All posts by Theresa Curley

Theresa Curley is currently taking pre-requisite classes in sainthood before her Final Exam at the end of her life. She hopes to meet you in person there. Until then, you can find her on her family's homestead in rural South Carolina, drinking tea, singing along with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and enjoying books by G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

My Alabaster Jar

“When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. There were some who were indignant. ‘Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wager and the money given to the poor.’ They were infuriated with her. Jesus said, ‘Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. Amen, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.'” (Mk 14:3-9)

The gift of the woman at Bethany was not small. She came to Jesus with repentance and sincerity of heart; with her broken jar she anointed Him with the best that she had, holding nothing back. She gave to Christ from her heart.

Such sincere gift left her vulnerable in the eyes of others. They were irritated and criticized her gift. Why wasn’t she following convention? Why wasn’t she displaying kindness in the popular way?

Perhaps this woman knew what their reaction would be beforehand. Her actions were somewhat radical… but at the same time, they weren’t. Would one who truly loves hold anything back from the beloved? Nothing is wasted on Christ.

Amid the scoffing of the bystanders, Christ read the woman’s heart. “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me…She has done what she could.” These words must have been a wealth of consolation for the woman. She had the guts to run to Christ and now He was hiding her in His bosom, acknowledging that her actions were beautiful and pleasing.

The woman cared little for human respect and public opinion. She gave glory to God in the best way she knew how, and let the others think what they wanted.

The bystanders thought that she should love God through charity to the poor. But the woman went far beyond mere external actions- she gave God her heart. This woman gave all that was most precious to her to Christ, without bothering about people’s opinions and envious thoughts.

What is in my alabaster jar? What is my gift of priceless worth that I am holding back from God for fear of the opinions of others? Dear Lord, help me to break my alabaster jar and give my heart to You.

My outraged Jesus, / by the weakness You suffered in going to Calvary, / give me enough strength to overcome all human respect / and all my evil passions which have led me to despise Your friendship. / I love You, Jesus my Love, with all my heart; / I am sorry for ever having offended You. / Never permit me to offend You again. / Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will. (The Way of the Cross according to St. Alphonsus Liguori) 

Cuisine or Chaos

Some memories stick with you forever, for good or ill.  The mind is such so that even if you can laugh about sad moments a long time after they occur, often you still feel a sense of dread and sorrow whenever the event is called to mind.  That being said, I will never forget my first attempt at baking a cake.  It was one of my first baking experiences, and came close to being my last.

One day in April 2008, we were celebrating Mom’s and Dad’s birthdays.  We decided to throw them a double party, as it was already the end of April and we hadn’t celebrated Mom’s yet.  The boys undertook the task of wrapping presents (in construction paper and newspaper as we were out of gift wrap) and, as I was the eldest girl at home, I undertook the grave responsibility of baking the birthday cake.

A cake.  That’s all it was.  A little flour and butter with thick sugar and candles on top.  How hard could that be?  True, I had never made a cake before, and previously my solo baking had only amounted to cookies out of cake mix, but I had seen Mom make cakes at least a dozen times, and the results were always terrific.  Yes, I knew that my cooking skills were 30-odd years behind hers, so I allowed that the decorations on the cake may not look so professional.  But I make no exaggeration when I say that the responsibility was grave.  For when we knew that the birthday person wasn’t going to have any fun presents for us to play with after the party, the big thing to be look forward to was the cake and scraping the bowl of frosting between party games.  I was fully aware of the seriousness of the issue, but young and innocent as I was, I was completely oblivious to the consequences of my actions.

Accordingly, after we came home from Mass that day, Mom and Dad went to take a nap while we kids bustled around to make everything perfect.  I set off to the kitchen, with no clear idea of what I was going to do except I was going to make a cake, and it was going to be awesome!  Fortunately, I didn’t have the courage to attempt a cake from scratch, so I took out the cake mixes.  I decided to make two cakes: vanilla for Dad and chocolate for Mom.  So they’d be ready at the same time, the only thing to do was make them at the same time.

First step: empty the mixes into their respective bowls.  All’s well so far.  Cake mix dust got on the floor, my clothes, and probably the ceiling, but all’s well so far.  Second: 3 eggs per cake.  Well, let’s just say after all these years I still know how to scrape an egg off the floor and separate it from 2 other eggs before plopping it in its proper resting place.  Third: add water.  Instead of taking the time to measure twice, doesn’t it make so much more sense to measure once and sight-measure how much to add to each cake?  No matter the correct answer, that is the route I took.  Needless to say, the whole kit and caboodle wound up in the chocolate cake.  Meanwhile, I kept running back and forth from the kitchen and my parent’s bedroom to wake Mom up for advice.  Poor Mom was groggy from sleep, and she didn’t realize the chaos that was happening in the kitchen.

Finally, the batters had their ingredients as separated as I could get them, and were all beat up waiting to go into the oven.  Excited as I was, I hurriedly poured them into their pans and placed them into the waiting oven, only to remember I hadn’t greased the pans.  There is a breaking point for everyone, and this had broken mine.  The tears fell quickly as I took the pans out, emptied them, washed and greased them, and poured the batter back in.  I just wanted to be done with these cakes, but still make them perfect.

Pretty soon, the house was filled with the sweet aroma of chocolate and vanilla.  Having regained a bit of my self-confidence and excitement, I set about making the frosting (having woken Mom up to get the recipe), and started checking the cakes every four minutes to make sure I didn’t burn them.  I was in such a state of relieved excitement that I didn’t care so much when I dropped the opened butter on the floor and had to rinse it off.  The timer finally beeped.  After several trips with toothpicks to Mom’s room for consultation, I took the cakes out of the oven onto cooling racks.

There they sat, those glorious masterpieces.  To look at them, no one could ever have imagined the sweat and tears which went into them.  No one could have guessed that the ingredients had been swept off the floor before being mixed in.  No one could have guessed that the batter had been switched around so many times.  Because the cakes looked perfect.  Succulent is the word.  I was proud.  My head was high and my chest swelled.  All this labor wasn’t in vain after all, and soon they would be decorated and my parents would marvel.  But this wasn’t the end to my trials.

Being too excited and impatient, I didn’t wait for the cakes to cool properly and turned them out prematurely.  Alas! and Alas! they came out of the pans onto the cooling racks as a mountain of crumbs.  It was disastrous.  I was completely crushed.  I was at the point where I would’ve thrown everything out and begun again, except I knew that it wouldn’t turn out any better the second time around.  It was a sad day.

Within minutes of this sorrowful climax, people started appearing from their rooms for the party.  Mom and Dad came into the kitchen.  Mom almost laughed and Dad ate some of the crumbs.  They comforted me, telling me it still tasted good.  So as soon as they left I dumped the crumbs onto a huge plate and poured the frosting all over them.  When dessert time came, we stuck a couple candles into this glob and ate it.  I believe the boys came up with a name for my mess, but I was in such trauma and shock that to this day I can’t remember what it was.  As I remember, the cakes were well-received because they still tasted fine and since there weren’t any distinct pieces, the boys had an excuse to eat both cakes that night.  Despite the happy turnout, it was several years before I regained the courage to bake another cake.

Instantly Now

Once upon a time — that is how all the old stories start.  And they do have a certain inkling of romance attached to them — the sound of a roaring wind — chestnuts cracking in a great stone hall — the smell of lavender and jasmine in the opal air — the sweet taste of the first honeysuckle — the red, blue, and purple crackling of an open fire with the stars dancing above and the dew lightly kissing the grass beneath.  The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, ginger and garlic; the warmth of the sun on your face and sand between your toes; the creaking of the leather saddles and the taste of freshly-baked blueberry pies — yes, those magical words have a kind of romance about them that can instantly transport you to another place and time.

With all this in mind, there is still an unsatisfied recess of my mind which demands for something more.  Why are all the stories in the past?  Why doesn’t someone write a story that is happening this very instant; as the clock ticks away the seconds while you are reading, the very same clock is ticking away the seconds in the story.

What new horizons would this lead to in the world of literature?  What planets are we yet to discover?  Quit your tedious plowing of the underground fields of the ancient myths, and turn your attention to the deep and secret happenings of today — either plainly exposed under a mountain or concealed in a soft bed of clouds.  Breathe in the polluted air and enjoy the progress of today.  Don’t bother recording it for posterity — the future is too hazy and that would make us the past — accordingly, irrelevant.  No, instead, do everything for the now.  Because now is all that really matters.  The progressive people of today want to know what is happening as it happens.  After that, what does it matter anymore?  Why would we want to wait 20, 50, 100 or more years for it to be a confirmed part of our history, our culture, and our folklore before obtaining the story?  I mean, hey, the best thing about our society today is satisfaction on demand.  Instant gratification, some call it.  But didn’t someone once say something about time being money?  How true!!  Why waste time on little details?! 

Funny that we should use that metaphor, though, because these days money is so figurative. It’s a hazy concept which has been floating around for centuries.  Apparently it used to actually have a specific value and stood for something real.  Now, our money system is basically a complex cycle of numbers.  You get paid X amount of dollars and bring it to the bank in the form of a cheque.  You hand the piece of paper to the teller, who types something into the computer and hands you back a receipt.  You go merrily on your way, and there the numbers sit for X years.  In the meantime, you have earned interest on your numbers and they have increased by 0.0XXXXXX%.  You finally decide to purchase something with your numbers.  So you go to the store and bring along with you a tiny plastic card with your name and — you guessed it! — a series of numbers engraved on it.  With an easy swipe of the card and pressing of a few numbers the items are yours.  But woe are you if the numbers in your bank account and the numbers on your grand total don’t match up!  Some time is wasted by worrying about how to multiply and add up those numbers.  I’ll admit, that is the one flaw in our current monetary system.  But no worries!  Pretty soon you will receive a piece of paper in the mail from the government saying that they made more numbers to give to you!  So you see, like time, money is a hazy thing which somehow keeps on coming.  You never see it itself.  Just its representatives.

Can you imagine living in a world where you had what you had, and you had to work, plan, and wait to get it?  I hear tell that that is what it used to be like.  But we have more important things to spend time on now. Why worry about the future and how you are going to eat when you are hungry now?  Why pinch pennies for winter clothes and heat when you really want that new pair of sunglasses?  I mean, seriously, why worry about those boring, mundane details of life when now is happening!!  I mean, now is now.  Yesterday is gone and who knows if tomorrow will ever come?  Now is what is important.  Time is now. 

Well, there you have it. Futility.  Money, however much it is not, is not is mere numbers.  Or rather, it shouldn’t be.  It should have purpose and use.  God is outside of time, larger than time.  However, we need to encounter Him in the now of every moment of our lives.  Time and money are not the same.  But they are similar in that they both represent something larger than themselves: money representing our temporal needs, our mortal bodies.  Time representing our immortal souls, and our quest to let God find us.  Hence, time is not money.  And we can’t save both at Dollar General because we will die and we may or may not make it to Heaven.  People, Dollar General is not the answer to all life’s questions.  The name implies ordering money around, which translates to someone bossing you about how to live your life, which, seen as it is none of their beeswax, trespasses on Free Will.  Seeing that Free Will is a Gift from God, and Dollar General is trying to take away God’s gifts, don’t listen.

Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

I wonder what you are doing at this moment. Are you studying for finals? Maybe you’re chatting with friends, or are laughingly lost in a field of dandelions.  Are you sitting in Adoration? Or are you thinking of me? I have thought of you often over the years, and not a day goes by that I don’t pray for you. Sometimes this makes you feel so close, even though I don’t know you yet.

I wonder what you’re like. Are you a sugar-and-cream person, or do you like your coffee tall, dark, and black like I do? Or would you prefer tea? Do you enjoy long car rides with the windows down and the wind in your face? Are you sci-fi or action, a comedy or a musical? Do you make cloud-pictures, and have you ever caught fireflies in a mason jar? Do you like to dance in the rain or watch a lightening storm? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Are you sweet or savory? I can hardly wait to discover all the little things that are part of who you are.

Dear sir, I hope you are the man who would help his children build a treehouse wear a baby-pack to keep track of the toddler on daytrips. I hope that you will find a bouquet of sunflowers as beautiful and romantic as I do… or almost as much. I’d find it wonderful if you enjoy all sorts of literature and the writings of St. Augustine, but have a special spot in your heart for Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss. I hope that you will understand that sometimes I need to step away from everyone and relish the silence. I hope that our children will have many memories of your voice singing loudly around a campfire or softly as they drift to sleep. Please remember to remember that the value of a dollar isn’t as much as a single Hail Mary or the laugh of a child.

I pray that someday I will see in your eyes the same love that I’ve always seen shining from my parents’ from across the room. But most of all, I pray that you are a man of God who puts Him as his first criteria in choosing a career or buying a house. In our life together, let’s always put the spiritual well-being of the souls entrusted to our care as our highest priority in making decisions.

I know that all of this is years in the future, but I can’t help thinking about it and I can’t stop praying for you. Dearest, I pray that you are not waiting for me. I pray that you are not watching the clock tick away and the calendar roll past the years. Please, don’t wait for me. Rather, actively prepare for me. Use the time you have now to make yourself the man God created you to be. Learn, grow, and deepen your relationship with Christ. Don’t wait. Prepare in joyful expectation for the advent of our love. Prepare for the family we will have together.

Dear one, I have a song in my heart. Now and then I catch an echo of it, but it has never been played loudly enough for me to hear. Or maybe I haven’t been quiet enough to hear it. Dearest, one day- maybe when we meet in the Confession line, or in some small café, or when you ask me to dance the next slow song- maybe our song will be played. The melody of the deepest echoes of our hearts will begin our score. And we will know it is right. We will know it is time. Until then, please- don’t wait. Begin your life. Prepare for me; for us; for God. Run to him as fast as you can. I will run, too. And there we will meet.

I cannot yet say that I love you, as I do not yet know you. But I will be here praying for you and preparing to see your face for the first time. Because the time will be right.

Learning to Listen to the Divine Whisper

It has been a crazy past few months here. I have been facing the usual high school senior dilemmas regarding the “afterlife”, so to speak, of high school — whether to go to college or not, whether I should go immediately or postpone it, what I would do in the meantime, and to which colleges I should apply to and visit. All of this on top of my normal activities: finishing up my schoolwork so I DO have a joyful afterlife, working, taking guitar lessons, and the million-other household tasks which are forever regenerating themselves. Ugh. Never before have I been so stressed out about the calendar and fast-approaching deadlines!

In deep waters.

A few weeks ago my dad and I drove to a college here in the Southeast. It was an eight-hour drive, but a comparatively uneventful one. We were attending Scholarship Day at the college. I was excited to be interviewed for a prestigious scholarship, tour campus, attend seminars, and meet students. My dad and I were very impressed with the college.  As we were leaving campus I knew that it was the school I hope to attend.

Over the next couple weeks, I feverishly worked on applications for some outside scholarships. I wrote essays, tracked down signatures, and received letters of recommendation. Yesterday I was informed that I hadn’t received my much sought-for scholarship from the college, although I was eligible for some minor scholarships.

At the end of all this, I just want to laugh the laugh of a treasure-seeker who has searched the world for years for a priceless treasure, beautiful beyond imagination. When he finally finds the treasure, in his exultation he slips on the damp floor of the cave. The treasure slips out of his hands and into the mouth of the volcano. There are only two possible reactions: to weep or to laugh. He begins to laugh.

Perhaps my problem is I am too anxious to discover God’s plan for my life. I stress out too much about what it could be, and the fastest way of obtaining it. Hence, I will run in all directions hoping that I will find a billboard screaming “THIS IS IT”. But of course that is not how God works. I need to remember how God spoke to Elias: not in the wind; not in the earthquake; not in the fire; rather, in the whistling of a gentle air.

Let’s Hear It For The Church!

While I was thinking about all this, it dawned on me. I already know what God’s plan for me in this life is. As a matter of fact, it is what the Church has been telling me my entire life!!

Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.

—Baltimore Catechism (Lesson 1, Question 6)

That is exactly what I have been looking for, right in front of me the entire time! As long as I truly know God, love Him, and wish to serve Him, everything else will fall into place!! I don’t need to worry about the college I go to, or whether I am to be married or enter a convent. God will tell me in a whisper when I can no longer serve Him in my current situation. He will lead me on the path to Him. All I need to do is to follow. If I know Him, love Him, and serve Him in every “now”, I will forever be living His plan for my life.

I am still looking at my options for this coming year. I don’t know where I’ll be six months from now. It might very well be that I’ll be working overtime at some job trying to save up for college. But right now I am surprisingly unstressed about it; I know that God has a perfect plan for me, and for right now He wants me to swing along behind Him until He can trust me with knowledge. Until then, if anyone wants to hand me $68,000, that would be all right, too. You’ll know where to find me: just follow the trail of empty coffee mugs, chocolate crumbs, Rosary beads, and Divine Intervention.