Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stand for Life

It's been a crazy day, but I want to make a quick plug for a Life Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.  If you live in North Carolina, this would be a great event to attend.  There are some inspiring guest speakers, and the home page for the event offers a challenge:

Are you concerned where this country is headed in regard to Life issues?
Learn more about the issues and how you can get involved in your community.
Learn how you can be on the front lines in this battle now raging in our country!

If you don't live in North Carolina or can't attend the event, do try to participate in the upcoming 40 Days for Life campaign.  It runs from September 28 - November 6.  Check out the 40 Days for Life website for more information and to find the nearest prayer vigil in your area.  If you're lucky enough not to have an abortion center nearby, then please pray the Rosary for life as often as you can during the campaign.  Of course, you can also start praying today!

Every morning, I pray for the baby in danger of abortion whom I have "spiritually adopted."  I name each baby and pray for 9 months that he or she will be spared from abortion.  I am now on my 7th baby.  It takes just a minute every morning, and you will probably never know the outcome of your prayers until you meet the babies in heaven, but I think it's worth the small effort.  Learn more at this site.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Joy in the Joyful Mysteries

I haven't written many posts on my Rosary reflections lately, because unfortunately there hasn't been anything to write.  Summers always throw my prayer routine for a loop with the jumbled schedules and everyone at home or being shuttled off to camps, friends' houses, etc.  I still try to pray the Rosary as often as possible, but I am easily distracted or have to fit my Rosary in one decade at a time throughout the day. 

Sometimes praying the Rosary can almost seem like a chore, despite the fact that it is my favorite prayer.  I feel so limited by my human faults and shortcomings.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me put aside distractions and focus on the mysteries, but meditation is definitely a skill that requires a lot of patience and practice.  These periods of spiritual dryness are frustrating, but I know that it's important to continue to pray, even when it feels mechanical and meaningless.

School started last week, so I am getting back to my Rosary Workout routine.  Yesterday, I went for an early morning bike ride.  The sun was warm, and the cool air held the promise of autumn days ahead.  Although I usually pray the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, I decided to pray the Joyful ones instead as I had prayed the Glorious on Monday in honor of the feast of the Assumption.  (Since I'm a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, I have pledged to pray all 15 traditional decades each week, as a minimum.)

As I pedaled, I tried to find some aspect of the mysteries to focus on in order to facilitate meditation.  The Joyful Mysteries are bittersweet as each event leads Jesus and Mary closer to Calvary, yet a thought came to me to focus on only the joy in each of the mysteries:

During the Annunciation, I pondered the joy of the Angel Gabriel, offering the young virgin the opportunity to become the mother of the Messiah,  Then there is the joy of Mary, humbly accepting God's will.  The microscopic Baby Jesus no doubt felt joy at experiencing the very genesis of human life.  All heaven rejoices at Mary's fiat ("yes"), and Christians to this very day are joyful that the gates of heaven have been opened as a result of this turning point in human history.

At the Visitation, Elizabeth is not only filled with the Holy Spirit but also with a great joy: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).  Of course, John the Baptist literally leaps for joy in his mother's womb, overcome by the presence of the Savior.  Mary bursts forth in song with her joyful canticle, the Magnificat.  Tiny baby Jesus must feel joy at being brought out into the world for the first time, His presence mighty even from the womb.  The angels and all of heaven rejoice at the sanctification of John the Baptist, the "voice crying in the wilderness" who will prepare the way for Savior. All generations hence fulfill Elizabeth's prophecy as we pray the Hail Mary, rejoicing that Mary,"blessed among women," shares her joy as she leads us closer to her Divine Son.

The Nativity is a joyful scene in a humble setting-- the Holy Family, together at last, experiencing one other through human senses.  Mary and Joseph joyfully and reverently hold the infant Christ, looking upon his perfect little face, listening to the mewing cries of the newborn babe and breathing in that wonderful baby scent.  The infant Jesus finally experiences the world He created through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin of a human being.  He sees His mother Mary, from whom He took his flesh and blood and His foster father, Joseph, the man who would teach Him about human work.  Meanwhile, the angels joyfully announce the birth of the Savior to the dumbfounded shepherds, who dutifully make their way toward the meager stable, stunned by the joy that such a tiny baby could stir up feelings of awe and wonder.  The wise men later follow the star, filled with joy and curiosity at the amazing signs in the heavens.

At the Presentation, Mary and Joseph joyfully bring their Divine Son to His Father's house for the first time.  There, Simeon declares his joy at the fulfillment of the prophecy that he would see the Messiah before his death.  His canticle, or song of joy, is recalled daily in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Anna the Prophetess also recognizes the Messiah and joyfully proclaims His arrival to anyone who would listen.  Heaven rejoices at the humble obedience of the Holy Family, and baby Jesus might have experienced the joy of seeing the beauty of that ancient temple through human eyes.  Today, we rejoice that Jesus was brought out into the world, experiencing human emotions, weaknesses and limitations, a "man like us in all things but sin."

Finally, the Finding of the Child Jesus reminds me of Dolly Parton's line in the movie Steel Magnolias, "My favorite emotion is laughter through tears."  Perhaps that is what Mary and Joseph experienced when they finally found Jesus in what they now realized was the most obvious place-- His Father's house.  Frantic with worry just moments earlier, they no doubt wept with joy at finding their beloved Son.  Young Jesus might have found joy in becoming a man in the eyes of the Jewish culture, now able to go about His Father's business.  Those who listened attentively must have felt a deep joy in hearing this young man's passion for the Scriptures.  Heaven too was joyful watching the "Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  We find joy in our lives today when, like Mary and Joseph, we finally find Jesus after a long period of searching.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy feast of the Assumption, new blog title/scope and a great quiche recipe

Today is a great feast day in the Church, but most US Catholics won't realize it, unfortunately, because our bishops don't think that we should be obligated to go to Mass two days in a row.  Imagine the inconvenience!  Of course, I do understand that there are people who would not be able to attend Mass today due to school, work, etc. but why can't the rest of us be asked to do so?

Luckily, my parish will honor the Feast of the Assumption of Mary tonight with a Missa Cantata (sung Mass in Latin in the Extraordinary Form).  If your parish doesn't offer Mass today or if you can't attend, it is not considered a sin as the bishops have "abrogated" the feast this year.  If you can't go to Mass, then perhaps you can learn more about this feast and its traditions at Catholic Culture (be sure to read about St. Tarcisius at the bottom of the page) or read today's Mass readings.  You might also pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary today as the 4th mystery honors today's feast.

You might have noticed that this blog has a new title.  It was previously called "Don't Know Much About the Rosary?" I wanted to focus on the Rosary and intended to start another blog about fitness, but never got around to it.  I decided to change the title to "Tending the Temple" so that I could increase the scope of my writing to include more fitness and health information, in the context of caring for our Temples of the Holy Spirit.  I thought today's feast would be a perfect opportunity to launch this new theme because we celebrate Mary's entry into heaven, both body and soul.

Of course, I will still include plenty of Rosary posts!  When I get around to it, I'll jazz up the look of the blog to make it more visually appealing.

I chose the title "Tending the Temple" because it is the title of the new book I just finished writing, along with my co-authors Dr. Kevin Vost and Shane Kapler.  It's a 365-day devotional with daily saint bios, Bible quotes and exercises to help readers care for body and soul. I'm very excited about this book, which will be available any day now.  I'll post a link as soon as it is.  In the meantime, you can read a preview entry at my publisher's website, Bezalel Books.

Please let me know what you think of the new title and theme.

Since I've given you a few suggestions to care for your soul today (see links in the second paragraph above), I'll also share the recipe for the meal I'm making tonight: Spinach, Onion, Hash Brown and Feta Quiche.  My whole family loves this meal, and I like that we get lots of food groups in one dish.  This is based on a recipe from Cooking Light, but I've made so many changes to it, that I consider it mine at this point.  It does take a bit of prep time, but the extra effort is worth it.  If you don't have time to make this after a busy day at work, you could prepare the spinach, onions and hash browns the day before.  When you get home, mix up the egg mixture and you'll have it in the oven in mere minutes.

If you want to reduce carbs and calories, you could make this without the crust or perhaps use a few sheets of phyllo dough (in the freezer section near the puff pastry and pie crusts).  I haven't tried either modification, so if you do, let me know how it works out.  BTW, I found all the ingredients for this dish at Walmart.


Note: This recipe takes about 1 1/2 hours from start to on the table, so plan accordingly!  You won't be slaving over the stove the whole time, so don't worry.

1 (9" deep dish) pie shell, unbaked
Olive oil
10 oz. fresh spinach
1 1/2 cup frozen hash browns (or Simply Potatoes Hash Browns, in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores in a green bag)
1-2 yellow onions, sliced thin (use 2 if you really like onions)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 cup 2% or skim evaporated milk (you won't use the entire can)
2 egg whites
2 eggs
5 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Drizzle about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium skillet or saute pan and heat for a few minutes on medium heat.  Add the onions, salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally.  (Yes, you do have to cook them this long!  They should be soft and buttery.  Be careful not to burn them.)  Meanwhile, drizzle 1-2 teaspoons olive oil into a different saute pan and heat for a minute or so.  Add the hash browns in a single layer, patting them down with a spatula.  Turn them every 5 minutes or so until most of them are golden brown.  (I find this takes about 20-30 minutes.)  Drizzle 1 tsp. olive oil into a third pan (or wait until you're finished with one of the other two) and add the fresh spinach.  Stir occasionally until all of it wilts.  You will start out with tons of spinach, but it will wilt into a small amount.  (I spend a few minutes taking all the stems off the leaves before I put them in the pan.)

Mix the eggs, evaporated milk and a dash of salt with a whisk in a medium bowl.

(Note:  If your oven tends to produce soggy crusts like my convection microwave does, then pre-cook the crust for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees before adding the other ingredients.)  

Assemble the quiche: Spread the caramelized onions and hash browns on the bottom of the pie crust.  Top with the wilted spinach and crumbled feta cheese.  Pour the egg and milk mixture on top, but don't let it spill over the top.

Place the quiche on a foil-lined cookie sheet (in case of spillover) and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh fruit and a glass of white wine.

Calories:  Approximately 300 per serving if you cut the quiche into 8 pieces.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady Gaga and the silver SUV

Today, I got my hair done and flipped through one of those gossip magazine one reads at the salon since there is nothing else to look at.  (After all, I really do need to keep up with what Kim Kardashian is doing these days...) I always feel a bit guilty, but I rationalize by telling myself that it encourages me to pray for these poor people with their empty lives.

One article spoke of how Lady Gaga's drug addiction and eating disorders will finish her career.  My first thought was relief that this obscene woman might no longer expose the world to her particular brand of "art," but I recalled that she was actually raised as a Catholic and attended Catholic schools as a girl.  I felt a sense of sadness that she had thrown away her faith in favor of fame and fortune.  Her addictions indicate that she fills that Godless void with various forms of escape and self-indulgence.  Perhaps she will receive some moment of grace that will restore her forgotten child-like belief.  I've joked several times that Lady Gaga would be the most-watched Journey Home episode ever if she reverted.  I'm praying my next Rosary that she will do just that.  If you're inclined to do so, please join me.

With newly blonde roots, I headed to an outdoor mall to see if there were any cute summer clothes left on the clearance racks.  I parked and crossed the parking lot toward the shops, noting a silver SUV at a stop sign that was turning toward me.  I continued walking, assuming the driver saw me.  To my surprise, the SUV suddenly began to get very big.  In complete dismay, I stood rooted to the spot, slowly realizing that I was about to be hit.  For some reason, I felt compelled to bend forward and push against the front of the vehicle as if I was Wonder Woman and could stop it with brute strength.  I think the real Wonder Woman was my Guardian Angel as the car did stop, and the surprised driver rolled down her window to ask if I was okay.  Dazed, I walked toward her, intending to chew her out for nearly killing me.  Instead, I nodded, and walked on, not even taking the time to write down the license plate number.

I walked around aimlessly for a few minutes, realizing that I had come very close to death or at least some very painful injuries.  I realized that God had saved me, that He had plans for me that I had not yet completed, and that He was indeed All-Powerful.  I recalled that just yesterday, I had taken my daughter to daily Mass so she could go to Confession afterward.  I decided not to go because there was always next Tuesday, and I had just gone to Confession with my son two weeks ago.  I regretted my foolishness in casually giving up an opportunity to receive much-needed grace in overcoming my sins.   

I am grateful that God spared my life today, and now I must work harder at making every single day really count.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  
- Thomas Jefferson

Countdown:  5 more days until the feast of the Assumption.  I will be changing the title of this blog (not the URL) on that day to better reflect the content of my future posts.  Don't worry, there will still be plenty of Rosary-related material.

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr.  He died a horrible death by being essentially roasted alive.  According to legend, he even managed to retain his sense of humor during the ordeal, announcing, "Turn me over.  I'm done on this side!"  The Church, in like fashion, declared him the patron saint of cooks.  Learn more at Catholic Fire.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Special Announcement

My crazy-busy summer has almost come to an end.  School starts this Wednesday, and I will once again have more time to write.  After some prayer and reflection, I have decided to change the name of this blog to better suit the content I'd like to post.  I'll announce the new name on Monday, August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.  Nothing will change except the title, so old posts will still be available, and the blog URL will remain the same.

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, also known as the Saint of the Rosary because he received a vision of the Blessed Mother with a Rosary.  She told him to pray it and spread its devotion to combat heresy.  Learn more about St. Dominic at Catholic Fire, an excellent pro-life blog with very good saint bios.