Met Gala Fashion Round Up

The 2018 Met Gala took place last week on Monday, May 7.  Formally known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit, it is a black-tie event for some of the most famous names in the world of fashion, film, politics, and business.  This event raises money for the Costume Institute of the Met, and is held annually on the first Monday in May to accompany the opening of that year’s fashion exhibition.  This year’s exhibit follows the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”  While guests at the Gala are not required to dress for the theme, it is highly encouraged, and many celebrities rose to the challenge.  They incorporated Catholic themes and elements into their outfits, all of which carry a rich history to be celebrated.  Here are some of the motifs that made their way across Monday’s red carpet, and the story behind them.

 

Mitre (Rihanna)

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This pointy hat called a mitre is worn during liturgical celebrations by bishops and the Pope, though it is taken off during the consecration of the Eucharist to show humility.  Sources are split as to the origin of the mitre.  Some claim that it is based on the fish-shaped head covering wore by pagan priests worshipping the fish god Dagon in ancient Philistine and Babylon.  Others say that the mitre is of Roman origin; it developed parallel to the papal tiara as a descendant of the camauro, a red velvet or wool hat with white ermine trim that the pope would wear when it was too cold for a zucchetto, or skull cap.  A camauro looks something like a modern beanie mixed with a Santa hat, while a zuchetto is the flat looking headpiece Pope Francis is wearing here.

 

Mantilla / Veil (Nicki Minaj, Kate Bosworth, Priyanka Chopre)

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Chapel veils, also known as mantillas, have been worn by Christian women since the early days of the Church.  The word mantilla comes from the Spanish word “manta,” which means cape.  Veils are used for modesty, so that the focus is placed on the beauty of God rather than a woman’s physical beauty; mantillas also emulate the Blessed Mother.  They also reflect the role of women as a vessel who bears life.  During the Mass, the chalice which holds the blood of Christ is veiled until the gifts are prepared, and the tabernacle which holds the Eucharist is veiled between Masses.  The act of veiling gives dignity to that which carries life within it.

Prior to Vatican II, all women were required to wear a mantilla when attending Mass.  Since then, it is not longer required, but many women choose to veil at Mass or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to show reverence.

 

Halo (Amber Heard, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, SZA, among others)

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A halo is thought to show the divine light of God radiating from a soul, so it is often used in art to indicate holiness.  They are sometimes ornamented with beams to show that they are illuminating light.  Scholars point out that in the early Christian art of the 4th century, even Jesus was not depicted with a halo before His baptism, because it was debated whether His Divine nature was innate from His birth, or manifested at His baptism.  As time went on, halos were used to indicate particularly pious humans as well, such as Mary and the Apostles, though these halos are typically plain gold circles without embellishment.

 

Stained Glass (Gigi Hadid)

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Stained glass has a very long history.  It has been used in religious buildings since as early as the first century.  Since most members of the congregation were illiterate, stained glass would portray Biblical stories and themes in a captivating way to aid in education.  One of the oldest known examples of a stained glass window was found in the buried ruins of a monastery in Jarrow, England.  The window belonged to St. Paul’s Monastery, which was founded in 686 AD.  The religious applications of stained glass peaked with the magnificent churches and monasteries being built in the Gothic and Renaissance periods, though they fell out of prominence for some time after that.  In recent times, efforts to revive and reinstate this craft have produced beautiful works.

 

Iconography (Darren Criss, Stella Maxwell)

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Iconography is a mainly Orthodox tradition that was started by St. Luke the Evangelist.  He painted images of Mary and brought them to her.  She approved and blessed them, imparting the grace of her Son onto the images.  Since then, other sacred images have been produced of Jesus, Mary, and various saints.  These images are held in very high esteem; they are considered to be “windows to heaven.”  Even the creation of an icon is regarded as a sacred and prayerful experience.  Icons often feature a gold background and a flat, geometric art style, symbolizing the abstract yet ordered nature of heaven in our human understanding.

 

These are just some of the Catholic symbols that were featured in outfits worn at the Met Gala.  Many other designers found inspiration from the faith and featured those ideas in their pieces.  All of this was in preparation for the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit, which opened on May 10 in New York City.

5 Christian Spotify Playlists I’m Loving Right Now

I love Spotify; I love having access to more music than I could ever hope to pay for individually, and I love the curated playlists that other creative minds have made and shared with the world.  I also love that Spotify has a specific genre to browse that is Christian music exclusively.  Especially during Lent, I am so grateful for a space that allows me to explore new music that can bring me closer to God.

Here are a few Christian playlists that I found on Spotify that I’m really loving right now!

1.) Everyday Inspiration

This is my go-to playlist right now.  It is chock full of my absolute favorites!  The description of the playlist boasts “[t]hese are the songs you can count on.  Always.”  I couldn’t agree more!  It has staples such as “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin, “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) by Matt Redman, “Just be Held” by Casting Crowns, and more.  So many of the most meaningful and comforting songs I know are included in this playlist.  I definitely recommend it!

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2.) Going Together

This playlist is a collection of Christian love songs.  It is a great opportunity to reflect on how my relationship with my boyfriend can – and does! – strengthen my relationship with God, and vice versa.  When I listen to this playlist, I like to play a game of sorts by guessing whether the lyrics are addressing God or addressing the singer’s partner.  Most of the time, it could go either way, and I think that’s beautiful!

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3.) epicPRAISE

Who needs caffeine when you have these bumping beats?  This playlist is really great at getting me up and going in the mornings.  Whenever I’m tempted to hit the snooze button (again…) I can hit play on this playlist instead, and I’m ready to move!  It has high energy electronic sounds and pulsing beats to invigorate my sleepy brain.  I especially appreciate this playlist whenever I work an opening shift.  It’s a great way to brighten up my days at 5:30am!  I am naturally a morning person, but it sometimes it takes a little while for that to kick in.  This playlist is the perfect pump up to wake up the morning person in me!

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Image from Spotify

4.) Cornerstones

Most people who know me are surprised when they first find out that I actually really love rock music.  Some of my all-time favorite artists are rock bands.  This playlist is a collection of Christian rock songs, so it is a blend of two of my favorite things!  It was a really pleasant surprise to scroll through this playlist and find so many artists that I recognized and had loved for years, but hadn’t noticed were actually Christian.  Some of my favorites on here are any of the songs by Skillet, “Anthem of the Lonely” by Nine Lashes, and “Courtesy Call” by Thousand Foot Krutch.

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5.) Flow Fast 20

Sometimes, I just get into the mood for fast lyrics and hype beats.  This playlist is perfect for the days that I’m craving some rap and hip hop.  I have always been drawn to the sounds of those genres, but have been repulsed by the filthy lyrics that dominate that culture.  I can only take so much before I’m disgusted and need to turn away.  But these rappers and hip hop artists speak from a fulfilling place of integrity that focuses on their faith, and I love that.  This particular playlist is always changing, because it highlights top songs of the week, so it’s worth revisiting frequently!

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Image from Spotify

Inside… Our Lady of Consolation

While I don’t have as many pictures of this church as I would like, this tabernacle is too gorgeous for me not to share.

This is from Our Lady of Consolation.  I came to this church a few times with my choir in high school.  We sang for Mass on some select weekends, and we did a Christmas concert there for their community.  My senior year was the inaugural year of this partnership, though I hear they have continued to return regularly since then.

The church is structured in the semi-round, (that’s the best way I can think to describe it.)  The altar space makes up the edge of a semi circle, and the pews radiate from around that point.  This tabernacle is to the side of the church, a beautiful and colorful space.  I was instantly drawn to this tabernacle because it looks like glitter.  I’m a huge fan of anything sparkly, and this design called to me.   The curve of the doors allows for the light to be caught at every single angle, and it was so mesmerizing.  I could hardly turn away from it.  Behind that, the mosaic behind it is so intricate and detailed.  The colors are so rich and varied.  This is the type of tabernacle set up that draws you in and keeps you there.  It seems a bit unconventional to me, but I was really blown away by it.  I knew I had to take a picture of it, so as soon as Mass ended and the congregation started clearing out, I turned my phone back on and headed over.

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This church also fascinated me with its incense.  They had this super cool chandelier-style fixture that was up by the ceiling… most of the time.  When they used incense in the Mass, however, they brought the fixture down from ceiling.  They dumped massive amounts of incense into the fixture, and it released equally massive plumes of smoke into the air.  I have never seen such poignant, physical reminder of our prayers rising to God.  It was awe-inspiring – and since I love the smell of incense, it was really comforting to me personally.

Something that I had never experienced before was television screens at a Mass.  Before Mass began, two screens on either wall forming the edges of the semi-circle displayed a slideshow with upcoming events and announcements.  During the liturgy itself, the screens showed live footage from various, discretely placed cameras throughout the space.  This meant that the lector got a tight focus while they were reading, as did the priest when he was preaching and praying.  They would pan across our choir while we were leading songs.  I wasn’t really a huge fan of it, personally, because I found myself getting distracted by the cinematography.  But I did really appreciate the close, detailed shots of the Body and Blood of Christ during the consecration.  If I attended that parish more often, I think I could grow accustomed to that view.  It made the consecration feel so much more intimate, because I felt like I could be that much closer to Christ as His presence was made manifest in the Eucharist.

 

Święconka

Easter is mere hours away, and that calls to mind many memories for me.  My family has a lot of traditions around Easter.  My immediate family lives in New Jersey, but some of my extended family lives in Indiana.  We would always make a yearly “pilgrimage” to go visit them for a week over my sister and my spring break.

That road trip became synonymous with Easter for me.  It was quite the endeavor, but it got easier over the years as my sister and I matured.  It was a 12 to 14 hour drive (depending on rest stops) with all four of us crammed into a car, and then a week at my grandparents’ house before another 14 hour drive back.

We developed some traditions around that trip.  Personally, I’m a very planning-oriented person, and I always have been.  I would write up specific packing lists and find excitement in cramming clothes into a suitcase.  We would always try to pack the car the night before whenever possible, and I loved to watch my dad play Tetris with all our luggage.  I’m not always very good at spatial awareness, so I was pretty impressed by his ability to pack efficiently.

When we were in the car itself, we had some games to play to pass the time.  A classic was the alphabet game, which is when you look for each letter on the alphabet, in order, written on surfaces outside of the car along the way.  An “A” in a road sign, a “B” on a license plate, and so on.  We also played the license plate game.  I would print out a blank map of the United States, and bring along a colored pencil(s).  As we would drive along, we would keep track of all of the different states we spotted.  One year, we even saw a car from Alaska!  Most of the eastern states were pretty common, and mid-western states became more frequent as we traveled along.  I distinctly remember, when my sister and mom fell asleep in the car, my dad would whisper state names to me as he saw them so that I could keep track without waking them up.

During our week with my family, one of my favorite traditions was the Polish tradition of Święconka.  Święconka, which we pronounce svfie-con-ka, is a pre-Easter food blessing.  On Holy Saturday, we would bring baskets full of our food for the next day to my grandparents’ church.  Their priest, Fr. Len, would lead us in a hymn, reflect on the meaning, symbolism, and history of Święconka, and then pray the blessing.  The prayer was said in Polish, and holy water was sprinkled over the baskets using a straw brush.  It’s been a staple in my Easter tradition for as long as I can remember.

When I started college, my spring break no longer coincided with Easter, so I stayed at school while the rest of my family traveled.  This meant that for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going to go to the food blessing!  So I took matters into my own hands, so to speak.

I had been building up a stash of chocolates throughout Lent (since I had given it up that year).  I gathered all of my goodies, and pulled out my holy water.  I looked up an English translation of a traditional Polish blessing, and prayed over my chocolate.  Then I sprinkled some holy water over my stash.

I sent a picture of my “DIY Święconka” to my sister, and a few hours later, she sent a picture of the real Święconka from Indiana.  (Included below)

 

 

I don’t have quite such an impressive chocolate stash this year, but I’m still going to bless what little I have.  It’s important to me to stay grounded in my traditions, even if they have to change a bit over time.  This is also a great way for me to still feel connected with my family, even when I cannot be beside them.

Mass Journaling

It was a weekday in late August.  I was already back at school, completing some training before classes started.  We were in training sessions from 8 AM to 8 PM for two weeks, and it was pretty draining, but we were pushing through.

I was at breakfast one morning, scrolling through Instagram.  We weren’t allowed to have our phones out during training sessions, so mealtimes began with conversation but quickly lulled into everyone staring at their screens for what limited time we could.

A sponsored post popped up in my feed.  Usually, I completely ignore those kinds of ads, but this one caught my eye.  It was a Kickstarter campaign for a Mass journal entitled Every Sacred Sunday.  As someone who has been journaling since before she could write, and has continued to do so since then, a Mass journal seemed right up my alley.  It was something I had been seeking for a while, actually, but didn’t know exactly what I needed until it crossed my path.  A friend of mine who had been struggling in her faith had spent some time visiting other churches in our area, and described that at one Protestant church she visited, everyone took notes during the sermon, and the teens compared and discussed their notes in their youth group meetings after the service.  I had been very drawn to that idea, but I didn’t feel right about bring a notebook to Mass and taking notes.  I feared being perceived as disrespectful.

Every Sacred Sunday felt like it was giving me permission to take notes in Mass.  Moreover, it was encouraging me to do so!  I read through their plan for the project and instantly fell in love.  I pulled out my credit card right then and there in the cafeteria and pledged for their Kickstarter on my phone.

I followed their journey through production, getting early glimpses of art prints to be included and receiving status updates throughout the process.  The journal finally arrived just in time for Advent and the new liturgical year.  Its design is utterly gorgeous; it’s just my style and I couldn’t have designed it any more perfectly.  Just look at it!

 

 

 

The gold foil on the front is so majestic and beautiful.  The watercolor art for each season is so pretty (I photographed Lent as it is our current season).  Even down to the type face, the clean lines, and wide open spaces, this whole journal has a seamlessly executed aesthetic.  I’m always eager to open up my Mass journal and engage with this beautiful book.

For each week, the readings are written out.  Then, there’s a work page broken into segments.  I try to get to Mass a few minutes early so I can fill out the pages before Mass begins, but if not, I take time after Mass to complete it.  There’s a “Scripture speaks” section where I copy down a verse that really spoke to me from the reading.  There’s a “weekly intentions” section which is subdivided into a gratitude and supplication column, which I love.  I especially love that the thanksgiving comes before the requests, because it’s so easy to forget to be grateful, but it’s absolutely essential to give thanks.  Then there’s a “notes” section, which is probably my favorite section.  I love to be organized, and I’m very academically inclined.  I’m also a visual learner, so taking notes on the homily (and only during the homily) is one of the best ways for me to pay attention to the information that I’m hearing.  Finally, there’s a “go forth” section, which is a space to set an intention for the rest of the week.  Personally, I struggle a bit with that section.  I’m not very good at remembering my intention once I leave Mass, and when I open my journal the following week, I always smack my forehead when I realize I forgot it again.  I’m still looking for a better way to apply the intentions I set at Mass to the rest of my week.

I love my Every Sacred Sunday journal.  It’s a great way for me to engage more deeply with the Word of God presented to us each week.  I was never one for missals, but this is a dynamic way to dive deeper into the Mass, and I am so grateful that I found it when I did.