Today is Beautiful

26 Aug

The mother of one of my friends is on her deathbed.  Another one of my friends is in the hospital giving birth to her first daughter.  As I knelt at Mass this afternoon, I thought of the juxtaposition of the emotions present in that one same hour.  The sorrow and joy, the dread and excitement.  The pain, the unknown, the expectation, and the fear.  The resignation, the embrace, the beauty, and the love.

Birth and death. Perhaps they aren’t too dissimilar.

The moments of grace when the Lord is present, ready to comfort, to heal, to bless, to invite us into a deeper relationship with him — these moments are with us every day.  Every day people are born, and every day people die.

It’s ordinary time… that God touches with extraordinary grace.

 

Bourbon Retreat

20 Aug

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It all started with five of us talking after our Derby party, sipping mint juleps and dreaming big.  Let’s go to Paris.  To Rome.

How about the Bourbon Trail?

The details came together easily, and before we knew it, we were headed up I-65 to Louisville, KY on a Friday morning, ready to make memories.

I won’t bore you with all the details, the inside jokes, the quotes and stories that only the five of us will ever think are funny.  I will tell you that it was one of the best (and most affordable) mini adventures I’ve ever had.

Our time in Louisville included wandering around Louisville Slugger Field even though it was closed and we weren’t supposed to be inside and our first distillery stop (the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience).

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At the gift shop, the woman working saw that we were Catholic (my Miraculous Medal) and told us about the “prettiest church in Louisville,” which just happened to have perpetual adoration, confession for first Friday, and the full skeletons of two Roman martyrs.  Not bad for an unexpected side trip.  Did I mention her kids went to Christendom?  #smallCatholicworld

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Bourbon and Jesus.  It was the theme of the weekend.

Yes, we were on a Bourbon Retreat.  Every day included bourbon, Jesus, and plenty of unexpected gifts.  He made it pretty clear from the very beginning that He had hilarious things in store for us:

IMG_8908We just needed to be open to the Spirit.  It was Pentecost weekend, after all.  So there was a lot of quoting Acts 2:15.

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That night we stayed in a funny apartment (bed and breakfast… minus the breakfast) which was full of character but not so full of air-conditioning.

IMG_8435Aways a bad sign when your candles are melting without being lit.  Oh well… it gave us something to laugh about now.  “Remember when Mario slept on the kitchen floor in front of the window a/c unit?”

Saturday we got an early start, and after Mass (remember — Jesus and bourbon) we headed to Jim Beam.

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Then Heaven Hill,

2014-06-07 13.58.06and Maker’s Mark.

IMG_8555We were quickly becoming experts on the distilling process, so we weren’t too keen on our Maker’s Mark tour guide, who treated us like frat boys.  But again, at least it gave us something to laugh about now.

After Maker’s, (where the lady who ran the “dip your own bottle in red wax” station redeemed the place for us by being awesome) we headed to Gethsemani for Evening Prayer and a holy hour.  Gethsemani is a Trappist Monastery, probably best known for being the home of Thomas Merton.  (remember, this ain’t no normal Bourbon Trail weekend.  This is a bourbon retreat.)

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We headed to Bardstown to satisfy our very rumbly tummys, and ate at Talbott Tavern, which dates from the 1700s and has seen the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, and Jesse James.  I embraced the Kentucky experience with burgoo and a hot brown, washing it down with an Old Fashioned.  It was there I began to worry about myself… after sipping the drink (and I’m usually a cocktail girl), I thought, “Why did they put all this stuff in my bourbon?”

There’s no going back now.  My palate has acquired a taste.

We headed to Frankfort, where we welcomed the air conditioned hotel with open arms.  The next morning, we went to Mass, had a holy hour (remember… bourbon retreat…) and then hit the road.  We had four more distilleries if we were going to complete our Bourbon Trail passports and get our free t-shirt. We had started the weekend with, “Well, if it happens, that’s nice…” but now it was no laughing matter.  We were going to do this.

Wild Turkey opened first, so they were our first stop.

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Then it was off to Four Roses

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and Woodford Reserve.

IMG_8581Then we booked it to Lexington, where the last stop was Town Branch, a new distillery that also brews beer. We missed the beer part of the tour, but made it in time for the distillery part.  Oh, and the tasting.

2014-06-08 17.05.38Whew.  Two and a half days. Eight distilleries.

That’s a lot of bourbon.  Well, not really.  Not as much as what fills this:

IMG_9006We celebrated with dinner at The Village Idiot and congratulated ourselves on one heck of a weekend.

I’d highly recommend making the trip, even if you don’t do all eight on the “trail.”  In fact, I’d love to go back and hit some of the ones we skipped — Buffalo Trace and a few of the smaller distilleries.  There are so many, we had to draw the line somewhere — so we stuck to the ones in the passport.

I thought that eight would be a bit much — that the tours would be repetitive, that I would get bored, that I would want to stop after Saturday.  But each tour was unique and emphasized something different.  There were steps we didn’t see at every tour, there were elements to the process that were explained differently, and in the end, all eight complemented each other well.

Favorite tour: Heaven Hill

Most Disney-like tour: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Most surprising: Wild Turkey

Most beautiful grounds: Woodford Reserve

Best “branding” (for good or ill): Maker’s Mark

We learned how to smell with our mouths open, we now know the legal requirements for bourbon to be bourbon, and we’ve acquired a taste for the magic that happens when corn and sweet Kentucky water meet charred oak barrels in a hot Kentucky summer.

Good times.

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(Thanks to Mario and Ian for several of these pictures!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Conferences and a Home Visit

6 Aug

Every once and awhile over the past two months I would plan to blog.  Then I would stare at the computer screen and the date of the last post, glance at all the photos in iPhoto from the past two months, stare some more, then get completely overwhelmed and close WordPress.

Let’s just say this has been an incredible summer.  I think it’s the fastest summer to date – I can’t believe it’s already August – but it has also been one of the most fun summers to date.

Part of the reason the summer went so fast (besides my packed social calendar) is that I was out of town for large chunks of it.  I spent two wonderful weeks in theology-land, attending two conferences at Franciscan University, with a home visit sandwiched between the two.  Have I mentioned that I put 3,500 miles on my car this summer?  yeah.

The first conference was the Bosco Conference, a catechetical conference that is full of practical workshops, great people, and beautiful times for prayer.  I was able to stay with my dear friend Amy (so there was a lot of sleep lost over late-night conversations), catch up with a few friends from the catechetical world, drink in the wealth of knowledge that is Dr. Petroc Willey, and spend time with Sefanit (for those of you truly veteran blog-readers, you’ll recognize that name from Rome!).

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The Portiuncula Chapel is my favorite place in Steubenville.  Okay, in all of Ohio.

This trip came at the perfect time — I needed the time to be with Jesus.  Attend a few talks, go to Mass, sit in the chapel, eat.  repeat.

I skipped a workshop one afternoon to head into Pittsburgh and meet up with my friend Mike Aquilina and his daughter Mary Agnes.  He gives a great tour of the saints of Pittsburgh.  St. John Neumann, Bl Francis Seelos, St. John Paul II, Bl Mother Frances Siedliska… it’s quite impressive.  Mike knows so much about the history of the Church in that area, I could have listened to him all day.

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After the conference was over, I headed home — but met up with my sister and her family on their way through Ohio.  We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, drove to visit my great aunt in Columbus, and then finished the trip to Indiana.  It was such a wonderful time home– the kids are all at really fun ages, and it was fun to have them all together.  It was a very quick trip home for me — just two days — but with my brother’s family down from Chicago, all of us were together except Sr. Mary Grace, and we managed a lot of fun in just two days.

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(See her blog for plenty of great pictures.)

Then it was back to Franciscan for me, for the Applied Biblical Studies conference.  I was blessed to be able to teach with the St. Paul Center before the conference kicked off.  Two hundred people came for the Journey Through Scripture bible study, and I found myself teaching alongside incredible presenters like Michael Barber, Matt Leonard, and David Currie.  Oh, and this woman named Kimberly Hahn.

It was wonderful to be back with the St. Paul Center, to see their new offices, to hear about the new plans for the DVD series (you have to see this), and just talk with Scott and Kimberly and the gang.

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The conference was incredible, as always.  More time with Jesus in the Portiuncula, more incredible and inspiring talks from the best biblical teachers in the country. But you know what was the best?  There I was, with Dr. Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Michael Barber, John Bergsma… and you know where I learned the most?

At the holy hour.  I was sitting behind the Hahns, next to Mike Aquilina and Matt Leonard and all the rest.  And we prayed together.  WE PRAYED TOGETHER.  As I knelt there, the lights dim and the gym floor hard, Father processed around with Jesus in the monstrance, I worshipped the Word of God with giants in the Church.  I was kneeling with these incredible scholars, these beautiful writers, these celebrities…and they were in love, in adoration, in worship.

These men learned a lot from books.  But they learned more on their knees.

And I wept with joy.

Because I just learned how to embed tweets…

23 Jul

So this is what I’m up to these days.

 

 
Actually, I just finished a few moments ago. Now it’s time to sit back and take in the awesomeness that is Dr. Hahn, Dr. Brant Pitre, Mike Aquilina, Dr. John Bergsma, Matt Leonard… The biggest dilemma will be… how does one narrow down things when it comes to choosing workshops?

More updates to come. I promise.

After these messages…

18 Jul

I promise I’m coming back.  Honestly.  I just finished a wonderful week at Franciscan University for a conference, I’m enjoying a rare weekend home with almost the entire family, and I’m about to head back to Franciscan to be on the team of presenters for another conference.

This weekend also sees the close of Father Kevin’s Indiegogo campaign.  As the campaign wraps up, we’re $2,000 short of our goal. I’m thrilled we’ve come so far, especially in the past week.  But I don’t want to give Indiegogo the 9% we have to give them if we don’t make our goal, so please consider heading over to Father’s page and possibly giving $10 towards his album.

As a special perk, for every $10 given, you receive an entry into a raffle to receive the beautiful handwritten icon of the Madonna of the Rosary by Britta Prinzivalli.  A handwritten icon … we’re not talking about a nice copy of an icon, like you’d pick up at your local religious bookstore.  We’re talking a handwritten icon.  It’s valued at $500, and you have a chance to win it for a $10 donation to Father.  Spread the word!  (you can see the icon here and you can find out more about Britta here.)

Okay, over and out.  I promise I’ll be back soon.

Still here – just blogging over there-

25 Jun

This blog generally gets neglected for one of two reasons: 1) there’s nothing going on to blog about or 2) there’s so much going on I don’t have time to blog.

My absence is due to the latter this time… between Bourbon Trailing, party hosting, wedding attending, and hanging out with my nieces, it’s been a busy month.

Posts to come.  Until then, check out my interview with Father Kevin McGoldrick, who is in the middle of recording his first album.  (Have you seen his Indiegogo campaign yet?  Please consider helping him out!)

If you’re wondering why a Catholic priest is recording an album, read on:

 

WHY RECORD AN ALBUM: MUSIC, BEAUTY, & LANGUAGE OF HUMANITY

Father Kevin has been busy in the studio all week, but before he headed in, I had the chance to sit down with him and figure out just why he’s doing this.

Team KMcG: Okay, Father. So the first thing that might come to people’s minds is — why? Why are you taking time out of your summer to record your own album?

Father Kevin: So, for years I’ve been playing and writing … read on here.

 

Help a great guy & get good music.

16 Jun

My grandfather used to observe that even a blind pig stumbles upon an acorn every once and awhile.  That’s come to my mind before when a post on this blog has gone viral.  The readership on this blog is not extraordinarily large, which I don’t mind, but every once and awhile a post will get linked or reposted and I’ll see my stats soar for the day.  It’s not usually a post I think will go viral – it just happens. The blind pig stumbling upon an acorn.

If there was ever a post that I wanted to go viral, it would be this one.

I’ve been extraordinarily blessed by God through the people whom He has put in my life.  Let’s just say that this blind pig has stumbled upon some acorns, to continue our theme, and I know for a fact that those acorns have been placed there by God.  He has particularly placed several great priests in my life.  I think it is so that I can pray for them, for their perseverance, strength, and protection, and so my life can be touched by the extraordinary amounts of grace that come from a holy friendship.  One dear friend in particular always seems to email me to tell me he prayed for me or offered Mass for me right when I need to hear that the most.

I’m used to helping priests in various ways — teach RCIA here, proof an article there, give a homily tip, say a prayer, speak words of encouragement.  I’ve never helped a priest with a crowd-funding campaign so that he can record his first album…

Until now.

I’m so thankful that God has brought Father Kevin McGoldrick to Nashville.  He’s is a beautiful homilist, a humble worker for the Lord, and a holy priest. He’s one of those people you just like to be around — the kind of friend that isn’t the showy life of the party but makes every party more fun just by his presence.

And he’s a talented singer-songwriter.

What I love about Father’s music is that it is beautifully authentic — he doesn’t necessary sing about Jesus all the time, but you can tell his music is the fruit of the Christian life.  He’s singing about life — whether it’s coffee, Nashville, or men and women … it’s true and beautiful and good.   His genre is hard to classify, which I also like.  Around here, we call it singer-songwriter, but it’s hard outside of Nashville to really explain that.  His inspiration comes all over the map, and as a result, his songs aren’t cookie-cutter or expected.

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His campaign to fund his first album launched on Saturday, and I’d like to invite you to be a part of it.

Like with other crowd-funding efforts, there are fun things in store for those of you who are able to help Father.  If anything, give ten bucks and get his music when this is all finished.  You’ll want his music — so you might as well give the $10 to him instead of waiting and giving it to iTunes, right?

If you can’t give financially at this time, send up a few prayers for Father and for this effort.  As my friend Jimmy Mitchell always says, it’s time to take back the culture – and we’ll do it one song at a time, if we have to.

It’s exciting to be a small part of this little adventure. I’ll keep you all posted… and please spread the word.  35 days to fund an album for one of the coolest priests I’ll ever meet.  Ready, set, go!

 

True Love Conquers All

5 Jun

Or, “My thoughts on a movie I haven’t seen”

Circa the early 80s, if you walked into the Watson household early in the morning, you likely found me in one place: the brown la-z-boy rocking chair in the corner of the family room, eating a pudding pop, watching either the Disney Valentine Special (featuring Pluto and the classic Johnnie Fedora) or Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty.  Does it get any better?

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It really doesn’t.  Just artistically, it is a movie that we will never see the likes of ever again. I love everything about it- from the trumpets and the incredible opening scene with the kingdom coming to see their new princess, to the musical score, to the most dashing Prince ever to grace a Disney movie, to a great drinking song and a drunk minstrel, to the greatest villain Disney has ever created.

The greatest villain.  Why?  Because she is evil.

She is not a stepmother who is annoyed by or jealous of her stepdaughter.  She is not a rich woman who likes to wear fur coats, a pirate out for revenge, or a jealous town brute who wants to marry the town bookworm.

She is pure evil.

She is the exact opposite of Goodness, literally the “evil-doer” (male facere).  In the movie, she refers to herself as “The Mistress of All Evil.”

Needless to say, when I saw the first trailer for the movie Maleficent, I was angry.  Not only was Disney going to re-write their greatest story, they were going to strip it of its Christian allegory.

No longer did we have evil. We had a misunderstood female.

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I was expressing my disgust over the movie on Friday (again, with all honestly, I haven’t seen the movie and I probably never will), and one of my friends asked me why I was so mad.  I told him that we didn’t need a back story to try to explain why Maleficent was evil.  She was evil.  There are good guys and bad guys in fairy tales.  And she is the bad guy.  She is the devil.

He decided to play devil’s advocate.  “Joan, not even the Devil was always bad.”

True enough.  Okay, fine.  So we have an explanation in Scripture of the battle in heaven and the fall of the angels. But why? To justify it or explain it away?  No – not so that we have empathy for the Devil, but to warn us not to commit the oldest sin in the Book,  and so that we will be aware of the battle for our souls.

One of my friends saw the movie and loved it.  So this blog post is not to criticize her or her views.  I’m sure there are some great things about the film, and I’m sure Angelina Jolie is superb.  My friend was pleased that the movie was not a glorification of evil, and she saw it as a movie about redemption.

But from what I can tell, the movie only redeems Maleficent (which I argue should never really be done) by transferring the evil to someone else…

Bilge Ebiri points out, “[Stromberg and Woolverton are] a bit too enamored of their revisionism, and they don’t quite know what to do with the rest of the tale. …  In robbing Maleficent of her cruelty, the film doesn’t really reject the notion of evil — it merely transfers it to King Stefan.”

Gone are the Christian allegories that Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was laden with, and in their place we have a testament against patriarchy.  Sigh.  How banal.  Isn’t that passé yet?

Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty is Catholic — after all, it is the 14th century, as Philip reminds us.  Gothic architecture, standards, the monarchy.  The artistic inspiration for the movie was a 15th century Book of Hours — yes, a prayer book.

You even have a fairy practically quoting St. Paul.  As Philip heads out to destroy the powers of evil, Flora tells him to “arm thyself” with the shield of virtue and mighty sword of truth, “for these weapons of righteousness will triumph over evil!”  (Ephesians 6, anyone?)  And even when Maleficent takes away Philip’s shield of virtue, however you want to interpret that, he is still equipped with truth and love, so that after he battles through thorns (the Fall? the Passion?) he then defeats Maleficent and all the powers of hell.

Yes, she says that.  All the powers of hell.  Need to re-watch it?

“Sword of truth, fly swift and sure!  That evil die and good endure!”

That’s the story of Sleeping Beauty.  That there is good and evil in this world, and in the end, good wins.  As G.K. Chesterton famously said, “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

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In the end, “true love conquers all.” That’s not a cliche, no matter how many spoofs we make about it.

It’s the Cross.

It’s the love of the three good fairies, who live as mortals for 16 years to protect Aurora and who risk going to the “forbidden mountain” to get Prince Philip.  “We can’t go there!”  “We must!”  It’s the love of King Stefan and his queen, who give up their daughter to protect her.  It’s the love of Prince Philip, who risks his life to save the princess.

That all disappears if we re-write the story to redeem the Devil.

Perhaps you think I’m crazy for spending my evening writing a blog post about a cartoon and an Angelina Jolie film I’ve never seen.  Maybe you didn’t even get this far in the post, thinking to yourself, “The lady doth protest too much.”

But it’s not just about the greatest Disney movie ever made.  It’s a manifestation of a cultural tendency to justify sin and explain away evil.  When I was little I used to think I could pray for Satan’s conversion and everything would be better.  Guess what?  That doesn’t work.  And every day of our life we face a choice: God or the devil.  It’s time to admit he exists and celebrate that he’s been defeated.

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How’d they find me?

27 May

WordPress has a nice statistic page to tell you how many people visit your blog and how they get here.  It’s pretty entertaining to see the things people google and somehow find you.  Some of them just left me scratching my head. Not that they were strange things to google, but why did they lead to my blog? Things like:

  • how to muffle sound of water dripping in bucket   
  • can you paint a bathtub
  • birthday reply convey my regard to elders and love to youngers

Okay, so that last one did leave me wondering.

There seems to be a high demand for Stig-related desserts.  I hope I was able to help.

  • stig helmet car
  • how much for a stig cake
  • how to make a stig cake
  • the stig birthday cakes
  • the stig cake pictures
  • the stig cake ideas
  • stig helmet cake

There were no super crazy ones this time around, but some of them did make me laugh.  Here are some of my favorites:

why being chaste isn’t crazy  Preach it, sista.

how to make an ordinary ice cream?   Is there such a thing? Ice cream is divine.

ganswein driving   Where is he going?
“georg gänswein” fotos     Glad I could help!
“father beautiful” Georg      He is, isn’t he?

I have spinster carved on my bones    Oh dear. I hope I don’t.

i wonder whether carpisa real leather   I heart carpisa.

this type of art was a conglomeration of seemingly random objects, connecting art with ordinary life?     I’m glad that’s a question. Because I’m properly confused.

why cant you drink acidic drinks with chocovine with     Yes, why can’t you with

where is father john paul have not seenhim at ewtn for awhile   Apparently he’s hiding from you.

losing ordinary restaurants    Why did you lose them?

pinewood social giftcard   If they double-book your bowling alley, they’ll give you one. Try it.

duck donuts    A total of 5 people found my blog this way.  Which means five people are fat and happy right now.

joan in ordinary time brunch nashville   This made me happy. 

papal groupies   Why yes I am.

who can afford.a tom.ford apparel   I don’t know, but he can ask me out on a date sometime, whomever he is.

san damiano mass times  This showed up in multiple different ways. Maybe I should post them to help out.

anna maria taigi incorrupt   This will make my dad smile.

hallmark movies involving restaurants   I do love Hallmark movies.  And restaurants.

 

And my personal favorite….

animatronic baby jesus  

 

 

 

A Glorious Shot in the Arm

26 May

What a weekend.

I just was privileged to experience the annual Glory Conference, a gathering of college students and young adults here in Nashville, TN to study and celebrate the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I blogged about it briefly here, and you can find a link to my talk there, too.

Some sights of the weekend:

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The calm before my talk.
It was the perfect location for a conference about beauty — a restored historical building and a beautiful 19th century church

IMG_8218 yay for new friends!

 

A super-duper evangelization rosary walk after lunchBrother John led a “super-duper evangelization rosary walk” after lunch on Saturday.
He said it was the second annual one, which made us laugh — I love how little traditions start like that.

IMG_8245A great thing about the conference was the room the schedule allowed for friendship and fraternity.   My friend Mike and I got breakfast Sunday morning and were able to catch up and talk about life.

Chris Cole teaching us origami.  Or parabolas.  Or something.  He had us in stitches during his whole talk.  Another great thing about the conference– the variety of the talks and personalities.

 

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At the end of the closing Mass today (all the liturgies were simply breath-taking… another high point of the conference), we took Jesus into the streets of Germantown in a Eucharistic Procession.  See those manly men carrying the canopy?  Yet another beautiful thing about the conference — the masculine witness.  Most of the conference was executed by guys, and I think it was apparent in beautiful ways.

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The first of the triple Benedictions during the procession. The people in the neighborhood weren’t quite sure what was happening…. a hundred smiling young adults walking behind priest and sisters, singing and praying?  What?

I’m hooked.  When’s the next conference?  I’m ready for all those kids to come back to Nashville!

 

 

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