Welcome to the Catholic Newbie blog. My name is Lyn Mettler and I hope to share with you how I came from being a 30+ year non-believer to a Catholic convert. I was opposed to any sort of organized religion for most of my adult life but in 2011 had a dramatic change of heart. I became Catholic on Easter 2013, and I hope to daily share my thoughts, worries and hopes with you and others on the same journey.

Catholic Travel Guide for Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Catholic Travel Guide to Santa Barbara via @ACatholicNewbie

St. Barbara’s, whose feast day is December 4, is a 3rd Century saint, who refused to marry despite her father’s insistence. The legend goes that when she told him she was a Christian, he had her tortured and then beheaded her himself. Many miracles were said to have occurred during her tortures.

Santa Barbara, CA is named after this miraculous saint and the city is a beautiful honor to such a glorious martyr. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Santa Barbara, a gorgeous Southern California city by the sea.

Things to Do in Santa Barbara

1. Old Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara

This is a Catholic must-see when visiting Santa Barbara. The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded on the Feast of St. Barbara in 1786 to convert the local peoples and is still functioning today as a community of Franciscan friars, as well as a retreat center and full parish.

You can take a self-guided tour through the cemetery, mausoleum, garden and museum. Catholics will want to stop and pray in the church or even attend daily mass in the chapel. Also, be sure to stop in their fantastic store full of Catholic items.

2. Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara Harbor at sunset

We happened upon Santa Barbara Harbor right at sunset, which was truly one of the most beautiful displays I’ve ever seen. The sun, painting the sky pink, purple, orange and blue, contrasted by the Santa Ynez mountains and the vast Pacific with the silhouette of the Channel Islands in the distance, was breathtaking. How can you not believe in God when you see such natural beauty?!

3. Spanish Architecture

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Credits: Jay Sinclair

The Spanish architecture in Santa Barbara is amazing. Everywhere you turn is a beautiful building with red tiles galore. A great way to get a good overview is the fun Red Tile Walking Tour, which includes 17 stops downtown, including the famous County Courthouse. Head to the top of the courthouse for a fantastic view!

I also adored the many “paseos” as you walk down State Street, the main thoroughfare. The paseos are beautifully-landscaped outdoor plazas that wind, twist and turn and are full of shops and restaurants. Turn off the street into one of these and you’ll be surprised what there is to find hidden beyond the surface.

4. Hiking

Santa Barbara hiking

There’s plenty of hiking around Santa Barbara, but we choose a short one-mile hike to Knapp’s Castle, the ruins of an estate that burned 70 years ago. It offers fantastic views of the Santa Ynez River Canyon. Be sure to step over the old bathtub lying on the ground ;-).

5. The Simpson House Inn

Simpson House Inn Santa Barbara

We stayed at the most lovely little inn located near downtown Santa Barbara, but it felt like it was off in a country estate. The Simpson House Inn has a main house and several cottages for guests. We stayed upstairs in one of the cottages, which was absolutely charming.

They brought breakfast to us every morning for no additional charge, setting up a lovely table with beautiful tableware. We loved the sitting room, overhead beams and farmhouse feel.

6. Urban Wine Trail Wine Tasting

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

Credit Jay Sinclair

I thoroughly enjoy wine, but didn’t know much about it besides what I liked :). We enjoyed a wine tasting at Cottonwood Canyon along Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail, a series of wineries in the the hip downtown district.

Our host was super nice and great about explaining the intricacies of wine tasting to us newbies. My favorite? The Pinot Noir! Magnifique!

7. The Miraculous Medal

The Miraculous Medal I wear around my neck inevitably results in conversations about Catholicism, which I love. So I was so pleased that one of the staff members at the Simpson House Inn complimented my medal and wanted to know more about it. She was not Catholic, but was participating with a Catholic Marian group of some sort. I was able to direct her where to get a medal of her own. Trip bonus!

To read more of my best travel adventures, head over to my travel blog at GotoTravelGal.com. Here is another post on our California trip highlights.

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How to Make an Advent Wreath in 4 Steps

 How to Make an Advent Wreath via @ACatholicNewbie

If you’re a Catholic newbie like me, you may not have an Advent wreath. In fact, I’ve run across plenty of longtime Catholics who’ve never had an Advent wreath! Problem solved! Just follow these simple steps that even a non-crafty person like me can do easily, and you’ve got a new tradition to hand down through your family. Thanks to St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church for this idea.

Materials (total cost about $10-$15):

  • Green floral wire
  • Garland
  • Decorative items, such as pine cones, ornaments and other wreath stick-in type items
  • Ribbon
  • Advent wreath metal frame – Two options you can order online: www.theCatholicGiftShop.com or www.CatholicSupply.com
  • Advent taper candles (3 purple, 1 rose/pink)

Instructions:

You should be able to find most of the items at your local craft store. The metal frame for the wreath and Advent candles can usually be found at your local Catholic bookstore or online as noted above.

1) Take your metal frame and lay your garland on top. Use the green floral wire to attach the garland to the frame. Make sure your garland is arranged so that the wreath will sit flat on a table.

2) Add the decorative items you selected, such as pine cones or ornaments, to the garland and attach with floral wire to secure.

3) Wrap your ribbon around the garland loosely. Tie a pretty bow on one side. It’s usually easier if you create the bow separately and then tie it on with the ribbon you used to wrap around the garland.

4) Add your candles!

Remember to light your candles each Sunday of Advent. Use a prayer such as this Blessing of an Advent Wreath while lighting each candle. Check your local parish for free Advent materials with prayers, as well.

What is an Advent wreath? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says the four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. They say, “The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of his second coming to judge the living and the dead.”

Happy Advent!

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Matthew Kelly’s “Resisting Happiness” Review & Book Giveaway

Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly Book Giveaway via @ACatholicNewbie

Matthew Kelly was key in my conversion to Catholicism. I was already on my way, as I was in RCIA and had decided to at least go through the process to learn more, but he tipped me over the edge into full confidence in my conversion with his book “Rediscover Catholicism.”

So any new book he writes is always tops on my list to read. The title of this one caught my attention — “Resisting Happiness” — as I feel like I know a lot of people who are definitely resisting happiness. While I felt the book got a bit off track of what it promised on the cover — “a true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves … and how to start choosing happiness again” — it still delivered inspiring content about how to change our lives to follow God and find peace.

Finding God’s Purpose for You

For me this book was largely about finding God’s purpose for you in life as a way to find joy and peace. Kelly gives specific examples of his journey and how he came to start Dynamic Catholic after years of speaking on the road in his 20’s.

He gives fantastic examples of those who have figured out their mission and how they did so. I loved the story of an older woman who wanted to help Dynamic Catholic and spread the word of God, but who was not physically able. Instead, she bought as many copies of “Rediscover Catholicism” as she could and sent them to everyone she knew, even mailing them to important figures around the world — all with a personal letter. What a great mission!

Or the story of a successful business man who longed to be an evangelist like Kelly but never could seem to find the time to get started. Eventually after years of prayer, he discerned God had given him the gift of making money through his businesses, not of speaking, and so he decided he was to make as much money as he could and give it to Dynamic Catholic for their good work. I love it!

Key Points on Finding Your Purpose

Some other key points Kelly makes in the book to help those struggling with their life’s purpose:

  • If you don’t have a talent that others do, you don’t need it for the mission for which God has sent you. Let go what gifts you were not given.
  • The key to happiness: Find a way to lay down your life for others in a way that engages your talents and abilities.
  • Place your talents and enthusiasm at the service of life.
  • Look at your talents and your availability. What are you passionate about? What are you really good at? You are likely to find your purpose at the intersection of those two questions.
  • Don’t focus on what you were called to in the past but what you are being called to RIGHT NOW! Your calling changes over time.

Other Gems

I have gotten in the habit of making notes in the back of the books I am reading with bullet points of actions I want to take or key points I want to remember so I can go back and review later. Here are some other notes I jotted down from “Resisting Happiness”:

  • The most important things are almost never urgent; that’s why you must schedule them.
  • Pray at the beginning of each hour of your work, offering that hour’s work for a special intention.
  • If you want to be an interesting person, read books and develop a love of learning.
  • Learn how to say no. If it’s not a definite yes; it’s a definite no.
  • Take a pilgrim’s attitude instead of that of a tourist; accept that things will go wrong on the journey and that is simply a part of your walk.
  • Persistence is the antidote to resistance; take some action, even the smallest of actions, to begin the process to overcoming anything.
  • Be gentle with yourself.

If you enjoy Matthew Kelly’s writing, you’ll enjoy “Resisting Happiness.” As always, it is full of practical ways to bring yourself closer to God and written in conversational language accessible to anyone. What I loved about “Rediscover Catholicism” was how he was able to take the ancient practices of the Church and make them relatable to me today in the 21st Century. He helped me to understand WHY the Church teaches what it teaches and how those teachings helped me grow into the saint God designed me to be :). And in that same relatable way, he offers more words of wisdom in this latest book.

Book Giveaway

I’ve got 10 copies of “Resisting Happiness” to give away thanks to the folks at Dynamic Catholic, which I support through their Ambassadors Program! To enter to win, I ask you to do TWO THINGS:

  1. Sign up for my email below, which simply means you will get my blog posts via email (currently, no more than 2 per week) by Nov. 18, 2016.
  2. “Like” Catholic Newbie on Facebook below
Subscribe to Catholic Newbie by entering your email:

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I will draw 10 random winners on Nov. 19, 2016 from those who sign up for my blog email by Nov. 18, 2017. I will then double check that you have “liked” the Facebook page before I declare you a winner. Only one winner per email address. Copies will be shipped to you directly from Dynamic Catholic. Winners announced on the Catholic Newbie blog on Nov. 19, 2016.

Parishes, or others, who buy “Resisting Happiness” in bulk can currently purchase them for just $1 per copy. A great gift to give your parish — and anyone you know — this Christmas!

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A Wonderful Prayer in This Distressing Election Season

I know I have been very distressed at certain points during this political season, but with much prayer, I have made peace with it, deciding to act for myself and let God’s will be done.

PrayMoreNovenas has a most wonderful prayer that reminds us that no government can replace our God and that in fact prayer and belief in Jesus Christ is what will save us, not the next president of the United States. So join this wonderful apostolate with whom tens of thousands pray novenas together and let us pray for God’s will to be done. That’s something we can all agree on :).

You can sign up to receive the daily email with the novena prayer here.

Here is the lovely prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Nothing can overcome your greatness. But we are weak and need a deeper gift of hope as we face worldly governments.

Help us remember that political power can never replace the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to all nations.

Lord, we give you permission to form our consciences according to the Gospel so that we may both vote and act for the Kingdom of God.

As we wrestle with the complexity of political life, never let us forget the poor, the weak, the unborn, the refugee, the migrant, all those affected by war, those struggling financially and all those suffering from the failings of the political systems of this world.

Give us the courage to always be detached from our political loyalties and be first a faithful follower of Jesus, the true King.  And when it comes time for us to contribute to the political realm help us to cast our vote in a way that is pleasing to You.

For these elections in our nations, O God, please bless us with the best rulers possible, in this fallen world, at all levels of government.

Finally, just as You brought our salvation from the horrible death of Your Son, we pray that from the political campaigns of this world, You will bring about great good for Your people.

Amen.

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