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My Catholic Posse

Some people collect baseball cards of players they like. I collect medals of saints I want to be like. And I carry all of these in my wallet at all times. I should note that I also have a coupon book full of saint cards and a shoebox full of pamphlets, cards that don't fit in the coupon book, booklets, and other materials. Because that is simply how I roll. We are going to need all the help we can get trying to get to heaven and the saints definitely want to help us get there. They know the steep path we have to climb to make it to holiness, and they will certainly help you get there if you are willing to ask for help.

#CatholicSwag

Oh! VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE!
Registration has opened for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015. Do your soul a favor and register for this wonderful event (which will feature Father Robert Barron as a key note speaker). I have already bothered the husband about registering (fees are about $125 for those over the age of 18). There is a chance you may see the Pope if you attend. That in and of itself is a good enough reason for me! Check out the website for more information: http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/

Pax Vobiscum

I Dream of Churches

Today is the feast of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which was consecrated in the year 324AD. This church, a Catholic church, is older than pretty much all of the Christian denominations out there. Let that sink in. This church is older than the United States of America by over 1400 years. Let that all sink in. This church outlived the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and more battles, unstable economies, plagues, wars, famines, and other natural disasters than any of us can imagine (excluding historians). Great civilizations have risen and fallen into obscurity in these 1600 odd years, and this church has withstood all this time.

The pyramids of Giza and other very old man-made structures have also withstood the test of time...but the people that built them, worshiped in them, and once lived near them have disappeared. Though the face of the Catholic Church has changed drastically over the years, its people remain. Its people continue to sweep the floors of St. John Lateran, and its people have brought Christ to just about every corner of the world. The same Christ present in the tabernacle of St. John Lateran is also present in every other tabernacle of the world. It is a testament to the constancy of the church founded by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Had it been a purely human venture, St. John Lateran would have disappeared under the rubble of countless civilizations that have swept through Europe and disappeared with time. Its floors would have gathered dust and crumbled over time, or been swallowed by nature like some of the temples you find in the forests of Cambodia.

Whenever I enter an old Cathedral with a vibrant parish, I feel at home. I feel peace. I feel God's constant presence. There is something so transcendent about the tall arches....the myriad of colors reflected by the stained glass....the aroma of wooden pews that have been infused with the aroma of centuries-worth of incense, the ethereal sound of bells echoing from cavernous ceilings too high to be touched by human hands...

Suffice it to say, there are no words that can describe the powerful experience of walking through a cathedral and admiring all it has to offer. The closest thing to this experience was Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series.

I have dreamed of cathedrals and churches for years. I have dreamed of walking through them, partaking in masses with everyone from the Pope to Anne Rice. I have met strangers in these churches from all over the world and I have experienced art that is simply ethereal. One particular cathedral that comes to mind had stained glass windows several stories tall with brilliant hues. One of these windows depicted the Virgin Mary reaching down from heaven to bring people to her son and to God. The image used forced perspective to make her appear three dimensional. If you stood right beneath the image of this woman with a deep blue mantle and serene smile, you were presented with a heavenly scene. Behind the woman reaching down for you stood the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit between them.

In my dream, I admired the stained glass image from the western end of the Cathedral (the window was on the east) and from right beneath it. Impossible as it was, at both positions, the image was just as remarkable. Standing right beneath it, you saw a three dimensional hand reaching out for you. An optical illusion like this one would require the image to be stretched out (much like the remarkable sidewalk art below) in order for the image to appear three dimensional if you were to stand beneath it.


Nativity scene by Kurt Wenner
Viewed at correct position
Notice 3D effect due to forced perpective

Same Nativity scene by Kurt Wenner
Viewed from another position
Notice how everything is stretched out
 Yet, when you stood away from the window, the image was perfectly proportioned so that it appeared no different than the standard stained glass image (save for the brilliant hues of the glass, which were otherworldly). I cannot even imagine how a masterpiece like this one could be designed by human hands as it defies too many rules. Not even the best optical illusionist on earth could ever construct something as impossible and beautiful as this window (though Kurt Wenner does come close). I know I could never draw or paint an image that could do this window justice. It is possible that this image was simply the product of some neurons firing in my brain. It is also possible that there was some divine inspiration involved. I'm leaning towards this possibility simply because I cannot believe that a random firing of neurons can create such beauty.

Whether purely neuron-based or divinely inspired, perfection like this could only be found in dreams, at least in the present world. There may be a day when the prophetic words of the prophet Ezekiel will be realized by the hand of God, allowing for the cathedrals of my dreams to come into physical existence. Until then, I will have to be satisfied with the ethereal beauty of the cathedrals that are built by men that allow God to work through them and guide them through the ages as He has done for millennia.

Pax Vobiscum

Why God Invented the Internet

Pope Francis made some comments some time ago that did not make sense until relatively recently. I refer, of course, to his thoughts on the internet.

"The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity."
"This is something truly good, a gift from God."- Pope Francis

I'm old enough to remember a world before and after the internet. My first impression of the internet was not a good one. I remember learning of a neighbor whose wife had met someone in a chat room and then walked out on her family to be with that person she met online. I remember the paranoia people had regarding online purchases, sharing information, pornography, stalkers, etc. Even though I've found a lot of pros over the years (access to scientific journals, ebooks, e-libraries, up-to-date news, social media helping me stay in touch with friends), the internet can still be a scary place. If you read any given comment box (the cake comment apocalypse here is a good example), you know what I am talking about. So I will admit that I raised an eyebrow of skepticism when Pope Francis made these comments. 

Then I came across this...

....and my mind was blown. 

In this video are Carmelite nuns from all over the world, joining their voices to sing a remarkable rendition of "Nada te Turbe." This song, based on a poem by St. Teresa de Avila, was compiled to celebrate the 500 year mark since St. Teresa's birth. I cannot even imagine how much work the Virtual Musicians Group put into organizing such a beautiful montage of religious sisters coming together across time and space to create a virtual choir. This! This is a gift!

For a a few minutes, I had a clear vision of what heaven must sound like with so many beautiful voices coming together to sing a song of praise. Pope Francis was right. When the internet is used for things like this...it can truly become a gift from God. 

They also have another song up, Salve Regina! Only this choir contains the beautiful baritones and tenors of the Carmelite Friars that took part in this endeavor. 


Such beauty! Such glorious beauty! This was so beautiful, I had it playing when I was alone in the lab last weekend or so. Okay, maybe I was blasting it...but it was definitely worth it and I would have loved to have someone walk in on me listening to this as I sorted through brains. Don't judge. 

Pax Vobiscum!

Eventide Review and Giveaway!


I got an email some time ago, asking me to check out Voces8 new album Eventide. Though I was not familiar with the British group Voces8, I was intrigued by some of the song titles and decided to look the group up. After checking out their site and learning more about them, I decided to give their album a try. I was not disappointed. 
Track list to Eventide:
1. Te lucis ante terminum
2. Hymn to the Fallen
3. Reflexionem
4. Where I sleep
5. The Seal Lullaby
6. Second Eve
7. Quanta qualia
8. Underneath the stars
9. Locus iste
10. Corpus Christi Carol
11. Benedictus
12. Os justi
13. Steal away
14. Ave Maria
15. O magnum mysterium
16. Te lucis ante terminum


I keep a pretty open mind when it comes to choirs and ecclesiastical music. Even so, I do not always like the voices or style of every choir group I hear. I can be pretty picky when it comes to classics like Ave Maria or Te Lucis. Yes, the lyrics to these songs are the same regardless of the version of the song you listen to...but these songs can be anything from unbearable to ethereal, depending on how the voices and music come together. Albums like this one can be awful, okay, or simply ethereal...lifting your spirits so that you feel that much closer to heaven. As much as I hope for the latter experience when checking out albums like this one, I know better than to have high expectations for choirs that I am not familiar with.

Well, I put the album on and proceeded to get some work done. I figured that I would try out a few songs and go from there. Well, the album played on until the end and I was well into a replay of the album before I even realized how much time had gone by. The voices were lovely, the selection of songs delightful, and it was a great listen overall. The emphasis of this album is the collection of voices and how they can work together to create beautiful renditions of the songs listed above...not so much about the instruments that can be used together with these voices. The voices of Voces8 work beautifully together and are absolutely heavenly (and very relaxing). Keep this album on as you read, as you toil away on your computer, or as you savor a nice glass of wine at the end of a long day. If there's any padres out there, a few of these songs would be a great addition to any Eucharistic Adoration events you may plan in the future.

In short, try out the album....you will not be disappointed.

With that said, I was offered a copy of this album for a giveaway here. I think I will make this one easy. Comment here or on my Facebook page, tweet (follow me at @catholicscigeek), or email me  with the title of your favorite ecclesiastical classic and you will be entered into a random drawing for your chance to win a copy of this album. This contest is open to anyone in the United States. I will announce the winner a week or so from now. I will contact the winner and send out the album once I get an address and once I am able to get to a post office in NYC.

Best wishes and pax vobiscum!

Liturgical Cuteness!!!


Brandon Vogt's son Isaiah is at it again....and is just as adorable as ever playing mass. I can't handle the cuteness of this tiny padre-in-the-making...and the outtakes are priceless! Check it out!


All I can say is that the Vogts are definitely doing this whole Catholic parenting thing right! There is so much beauty in the mass, and it lifts my spirits knowing that there are children out there who can still see the mass with the same wonder I used to have when I was young. According to Brandon, the mass kit seen can be purchased at Our Father's House. Dare I say, a great investment for anyone with kids as excited about mass as this one.

Pax Vobiscum

I Know Iraq Will Be Okay...Eventually

A long time ago, in 2003 on the night before the US invasion of Iraq, I had a very vivid dream that I still remember now. In this dream, I was standing in the middle of Iraq. It was barren and covered in the darkness of night. From where I stood, I could see every border of the country surrounding me through the darkness. I was alone. I then saw the northern end of the country catch on fire. This fire quickly spread. Eventually, every line of this country's perimeter was on fire. The flames grew tall and I grew afraid. I considered leaping over the flames before they grew too high, but the fire spread too fast and I was soon trapped on all sides. My mind went back and forth, trying to find an escape. Could I dare try running through them as fast as possible? Could I try jumping over them? Would I suffocate or burn if I stood where I was? I was alone, so no one could help me. Yet, even as the fire grew around me, it did not touch me. Even as it threatened to cover the entire nation, I was untouched. I was so scared, but it did not engulf me as I feared it would.

At the time of this dream, I was a high school student with a mind that had just digested books like 1984Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 as well as more war histories than any teenager should ever really read. I thought I knew everything and I thought my president was an idiot for going to war over a bunch of blurry satellite pictures of "weapons of mass destruction" while ignoring the heavily armed nation of North Korea that was constantly killing its own persecuted people and sending rockets into South Korea. I got in a bit of trouble one day for wearing a backpack with a small sign attached to it saying "This war is all Bush" with the letters "l," "l," "i," and "t" artfully arranged into the sign so that it ultimately read...well...you can imagine. I was asked if that's what I really thought of the whole thing. I said yes. Keep in mind, this was 2003 and the nation was still, in some ways, reeling from the September 11th attacks and demanding retribution. Now that's something you don't see in the media these days...the sentiment of the nation that allowed Bush to declare war. I don't think we would have allowed him to declare war in Iraq if September 11th had never happened and so I can never fully blame him or Cheney for the events that transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to follow. All things considered, as much as I wanted Iraq to be free from Hussein, I did not support the war that ensued...and continued to ensue in the years that followed.

This dream made little sense to me in the years that followed....but I never forgot it. It is still vividly imprinted in my mind and I keep thinking about it now because it is finally starting to make sense. I told my husband so a few weeks ago as more and more news of beheadings, crucifixions, and murder came out of Iraq. This dream was not about the US invasion...but of the consequences that would come with it. It is the Christians and other religious minorities that are currently trapped in Iraq with enemies on all sides, threatening to suffocate their faith with their destruction. Yet, even with all the violence and senseless murder, no member of ISIS can destroy faith. They will destroy until they rule a pile of ashes in the middle of the desert, but they will not triumph. Both scripture and nature tell us that much. To God goes all the victory and every Iraqi martyr is a victory for God if that person's soul is now in heaven. Ultimately, that is what is important. Salvation.

Though the blood of martyrs currently flows over Mosul and other occupied cities, this blood will bring more sanctification if history is any teacher. Remember Rome? Remember the triumph of Christ over Rome though its streets once flowed with the blood of Christian martyrs, the triumph that came after so much destruction and death? Remember the stories of countless missionaries that were killed over the history of the church? Where did each of these martyrs go and how many Christians do you see in these places now? A prime example comes from Pope Francis' recent visit to South Korea. Look at the images of millions on the street, waiting to hear his words! It's hard to imagine that this nation was once the site of martyrdom.
The same Catholic Rome we know today was once home to one of the greatest persecutions of Christians in history.
Read Quo Vadis for more on this scene. It is a wonderful historical fiction that will give you a good idea of what once occurred to countless Christians that suffered under intense persecution.
These Muslim extremists don't realize it yet, but they are on a path to self-destruction. The death they bring now is the death of their own twisted faith. Their actions blaspheme the God they claim to serve...but these actions, awful as they are, will ultimately make Iraq a Christian nation. God does not operate on our time, he is far too patient for that. We see only fire and ashes now...but he sees the results of a great forest fire. The land that was once barren will be made fertile again and from these ashes will grow a forest from the seeds of every tree that crafted into a cross. We must decrease while he must increase. We may not see the renewal that will come to this land in our lifetimes, but it is coming. Even those who don't believe should know enough about history to know that persecutions ultimately lead to great conversions. It may take tens or hundreds of years for Iraq's lands to be renewed, but it is coming.

We may see fewer and fewer Christians in Iraq right now...but God has plans for those that remain. He has plans for those in Iraq who may not be Christian, but happened to witness the bravery of those who died in the name of Christ. Perhaps these witnesses will feel the presence of God now whenever they pass through a site where Christian children, the Holy Innocents of today, were slaughtered. Then will they know that there was something about the faith that these children died for...something that was lacking from the faith that was twisted by these militant extremists. Maybe they will convert in secret. Maybe they will baptize their children as Christians. Maybe their neighbors will do the same. Maybe more and more people will realize that there was holiness in the Christian martyrdoms that we are witnessing today. Maybe the sites of these horrific beheadings and deaths will one day become pilgrimage sites and shrines dedicated to these martyred saints. ISIS may feel that these horrific deaths will scare us into submission. However, I feel that the gruesome nature of these murders will only make it harder for the martyrdom of these Christians to be forgotten.

The true enemy of Christianity is not death. The true enemy of Christianity is the lukewarm complacency that comes from forgetting. When we remember the people that have fallen for our own salvation and for our own freedoms as Christians, we cannot help but become better Christians. We cannot help but be more committed to our faith when we remember the heavy sacrifices that came with it.

Do Your Part to Help Iraqi and Syrian Refugees!

I may be a broke PhD student but know well enough that my situation is nowhere near as bad as that of our persecuted brothers and sisters in dire need of material help like food, water, shelter, medicine, etc. Please consider making a donation to this organization or to others that are currently on the ground, providing much-needed aid to Iraqi refugees.

Please, please, please consider giving a monetary donation as well as prayers. Any dollar amount you give is sure to be life-saving in some way. These people have little to nothing as most were forced to flee genocide with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Almsgiving is a big part of what it means to follow Christ and what you do for the least of His children...you do for him. I've made a donation and will have to cut back on a few things in order to afford making this donation....please consider doing the same! They desperately need our help NOW! 

The US is finally helping these people 2 MONTHS after these atrocities started...and as wonderful as it is that our nation and others are finally helping...the need of these refugees is far greater and more immediate than the help currently promised to them. If you have been on Twitter lately, you know that Pope Francis is calling upon us to help these modern-day martyrs....what better way to help than helping a charity like Church in Need USA. This charity and others like Catholic Relief Services is currently on the ground, providing much-needed assistance to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq. Whatever you can afford to give...please give...even if it means tightening the budget a bit! 



Pax Vobiscum