Happy feast day!

To me!  Well, to St Joan of Arc, really.

It was a great day — Mass and confession, a finger-food competition at work, some fellowship with coworkers after work, and a last-minute “pinch hitting” RCIA lesson.  (The schedule speaker was sick, so the director asked this afternoon if I could teach.  It was on the Eucharist, so it was great preparation for this weekend’s feast of Corpus Christi!)  I also got some prayer time in before the RCIA class — just me and Jesus, alone in the large, beautiful Cathedral.


I love Joan of Arc so much.  I’ve grown to love her for different reasons as I’ve gotten older.  She has to be one of the coolest, strangest saints out there, but there was a time when I really struggled with how to reconcile her with femininity. (You can read my thoughts about that here.)  But lately I’ve been reflecting on what she has to teach us about the Church.

It can be a struggle to syncretize our belief in the Church as holy with our experience of Her sinful members.  This is a stumbling block for many, and not a few people leave the Church because of the scandal of sinful people.  How can you believe in a Church whose priests abuse children?  How can you attend Mass when Father is so rude?  How can the Church be right when the woman that sits next to me in the pew is so awful?

Joan reminds us that you don’t leave Peter for Judas.  The Church is made up of sinful people – that’s why I am allowed to be a member.  Joan, like St. Catherine of Siena, loved the Church at a time when the Church wasn’t so lovable.  But the sins of the Body of Christ didn’t stop Joan from loving Christ and His Church.

She famously said, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

And she said that while on trial in front of bishops of that Church.  Yes, she loved the Church … even while members of that Church were trying her for witchcraft, were using the Eucharist as a bribe to get her to deny her Voices, and were psychologically abusing her on the stand.  If anyone had a reason to criticize and censure the Church based on the behavior of Her members, it would be Joan.

“About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

St. Jeanne d’Arc, pray for us!



A lovely day for the races


When can you wear seersucker and white shoes?  After Memorial Day?

Around here, the summer season begins with Nashville’s rite of spring — the Iroquois Steeplechase.  The Steeplechase has been run since 1941 (with a break in 1945 for WWII) in the Warner Parks just outside Nashville.  Come the second weekend of May, anyone who is anyone is at the Steeplechase (Fun fact: Princess Anne rode in one of the races!).

I’ve always wanted to go, given my love of horse racing, but I had heard stories from friends that you spend a lot of money to sit in traffic and then hang out with drunks all day in the heat and barely see the races. Since I really love horse racing, that didn’t really sell the whole event to me.

[Actually, I’ve wanted to see a Steeplechase race since I was in fifth grade and devoured horse books, including a series called… Steeplechase.  And then when I was in school in VA, I always wanted to go the Gold Cup but was never there in the summer for the race.]

But I still wanted to check it out, because it seemed like it had such potential.  Picnics?  Horses? Bowties?  Yes, sir.  That’s an event for me.

When my dear friend Megan came into town for the weekend and she was game to go, then it was set.  We’d experience Steeplechase together.

General admission tickets were only $15, which was about $520 cheaper than tailgating.  But I couldn’t find much information about GA.  There were plenty of tips and dos and donts for tailgating, but I couldn’t find any tips for GA.

Why?  Because it’s super easy.  Seriously, it was no sweat.  No sitting in traffic.  No expensive parking.  No waiting in lines for shuttles.  No trekking across miles of grassy meadows.

In short, it was the best $15 I’ve spent in Nashville to date.

We went shopping the night before for our picnic — cheese, bread, carrots, turkey, good chocolate.  The next morning we headed to the wine store after Mass and breakfast.  There was a “no glass” rule, but the liquor stores are prepared for Steeplechase and had plenty of options.  We went for two small boxes of whites:


You gotta do what you gotta do.

We got dressed, donned our hats, and headed out to the parking field.  While the tailgaters have to be in place by a certain time (about three hours before post time), we could roll in any time.   So we didn’t run into any traffic at all.  We drove right into the field, parked, walked right up to the tent and bought GA tickets.  Then we got our bags checked (it looked almost optional, so we probably could have brought glass in if we really wanted) and boarded the shuttle immediately.  I think there was maybe twenty minutes between leaving my house and sitting on the shuttle.

The shuttles were nice little buses — not buses but not vans — and they took our camping chairs from us and loaded them up before we boarded.  Everything was so nice and easy.  They dropped us off not far from the GA section, so there was very limited walking.  We had packed lightly — just our picnic and two chairs — and we could have easily brought more.  Next time we decided we’d bring a blanket and chairs.

The General Admission section was a roped off section of the hill that overlooked the whole track, just next to the box seats.  (Some day I’ll sit in the box seats.  Someday.)  We had a great view of the last jump and a decent view of the start/finish line.

For those not familiar with steeplechase racing, it is a type of horse racing that has a history in cross country races that involved jumping over ditches, logs, fences, etc.  So it’s sort of like cross country running meets track hurdles — for horses.  The Iroquois races are fairly long compared to something like the Kentucky Derby, and the horses are older.

Megan and I settled in to a spot and began to people-watch, which is the real sport most Steeplechase goers revel in.  I was really impressed how many people were dressed up.  Easily the majority of people in General Admission were dressed up.  It was easier to count the number of women not in hats than the women in hats, and many of the guys were in suits.  Most of the spectators were our age, too.  It was a really fun crowd.

SteeplechaseCollageFrom top left, clockwise: (1) We loved this pair of cute couples that sat in front of us.  We sort of wanted to go introduce ourselves and ask if we could be their friends. Her white dress?  Her hat?  His coat and bowtie and hat?  Ahhh!  (2) This cheese was expensive.  But awesome.  Extra matured Welsh Cheddar.  For extra mature fabulous women.  (3) This little guy was in front of us on the shuttle on the way home.  Even the kids had hats. (4) Cheers!  Thanks to Dad for buying plastic wine glasses last Easter! (5) This party looked fun — it was a huge group of young adults and they had several tables close to the fence that were filled with food.  But we were most intrigued by that blue drink in what appeared to be a giant soap dispenser.  What is that?  (6) Go horsey, go!

There were seven races throughout the day, with about 30 minutes between each one.

You knew a race was about to start because the horses paraded by and … there was the bugle call!

I never managed to capture the whole call.  But you get the idea.  I think it sent shivers down my spine each time.

The horses were beautiful — I was glad that we weren’t stuck in the infield far from the track. We had a great view.


The races were all exciting, and there were some unscripted exciting moments, too.  One of the horses got rid of his rider and decided he had enough of this racing stuff.  As he came by rider-less, he seemed to know the way back to the barns — you can see him leap over the fence and head back there.  Luckily they stopped him before he hurt anyone:

Sorry the quality isn’t better.

After the fourth race, I spilled my wine all over my chair (wine glasses don’t do well in the built-in cup holders of camping chairs, fyi) and therefore all over my bum.  So I sat down on the ground for awhile.


Notice the flip flops.  That was the one tip we learned online before we went and we were so glad we listened.  You can wear beautiful, stylish shoes …  but you’re walking, you’re sitting on the side of a hill, you’re sinking into the soft grass… flip flops or other comfortable shoes are your friend.

Oh, and that dress?  I hadn’t worn it since I bought it in Rome in 2005 for Easter and the opera and never dreamed it still fit.  Score.

We left after the fifth race, which was good timing– we beat the crowds and got right on a shuttle, headed back to the parking lot, got right in our car, and drove away.  You never would have thought there were 25,000 people there with us.  (Because many of them were stuck in the infield!)  Again, we were home in no time.  Awesome.

All in all, a fantastic day.  I’m already dreaming of the hat I’ll buy for next year.

Madrina for Mariana

So today I got married.

Just kidding.  I did say that this weekend I’d add a new line to my wedding resume.  But no one guessed that I was eloping. Wouldn’t that have been funny?  Well, except for my family and friends, I suppose.

No, I was not a bride this weekend.  I was a madrina.  The madrina de lazo, to be precise.  Roughly translated… the godmother of the lasso.

I have been in weddings.  And I’m a godmother to several people.  So why not put those together?

Seriously, though, I was very honored when Mariana and Ben asked me to be the godmother of the lasso at their wedding.  Why me, you might ask?  Not to mention … what the heck is a godmother of the lasso?

Well, this calls for a little story.

Three years ago, Mariana was my workstudy student at Aquinas.  But she was much more than that.  She became a dear friend.


During her time at Aquinas, she was asked to be in a photo shoot for a few promo shots for the college. And as she posed with Ben, a fellow Aquinas student, my friend Lauri (the director of communications at the time) and I noticed that they were both just so darn cute together…

They started dating soon after.

(Oh, and their picture still graces the wall outside the Admissions office.)

They dated for a few months before breaking up. Mariana ended up leaving Aquinas shortly after that, and our lives were so busy we didn’t hear much from each other.  I’d see her or her mom in passing, and we exchanged phone calls or texts every once and awhile– always saying “We have to do lunch sometime!”

One day last year, I received word that Ben was injured and was in kidney failure.  His prognosis was dire.

I didn’t know if Mariana was still in touch with him, but they had remained friends after the break-up, and I knew she would want to know that Ben was in critical condition.   So I texted her.

Life went on, Ben got better, and I didn’t think anything of that text.  I saw Mariana a few months later, but it was just in passing and we didn’t really get a chance to catch up. (“we have to do lunch sometime!”…)

The next time I heard from her… she was engaged to Ben.


Thank goodness for deathbeds and text messages, eh?

So in honor of me “lassoing” them, I got to lasso them today.  Um, something gets lost in translation. But you get the drift.  Rightly or wrongly, Ben and Mariana both say that I’m the reason they got back together (I like to think the Holy Spirit had something to do with it instead, but I’ll take some of the credit).  And so they asked me to be the madrina de lazo.

If you have ever been to a Hispanic wedding, you’ve probably seen the custom of the lazo.  A lazo (sometimes made of flowers, or rope, or rosary beads) is placed around the bride and groom after the vows.  Mariana and Ben used the same lazo Mariana’s sister used at her wedding, which is the same one their mother and their grandmother used at their weddings.


It was like a double rosary – two large loops were hooked together with a crucifix at the end.  After the vows and the exchange of coins (another Hispanic tradition), I stepped forward and put one loop over Ben’s head and one over Mariana’s.  I think there is supposed to be a special prayer, but Father didn’t have it on hand, and so he led the congregation in a Hail Mary in Spanish, which was perfect.  (Then I removed the lasso and returned to my seat.  I think it’s tradition to keep it on, but they had to walk around too much for that.)


I don’t think I’ve seen a bride and groom smile so much in my life.  The two of them already smile all the time… but today?  They were giddy.  I’m pretty sure I whacked Ben in the nose when I was putting the lasso over his head, but he wouldn’t have noticed if I would have knocked them both over.

The happy couple:


And Mariana with her madrina de lazo: 


Another line on my wedding resume complete.  I honestly thought I’d be cantoring at a wedding before I’d be a madrina.  Who knows what’s next?

Memorial Day weddings

For three years in a row now, Memorial Day has meant wedding.  My streak may be broken after this; the only engaged person I know (besides the friend getting married this fall) is my cousin, who most certainly is not getting married Memorial Day weekend.  (For those of us from Indiana, Memorial Day is synonymous with something, and it’s not “wedding.”)  But I suppose a year is a long time… so who knows.

In fact, it has not just been attending a wedding- this is the third Memorial Day weekend that has involved the honor of being in a wedding.  While I can’t compete with the girl from 27 dresses, I am becoming an expert.  And I actually really enjoy it.

And as for my wedding resume over the years, it’s not just about being a bridesmaid.  I’m also an experienced wedding lector.  And I believe at one point I took up the gifts at a wedding.

But this weekend adds a whole new line to that resume. Stay tuned.

How’s your blood pressure?

Every morning I receive an email with the rough text of the Pope’s homily that morning from his daily Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence.  While every Holy Father has celebrated Mass daily, some privately, some for small groups, we have never had access to daily homilies from the Popes before.  Now we do.  As far as I know, no one is transcribing them word for word – I don’t think – and so you won’t find exact texts, just extensive quotes (as below).  You also won’t find them under “homilies” on http://www.vatican.va, although they are being published at the Vatican news site.

I thought I would share this morning’s homily, because I’ve always loved the image of Christians being salt, and he gave me some new aspects to ponder.

From this morning’s homily:

In his homily, Pope Francesco focused on the savour that Christians are called to give to their own lives and to others’. The Holy Father said that salt the Lord gives us is the salt of faith, hope and charity. But, he warned, we must be careful that this salt, which is given to us by the certainty that Jesus died and rose again to save us, “does not lose its flavour, does not lose its strength.” This salt, he continued, “is not for keeping, because if the salt is preserved in a bottle it does not do anything: it is good for nothing”:

“Salt makes sense when you [use] it in order to make things more tasty. I also consider that salt stored in the bottle, with moisture, loses strength and is rendered useless. The salt that we have received is to be given out, to be given away, [in order] to spice things up: otherwise, it becomes bland and useless. We must ask the Lord not to [let us] become Christians with flavour-less salt, with salt that stays closed in the bottle. Salt also has another special feature: when salt is used well, one does not notice the taste of salt. The savour of salt – it cannot be perceived! What one tastes is the flavour of the food: salt helps improve the flavor of the meal.”

“When we preach faith, with this salt,” said Pope Francis, “those who receive the proclamation, receive it each according to his peculiarity, as [happens when salt is used judiciously] on food.” So, “Each with his own peculiarities receives the salt and becomes better [for it].” The Holy Father went on to explain that the “originality” that Christian faith brings is therefore not something uniform:

“The Christian originality is not a uniformity! It takes each one as he is, with his own personality, with his own characteristics, his culture – and leaves him with that, because it is a treasure. However, it gives one something more: it gives flavour! This Christian originality is so beautiful, because when we want to make a uniformity – all salted in the same way – things will be like when the woman throws in too much salt and one tastes only salt and not the meal. The Christian originality is this: each is as he is, with the gifts the Lord has given him.”

“This,” the Pope continued, “is the salt that we have to give.” A salt that is “not to be kept, but to be given,” – and this, he said, “means a little [bit] of transcendence”: “To get out there with the message, to get out there with this richness that we have in salt, and give it to others.” On the other hand, he pointed out, there are two “ways out” for the salt to take, so that it does not spoil. First: to give the salt “in the service of meals, service to others, to serve the people.” Second: “transcendence toward the author of the salt, the creator.” The salt, he reiterated, “in order to keep its flavour, has need not only of being given through preaching,” but, “also needs the other transcendence, of prayer, of adoration”:

“In this way is the salt conserved, [in this way it keeps] its flavor. With the worship of the Lord I go beyond myself to the Lord, and with the proclamation of the Gospel I go out of myself to give the message. If we do not do this, however – these two things, these two transcendences, to give the salt – the salt will remain in the bottle, and we will become ‘museum-piece Christians’. We can show the salt: this is my salt – and how lovely it is! This is the salt that I received in Baptism, this is what I received in Confirmation, this is what I received in catechesis – But look: museum-piece Christians! A salt without flavor, a salt that does nothing.”

back to the Ordinary

I meant to post on Monday that it was Ordinary Time again.  I always feel like celebrating that on this blog.  For obvious reasons.

I also need to post about the premier Nashville spring event, aka the Iroquois Steeplechase; a fun new(ish) restaurant; my summer Prohibition project; the new convention center; and a variety of other things swimming around in my head.

But since it’s easier to post random YouTube videos of Ramin singing O Canada, I did that on Monday instead.

Finally… anthems done right.

We’ve all witnessed some pretty bad renditions of the National Anthem.  The people lucky enough to be at the Yankees game last week (or the Orioles game a few days later) actually heard both the Canadian anthem and our National anthem sung well.

Because they were sung by none other than Ramin Karimloo.  You know, the guy with the amazing voice that I can’t stop posting about?

Well, here you go.  (Try to ignore that lady at the beginning who seems to just be realizing the Yankees are playing the Blue Jays).


Oh, and you know how I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was checking Ramin’s tour dates to make sure he wasn’t sneaking a Nashville date in there without me knowing?  He had a gap of time and I was just sure that he was going to be in my backyard. (well, not literally)

Sure enough, one night he tweeted that he was in Nashville.  That’s the downside of living in this beautiful city… artists occasionally pop in to meet with producers, record, or just simply enjoy music themselves.  So they’re in your city… but you can’t exactly just wander around the city looking for them, can you?  That’s a bit creepy.  And I have a job, anyway.

It appears from his Twitter feed that he hung out in one of the parks a few miles away from where I work and played some music one afternoon.  And I just had to read about it. Oh well.

Tonight I enjoyed a free concert that included The Time Jumpers, Mikky Ekko, and Sheryl Crow.  So I can’t complain too much.

Although I’d rather hear Ramin sing the alphabet than an hour long concert of pretty much anyone else.