A Party at the Red Dragon Inn

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It was a cold winter’s day in the land of Wildepond. The wandering huntress, Lilirese, was seeking shelter for the night. She saw a bright light coming from the Red Dragon Inn and decided to sneak in there.

The inn was packed as the town was celebrating the annual feast of Erymanthia, which centered on feasting on a boar’s head.

She was surprised to see that many of the friends and allies she encountered on her journey through Wildepond were also in this inn. The great Abbess leader, Elitina, was enjoying a light ale, laughing with her friend, Jorlyn, the great warrior princess. Katdare and the wandering troubadour Maxilind were having a drinking contest with the elf mother Cabelarel. Renowned scholar Schiler was singing with the sheriff, their courtship plain and obvious to the other residents of the inn.

Many tables had gambling games going on. Lilirese was surprised that the wise Counselor Tomzonu and the great sage Wilquet were playing with a high wage alongside the local giant troll, Marcellius. Since she was in need of money, she joined their table.

“Gambling? I’m in!” she said.

“Well if it isn’t our favorite little thief!” Counselor Tomzonu said.

“We thought you were in that sunny little land in the west,” Marcellius said.

“I was only passing through there for a little while,” Lilirese said. Dropping her gold on the table, she said, “I raise.”

Unfortunately, the great sage had the winning hand. He used the money to buy a round of drinks for everyone. After having a light ale, Elitina drank Holy Water as a chaser, restoring her spirits. Others had light ales or wine while others spilled their drinks.

After everyone tipped the wench, they all sat down at a long table for conversation as the boar’s head was being served. Lilirese loved that she got to spend time with the people she considered family. Life in Wildepond has dramatically changed with the new regents. Many of her mentors have left. While Lilirese never officially left Wildepond, Marcellius was right about her spending time hunting in a quiet sunny town in the west.

Lilirese observed the others. Most of them were playing some kind of jokes on each other in hopes of reducing fortitude. Elitina had an advantage, though. Being an abbess allowed her to protect herself from losing fortitude. Maxilind, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as lucky when Schiler bought a round of drinks for everyone.

“You’ve had too much and you’ve lost all your fortitude, dear friend,” Katdare said.

“Game over, man! Game over!” The giant troll said as Maxilind passed out on the table.

###

“Game over? Really, Mark?” Teresa asked as Elizabeth cleaned up the table.

“I only thought it would be appropriate,” Mark said.

Katrina laughed as she finished the rest of her beer. “I thought it was funny,” she said, slurring her words.

“We shouldn’t have made this an actual drinking game,” Joanne said, her face flushed from a few too many.

Max sighed as he folded his deck and left the table. “I’m gonna go sleep this off!”

“Maybe we should watch a movie,” Leah said. “This game has been going on for a while now.”

“We can watch a movie after I beat Mr. Z here,” Mr. McDonald said.

“I don’t mind either way,” Teresa said. “I’m just glad to be with y’all again.”

It was New Year’s Eve. Everyone gathered in a little supper club called the Biergarten for the annual party. Leah brought in the game Red Dragon Inn and Katrina decided to make it a drinking game.

Teresa kept looking out the door.

“Are you waiting for someone?” Tom asked.

“Just hoping that I might have someone to kiss at midnight for once.” She looked back at the party and sighed. “I’m just glad that everyone’s here.”

The drinking that everyone partook in was balanced out with a great feast. Teresa especially enjoyed the spaghetti.

When it was about an hour away from midnight, there was a knock on the door. Everyone looked at each other, wondering who it could be. Elizabeth opened the door. Teresa smiled.

The one they’ve all been waiting for has come.

Top 12 Personal Best Moments of 2015

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2015 for me was not something I could share with pictures. Instead, the year centered on the renovations of my interior castle, the temple of my soul. And this castle is still undergoing a serious reconstruction. However, there were 10 beautiful moments of 2015 that helped the diamond castle that I call my heart shine.
 
1) This was the year that I started making a name for myself through blogging at Patheos and publishing Bible Studies at the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. These two outlets have been my ministry. Through Patheos, I explore the roads of interfaith and connect with people who don’t normally like the Catholic Church. Through my Bible studies, my childhood dream of getting to know the Bible came true and I learned through both of these venues that my words have power and that they can touch people. I also fell in love with the music from Danielle Rose’s Culture of Life album.
 
2) In February, I learned that living the spiritual life is a continuous process. After spending years bogged down by anxiety and uncertainty, I was just starting to find myself again. I started defining who I was by figuring out who I wasn’t. I chose not to be defined by my neurological disorder, my past, my circumstances, or even by how other people defined themselves. And I certainly wasn’t a broken girl anymore. Not to mention, Taylor Swift’s “Style,” my first favorite song from the 1989 album, was released as a single. 
3) In March, I recapped Firefly and staffed a retreat. In between recaps, I dealt with disappointments, but kept them in my heart, following the example of Mary. In spite of however I felt, I kept searching for serenity. I learned that by having courage and being kind, I could overcome my heartbreak, doubts, and disappointments that plagued me during Lent.  By the time March came to an end, I felt like I gained a lot of wisdom. There was hope for better things ahead.
4) April was a month filled with poems, reflections on mercy, and perspectives on Daredevil. Matt Maher’s Saints and Sinners became part of my soundtrack for the year along with Francesca Battistelli’s “He Knows My Name.” I gained an appreciation for my friends from my Awakening retreats. I read books about Saint John Paul II and the Theology of the Body. I hope to learn more about the Theology of the Body next year.
5) The month of May was an adventurous one. I finally got to see the city of New Orleans and saw the beautiful emerald shores of Northwest Florida. I also did a lot of reading in May. Through the power of the written word, I explored the life of Thomas Merton, the wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva, and experienced the horrors of Dracula. Also, Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood” premiered. It was awesome.
6) While my brother began his study abroad in Japan around the same time most kids started their summer vacation, I had my own journey here at home. I chose to stand my ground with the Catholic Church. I realized in this month that my identity began with my faith, with my creator. I was a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. I pledged my allegiance to the Catholic Church, the home that’s been with me all my life.
7) July was a month where I experienced different kinds of love. I learned to love myself, inside and out. I learned about the importance of familial love with Inside Out. I also learned to keep hopes high and expectations somewhat moderate, not too low and not too high, when it comes to dating and relationships. I got to watch a priest I’ve admired be elevated into the rank of bishop and finally understood the legacy of the priesthood. I also got to watch my first live baseball game. That was a lot of fun.
8) My brother came back from his summer abroad in August. I got to share my love of the Eucharist in a Bible study. I defended a vocation very few people, even Catholics, knew about as well as the vocation of the priesthood. I dealt with some anxiety issues that resurfaced. August was a month for me to reflect on things.
9) September was a month where some new friends started coming into my life. I joined up with a writer’s guild in my diocese. I also reviewed a lot of books. I got into adult coloring and watched as America fell in love with Pope Francis as the Holy Father visited DC, New York, and Philadelphia. Towards the end of the month, I started meeting up with fellow young adults who had Asperger’s Syndrome. These friends (along with all of my online friends) have been a great blessing to me.
10) I’ve grown up loving October more than most of the other months of the year and this October was no exception. I kept hanging out with my new Aspie friends while sharing my love for Buffy and Hamilton with the world. My extended family came to visit in honor of a lot of birthdays, including my dad’s. I got to see San Antonio again. I also took on my first DIY project: a wall of photos hung on string like the ones you see on Pinterest. But the best part of the month was when I went on retreat.
11) November was a month of major growth for me. I went on retreat during the end of October and the retreat ended on All Saint’s Day. After the retreat, I went straight into NaNoWriMo, devoting the month to working on the first draft of my novel. I shared my thoughts on gratitude,  state of mind that I still feel should be kept before, during, and after Thanksgiving! I venerated a saint for the first time and took a major step in healing the wounds of my past. I got back in touch with my childhood through The Peanuts Movie and learned that there were women like me who were fractured from life, but never truly broken.
12) One thing that was constant throughout this Advent season was my devotion to Divine Mercy. I’ve been praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet with my dad throughout the year, but the devotion to Divine Mercy has been brought into the spotlight as the Jubilee Year of Mercy began. Pope Francis literally opened doors like a boss. I also decided to take a little break from writing on the last week of Advent. I needed time for myself to reflect on what’s important to me.
What’s important to me right now is that I make something of myself. I want to follow in my friends’ footsteps and start gaining a sense of independence. I want to finish the things that I start. It’s not something that I can accomplish overnight, but now that I’ve regained my roots, it’s time for me to spread my wings and start flying. I hope that in 2016, you can watch me as I keep learning how to fly and eventually soar into whatever comes next.

The Lady and the Lion: Advent Week 4 Poems and Stories, Day 1

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For this last week of Advent, I want to share some poems and short stories that will hopefully fit with the spirit of the season.

 

The Lady and the Lion: A Spoken Word Poem

 

It started with a desire and a treacherous first step.

I journeyed across an infinite web

in search of some kind of connection.

Reaching out to the stars,

I found a lady in the constellations

Small, yet radiant; gentle, yet strong

I chased the lady across the sky

Until she ran to the side of a lion,

frightening and intimidating.

In fear of the tiger, I left the sky

Hiding away until I felt it was safe to come out

Even so, the lady and her lion followed me

 

The lady became like a bright shadow or reflection

While the lion returned to the sky,

She taught me to let go of my fears of uncertainty

And in doing so, I made my first connection

The lion was always out of my reach

but the lady always heard me.

Making me laugh and sending me love.

The lady and her tiger watched me

As I changed as slowly as a flower coming into bloom

As I learned how to dance in the desert

As I kept trying to fly, but kept falling and breaking

The lion came down from the sky

and caught me whenever I fell,

breathing into me as I rested.

 

As summer turned into fall,

The lady and her lion watched me from the sky

while I started running non-stop in hopes of flying.

The lion’s breath became my strength, my power, my faith

and soon my running became the fuel for my flight,

held up by the wings of a fiery dove.

 

I’ll always need the lion to catch me when I fall,

and the lady as my companion on my journey.

but I don’t need to hide in the caves anymore.

Instead, I take off to the stars every day,

acting as my guiding lights as I continue to fly.

Our lives, connected through the wind beneath my wings

Never really seeing, but always connecting

Connecting through smiles and shared wisdom

Connecting through music and shared gratitude

Connecting through words and shared love

 

The Joy of the Lord: Advent Week 3, Day 5

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

I don’t know what kind of year you had, but I’m certain that there are times that God brought you out of the dark. If you feel like you’re still in the dark, know that God is already rescuing you from that. You may not see it, but like the famous Footprints poem, God is carrying you through whatever adversities or trials you are undergoing right now.

Read the rest here

A Joyful Heart: Advent Week 3, Day 4

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

Today’s passages come from tonight’s Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office). For those who don’t know, the Liturgy of the Hours is a series of prayers dating back to the times of St. Benedict. Most religious orders pray the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis. Leah Libresco, author of Arriving at Amen, prays the Liturgy of the Hours as part of her daily commute. During Advent, the prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours take on a joyful tone.

Psalm 126 is a joyful song of captives being set free. These particular verses resonate with me:

“Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap. They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.” Psalm 126:6

Read the rest here!

The Lord Guides Us To Joy: Advent Week 3, Day 3

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

Some of us may find it hard to trust in the Lord.

But as the Psalm says

“those who choose another god multiply their sorrows.”

We may not bow down before statues of cows, but many of us would rather find comfort in things such as wealth, pleasure, power and honor. In this time of year, wealth and pleasure are especially tempting idols. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can hold onto our things like a miser. We can also overindulge in shopping or eating too much or drooling over attractive actors. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but none of them will fulfill us the way that God does.

Read the rest here!

The Joy of the Moment: Advent Week 3, Day 1

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This week, I’ll be sharing my reflections on the third week of Advent from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s Advent Bible Study.

Today is about “The Joy of the Moment.”

One wonderful thing about being Catholic is that Christmas lasts for more than just one day. The revelry and celebration last long enough for us to properly enjoy the holiday so that by the time the actual Christmas season is over, we are ready to go back into reality. Until then, there is a certain joy in anticipation. Even as we make our plans and deal with traffic, lines, and the everyday inconveniences, we can have joy knowing that we are going to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Read the rest here!

Seven Quick Takes on Marian Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 5

— 1 —

My friends and I are starting a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots tomorrow. If you wanna join in, I’ll post the novena on this blog!

As many of you, Our Lady of Knots is Pope Francis’s favorite Marian devotion, so this is a perfect way for you to get a good start on this Year of Mercy. Offer this novena for anything that you’re struggling with, especially if you have an addiction or some unresolved issues that stem back from long ago.

— 2 —

One thing I remember from my retreat was that my friend Julie kept saying “Bye Patricia!” It’s a play on the slang “Bye Felicia!” For those who don’t know, “Bye Felicia!” is the millenial way of saying “See ya, suckers! I’m not even bothering to be polite, cuz I gotta go!” My friend’s new catchphrase came from the fact that even though Hurricane Patricia was a Category 5 hurricane that passed through Mexico, there were no fatalities or any major issues that devastated the country. Julie attributes that to Our Lady of Guadalupe. So yeah. Bye Patricia! Mary’s got Mexico covered!

— 3 —

Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is offering online groups for Marian Consecration. One that’s coming up right now starts on December 31st and ends on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (February 2, 2016). Marian Consecration is the perfect way to start off the new year! Click the link to check it out!

— 4 —

So a couple days ago, I got notified that Fr. Michael Gaitley was going to be on EWTN Live. Fr. Michael Gaitley basically taught me everything I know about Marian Consecration as well as how a devotion to Divine Mercy impacted the life of St. John Paul II. Up until I watched the show, I have never seen Fr. Michael Gaitley’s face. I just heard his voice and read his words. I didn’t Google the guy so I had no idea what he looked like. Imagine my surprise when I finally see a picture of him from a Facebook page and took a good look at his adorable baby face.

NO PRIEST SHOULD LOOK THIS CUTE! I thought.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I had my first priest crush. Even though Fr. Michael Gaitley had a beard when he was on EWTN Live, I still couldn’t get past the fact that he had such a baby face. How old was he when he went into seminary? 15?

Oh well. Holiness is always an attractive quality in a man and now I understand why that French girl who later became a nun had such a crush on him. And I learned once again that people who enter into religious life are full of suprises.

Check out the video here:

And check out all of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s works on Lighthouse Catholic Media.

— 5 —

If you want to know why I have major issues with the song “Mary Did You Know,” check out Fr. Robert Mcteigue, SJ’s article on Aleteia.

Catholic Sistas shared this picture from Catholic Fortress. I consider it a good retaliation for the song as well.

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A Protestant friend of mine, however, still doesn’t understand the nuances behind the term “full of grace.” Thankfully, Dave Armstrong has something to say about that.

— 6 —

I learned that yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. I remember praying the Litany of Loreto as part of my Marian Consecration and that Mother Teresa was initially a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Loreto before going on to begin the Missionaries of Charity. Feel free to pray the litany with me:

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

 

— 7 —

And for lulz, I’m gonna leave you with this meme I created:

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Don’t stop, Holy Pop! Jesus turn that mercy up!

Tonight shine the light, shine light of Christ!

Tik tok! Advent’s clock counting down to the day that He comes back

Oh-whoa-oh-oh! Oh-whoa-oh-oh!

 

Another picture from Andrea Marie Lopez, shared by The Catholic Memes on their Facebook page:

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There’s also this funny video from Brandon Vogt. Equally hilarious:

Finding Light in the Darkness: Advent Week 2, Day 4

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Darkness and light are huge themes in Advent. My friend Elizabeth Imms from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship shared three Bible verses in the reflection she wrote for today:

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Matthew 4:16

“And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness does not overcome it.” John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

I grew up in New Jersey and I remember how the way the seasons changed was so clear to me. I remember the colors of fall that painted the boulevards of my neighborhoods. I remember sledding in the local park as a child and praying that I get snow days. In Texas, it almost never snows. But given, for some reason, the sky is bigger in Texas than anywhere else I know (Texas bias, I know, but go with me on this), I can still see the change of the seasons by how quickly it takes for the sky to get dark.

Whenever I go on retreats, they usually take place somewhere out in the city where you can actually see the stars at night. The stars remind me that there is still light in the darkness. During one retreat, there was a distant thunderstorm and although I didn’t see the stars that night, the lightning that flashed across the sky was dazzling and frightening all at the same time.

The light of the Lord is very much like the stars and the lightning. Sometimes, He can seem cold and distant like the stars or as dangerous as lightning. In truth, like the stars, the light of the Lord guides us in the darkness, and like the lightning, it’s natural that we fear the Lord. In fact, fear of the Lord is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, the fear of the Lord isn’t a paralyzing fear the same way other phobias are.

According to Pope Francis: “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us. It is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace when the Holy Spirit lives in our heart, he instills consolation and peace in us.”

You may not know this, but St. Thomas Aquinas was afraid of lightning storms due to his sister being killed in one such storm. Whenever a storm broke out, Aquinas would hide in a church.

 

In this time of Advent, let the Lord guide you in these dark times. Understand that it is only through God that we are able to find peace. As Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”