Saturday, February 28, 2009


"If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads but what he re-reads."

--Francois Mauriac

Blanket of snow

This morning I looked out of the window to see a blanket of snow covering my little corner of the world. It's still Winter and it's cold. So I'll stay inside and clean the house and wash the clothes; and I'll bake some bread--won't the kitchen be warm! And I'll thank God for the day. I'll walk next week when it's warmer. But for now, God has sent the snow; and the snow is beautiful.

Friday, February 27, 2009


"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."

--Author unknown


"Without charity, the outward work profiteth nothing; but whatever is done out of charity, be it ever so little and contemptible, it is all made fruitful; in as much as God regardeth more out of how much love a man doth a work, than how much he doth."

--from The Following of Christ

Thursday, February 26, 2009


"The best way out is always through."

--Robert Frost


How knightly is the redwinged blackbird!
He wears his heart on his wing.


The sparrow served Him not as He was dying,
and so must hop from place to place.
The robin, seeing His suffering face,
pulled a thorn from His brow,
and wears His blood on his breast.
The swallow sang to to cheer Him on the cross.
The owl always signals loss,
he is the bird of darkness.
But the pure white dove, God's chosen one,
soars above the rest.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and tonight I have a restless longing that I don't really understand. I took a walk this afternoon along one of my favorite paths, and the birds were singing all around me; it felt and looked so much like Spring. The branches on the trees were beginning to swell with the life within them, and I could feel the sun's warmth on my skin. But it's February, after all, and the cold weather is coming back in just a few days. It doesn't seem like Winter, but it's not yet Spring. And suddenly I want to be somewhere else, to run away from this uneasiness which seems to be stalking me tonight. Why do I feel this way? What is at the heart of this? So many questions crowd my mind.

But I think I'm beginning to understand. It is the time between seasons, and my life is at that place between seasons. I am enduring the long, cold Winter, with all of its shadows and uncertainty, as a bud hidden inside the rose ; and I am longing for the warmth of sunlight so that I can blossom once again. The seasons are overlapping, and time seems unbalanced somehow because of it. It is an awkward and unsettling place in which to be; and there are so many unanswered questions. But I know what I must do. It's the first day of Lent and, thanks be to God, I have something to offer to Him who makes all things new: myself. This is the time of ashes, but not so very many days from now these gray ashes will give place to the white lilies of Easter Sunday. I see now through clouded glass, but soon I will see clearly. There is everything good ahead of me; I must be patient. "All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven." There will be answers in God's time; and His timing is perfect.

Ash Wednesday

"Grant us, O Lord, to begin with holy fasts the campaign of our Christian warfare: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

--prayer from the Mass of Ash Wednesday

For our sakes

"There is nothing so salutary for us as to meditate every day on what Jesus, God and man, has endured for our sakes."

--Saint Augustine

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


To have a voice
with which to sing
is not a thing
to take for granted.
How silent is the day
without a song
to cheer me!
If no one hears me,
still, my song is there;
and when I sing
while I'm walking
on my favorite paths,
the birds sing along.


"See, dearest daughter, in what an excellent state is the soul who receives, as she should, this Bread of Life, this Food of Angels. By receiving this Sacrament she dwells in Me and I in her, as the fish in the sea, and the sea in the fish--thus do I dwell in the soul, and the soul in Me--the Sea Pacific."

--from The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena

Monday, February 23, 2009

There is a light...

"And then, as people at a masquerade
take off the masks which have until that time
been hiding their true selves--so, then and there...
I saw reality...

God...grant me now the power to find the words for what I saw!
There is a light...whose glory makes the Creator
visible to the created mind,
whose only peace is in beholding Him."

--Dante in Paradiso


"I can see how into your mind already
There shines Eternal Light which...
Once it is seen, forever kindles love."

--Beatrice in Paradiso

Friday, February 20, 2009

Whatever He wills...

"...Let us raise our hearts to God. Whatever He wills, without exception, should be received with the firm persuasion that every cross He wills to send shall prove an endless source of blessing, a treasure whose value one may not appreciate at the moment."

--from The Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli


As the moth drawn to the flame,
So am I drawn to you.
The light of goodness
shines in you; it never leaves me.
You are here; I can feel you all around me,
surrounding me and leading me
to see that He is what I really love
in you. I wish you knew.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"Love comforteth like sunshine after rain."

--William Shakespeare

An eternity

"...And the shadows fall away
From the room inside your heart.
Take a step and you will see
An eternity."

--from This Time by Anam

Westlin' Winds

"...Come let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of nature:
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn
And every happy creature.
We'll gently walk and sweetly talk
'Til the silent moon shines clearly..."

--Robert Burns


"I have fallen in love with you."
How easily those words fall from his lips,
but what is in his heart? Seamlessly
he slips away with no more than a promise
to return, but when? He says, "I'll call you."
But it is never certain when or if he will.
My heart is still--unmoved by him.
His acts belie his words; he is no friend
nor can he ever be. This must end, but how?
For in truth it never did begin.

Not time or opportunity...

"It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;--it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others."

--Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility


"I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time--those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything."

--Lawrence Durrell

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


"We'll take this leap, and we'll see. We'll jump, and we'll see. That's life, right?"

--Patricia in Joe vs. the Volcano

Be of good cheer

"From behind the shadow of the still, small voice--more awful than tempest or earthquake--more sure and persistent than day and night--is always sounding with hope and strength to the weariest of us all, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

--Thomas Hughes

Monday, February 16, 2009

With quiet eyes...

"Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm,
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm:
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise
Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes."

--Frances Shaw


"A crowd is not company, faces are just a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling cymbal where there is no love."

--Sir Francis Bacon


"Of all the heavenly treasures that mortal men commend,
what trusty treasure in the world can countervail a friend?"

--Victor Hugo


"The two wings of our souls, immune to any gust of wind, are true love and faith."

--Stanislas Xavier-Touchet

Sunday, February 15, 2009


"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life."

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Time again

"It is familiarity with life that makes time speed quickly. When every day is a step in the unknown, as for children, the days are long with gathering of experience..."

-George Gissing

My note: But can't it be true: that everything old can be new once more, and so time may again pass in pauses as it did in childhood? Time, and time again, it is through the fresh eyes of innocence that we gain the most valuable experience. How precious is each moment then, each one a jewel from the hand of God! To be like a little child, to look upon everything as a wonder, is truly the work of a lifetime. God grant that I may always look upon the world with childlike eyes.


"The love of learning,
The sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books."

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, February 13, 2009

Taking tea on my twenty-first birthday, Part 2

The sun illumined the snow globe effect so that all the white fleecy flakes dazzled my eyes, unaccustomed as they were to snow of any kind. Having grown up as I had in the Deep Southern United States, snow was indeed a novelty and seemed as magical to me as fairy dust. I put my tongue out just a bit to taste the delicious whiteness which was as refreshing as peppermint.

There I stood on the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace and ancestral home, absorbing with every pore of my being the beauty and history which surrounded me. I was tempted to pinch myself, but decided against it: if this were a dream, I reasoned, then it was a good one, and one from which I would awaken with sorrow at seeing it end; and if it were real, so much the better! So I dreamily floated around the place, through the endless rooms with their decidedly English-style furnishings and onto the numerous paths which led to the ordered English-style gardens. The vistas were magnificent. Everywhere I turned the view was more breathtaking and beckoning. "Oh to be in England!.." wrote the poet. And there I stood--in England in April, more of Heaven than Earth; so it seemed to me.

Nota bene: Part 1 was posted on January 18, 2009.

Safe haven

"The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship."

--William Blake

Brave and true

"Electronic communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with his soul encourages another person to be brave and true."

--Charles Dickens

So rare

"It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare."

--Mark Twain

Thursday, February 12, 2009


"I felt it shelter to speak to you."

--Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


"Joy delights in joy. "

--William Shakespeare


"Innocence is like polished armor; it adorns and defends."

--Robert South

To be a child...

"Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of to-day. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its own soul."

--Francis Thompson

Monday, February 9, 2009

To behold the sun...

"Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun..."

--The Book of Ecclesiastes


"Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of bitterest pain, if our will remains firm and submissive. Peace in this life springs from aquiescence to, not in exemption from, suffering."

--Bishop Fenelon

A thought

"The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on."

--Josiah Gilbert Holland

Sunday, February 8, 2009


When I was a young girl, change was one thing I feared and avoided; in truth, I think I may have despised it. The status quo, the familiar, the known--these were my safe havens, even though my life was not often one of ease and privilege, nor was it a particularly peaceful one. Still, the security of sameness seemed preferable to taking a risk on a worse fate. And so it was that, for most of my life, I hid like a scared rabbit in the burrow of the known, even of the known evil. It seemed the safer and more sensible course--and the less scary one.

Over time, though, and after many experiences, I have come to see the value of change; and I have learned to accept it, sometimes even to welcome it, as that part of living which most reflects life. And I have realized how wrong I was to fear it; for it is essential. Life is change, and change is life; it is what keeps us growing and learning. It is the young bird pushed out of the nest by its mother so that it may learn to fly, and so, to live. It is the fire which ravages the forest so that it may grew anew, stronger and more beautiful than before. It is the storm which brings an even more profound calm in its wake. It is the death of the old self to make way for the new. It is the anguish of Good Friday which leads to the joy of Easter Sunday.

So, now I know the truth; I have finally learned it. And it is this: God is in control. There is no reason to be afraid, let the changes come as they will. My one constant is God, and He can never change; He is my refuge, always the same. And I must do just one thing well: I must allow Him to lead me through this life so that I may be changed for the good. It is all so simple, and I have His word on it, : "Behold, I make all things new!" I'm not afraid any more.


"There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast."

--Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers


"Its matter was not new to me, but was presented in a new aspect. It shook me in my habit--the habit of nine-tenths of the world--of believing that all was right about me, because I was used to it..."

--Charles Dickens in Dombey and Son

The image

"Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy."

--Saint Paul of the Cross


"Pain is never permanent."

--Saint Teresa of Avila

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Point of view...

"My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon."


I may be wrong

"Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?"

--Jane Austen


It's always darkest before the dawn. Really.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Now what do we do?

"Just keep swimming." :-)

--Dory in Finding Nemo

The best thing...

"For after all, the best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Words of wisdom from The Little Prince

"It is such a secret place, the land of tears."--the Narrator

"Straight ahead does not take anyone very far..."--the Little Prince

"One must require of each what each is able to give. Authority rests first of all upon reason. ...I have the right to demand obedience because my orders are reasonable."--the King

"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it is hiding a well."--the Little Prince

"But the eyes are blind; one must look with the heart."--the Little Prince

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."--the Little Prince

"It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important."--the Little Prince

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My fairy tale life

It is not uncommon to hear people speaking of another as possessing "a fairy tale life", a phrase which is generally taken to mean a life of ease and privilege. Had these people ever actually read fairy tales, at least the ones with which I'm familiar, they wouldn't speak so foolishly. Many, if not most, of the characters in the stories known to me experience every manner of trial and tribulation; ease and privilege, if they are part of the story, are only reached after much suffering. There always seems to be some great difficulty which must be overcome, a test which must be passed, in order for the character to find peace and happiness. It might be poverty, as in the case of the Little Match Girl; or an evil sorcerer, as in the case of the Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast; or wicked stepmothers, as in the case of Cinderella and Snow White; or an evil fairy, as in the case of Sleeping Beauty; or a sea witch, as in the case of The Little Mermaid. And the list goes on, making it clear that a fairy tale life is not an easy one by far.

One of my favorite stories, The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, has many of these fairy tale trials. The heroine Eliza is banished from her home by her wicked stepmother, who is also a witch and who turns Eliza's six brothers into wild swans. In order to break the spell and free her brothers Eliza must knit six coats, one for each brother, out of stinging nettles which she must pick with her own hands; the nettles are like needles which tear and cut her flesh. And all the while she is knitting she may not speak a word or the spell will never be broken. Eliza begins her painful task in the solitude of a cave where, before long, she is found by a group of huntsmen, the most handsome and noblest of whom is the king of the country. To every one of his questions her answer is silence; she must remain mute. Still, her beauty and evident goodness so move the king to love her that he marries her not long after he brings her to his castle. Eliza continues to knit the stinging nettles, leaving her husband's side in the middle of the night to pick more nettles in the dark and foreboding cemetery near the castle. Her husband follows her and, on the advice of his trusted counselor, agrees to have Eliza put to death for witchcraft. As the fire is being readied for Eliza--she is to be burned at the stake as a witch--she continues knitting. Suddenly six wild swans appear in the sky over her head--her six brothers--and Eliza throws the nettle coats over each one in turn. Instantly each one returns to his human form; but the youngest brother's right arm remains a swan's wing because his sister had not had enough time to finish his coat. Eliza and her brothers declare her innocence, and her husband embraces her and takes her home to their castle.

Banishment; physical suffering; emotional suffering; loneliness; rejection; injustice; silence in the face of mistreatment and misunderstanding; the threat of death--these were Eliza's lot. A fairy tale life? Yes, indeed. And yet in the end, it all came out well. Perhaps this is the message in all of this story telling: that no matter what sufferings, privations, persecutions, and trials must be undergone in this life, there is always the certain hope of a happy ending.

And so, just as it is in my beloved fairy tales, when I think of all that has happened to me through the years, I could list many difficulties, trials, and tests: none of which I would like to experience again, all of which have helped to form the person I am now. I am so much the better for all of it. Yes, I can truthfully say that mine has been, and continues to be, a fairy tale full of wonder. And I believe that my fairy tale life will have a happy ending. Surely God will not deny it to one who wants, more than anything, to live happily ever after...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Real love in real life

Every day at Mass I see them, side by side in their usual pew, shoulders touching, and white-haired heads bowed slightly over their missals. With a dignity and grace born of the Faith, they sit silently before Mass begins, then quietly rise in unison as the priest enters the church. Soon he helps her to kneel slowly and stiffly, and then he too kneels slowly and stiffly beside her. They are as a pair of angels beholding the Holy Sacrifice from their favorite little corner of the world. They are a knight and his lady whose dignity age could never remove. Theirs is a beauty which is all too rare, a beauty which comes from loving God first and best, and loving each other in Him.

Lately I have wondered about real love. I believe in it with all my heart; I know that it exists, but where? To see this husband and wife is an accidental joy which God gives me each day to show me that real love can be found in this world. It is a gift. And it is that love, after the gift of life, which is His greatest gift to us.

The Mass has ended. They kneel for a time, spending these moments with God as though time matters not at all, then rise slowly, stiffly in unison. He takes her coat and helps her, very gently and carefully, to put it on; his gallantry is such a lovely sight. Then he takes her arm and guides her tenderly into the aisle where each in turn genuflects, but only partly; their aged knees will allow only so much movement. Then, arm in arm, they quietly leave the church. As they pass me I can't help but notice that their eyes look for all the world like stars twinkling in the heavens, and that their faces have a radiance that is not of this world.

Yes, that is love, and I have seen it. It is real love in real life. And tomorrow, by God's grace, I will see it again.

Real love

What is married love? It is triune--the lover, the beloved, and God. It seems that we forget that God must be the third partner in marriage for it to be real love, and that He must always be our first and best love. We love the ones we love because we see the goodness in them that only God can put there. He has placed in each one of us a longing for the infinite which is Himself; and, without God, no human love can satisfy our desire for infinite love. Only God can do this. It is only in loving God with and in our beloved, selflessly and sacrificially, that we truly love him; and that love which is real never dies but grows stronger with each passing day. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, "Two human loves make one divine." And, as Dante said of Beatrice, "She looks on Heaven, and I look on her." But in looking on her, Dante saw the Heaven which Beatrice saw; and so she led him to God. This is the lifework of marriage: to lead each other to Heaven. Only real love can do this; and real love never fails.

Recipe for a relationship

"My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teasing and quarelling with you as often as may be."

--Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

Monday, February 2, 2009

Candlemas thoughts

"Candles are beautiful symbols of our sacrifices. They are like living things. They eat and drink the wax from the bees, made collectively in association with sweetness. They breathe air. They move in their flames as they flicker. They communicate to our eyes a beautiful light and give contrast to their surroundings by illumination. They burn out at the end of their span. So do we. They are consumed for the Lord in the liturgy. So should we be. We do all these things..."

--Father John Zuhlsdorf


There is something so lovely in candlelight:
warm and tender, and just bright enough
to show the shapes and forms of its surroundings,
a caressing glow which shows the softer side of things.
Holy, pure and white--candlelight is lovers' light.

Nobly done

"Nothing of what is nobly done is ever lost."

--Charles Dickens

Sunday, February 1, 2009

This is your joy

"This is your joy, your unutterable and glorified happiness, that you love Jesus Christ, Whom you have never seen; that you believe in Him, Whom you have never beheld. Your reward will be the salvation of your souls, the eternal inheritance of heaven."

--1 Pet. 1:8