Lord, I love the house where you dwell, the place where your glory resides.

This has been a very long day, and breakfast tomorrow is at 6:30, so I’ll try to make this as brief as possible.  Here is a small selection of the 74 photos I took today in Rome.  My flight landed at 8:30am, and I didn’t sleep very well on the plane, so I’ve pretty much been awake for three days.  But I got a second (or third or fourth…) wind when I beheld the beauty and vitality of this city.  A short description of the pictures, in gallery order:

  1. Looking up at the columns and statues that line the sides of St. Peter’s Square.  Note the exceptionally beautiful weather.
  2. The stairs and outdoor altar area of St. Peter’s, where we will be at Palm Sunday Mass tomorrow!  It will probably be decorated more at that time.
  3. I can’t believe my camera captured this gorgeous lighting decently.  I don’t need to describe to you how beautiful that view was, except to say that it took my breath away, as it was my first glance at the interior of St. Peter’s.
  4. A photo that does no justice to the Holy Spirit stained glass window behind the back altar.
  5. Another photo of the same stained glass window, with a better view of the surrounding area, but still no definition on the window itself.  I kept trying to get that shot right because it’s my favorite thing in the world, probably.
  6. “I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple,” and a mosaic of Pope John Paul II’s episcopal heraldry, on the drinking fountain.
  7. My Camelbak capturing the water from the right side of the temple!  I never knew plain water could taste so smooth and sweet as the water does here in Rome.  I half expected it to be dirty city water, but it tastes so fresh.
  8. Another shot of the outside of St. Peter’s.
  9. This is where the Pope lives!
Some of my favorite experiences of today were unphotographable — especially the tomb of St. Josemaría, where we had Mass, the tombs of Sts. Peter, Andrew, Paul, Bl. John Paul II, and other various Popes.  Enjoy the photos!  I will begin praying for all the intentions you’ve requested tomorrow morning at Mass.  Until tomorrow, good night!

The World is Quiet Here

Phase One of the jet-lag prevention strategy is underway.  I’m staying up all night and during my first flight in hopes that I will be able to sleep on the second, longer flight and wake up when we land in Rome in the morning.  It’s 5am EST, so the sun should be rising soon.  I actually love this part of all-nighters, when the whole world seems to be asleep–even on a busy college campus.  There’s a gentle hush over the city, with just the sounds of the trains and the few cars of commuters going to their crack-of-dawn jobs or home from night shifts.  In a few hours, I’ll go to the early morning Mass on campus (because why not?) and stop at the store for a few last-minute items before heading out to the airport.  Even though all my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go (name that song!), this trip doesn’t seem real to me yet.  I suspect it won’t seem real until I’m on the plane, or until I step onto Rome’s cobblestone streets amid the structures both ancient and modern, and breathe the Mediterranean air.

P.S. I’m still taking prayer requests.  The list is sizable, but I have an organization strategy by which I hope to give as much attention and prayer as I can to each individual intention.

Getting Ready for Roma!

I’m leaving tomorrow for my pilgrimage to Rome!!  Right now I’m packing, which obviously includes packing for my physical and academic needs, but for this particular trip also means packing my spiritual “bags” with prayer intentions of my relatives and friends that I will take with me to all the Masses we will be attending.  If you have any intentions, don’t forget to email me, or text me, or comment here if you are comfortable doing that.  As long as I have it in some written medium, your intentions will make their way to my list, and to Rome during the holiest week of the year.  I’m hoping to be able to blog every night, with stories and pictures, and if I do, I’ll include at the bottom of each post the initials of people whose intentions were remembered at Mass that day.

American Tune

In honor of my resolution to enjoy music again, I’ve been singing some of my favorite songs for fun.  It is SO refreshing to make music outside of work again.  And with my handy dandy MacBook (hah), I made you a recording of a favorite song of Lucas and I.  I like it because it allows me to combine my love for both Paul Simon and Johann Sebastian Bach.  In case you don’t know, it combines these two because the melody is taken from Bach’s Passion Chorale “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O head full of blood and wounds)”, which he uses in the St. Matthew Passion and again in the Christmas Oratorio.  I used to think, “oh, how ironic it is that Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ isn’t even an American tune.”  But recently I have realized that borrowing something from a different culture and calling it “American” is oh so Yankee.  So it’s totally American now, anyway.  And then Lucas informed me that not only did Paul Simon borrow it from Bach: Bach also borrowed it from an obscure German love song that was actually in 3/4.  So it started out as this very, very secular song by someone about whom nobody cares anymore, and became this poignant chorale of devotion to Christ’s suffering and death.

[This is by NO means a professional recording; just part of my practice session.  I used my built-in laptop speakers and recorded it in my dorm room, hence the bit of distant background noise of doors slamming near the beginning.]

Bis Orat Qui Bene Cantat

Illuminated Manuscript With Chant Neumes

Photo Credit: ffom.org

Good news, Internet people!  I received an email earlier this evening informing me that the paper I submitted to this year’s UNIV Congress in Rome has been selected to be presented at the conference!  So not only am I going to the Eternal City during the holiest week of the year, I also get to talk to some sort of audience there about one of my favorite things ever, Gregorian chant!  So now I guess I have to figure out what to say.  I heard a speaker once (the philosopher Alastair McIntyre) read an essay of his out loud to us, pausing every so often to engage us in discussion about the content.  I think that format could work for my paper, and I’m more than happy to get feedback so that I can really get to the issues my audience wants to hear about.  I’d love to hear what you think about that format, or if you have any other ideas.

The title of this post is the title of my paper.  It is a quote from St. Augustine and translates “He who chants well prays twice”.  You can read the whole paper here.  If you’re thinking, “I want to know what you wrote about, but I don’t want to read NINE WHOLE PAGES”, no problem!  Just read my abstract, posted below.  I’ll keep you all updated on my trip and such.  There will be plenty to write about.

This essay by Kerri Sullivan seeks to make the reader aware that Gregorian chant is–and always has been–the cornerstone of Catholic music for worship.  It describes briefly the history of Gregorian chant and the Liturgy, then discusses the ways in which the chant is most befitting of the Mass.  This discussion is modeled on the description of the Mass’s meaning and purpose in the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium.  The essay concludes with some practical suggestions for using music, especially chant, to re-invigorate Catholic liturgical worship today.  As the Mass is the “source, center, and summit of Christian life” (CCC 1324), Catholics have a solemn responsibility to ensure that it is celebrated properly according to the mission of the Church.  To safeguard this heavenly treasure for the benefit of souls, it is fitting to incorporate that music which has served the Mass so well for twenty centuries: Gregorian chant.
UPDATE: (Mar 6, 7pm)
I only have ten minutes to present this.  Guess it’s going to be another boring powerpoint without discussion, or perhaps a Prezi.

It is hard to live in the present when you’re engaged.

If I ever needed the ability to  focus on just one day at a time, it is now.  And yet, it is even harder than ever.  That’s because being engaged is, by definition, a state of transition.  Nobody plans to be engaged permanently.  But right now there are so many things upcoming that are really exciting, which makes me appreciate the beauty of “normal” days much less.  So I’m writing now to remind myself that the drudgery of everyday life is so important, because it is in the ordinary things that we grow, achieve, become.  By remembering always that “God is in the details,” living our everyday life well is what can make us better, even holier.  That is much easier said than done, because everyday life is so BORING and things like an upcoming conference in Rome, graduation, and wedding are so attractive!  So now as I finish this short burst of inspiration, I have to turn to face much less appealing tasks… There are papers to write, emails to send, meetings to attend, books to read.  There are other good things I would rather be doing, like playing guitar and singing and spending time with friends, but I have to sometimes sacrifice these other good things for the less palatable, more urgent ones.

Life is a constant struggle.  Good luck to you, dear reader, in yours.

Music is a Blessing

I was at an amazing concert early this evening, given by my younger brother and his friends at a local coffeeshop.  I loved all the songs, both originals and covers, and I loved seeing how much they are growing as individual musicians and as a team.  It was a joy just to watch how much they loved playing and worked hard to use their talents to make a really enjoyable concert experience.  I sat there, singing along and tapping my toes and generally having a good time, and then I realized:  I’m sitting here listening to these amazing amateur musicians, while I am two months away from a degree in music.  I could totally be doing this too.  People all around me are having the time of their lives making music.  My brother, my mom, my cousin, my grandfather, my friends, my fiancé…  And I only make music when I have to (like in concert band for school), and then I complain about it.  What is wrong with this picture?  I used to really love it.  And there are moments, few and far between, when I do.  But for the most part, it has become a job, a chore.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m “burned out” with music…I just need to rediscover it.  Besides, I want to be in love with music to pass that on to my children someday.  From now on, I’m going to try to find more opportunities to make music with my friends and family.  This means more singing along while Lucas plays piano, trying to get in some more piano lessons with him, playing flute duets with my flute friends, practicing guitar more, and randomly playing in hallways and sidewalks more.  Maybe I should try forcing myself to carry it around everywhere with me for a week.  I’ll also try to make some videos and post them here.  There!  by telling you readers (if there are any of you yet), I have a promise to uphold.  :)  Here’s to more music making for a healthier life!

Practicing the Art of Planning and Cooking Dinner

Last night I did something I love very much to do: Cook dinner in my parents’ kitchen!  I especially love it because I usually have nothing but a fridge, a water boiler, and a French press to work with in my dorm room, bleh.  So I guess I could make Jell-O, if I really wanted to, but that’s about it.  But it is spring break!  And I can use a real kitchen.

Here’s what I did (Note: the only things I actually measured were the marinade ingredients.  I didn’t actually measure or time anything else).  First, I baked a pumpkin spice cake, with a box mix of spice cake and a can of pumpkin instead of the suggested liquid ingredients.  Then I marinated 2 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite sized pieces) in 2c red wine, 1c Italian dressing, and 1/3c white wine vinegar for about 3 hours. After 90 minutes, I kneaded them for a bit from the outside of the plastic bag.  Then I peeled, sliced, boiled, mashed, and seasoned 5 potatoes.  That was Lucas’s favorite part, I believe.  Then I chopped, rinsed, and steamed some fresh broccoli and prepared salads.  With 30 minutes to dinnertime, I poured the marinade into a pan and cooked it on medium about 10 minutes or so, until it reduced somewhat.  Then I added the chicken and chopped up about 3/4c white onion into the pan.  I kept stirring and checking the chicken until it was cooked through, then I reduced heat and added some flour to thicken up the sauce and a little bit of sugar to taste.  Everything was hot and ready to eat right on time for my wonderful family and fiancé!

If I were to cook this meal again, I would cut out the vinegar in the marinade and sauce.  I made a similar recipe once before, but I used sweet white wine instead of dry red wine.  The vinegar was fine with the sweet wine, but I don’t think the dry wine needed it.  And instead of making mashed potatoes, I’d serve the chicken and sauce over pasta.  There was too much sauce to go around.

Still, this was a really fun afternoon and evening.  I am very much looking forward to getting better at meal planning and execution, so I can be the best wife and mom I can be. :-)

Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam

It is thunderstorming here, and it’s quite beautiful.  I’m also a little under the weather and not focused on studying, so what better time to begin this new blog I’ve been meaning to start!  I have had a few other sites, most notably my Tumblr under the same username, and I read many blogs from afar, but I’ve decided it’s time that I join in with my fellow bloggers who inspire me and support me in many ways, from reflecting on the intersection of intellect and faith in University, teaching me many things (from Liturgy and Latin to cloth diapers and coconut oil), allowing me to live vicariously through their stories of parenting, and showing me an inside peek of a music therapist’s thoughts on the job.  A big “Thank You” is going out right now to all of you who share your voices boldly for anyone to hear!  And to anyone reading this, Welcome!  I don’t really know how this is going to go, but I guess you and I will figure that out as it unfolds.  That’s kind of how my whole life is right now, two months away from graduation and six months away from marriage.  Wooo!  It’s so scary and exciting.