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Gingerbread Vatican

I am not too big on making gingerbread houses, and can probably count on one hand the number of gingerbread houses I ever made. This year, however, I came across this lovely masterpiece at Church of Saint Gregory the Great. Yes...allow me to introduce you to the Gingerbread Vatican. 
Just look at those gummy bear saints, the Necca wafer mosaic, the licorice pillars, and the colors! I would have had the husband take more pictures of this spectacular work of edible art, but we wanted to get seats for the Christmas mass that was about to take place. The artist(s) responsible for this magnificent gingerbread art paid a lot of attention to detail. Just look at the frosting water spouting from those fountains and the papal insignia. Also, in the photo below, you can see just how massive this thing is in relation to my mantilla-clad self. Doesn't it just look awesome?!?

I don't care much for gingerbread houses...but I may just be tempted to create my own gingerbread Vaticans in the future.

Pax Vobiscum

Camerado, I give you my hand: A Geeky Review

I finished reading Camerado, I Give You My Hand by Maura Poston Zagrans a week or so ago and I am still talking about it. This book tells the story of Father David Link, a saint-in-training who proves that there are no limits to what we can do in the name of compassion and God's grace. We are often told that faith can move mountains and Father Link's life is proof that this is possible. Though a high profile lawyer and dean of Notre Dame Law School, he always found the time and energy to help the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized of society. 

Camerado is one of those books that shows you just how much is possible for those who seek to live out Christ's command to love one another. Before entering the priesthood, Father Link had everything a man in his standing could want. He had married his high school sweetheart, been a loving father, worked for a prestigious law firm, served his country, and made quite a name for himself as dean to one of the most prestigious law schools. All of these things were good in and of themselves, but Father Link demonstrated that more is needed and possible for people willing to serve God and his neighbors.

While reading this book, I grew acquainted with Father Link and the people he has helped in his prison ministry. I'm a big fan of The Shawshank Redemption, so the only way I can describe him is to compare him to Andy Dufresne. Unlike Dufresne, however, he is a priest whose retirement plan consists of seeking out convicted murderers, drug dealers, thieves, etc. and turning their lives around. He understands the needs of these prisoners and seeks to fill the voids that led these men to a life of crime. He acts as a priest, a mentor, counselor, teacher, and even as a family member to so many people who are simply in need of a powerful and positive role model in their lives. In this book, you get to see the kinds of changes Father Link creates by simply serving God behind prison walls. 

I can't tell you how many times I teared up when reading this book or how many times I got the chills. I can tell you, however, that it was a very good read. I had a tough time putting it down and I have been inspired by Father Link's example. I lack Father Link's people skills, but this book demonstrates that there is so much we can do for our fellow man regardless of how busy we may be and what skills we may or may not possess. In short, this book has the potential to change your life if you feel that you are stuck in the doldrums. It may prove to be a great catalyst if you have ever been called to serve your fellow man and been unsure of where to start or what you could do. 

I was offered a free copy of Camerado, I Give You My Hand for review. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are my own.

Pax Vobiscum

I Blame Padre Pio

I'm a Cradle Catholic who has gone to mass pretty much every Sunday (and sometimes other days as well) for my entire life. I can probably count up all of the times I brought up the gifts on one hand. Maybe once or twice I was a cute enough kid to bring up the gifts during mass with a sister or parent. Maybe once or twice as an adult with my fellow mantilla-wearing sibling. In the last two weeks or so, my husband and I were called to bring up the gifts twice. TWICE. 

I partially blame Padre Pio for this. The rest of the blame falls on God's profound love for me.
Padre Pio, Pray for Us!

The first time we were called to bring up the gifts was during a weekday mass that we made it to by the skin of our teeth. We both work in the city and I work way more overtime than a normal person usually works because there are no PhD candidate labor laws as far as I know...but such is life when you are attempting to generate data and get the HPLC monster to work properly. This is part of the reason I haven't been blogging so much. The amount of work I have been doing and also a period of self-discovery and change (a prolonged metanoia of sorts...the Greek version of the word).

The mass was a healing mass held by Father Pio Mandato, a Franciscan priest born whose family hailed from Pietrelcina. His family and Padre Pio's family (THE Padre Pio) were good friends and he had received his first communion from Padre Pio. This was not an event I wanted to miss because Padre Pio has been with me for most of my PhD career and has already done his part in making small miracles for me in times of need. He is quite the intercessor for me, so I was compelled to go and receive a blessing with a Padre Pio relic (one of his gloves). Unfortunately, because I am a sinner on a tight schedule...I was not able to go to confession right before the mass. Neither had my husband. Both of us were called to a mass where we would be unable to receive. It was awful knowing that we could not participate fully. It was as if we lived in Christ's time, were invited to have dinner with him, and found out last minute that we weren't able to sit at his table after all. There really is no way to describe the disappointment unless you have been in a similar position.

So there were were, sitting in the church, feeling sorry for ourselves. One or two of the buttons of my coat had popped off that week and I had substituted an NYC subway-scented pashmina as a chapel veil. Throw in a pair of bummy sweat pants (perfect for lab use, but not for church attire) and a hoodie with thumb holes torn into the sleeves...and you have a pretty good picture of what I looked like in that pew: A hobo who had crawled into a church to keep warm. I probably even smelled like lab rodents. My husband was dressed nicely for work, so we must have been quite a pair. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have been going through a metanoia of sorts. I have been trying to listen to and find God in the long hours, the lack of progress with the HPLC, stress, you name it. I was coming out or about to dive into a long stretch of dry prayer life. These dry spells are great experiences once they are over because they have helped me grow and mature in my faith. They help me understand where atheists, lapsed Catholics, etc. are coming from when we talk faith and they have given me some perspective into the dry martyrdom of many saints who have suffered greatly but not been killed for their faith. 

As beneficial as these dry periods may be, they are pretty rough when you go through them. That week had been a rough one for me.  In the parking lot before mass, I said a quick and very desperate prayer to God, through the intercession of Padre Pio, for a sign...ANY SIGN that God still wanted me and loved me. That sign came when, out of nowhere, one of the ushers asks my husband and me if we want to bring up the gifts. We gave each other a puzzled look and accepted. There were so many people there who were better dressed, less frazzled, and more ready for mass than we were. Some of them were even in a state of grace, having gone to confession like responsible Catholics. 

As unworthy as we felt, God still wanted us to partake in this mass...not just look in on it. It was as if, even though I was unable to eat with Christ...he still invited me into the room where the dinner was set up and still willing to let me serve him. This was BIG. God wants me and loves me...even when I, by human standards at least, am unworthy to be wanted or loved. This is part of the metanoia I keep talking about. I am only now, after 28 years, learning to appreciate the infinite and generous nature of God's love. God is more merciful to me than I am to myself. Than I am to others. Than others are to me. God. Almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, and still willing to love us fully enough to forgive us all the evils we commit if we only take a moment to seek forgiveness. 

To seek forgiveness is to seek God through his love and mercy. Seeking forgiveness requires you to leave pride behind and put yourself at the unfathomable mercy of God. And He never fails to welcome us back. This lesson, in and of itself, has been the hardest lesson for me to learn because I am way too hard on myself. I've always been that way...but God was never that way and He wants us to see that. This is an especially important lesson to start learning in a world that tempts imperfect people to sin and then plasters their sins all over magazines, ridiculing them and refusing to forgive. God's capacity and willingness to forgive is beyond our understanding. He does not love according to our rules or what we deem to be fair. His justice is far more merciful than our justice because it stems only from love and is unblemished by a need for retribution, convenience, or lack of understanding. 

God called me to serve Him, as I was. I was unworthy of receiving him because I was weighed down by sin and felt awful for letting him down. Even so, I saw mercy and love in His call for participation. This love was manifested in a radiant "thank you" from Father Pio as I handed the wine. It was manifested in the radiant expression that Father Pio had on his face as he elevated the Eucharist and looked on it with true reverence and awe. It was also manifested in a realization that even though I  unworthy, God still found worth in me. I was not worthy to receive His Son. However, I was worthy enough to serve a part in the sacrifice and this thought was very humbling. God chose us for this function not because we were worthy, but because He loved us. Nothing that we do will ever make us worthy. We are only worthy because His love makes us worthy. He loved us into existence and it is his love that keeps calling us towards Him even when we falter time and time again.

This past weekend before mass when my husband and I walked away from the Nativity Scene and towards the pew, we passed by the gifts to be given for this mass. A thought occurred to me to ask for a redo, through Padre Pio's intercession. We were both properly dressed and I did not smell of lab animals. I had even sewn some buttons on my coat by then, even though I had not worn it to mass. Most importantly, however, both my husband and I had gone to confession and were ready to receive. As we waited for mass to begin, an usher approached us. Lo and behold, God had listened and He had called us to Him again. God, it seems, believes in second chances and will always continue calling us to Him. 

As for Padre Pio....he has yet to disappoint this extremely bothersome Catholic Geek.

Pax Vobiscum

Voice of Joy Giveaway Winner!

Friar Alessandro of
The Voice of Joy
Congratulations to Suzanne for winning the Voice of Joy Giveaway! I hope to send out the CD soon, once I get an address to ship the CD to.

Suzanne's soul-stirring favorite was O Holy Night...which is a very beautiful song regardless of which version happens to be your favorite. Voice of Joy contains a lovely Italian rendition of this song (O Santa Notte) happy listening!

Thank you to all people who participated in this giveaway. Hopefully more to come in the future!

Pax Vobiscum and a blessed Advent season to all!

Voice of Joy Holiday Giveaway!

I have a rule about playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. It is simply not done. This rule is increasingly difficult to adhere to when I enter stores and am immediately bombarded with songs about reindeer, snow men, and sleigh bells. I know I am breaking my Christmas music rule as I write this post...but the video below will explain all:

This is the kind of Christmas music that I can hear throughout the year. It is the music that stirs the soul and awakens the faith as well as the joy of the season. 

I first popped  "Voice of Joy" into my computer for a listen last night. I am still listening to the album as I type this review and I feel as if I have been enjoying a concert by one of the Three Tenors. However, this rich tenor voice belongs to Friar Alessandro, from Porziuncola in Assisi (yes, THAT Assisi...and yes, the friary founded by THE Saint Francis). According to his label:

"The Franciscan Friar is a sanctuary guide in Assisi, Italy where he was born.  His hope as the first Franciscan Friar to be signed to a major record label, is that his voice will have the ability to foster a stronger Catholic presence in contemporary art & music. His enthusiasm for music since childhood influenced him to study organ, musical composition, and operatic singing at institutions and conservatories throughout Italy. However, his success in music felt incomplete in the absence of a driven religious life. So at the age of twenty-one, he entered as a postulant in the Order of the Friars Minor of Umbria and would take his final vows some ten years later.  It was in fact the desire to join the Order which pushed him to complete his qualification at the musical conservatory as it was considered a touchstone for the seriousness of his commitment. At present he lives at the Porziuncola Friary in Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi, where he welcomes pilgrims to the Basilica."

However, the longer (and much more miraculous) story can be found on Friar Alessandro's website. I encourage you to check it out if you wish to learn more about how God takes care of his children when it comes to vocations and how He sometimes has greater plans for us than we can imagine. He had such a plan for Friar Alessandro and the results of this plan are albums (such as Voice of Joy), which are bound to inspire the souls of the faithful around the world. Voice of Joy contains several familiar tracks, some of which were recorded in Jerusalem at the very sights where some of the events of the Nativity took place).

The tracks found in this album are as follows and I can assure you that each is a powerful rendition:

1. Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle
2. O Santa Notte
3. Adeste Fidelis
4. Veni Veni Emanuel
5. Agnus Dei
6. O Tannenbaum
7. Ave Maria
8. Madonna de la Claritate
9. Jot to the World
10. Alto e Glorioso Dio
11. Ave Maria
12. Silent Night
13. Caro Gesu Bambino
14. Madre en la Puerta
15. A Gaelic Blessing

Giveaway Rules

The Prize: 
1 Voice of Joy CD

How to Enter for a chance to win the prize:
Comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter (@CatholicSciGeek), or email me at catholicsciencegeek (at with the title of your favorite soul-stirring Christmas song for a chance to win a free copy of Voice of Joy. 

The Winner
The winner will be chosen at random an announced on the December 1st 2013.
I will ship it out the CD asap once I get an address.

Good luck!

Pax Vobiscum

Geeky Review- The Mass: The Glory, The Mystery, The Tradition

The Mass, by Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, DC and author Mike Aquilina, is a book that I would highly recommend to anyone who is new the Catholic Church or any Catholic who would like to learn the significance of the kneeling, the signing, the greetings, the prayers, the hymns, and the vestments of priests celebrating mass. The history of the mass is discussed, with descriptions of the mass as it was celebrated in the early years of Christianity. Quotes from the early church fathers, along with a few interesting historical facts help explain the reasons behind the traditions of mass that we tend to overlook.

One example of this that stands out is the mixing of water with the wine that is to be consecrated. I had never given this part of mass much thought. However, this book explained the practical as well as symbolic significance of this action. In Christ's time, wine was stored in a concentrated state and then diluted at mealtimes. I had learned about the mixing of water with wine when learning about ancient Rome, but had never associated it with the earliest days of the Catholic Church. I also appreciated how the authors made it a point to mention how priests in concentration camps used to ferment raisins to create the wine that is such a necessary component of the mass. Until reading this book, I had not truly appreciated just how important the wine and bread are when it comes to celebrating the mass.

This book explores each part of mass in order from the introductory rite to the dismissal. I have never studied theology, but had some understanding of what each part of mass was all about. At least, that is what I thought until I started really getting into this book. As I read each section explaining the parts of mass, I had many "lightbulb" moments when I finally started understanding the significance and beauty that I had witnessed, but not understood before. God's grace had, perhaps, allowed me to appreciate the significance and beauty of the "Sanctus" (or the "Holy, Holy, Holy") from time to time. There are times when this part of mass fills me with so much emotion that I am either getting chills or beginning to cry. This Sunday was the first time I went to mass since I finished reading this book and it was a POWERFUL experience. I found myself in awe throughout most of the mass and hanging on every word and action of the priest as he celebrated mass.

This book was an easy read and would be a great addition to the libraries of any children (or adults) celebrating their first Communion as well as those who simply want to learn more about that great event to which they devote one hour of every Sunday. There are facts and histories here that are sometimes lost in a generation when parents either do not know enough about sign of the cross, communion, etc. to answer the questions of their children. I would highly recommend this book as a supplement to first communion classes and for families who want to continue passing down a richer understanding of the mass that is so central to their faith. This book will certainly help you become less of a spectator and more of a participant in mass.

I was offered a copy of this book for review, but all opinions and statements expressed in this review are my own.

Pax vobiscum

Mary, the Mother of the Unborn: Prayer Card Series #2

I came across a very lovely prayer card today right after mass. This card features a beautiful version of a prayer for the unborn, which was composed by Servant of God Fulton Sheen. It is a prayer for the children who are in danger of losing their lives before they get the chance to take their first breath. It is a prayer card for the spiritual adoption of an unborn child and I think, perhaps, an invitation for me to spiritually adopt an unborn child who is in need of extra prayers (and also the parents of this child as far as I am concerned). 

This prayer card featured a red rose as well as a small sprig of amaranth. I felt this imagery to be incredibly beautiful and powerful.

Roses are certainly one of the flowers most associated with Mary. Amaranth, from the Greek amarantos meaning unfading as well as anthos for flower, is a flower that retains its color even after it is the appearance of an undying flower. Perhaps the image of the prayer card was designed to convey the immortal soul of the children in danger of being lost because the world deems them too disposable to warrant a chance at life. No matter how "unplanned," sick, poor, etc. these children may be...they deserve a chance. Who better to acknowledge this than the mother of the Son of God...the redeemer that was to die for the salvation of the world? The mother that became a mother to all even as she stood on Calvary, watching her son die? 

I believe that the children lost to abortion are never truly lost. I believe that their souls live on, never fading away...because God loved them into eternal existence. In the same way, I believe that God loves the mothers who felt forced by circumstance to abort their children and I...and I pray that each one of them somehow seeks reconciliation with God and their child before it is too late. If you or a loved one has experienced abortion, I encourage you to seek God's mercy...which is unfathomable and limitless. I also encourage  you to seek healing through Rachel's Vineyard and to seek not only God's forgiveness, but your own as well. May God's mercy and love touch your hearts and enable them to heal.
This image does the original no justice, but it was the best I could find for now...
Cards can be purchased at John Brandi Co, Inc
The prayer on the back of the card is a version of the prayer composed by Servant of God Fulton Sheen: 
Mary, the Mother of the Unborn

Jesus, Mary ,and Joseph,
I love you very much.
I beg you to save the life of the unborn baby
that I have spiritually adopted,
and is in danger
of abortion.

Let me live...
Let me walk into the sunshine...
Let me live...
Feel my mother's arms around me...
Feel my father's love surround me...
Be a part of God's creation...
Let me live...

The original prayer by Servant of God Fulton Sheen: 

Jesus, Mary ,and Joseph,
I love you very much.
I beg you to save the life of the unborn baby
that I have spiritually adopted,
and is in danger
of abortion.

Mary, our Mother in Heaven,
pray for us,
and especially for your little ones
in danger of abortion! 

Pax Vobiscum

Pray for Me: A Geeky Review

After Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis, I am sure that many individuals sought to learn more about this new Vicar of Christ. I was certainly one of these individuals. I scoured the internet to find out what I could about Pope Francis and the more I learned about him, the more I wanted to know about his background, his words, and the manner in which he would lead the Church. Robert Moynihan's 'Pray for Me' is a great introduction to Pope Francis. Moynihan explores the upbringing of young Jorge Bergoglio, as an Argentinian born to immigrants that were neither extremely wealthy nor extremely poor. He shares tidbits of Bergoglio's childhood that help piece together the story of the man who continues to capture the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He writes about Bergoglio's love of soccer, a childhood crush on a girl (apparently he one day said he'd either marry her or become a priest), his upbringing, and his calling to the priesthood. Quoting friends, family, parishioners, and some pretty unlikely indivuals (like Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen), Moynihan brings to light many of the moments in Bergoglio's life that helped define the Pope that continues to surprise us.

We learn of his grandmother's simple faith and how this faith continues to move him now (he still quotes his grandmother in his homilies). We learn about the poverty he confronted as a priest and bishop and how he called parishioners and priests alike to action so that the poorest of the poor could receive communion, be fed, and be reintegrated into the community. We learn more about that moment in his young adult life when God's grace and mercy touched him in a way that solidified his vocation and ultimately inspired the papal motto "miserando atque eligendo."

At the time of this book's publication, we were only just beginning to know Pope Francis (and we still are getting to know him). However, this book has turned out to be somewhat prophetic. At least, it has helped explain some of the words and actions of Pope Francis since its publication. While writing this book, Moynihan did not follow in the footsteps of various media outlets by speculating about Pope Francis's intentions for the Church and inventing secret agendas for every word and action of Pope Francis. Instead, he gives readers an inside look into the people and things that have shaped Pope Francis and lets them make their own conclusions. There are some instances where Moynihan gets a bit sentimental, but he still seems to understand Pope Francis's mission (a good example is when he explains to a journalist friend about the manner in which Pope Francis gave a silent, private blessing to a group of journalists versus the traditional spoken prayer). Moynihan seems to understand Pope Francis quite well...partly because he is Catholic (and thus, actually understands the Pope in a way that secular media may not) and partly because he writes and analyzes situations as a journalist. With that being said, is is quite obvious that Moynihan really did his homework collecting homilies, eyewitness accounts, and interviews to piece together Pope Francis's biography and mission.

One of my favorite parts about this book was that Moynihan dedicated a section to the words of Pope Francis himself. Moynihan breaks down these homilies into sections such as "The Future," "Suffering," "Culture," "Sin," "Loneliness," "Death," and various other topics. I can picture readers dog-earing sections as they become relevant to their lives....because the lessons present in each second are beautiful.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a good idea of who Pope Francis really is and not what the media wants him to be. There are plenty of misunderstandings and misinformation when it comes to Pope Francis, so it was quite nice reading a book that remains centered and attempts to stick to the facts rather than assumptions. I found myself falling in love with Pope Francis over and over again as Moynihan quoted some of the homilies he had given over the years preceding his papacy. I fell in love after reading some of the stories from his childhood and early adulthood...especially when I began to realize just how much I have in common with him in terms of upbringing, family ties, jokes, etc. This book was a quick, refreshing read and will certainly help you get to know Pope Francis a little bit better.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed herein are my own. I was not paid for my review. I was given a free copy of "Pray for Me" by Blogging for Books for review.

Pax Vobiscum

Mass-Appropriate Attire

To the husband this morning: "You're wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt to mass?!?!"
Image Credit: Evilqueen112 at Deviant Art
I don't really mind what everyone else wears to mass, but Led Zeppelin from the man who just three weeks ago was standing at the altar with me wearing coat-tails and a bow tie? Fortunately, my husband *changed his mind* about the t-shirt. Okay, maybe I had something to do with it...

After the looks of disapproval, I went into the closet and picked out a nice white cotton button down shirt, a blue pinstripe vest, and a black Irish flat cap. He switched up the pants he was going to wear and next thing you know...I've got the most dapper man sitting next to me during mass. Huzzah!
Very dashing if I do say so myself...

Pax vobiscum


You all probably heard a girlish squeel a few minutes ago. The source of that squeel was me and I have no regrets. Why? BECAUSE THIS AWESOME SHIRT CAME IN! The super fast shipping is definitely a +1 for Monkrock. It feels like just yesterday I was contemplating the purchase of this gorgeous tee. 

Now I am all ready for the canonization of Bl. JPII! Just look at the joy on my face! 

Here I am sporting the coolest shirt I ever owned!

And just look at the back of this awesome shirt! Even more Bl. JPII! 
Here I am pointing to the name of one of the greatest popes we've ever known!

Speaking of more B. JPII, Monkrock is currently running a promotion with these you get a free book on Bl. JPII that is full of images, biographic information, and all kinds of other material that I've only been able to skim through thus far (and promises to be a good read). 

My day is made (which is saying something because I spent 5.5 hours of my day slicing a brain).

Pax vobiscum! 


I think it goes without saying that I love Bl. John Paul II....soon-to-be Saint John Paul the Great. He's a saint in my book as far as I am concerned, but I think many of you can say the same. Well, in an effort to be more in the know with the happening New Evangelization scene, I have started following more and more Catholic pages, groups, people, etc. on Facebook, Twitter, email updates, etc. One of the cool sites I've started following is MONKROCK and boy do they have some awesome Catholic garb for sale. They also have some pretty awesome bloggers on board that are worth a read as well as many great graphics that embrace the brand of Catholicism that the world pretty much wishes was dead.

They tend to post some pretty cool stuff, whether it is prayers, quotes by saints, scripture, and many other updates that will make up for at least some of the rubbish you will typically see in your friends feed. Among all the posts I have been liking lately (many of which are Divine Mercy Chaplet prayers), one of the coolest things they have posted is the old-school soccer jersey below. Just in time for the upcoming canonization of one of Catholicism's most beloved popes....even if Poland never made it to World Cup 2014. *SIGH* I suppose Bl. JPII was busy interceding for other more important causes than Poland's victory in the World Cup. For the record, my family is very it goes without saying that I come from a soccer-loving/football-loving culture. As Portuguese as my background may be, I have always and will always root for Team Poland when it comes to the World Cup. There's something about cheering for the underdog...or maybe I just can't help but sympathize with this great nation (seriously, read up on Poland's history, these people are the epitome of courage under fire). Okay, enough about this great nation..BACK TO THIS EPIC JERSEY. I want it. I must have it. It is simply too awesome to not be in my possession right now. 
Unless a meteor falls on my laptop, I will soon be the proud owner of this jersey. If I haven't convinced you to buy it yet, just check out the sweet product description:

Perfect for World Youth Day 2015 in Poland! This throwback soccer jersey honors Pope John Paul II, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who will soon be canonized a saint. The Pope's native country Poland (Polska) is on the front along with his Totus Tuus ("Totally Yours") papal seal. On the back is the Pope's last name (Wojtyla) and the number 05 signifying the year of his passing (2005). White Design [Front & Back] on Red Jersey / 50% Polyester, 50% Cotton / © 2012 MONKROCK, LLC - See more at:

I can already see myself slicing brains in the lab, rocking this gorgeous jersey. It's evangelizing potential is astronomical. I can already see the curious looks that lead to questions and conversations about one of the greatest popes of all time. I can see myself riding the subway with rosary in hand, making Bl. JPII proud as I pray the mysteries and evangelize by example. I can see this jersey pop up 20 years ago as I am flipping through the family photos with my children...cousins, you name it. I will tell them of the awesomeness that was Bl. JPII. Whovians the world over will fawn over their first Doctor. Catholics, on the other hand, fawn over their first Pope. As much as I love Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis, there will always be a special place in my heart for my first Pope, Bl. John Paul II...and I can commemorate this love with this awesome shirt. Now please excuse me as I go make the purchase!

Pax Vobiscum

Pictures of me in this jersey to follow....HUZZAH!

***Update, the jersey has been ordered!***

Catholic Science Geek: Wedding Edition

It's been a little over 2 weeks since my wedding on the feast day of St. Faustina Kowalksa (October 5th). I haven't had the heart to post about it until now because a week after the wedding took place, my dad made an awful discovery. Our house had been robbed and someone had stolen my mom's jewelry, wedding banns, and even the jewelry that my sisters and I had gotten when we were young. It's been quite a mess and I have had a tough time accepting that so many of these things are missing...mostly because of the sentimental value. Fortunately, some of my mom's not-so-valuable jewelry was spared...along with her engagement ring (thankfully the thief managed to overlook this). I know these things are just things, but they all had stories and can never truly be replaced. This is especially true for the items that had been given to us by loved ones who had passed away. My dad was heartbroken along with the rest of us about these things being gone and as happy as I was about my wedding...I have had a tough time being happy about it this past week. However, today I have decided to at least try celebrating everything in spite of this evil act and the many sorrows that have followed it.

Today, I will share with you one of the happiest days of my life.

Below is a photograph of my family and me. I went for a fifties look with the dress. I got up at 5 or so that morning to get my hair and makeup done (so that I could look like a girl and not a lab rat) and was very excited by the beautiful work done. I gave the bridesmaids a bit of freedom with regards to dresses and dress colors. They settled for these very cute navy blue dresses. I have a friend who makes fascinators and she ended up doing a lovely job on the bridesmaids fascinators. Please, please visit her site and check out her very lovely works! You will not be disappointed if you order one or two...TRUST ME. They got so many compliments! (A link to her etsy shop: Madame Merrywidow Hats and Accessories

I purchased the vintage pill box hat veil on Etsy. The dried flower and birch bride bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnieres, and altar flowers were all purchased from a lovely little Etsy shop called New Hampshire Woods Creations. They were very sturdy, beautiful, and well-made. Ostentatious rose and ranunculus arrangements just aren't my style and I loved the idea of a dried flower arrangement alternative. It ended up working really well with the feel of the wedding. The shoes were white leather heels with straps at the top (which I ditched  for white tennis shoes in the parking lot of the church following the service and I am way too practical to ever suffer in the name of beauty). 

My husband picked out some pretty great suits for the groomsmen. Coat-tails! Suspenders! Bow ties! Navy blue vests! All of the gentlemen looked very handsome in their ensembles...but the most handsome man there was the groom (and I was the lucky girl who got to marry him!). My dad did his own thing when it came to dressing up for the big day (I can assure you that he would probably never wear coat-tails and I respect that). One very sweet thing he did was wear the tie he wore to his own wedding. He told me this as I was waiting for our turn in the procession preceding the mass. Yes, I cried. Yes, he tried his best to distract me from all of those overwhelming feelings that come over brides right before the big moment. I even got a Salazar joke before we made our grand entrance. I laugh when I get nervous, so I actually ended up laughing  on my way up the aisle. 
I walked in to "Pescador the Hombres" as it is a song that will forever remind my of my mom, who used to sing in the choir for Portuguese mass. 
Excerpt from Wedding Program
We tried going for a bit of Lord of the Rings feel here...with the script and border.
The following pictures were taken during the mass, exchange of vows, and exchange of rings...unfortunately there are no images (yet) of the groom tripping after the floral offering...or images of me catching him before he fell. Crazy story, at the first church we visited following our marriage...I tripped in the front of the church after we lit candles and said prayers for loved ones. My husband caught me before I fell. Can you say match made in heaven? 
Exchanging Vows... In all honesty at this part of the ceremony,
it felt like it was just me, the groom, the padre, and God. According to witnesses,
 it even looked like we were in our own little world.
Oh, and check out the won't see these awesome(ly painful) shoes for long...

Exchanging rings...I can only imagine how many iPhones and such were pulled out during this part...

The happy couple...just look at the bow tie and coat tails!! So debonaire!
Better yet, just look at those smiles...

Walking hand in hand as husband and wife! Oh snap!
The ceremony was one of the most beautiful events I have ever experienced. But the reception wasn't too bad either!
Yep, that is a handmade Tardis on top of the cake
Our wedding reception took place the Richfield Regency. They did a phenomenal job with everything. They do wedding packages. You get food, the wedding cake, linens, etc. thrown into a package as well as an ice sculpture at  no added cost. I never wanted an ice sculpture and neither did the husband...but it came as part of the package and we decided that if we would have to get a ice sculpture...we may as well have fun with it. Forget ice swans and ice hearts with our names carved into them. Those are too boring. The sculpture we settled on, however, not so much. 

A TARDIS ice sculpture is so awesome!!!
We both LOVED it and a bunch of guests (including those who weren't Whovians) thought it was cool. I think we may have even helped people get interested in the show by explaining to them what the daleks and TARDIS were all about. I liked how we both managed to infuse our wedding with subtle touches of geekiness in a way that wasn't too overpowering.
In case you are wondering, the husband is a HUGE Star Wars fan. We compromised on our first dance song. He agreed we could dance to "All I want is You" by U2 if we used this as our entrance music....

The things I do for love...

The Father and Daughter dance was De Nina a Mujer by Julio Iglesias
We laughed the whole time once we realized that neither of us really knew how to dance.
Notice the comfy tennis shoes I am wearing?
The best man speech and maid of honor speech were both hysterical. Everyone enjoyed them, as evidenced by the laughs as well as the spontaneous Bono versus Lennon shouting match. My husband and I first ended up together following and epic argument over who was better...Bono or John Lennon. The fight goes on to this day...but it was nice seeing how my half of the wedding guests rooted for Bono while the husband's half rooted for Lennon. All I can say is that Bono is obviously champion...

I didn't do a garter toss, but I did do a bouquet toss with a twist. I tied a bunch of nerdy wishes to rose stems and threw a bunch of roses at the group of ladies who came out to the dance floor to Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies." (The wedding party were introduced to Beastie Boys Intergalactic.)

The husband and I ended up going to Lambertville, NJ and New Hope, PA for our honeymoon. We intend to go to Europe at some point for an extensive honeymoon...but at present, the days we spent in New Hope and Lambertville were absolutely wonderful and fantastic enough to be considered a true Honeymoon. We visited a beautiful church there, we thoroughly enjoyed a black out (drinking digestifs as we waited for the rain to stop), we tried Cajun food, we window shopped to our hearts content, we vintage shopped to our hearts' content, we went on nice walks together, we enjoyed nature together, and we had a very relaxing time doing the things we enjoy best (mainly trying new foods, sharing a drink or two, and having conversations about everything and nothing at all).

And there you have it...the wedding. It was awesome. 

The wedding party!
So many wonderful people!
Pax Vobiscum

Forgiving Yourself

Sometimes it is easier for God to forgive you than for you to forgive yourself. You separate yourself from God when you are in a state of mortal sin, but this separation ends when you seek reconciliation and truly repent for your failures at holiness. While it is easy for us to abuse the sacrament of reconciliation (and my younger self was certainly guilty of treating confession as a quick "get out of jail free" card), it is even easier for us to fall into a state of sorrow and guilt when we mess up...and surprisingly easy for us to remain in this state even after we are forgiven by God and by the people we have wronged. I have been guilty of this too and it has been something I have struggled with and something that other people struggled with.

This week, I was fortunate enough to overhear a priest mention that it was Padre Pio's feast day. Officially, I suppose it is proper to consider it the Feast of St. Pius of Pietrelcina...but I (for whatever reason) cannot help but continue thinking of this wonderful monk as Padre Pio...or Saint Padre Pio. It is more of an affectionate term than a lack of respect on my part. I heard the priest as I was leaving confession at the Church and Friary of Saint Francis of Assisi in NYC...and quickly made my way to the Church of Saint John a block or so away to commemorate the day with a quick visit to Padre Pio. As I knelt at the altar to offer some prayers, a nice older lady held up a Padre Pio relic for me to venerate and handed me what appeared to be two booklets. I was also given the opportunity to write a few intentions down, which I did. I also thanked Padre Pio for his intercession in the *big announcement* CURE OF MY COUSIN. That's cousin (who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma less than a year ago), is CURRENTLY IN REMISSION.

I did not realize until later that day, that these booklets contained a third class relic of Padre Pio as well as some very wonderful spiritual guidance on forgiving yourself. I am including the spiritual guidance offered in the end of one of the little booklets published by the Capuchin Franciscans (Province of St. Mary) ...and I really hope they don't mind my sharing as I felt it too uplifting and helpful to keep to myself.

"Spiritual Guidance from Padre Pio"

Someone complained to Padre Pio of being excessively distressed by sins he had committed. Padre Pio replied: "That which you feel is pride; it is the demon which inspires you with this sentiment, it is not true sorrow." The penitent replied: "Father, how can you then distinguish what comes from the heart and is inspired by Our Lord, and that which is inspired by the devil?"

"You will distinguish it," replied Padre Pio, "always by this: The spirit of God is a spirit of peace, and also in the case of grave sin, it makes us feel tranquil sorrow, humble, confident, and this is due precisely to His mercy. The spirit of the demon, on the contrary, excites, exasperates, and makes us in our sorrow feel something like anger against ourselves, whereas our first charity must be to ourselves, and so if certain thoughts agitate you, this agitation never comes from God, who gives tranquility, being the Spirit of Peace. Such agitation comes from the devil."

If you are having any trouble forgiving yourself for the things you've done, even after you've repented and sought God's forgiveness...please be at peace. God, as I have found out time and time again, is loving as well as merciful. His mercy is endless and He never tires of picking you up when you fall down...just as a parent will pick up a child when they fall on the ground. We need to trust in His Mercy...and one step towards trusting His mercy is in finding forgiveness for ourselves. God loves you and God forgives do not be afraid to forgive yourself!

Pax Vobiscum

Catholic Dictionary: A Geeky Review

I have never taken a theology course, so I may not be the best go-to person when it comes to Catholic terminology. I suppose my background as a first generation American may have also been a bit of an impediment when it came to learning the difference between words like "transubstantiation" and "transfiguration." Much to my embarrassment, I have gotten these mixed up before. Still, I am always seeking  new ways to expand my knowledge of Catholicism through reading, listening to programs, and engaging in conversation with some of my Catholic brethren. 

I didn't know what to expect when I first got the chance to review Hardon's "Catholic Dictionary." I had a vague idea what a book like this would be about and how useful it may be. At worst, I imagined that it would be the Catholic version of a standard dictionary. I pictured a book full of words and their definitions that could be referenced whenever I needed to recheck my spelling or reference a word that I had half-forgotten. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the manner in which this book was written and compiled.

Yes it is a dictionary, but it is far more than a list of words and dry definitions. It is, in a sense, a very condensed version of a theology book specializing in the Catholic faith. Hardon does more than provide simple definitions, he introduces us to different topics and expands upon them. I would liken the "definitions" provided in this book to the kind of explanations you would get from a parish priest or theology teacher if you were to approach them and ask them what a "consecration to Mary" meant. In this book, Hardon introduces readers to this act of devotion by first talking about its origins and then explaining what it means to be consecrated to Mary. The act of consecration (in part) is also included in the definition. 

As I looked up different definitions to words I had heard before (but didn't understand completely), I found myself finding out more about my faith with each passage I read. This book is no substitute for proper religious education, but it would be quite a help to anyone who is interested in learning more about Catholicism. I know I certainly learned a lot of things just by reading up on any term that happened to catch my eye as I went through this book. This dictionary may also prove as an invaluable reference tool for anyone studying theology or someone who reads a lot of Catholic works, lives of Saints, doctrinal materials, etc.

Pax Vobiscum

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was offered a free copy of this book for review by Blogging for Books.

Wedding Drama

Is it me or do weddings bring out the worst in people? Or maybe I got it wrong and it's weddings bringing out the worst in the world? The universe?

I've been pretty laid back with everything (far from Bridezilla), but the drama...OH THE DRAMA! Just to give you an idea of what the end of August and beginning of September have been looking like, here's a sneak peak at the craziest 48 hours I've ever had in my life.

Within the span of 48 hours (during the blue moon, I think) I almost got skunked, had a half-naked drag queen dance dancing with their butt in my face on the subway, and had to replace two of my brand new tires because some jerk decided that there was something about my car that they didn't like. I was the only car with slashed tires in that parking lot...but as we were towing the car to the mechanic that night, there was a damaged car getting towed into the same lot and nothing but police cars on the way home. I then found myself in the lab the next day, half-crying and half-laughing, retelling my lab peers (and boss) about the insane turn my life seemed to be taking.

As if that 48 hours wasn't crazy enough for a lifetime...Flash forward to this week...and the drama is at it again! A specialist I had been trying to contact for weeks and weeks, finally emails me back 11:30pm on Friday evening to set up an appointment that was supposed to be set up in July. On top of that reagents that should have arrived in August have now been pushed back (for the third time, at least) to September 20. Had I known it was on back order (something the company failed to mention before and after our order), I would have just ordered the reagent components and made it myself a long time ago! Meanwhile, we have a new secretary who cannot yet process orders...and a backwards system of ordering things when funds in the system aren't processed yet. This translates to 3X the paperwork, half a day lost processing paperwork/quotes/emails, and another bunch of days before anything can be ordered. Needless to say, I have been eating a lot of chocolate and drinking a lot of coffee lately to deal with all of this.

Don't get me started on wedding drama. A thread where I suggested Lord of the Rings-themed entrance music for the wedding party quickly descended into chaos quicker than I thought possible. This was followed by, you guessed it, more drama. Somewhere in the middle of all of this I found myself shaking hands with the fiance, simultaneously celebrating/regretting the agreement we had just made. I got to pick the wedding song...and he got to pick the wedding reception entrance song. Let's just say he's an avid Star Wars fan.
Image from Phineas and Ferb's "Nerds of a Feather"
 depicting the Fantasy vs Sci Fi war
In case you are wondering, this is the madness I've been stuck in for the past month or so and the madness I will continue to be stuck in until the end of October 5th...when all the wedding stuff will be over. I didn't get how stressful all of this would be, even after all the warnings from seasoned veterans out there. However, it is getting harder to keep up with wedding stuff like RSVPs and paperwork as I am trying to deal with lab stuff. Still, that's nothing to compare with how hard it's been getting for me to remain diplomatic when someone decides to start unloading some pretty ridiculous and sometimes harsh criticism of pretty much every aspect of my wedding. I don't feel like dealing with it and have done my best to remain civil....but I only have so much patience and I am already on wit's end dealing with this and so many other things. Is every wedding like this? Or is it just amplified by the fact that I am stuck in the lab all day, trying to manage wedding stuff as I deal with purchase orders and track down missing reagents/specialists.

Oy vey. I need some chocolate and all the help God can give me. I'll take a heaping dose of patience, and any other gift of the Holy Spirit I can get at this point. Something tells me things are only going to get worse as the big day approaches...and I am going to need all the help I can get. All I wanted was a priest, a church, and someone to marry. How did it get this crazy and straining?

Pax Vobiscum

Am I Crazy or has the world simply lost its mind?

*Rant On*/
Is it just me or has the world lost its mind?

Don't get me wrong, the world has proven itself to be a special kind of crazy in recent years...but I think this week it outdid itself. The bombing of Syria is looming and way too many people are just sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, and talking about celebrity train wreck after celebrity train wreck. This whole reaction is not completely unexpected by a culture that promotes living in the moment and avoiding anything remotely uncomfortable. Syrian refugess, too touchy a topic. Let's talk about how X did Y at Z and how all of this affirms the fact that our kids should never listen to music or eat anything but organic kale chips for the rest of their lives. Let's turn someone's molehill comment into a mountain, screaming INTOLERANCE and SEXIST...while Russia and China send our precious career politicians a few veiled threats. Do we even know what intolerance means anymore? Better we know the different between simply having a different opinion and actually being intolerant?

Am I the only one noticing how washed down the news is becoming? Probably not...but the level of ignorance I keep seeing on the Facebook wall confirms that not only are people buying into the washed down news...but promoting it. A new celebrity divorce? COOL! Let's talk about it for half an hour as Egypt's churches burn to the ground and Coptic Christians avoid the streets for fear of their safety. THAT GUY is playing BATMAN?!? Oh, the humanity! The horror! Meanwhile, a Montana judge decides that 30 days in jail is sufficient punishment for a teacher caught sleeping with a teenage girl who then committed suicide.

What does all of this tell me? We are a vain and extremely callous nation of fools...quickly descending into a "panem et circenses"-loving mob more concerned with a celebrity's hair color than the well-being of our own children, the lives of innocent civilians half a world away...and the overall state of of our world. Most of all we are uneducated and, to make matters worse, unwilling to either learn or change. We have an entire history and an entire world of knowledge at our fingertips whenever we go on the internet. And what to do we do with it? Catch up on celebrity gossip. We listen to the sugar-coated lies our "news" broadcasters spew and agree with our patronizing government whenever they give us the "nothing to see here, move along" treatment. We follow what we are supposed to follow and fill our minds with distractions whenever anything becomes to uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the government does what it wants, spies on what it wants, and bombs what it wants. And we are told that this is a good thing because heaven forbid the government be wrong about anything...especially if the government happens to agree with the corporations, lobby groups, etc. that helped fund the campaigns of our career politicians.

-Orwell, 1984

I highly doubt we are more informed in our decision to bomb Syria than we were when we made the decision to bomb Iraq. One of the only differences now is that the media, for whatever reason, happens to actually like our current administration. I almost wish G.W.Bush was still in office, if only because our media actually did its job in questioning the status quo and keeping the public informed. I don't feel informed right now. Snowden and Manning. Benghazi. Egypt. Syria. It almost feels like all the news I get is tailored to a mass of people that doesn't care about details. I see more opinion and suppositions in news stories than I see concrete fact or actual journalism. And it both bothers and scares the hell out of me.

Why? It seems like people don't recognize propaganda. Propaganda is not news. It is opinions and suppositions that are, at times, passed off as news. So that is what we are getting today, propaganda and watered down celebrity gossip. And people either fail to realize this, or they fail to care. If, by chance, they happen to care, they don't seem to really question any of it. I know, I am guilty of all of this too at times!

If you think about it and challenge the status are labelled as paranoid.......intolerant...crazy... brainwashed. People start wondering what your political or religious affiliation happens to be so they can immediately categorize and dismiss your opinion based on these rather than facts or how informed your thoughts may be. If your words make them uncomfortable, regardless of how true they may be...forget it. You cannot be taken seriously these days if you happen to think for yourself. You cannot be bipartisan, there is no such thing in this political climate. You cannot disagree with the's wrong and pretty much guarantees that you are a member of X, that vile political movement out to brainwash our children. Even worse, you start getting labelled as an extremist...a dissident. Informed opinions can get you in trouble if the majority does not agree with you...and this will only become more frightening if it is allowed to continue.

Some scary questions for you to ponder as our warmongering career politicians decide to rush us into another war (one we have no idea about because we're too busy talking about nothing):

1. How did we let ourselves get to this point?
2. How do we get out of this?
3. Where is the truth in all of this?

Perhaps I should never have read so many dystopian novels. Perhaps I should never have made an effort to learn about Stalinist Russia and the like. Maybe it would have been better if I had read less books and more celebrity magazines. At least then I would have been able to live in blissful ignorance, caring more about red carpet events than world events and the well-being of my fellow man.

Praying for peace and urging all of you to do the same. /*Rant Off*

Pax Vobiscum

The Tzadikim Nistarim

When reading the dialogue between Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka in "On Heaven and Earth," I came across a passage in which Rabbi Skorka describes what I have since discovered to be the Tzadikim Nistarim, or "the hidden righteous ones." According to some branches of Judaism, the hidden righteous ones are 36 righteous people who, through their goodness and humility, justify the continuation of the world. Essentially, from what I have come to understand, for the sake of these 36 holy people, God will not allow the world to be destroyed...even if the rest of the world has turned into an evil lot of heartless murderers. The lesson learned here is to be as righteous and holy as possible, because you may just be one of these righteous people and not know it.

I don't think there is a Catholic version of the Tzadikim Nistarim, but I do remember coming across something a tad similar when reading Sister Faustina's diary. In it, we hear Christ say the following:
"There are souls living in the world who love Me dearly. I dwell in their hearts with delight. But they are few. In convents too, there are souls that fill My Heart with joy. They bear My features (...). Their number is very small. They are a defense for the world before the justice of the Heavenly Father and a means of obtaining mercy for the world. The love and sacrifice of these souls sustain the world in existence" (Diary 367
Before reading "On Heaven and Earth," I often wondered who these loving souls were and if I was one of them. I think I have a long way to go before I can love God as I wish to love him because I hope to one day love God with a heart as fervent as that of St. Francis of Assisi and countless other saints who devoted their entire lives to serving God). When looking out for the people whose hearts have become a dwelling place for Christ, I often think of saints like St. Faustina Kowalska and Padre Pio. They certainly pleased God during their time on earth and probably helped countless souls due to their prayers, sacrifices, and suffering.
Image Credit: Our Catholic Prayers
I also think of the everyday unsung heroes of today. Perhaps there's someone in your acquaintance who will one day be declared a saint. Perhaps a few of these people delight God enough to, knowingly or unknowingly, sustain an increasingly awful world. When I think about these unnamed and under-appreciated saints-in-training, I sometimes find myself remembering some of the people I have seen in churches and pilgrimages around the world. Perhaps these people are one of the few who love Christ dearly and help prolong the coming of God's justice. And then there's the church ladies at home.

You probably have a few church ladies at your home church. These are the older ladies you often see in an otherwise empty church, adoring Christ in the Eucharist or praying fervently for their grandchildren and families. Sometimes, when I find myself praying in the chapel after confession, I suddenly find myself surrounded by a gaggle of tiny, Filipino women praying the rosary and doing the stations of the cross together. The older these women are, the more I appreciate them. The more I see of them, the more I love them. Though some of them carry stern expressions, the lines on their faces tell another story. There is joy in these women. Behind every stern reminder to their grandchildren to be quiet in the house of God, there is love. Love for God and love for the child they wish to teach. These women probably have bodies that are more in pain than ours on any given day, and yet they will kneel on the cold, marble floor of the Church when pansy Catholics, such as myself on occasion, prefer the comfort of padded pews. Perhaps these oft-unnoticed women are the Tzadikim Nistarim....or the holy souls that fill Christ's heart with joy.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are the brothers and sisters out there in the humble convents and monasteries. They don't attempt to ride buses to campaign for certain candidates. However, they will march and pray barefoot in DC every year in silent defense of the unborn. Like Padre Pio, they take their vow of obedience seriously, knowing that their obedience to their superior is their obedience to Christ.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are the innocent children of the world. I am often caught off-guard by the level of empathy children have for others. As awful as some kids can be, there are always children out there who will seek to comfort those who are sad or care for those who need help. I could tell you all kinds of stories about my little cousins or some of my previous students who performed random acts of kindness simply because it was the right thing to do and not because they could write it off during tax time.

...or maybe the Tzadikim Nistarim are those who suffer for God. These can be terminally ill patients that offer up their suffering in union with that of Christ's for the salvation of the world. I remember my family once visiting a very old relative of my dad's at a nursing home. This woman was so bent with age and sickness that she could barely lie down straight. She was in the last stages of her illness and suffered greatly, but if you were to look in her eyes you saw the promise of heaven. I will never forget how her eyes were fixed on a small image of Christ on the Cross, which hung above her bed. Her entire focus was on that image and her eyes were on fire with the love she had in her heart. This woman died with dignity and probably brought many souls with her to God through her intercession and suffering as a victim soul.

...and there are countless other holy souls out there who could potentially be one of the people in whom God takes delight in a world that always seems to get worse and worse.

Who knows, perhaps you too could one day become one of these holy souls if you put a bit more effort into loving and serving God and your fellow man.

Pax Vobiscum