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Perhaps it is starting to feel like spring again...

 I really love what I saw in this video...obedience, humility, and zeal for God. I did discern for quite some time as a younger woman...and I always felt drawn to the more old school orders (full habit or bust, as far as I was concerned). While I am on the path to marriage now, I have concluded that if I ever am widowed, I would like to join an order such as this one. Kudos to you, ladies of the Dominican order of Saint Caecilia (my confirmation patron)! Keep up the good work and may you be a positive force in the renewal foreseen by JPII!

The joyful reverence is SO BEAUTIFUL!

Oh...and did you see those mantillas?!?!

Pax Vobiscum

The Lab Calendar

I'm in the eye of the hurricane now as far as qualifying exams go. I handed in the written portion today (to be picked apart completely for the next two weeks and serve as the basis for how tough my exam will be). Hopefully, it won't go as badly as I usually think everything will turn out between the impostor's syndrome and my inability to internalize any form of success. I will be disappearing for the next 2 weeks as my qualifying exam is on December 13th. Fortunately, regardless of how the exam goes, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. The Hobbit midnight showing takes place that night...and my dad comes back from Portugal that night too. On top of that, the next week is my birthday....AND THEN CHRISTMAS! As I study and get grilled for the next two weeks...I will try to focus on the end of the journey....and how awesome it will feel when it's all over.

I won't leave you all empty-handed before I go. I took some pictures today of the laboratory calendar that I thought would be fun to share. Before I came to the lab, the calendar was a mere wipe-away calendar where people normally posted lab meeting dates, days off, etc. One year ago, I was put in charge of filling in the calendar with dates. The lab quickly realized that my imagination could not be contained...and my first drawing was for Thanksgiving. I drew a turkey in a lab coat, pipetting stuff. It became a hit and soon I was drawing cakes, cupcakes, greyhounds, and all sorts of other tomfoolery for people's birthdays. No subject has remained untouched because within a few months, we were looking up wacky holidays that often left the calendar full of zombie mice, Bunsen and Beaker lab disasters, Tardis space travel, hermitages, punk rocking mice, My Little name it.

This year, I drew another turkey for Thanksgiving in commemoration of the first turkey that caused all of the trouble...
Animal research that even the nuttiest Peta member could approve...maybe

Being the good Catholic that I am...*stifles snort*....I felt it my duty to take part of the New commemorating Saint Nicholas Day. Okay, I know that using a laboratory calendar is a bit of a stretch when it comes to using the new media for evangelization...but I just could not pass up another opportunity to commemorate the saint who punched a heretic in the face (and then apologized for it). Forget the vision of some jolly guy in red, I gave the lab a more realistic depiction of Saint Nicholas.
I blew it up so you could see the details...and by details, I mean Birkenstocks and heretic teeth spilling into National Cotton Candy Day.
I also commemorated some birthdays this month...including my own...which happens to fall on the day that school-aged children around the country claim will be the end of the world. I know very well that all that Mayan hoopla is just that...hoopla. However, how many chances will I get to draw this ever again to celebrate my birthday:
Enlarged to show apocalyptic detail!
Finally, there's the drawing for Christmas. 
I was originally just going to put the Keurig up there, but it did not look festive at all. Throw in some candy canes, holly, snow, and a huge bow..and all of a sudden it looks like a typical Target store on the day after Halloween.
I bet you can guess what the whole lab wants for Christmas. We've been trying to get a coffee machine for the lab for quite some time. We've been throwing hints around about it...but I took it upon myself to kick the subliminal messaging up a notch. Before anyone starts judging, please remember that I am a PhD student who needs her coffee. Coffee not only keeps me productive, but sane. Sometimes, all you really need to get through the day is a good cup of coffee. I've become a barista of sorts in my own right these past 2 years. I've gotten pretty good at using the water dispenser in the conference room. Give me coffee, sugar, milk, chocolate powder, and a drop or two peppermint extract...and I can make a mint mocha that even an NYC hipster would drink (probably exaggerating here...but you get the idea). In any event, I really hope this works. It would certainly save the lab a fortune on day-to-day caffeine runs...and it would save me the trouble of carrying all those coffee-making supplies back and forth between my locker and conference room.

Your prayers will be much appreciated as I approach my qualifying exams. Please rest assured that you are in mine.

Pax Vobiscum

My Sisters the Saints: A Geeky Review

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell was a wonderful read. Reading this book was like having a conversation with a close friend that shared many of the trials that I have faced as a young woman growing up in today's culture. Colleen, like many of us, explored the world of partying that left her empty and constantly searching for more meaning in her life. Like many of us, she came from a good home full of love and faith...but slowly drifted away from it as the delights of the world beckoned her. Like many of us, she felt a sense of longing and desperation after years of meaningless relationships and little to no responsibility. As a fellow "sister," I completely understood where Colleen came from and where she would go once she allowed the Holy Spirit to transform her longing into a new life full of love and peace...even as she watched her father succumb to dementia....even as she sought to become a mother after years of failed attempts and refusal to undergo IVF. Colleen's struggles will echo the struggles of many women out there...and many women reading this book will find themselves having quite a lot in common with Colleen.
Through Colleen's many struggles, she continually finds the inspiration, faith, and strength to continue by drawing on the words and lives of quite a few of our favorite "sister saints." I won't spoil too much about how each of the saints lead her on a path to recovery, self-discovery, and serenity...but I will say that Teresa of Avila, Therese de Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska (a personal favorite of mine), Edith Stein, Mother Theresa, Mary of Nazareth...and other notables like Dorothy Day make an appearance. As hard as it is for modern-day women to consider the messages of these saints in today's time and age, Colleen demonstrates time and time again that the examples and words of these saints are timeless. In Faustina, for example, we learn the importance (and benefits) of maintaining steadfast trust in God. We all know how hard it is to trust in God, having been brought up a culture that teaches us to trust only in ourselves. Colleen, too, was reluctant at first to heed the Saint Faustina's advice...but eventually learned this trust as she faced a major life decision.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the writings of some of these sister saints and will certainly help others explore the works of these saints in manner that is relevant to today's world. Life it tough and there are always plenty of tough decisions to make, but a little bit of good advice goes a long Colleen demonstrates time and time again. All in all, it was a quick...but very fulfilling read. I found myself chuckling at some of the more humorous moments of her life...and crying at others (especially as she witnesses redemptive suffering first-hand). I did not put this book down until I had finished it (at 3 in the morning...but the lack of sleep was worth it). I would highly recommend this book to any woman out there who is just beginning to learn that there is much more to life than the present culture has to well as women who are experiencing tough issues like the loss of a loved one or infertility. I cannot stress enough just how comforting and helpful this book may be for those experiencing tough times.

The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was offered a copy of My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell for review.

After an election like this one...

...we may end up seeing more of this.
I applaud these nurses on standing up for their own moral and religious beliefs when they were forced to chose between their job and their personal beliefs. I've been fortunate enough to work with pretty reasonable people that have allowed me to not get involved in research, techniques, etc. that made me uncomfortable. As we see in the video, however, this is not always the case. There are people out there who have to make the choice and there are people that suffer because they chose to do the right thing rather than the comfortable or easy thing. The way things are going, we may end up seeing more of this...women and men forced to take part in the murder of foetuses, embryos, babies, etc. all for the sake of the agenda that is being shoved down our throats by a president so hell-bent on appeasing the pro-abortion crowd. 
The next time you are forced to make a difficult decision, I hope the courage of these ladies and others like them will help you make the right decision. Please pray for an end to filicide...especially in a world that grows increasingly hostile to those who defend life. Please pray for more people like the Alliance Defending Freedom to help continue defending our consciences from partaking in abortion and other practices in conflict with our morals and beliefs. 

Pax Vobiscum

One of the Original Catholic Science Geeks

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"Should a priest reject relativity because it contains no authoritative exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity? Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses." 
-Monsignor Georges LemaƮtre

Msgr. is also known as the guy who first proposed the Big Bang Theory. If you haven't heard of him, drop the rubbish "I-use-science-to-justify-anti-religious-bigotry" militant atheist book you are reading and pick up something more neutral...or go visit the Vatican's badass observatory...or check out this photo of Papa Benedict:
Using a microscope never looked so cool...and Catholic.

How awesome is that?!? My pope uses a microscope (SOMEONE PLEASE TURN THAT INTO A KID'S BOOK)...

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The Scariest Things

Whenever I hear commercials or see posters advertising the next "scariest movie ever"...I cannot help but shake my head on the inside. Why? Well, you can throw in all the chainsaws and dismembered body parts into a movie and I will not consider it to be scary. Yes, dismembered body parts and whatnot are gross, but I just don't find them to be scary. Before you dismiss me as a cold, emotionless product of a generation raised on guns and violent video games...let me just say that there are things that scare me. There are things that bother me intensely. There are things that have kept me up at night and things that have left me shaking and in tears.

One such thing was a scene in Blood Diamond that is forever engraved in my brain. I never watched the entire movie, but I never forgot what I did see. Years and years ago, I  stopped over to visit my then-boyfriend (aka the Fiance) who was already at the middle/end of the movie. I had watched enough of the movie and/or asked the Fiance enough questions to know what was going on. I really got into the movie and at one point, I found myself staring in horror at the television with shaking knees and tears threatening to stream down my face. The scene that got me so upset was a scene where a father finds and confronts a son who had been taken away and turned into a child soldier. To see the agony in the father's face and the cold expression of a son that appeared to have been transformed from innocent boy to killer was awful. It scared me. I was scared by the kind of evil that destroys a childhood in such a cruel, selfish manner. I was scared because I know this evil exists. Forget "The Ring" and all those other scary movies that threaten to make your hair stand on end... the exploitation of children is as scary as it gets for me. 

Why is it so scary? Well, that scene in "Blood Diamond" demonstrates how easy it is for evil to destroy the goodness within even the most innocent people. It demonstrates how evil will prey on the innocent for its own selfishness and how destructive this evil can be. This evil is alive in places where children are stolen from families and forced into prostitution. This evil is alive in places where children are recruited into gangs and forced to propagate the evil that destroyed them in the first place. This evil is alive in places where children are abused, neglected, and killed. I am scared by the evil that allows for child pornography to exist. I am scared by the evil that allows for child sex trade to exist. I am scared by the evil that allows people to senselessly torture and even murder children for any reason. These things scare me because I know they are real and because these evils prey upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society. 

Please pray for these children tonight...pray that they may be saved and protected from these evils.

Pax Vobiscum

I Love Fertilized Oocytes

I think I may have just stumbled  upon the prolife movement of the future. I will warn you that most of this post  may sound like a lot of crazy...but bear with me until the end and I may just revolutionize your way of thinking.
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Please, do your inner scientist a favor and check out the site.
If they ever allow me out of the laboratory long enough, I one day intend to go to March for Life donning my science best (goggles, lab coat, etc) and holding up a sign with this amazing image and "Prolife Embryo-Loving Scientist" or "I <3 foetuses" on it. That would certainly make some pro-abortion folk shudder. They often use the argument that the foetus, embryo, etc. is not human and judge those who equate them with babies. Well, what if we reply to their argument by simply saying that we love the foetus, embryo, etc. as they are...without comparing them to babies? I mean, when you break it all down, we defend the unborn out of love....not developmental why not defend the embryo, foetus, zygote, fertilized oocyte, etc. as they are?

Imagine a pro-abortion advocate researching for weeks and weeks, trying to find enough sources to counter the religious argument that "the unborn are people too" and that "all life is precious." They will spend time looking up uber-nutty-feminist articles, etc. claiming that foetuses aren't human. They will look up all the proper classifications of human development to counter the use of the terms like "unborn babies" with uber-scientific terms like "foetus," "embryo," "zygote," etc. Now imagine the deflated ego of a pro-abortion advocate when they realize that their "a foetus is not a baby" pre-emptive strike is up in smoke. I mean, imagine their reaction when they see an "I love foetuses" poster and come in contact with someone who defense the foetus out of love for...the foetus. Not "the unborn." Not "future babies." Just the embryo. Just the zygote. Just the fertilized egg. You name it. Can you just imagine their reaction when find someone who defends the foetus out of love for the foetus?

What can they possibly argue next? They can't exactly say "you aren't allowed to defend the foetus out of love for the foetus" because then they'd have the animal rights activists to deal with (you can't defend animals out of love for animals), the civil rights activists to deal with (you can't defend people of a different race out of love for people of a different race), and every other activist that has ever defended something out of LOVE for something.

Why waste time arguing with pro-abortion folk about the human status of a foetus? I know life begins at conception...but I know better than to argue with a brick wall. Why not just force pro-abortion folk to find another argument? Why not just make it known to them that I love foetuses just as much as I do "the unborn?" They may have to just do the unthinkable and accept the fact that there are foetus-lovers out there and that these foetus-lovers don't need to try to equate foetuses with babies to love and defend them (even if they believe that to be the case). They may have to end up just dealing with the fact that I love foetuses simply because they are foetuses. I love fertilized oocytes because they are fertilized oocytes. I simply love them because I see them as members of that beautiful, amazing process that is human development. You may not think of them as human, but you cannot deny their role in human development. You cannot deny that they are awesome just as they are. You don't have to be an end-product of human development to be awesome. If I could take a look back at my own development, I would recognize my awesomeness regardless of developmental stage. JUST LOOK AT THE DIAGRAM ABOVE! Fertilized Oocyte Barbara is just as cool as postnatal day 3 Barbara!

I know I must sound crazy right now and I give a lot of credit to anyone who can make sense of the madness that is this post. However, I think I am on to something big here. I think I am on to an important sense of awareness that may just revolutionize the prolife movement...the awareness that it is okay to love a foetus as much as an embryo...and the awareness that it is okay to defend this love. How will this play out? Well, the way I look at it is this...I may not be vegan or vegetarian, but I will try to accommodate my vegan and vegetarian friends when it comes to the wedding reception menu. Why waste time and ruin friendships trying to argue with them about why to keep or remove meat from the menu? I think this may be the response to my argument. I mean, I know better than to argue with a PETA member over their beliefs that animals are to be equated with humans. I love animals of all shapes and sizes, but I don't consider them human...and I will continue eating ham sandwiches and sushi...regardless of how offensive that may be to a member of PETA. How can they argue against my defense of the foetus out of love for the foetus.

With this in mind, how can the pro-abortion crowd respond to my love of the fertilized oocyte? It is no more ridiculous than their love of ideas like "women's rights" and "choice." Choice and women's rights aren't tangible, physical entities in and of themselves. A fertilized oocyte, however, is something tangible. It may be microscopic, but it is a physical reality. That, in a sense, throws the scales in our favor.

We do not have to waste our time equating embryos with children when dealing with the selectively deaf... They won't believe us, regardless of how hoarse we get. It doesn't matter whether THEY believe an embryo is human or not, as long as WE love the embryo as much as we love all humans. With that said, feel free to steal the following few sentences and turn them into bumper stickers.

Prolife because I love the fertilized oocytes. 
Prolife because I love the zygotes.
Prolife because I love the embryos. 
Prolife because I love the foetuses. 

Cool places to visit: Physicians for Life, Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League

Pax Vobiscum

What Happens When You Slack Off

My qualifying exams are in December and I have been slacking off on my prayer life, my blog, and pretty much all-that-is-good-and-Catholic. I’ve still been praying the rosary most days and sending up a few prayers when I don’t pray the rosary. However, it appears as though I’ve asked the driver of my car (God) to take the backseat. Unfortunately for me, I am a mediocre driver with no ability whatsoever to successfully parallel park a car. These past few weeks have been full of detours, flat tires, and many instances of me just driving off course and then wondering why I didn’t reach my destination. Considering the devastation I’ve seen first-hand and heard about from friends and family following Hurricane Sandy…I have no right to complain.
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Even so, I could not help but feel miserable when my phone was lost, when massive hurricane-related NJ transit issues doubled my commute (I’m averaging 5-6 hours right now per day), my favorite monastery was closed off by fallen trees, when my computer broke down, and when I lost my wallet. In the middle of all of this madness I was able to finish the first draft of my second qualifying exam proposal…but I dragged myself through it. I was tired. I was cranky….and I simply did not WANT to do anything school-related anymore. To top it all off…he-who-must-not-be-named won the election and all of a sudden, I am considered a homophobic, misogynist, racist who isn’t intelligent enough to vote the guy that popular culture tells me to vote for.  Yep. I was done. I was about to throw in the towel and hop on a plane to Bordeaux to realize my macaron-making dreams in a quaint French vineyard. Then I realized that I am a broke student with no funds to start up a winemaking dream in a rustic French village. I also realized that I had a duty to finish the semester that I had already been paid to finish (darn you twice-a-year paycheck scheme).

One day last week, I had a bit of a first-world-problems version of a dark night of the soul. I have no right to complain considering how many people lost everything following Sandy, but I hit a breaking point on Wednesday. My computer had broken down the night before, my new commuting schedule was awful, and I had not met my deadline (I had wanted to finish the proposal the week before). After going over how much it would cost to MAYBE fix my computer, I found myself driving around aimlessly…worrying about money, my broken computer, qualifying exams, my lost phone, the oncoming Nor’Easter, and everything else you can imagine (my worries usually grow exponentially once they get started). A little voice told me stop by and see a padre even though I didn’t have a parking permit for that area (and a ticket was the last thing I wanted) and I was convinced that I was crazy for even stopping by unannounced.

Fortunately for me, the padre was in and willing to spare a moment for a half-crazed PhD student to vent. Fortunately for me, another wonderful individual was there and willing to talk. I got everything I needed to get off my chest and I got some good advice in return. Basically, a lot of what I got out of both conversations was that I needed to trust God. I needed to do more for God. I needed to let God get back in the driver seat. I needed to stop trying to be a driver…and I needed to stop being a back seat driver too. I can’t tell God what to do and how to do it. I simply have to trust in Him without question and without fear.

I also got some advice on spiritual warfare…as it is quickly (whether I like it or not) becoming a fixture in my life. As a result of putting school before all, I had (slowly but surely) started to suffer physically and mentally due to the stress. Now I was beginning to suffer spiritually as well. I was too miserable to have time for hope. I was too stressed to have time for faith. I was too occupied to have time for love.
I may have been praying, but I had slacked off on the sacrament of reconciliation. I had slacked off on my blog because I was too busy poring over papers and obsessing over my qualifying exam proposal. I had slacked off on the new evangelization because I was too busy to do anything but school-related things. I had slacked off on my prolife mission because I grew too tired to even try informing others. Slowly, but surely, I became too busy to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I became too busy for God…and, as a result, I became too busy for grace. We need God’s grace to flourish. We need God’s grace to truly LIVE. Without it, we merely EXIST. I don’t know about you, but I cannot survive on mere existence.

I was fired up after meeting with everyone that Wednesday and I came back with new prayers and an urge to pray. I prayed and did fantastic for a few days…but then I let life get in the way. God was still driving me, but I had started to morph into a backseat driver (often the first step to taking control of the wheel). I started letting other things take a central role in my life. I started feeling sorry for myself. I started getting upset about how things were turning out. I started despairing about my future and the future of the country (I don’t know about you guys…my oncoming persecution senses are tingling).
Monday morning, I tried taking the bus to Newark to get a train to New York. The first bus I took would only get me to Broad St. Station and I wanted to get to Penn Station. 

To make a long story short, that little voice from a few days before suggested that I should get off and switch at one of the bus stops before Broad St. I listened to this feeling and got off. The bus stop was right across from a church building that advertised Divine Mercy worship every Friday. Right in front of the church was a white stone statue of Christ, with two beams radiating from his heart. I’m pretty sure this was a wake-up call, reminding me about my backseat driver tendencies…and my need to simply TRUST. I had prayed the rosary that morning on the bus and felt that it had been sufficient. However, after seeing this reminder, I pulled out the rosary again and prayed the chaplet as well. After I was finished catching up on a few other forgotten prayers, I hopped onto another bus and started the next leg of my commute. The next two days (once Broad St. station started back up again and allowed me to simply ride the first bus all the way to Newark), I randomly looked out the window just in time to see Christ's Divine Mercy statue (having forgotten where it was exactly) and the next day I randomly woke up to see the statue again. I think these may have been mini-miracles...small reminders for the lesson in trust that I was still learning. 

I think this experience is God’s way of telling me to trust in Him as a driver. Things will get busy in the future, they always will…but this should never be an excuse to remove God from the center of my life. Things will always get stressful and even seem hopeless at times, but we should continue to trust in God regardless of how dark the road ahead may be. I think that our society tends to ignore God when it comes to making decisions or running things. There are days when I want to quit everything and do what I WANT to do as opposed to what I should do. However, I owe it to God to continue fighting the good fight…even if that fight requires me to be uncomfortable, bored, angry, tired, etc. He does not want me to move to France when the country goes to shambles because I have to play a part in fixing it. He wants me to TRUST in Him and to TRUST in his plans for me…regardless of how tough things get.

Pax Vobiscum

A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness in the Next America- A Geeky Review

Anyone concerned with the way America seems to be heading should read Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s “A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America.” Though brief, it is a brilliant call to arms for all Catholics (and others) that are beginning to notice an erosion of principle in the modern world where reason gives way to relativism and complacency gives way to a loss of rights and freedoms. As often as we try to sweep anti-religious sentiment under the rug whenever we face a biased media or laws designed to undermine religious freedom, Archbishop Chaput argues that this is no longer an option.

Drawing on history and the words of quite a few historic figures, Archbishop Chaput makes quite few valid points as to why Christians today need to LIVE their faith and not just defend it. As our culture grows increasingly hostile towards faith and those who practice a faith, Archbishop Chaput warns us to stand up for our beliefs. He warns us about the consequences that our complacency and challenges us to not only preserve, but promote the Christian faith. “Freedom of belief and religious practice used to be a concern that Americans had about other countries. Now it’s a concern of ours.” Archbishop Chaput’s words certainly strike a chord with so many individuals who are currently concerned with the direction our country may take following the elections and the ongoing legal battle concerning the HHS Mandate.

While he defends the faith, he does so in a balanced and respectful manner. He recognizes the weaknesses of today’s Christian community and points out where we have been going wrong. However, he does so without conceding to the popularized notion that the loss of religion in America is inevitable. There is hope and Archbishop Chaput offers plenty of advice for Christian communities in America. We have an uphill battle before us, but Archbishop Chaput reminds us why we must fight and what we have to look forward to once this battle is over.

 Archbishop Chaput’s writing style is likely to appeal to a wide audience regardless of background. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and only wish it had not ended so abruptly. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs encouragement and guidance for the days we have ahead of us now that the election is over and our religious freedoms are on the line.

Pax Vobiscum