Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lent Day 16: Empty Chairs, and Empty Tables...

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Oh my goodness! On my way home this evening, I saw some white smoke rising from someone's backyard. Sure, it was probably just some people burning trash, but there was still an impulse within me to roll down my window and yell, "Habemus Papam!!!", just in case. But now, thanks be to God, someone has established this awesome website so I can know with certainty whether or not we have a Pope!

I am still marveling at the humility of Benedict XVI, and truly admire his decision to enter into a life of monastic prayer for the sake of the Church and of the whole world. The anticipation of the empty chair providentially coincides with our Lenten journey toward Easter, so as our fasting gives way to feasting, so shall our empty chair give way to a new era in the Church and to a banquet of joy. Let us all commit Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to our prayers, as well as the College of Cardinals.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lent Day 15: On Vestment Colors and Redemptive Suffering

Hi Leslie!
Long time blog reader, first time question asker!

What's the whole deal with redemptive suffering? What is it? I hear a lot of Catholics say their suffering can be used to redeem others misfortunes, at least that's the way I heard it being communicated. 

Also, what does the church have to say about unnecessary suffering? Why does God allow it. 

Lastly, what's the deal with with black and rose colored vestments? 


Hello, Abraham!

Thanks so much for your questions. The first two are tough ones, so tonight the last shall be first. Then I'll try to give some insight into the Catholic-Christian view of suffering, especially in terms of redemption. Let's begin!

You asked, "what's the deal with with black and rose colored vestments?" First, check out this useful guide to liturgical colors from!



  • Season of Christmas
  • Season of Easter
  • Feasts of the Lord, other than of His passion
  • Feasts of Mary, the angels, and saints who were not martyrs
  • All Saints (1 November)
  • Feasts of the Apostles
  • Nuptial Masses
  • Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses) when the deceased is a baptized child who died before the age of reason
Note: White is the color of Popes' non-liturgical dress. White can be replaced by Silver.

the Passion
God's Love


  • Feasts of the Lord's passion, Blood, and Cross
  • Feasts of the martyrs
  • Palm Sunday
  • Pentecost
Note: Red is the color of Cardinals' non-liturgical dress

the Holy Ghost
life eternal


  • Time After Epiphany
  • Time After Pentecost



  • Season of Advent
  • Season of Septuagesima
  • Season of Lent
  • Rogation Days
  • Ember Days (except for Pentecost Ember Days)
  • Vigils except for Ascension and Pentecost
  • Good Friday
Note: Violet, literally "amaranth red," is the color of Bishops', Archbishops', and Patriarchs' non-liturgical dress



  • All Souls Day
  • Masses for the dead (Requiem Masses), except for baptized children who've died before the age of reason



  • Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent)
  • Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent)



  • Gold can replace white, red, or green (but not violet or black)
So the 'deal' with the rose vestments (outer liturgical garments worn by priests, also known as a 'chausible') is that they represent joy, and the black vestments represent mourning. I have personally never seen the black vestments worn, but I love Gaudete and Laetare Sundays when the priests break out the rose colored vestments! (That's right -- they're not 'pink', they're rose!)

As a side note, blue is not to be regularly used as a liturgical color, with the exceptions of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and some diocese of Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and South America. Blue is not permitted to replace the traditional violet of Advent. 

Alright, now on to the tough stuff: "What's the whole deal with redemptive suffering? What is it? I hear a lot of Catholics say their suffering can be used to redeem others misfortunes, at least that's the way I heard it being communicated. Also, what does the church have to say about unnecessary suffering? Why does God allow it."Yes, Abraham, it is common to hear Catholic-Christians talking about suffering having meaning, or encouraging others to 'offer up' their suffering. Why? What does this all mean? And what sense can be made of 'unnecessary' suffering, especially of the vulnerable and innocent?

When people refer to 'redemptive suffering' they, of course, are first and foremost referring to the suffering of the Redeemer himself, Jesus, who poured out his very life in obedience and offering to God the Father in reparation for the sins of all humanity. When we ask ourselves the question of why the innocent must suffer, we must consider the suffering of Jesus himself to try to make sense of this concept. Why did God the Father send his only Son to earth in human form, only to suffer the most violent and incomprehensible sufferings (of every type -- spiritual, emotional, physical, and even the pains of death and, in the descent into hell, the pain of seeming separation from God)? God could have sent a Savior in any form to redeem us in any way. Shockingly, God chose to send us a Savior as one of us, who would redeem us from our suffering by taking it on himself. And out of the most incomprehensible suffering, and even death on a cross, came the most incomprehensible and undeserved reward -- the grace of salvation, the redemption of humanity, the gift of eternal life. Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?

But if Jesus took all of the suffering on himself, then why must we still suffer? Suffering is fundamentally the risk of love. Suffering for it's own sake is senseless and absurd; the suffering of love is the only thing which makes life ultimately worthwhile.

In Jesus, we see the ultimate risk of love in its most dramatic form -- love not only unrequited, but vehemently spat upon, rejected, reviled, bloodied, lifted on a cross, and laid in a tomb. This is the part of Jesus that many so-called Christians reject, and the part that many cannot understand about Catholics. "Why do you still have Jesus on the Cross when he rose again?"

Jesus Resurrection means little, really nothing, if he did not actually suffer and die. If Jesus was just pretending to be a man the whole time he was on earth, and if his passion and death were all just an act, waiting for the big soap opera moment where we all found out that he was alive the whole time (and doing just fine, sipping margaritas on a remote island, perhaps) then what difference would it make that he came back? But Jesus was truly human. Jesus truly suffered. Jesus really died. And through his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus truly conquered death, and willed for his body to remain on earth (until his second coming) in two powerful ways: first, through the sacrament of the Eucharist (the fruit of the Cross, the new Tree of Life), and secondly, through us, the Church.

In this way, we can get some small glimpse of the meaning of human suffering. We, who live in Christ, no longer must suffer without meaning, for we now live as members of His body and in our sufferings, we mysteriously participate in the redemption of the whole world. On our own merits, our lives and sufferings ain't no thing but a chicken wing. But in Jesus, our lives and sufferings take on infinite merit, eternal significance, and unimaginable value.This is part of what people mean when they talk about 'offering up' their sufferings, or offering their sufferings to alleviate the misfortunes of others -- that as Christians, we have the ultimate hope that the Good Fridays of our lives will result in an Easter Sunday not only for ourselves, but for others as well; that our salvation and redemption is not just personal but communal (we're saved in bunches!); that when we suffer, we trust that God will make use of that suffering as He sees fit in His providential design for all humanity.

How do we 'offer up' our sufferings and unite them with Christ's? Surely, I'll spend a lifetime trying to learn. But this is what the Christian journey asks, or rather demands of us -- that we not allow the suffering of love to make our hearts grow hard, but rather to continually offer our entire lives to the Father in return for all He has given us, and that even in the face of the most incomprehensible tragedies and misfortunes we can re-echo the words of Job, who said, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"

I'd like to close with a passage from Blessed John Paul II's "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering", which I recommend reading in full. It is the best treatment of this topic I have read and pondered.

24. Nevertheless, the Apostle's experiences as a sharer in the sufferings of Christ go even further. In the Letter to the Colossians we read the words which constitute as it were the final stage of the spiritual journey in relation to suffering: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church". And in another Letter he asks his readers: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?".

In the Paschal Mystery Christ began the union with man in the community of the Church. The mystery of the Church is expressed in this: that already in the act of Baptism, which brings about a configuration with Christ, and then through his Sacrifice—sacramentally through the Eucharist—the Church is continually being built up spiritually as the Body of Christ. In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way he is united with those who suffer. The words quoted above from the Letter to the Colossians bear witness to the exceptional nature of this union. For, whoever suffers in union with Christ— just as the Apostle Paul bears his "tribulations" in union with Christ— not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also "completes" by his suffering "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions". This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world's redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ's sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.
Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed inhuman suffering. In this dimension—the dimension of love—the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ's redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed.
Thus, with this openness to every human suffering, Christ has accomplished the world's Redemption through his own suffering. For, at the same time, this Redemption, even though it was completely achieved by Christ's suffering, lives on and in its own special way develops in the history of man. It lives and develops as the body of Christ, the Church, and in this dimension every human suffering, by reason of the loving union with Christ, completes the suffering of Christ. It completes that suffering just as the Church completes the redemptive work of Christ. The mystery of the Church—that body which completes in itself also Christ's crucified and risen body—indicates at the same time the space or context in which human sufferings complete the sufferings of Christ. Only within this radius and dimension of the Church as the Body of Christ, which continually develops in space and time, can one think and speak of "what is lacking" in the sufferings of Christ. The Apostle, in fact, makes this clear when he writes of "completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church".
It is precisely the Church, which ceaselessly draws on the infinite resources of the Redemption, introducing it into the life of humanity, which is the dimension in which the redemptive suffering of Christ can be constantly completed by the suffering of man. This also highlights the divine and human nature of the Church. Suffering seems in some way to share in the characteristics of this nature. And for this reason suffering also has a special value in the eyes of the Church. It is something good, before which the Church bows down in reverence with all the depth of her faith in the Redemption. She likewise bows down with all the depth of that faith with which she embraces within herself the inexpressible mystery of the Body of Christ.
 I hope this has been helpful. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.
Peace and all good,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lent Day 14: From Communist to Catholic Priest

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P. (the Order of Preachers, founded by St. Dominic) passed away last Saturday, February 23. Born in 1915 in Kansas, Fr. Benedict started out as a committed atheist and communist, but experienced a conversion through reading the writings of famous Dominican friar St. Thomas Aquinas. As you can guess, Fr. Benedict became a Catholic, a priest, and a member of the Dominican Friars. He has been a renowned philosopher and moral theologian in the United States, and he will certainly be missed.

You can read a bit more about his life here on the Order of Preachers website.

Eternal light grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lent Day 13: NEW POPE APP!

Good morning, Coffee Talkers!

As I've mentioned before, the Vatican has substantially improved their technological outreach in the past few years. This includes the upgraded Vatican website, and the addition of a special Vatican News website. And now, my reason for blogging so early today...I simply could not contain my excitement, and need to share with the world:

Click on the picture! :)


So download it now, and wow your friends with your Pontifical knowledge!

Also, check out these little articles on Pope Benedict XVI's adaptations of the rules for the conclave (he's real serious about no tweeting for the cardinals!), what will happen to the Pope's own twitter account, and the resignation of Scotland's Cardinal O'Brien. And then DOWNLOAD THE POPE APP! :)

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lent Day 12: Of Tabasco and Queen Esther

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I wish I had more time to devote to blogging tonight, but I wanted to at least pop in to honor Paul C.P. McIlhenny, the guy in charge of Tabasco hot sauces, who died yesterday

Back in the day when I was traveling with NET Ministries, my team got a free tour of the Tabasco sauce factory (my eyes still water a bit just remembering it!) and a fan boat ride on the swamps of Avery Island. Louisiana was awesome! Rest in peace, Mr. McIlhenny.

In unrelated, but also interesting news, today marks the Jewish feast of Purim, which celebrates Queen Esther's act of heroism which saved the lives of the Jewish people. One year, I had the pleasure of teaching a lesson on Purim to an adorable class of second graders, and then feeding them my extremely unfortunate batch of hamentaschen (which, while looking terrible, at least still tasted half-way decent). The children were merciful, and seemed to appreciate my efforts.

My batch did not look like these...
Gotta jet for now, and if you read this, please say a little prayer for the other projects I need to finish tonight. In advance, thank you!

As always,  thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lent Day 11: Singing In the Reign -- It's Umbrella Time!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Most of you are probably familiar with the Vatican logo, featuring the papal tiara atop two keys; it's the one you see on the Vatican flag, and elsewhere:

But did you know that during the time between Popes, known as the interregnum, they change the logo? I mean, they don't change the flags, obviously, but the official letterhead of Vatican documents and the masthead of L'Osservatore Romano (the daily newspaper of the Holy See) will reflect this change.

In the logo used between reigns, the keys remain, but the tiara is replaced by a cute little umbrella. It is said that the umbrella symbolizes the lack of a pope, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps we're saving a shady spot for the next guy? If anyone finds out, let me know! But for now, without any further ado, check out the logo during the interregnum!

It kinda makes me think of a carousel!
Also, the Vatican apparently releases some stamps with the logo, too, during the interregnum, so if anyone could pick up a few for me, I'd be most appreciative!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lent Day 10: The Chair (and Technology) of St. Peter

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter! What interesting timing, too, in light of the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and the upcoming conclave to the select the next Roman Pontiff.

Thanks to my friends at NET Ministries for this pic!
This feast, which does not celebrate an actual piece of furniture but rather commemorates the mission of teacher and pastor conferred by Christ on Peter and continued in an unbroken line down to the present Pope, reminds us of the primacy of the office over the particular man who holds and exercises it. In this feast, Catholic Christians celebrate the unity of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, and renew our assent to the Magisterium (or teaching authority) of the Roman Pontiff, extended both to truths which are solemnly defined ex cathedra (from the chair), and to all the acts of the ordinary Magisterium (the Church's teaching office).

In Pope Benedict XVI's decision to step down from the office due to not feeling to have sufficient strength to fulfill the obligations of the office and ministry of the Roman Pontiff, I believe that he acts as a sign to the world that Jesus came not only to exercise authority, but more importantly to pour himself out in self-emptying sacrifice and prayer. As we see Benedict acting similarly in renouncing worldly power and entering into a life of monastic prayer, let us join in praying for him and for his successor to the Chair of St. Peter.

Also, The Vatican, during Pope Benedict XVI's reign as pontiff, has made some awesome technological strides. Be sure to check out this special page on the Vatican's news website for news on the current Pope's final days in office, the upcoming conclave, and more Catholic excitement!

And while you're at it, look at this awesome interactive virtual Sistine Chapel tour the Vatican website also set up for your enjoyment!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lent Day 9: Short & Sweet & A Resolution for Tomorrow

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I had a great time leading music with some friends for a diocesan luncheon at Youth Day in Anaheim, an annual kick-off to the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. But I'm pretty excited to rest soon, too, so I'll keep tonight's post short and sweet.

1. It was great to see the youth from my home parish today, as well as one of my first youth ministers, with whom I went to my own first Youth Day!

2. All that I can remember from my first youth day (when I was still a youth) is riding back on the bus, and trying to figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. (No, I don't remember the number of licks!)

3. So far the results of my unofficial papal vote are a tie between Brazilian Cardinal Braz de Avis, and myself -- haha!

Let's all pray for each other during this Lenten season, and overcome our own faults and weaknesses by caring for all of the members of Christ's body on earth, the Church, through our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Let's all think of a specific way to conquer selfishness and become more generous tomorrow. Then let's do it!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lent Day 8: My Vote for the New Pope!

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

Yes, in a nearly miraculous turn of events, I am still awake and so I shall post my official Lenten 8th day posting. Because perhaps someone out there in the blog-o-sphere wants to know: who does Leslie predict will be the next Pope?

Now, let me say up front that I generally put little (read: NO) stock in anyone's predictions about the papacy. I mean, we've seen some pretty big surprises with the last few Popes, and I sure don't have any special knowledge of these things. Still, just as I find it fun to come up with Pope names, it is a similarly less-than-useful albeit enjoyable pastime to speculate upon the next successor of Peter.

So this was the first thing that came to my mind, after I recovered from my initial shock/disbelief at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (which, by the way, I find to be a completely admirable and humble choice on his part -- I just really thought I was seeing an article from the satirical "Onion" when I first saw the news on the internet). First, I remembered being at World Youth Day in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and hearing Pope John Paul II announce that the next World Youth Day would be held in Cologne, Germany. And I remember being very struck that he did not say, "I'll see you at the next World Youth Day," but simply announced it's location without any promise of his being there. He had always made that promise at past World Youth Day's, but not that one. And sure enough, it was to be his last.

So the next World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany would be presided over by the newly elected Pontiff. And who got elected? Pope Benedict XVI, of course, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. From Germany. Just as Pope John Paul II (the former Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wotyla) returned to his homeland of Poland  less than a year after his election to the papacy, so Pope Benedict XVI would return to his home country months after his election. Because, after all, the papal conclave following the death of Pope John Paul II took place during the year of a scheduled World Youth Day.

At the last World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he or his successor would see us at the next World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Like John Paul II, there was no promise of his being there, but he announced it in a different way than his predecessor did. When I think about those announcements, I wonder if Blessed John Paul II knew he would not be alive, and Pope Benedict XVI surmised that he would be alive, but not Pope?

With all this considered, and seeing that our next Pope will again be elected in the year of a schedule World Youth Day, it seems as logical as any other guess for me to conclude that our next Pope will come from Brazil, so that he can return to his homeland to preside at the upcoming World Youth Day held in Rio de Janeiro this July.

That's as far as I've gotten with my speculations. And since I don't really believe them to be any more true than anyone else's wild guesses, I have not taken much time to learn about the Cardinals of Brazil. But if you agree with my hypothesis, why not look up the Brazilian Cardinals and cast your vote? If anyone actually votes, I'll report the 'winner' here on Coffee Talk.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

P.S. Alright, I did just look at the list of Brazilian Cardinals, and I think I've narrowed my vote down to the top two. But no spoilers! Cast your vote via comment or e-mail at

P.P.S. If you have sent me any questions, I will be answering them soon. Thank you!!

Lent Day 7 on Day 8, 'Cause I'm Sleepy: SNOW DAY!!!

Coffee Talkers!

Well, I'll bet that at least two of you were wondering where I was last night, after all these promises of daily Lenten blogging. By now, you may have guessed it from the title of this post. I was sleeping. Again. I love sleep!

So here's the day 7 post (on day 8), and God willing, I will post for day 8 tonight. Before going to sleep. Again!

Today, something great happened here in the high desert of Southern California. Something special. Something like SNOW!

Mary was pretty stoked about snow day, too.

You may be thinking that it doesn't look like much snow, but you gotta remember: this is the desert. Of Southern California. So, suffice it to say, all the local school districts called a day off! Because we desert-dwellers don't have any road-clearing equipment, nor do we now how to drive in such conditions. So it was party time!
Just days ago, the flip-flop was used for backyard kiddie pool party...

But today, it's beach chairs and snow balls!
I couldn't help but remember those rare snow days calling off school when I was growing up in this area myself, and I would go with my best friend Amelia and her sister Amanda (who were the same age difference as my girls) to our local park to slide down the hills on whatever we had available (snow disks, trash can lids, pizza boxes or other pieces of cardboard). The 3 of us had such a delightful time! Amanda died 3 years ago this February in a tragic plane accident, so today's memories were bittersweet. We sure do miss you, Amanda. I hope you got to see the snow day, too, and know that we were thinking about you! Rest in peace, dear friend.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lent Day 6: On Nicknames, Rap Names, and Pope Names

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Hope all of my American readers enjoyed the long weekend, and that your first week(ish) of Lent was a blessed one.

I want to talk for a moment about names. First, we can see from the Scriptures that naming and being named is a very important thing, a sacred act in which God allows humans to participate. After creating Adam, God gives him charge of all of the creatures of the land, and entrusts to him the task of naming the animals. And then we see the numerous stories of God giving people a new name and references to each of us having a new name that we will be called by in heaven, a name known to God alone. We also see people receiving new names in modern times on several occasions -- confirmation, marriage, priestly ordination, and profession of religious vows.

But besides all of this, the other time people more frequently get a new name is a little less formal (and less divine) than all of this -- our first 'new names' are usually nicknames given to us by others.

And there's something that, in my almost 35 years of life, I have come to realize:

There is no good nickname for the name "Leslie."

Look, I know you're trying right now to come up with a good nickname for me. Please don't! So many have tried, and have fallen short, that I don't want you to misdirect your time in this way. Instead, why don't you join me in the silly (but enjoyable) task of picking out a couple names for yourself, just in case you ever need them.

First, a rap name. I have found that adding a dash and/or a dollar sign are helpful in establishing your rap name, should you need one. (I have personally chosen L-Dawg, although Le$lie was a close runner-up.)

Second, a Pope name. (I recommend either choosing from names of previous popes, or from other recognized saints of the Church. The possibilities are endless! But know that my Pope name, Salsa Guadalupe, is taken.)

But if you want to really know a bit about how the new Pope will be selected, who chooses his name, and a host of other interesting facts, check out this awesome illustrated play-by-play from Vatican Insider on "How a Pope is Elected." Click the link, and an arrow click will guide you through the process. It's really fun and informative!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

P.S. I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still open to answering people's Catholic questions, and especially since I've committed to writing each day of Lent, send those questions in while the iron is hot (or something like that)! E-mail me at

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent Day 5: Little Girls!

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

Today has been a day of celebration! My younger daughter turned FIVE today! I know everyone says it, but I truly cannot believe how the time has flown.

Anyway, enough sentimentality for now -- I am blogging because there is a quiet moment in the midst of little girl sleepover mania. Following the family cake extravaganza, my girls invited a friend to sleepover. So now my just-turned-five-year-old, along with her big sis and their friend, are quietly watching "The Wizard of Oz." A blessed quietness, although their many screams, squeals, and peals of laughter were delightful as well.

It's almost time for lights out, and it's great to remember what is what like to be a little girl, so full of wonder and joy, drama and delight. Such fun!

In addition to chronicling a few of the evening's events, I am also writing this as a small apology to my friends who entrusted their daughter into my care this evening. She says that this is one of the best sleepovers ever...but she's also a little bit pink. Her skin. And both of my girls, too. They're all a little bit piggy-looking.You see, big sis picked out a play make-up kit, allegedly washable. We washed it, but in their efforts to see who could look the most terrifying (a valiant effort, I must say!), they really caked some of that nasty stuff on. Just know that they'll wash again in the morning. And that they're having the time of their little girl lives!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Lent Day 4: Spiritual Warfare, Grace, and the 3-fold Practices of Lent

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

Well, the 4th day of Lent reminded me of the reality that one the reasons that the Lenten season can be a time of grace and renewal is that it is a season when we, like Jesus during his 40 days in the desert, are called to engage in spiritual warfare. And the primary ways to guard ourselves against the powers of evil, the Church has given to all of us in its threefold practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

As the morning prayer antiphon from the Feast of St. Cecilia so beautifully and powerfully reminds us:
At daybreak, Cecilia cried out: “Come soldiers of Christ, cast off the works of darkness, 
and clothe yourselves in the armor of light.”
In an excellent blogpost on "The Sacred Page," former Protestant pastor, current Scripture scholar and professor, and my friend  Dr. John Bergsma explains the readings for the first Sunday of Lent, and shows how our practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving aid us in overcoming the 3-fold temptation to sin:
At the beginning of Lent, the Church reads to us the account of Jesus doing spiritual combat with the devil in the wilderness, reminding us that Lent is a time of warfare.  Through our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we do battle with the power of the devil in our lives, and with God’s grace, defeat him decisively.
The whole post is fantastic spiritual reading for this season, so I think you'll find it worthwhile to click here and check out the whole thing.

So stay strong on the journey, my friends; we are in this together!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

P.S. Speaking of warfare, I've sadly had to make the commenting function on my blog stricter. Someone recently posted a comment that, while somewhat senseless, was so vile that I felt the need to remove it and to require comment moderation (for a time, at least) and no more completely anonymous posting. I'm not one to always be attributing things to the forces of evil, but this comment was just that, so in addition to stepping up the fortress of comment moderation, I'm also stepping it up with the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We will get through Lent victorious, and the light will always win. Easter is coming!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent Day 3: The Pope's Parents, and Catholic Pick-up Lines

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

There is so much that I want to say about our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his resignation from his Petrine Ministry, but tonight I want to talk a bit about his parents.

Do you know how Pope Benedict XVI's parents met? Any guesses?

I was so touched when I heard the sweet story:

"Middle ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43-years-old, immaculate past, from the countryside, is seeking a good Catholic pure girl, who can cook well, and who can do all housework, who is also capable of sewing and a good homemaker in order to marry at the soonest opportunity," it reads. 
"Personal fortune would be desirable but is not however a precondition. Offers, if possible with picture, to box number 734." The ad was placed in the 7 March 1920 edition of the Aotoettinger Liebfrauen Messenger newspaper, a Catholic publication seeking to bring together lonelyhearts of the same religion.

It brought policeman Joseph Ratzinger no results so on July 11 the same year, after he had been promoted a rank, he advertised again and drew a reply from Maria Peintner, born in 1884, and they met at a coffee house in Regensburg - birthplace of the pope - and became engaged days later. 
They married on November 9 that year in a parish church near the city and had three children - Georg, now 82 and a Catholic priest in Regensburg, Joseph, 79, the pope, and a daughter named Maria who died in 1991.
So in honor of yesterday (not the feast of  Cyril and Methodius -- sorry! -- but St. Valentine's Day), and the parents of our reigning pontiff, I've linked here to a list of awesome Catholic pick-up lines. And here's a great song on the same theme, too! 

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent, Day 2: I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again!

My dear Coffee Talkers,

How kind of you to join me on this Lenten journey of daily blogging! When I made my final decision to blog for all 40-plus days of Lent yesterday, I decided to first re-post an entry on the Biblical theology of ashes in honor of Ash Wednesday. I had planned to post something new at night, after putting my kids to sleep. Only, as it turns out, I also put myself to sleep. And did not wake up until morning! Heh. My Lenten resolution was off to a strong start! Two Scripture verses came to mind upon my waking:

"When [Jesus] returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, 'So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?'" (Matthew 26:40)

But then, more consolingly, "It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil—all this God gives to his beloved in sleep." (Psalm 127:2)

Then this evening, upon our return home, we realized that the "planned power outage to avoid future unplanned power outages" on our block had turned into the unplanned power outage they were trying to avoid. So needless to say, all things related to blogging were not accessible.

But I decided not to let the forces of darkness bring me down (and it was really dark!), and found a place where once again I could see the light. And now that I am in that place, a place where I can once again sing, "I've got the power!" and really mean it, I realize that these small setbacks and unforeseen snags in my resolutions are part of the meaning of Lent.

In Lent, we who take on a voluntary sacrifice and make a willful resolution soon realize that all of our plans cannot come to fruition unless divine providence allows for them. We also take on these sacrifices and practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to prepare ourselves spiritually for trials that we do not choose ourselves, and to train ourselves in a generosity and selfless spirit that can endure even through the hills and valleys of life. In Lent, we get knocked down, but we get up again! Just as Jesus was tempted as he fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, we too face various temptations and adversities, and at each trial from within or without, we have a chance to respond in humility, self-honesty, and reliance on God, and always a chance to begin anew.

How is your Lenten journey going so far? Have you encountered any difficulties or enjoyed any triumphs or spiritual insights? If you have not begun, perhaps now is the time to consider joining millions of people around the world who are joining together in a spirit of prayer, fasting, and giving generously to those in need.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Biblical Theology of Ashes

A re-post from 2011...but I will be blogging every day this Lent! Thanks for tuning in! :)

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A blessed Ash Wednesday to you! Today, I'd like to share an entry from one of my very favorite books, Father Xavier Leon Dufour's Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

Really, I cannot recommend this book enough. And I just saw that there are many inexpensive copies available online, so use a little of that money you saved in giving up your Big Mac habit to get one for yourself and enhance your Lenten spiritual reading!

Anyway, here's the entry on ashes. I think it gives some great food for thought (and speaking of food, it makes me quite grateful that we don't have to eat the ashes!).

The original meaning of ashes is a much debated question, in spite of their widespread use in most ancient religions. They are often associated with dust (the Septuagint translates “dust” by “ashes” on more than one occasion) and symbolize both the sin and weakness of man.
1.       In the first place the heart of the sinner is compared with dust: Isaiah calls the idolator “a man who hankers after ashes” (Is 44,20), and the Wise Man says of him, “Ashes his heart, meaner than dirt his hope” (Ws 15,10). This is why the wages of sin can only be ashes: the proud will see themselves reduced to “ashes on the ground (Ez 28,18), and the wicked will be trodden under foot by the just like ashes” (Ml 3,21). Moreover, the sinner, who does not become hardened in his pride (Si 10,9) and who realizes his fault, confesses precisely that he is only “dust and ashes” (Gn 18,27; Si 17,32). And to prove to himself and others that he is convinced of this, he sits amid ashes (Jb 42,6; Jn 3,6; Mt 11,21 p) and covers his head with them (Jdt 4,11-15; 9,1; Ez 27,30).
2.       But this same symbol of repentance is also used to express the sadness of man crushed by misfortune, no doubt because of a connection between misfortune and sin is taken for granted. When she is scorned Tamar covers herself with ashes (2 S 13,19); and so do the Jews when threatened by death (Es 4,1-4; cf 1 M 3,47; 4,39). In this way man wants to show the state to which he has been reduced (Jb 30,19) and even goes so far as to eat ashes (Ps 102, 10; Lm 3,16). But it is especially on the occasion of a bereavement that he feels nothingness and then he expresses it by covering himself with dust and ashes: “Wrap yourself in sackcloth, daughter of my people, roll in ashes; mourn…” (Jr 6,26).
Thus to cover oneself with ashes is to act in mime a sort of public confession (cf the liturgy of Ash Wednesday). Using the language of this lifeless matter that returns to dust, man admits himself sinful and weak, and in this way forestalls God’s judgment and attracts his mercy. To anyone admitting his nothingness like this is addressed the promise of the Messiah, as he comes to triumph over sin and death, “to comfort all who mourn, and to give them for ashes a garland” (Is 61,3).
 A blessed Lenten journey to you all!