The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King


The release of the Netflix series, The Crown, coming soon and possibly purposefully after the election was welcomed by those of us all too happy to dip into another country’s removed and far more decorous politics.

I binged through the show at an embarrassing pace. In my defense, my computer, on which I blog and work, died an unceremonious death one day and left my evenings free to read and watch Netflix. But I’m not complaining. It’s sumptuous and beautifully acted and had me reading an unhealthy amount on my phone about the ins and outs of the British royal family.

However much it may stray into fiction, the show gives us an intimate view of the personal lives of the royals. That human and flawed internal life in relation to the external life of the Crown—holy, dignified, and immutable—was incredibly fascinating to me.

Philip kneels before his wife and queen at her coronation and, on camera, looks to the world unremarkably dutiful when it was actually a tense and difficult moment for him.

Elizabeth and Philip seem to ennoble all they touch at home and abroad and yet the peace within their marriage is subject to strains of exhaustion, over-scheduling, and family drama that any married couple might feel.

Elizabeth is expected to and appears to keep calm and carry on through scandals and drama within the government and within her own family, but she relies enormously on moral support from her husband and sister and mother to carry out her duties for the good of her country.

It’s made me reflect on marriage and monarchy as very general concepts but also in the very specificity of my own life. I’m of course the queen of nowhere and no one but my tiny home and family. And yet, the amount that my husband and I are willing to humble ourselves to one another and bear one another’s burdens also has long lasting, though far subtler, reverberations for the whole world. After all, our children carry whatever environment we raise them in, be it imbued with love or fraught with fear, out into the world.

Yesterday was the Feast of Christ the King. The election and all the ugliness it’s brought out has made me feel this urgency in my heart to actually live out in concrete ways the truth that our allegiance lies first with Christ the King rather than any earthly power. So, painful as it is for Philip to kneel before his wife and painful as it might be to sometimes metaphorically kneel to my husband, i.e. bite back my urge to snap at him when I’m upset or tired, it’s actually to the Crown, the heavenly Crown, to the truly holy, dignified, and immutable kingship of Christ, that I kneel.

So if this election’s got you down (and frankly, if you’re like me, would have got you down no matter the outcome), exercise your civic duty by volunteering, donating, and speaking out in constructive ways in the name of the oppressed and vulnerable, rather than just reposting and complaining in your echo chamber. But also worship your true King by loving the people in your own small kingdom well.

The Crown, the election, and the Solemnity of Christ the King

Coffee Table Evangelization: The Catholic Catalogue

I’ve always had this problem where I get really nervous about talking about my faith with non-Catholics but at the same time I can’t keep quiet about it because it is who I am. I think I’ve gotten better with age. There was a point in my life when I stressfully felt like I had to convince people of the truth of my faith. But now, it’s more like this is a beautiful thing that informs every aspect of my life so it’s just bound to spill over into conversation wherever I am whoever I’m with.

Most of my friends growing up were not Catholic, and I remember them saying that they could never be Catholic because of all the things you would have to know.Now I think I understand. Looking from the outside in it does seem like there’s just so much seemingly superfluous stuff: all the patron saints and feast days and icons and statues and priests and nuns in strange clothes and titles of Mary (and what is it with Catholics and Mary anyway?). But at the time, the idea that there was too much to learn left me reeling. It was like saying you could never go to school because there was too much to learn. Or that you could never get married because there too much to get to know about a person. Too much to know and to love.

In college, I read Evelyn Waugh’s words on conversion and I wish I had known them before then, because it put into words those innate feelings I had:

“Conversion is like stepping across the chimney piece out of a Looking-Glass world, where everything is an absurd caricature, into the real world God made; and then begins the delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.”

And then I wish I had The Catholic Catalogue on hand. Not because I think everyone must be Catholic and must be Catholic this instant. (I think everyone should be wherever God wants them to be.) But just in case they were curious about all the seemingly superfluous stuff.

If conversion, as Evelyn Waugh makes it out to be, is the limitless exploration of a new land, The Catholic Catalogue, subtitled A Field Guide to the Daily Acts that Make Up a Catholic Life, is like a guide book for that journey.

Written by a mother-daughter team who runs a website by the same name, the book is organized in different sections titled: Smells and Bells (topics include among others: relics, oils and incense, praying the rosary, and processions), Seasons of the Church Year (describing how to keep and celebrate Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Ordinary Time as well as the various feasts within those seasons), and Seasons of Life (explaining sacraments and different vocations but also giving practical advice for things like naming a child, finding a spiritual director, and choosing a Catholic tattoo).

I think what I love most about this book is that it’s coffee table evangelization. It’s the sort of book that would have piqued my interest as a kid. I have this feeling that a good deal of imaginative, spiritual formation is actually hands off with raising children. (Maybe I think that because it keeps me from stressing about the enormous task of making sure your kids end up decent and faithful people.) It made a big deal in my childhood that there were simply good books around me. So I think exposing the natural curiosity of children to truth and goodness and beauty in indirect ways goes a long way.

The Catholic Catalogue is also perfect for newly (or not so newly) married couples trying intentionally to make their home into a domestic church. It makes for an ideal reference book in creating a rule or rhythm for living out the Christian life that’s tailored to your family’s own particular needs and devotions. The spiritual nourishment it offers makes it a beautiful gift idea for any sacrament in a person’s life.

Basically, if I know you and you have a major Catholic life event coming up, you’re probably going to receive this book from me. You’re welcome in advance.

Coffee Table Evangelization: The Catholic Catalogue

Grace is everywhere

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When I was fifteen, I very much wanted to be a nun tucked away in some quiet cloister in the mountains spending a life of contemplation and prayer. But if I did get married, I’d have ten well-behaved children, sew all their clothes, speak to them off and on in multiple languages (because I’d be fluent in like five of them, duh), and somehow still manage to chase my dreams of being a published author and wallpaper designer. And of course, we’d be living in a pretty little cottage in some foreign countryside. And I wouldn’t be frazzled and stressed. I would be the most peaceful and collected sweet dreamboat of a mother. I would actually somehow have my sh** together.

Well those potential futures were fun to idly dream about when time was hilariously ample and I should have been drilling myself on declensions and verb tenses. Needless to say I’m on a fast track to neither of those lives. Today, I spoke to my son half in English, half mirrored baby babble. I found a stain on my shirt that might be chocolate, might be poop. I have yet to change out that shirt. Or put my on contacts. Or get out of my jams. Oh and I definitely haven’t published a thing or designed any wallpaper.

I think if you would have given fifteen-year-old Dominika a real depiction of the mother she would become, she would have gone into mourning over the death of her imagined future self, and said in unison with a despairing Gerard Manley Hopkins, “AND WHAT DOES ANYTHING AT ALL MATTER!” But I’m at peace with all this.

There are certainly days when I’m not at peace with it. Days when it feels like my other dreams and ambitions outside of motherhood are increasingly slipping away. Days when I selfishly get frustrated that I actually have to watch my little adventurer like a hawk when just weeks ago his immobility meant I could get things done. Days when I question my parenting decisions because of all the judgment and expectations that seem to float around. Days when I fear having more children because of the fear of having more of these days.

But there’s a strange way in which this vocation of stay-at-home motherhood, which on one hand is so unlike what I desired, is, on the other hand, very much what I have desired all along. I wrote to a friend while I was pregnant that what I desired most about religious life when I was in high school was a quiet place to grow freely toward the light of God (Hopkins got me then too). And how in being pregnant, I got to be a quiet place for a new soul to grow toward the light of the world.

Since my son was born, more parallels between the cloistered life and this one spring up in little places. Like how being with him, really being with him and not being on my phone or computer, means contemplating beauty in places unlooked for: the grain of the underside of the coffee table or the delicious crunch of a plastic water bottle in his small hands.

Or how he shares with us the joy of simply existing in a community of love. Yesterday, before bed, we cuddled with him in our bed and our usually very uncuddly baby snuggled up to us and laughed and laughed anytime we did anything at all. He couldn’t handle us making faces at him or kissing him or even me just laying my head on his little belly. He just shrieked with the most glorious laughter over being with the two people he most loves and who love him the most.

There’s a wonderful line at the end of The Diary of a Country Priest: “Grace is everywhere.” Georges Bernanos’ novel is about the seemingly mundane and ineffective life of a parish priest, and in the seemingly mundane and ineffective life of a stay-at-home mother, these words remind me of how meaningful the achingly long moments of our days can be.

Grace is everywhere. Not just in religious communities. Not just in the life of the instagrammer whose feed most increases our jealousy. Not just in white washed minimalistic homes. If we look with eyes of love, we might see that transcendence abounds and beatific light washes over the crumbs and the messes and the crosses we carry.

My husband and I hope and pray for more laughing little babies, and with more, the days will get harder (and eventually I imagine easier in some ways), but right now I’m thankful for my quiet life with this one who forces me to be still and grow toward the light of God.


Grace is everywhere

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Ordinary Time

liturgical living-ordinary time-the angelus-milet

This is my seasonal brain dump about how I ideally want to live out the liturgical seasons fully acknowledging that I probably won’t measure up to my hopes and dreams any time soon.

I’ve been hounded lately by this horribly nagging feeling that there’s so little time and so much to do. Blogging and other writing projects and trying to get my small business plans rolling and custom art commissions and reading and language learning. Oh aaaand praying and mothering and housekeeping and exercising. I’m scared silly that I might never actually do anything which would honestly would be fine if I was an all-attentive mother instead of a half-attentive mother trying to do all the things. (Of course I never get up before the baby on any morning of the week so is it really metaphysical confines that are tripping  me up or just my own lack of fortitude?)

However, in my anxiety over the shortness of time and the bigness and multitude of things to do and my personal penchant for laziness, Ordinary Time is a gift. It’s an opportunity to learn how to use time wisely and structure it well and order it towards sanctity. It’s a time to establish patterns of prayer and work and leisure that might be built on during other seasons of the liturgical year.


The great majority of Ordinary Time falls during Summer and Fall making it the ideal time to learn to eat seasonally and to actively reflect on where food comes from by planting herbs or full fledged urban homesteading or shopping at the local farmer’s market or participating in a local food co-op. (We’re planning on doing this one.)

During Ordinary Time I also want to perfect some good, simple staple dishes to be able to fall back on. I never knew my mother’s mother to make anything new or adventurous, but her daily bone broth soup and all the other traditional Slovak things she made were always so wonderfully satisfying and comforting. So by good, simple staples, I mean Slovak dishes obviously.

And I want to use this time as an opportunity to streamline and simplify the grocery shopping and meal making process. Right now I’ve gotten pretty good about meal prepping during my son’s second nap of the day so that dinner doesn’t take a thousand years to make, but I go to the grocery store about three times a week because of poor planning. So I want to meal plan better for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner. I want to make batch lunches for the week on Saturdays–things like grain salads and granola power bites. And possibly use a couple days during this time to make freezer meals for crazier days instead of resorting to eating out. This would be particularly helpful during Ordinary Time in January so that during Lent we really stick to meals at home.

In general, during Ordinary Time, I want to focus on establishing good eating habits for the whole year. Less meat. Less sweets. More vegetables. Less snacking. When I studied abroad in France, I loved the repetitious rhythm of meals (even if the meal itself sometimes made me nervous–stingray, liver, blood sausage anyone…??) Every lunch was hearty. Every dinner was a simple vegetable potage (often with leftovers blended in), followed by a cheese course, a fruit course, a piece of chocolate (for bonne morale!) and a hot cup of herbal tea. I particularly liked that other desserts were left for special occasions like having guests over. Since my husband can’t get home for lunch, we’re stuck to the American way of quick lunches and more filling dinners but I still like the dependable repetition of wine, cheese, fruit, chocolate, and tea.


I’m a big fan of the idea of capsule wardrobes or even a daily uniform. Clothes matter. Ethically, emotionally, socially. I’ve seen the uniform idea popularized for the the professional world, but I think it can translate to stay-at-home-mom life too. I fall into the rut of wearing my pjs all day too often, but I think, if I could, like a nun donning her daily habit, hop into a simple, comfortable, well-and-ethically-made outfit day after day, my mood would immediately be boosted.

I really like Kendra’s idea of a school uniform even if you’re homeschooling. Less laundry. Less time spent looking for lost articles of clothing. Although this is more my flavor of kids’ uniforms.


It’s no secret that I love the concept of the domestic monastery. I think the idea of trying to emulate a well-run happy and harmonious religious community in the home is a noble one. And I think the pursuit of creating a domestic monastery and the pursuit of liturgical living in the home are inextricably linked. So as far as work, leisure, and Ordinary Time go, I adopt the Benedictine motto of ora et labora: attempting to strike a balance between work and prayer. Activity and rest. Labor and leisure.

I want to be able to keep house well. To give my attention to creative/professional interests. To find ways to help supplement our income. To aim for excellence in all things. But I also want to strike the right balance between all those things among themselves and also with more contemplative activities such as praying, reading, nursing the baby, memorizing poetry etc.

Right now my life feels pretty fractured. I scroll on social media or attempt to blog as I nurse the baby. I start one chore and leave off half way through to tackle something else. I’m working on about ten creative/professional projects at once but don’t feel like I’m making any concrete progress towards any real goal of mine. I feel like I’m hustling (hate that word) all the time but not moving in any direction. Or I’m overwhelmed and vegging on the couch in a guilt-ridden netflix stupor. So I want to step back and learn to make a prayer out of my work. To do such things as making the dishes into a holy, meditative act by praying a rosary at the same time. To memorize poetry as I nurse the baby. To stop and think about whether I really want to commit my time to a project before saying yes so that I don’t feel as though changing diapers or nursing the baby are getting in the way of other work. To give myself permission to rest during naptime every now and then (and not feel guilty about it!) instead trying to fit a million things into the space of an hour.

Furthermore, I want to actually keep holy the sabbath. Yes, we always do Mass but I want to set the whole day aside for rest as it was intended. To work and labor and prepare on Saturdays so that we might enjoy slow Sunday traditions as a family.


I hit on this a bit in that last section but some more specific ideas:

Aside from simply trying to integrate prayer and work where I can, I’ve outlined my ideal prayer schedule here. That’s still my goal however faily I am at getting there.

Even when I don’t get a rosary in, I love the tradition of saying the Angelus at noon. Melissa Musick has a good post on the simple power of this beautiful prayer. Plus Jennifer recommended Magnificat’s Angelus app and I’ve been using and loving it. I have an immense love for church bells. It was one of my favorite parts of going to a Catholic college and I wished we lived in the neighborhood of our parish because they have some excellent ones. So this app with it’s bell tolling reminder to get on my knees and recollect the Incarnation does my soul wonders.

Lastly, and perhaps this should have gone in the aforementioned section, I want to actively try to incorporate the works of mercy in my daily doings. Especially during this year of mercy. Growing up, my siblings and I were involved in the Legion of Mary which has as its mission evangelizing primarily through the works of mercy. As much as I would groan and moan about getting out of bed to go to church at 10am(!!) on a Saturday morning, it was a blessing. We’d pray and read at the meetings and be assigned specific works like doing chores without being asked (which was a serious challenge to virtue for a fourth grader). And frequently we’d do things like go visit elderly people in nursing homes. I could use a little more of the legion spirit in my life now. I am absolutely guilty of looking down at my phone when I’m stopped at a light and there’s a homeless person asking for anything. It’s inexcusable. I like this list on different ways to incorporate the work of mercy.

Jennifer has a wonderful post on ways to make the most of Ordinary Time and I probably should have just sent you there in the first place.

If you missed them here are my Lent and Easter Hopes for Liturgical Living.

Happy Friday and Feast of St. Bonaventure! Here is some recommended reading in his honor.

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Ordinary Time

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Easter


This post is part of my Hopes for Liturgical Living series in which I scheme and daydream about the way we’ll one day live out the liturgical seasons when our lives are slightly more together. As always, I admit that this is probably fanciful thinking. But it’s what I do best. And also, for the Bible tells me so.

I’m devoting this post primarily to ideas for keeping the celebration going for the full fifty day season of Easter but a few notes about Easter Sunday and the Octave:

After the long fast of Lent, I want to have the brightest of Bright Weeks. I want Easter to loom in my children’s imaginations as being as big of a deal as Christmas. Bigger actually. That’s something that I think is a baffling thing to modern, secular America. Easter has become a simple celebration of spring, rather than the most important moment of all history.

I want to spend Holy Week quietly(ish…cuz kidz) making and baking with my children so that they wake up on Easter morning to a house covered in flowers and ornaments and wreaths, to a decadent breakfast spread, and to grand Easter hymns playing. And to keep feasting like so for the whole of the Octave.

For the rest of the season, I’m dreaming of something along these lines:


I’m not planning three course meals every night (mayyybe on Sundays), but after meals like rice and beans or lentil soup for forty days, I want to make things that sing spring. I do want to have an actual food producing garden at some point, but while we don’t, hitting up the farmer’s market regularly during the Easter season might make a lovely way to talk about green things growing and all the associated themes of Resurrection.

I also like the idea of elevating daily staples during the season. Like really good tea and really good wine and really good salt. I can’t justify buying these things for daily use year round (unless I get budget shuffling and cutting in order), but I can make an exception during Easter.


We are thinking of homeschooling (at least while the kiddos are little) and one of the perks of it is all the freedom to devise your own schedule. Ideally, we’d take a eight day long break for the Octave and then maybe do half days of school for three or four days a week instead of five (and then adjust accordingly during ordinary time to make up.)

As far as housekeeping goes, we’ll have (hopefully) sufficiently devoted ourselves to deep cleaning and decluttering during Lent and will only do the necessary tasks like dishes, laundry, and tidying up.


Like I said before, after the subdued hues of Lent, we’ll be all about the lights and brights, channeling the Von Trapp children running about in their new play clothes.


One of the problems with ceasing the Easter festivities too soon is that churches and families tend to schedule Easter activities before Easter even begins. Easter egg hunts on Palm Sunday are particularly popular and weird, because when you observe all the days of the season, you have fifty of them to decorate eggs and hunt for them to your heart’s content.

Some other ideas:

I like the Advent idea of having a new or rewrapped book (Easter or spring related in this case) for the kids to open each Sunday. And of course we’ll keep the feasts that fall during the season. There are some really good ones (St. George, I’m looking at you). The Visitation would make for a good occasion for planting a Mary Garden. The first day of May, a good occasion for a Mayday celebration replete with a maypole and a May Crowning and all.

And then there are small things like setting up a projector outside for movie nights instead of staying indoors, squeezing in time for sleeping in and snuggling, for picnicking, for building tents made out of sheets in the living room in which to read or have tea parties.

Not everything has to be explicitly religious for it to create an atmosphere for Easter. I want to focus on emphasizing the difference in tone between Lent and Easter to gently but obviously underscore the change of the seasons.


In addition to saying regular rosaries and attending daily Mass and praying the divine office and having spiritual reading, I think Jennifer’s idea for the Via Lucis is so wonderful. I’d also like music to be a significant part of this, and, in fact, all seasons with seasonal chants and hymns. And we’ll be throwing in an alleluia wherever we can fit it (perhaps adding it to the goodnight blessing each child receives before bed) and squirting the kids with reckless abandon with holy water to remind them of their baptismal promises. Mostly kidding.

These are my ideas to make the season feel a little bit more like a foretaste of Heaven in our home. I linked to this article from Word on Fire a few weeks ago, but it captures exactly how I feel about celebrating the Easter season:

So great is the mystery of the Resurrection that its commemoration demands more than twenty-four hours. Since we cannot put the breaks on the daily demands of our rotating world, the Church invites us to turn towards the mystery of the Resurrection and walk slowly in its light.”

Hopes for Liturgical Living: Easter

Hopes for liturgical living: Lent


I said I’d post this later in the week three weeks ago. But then it was the Triduum and then the Easter Octave and it seemed inappropriate timing. It’s still probably inappropriate timing until Lent rolls around again but that’s a long time for this to be sitting in my draft box.

So without further ado, here are my imaginings of a well-spent Lent:


We’ll eat like peasants. Not really. But I would like to do the Byzantine fast. Or go vegan. Or unseason our food. Or eat the same three meals over and over again for forty days. And ideally even batch cook it all before Lent. Annnd maybe even have a silent meal once a day or spiritual reading during meals. That would be ambitious. But maybe one day.

I’ve gotten very bad about doing the absolute minimum for Lent. We don’t eat meat on Fridays but we do eat it every other day of the week usually three times a day. Often combined with other rich and fatty foods. These habits along with eating out are so normal in American culture but we forget what a luxury they are and how they make us comfortably distracted.

I want to minimize and simplify the role of food in our lives during this season. Minimize the time spent planning and preparing and cooking. And the time spent picking out restaurants and scanning menus when I’ve dropped the ball on meal planning at home.


I don’t think it’s realistic or even healthy to ban fun in a family even during a penitential season. But I plan to be intentional about the movies we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to, and the games we play. And I want to encourage an atmosphere of reflection. So maybe we’ll have time set aside for activities like quiet nature walks and journaling. And I’m thinking technology will be mostly banned in the name of fostering true community and fellowship.


The fact that cleaning is associated with spring and Lent falls in the spring strikes me as more than coincidental. I want to spend a good deal of time in Lent in my task of managing a household by deep cleaning and decluttering.


This may seem like an odd one and I would probably never have thought of it except that my husband has always tried to wear darker colors during Lent and brighter colors during Easter. And I really do think what you wear has an effect on your inner disposition and those around you. My goal is that one day we’ll all have small, simple, functional (but still design-conscious because beauty is one of the theological virtues, yo) wardrobes with pieces intentionally chosen for both the natural and supernatural seasons. Dark or subdued during penitential times. Bright and light for celebratory times.


Something that I’m very grateful to my parents for is that they didn’t do the bare minimum in regard to our faith. Stations of the Cross were just as obligatory in my mind as Sunday Mass. And even though I’ve never veered from the Faith, ever since I left for college and the responsibility fell on me to keep all the devotions, I’ve been bad about viewing them as optional.

But I want to recover that sense of delightful duty for my family’s and my sake. So one day we’ll faithfully attend the Stations of the Cross. And we’ll be better about praying the Liturgy of Hours since I think that’s one of the surest ways of molding a home into a little domestic monastery (amended of course in regard to the needs and limitations of family life.) And we’ll chant. And whether during meals or otherwise, we’ll have a short selection of spiritual reading each day.


So these are the goals. And yes, I’m sure there will be lots of planning and adjusting and reliance on divine grace necessary for all of them to actually be realized.

Hopes for liturgical living: Lent

Hopes for Liturgical Living


Growing up I took our rhythms and habits of living for granted. After the non-negotiables of Sunday mass and school were other habits that shaped and structured our time and our dynamic of family life. Things like set bedtimes, Legion of Mary meetings on Saturday mornings, soup and sandwich lunches on Sundays, family rosaries on Sunday nights always centered round a little home altar glowing in candlelight. Constants (with room enough for a healthy dose of spontaneity) that my siblings and I rarely gave a thought about (in fact, which I often fought against) but which we depended on and gave us our own little rule of life.

And when I was in college, I was always thinking of the future and dreaming about what perfection my little domestic church would consist of. How many more rituals, rhythms, and habits would make up our lives than even the ones I grew up with. I hoped for a well-ordered, holy home lived in accordance with the Church calendar though I had only a vague conception of how that would happen.

And imagine my surprise to find it hasn’t just organically happened on its own. Jumping from college into marriage and motherhood finds me with one foot still in a world where bedtimes and waketimes spin on a random wheel of fortune. Where schedules are loose and often created on the fly. A world where time, largely free to be divided up and used in whatever way I saw fit, was underappreciated.

Enter this new world of interdependence with other humans (and total dependence for one small human). It’s a world that demands structure or else collapses into chaos.

So here I am caught in the collision of these two worlds and am far too concerned with surviving the hell that is the all-day serial catnap to even think about structuring and planning meals, prayers, and other activities harmoniously around the current liturgical season.

But! I have hope that someday we’ll get our act halfway together. And in the meantime I’m putting together a little posting series on my hopes for living out each liturgical season.

I’m going to try to tackle it by category. Praying, working, eating, wearing, enjoying etc…all those daily habits that we can consciously conform to an intentional philosophy for living or may haphazardly control us. I’m sure, as per usual, I’ll have idealistic and unattainable visions, but I can’t stop, won’t stop with those.

So coming up later this week: Lent.

Hopes for Liturgical Living