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Educational Pluralism

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by Ashley Berner to discuss her book Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School.

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The Rise of the Dones

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by David Moore to discuss how Christians should talk about controversial topics in a polarized society, as well as how churches can reach out to those who consider themselves believers, but are also “done” with organized religion.

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Why Trump Is Not a Fascist

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by Paul Gottfried to discuss Gottfried's book Fascism: The Career of a Concept and the defining characteristics of a fascist regime.

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Sohrab's Conservatism

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by Sohrab Ahmari to discuss common good conservatism and his recent essay: “Against David French-ism.”

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The Catholic Writer Today

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by Dana Gioia to discuss John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Jennings, and Gioia's latest collection of essays, The Catholic Writer Today .

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"People Must Really Need the Prayers..."


This was the thought that popped up in my mind when my hematologist said he wasn't able to get the hip bone part of the bone marrow biopsy the first time. I knew that there would most likely be something that had to "go wrong" since I had so many people asking me to offer up my procedure and the pain up for their prayer intentions. I knew when the prayer requests reached the triple digits on Twitter that I would be in for it so I had mentally prepared myself for it. Still, I kept internally asking St. Giuseppe Moscati to guide the hematologist's hands so there wouldn't be a third try.

For those of you know who have gotten one of these biopsies done before, you know this part is the most painful. Ignorance is bliss (for me) when it comes to these procedures so I didn't even look into what would be involved but, oh, I knew that part of my hip bone was (basically) drilled out during this part. I felt the pain down into my leg. Thankfully, it wasn't excruciating.

I'll admit, I had cried prior to the procedure out of nerves but I was amazingly calm throughout it. I think it was because I knew I was covered in prayers due to the (mind-boggling!) 1k+ people who said they would be praying for me via social media. I woke up that morning and it literally felt as I was completely wrapped up in prayer. I don't know how else to describe it except that it felt like I had a heavy blanket of peace covering every inch of my body.

I tried praying the Rosary during the procedure but my mind went blank during the Second Glorious Mystery (I pray the traditional order and it's the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays). Instead, I ended up focusing on keeping my breathing even and offering up any pain and uncomfortable moments. Oh, and on keeping my body as relaxed as possible to make it easier for the hematologist to get what he needed. It wasn't easy because you want to tense up your muscles.

I drove myself home afterward... and it was not fun. They did the biopsy on my right side which, of course, means I had to use my right leg -- the leg used on the car pedals. The 4-5 mile drive included a lot of teary-eyed "ouch" moments. Walking up the stairs to my second-story apartment brought a couple more tense moments.

The rest of the day was spent trying to find ways of sitting, laying down, standing, and doing other things that wouldn't aggravate the pain. I was sure my mother was going to tie me down to a chair at one point because I kept getting up to do things I normally would. I'm quite active during the day (out of habit) so it was hard for me not to be a "wiggle worm." lol. It doesn't sound so bad but, oh man, there were a ton more tears before the day was over. I couldn't walk or even sit; I mostly had to lay on my left side but that quickly got old when my entire left side became painful and then numb from having all of my weight on it.

Trying to work was hard. I couldn't balance my laptop on my lap or place it in any position that didn't hurt me. I tried standing up to write it but I was too lightheaded and feeling drained to last longer than a minute. Finally, a bit after midnight last night, I gave up and had to send my editor a message telling him that I was sorry but that this week's assignment would be a day late. I couldn't transfer my work (which I ended up starting on my iPod touch as I lay in bed) from email to the website.

Sleeping was a new adventure. Despite having an adjustable bed, I couldn't find a position in which I was comfortable enough to sleep. An hour (and more exhaustion-induced tears) later -- 12 hours after the biopsy -- I was somehow able to flip myself onto my stomach and I passed out for about 11 hours. Yep, I was that tired.

Today has been a new adventurous day. The pain is worse, in a way. I can move a little easier but the tenderness makes the pain more acute. As I write this, I'm in a very uncomfortable position with my the head of my adjustable bed lifted up as much as possible. My back hurts and part of my left side is numb (again) from all the weight on it but I just thank God that I can move and stand more than yesterday.

I'm just going to keep looking at the crucifix in my room and try to unite my pain with His. Yesterday, the first time I was able to get in bed post-biopsy, I looked at it and I realized that I had never loved Him as much as I did at that moment. Though I can never compare my little pain to his immense pain, I can at least try to understand -- in my fragile human way -- what He endured for the sake of humanity.

So, that's what the journey of a bone marrow biopsy has been. I'm obviously still in recovery mode and will be for a couple more days. I will get my biopsy results on June 5th so please keep that in your prayers. I've resigned myself to getting whatever results may come from it; I just want them to figure out what's been making me sick for so long.

I will continue to pray for those who've asked for prayers. Thank you all so much for all your prayers, love, and support!

God bless you all!


I'm Tired. I'm Angry. I Will No Longer Be Ashamed.


I know; I've gone weeks without updating. I have a good reason... which I wasn't going to blog about but I've reached the point where anger has taken over so now I feel like I have to speak out on this.

I stopped writing because I've been sick. Really sick. I know that, in the past, I've shared my health journey because some of you felt you could relate to it and no one else was talking about. A few months ago, someone I really admired and looked up to -- who shall be unnamed -- shamed me into not only staying quiet about it but also into deleting all my past posts about my health. Seriously, try to search for the posts; they're gone.

I won't go into details but let's just say that after our conversation, I felt ashamed for sharing my health journey -- which strongly ties into my spiritual journey. I felt like I was just asking for attention, even though I've never liked any attention and I thought that sharing my experience would help at least one other person who thought they were the only one struggling.

We live in a society that only posts "Instagram-worthy" pictures; who present perfect lives that seem unattainable and are envy-inducing. I wanted to be real and share the good that God has brought out in the middle of the bad. But, no. I was doing it for attention and, furthermore, "who's going to want someone who is always talking about her poor health? No guy will."  Ouch. Twist the knife a bit more because it didn't quite hurt the first time.

I've reached the point where I'm angry. I'm angry at myself for letting the person get to me. I'm angry that this has affected me in a much bigger way than I had wished. I'm angry that I've had to keep quiet and, basically, lie (by omitting what was really going on) to those closest to me.

No, I'm not okay. I was doing really, really well for a while and then, suddenly, my health took a massive nose dive. I haven't been okay for weeks. After a week of back-to-back bad news, I'm tired of having to plaster a smile and act like nothing's wrong. I'm tired, literally and figuratively. I have no energy left to keep up the facade.

There is beauty in suffering. I feel closest to God when my health is as bad as it is now. When I'm at my weakest -- mentally, physically, and emotionally -- is when I see the most spiritual growth. God has blessed me with my crosses (in the form of health issues and the loneliness that comes from being perpetually single and desiring a family) which have made me the woman I am now.

Do you know who I was before I got sick? I was a proud and vain girl. I hated who I was. Being sick has helped me rid of those terrible characteristics I always had growing up. I'm not fully where I want to be in terms of that -- I still have moments of pride and vanity -- but God has mercifully humbled me and continues to do so through these illnesses. If good things come out of my health struggles, I welcome them. I thank God for keeping me from a path that would've strayed me further from Heaven.

And, about the guy thing, you know what? If God wants me to remain single and always have that longing for a husband and children, I will offer it up for those who suffer. If I, as the person who shamed me into staying quiet said, end up single for the rest of my life because no man will want to help me carry my crosses, I know one man who will -- Jesus Christ. He didn't carry His cross and give up His life for nothing. I will just focus on my love for Him and unite my suffering to His. If there is a man, brave enough to accept me as I am, it will be a tremendous blessing but I am resigned to either outcome. It's about doing God's will, not my own.

So, no, I will no longer feel ashamed for sharing my faith journey and my health journey. If I want to ask prayers because I'm having a bone marrow biopsy on the 22nd (which I am; this is why I'm doing a double novena to Our Lady of Montserrat and St. Giuseppe Moscati, beginning today)... because my liver isn't functioning as it should... because my body is destroying my platelets and red blood count without any scientific explanation (which has my hematologist stumped)... because other things in my blood work came back abnormal... because I've been struggling with the depression that comes with everything I've gone through lately, I will.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest because I've been carrying it around for literally months and I was tired of it. I'm sorry for the rant but I just had to say it. Maybe now I will also be able to recover a bit better; not having to feel so alone and feeling like I should be quiet because no one cares about me or what's going on with me. Yes, I've felt that way for months.

Oh, and if you're wondering what this means in regards to my oblate retreat next month: I don't know. I got cleared by the hematologist to fly but not my primary physician. I should know (hopefully) tomorrow whether she also gives me the okay to go. In the meantime, I'm going to try to rest as much as I can, eat and sleep well, stay hydrated, walk for a minimum of an hour despite the fatigue (doctor's orders because my heart needs it), and keep my stress levels as low as possible so that my body can try to recover before the trip. I still plan on going, even if I have to find the additional funds to be able to afford a roomette on Amtrak if I cannot take a plane. If my doctor says I can't go, even on the train, I will refund anyone who wants their money back (from the GoFundMe fundraiser).

Anyway, now that I've given y'all an update and an explanation for my silence, I think I'm going to go take a nap. I've been feeling very exhausted -- I can't sleep enough hours in the day -- and I need to rest. I will gladly offer some of this up for anyone who could use the prayers.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!


I Don't Think God Could Make It Any Clearer...

My brand new Rosary and magnet.
Sometimes God leaves you speechless... and today was one of those days for me.

It all started when a fellow parishioner offered to take our prayers with her on her European Marian pilgrimage during Lent. I asked her to pray for two specific intentions, one of them being my vocation (big v). As I had a particularly (spiritually) arid Lent (which I hope to blog about soon), I knew I needed all the prayers I could get. She told me she would pray for me and I told her I would pray for her and her trip as well. We didn't know each other but I knew I could trust her with my intentions.

Fast forward to this week. She reached out to me a couple of days ago to let me know that she prayed for me at Lourdes, Fatima, and Montserrat. Not only that, but she had also brought something for me. I didn't know what it was but we agreed to meet up during one of the daily Masses. After daily Mass (my happy place, be-tee-dubs) this afternoon, she looked for me, nearly missing me because I didn't know what she looked like and she wasn't too sure what I looked like. Eventually, we found each other and she handed me the gifts: a magnet and a Rosary from Montserrat.

Now, I had never heard of Our Lady of Montserrat before. I'd heard the name of Montserrat because it's the first name of a professor at my alma mater but I didn't know much about Our Lady's connection. The lovely woman who prayed for me informed me that it was hard to get to the town/shrine; that it was up in the mountains. She also explained that when she saw the Rosary, she immediately thought of me; that "Our Lady sent it" to me.  Yes, straight quote. She bought it for me. I could feel tears welling up so I asked her if I could give her a hug, buying myself some time to not let the waterworks spring up in my eyes.

When I got home, I decided to look up the story of Our Lady of Montserrat... and I was immediately blown away. Many saints have made a pilgrimage to her shrine, including St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Francis Borgia, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. Anthony Mary Claret, and St. Ignatius of Loyola. In fact, it's said that St. Ignatius apparently laid down his sword and began his mission right after visiting the image; that he began writing his Spiritual Exercises shortly after his visit.

There are a number of things that I felt were a connection:

First, Our Lady of Montserrat is located in Catalonia, Spain... a.k.a. the Motherland; I'm of Spanish descent. In fact, I believe my mother's maiden surname is of Catalan origin. 

Second, next to the shrine is a hospital and an infirmary -- which goes with my second intention (my health).

Third, the fact that St. Ignatius of Loyola began his vocation after visiting the Shrine; I had asked for prayers for clarity on my vocation.

Fourth, the shrine is run by -- get ready for it -- Benedictine monks! They've been in charge of the shrine for centuries.

I don't think any of that is a coincidence, especially the latter points. I don't think God could make it any clearer for me. Out of all the places the lovely woman visited, it was at Montserrat where she felt that pull to get me the Rosary -- not knowing my discernment on becoming a Benedictine oblate. 

I don't know what it means regarding my health or the other part of my (big v) vocation. I don't know if this means we'll get answers as to why I've had chronically low platelets for the past decade or why my red blood count is stubbornly on the low side as well. I don't know if I will end up married or single, but I do know that the Benedictine oblate life is for me. I'm just happy that it looks like God has not only heard my prayers but is also helping me along the way. As I've always said, I'm prepared to do whatever His will is... and it looks like I may be on the right track.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it was just too mind-blowing for me not to share... and I love sharing my faith journey with y'all. :)

I hope you are all having a lovely Octave week of Easter! :D 

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)


How to Make Capirotada for Good Friday (Recipe)

(Originally posted on EpicPew, March 30, 2018.)

When my late father was alive, he used to make a delicious dessert called capirotada. I never realized the significance of it or its ties to the Lenten season until after he passed away. While this traditional Mexican dish is served throughout Lent, it’s most appropriate to on Good Friday. “Why?” you may ask. Because each of the ingredients is symbolic of what we commemorate on Good Friday.

Capirotada reminds us of Christ’s suffering on the cross. The cloves used in the recipe reminds us of the nails used to crucify Christ on the cross and the cinnamon sticks represent the cross. The syrup is symbolic of the precious blood and the melted cheese reminds us of the Holy Shroud used to cover his body when taken down from the cross.

While there are many different recipes floating out on the internet, I found out that closely resembles the one my own father used.

Here is the recipe (taken from Mexican In My Kitchen) you can use to make for yourself:

Ingredients


  • 12 Ounces About 1 1/4 cup of piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons of melted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 16 slices 1/3” thick of Bolillo (French bread)
  • 3/4 cup of Cotija Cheese
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanut
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes

Instructions

Preheat oven at 350F. In a medium-size pot place the Piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves, and water. Place in the stove and melt in medium heat. ( If you have a hard time cutting the piloncillo for the amount needed, place it in your microwave for intervals of 30 seconds until it is softened enough to cut. Be careful while removing it out of the microwave since it gets extremely hot.)

Mix the melted butter with the oil and brush over the slices of bread. Place in a baking tray and bake 8 minutes and then turn over to bake 5 more minutes. The bread should have a deep golden color.
Start assembling the slices of bread in a round ovenproof dish. With the help of a ladle slowly pour syrup over the bread making sure the bread absorbs the syrup, do not let it go to the bottom of the dish in order to have enough syrup to moist all the bread pieces. Better yet dip the bread into the syrup to get an even moist crumb.

Top the first layer of bread with cheese, raisins, and peanut or any other fruit or nuts you would like to add according to the suggestions given above or your own.

Place another layer or bread and continue the process as in step 4.

Pour the remaining syrup over the last layer of bread and top with the cheese, raisins, and peanut. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes until the top crust is golden and the lower layers are moist. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe Notes
some variations to this recipe:
• Fruits are also found in some recipes, the most common are fried plantain, bananas and apples.
• Prunes, cranberries, or other dried fruit are also used instead of the raisins, even shredded coconut.
• The same applies to the peanuts, any other nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts are used.
• Other cheeses used as a substitute are Mexican Manchego, Monterrey Jack, and Mild White Cheddar and even parmesan mixed with Mexican Queso Fresco.

My Benedictine Journey: From the Beginning to the GoFundMe Fundraiser


This past Saturday I opened up a GoFundMe account to help raise the Oblate novitiate trip funds. I exhausted all other options and had a number of people suggest fundraising the trip that way so I thought, "Why not?" Before I opened it, though, I did the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena in honor of his birthday. It ended on Friday and I opened up the account on his birthday, Saturday the 6th. I prayed, "If it's God's will for me and if it will enrich my spiritual life, please intercede and help me raise the funds."

I was at peace when I opened the account. "Even if I only get $300, it'll be a big help," I kept telling myself. Counting what I have in savings, I thought I'd need roughly $800 more, which was the goal I set. GoFundMe suggested I ask for $1,000 but I didn't want to take advantage of others' generosities. I knew $800 would be what I needed. Yes, GoFundMe took a small chunk out of the donations (yes, they charge you a percentage so I won't get the full $800) but I didn't want to be greedy. Never in my wildest dreams did I think those $800 would be raised in only 11 hours! I thought it was going to take a couple of weeks, to be honest. I even took this screenshot when I got home (after getting an email that the trip was funded) to preserve that memory.


I remain speechless and incredibly grateful to everyone who donated and prayed for me. I had complete strangers donate... something I'm still trying to wrap my head around. I teared up... and I still want to tear up as I write this.

Some of the kind people who donated don't know my Benedictine Oblate journey (or me, at all) so I thought I'd share it. I'll try to keep it short and sweet because y'all know I have a tendency to write a little too much. lol. The longer version of the explanation on how I settled on the Benedictines can be read here: Becoming Benedictine.

As I wrote on the GoFundMe (side note: I keep typing "GodFundMe," lol) page, this journey began 4-5 years ago. I had initially been attracted to the Dominicans and the Carmelites. My (then) spiritual director thought the Dominicans would be a good fit for my academically-inclined nature but, as the time went on, he encouraged me to reconsider the Benedictines; he saw what I didn't -- that they were going to be the perfect fit for me. As advised, I waited until I finished school to really discern joining a third order as a laywoman since I have no religious vocation (*le sigh*). 

When I heard about the earthquake in Norcia in late 2016, something stirred up in me. I still can't explain it but it felt very personal to me -- like it had deeply affected me even though I didn't have any ties to them. So, when I put my novels up for sale that winter, I donated all my royalties (and a little more from me) to their efforts to rebuild their lives in Norcia. I felt like my heart belonged to that little town, not knowing that, 2 years later I would reach out to them about possibly becoming an Oblate attached to their monastery.

During Lent 2018, after reading the Rule of St. Benedict and The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, I dug deeper into learning as much as I could about the Benedictine spirituality. The more I learned,  the more at home I felt. Then I had an American Benedictine Oblate reach out to me about helping her connect with a Spanish author; an Oblate attached to Norcia. I took it as a sign to move forward with it -- starting my Oblate journey.

I began sending inquiries to monasteries that accepted distance oblates since the Benedictine monastery in the L.A. Archdiocese was not the right fit for me. I reached out to the Monks of Norcia and the ones at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. I heard from Clear Creek first (and more often) but there were too many obstacles over several months that made it clear that it wouldn't work out.

I had to wait to hear from Norcia but it was well worth it in the end. I would go several weeks and/or months between emails but I never gave up hope. I had already implemented part of what is required of an Oblate into my daily life (e.g. Divine Office, Lectio Divina, etc.). While I got impatient at times, I still trusted that God would help guide me. If He was making me wait, it was for a reason. Perhaps I needed to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted. Maybe I needed to work on my patience. Perhaps I needed to make the changes necessary to prove to myself that I could handle what is asked of an Oblate. 

Then I received the news that I would be able to begin my novitiate over the summer and I was overjoyed! Then I was a little worried, "How am I going to pay for this trip?" I asked around and no one had any other suggestions except to create a GoFundMe account. I waited until the end of the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena to make it and, well, we know the results from it! I even laughed (with tears in my eyes) and said, "Bl. Pier Giorgio, aren't I supposed to give you a gift, not the other way around?" I also thought to myself, "If I needed a clear sign that this was God's will for me, there's absolutely no doubt now!"

As I've said before, I've never felt more at peace about any decision in my life as I do about becoming a Benedictine oblate attached to the monastery at Norcia. This is where I feel like my heart is at; this is where my spiritual home will be at.

I still laugh about all the little seeds that were planted and all the little coincidences (or were they?) along the way; things I didn't notice until much later. 

All the St. Benedict dreams I've had for over a decade. Seriously, you can read some of the dreams I shared by searching "St. Benedict" in the blog's search feature on the upper left-hand corner.

The fact that my father was born the day after St. Benedict's traditional feast day (March 21st) and the fact that he died the day of his new feast day (July 11th). It almost seems like St. Benedict was meant to become my spiritual father. 

The way my former spiritual director redirected me to the Benedictines (more than once), a full 3 years before I seriously reconsidered them. 

I'm sure the fact that everything seems to move forward during Lent (like it has for the past two Lenten seasons) also means something I haven't figured out yet. Perhaps it's a metaphor for leaving my old life behind and having to sacrifice some of the creature comforts and selfish habits to begin this new life; one in which God will be even more present and at the center of my life.

Oh! And some quick answers to questions I've been asked about being a Benedictine oblate:

1) Yes, it's fine for women to attach themselves as Oblates to an all-male monastery such as Norcia because we won't be living with them. The monasteries become our spiritual homes and we're considering part of their community but we live out in the world. If we're able to, we'll make an annual trip to see them and reconnect with our spiritual home. In the case of Norcia, we American Oblates have the option of making an annual retreat in the States when the Oblate director visits since an annual trip to Italy isn't always possible.

2) No, it doesn't mean I'm becoming a religious sister. I'll remain a laywoman, living in the world but not of this world. I will live my life according to the Holy Rule, spending most of my time in prayer, studying/reading Scripture, and working in whatever field God wants me in. Since I'm not married nor do I have children -- and I'm still trying to recuperate from my recent health relapse -- my work is freelance writing and helping my other keep our household clean. I will also make hospitality and serving others a big part of my life, especially at my parish. In fact, once I have a little more energy and physical strength, I will be serving others in various ways during my free time (which I have a lot of).

I don't know whether I'll eventually marry or remain single but it won't be affected (or vice versa) by my being an Oblate. On the contrary, I believe it will enrich whichever vocation God has in store for me. If I'm meant to be a wife and mother someday, being an Oblate will prepare me to become less selfish, more giving/serving, and to not be afraid of the hard work that comes with the vocation. Likewise, if I'm meant to be single, I'll be prepared to work hard to support myself, to step outside of my own selfishness by serving others in need, and to pray for and offer up as much as I can for not only my spiritual home but all of the Church in general.

Here's a brief explanation about third orders (including what is required of Oblates) by Elizabeth Scalia for those still wondering about it.

Anyway, I just wanted to say a massive "thank you!" to everyone who donated and prayed for me. Since this summer's trip has already been funded, I can now begin to save up (little by little) for next year's trip when I will (God willing) be making my final Act of Oblation and become an official/full-fledged Oblate. Prayers that I find more work for that trip would be greatly appreciated. I have a little over a year to save up so here's hoping! 

Again, thank you for everything. I'm so eternally grateful to those of you who donated, prayed and shared the link. Thank you to my Heavenly friends, St. Frances of Rome, St. Benedict, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati for all the intercessions and the prayers. Also, seriously, someone please canonize Bl. Pier Giorgio already! lol. 

I will keep y'all in the loop as I make progress in my Benedictine journey but, for now, that's all.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend and have a wonderful week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)