Saturday, February 27, 2010

Please touch the snake...

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education...Let [the child] go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks...Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.  "  
~Helen Keller

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Catholic Heart...

This song touches right to the core every time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Miscarriage Loss...And Gain

I wrote the following post for the Handmade for Life blog last July after we lost our baby through miscarriage. Even after so many months, I have continued to receive such a strong and positive response to the article that I decided to post it here as well with the hope that someone who needs this information right now will find it. (Please be advised that the LinkWithin widget has been going somewhat wonky on this repost so just try to sift through any extra photo boxes to find the actual article!)
Miscarriage Loss...And Gain

I have neglected things here on the blog for a while. The primary reason was fatigue and sickness due to pregnancy. Then, at 12 weeks, we lost our little baby and I have been slowly recovering physically and emotionally from this very sad but beautiful journey.

We are a pro-life people in life and in death. We recognize that even our unborn child (only 2 inches long in life) lived for a purpose and we did our best to love him in life and treat him with dignity in death. Miscarriage is a loss...An empty womb. But recognizing the value of the life of my baby is a gain. I have a son forever!

As I've traveled this journey, it has become clear that many, many parents have already been down this same road and a great many will be where I walk. How can we deal with miscarriage as a pro-life people? I'd like to share some things that I have learned....

1. Do we deliver at home or the hospital?

There are certainly situations that require hospital delivery. Pregnancies that are far along or earlier pregnancies that show obvious signs of difficulty fall into that category. The desire to stay at home may meet with the necessity of greater medical care. But if a women does choose to go to the hospital, there are things she should be aware of.

Most doctors will throw away the body of a baby prior to 20 weeks simply because death certificates are not issued before that time. If you want the body of your child respected, then be prepared to fight for it. My midwife was very glad that I chose to stay at home. She described the process of trying to retrieve the baby from the hospital doctors as "difficult".

We delivered our baby at home and were able to see him and hold him. That's not possible for everyone, I know...But very worth it if it is a possibility. Stay in touch with your doctor regardless of your situation and be bold in defense of your preferences with regard to the body of your child.

2. Consider naming the baby.

During my personal grieving process, the greatest moment of healing came with naming our child. We did not know with certainty whether our baby was a boy or a girl but we took a leap and named him anyway. My husband chose the name Matthew. And in that naming I understood fully that I had a son. My arms were empty but my heart was full. My tears were a mixture of sadness and unquestionable joy as I imagined the meeting I would have with him some day.

I strongly encourage anyone who has lost a child (at any age) to consider naming him or her. It will bring you closer in love and knowledge to your little one and one step further in your healing.

3. What do we do with the baby's body?

This is not a simple question when the child is earlier than 20 weeks. Again, 20 weeks appears to be the cutoff age for a death certificate (at least in my state) and as I was told by an OB at the Catholic hospital in my area: "Honestly, they just throw them away before that...But I guess you could bury it in your backyard." She offered this directly after my loss and in response to my question about where I could bury my child. I made a mental note never to seek out this women for care!

Fortunately, many cemeteries will bury your little one regardless of age with a letter from your doctor (proof of pregnancy). A Catholic cemetery in our area will be burying Matthew, at no cost to us, in a special section dedicated to infants. They will also provide the headstone free of charge. It is a beautiful example of Christians walking the talk and I am profoundly grateful. We also had the option of burying him with a relative already at the cemetery and that would have cost us about $200.

The following photo was taken of a burial box that was lovingly made for Matthew by our friend, Jim Kelley. The box measures 11 x 7 x 6 and is constructed using pine. Not all cemeteries allow wood but our funeral director is providing a concrete enclosure for the box at no charge. Jim does not have a website but I will happily forward your information if you have an inquiry for him.

Contact your church leaders for any information they might have specific to your location.

4. Should we tell people about our loss?

Absolutely. Your baby's life was beautiful and worth remembering and honoring. By acknowledging the loss we are also acknowledging the life. Perhaps your example will inspire others to look at an unborn life in a new way. I hope and pray that mine has.

And if you are a member of a church, I strongly suggest having a memorial service or Mass which your friends and relatives can attend if they wish. My sister-in-law lost her baby 3 months before I did and we had one Mass said for both Matthew and Caeli (her baby). We did not advertise widely but our closest relatives and dearest friends attended. We were also surprised to see other members of our church who heard "through the grapevine" and wanted to lend their love and support. Our service was perfect and I will always carry that memory in my heart

5. How can I support someone who has experienced a miscarriage?

Please do follow your instinct and just love them as well as you can. There are so many ways to show support. I can list a few here but I'm sure there are many more. Please feel free to share additional ideas in the comments.

-Acknowledge the loss. Please don't ignore it. Set aside your own feelings of discomfort and offer your sympathy. Even if it seems to remind the mother of her grief, she will not be sorry that you have expressed your love. She may, however, notice if you seem to disregard her loss. And she will feel isolated and alone in her grief if none have the courage to walk with her.

-Ask if they've named the baby and use the name when speaking with and writing to them. If they haven't chosen a name, please remember not use the term "it" when referring to the child.

-Let her talk. Although a miscarriage seems "small" to others, it's a pretty big deal to the person it happens to. I am very blessed with people who allowed me to pour out my thoughts and feelings and I can see how difficult it would be to have no one.

-A miscarriage is like a mini labor. It can be physically exhausting, quite painful and sometimes rather lengthy, and does require a period of recovery. Consider sending a nutritious meal or offering to watch other children to allow mama that recovery time.

-Do send an expression of sympathy. A card is a beautiful way to let someone know you are thinking of them. I recently purchased several beautiful cards from Loss Remembered and unfortunately, have had occasion to use them all. I intend to purchase several more so that I never again delay or miss the opportunity to send a token of love and support.

-If you are close to the family or simply want to do something more, consider a small memorial gift. A personalized Christmas ornament is a lovely choice. A very close family member (husband or parent) might consider memorial jewelry for the mother. It is a beautiful way to honor the life and loss of her baby and her motherhood at the same time. The picture below shows a memorial cross that I purchased for my sister-in-law. It was handcrafted and personalized for her with her baby's name and a '2009' charm on the back by Totally Crosses.

This memorial necklace made by Peace of Mind  is a personal and touching way to express support.

See Handmade for Life's list of jewelry artists to request custom work.

Other ideas include a memorial plant for their yard (such as a rose), a donation to a crisis pregnancy center in the baby's name, or a basket of pretty bath and body items to comfort and pamper mama. Delivering a meal is an excellent way to support the family. Miscarriage can be similar to full-term labor and a mother needs time to rest and to allow her body to heal. Helping with household needs (like providing a meal) allow her that time to stay off of her feet and tend to her physical and emotional needs.

-Pray for the family. A woman's grief often runs deeper than anyone can see. I have heard many stories in the last few weeks of women who suffered intensely after an early miscarriage and were offered no support from a spouse or family. Depression is common.

We live in a world where babies are throw-aways and a woman is so often expected to forget and move on quickly. The smaller the baby, the less we are supposed to grieve. But our pro-life hearts know that every life has an equal value and purpose and that we are called to love each and every one.

I offer the suffering of my loss in solidarity with all mothers who are victimized by abortion. I pray that they may find healing, consolation and forgiveness through the lives of their heavenly children.

Other Miscarriage resources:
Pregnancy Loss 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lenten Activities for Children...

Illuminated Ink has long been one of my favorite resources for meaningful crafty activities for the children. They are a family of incredible talent and design all of their products. If you're familiar with the Catholic market I'm sure you've seen their work. I prefer to purchase directly from them since there is no middle man to cut into their profits.

We have not yet purchased this kit but have made their Marian grottos which look very similar in design and are really enjoyable and attractive. Little ones will need some help with this but it is still a great project to do together. This kit contains everything needed for a complete set of the Stations of the Cross.

After coloring, cutting and assembling this kit, the kids can re-enact the events of Holy week which are portrayed in 4 different scenes, starting with the Last Supper and continuing through the Resurrection. Looks like some adult help may be needed but, hey, that's what we're here for!

This kit contains everything needed to make a solid 8" pillar candle out of pure beeswax sheets. It also includes design and decoration accessories and templates along with an explanation of the liturgical significance of candles.

Illuminated Ink also carries items to help prepare for and celebrate First Communion such as banner and invitation kits and a ton of items that make really nice Easter gifts. I have never been disappointed with a purchase and am even happier to buy from a family of such genuinely wonderful people! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Love Courageously and Joy Will Reign...

Of all the sicknesses that plague our fallen culture, I think the failure to desire authentic love is one of the most tragic. We say that we want love--to love others and to be loved--but we only mean that we want to feel the absence of sorrow. We don't really want to go deeper because we've been there and it hurts. So we call desire for comfort "love" and wonder why happiness eludes us. Christ's victory on the Cross was insanity by this world's standards because it embraced grief and transformed it into joy. Is true joy possible without tears? A Christian knows it is not.

I'm sharing with you a blog post that I discovered this afternoon. Would you like to have a little peek at Easter as we walk through Lent? I promise that you will first walk Calvary with the young woman who wrote it but there will be no regrets. Love did not come as she planned but her joy is greater than she could have imagined.

Bouncing away cabin fever...

It's February in Northeast Ohio. Blah. If you live here, then you know how tired and crazy people start to feel about this time. The fact that our home addition is not yet complete is making us just a wee bit crazier than usual but we are finding some creative uses for our unfinished spaces. We tracked drywall dust all over the house as a result of our fun but Dad quickly forgave us. Please overlook the terrible videography and do notice the charming little girl and her favorite "bouncy thing".

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Mama Yells.... ain't pretty.
I had a woman tell me once that she could not imagine me ever yelling. All I could think was, "Wow. I sure have you fooled!" I certainly do not like to yell. It gives me a headache and often makes someone cry (usually me). There's usually a better way to communicate. But it does happen. Let's take today, for instance...

We've recently been battling the tendency of children to leave stuff everywhere pretty much all the time. It's disorganized and ugly and dangerous. But no amount of lecturing or disciplining seems to make an impact for any extended period of time. So today I was determined to get at least one room clutter free. MY room. Your stuff does not go in my room. Not your shoes or your toys or your dirt. Out! Out! Out!

As I stepped off the bottom step triumphantly carrying a large box of organized old kids' shoes (that I'd been graciously sharing my space with) I stepped on...a toy. A little plastic petit four to be exact. (Presumably to be consumed with plastic tea.) The box of shoes scattered everywhere as I felt that oh-so-familiar pain of an ankle sprain. I've been here many times before but it generally happens while doing something that's actually supposed to be somewhat risky.

The first thing I want to do at the moment of crisis is to throw out every toy within sight but I cannot effectively do so from my seated position. Then I yell loudly and randomly about little toys and little boys and what are you going to do with an injured mother since I'm the only one who picks up your stuff and makes your food and other silly (and loud) things like that.

This is all perfectly Lenten. An opportunity to take a crash landing in the middle of the day for a good dose of humility. I don't want a disorderly home. I don't want to yell. I don't want a sprained ankle (even though it isn't really that bad). Is this getting a little whiny? I don't want to whine either. Back to the foot of the Cross I go where I can remember His strength by remembering my weakness. I am not stronger than my temper. And am glad for the 20 minutes to ice my ankle, my anger and my pride as I remember that I'm always leaving things on God's floor for other people to trip on.

 He took over anger to intimidate subordinates, and in time anger took over him. --St. Albert the Great

"Precious Dust"

Pope Benedict gave his general audience on Ash Wednesday. A snippet:

Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but he is precious dust in God's eyes, because God created man for immortality. Thus the liturgical formula "Remember man that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return" finds the fullness of its meaning in reference to the new Adam, Christ. The Lord Jesus also wished to freely share with every man the lot of frailty, in particular through his death on the cross; but precisely this death, full of his love for the Father and for humanity, has been the way for the glorious resurrection, through which Christ has become the source of a grace given to those who believe in him and are made participants of divine life itself. This life which will have no end is already present in the earthly phase of our existence, but will be led to fulfillment after the "resurrection of the flesh." The little gesture of the imposition of ashes reveals to us the singular richness of its meaning: It is an invitation to live the time of Lent as a more conscious and more intense immersion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity, which stems from the Eucharist and in which it finds its fulfillment. With the imposition of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to allow ourselves to be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcome evil and do good, to have the "old man" in us die, the one linked to sin, and to have the "new man" be born, transformed by the grace of God. (Full text here) 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Time to hide the Alleluia...

Wonderful "Fat Tuesday" activity from Elizabeth Foss. The wood letters for the mantel don't fit into our budget this season but we're doing a variation using paper Alleluia's. We'll hang them after Easter Vigil.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Husband Gave the Perfect Gift...

Other than the fact that he works himself weary on behalf of our family and spends almost all of his free time with us and for us, my husband gave more proof that he loves me through a sweet surprise this St. Valentine's Day. Let me preface this by saying that we don't always celebrate this feast day with gifts. There have been years when not a note or candy has passed between us. I don't recall that we have ever celebrated Sweetest Day. I don't mind. My husband spoils me crazy. There is no physical need or comfort that I lack. He is a huge gift-giver. Not always at the expected times but always in a thoughtful and generous way.

This year he not only presented me with gorgeous pink roses but also with a set of The Liturgy of the Hours .  I know this man loves me because he not only wants me to know his love but he really wants me to know the love of God. I admit being intimidated by the gift but I'm incredibly eager to enter into this new adventure.

My husband already has these prayer books and my son received his Divine Office at Christmas as a gift from a local Knights of Columbus chapter. I hope they are also praying for him as he discerns his vocational call! The three of us prayed the Midday prayer together for the first time today. What a privilege! Never mind that I had to keep looking over his shoulder to find my place. Never mind that I was a bit distracted by my own ignorance. I can do this well eventually. Your 12-year old can do this, old lady...chin up!

Take a peek at the lovely Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia praying their Divine Office in community.

(By the way, he was able to find a like-new set at a discounted rate online. He's generous but he's also pretty thrifty and wise. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

He Washed My Feet: My Love Story

At the suggestion of Regan over at A Place for Everything  I am posting my love story (super abridged) in celebration of St. Valentine's Day. It's a story filled with mystery and surprises because it centers around a love triangle. Before you  jump to Hollywood-like conclusions, let me clarify that this particular love triangle consists of my husband, myself...and my God. 

I first met my future husband very late at night at a neighbor's house. It was a Friday but I was already in bed trying to refresh for an early morning track meet. I was a senior in high school and certainly unused to turning in before the wee hours of morning. As I lay staring at my ceiling, I heard a knock against my second story window. Then another. It was my neighbor who lived across the street and happened to be hosting a late night Bible study with his friends. He was throwing stones at my window.

I didn't want to go. I wanted to do well at my meet. Then he said the magic word: pizza. Pizza? Okay, be right there. I left the sleeping household by passing through the quietest door (figuring my odds of getting permission were greater if I didn't ask) and walked over.

Now is the time when my memories take on a glittery aspect with romantic music playing in the background. All else fades from vision as he comes into view. *swoon* It is rather safe to say that I was completely smitten from the start. He was older, having just graduated from college, but that certainly added to his charm. I stayed until the wee hours (and until my friend and next door neighbor, Jenny, was practically asleep and begging to leave). I was exhausted the next day but positively giddy as I thought of this incredible man I had just met. I hardly knew anything about him. I didn't even know his last name. But that hardly mattered to a 17-year old girl.

I did not know that my mysterious Prince Charming was on his way to Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. He had to make a final commitment soon and had offered up a prayer, two weeks before we met, asking God to make clear whether a religious vocation was His will. God answered quickly.

One week after our first meeting, I was running late (very) to the Spring musical at my high school due to a long running track meet. I was supposed to meet my boyfriend and my parents to see our friends perform. The parking lot was full. It was already dark. I pulled into one of the only available spaces I could find and noticed that another car pulled in across from me at the exact same moment. I waited until the man got out of his car and started walking away so that I wouldn't have to be alone in a very large and dark lot with a stranger. But it wasn't long before I was running to catch him and calling his name. Nobody else I knew had yellow hair like that! It was the mystery man who had secretly stolen my heart the week before and he was as surprised as I was. He had come to see some friends from an area youth group perform in the show.

We stood in the lobby of the school for the entire first act talking to each other. We were both so late that there was no chance of finding our seats. (That's what we told each other anyway.) It was a wonderful hour and I deeply regretted that when those doors opened for intermission it would have to end.

The next time we met was a few weeks later. I needed a ride somewhere and asked my neighbor well in advance if he would drive. He agreed but cancelled at the last minute and feeling responsible for his commitment, asked my future husband to fill in as chauffer. This was clearly not a planned date from my perspective but apparently he didn't see it that way.  I hope we have the opportunity to argue about for many more years to come! We spent the day together and began the journey of becoming best friends. We walked through the park and he sang to me. He bought me black cherry ice cream and we walked the beach (such as it is) of Lake Erie. We sat on the rocks and talked about life and love and faith.

I was not a believing Christian. He had given himself mind, body and soul to Jesus and His holy Catholic Church. I was lost and broken and searching. Over the next few months he demonstrated to me what it means to be a follower of Christ and I was swept off my feet. By both of them. I was in love with this man and learned to love Jesus for the sake of my beloved. Over the course of time, my future husband taught me how to reverse that order and introduced me to a life of freedom and joy that have surpassed the grandest dreams of my imagination. I was 18 years old when he proposed after the Easter Vigil Mass in front of the Blessed Sacrament at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I was 19 when we married.

We arrived at the hotel for the one and only night of our honeymoon and settled ourselves in. He asked me to sit down on the sofa and wait for him and returned with an armful of presents which I opened one by one. The second to last present was a large bowl. Odd. Okay though. Thank you! The last was a stoneware pitcher painted with fruit and the words "Fullness of Joy". How pretty! Thank you! Very thoughtful.

Wait here, he said, and disappeared into the bathroom.

When he returned, my pretty new pitcher was filled with warm water. He moved the bowl to the base of the couch where I was sitting. And...

He washed my feet.

To this day (almost 14 years later), I cannot write that without being overcome by emotion. I did not fully understand it then but each year that passes brings deeper understanding. He "washes my feet" every day of our lives and continues to show me the love Jesus has for my poor and wounded soul. He carried me across the threshold into a life in Christ and has never put me down, committed to being the hands and feet of Jesus for his bride.

The details are a million memories of joy and sorrow, new life and loss, struggle and triumph. But at the end of the day we belong to each other and together, we belong to God. The perfect love triangle.

As I reread this short account, I know it isn't enough. It is the brief notes of a beginning. The story of true love can never be fully told here on earth. The years of laughter and tears that can't be understood by any other. The mystery and graces of marriage are like a symphony that rises and falls in arrangements that move the soul past the limitations of words. God's composition in it's fullness is unknown to us at the beginning but we unfold with the music and find that our hearts are captured in a work that surpasses all mystery and beauty. We weep at the moments that rend our hearts but we do not see the whole of the piece at those times. We do not interfere with the music but cling to it with hope that the valleys will rise into glory. We dance for God, like David, when the joy of consolation floods our senses.

 Take us to the completion of your beautiful symphony, Dear Father. We are in your hands and beg you to conform our hearts to your sweet song that we might find ourselves united to you when the final notes ring out in our lives.

Other posts with details about my journey in love:

Sacramental Windfall
Dreams Redeemed
"If we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him" 

Friday, February 12, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Recipe. Eat Fast.

I have five days to prepare and consume this Banana Split Ice Cream Cake before Lent begins.  My best bet is St. Valentine's Day. Then I'll be able to divide the 9 x 9 inch mass of gooey calories between 3 families. Leftovers are unlikely. 

My sincere thanks to Eileen over at Catholic Cuisine for posting this great recipe. 
Does anyone else think that the Catholic Cuisine people should post corresponding exercise suggestions along with their recipes? Just sayin'...

Charity is the sweet and holy bond which links the soul with its Creator: it binds God with man and man with God.

- Saint Catherine of Siena

Catholic Schools Week Comes Home

Once a year, our diocese celebrates Catholic Schools Week and our parish joins in with gusto. We reportedly have the largest school in the diocese. For homeschooling kids, it's an awkward moment since we are also a Catholic school in our parish but not recognized in the same way. It's a time to give thanks and recognition to the parish school but also a marketing campaign to draw Catholic families to a faith-centered education through the diocesan institutions (as opposed to public schooling). I don't have a significant problem with this. I understand. And am happy that we can work and worship alongside a community that professes the same spiritual goals. But the kids feel the isolation a little more during these events. In spite of our efforts to maintain an active and positive connection with our parish community they know they are different because of the choices their parents have made.

A few years ago, we took them to the parish school open house to show them what they were missing out on. Prior to that they had storybook visions of what "school" away from home would look like. We decided to let them see for themselves that this was no Dick and Jane panacea. The result (not surprisingly) was that their idealistic bubble was burst and they settled down with a new appreciation for their home-based education.

It has been said and written in my community that "the school is the heart of our parish". As a homeschooling mother who loves her parish home, I agree that this does seem to be the case from an activity, financial and population point of view. I do wonder though if that perspective ever strikes anyone else as being a bit topsy-turvy.

The parish church is and aught to be the heart of the school and entire faith community. This is where Christ comes to us through the Sacramental life and transforms us. The families of the school children keep the parish lively. They comprise a large chunk of our parish population. They help provide a great deal of the church revenue (over $1,000,000 of which went to subsidize the school last year). But the "source and summit" of our faith resides in the Presence of Christ in the parish church. Words are important. If our school fails, have we lost the "heart of our parish"? I hope not.

The Church teaches that each family is a Domestic Church or Ecclesia Domestica (1656 CCC) . A microcosm and symbol of  Christ's larger Church. My home is also a Catholic school and the school is almost inseparable from our family identity. But the heart of our family is not our school; the heart of our family is Jesus Christ.

I exhaled a sigh of resignation as I began reading the Catholic Schools Week edition of our parish newsletter. We are friends with many of the students at the school and with their families. Our kids play sports for the school and have had a wonderful experience in the CYO program. We are on a parallel journey spiritually and academically but with different methods. Alas, newsletter highlights of the school are generally very shallow and boring, bypassing the real meat of what it means to be educated in faith. It's always this way because it's perceived that computers and field trips interest people and project "success" more than catechism class. My kids were glued to it while I yawned shamefully.

But on page ten I discovered a treasure.  Father Richard Bona submitted an article entitled "Parents: Primary Teachers ."  While recognizing the valuable contribution of the parish school, it searches beyond the identity of the particular school to foundational truths of Catholic education as a whole. Father writes: 
"As we remember the Catholic educational programs and in particular our own parish school, let us remember that they have only a secondary role. The biggest and most lasting impact of faith is achieved only through a HOME LIFE."
 Please read it here  and pass it on.

Regardless of where our kids go to school, the home, our Ecclesia Domestica, provides the foundation for the faith our little ones will carry with them through time and eternity.

Parents: Primary Teachers

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In which the children are rendered speechless...

My son is a Scott Hahn devotee. It's very natural for a 12-year old to admire and seek to emulate successful and talented men, but I never thought my Professor would be hanging on the every word and deed of a Catholic theologian (other than his father, of course)! NOT that I'm complaining. There are no posters of sports heroes or Hollywood stars in his room and I am thankful. I simply never expected that a kid of his age would be walking around the house with an audio Scripture study  tucked under his arm while he begs his mother for the timeline and accessories that accompany it!

His studies have led to some interesting conversations with the family and last night was no exception. Like every kid, he knows how to time these events perfectly so that bedtime is significantly postponed. I'm completely aware every time that he's doing it but he's got my number. I finally have the attentive audience of my dreams! Bedtime drops off the radar. The other kids are always extra attentive as well since making trouble will jolt me back into my motherly senses and earn them a quick trip to bed.

Last night they managed to keep me distracted until after 11:00 pm. Great conversation. At one point, Professor brought up the first chapter of the book of Romans (he had just been listening to Scott Hahn discuss it) and was excitedly explaining something about the early verses. As I made my way through the chapter, my eyes caught something important and I seized a teachable moment...

"Children, listen to what St. Paul has to say about ungodly men:
'...And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless...' "
When I came to "disobedient to parents", I paused, emphasized the phrase and then continued. They laughed. Because they thought that I had inserted it of my own accord. They thought I was teasing them. To their ears, it sounded out of place among all those grave evils; kind of like lumping those who take a second helping of cake in with murderers.

We've been over this subject many times but this time they were sitting up straight and listening in earnest.

"Who is it that commands you to honor and obey your parents?"


"So, Who are you really disobeying when you disobey mommy or daddy?"

"God." (This is spoken very quietly and humbly after a lengthy pause)

"Sounds like we aught to be taking this pretty seriously."

*Sincere, silent and vigorous nodding all around.*

Obedience is a constant battle for every family I know. For homeschoolers, it is a more obvious and immediate concern since our very ability to function daily hinges on discipline in the home. We face our disciplinary failures immediately instead of avoiding them until the quarterly report. I am not an excellent disciplinarian because I am not well-disciplined myself. I am disobedient and lazy. I like to sleep in, cast my work aside and stay up later than is good for me. I sometimes imagine how my children will view my failures when they are adults. It hurts my pride to know how many things they could disclose and be right.

But I find courage in these family discussions. It's not about parent vs. child but about a family seeking the will of God together. We are constantly wounding and repenting, forgiving and consoling, weeping and celebrating...together. We are vulnerable here because our faults and weaknesses are clearly known and exposed. We are strong and safe here because we have a bond of love in Christ Jesus.

I know that this new day will bring the same old challenges. Disobedience (in all of us) will once again rear its ugly head. But the consolation of last night, brought by the power of the Word of God,  is still sweet and the courage to begin again is strong. Pressin' on.

Speak to me, 0 my God, let me know Thy will, for behold I am ready to fulfill Thy every command. The difficult, the irksome, I will patiently endure for love of Thee. 
                                                      --St. John Neumann (from his diary)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Unexpected Pro-life Super Bowl Moment...

Check out my post on Handmade for Life to find out why I'm glad that I didn't go to bed early on Super Bowl Sunday.  Unexpected Pro-Life Moment of the Super Bowl

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dominican Sisters to Appear on Oprah...

UPDATE: See the video HERE !
This is so cool. I pray that Oprah 's crew does an honest job of it. It's not hard to see beauty in the smiles and lives of these women but I believe the secular media could mangle just about anything. Praying that hearts will be touched, lives changed, and that some young women out there will recognize their calling!

Dear Friends of the Dominican Sisters of Mary,
In this age of instant communications, word travels fast, so you may have already heard the news: we will be appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show on Tuesday, February 9, which also happens to be the 13th anniversary of the founding of our Community. Oprah was interested in doing a show on religious life as a hidden way of life which many people never experience, and so her producers asked us if we would be willing to welcome them. We accepted this invitation as an opportunity to share our life, and by extension, the Gospel, with an audience that we might not ever reach otherwise.       
A camera crew came to the Motherhouse in Ann Arbor at the beginning of this week, and then on Thursday, Sr. Mary Samuel, Sr. John Dominic, Sr. Mary Judith, and Sr. Francis Mary were flown to Chicago for the taping. Some of our Novices and Postulants also participated in the taping from the Motherhouse via “Skype"

The show will air on Tuesday, February 9th, so be sure to check your local listings for the time and station in your area. If you can’t watch it then, be sure to record it, as her producers have let us know that they do not send out copies of any show. And please, spread the word!
In the meantime, please join us in praying that Our Lord will use this television show to touch the hearts of many, so that they may come to know Him and His boundless love and mercy.
God bless you!


Friday, February 5, 2010

A Story of Two Masses...

There happened to be a busy mother who had the privilege of attending morning Mass on two consecutive days. On the first day, her husband watched the children and the mother was without distraction. On the second, all 5 children attended with her. Which experience was the more "meaningful" of the two? Let's take a closer look...

Mass #1: The child-free Mass
I have no difficulty rising this morning and I quietly slip out of the house and run to the car. Ah! Blessed Silence! Even the ride to church is an opportunity for prayerful reflection, like a 7-minute vacation on wheels. There is no squabbling to be heard. No whining. No howling. Not even any whistling. Lovely. 

Mass is beautiful, objectively and subjectively. I know Mass is always beautiful because Jesus Himself is the essence of beauty; but this Mass is beautiful to my weary senses as well. I can pray without distraction, listen attentively to the Word of God and the excellent homily, bask in the miracle of His Presence. No one is tugging on my skirt, stepping on my toes or sticking fingers in my ears. I am so grateful for this gift of time alone with Him.

Mass #2: The Mass of my Vocation
Has it ever been this difficult to get out of bed? I'm sure there must have been other times but this one is truly a mountain to be overcome. The kids feel it, too. We press on and I determine that even a bullwhip would be an ineffective motivational tool for my group of little zombies. Out the door into the cold, transferring the sounds of grumpy young life to a new location. We pull into the parking lot and I joke interiorly, "Go on in, everyone. I'll stay here and have a quiet nap." We pile out of the car.

Again, Mass is beautiful but I am fighting through weariness and distraction to see it. I know it intellectually and in faith and today that must suffice. My prayer is weak and interrupted. I miss some things. Like the Gospel. Jellybean is pulling my hair and sticking her fingers up her nose and I guess I can't tend to 3 things at once. The children are actually rather well behaved. I know it is a struggle for them, too, and I applaud their courage. They have no idea that their externally "well-behaved" mother is the picture of an ADHD 4-year old on the inside. It is one of those Masses where the priest says "The Mass is ended, go in peace..." and I say "Thanks be to God!" and mean it on multiple levels.

At which Mass was my disposition more pleasing to God?
My knee jerk response is to say that my attendance at the first Mass was clearly more pleasing to the Lord and more efficacious to my soul. And if only I could get babysitting for every Mass! And if only I could have so much time alone everyday! And if only...

On closer reflection I see that I am perhaps mistaken. What I know with certainty is that my "child-free" Mass was more pleasing to ME. I was comfortable. I was consoled. I was convenienced. But the second Mass was truly a Mass of my Vocation. I was living the life that God ordained for me. It is the path through which I must find holiness.

The mistake in my initial assessment was forgetting that the Christian life is about effort and that comfort level is not an indication of spiritual progress.  Love is an action and Christian love is a suffering love. Love is only pure when it serves the beloved.

I do not claim to know the thoughts of my Lord, but it does seem possible that my weak and weary struggle of mothering through that second Mass was at least as pleasing, if not more so, than the Mass that was "easy" for me. What toil will we offer for love? What sleep will we sacrifice? What hardship will we endure? Even a bad person can do a good deed when it is easy and profitable to himself. The tremendous effort that was required of me at the second Mass was significantly more than the first. In spite of my many failures, I believe that my struggle was pleasing to God because it was a work of love and obedience.

Will I jump at the chance to attend another wonderfully silent morning Mass? Of course! The task of motherhood requires times of regeneration and silence in Christ. But I pray to never forget that sanctity will only come through the embracing of my vocation...and not in spite of it.

**Picture from InsideCatholic and this excellent and related article called "Why Young Children Belong at Mass" by Kate Wicker.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Surprised by Green...

It's not exactly as I envisioned it. First of all, the Rosary I had planned was not green. Green is not the first color that comes to mind when I think of a First Holy Communion Rosary. But the craft store was out of the beads I wanted and I noticed that Crash really liked all the green shiny beads. So, green it is. Professor picked out the seed beads to match. I had wanted to embellish the spaces just a bit more but then I remembered: There's a reason we call him Crash; keep it simple. The photo is inferior but it's the best I have and does give the general idea.

Overall, I'd say it's a success and believe he'll like it very much.

My screen is blurry...

Yes, quite blurry. I can't figure it out. Perhaps it's the tears running down my cheeks. I was putting together a post over at the Handmade for Life blog promoting a pro-life event and stumbled across this video of Collin Raye singing his song She's With Me. It's about his special needs granddaughter. I just had to post it here as well. This man loves well. A popular country singer, he's also a man of deep faith. A convert. His website is here (check out his praise album) and the song I mentioned is below...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Through the intercession of St. Blaise...

I just left church where a long line of people were still waiting to have their throats blessed for the feast of St. Blaise . I decided months ago that I would try not to miss this particular feast this year and left my sick husband in charge of the children in order to make it on time (yes, I feel terribly guilty). For the past few years I have been battling an auto-immune illness that seems to be primarily affecting my throat and gastrointestinal system. I'll gladly accept any assistance I can get and particularly the intercession of this great Saint and martyr!

To be honest, I assumed that the most I would get today might be a general blessing of throats. Instead, Father did individual blessings for everyone in attendance which is the first time I have experienced that in my adult life since leaving Catholic school. The priest held two consecrated candles in a crossed position on the throat of each person and prayed:

"Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

I am incredibly grateful for the individual blessing I received and for all of the smells, bells and sacramentals of the Church. They are a consolation and a sign that God does not disregard our physical needs. He created a beautiful world with sights and sounds that all point to His beauty and power. He designed our physical bodies and knows them better than we do. Every element of our lives is important to Him and He wishes us to be filled with His love and grace, body and soul. I could have simply prayed from home for the intercession of St. Blaise but the physical blessing was a great gift. I matter to God. My throat matters. He knows of it and thinks of it. I do not know if it is His will that I be healed in body but I know that today I received special graces of healing, somehow, according to His perfect plan. May His holy will be done.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


It's not even Lent and I'm already dreaming of the cherry blossoms in my yard. One of two trees was removed during construction. The one that remains is brown and dry with the Winter cold. I will blink and the months will pass. But the days will take years.
"The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40:8)

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Communion Gifts...

This Lent is going to be a particularly special time of preparation for one little boy in our family. Crash will be receiving his First Holy Communion during the Easter season and we are all getting very excited. I have begun some material preparations and have to share a couple favorites on the gift list.

Handmade Rosary

When I was looking for a Rosary to recommend to Grandma (she loves to give the children First Communion Rosaries) I became discouraged when I noticed the high price tags and low quality. Now, Grandma is no scrooge and will not skimp for this occasion but I just know that Crash will make short work of any flimsy chain links. "I was just using it!"

Enter Gardens of Grace . If you are crafty in any way, you've got to take a peek at these reproduction vintage medals and Rosary parts. Gorgeous and affordable. Here is a completed Rosary (photo from the Gardens of Grace site) using the parts they sell:

I had an incredibly difficult time narrowing my purchase selections. I love the sterling silver but went with the antique bronze because it's less expensive and has a nice masculine look.

By the time I finish Crash's Rosary, I will have spent about the same or less money than the ones I was looking at in the store and it will definitely be sturdier since I'm going to use jewelry wire (see photo above) instead of chain. I'll post a photo in the Spring:).

Prayer Book

I know my husband and I tend to be a little particular in these matters but it is our opinion that most First Communion prayer books are often a Pretty on the outside but limited in their usefulness long term. The Catholic Young Man's Guide by Father Lasance does not fall into that category. This prayer book originally received it's imprimatur from Pope Pius XI in 1927. The current edition is a photographic reproduction of a later edition. It's not marketed to First Communicants because it requires strong reading skills and a good grasp of language. It is not "easy" to read and a young child will likely use the devotions exclusively until a time when he discovers the rest less challenging. But I have observed that the time does indeed come even earlier than I thought it would. This prayer book (and it's companion, The Catholic Girls Guide) are also nice for adult use. I have been known to borrow my daughter's:).

Why we love it...

This is not only a very complete prayer book with devotions for every day, devotions for Mass and Communion, Stations of the Cross, Litanies and a thorough examination of conscience, but it also holds gems of wisdom for young men growing in faith.

Part 1 covers "The Panoply of War" which describes the virtues within a very  masculine context.
Part 2 called "Conflict and Conquest" describes struggles of being a boy or a man and how to conquer them
Part 3 covers manly manners
Part 4 explains vocations for men
Completing this wonderful missal is A Rule of Life for young men. 

The Catholic Girl's Guide is equally wonderful as it leads young ladies through a study of "The Maiden's Wreath" (Virtues), "A Wreath of Lilies" (Purity), "At the Parting of the Ways" (Vocation discernment), "Family Life", and a "Rule of Life". 

My 10-year old daughter uses hers faithfully and also forgets it at church about once every two weeks. My 12-year old son also used his often until it "got lost". This prayer book would definitely be enhanced by a strong chain with which to hang it around the neck!

***A word about age-appropriate examinations of conscience...

It is a shame that our culture has lost it's sensitivity regarding use of language when dealing with the commandments that touch on purity. There are ways to talk about these subjects that do not put the details of impurity up in neon lights; ways to discuss and instruct that will not upset a child too young to be presented with it and still be clearly understood by those "of age". 

The examination of conscience in these prayer books does deal plainly with the 6th and 9th Commandments but in a way that would not prematurely inform a First Communicant. Example:
3. Have I dressed immodestly or with excessive finery simply to attract admiration?
4. Have I sinned through undue familiarity with persons of the other sex, or allowing improper liberties to be taken with me?
That's as plain as it gets in these particular examens.


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