Friday, February 26, 2021

Lenten Book Club Week 1 - Of haircuts and Mantellates...

Hello everybody and welcome to the first installment in our book club series for Lent 2021, I am SO EXCITED!


Today we are set to reflect about Part 1 (technically called Book 1 within the text), which encompassed the first 7ish chapters. I was worried that maybe these chunks would be too much for me to read in a single week, and that maybe we would have to modify the schedule. Um, that is not a problem at ALL as it turns out, πŸ˜‚ and I absolutely sped through this section! I LOVED it, and cannot wait to chat with you all about it!

OK, so Book 1. We are in the 14th century with St. Catherine, who is age 19, and living at home with her family. St. Catherine comes from a big family, I knew that she was youngest of 25 children, although I didn't realize that so many of them had sadly passed away as infants, it sounds like. The book mentions her having, I believe, 13 living siblings. When the story begins, we find that her mom is very concerned with finding her a husband and marrying her off. I suppose that was the 14th century equivalent to lying awake at night with your stomach in a knot worrying about your shy teenager not socializing enough, and learning to drive next year. 😳 But I digress. Mom wants Catherine to get married, but Catherine does not want any part of getting married. She is a very devout young woman, has had a very close relationship with Jesus her whole childhood, and wants to dedicate her life to Christ and the Church.

The opening of this book was so poignant to me, because I related to both of these women in different ways. The mom is being a bit pushy, to be sure, and her daughter is now a grown woman who can make choices for her vocation on her own. But at the same time, as a fellow mom, I empathized with her desire to see her daughter safe and secure in a good situation for her life going forward. Her other children got married, that's the known route. Plus women didn't exactly have an easy time of things back then; that scene description of the festival time leading up to Lent, and the out of control behavior, gave me chills. 😒Having a husband would provide Catherine with some manner of protection against the lecherous element of society. But I also understood Catherine's desire to make her own decisions, and to honor the calling she had to a more religious life. It would be a change from the traditional process for young adults at that time, but change is necessary sometimes to help us to thrive and grow. 

And so that early scene with the mom talking about how beautiful Catherine's hair is, and how that will lure in a good husband, gave me a strong sense of foreboding. πŸ˜‚ And indeed, at first opportunity, Catherine procures a pair of scissors and cuts off her hair. And I was on her side for this! She's a grown woman, she can wear her hair as she pleases. At the same time, the scene at the sauna? 


Sorry Catherine, I'm with your mom on this one, no deliberate walking into scalding steam!!!

But to her credit, her mom does acquiesce, with some help from the dad, to allow Catherine to follow her desire to join the Mantellates, a group of laywomen who devote themselves to the teachings of St. Dominic. Although they do not live in community, they worship and pray together, work together on community service, and generally follow a religious rule that they developed for themselves. Granted, the mom was hoping that the group would reject Catherine's desire to join as she was significantly younger than the other, often widowed, members, but no matter. The mother superior is pretty skeptical, but ultimately Catherine's piety wins them over. She is accepted into the group, and her family welcomes her to continue to reside in their home as she lives out her religious vocation with the Mantellates. 

Immediately, of course, she encounters some drama. :-0 Some of the other members are jealous of her devoutness, and generally insecure about how different she is from the rest of them. So young, and yet seemingly goes into ecstatic fainting spells after receiving the Eucharist. Her confessor is consulted, and he backs her up: she's not faking this, she's genuinely experiencing something, or at the very least, truly believes that she is experiencing something divine. Here too, I can see both sides. One does have to be cautious about supernatural phenomena, and I can understand that the group was concerned that Catherine may either be having visions that weren't from God, or was experiencing something physical and not spiritual. She is asked to receive the Eucharist only once per month to keep these little episodes to a bare minimum, and this sacrifice is a huge one for Catherine, but she accepts it without question.

When we leave off at the end of Book 1, Catherine's family is talking over the dinner table about shenanigans with the pope moving between Rome and Avignon, and Catherine receives a call to leave her home and go out to serve Christ in a new and different way. OOOOOOoooooo! I can't wait to read Book 2! 

I am absolutely loving this book! What are your thoughts on part 1?!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Birthdays and book club schedules: Lent 2021 Week 1...

Happy (? 😁) first week of Lent, everyone! I do so enjoy Lent every year with it's focus on spiritual planning and goals. 


This year, Ash Wednesday marked the first time I've ever had "ash sprinkling" as the mechanism for receiving ashes, but there's a first time for everything, I suppose. I'm just grateful that we'll be able to attend Mass during Lent and Holy Week this year. No scripture service this year, just ash distribution, so we were in and out of the church in under a minute. Alas. But we do have other Lenten things to look forward to this year!

My just-past-midway February birthday often falls during Lent, and indeed, it sometimes falls on Ash Wednesday. I have to admit, my preference is for it *not* to fall on Ash Wednesday, even a Lenten Friday is OK with me! This year was bonus in that it fell on a Thursday, a party day right between two days of fasting, BOOM. 


And it was a lovely day. I was working from home with the kids here, but I took part of the day off and played in the snow with Anne and picked us up some Starbucks. Free birthday latte for me! 

*virtual high five*

I also made up an online ballet class via recording and practiced my finger cymbals. Mike and the kids had me pick out our dinner takeout (white pizza and antipasto salad) and got me a huge cookie cake with lots of frosting (my favorite!). It was genuinely a beautiful day.

Now we're at the first Friday of Lent, and I'm feeling jazzed for all of the spiritual nourishment that is to come! I have our Catholic Book Club selection for Lent 2021 all downloaded to my Kindle, and ready to go. In determining a schedule, I have tentatively come up with the following:

  • February 26th - Part 1
  • March 5th - Part 2
  • March 12th - Part 3
  • March 19th - Part 4
  • March 26th - Part 5

So we begin next Friday! And will wrap up just before Holy Week. The division into 5 parts makes this intuitive, but each of these parts is between 70 and 80 pages long (with the exception of Part 5, which is a little shorter). That's a bit longer than I'd like (I'm not the fastest reader anymore) so we'll see how it goes. If I need to adjust the schedule midway through to give us a bit more time and even extend into Easter, we can absolutely do that. Let's see how Part 1 for next Friday goes and we'll take it from there! I'm very excited to get started on this journey with St. Catherine of Siena!

How was your Ash Wednesday and general start to Lent? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Ash Wednesday is right around the corner, and Lenten Book Club 2021 plans!

Hi all, and happy Friday, the last Friday in Ordinary Time before Lent begins! As ever, I'm quite excited. In fact, I wrote about my joy in annual Lenten planning this month for Catholic Mom. I know it's a solemn time of penance, to be sure, but there's something about the wintry organization and focus that really makes me happy as a librarian. :-) Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of the season is something I always look forward to, and I always reflect on the dark days with the coming hope of Easter. 

This year, granted, Ash Wednesday will look a bit different in terms of our traditions (understandable, but still, I'm sad!) Our diocese is doing ash sprinkling over the head rather than crosses on the forehead this year. What is your parish doing?

In terms of a book club for Lent, I've definitely decided to run one on the blog this year, and based on the poll I posted in our Facebook group, and the responses I received in the comments last week, I have pulled Lay Siege to Heaven: A Novel About St. Catherine of Sienna, by Louis de Wohl as our winner!

SUPER EXCITED to read this book! I absolutely love historical fiction, and you know that stories of the saints are my very favorite! So now, how to proceed. Let's take 1-2 weeks to allow time for those who wish to participate to receive and begin the book. I know at least one person is going to be looking to request this via their library, and others may be ordering print copies that will take some time to arrive. Next week I'll put up an Ash Wednesday and general start to Lent post. We can get started chatting about the book on Friday February 26th. I want to assure we have plenty of time to read each section. I just downloaded the Kindle copy, and it looks like the book has 5 parts. I need to look at it more carefully to see how long each part is, but the book is 372 pages in total. I'll chart out a full plan with dates and pop that up next week. Sound like a plan?

I'm so excited to get started on this! Let me know if you're in for the Lenten Book Club 2021 down in the comments! 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Narrowing down the Lenten book club, and some in-progress winter crafting...

Hello all and happy Friday! It's a windy day here in WNY, with a lake effect snow storm on the way, so it'll be a cozy weekend in for us. We're looking forward to some family movie time, and making some snacks for the Super Bowl on Sunday. :-)

I'll get to our Lenten Book Club in just a second, but first I wanted to post a little creativity update in terms of winter crafting. Winter really inspires me in my knitting and crocheting: the colors, the cozy accessories, the SOCKS, so many socks. :-0 I just love it. I'm in a sock knit -along with some other knitters themed around tea, and we decided upon the Mint Tea Socks, which is a free pattern! These are my yarn options:

I genuinely don't know which to pick, they're both so good! I should have them cast on by next Friday. 

I also received an order of Valentine yarn from Bumblebee Acres, and I'm so in love. 😍

Granted, there will not be a pair of socks knit by Valentine's Day, but I am undeterred! Valentine's Socks can be worn year round. ;-)

I did cast on a mohair wrap in soft glacial colorways, and I'm quite smitten with it:

Pattern is Hygge and Hearth Scarf from Bumblebee Acres

And I finished my Lotus Flower hats, complete with giant pom poms! 

Lotus Flower Beanie, from BKnitsHandmade

Gorgeous pom poms are from North Star Stitches on Etsy!

Very much needing the hats and scarves these days with the wintry weather we're finally having!

But OK, let's talk Lent. I got a little bit of interest in my mention of a fiction title that we would read together this Lent, but not a ton of other feedback. So I had a few suggestions, but am very open to more! In perusing my book shelf, I happened upon this title, obviously non-fiction, but I absolutely love St. Faustina! And she fits great with a lead up to Easter, I think, since Divine Mercy Sunday is so close in time thereafter:

Our Friend Faustina, by Emily Jaminet and Michele Faehnle

And in continuing with our saint theme, I happened across a copy of one of Louis de Wohl's books in his series of historical fiction focusing on the saints. I have The Quiet Light, which is about St. Thomas Aquinas:

But there are also books just like this in his series that feature St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joan of Arc, St. Benedict, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis Xavier...the list goes on and on. Do any of these sound appealing? I'm really feeling this saint theme. But I'm open to all ideas! Cast your vote by leaving a comment! :)