12 Days to Morning Glory

No, it’s not getting any easier.

nope

Remember my Day 1 on Paul VI’s beatification day? I’m sure his prayers have kept me going. Most days I wonder how I can possibly make such an intense promise to God and his Mother.

My desire to please them and obey them is pretty high, yet the doubting creeps in constantly. I am terrified of disappointing them (…any more than I already do).

So, if I make it to Morning Glory, you people have witnessed a miracle.

How the Blessed Mother has been treating me

mother-of-god-full-iconI’m on Day 13 of my preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary. As you may recall, my last blog post was on Day 1. I laugh at the naive lady I was on Day 1.

She had no clue what was coming to her.

Monday, I had a minor operation on my foot. The doctor needed so much anesthesia to get my foot to sleep, I’m truly surprised I can still feel it.  Since then, my very unprofessional footwear has been announcing my impending presence at work by an obnoxious slap slide, slap slide.

I can just see our Mother going down a To-Do list for Jesus…

Healthy dose of physical pain – check.
Minor humiliation – check.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for our Dear Mother to have me begin praying a nightly Rosary (which I consider a miracle already), but for the past two weeks that Rosary has been accompanied by the cleaning and bandaging of my ugly wound. It’s almost uncanny, how she timed all this to last nearly the entire length of my preparation.

Affront to her vanity – check.

Now, if it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Promise! But I truly had no idea what was coming to me 12 days ago. The foot situation has been the least of my problems. The past two weeks have been physically and emotionally exhausting.

Reasons to keep her from being lazy – check, check, check.
Testing her patience – check.
Extraordinary trials – check.

This school of Mary is no kindergarten. Quite honestly, though, I’m in awe of her. I’ve never seen her signature as clearly as I’ve seen it over the last 12 days.

I feel like I am slightly more than myself. Life hasn’t been easy on me, but Mary has sweetened everything with graces.

That’s a mother, alright.

P.S. Does anyone know who wrote this gorgeous icon?

How Paul VI is already pulling strings in Heaven

PaulVI

Pope Paul VI was beatified today.

As you may know, a person is proclaimed “Blessed” (beatified) after a lengthy process which includes a thorough examination of his life and of a scientifically unexplained miracle attributed to his intercessory prayers. With another such miracle, Blessed Paul VI would be canonized as a saint.

I have a story that may not get him canonized, but has testified to his recent intercession in my life.

First, you have to know: I have never had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. She has always been a lovely figure, a distant figure, a mystery, in my life. Too pure, too good, too unlike myself. Sure, I’ve prayed the Rosary. I sometimes wear a Miraculous Medal. I appreciate the approved Marian apparitions from around the world – at Fatima, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Kibeho, etc.

But for whatever reason, Mary has never seemed close to me.

For the past few months, I’ve complained about this to my Spiritual Director. (Poor guy.) My spiritual director suggested the book 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. 33 Days is a modernized version of the original Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary by St. Louis de Montfort.

  1. On my spiritual director’s initial suggestion, I resisted.
  2. He suggested again…this time more of a recommendation than a suggestion. My excuse was our strictly-segmented family budget. It would have to wait for another paycheck.
  3. Had to use the paycheck for other things.
  4. Next paycheck. Ordered the book online.

In mid-September, the book arrived. I psyched myself up, sat down, and read the Introduction. It was all sounding good. I was thinking, “Yeah…I can do this.” Then, Fr. Gaitley includes a chart to determine when one should begin the Preparation process, so as to make one’s Consecration on a Marian feast day.

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed, reading by a nightlight while my husband slept soundly. “I HAVE TO WAIT A WHOLE MONTH??”

Yeah, I had gotten psyched up for – apparently – nothing. I complained, “Lord, I’ve waited all this time, and now you’re making me wait a whole month for this??”

Well, I soon regretted my complaint.

At a staff retreat a couple Thursdays ago, my colleagues and I were reading through Rosarium Virginis Mariae by Pope St. John Paul II. I was not exactly excited about this.

As we read the Introduction, John Paul II says,

Among the more recent Popes who, from the time of the Second Vatican Council, have distinguished themselves in promoting the Rosary I would mention Blessed John XXIII and above all Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus emphasized, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Rosary’s evangelical character and its Christocentric inspiration.

My boss took this opportunity to mention that Paul VI would be beatified soon. She couldn’t remember the date of the beatification, so I jumped in, “…on October 19.”

We continued reading. Suddenly, two and two came together:

October 19 would be the first day of my 33 days. I would begin my preparation for Marian Consecration on the same day that Paul VI, an exemplary son of Mary, was to be beatified.

Stunned, I shared this with my fellow staff.

“Wow! You’re going to begin with Paul VI!” they exclaimed. We laughed.

I asked the Lord to forgive me. All this time, He had a plan. (Clearly, I have issues trusting in that divine promise.)

So, today I begin walking a Marian road with Blessed Pope Paul VI – a man who was already instrumental in my study and promotion of evangelization & media. I already loved him. Now, he reciprocates that affection from Heaven.

P.S. Did you all catch this special moment? Right at the conclusion of today’s Beatification Mass, Pope Francis looked up at the image of Paul VI and made the Sign of the Cross. As camera pulled away from the image of our newly-beatified Holy Father, a single white dove flew right across the shot. Watch it here.

PaulVIBeatification

You Can Do It.

heart_the_Sacred_Heart_of_christ

“Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.” – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Never let your heart to be weakened because of a fault committed. Distrust self and trust only and continuously in God, persuaded that not able to do anything by yourselves, you can do all with His grace and powerful help.” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” – St. Paul to the Philippians 4:13

The Heart of Jesus is our Nike “swoosh”… only a million times more powerful. Look at all that has been accomplished through this Heart. What obstacle stands in its way?

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bruge
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bruge

What We Tell Little Girls vs. What They Should Know

Angela in New Glasses

I believe it was Second Grade when I got my first pair of glasses. They were little plastic frames, almost translucent, but with a hint of purple. I used to be so embarrassed about needing glasses.

The 1990s provided me and my fellow little girls with campaigns about “Inner Beauty” mattering most. So, I began masking my insecurities by pretending that all I cared about were my smarts and my heart.

That only worked until college, when I met someone whose opinion I began to value highly. I remember sitting in the car with him one day and asking him, “Why did you choose me?” — hopefully expecting one of those romantic answers I’d heard in the movies.

After thinking a while, he turned to me and said, “Because I saw your potential.”

I don’t know if it was winter then, but I remember feeling like the whole world had frozen in that moment.

His wasn’t the, “because you’re you!” response that all those Inner Beauty campaigns had led me to believe he’d say.

Yet, I swallowed his words like a bitter pill. Those Inner Beauty campaigners, I thought, didn’t live in my real world, where smart boyfriends with my religion and a good job are hard to come by. He told me I’d be prettier if I wore contacts, so I got them. One birthday, he took me to the mall and bought me makeup. Me; a girl who only sometimes wore chapstick.

There’s more ugliness to this story, but you’re smart; you know what happened to him.

Time passed. I met, and dated, and became engaged to my now-husband. Several times, he encouraged me to wear my glasses at our wedding, and I would laugh. I’d chalk it up to his a.) not thinking about nightmarish glasses glare in wedding photos, and b.) his characteristic “dare to be different” spirit — an admirable quality, but not appropriate in this situation.

I mean, hello: I had to be pretty on our wedding day.

Three years under his influence, though, has been a grace.

This week, I got a pair of glasses that feel like “me”, and I finally understand what Dan wanted me to see three years ago:

It’s not right to cut ourselves in half — an “Inner Core” and an “Outer Shell”.
It’s not right to tell ourselves that one matters, while the other is just a sad coincidence.

I am a person, and my whole being is me.
When I am happy to be myself, I am prettiest.

How many girls need to know that?

 

I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn 1954, sailing on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Audrey Hepburn 1954, sailing on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on the set of Funny Face
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on the set of Funny Face
AudreyHepburnLaughing
Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden on the set of Sabrina

“Little Known” People & Projects You Should Know

Edmund Mitchell and I chatted Tuesday night. It was fun! I felt a little bit old. (I used Tamagotchi in an example. Give me a break… I had a full day of work.) Somehow, we hit some deep points.

I promised Mr. Mitchell that I would “blog this”; projects and people that I enjoy and you should know — since I couldn’t commit to picking just one when he asked me.

APOSTOLATE: Dr. Mark Hickman – Vasectomy Reversals

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BLOG: Anthony Baratta – Evangelical to Catholic

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PODCAST: The Sports Fathers

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BOOK: Peregrine: Poems by Paul Soupiset

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CATHOLIC MUSICIAN: Dave Moore

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WEBSITE: Reverb Culture !!!

Those are a few!

Dear Catholic Communicators: Do Your Work Better.

bulb-electric-spark-electricity-2396

If your church website doesn’t work, you’ve obviously gotta fix it…

…but have you ever seen a faith-based organization or church use the same templates year after year — not only for websites, but for the bulletin, administrative documents, and even internal processes within parish groups, programs and event planning? Have you noticed that, even though some improvements are needed, no change is made because “we’ve always done it that way,” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

The Problem

My experience working with dozens of Catholic organizations has informed the following opinion: Many people working in Church circles want to see improvements in communication, participation, and loyalty, but few people challenge themselves to improve an existing item, process, or structure.

Maybe Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations isn’t a perfect teaching text for these situations, but I’ve had many conversations with Catholics who are also frustrated about this phenomenon, and our conversations often include this point: Within ministry environments, the lack of perceived 1.) personal gain, or 2.) competition, tends to lead to…

  • little to no discussion about current pro’s and con’s
  • little to no consultation of professionals or leaders from outside the community
  • little to no research of other parishes / apostolates for inspiration and ideas

The general exceptions to these trends are capitol campaigns and major fundraisers. Why? There is obvious financial gain on the line and clear competition for that gain.

However distasteful it may seem to consider that parishes and apostolates are, in fact, competing for people’s attention, participation, and loyalty, the fact remains: The third-largest religious group in the United States is “Former Catholics.” One in three people were raised Catholic, yet fewer than one-fourth still describe themselves as Catholic.

Former Catholics

Are we not competing?

“Competition” may have negative connotations — including ill will toward one’s competitor, an unhealthy desperation, dishonest / immoral conduct, etc. — but Saint Paul taught that we should live our faith with such dedication, that we “run so as to win” (1 Cor. 9:24).

How could we settle, then, for “the way it’s always been done,” or “we’re getting by”?

We shouldn’t; it’s downright unbiblical.

A Solution

Imagine my twenty-year-old self, nervously sitting across from the Creative Partner at an advertising agency near downtown San Antonio. I’d applied for an internship with nearly every agency in town, and this one had been the first to respond.

After a few questions about my personal background and experience, I started to relax. Then, my interviewer asked me, “Who are some artists, graphic designers, or ad agencies that inspire you?”

My brain went blank. Stunned silence.

I’d been trapped in a bubble. Mostly self-taught and primarily interested in Catholic communications, I had never researched commercial marketing, influential graphic designers, or branding campaigns.

Although I was accepted, one of the first lessons my mentor taught me was the importance of researching other successful professionals and projects. I was tasked with creating a competitor analysis chart, comparing our advertising firm to others in our area and the nation.

Dear fellow Catholic communicators, most of us live in a ministry bubble. Most of the people you work with are probably fans of yours, and praise most of what you do — especially if you’re the only graphic designer / desktop publishing pro / video editor / photographer / webmaster / etc., in your organization.

You are in a dangerous situation. Your ministry bubble is contributing to your own high opinion of your work. You aren’t challenging yourself enough. You aren’t comparing your work to other churches’ projects. You aren’t comparing it to what church-goers see in their ‘normal lives’ (at the office, at the mall, on TV, online). Your skill set is falling behind the times, because your technology is ancient, and you’re smugly dealing with it. You have no one to challenge you.

We must rise to a higher level. Here are 5 ways I challenge myself to aim higher:

  1. Subscribe to news websites, blogs, or online journals in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Read them. Find webinars in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Take them. Learn from lectures & podcasts in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Get the picture? Learn from people who are competing to be the best at what you do.
  2. Before starting a project, look for similar examples in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Take notes. What makes each one successful? Behance is one of my favorite places to do this.
  3. Draft several different versions of one project.
  4. Apply your new knowledge and awareness of your field: Critique your own work. Then, let other (knowledgeable) people critique it.
  5. Let time test your work: Anticipate your projects as much as possible, so you can wait a day or two (or more) before deciding on a winner.

Run so as to win.

Tools for Communicators – Learn About and Use Color Effectively

Kuler

Do you know the science behind color? Did you know that certain colors have certain effects on the human brain? Did you know that there are lots of free resources for color education, inspiration and usage?

You will become a more effective communicator when you know how to properly put color to use. Check out the following links, and let me know what resources you have to share!

By the way, my favorite color is RED. What’s yours? - Angela

Education:

PANTONE – If you don’t know this word, I highly recommend you take a graphic design course pronto! (Or watch Karen excitedly explain.) Follow these color experts on social media for the latest color news: Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

Graphic Design Tutorial: Basic colour palettes (Video) – Graphic designer Shawn Berry gives a crash course on the color wheel, RGB, CMYK, and how to work with color in 11:40 minutes

The Effect of Color (Video) – PBS Digital Studios gives you the scoop on color theory in 7:29 minutes

DOs and DON’T of Colour” – Summary of color temperatures, psychology, undertones, and use

I firmly believe in keeping reference tools nearby, and utilizing them often. My desk at work is stocked with magazines for inspiration, and my bulletin board has two posters about color:

  1. Color Wheel & Quick Reference – Similar to this one
  2. Color Psychology Chart

Inspiration:

ColourLovers – Color palettes….tons of ‘em

ColorLovers

The Day’s Color – Originally a daily site, but great archive of inspiring color schemes

TheDaysColor

Colorgorize the Web – Get color inspiration from this curated collection of website designs, categorized by color

Colorgorize

Creation:

Colourco.de – Interactive color scheme creator

colourcode

 Kuler – Color scheme designer by Adobe

Kuler

Where I Get Free, Hi-Quality Stock Photos

StockPhotos

No more excuses! After reading this post, you’ll be equipped to get all the high-quality, free to use images your heart desires. When I need a stock photo…

First: I check my personal stash. Take your own photos, for crying out loud. Do you have 10 minute periods between projects when you’re not doing anything except checking emails or waiting for a download / upload to complete?

– Keep a running list of photos you think will be helpful in upcoming projects. (ex: chalice and paten, crucifix in our sanctuary, people shaking hands, etc.)

– When you have a few moments, grab your camera and see what you can snap!

– Store them on your drive, organized in folders by subject.

In addition to photos taken in-house, my “stock stash” also contains photos from free stock services to which I’ve subscribed. These will send you an email periodically (generally once per week) with a collection of fresh photos:

Death to the Stock Photo

Little Visuals

Unsplash

Second: I check my ‘top pick’ websites for the photo I need. Here’s that list, in order of preference:

Free Images – Requires a free account. Be sure to check below the image preview for usage requirements. Most images here are ready to use, but some photographers request their permission be granted before a photo is used for your project.

Flickr’s The Commons

Splashbase – Requires a free account.

Gratisography

Refe Free Photos Category – Photos of people & tech

Refe Mobile – Hi-res photos taken on mobile devices

Third: Scrounge around elsewhere. *If* I still haven’t found something I need (rare, but it happens), I’ll run down this list – in no particular order:

BigFoto

FreePhotosBank

MorgueFile – Check the license before using.

New Old Stock - Many of these you’ll probably find on Flickr’s The Commons, since they’re old photos in the public domain. You also can’t search this site by keyword, but it’s nice if you’re willing to check in once in a while.

PicJumbo

Pixabay

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Hope that helps! Next week, I’ll share some of my favorite resources for other free communication tools. Enjoy! - Angela