Thursday, January 22, 2015


Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the disastrous ruling on the SC case Roe v Wade, a decision which even Roe herself regrets to this day, a decision that opened the door to millions upon millions of innocent lives being cut short before they even left what should have been the safest place on earth for them.

I grew up pro-life and never considered there being any other alternative way of thinking. There was life, or there was death - there was sacrificial love or there was selfishness - there was welcoming a child into one's life or there was giving that child over to a family who so desperately yearns for one.

As I've grown older, I can see why pregnancies are scary. Our Elisabeth was conceived when Molly was nine months old and I cried before I rejoiced at the two pink lines. But not a day passes that I don't thank the Lord above for His gift to us, nor can I imagine my life without her.

I know the fear. I know the fear of looking at a spreadsheet trying to figure out how to fill another stomach, where another sleeping body will lie, or how another carseat is going to fit in our car. I know the fear of doctor's bills and health concerns and moving and graduate school.

I also know the dignity of each life. And that is why I march.

I march because I know the feeling of my daughters' hands as they hold mine, or brush my hair, or fall asleep in my arms. The soft kisses they give me on my cheek and the squeeze of their arms around my neck in a hug. The overwhelming moment of pride as they smile at you for the first time, take their first steps, feel their first loose teeth, receive their first sacraments, and say your name with so much surrender and love. I know the love of a mother for a child and I march so that every mother can.

I march because I know I have three children, not just the two you see here on earth. Though his life was short, our third child is a part of our family and is loved and cherished and missed. Just as with his sisters, not a day passes that he isn't thought about. I march because every life is cherished, even the ones that have passed into the next life.

I march for my husband, born youngest in a family who lived well below minimum wage. I march because they welcomed a life that would forever change mine.

I march because I have sixteen nieces and nephews and each time I hear another one is being added to our family, I rejoice. Each is so different, so new, so beautiful. I march for them.

I march because I have a nephew who is autistic which means he thinks differently than I do, but loves just as fiercely. He teaches me more about love and patience than any other child I've ever met has. I march because every life has worth, even the ones deemed too different than the mainstream way of living. I march so he knows he is loved and cherished and has such incredible worth.

I march for my brother-in-law with spina bifida who, if he had been conceived with a different set of parents, might have been aborted for not having perfect health. I march for all the "imperfect" babies.

I march for my five godchildren, that they may know the passion it takes to live a life of a servant of God.

I march for the nephew I've only met a handful of times.  He was born into the worst of times for his family and sacrificially given over to his now-family who yearned for a child to love and raise. I march for adoption because it is a viable and beautiful option.

I march for the couples I know who cry out for a child to love.

I march for the mother too tired to buy a pregnancy to test to see if she is welcoming another child into the world. Who rejoices in the midst of fear of being open to life.

I march for the father who hugs his newly-pregnant wife as he's mentally falling to his knees, begging God for help as he figures out how to afford another child.

I march for the eleventh child in a family of children whose parents are eleventh children who became a priest and changed the world.

I march for my own grandfather who was a ward of the state and deemed useless by relatives. Because he joined the army at fourteen during WW2, just to escape the horrors of the orphanage. I march because, despite the unworthiness that was thrust upon him by society, he built a life and a family and lived in a Faith unshakable. That same family surrounded his bed as he passed from this life into the next, none of whom would be on this earth f it weren't for the worth of his life. I march to remember him and because his life did, indeed, have worth.

This is all trite and played out, but those are my reasons. We march on Saturday to the Texas Capitol, but we've joined our hearts with those marching in DC today. Please pray for them and for us.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

organic mama's shop review {seriously go shop there!}

Advent is quickly approaching (Sunday! When did that happen!?) and that means one thing to the secular world - Christmas shopping.

Our family tries hard to find a holy balance between recognizing Advent as a penitential season and recognizing that I, once again, did not buy a couple of Christmas presents each month through the year like I said I was going to.

I don't like the idea of rushing out on Black Friday to buy presents because crowds, lines, and stress, oh my! If any of y'all are like me and prefer to stay at home to do your Christmas shopping - pop open Pandora Christmas, grab your hot chocolate, and click here to feel the festive.

Shamelessly stolen from Organic Mama's Shop's Facebook page. 

I met the lady behind the beads, Shannon, at Edel this summer. I helped her run her Organic Mama's Shop booth and let me tell you, this lady is legit. She  has a passion for and genuinely loves helping busy, overwhelmed mamas grow (try to? tell me I'm not alone) in holiness. And I don't know how she does it, since she's a busy homeschooling pregnant (!!!) mama of many littles! But she does and her work is incredible. I love her work so, so much.

Shannon was gracious enough to gift me with a Rosary from her shop. I told her that I'd love to review something, but I'm not a nursing mother and I can't wear bracelets because my wrists are so thin you could probably floss your teeth with them. Then she told me about her rosaries.

I have wanted a good, beautiful rosary for ages - not that the plastic ones aren't good rosaries!  Just one that wasn't going to be broken by little hands eagerly wanting to pray her Aves (or throwing a fit because she wanted to hold it, I've heard it both ways) and one that hadn't been given away (because that always seems to happen, amiright? You end up on a plane next to the one on-the-fence non-Catholic who is considering converting but just can't make the swim across the Tiber? And what else can you do except give him your Rosary because Mama Mary will help him!).

What really spurred me into wanting a rosary that lasted through my lifetime was the death of my grandpa this summer. He died with his rosary in his hand. And our entire family has fond memories of him praying on this beloved rosary. I would love that for my children - to have memories of their mama using the same beautiful Rosary over the years.

Shannon's given me just that. Look at this beautiful treasure.

Shannon is truly an artisan. The quality of her work is unsurpassed. The beads are made of semiprecious stone and strung together with sturdy cotton cord. I've carried this beautiful Rosary around in my pocket, I've let my children use it, I've let my two-year old niece play with it and it's stayed together. Seriously, very, very well made. It is obvious that her work is built to last a lifetime - and we all know that for Catholic mamas, that usually means lots and lots of little hands will be loving on the item through the years, too!

Not staged one single bit....

And IF IF IF it ever breaks, Organic Mama's Shop has a lifetime repair or replacement policy. If for some crazy reason your rosary (or jewelry from her store) breaks, just send it back to Shannon and she will repair or replace.

Who has that kind of service nowadays??

And on top of that, 10% of all her income through her shop goes directly toward supporting crisis pregnancy centers.

Remember when I said this lady cares about helping women grow in holiness? See what I mean?

As I mentioned, Organic Mama's Shop sells more than just Rosaries, if you already have your perfect Rosary. She has Rosary bracelets (recently reviewed by my sweet friend Cate) which are well-loved throughout the Catholic mama community; novena bracelets that help absent-minded mamas remember that yes, I did commit to nine days of prayer; nursing bracelets which would have been fantastic when I was a nursing mama; and nursing necklaces which are not only useful, but so beautiful. She has lots of other products in her store so go check her out, really.

And Shannon graciously gifted my readers with the code STORYOFOURSOULS for 20% off. So leave Organic Mama's Shop open on your husband's computer tonight with your favorite item winking at him from the page and then casually mention the 20% off deal. Remember to act surprised on Christmas morning. Rinse and repeat for birthdays. At least that's the plan for me. :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

two sacraments for two girls

Taking a break from all things blogging (shocking, I know) to go celebrate two very important and special sacraments for two very important and special little girls. 

Pray for our two First Holy Communicants. And send any intentions that we can ask them to offer up during their First Holy Communion.

An overabundance of proud-parent photos to follow in the coming week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

on death with dignity

This is what death looks like to me.

And this.

I've been emotionally reeling after reading about Brittany Maynard's choice to end her own life. I knew it was coming and I'd been praying for her, alongside my dear friends Venerable Edel Quinn, Blessed Elisabetta Mora, and Our Lady of Sorrows. These are all women who saw suffering and instead of fleeing, embraced their crosses and turned in their crowns of woven thorns into jewels offered for the souls of others.

This story is particularly painful for me. Four months ago, I watched disease eat up a man I held close to my heart. But it never ate up his soul; rather, he allowed the suffering to sanctify it and more importantly to him, those around him.

It is through his suffering that those who loved him were able to care for him and love him and hold his hand, literally, from this world as he entered the next.

I have a poignant memory of, a few days before my grandfather's passing, my father taking the hand of his father who was in a debilitating amount of pain and having the following conversation:

"Dad, can you hear me?"

My grandfather weakly nodded his head.
"Dad, I want you to remember I love you. You know I love you, right?"
Another weak nod.
"Do you remember Father being here and praying with you? He gave you Last Rites. Do you remember?"
A weak nod.
"I know you're uncomfortable and sleeping a lot because of the medicine. I know it's hard to remember to offer up everything like that. Can I offer everything up for you, Dad?"
A prolonged nod.
"You're helping a lot of souls in purgatory. You're helping me, Dad." 
My grandfather's head fell back onto his pillow. He tried to talk and then shook his head. Instead he took my father's hand again and nodded. He then took his Rosary and my hand into his free hand and squeezed.

My father never left his bedside. When I encouraged him to go get dinner during those last twelve hours, he told me he, "Honestly, Mels, I'm afraid to leave." He sat there praying for and offering up all the sufferings of his father.

It's a memory I hope I never forget. Even now it brings a painful lump to my throat. 

This man, who was being eaten alive by cancer all over his body, who was suffering from pneumonia, heart problems, hep c, and diabetes knew the power of prayer and suffering. 

Venerable Fulton Sheen is credited with saying, "Sacrifice is suffering with love. Suffering is sacrificing without love." I can't find the quote, so maybe it's made up. Who cares. The point is true.

And somewhere along the way, our culture has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. In our desire to love others, and not wanting them to suffer, we've thrown out the power and beauty of redemptive suffering. It's an idea so built into Catholic teaching that it's never been an issue for me; I've never questioned it or thought it odd. From my earliest days, complaints of mine were met with, "Offer it up." And though sometimes it was meant in an offhanded, joking way, the grain of truth was still there.

Offer it up.

There are souls in this world who know not what they do. Souls who know what they do and do it anyway. And they will never repent. They will never meditate on the wounds that Our Precious Lord bore on our behalf and see that it was our sins that inflicted them upon Him.

Someone, though, can comfort Our Lord in His suffering. By offering it up. Someone can save those lost souls. By offering it up.

There has always been beauty in sacrifice. That's why those who join the armed forces or civil services are hailed: they're meagerly paid and sacrifice so much. That's why mothers are treasured in the eyes of Holy Mother Church: their bodies are literally sacrifices for the life of a new soul. That's why priests and religious are given respect, regardless of how they are as people: they sacrifices a life in the world to pray for the world.

Far be it for me to say redemptive suffering is easy. Even Our Lord, Redeemer of the World, shirked a little and asked that this chalice pass away from Him. But He followed up with, "But not My Will, but Thine be done." And that's all God asks of us. That we unite our wills with His. I don't suffer well. I complain, I resent, I hate - but I also offer everything up in the morning before even leaving my bed because I so desperately want to be good at suffering and I have the intention of being good at it. I'm just not without working hard to be. Does that even make sense? But God doesn't see how well I'm doing my suffering, just that I am.

Mother Theresa said that, "Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love."

I cling to that. My life is little; so very, very little. But the influence I can quietly and anonymously have on souls here on earth and in purgatory reminds me of the great dignity and worth of my personhood.

There are two stories contained in this sermon, both of which are worth listening to, but the first story is what struck my heart to the core. A girl, grown into a young woman who joined a convent, offered up all her prayers and sufferings for a soul unbeknownst to her. She didn't know for whom she was suffering, just that she was, and she was glad to. As it turns out, the soul she suffered for was a lost young man, who had renounced God and His Church and was looking to end his life. Before making that terrible and permanent decision, he had a vision of Our Lady telling him to stop - that he was to become a priest and a bishop and he was to save many, many souls. And that he did. He later met the young woman who had been praying and sacrificing on his behalf for years and she was just a simple, humble nun who lived a quiet life.

Goosebumps, right?

Redemptive suffering isn't just for the greatest of saints. It's not limited to Christ, to the Joan of Arcs, the Thomas Mores, the Lawrences. It's one of the greatest works of mercy and charity and it's available and encouraged to be used by all, even the very young, and especially for the elderly, the sick, and the dying.

I don't blame Brittany Maynard. I really don't. I think she was spoon-fed a lie that nourished her fear, and did the only thing she thought she could do - to "die with dignity." I understand the fear of suffering. I fear it, too. I fear it for myself, for my husband, my little ones. I daily pray that when and if a persecution against Christianity happens, that we remain steadfast in our Faith and that my children suffer little.

But is that what I should be praying? I should pray for them to understand suffering, to understand the souls they can save, the souls they help into Heaven. And this, beyond the suffering that could happen if the culture keeps heading toward a persecution. I strive to teach them the beauty of sacrifice in daily life and the bearing of those little crosses.

St. Maximillian Kolbe once said that, "Love lives by sacrifice."

The inspired, inerrant Word of God in John 15:13 reminds us that "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 

I can quote over and over the greats who have gone before us, about how life-giving and how true a love is that sacrifices for another. 

I don't want to pull the, "I've seen a suffering death, so I know" card. One doesn't need to experience something to understand and empathize. 

But I have seen a death riddled with suffering. I've heard the pained, rattled breathing; the erratic, terrifying beeping of monitors tracking a slowing heart; I've felt the tender squeezing of a frail and cold hand grasping onto life through mine. I've held a man as he passed from this life into the next. But alongside that, I've watched him offer it all up, even when he was physically unable to do so anymore. I've prayed many a Rosary alongside that waning life, sung the Salve Regina quietly to him as his breath grew more rattled and few, reminded him of how much he is loved and cherished. 

His death was filled with ugly, terrifying, and painful redemptive suffering and it was dignified and peaceful. 

I don't think Brittany Maynard was a coward. I think she was scared and misled. I've seen a lot of uncharitable comments made about her and her decision and though my initial reaction was one of frustration and sickness, only the sickness remains. Our culture led her to that decision. Our culture has forgotten  - no, dismissed, chased out, ridiculed - the beauty of suffering. That upon which our entire humanhood is founded has been lost.

Instead I pray for her soul. I cling to the words Our Lord weakly said from His Cross, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." I pray Brittany knew not what she did. As much as the fatalist in me dismisses the idea that our culture knows not what it's doing by ridiculing the idea of suffering on behalf of someone else, I cling to the idea that it just might. After all, it was GK Chesterton that reminds us that:

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”

In our search for comforting the sorrowful and afflicted, we lost redemptive suffering. I think, we, as Catholic faithful, need to embark on a journey to embrace it once again, if we haven't already, and strive to help the culture around us to see the beauty in it.

"Pray for my soul.  More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.  Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.  For what are men better than sheep or goats that nourish a blind life within the brain, if, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer both for themselves and those who call them friend?  For the whole round earth is every way bound by gold chains about the feet of God."  - Morte D'Arthur, Tennyson

Friday, October 3, 2014

31 days of creating a {real} domestic church: new life

I'm going to be honest here, today was hectic and crazy and I don't know how mothers of brick-and-mortar kids do it. We had co-op at 8:30 and you'd think they asked me to pilot a ship to the moon with how unrealistic it feels to get out of the house in an organized manner at that hour.

But we made it, we survived, and even made it to Holy Mass afterwards for First Friday. Two First Fridays in a row. Color me a saint.

Enough, though. I'm doing thirty-one days of how we try to create a domestic church in our home. And that's exciting and all, but this is more exciting so I'm going with this instead.

This is my newest nephew, Juan Luis. 

This little fella makes sixteen nieces and nephews for us, a number which includes our sweet little nephew due later this month. We are blessed.

Want to know what I think the secret to a thriving domestic church? Little ones. Lots of little ones. Since we only have two precious little girls and only hope for more, I fully recognize that not everyone is blessed with a passel of children. Welcome little ones into your home! Nieces, nephews, godchildren, children of friends and family! Welcome them, welcome them! They will make a mess and be noisy and crazy but it will be wonderful, exhausting, and fantastic.

Matthew 19:14 it up in your home. If Heaven belongs to these new little souls, let your home belong to them, too. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 days of creating a {real} domestic church: Michaelmas celebrations!

Creating a stylish home space is kind of above my pay grade. As in, we don't make enough for me to copy the Pintrest pins I've stalked and drooled over and I'm not creative enough to walk into a thrift shop and Ty Pennington up my living room.

When we moved into our current house, Joseph gave me carte-blanche permission to get new bedding. To a wife who's lived on student loans and hand-me-downs for the last few years, I was in Heaven. Our bedroom walls are this dark, dark blue and since I tried the painting thing and found it lacking [in leisure for my arm muscles], I didn't want to change the room, just my bedding which was conveniently also dark, dark blue. I prowled aisles and aisles of every big box and site after site for inspiration. Want to know what I ended up with?

Behold the poster of creativity. I mean simplicity, because that is what I claim.

I didn't even get myself new pillowcases. I just use our dark blue sheets. It all works out since the cheap white cotton blanket now has little fingerprints on it from well-meaning but sticky little fingers. If it had been an expensive set, I would have cried. Instead, I just wait until Christmas when I can wave pictures of on-sale bedding under my poor husband's nose and drop hints as heavy as the atomic bomb about which one I want.

On that note, since I can't create stylish settings in my home, I've been blessed with the gift of being able to really see clearly and embrace what it takes to make a house a little domestic church. Because after, all that's what a home is, the smallest faction of Holy Mother Church and the building block of society. 

Pope John Paul II focused much of his papacy on renewing and supporting the family. In his Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane), Pope Saint John Paul II recognizes the struggles the world presents to families and the crosses families in the future will need to bear in order to grow in holiness and overcome this world. 

This same pope once said that, "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.

I believe that with my whole heart. And holy families don't just happen. They are something that need to be shaped, and nurtured, and watered (with holy water if it's dum ching!), prayed and loved into existence. Rinse and repeat over and over every moment of everyday in order to maintain the beauty and fruit that intentional Catholic parenting brings forth in a family. 

So, for the next  thirty-one days (give or take a few days because obviously I'm a day late and one hundred cents short on this challenge already), I'll focus a post on how we try to make our home peaceful and focused on Heaven. They'll be all-encompassing, as the way we try to create a domestic church doesn't just lie in the art on our walls and the statues adorning our bookshelves, but foremost in what we put inside our heads, and hearts, and souls. We shape our domestic church with homeschooling, nurture it with feast day celebrations, water it with wholesome and enriching stories and intentional parenting and living.

And as an aside: this is about creating a real domestic church, not one for the Pintrest. I'm exhausted, have little ones, homeschool, and, God bless my little heart, haven't an iota of creativity. But I try and we live intentionally and that's what matters. One's homeschool and home doesn't have to look perfect for it to be fruitful. So I'll be honest here. 

I'll also try to stick more to pictures than words, but you can laugh alongside me when I don't do that at all.

Numero uno for this late post.

Feast of Michaelmas. What can we do that doesn't involve sugar and sweets (which is a big way we celebrate feast days in our house)? It gets a little old (and we get a little unhealthier) when there is a major feast day every single day this week.

We made a mini-version of Pin the Sword on the Dragon. It's more fun when there are a dozen children, but we're not there yet, so with two kids we tried! The girls had more fun acting like they didn't know where they were at in our little house than they did trying to get the sword on the dragon's head, but I'll take it. Next year, I'll have to plan better and make a poster-sized version of this and maybe have some friends over to play with us.

The dragon was this simple uncrafty craft:

Next Monet.
Give the kids some scissors and glue and markers and you've got yourself a dragon flying out of the depths of hell, only to be struck down by the Prince of the Angels. Or something like that.

Next up, Feast of the Guardian Angels, which is today, so I should get to planning since it's 10:30 already.  I have high hopes for celebratory activities, but since my printer is broken, my dreams feel a bit dashed. I'll throw a few feathers that fell out of our down blanket at the girls and tell them to glue them on some paper and toss a bit of glitter on it.

As you can see, domestic church.

Did I mention that creativity and craftiness isn't a huge part of ours?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

revisiting brideshead revisited

I tried to find a Blogtember list of topics to inspire me what to write about, but instead I found a pretty basic list that included describing myself as though I were the author on the sleeve of a novel.

Melanie lives in the official Food Steamer of the country, Austin, Texas, and does nothing outside the house worth mentioning. She enjoys homeschooling, but in the kind of way that she hates it and resents it, but loves it (she's uncomplicated like that). When she's not homeschooling, she's frantically cleaning her living room rug that she stupidly bought, even though it has white lattice design on it. White. When the kids are in bed, she invests no time into anything productive, instead choosing to binge watch TV shows that recently came out on Netflix and reading the news, which in turn keeps her up late at night due to the anxiety she feels about anything other than someone smiling kindly. She has two children who probably need more structure to their lives and a husband who will be the fastest canonized future saint in the history of Holy Mother Church. Feel free to not contact her, as the social interaction will give her hives and possibly a mild heart attack. 

See? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Except you, if you just read it. Joke's on you.

Another was to write about what makes you happy.



Be brave and make a vlog.

Google vlog. Heck to the no.

I am passionate about _________.

Does the term "not exercising" mean anything to you?

The obvious trend here is that this list isn't working for me.

So, I have to come up with things to blog about on my own. The trials I have to go through to keep you entertained.

I looked up the list I half-heartedly half-completed last year and lo and behold, September 24th's prompt was to review a book I've recently read.

Fancy that, as I wanted to write about a book I recently read.

How this book slips through the cracks for a gal who has been reading since she could logically put two letters together to form a concept, I don't know. I took AP English classes, my college schedule was filled to the brim with literature courses and honors seminar classes where all we did was discuss great writing (or not great writing, because let's get real - some of the stuff I read was just plain rotten and everyone acted like it was wonderful. Puh-lease. I can see right through you and your weedy-haze, liberal arts major.). Somewhere buried deep in my closet is a fancy piece of paper that certifies that I understand and excel in literature and creative writing.

Sidenote: post-college gets iffy on the choice of literature. I blame the overload of Amish fiction to the overload junky reading I was forced to do in college classrooms.

Sidenote: I really do like those Amish books. Nothing bad really ever happens. It's salve to my anxious soul.


What I'm trying to say is I read a lot. And my choice of reading is extensive. I've plotted vengeance with Dumas, anticipated the Second Coming with Connelly, cried with Dostoevsky; traveled through history with Rivers and the Thoenes; looked in the mirror with shame alongside Fitzgerald and Hemmingway and scoffed at Rand; I even milk cows alongside those Amish folks I just mentioned. There is nary a book cover left unturned by myself.

So I was surprised when that little "List Ten Books" game was going around Facebook and I kept seeing Brideshead Revisited pop up. I scurried to the library after the third recommendation I'd seen and quickly checked out this old, gorgeous copy from our library. The pages were frail and yellowed and if I could smell, I imagine they smelled musty and inviting. I'm convinced that all good books need to look well-loved, complete with dog-ears and food stains and and a little bit of water damage.

This book looked promising.

When I started it, I quickly realized it was British and written in the beginning half of the 20th century. A lot of good authors came from that period and I had a lot to compare this one to (see: degree buried somewhere in a storage closet in our house). I wasn't impressed immediately and the story didn't draw me in, but I pushed through. Very few books are left unfinished once I've started them.

I'm so glad I did.

I won't ruin plot lines, so bear with the ambiguity.

Once I got past it (my blood runs Kelly Green, I can't help it), I was really struck by the depth of the characters that Waugh creates. I was so struck by it that I had to look up the plot to make sure that this book had characters with redeeming stories or qualities about them.

(Let's just say Cormac McCarthy and I aren't pen pals or anything. I can't handle his stories.)

Stick with it, pessimists; it does.

We had guests two days after I started reading this book in bursts (see: homeschooling and carpet scrubbing) and Joseph and I bunked with the girls in their room for the night. Once the wife went to sleep, I surreptitiously left Joseph to entertain the husband and laid down with Molly's flashlight and read for another hour and a half. I got up before anyone else the next morning and finished.

I'm so glad it was before anyone else because I sobbed like a baby at the end and that's just plain embarrassing when you have guests.

It wasn't the type of tragedy that McCarthy presents, where all you can think about is blood and gore and death and pain and suffering and all the things bad in this world.

This was the pain of beauty and redemption and mercy. The ache that experiencing God creates in a human soul.

I'm fully of the opinion that we need to fill our minds and souls with good. Not Pollyanna good, even though I get my fair share of that (Amish books for the win), but true goodness, which sometimes manifests itself in that which opposes evil.

Let me explain.

Pope Leo XIII's vision of the future Church and his witnessing the confrontation between Our Lord and Satan makes my blood run cold. But the beauty and goodness found there is overwhelming, too. Out of that preternatural confrontation, the Church was given one of the most powerful prayers of our time, once which was said at the end of every single Mass until fairly recently. One which families still pray at the end of Rosaries and sleepy children lisp at the end of their days. It's beautiful in and of itself, but also because it opposes evil itself.

The stories of the martyrs are filled with terrible suffering and ultimately death, but fill our hearts with the goodness and beauty of the Faith and their ultimate gift of love for God and the rest of the Church throughout time. St. Maximillian, St. Agnes, St. Thomas More, St. Issac Jogues, the Holy Innocents, St. Lawrence. These are some of the bloodiest stories in recorded history, but some of the most inspiring and good in the truest sense of the word.

Those examples to say that we have to fill our minds with goodness. That which lifts our hearts and souls to Heaven and helps them to desire it more. Not that which weighs us down to this world and it's trappings.

Brideshead Revisited isn't a story for the weak. It's a story that challenges the strong to realize just how weak they might be. It's a story of the Church and how She isn't an institution for the perfect, but one to help bring sinners to holiness and to the One who is perfect. It's a reminder that the mercy of God knows no bounds, as long as we're ready to meet Him with a contrite heart and a realization of our own humanness and failings.

It's a story of Christ thirsting for souls and souls, even unknowingly, longing for Him in return.

Brideshead is a book that every Catholic should read and revisit at least once a year; every Catholic household should have it gracing their bookshelf; every Catholic student should study and analyze it in high school, alongside Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Woolfe, and Fitzgerald.

I truly liken this book to Mr. Blue by Myles Connelly, which is no small comparison, as I think Mr. Blue to be the height of literary achievement during it's time period and well beyond. In fact, I think this could be a prelude to Mr. Blue's life story.

The redemptive story found in Brideshead is truly one that has great potential to be life-changing. Go buy yourself a copy and some Kleenex and settle in for the weekend. Netflix can wait, I promise.