Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #16): Third in a Four-Part Series

If you've been stopping by String of Pearls on Tuesdays lately, you might have seen Parts 1 and 2 of the "Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect" series, which I've been re-posting here at the book club.
I originally wrote this series of posts back in 2013 to explain which parts of my first novel, Finding Grace, were loosely based on my real life, and which were totally fictional.  I wrote them when this online book club was not even a twinkle in my eye yet.  But I think that they're a great fit for the Grace-filled Tuesdays "meetings" we've been having (and although they're technically not new posts, they might as well be, since they weren't seen by many readers when they were first published in my earlier days as a blogger!).

If you haven't read the first two re-posts and would like to get up to speed with the other club members, you can click here and then here.  Go ahead.  The rest of us will wait while you get caught up.

Okay then!  Now on to Part 3, which originally appeared as part of a What We're Reading Wednesday link-up post on October 16, 2013:

Recently, my husband and I were in our hometown for the funeral of his uncle, and we ran into our high school biology teacher (a woman I admired, and upon whom Grace Kelly's Latin teacher is very loosely based).  She told my husband that she'd seen my mother not long ago and that my mother had told her that my book is our story--as in the story of my husband and me and our high school romance.  Now, I don't want to give any spoilers for those of you who haven't read FG and might do so one day (fingers crossed!); but Grace Kelly and Tom Buckley's story is a far, far cry from ours.  My mother is not a liar; but as my husband told our old bio teacher, "If that's what she said, then she hasn't read it."  (I'm pretty sure this is the case, actually.)

I admit that when I set out to fashion a love interest for my heroine, I couldn't help but create a boy who resembled the one with whom I fell in love at the tender age of 15 and who has been my husband for going on 33 years now.  He's always been the only man for me, and therefore obviously my main character would be drawn to the same type!  So Tom Buckley is tall, handsome, athletic, smart, kind, funny, a good son, a devout Catholic--and he has a large space between his two front teeth.  These are all attributes he shares with my husband, who was my high school sweetheart.  Tom is patient, spending hours teaching athletically-challenged Grace how to ski; my husband did this for me when we were dating.  Tom is the high school class valedictorian; so was my husband (and the quotes from Tom's valedictory speech were taken from my husband's actual speech, with his permission).  But even with all of those similarities, as I got into the writing process Tom became a completely unique person to me (as did every other character who started out resembling someone I really knew).  And Tom is the baby in a family of 4 boys, unlike my husband, who is the second oldest in a family of 8 kids.
I wish I was more like my sweet little Grace Kelly, but trust me, I am not that good!  We do share some qualities: like Grace, I'm a bit klutzy and tend to spill things, I worry about saying the wrong thing and hurting someone's feelings, I suffer from a sometimes crippling lack of self-confidence, and I desperately want to figure out how to become a saint; but although I did grow up in an old house around the corner from the university campus in Plattsburgh, I didn't grow up with 5 older brothers.  Those 5 handsome, smart, athletic, momma-loving Kelly boys are loosely based on my own beloved sons.  And Grace's mother's tendency to favor the boys over Grace is based on a fear I used to have that, because I loved my sons so fiercely (and of course, boys was all I knew), if I'd had a daughter I might not feel the same way about her.  Having three granddaughters has set my mind at ease about that (oh, has it ever!), but when I wrote about Peggy, that's what I drew from.

There are a lot of people, incidents, and conversations in FG that were inspired by real life but were tweaked to fit my story.  After I'd been writing the book for about 3 years or so, I bought a copy of Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen, which I found on the Barnes & Noble clearance shelf.  Here are a couple of quotes from this incredible book that just jumped out at me, because--at the risk of putting my humble self in the same sentence with a literary giant like Austen--I thought, "Yes!  That's it!  That's what I'm doing here!"

"Jane wrote her early pieces for the amusement of her family and friends, and she put in shared jokes, teasing jibes, and allusions to real events in their lives."

"Austen is never autobiographical in the crude sense of recording what happened to her or to people she knew.  But a real situation was sometimes her starting point and developed in her imagination as something quite separate from the 'real'."

Case in point: on the day of my high school junior prom, I went over to the gym in the morning to help with last-minute decorations, and I fell backwards off a ladder.  I blacked out for just a moment, and I was left with a painful egg on the back of my head.  So Grace and I both attended our proms with eggs on our noggins, escorted by handsome gap-toothed dates.  But Grace never fell off a ladder--and if you want to know how she bumped her head, you'll have to read the book.  [Wink, wink.]
And with that little teaser, I think I'll sign off...

Until next time!  Stay tuned for Part 4, which I'll share at the next club "meeting."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter (from Berlin!)

The gates of Heaven have been opened, because Our dear Lord died for our sins!  And rejoice, for now He has risen--hallelujah!

My husband, youngest son, and I are in Berlin this weekend, and last night, we saw what remains of the wall that used to divide East and West Berlin, the wall that separated free people from those who were oppressed by a brutal Communist regime.  And when I looked at that trail of bricks in the road, a lasting reminder of that awful barrier, I couldn't help but think that when Jesus died for us, he knocked down the wall that separates us from eternal life with His Father.

I've got pictures to show you from this amazing trip to a city I never in a million years thought I'd have the opportunity to visit.  But for now, a German "Happy Easter" to you, dear readers!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Seeing Green

Um...what happened to the pink background, you ask?   The one this blog has had for the past two years--the one that looked like this?
Well, on this glorious Holy Saturday morning, I decided that String of Pearls was due for a change!

The last time I gave my girl a bold facelift was in 2014, after I'd been blogging for about three years.  I'd been using a pastel peach-toned "Ethereal" template supplied by Blogger, but began to feel that it was a little on the bland side; so I switched to a jazzy new template and then did some advanced adjustments to make my page look the way I wanted it to.  (I wrote about my big blog re-design in this 2014 post, if you're interested.) 

I thought I loved my pink-striped background so much, and thought I would never ever change it.  But it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind, you know (you might have heard that)...and that's just what I did this morning.  I decided that since the covers of both of my novels are predominantly green, and green is the color of my beloved Irish and their Emerald Isle, this color scheme makes a lot more sense than the pink one did.

Now that I'm five years into the blogging thing, I know I can easily switch back to the old template anytime I want.  So let me know: do you like the new look?  Do you think String of Pearls looks pretty in green?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday 2016

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him.”
–John 3:16-17.

(Outside Altenburg Castle; Bamberg, Germany.)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

WIWS: The Coffee Drinking and Clothes Shopping Edition

On Thursday, I had a lovely time strolling down the walking street of the small, sleepy German town where I've been staying with my son.  It was sunny and warm, a perfect day to be out and about.  My first stop was at a nice little café on the marktplatz (marketplace), which is sort of the town square, where I ordered a große Tasse Kaffee (large cup of coffee).

This coffee was so large that it didn't really come in a cup.  It was more like a bowl--a big soup bowl, with no handles.  I had to pick it up with both hands to drink it.
Here's what I love, love, love about the way they serve coffee in this country: they always put a little cookie--usually a crisp, Biscoff-style cookie--on the saucer.  Is that the best tradition, or what?  Why don't they do this in the US?

My only complaint is that with every regular-sized cup of coffee that I've ordered over here, I've gotten a regular-sized cookie; so one would think that with this  große-sized cup, there would be a große-sized cookie as well.  Wouldn't one?  But look at that tiny cookie on the spoon, and note how disproportionately small it is next to my VAT of coffee! 

But I really can't complain.  A tiny cookie is better than no cookie at all!

I leisurely sipped my coffee, while reading my Kindle book and taking breaks to people-watch.  (It was very busy out on the square.)

After I left the cafe, I stopped in at a little clothing boutique and spotted a pale green crepe blouse on sale for 2.99.  (1 euro = 1.13 US dollars these days, so that's still pretty cheap!)  It was St. Patty's Day...and the blouse was green...and I would have lost money if I hadn't bought it at that guess who has a new blouse?
And then I passed another boutique and spotted a pashmina-style scarf that matched it perfectly, for 10 euro.  Although it was not quite as much of a steal as the blouse, I decided that the two pieces worn together would make a nice Sunday Mass ensemble, paired with my trusty black knit traveling skirt (a Dress Barn wardrobe staple of mine).
The blouse is so soft and loose and flowy.  Just my cup of tea.
It hangs a little longer in the back.
And as I said, it's definitely loose-fitting.
It might look like I bought the wrong size, but I think this is the way it's supposed to fit.  The sleeves and shoulders on the smaller size were very tight.

I really love these new additions to my wardrobe.  I think they make me look very European, don't you?

Well, maybe not.  But I think I'm going to get a lot of wear out of them all the same.  I wore them today for Palm Sunday Mass, as a matter of fact.

Did you see what I did there?  That's right, this here is a What I Wore Sunday post!  And if you'd like to see what some other lovely ladies wore, head on over to Fine Linen and Purple!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Still Seeing Mary Everywhere I Look

One of the things I love about being in Germany is that religious imagery--specifically Catholic imagery--is everywhere you look.  Just walking down a random city street filled with shops and restaurants and bakeries, you're bound to see more lovely Catholic statues and paintings than you'd find in most parish churches back home. 

Nowadays in our country, it seems like a loud minority of anti-religious protestors has succeeded in having religious imagery removed from the public square altogether, because it so "offends" them. (Apparently, seeing a Nativity Scene set up at Christmastime is the most vile offense some non-Christians can imagine!)   I don't know if the German population is more religious in general, or just more tolerant; but it definitely looks like no one is clamoring to have these beautiful Catholic images torn down, painted over, or removed.

Earlier in the month, I blogged about how I was seeing images of Mary everywhere I looked (here's that post if you missed it); but I'd only been here a little over a week by that point, and let me tell you, I didn't know the half of it!  Since then, I have spied many more images of Her, usually holding Her Infant Son, both here in my son's city and on a recent day trip to Bamberg.

One of my favorite images of those I'm about to show you is the last one of the Holy Family, painted on an archway over a little alley that leads to some bistros and shops.  I added a close-up, because I think the detail is exquisite.

Okay then, I think it's time to let the pictures do the talking for me. (And keep in mind that none of these buildings adorned with beautiful images of Our Lady are churches or chapels--they're just businesses and private homes!)
Constantly seeing all of these images of the Blessed Mother, and feeling like She is so close to me, wrapping me safely in Her mantle and protecting me from all harm, is one of the best things about being in Germany--and one of the things I'll miss the most when I get back home.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wearin' 'o the Green

I got bored the other day and started playing with the camera on my Kindle Fire.  The model I have isn't the newest version, and the camera on it only works in selfie mode. Which, as you can imagine, makes it rather inconvenient for everyday use. BUT (and this is a big but)...I just discovered that once you take the photos, you can add all these different effects to them; so I messed around with a smirky self-portrait, changing the filters until I ended up with a version that gave me green hair and green eyes.  And faith 'n begorrah, I thought what better day to post such a picture on the blog than today, the very feast day of the Patron Saint of the Emerald Isle himself?  So I added the text, and voila!  This green-eyed monster of a photo became a St. Patrick's Day greeting from String o' Pearls to yourself!
(Since I'm still in Germany, this should probably read "Glucklichen St Patrick Tag!"  Or "Glucklichen St der Tag von Patrick!"  Or something like that.)

Actually, I think perhaps I ought to share some better St. Patty's Day greetings with you--vintage ones, because they appeal to me so much.  (And hey, no jokes about the somewhat vintage nature of the Grammy up there with the green hair and eyes, you hear?)
Now before I go, a little book talk:

If you like to read about the Irish, you might enjoy the novel I am currently reading, A Distant Prospect by Annette Young.  Although I am only a little over half-way through it, I ADORE this book, which features a young Irish heroine and her utterly endearing Irish "daid," who have moved to Australia after a family tragedy to forge a new life for themselves.  It is so good that I believe every reader will love it and every writer will wish they'd written it!

And of course, how can I leave without a wee plug for my own novel about the Irish?  Erin's Ring tells the story about how those plucky immigrants came to this country in waves during the 19th century and changed it forever--for the better, of course!

Okay, then.  Tonight, I'll raise my glass of green beer (or more likely, Coca-Cola Light, Germany's version of Diet Coke) to all of you, dear readers, and say, "Slainte!"  I will indeed!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It's a Pearl Thing (and a Chocolate Thing)

I haven't changed my hair-do in about five decades.  I've been wearing it long and straight and unstyled since I was a pre-teen.  (I take that back: I experimented with short hair twice--once when I was a junior in high school and again when I was a junior in college; big mistake, times two).

Over the years, there were times when I had bangs; but most of the time, I've gone bang-less and employed barrettes or a headband to keep my hair from falling in my face.

I realize that long hair pulled back with a headband is probably not an age-appropriate hairstyle for a woman who's got seven grandkids and is pushing 60; but I'll tell you, it's a very worry-free, no-hassle affair.  I just shampoo it, brush it out, and let it air dry.  I don't even own a blowdryer.

Here is the shampoo and conditioner I've been using since I've been in Germany.  It's not too expensive and I really like the way it makes my hair feel.   My husband thinks these hair care products smell like chocolate.  (Bonus, right?)
Speaking of chocolate, they do have the best milk chocolate (Alpenmilch Schokolade)  in this country!  Milka is to die for.  My rapidly expanding hips can vouch for how irresistibly delicious I think it is!
Okay, now back to my absolutely riveting hair story...

The other day on my daily journey down the cobblestone walking street of the quaint town where my son lives, I spotted a pearl headband in a CVS-type store, and on a whim, I bought it. (I tend to be attracted to Pearls, if you get my drift.) I thought I'd wear my fancy new headband on Easter Sunday, instead of my usual faux alligator number.
But when I got my new hair accessory home and tried it on, I wondered if it would perhaps look more appropriate on the head of a sweet little girl making her First Holy Communion (with a tulle veil attached).
See what I mean?

Does it look ridiculous on me?  (I can take it; be brutally honest.)
I'm just not sure that this graying head of mine can carry it off.  What say you?  (And while you're at it, tell me what you think of my swell t-shirt.  It says, "IT'S A PEARL THING.  YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND.")

Okay then, that's it for me today.  This was a sort of strange post...however, it did include both pearls and chocolate: two very good things indeed.  (I daresay two of the best things!)

P.S. If you've got a doll-loving daughter or granddaughter, you might want to check out that Dolls from Heaven website!!   Love, love, love it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Numbers Game

Well, I just realized that I missed a national holiday yesterday.
I'm sure you were all whooping it up like crazy, making and eating infinite amounts of pie--because what better way to celebrate a number that stretches on into infinity than by enjoying a dessert with the same name?

Truth be told, I've never been good at math and I don't really "get" pi.  (But then again, I don't really get pie, either, when there's a much better option: cake!)

But in honor of Pi Day, I thought I'd play the numbers game a little here and share my Amazon stats with you.  I just happened to check my author ranking on Saturday (something I rarely ever do, because it's not as if it's a huge confidence-booster or anything!).  Well, my friends, I say move over Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, et. al., because [drumroll please!], as of a few days ago,
Yeah, baby, that's right: my author rank on Saturday was #64,146.  Read that number and weep!  (Just for grins, I checked again today, and I've already moved down the list to #79,477.  Yikes, it doesn't take long to have 15,331 authors pull ahead of you!)

After checking my author rank, I decided to check out the sales ranks for each of my novels, and this is what I learned: Finding Grace was ranked #269,893; and Erin's Ring was ranked #148,276.

So needless to say, my books won't appear on the New York Times bestseller list anytime soon...or ever.  But I did look up another number, which makes me feel a tad better about my rankings: the Amazon website lists 32.8 million book titles (when you add up everything they carry--hardcover, paperback, Kindle, audio, and children's board books); so in light of that number, my rankings don't seem quite so dismal.

I know that my novels, written with the specific purpose of inspiring young readers and hopefully helping them to grow in knowledge of and love for the Catholic Faith, won't make me rich or famous, and I'm 100% okay with that.  I also know that without the help of the Internet and generous eFriends (some of whom I've never even "met") who promote these books on their blogs and websites, I would have trouble getting copies of Finding Grace and Erin's Ring into the hands of the readers for whom I wrote them.

Case in point: not long ago, I was informed by my online friend Nancy Carabio Belanger (a talented and successful Catholic author) that my books had been mentioned in a recent blog post over at Shower of Roses.  Jessica, a homeschooling mother of seven, wrote that she had put together stacks of books for each of her children this past Christmas, and look what her 12-year-old daughter's stack included:
I want to thank Jessica from the bottom of my heart for her support.  And I absolutely mean it when I say that if my novels touch even one reader--her 12-year old, for instance--then my mission has been accomplished.

It doesn't matter what the numbers say about my books, because when all is said and done, chasing worldly success is a game with no meaningful score. There is only one literary critic I've ever worried about pleasing anyway.  And I think you know the Guy I'm talking about.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

WIWS: European Traveler Edition

I used to link up from time to time for the What I Wore Sunday fashion party over at Fine Linen and Purple.   Remember that?  (Of course, I used to do a lot of blog daily...ahem.)
Apparently, the gals at Fine Linen and Purple have closed up shop.  But never fear, the link-up lives on: I'm happy to report that Rosie over at A Blog for My Mom has picked up the baton.  (I have long admired the fashion sense of this adorable young mom of five, so I can't think of a more perfect host!)

Before I begin this WIWS post, however, I must make two confessions: 1) I did not wear the outfit I'm about to show you on Sunday, but rather on Saturday; and 2) I did not wear it to Mass (although I did wear it in a place where images of our dear Catholic Faith abounded and filled my soul with delight!).

I call this get-up, worn yesterday on a day trip with my son to a lovely and historic German city called Bamberg, my European traveler ensemble.
Here's the breakdown:
Liz Claiborne black trench coat with removable lining--a perfect all-season traveling coat, in a perfect color for hiding dirt and spills; a steal from JC Penney, bought when it was 60% off.
Dress Barn black knit skirt--very full at the bottom and swingy, packable, wrinkle-resistant, and as comfy as jammies; bought on sale for about $20.
Cliffs by White Mountain black ballet flats--with great support for walking miles over cobblestones, uphill both ways; bought at a shoe outlet for $30 (wish I'd bought a few extra pairs--best flats I've ever owned).
Travelon brand black travel purse--small, yet large enough to hold credit cards, cash, passport and phone, with very long straps making it so that you can hang it from your neck (my favorite way to carry it); a TJ Maxx $10 jackpot find.  (Note the zip tie attached to it, which I'm using as a sort of lanyard for my keys.)
Reusable shopping bag--a must-have over here, where they don't give bags out at the cash register; bought recently for one euro at the local Dollar Store Euro Shop.
Purple knit gloves--for that pop of liturgical color; bought at an actual Dollar Store back in the US of A.

Lest you think I'm Goth or something, dressed from head to toe in all that black, I thought I'd add that under my trench, I was wearing a salmon pink short-sleeved cotton sweater and a 3/4-sleeved denim cropped jacket (both from JC Penney, a store that will always be dear to my heart, as it was where I got my first real job shortly after my 16th birthday and where I worked every summer afterward).

So that was what I wore on Saturday, and as I said, I didn't wear it for Mass.  But I wore it to feast my eyes on soul-stirring images such as this one.
I wore it to visit an enormous, spectacularly beautiful cathedral wherein the remains of Pope Clement II are entombed.

It was a day that this traveling woman, in a serviceable and forgettable all-black ensemble, will not soon forget.

(Now head on over to Rosie's, you faith-filled fashionistas, you!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A 5th Anniversary for String of Pearls

I didn't finish this in time to post it yesterday, but here is a belated Happy Anniversary post to this blog that has brought me much joy and fulfillment, along with many new online friends, over the past five years:

March 7, 2016
Five years ago today, I started String of Pearls with the encouragement of my daughter-in-law Regina.  (At the time, she was my only D-I-L, but three more wonderful girls have joined the family since then.)

My first post was--let me see, how do I put this?--nothing to write home about.  (Here it is; read it and you'll see that I'm not being overly self-deprecating when I say that!)  It was very short and had no pictures.  But being as technology-challenged as I am, I was just so excited that I'd figured out how to navigate the blogger dashboard, and I could hardly wait to push the "publish" button!  It would be a while before I got a handle on including all the different bells and whistles--like photos and embedded hyperlinks--to my posts, or to adding various side bar gadgetry and other elements to my home page to make it look more professional.

When I started out, I had one married son and had not yet become a Grammy (my twin granddaughters would be born three months later); today, I have four married sons and seven grandchildren (five girls, two boys) who are the joy of my life.  (What a difference five years makes!)  When I started out, my youngest son was just about to graduate from high school; today, he is a college graduate and a military officer living overseas.  (The nest, therefore, is officially empty.)  When I started out, my four oldest sons were in their 20's, which seemed unthinkable to me at the time; today, two are in their 30's, and in a matter of months, another will hit the big 3-Oh.  (Where do the years go, I'd like to know?!?!)

There have been quite a few times in the last two years or so that I've considered shutting this blog down, thinking that I've said about all I have to say...but then I find some inspiration that makes me want to keep at it.  (Sometimes, that inspiration comes from just knowing that my husband--a.k.a. my most devoted reader--will miss finding my voice here, especially when he's traveling for work.)

One of my main purposes for starting this blog was to chronicle my family's tell stories that my boys might have forgotten or maybe even never heard.   Another purpose was to have a place where I could express my love of marriage, motherhood, and my Catholic Faith--leaving a love letter behind that will live on long after I'm gone.  And finally, I simply needed to write.  Writing makes me happy.  :)
This was taken at a niece's super-fun wedding reception in 2014;
but this is the expression I wear when I'm writing, too.  No kidding.
I'd already been working on my first novel, Finding Grace, for about four years when I published my first post at String of Pearls.  The finish line on that manuscript was in sight when I became a blogger, and my middle son asked me if I thought blogging would keep me from crossing it; but I assured him that in some ways, I thought blogging actually helped me with my other writing. It helped me to exercise my writing muscles and keep them in shape.  (Besides, at the time, I didn't believe for a second that Finding Grace would ever be published; but I knew that I could publish a blog post any old time I wanted, which made it a really appealing medium for this fledgling author!)

When I started out here, you could count my readers on one hand, maybe two; today this blog gets many more "hits" per day than I ever could have imagined in 2011--a far cry from the numbers a superblogger gets, of course, but that was never my intention when I dipped my toes into the busy waters of the blogosphere anyway.  I was writing for myself (and my family); if anyone else happened by and was entertained for a minute or two, then that was just gravy.

So thanks for all the gravy, readers!

This post makes #1,235 for me.  I don't know if there are 1,235 more where this one came from...but at least for now, I'm taking it one day at a time here at String of Pearls.  No plans to close up shop yet.  And who knows?  A year from now, I might be celebrating the old girl's 6th anniversary.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Seeing Mary Everywhere I Look

These days, I'm seeing Mary everywhere I look.  Not just in churches, although Her presence there is surely evident.  In the Catholic churches here in Germany, it is patently obvious that Our Blessed Mother is loved and revered.
But She's not just in church.  No, She sometimes pops up in fresco form on the stucco exterior of a random building, when you're strolling through town and least expecting to see Her.
(Sorry about the poor quality of that image, taken with my Stone Age-era iPhone 4.  This painting is so much prettier in person.)

Mary stands in alcoves on the corners of commercial buildings in downtown areas.  I thought this image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus was especially beautiful.
In Munich (where my husband, my youngest son, and I went yesterday to do a little sightseeing), She sits atop a pedestal, high in the sky, holding Her Beloved Son.  This Mary made of gold reminds me of another golden statue of Our Lady that is near and dear to my heart: the iconic beauty that stands atop the Golden Dome at Notre Dame, the university named for Her.
But my favorite image of the Blessed Mother, out of all the images I've seen during this recent sojourn in Deutschland, is one that can be viewed from my son's apartment window.  I like to think that She and Her holy spouse St. Joseph, along with the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are there to keep watch over him while he's living so far away from home.
One of the things I've loved most about being here in Germany is seeing the spectacular architecture that has withstood the centuries and gives evidence of Europe's long, rich history; and I love even more that all the religious artwork on display shows how intricately woven Catholicism is with that history.  Indeed, when I walk around the streets of this 500-year-old German city, I am constantly reminded that Europe was once known as "Christendom."  It makes me wish that back at home, there were as many beautiful tributes to Our Blessed Mother, Our Dear Lord, and all the saints in Heaven to be found outside the walls of our Catholic churches--which themselves have been stripped of much of their ornate beauty in the past four decades.  I'll just have to soak up all this glorious artwork as long as I can, and enjoy the way it makes my soul soar...

Hail Holy Queen enthroned above, O Maria!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.

Have a great week, dear readers!