Friday, February 26, 2010

First Lenten Read

The first book in my list of Lenten reading was 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. This little, easy-to-read book was a great way to start off my Lenten experience this year! Let me say right up front, I highly recommend this book. If you haven't read it, you should.

This book is full of wonderful insights, incredible quotes from Scripture, the Saints, and the Catechism, as well as a beautifully simple way of describing deep theological issues. I found myself underlining, starring, and even circling all sorts of interesting phrases, sentences ... heck, I'll admit it, even whole paragraphs! I couldn't help but to take some extensive notes on the occasional empty page between chapters.

In this little book, Mr. Flynn aims to present the Eucharist in a very real way. He wants to share with his readers insights into the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that may be new to you or may be presented in a way you've never thought of before. Even though he calls these "Secrets" he admits right from the start that there is nothing secret about any of this. Even so, some of these secrets may seem like new information. He also says that there are not just seven of these. He could easily continue writing more and more about the Eucharist. Maybe we'll see more books on this topic from Mr. Flynn? I for one, would be delighted to read more.

Since the secrets discussed in this book are not actually secrets, here they are as a taste of what you will find discussed in this little tome: the Eucharist is alive; Christ is not alone; there is only one Mass; not just one miracle; we don't just receive; every reception is different; and there's no limit.

Lots to think about there. The Eucharist is alive? Well, okay, that may be an easy one but the insights here are great! Christ not alone? Who is with him? Read and find out! Only one Mass? What does that mean? There are masses every day in churches all around the world, what does it mean that there is only one? Not just one miracle? Also an interesting thought to ponder. And it goes on and on. Does that peak your interest?? I hope so.

Each of the seven chapters takes each of the above listed "secrets" and explores their meaning more deeply. He pulls quotes from St. Faustina's Diary, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and others to start each chapter. The style of writing is best described as friendly, which I found wonderful for a topic that could easily get bogged down in theological discourse. Yet he still manages to delve into theological matters without you even realizing it!

I drank in the information of this book. The hardest chapter for me was the seventh secret, there's no limit. This chapter is not about being able to receive the Eucharist as many times as you want in a day. We are blessed with the ability to receive every day if we choose, and I gathered from the discussion that there is a limit of being able to receive twice a day. But what he is really describing in this chapter is the ability to receive the Eucharist spiritually. The idea of a Spiritual Communion was a new one for me. It took me until near the end of the chapter before it started to click. I think this was evident by the lack of notes I was taking for the first half of that chapter.

What I especially liked about this seventh chapter was that it held a great little treasure in it that is perfect for Lent. As we struggle with certain temptations during this Lenten season we can turn to Christ in the Eucharist to gather strength and even if you are not physically able to receive Him or even physically in front of Him (such as at an Adoration Chapel) you can still make a Spiritual Communion. Want to understand this more?? I recommend reading the book.

I think this book makes excellent Lenten reading, but I would also recommend it for any other time as well. In particular, if you know someone who will be entering the church this Easter and will receive Christ in the Eucharist for the first time during the Easter Vigil Mass, I encourage you to give him or her a copy of this book to read before they take that step. It will open their hearts and minds even more to the great mysteries and blessings of the Eucharist and will make their hunger for that union with Christ which can only be experienced in the Eucharist even more intense. I can't think of a better gift than that!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One week into Lent

We are one week into Lent. How are you doing on your Lenten promises? I'm struggling a bit with one of mine, but mostly doing okay.

My reading was going great at the beginning. I actually have finished one book already, I just haven't had a chance to write up a review/summary of it. Look for that to come soon (I hope!). I have my second book ready to go, but haven't started it yet. It's been a very busy week!!

I have successfully stayed away from all Facebook games since Lent started. Even though my husband finally managed to beat my high score in one of them, I have not played! It's hard at times, but I'm working through it.

Finally, the no snacking on Fridays was a bit difficult last week. I made it all day until later that night long after dinner. I ended up having one brownie. They had been there all week and there were only two left ... calling my name! So that was unsuccessful, but hopefully we'll do better this Friday. Maybe I'll just go to bed earlier!

A review of my first Lenten read will be coming soon! Snow today has cancelled Bible Study for tonight, so maybe I'll have a chance to write that review. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent is here!!

Your time has run out! Lent is here! What are you doing this year for Lent?

Are you giving something up that you will spend the next 40 days craving?? Do you think depriving yourself of something you really want is going to help your relationship with Christ grow?

Are you giving something up like a bad habit (smoking) or something you know you need to do less of (playing games, watching TV)? Will doing this make you a grumpy person? Will you go back to that habit or thing when Lent is over? Will this help you grow closer to the Holy Trinity?

Are you trying to add a spiritual exercise into your day that you do not currently do? Will doing so make you more stressed out because you have to find the time or will it bring some quiet time into your daily life? Will you fret over it if you forget one day? Will doing this bring you closer to God or just become something to check off your to-do list?

Whatever any of us does for Lent, the real question is, will it lead to improving or intensifying our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ? At this point you've probably already decided what it is you're giving up or doing different. Now think about whether or not it will be an aid for improving your relationship with Jesus.

I've been struggling with this the last week or so. I've done all sorts of things in the past. Gave up TV one year (which really was great!), gave up chocolate another year (which did make me anxious about Easter, but was a worthy sacrifice), and last year I said a Divine Mercy Chaplet every day (well, most days, weekends were hardest, during the week it was on my calendar at work so it was hard to forget). But this year, I really want to do something that will help me grow spiritually.

Two things occurred to me. First, I could read a designated section or two of the Catechism. Second, I could compile a list of books to read between now and Easter and actually read them.

Both have their pluses. But also minuses!

The biggest minus: will I be simply trying to read these things just to get through them and not really benefiting from them at all? Will it become a chore?

I didn't want whatever I did to become a chore. I want to actually benefit from this. That's the whole point of Lent, right? We appreciate the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter time so much more when we learn what a sacrifice is during the penitential season of Lent. Otherwise, Easter is just another holiday. And we all know that is absolutely NOT true. Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate as Christians!!

So my decision this Lent was to do three things. First, I am giving up playing games on Facebook. That sounds kind of silly, but I do waste a lot of time doing that. I know I will benefit from not playing those games (not that they're "bad" games, just time wasters) and I will be a more productive person and will have more time for more important things. Second I am going to refrain from any snacking on Fridays. I'll eat three normal, meat-free meals, but no snacks on those days.

Third and finally, I will be reading six books, all spiritual reading in some fashion, during the six weeks of Lent. And, to be sure that I actually get something out of these books and I'm not just reading them to get through them, I will be posting on my blog about each one as I finish it. Hopefully this will help keep me somewhat accountable.

Here is my list of Lenten books to read:
  1. 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. I bought this one this summer when Chris and I were in Stockbridge, MA at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. I started this on Monday and I'm already enjoying it!! Stay tuned for a review soon.
  2. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. I've started this book a few times and for whatever reason, have never gotten very far. I always end up putting it down at some point and not picking it up again. This is a book that I know needs more focused time. Chris read it a while back and told me I had to read it. So I'm finally going to.
  3. Saved in Hope / Spe Salvi encyclical letter of Benedict XVI. This was Benedict's second encyclical, issued, I believe, in 2007. Haven't read it at all, but I have a hard copy and I'm finally going to get to it.
  4. Charity in Truth / Caritas in Veritate encyclical letter of Benedict XVI. This was his third encyclical letter, issued only last year. I don't think he's issued one since, so once I finish this one (and the one above) I should be caught up in reading all of his encyclicals since he became Pope.
  5. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen. I first heard about this book, and this author, this past summer. So many people mentioned him and mentioned how great this book was, and others, that I finally went out and got it. Hopefully, I'll also be able to read it this Lent.
  6. The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa lived in the 16th century, was a nun, and a great mystic. She is now also a doctor of the church. This book is about prayer. Very much looking forward to delving into this.

So that's my list and probably the order I will read them in as well. It's a big undertaking, but I feel up to the task. And if I don't finish them all, that's okay. I am going to let God be my guide and if I need to take more time with any one particular book, so be it.

I am looking forward to this Lent. How about you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Second Book of 2010 Complete

I just finished an excellent book called The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand. This was my first time reading something by Mrs. von Hildebrand, though I've wanted to for ages and ages. When I first heard of her I was exploring the Catholic Church, was semi-back, but still trying to figure some things out. I considered myself a feminist and started looking for Catholics who shared my views. She was one of the authors I put on a list to check out. But I never really had the time, which I now see was probably a good thing.

I think if I had read this book back then I would not have appreciated it like I did reading it now. But maybe that's not totally true, it's possible it would have opened my eyes to the beauty of real femininity much earlier than it actually took.

This book is of a more scholarly nature than many of the spiritual books I tend to read. So this was a good fit for me, since I've always enjoyed a good scholarly argument. Just a warning to anyone out there who might want to read it, this is not light reading.

It took me a while to get into the book, but I don't blame that on the author, I blame it on myself. I read most of this book during my early morning adoration hour, thus giving it only about 20-30 minutes once a week. Not a great way to approach this book, small chunks didn't cut it.

You need time with this book. Time to really let it speak to you; time to really mull over the ideas; time to read the end notes and look up the Biblical passages she references (not that I did, but I should have); and time to reflect on what being a woman really means to you (or, for any men reading this, what you learn about the women in your life).

Mrs. von Hildebrand approaches this topic by first tackling the feminist view of women throughout history. Namely, that women have been denigrated and made to be the "weak" sex. But is this really true? As she says, "To plead their cause, feminist scholars have been efficient at unearthing nasty things that men have said or written about women" (p. 3). That's how you make your case, you pull out the things that support your argument and leave out the rest. Right? No, that's poor scholarship. She goes on to say, "Yet feminists carefully refrain from mentioning the beautiful statements that men have made throughout history such as ... Theodor Haecker claims that nature made woman more perfect than man because she is more inclined to love and to give herself" (p. 5-6). She also quotes the Bible, Chesterton, Dante, Kierkegaard, and others.

From this starting point of the feminist viewpoint, she moves into the realm of the supernatural and paganism. Very slowly throughout her discussion, she starts introducing the idea of woman as the life-bearer. It wasn't very obvious to me at first, it seemed to be subtle and grew as the book moved on. Especially as she moves from the realm of paganism into the spiritual and Christian world. Another passage I especially liked was this:
One this is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man-made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. but every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God's image and likeness. In this light, the assertion of de Beauvoir that "women produce nothing" becomes particularly ludicrous. (p. 33)

Weakness is the next topic of discussion. She makes a very clear case for the idea of women being part of the "weak" sex as completely false. Talking about women as the "privileged" sex, she delves more deeply into Christian thought. But also, the "mystery" of womanhood. By the time I got to this part of the book, I wanted my husband to read it!! I already shared this Chesterton quote with him: "'Women speak to each other; men speak to the subject they are speaking about'" (p. 47).

I found the last several chapters of the book particularly good. Completely in the Christian world at this point the link between the high regard women hold in the Catholic Church because of the very nature of our beings is made very clear. She does this with an exploration of what feminine "feelings" really are and the mystery of the female body. This second part reminded me very much of Theology of the Body discussions, but in a completely new and incredible way. Speaking about God becoming man (the Incarnation) in Mary's womb she says, "That this event was wrapped in a deafening silence ... is profoundly meaningful. The world was forever changed, and no one knew about it except a humble Virgin. Secular events take place with a bang; God's mysteries are secret and hidden. This is why it was proper that this overwhelming event was buried in holy silence" (p. 83).

I found that last concept particularly profound: "holy silence". Have you ever thought about those nine months when Jesus was in Mary's womb? How she knew that she carried a very special gift, and no one else knew it (Joseph eventually did, but at first it was just her). How incredible! I can't even imagine!

Another great, thought-provoking statement: "During pregnancy, the mother-to-be actually carries two souls within herself: her own and the one of her baby" (p. 87).

This Theology of the Body type discussion leads seamlessly right into the final chapter about Mary. Mary is powerful in our world and a model for all women. Her fiat changed the world. As a result she holds a special place with God. She's the Queen Mother, the Mother of all the people of the Earth, the Mother of God. She holds such a high place that the Church recognizes her and her special role in a prayer said every day, millions of times, throughout the world. In this prayer we say "Blessed is the fruit of thy Womb, Jesus."

Does that Roman Catholic Church look down on women as the "weak" sex. No, absolutely not. I knew that before I started reading this book. This book confirmed that for me a hundred fold. I highly recommend checking it out. It is full of so many wonderful images and words, quotes from famous people, and an overall thesis, argument, and conclusion that is hard to beat! All packed into just over a hundred pages.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things I've heard Recently

This past week I had the pleasure of hearing two great one-liners. It never ceases to amaze me that I never hear just one cool thing, it's always more than one. Maybe it's because I hear something interesting and it makes me more aware of what others around me are saying. Suddenly I hear great lines from all over the place! Great one-liners are meant to be shared, so here they are.

Last Monday I was at an event called Theology on Tap. It's a discussion geared toward Catholic young adults (though anyone is welcome) and held in a local bar one night a week for several weeks (about 6 usually). So the speaker last Monday was talking about conversion, specifically his story of conversion to the Catholic Church. At one point he was talking about the typical stumbling blocks for non-Catholic Christians who have an interest in learning more about the Church. He mentioned Mary, but he didn't feel that this was a stumbling block for him; he mentioned the Eucharist, but again didn't feel that this was a stumbling block for him; and he mentioned the authority of the Pope, which again he felt he came around to accepting that part of the Church fairly quickly. That's when he said this great one-liner:

"You can't have unity without authority."

I never thought about it like that before!! It was such a simple way of putting it. And it's so true. Christ left us ONE Church. He did not want 30 million churches (or however many it is) independent from each other. He did not want disagreements in beliefs to cause people to break away from a church they disagreed with in order to start a new church. Christ said to Peter: "upon this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18-19). The "rock" was Peter (whose Aramaic name means rock), our first Pope, and the apostles were our first Bishops, who passed the Word of God on to those who followed them and so on down the line to today. In order for us to remain one Church we need that authority, someone in charge, someone to make the hard decisions, and that someone is the Pope and our Bishops.

We need Authority in order to be "ONE, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" (notice "catholic" is lower-case, meaning "universal" here). Such a nice succinct way of putting it: "you can't have unity without authority."

The second great one-liner of the week was something I heard on the radio. We were in the car going somewhere and listening to Catholic Answers Live, a nationally syndicated program from EWTN. Someone called in to ask a question about Eucharistic miracles. I don't remember the question so much but I remember one part of the answer:

"Eucharistic miracles are like the whipped cream on top of the faith."

Catholics should get that! Don't get it? Keep reading, I'll explain.

Catholics believe that during the consecration of the bread and wine during the Mass the substances of bread and wine do in fact become the body and blood of Christ. They are not mere symbols (as some Christians believe) nor are they still just bread and wine until you consume them (as some other Christians believe). In the Catholic Church they become the actual body and blood of Christ on the altar and remain that way. As a result, we treat it very carefully and we save any extras in a tabernacle to be used at a later time. This is the sacred body and blood of Christ himself.

Now you may ask, where does this belief some from?? That's easy! My favorite section of the Bible!! John chapter 6, the Bread of Life Discourse. In particular I point you to John 6:22-35. Here Jesus tells his followers that they must partake of the Bread of Life to have eternal life. Eternal life!! Wow, they say, how can we get some of this! And Jesus says, "I am the bread of life." Jesus explains this further in vs. 36-40. Then in vs. 41 the Jews grumble about this. If Jesus did not intend for them to actualy partake in Him as the Bread of Life, he had a chance here to explain that he was speaking symbolically. But he does not, so He explains it all again (John 6:43-51). Again the Jews quarrel about this, it is just too hard to understand! He can't possibly be talking about actually eating His body, can he? So Jesus explains once more in John 6:53-58, and He doesn't change His story. Finally, His disciples say to him, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" (John 6:60). I love how Jesus then says to them in vs. 61, "Does this shock you?" Yes, I'm sure it did, as it still shocks people today! He explains again in the following verses and He still does not change His story, He is not speaking symbolically. Finally, in John 6:66 we read, "As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."

Wow!! It was such a hard concept that many disciples left him! They just couldn't follow that teaching. Now, if Jesus was actually speaking symbolically, I think he had several opportunities to explain himself, three according to my count, and he could have called those disciples that left Him back. But He did not. He intended for the bread and wine to indeed become His body and blood and for us to partake of His body and blood. How amazing that we have that in the Catholic Church!!

So there have been lots of Eucharistic miracles throughout the ages. I've heard stories of priests who started doubting that what they held in their hands was the Body of Christ only to have it turn into actual flesh. I've heard stories of consecrated hosts bleeding, several of those have been scientifically studied and proven to be human blood. The amazing thing about those miracles is that, for those that have been tested, they are always the same blood type and one that is very common among the people of the Middle East. (I forget what it is.) There are lots and lots of these miracles on record. I find it hard to not believe in the True Presence in the Eucharist when I read these stories.

Getting to the one-liner I heard: "Eucharistic miracles are like the whipped cream on top of the faith." This is such a great way of saying that belief in those miracles is fine, but the real miracle is the one Jesus gave us in the Eucharist. This is like icing on the cake, or whipped cream on a sundae. It's already good, great even, this is just a little something extra.

Two very cool one-liners about the Catholic faith this past week. I hope you enjoy them too. I'm going to keep my ears tuned for more great one-liners I can share.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lenten experiences and more

A friend of mine is giving a talk about Lent to her church's RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) group. So to prepare she decided to ask others a few questions and get their thoughts about Lent and then share them with the RCIA group. (RCIA, by the way, is the program you go through if you are becoming Catholic, or even coming back to the Church after a long hiatus and want to brush up on the Church's teachings.)

For those who don't know, Lent is a forty day penitential season in the Church year when members of Christ's Church here on earth make a sacrifice of some kind or add some sort of spiritual practice to our day that we do not normally do; in addition Catholics and Orthodox Christians also abstain from meat every Friday. During this time of year, you'll find Catholic and Orthodox churches offering more frequent times for receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are Lenten Missions, and often the Praying of the Stations of the Cross every Friday. The basis for this practice in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is the Temptation in the Desert (Mt 4:1-2, Mk 1:12-13, and Lk 4:1-2). Lent starts this coming Wednesday, Feb. 17. We'll fast that day (two small meals, one regular size meal, only water, no snacks) and we'll go to Mass and receive ashes on our foreheads as a reminder that we came from ashes and will return to ashes. It's quite moving to be reminded of your mortal nature and dependence on God at this time every year! And from there, Lent starts and lasts until Holy Week (more on Holy Week at a later time!).

So now on to the discussion of my friend's questions about Lent:

1. Do you have a memorable Lenten experience?
I don't know that I could say that any Lent has ever been particularly memorable. I do remember things I've given up and how that was during that time. One that came to mind was the year I gave up TV. I allowed myself only a half hour a day that had to be news/weather and nothing else. I don't think I even watched any DVD movies either. The best part was that by not watching TV I had more time to read and I made sure to read spiritually based books (trash novels didn't seem appropriate). Once Lent was over, I continued not watching much TV for several months. It was really great!! Unfortunately, that is no longer the case!

2. What does Lent mean to you?
As a kid it was kind of a drudgery, as I got a little older it was mostly just a way to remind myself of my new year's resolutions (seemed a good time for it). Now, as an adult, having come back to the faith, it means a lot more, not even sure I can put it into words. I love the idea of sacrifice, and I know that nothing I could ever sacrifice can come close to Christ's sacrifice for us, which just makes the idea of giving up chocolate or TV or whatever seem so small. I also love that during the Mass we do not sing the Gloria and then when we get to Easter we have such an incredibly joyous Mass, with the Gloria and everything!! I also have a huge appreciation for Holy Week. I try to go to everything during Holy Week (Tenebre, which is done at the Cathedral, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday), it is the church at her best!

3. Why do you Love Lent?
I think I might have answered that above. But I can add that I love how the church seems to come together more. More people are at Daily Mass, there is always a Lenten Mission, Stations of the Cross every Friday, and people always make the time to come to reconciliation during Lent. It's like a family holiday where the whole church family finally shows up. That's really awesome!

4. How does Lent prepare you for Easter?
For me the highly penitential nature of Lent makes Easter so incredibly joyous! Also, by making some sort of regular sacrifice or adding some form of regular prayer to my day that I don't normally do, I think my mind is more focused and I'm more aware of Christ's presence by the time we get to Easter.

As for this year's sacrifice, I haven't yet decided. Only a few days to go, though!! Last year I added in saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day. That was a challenge on weekends, but pretty easy during the week day (I scheduled it on my calendar!). I think the year before that I gave up chocolate. This year I would like to do something that adds to my spiritual growth. I'm considering reading a specified section or two (or three??) of the Catechism, or maybe reading one spiritual book a week, which would be hard since it seems to take me weeks and weeks to read just one these days! Hopefully I'll decide soon.

I wish everyone a Lent full of thoughtful growth in your spiritual lives and sacrifices that make a difference in your understanding of God's gifts to you. What a wonderful gift Lent is as a preparation for the joyfulness of Easter when we celebrate the Resurrection! May Lent be good to you this year!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

KY Pro-Life Bill

For those readers who live in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there is a very important Bill that needs our support. Senate Bill 38 has been voted on and passed in our state Senate. It is currently sitting in committee in the House. It has passed the Senate in previous years but never makes it to a vote in the House. Let's urge our representatives to bring it to a vote this year!

Senate Bill 38 is also referred to as the Ultrasound Bill. Currently in KY, abortionists do have to inform a woman about the procedure, but can get away with pre-recorded messages or a simple phone call. In many of these cases, the woman doesn't have the ability to ask questions. This Bill would require an abortion doctor to actually be face-to-face with her and to show her an ultrasound of her preborn child. She doesn't have to view it, but the option has to be there. It has been shown in many states with similar laws that when women see the ultrasound they often choose not to have the abortion because they recognize that they are carrying a human person and not just a bundle of cells (which is what they are often told). Passage of this bill could potentially save many, many lives of preborn children in Kentucky.

Even those who call themselves Pro-Choice should support Senate Bill 38. If a woman is going to make a fully formed decision, she needs all the information in front of her, and no lies. This Bill would force abortionists to do just that. If those who are Pro-Choice do indeed believe that abortion should be rare, then legislation such as this is important for us ALL to support.

Even President Obama has said he is open to seeking common ground on the abortion issue. This would be one step in that direction.

How can you support?? It's easy! You can call the KY Legislature at 800-372-7181 and leave a message for your representatives to support Senate Bill 38. You don't even need to know who your particular representative is, they will take care of that.

Or, if you prefer not to use the phone like me, you can do what I did! Go to this website: Find Your Legislator and click the link to the KY State Board of Elections Voter Information Center. Once there type in the info it asks for and it will tell you what your district number is. Once you have that you can go to the Kentucky Legislature page and click on "Members by District" under House of Representatives. You can then find your District number and see who your representative is and email him or her directly. I actually emailed both my representative and my senator. My senator emailed me back within the hour and informed me that he had voted yes on this already.

Please support Senate Bill 38!! It's time to make sure that women understand that when they choose an abortion they are choosing to end a life. Contact your KY state representative today!

Resolutions One Month Later

One month into the new year and I'm making progress on at least one of my resolutions. Here's the update:

1. More regular blog posting: I can see from my blog archive that I had 6 posts in January. That's an average of more than one a week. So that's an improvement! It's only February, so still plenty of time to work on this resolution.

2. Daily Rosary: So far so good!! This is such a great accomplishment for us. We haven't missed a day since January 1st. The best part about it, is that for at least 20 minutes or so each night, we sit on the couch together and spend some time in prayer. No more how hectic our day is, those 20+ minutes have become sacred to me. I love leaning up against my sweet hubby and praying the Rosary together. Not only that, but we accomplished a novena and I've finally learned the St. Michael the Archangel prayer!

3. Read more: This is such a challenge for me. I've been concentrating this past month on just trying to read the Sunday paper and the magazines we get. I did read a quick fiction book the first few days of January and I have started a second (non-fiction) book, but that's about it. Keeping up with the magazines that come into my house is pretty hard at times, but that stack is slowly dwindling, at least for now!!

4. Healthier Lifestyle: This is the perpetual resolution. This year I have the added pressure of a family weight loss challenge, and there is $20 at stake!! But, I still only made it to the gym twice this past month (February is getting off to a much better start, already have two sessions in at the gym!), though we did take a walk one day when the weather was nice (amazing for January). In the food department I am starting to do better. I'm watching portions better, not eating sweets as much, and getting as much water and as many vegetables and some fruits in every day. The weight loss challenge started Nov. 30, but whatever weight I lost between then and Christmas I gained back by the time 2010 started, so I was pretty much back at square one. As far as I can tell I'm down about 3.5 lbs. Not great, but it's a start. 2 more lbs. and I'll be back to where I was before my last pregnancy, ten more after that to get back to where I was before the first pregnancy, and another ten to get to my wedding weight. It is doable, probably not between now and May, but a lot can happen between now and May as well, including a pregnancy!! Any prayers for that will be greatly appreciated!!

I hope I'll have good things to report on all fronts by the start of March.