary Salzillo, O.P. gave us the opening retreat talk. Afterwards we went in for Compline (a general favorite). After Compline, the sisters have a procession around the chapel while singing the Salve Regina. The procession is led by two novices holding candles. At one point they all kneel and one sister takes holy water and blesses everyone. After they finish the Salve, they sing "O Lumen," a hymn to St. Dominic. Then, with a couple more prayers, they all file out in silence.
After Compline there is silence in the house. There is always silence in the stairwells and dorms. At 10:00 begins the profound silence, which lasts until the Angelus bells ring the next morning. On Wednesday night, we were all so tired that we went to bed right after Compline. The beds in the dorms are super comfortable.
Every night just before ten, a novice comes into the dorm and blesses each cell with holy water. As she sprinkles the water she says "Hail, Mary" and the person insides responds "Full of grace."

The rising bell rang at 5:00, and we got up and got ready for the day. We went into the chapel at 5:30 for Angelus and then meditation. At 6:00 was Lauds, followed immediately by Mass. After Mass we went in to breakfast. Throughout the retreat we ate meals in silence while a sister read to us from a spiritual book, which is what the sisters do in their refectory. It took some getting used to, but we all agreed by the end that it was very nice and peaceful.
After breakfast, we split into groups for a tour of the motherhouse. It is a huge building with lots of history. The oldest part of it was built in 1860, when the sisters were called from Ohio to start a girls' school in Nashville. One of he rooms in the motherhouse is called the Heritage Room, and it is like a mini museum, with information on the lives of Sts. Dominic and Cecilia and the history of the Congregation.
The first talk of the retreat was given my Sr. Peter Marie, and it was about discernment. After her talk we went back into the chapel for Confession and Adoration.
The next talk was by Fr. Raphael Mary, and it was about the Divine Office and Monasticism. We went from his talk to lunch. (Just as a side note, the food was really, really, good the whole time. We even got sweet tea, being in the south!)
After lunch, we donned our warm clothes and went outside to have recreation with the postulants and novices. I participated in a game of 21, and I met a novice who is from Rio de Janeiro, like Mom! Recreation was fun, but it was quite cold. We were happy to go back inside.
The postulants and novices then did a panel for us. Four of them told their vocation stories, then we asked general questions that any of them could answer. It was really nice getting to know the girls for whom our current position was so recent.
Fr. Raphael Mary then gave a talk on the life of St. Dominic and the founding of the Dominican Order.
At 4:30 was Adoration in the chapel, after which was Vespers at 5:00 and Rosary after that. Then we went in to eat dinner. The book the sisters read aloud to us complemented the talks and everything else well.
The professed sisters who had been teaching for a while gave us a panel after dinner. We had s lot of fun learning about how it is for them, teaching as religious sisters on mission.
Then we had Compline, the same drill as the night before, and went to bed.

After meditation, Lauds, Mass, and breakfast, we got to do something special. We piled into the cars and drove out to the Dominican campus, which houses St. Cecilia's Academy, Overbrook Elementary, and Aquinas College. All three of these schools have fascinating histories, and it was great to see where some of the sisters teach. The only drawback was that it was snowing, and as snow is rare for Nashville, the schools closed and no one was there. But that's alright, because we got tours anyway. Sr. Mary Rose took us into the place in Overbrook where they teach Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is Montessori style religious education. It was incredibly interesting, and she even gave us a demo lesson. We also toured the brand new women's dorm at Aquinas College, which was cool for me because I had considered applying to  Aquinas.
While we were on campus, the sisters gave us a delicious meal of homemade spinach and mushroom calzones. That meal was not in silence, and I enjoyed talking to Father, who has visited TAC and is now in graduate school at Notre Dame. After lunch, we headed back to the motherhouse. We had free time until 3:00, when Father gave us a talk on Dominican spirituality.
Then we broke into groups to discuss the book "And You Are Christ's" by Fr. Thomas Dubay. Next was Adoration, Vespers, Rosary, and dinner. Since it was first Friday, there was exposition all day.
That night we participated in spiritual reading, which takes place for fifteen minutes before Compline. Then, after Compline, we had recreation with the novitiate. We were having so much fun that Sr. Peter Marie didn't notice the silence bell! We went to bed tired out.

We got to sleep in until 6:00 on Saturday. The usual morning things happened, then we helped the sisters with their weekly house duties. As it was the day before Epiphany, we were mostly taking down Christmas decorations. Once we finished with that, we went into the Oratory for Sr. Anna Grace, the novice mistress, to explain formation at St. Cecilia's to us. Then we had free time, noon prayers, and lunch. After lunch we got to meet some of the retired sisters who live in the infirmary, and that was a lot of fun and really inspiring. One of the sisters will be 100 this month!
Next we went outside for recreation with the novitiate. I talked a lot to Sr. Audrey, a postulant who is also from South Dakota. We had fun comparing experiences and even found some mutual acquaintances! When recreation was finished we all went inside and continued talking over tea and muffins. Our time with the novitiate went well into our free time, too.
The last talk of the retreat was about Marian devotion in Dominican life. Father told us stories about St. Dominic and his visions of Our Lady, and also mentioned some other saints the Dominicans have devotions to.
At 4:30 was Adoration, then Vespers, Rosary, and dinner. After eating we met some professed sisters and asked them questions about the life. They were so gracious and beautiful! We went in with them to Compline. After Compline we went into the Oratory and the sisters showed us a slideshow of the pictures they had taken over the week. It was really nice to relive those memories.
Sr. Peter Marie and Father took us back into the chapel for a special hour of Adoration and Benediction just for us. Since the rest of the sisters had gone to bed, we got to go up into the stalls, much closer to the Blessed Sacrament. Some sisters sang for us while we prayed, and they happened to sing my favorite Christmas song. It was a quiet and beautiful time, and there were more than a few tears.
We went to bed, a little sad that it was our last night in the motherhouse.

The morning began the usual way, with meditation and Lauds. It being Sunday and the feast of the Epiphany, Mass was extra long and solemn, with fabulous music. The sisters set a gorgeous breakfast table for us, and we ate off of fancy dishes in candlelight, with decorations all around us. Since it was a solemnity, we were allowed to talk during our meals. It was so special to have this one last time with the sisters before packing up.
The retreatants trickled out throughout the day. I left in the afternoon, but before doing so, a few of us met one of the lay Dominicans who had come to the motherhouse for a monthly meeting. He had a daughter in the Congregation, and told us fascinating stories of his life and gave us advice on discernment and how that affects the family. One thing I remember being said at some point during the retreat was, "if God is calling you to enter religious life, then He is calling your parents to be parents of a religious."
There was sorrow when we had to day goodbye to the sisters and the motherhouse, but we promised to pray for one another and the sisters promised to pray for all of us. What a blessing it is to have 350 women praying for me to discern and follow God's will!
A long day of traveling ensued, but I was touched to come home to this sign:

The retreat with the Nashville Dominicans was more beautiful and inspiring than I could ever have thought. I hope I am able to go back there one day, no matter where I end up in life.

02 January 2017

2016 in Review

The new year is here, and it's time to reflect on the year that just closed. I'll look at the highlight of each month of 2016.

In January I got to go to the March For Life, spent 74 hours in a bus next to my best friend, attended Mass in a roadside ditch during a snowstorm, enjoyed sleeping on a gym floor with nothing but a blanket, and most importantly helped make history and gain media attention for the pro-life cause.


North Central ACDA Regional Honor Choir was by far my favorite of my honor choir experiences. Dr. Head was an amazing director and over that magical weekend I learned so much about myself as a musician.

Sang for four Masses and one Good Friday liturgy over the Easter Triduum. And early Easter meant that when I turned 17, it was no longer Lent!

In April BHS choirs went on a trip to Omaha to see Phantom of the Opera live at the Orpheum Theatre. The production was too fabulous for words.

My best friends graduated from high school. Crazy how time goes by.

Got to live with Nicole for two weeks while my family traveled around the country going to weddings and getting proposed to. Also, Shakespeare Camp began in late June.

TAC Summer Program. I wish I could relive those two weeks exactly how they happened. So happy to be returning there for college next year!


South Dakota Honor Choir, though exhausting and a bit much right after TAC, was still an unforgettable musical experience. Good ol' Randy Stenson and the IlluminAltos.

After my last Broomtree, I started senior year. Which I wish were already done.

Mom and I went to Germany, stayed in a picturesque abbey, ate delicious food, spent time with my now-professed aunt, and witnesses the miracle at the tomb of St. Walburga. So much history. So much Catholic. So much joy.

NaNoWriMo 2016. Wrote a novel which I changed into a novella after meeting word count quota. Kind of a tragic story but beautiful in its own way. Also, official acceptance from TAC plus a free t-shirt.

The twins came home from college and we went on The Bestie Roadtrip. Great music, laughs, conversations, hugs, food, everything. The ultimate road trip.

So yeah, 2016 was pretty cool for my life. I can't wait to see what 2017 brings my way!

01 January 2017

Christmas 2016 (part 2)

In the past week, the weather has been like this...

...so we've spent a lot of time inside playing games, etc.

Some interesting/special Christmas presents:

"open when" letters from Cecilia

bamboo watch from Mom & Dad

Catholic planner from Mom--it's insanely complete

Rosary bracelet from Spare Mama Kane

I knitted this scarf for Claud...it was a long and fun project!

A few days after Christmas, the besties came over and we baked gingerbread. Dad and Patrick were especially pleased with the results.

We had a quiet New Year's Eve. I went to bed early because I was singing for Mass this morning.

Happy New Year, and feast of Mary, Mother of God!