At the NCRegister Blog: This Friday, June 3, is a Special day of Prayer for Priests

This past weekend nine men were ordained to the priesthood for my home Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. On the Sunday feast of Corpus Christi my family and I assisted at the first Mass, a Mass of Thanksgiving, of a new priest who had grown up in our parish. It was a beautiful Mass, and the sanctuary was full of men who had received the Sacrament of Holy Orders: deacons, priests, and even two bishops.

As the Mass went on, and I stood in back with my one year old son, I was filled with incredible gratitude for the gift of the priesthood that has been given to the Church. I watched those men in the sanctuary, who have given their whole lives to the Church, to spread the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, to be another Christ for us, and I prayed for them. It is a good thing that Holy Orders is a sacrament, because the priesthood is a vocation that can only be lived fully with sacramental graces.

At the NCRegister: It is Time to Pray for Our Country with a Fool’s Hope

With the way the 2016 presidential election is going, things really do seem bleak when it comes to the direction of our country’s political future. Catholics are wondering is there any viable option of whom to vote for for president this autumn. My conscience will not let me vote for any of the two major parties. Neither likely candidate is worth the risk for my soul.

So, what is left for us? What can we do? I think the best analogy is that of a hobbit waiting on the edge of a battle that he cannot escape. He looks up at his friend the wizard, and asks if there is any hope.

There never was much hope, and there is just a fool’s hope now.

And I am ready to do something that seems foolish in the eyes of the world, because there is nothing I really can do beyond that.

Now is the time for prayer.

In which I get to go to the ER again

I have considered myself exempt from commenting on the things that have been blowing up the part of the internet I happen to peruse lately. Like the Pope (again) for example. I pray for the pope, a lot. And I pray for the Church, and I just plug along in my domestic church and local Catholic community. Some days it is just enough to do that. Some days we just have to be a part of the Church no matter what everyone else says about us. And some days we are just trying to get by at home.

You see last week I had a big fall.

Down these.

Not like this.

My fall was a little quicker, and less enjoyable, and I am not nearly as cute as F at age one. Though it began on the same step. And my PSA about the whole thing is to not have a stack of thin, slippery books books on the first step down. It is a bad idea. It leaves room for all sorts of accidents to happen, including ones that end in a trip to the ER.

But as in all bad things that happen to me, I have tried to look on the bright side.

Here is what did happen. I was holding a heavy bag of groceries close to my body, and was taking them downstairs to store for later. I stepped onto the stack of books (of which I had no idea of it being there) and my foot slipped forward out from under me. My elbow flailed out to stop the fall, was scrapped and bruised, and was useless. I held onto the groceries for dear life, apparently, and counted each time my head hit the steps, one, two, three, four, five, following the thump of my tailbone.

When I finally made it to the bottom I lay on my side in a sobbing mess. Everything hurt. But I thank God that M was home. What would the children have done had this happened without him home? He came running down, and I never went unconscious. I stayed in place and iced my head until I stopped feeling shocked by the whole incident.

Once I was on my feet, I took into account any symptoms of a concussion, and sure enough, I was having dizziness and nausea. I carefully went back upstairs. As my symptoms did not improve, we decided to go to the ER just to be on the safe side. We found some friends available to watch the kids, dropped them off and head over with the baby to the same hospital he was born in.

After checking in, we sat in the same waiting room seats we had used before. T was happy to tag along, and I was happy that my symptoms were not getting worse. At the ER they Xrayed my bruised bones and CT scanned my head. After 45 minutes of waiting for results, we were given the OK to go home. Just bruises, nothing broken. Our wonderful friends fed us and the children dinner and I have been trying to take it easy since then.

L had a concussion a few years ago, and her symptoms persisted for about 10 days, so it does not surprise me that I am still feeling a bit off. I am still sore everywhere I hit the steps. But I have lots of people to offer my sufferings for in prayer, and it is Lent after all.

On top of this all, I just want to say how great M has been in all of this. He has been helping a lot with the kids, coming home earlier than he planned from work (I love the flexible academic schedule). And he was so so anxious for me and my well being when it all happened. There is nothing to make you love your spouse more like the thought of losing each other.

And we have another reason to be thankful for the great basement flood of 2013. For if that had not happened, there is a possibility that I may have fallen down noncarpeted stairs, which would have been much, much worse.

In your charity, please pray for my complete recovery. I hope to have my next relationship post soon since I have finished my research of reading all my old prayer journals up to the end of our semester in Austria. SO stay tuned!

Getting Ready for the Baby this Advent

And by the baby, I mean the Newborn King, the Little Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity who became Mary’s little Child.

I always thought that my perfect Advent was the year my second was born on the First Sunday of Advent. My Christmas preparing was all finished, and I just sat with my baby watching everyone else in the daily snow falls we had that December in Buffalo, NY.

I think I was wrong. It was an amazing Advent; relaxed and prayerful, but I wonder if maybe Advent can still be great if it looks a lot more like the weeks leading up to the birth of a baby.

My baby preparations involve several extremely long to do lists: odd jobs around the house, odd jobs in the yard, and BABY prep. And of course there are always the last minute things that you just did not quite get to. Besides that I am supposed to be doing the prelabor exercises: squating, kegels, and relaxation practice for those hard contractions.

I actually do way more to get ready for a baby then I do to get ready for Christmas. The baby list takes months, and for Christmas we do it all in 4 weeks. 

Christmas is: cookies, cards, gifts, decorations, some cleaning, and prayer.

Baby is: baby clothes, all the baby gear, hospital planning, hospital packing, relaxation practice,

The year we had our second we stayed at home for Christmas instead of the usual three week tour of the Midwest relatives. People came to us. People took care of us. It made sense for that year and it was perfect for that year.

This year we are traveling for the first time since the birth of our fourth six months ago, and I can’t help but think that maybe this is a more Marian Advent.

Our Lady spent her time waiting for Christ firstly visiting her cousin. Then she went home, got married, and was ready to have her baby in Nazareth, when Caesar decides to have a census.

There she is almost ready to give birth to the Son of God and she has to travel on a donkey 90 miles in cold weather on dangerous trails. When I am 9 months pregnant I can’t handle the pot holes in the road, let alone riding on a donkey.

Do you think Mary said to God, “This is not how things were supposed to go? My Advent needs to be restful so I can pray better!” I imagine not. She being the perfect woman, took it all in stride. Her acceptance of the journey, was part of her continual acceptance of God’s will.

This Advent is already not what I expected. We were going to finish the semester strong with school since we will be taking a three week Christmas break. Instead we had one full school week after Thanksgiving, and then last week I was sick with strep throat, so minimal school. This week the 24 hour stomach bug is making the rounds (so far only the kids).

But we have all been okay. Advent has been manageable because I have been forced to take it easy on myself, M,  and on the kids. And we still have been doing our traditions of the Jesse Tree, lights up on St. Lucy’s day (since Lucy means “light”), and the tree up on Gaudete Sunday. We have been having some really beautiful family time through it all.

When we head out on our travels, I hope that we do so united with the Holy Family who were far from home that first Christmas day. (Though I suppose we could say that Bethlehem was their real home, just as our family is traveling back to where we came from.) And if my baby has trouble sleeping on the road, I can just think of baby Jesus waking to the cattle in the stable.
And maybe that is what Advent really should be like, being like Mary and learning to continually accept God’s will whether we are so busy we barely have time to pray or are nursing a newborn on the couch all December. It is accepting God’s will that matters most, and preparing our hearts to receive with joy the Infant King.

I hope that the rest of your Advent is blessed and full of grace!

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, March 27

1. Do you ever feel like your child does not really have a birthday unless you tell the whole internet world? G turned six nearly two weeks ago, and I am finally sharing her birthday cake photo with you. It is not even a real birthday cake. It is a peanut-butter-chocolate-creamy-delicious pie that we bought from a family restaurant, because I was on my retreat until 5:35 PM the day of her birthday. But don’t worry, she had a wonderful birthday week complete with presents, her grandparents visiting, planning a pink party, and having seven little girls over for a pink cupcake and pink lemonade party. So, really it was a great birthday for a sixth year old.

2. Does my description of my week after my retreat give me a valid reason for not blogging for two weeks? I am going to say yes. And I promise that I have been writing, just not for the blog. I was doing things like getting my devotions for Blessed is She finished and working on a project reviewing some films (which is coming soon and should be great!). At any rate, life has been busy and being in the third trimester means that it takes more effort to think clearly.

3.When my parents came for the birthday girl they also brought me my dried bouquet from my wedding, which my long suffering sister has had in her bedroom (the one we shared) for nearly seven years. I am thinking that I should really spray it with something to preserve it better. The mantilla/scarf is on from Segovia, Spain where my friend C and I were coerced by street merchants into purchasing one each and the from whom the rest of our group escaped from down a cliff side. I have had it stored away for years, but it seemed like an appropriate item to display with the bouquet.

4. My Christmas gift from M arrived just in time for the Annunciation. It is the original memoir of Laura Ingalls Wilder written previous to her publication of the children’s novels. The reason it cams so late is that the small publishing house that produced it has had to do several printings to keep up with the demand. It is heavily annotated (I am only to her life at age 4), and it is interesting to see the historical facts along side what she fictionalized for the sake of make good novels. Also, it is a beautiful, very nice book, and very large as the cover is about 10×10 inches. It will hopefully provide a nice diversion for a month or so as we wait and prepare for baby.

5. Look, it snowed again. I believe the label for this is “spring snow.” I knew that highs in the 60s were too good to be true for mid-March in Minnesota. I told the kids that it would snow again. They stopped believing me, and then along came an Alberta Clipper on Sunday night with 3 inches of snow. The children were not entirely happy about it. They refused to play in it, except to search the yard for a rock for a project we made on Monday. However, it is still getting above freezing everyday, so I will take that.

6. On Monday, we made a Calvary and tomb centerpiece, and I really hope that the grass seed (which has been sitting in the garage for a year) will germinate and give us some pretty, green grass by Easter. Otherwise, we are going to have to get fresh grass seed for next year and try again then… The large rock to the right is blocking the entrance to the tomb.

All of the rooms at the retreat center were named after different titles of Our Lady. This was mine… yep… awesome.

7. The last quick takes I wrote were right before a 48 hour silent retreat I took run by the priests of Miles Christi based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It was extremely intense, but also worth it. I highly recommend taking a retreat if you can with them (you can see where they offer them at this link). While they think it would be a good idea to go annually, I am thinking that it is going to have to be a “whenever the baby is weaned” sort of thing for me. And if you cannot afford it, put ten dollars in a jar every month for two years (or 2.50 a week) and then take the plunge. Seriously, guys and gals, it is worth it.

As always, I am linking up with Kelly who hosts Seven Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, March 13

1. I have been pregnant with and/or nursing my babies for just over 3 months shy of seven years.  Since my first was born six years ago, I have had a three month, four month, and am in the middle of a seven month gap of not nursing anyone. Well, mothers of young children will know that it is not really possible to get nights away from exclusively nursing babies, so when they are weaned and there is no other baby out of the womb, there is a window of opportunity. For what, you ask? For a SILENT RETREAT. I am departing this afternoon for 48 hours of prayer and reflection without my family. This is the first time since I have been married that I will be away from all the members of my family for even one night. Further, I have not been on a longer than three hour retreat since my last semester of college seven years ago. That being said, please pray for me this weekend, because I am not sure I can really handle uninterrupted, prayerful silence for more than about 20 minutes. Yeah…

2. Not only am I abandoning my family for a weekend, but I am doing it on their birthdays. M has to celebrate his birthday (and real Pi day 3.1415) without me. I am sure he will have a lovely time with the girls. And let us not forget about the Ides of March, and the change it brought in our lives… I will be back for dinner for G’s birthday. And being the awesome person that she is with amazing taste in food, she has chosen this pie for her cake:

Which means I can take on some good old fashioned third-trimester laziness, and just eat peanut butter, chocolate filled pie goodness. Also, pizza pie for dinner. Is it okay to honor Pi day on the Ides?

3. In other news, where did all the snow go? It has been so warm here, that we have been grilling. M had an early birthday/traditional feast of St. Thomas Aquinas dinner last Saturday. We splurged on shrimp (which I cannot even smell comfortably while pregnant), and M grilled it along with vegetables and threw it all on pasta Alfredo.

It is in the 30s, so why not grill? I was told that I will not have to cook dinner again until the Fall if I just keep a steady supply of charcoal and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on hand…

4. And here is my almost six year old looking like a reader. She says that she was “just looking at the pictures,” but it gave me a glimpse of a girl who might, like her parents, spend hours every day, curled up with a book. She has been doing really well with her reading lately, and I do not think this possibility is too far into the future.

5. If your mom is not big on doing crafts, you make your own:

G (6ish) and L (4) have been cutting out and gluing together surprisingly recognizable paper dolls, and other creatures. It is pretty fun to see them create. F (2) has been sucking on capped glue sticks while wearing socks on her hands. That is called being 2.

6. My basil seeds have sprouted, but only one has made leaves. I might have to do a redo with the other seeds. But since we started the plants so early, I do not mind:

7. Hello, third trimester! My earliest baby was born at 38 weeks… that is ten weeks away… yikes!

I think I finally have leveled out in size compared to week of pregnancy…

Linking up once again with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Blessed is She: Surrender to the Change

In case you have not had a chance to reflect on today’s daily readings, I am linking over to the devotion I wrote for today on Blessed it She.

Also, in case you have not heard, BiS is selling a journal for Lenten devotions. You should check it out!

From today’s devotion:

I need a deeper transformation. I need a life long transformation. But it is so easy to become comfortable where I am. I forget that the laws have been written on my heart. It is the fact that they are there that draws me back to God. The indelible mark of Baptism will never go away. My restless heart draws me back to God, and He is waiting there. He is always steadfast…
Read the rest at Blessed is She…

Something to Hope for…

My heart is heavy this week, hearing of so many who have passed away. I have been praying for everyone who has asked, but still there always seems to be someone else. With the world made so small through social media, there is always something sorrowful to hear about.

Then there is the March for Life in D.C. on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I was asked to write a pro-life piece for ChurchPOP, and all I could come up with was another reflection on miscarriage.

Despite all of these things, there is still hope. The people I know of who passed away are people of faith, and have so many praying for the repose of their souls and for the comfort of their families.

We celebrated on Sunday the one year anniversary of my Dad’s nearly fatal aortic dissection. He is alive and better every day.

And last week I got to see this:

Our little baby is growing and kicking, and the gender is still a surprise, if you were wondering.

I drove to the ultrasound alone, since one child had a fever, and we could not leave the kids with a friend as we had planned. I was leaving, the two year old really wanted to come. I told her that she could not come, but that I would bring back some pictures of the baby. Then I asked her if she knew where the baby was, gesturing toward my growing belly.

“At the doctors,” was her solemn response. Well, I guess it might seem that way to a two year old…

Review and GIVEAWAY: Sacred Art Series Rosary Book

Welcome everyone coming over from Truth and Charity! For the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

One of the most difficult parts of praying the rosary is keeping focused on the mysteries. Most of the time, I name the mystery and immediately get distracted. However, I have found that praying with beautiful images of the mysteries is a good way to focus. My cousin-in-law, Will Bloomfield, was inspired by a beautiful painting that he saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to put together a prayer book for individuals to use to pray the rosary.

I asked him several questions about the book, and will let him do the explaining.


Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?

Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I’m Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.

In the midst of editing The Holy Gospels and discussing the project with printers, I happened to take a trip to New York City for a conference for work. While there with my wife and baby, we seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was thrilled to see some of the very paintings that I had already included in my early manuscript for The Holy Gospels. But while there, I also stumbled across The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary by Goswijn van der Weyden. The painting was created for devotional use for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I immediately thought that this beautiful public domain image, which was designed for royalty, would make an excellent devotional aid for families and individuals. And since I was already in the midst of a publishing project, it was quite easy to add another product to the Sacred Art Series. It was also about this time that I joined the Confraternity of the Rosary, and thus had been praying the rosary more both individually and with my family. And I had recently read St. Louis De Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary, and was impressed by St. Dominic’s promotion of the rosary, described by De Montfort, as the most effective means of converting sinners. So the Rosary Book is really the convergence of many things that all came together at the right time. You might say that it was a perfect storm of grace.

What remains strange to me is that something like this did not already exist. But to my knowledge, the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book is the first of its kind. So your readers are on the cutting edge!

S: Would you tell me about the painting used? Are rosary panels common in sacred art?

W: The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributes the painting to Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden (c. 1515). I like the painting because it includes an image of each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary, and each image is the same size, includes figures that fill each scene, and thus provides a complete set of rosary images. I also like the image of Mary in the bottom panel because it shows her crowned with 55 roses, recalling that when we pray five decades of the rosary, we offer Mary a beautiful rose for each Hail Mary and for each Our Father.

In my searches, I have not found any other similar rosary paintings. It’s, of course, easy to find beautiful images for individual mysteries, but I have yet to find any other complete sets of a similar quality. This is also strange to me, because one would think that rosary images would be readily available. Also, from my own personal experience, I know that the stained glass windows in many Catholic churches include the mysteries of the rosary; but for whatever reason, complete sets of rosary paintings seem to be rare. (And I will gladly be proven wrong if anyone can tell me otherwise.)

S: We usually pray our family rosary in the car (the children cannot get up and run around); do you have any tips for a peaceful family rosary with little ones?

W: Pray the rosary with a Sacred Art Series Rosary Book! Your children will enjoy the ability to have a picture to look at and to take turns flipping the page for the next mystery. Apart from that, I have also found the car to be a decent place to pray the rosary with the family. Every Sunday morning, during the 15 minute drive to Mass, we pray one decade of the rosary, followed by the Angelus. Our kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6) are so used to this routine that it never occurs to them to question it. The three older ones participate quite well. (Although getting the pacing of the words right has sometimes been a challenge for them–and consequently, for their parents!) So I think that consistency is important. Also, it’s probably better to focus on one decade prayed well, than five decades prayed poorly. Once the kids have mastered one decade, it’s easy to add more decades. And for families that are just beginning the rosary, it may help to begin the devotion during an appropriate liturgical season, such as Advent, or Lent, or during the Month of May for Mary, or during October, which includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) and is the month of the rosary.


This book comes with a metal spiral binding on top and has a fold out cardboard easel. It is available in two sizes, 4×5 inches and 8×10 inches. We have the 4×5. The front page has the entirety of the panel while the inside pages feature each of the panels of the painting close up, showing the individual original 15 mysteries of the rosary.

As for the paintings themselves, just looking at them outside of praying the rosary leads to meditation on the mysteries. In each painting there are tiny details of the scene that give an opportunity for deeper meditation. As Will mentioned, all of the panels are the same size and the people are all to scale with each other. This being the case, the artist had to be very creative in fitting all the characters into the scenes. You can especially see this in the painting of the Ascension, where Our Lady and the apostles are painted in their entirety, but we only see the feet of the ascending Christ.

We have had the rosary book on the family altar for about a week now, and while I think the bigger size would be better for seeing detail, our family altar is pretty packed as it is. The children have been paging through it from time to time, and they seem to enjoy the images. My (almost) four year and I looked through it the other day, talking about each mystery, and while she was familiar with the events, she could not match the picture to them. That is perhaps one of the failings of the family car rosary, but I now see ways that our children’s catechesis can be improved.

I highly recommend the rosary book as something to display in the home or on a desk, and to pray with. You can purchase it through this website, and receive a discount of $3 off each book when you use the coupon code ROSARYBK through October 30.

Further, you can enter the below giveaway of a new 4×5 rosary book which ends Tuesday, October 28 at 12am CT.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Doing Works of Mercy Everyday

My family and I were running just on time for the early Mass last Sunday. Well, actually, we were on track to be about 2 minutes late. We were going along, stuck behind some slow-going cars. Just as we were coming to an intersection ,we witnessed an SUV drift into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist from behind. He went flying forward and landed sprawled on the ground, legs tangled in his bike. The driver of the SUV stopped her car, and jumped out to see if he was okay. My husband pulled over, parked the car, and ran out dialing 911. I sat in the car in a bit of a shock as I explained to the children that we needed to pray for the man. I prayed out loud with the kids until the emotion of it all reduced me to sobbing and internal prayer.

Within seconds, people noticed the emergency situation and came over to lend a hand. One man led the group around the bicyclist in praying the Hail Mary. A nurse came over and did basic first aid for him while they waited for the ambulance. Another lady attempted to calm the woman who had hit the cyclist. A man brought a blanket out of his house to cover the injured man. An Episcopalian minister, on his way to church, stopped at the scene to see what he could do.

All around us, early on a Sunday morning, people were coming to help this injured man, and I could not help but feel that we were apart of a community of good people. The ambulance came and took the still-conscious bicyclist to the hospital, and only then did the crowd disperse. I went over to the police to give my account of the accident, and then we continued on to church to hang out until the next Mass and to pray for the cyclist. We never found out the extent of his injuries, but we are still praying daily for his recovery.

As I reflect on the incident, I see how we and all the people who stopped immediately acted out the works of mercy for this man and for the woman who struck him. I can think of at least seven of the fourteen that were exercised by all of those involved in that one incident. I give a complete list of both the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Corporeal Works of Mercy:

  • to feed the hungry
  • to give drink to the thirsty
  • to clothe the naked
  • to shelter the homeless
  • to visit the sick
  • to visit the imprisoned
  • to bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • to instruct the ignorant
  • to counsel the doubtful
  • to admonish sinners
  • to bear wrongs patiently
  • to forgive offenses willingly
  • to comfort the afflicted
  • to pray for the living and the dead

In extreme situations it is easy to see how we are to exercise the works of mercy, but the reality is that we are called to exercise them in small ways as well. (Two years ago Andrew Sciba wrote about a very sweet event that took place between his then two year old and then crawling baby, where the two year old was giving of his own food to the hungry baby. He realized that his son was doing one of the works of mercy.)

If I think about my own children, I see them doing the works of mercy for each other daily. When my one year old visits a sister who is being punished, she is visiting the imprisoned. When my eldest helps me put socks and shoes on the baby, she is clothing the naked. They help each other with food and drink. They are each others’ comfort when we are confined at home due to illness. They are only vaguely aware of what the works of mercy are, but they are already learning to show mercy. And they do so according to their own capacity.

Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.Conversation in Black by Stefano Corso.

We are all called to do the works of mercy according to our state in life. And while it may seem like we need great moments to do works of mercy, in reality we are called to do them everyday. We show mercy in the daily dressing, feeding, and care of children. We show mercy as teachers. We show mercy as doctors and nurses. We show mercy when we are kind to the customer having a rough day. We show mercy when we take time to listen to the problems of our coworkers. We show mercy when we share some our lunch with the man holding the cardboard sign on the street. We show mercy when we make sacrifices so that we can afford our home and food. We show mercy by giving of our money to a family in need. We show mercy when we give of our excess and unneeded clothes to a society that gives to the poor. We are called to show mercy everyday.
And when we do these things, we do them for Christ.

Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’
And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25: 37-40

Originally posted at Truth and Charity…