7QT: Christmas Celebrations

The Christmas season is still going strong, and while we could have been more intentional this Advent, we are grateful for the blessings we’ve received. Some of our highlights have been:

1 // Lessons & Carols at St. Paul Seminary –  since our first Advent together in 2012 (woah!), we have attended a Lessons & Carols Concert during Advent. In Boston, we went to St. John’s Seminary – typically the second Sunday (or Saturday night) in Advent – and it was always done sooooo well. It has always been the way we really mark the Advent season. Last year we attended the concert at our parish in Duluth – a bit underwhelming compared to the Schola at the sem, but still a treat nonetheless! This year we ventured out to SPS (in terribly cold & snowy weather) and it was, as always, a joy for the Gearns family. The one difficult part was not really knowing anybody. We said hello to a couple of seminarians that we’re acquainted with, but it’s such a different experience when I lack the connections to the Catholic community that I have in other places. I’m sure it will come, it’s just a void that is very noticeable.

2 // I’ve briefly mentioned how much I love our apartment, and it really shined this Advent. It’s not that it’s super large or fancy, but it’s got a cozy feeling to it (so much more so than our previous residences). We’ve really come into our own with decor and such – so just adding minor touches of a Boxwood wreath with a purple piece of fabric, an Advent wreath on a cake stand with beeswax candles, the a small nativity setup on our prayer shelf, and finally our purple cloth over our tv (a Gearns tradition) – it really lifted our spirits.

3 // We traveled to PA to spend Christmas with my family for the long weekend, and it was a good time. Different, since the older siblings/spouses/nieces were absent, but still a really great time with the rest of them. Sometimes it’s nice being home without every nook & cranny of the house crowded with people. I love it when we all get to be together, for sure, but the slower pace is also welcome. And like most holidays, my family hosts all the extended family the day of. So we still got to share the day with most of the cousins/aunts/uncles and had a delightful time!

4 // We saw the Nutcracker in Philly Friday night, which we looooved. Kevin and I saw it in Boston together when we were dating and have been longing to see it again. I also just love getting dressed up and going downtown for an occasion like that. So yay!

5 // I got some good quality time walking around my favorite spots back home. Kevin and I went for neighborhood walks – admiring all the beautiful colonial architecture (something that is sorely lacking out here in the Midwest, but I get it). Then I got to meet up with my best friends from high school at our favorite breakfast spot. The four of us have not all been together in a very long time – partly because one of them lives in Abu Dhabi now (world traveler, she is). So we had an absolutely lovely time and probably overstayed our welcome at the small restaurant.

6 // Christmas morning, Kevin and I went over to the perpetual adoration chapel at my family’s parish (it’s such a gem) and prayed for a bit. I absolutely love being able to do things like this – it really helps us to shift our focus as we ought for this wonderful celebration. After leaving the chapel, we prayed morning prayer on a bench outside and an elderly woman came up to us go give us a special prayer card for the precious blood of Jesus. She said it looked like we were praying for a special intention (which we were, and have been for quite some time) and that this prayer is incredibly powerful. So she gave it to us and then let us be. It was so beautiful!

7 // Now I know Christmas is not all about gifts (obviously), but I do want to mention a couple of things that I was SO SO SO excited to receive. My fabulous husband, who knows me so well, bought me this amazing lunchbox. Given that I eat practically an AIP diet (autoimmune paleo), my lunches are typically one container with spinach/kale, some protein, and then a variety of vegetables. And I’m not complaining about that because we eat well and I usually enjoy it very much. But sometimes it’s nice to have a little variety and separate the foods for a different experience. This lunchbox, eco-friendly, safe from all toxins, & cute! has multiple spots for all your fixin’s – vegetables, nuts, fruit, meat, two sealed containers (one for a dressing of sorts and the other for more liquid type foods). I am newly rejuvenated to eat lunch in 2017. So thank you, Kevin. You have won this round of gift giving. Other honorable mentions – this dress, these boots, and the annual matching sportswear that my dad gets everyone in the family (I’m being serious, he really knows how to pick this stuff). As always, I’m too spoiled, and my family is overly generous. But I’m super grateful as most of the gifts are quality investments that really help us out. So praise God for all that we have been provided for – we really do live super well.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!

Let’s re-claim the Advent season.

Every year, Advent seems more & more overtaken by secular Christmas. And don’t get me wrong, it can be so pleasant to walk around the city with lights flickering all around, or to get my Christmas cup at Starbucks, or to hear Christmas music as I walk through Target. All of that gives me the warm & fuzzies. But it’s out of place! Because Christmas has not yet come! I’ve found myself pretty frustrated this year as I scroll through facebook and instagram (weeks ago, by the way) and read captions of “Christmas time is here!”…because it’s just untrue. And I try so hard to enter into the silence of Advent (which would be easier if I would simply avoid social media…working on it!).

The first Sunday of Advent we were at Mass back in PA, and the Priest gave a pretty on-point homily about this time of year. Remember last year when a bunch of people went all up in a frenzy that Starbucks was ruining Christmas because of their updated holiday cups? First off, Christmas does not belong to Starbucks. It is a feast for practicing & believing Christians. If you let big franchises and celebrities ruin your holiday, you may need to re-evaluate your own perspective on what Christmas really is.

The Priest’s point was: let the world celebrate how they will celebrate. If they want to listen to “Christmas music” and decorate their homes and have parties, let them. But we need to our part in reclaiming the liturgical seasons. Advent will not make a cultural comeback until those of us “in the know” start celebrating it as it ought to be celebrated. We need to witness to the world the beauty of waiting and the reason for which we wait. It doesn’t have to mean we shut ourselves off from the world during these four weeks, but it may call for us to discern where to sacrifice.

Let us reclaim Advent within our own little Nazareth’s. And may the choice to live the Christian way resound with those around us.

a happy Easter!

Happy Easter! He is risen!

Despite me being a little bit lazy and out of it this past Lent (though, our Pastor gave an excellent homily about this recently and it really encouraged me even in my failures) – Saturday night brought such joy. I didn’t realize how much my soul was longing for Easter until it was upon me.

These past several weeks have been quite full. Work challenges, more big life decisions (and no resolutions as of yet!), finally seeing the grass in our yard before it getting covered in snow again, etc. March always seems to have a consistent air about it, doesn’t it? At least for me, every year that March hits I’m 100% ready for spring and the Easter Alleluia. And yet every year it’s a month that drags on and taunts us. That’s what I get for living in northern climates, I suppose.

Anyway, enough of the dreariness, it’s Easter! In all fairness, we’ve experienced a great amount of peace this winter/Lent. God has been merciful. It’s such an odd thing to say, but I just feel so at home in this Diocese and it’s really hit me in the past month or so. I could say I feel at home in Duluth, but I think it’s actually something more particular to the Duluth Diocese. Not sure how to describe it, but it’s a lovely consolation. So thank you, Jesus.

Now as we head into spring, we’re in a similar situation as we were last year (classic!): do we stay, do we go, what about work? Of course, we’re praying God will provide for us to stay in Duluth (which is not what I had intended when we moved here), even if our life looks a little atypical. But may His will be done! Because as I’ve discovered this year (and all my years…), He values our little leaps of faith and will make it work out for the best (even if it’s not what I had initially wanted).

May you all carry the joy of the Spirit with you this Easter season! Let us rejoice and allow ourselves to hope in the One who makes all things new!

Something to miss

I love living in Duluth. In this moment, it is good that we are here. But lately we’ve been missing Boston hardcore. And I’m so glad we do. It means that despite any hardships we faced, we had a life worth missing.

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Today, I’m thinking of St. Clement’s Shrine in downtown Boston on Boylston Street. I was visiting a friend at her work the other day and somehow the Oblates of the Virgin Mary came up in conversation. They are a phenomenally orthodox order of great & holy Priests, and they work so hard to make the sacraments accessible to all people of the faith in a city that seems to have no faith (perfect example: these men ran into the scenes of the Marathon bombings with sacramental oils, without hesitation).

I mentioned that they have a shrine in the Prudential Mall, and it was just then I realized how unusual that must sound to an outsider. Yes, St. Francis Chapel is in the mall, directly across from Ann Taylor Loft and next to Dunkin’ Donuts. And it is a pure oasis. Such a gift. They hear confessions all day every day, they offer Mass three times a day (Monday-Friday) as well as multiple weekend Masses. They have a little shop with Catholic books, DVD’s, holy cards, etc. All downtown at an intersection of many major T lines.

One of the main reasons Kevin chose to move to Boston for art school as opposed to his other options was the availability of sacraments. And when I think about it, I don’t know a place that can compare to what we had. I bring up St. Clement Shrine because it’s Lent and every Lent since graduating college I’ve spent most of my Lenten season in this Church.

For many years it was right on my commute to/from work. Their 7am Mass worked well for having to be at work around 8-8:30am. Their perpetual adoration meant the doors were always open to visit & sit with our Lord. Their Friday night stations of the cross were always done beautifully, making it worth few extra hours downtown. It was also the place where our young adult group was held (the same group I met Kevin through). No matter what time of day you were in the Shrine – this haven in the midst of Fenway Park, Berklee College of Music, the Prudential Mall, and Kenmore Square – you could always count on seeing a friendly face.

And then there is the Triduum. I’ll admit, it’s going to be tough not experiencing the Triduum at St. Clement’s. While a couple years I ended up elsewhere for the Easter Vigil due to plans with friends, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and much of Holy Saturday were spent in this sacred place. While the Catholic faith is the same everywhere (or at least we hope) and the Mass is still the Mass, I’ll miss entering into the Triduum with the Oblates. I’ll miss the solemn entrance they make on Good Friday, the procession to the upper room after the Liturgy, sitting in our Lord’s presence before emptiness takes His place, walking into the quiet Church on Saturday in anticipation for His return.

Ah, but alas. He does make all things new. So while I will treasure the memories and gifts from those experiences and traditions, I know they will continue on in that Church in unity with my new Parish. The greatness of the universal Church! And I do love our new Parish, so I look forward to participating in all the Lenten activities as well as the holy Triduum.

May your Lenten season be greatly blessed! And go rock those ashes 😉

 

Christmas & New Years // Pennsylvania & Minnesota

The holidays were a real whirlwind for us, Gearnses. It was a bummer to have Kevin working most days when my work kind of slowed down, but the solemnities, weekends, and evenings were quite beautiful.

dinner & a movie on Christmas Eve
dinner & a movie on Christmas Eve

We kicked off the Christmas season with a lovely Vigil Mass at our parish. Following Mass, we had a couple friends over for dinner & It’s a Wonderful Life. My family has watched this film every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember, so it’s a tradition I plan on keeping. We unfortunately didn’t finish the movie that night, though, as we had to get up for a 4am drive to the twin cities on Christmas day (eek!).

Kevin & Deacon Paul at the airport way to early Christmas Day

We made the drive that morning, met Deacon Paul at the seminary who would be looking after our car for the weekend, arrived at the airport, had a bit of an issue with our tickets (we owe many thanks to the generosity of others for that day!), but eventually made it to Philly early afternoon. When we got to my house (oh how I love our town), the festivities were already in full swing it seemed. We have quite a big family, and my parents always love to host. One of the big activities of the afternoon was, of course, family football across the street. Not to brag or anything, but my dad did name me MVP (I said it’s all those yoga poses stretches I’ve been doing…).

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Christmas evening continued as usual, with all the people in every corner of the house. One of the great joys of the weekend was simply being with my whole immediate family (which unfortunately doesn’t happen that often!) and getting to see the babies! Millie is almost 4 months now, and Evie is just about 2 months. Kevin and I stayed home from the annual Eagles game on Saturday night to spend time with the little ones, and I miss it so much! My nieces are absolutely the cutest.

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I look just a wee bit tired from the travels that day…but look at those babies in their matching dresses!

After a short weekend, we came back to Minnesota (it was a looong drive back to Duluth that Sunday night). Our nights have been spent watching Christmas movies together (Home Alone, Love Actually, the Holiday), and eating [paleo] Christmas cookies. We had a lovely evening with Kevin’s mom and uncle to celebrate & exchange gifts as well.

dinner at Duluth Grill New Years Eve
our grainy photo of dinner at Duluth Grill New Years Eve

New Years Eve (rather the Vigil for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God) we went out to dinner with a few friends to Duluth Grill. I had heard so much hype about this place, and I don’t know if I’d say it lived up to it (there was a lot!), but it was still very good! We had a grand time in good company. And Kevin and I spent the next day at Mass and doing date-like things together (which for us means going to Barnes & Noble or Target and hanging out 🙂 #marriedlife).

It’s been a full couple of weeks, and we have our Epiphany party to look forward to this weekend! Yes, it’s a bit late as we celebrated the Epiphany this past Sunday, but it’s a rich feast that deserves good attention. After that, the Christmas season shall officially be over and it’s back to ordinary time for a bit. Enjoy it while it lasts!

How will we respond?

Today at Mass, a newly-ordained Deacon was preaching and he mentioned a phrase I’ve heard many times but that I don’t seem to dwell on enough: “already and not yet.” What does that mean? Our faith can be a strange, and at times, seemingly contradictory thing. Our Lord came and redeemed us, and yet there is still the final judgment to be made. Redemption has come, but it ain’t over.

And then there is Advent. A time of waiting for our Lord. We remember his Incarnation, but we also await his second coming. And as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas, we also need to prepare our hearts for the day we will meet God face-to-face. As today’s second reading says, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” [Thessalonians 3:12]

This life that we are living is our opportunity to choose God. Once we die, time is up. We will no longer be able to change our ways, or repent for our sins. The time for that is now. It may seem dreary to be speaking of death when most of the world begins holiday festivities, but we cannot separate the Incarnation from the cross. Redemption came at a cost.

I was reflecting a great deal today on how I can use these weeks ahead to drastically silence my heart and open it up to our Lord. He has called us out, and we choose how we will respond.

May you have a blessed Advent!

 

 

Giving thanks.

I woke up this morning, looked outside, and it was snowing. Not in a ohnofindashovelweregonnabelate type snow. But the perfect snowfall that gives joy to my heart in seeing that light sprinkling over our yard + woods surrounding our home.

We had breakfast, went to Mass, had our friend take some pictures of us (for our Christmas cards!) in the woods by the Church while the snowfall was still in the pretty stage, and then brought some cookies over to a Priest in a nursing home downtown.

Kevin worked with this Priest a few years back when he was a youth minister up on the iron range (yes, that’s a place). They have a lovely friendship and I’ve had the privilege to spend some quality time with him since being first introduced a couple years ago. On this day of giving thanks, he truly has a gift of opening me and Kevin’s eyes to all that we have to be thankful for.

Fr. Doyle likes to say things like this:

“Think of how good God has been to you both.

“You have jobs that provide for you and are satisfying.”

“You have a house, a place to go home to and enter into your own.”

“Kevin, look at what going to Boston has given you. A wife!”

“Katie, what a gift that you’ve learned you’re able to conceive. So many couples cannot even achieve that.”

“Look at how much more at ease you are today than you were two months ago.”

And he’s right. The Lord has blessed us in abundant ways. Ways we don’t even realize. Too often I take the most obvious things for granted. Of course, after we left the nursing home there was a small inconvenience that threw me off and I let it get the best of me. The next couple hours were me bottling up some frustration. But my goodness, Katie, get over yourself!

I think the root of my funk was from being bit homesick today – wanting to see the comforting roads by my neighborhood in PA, wanting to rest in my parents’ house, wanting to carry on traditions with my siblings. How easily those little pangs can overrun all the good things right in front of me!

But God is still good. I am sitting in my warm home next to my husband as we sip on a hot beverage before going over to his uncle’s house for dinner. There is no reason to not be content. Yet the same cannot be said for most people in the world today. People struck with death, war, sickness, loneliness.

So today, let us offer up our minor sufferings, our small inconveniences, for those who truly need it. And I will try to cultivate a great spirit of gratitude in my own life.

 

October Feasting

Kevin and I have grand dreams of living the liturgical year in a rich way. We were able to do a bit our first year, but have been out of wack for a bit. You do what you can, though. October is filled with feast days of great Saints, and it’s a shame that we’ve been so preoccupied. St. Therese is my girl! But alas, her feast day was a travel day for me. There were still some celebrations to be had, though!

On the evening of October 3rd (the vigil to his feast day) we celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi, commemorating his passing into eternal life. Kevin and I spent that evening at the rectory of a priest friend of ours along with a few other folk. For dessert, I decided to go with an dish native to Assisi, called Rocciata di Assisi. It’s a baked strudel with various dried fruits (apples, figs, prunes) and spices. The initial recipe calls for a specific wine, but I didn’t have any on hand so I substituted maple syrup, which seemed to work just fine. I sadly did not take any pictures – next time!

While not a feast day, October 15th is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I spent a good deal of time reflecting on the pregnancy of Giovanna. I posted a photo on instagram of the spot where we buried our child – the most public I’ve been about the loss to friends on facebook. Then we lit a candle that evening at 7pm in solidarity with all those grieving losses.

October 16th is the feast day of St. Gerard Majella. This man has been with us throughout our journey of trying to grow our family. He was also a Saint close to my grandmother’s heart; she had lost many children through miscarriage and attributed the birth of her three sons to St. Gerard (each in some way named after him). We had guests staying with us that night, so my tribute to St. Gerard was just placing his holy card next to a board with Giovanna Raphael’s name on it (and it is still there).

We have been looking forward to celebrating the great North American Martyrs on October 19th! Kevin has a special affinity for these men, and Canada certainly has a special place in our hearts. The Jesuit Missionaries here are pretty hardcore and reading their stories is intense. They pushed onward in their mission of bringing the faith to the Huron despite incredible opposition, and ended up being honored with martyrdom. To celebrate their heroic virtue, we made poutine, a fine Canadian delicacy!

Then, of course, there is October 22nd on which we celebrate Saint John Paul the Great! We were able to go to Mass where a friend of ours was celebrating, and he brought with him his first class relic of JPII – a drop of his blood! He gave a lovely homily and we were able to venerate the relic after Mass.

That’s all for October, folks! We shall see what November brings!

 

April: all sorts of amazing

Did I once write that October was my favorite month? If so…that may still be the case…but April is a close second. Not that it’s really putting its best foot forward here…spring in Boston tends to be about 5 days and it always comes later than you think, leaving earlier than it should. But I take what I can get.

April, in and of itself, though, is just a delight. With the timing of Easter, the sun making itself known, flowers starting to blossom, gardening projects at the ready, anddd my birthday – it’s a time of renewed hope. Our lord makes all things new, and I love that the celebration of His resurrection happens at this time of the year. The Church, in all her wisdom, knows best. There is so much goodness happening and coming…

Container Gardening // We are trying our hand at balcony/container gardening for the second year (though, last year was a bit hectic since my move into the apartment didn’t happen until post-wedding in June), and we have high hopes. Last year was pretty successful for some herbs and a couple veggies. So this year we’re going to keep on with several herbs and branch out to something new (like blueberries!). Keep it simple.

Spring Cleaning // We also plan to do some serious de-cluttering. It’s tough living in a small space, because sometimes no matter how organized you are, it still feels like we own a million things (which we don’t). Still, though, we still find ourselves collecting things that need not be collected. So let the purging commence!

All the free things // For some reason, we’ve had a lot of free things thrown at us lately. The biggie – free Panera coffee for the month of April…ummm OKAY. I won’t ask questions. And there happens to be a Panera about a 12 minute walk away from our apartment. Then somehow we have four free drinks at Starbucks in addition to the gift card from my dad. Add that to a free meal from Blue Apron (a generous giveaway at Camp Patton), two restaurant gift cards, and we’re living the Easter season in a high and luxurious way.

Movement // Kevin and I recently began going on runs together about 3-4 times a week. It. Is. Lovely. Just getting fresh air and our heart rates up has been fantastic. We’ve also had the chance to get morning walks in together whilst the free coffee at Panera is a thing.

NOUS ALLONS QUEBEC // Yes, ladies & gents. We are going back to Quebec. This weekend. My heart can’t handle the excitement… 🙂

So much goodness. Lord, please magnify this time! What’s everyone else looking forward to this spring?

The Man, the Saint, the Patron of our Church

Happy solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary! What.a.guy. If you need any background on how me and Kevin met, do not fret, it is documented! Long story short, I prayed the 30-day novena to St. Joseph about marriage, and he responded quickly and powerfully! Kevin asked me out at the end of the novena and our first date was the day after it ended. And now we’re married. So I’d say St. Joseph was looking out for me. My relationship with Joseph blossomed shortly after my relationship with Mary, which makes sense. I was experiencing such beauty through my mama Mary, and she clearly wanted me to know the Holy Family in it’s fullness. And I was like, okay. (More enthusiasm.)

About 7 months into our relationship, Kevin and I took a pilgrimage to Montreal to see St. Joseph’s Oratory. I cannot begin to describe the role that this trip played in our relationship and my discernment. From the beginning, St. Joseph has had a hand in our lives, and I am so grateful for his powerful intercession. I know he’s still looking after us, and I need to continue to plea for his help because he does not disappoint.

So let this day be a beautiful one as we honor the strong, humble, gentle, and loving St. Joseph! And please please please read through the litany because it is one of the most beautiful novenas I have ever prayed.

St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal