Category Archives: Liturgical Living

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?

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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

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Grain-free & Dairy-free Shepherd’s Pie

I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and remembered to honor the Saint who we celebrate! I didn’t have much time to do anything super special, but we woke up to Celtic music, had Irish Soda Bread, enjoyed shepherd’s pie (below) for lunch, and then Kevin was able to go the Cathedral for midday Mass and get our annual St. Patrick’s Day shamrock! I also listened to the Celtic Pandora station all day at work…so that was a little treat.

If you’re wondering why I was so determined to make Shepherd’s Pie while completing a Whole 30, please read here (where there is also a recipe for compliant Irish Soda Bread).

Bottom line: Shepherd’s Pie is delicious and comforting and, when using the right ingredients, moderately healthy and nutrient dense. So all the Irish and Irish-wannabes enjoy!

Shepherd's Pie

Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Filling

  • 1 lb. pastured, organic ground beef
  • 4 organic carrots (chopped 1/4 inch thin)
  • 2 organic celery stalks (chopped 1/4 inch thin)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 3/4 C organic beef broth
  • 3 Tbsp. organic tomato paste
  • 4 tsp. arrowroot powder (or just thicken to your liking)
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Topping

  • 1 cauliflower head
  • 1/4 C coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 Tbsp. Ghee
  • 1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F). For the filling, cook the ground beef in a large pan (very technical terms). Once the meat is cooked through and you’ve added your seasoning, add the chopped carrots, celery, and onions and sauté. Alternate adding the tomato paste, beef broth, and arrowroot powder until you get a nice and thick consistency. Put off to the side. Boil water and throw in the roughly chopped cauliflower (I did this part the night before so I didn’t have to worry about the topping). Once it is soft enough to mash, drain the cauliflower and mash it, mixing in the remaining ingredients. Pour the filling into a lovely 8X8ish dish, and then spread the cauliflower mixture on top. Bake for about 15 minutes and then if you’re feeling daring you can broil it for another 5 minutes to get a nice browned top.

This amount filled me and Kevin for three full meals (with a little side of cabbage and arugula). Super delicious and loaded with flavor, so I don’t feel like I’m missing the dairy that I love so much. So enjoy! And keep it on hand for a festive occasion!

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Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Irish Soda Bread

While there really is never an “ideal” time to do complete a Whole 30, I figured Lent would be the easiest, since it’s really not much of a time to indulge anyway. And I’d say it’s worked out well, thus far. My one hesitation, though, was the few great feasts during this solemn time – St. Patrick’s Day, the solemnity of St. Joseph, and the solemnity of the Annunciation! As a Catholic who strives to live the liturgical year in a very real way, I am all on board with fasting, but I am just as much on board with feasting – all in the right time.

St. Patrick’s day is a big feast in the Gearns household. One of the first things I learned about Kevin back in the day was that St. Patrick is his favorite Saint. There are numerous reasons for Kevin’s love of this great man, and I’ve come to know him and appreciate him so much more over the years. I think too often people just associate him with this secularized holiday with parades, Guinness, and pubs. And by all means celebrate, but do not forget the man whom we honor!

Anyway, we dream about fun ways to celebrate this feast with our family, and this year being our first, is more of an intro year since I am so busy with two jobs, we don’t have access to a bonfire (yes, that’s one of our goals), annnnnd I’m doing this ridiculous diet where I can’t eat anything fun. So out the window went my grand plans of Irish Potato candies (a long tradition in my family), Guinness chili, bangers and mash, and the like. But I was determined to still make some festive food, even if I could not use the typical ingredients.

So project one: Grain-free Irish Soda Bread! I’ll admit, I was skeptical (as I always am when I start eliminating standard things like FLOUR), but this recipe held it’s own! Inspiration started here to help me get started with flour ratios (the world of non-grain flours is still a complex one to me). For me, less is more. I just get overwhelmed if I see an ingredient list of 15+ items. I abstained from any sugar or sweetener, and it still tastes great. So the following is what I settled on:

  • 1-1/4 C Almond Flour
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 C. Raisons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Whisk all the dry ingredients, and then add in the vinegar, eggs, and coconut milk (almond milk works well too). I used my kitchenaid stand mixer on low (don’t beat it too, too much!) and then mix in the raisons. Lightly oil a cookie sheet, and place the dough in a ball shape on the sheet. And for the final touch, add that simple cross with a knife. Place in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes!

When it is done, thoroughly enjoy with some Kerrygold Butter (that’s compliant, right?). I promise you’ll like it. 🙂

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Live the Fast

As Lent is approaching, I’m sure lots of people are racking their brains for what to “give up”. Often, this season sneaks up on us and we feel so unprepared (at least I do!). Now obviously we should all be praying as to how we can grow closer to our Lord through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But I did want to share a great ministry/business with the blogging world. It’s called “Live the Fast.”

LIVE the FAST

Live the Fast was started by Andy LaVallee, who owns his own bread company just outside of Boston. As it says right on their website, “Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is centered on renewing the practice of prayer and fasting by providing nutritious fasting breads, educational resources on prayer and fasting and a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast.”

There is a [slow] growing movement to fast all year round on both Wednesday’s and Friday’s. Why those two days? Wednesday is the day that Jesus was betrayed by Jesus, so therefore we can fast in reparation for all sins. Friday was the day that our Lord died on the cross. I won’t go deeply into the abundant graces of fasting, but in general, it opens up our hearts to the Lord, making room for his work to be done. We can also offer up our fasting for intentions we have.

Now, fasting all year round (sans feasting time, of course) is a big commitment to make. So a great place to start out, if you feel so called, is during Lent. You can order these fasting breads online, and they will be delivered frozen to your doorstep (with a bonus book on fasting). There are a few different kinds of breads per order, it’s super affordable, and they also send out encouraging emails the nights before each fasting day.

Before I was married, a few of my former roommates and I did this one Lent together, and our freezer was literally filled with little rolls…it was a bit amusing. But also encouraging. On the morning of each fasting day, you pop a few rolls into the oven for 15ish minutes, wrap them up for the day (I used foil), and eat one at each meal.

The rules can be as strict or as loose as you need, depending on your situation. Some people eat one roll for breakfast and one for lunch – then have a small dinner after 6pm (no dairy or meat). Some eat three to four rolls throughout the day and that’s it.

I encourage everyone to read up more on this great ministry. If you have any questions, you could certainly ask me, but also feel free to reach out to Live the Fast directly!

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The Epiphany: a worthy feast

It’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve really delved into the beauty of the Epiphany. I always just kinda glanced over it as another Christmas feast and superficially understood that three wise men came to visit Jesus and gave him fancy gifts. How deprived was I of such depth! The more intentional Kevin and I are with our liturgical living, the more the feasts and seasons are coming alive. We really wanted to do was celebrate Christmas in it’s fullness and in it’s time. That also means keeping the season going when the rest of the world is done. One way we went about this was hosting an Epiphany party last night!

It was a grand time with close friends. There was great conversation, lots of laughs, deep spiritual insights after the gospel reading, and a traditional Epiphany cake! Kevin and I are both so grateful for the evening and could not have asked for anything better. I’m particularly glad that we were able to delve into the passage with the Magi, as their journey to Jesus was pretty much the reason to party. Another reason why we love our friends so darn much. The story is truly so rich and leaves the heart pondering so many things.

I wanted to just share a few thoughts from a couple of very wise men (pun intended). First is from a priest here in Boston who is an incredibly gifted preacher. Fr. Peter Grover, of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, has never failed to touch my heart with his homilies and reading this one on the Epiphany is no exception:

“Here is a question. How many Magi are in Matthew’s gospel?  You probably just sang “We Three Kings” the Epiphany liturgy.  Perhaps you got a card with a picture of three kings mounted on camels.  If you think the answer is three, then you better read your Bible again.  Matthew tells us there were three gifts but he doesn’t tell us the number of Magi.  It could have been two or four. How many do I think there were?  I would confidently say hundreds of Magi. Have I lost my mind?  My reasoning is simple.  They had gold, frankincense and myrrh, kingly and godly gifts. They better have an army of people to transport those riches half way across the planet.  Picture this:  King Herod is in his chamber and he hears a knock on his door.  “What is it?”  “Magi from the East are here to see you.” Herod then looks out the window and sees hundreds kings, princes, astrologers and the wise gathered from around the world at his door.  That is what frightened Herod and the city of Jerusalem. Who is this kid that is drawing so many from all over the world?  The child is the Light of the World.”

What a beautiful image! I mean, it makes sense, right? They would have needed a multitude of people to successfully make that kind of trip and with all those riches. Something stirred in these people’s hearts; they were lead to Jesus, the savior of the world. They could not have known the fullness of what they were seeking. Even upon seeing and worshiping the child, they, along with Mary and Joseph, didn’t really know what this meant. But they were changed. It’s impossible to encounter Jesus and remain the same. They were changed and they went back a different way. And from this, Jesus is made manifest to the entire world. He has come to save us all.

There’s just so much we can pull from this short passage, but Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains it well in a few sentences:

“The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him.”

Now I understand why so much of the world holds this feast so high, like a “second Christmas”. This is officially a very special day in the Gearns household. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making yourself known to us all.

 

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Advent Reading

I love the Christmas season. Like most people, I find it to be super magical and all things lovely. And I’m always headed somewhere for Christmas as well since I don’t live near family, which means there’s always a trip to look forward to (as well as vacation from work). This can make the patient waiting of Advent a bit difficult at times. And since Kevin and I have covered our television with purple cloth, that means no movies or shows or music (except Advent hymns) to pass the time.

So in addition to just spending some quiet time with my husband and taking our evenings slower, it’s a good time for some reading. And not just any reading, but some Christ-centered, Advent reading. I haven’t read much in relation to this specific liturgical season, but what I have read has been beautiful. So allow me to share!

The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI

I read this last year during Advent, and while sometimes spiritual reading can be something I gotta push myself to do daily, this was quite the page turner for me. I love the way Pope Benedict writes – very simple and straightforward, but packed with such beautiful insight. This book covers Jesus’ origins and nativity to the finding of Jesus in the temple. It helped make the season come alive for me and to focus on our Lord and specifically his birth and childhood.

True Devotion by St. Louis de Montfort

This little treasure is about making perfect devotion to Jesus through perfect devotion to our Lady. Advent is a great season to reflect not just on our Lord, but also on the way in which our Lord came into this world: through Mary. By increasing devotion to her, we naturally grow closer to Jesus. This book will aid in that devotion.

Sermons to the People: Advent, Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany by St. Augustine

I randomly came across this book in a used book store many years ago, and since I love St. Augustine so so much, I purchased this one without thought. I will admit, some of the things he writes about are not the most grounded in Church doctrine (naturally, as certain things have only become fully known to us as a Church over time), BUT it is still a fantastic little collection of his homilies and the heart of what he says holds a lot of truth.

These are a few of my favorites that I’ll be revisiting this season. If you have any suggestions for Advent reading, please share! I’d love to venture out into new things!

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Preparing for Advent

I’m super excited for Advent. I know we still got a few weeks, but just as it’s good to prepare for Christmas I think it’s also good to prepare well for Advent. Kevin and I have been having many conversations about how we want the liturgical year to look for our family – it’s one of our favorite activities. And we’ve been focusing on Advent and how we want to live the season as a married couple.

First off, if you want some good ideas on liturgical living, you should check out the book, The Little Oratory, and also head over to Carrots for Michaelmas as Haley writes about it a fair amount.

Like most people, I’ve spent many years celebrating the “Christmas season” from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. Only in the past few years have I begun to appreciate the penitential aspect of Advent . And though it’s penitential, it’s also not a sorrowful season. Rather it’s one of joyful and quiet longing as we wait for the Incarnation of our Savior.

I’m far from perfect when it comes to liturgical living, and it’s certainly an effort to quiet myself amidst all the excitement. So I’ve slowly tried to take active steps in really living the true season of Advent, and here are a few things that have been really fruitful for me: 

+ December 8th, the Immaculate Conception, is me and Kevin’s Marian Consecration date – we renew it each year. It’s a good way to prepare the heart for Advent and develop a deeper relationship with our Blessed Mother, the one through whom our Lord came into the world. To learn more about this, read here.

+ I’m terrible at fasting, but fasting is objectively good and a necessary part of our Christian life. We should try to incorporate some type of fasting into the season, but how we do it is up to us – there’s many good ways to go about this. One cool side note: there’s a company out here, LaVallee’s Breads (owned by a Catholic) and part of their business is fasting breads, which you can order online. Read more here! 

+ Frequent the sacraments.

+ We like to take part in Advent activities going on. For instance, there’s an annual Lessons & Carols Concert at St. John’s Seminary that we’ve attended the last few years and it is beautiful!! The seminary does such a wonderful job putting this on and it really puts you in spirit of Advent. 

+ Pick up a good book for Advent; last year I read Pope Benedict’s “The Infancy Narratives”; it was a beautiful read that drew me into to the season. 

+ Avoid Christmas music to the extent I can (which is easier for me since I don’t have a car). I prefer to listen to Enya’s “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” on repeat, but that’s just me.

Kevin and I hope to continue all of that this year, but we hope to be even more intentional with the season beyond those things that have become tradition. Some examples of things we’ve read that have really resonated with us: 

+ We will get a Christmas tree, but will leave the festive decorating until the Christmas season. The rest of our apartment will follow suit as well. 

I’ll attempt to simplify the cooking and leave the Christmas treats for Christmas (I may make some occasional cookies, though…). 

+ We’ve done most of our shopping for gifts/decorations beforehand so we don’t get caught up in the stores during Advent.

By living a true Advent season, it makes the Christmas season even greater! Fast well, feast well! And what’s even more amazing is that Christmas is not over on December 26th, but continues until the Baptism of our Lord! I’ve read that it’s even appropriate to keep all the decorations up until the feast of the Presentation on February 2nd. Talk about exciting!

 

Anyone have any Advent traditions they’d like to share? What do you do to make it special? 🙂

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Day of Rest

Ever since senior year of college, Sunday’s have been my absolute favorite day of the week. In learning to enter into the [new] Sabbath, the day is greatly enriched. It started out simple, but even four years ago, I think my heart really got it. It was the day of rest, the day to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, and the day to be in community. And our community at the BU Catholic Center really demonstrated the beauty of the day, whether or not people realized it. The Catechism, which answers most my questions when I go looking, says, “The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.” [CCC 2184]

Sundays

Leaving college, I began a more routine way of life, which is a great thing for me, personally. And Sundays  continued to be similar in heart, though the community aspect was different. I still relished it where I could, and tried to explore how to best live this day. Fast forward to married life, and the Sabbath has just gotten even better.

Being together every weekend has been a blessed adventure, and we’ve both taught one another different ways to truly enter into the Sabbath. For instance, Kevin has really helped me to see the value in not working on the Sabbath. Now, I’m not just talking about not going into the office, or not doing homework. I mean no work. No big projects around the apartment, no shopping, no serious life planning (ie: budgeting, travel plans, etc.). This part is the toughest for me as I always feel I have something to do, but it also really sets the day apart. I now understand what it means to work for six days and to rest on the seventh. My Saturdays have become busier with chores, errands, and miscellaneous work, but it makes our Sundays truly great. And in a way, I feel like I’m able to glorify God more with my six days of work and one day of true rest.

What’s even better, though, is that our Sundays are by no means a lazy. We would both have a hard time enjoying our day if we felt it was a wasted day. It’s filled with Mass, homemade brunch, nice long walks, prayer, a well-prepared dinner & dessert, time for reading or watching something together, and just good quality time with one another. That may vary a bit, but that’s the gist. It’s also nice to have a day to enjoy the clean and tidy apartment after the work has already been put in. And we try to incorporate community (outside of Mass) where we can. The Sabbath should be celebrated with people, it’s a day to nourish our friendships. 

Each Sunday, we find we appreciate  the Sabbath more. We love what it does for our souls, we love what it does for our marriage. We’re still very much learning what it means to enter into the Sabbath: to celebrate the resurrection, the fulfillment of creation, and the day of rest. And I’m sure when our family grows, how we celebrate Sunday will evolve, and we’re so excited!

 

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