The Purpose of 2021


At the end of a year such as this, I find myself at a loss for what to say. Parts of 2020 were wonderful, such as seeing my cousins again after so long. Other aspects were nightmarish–imagining all of the people in the world falling sick, picturing empty chairs at Thanksgiving and Christmas tables, the sense of utter helplessness.

I imagine that 2020 changed everyone in some way. As it is now, I have developed a thirst for God again–yes, a thirst for Truth. You can see it in my religious blog. You might notice it if you see the pile of Papal Encyclicals on my desk, waiting to be read. I am single, but I’m in love with Jesus and His Church.

Can there be a love stronger than what I feel for the Church right now? She is a beacon of hope and a chest of treasures. The best memories of my childhood were in religious education class. There is no sweeter aroma to me than the inside of my parish, which I can smell even through the odious face-mask. I think of the days I was preparing for Confirmation–and such a nostalgia grips me that I want to weep.

I can’t–I can’t imagine I would have found this love again, if COVID fear had not sent me back “home.” Hold on to your faith and don’t let go. Bathe your quaking heart in the gentle truth of God’s love; wrap yourself in the safety of Mary’s mantle.

Some of you, like me, might feel inclined to weep as we near the end of this horrific year. Do it–let your tears water your faith. It will grow into a deeply-rooted tree, shade in the heat of trouble, shelter from the storm.

As for me, one day I will teach religious education. One day, I will give other kids the beautiful memories that my religion teachers gave me. When, God, will I be able to do this in person? A blog is all I can manage for now. I pray that this should be in my future–yes, I study and I pray.

My beautiful Idaho in the winter

Many of you might have lost someone this year. I wish I could tell you that time will heal your grief, but if my previous post here tells you anything, it’s that time does not patch up the wound of a lost loved one.

At the Christmas Eve Mass last week, we asked for my beloved grandmother’s name to be mentioned in the prayers for the deceased. When I heard her name mentioned as deceased, my heart hurt–as if she had left us again. It felt like that morning, two years ago, when my dad woke us up on Christmas Eve to say, “Grandma died.”

After prayers were said, the choir played The First Noel, my favorite Christmas song–but I could not sing it. I was crying–so hard that I could not hold a note, or remember the lyrics. I could only kneel and rifle through the beautiful memories of Grandma and her house, the clothes she wore, her scent and her laughter, the deck overlooking her yard. My heart, though grateful that she was with Jesus, felt terrible pain.

It felt as if she had been wrenched from me again.

On the kneeler, I felt relief–and then emptiness–and I sobbed instead to The First Noel, praying in thanksgiving for my grandma’s life. That was all I could do–thank the Lord for her life.

If you need to cry, let your tears water your faith. Don’t hold them in, though; turn to the crucified Savior and cry.

There’s a time for flower beds and there’s a time for ice / The armor of the tree and bush which, frozen, slowly dies…

2021 does not promise to be easier. I’m not afraid of 2021. I wear the shield of faith, and instead of letting it wrench me of hope, I pray that God will use me and my writing to give hope to others.

I’m not afraid of 2021. I am afraid of not seeing a future, of not anticipating being anyone, of being the same person I was before COVID. Let me never be lukewarm again. I am more than a writer; I am a child of God, His ambassador on earth. All Christians have much work to do in His name.

There will have been positive changes in you this year, as well. Perhaps you can’t see them yet; dig deep and you will feel them. Have a good cry and they will surface on your heart. You have a purpose–yes, you, though there are moments you might feel you don’t make a dent in history. You have a purpose; that’s why you were born!

My grandma had a beautiful purpose; now she has gone to Jesus. She left a family aching with rich love for her. Live the sort of life that will form your legacy of love. There is nothing else we should strive to be remembered for, because God is Love.

Enter 2021 ready to find your purpose. I am.

Dear Grandma:


Dear Grandma:

It’s been two years, and I guess I need to talk to you. Merry Christmas is hard to pronounce, because you left on Christmas Eve.

I remember what your house looked like every Christmastime. I remember you had Mrs. Claus sitting on a child-sized rocking chair and you always had tons of ornaments on your tree. You made a lot of them decades past; I really wish we had gotten better photos of the masterpiece that was your Christmas tree.

It’s been two years since you went to Heaven and I’ve learned that time does not, in fact, heal. It gives you opportunities to find distractions; you pick up new hobbies and responsibilities. You seek the same sort of comfort in other people, but no one hugs like you did, and no one smells like you did.

One summer we were in your basement. You asked me, “Would you ever consider visiting my church?” Because you are Mormon and I have been Catholic since I was eleven. I didn’t know what to say at the time; I didn’t want to get into a religious discussion with my grandma. “I’ll consider it,” I promised you, and though you might have wanted some more enthusiasm, you didn’t press the subject.

When you died, I decided I wanted to keep that promise. I didn’t expect I’d be keeping that promise I made to you while you were in your casket, but I’m sure you were in the same room. I told a story my cousins must have been familiar with. I spoke of how you loved the autumn leaves as they changed with the seasons. I reminded my cousins of how you would point them out every time you drove us somewhere in October.

I spoke to distant family and friends from your church who probably didn’t know this side of you, about how you were an artist. You would pull up in your white Dodge Durango, all dressed up to visit the craft store. One time you accidentally pulled up to get us when I had arranged to go somewhere else with a friend, so you and I agreed to go out again some other time. I regret that decision; I will always regret it.

I spoke a eulogy as a granddaughter, and though I had never done any form of public speaking previously, people said that it was moving. Many asked me to send them the transcript. It was the last thing I could do for you on earth: remind people of how you loved.

Two years later, Christmas isn’t the same. You left us on the morning of Christmas Eve, forever making yourself a part of the Christmas spirit, but we are human and our hearts are still broken. Last year we did not put up a Christmas tree; this year we have a small one, but your house has been taken by another family, and we are utterly alone in this city.

My brother snapped a candid shot of a time you spontaneously decided to teach me to make chocolate chip cookies. You were wearing a cheetah-print blouse and I was paying attention. I didn’t know at the time how desperately I would want that moment back, and I am grateful to Christian for preserving that moment.

One time you were speaking of someone you knew who had gotten engaged, and seeing that I looked melancholy, gave me advice about relationships. “You’ll have one one day,” you said, referring to a wedding announcement. “Men aren’t as aggressive with their feelings.” Whether that’s true or not, your care for how I felt on the subject still serves as a balm.

One time I asked you if Grandpa would be proud of us. It had been over ten years since his death, and you knew him better than anyone else, while I only have flashes of important moments spent with him. “Oh,” you said, nearly breaking down, “he would be so proud of you.” You then walked away, as if to cry somewhere.

I remember being a young child, cuddled up against you while you read out loud from Peter Rabbit. I remember the feel of the couch beneath us, the smell of your laundry detergent, and the illustrations from the book. Then I would want you to read me another book, and you’d wait patiently as I chose a children’s book from your cupboard. It smelled like the library I would one day have. When you died, I kept that copy of Peter Rabbit for myself.

A snippet of a conversation between you and Grandpa lingers in my mind regarding the grandfather clock we inherited from you. He was staring at the pendulum as it went back and forth, admiring how the entire living room could be seen on its face. “Colleen,” he told you, “take a photo of that.” “The flash would ruin it,” you replied. “Paint it,” he said.

There are moments that the four of us feel lost in the world without you. We haven’t gone to your favorite restaurant, Casa Mexico, since then; I don’t think we ever will. We can’t drive by your house.

I always dream of your house, you know. I dream of going inside and everything being where it should be, including the grandfather clock now ticking away in my living room. In my mind, that will always be our family’s house.

“You’re still grieving?” some might ask. “That was a long time ago.” Or, “She’s in Heaven!” Or, “Find a hobby.”

Certain friends could not understand that grief causes change in behavior, priorities, and mindset. I don’t miss them. If they couldn’t stand by me while I grieved, they weren’t really friends.

Grandma Colleen, the thing I remember most about you is how the only thing you remembered to say in your final months was “I love you.” You took that love with you, and I can picture you looking back at us at the gates to Heaven in order to say “I love you” one last time.

I don’t know the point of this post. I’m not sure you can read it. I suppose I want everyone to know for Christmas what a great grandmother you are.

You left a void in all of us. I’m sorry we can’t fill it; I don’t mean to guilt you. We miss you and we always will.

Christmas is about Jesus…but it’s also about you. It always will be.

I love you.

-Mariella

Waiting at the Manger


Last night we made a small pilgrimage to our church, where there is a Nativity scene. Baby Jesus is not there yet; according to tradition, He will be placed in the manger on Christmas Eve. In our house we have a small Nativity scene where Baby Jesus is covered up; He will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

Friends, it has been a year to test all of us; enough has happened to chip away at the faith of the most pious person. We cannot let fear steal away our joy of the holidays. We cannot let fear steal away our joy.

I’m not a theologian. I am a storyteller. Long ago, when I was baptized, I knew Jesus had sent us all out to tell the greatest story of them all: the story of how He came to save us from eternal grief. My short posts on lives of the Saints at Write Catholic are only the result of the first chapter.

What is the first chapter? Is it not when the Creator descended as a babe, helpless in the arms of His Mother, surrounded by the animals blessed to adore Him–already rejected, because there was no room for Him at the inn?

2021 is a good time to erase fear from the inns of our hearts and make space for the gifts that Jesus brought us. In 2020 we were all afraid, and we had reason to be; in 2020, many people lost loved ones and had their lives changed forever.

St. John Paul II’s handwriting encourages us to remember the 365 times that the Bible tells us not to be afraid. Anyone who knows of St. John Paul II’s life can agree that he saw fear; he felt it; he wept when he lost his friends, he must have been frustrated when Parkinson’s debilitated him, and there must have been times when he asked God Why?

He had a purpose, though, and God never gives us more than we can handle. You have a purpose, too; so do I. In 2021, I will follow the words of St. John Paul II and pray for the grace to stand steady in the face of a shifting world.

As survivors of 2020, what might our purpose be? Here are some ideas off of the top of my head:

  • Comfort the mourning. You probably know somebody who lost a friend or family member to COVID; send them a card in the mail and reassure them of your prayer and friendship.
  • Exercise your faith. Like a muscle, faith needs to be put into action daily. Read the Bible or a devotional; sit in silence and wait for the soft voice in your heart to give you instructions.
  • Pray the Rosary. Our Lady gave us the Rosary with the promise that this Sacramental would save the world. She told the children at Fatima that it should be prayed every day. I have made this a practice, and it brings me peace I cannot describe with human words.
  • Count your blessings. A dear friend encouraged me to write my small blessings in a gratitude journal. Be grateful for your breakfast in the morning; be grateful for that line in a song you really love. The more you practice gratitude, the more grateful you will be.
  • Tell someone about Jesus. I can assure you that, in the chaos of 2020, many people have forgotten about Jesus and what He did for us. Tell one person about Jesus this year; remind them that we have not been forgotten, and that we look forward to a better world.
  • Practice charity. Whether it’s donating to a food bank or being kind to someone you do not know, those five dollars might buy a meal–a kind sentence might be the only kindness someone encounters in an entire day. Love covers a multitude of sins–and heals a multitude of hurts.

We are a people of joy, not fear.

Christmas is nearly upon us; I can feel in my bones that we Christians have extra work to do in 2021. Raise the hashtag #2021BeNotAfraid. Seek the positive, the reminders of God in the world. Tell people why you still have hope.

My part in all of this? I am a writer. I can use words to get messages across. I am more than a fiction writer. My interests are in more than fantasy and historical fiction. It is my vocation to keep telling the greatest story in the world.

I believe this is my purpose. Sit down for a while now and ask God…what is yours?

Review: EAST by Edith Pattou


Do you have a book that has been with you for years? One that became your favorite story for so long that, though the plot is fuzzy, you remember how much you love it? One so dear that it remains a part of you, sharing in fond memories–a friend you have been waiting to meet again?

As a teenager, if asked what my favorite book was, I wouldn’t have replied Harry Potter. After all, Rowling’s had books reached a favorite level that it would feel silly to name them. My real favorite book, the one I recommended to everyone–and eventually lent (to a person who never returned it!) was East by Edith Pattou.

I had not read East in over ten years when it appeared on Amazon in August as a suggested title for my Kindle. It wasn’t expensive, and I knew that it was time to revisit this old friend of mine. It would bring me comfort in rough times such as these. 

This year, when I reread East, I sought comfort from a childhood friend.

East is the story of Rose. She was born into a farmer’s family, to a mother who was very superstitious. When Rose’s mother was expecting her, she was very concerned that the infant not be born facing North, believing that a child born facing North would be a wanderer and get into all sorts of trouble.

Rose’s birth was a sudden, chaotic event. It took place in the forest when her parents went out to gather berries. Her father had no choice but to deliver her there on the forest floor…and in the chaos, her mother’s greatest fear took place: Rose was born facing North. Only her parents knew about this, and they agreed to keep it a secret. They lied and told Rose that she had been born facing East, calling her Ebba Rose. However, her father despised the lie, calling her Nyamh in his heart.

Her childhood was chaotic enough that anyone watching would not be surprised if they’d been told that she was a North-facing child. She frequently ran off to have adventures, getting into mischief and causing much grief to her parents. 

This was when she began to see the White Bear. When she first met him at the age of five, she forgot about him. He was to appear later when she was a young woman–and change her life forever.

Their youngest daughter, Sara, had fallen ill. One night the White Bear appeared at their house and said that Sara would be healed–for a price. He would take Rose as a companion in exchange for her sister’s health. 

He gave them a week to think it over, and in that week something happens to help Rose make up her mind: she discovered the truth about her birth, that she had been born facing North.

So painful was her betrayal that she left her family. She packed her few possessions and set off with the White Bear, despite her brother’s protests. What ensued was an adventure full of heartbreak and friendship, a love story that reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, and one that I have not forgotten to this day.

Love is mysterious. How can a young lady fall for a white bear? Why, if she would only take the time to look into his eyes, she would discover that the frightening bear is more human than he appears. True love is listening, paying attention, and choosing to keep an open heart.

Read East by Edith Pattou; I will forever call it one of my favorites.

Review: All is Mary and Bright


Andrew Bright, the Earl of Sanders, is tired of women. Ever since he inherited his father’s title, it’s been a nightmare when his mother invites female friends to his house–especially friends with unwed daughters. Even if he expresses no interest in the unwed lady, he will find her ‘accidentally’ waiting in his library.

So irate does he become that he avoids his London townhouse whenever his mother invites friends.

This time, circumstances are different. His mother and sisters have come from their country house to celebrate Christmas with him in London. In doing so, they have sacrificed many beloved Christmas traditions, and he appreciates their visit.

There is one problem, though: they have once again brought friends, a Mrs. Hatcher and her daughter, Mary. Will Mary Hatcher be the next lady he finds in his library?

Andrew could avoid the townhouse again and spend time with his questionable friends. Gamblers and drinkers, he and his friends normally go to the city for a bit of fun…and sometimes, trouble. 

However, following an embarrassing episode with these friends at the Frost Fair, Andrew has had enough. He decides he would rather spend the holidays with his family…and the Hatcher women.

When Andrew learns that Mary Hatcher is already engaged, he feels relief. At least there won’t be another flirt in his library. This relief is short-lived, though; unknowingly, Mary begins to win him over. He wants to know everything about her. He would do anything in his power to make her happy.

What cruel fate that he has fallen in love with the one woman woman he can’t have.

He feels a spark of hope on learning that Miss Hatcher hasn’t seen her fiance in two years. It becomes clear that she knows nothing about her fiance, and Andrew wonders if he can convince her to change her mind.

The truth is that Mary’s fiance can live two years away from her, but Andrew can’t live a day without her.

He soon learns that there is a reason Mary is being forced to marry a stranger. Her father is managing her life from a distance. Can Andrew and Mary live happily ever after, or will she be forced to go through with this marriage of convenience?

Marriages of convenience were common in their era, but they were usually contracts rather than vows of love. Many arranged marriages were miserable or apathetic. A person’s heart should never be used as a bargaining chip to pay a debt.

I loved that this was the message of the book. There is no better gift for Christmas than true love.

Read Kasey Stockton’s other fantastic Christmas story, A Duke for Lady Eve!

The Catholic Project – November Digest


Back in July I announced that I would be using my gift of writing to talk about my Catholic faith. It took a few months for me to decide how to do just that and where. Though I shared my conversion story here, I want this blog to focus on book reviews and other literary things. Aside from a monthly update on what’s going on in my missionary blog, here I will focus on books.

Consider these monthly summaries newsletters. My missionary blog, Write Catholic, is where you will find my posts about Catholic Saints’ lives, Catholic book reviews, and–sometime in the near future–lives of the greatest Popes, as well as conversion stories. We are given gifts and expected to use them to build the Kingdom. I want to use my passion for writing to draw people nearer to Catholicism and teach what we really believe.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite posts from the month of November. Great sites such as Ignitum Today and Catholics Around the World have been kind enough to feature some of them.


November 8 – St. Cecilia: Listening to Heavenly Music

Saint Cecilia by Jacques Blanchard

Saint Cecilia is the Patron Saint of music in the Roman Catholic Church. She is patroness of music because it is said that she heard heavenly song in her heart. She might not have played the piano, though works of art often depict her doing so. Nonetheless, musicians ask for her intercession. Read more…


November 8 – St. Therese of Lisieux: Who’s That Nun?

In the month of October, many non-Catholics scratch their heads as their Papist friends fill their feeds with images and quotes of a nun. She died long ago, and is a Saint in the eyes of the Church. Despite her popularity, many people cannot fathom how a normal-looking girl became a Saint. Read More…


November 20: Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin: A Love Story

St. Therese’s family was close to God from the moment of her parents’ marriage. Her mother, Zelie, prayed that she would have many holy children–and all of her daughters became nuns! In this story, the graces did not begin when the Martin daughters chose to become nuns. This story begins with their parents, a tale of love written by the hand of God. Read More…


November 25 – Six Famous Carmelite Saints

When you say “I saw a nun” or “I saw a monk,” can you name which Order they belonged to? Benedictines, Jesuits, and Dominicans have different habits and ways of serving the Church. Some choose the cloistered life; others are missionaries, serving the poor. The Carmelites are one of the most famous Religious Orders. Here are six great Saints who came from this community. Read More…


November 27 – St. Nicholas Owen & His Priest Holes

Priests were targeted by priest hunters, who searched for these servants of God and arrested them. If a priest was spotted, he was given forty days to leave the country or be punished for high treason unless he renounced Catholicism. Many brave priests chose to stay and feed Christ’s sheep. They would take refuge in the homes of the faithful, hidden in tunnels or “priest holes” built by men like St. Nicholas Owen. Read More…


December 4 – St. Maria Goretti: Only The Strong Forgive

The surgeon tried to save Maria’s life, but the wounds were too deep and too many. He soon realized that he could do nothing for her. It is said that he asked his patient, weeping, to pray for him in Heaven.
“I will gladly pray for you,” Maria said.
Who is the true warrior–the one who survives and lives as a coward, or the one who falls with courage? Read More…


Conclusion

These are my favorite articles that I wrote in the month of November. I must say that, since I started this project, I have never felt so fulfilled. I am finally using my gift to serve the Church and introduce my Heavenly siblings to the modern world.

I have already published my first Saint biography for December, the story of St. Maria Goretti. I plan to write about St. Nicholas, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Agnes this month. I post on Wednesdays and Fridays, so if you’re interested, join me on my journey to learn more about my faith.

I believe that in rough times, people need stories of heroes who also endured trials. The Saints are perfect. Comment if you have any ideas, or if you are a convert and would like to share your story!

Happy Advent, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas season!