Tuesday, September 29, 2009


"Beauty without virtue is like a fair flower that has an offensive odor. But true beauty bathes in that light without which nothing is beautiful. beauty is a gift of God, like the rain. He allows the rain to fall upon the just and the wicked, and He gives beauty not only to the good, but even to the wicked. Wicked beauty strikes the eye, but the inner beauty of grace wins the soul."
                                           --Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Monday, September 28, 2009

More School?

Obama wants our kids to have an even longer school year. I couldn't disagree with him more. But I'll hold my frustrated tongue and simply share some food for thought.

The following essay was published in the Wall Street Journal on July 25, 1991. It was written by John Taylor Gatto the same year he was he was the New York State Teacher of the Year and titled "I Quit, I Think".  It explained his reasons for ending his teaching career in spite of having no savings and no idea what to do with himself in his mid-fifties to pay the rent.

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.
That idea passed into American history through the Puritans. It found its "scientific" presentation in the bell curve, along which talent supposedly apportions itself by some Iron Law of Biology. It’s a religious notion, School is its church. I offer rituals to keep heresy at bay. I provide documentation to justify the heavenly pyramid.
Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-formed." It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.
David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first—the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, "special education" fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.
In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.
That’s the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school religion punishing our nation. There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen—that probably guarantees it won’t.
How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Call Me 'Ma Ingalls'

We'll soon have new bedrooms for the kids and that means I have to think about decorating. As much as I love arts and crafts and design of all kinds, interior decorating is rather low on my list of preferred artistic endeavors. Those projects tend to be large, semi-permanent, incredibly time-consuming and expensive; and my head aches a little thinking of the expansiveness of this upcoming task.

The plus side is that I get to start from scratch. I have already picked out the colors for the girls' room (sort of) and thought about the scheme for the rest of the house (on occasion).  But what I'm really having fun doing is putting together my first rag rug for the girly room. Just call me Ma Ingalls.

The idea came to me as I was thinking of more pressing matters (flashes of genius generally do) and I searched the internet until I found a darling tutorial from Moda. I'm using a softer, bulkier fabric than the cotton they recommend; a flannel that I found for $1 a yard at WalMart. Not fit for clothing but perfect for this project. I also plan on securing the coils a bit more aggressively than the tutorial recommends. Their sample is lovely but does not look like it would hold up to my large family that well!  (See Moda's finished rug above)

My own basket of rope is is growing steadily. I'll share my finished product when it's completed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Question of Altar Girls...

Thanks so much to Fr. Richard Bona of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for permission to post his article discussing the history and function of altar servers. It was first published in the St. Albert the Great News, Vol. 31, Issue 5; May 17, 2009. 

Honoring Altar Servers
by Father Richard Bona

As we remember in this issue Fr. Viall’s Golden Anniversary of his priestly ordination, I would like to highlight the service of Altar Servers who are closely connected to a priest’s ministry in the sanctuary.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our altar servers, whether past or present, who volunteered their time and service to our parish in these 50 years and helped priests offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

The role of altar boys evolved from the times when there were no seminaries. The mandate to establish seminaries - places for the training and educating of future priests - did not come until the Council of Trent in the middle of the 16th century. Prior to this “if a young man wanted to be a priest, he would be like an apprentice to the pastor in his local parish. The pastor would teach him how to administer the sacraments, and the young man would serve him at the altar. When he was ready, the candidate for the priesthood would be presented to the bishop for ordination. Then, when seminaries were invented, and young men destined for the priesthood no longer assisted the local parish priest in this way, their place was taken by men or boys. The tradition of having boys serve at the altar has continued since then for hundreds of years.” (Sermon of Fr. Pilsner, April 24, 1994)

At our parish we have a noble tradition (these are not mine, but Church’s words—see below) that only boys and men serve at the altar. From time to time it is asked why girls are not serving.

First of all, there are many ministries that girls (and women) can be involved. They can become Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Cantors, Singers, and Ushers. Their faithful participation in these ministries shows that indeed they are very qualified to fulfill these roles and their help in the celebration of the liturgy is valued and appreciated. However, the difference between the above mentioned ministries and altar boys is that while the ministries outlined above serve and are oriented toward the people, the ministry of the altar servers is directed toward the priest. The functions of the altar server are to support the priest and help him to offer the Holy Sacrifice on behalf of the people.

Therefore, altar server’s “connection to the priest and what he does at the altar breeds a natural attraction to the priestly role. Yet the Church has always clearly taught and has recently affirmed in absolute terms that Christ intended priestly ordination only for men. For with Christ, as priests consecrate His Body and Blood, they give themselves as Bridegrooms to their Bride, the Church. Any young person directly assisting a priest at Mass is implicitly but surely invited to identify with the priest and so encouraged to aspire to a necessarily masculine priesthood.” (Fr. Kleinmann, pastor of St. Mary in the Diocese of Arlington). Indeed, it would be unfair and even insensitive to admit girls as altar servers and later tell them that they can never become priests. We as a church should never nourish false hopes and aspirations because they can never lead us in the right direction.

Some, however, might ask further: why do girls then serve at other churches in our diocese? When in 1994 the Holy See gave permission for local Bishops to allow girls to serve it was never intended that girl servers become a norm. The Church’s documents (e.g. Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship, July 27, 2001) on this matter are very clear that the bishop’s decision to permit or not to permit the serving of altar girls is based on the pastoral need of his diocese. For example, if there are not enough boy servers, girls can be admitted. Also, the documents point out that even if the bishop allows girls to serve in his diocese that does not mean that all the parishes have to do it. It is up to the Parish Pastor to decide whether there is a pastoral need that would require altar girls to serve. At St. Albert the Great we have always had an abundance of boys who are willing to serve. Currently there are close to 170 servers in our parish.

Again, the reason why the Church prefers that there be only male altar servers is not because boys are better than girls. Many girls are much more responsible and mature and sometimes I wish some of our altar boys were like that, too. The rationale for our practice is in the connection of altar boy and the vocation to priesthood. The same document that gave local bishops permission to allow girls as altar servers also pointed out:

“At the same time, however, the Holy See wishes to recall that it will always be very appropriate to follow the noble tradition of having boys serve at the altar. As is well known, this has led to a reassuring development of priestly vocations. Thus the obligation to support such groups of altar boys will always continue.”

One a personal note, when I was in the third grade I started to serve as an altar server at my home parish. Since in Slovakia, like here, we have only boys as altar servers, one day I asked my parents, “Does everyone who is an altar server later have to become a priest?” They said, “Yes.” I replied to them, “OK. What can I do? I will be a priest.” Later, I realized that my parents were kidding me, but the bottom line is that the notion of priesthood came to me and was nourished through my serving at the altar with other boys.

Finally, the experience has shown that where only boys serve usually there is an abundance of other willing boys to join the ranks of the altar servers. There is an opportunity for boys to be formed in male virtues and acquire healthy masculine identity all the while being formed by the fraternal activity (Fr. Kleinmann).

Once again, I would like to express my appreciation to our servers for their ministry. My hope is that they would continue to grow and become men of true faith in word and deed. I would like to invite our whole parish to say this short prayer every day: Lord, may at least one altar server from our parish become a priest. AMEN

*In writing of this article I relied on the sources mentioned above and I am grateful for their assistance.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fingerprint Friday...

There is a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that says:

I can see the fingerprints of god
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of god
And I know its true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with the fingerprints of god

I found today's fingerprints all over my  little 'girly girl' in her mud boots. She was getting ready to climb the dirt mountain that is the product of the digging of our home addition. And of course, she needed to wear a pretty skirt to play in the mud!

Where do YOU see God's fingerprints? Visit Pampering Beki to participate in Fingerprint Friday and share your blessings.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Heart of My Home...

The men finished work for the day and we couldn't resist a sneak peak at our new upper level.  I climbed through the boys' current bedroom window armed with my camera and was immediately struck by the above image. May the power and hope of the Cross of Christ be the support and center of my home. Thank you, Jesus, for this beautiful and visible reminder of the One we work, play, build and live for!

The view is beautiful from upstairs although we won't always have a roof with a view!

The addition is quite large but we pray that it will allow us to open our doors to many more family and friends. We'll have a new ramp for our wheelchair-bound sister, room for our school books and projects and a dining room that will finally fit our growing family and then some. 
We have been in many small homes that were the joyful abodes of very large families and we know that the size of a home does not factor into the love and care that a family shares; but many of those families also lived in neighborhoods where every door was open and every child a friend. Good Christian fellowship these days usually involves commuting. It is our hope that we can make our home a hub for our children; that there will always be room and welcome for their friends, gatherings, prayers, meals, and memories.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day of Tears and Hope for a Nation...

"Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want."  -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Today is a day of mourning. We remember the victims of the violence of 9/11 and also James Pullion,   a tireless defender of the unborn who was murdered today while peacefully spreading the truth about abortion. 

It is a day to reflect and question the violence that seems to have become an identifying mark of life in America. Violence within our borders, within our neighborhoods, within our families. 

But God's people are exhorted to sustain a spirit of hope and joy in the midst of tragedy; and who better to speak to a nation on the subject of it's suffering than Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

I thought it fitting to share a link to the speech that Mother Teresa gave specifically to the United States at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC, February 3, 1994. She speaks to our suffering hearts and offers the solution to our broken communities and families. You can read it here:
Text of "Whatsoever You Do..." 
(There is also an audio link of the talk in MP3 format linked at the beginning of the text.)

Photo is of Mother Teresa cradling an armless baby orphan at her orphanage in Calcutta, India, 1978. Taken by photographer Eddie Adams.

It's the Cream Cheese Frosting...

I like carrot cake for it's nutritional benefits and lovely orange-ish color. I also like about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of cream cheese frosting...pretty please.

A big thank you to my lovely Mother-in-Law for making me my very own birthday carrot cake. And another big thanks to Sue Runyon for offering me her best carrot cake recipe which I'm sharing with all of you (in case anyone feels like making me another one).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Where are those whom I've entrusted to you?"

I have spent many hours of my life explaining to others why I educate my kids at home. There are many reasons but they really all boil down to only one. This sermon given by an unidentified Catholic priest pretty much says it all. If you've got 18 minutes to spare, please take the time to listen. If you haven't got the time, please make it. I discovered the link on Patrick Madrid's very worthy blog. Listen here.

When we stand before our Heavenly Father, I pray that we will all be able to say: 
"I have not lost any of those to whom You've entrusted to me."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beautiful Books...

I just love the beginning of the school year when the boxes of new books have been opened. I love the smell of and the crispness of the pages and feel like a kid again going through each and every treasure. We have only just begun our academic season but I already have favorites from among the new arrivals.

I am particularly taken with Alice Cantrell's newest book Tea and Cake With the Saints . I had intended to use it as a curriculum supplement but it is special enough to reserve as a Christmas or birthday gift for Cookie.

The text, illustrations and projects are so beautiful and perfectly delightful for "little" girls of all ages. After I removed the shrink wrap and looked through a few pages, I promptly ran off to the bathroom (the one room with the highest possibility of privacy) to pour over every page. What a treat!

I'll be giving the book as part of a package. Tea and Cake will be the central gift with supplies that coordinate to the various projects filling in the rest of the package. Some examples of these goodies might include:

  • A bundle of fabric and ribbon for use with gardening apron instructions and various other projects.
  • Seed packets for a Mary garden.
  • Pretty cardstock for recipe cards, invitations and spiritual bouquet projects.
  • Dry ingredients for recipes.
  • A variety of teas for a tea party.
  • A special tea cup and saucer or tea set.
  • A blank journal or scrapbook for collecting recipes, crafts and other hospitality ideas.
If you have not had the pleasure of seeing Alice Cantrell's first book, Sewing with Saint Anne , I highly recommend purchasing the set for any female in your life who has a love of the feminine arts. 
And to all blog lovers, you will definitely profit from a visit to Cantrell's beautiful blog, A Number of Things. A truly lovely and profitable way to spend some spare time. The first time I visited I knew very quickly that I was "visiting" with a friend. A little Tea and Cake would make the visit complete!


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